Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back To Basics: The 969 Paladin Threat Rotation

Protection Paladins are one of the last classes in WoW that still have a Rinse and Repeat rotation known affectionately as 969.

The 969 rotation was discovered in Wrath of the Lich King Beta by Psiven who then taught it to the rest of the community via Maintankadin. It begins by recognizing that the main Protection Paladin threat moves all come in varieties of 8 to 9 second cooldowns and 6 second cooldowns. We treat the 8 second cooldown moves as 9 seconds to better fit with a 1.5 second global cooldown.

The 9s are Judgment (talented), Consecrate and Holy Shield. The 6s are Hammer of the Righteous and Shield of Righteousness. The 9 second and 6 second cooldowns are rotated and alternated. With a 1.5 second global cooldown, this all fits together into a fairly tight rotation.

The way this works in practice is that you lead off your threat rotation with a 9 second talented cooldown Judgment. This is the opening spell because it puts your Judgements of the Just debuff on the mob which slows its attack speed like Thunderclap. Judgment will also proc your Libram of Obstruction if you are using that, and I recommend you do unless you’ve been blessed with a Libram of Sacred Shield. Libram of Obstruction increases your Block Value, so your next move is your 6 second cooldown Shield of Righteousness. This is basically a Shield Slam type move and its damage is increased by the buff from the Libram of Obstruction.

Now we need to fire off a 9 second cooldown, so your next move is Holy Shield. For most Naxx geared and above Paladins, Holy Shield will put you into the Block Cap where every unavoided hit will be blocked knocking off 1000 to 2000 damage depending on how you are geared. While it may not be that impressive to reduce a 24k hit to 22k, it’s still damage reduction. In addition, every time you block with Holy Shield you are doing damage to mob like Damage Shield does for Warriors.

We need to get back to a 6 now, so we go with Hammer of the Righteous, a 6 second cooldown similar to a Warriors Whirlwind or Cleave.

Then we finish off 9696 we throw down a Consecrate as long as there isn’t an issue with Crowd Control mobs in the area. Don’t break those sheep.

Don’t use Consecrate as a pickup tool. Consecrate isn’t the IWIN threat move is was in Burning Crusade. Mobs have run right through a Consecrate nearly unaffected.

You don’t ‘have’ to use the spells in the order I suggested. As long as you are alternating and 9 and then a 6 it should work the same.

In addition to the main threat moves, Paladins have auxiliary threat moves that can be woven into a 969. These include spells like Avenger’s Shield, Exorcism, Avenging Wrath and Hammer of Wrath when the mob is at less than 35% health.

We know that both Exorcism and Avenger’s Shield do more threat than Judgment. This is true even if you don’t Glyph Avenger’s Shield. I actually recommend you DON’T Glyph Avenger’s Shield. The threat gain isn’t worth the trade off of hitting 3 mobs.

So since we know that Exorcism and Avenger’s Shield are better threat moves than Judgment, we want to substitute those move into our 969 in place of Judgment. However, even more important than threat is maintaining our Judgments of the Just debuff on the Boss to reduce the Boss’s attack speed. If you don’t have any other attack speed debuff like Thunderclap or Icy Talons or Infected Wounds, you must ensure your Judgment debuff stays on the mob and doesn’t fall off. Survivability always comes before threat.

The other caveat to substituting Exorcism or Avenger’s Shield over Judgment is to keep in mind your role on the encounter. If you are picking up adds, then DON’T use Exorcism or Avenger’s Shield in normal threat rotation. Those spells are simply too good for picking up loose adds.

However, if you are sure your Judgment debuff won’t fall off, and you are just on the Boss, then you should be using Exorcism and Avenger’s Shield over Judgment. It’s a straight TPS increase.

There is a video on YouTube of a Paladin doing his 969 rotation. It may be easier to ‘see’ it in action. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZyOoMKtREI

There might be a bit more to the Paladin Threat rotation than it appears at first glance. If you want to practice, spend some quality time with a target dummy until the rotation gets to be more natural for you. As you tank more difficult encounters, you won’t have time to think about your rotation or what buttons to push. It has to come almost naturally.


apokteino said...

killer post... as a paladin who has been holy the vast majority of the last 3 years that was very enlightening. i have tanked a few heroics and a 10 man naxx once but now i'll actually have an idea of what i should be doing!

whatsmymain said...

The only fight I've ever been successful at keeping up the 969 rotation is Patchwerk. Most fights I usually do something to throw it off whether its moving, cleansing, taunting or whatever my rotation will get messed up and it can be hard to get back into the groove.

Out of curiostity what ability do you choose to drop in order to weave in exorcism. I try to replace HotR with Exorcism but I typically then end up hitting HotR after on accident. Do you have any recommendations on how to weave without throwing off your rotation?

Also is it worth weaving in avengers sheild on single target? Assuming the silence isn't needed? Seems that my other abilities hit just as hard but it is hard to quantify with the stream of yellow numbers coming from the fights.

Honors Code said...

I drop Judgment to work in Exorcism or Avenger's Shield, as long as I'm not worried that the Judgment debuff is about to fall off.

The reason to do it is simple, both Avenger's Shield and Exorcism are more threat than Judgment.

Molsan said...

Another fantastic guide. One other thing to keep in mind in terms of glyphs: don't bother with the Glyph of Consecration. You'd think that the longer duration, and cooldown decrease would be appealing, but it actually screws up the 969 rotation.

I also macro my "use" trinket to Holy Shield so I don't have to worry about another button to press when my trinkets are off cooldown. This keeps me focused on my 96969-related buttons.

Anonymous said...

Any particular reason that you'd drop Judgement for Exorcism or Holy Shield? Isn't Hammer of the Righteous the lowest threat per button press in the rotation? And given that, the most logical place in the rotation to skip for a longer cooldown ability when availiable?

Rabidlemming said...

"Hammer of Wrath when the mob is at less than 35% health."

They took this away pretty quickly some time ago, it's back down to it's normal 20% health, it's still pretty nice.

The 969 rotation is killer and one of the reasons Paladin's threat gen is pretty high (besides holy damage having no resistances besides innate resistance to magic). It is easy to break it on some fights where you are cleansing, etc. Just start it back off with the highest threat move, or Judgement if it's about to fall off, and you will do fine.

Darth Solo said...

Very good stuff. Now I finally know what 969 means.

Hagu said...


Do you have any thoughts on keybindings; what do you use? e.g 123 as 9s and 45 as six or 135 as 9s or are you just too leet for keyboards?

Dirz said...

Avenger's Shield doesn't break CC anymore, I forget which patch that was implamented, but it's nice:)

AHAntics said...

Another great post, Honors, good stuff!

Honors Code said...

The latest MatLab simulations that I've seen on Maintankadin show Judgment to the be the move you want to substitute.

Honors Code said...

I'll start working on a Keybinding post. Coming Soon!

Uninspired said...

"Any particular reason that you'd drop Judgement for Exorcism or Holy Shield? Isn't Hammer of the Righteous the lowest threat per button press in the rotation? And given that, the most logical place in the rotation to skip for a longer cooldown ability when availiable?"

HotR does 4X your weapon DPS in damage. This is the weapon DPS that is after AP increases. With tanking plate having plenty of strength and raid buffs this can actually be pretty substantial.

I'm pretty sure you should be seeing HotR beating either of the others for damage/threat by the time you are decently geared in Naxx25. Heck, if you are Naxx25 geared Hammer of wrath stops doing more damage than HotR. I've gotten to putting it in place of judgements as well.

Elvendude said...

Awesome! I've had this article bookmarked for weeks now, waiting for my paladin to tick over 80. Now she's there, and this really helped me set up both my action bar and my rotation. =D