Planning Cooldowns

I’ve been asked by a couple of people to write up a post about how I plan and use cooldowns. I didn’t think that it would make a very interesting post at the time, until my co-authors here told me to write it or they’d murder me.  I’m going to briefly cover the tools that paladins have available to them before discussing some cooldown theorycrafting.  For warriors, bears, and deathknights those sections will hopefully still be of interest, because the concepts should be universal.

Paladin Cooldowns: The Toolbox

As a paladin, I have a very long list of survival cooldowns to use, some of which might not be generally considered to fit the definition, but which can contribute to your survival in a very real way. I have Guardian of the Ancient Kings, Divine Protection, Ardent Defender – Holy Shield Wall, Holy Barkskin, and Holy Last Stand – the big three.  I will generally have Mirror of Broken Images available for fights where magic resistance is useful. That tends to be the sum total of the list most people consider, but I’m going to name a few more:

  1. Word of Glory – a 30k instant heal on a 20 second cooldown. Proactive use of WoG can reduce or remove the risk from many dangerous situations. 30k is a lot of health, it’s often the difference between surviving another melee and not. It’s a very powerful cooldown, used appropriately.
  2. Lay on Hands: Once per fight, it’s a get out of jail free card, a full reset of the healthbar.
  3. Divine Shield: In combination with taunt, you can often completely nullify a boss ability. Everyone knows about using DS for resetting stacks at Sinestra or Double Dragons – but how often do you use bubble/taunt to nullify an Electrocute/Shadowbreath combination at Nefarian? You can, and it’s arguably the best cooldown in the game for that purpose.  I think this one, specifically, is underutilized outside of it’s gimmick value.
  4. Hand of Protection: You can BoP yourself and taunt to eliminate melee for several seconds. That, too, can be the difference between life and death.

That pretty much covers the “what”, which frees me up to talk about the interesting stuff things: “how” and “why”.

Planned Cooldowns: Building A Cooldown Rotation

There are two different ways that I use cooldowns, and in the majority of difficult fights, I’ll use both to some greater or lesser degree. The first method is planned cooldowns – and these always take priority. The Boss Ability of Pain and Doom must be survived, and I will generally find myself planning out a cooldown rotation in advance – often invoking external cooldowns in order to do so. In planning out a cooldown rotation, the most important concept is that of the minimally sufficient cooldown: the smallest cooldown that will guarantee my survival. It’s very important to know which tools are good enough, which are overkill, and which just aren’t good enough.

To figure out the minimally sufficient cooldown, I simply look at the ability I need to survive and add a boss melee to it. If that number is less than my health, you can survive without cooldowns. If it’s more, I must reduce the damage in some way, so I work my way up from the weakest cooldowns to determine which reduce the damage by enough. It’s worth noting, as well, that insufficent cooldowns can be stacked together to create a strong enough cooldown to qualify as minimally sufficient.

Having established the list of minimally sufficient cooldowns, I need to know how often the Boss Ability of Pain and Doom (or Abilities) occurs. Having determined this, I can then establish the list of planned cooldowns for the fight. My personal preference is to always use the shortest cooldown first. As a paladin, this generally means Divine Protection and Mirror are the go-to cooldowns for magic burst, and in most cases they’ll build your complete list of minimally sufficient cooldowns. In the cases where they aren’t sufficient alone (ability happens every 20 seconds), I’ll add GAnK and AD for every 3rd ability, and I will arrange for some external cooldown coverage.

Just to have something concrete to discuss, I’ll provide a couple of examples of cooldown rotations that I use.  At Cho’gall, I tank the adds.

  1. On the first add wave, I use AD/Stoneform.
  2. For the 2nd, I use GAnK.
  3. On the third, AD/Stoneform again.

With Fury up on me, and often Shadow’s Orders, there’s an immense amount of incoming damage, and it’s always worth covering with a cooldown.  Given the pace of our kills right now, this leaves me with GAnK available for P3.  In progression, I reversed the order of cooldowns, for the same reason – we had one more add wave, and I wanted GAnK up in P3.

At Nefarian, when I tank Nef himself, my original cooldown rotation was DP, then trinket – Electrocutes came roughly every 35 seconds.  Currently, especially during heroism, it’s closer to 25 seconds, not enough time to cover every one.  My cooldown rotation now is DP, Trinket, AD/Stoneform, DP, Trinket, GAnK, DP (or bubble if I didn’t use it in P2).

Unsubscribed Cooldowns: What do I do with all the rest of these?

This procedure will rapidly establish the set of planned cooldowns for the fight. It will also leave me with a different set of cooldowns that are unsubscribed. It would be foolish to never use those cooldowns, when they can contribute to my survival, so the question at hand is how best to use them.

Generally speaking, my personal priority list is to preserve myself first, and help the raid second. If there are situations where I will be in danger – incapacitated or stressed healers, a survivable but dangerous period of boss damage, or something of that ilk – I will use unsubscribed cooldowns there. Failing situations with tank danger, I’ll use my cooldowns during periods of increased raid damage, so the healers can leave me alone to preserve the raid.

However you choose to use your unsubscribed cooldowns, it’s important to remember that you always want to try to recognize the dangerous situations before they happen, and use cooldowns proactively. GAnK is much better used at 100% health than at 20% health, because it prevents any form of panic-recovery.  AD is probably our best major cooldown to use reactively, but it remains more powerful used proactively.  I tend to use GAnK proactively first, so that AD is available reactively when I miss something – it happens all too often.

How, then, does one determine dangerous events before they happen? I look at my damage intake and get a feel for the rhythm of the fight. I look at logs after a night of attempts and identify potentially dangerous ability combinations – mostly places where we started to lose people. In general, I pay attention to what’s going on and stay alert, and find the opportunities to use cooldowns.

There are a few very trivial examples of “unplanned” cooldown uses, but the situations will differ from fight to fight, and from raid to raid, and will crop up on a regular basis if you’re looking for them.  With that in mind, on Omnitron I generally cycle cooldowns, starting with DP, as bad combinations come up.  Security Measures with Electron up?  Best to cooldown.  Shadow Infusion when I have a mob I can’t drag into the pile?  Cooldown.  Atramedes, if there’s a breath that isn’t handled well, it’s a good time to use a cooldown to let the healers catch up.

Many of my cooldowns will not be subscribed for a given fight. Personally, I very rarely use WoG as a planned cooldown, it’s always my personal survival tool for danger created by healer movement or raid damage, and it is extraordinarily powerful in that niche.

Cooldown Usage in Multiphase Fights

In multiphase fights we’re often in a situation where cooldowns are only subscribed for one phase.  I always make a point of knowing when I need to use a cooldown, and counting backwards so that I know the last possible moment I can safely use it.  The best example of this is Sinestra, where I tank whelps.  In P3, I have a chain of cooldowns built to finish the fight: Trinket -> DP -> AD/Stoneform -> GAnK -> DK Armies -> Trinket -> DP.  GAnK is always used ~45 seconds after the Essence buff falls, or 3:45 after the start of P3.  This means that I can use it very early in P3, but then it’s off-limits.  I suppose you might call it a partially subscribed cooldown, but it’s important to understand the window of time in which it’s available, and when it isn’t.

Ascendant Council is similar, in that you’ll want to chain cooldowns as P3 winds down, to free up healer attention for the raid.  This leaves you with all of P1 and a portion of P2 to use your cooldowns on an ad-hoc basis, but eventually you’ll need to restrain yourself.

Final Words

The best advice I can give about cooldowns is this axiom: Never die with an unsubscribed cooldown available.  Use them, don’t save them.  You will develop good judgement about what situations are dangerous, and what aren’t, and when there might be a reason to save a cooldown as opposed to using it.  No axiom is correct 100% of the time, but it’s better to be in the habit of using cooldowns to mitigate danger than to be in the habit of saving them for emergencies and dying with them available.

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7 Responses to Planning Cooldowns

  1. Kaarn says:

    Thank you for this post. Managing cooldowns is maybe my favourite part in tanking at the moment. At the same time it is also the part I fail the most while learning a new encounter.
    For instance we are working on 10 man Chimaeron heroic and I’m in trouble because I think I blow my cooldowns too early in the Feud phases so I don’t have my most useful (GAnK, dodge trinket) available for the final phase an I thus I die too quickly. I think using Ardent Defender for Feuds is fine because the death protection will not keep me alive for long with the heal debuff and DoT in place. Saving Divine Protection for the last phase won’t work either because I usually tank the last Feud and I need something to follow AD.

    Using Divine Shield/Taunt is something I nearly never do but I will try to integrate it in my regular play more often. I wish it would work while Mortality is up though.

    • Donthealme says:

      This sounds more like bad timing of the push, with any CDS up you should survive the first series of strikes and AD can provide you the ability to survive 3 at minimum.

    • Meloree says:

      Assuming you’re not using LoH on yourself, you can DS/Taunt to take care of the double-attack portion of one feud phase. Personally, I use GAnK with 4pc for the first feud I tank (and third, 6 months ago when DPS was a lot lower) and AD/DP/Dodge trinket for the 2nd. I generally LoH up the 2nd, and then pop AD/DP just before the break stack is applied, to cover the double-attack and time after.

      We also use GS on every Feud, because we’re in 25man, I assume you don’t have that option, but make use of what external cooldowns you have. As a paladin, BoSac can save your co-tank, as can DG.

  2. Chasey says:

    Great post Mel! I think planning and using CD’s is one of those things you really need experience to have a solid grasp on. Reading info like really gives some food for thought and I totally agree, dying with CD’s on the board make you want to kick yourself.

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