This is the first in a series of articles I’m planning on writing that are intended to provide a bit of insight to those people who are new to Paladins or thinking of taking up a shield for the first time. I’ll try not to get to deeply into theorycraft so as to keep this guide accessible to everyone, regardless of their level of knowledge. There are plenty of resources available out there if you want to get a better idea of how certain mechanics work and I strongly encourage anyone so interested to check out sites like Maintankadin.

Part 1: Talents & Glyphs

“I have no particular talent. I am merely inquisitive.”
– Albert Einstein

Confused?Whether you’re creating your first character or just another in a string of alts, upon reaching level 10 you will enable the talent tree feature of the game. Up to this point, everything has been click-and-kill with only a few spells available to you. Now however, you have the opportunity to pick one of three talent trees that will define who your character will become from this point forward.

Paladins, like Druids, offer the widest possible range of versatility allowing players to fill any of the three major roles in the game;

  • You choose the pious path and become a servant of the light, wielding powerful spells and healing the wounds of your comrades.
  • You could take up a shield and become a stalwart bastion of holy strength, defending your fellows from creatures that would look to crush them.
  • You could set forth, find yourself mighty sword and become a holy warrior, slashing your way through hordes of undead minions.

For the sake of this guide I will be focusing on the second of these options and discussing the Protection tree.

Cataclysm has both simplified and added more depth to talent trees. The first thing you will notice is that each tree displays a number of abilities which you will automatically learn for selecting it. In the case of Protection, you will gain one active ability and three passive abilities;

  • Avenger's Shield Avenger’s Shield – This will become one of your major tools for initially grabbing agro and building threat.
  • Vengeance Vengeance – Introduced in Cataclysm, Vengeance is intended to ensure that tanks can keep ahead of damage dealers on threat. In practice, it’s a sledge-hammer to crack a nut that introduces as many problems as it solves.
  • Touched by the Light Touched by the Light – This is a real “Swiss Army Knife” of an ability. Not only does it grant you additional stamina, which converts in to hit points, but it also increases your damage potential which in turn translates to threat.
  • Judgements of the Wise Judgements of the Wise – The vast majority of a Paladin’s abilities cost mana to cast. This helps ensure that you have the mana needed to use those abilities.

As with most classes, there exists a core selection of talents that you will want to take, however as you move down through the tiers of the tree, you have a number of options available to you based on play-style and the content you’ll be tackling. For most players the following build should is recommended as it strikes a good balance between threat and survival: Wowhead.

Tier 1:

  • Divinity Divinity (3/3) – Survivability boost, quite simply means that you receive more healing, whatever the source. There’s no real argument not to max this out.
  • Seals of the Pure Seals of the Pure (2/2) – For most cases, you’ll want to take Seals of the Pure as your threat output will, naturally, be greater.
  • Eternal Glory Eternal Glory (0/2) – Earlier in the expansion (when Word of Glory had no cooldown) Eternal Glory’s 30% proc rate was amazing and really made the talent worth while, now however, it’s much weaker and generally should not be taken.

Tier 2:

  • Judgements of the Just Judgements of the Just (2/2) – 20% reduction to your target’s attach speed translates to a sizeable reduction in incoming damage. You’ll want to invest two points here.
  • Toughness Toughness (3/3) – This is kind of a no-brainer and core to mitigating unavoidable damage.
  • Improved Hammer of Justice Improved Hammer of Justice (0/2) – This is situational at best and should only be taken with optional points once you have your core talents finalised.

Tier 3:

  • Hallowed Ground Hallowed Ground (0/2) – Useful for AoE tanking but is otherwise another situational ability. Skip it for now and consider it later.
  • Sanctuary Sanctuary (3/3) – All tanks have a method of making themselves immune to critical strikes, this is yours. If you don’t see the value in taking this, you’re probably playing the spec.
  • Hammer of the Righteous Hammer of the Righteous (1/1) – For multi-mob pulls, this is your main attack. That it generates Holy Power makes it mandatory.
  • Wrath of the Lightbringer Wrath of the Lightbringer (2/2) – More damage translates directly in to more threat making this a fairly obvious choice, especially during the crucial first few seconds of a pull when you don’t have Vengeance stacked up.

Tier 4:

  • Reckoning Reckoning (1/2) – With good block chance, this should have a fairly high uptime. Even so, the potential for extra Holy Power makes Grand Crusader more appealing.
  • Shield of the Righteous Shield of the Righteous (1/1) – This is arguably the most important talent in the tree. It generates a huge amount of threat and, on single-target/boss fights, should therefore be used whenever you have 3 Holy Power available.
  • Grand Crusader Grand Crusader (2/2) – This gives you a good chance to generate more Holy Power over the course of a fight, which in-turn allows you to hit Shield of the Righteous more frequently. For this reason, it’s worth putting 2 points in.

Tier 5:

  • Vindication Vindication (1/1) – Judgements of the Just reduces your target’s attack speed, this goes a little further and reduces their physical damage as well. Combined this give a huge reduction in your incoming damage and is a clear target for 1 point.
  • Holy Shield Holy Shield (1/1) – Holy Shield was changed in 4.2 to be a cooldown. Sure it gives you another button to push but, used at the right moment, it can smooth out damage spikes and make your healers’ lives much easier.
  • Guarded by the Light Guarded by the Light (2/2) – Word of Glory may not be what it was at the start of the expansion but, when used just prior to a big hit from a boss, the shield this gives you this really helps take the edge off.
  • Divine Guardian Divine Guardian (1/1) – Great ability for periods of high/unavoidable raid damage. Used well, it can make a big difference to the outcome of a fight.

Tier 6:

  • Sacred Duty Sacred Duty (2/2) – Very useful, really helps with your threat, especially if you have a string of misses. This also makes a two Holy Power Shield of the Righteous worth consideration.
  • Shield of the Templar Shield of the Templar (3/3) – An often missed benefit of this talent is the instant three Holy Power it gives. Popping this on a pull, followed my Inquisition and an Avenger’s Shield gives you a nice little head-start on threat against over-eager dps.

Tier 7:

  • Ardent Defender Ardent Defender (1/1) – As you might have noticed by now, Protection Paladins have a large array of cooldowns to smooth damage spikes. This is no exception and worthy of the final point to max out the tree.

At this point, you will have 10 points left and will gain access to the other two trees. We’re going to invest those points in to the Retribution tree as follows:

Tier 1:

  • Eye for an Eye Eye for an Eye (0/2) – It is possibly worth considering taking this for very magic-heavy bosses. However, there are many other talents that will enable you to generate much more threat.
  • Crusade Crusade (3/3) – This is really a great utility talent for any Paladin build and worth investing 3 points in.
  • Improved Judgement Improved Judgement (2/2) – A little extra range is no bad thing and this gives you just that.

Tier 2:

  • Guardian Guardian’s Favor (0/2) – This is situational at best given that Hand of Protection applies Forbearance to the recipient.
  • Rule of Law Rule of Law (3/3) – The fact that this buffs Hammer of the Righteous is a clear sign from Blizzard that they expect Protection to invest in this talent and they’re right, it is a logical choice to make.
  • Pursuit of Justice Pursuit of Justice (2/2) – Fast movement between mobs or away from fire is a recurring theme in raids and dungeons, the free Holy Power when stunned/feared is simply a bonus, this is therefore a great choice.

This is the “standard” Protection Paladin build. There are a couple of points that you can play around with (Seals of the Pure/Eternal Glory, Reckoning/Grand Crusader) but you should generally focus on the core of this build.

Now that you have your talents sorted, it’s time to turn your attention to your glyphs. Glyphs are now grouped in to three categories;

  • Prime: Pure enhancement to the abilities that you use most often. There is normally no penalty to selecting one of these glyphs.
  • Major: Further enhancement to your abilities, but carry a cost, eg; remove a cast time, but add a cooldown.
  • Minor: Utilitarian/Cosmetic changes, eg; removal of reagents, reduction mana cost on buffs or making sheep look like penguins.

Fortunately, most of the glyph choices for Protection have no negative effects so we are free to pick those glyphs that give the biggest boost. Here are all the glyphs that relate to Protection, I’ve marked those that are clear winners with an asterisk anything else is generally situational.

Prime Glyphs Prime

  • Glyph of Crusader Strike – Useful for content that you out-gear, but focused towards Retribution.
  • Glyph of Hammer of the Righteous – Useful for holding down agro on large groups, especially when working through trash quickly.
  • Glyph of Judgement – Helpful for maximising single target threat, but there are better choices available given the low priority of casting Judgement.
  • Glyph of Seal of Truth * – Excellent choice for reducing boss parries, this will also give you a great boost to single-target threat and should be first glyph you pick up.
  • Glyph of Shield of the Righteous * – Absolutely essential for single-target fights given that you will be using this regularly.
  • Glyph of Word of Glory * – Extremely useful for improving your own survivability.

Major Glyphs Major

  • Glyph of Consecration – Very useful if you’re going to be tanking lots of AoE pulls, but worthless for most boss fights.
  • Glyph of Dazing Shield – Helpful on fights where you may need to slow your target, otherwise situational.
  • Glyph of Divine Protection * – Really useful for any boss that puts out a significant amount of spell damage.
  • Glyph of Focused Shield – Good choice for single-target fights (ie; most bosses)
  • Glyph of Holy Wrath * – With so many elementals and dragonkin in Cataclysm, this is highly recommended.
  • Glyph of Rebuke – If you’re frequently find yourself out of mana, this is worth considering. However if this is the case, you probably have bigger problems anyway.
  • Glyph of Salvation – Possibly helpful for tank swaps, but I’ve not really found a need for this one yet.
  • Glyph of Turn Evil – Highly situational given that there are relatively few fights involving undead/demons.
  • Glyph of Ascetic Crusader * – Great for single-target fights where you’ll be using Crusader Strike every time it’s off cooldown.
  • Glyph of Long Word –

Minor Glyphs Minor

That’s enough to be going on with now. Next time, I’ll be taking a look at buffs, abilities and rotations.