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High DPS Tanking

June 7, 2011

"I could be doing lots of DPS right now, but instead I'm stuck in The Vector Coil posing for pictures."

This is the first in a series of posts on high DPS tanking. In this article we’ll cover some basic principles of high DPS tanking, including gearing and glyphing choices and advanced rotation concepts.

The idea behind high DPS tanking is simple: to contribute as much DPS as possible over the course of a fight without compromising your survivability. There are plenty of fights in this tier where an appropriately geared tank can do as much or more DPS than actual DPS classes.

What’s the Point?

It’s just plain fun! This type of tanking should be reserved either for content that you have on farm or for progression content where the tank survivability checks are extremely low. Timing-wise it’s best saved for late in a tier, when you outgear the content and can shift to higher threat stats without creating too much risk.

High DPS tanking can be especially useful for faster farm kills, which can lead to higher DPS parses for your raid as a whole. Even on farm fights, though, make sure to communicate with your raid leader and healers before attempting this. They should know that your damage intake will be a bit higher, and that they may need to babysit you a bit more. It’s very important that you not waste your raid’s time with DPS shenanigans (or at the very least have ensured that they don’t mind having their time wasted).

Basic Principles

For each fight, you should ask the following questions:

(1) What gear should I wear?
(2) What glyphs should I use?
(3) How can I maximize my Vengeance?
(4) What rotation will maximize my DPS?

These are the basic principles of high DPS tanking: gearing, glyphing, taking advantage of Vengeance, and using the correct rotation to maximize your overall DPS. We’ll cover each of these topics in order starting with gear.


At the point where you decide to build a high DPS set, you should have acquired a fair amount of gear from the tier that you’re farming. In other words, if you’re a heroic mode tank going for high DPS on heroic mode fights, make sure you have mostly 372 gear. If you’re a normal mode tank going for normal mode parses, then you should be in 359s.

For progression, you’ll have followed one of two gemming paths: either you gemmed for Mastery or you gemmed for Stamina. For the purposes of high DPS tanking, Stamina is vastly superior. While Mastery is a weak threat stat because of Reckoning, Stamina is a good threat stat at high Vengeance, and it also gives you survivability. I would recommend the following gemming choices for each socket assuming you still want to match socket bonuses.

Red – +20 Parry, +30 Stamina
Yellow – +20 Mastery, +30 Stamina
Blue – +60 Stamina

When building a DPS set, the goal should be to still use mostly tanking pieces, gems and enchants, and to just swap in a few key pieces that make a significant DPS difference without dropping your Stamina too much. You need to be adequately prepared to survive attacks like Flame Torrent or Shadow Breath, which you might not always be able to cover with cooldowns. For reference, in my DPS set, I still have 180k fully raid buffed.

Slots in which DPS substitutes work really well are the head, gloves, legs, trinkets and weapon slots. You want a second helm so that you can slot a DPS meta gem in it. I also recommend gemming it for Strength or Expertise and getting the DPS head enchant as well. If you have both the Daybreaker Helm and the Dragon Bone Warhelm, I would recommend using the Dragon Bone Warhelm in a high DPS set. You can drop the DPS meta and a DPS gem into the red socket, and you get a nice Stamina socket bonus for added threat/survivability.

The PvP gloves are essential for a high DPS set. The Vicious Gladiator’s Scaled Gauntlets add 5% to Crusader Strike damage, which is your top source of damage on single target fights. In addition they have Hit rating to help you get hit capped, and you can gem and enchant them for DPS.

The Ret legs are a very good piece for a high DPS set as well. The Reinforced Sapphirium Legplates can have a DPS leg enchant placed upon them and then also be gemmed for DPS. The Mastery is a nice survival stat and it’s coupled with Hit Rating.

You will want to retain your T11 2-piece bonus, since it boosts your Crusader Strike damage as well, and if you make the replacements to the head, gloves and legs, your only options for the bonus are the chest and shoulder slots.

In terms of trinkets, far and away the best choice for tankadins is the Heart of Rage. It provides a huge amount of needed Expertise, and the proc is Strength, which is a great threat stat for us.  The second best trinket is License to Slay. For some fights you may find yourself equipping a Stamina trinket or the Mirror of Broken Images to help with survivability. If you have to drop out a DPS trinket for a tanking trinket, get rid of License to Slay.

For your weapon, you will want to use the Landslide enchant, since it is the highest DPS option available. You won’t miss Windwalk at all.


Once you have selected all the pieces that will be in your high DPS set, you will want to reforge for Hit and Expertise. Your goal is to be Hit capped (8% hit) and Expertise hard capped (56). If you reforged away any Hit/Expertise off core tanking pieces, you will want to restore it. Your best bet for reforging is to convert Dodge and Parry into Hit and Expertise. How many core tanking pieces you have to compromise will depend on your level of gear and whether you have some of the DPS slot alternatives (especially the Heart of Rage).

Reforge to your own comfort level. If you have not finished the tier, whether or not you want to lower your avoidance slightly by adjusting some of your core tanking pieces is up to you. My own personal opinion is that losing some avoidance for Hit/Expertise makes very little difference to survivability once you’re in the latter half of the tier and have acquired some gear. Tanking is also much more pleasant when you don’t miss as much.

There are quite a few resources that you can use to figure out the optimal way to reforge. Mr. Robot is one such resource, and you can also use WoW Reforge. The Reforgerade add-on is another option. You will have to pick high weights for Hit and Expertise in order to make them desirable over tanking stats like Dodge/Parry/Mastery.


The choice of glyphs is relatively simple and basically boils down to whether or not you expect to primarily do multi-target damage or single target damage on a given fight. Two glyphs that you should always have equipped are the Glyph of Seal of Truth and the Glyph of Shield of the Righteous.

The third glyph should be the Glyph of Crusader Strike for single target fights, and the Glyph of Hammer of the Righteous for multi-target fights.

For major glyphs, you should swap in Glyph of Focused Shield for single target fights, and make sure it is not slotted at all for multi-target fights.

Food, Flasks and Potions

The highest DPS options have been covered on Maintankadin, but for food your choices are either the Strength food (Beer-Basted Crocolisk), the Hit food (Grilled Dragon) if below the cap, or the Expertise food (Crocolisk Au Gratin) if below the cap.

For flasks you should use the Flask of Steelskin (for threat and survivability) or the Flask of Titanic Strength (pure threat) if you really want to push it.

For potions you should be using the Golemblood Potion. You should use one on the pull, and then use a second one at a time during the fight where you will get a benefit from it for the full duration. For most fights you’ll want to make sure you are tanking something at the start in order to have Vengeance while under the effect of the first potion.


For every fight, you should be thinking about how to maximize your Vengeance. Don’t stand in fire on purpose though! 🙂 For any fights that you currently tank where nothing is hitting you, think about how you can re-arrange the tanking responsibilities on the fight so that you are tanking more often (or tanking the mobs that will hit you harder). I happen to run with a druid co-tank, and bears are the best partner for high DPS tanking.  My co-tank loves it when I take a boss temporarily so that he can go cat. Not only are you doing far more DPS, but your co-tank is as well.

I highly recommend installing an add-on for Vengeance tracking. Vengeance Status is a nice simple one that displays your current Vengeance as a bar.  While you may not keep it enabled all the time, it can be very eye-opening to run with it during fights to see when your Vengeance peaks (and conversely when it falls).

In some cases the swaps to maximize Vengeance can be a little tricky (Maloriak for example), so if you do decide to change your tanking strategy on a fight, make sure your co-tank has a clear understanding of what’s going to happen.

Righteous Fury

Even though your goal is to maximize Vengeance, there will be times when you aren’t tanking, e.g., any tank swap where you get a debuff that prevents you from tanking the boss.  You should always be ready to disable Righteous Fury, especially if your co-tank is in normal tanking gear or doesn’t have high Vengeance yet. You can always re-enable it later when you start tanking again.  Disabling the Righteous Fury buff will allow you to do maximum DPS (including on the pulls if you pre-pot but aren’t the starting tank) without worrying about ripping off your co-tank.

Single Target Rotation

Theck has already done a great job of analyzing single target rotations here. The priority queue that I use for single target is:

(SotR if Sacred Duty or Inquisition active) > Inq > CS > AS > J > HW

Below 20%, work Hammer of Wrath in above Judgement or Holy Wrath.

In order to execute this rotation properly, your user interface needs to clearly display all of the following:

Holy Power – Your UI needs to clearly show when you have three Holy Power and are ready to execute a finishing move. Ideally you see something as soon as you enter the 3-Holy-Power state, because then you will have an entire GCD in which to make the correct decision for your finishing move.

Sacred Duty – Once you have three Holy Power, you will want to have a clear indicator of whether or not Sacred Duty is in effect. Note that in the case of Grand Crusader procs, the acquisition of Holy Power can precede the Sacred Duty buff, so it’s not sufficient to have a static indicator that is checked only when you hit three Holy Power. You’ll want a live indicator for this buff and it needs to be highly visible.

Inquisition – You’ll want to have a highly visible tracking display for the current state of Inquisition. Not only do you need to know when it’s up, but you need to be able to – at a glance – see how much time is remaining on the buff as well.

Grand Crusader – A clear indicator of GC procs is important, and the in-game UI does a great job of displaying this information. I haven’t found any need to make the time remaining on the proc more visible, since the situations in which you would not have time to use the proc are extremely rare (and only really occur at extremely low values of Hit and Expertise).

I use the Power Auras add-on to track all of the above information. One of the reasons I prefer this add-on is that I can conditionally display the Sacred Duty information only when I have three Holy Power. That way my default user interface remains uncluttered, especially for single target tanking where Inquisition uptime is relatively low. I do display Inquisition information unconditionally all the time, since it’s important to know the time remaining on Inquisition to understand where you are in your Holy Power generation cycle.

Multi-Target Rotation

The multi-target rotation is where things get really interesting. When you talk to most tankadins, what you hear is that SotR is for single target tanking and Inquisition is for multi-target tanking. It has already been well-established that you can actually use Inquisition intelligently in a single target rotation to get a decent DPS boost, but what is less well known is that SotR is often a DPS boost even when multi-target tanking. If you are Hit capped and Expertise capped, even against as many as five or six targets, and all you’re doing is refreshing Inquisition when you get to three Holy Power, then you’re losing out on a significant chunk of DPS.

The Capped Holy Power Cycle

When you are Hit and Expertise capped, there are certain guarantees you can make about the time it will take you to reach three Holy Power again, since none of your attacks are going to miss. The minimum length of a capped holy power cycle is six seconds and the maximum length is nine seconds.

The six second cycle occurs when you already have a Grand Crusader proc from a move in the previous cycle or when you get a Grand Crusader proc off your first Holy Power generator in the cycle. In both cases the resulting cycle looks like this:

ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg

The second possible cycle occurs when you get a Grand Crusader proc after the second Holy Power generator in the cycle. In this case, the cycle’s length is 7.5 seconds (including the finisher).

ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg  ____  ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg

The final possible cycle occurs when you get no Grand Crusader procs at all and is nine seconds in length:

ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg  ____  ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg  ____  ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg

Inquisition in a Capped Cycle

Let’s examine Inquisition across two capped cycles. We know Inquisition lasts twelve seconds when used at three Holy Power. We also know that our best case time for two complete capped cycles is twelve seconds (6 + 6), and our worst case time for two complete capped cycles is eighteen seconds (9 + 9). Therefore we can already see that there is a best case scenario where a single Inquisition can cover two complete capped cycles.

spell_paladin_inquisition.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg

As you can see, the above cycle maintains 100% Inquisition uptime while allowing you to get off an extra Shield of the Righteous attack.  Let’s continue to explore what happens when we get the optimal capped cycle first.  There are two other possibilities for the second cycle:

spell_paladin_inquisition.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg                                 spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg

In the above cycle we have one ability that falls outside of the Inquisition window. Is this a net DPS gain still? We get an extra Shield of the Righteous attack, but we lose 30% of the potential Avenger’s Shield damage.

We can use Theck’s ability damage numbers at high Vengeance to compare these two values.

Shield of the Righteous will do 24442 damage.  A glyphed Avenger’s Shield does 24198. We need to account for the fact that the Shield will be boosted by Inquisition, so its damage is 24442 * 1.3 = 31774. A Sacred Duty-backed Shield will do 63,548. The Avenger’s Shield for multi-target tanking will be unglyphed, so we need to divide by 1.5 and multiply by 3: 24198 * 2 = 48396. The amount of damage we lose from not using Inquisition is 0.3 * 48396 = 14,518. Therefore it is still clearly a DPS gain to use Shield of the Righteous even if Sacred Duty isn’t up.

The final possibility is that the last cycle takes 9 full seconds to complete.

spell_paladin_inquisition.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg  ____  ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg                      ____  ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg

With the above cycle, two abilities are outside of Inquisition. One of these abilities is a weak filler, since we know Avenger’s Shield isn’t off cooldown yet.  The other is a Hammer of the Righteous. We already know that our Shield will do 31774 damage (63,548 if Sacred Duty is active).  A glyphed Hammer does a nova splash of 9189 and a base hit on the primary of 3399. Therefore we lose 1019 damage off the base and 2756 off each target. It takes ~11 targets in order to match the damage done by the Shield of the Righteous in the non-SD case and on the order of 22 targets in order to match the damage done by a Sacred Duty-backed Shield of the Righteous!

The possible fillers that we’d be losing damage from are Judgement and Hammer of Wrath. The amount of lost damage is 5393 for the Judgement and 7010 for Hammer of Wrath. We can be conservative and lower the number of targets to 8 and 19 respectively for the two possible Shield values.

This leads us to a surprising conclusion. Shield of the Righteous should virtually always be used if the time left on Inquisition is 6 seconds. If Sacred Duty is up, it’s never going to be wrong to hit Shield of the Righteous in this scenario. If Sacred Duty is not up, it’s still typically going to be the right move to make for maximum DPS, unless you are tanking a large number of targets.

Divine Plea

Divine Plea can be used in a number of interesting ways to gain you extra Shield attacks. You can either use it to shorten the length of a cycle, or you can use it when you know your subsequent cycle will be short, e.g., if you have a Grand Crusader proc waiting after popping Inquisition. The two rules I tend to apply are that I will only use Divine Plea in place of Holy Wrath, since it’s such a weak filler, and I try to use Divine Plea only when I can guarantee a Sacred Duty-backed Shield for maximum oomf.

Longer Cycles

We’ve studied what happens when the first capped cycle is six seconds long, and that you can nearly always work in a Shield of the Righteous in this case, but what if the first Holy Power cycle is longer?

The three possible rotations with a 7.5 second initial cycle are:

spell_paladin_inquisition.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg                      ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg

spell_paladin_inquisition.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____                       ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg

spell_paladin_inquisition.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   spell_holy_avengersshield.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____                       ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg

We have already analyzed the first of these cycles and so know that a Sacred Duty-backed Shield is always worth it, and a normal Shield requires 11 targets or less. The second of these cycles has an Avenger’s Shield that falls outside of Inquisition. This lowers the number of targets by about 5, from 11 to 6 in the normal Shield case and from 22 to 17 in the Sacred Duty case. As you can see, we’re starting to get into more of a grey area when Sacred Duty isn’t up. In the last case we lose Inquisition off two Hammers.  Even before accounting for the lost filler, we’re down to 11 /2 = 5.5 targets and 22 / 2 = 11 targets respectively. Factor in the filler, and we are down to 2.5 targets and 8 targets respectively.

This leads us to a couple of conclusions. If you are tanking a very large number of mobs, don’t bother using Shield with a 7.5 second cycle. For a moderate number of mobs, however, a Sacred Duty-backed Shield is still an obvious win.

Finally let’s take a look at the longest Holy Power cycle.

spell_paladin_inquisition.jpg    ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg                       ____   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg   ____   ability_paladin_hammeroftherighteous.jpg

In this case, four abilities fall outside of Inquisition. With no Grand Crusader procs, it’s possible one of these fillers could be Avenger’s Shield. Therefore our worst case scenario is that the two fillers are Avenger’s Shield and Hammer of Wrath. We already did the math for losing two Hammers of the Righteous and a Hammer of Wrath and determined this lowered the number of targets to 2.5 and 8 targets respectively. Once you factor in the loss off an AS, even the Sacred Duty case falls to 3 targets. It’s not worth it.

This leads us to the following rules for Holy Power finishers against multiple mobs.

(1) Refresh Inquisition if it is not up.
(2) If Inquisition has six seconds remaining:

Hit Shield of the Righteous always if Sacred Duty or GC are up or if tanking 8 mobs or fewer. Otherwise refresh Inquisition.

(3) If Inquisition has four and a half seconds remaining:

Hit Shield of the Righteous always if Sacred Duty is up. Otherwise refresh Inquisition.

(4) If Inquisition has three seconds remaining:

Hit Shield of the Righteous only if Sacred Duty is up and you are tanking 3 or fewer mobs. Otherwise refresh Inquisition.

If these rules require too much bandwidth for you to process while performing other tanking duties, then a general simplifying rule that will net you nearly as much DPS is:

If you get a Grand Crusader proc during the cycle following an Inquisition refresh, and if Sacred Duty is up, then use Shield of the Righteous as your next finisher.

Two-Target Tanking

When tanking two targets, it will often be the case that Crusader Strike will be glyphed and Hammer of the Righteous will be unglyphed. As I recommended in the gear section, you’ll probably also have the PvP gloves equipped, and those provide another 5% boost to Crusader Strike. Comparing using Theck’s ability numbers but accounting for these changes, we get Crusader Strike doing 18070 * 1.05 = 18973 damage, and Hammer doing (3399 + 9189*2) / 1.1 = 19797. As you can see it’s a very close call in terms of DPS, so if you find yourself mana constrained from spamming Hammer, if the other mob is being moved unpredictably by your co-tank, or if your primary target is fully debuffed but the other target is untouched, you may prefer to use Crusader Strike instead.

For two-target tanking, I follow the rules for multi-target tanking, except I will always use Shield of the Righteous if both Inquisition and Sacred Duty are in effect, no matter how little time remains on Inquisition.

Know if you are Capped!

Even if you aren’t in an extreme threat set, you may find yourself capped against the mobs you are tanking. The Expertise and Hit requirements get much lower, so you may meet them. Here is a chart of the various adds in Tier 11, their levels, and how much Hit and Expertise are needed to be capped against them.







Blazing Bone Construct, Animated Bone Warrior


21Twilight Whelp



Halfus Adds, Cho’gall Adds, Aberration, Ravenous Creeper



Sinestra (Parry is turned off)



Other Bosses, Vile Swill, Corrupting Adherent, Stormling, Prime Subject

Hammer of the Righteous and Mob Levels

Hammer of the Righteous works by first hitting a primary target, and then – only if that attack is successful – splashing to secondary targets. If you are ever attacking mobs of varying levels and you aren’t capped against the highest level mob in the pack, make sure to hit one of the lower level mobs instead.

For example Aberrations and Vile Swills have differing levels (87 vs. 88). If you are tanking Aberrations and Swills together during a Maloriak black phase and don’t have 56 Expertise, it’s actually smarter to be Hammering an Aberration, since you’ll have a much lower chance of being Parried.


That’s it for general principles. In my next post I’ll talk about how to apply these principles to the specific fights of this tier.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2011 7:01 pm

    Good to know that someone’s doing some high-DPS tanking. I used to really enjoy that meta-game in ICC, but I haven’t really found the motivation to do so in T11. I’ve mostly been trying to generate high dps-efficiency strats to increase RDPS and decrease killtimes – I’d rather see Edge get back to setting top 10 DPS parses before I start chasing tank DPS parses again for myself.

    In some ways Vengeance has really killed my interest in high-DPS tanking, it feels like a mechanic that’s just out of my control.

  2. Brutalus permalink
    June 11, 2011 4:12 pm

    Great, great post. I haven’t done much of this besides occasionnally putting on a dps trinket, but it’s very refreshing to read this and keep up to date – particularly so that I can produce optimal dps during progress (which is surprisingly soon!).

    Maybe I’ll get back into it in Firelands to increase the competition!

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