I respec’d to protection back a few months ago, my standard pally build being retribution with a short affair as a healadin back in Azeroth at level 60. I had always avoided the protection tree in the past for fear of even slower leveling and a real lack of confidence regarding the tanking abilities of our hybrid class. I know I’m a bit late to the party but I’m hear to say that tanking as a paladin is not only viable, but also insanely enjoyable.
I’ve only ran a couple of instances as the frontman.. err frontlady. Mana tombs at level 70 was relatively easy, but Shattered Halls in Hellfire Citadel gave us a decent challenge. We made the huge mistake of attempting the heroic version of SH prior to our regular run… we couldn’t make it past the first pull. A definite reality(gear)-check. We made it through the normal Shattered Halls without too much trouble. Learned a few valuable lessons, laughed, cried, killed and plundered.
The actual tanking play-style requires a high degree of micromanagement. I rarely find myself spamming a single spell over and over *cough*healading*cough* but rather I’m constantly trying to manage my timing, cooldowns, and buff/debuff durations to maximize both my threat and my survivability. The key is being able to not just have a tried and true cycle of skills but being able to adjust them based on the circumstances. In one scenario, i might not be taking enough damage to require consistent healspamming, which ultimately affects my mana pool as I won’t be getting much of a bonus from spiritual attunement, so i’ll bust out my seal/judgement of wisdom. On the other hand, a hardhitting boss or an unfortunately large trash pull will result in seal of light to help ease the job of the healer. There’s also times where i’ll need to throw on my wings or pop a spell-damage trinket to keep up with the threat from a hard-dotting lock or a crithappy boomkin.
So with my newfound role comes a desire to master it. I’ve found the Maintankadin Forum to be an invaluable resource for a newb prot pally such as myself. The other part of the equation of course is gear. Much like a warrior, paladins have to maximize mitigation and staying power through typical stats like defense, dodge, parry and block but there’s also a need to maintain a certain level of spelldamage as that’s where the majority of our threat comes from. This stat juggling turns gearing up a paladin into a fine science.
This science is made infinitely more convenient with addons like Rating Buster and TankPoints as well as awesome theorycrafting tools like warcrafter.net. Warcrafter allows you to import your character from the Armory (or start from scratch with a blank template), and switch out any piece of gear imaginable to see its effect on your overall stats. It also includes the ability to add various enchants and gems and calculates for further fine-tuning. I highly recommend checking it out. I’ve saved my current gear wish-list at http://www.warcrafter.net/sandbox/16972. It’s probably not the most efficient or definitely not the best gear arrangement possible, but it does offer a good mix of what I would consider obtainable items over the next month or so and gets me over 490 defense (uncrittable by bosses) and close to 102.4% total avoidance (uncrushable) with holy shield up.
Time to go tank another instance. =)