Finally Meta? - Why Protection Paladins Are Good in Shadowlands Mythic+ Season 2
Recently, Andybrew (aka
) has reached the number one spot for tanks on Raider.io playing Protection Paladin, and his score has only gone up crossing the 3100 mark. Realistically, this is the best Prot. Paladin has performed in top-end Mythic+ in the five years that the feature has been in the game. Prot. Paladin has always been capable of doing high keys but it was always two or three key levels below other tanks like Prot. Warrior in BFA or Vengeance Demon Hunter in Shadowlands Season 1.
In Season 1, Prot. Paladin had a reputation of being a "glass cannon tank." The general perception was that they did great damage, but it was very hard to live in difficult content, so the spec was considered worse than other tanks in the meta. Now it’s on par with other tanks, and able to do the same key levels or even slightly higher. However, there were no direct changes to the spec in 9.1 or 9.1.5 that would have caused this shift. There was no one magical change in a list of Blizzard patch notes that you can point to for Season 2 that made them suddenly good. It was a combination of factors.
The first and most obvious thing is the playstyle change from BFA to Shadowlands -- having more uptime on
makes playing the spec more consistent defensively than it’s ever been. The second most obvious thing is damage output. It's no secret that Kyrian Prot. Paladin has very AoE strong burst damage, and is consistent in single target situations. These are not the only reasons, so today I’m going to look at what other factors are in play that have allowed a competitive player like Andy to excel at playing Prot. Paladin in world first Mythic+ keys.
About the Author
This content was written by Lincoln. He is a moderator for the
Hammer of Wrath Community
where he helps players on a daily basis get better at playing Protection. Feel free to message him questions, comments or concerns about what you read here.
You can find him posting random opinions on
Stat Scaling Explained
A good place to start when analyzing why a spec or class starts doing well is looking at stat scaling and it should be no secret that Paladin is one of the better scaling tanks.
Like all tanks, Paladin scales well with item level where they gain more health from Stamina and damage reduction from Armor, Block, and Strength. Strength improves
; helping increase the impact of active mitigation as content gets more difficult. This type of scaling applies to all tanks as they gain a lot of benefits from item level.
Secondary stat scaling is where it gets really interesting. Tanks generally gear around one or two secondary stats, like Haste/Vers in the case of Prot. Warrior. But Prot. Paladin has three that they can gear. You can gear for Haste, and Versatility, but you also gear for Mastery, which is very strong.
Haste helps scale the builder/spender economy - making it easier to maintain
, or heal with
. It adds a lot more flexibility in how you can proactively, or reactively deal with a damage spike on you, or an ally. A good builder/spender economy will help cycle cooldowns though
making it easier to do more dangerous pulls since your cooldowns will be available more often. Getting Haste was a big focus of Season 1 since the spec needs a reasonable Holy Power economy to function in more difficult content, but with Season 2, you can easily get Haste through items like
then focus on the two of the other stats.
Versatility has no real benefits beyond being a passive damage increase and damage reduction. It's just a good secondary stat to have on gear.
Paladin does have a strong third stat, Mastery, through
. This is a passive damage reduction tool that increases block chance and reduces the amount of damage a Prot. Paladin takes while standing in
. With both of these factors, Mastery for a Paladin is better than Versatility when you can stay in
and face-tank. Unlike other tanks who have more specific and narrow Mastery effects like
, both which only work on physical damage,
is very generalized as it works on all damage including magic and bleeds. And once you include
into the calculus around Mastery, a Prot Paladin can achieve 47-50% unbuffed block chance that passively reduces damage taken from melee swings, magic dots, et al. The amount of passive damage reduction a Prot. Paladin gains from Mastery through increased block chance and
makes it a very attractive stat to equip compared to how other tanks gear.
Prot. Paladin scales very well with stats because they are very impactful and it’s very difficult to hit diminishing returns on three secondary stats. This makes gearing very flexible overall such that more gear options exist, and any piece has at least one good secondary stat on it.
Tormented Anima Powers
Season 2 of M+ introduced two Anima powers,
that provide ~400 extra secondary stats which is the equivalent of 26 item levels worth of secondary stats.
Paladin tanks who are pushing higher keys, usually pick
as it can be very powerful compared to
. When it provides Mastery,
can be worth as much as 5% damage reduction in addition to the attack power it gives. Additionally,
has interesting behavior where it does not instantly turn-off when the Paladin’s health drops below 70% HP. There is a hidden health check that runs every few seconds and that dictates if the buff is active or not. As long as the Paladin’s health is back above 70% before the next health check, Champion’s Brand will never drop off. To help illustrate this, here is a chart from a Halls of Atonement run. The green shading designates when
is active, and the pink line is the Paladin's current HP.
As you can see, despite multiple HP drops below 70%, the buff never dropped off and was active for most of the key starting around the 6-minute mark. These two factors, the amount of stat gain, and uptime, make
the best choice for pushing high keys.
The second power,
, does two things; it gives free passive damage and damage reduction through 200 free Versatility rating and it also offsets a weakness of Prot Paladin, mitigation ramp up. Going into a pull, a Paladin can be very vulnerable, since you have to spend globals getting
up, and the four second buffer of 40% damage reduction through
effectively removes the risk of mitigation ramp-up time.
In total from anima powers, Prot Paladins not only gained another tier’s worth of secondary stats that give 8-9% damage reduction but also an offset to one of their weaknesses.
Tank and Dungeon Tuning Adjustments
There were two tuning changes that helped Protection Paladin in M+. The first was the addition of 10% passive damage reduction through
. It was added as a hotfix after the bug with
was discovered. While all tanks gained some passive damage reduction with his hotfix, Paladin became better at face-tanking trash packs, and kiting them if needed in Mythic+, since the hotfix made them studier outside of
The other change was a global 10% reduction in melee damage from trash, and bosses in Mythic+ at the start of Season 2. These tuning changes when combined, a melee swing on day 1 of Season 2 did ~19% less relative damage compared to day 1 of Season 1.
Utility and Synergy
Paladin has a ton of core utility since it's part of the class fantasy, and a lot of it can apply to Mythic+. The higher you go in key levels; class utility becomes more important to many of the strategies used to time keys. A strong argument can be made that world class keys are impossible without a Paladin in the group and there is no better role in the group to get that utility than the tank.
Here are some key things that Protection Paladin’s do:
to cheese mechanics like
or to remove a
in Sanguine Depths.
They can use
on any party member who needs an external.
for passive group wide damage reduction.
Brings general crowd control like
that can be used on the
encounter in Plaguefall.
Brings obscure utility like
in Mists of Tirna Scithe to help with
But it’s not just about utility, it’s about the discovered synergy a Protection Paladin has with their healer of choice: Restoration Shaman.
, both specs can cover the large number of the interrupts required in a Mythic+ dungeon.
while Shaman brings
. This covers all four debuff types and makes doing big pulls in some dungeons like Plaguefall or Sanguine Depths easier.
Shaman has a group-wide damage reduction through
which is primarly used as a tank external in high keys.
Shaman has a complimentary amount of crowd control with
Shaman brings strong utility buttons like
to help take the pressure off in a big pull where a Paladin might have had to kite.
In short, Prot Paladin and Resto Shaman each bring to the table what the other lacks. Paladin brings buttons like BoP, Sac, disease/poison dispel while the Resto Shaman has group-wide DR, magic/curse dispel and Earth Elemental. The kits just complement each other very well -- more so than any other tank and healer combination.
Soulbinds and Legendaries
Season 2 brought some new soulbind, and legendary powers that have affected Prot Paladin performance in M+. The first is the new trait on Mikanikos:
is very strong as a one-minute cooldown and with this trait, the cooldown can be as low as forty seconds. This improves Holy Power generation and makes
more consistent as a defensive and snap threat ability.
On the legendary power side of things, there is the
legendary which automatically fires off an
every 5 seconds for 15 seconds after you
. This provides a
shield every 5 seconds but more importantly provides a constant source of Holy Power which helps fuel the builder/spender engine of mitigation, self-healing, and cooldown cycling. This legendary gives you access to spenders that you might not have been able to use, and it’s completely free, and predictable making
a strong source of Holy Power.
are combined, Prot. Paladin has just that much more survivability that another legendary like
is more damage but
will help you live. The tankier a Paladin gets with self-healing and cooldown cycling, the more the healer can DPS, increasing your chances of timing a high key.
Season 3 and Beyond
Heading into Season 3 M+, Prot Paladin is looking to be in a strong position to keep its place in the meta. Sure, it will lose access to ~400 secondary stats and
but that will be made up with another tier’s worth of gear, and more external power systems through a
, potential new trinkets, and other new systems.
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