Monday, December 28, 2009

Paladin Tanking 301 – The way of the OT

Today’s post is going to cover some of the differences between tanking heroics, and stepping in as an OT (Off Tank) in your first raid. Later posts will cover transitioning to a MT (Main Tank) role, and the graduate course of raid leading (not for the timid or faint of heart).

What is an OT?

Quite simply, the OT is one of the additional tanks in a raid. Generally the OT is slightly less geared and/or experienced than the MT, and has a different set of duties and responsibilities. In Vanilla WoW, the OTs often received trickle down gear after the MT had already picked through the best of the loot, and there was a much higher competition for the MT position.

Most importantly though, the OT has the thankless job of handling everything that the encounter throws at the raid – other than the main boss. If there are adds, they’re yours. Someone has to taunt the boss to eat some nasty spell? Welcome to the show kid, hope you brought your fastball. Basically the MT goes on to fame and riches, while you bide your time and plot your hostile takeover.

I guess the MT/OT relationship is a lot like the Sith – eventually one will kill the other.

In all honesty though, the OT position is dynamic, and the OT can be extremely challenged with responsibilities. Wrath has done a fairly decent job of keeping the OTs engaged, and in many guilds the mentality has definitely shifted to a shared tank pool, instead of the traditional MT/OT roles.

So what do you do different?

First thing – make sure your defense is over 541. The odds are good that you’re way above it, and that’s never a bad thing. Raid bosses (even 10 man normal versions) hit a bit harder than their heroic dungeon counterparts, so getting your defense and mitigation up is extremely important.

Unlike the MT however, since the OT will probably be handling adds (or special abilities), you’ll want to worry less about maxing out your Stamina, and more about hit and expertise rating. You don’t want to have a taunt or Avenger’s Shield miss, and if the adds are getting burned down – you’ll need to establish threat quickly. Building a quality block set is also helpful. Consider it a bonus if the MT is a DK or a Druid.

Speccing to OT

Fortunately, if you’re just filing the OT role, you can keep your heroic tank spec/glyphs and be in great shape. I would make sure you have the Glyph of Righteous Defense in, as well as Divine Plea. After that, it’s really a choice based on the boss you’ll be facing. With all the undead in ICC though, Holy Wrath is a nice third glyph to have. If you’re joining a new guild and are trying to make that great first impression, buddy up with a Scribe (no, they aren’t called insciptionists) and keep a stack of your different glyphs. This way you can swap out between fights.
Your talent tree won’t change up too much, as I mentioned your heroic spec will work fine for OT duty. There are a couple of changes you might make though, both to increase your survivability and to help mitigate some of the raid damage.

You’re going to get the points you need by dropping Reckoning, and one point in Spiritual Attunement. The points in ret are largely arbitrary. Depending on your tank/raid composition, you may want to pick up different talents for utility purposes.

Prot Tree

• Divine Sacrifice – After getting a facelift in 3.3, this talent will now only protect your party, but is still very effective in helping to mitigate some AoE damage.

• Divine Guardian – This talent makes DS really shine, as it allows for a 20% raid wide reduction in damage. You can make a /cancelaura macro to get rid of the DS ‘debuff’ so you stop taking damage, but still reduce raid damage. An excellent talent to pop during phase three of Anub’arak (as long as you don’t have any adds on you). It also buffs your Sacred Shield, which you should have up at all times.

• Imp Hammer of Justice – A nice talent to take for interrupts, but you’re going to lose points to put into Touched by the Light. I personally skip this, unless I know I’m going into an interrupt heavy encounter.

• Touched by the Light – I skip this in my heroic tank build, but for raid tanking it will come into play more since you will be running SoV on bosses.

Ret Tree

• Benediction – I picked this up for Vezack, since 10% mana reduction for all instant cast spells (all our tank abilities) is nothing to scoff at. If you don’t have a ret paladin in your raid though, these points are probably better spent in other places.

• Heart of the Crusader – Worth picking up if you don’t have a retadin, as it will give a 3% increased critical strike chance to your whole raid.

• Imp Blessing of Might – Again, if no retadin, pick this up. Your melee will thank you, and it will let your warriors use Commanding Shout.

• Vindication – Sell your first born if you have to, but pick this up. Bosses don’t have a lot of extra AP to begin with (their damage is generally pure strike based), but this will reduce it to zero, and will lower the damage the tanks take.

• Conviction – This talent loses out in my build. The crit is nice, but I prefer Pursuit of Justice and Crusade for the increased run speed and 3% damage done.
Of course you should feel free to play with the talents, and work with your guild/raid members to make sure you’re brining the optimal set of buffs mixed with the right talents for mitigation and survivability.

I’m here, I’m talented, and I have flasks. Now what?

Congratulations, the hard part is over. Just getting into a guild/raid is the first step to success. Now it’s time to start learning all the intricacies of the fight, and polishing the situational awareness skills that you picked up at the beginning. I’m putting together a crib sheet for new tanks which will cover all the raids – from ICC to Naxx, but until then – read the strats and watch the videos. Here’s a few other things that you can do to maximize your utility as an OT.

• Watch the raid’s agro – Be ready with an early Hand of Protection/Salvation or taunt. Even though you’re not tanking, you should still be checking threat via Omen (or your threat meter of choice).

• Be ready to pick up anything – Up to and including the boss. Sometimes weird things happen and the next thing you know you’re tanking Anub and his adds. Be ready with the cooldowns.

• Track abilities – This is especially important for fights like Saurfang. Be proactive and taunt as soon as you see the raid warning. Use Big Wigs or DBM – anything to give you a heads up on when an event is going to happen.

• Have a viable off-spec – I know this sounds horrible, but as a tank you’re in a unique position where you can swap gear and sets to help your raid out in other ways. Use those instant queues to get yourself some Ret or Holy gear.

• Don’t be afraid to tank – Once you’ve been in a group for a few weeks, don’t be afraid to ask if you can tank a certain boss or two. It’s important for the tanks to share the experiences, because the MT may not always be there – and you want to be ready to jump in and save the day.

• Maximize your loot – Get multiple sets, and change up as needed. A block set for melee heavy adds, stam sets for fights like Twin Valks, and threat sets for Deathwhisper and the Gunship. Swapping gear is pro.


Personally I find being an OT as, or more, enjoyable than being the MT. It’s really about sharing the responsibilities, and making sure you use the right player in the right spot. Unbearabull and I swap roles regularly, depending on our strengths or weaknesses in a certain encounter. For example we share Marrowgar, he MTs Deathwhisperer and the Gunship, and I MT Saurfang.

Later this week I’ll go over some of the things required to MT, and moving into a raid leader position, as well as a full crib sheet on raid bosses in Northrend.


  1. I'm enjoying this series, but I must know: what extracurriculars are you offering?

  2. Healing and ret baby! And maybe a comparison between tanking types once I get my DK to 80.


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