Here we are now in the final stretch, finishing up Wrath content and both starting and finishing Cataclysm leveling content as you prepare for your gear and reputation grinds as you strive to get your gear improved enough for heroics and eventually raids as well.
This guide will get you all the way to the level cap so you’ll have all of your spells and talents available to you at the end of this. If you aren’t already familiar with your various cooldowns and buffs, then now is the time to learn them. Go queue yourself up for a random dungeon and make a point of using all of your cooldowns at some point. If you’re still under level 81 then queue for Wrath dungeons so that you don’t have to worry about new mechanics just yet, and focus on learning how and when to use the spells you may have been ignoring up to this point.
As always, remember that my guides are focused on getting you leveled up. I’m not here to get you ready for raiding, that’s for other bloggers who focus specifically on certain classes and the raiding aspect of the game.
Playing a Protection Paladin
So now you’re in Northrend level content and moving up towards Cataclysm content and the level cap. As far as playing your Prot Pally goes there’s not much difference at all, save that Northrend mobs are harder than Outlands mobs and Cataclysm mobs are harder than Northrend mobs. You can still do big AoE pulls in all the content you’ll level through in this range, though I suggest you go back to starting with small pulls of 2-4 until you get a feel for the mobs and then work your way up to bigger groups.
Questing as Prot is both simple and effective. Keep on doing what you’ve been doing the whole time, keep an eye on your health when you enter new areas so you know what to expect in the way of healing and pulling, but otherwise just have at it.
If you’re looking for specs, rotations, gear guides, and so forth for getting into heroics and raids, then I direct you to Righteous Defense, a blog written by my buddy @Rhidach, who I consider my go-to source for end game Paladin information.
I don’t have much in the way of specific tips for you in this level range other than I love taking advantage of kill quests to use my AoE. I didn’t have any trouble at all with Northrend group quests until I got to the last couple of levels in Northrend, there’s one Group 5 quest in Ice Crown that I couldn’t handle at 78. Not a big deal, I just skipped it and went on to other quests.
As you get into Cataclysm you’ll notice a big jump in how powerful mobs are compared to how relatively weak your gear is if you’re leveling straight through and weren’t raiding in Wrath before. While not specific to Prot, I suggest you check the Auction House or your crafting alts to get yourself some Cataclysm gear from level 78 on. Get yourself a new set of armor, a new weapon, and a new shield. You should be able to get a couple of rings and a neck for fairly cheap since Jewelcrafters mass produce them to level their profession. A good weapon and shield are probably going to cost you a couple hundred gold each, but it’ll be worth it.
Important Spells & Abilities
- Avenging Wrath: Increases all damage and healing caused by 20% for 20 sec.
- Resistance Aura: Gives additional Fire, Frost and Shadow resistance to all party and raid members within 40 yards. Players may only have one Aura on them per Paladin at any one time.
- Turn Evil: The targeted undead or demon enemy will be compelled to flee for up to 20 sec. Damage caused may interrupt the effect. Only one target can be turned at a time.
- Hand of Sacrifice: Places a Hand on the party or raid member, transfering 30% damage taken to the caster. Lasts 12 sec or until the caster has transfered 100% of their maximum health. Players may only have one Hand on them per Paladin at any one time.
- Mastery: Divine Bulwark: Increases your chance to block melee attacks by 18%. Each point of Mastery increases block chance by an additional 2.25%.
- Inquisition: Consumes all Holy Power to increase your Holy Damage by 30%. Lasts 4 sec per charge of Holy Power consumed.
- Divine Radiance: Heals all friendly targets within 0 yards for up to 683 every sec, with effectiveness diminishing on targets farther than 8 yards away and for each additional player target beyond 6. Lasts 10 sec.
- Guardian of Ancient Kings: Summons an Ancient Guardian who reduces all damage taken by 50% for 12 seconds.
Avenging Wrath, at level 72, is what gives your Paladin their “wings”. It’s a flat 20% increase in damage and healing that you do. It’s a great buff and you should use it whenever you have the opportunity to do so, whether you’re solo questing or tanking.
Level 76 gives you Resistance Aura which is a pretty decent buff when used at the right now. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to take elemental damage and you don’t particularly need any of your other auras, then you might as well use this one. If you aren’t taking significant elemental damage though, I wouldn’t bother with it. As Protection Paladins we can take a melee style beating for days and just keep right on going, but we have very little resistance to Magic damage, so if you find yourself facing a lot of casters it might be a good idea to switch this baby on for a bit.
At level 78 you’re able to send the fear of righteousness into undead and demons thanks to Turn Evil. It’s a fear spell that can only target Undead and Demons, but at least it’s somewhat reliable CC when it can be used. There aren’t a whole lot of undead in Cataclysm, but there are some demons hanging around here and there. Honestly I only use this in AoE situations so that I can get a mob to socially agro his buddies for me. I leave the CC to other classes when I’m tanking.
At level 80 you get both Hand of Sacrifice and access to your Mastery, Divine Bulwark. Hand of Sacrifice is a great spell for saving the lives of your teammates by taking 30% of the damage they deal and directing it to yourself instead. The only time I cast this as a tank is when my healer is taking damage and my taunts are on cooldown. I use this a lot more during the rare moments I’m in a spec other than Prot. We make great use of our Mastery stat.
Level 81 sends in the (Spanish) Inquisition, our final method of burning Holy Power, this time to increase our Holy Damage. I’m not going to lie to you, I forget this thing exists constantly. It seems to me it’s more of a DPS spell, though it could of course be used for tanking as well. I generally don’t bother with it, but that’s me.
Level 83 brings Holy Radiance which is an AoE heal centered on you that heals for more the closer they are to you. I actually like using this as Prot, even though it’s a heal and my heals typically suck. It’s something I can cast during combat to add a little buffer to myself and the other melee DPS. When I talk about the 939 rotation down below, this is one of those spells I fit into a 9-slot that doesn’t typically belong there.
And finally, level 85 gives us Guardian of Ancient Kings, a spell that has a different effect based on your spec. For Prot that means we get 50% damage reduction for 12 seconds. It’s a great way to mitigate some damage and ease up the load on your healers, or to add some more survivability when you’re solo grinding large packs of mobs.
Leveling a Protection Paladin
Buffs List: Righteous Fury, Seal of Insight/Truth, Blessing of Might/Kings, Retribution/Devotion Aura
Multi-Target Rotation: Avenger’s Shield, Hammer of the Righteous, Holy Wrath, Hammer of the Righteous, Judgement, Hammer of the Righteous
Single-Target Rotation: Exorcism, Avenger’s Shield, Crusader Strike, Judgement, Crusader Strike, Holy Wrath, Crusader Strike, Shield of the Righteous
Boss Rotation 1: Avenger’s Shield, Judgement, Divine Plea, Shield of the Righteous, Crusader Strike, Holy Wrath, Crusader Strike, Judgement, Crusader Strike, Shield of the Righteous
Boss Rotation 2: Divine Plea, Shield of the Righteous, Crusader Strike, Judgement, Avenger’s Shield, Consecrate, Holy Wrath, “939”
The Buffs List contains the buffs you should have up at all times. You’ll notice that most of those have a This/That option as well. I tend to use Seal of Insight at all times while I’m leveling. Most mobs aren’t going to live long enough to make SoTruth worth it, and it’s better to keep your life and mana topped off instead. For Blessings I generally use Might when soloing and Kings when I’m in a group or a Battle Ground. The Aura is up to you, though I lean towards Retribution unless I’m taking a ton of damage.
The reason why the Boss Rotation 1 changes from everything else we’re doing is because you want to start off as strong as possible on the threat front. This is my own preference for boss fights, it’s how I like to handle them. Avenger’s Shield and Judgement give you a decent start on threat but the real kicker is using Divine Plea which your talents trigger to give you 3 Holy Power and Shield of the Righteousness burns those three for a big burst of threat as well. Doing this should put you far enough ahead of all your DPS that you won’t have to worry about them pulling off of you. Also, if you have your Avenger’s Shield cooldown reset from your talent procs go ahead and fit it in whenever you have a moment to do so.
Boss Rotation 2 brings up the mysterious Paladin rotation known as 939. Prior to 939 you’re building up your threat with various cooldowns and then settling into the 939 rotation. See the following section for details on what 939 is, and how to use it.
Understanding the 939 Rotation
939 – Those numbers more or less represent the cooldowns of your spells. The 9’s represent your longer cooldown attacks while the 3’s always represent Crusader Strike (single target) or Hammer of the Righteous (AoE). So the basic idea to do Special Attack > Crusader Strike > Special Attack, and repeat that over and over. That’s why Paladins are “so easy” to tank with, because they have a literal rotation and it’s easy to follow.
The easy part of 939 is remembering that you’re going to use Crusader Strike or Hammer of Righteousness every time they’re off cooldown, which will end up being every-other attack.
The “hard” part, which really isn’t hard, is remembering when to use your 9’s, which are all of your other special attacks. On one hand you could say to just use whatever happens to not be on cooldown and you’ll probably do just fine while you’re leveling. But the key to making 939 work, and work well, is knowing the priority of your 9’s.
Before you learn their priority, you probably need to know what the 9’s are: Judgement, Avenger’s Shield, Holy Wrath, and Shield of the Righteous. There are also a couple of spells that can fill the 9’s slot that don’t have a dedicated place in the rotation and instead are used as needed in a 9 slot: Word of Glory, Consecration, Hammer of Wrath, Hammer of Justice, and Rebuke.
Priority of 9’s: Shield of the Righteous (only with 3 Holy Power), Judgement, [Exception*], Avenger’s Shield, Consecration, Holy Wrath
Shield of the Righteous takes the top spot because if you don’t use it when you’re sitting at 3 Holy Power then you’re going to waste Holy Power with the next Crusader/Hammer cast that you make unless you throw off your whole rotation. Judgement provides you with a lot of different beneficial effects, so use it when you can to reap the benefits.
The [Exception*] is when the target is below 20% health. In those situations Hammer of Wrath takes a priority slot right behind Judgement. If you don’t have 3 Holy Power yet and Judgement isn’t on cooldown, cast Hammer of Wrath before all the others.
Avenger’s Shield, Consecration, and Holy Wrath fill out the remainder of the priority list. I’m not a big fan of Consecration in this expansion, so I usually leave it out completely, but that’s just me.
The other spells I mentioned being able to fill your 9’s slots with are all situational. You won’t necessarily be able to fit in a Hammer of Justice or Rebuke cast on the 9 slot as interrupts are usually needed right now instead of whenever it’s convenient for you, and if you’re in desperate need of a Word of Glory heal then of course you need it when you need it.
Talent Spec: Protection 85
- Improved Judgement 2/2: Increases the range of your Judgement by 20 yards.
- Crusade 3/3: Increases the damage of your Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous, and Templar’s Verdict by 30%, and the damage and healing of your Holy Shock by 30%. In addition, for 15 sec after you kill an enemy that yields experience or honor, your next Holy Light heals for an additional 300%.
- Pursuit of Justice 2/2: You have a 100% chance to gain a charge of Holy Power when struck by a Stun, Fear or Immobilize effect. In addition, increases your movement and mounted movement speed by 15%. This effect does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.
- Rule of Law 3/3: Increases the critical effect chance of your Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous and Word of Glory by 15%.
I like to take Improved Judgement as my first point outside of the Prot tree. It’s great for pulling additional mobs, patrols, or adds when you don’t have a taunt handy (or want to save it), and for having more to do while you’re rushing in on a boss. It’s not required, but I like it a lot personally. Switching these points to Eye for an Eye would be a decent alternative I imagine.
Crusade is a flat damage increase of 30% to two of our most frequently used spells: Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous. I also like it for the 300% healing from Holy Light after you kill an honor/experience target so that I can easily top off after a big pull with a single, cheap heal.
Pursuit of Justice is a great little talent. First it gives free Holy Power when you’re stunned, feared, or immobilized and then it has the added benefit of increasing your movement speed by 15% on top of it. Increasing your speed from talents frees up an enchant slot on your boots too.
We finish off our talent points with Rule of Law, increasing the crit chance of three of our most common spells.
Again, I want to point out that my guides are here to help you level your toon, not necessarily to get your ready for raiding and farming heroics. If you want to get serious about end game content then you’re much better off looking at someone who’s focused on end game. I level, it’s what I do, and I can help you with that just fine, but end game is not my strong point.
All of your glyph slots will be open to you as of level 75, so you’ve now got 3 of each type to fill. Glyphs are listed in the order I would suggest you take them from a leveling perspective.
- Glyph of Shield of the Righteous: Increases the damage of Shield of the Righteous by 10%.
- Glyph of Hammer of the Righteous: Increases the damage of both the physical and Holy components of Hammer of the Righteous by 10%.
- Glyph of Crusader Strike: Increases the critical strike chance of Crusader Strike by 5%.
Now that all of our glyph slots are open, it’s time to fill them up with the good stuff. I list these in the order I suggest that you take them.
- Glyph of Dazing Shield: Your Avenger’s Shield now also dazes targets.
- Glyph of Holy Wrath: Your Holy Wrath now also stuns Elementals and Dragonkin.
- Glyph of Consecration: Increases the duration and cooldown of Consecration by 20%.
- Glyph of the Ascetic Crusader: Reduces the mana cost of your Crusader Strike by 30%.
- Glyph of Lay on Hands: Reduces the cooldown of your Lay on Hands spell by 3 min.
- Glyph of Divine Protection: Removes the physical damage reduction of your Divine Protection, but increases the magical damage reduction by 20%.
Again, I list these in the order I suggest you take them. One glyph that might stand out as an oddity to you is the Glyph of Lay on Hands. I mention it solely because of the mana issues that many people are having right now, especially healers. Lay on Hands restores a lot of health, but it also restores some mana to the target as well, and being able to use this on a healer who’s out of mana can be the difference between a loot roll and a corpse run.
- Glyph of Blessing of Kings: Reduces the mana cost of Blessing of Kings by 50%.
- Glyph of Insight: Reduces the mana cost of Seal of Insight by 50%.
- Glyph of Blessing of Might: Reduces the mana cost of Blessing of Might by 50%.
Paladin minor glyphs are crap. We get six glyphs that all do exactly the same thing, reducing mana cost of their respective spells by 50%. Grab the three you cast most often and go with it.
Gearing Up as Protection
As a melee class we’re looking for stats that impact our melee performance such as Strength, Attack Power, Hit, Crit and Haste. As a tank though, you also want to look for survival stats such as Stamina, Dodge and Parry.
Stat Priority: Strength and Stamina, Mastery, Dodge and Parry, Other melee stuff
Use that as a general guide for your stats. If you’re looking to get geared up for heroics and raids then I suggest you do a little more research elsewhere to find the actual stat weights.