Your First Time Tanking: Northrend Edition

04 Jun

[Update] I have reviewed Divine Plea and its use as a buff rather than an emergency button for mana, and found it to be extremely efficient. I have added it to a new section of the Spells to Know for Preparation Spells.[/Update]

I am going to try running a three part series here on how to tank instances for the first time. A lot of people still prefer to level up as Ret rather than Prot, even if they fully intend to be tanks when they hit level 80. When the time finally does come to switch over and try out the tanking spec they really don’t know how to play the class in a tanking fashion, how the abilities should be used, and so on and so forth.

One of my Twitter friends, Brajana, who also runs an excellent WoW blog called Mend Pet, asked me about tanking Northrend instances for the first time and since she is already in Northrend, I decided I would start there first.

The following items will be discussed in particular:

  • Spells to Know
  • Tanking Spec
  • Tanking Glyphs
  • Starter Tanking Gear
  • Tanking Tactics
  • Tanking Rotations

Spells to Know
I know that this list is long, but I want to give you the details that you are going to need to be a successful tank. You don’t have to have all of this information memorized, I simply provide it for you here as a reference.

Spells with a triple-asterisk (***) beside them are crucial.

Take a look at each section to at least familiarize yourself with the spells to know what you have available to you and to get an idea of what you are capable of doing with a hybrid class.

Pulling Spells
Avenger’s Shield***
Hand of Reckoning

When pulling mobs in Northrend instances, Avenger’s Shield is my primary choice for pulling more than one mob. With 3 points in the Shield of the Templar talent, your Avenger’s Shield has a 100% chance to silence the targets you hit, which helps you keep the groups together easier so that your AoE damage can more easily generate threat on as many targets as possible.

If Avenger’s Shield is on cooldown, I go ahead and pull with Exorcism instead. Very rarely do I actually pull with Hand of Reckoning unless I already have a group and want to pull another group over to me as well.

If I am about to pull a boss, and the boss happens to be either Undead or Demon then I pull with Exorcism instead of Avenger’s Shield.

Preparation Spells
Divine Plea

These are spells that you should cast just before you go into combat. Either right before your pull, or immediately after.

Divine Plea is another key in having a never ending pool of mana. It’s only 25% of your total mana when you cast it, but if you have taken the talent spec that I suggested, then every time you get hit it will refresh itself. When you are constantly gaining 25% of your mana, you’re basically never running out. If you glyph for it as I suggested, then you also have damage that you take reduced by 3% any time its active. So if you run into combat with it already on, then you’re not only regaining your mana but you’re also taking less damage.

Divine Plea can still work as your “oh crap” button for mana, especially when you are fighting mobs with mana burn. Having tested it now, I certainly don’t think you should simply hold this one back for dire circumstances. Instead, throw this baby on right before you head into combat and then make sure it stays there. If it’s constantly refreshed, then you don’t have to recast it. If it does fall off, just throw it on again and keep right on tanking.

Attack/Rotation Spells
Holy Shield***
Hammer of the Righteous***
Judgement of Wisdom or Judgement of Light***
Shield of Righteousness***

This list is laid out in the general order of what people refer to as the “96969” rotation. Note that the Glyph of Consecration can throw the 969 rotation off because it lengthens both the duration and the cooldown by two seconds.

Holy Shield should typically be your first spell you cast after pulling the mobs, preferrably immediately after you cast the spell to pull them. If you pull by stepping into their agro range rather than using a pulling spell, then this should be cast as soon as you notice you’ve pulled. This spell is going to increase your Chance to Block and also deal extra damage to the mobs you block.

Hammer of the Righteous is going to deal damage to up to three targets (four if you take my advice and glyph for it), and all of that damage is Holy, which means it’s all counted towards your threat.

Judgement of Wisdom/Light is how you keep yourself full of mana and health respectively. If you find yourself running out of mana then use JoW. If you find your health dropping quickly, then use JoL instead. Both of them have their uses, and which one you need more should take priority. While leveling, I found JoW to be needed more often, but while running instances in Northrend I find that JoL is needed more often because my mana is almost always at 100%. You should be familiar with how these work by now.

Shield of Righteousness is used to deal damage to a single target, helping you to build a higher level of threat on that target as well as damaging it down faster. You get this spell at level 75, so if you are not yet high enough just remove it from your rotation and replace it with other spells you have available such as Exorcism.

Consecrate is your bread and butter spell. Every paladin gets it at level 20, so you should be familiar with its use. This spell is going to deal more damage than anything else (as you can see from the Recount image at the bottom) and it is also going to be your primary source of threat generation on everything within 8 yards of where you cast it.

Threat Stealing Spells (Taunts)
Righteous Defense***
Hand of Salvation
Hand of Protection (actual link coming soon)

[Update] As Cassini pointed out in his comment, these abilities are what we call Taunts in-game. I’ve been used to writing this blog geared towards new players, so I went with a general description for what they do rather than what they are called by other players.[/Update]

Righteous Defense is the only spell you have that actually “steals” threat. It can pull up to three mobs off of the target. If multiple members of your party have agro, your healer should always be your primary target for this. Otherwise, feel free to steal it from whoever has agro. Please remember though that classes such as the Warrior often need to have agro on at least one mob to generate the rage they need to function.

Hand of Salvation does not steal threat, instead it gradually reduces the threat of whoever you cast it on over 10 seconds. If you know you have a dps party member that likes to rush in a little quick, or a DK who loves to Death Grip mobs to him and then complain about dying, this is a good spell to cast on someone you know is going to generate enough threat to potentially pull mobs away from you. I very rarely use this spell.

Hand of Protection also does not technically steal threat. Instead, it dumps all of the threat that your target has against melee mobs. So while it does not pull the mob directly to you, it does take them off of whoever they were attacking. If you use this spell, be sure to use some form of attack on the melee mobs that were attacking your target, or else they will simply move on to their next target, which will likely be your healer. With this combination, you can basically steal all of the melee-agro from whoever might have it. If it is a single mob, I would suggest using either Hand of Reckoning or Exorcism to pull the mob. If multiple mobs are present then either use Avenger’s Shield if they are far away, or run over to your target and cast Consecration if they are close. Hammer of the Righteous may also work, but Consecration will be more effective at grabbing all of the intended mobs.

Note: Hand of Protection – be aware that when you cast this spell on someone, you remove their ability to attack. If you cast it on someone that isn’t used to the spell, they’re likely to get a little upset. They can simply right-click the buff icon to cancel it, but there are players who aren’t used to doing that and I have even seen some within the last week who have been playing for years and had no clue that you could do that. So you may want to inform them (after a second or two, so that you can build up threat) how to remove the (de)buff so that they can attack again.

Self Buffs
Righteous Fury***
Seal of Wisdom***
Greater Blessing of Sanctuary***

Every one of these buffs should be on you at all times. If you ever let Righteous Fury fall off of you, I will personally roll a character of the opposing faction to come hunt you down and kill you. Repeatedly.

Righteous Fury gives you a huge boost to your threat generation, making it nearly impossible for most classes to pull agro away from you. This spell is absolutely critical to your ability to tank.

Seal of Wisdom is the key to you having the mana that you need to function. If necessary, you can use Seal of Light instead, but I find SoW to be more efficient.

Greater Blessing of Sanctuary is going to reduce the damage that you take by 3% and also restore mana to you every time you block, dodge, or parry an attack. I have seen tanks who use other blessings, but I find them all to be far inferior to BoS in my personal experience.

Retribution Aura***
Devotion Aura***

By default, Retribution Aura is the one that I use to help me deal more damage to the mobs that are attacking me.

Devotion Aura gives you a significant boost to your Armor. If you find that you are taking too much damage, or getting hit too often, it’s perfectly acceptable to switch over to this aura instead.

Utility Spells
Hand of Sacrifice

Hand of Sacrifice gets a bit of a special mention for when you have multiple people in the party taking damage either from multiple mobs or from mobs using AoE damage, then this is a good spell to use. I don’t use it often since I have not ran into too many oportunities where it would be even slightly usefull, but it’s something to use if things start going down hill.

Talent Spec
I have shown you my leveling spec in previous posts, so here I show you the spec that I use when I am tanking instances in Northrend. Now, you are fully capable of tanking instances with the leveling spec that I use, however there are a couple of items which are more of a hindrance than they are a help when you are in an instance.


Tanking Glyphs
Major Glyph
Hammer of the Righteous
Divine Plea

Hammer of the Righteous: This glyph allows you to hit four total targets with HotR instead of just three. More damage to more targets means better threat build up, and it means burning them down faster than before. There is no other glyph in the game right now that I would remove this one for.

Divine Plea: After having tested Divine Plea prompted by Cassinni’s suggestion, I most definitely suggest you get this glyph. With it’s constantly-refreshing property from the suggested talent spec, this buff doesn’t leave you until combat is over. Using the glyph gives you 3% damage reduction while the buff is active, and this buff should essentially be active the entire time you are in combat.

Exorcism: An extra 20% damage to a ranged spell isn’t half bad. This is the expendable major glyph. If you have something else you prefer, then feel free to swap it out. You don’t have a third glyph slot until level 80 anyway, so I suggest the other two be your first priority.

Minor Glyph
Lay On Hands: Reduces the cooldown of Lay on Hands by 5 minutes.
Sense Undead: Increases the damage you deal to Undead targets by 1% while your Sense Undead ability is activated.

Lay On Hands: This glyph I recommend strictly because it’s one of your “oh crap!” buttons. Being able to hit that button more often can definitely be a good thing.

Sense Undead: This glyph is the only minor glyph that has any chance of impacting your threat generation and damage dealing. Unfortunately, it’s entirely situational as it only has an impact against Undead targets. It also only takes effect when your Sense Undead spell is active.

Those are the only two suggestions I really have for Minor glyphs, as most of the Paladin’s minor glyphs are highly unimpressive. For your third slot, just grab one and go with it.

You can refer to my previous post Paladin AoE Grinding: Glyph Edition for more specific information on glyph options.

Starter’s Tanking Gear
Gear is very important to tanking, because if your defense sucks, then so does your tanking. It really doesn’t matter how much skill you have at tanking if you are constantly on the receiving end of critical hits.

As the absolute minimum, assuming that you are at least level 70, I strongly suggest that you go find yourself 40 Cobalt Bars and have a Blacksmith craft the Cobalt Armor “Set” for you. It is not an actual set since there are no Set bonuses or anything, but any Blacksmith capable of making them will know what you are referring to. This is going to be the easiest way for you to get a decent tanking set to start off with if you have been leveling under a different spec and not collecting gear for it.

You can refer to Lexington’s Armory page if you would like to see the pieces of the set individually, or you can look them up on sites such as As of today (June 7, 2009) Lexington is level 71 and currently wearing the full Cobalt Set. I use the Petrified Lichen Guard while grinding and farming, but the Cobalt Triangle Shield is better suited for running instances.

This is the easiest starter kit you can get for your tank, and it is a good place to start off when tanking. If you have access to better gear, then by all means take it instead. But, this is a great place to start otherwise.

If you want more details on gear, then I suggest you do a little more searching on other blogs or forums because I am certainly no expert in this area. Gear gives you a firm foundation to build on, but it’s the knowledge of your class that is going to determine how well you perform your job as a tank. Because of this, I do not bother wasting my time crunching numbers for the best gear out there. Instead, I use the best gear I happen to find and push myself to learn how to make up for the difference in how I play.

Break It Down!
Here I am going to show you a breakdown from the Recount add-on to show you the abilities that I used while I was tanking my first instance in Northrend, which was Nexus while I was level 71. The group was a tank and dps at level 71, a dps and healer at level 72, and a level 74 warlock dps as well. We did end up bringing in a level 80 druid healer after our second wipe on the final boss though.

I include this because I have been asked what abilities I find deal the most damage while I am tanking, which this will give you the breakdown off. You will see that Consecration is still my highest source of damage at level 71, just as it was at level 20 when you first get access to it.



Posted by on June 4, 2009 in Guide, Paladin


Tags: , , ,

14 responses to “Your First Time Tanking: Northrend Edition

  1. Cassini

    June 8, 2009 at 7:05 AM

    Pretty nice post with lots of good details in it.

    Here are some alternatives I might suggest for various points you have made. :)

    You have listed pulling spells and attack rotation spells but I would suggest an inbetween category of preperation spells. Before I make pulls, I like to cast Divine Plea and Sacred Shield which give me a nice buffer and means I don’t have to interupt any rotations for a while.

    This leades me onto my next point. Divine Plea. You have listed this as an ‘oh crap’ button. It really isn’t. It’s something you should have up 100% of the time you’re in combat. Really. Glyph it. Cast it. Every single pull. Without fail. Why? Well the mana return is quite nice, I get ~300 mana back from this per tick, but more importantly – 3% damage reduction. It also refreshes when you hit something. So once again, glph it and cast it pre-pull. You won’t regret it.

    Consecration is quite mana draining. Although it’s great for getting threat up, once you have a comfortable lead you can happily drop it from your rotation to help conserve mana (if you need to). I personally rarely drop more than 1 or 2 of these in any situation.

    On your threat stealing (taunts) section you have ommitted Hand of Reckoning, which is a single target taunt.

    In self buffs you have not included Seal of Vengeance which is a pro spell for generating threat, especially if you have glyphed for it since it also adds expertise. In groups I would tend to use this as my first choice seal with Light/Wisdom replacing it if needed. In conjunction with this I may also suggest ditching the glyph of exorcism and subbing it for the glyph of SoV.

    But if you only take one thing away from this comment then it should be to always, always, keep Divine Plea ticking over and not to treat it simply as an “oh crap” button.

    Thanks again for taking the time to write this article though as it’s overall very good.


    • Psynister

      June 8, 2009 at 2:39 PM


      I greatly appreciate the help that you’ve offered on many of my posts here. It’s always nice to have someone who’s been around longer than I have to come and fix things I gloss over or omit all together.

      I just recently got access to Divine Plea, so I’m not fully proficient with its use just yet. I certainly agree that the extra 3% damage reduction will be great with the glyph added, but I always hate useing something that could give me mana when I don’t need to. But I rarely find that I need mana on the paladin unless I’m fighting something with mana drain.

      So, I think I would probably fully agree with you on that point. If you know you’re in an area with mana drain then you might hold onto it, but otherwise there’s really no reason *not* to cast it whenever it’s up.

      Sacred Shield I still do not have, so I haven’t listed anything about it yet. I really don’t like giving advice on something I haven’t personally tried yet. I have played a bit on my wife’s 80 Paladin, so I do know about SoRighteousness, but I don’t think she actually had SS on her hot bar, so I never tried it.

      While Consecration is definitely a mana drain, I still cast it multiple times and end every fight with near maximum mana. But again, I talk strictly from my own experience.

      I still find that I have no problem with mana, so I keep right on casting it. If you ever find yourself running low on mana, then by all means drop it from the rotation. Unless your dps don’t really know their role and target things that you aren’t hitting at all, then they aren’t likely to pull agro from you after 1-2 consecrations anyway.

      I have tried to use HoR as a taunt, to steal agro from onebody else before, and while it has happened a time or two, I have found that it fails to actually steal agro from that person almost every single time. I used to try HoR while I was running instances in my 40’s and again in my 60’s and it failed more often than it worked. I’ll see if I can test it again today.

      Seal of Vengeance is one I’ve never tried because I find SoWisdom to be so helpful in keeping my mana up. This is another thing I’ll try out tonight if I can and see how it works. Glyph of Exorcism is certainly not a “must have”, so if SoV is going to help you perform better, then I would certainly agree with that statement. I will try it out and post my results.

      While leveling, the one thing that always stopped me dead in my tracks was running out of mana. That’s probably why I always keep SoW active and want to save my DPlea as an oh crap for mana. If using a different Seal in conjuction with keeping Divine Plea up at all times is going to work just as well, then you will likely find me converted to the cause.

      Thanks again for the wonderful comments, Cassini!

      • Cassini

        June 9, 2009 at 4:02 AM

        Hi again Psy,

        I have to confess I’d forgotten that Sacred Shield was a level 80 ability so it’s quite right you didn’t include it in this guide oringinally! :)

        As for Divine Plea, you’ve spent the points in the talent tree to ensure it refreshes on hitting something, so I’d really iterate once again that you would be very well served by glyphing it for the damage reduction and then casting it pre pull for the damage reduction. The mana return it provides should also allow you to switch away from SoW and into SoV which in turn will boost your threat and damage, making fights shorter and therefore also helping overcome the loss of mana regen from SoW.

        I think, although I’m at work so many sites are blocked and I can’t double check right now, that Hand of Reckoning is based on your hit rating, so it’s entirely possible it misses which is what you’re seeing. For this reason, and the fact it’s single target only, it’s usually better to rely on Righteous Defence. But you may get instances where it’s on cooldown thanks to either pulls gone wrong, or trigger happy dps, so it’s useful to know about. :)

    • Psynister

      June 9, 2009 at 8:17 AM

      As of level 71, where my paladin is right now, SoV (or rather, the Horde equivalent) does deal more damage, and having DP active does work fairly well at restoring mana, but it’s a lot more up and down than SoW was.

      Having Divine Plea up all the time certainly had an impact, so I’ll fully support that for sure. I feel a lot more “safe” when I have SoW up, but I also have not been running with anybody that consistently pulls agro away from me, save for classes with taunts of their own.

      I’m going to try to get some more instances under my belt before I pass much judgement on SoV though, and try to get in better groups with some dps that can actually do more than 60% of my own dps.

  2. Brajana

    June 8, 2009 at 7:35 AM

    Thanks so much psynister! This will certainly help :) I now have enough confidence to switch my secondary spec to prot instead of yucky holy.

    Just have 2 questions remaining:

    What happens if you can’t be hitting multiple mobs? Like if there is a sheep nearby and you can’t move away… You wouldn’t be able to Consecrate or use Hammer of the Righteous, are there any tips for handling the situation? I know there usually isn’t a lot of CC being done in these dungeons, but just in case :)

    Secondly, which points in that talent tree would be the most easily sacrificed? Since I’m only 74 now, I’d have to take a few points out of the tree. Where are the flexible points?

    Thanks again for writing this up, it’s a great help!

    • Cassini

      June 8, 2009 at 12:11 PM

      Hi Brajana,

      And I hope you don’t mind me butting in here! :)

      If there is a sheep nearby that you don’t want to break simply stop using consecrate. Your Hammer of the Righteous will not break it (unless it’s your primary target) and nor will Avenger’s Shield if you’re using that. Failing that your Retribution Aura & Holy Shield should be doing enough to build threat on them as long as your dps watch what they do.

      As for the talent points, the protection tree Psynister has given you is pretty much spot on so I’d personally lose some of the Retribution talents for now and add them in as you gain levels. Maybe try this:

      • Brajana

        June 8, 2009 at 12:33 PM

        Thanks! I didn’t know that about Hammer of the Righteous and Avenger’s Shield. Good to know! :)

      • Psynister

        June 8, 2009 at 2:46 PM

        Even I didn’t know about HotR and AvSh not hitting sheep. But now that I think about it, I haven’t ran with a mage in…30 levels or so. I also haven’t found much need for crowd control at the levels I’m running though, so CC from other classes has not been an issue either.

        I don’t often find a reason why I can’t move though. Hand of Freedom breaks all snares for you, so the movement itself shouldn’t be a problem unless it’s on cooldown. But stopping consecrate is definitely the best way to prevent yourself from breaking CC.

        And yes, the points in the Ret tree are the last ones you should spend. I could have sworn I put that in there, but obviously I didn’t. Cassini’s spec there is what I would suggest as well. I will note also that the second point in Improved Judgements on the Ret tree can be left out all together if you have another place you would rather put it. It’s not necessary, it just helps a little bit.

  3. We Fly Spitfires

    June 9, 2009 at 3:22 PM

    I’ve just started a Paladin alt and found all of your Paladin guides! Perfect :) I’m still too low level to make much use of it all but they seem very indepth. I’m really interested in the AOE grinding aspect to try and help me level up as fast as possible.

    • Psynister

      June 9, 2009 at 4:16 PM

      AoE grinding is fast, easy, and serves very well in swelling your head with ideas of being unbeatable. And most of those ideas aren’t far from the truth.

  4. Cassini

    June 10, 2009 at 7:12 AM

    I’ve had a thought about your taunts section again. Not that I’m obsessed you understand…! ;)

    Blessing of Protection (or is it a Hand these days?) is another spell you can use to get aggro back in certain situations – ie the mob you’re trying to get back is a melee mob.

    Since BoP prevents a player from taking physical damage, melee mobs will leave it alone and train back to the person next on the aggro list – which should be you as the tank. If you cast this on a melee player they can’t do anything but it usually takes them a second to work out why before they cancel the debuff and by that time you’ve got aggro back again! If you use it on a caster they can still dps which they will like, but the mob will still train to you. You now have (8?) seconds to overtake them in aggro. Given that you know which mob it is you need to focus on now that should be easy enough. At worst, it gives your actual taunts chance to get off cooldown (which I’m assuming they will be on if you’re using BoP as a taunt!).

    Warning!! This doesn’t work if the mob you’ve lost aggro on is a caster since BoP will not prevent magical damage.

    • Psynister

      June 10, 2009 at 8:21 AM

      Divine Plea is amazing – updated.

      Yes, Hand of Protection acts as an agro-dump on whoever you cast it on versus melee mobs, so I will add it into the Threat Stealing (Taunts) section. Personally, I never use it for anything other than helping me take a shortcut off of a high ledge without dying, but it would serve that purpose if you needed it to.

      It’s something that I’ll need to try out, but I have a feeling it would actually steal threat for a Death Knight right after they used Death Grip as well…I will have to try that out since DK’s tend to be my primary annoyance when it comes to stealing threat from me. I especially love it when they steal my primary target, right after I cast Judgement.


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