How to Tank Heroics and Not Run Out of Mana

This post is dedicated to a former guildie and dear friend. It’s not much, but I do what I can.

There’s something I’ve been wanting to address for a long time, but never got around to it. But now with pugging made easy through the LFD system, the lack of tanks and the abundance of highish ilevel gear, the time is ripe. Especially when I hear horror stories of disc priests getting kicked from the ICC 5-mans for using Power Word: Shield. Especially when the tank is glyphed like this:

Taken from a real armory screenshot.

Yes, keeping your mana up can be a challenge when you’re a brand new tank sporting tier 9 gear. But it can be done. Here’s how.

Where does mana comes from?

Your main sources of mana in a 5 man are as follows:

  • Spiritual Attunement: Mana back from being effectively healed. Or from taking damage, depending on how you look at it.
  • Divine Plea: Continuous mana regen. With the proper talent, it refreshes when you hit an enemy. If you chain pull, it always stays up, but make sure you watch your teammates’ mana when chain pulling. (EDIT: In the comments, Elelereth made the excellent suggestion of killing critters between pulls if needed to refresh Divine Plea.)
  • Judgment of Wisdom: When it’s up on a mob, you’ll get mana back from hitting that mob.
  • Replenishment: If you’re lucky, someone in the party will have a replenishment effect and will periodically allow you to regen mana.


Build a 5-man set

The key is to sign up for LFD in your fancy, polished, highest ilevel raiding gear. When you zone into your instance, wait for a few seconds for your group to inspect you. Once you’ve gotten the groups’ respect, switch to your 5 man set.

For a 5-man, you want high threat gear. When you overgear heroics, your challenge isn’t minimizing damage anymore, it’s holding threat.

That means strength and hit (melee hit caps at 8%, taunt/spells at 17% – you don’t have to cap as a tank, but hit is good). Expertise to the soft cap of 26. You also want to be blocking a lot. Why block? It triggers Blessing of Sanctuary (a huge source of your mana regen), while still allowing you to take some damage.

Defense-wise, you only need 535 to be at the minimum for a 5-man (540 for raids). Contrarily to popular belief, it’s not a cap (every time someone says “defense cap”, please smack them with a giant spoon for me), but you shouldn’t be going out of your way to get any higher for a heroic. (Raiding is another story that I’m not going into.)

Stamina isn’t much of a concern in 5 mans. I didn’t bother regemming my gear from stamina to strength, partly to save gold and partly to avoid whiny people, but you can do it if you’re motivated. I have 40k health buffed in my 5 man set, but I’ve healed tanks with way less and it wasn’t an issue.

My 5 man stats...even this is overkill.

I swap out my tanking trinkets for dps ones, Darkmoon Card: Greatness, strength version and Mirror of Truth. Until I had a high threat weapon, I swapped out my weapon to a dps 1-hander as well. When debating between two pieces of gear, I’ll check on Rawr to see which generates the most threat. Here are some of my favorite 5 man set pieces:

As an exception, note that the ICC 5 mans are hard, especially in a pug group. I wear my raid tanking gear in there and mana is never an issue.


Speccing and Glyphing

Good news! You don’t need to change your spec or glyphs for 5 mans. You don’t need that extra point in Spiritual Attunement. You don’t have to use strange glyphs like in the picture above. I use my raid tanking spec and glyphs and I do fine.

If you’re desperate for a 5 man spec or if you don’t raid, the first thing I’d suggest is getting the Seal of Command talent and the Hammer of the Righteous glyph if you don’t have them already. The quick, multi-target damage is lovely for 5 mans. Here’s a 5 man spec, suggested byRhidach. Again, the key is to maximize threat since you won’t be taking a lot of damage anyway.

EDIT: In the comments, Rhidach pointed that there is Seal of Command glyph returning 8% of your base mana when you Judge while having that seal up. It could be a possibility if you’re really struggling with mana and don’t want to use Seal of Wisdom.


Buffs Buffs Buffs

To Seal of Wisdom or not to Seal of Wisdom?

I prefer to not Seal of Wisdom. Ideally, I’d use Seal of Command on trash and Seal of Vengeance on bosses. But I don’t have Seal of Command in my spec so I use Seal of Vengeance everywhere. Usually that works. If I’m really struggling with mana, I’ll give in to Seal of Wisdom. Really, with the amount of threat you should be generating in a 5 man gear set, you shouldn’t stress too much over seals.

For blessing, Blessing of Sanctuary all the way. No questions asked.


Rotations for the Win

Your usual 96969 rotation should be fine and remember to pop Divine Plea before the pull. Use Judgement of Wisdom, unless another paladin is keeping it up on your target. If you’re hard up on mana, save Consecration for when you’re fighting 3 or more mobs. Save Avenger’s Shield for when you really need it. It’s too mana consuming to be used regularly. I get better results pulling with Hand of Reckoning anyway.

This is probably a no-brainer, but if you’re struggling with mana, don’t use Sacred Shield on yourself.


Fancy Positions

When tanking a pack of mobs, position yourself so they’re all in front of you, as much as possible. Mobs in front of you means more block/parrying which means Blessing of Sanc mana regen. If you’re using Seal of Wisdom, mobs in front of you also means more Hammer of the Righteous hitting which means Seal of Wisdom mana regen.

Just don’t move around too much trying to get into position. Your melee dps will get sea-sick and you don’t want that.


Saving the day

Have your raid frames configured to show you who has aggro.

Then have Righteous Defense hotkeyed/macroed/cliqued so you can cast it quickly. For example, as soon as I see a red border around anyone’s name, I can shift-left click on their health bar and Righteous Defense will pull their attacks to me. (Combination of Grid and Clique)

Pro tip: Have similar bindings for Hand of Salvation and Hand of Protection.


Dealing with Discipline Priests

Yes, there is a noticeable difference in mana regen when you’re being healed by a Disc Priest. Especially one waving Val’anyr procs all over the place.

That said, it’s extremely rude to ask a Disc Priest, especially a stranger, to not shield you. Most of the time, if you’re playing right, the difference isn’t that big anyway. (Same goes for Holy Paladins using Sacred Shield on you.)

If I’m being healed by an exceptionally skilled and well geared Disc Priest and I’m really suffering for mana (say…in Nexus for example), I’ll occasionally unclick PW:S. If the priest is dual specced Disc/Holy, they might switch to Holy if you whine enough about the lack of mana too.

In the ICC 5-mans, you should be taking enough damage to keep your mana bar full. If not, you might want to check to make sure your dps isn’t tanking the instance for you before you start blaming the priest.

And there you have it. How to never run out of mana in 5 mans again. And please, please, please, stop the Disc Priest abuse.

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34 Comments on “How to Tank Heroics and Not Run Out of Mana”

  1. deyndor Says:

    Very insightful. I’ve been finding myself running out of mana when tanking the outlands stuff (still only 67). I see a few things that you do different than me that I’ll have to try.

    Thanks for the info!

    • Ophelie Says:

      Oooo tanking below level 80 would be an entirely different game since you don’t have access to the same talents or gear.

      I didn’t level as a tank so I’m not sure what threat generation, damage and mana regen is like below 80. I’d guess that the key would be to work Blessing of Sanc as much as possible by having the mobs in front of you, while judging wisdom and having Seal of Wisdom up if you can spare the threat.

      Anyway, let me know what you tried and how it worked out for you! I’d love to hear about the ins and outs of tanking while levelling.

      • deyndor Says:

        That’s essentially what I’m doing. Just keeping Sanc on myself and using Wisdom for my Seal and Judgemenet. That’s really been a huge improvement for keeping my mana up.

        The biggest issue I had was finding a way to modify the 969 rotation while missing some of the abilities that it uses.

        • deyndor Says:

          Judgment even. It would seem I can’t spell before 11 am.

        • Ophelie Says:

          Yeah, rotations aren’t as cookie cutter at that level! Even with the ret paladin I’m leveling, until level 40, I just looked at her spell book and thought: “2 spells? You give me 2 spells? And stuff is supposed to die?

          Is Righteous Fury enough to hold threat, even with the lack of spells?

          • deyndor Says:

            It seems to be. I didn’t actually go prot until around 65 so i could start tanking dungeons for guildies, but I haven’t had any threat issues.

            And ret doesn’t get really fun until 60 when you can pick up Divine Storm too. At least by that point you have around 4 spells :P

  2. Windsoar Says:

    I think the biggest problem paladin tanks make is dropping consecrate more than is necessary (at this point in the game). If you wanna drop it for your initial pull great, but despite what everyone who’s never played a pally tank tells you, it is NOT your best aggro ability and its a huge mana hog–use it sparingly.

    This was a very good read actually. I prefer to tank without pants (or other negotiable gear piece) instead of holding on to gear longer than I have to since I generally hold tank/heal/resist/block/stam sets or pieces at all times.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Yay no pants partyyyyyy!

      If you have a block set, that’s usually perfect for 5 mans. Also, if you have a ret set, swapping in those pants can work too. The extra strength is better than nothing at all. But yeah, I have heard of paladins going topless and pantless in 5 mans before. I keep a ret set floating around so I’ve never had to try it myself.

      I’ve also heard of paladins having a /sit macro, where they sit and take a few crits. Again, not something I’ve tried but it works for some.

      I feel the same way about consecrate. It’s good for raids or when there are a lot of mobs, but it’s so mana intensive that it’s the first spell I’ll remove when I’m struggling.


  3. I didn’t even know there was a glyph for divinity. Terrible, terrible talent for tanks to take.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Glyph of Divinity actually affects the mana return Lay on Hands. It’s a stupid name, but I guess Glyph of Lay on Hands was already taken by the minor glyph.

      I’ve seen a few tanks with that glyph. I don’t really understand the point of it though. For one, there enough ways to regen mana already. Secondly, LoH is such a powerful spell with a really long CD. It’s a waste for a tank to use it just for mana.


  4. What a great post! As someone who has recently respecced to Disc, and is spoiled with the awesomest Pally Tank friend ever, I always ignored complaints from Pally Tanks about mana regen.

    But then, as I started to PuG more as a Disc Priest, I kept an eye on the mana my Pally Tanks had, and I *did* notice they were having mana issues – even when they didn’t complain about it (and I would like to say that I have never had a Pally Tank complain to me in a group for bubbling them).

    I’m not going to start trying to tell any pugged Pally Tanks how to get mana back, but I have tried to be a bit more careful with my bubbling. I no longer pre-bubble them when going into a fight – instead, I throw a Prayer of Mending on them. PoM doesn’t mix well with bubbles anyway, so it’s a decent alternative. I keep an eye on their mana bar – if they have plenty of mana, then I will continuously bubble. But if they seem to be struggling, I bubble others for the speed boost, and focus on healing for them. Sometimes it requires a bit more work, but I love Pally Tanks, so I’m not complaining!

    • Ophelie Says:

      Priests just sound so complicated!

      It’s really nice to get an informed priest’s perspective on the whole bubbling vs mana regen issue. As many priest blogs as I read, I just can’t wrap my head around it. I’ve concluded that us pallies should let the priests heal however they choose to and deal with mana issues on our own. I do whine a lot about my mana, but that’s what pushed me to find 5-man tanking system that works for me.

      The main problem with us paladin tanks, is that we want to show up in our highest ilevel, sexiest badge gear all the time. While such gear is great for ICC, it’s not the best for, say, Nexus.

  5. Rhidach Says:

    Great post! I didn’t see this mentioned but there’s also a Seal of Command glyph that returns 8% of base mana when you Judge while having SoComm up. I suppose that’s a possibility if one is really finding mana hard to manage.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I didn’t know that! Thanks for the tip! I don’t have Seal of Command in my spec and had never really paid attention to the glyph. I’ll edit in something about that.

  6. For The Pie Says:

    Just a small point, I can’t access any of the talent trees at work, but you said Divine Plea is reset when you get hit. I “think” it when you hit something in melee, but I could be wrong. I really wanted to look this up prior to commenting to make sure I knew instead of think.


  7. [...] If you want advice better then “wear a silly hat” go here, my fellow mana starved tankadins! Possibly related posts: (automatically [...]

  8. BobTurkey Says:

    I noticed the mana thing and have started not using PW:S so much on well geared paly tanks. Its no issue to just Penance/FH them.

    I guess it might be more an issue where the disc priest is a new 80 and needs the PW:S to be effective.

    Interesting post.

    Gobble gobble.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Although, if PW:S scales with spellpower, a lesser geared priest wouldn’t be preventing as much damage either.

      Ah, I really don’t know the mechanics behind it all. You priesties are so complicated.

  9. Elelereth Says:

    Best tip I can think of is echoing For The Pie’s comment – Divine Plea. Plan out how you’re going to keep it active.

    Look for critters to melee on the way to next pack (turning on overhead health bars makes this easy). Use the Zombies in CoS. Ask your group to not kill the last melee mob in a pack so you can drag it along with you and occasionally turn to melee it.

    Violet Hold and CoS are two of the worst offenders against Divine Plea. In VH, packs spawn about 20s clear from one another, and there are only 3, non-respawning critters in the place (hidden in corners), while in CoS, you come across these trigger happy folks who like to run ahead of you and kill all the zombies.

    More mobs to batter on your Blessing of Sanctuary is usually the way forward, though.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Killing critters for Divine Plea is something I never thought of. Good tip!

      And yeah, more mobs trigging my BoSanc is how I try to do it. One of the guide writers at Maintankadin (I can’t remember which one) once stated that if you run out of mana, you should “shut up and tank more mobs”. Harsh, but true.

      • For The Pie Says:

        When my paladin was a belf (a girl one, because the male belf is /spew worthy) I would tank in a lovely black dress, instead of my chestpiece. I was still above the def min cap and I was taking a bit more damage.

        Also, I think that wrath spoiled us into believing we should never have mana issues. Raiding in BC where I chained Fel Mana Pots on my hunter, along with every trick I could pull, I think we forget that having to use a mana pot here and there isn’t a horrible thing.

        The beauty of CoS is most things are undead. I tend to run ahead of the pack and drop consecrate when I know it’ll catch a lot of mobs. Otherwise I gather a bunch up in ret aura and let them beat on me until they die.

        Disc priests can help all tanks by perhaps holding their first shield until after the tank has taken a bit of damage. The shield then heals (if glyphed, which I couldn’t see why it wouldn’t be) and then protects the tank for the next little bit. I don’t recall as a disc priest having much in the way of mana problems.

        • Tyben Says:

          Well a disc priest also gets mana back from the shields being used up, so not shielding at all would be a lot to ask. But I hadn’t really thought about how the shielding affects a pally tank (and knew very little about how their regen works), so I’m going to be paying closer attention now.

          • Ophelie Says:

            A friend of mine did mention something about that while I was brainstorming for this post.

            I really don’t know what mana is like for a disc priest. However, I would assume that if a pally tank is taking so little damage that shields are a problem, then the priest wouldn’t need to be healing a whole lot anyway.

  10. Gameldar Says:

    Thanks for this post… I’ve just switched my pally to Holy/Prot (using Rhidach’s SoCommand spec) and have been tanking the last week or so and been having mana issues – largely due to forgetting to start divine plea before the fights (I should really slot it into divine plea = bloodrage – coming from being a warrior tank) – but as the comments suggested I’m probably dropping consecrate too much as well. And as a main spec holy pally… I’m ashamed to admit I forgot about seal of wisdom…

    If I’m seeing more issues with mana I might try the Seal of Command glyph… but largely I think its a management issue (although I understand the gear issue as well from a rage starvation perspective)

    • Ophelie Says:

      I always QQ when I have to switch to seal of wisdom, but it does make life easier!

      I tend to forget to use divine plea too, or I time it wrong, or pull too slowly and it runs out. (I’m looking forward to trying the killing the critters trick) As for consecrate, it’s hard habit to get rid of. But yeah, unless you’re fighting a lot of mobs, it’s often overkill. (I’m also guilty of draining my mana with Avenger’s Shield, but shhhhh)

  11. Tego Says:

    Thats an interesting take, as a raiding paly tank there have been times where I walk into the instance buff and have 50k health, yeah this is a bit overkill, so now I am saving some trimuph badges for the t9ret shoulders, and possibly gloves, gemming strait str like any good ret would do, this may drop me under 535 def, but honestly I couldnt care less, throw on the raid tanking gear for the bosses and be happy. One other trick that most healers will tell you is evil is to use a gear switch that either switches you to your holy set (what i use in this case) or some other low health set and back. Its like a lifetapping lock “I’m not OOM till you’re OOM” and being the tank, letting you die doesnt work. Still this is an evil thing to do to a healer and should be avoided if possible (switch between pulls and be careful that you dont get stuck in the gear) On a final note the ret gear helps 2 ways, one you get hit more and 2 str = threat so more str gets you more threat for less work. If I am feeling lazy I will do 2 or three full rotations on a boss, then keep my judgement up until I see a dps catching me on OMEN Will have to look into getting a dps 1h though that would be rather nice.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Hmm that healing gear swapping trick is naughty! I can think of a healer or two I’d do that to just to tease them. But since a pally tank only has like 5k mana anyway, wouldn’t it take about the same time to drink than swap gear sets and wait for a heal?

      I completely agree with the ret gear. I like recycling my old tanking gear, but swapping in a few more pieces of ret stuff has the same effect. I wouldn’t want to drop below 535 def unless I know my healer is ok with it, but with the insane amount of def on high level tanking gear, you can probably swap out quite a few pieces before going too low.

      • Steelforge Says:

        I use two tricks to fight mana starvation. The first is to use one or two pieces from my Holy set, which dramatically increases my mana pool, while slightly reducing avoidance and armor mitigation. Extra points if that piece provides MP5. The second I will only use rarely when I get sloppy enough to mana-starve myself. Please note this is useful on damage-predictable mobs, definitely not to be used on a boss, and only with a trusted healer. Sit down and take a crit. Again, given a reliable healer, it’s an instant spiritual attunement kick in the pants, and with my high armor poses no threat to the group.

        • Ophelie Says:

          I can see the usefulness of some holy pieces, although I personally prefer the added dps/threat from some ret or high threat Naxx/Ulduar pieces. But after all, it’s a 5 man so as long as you have mana and aren’t driving your team nuts, it doesn’t really matter.

          I have heard of paladins using a /sit macro to be critted to get mana back and it seems to work ok. As you said, with high armor it shouldn’t be much of a big deal. I’d rather just not run out of mana in the first place, but, yeah, that is an option.

  12. person Says:

    If a pally tank is running low on mana, they could aways use the equipment manager to swap to there offspec gear that has lower hitpoints so when they are healed back up they recive mana from Spiritual Attunement. This is a way for the pally to “life tap”

    • Ophelie Says:

      Yeah, thats pretty similar to the holy gear swapping trick Tego suggested. I can see that working out of combat, but ideally, you wouldn’t be running out of mana in the first place ;).

  13. Iceylady Says:

    Great write-up. As someone who has both a raiding disc priest and a raiding prot pally, I see both sides of this all the time.

    On the pally, I have a set pretty much exactly like yours, a solid BV set (even with the good old Gnomeregan Auto Blocker). Another thing I find helpful is to keep the time between pulls down, and even things like whacking on a rat or roach between pulls to keep Plea up.

    On the disc priest side, I keep an eye on the tank’s mana. If it isn’t an issue for the most part, I just shield everyone and eat my dinner. If it is, I just make a point of shielding the rest of the party and Flash/Penance the tank. Sure, Diving Aegis still procs, but it’s a lot less then a full shield. Also, for what it’s worth, I tend to hymn of hope on CD with pally tanks. Not much mana, but I really don’t have that much to do in heroics anyway.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I’ve been trying to use the whacking critters trick, but they never seem to be around when I need them!

      I find myself rethinking about block and mana these day. I like block rating, since it increases how often I block and thus return from BoSanc, but too much block value and I start absorbing all the damage. I wouldn’t give up my Libram of Valiance and my Darkmoon Card: Greatness though!


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