It’s been a while since I wrote a Semi-hardcore and thought it was about time to send one out again.  It’s been a while simply because there hasn’t been that much to say about Paladins and specifically Paladin tanks in WoW:WotLK.  The game has been stable for a long time, essentially since TOC and then IIC came out. 

The changes that will really affect the Paladin class are those that are coming in WoW: Cataclysm, however they have been really unstable until recently.  Now that many of the new mechanics are becoming more stable in the beta and some of the numbers have started to be worked on I thought it was time to come in and discuss the new tanking rotation and how it is shaping up. 

Before looking at the new rotations, it may be a good time to review the current WotLK 969 rotation to fully understand the changes.  This has been written up and discussed previously, so rather than repeat it here head over to this link to get a refresh: Paladin Protection Guide – Threat Rotation

NOTE:  Everything discussed here is in beta and therefore subject to change.  Also the exact values (damage and threat caused) have not been tuned yet that I know of, therefore the exact priority of abilities is not yet able to be figured out, I am looking only at the theoretical rotations.


Before we actually look at the new rotation it is also best to understand the changes that have occurred to many of the tanking abilities that they are based on.  While there are not many new abilities, several of our core abilities have changed significantly.

Holy Power (HP) – This is not an ability itself, instead it is our new Rogue-like combo point system.  Using different abilities generates HP points which stack up to three points and then stick around until used.  The points can be used to power other abilities, and the more points you currently have the more powerful the ability becomes. Once an ability that requires HP is used, all HP points are reset to zero.

Currently Holy Power in Beta is used to power three different abilities for Protection Paladins.  They are Word of Glory (a small instant self-heal), Shield of the Righteous (single target attack), and Inquisition (a self buff to holy damage).


Avenger’s Shield (AS) – This ability is basically unchanged, other than getting a new rank of it at level 85.  It is an instant ability with a 30 yard range and a long cooldown (currently in Beta it is 24 seconds).  When cast it hurls a holy shield at the enemy, dealing holy damage.  In addition it silences them, interrupts for 3 sec, and then jumps to up to two additional nearby enemies.  

Even though the cooldown for this ability is fairly long, there is a chance to get it back off cooldown sooner.  By taking the Grand Crusader talent (which you should) your Hammer of the Righteous and Crusader Strikes both have a 20% chance to refresh the cooldown on your Avenger’s Shield.  This brings it back into your rotation more often.  Since you use one of those abilities every 4.5 seconds it means that on average you will get a cooldown refresh roughly twice a minute.  The actual time that this saves on your cooldown depends when Grand Crusader procs in your rotation. 


Crusader Strike (CS) – This is the same old ability, however since it is just now available to all Paladins and not just Retribution, it is new to us as tanks.  It is an instant strike on a short cooldown (currently 4.5 seconds) that causes damage to a single target, applies Vindication, has a chance to proc Grand Crusader, and generates a point of Holy Power.

Vindication is a debuff that reduces the physical damage done by the affected target(s) by 10% for 30 sec.


Hammer of the Righteous (HotR) – This old standard ability has seen a pretty significant change.  Instead of hitting our current target and two additional nearby targets is now hits the current target for a small amount of physical damage and then causes an explosion of light that again damages the current target and all additional targets within 8 yards for a small amount of holy damage.  In addition it will generate a charge of Holy Power, has a chance to proc Grand Crusader, and will apply Vindication (on the initial target only).  It is still an instant attack and is on a 4.5 second cooldown that is shared with Crusader Strike. 

Because HotR is on the same cooldown as Crusader Strike it is almost always better to use it rather than CS due to hitting multiple targets.  Crusader Strike only gains priority when there is a single target, and in fact because of the damage coefficients for the abilities right now in Beta, HotR is always the better ability to use, this will hopefully change before release though.


Holy Shield (HS) – This is not a cast ability any more.  Instead, any time you use Shield of the Righteous or Inquisition your block chance increases by 15% for the next 20 seconds.  This is a huge change from the old ability. This new version means that you need to ensure you use one of the abilities that trigger this at least every 20 seconds to ensure you maintain the block chance buff for maximum damage mitigation.


Shield of the Righteous (SotR)

- This ability is much the same as before in that it hits a single target for holy damage and causes a high amount of threat.  Instead of costing mana though, it now consumes all of your Holy Power points. 

The amount of damage and threat it causes varies drastically depending on the number of HP points you have, it can be as little as 20% of your attack power up to 120% of your attack power.  This really means that ideally you should only ever use this ability once you have accumulated the maximum three points of Holy Power. 

In addition to causing damage and threat, using SotR also triggers your Holy Shield buff.


Consecration – This ability has not changed significantly other than the cooldown has been greatly increased.  It now functions much more like a Death Knight’s Death and Decay than it used to.  Instead of being up all the time, it is now only active for 10 seconds and then on cooldown for 30 seconds. 

The change to the cooldown means that you need to time your use of it for maximum effect.  This will generally mean that you use it at the beginning of any fight with a large number of enemies and then again later only if multiple enemies are still alive.


Holy Wrath (HW)

– This ability has seen a fairly significant change in the fact that it will now hit any target in range for holy damage, not just undead or demons.  In addition any undead or demon targets that it does hit it will stun.  This change takes this ability from a situational ability to a solid AOE tanking tool.  This is important to remember since Consecrate will now no longer be active all the time.


Understanding the abilities allows us to now look at the rotations to be used for threat generation and damage mitigation.  I bring up the damage mitigation since we are no longer able to actively click Holy Shied to keep it active and create threat, instead it is just damage mitigation and triggered from other abilities.

To ensure that Holy Shield is active all the time you need to make sure that you use your SotR ability at least once every 20 seconds.  An important thing to remember here is that HS is triggered at full strength no matter how many points of Holy Power are used to trigger your SotR.  This means that at times you may be forced to trigger a less than optimal SotR hit just to keep Holy Shield active.  Try not to, but do it if required, you want that HS buff up at all times.  If Inquisition is off of cooldown you can also use it instead of SotR to bring your HS buff up, but since it is on a three minute cooldown it is only used occasionally.

Next up it is important to understand that there will no longer be a single rotation but two separate ones.  While similar, the abilities will have different priorities depending on if you are fighting a single enemy or an AOE group of enemies.

Single Target Threat Rotation

When fighting a singe target after a pull your best rotation will be based off of Crusader Strike, Judgements, Avenger’s Shields, Hammer of the Righteous, and Shield of the Righteous. Your rotation will end up being something like: CS, J, AS, CS, HotR, CS, J, SotR and then rinse and repeat.

There are some breaks that will occur during the rotation where abilities are not available due to timings not lining up exactly.  This means that you can fill in those breaks with things like Holy Wrath, Consecration, and extra Avenger’s Shield cooldowns created from Grand Crusader procs.

AOE Threat Rotation

When you are working against AOE groups the standard rotation stays fairly close, however instead of prioritizing CS over HotR, you reverse it whenever possible.  Also you should be using Consecration every single time it is up and the same with Holy Wrath.  It is important to keep these multi-target abilities open though for shortly into the fight.

The biggest change when AOE tanking will be on your first rotation through when you have generated 3 Holy Power.  At this point instead of using a SotR for single target threat you should use Inquisition and then follow it up with Consecration and Avenger’s Shield.  The boost to your holy damage will keep the group of enemies locked to you solid.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.