Monday, January 18, 2010

Tank as you Level Up, Part 1 Sub 40

10/15/2010 - Patch 4.0.1 has hit the Live servers. This guide is now outdated. I will not have time to continue to update it.

With the advent of the Looking for Dungeon tool, Tanks are in demand through all level ranges. This is great news for Paladins, Warriors, Druids and Death Knights leveling up as they find the near instant queues that we see at level 80.
Tanking a sub Level 80 dungeon in greens and blues is very different from tanking at the level cap in full epic gear. But each time you run, you'll have the opportunity to gain valuable experience, and I'm not just talking about the points you need to level up.
You will have a different experience every time you queue. You'll see various Group makeups. You'll experience bad pulls, aggro issues from dps not attacking the right target to your Ret Paladin using Hand of Reckoning to 'dps'. You'll see healers who are learning their toons as well and have gaps with no or low heals. You'll see dps learning how to play and fights go longer due to slow dps. You'll see it all and the best part is, each time you'll have a chance to learn the appropriate responses that will come naturally once you hit the level cap. You'll have that innate sense and muscle memory. You fingers will know where to go without you ever really consciously thinking about it. You'll have a huge advantage over other toons that choose to wait until closer to the level cap to start their tanking careers.
Most of the theorycraft and guides you'll find online are all about tanking at the level cap and most of the advanced theorycraft is aimed at Hard Mode 25 man. What I'd like to do is to address how to Tank as you level up. In each range, we’ll talk about the nitty gritty. How to spec, what rotation to use, what to expect from the instances you’ll run, and gear to look for.
When start to talk about gear, don't stress over the caps we talk about for max level toons. You likely won't be Crit Immune, but the dungeons you are tanking are designed with that in mind. Don't worry about Expertise, or Hit. If you have some on your gear, great, but don't be overly concerned with capping them. The main stats you are looking for are: Stamina, Strength, Defense, Agility, Dodge, Parry, and Block. I’ll highlight some useful items, but the gear lists aren’t intended to be all inclusive. If you come across an item that you feel really needs to be on the list, leave it in the comments.
I recommend you get yourself a good threat meter like Omen. The Blizzard default UI will show you your threat, but the Tank needs to be aware of the threat of all his party mates as well. One of the best things to do as you learn to tank is enable Target of Target. You need to see who the mob you are attacking is targeting. Hopefully, it’ll be you.
You will see I recommend a Retribution spec early on. If you are under level 40, You won't have the option for dual spec yet, and the Ret build is great for soloing. You use a big ole two hander for solo work and strap on a sword and board for Tanking. Your shield in and of itself will be a welcome site to the party, and your healer. The sub 40 range is dominated by Ret Paladins and Arms Warriors swinging their 2 handers trying to tank.
Mana is going to be your boon and your bane until you get some regeneration tools. You start with your bar full so you can go all out from the beginning of the pull but you've got none of your regeneration abilities or talents yet except Judgement of Wisdom. Once it's gone, it's gone. Mana management is a key ability for you to learn to become an effective Paladin tank. Sub 40 Tanking with Seal of Command, with the Seal of Command Glyph really helps you in the mana department.
If you prefer the Prot route early on, Rhidach, who is an excellent Paladin blogger in his own right, has taken the tack of going Prot from the first point, you can see his guide here: http://rhida.ch/2010/01/15/tankadin-leveling-1-50-the-early-years/
Level 15 is where the Dungeon Finder starts, but I recommend you wait until you've trained your Level 16 spells to start queuing as a Tank. Level 16 is about the lowest level you would want to begin your Tanking career.
Level 16 is when you train Righteous Fury, the Paladins aggro stance. Before you get Righteous Fury your ability to hold aggro is completely dependent on your ability to out DPS the rest of your party. With Righteous Fury, you should have an easier time holding aggro. At this point you've already got the first '9' of your 969 rotation, Judgment. Level 16 is also where you'll see Hand of Reckoning, which is a taunt. However, it also does damage, and it's on a shorter cooldown than Judgment so it's great for building threat or holding a second mob in a multiple mob pull. It's your only ranged ability so make it your primary pull.
You've also got Righteous Defense which you can use for a taunt. It's your only multiple target skill at this point and can be really helpful if an AoEing Mage pulls the mobs you are trying to tank for him.
Hand of Protection is an aggro management tool that many tanking Paladins don't use enough, even at the level cap. I generally prefer to use this on a melee DPS who has been pulling aggro. It keeps them alive and gives them a couple of seconds to chill out. Think of it as "time out" for Rogues.
You've trained your two big active cooldown abilities, Divine Protection and Lay on Hands. Both abilities give you the Forebearance debuff which will prevent you from using the other. You will have to evaluate each situation to determine which one is better, but it's generally going to be Divine Protection.
Level 16-19: The Rookie
Spec:
I actually recommend you take a Retribution spec. Most Level 80 Protection Paladins are 0/53/18, so just think of it as building the Ret part first. The first five points in Ret are actually really good for tanking by increasing your parry.
5 points in Deflection, 2 points in Improved Judgement, 3 points in Heart of the Crusader.
Rotation:
Start with your pre pull buffs: Devotion Aura, Blessing of Wisdom, Seal of Righteousness and Righteous Fury. If you are having threat problems in an instance, Righteous Fury is the FIRST thing you check. Make sure it's up anytime you are tanking.
Pull with Hand of Reckoning and run into the middle of the group of mobs or up to the boss. Use Judgment of Wisdom, and Hand of Reckoning on cooldown. If you see one of the mobs run off, target it and hit Righteous Defense.
Instances: Ragefire Chasm, Wailing Caverns, The Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep. Wailing Caverns is what I call a Garmin' instance. (FTC Disclaimer: We have no material relationship with Garmin.) You'll need a GPS to get around. There's usually one or two in every level range. It's best to hope that someone in the party is familiar with the place. I still get lost in there. Deadmines is probably my favorite instance in this range. The Lore, the fights, and a pirate ship in a hidden cove, what's not to love!
Gear:
This section will include some of the gear you should look for in this range. Remember that the main stats you’ll find on gear at this level are Stamina, Strength, Agility and Hit. Be aware that all those stats will be attractive to DPS as well.
The 20s: Consecrating the Tank
At Level 20, you'll train Sense Undead. You can use the Sense Undead glyph to give you more threat against Undead mobs. Most instances have some undead mobs in them, but it may be more convenient to stick with Glyph of Blessing of Might for you minor and wait on Glyph of Sense Undead until you open your second minor Glyph.
Spec:
5 points in Deflection, 2 points in Improved Judgement, 3 points in Heart of the Crusader, Seal of Command, Vindication, Pursuit of Justice (affects mount speed as well), 3 points in Crusade, 3 points in Divine Strength. The advantage of Seal of Command is that it hits multiple mobs every time you swing. This is why you would prefer a fast one hander, unfortunately, most weapons in this range are slow. Think of it as Seal of Cleave. You can also should use the Seal of Command Glyph which will give you mana every time you judge. That glyph can make low level tanking much easier on your mana pool.
Rotation:
Start with your pre pull buffs: Devotion Aura, Blessing of Kings, Seal of Command, and Righteous Fury. Pull with Hand of Reckoning and run into the middle of the group of mobs or up to the boss. Drop Consecration, and then Judgment of Wisdom. Rotate Consecration and Judgement. Keep in mind that Consecration is a hungry little bugger so be judicious with its use and watch your mana. Throw a Hand of Reckoning if you see one of the DPS on the wrong target. This will happen approximately every time you run an instance. If you see one of the mobs run off, target it and hit Righteous Defense. At level 26, you'll pick up Hand of Salvation which you want to put on a DPS anytime they get over 90% threat. You did get Omen so you can see when the DPS is over 90% of your threat, right?
Instances:
Wailing Caverns, The Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep, Blackfathom Depths, Stormwind Stockade, and Razorfen Kraul. Wailing Caverns and Blackfathom Depths are your 'Garmin' instances. I hope someone in your party knows their way around. I STILL get lost in Wailing Caverns.
There are going to be times when you want to replace Judgement of Wisdom with Judgement of Justice. Judgment of Justice can be a lifesaver and a party saver in some of these instances, especially Stormwind Stockcades. The humanoid mobs love to run off when they get low and bring back more of their 'buddies' for you to play with. You can prevent them from fleeing by putting Judgment of Justice on them. Remember that your Seal and your Judgement are not linked so you can run Seal of Righteousness and still put Judgement of Justice up on the mobs.
Gear
This section will include some of the gear you should look for in this range. Remember that the main stats you’ll find on gear at this level are Stamina, Strength, Agility and Hit. Be aware that all those stats will be attractive to DPS as well.
There are two really good rewards from the Razorfen Kraul Quest – Crone of the Kraul(H) / Vengeful Fate(A). You’ve got a Belt and a Shield. Take the Belt and get the Shield from Commander Springvale in Shadowfang Keep.
The 30s: The Scarlet Tank
Spec:
5 points in Deflection, 2 points in Improved Judgement, 3 points in Heart of the Crusader, Seal of Command, Vindication, Pursuit of Justice, 3 points in Crusade, 5 points in Divine Strength, 5 points in Anticipation, 3 points in Improved Righteous Fury. You'll finally pickup Improved Righteous Fury which gives you an important damage reduction.
Rotation:
Nothing changes in your rotation from the 20-30 range. In the event you skipped down to this area directly, I'll repost it.
Get in the habit of checking your four main buffs before each pull. Devotion Aura and Righteous Fury don't have a timer, but your Blessing and Seal can fall off. If your Seal falls off, you won't be able to judge.
Start with your pre pull buffs: Devotion Aura, Blessing of Kings, Seal of Command, and Righteous Fury. Pull with Hand of Reckoning and run into the middle of the group of mobs or up to the boss. Drop Consecration, and then Judgment of Wisdom. Rotate Consecration and Judgement. Keep in mind that Consecration is a hungry little bugger so be judicious with its use and watch your mana. Throw a Hand of Reckoning if you see one of the DPS on the wrong target. This will happen approximately every time you run an instance. If you see one of the mobs run off, target it and hit Righteous Defense.
Instances:
The instances in this bracket are Gnomergan, Razorfen Kraul, and most of Scarlet Monestary. You'll probably want to be close to 40 before you try Cathedral. Again, there are lots of Humaniod mobs who love to run away. Judgement of Justice is a great help, but you may need Judgment of wisdom to keep your mana up. Gnomergan is another 'Garmin' instance where it really helps to have someone in your party who knows there way around. All the Scarlet instances are fantastic, great Lore and fights. Blades of Light!!!
Gear:
You’ll see your first pieces of Defense gear in this range. But you’ll still be primarily looking at Strength, Stamina and Agility.

16 comments:

Baberth said...

In regards to the threat tracking, I'd recommend getting something like TinyPlates with Threat Plates, or Aloft with nameplate glow active.
This adds a glow to nameplates so you can tell if you're losing threat on a mob you're not targetting. It's based on the internal values that WoW uses.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. :) I've been levelling my little pally as a tank purely through LFG, and really enjoying it. Tho I've gone prot, there was lots of helpful stuff here for me.

Maybe I've been lucky, but I had my first negative experience last night. SM-GY - I was chain pulling, but it wasn't enough for 1 dps that kept typing "gogogo". This completely through me off. I tried to go faster, which meant mobs roaming free and me breaking LOS with the healer repeatedly. I dropped group shortly after.

How do you handle the "gogogo"ers?

Honors Code said...

I have little patience for "gogogogers." They receive a warning, and if they continue, I'll tell them to stop or they will be kicked. If the group doesn't vote to kick, I'll tell them they can have a different tank. Ques for DPS are much longer than for tanks. Take advantage of that.

Honors Code said...

I tried TidyPlates but I'm not sure I'm using it right. I don't notice much difference.

Rhidach said...

Great guide! I enjoyed the little dig at the FTC there, haha.

Baberth said...

I personally use aloft - tiny plates wasn't to my liking, due to the lack of decent options and customisation, whereas aloft can be made to look however you want - with extra bells and whistles - all through the menus.
Tiny plates requires you do do lua hardcoding for the same thing.

The only thing I see that tiny plates has over aloft is that tiny plates can scale the nameplate based on things like elite, rare and boss status.

leivadith said...

The experience is fresh in my mind.

I started leveling a warrior just before xmas. This is my 3rd tank, I tanked on my feral all through BC (KZ thru to BT) ans switched to my abandoned pally in the summer of '08 and raid with that char in wrath.

I have to be honest here, I leveled as arms then fury up to Outland, due to the awesome heirloom items and the bonus xp and didn't do any instancing in vanilla zones.

As soon as I hit Outland I dual speced into prot and haven't looked back though. I stayed until 70 there doing a lot of instances and 2 zones. I wanted to get my cobalt set before heading to Northrend. Currently @ 73 and loving it. It's a big change from tankadin and feral. A lot of "toys" to play with.

Aside the annoying gogoer and the dk that DGs my targets away from me, I haven't had that much trouble with threat tbh. Be it my previous experience and the fact that I know how and what to gear for, or just the fact that tank threat is a non issue anymore, I don't know.

I haven't used anything else aside recount and omen. After the first pull or two, I'll check who is second in threat and drop a vigilance on them, that's about it.

Cheers.

Glenn said...

Great concept for a series and one I much need in that I'm enjoying leveling several tanks now that dungeon finder makes is possible. But therein lies the problem as well: You start out as if you are going to address all tanking classes but quickly switch to talking about only paladins. Might I suggest you broaden the topic back out even in the most general of terms? Otherwise, I'll be interested for my lvl48 pally, but be left out in the cold for my lvl33 warrior and lvl28 druid.

Honors Code said...

@Glenn,

I don't know the other classes well enough to give any advice on talents and rotations as you level up. I know Paladins, and that's why the article deals with them almost exclusively.

I think a post along the lines 'So you want to be a Tank' with advice for any Tank regardless of class or level would be a good addition to the series. I'll see what I can come up with. Thanks for hte suggestion.

Orvillius@Coilfang said...

I was really excited to see this post today, as I've been levelling my ret pally alt (my main is Prot/Holy and I've always wanted to give ret a try) but the wait time for a dungeon at low levels is forever unless you can tank. I like the talent point suggestions and plan on respeccing into them today.
My question concerns the dynamic in the groups you get with the LFG system. The biggest problem I'm encountering is with DPS with heirloom gear racking up so much threat that I can't get a solid aggro hold. I can't imagine that they could have that kind of gear if they aren't somewhat experienced with their main, but I've yet to find one who's willing to slow things down to the pace that my limited tanking toolbox can handle, and unlike in lvl 80 instances, their heirloom gear often makes them strong enough to handle the mobs even if I back off. Am I wrong to be irritated by this? Should I just accept that they are essentially a second tank and not worry if they pull aggro? Otherwise what tactics do you suggest? (For reference purposes my alt is presently a lvl 22 blood elf pally, specc'ed as you've suggested except I currently have benediction instead of deflection as my first five points)

Honors Code said...

@Orvillius

I can't imagine you're seeing too many DKs at 22, but I will address DKs in part II.

Orvillius@Coilfang said...

I certainly haven't seen any DKs yet at 22, though I'm certain level 55 on up will be just delightful once I get my alt there. It's been a number of rogues and mages. I haven't had problems with mages since getting consecration and Seal of Command since I can do AoE damage, but I continue to lose single targets to heirloom wearing rogues.

Honors Code said...

@Orvillius,

The heirloom wearing rogues are similar to the epic'ed out DPS that fresh Level 80 tank has to deal with.

HoP (Hand of Protection) is a wonderful tool here. It stops the Rogue from attacking and keeps them alive.

But mainly (and I touch on this briefly when I talk about DKs) when the DPS severely out-gears the tank, its the responsibility of the DPS to either scale back on damage so as to not out threat the tank, or put on some tanking gear, and be the tank.

Alex Cresswell said...

Can't thank you enough. I'm going to try out the spec you recommend on my level 30 pally tank.

Anonymous said...

I have to ask, why Blessing of Might over Kings at level 20?

Honors Code said...

Great question. Basically I forgot about Kings. I've changed the post to show Kings for your Blessing. Nice catch.