Although the Protection specialisation has been a part of the Paladin class since the original World of Warcraft, it was only in the game’s first expansion - The Burning Crusade - that the class got the tools to become a viable endgame tank. In this Protection Paladin guide, we’re going to show you exactly what you need to do to excel at the role.
Wearing Plate armour and wielding shields and one-handed weapons, the Protection Paladin is very similar to the Warrior. However, where Warriors are all about being tough and resilient to incoming damage, turtling down to survive, the Protection Paladin is slightly easier to hurt, and relies instead on using Holy spells to partially absorb damage or heal himself instead.
In WOW Legion, Protection Paladin tanking got a reasonable makeover, the biggest change being that Paladins are now at their most resilient when stepping on ground they consecrate. This brings a bigger emphasis on timing and footwork, especially on fights where considerable movement is required. They are a solid tank for any endgame scenario.
In this Protection Paladin guide, we’ll go through the recommended talents which fit both the levelling process and the endgame, although if you are set on levelling your Paladin as protection, we recommend you do it through running dungeons over questing, as average damage output makes questing slower than with a damage-dealing specialisation.
After our talent recommendations, we’ll outline the optimal rotation for using them and your regular spells, as well as a primer on how to actually tank!
In future updates to this guide, we’ll include a guide to upgrading your Artifact Weapon, and provide some gear recommendations to compliment your tanking abilities.
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Protection Paladin talent build
This talent choice strikes a good balance between survivability and damage output, with a slight leaning toward the former.
|Level||Talent Option||Reason for Choice|
|15||Blessed Hammer - Throws a Blessed Hammer that spirals outward, dealing Holy damage to enemies that it hits, and causing them to deal 15% less damage to you on their next auto attack.||While it can be tempting to get Consecrated Hammer instead - especially as a beginner, and since it removes a lot of the class's movement restrictions - the damage reduction here is too good to pass up on.|
|30||Crusader’s Judgement - Judgment now has 2 charges, and Grand Crusader now also grants a charge of Judgment.||More or less a tie with Bastion of Light, this will give you access to your primary damage mitigation ability slightly less often but more evenly spaced over time. You should experiment with both and see what fits your playstyle better.|
|45||Blinding Light - Emits dazzling light in all directions, blinding enemies within 10 yards, dealing Holy damage and causing them to wander disoriented for 6 sec. Non-Holy damage will break the disorient effect.||The other choices are barely usable while tanking, whereas this one, even though it has an awkward cooldown, can be useful to help increase threat in larger packs of enemies, or even interrupt multiple casters.|
|60||Cavalier - Divine Steed now has two charges.||The extra charge of your primary movement ability will help you in any fight where you need to get out of range of an attack, or quickly move to pick up some adds - in other words, the majority of fights!|
|75||Hand of the Protector - Calls down the Light to heal a friendly target for 30% of the target's missing health. (Replaces Light of the Protector).||While on first inspection this might feel like no upgrade at all to your main healing ability, it actually has a considerably smaller cooldown, which makes all the difference when dealing with a high damage intake during the endgame.|
|90||Judgement of Light - Judgement now applies Judgement of Light to the target, causing the next 40 successful attacks against the target to heal the attacker. This effect can only occur once per 1 sec on each target.||Nothing in this tier is great, but this pick will provide you with the biggest net gain in healing. Aegis of Light is a solid defensive spell that sadly comes with too large a cooldown to be worthwhile.|
|100||Righteous Protector - Shield of the Righteous reduces the remaining cooldown on Light of the Protector and Avenging Wrath by 3 sec.||This will increase both the frequency and the overall output of your self-healing. In Mythic+ dungeons, where the groups of trash enemies are often more problematic than the bosses, take the Last Defender talent instead.|
Protection Paladin rotations and cooldowns
Tanking is not about rotations. It is about knowing the fight mechanics, and positioning properly in order to take the least amount of damage while helping your party or raid avoid the most damaging mechanics. It's also about knowing when it's best to use your defensive cooldowns.
However, a good rotation will help you mitigate incoming damage more efficiently, and build consistent threat on your targets, preventing them from going off and damaging one of your fellow players.
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Rotation - Single and multi-target
This is the rotation you should use to smooth out your damage intake. The most important component here is to space out your Blessed Hammer casts so they don't overlap, keeping its damage reduction bonus up for as long as possible.
In practice, after you’ve followed the sequence detailed below as a ramp-up, every other cast should be Blessed Hammer. You also want to use Judgement and Shield Of the Righteous as soon as they hit their maximum charges, so that they are recharging constantly.
This rotation is the same regardless of the number of targets you're dealing with.
|Action||Condition / Further Instructions|
|1||Avenger’s Shield||Use to pull.|
|2||Shield of Righteous||If at 3 charges, or if you will be hit by a fatal mechanic / highly damaging attack within the next 4 seconds.|
|3||Judgement||If at 2 charges, or if Shield of Righteous is under 3 charges (as Judgement helps it to recharge).|
|4||Consecration||Keep this up, and stand in it at all times, unless doing so would damage you greatly.|
|6||Avenger’s Shield||Re-use throughout the fight as it gets off cooldown, unless you are facing a caster and want to save it to interrupt.|
|7||Repeat from Step 2.|
Unlike many other abilities that you want to actively spend as they become available, defensive cooldowns are the ones you should save to use as "panic buttons" when you get alarmingly low on health - or to survive fight mechanics that you know will deal a high amount of damage.
|Light of the Protector / Hand of the Protector||This has a very fast cooldown - 10 seconds for Hand - unlike every other option in the list, and is basically your self-healing option. Its effect is greater the less health you have, so you should generally save it until you are beneath 50% health. On easier fights you can use it over that amount in order to make the healer's life less stressful.|
|Guardian of Ancient Kings||This is your most powerful defensive choice, but its 5-minute cooldown means that realistically you can only expect to use it once per fight. Save it to deal with a fatal mechanic, or when hard-pressed.|
|Ardent Defender||While a 20% damage reduction might not seem like much, this ability has a mere 2-minute recovery period (less if your Artifact is properly upgraded) and will save you from death if your HP reaches 0 while it's active. Use it before periods of large damage, or just before a fatal mechanic.|
|Lay On Hands||This will top up your health, no questions asked, but as you can only use it once every 10 minutes you can’t rely on it for every fight. This is your ultimate panic button.|
|Eye of Tyr||You only get this once you acquire your artifact weapon. Its short cooldown allows you to use it to fill up any gaps between Shield of the Righteous, so you should use it quite often and to proactively avoid incoming damage.|
That’s it for the first version of our Protection Paladin guide! Be sure to tune in soon for Artifact upgrade recommendations and discussions around the primary stats you should look for in your gear.
In the meantime, why not take to the comment section below and let us know how you're getting on with the spec in Legion?