Being a hybrid class, Paladins have several great talent trees to work with. You can tank, heal, or provide melee DPS in any group. Through the three talent trees you are able to tailor your ability to fit your requirements. The tree that I am most fond of though is the Protection tree which we'll be taking a more detailed look at here.
While looking at the paladin tanking builds it is important to understand a few things on how tanks work currently. In the current game tanks are able to generate huge amounts of threat due to the way that Vindication scales our attack power as we gear up. This means that many of the threat generating abilities that tanks can gain are not strictly required unless the DPS in your group or raid constantly jumps on a boss full out at the same time you do. If they give you even a few seconds, there is almost no reason for additional threat.
There are times when damage coming in will spike, meaning that anything you can do to either prevent, mitigate, or heal damage is of great use when these spikes happen. Many fights require a great deal of movement and this means that any movement increasing ability allows you to stay on the target for a longer period of time generating threat. Lastly, there are many fights that spread out a lot of AoE damage, intercepting some of this damage is very useful.
Given all of this, the build that I use as of 4.0.6 is as follows: 0/31/10 Self Healing Build.
Starting off with your first tier of talents there are some good choices as you can get extra healing, extra damage/threat, and potentially free Word of Glory heals. The choice here is pretty easy as the extra healing can really add up over time and since you will be constantly taking damage it is almost a no brainer talent choice. The extra damage and threat that you can gain really doesn't add up to that much and you don't need all that much extra threat given the current threat generation ability that tanks gain due to Vindication. This leaves 2 more points that need to be spent so the best option is the ability to grain free heals 30% of the time through the Word of Glory talent.
The second tier grants extra armor and slows enemy attacks after you judge them. The talent that I skip is reducing the cooldown on our stun since it is of very little use anyway. Bosses are immune to stuns and for other fights you have players in your group that can contribute more in the way of CC than we can.
The third tier offers some great damage mitigation and mana regen in the way of Sanctuary, our great multi-target threat generating ability called Hammer of the Righteous, and extra damage from Crusader Strike and judgements. The ability skipped here is the improvement to Consecration, since it causes so little damage in its base form that adding 40% does almost nothing.
In the fourth, fifth, and sixth tier there are a number of great talents, and in fact we take all of them. The only issue is that we have to cut a point from someplace. One of the best talents also has one of the weakest second point abilities. I am talking about the Guarded by the Light talent. It increases the amount of healing that Word of Glory heals for but by a very small amount. The bigger benefit of the ability is granting the ability for your Word of Glory over healing to generate a shield that absorbs damage. This allows you to use your extra Holy Power at the end of fight to prepare for the start of a new fight, or better yet, use your Holy Power any time you have it whether you have heals coming in or not. This means that you will always gain benefit from using your Holy Power to heal no matter what.
Of particular note is the Divine Guardian ability. This is a great ability since it reduces all incoming damage to raid or party members by 20% for 6 seconds. This is an awesome ability since there are many situations that have a lot of AoE damage where this saves a lot of damage being caused and therefore a lot of mana for your healers.
The last talent taken in the Protection tree is Ardent Defender which grants us the awesome ability to take less damage for 10 seconds and also ignore the next hit that would kill you in that time. This is one of the best "oh crap" tanking abilities out there, and it is all ours.
In the Retribution tree we take Crusade for a boost to our threat and damage, since we need to spend 5 points in tier one anyway, and then we also take Improved Judgement to boost our judgement range. This boost to our judgement range allows us an additional tool to help generate threat at range, which is an area were we do not have many tools.
In the second tier we take another threat generating ability that increases our critical strike chance. We also take the Pursuit of Justice ability which gives us a boost to our movement speed which helps us stay on target or switch targets faster. It also helps us generate extra holy power by granting holy power points any time we are stunned, feared, or immobilized.
There really are not that many options when looking at the Protection tree or even options outside of it.
Looking at the protection tree first the main difference looked at is skipping the self healing abilities provided through boosts to our Word of Glory ability by dropping the points from Eternal Glory and Guarded by the Light. Instead put those points into Seals of the Pure for added damage.
The other option in the Protection tree is for instance tanking instead of boss tanking. For this you could put points into the Hallowed Ground ability to improve your consecration.
It could be argued to put points into Seals of the Pure for extra threat, however, that would mean skipping points in the retribution tree. This would mainly be for players that want to ensure maximum threat
In the Retribution tree it is possible to put some points into Eye for an Eye if you expect to take a lot of magic damage since some of it will bounce back at the attacker and help cause threat against them. The damage is still done to you though and generally as mentioned previously threat isn't an issue. Guardian's Favor is another option as it allows you to help protect other players in your party, generally your healer. I don't believe either of these are the best options but can be used in different situations.
There are few talents in the Holy tree that can help us tank and are therefore it is best to not put any points there.
Taken all of this into account I come up with something like this for alternate builds.
Wrap-up and Options
Keep in mind that the above builds are base builds. These are the most common builds and you will find that some of the points can be shifted a little to suit your personal tastes. However, I strongly suggest giving them a try as they stand before shifting them around. Sometimes playing to your personal taste helps you, and other times it hurts you.
Play the base build for a while and adjust as needed. The real options come in when you consider that you can change to one of the alternate builds. When you need to tank AoE content switching to an AoE focused build can help, or if you need more single target threat a build for it can help. Keep all these things in mind and always experiment for yourself.
Do you have any tips or alternate builds you'd like to share? Be sure to leave them in the comments below!
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