Warrior tanking items are clearly itemized as such. They include few if any damage improving stats or ratings, and they include many avoidance related stats and ratings. Defense, dodge, block rating, and armor are all indications that a weapon is meant for a Protection Warrior.
Paladin tanking items, on the other hand, aren’t so clear. It seems to go against the rules of Tankadin itemization, but the best Paladin tanking items are often the best caster items. A Paladin sees no improvement from physical DPS, so it is much wiser to choose an item that is itemized for maximum spell damage. The Tankadin loses some avoidance, but more than makes up with it in threat generation.
With this in mind, the most important stat on a Tankadin weapon is Spell Damage. Avoidance and stamina are secondary, and avoidance is often sacrificed altogether. Also note that you should always enchant your weapon with +40 Spell Damage for maximum threat generation.
What Are Some Good Entry Level Weapons?
If you’re a fresh 70, the first thing you’ll want to upgrade is your weapon. Healers can keep you alive with bad gear, but you’re definitely going to die if you can’t hold aggro. Your first weapon should have somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 spell damage on it.
Luckily there are some weapons that are fairly easy to obtain, through the Auction House or through Reputation grinds.
Perhaps the single best entry level Tankadin weapon is the Crystalforged Sword. This sword is dropped in the Ogri’la section of Blade’s Edge Mountain. It offers superior spell damage (121), great stamina (30), and some avoidance to help you become uncrushable (11 Block Rating). If you have the money and it’s on the Auction House, don’t hesitate to buy it.
If you can’t afford that, the next best entry level item is the Continuum Blade, available from the Keepers of Time Quartermaster at Revered. It offers superior spell damage (121) and great stamina (30). Spell Hit rating is a nice bonus, but nothing terrific. If you’ve run Old Hillsbrad a few times and you can find your way into a Black Morass group, you’ll have enough rep to purchase this item.
Other alternatives include the Archmage’s Guile (SSO Quartermaster, Revered), Greatsword of Horrid Dreams (Murmer, Shadow Labyrinth), and Mana Wraith (Pathaleon the Calculator, Mechanaar).
So… Where To From Here?
After you’ve been raiding for a while, you’ll notice that the people running with you have upgraded their gear. That means they do more DPS… and you probably have a tougher time holding aggro. Enter the upgraded weapons.
There are a few vendor items and a number of drops in low level raids that you’ll want to keep an eye out for.
The Amani Punisher (Akil’zon, Zul’aman) is arguably the best mid-level weapon you can find. It offers superior spell damage (217), great stamina (30), and a quick speed (1.6) that makes it ideal for a Protection build that includes reckoning. This boss in ZA is fairly easy, and if you’ve cleared your way through Karazhan and Gruul’s you should be able to down him as well.
Gruul offers another alternative, by way of the Bloodmaw Magus-Blade. It’s got decent spell damage (203) but somewhat low stamina (16). Not the best option, but sacrificing the stamina is ok if you’re upgrading from a weapon with 121 spell damage.
The Gavel of Unearthed Secrets (Lower City Quartermaster, Exalted) is an interesting choice. It is a slow weapon, which makes it less useful if you have Reckoning in your build but much more useful if you use Seal of Vengeance for threat generation.
The Gladiator’s Gavel is a nice upgrade – 199 Spell Damage and 28 Stamina. It’s well worth the Honor needed to purchase it, if you haven’t been able to get a decent drop. As of 06/24/2008, you can purchase the Merciless Gladiator’s Gavel instead, which is even nicer at 225 Spell Damage.
But… What Is the Best Weapon?
For the best Protection Paladin weapons, you’ll need to travel into Hyjal or Sunwell. These will be difficult to obtain, but they sure are perty.
In Mount Hyjal, you’ll find the Hammer of Judgement. It’s a zone drop, not off a specific boss. It offers a nice spell damage boost (236) and awesome stamina (33). Annoy all of the shadow priests in your group by scooping this up when you have the chance.
In Sunwell Plateau, you’ll be able to get the Reign of Misery off Brutallus. It offers top-notch spell damage (266) and good stamina (24). Unfortunately, the spell haste is less than useful. Reducing the global cooldown is a nice perk, but hit rating, spell hit rating, or more stats would be much better. Still, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it.
Alternatively, if you’re great a PVP, you could Brutal Gladiator’s Gavel. This is arguably the best tankadin weapon in the game. Ironic that a Tankadin would never get a 2050 rating in Arena, though. It offers top notch spell damage (266), spell hit rating (19), and top notch stamina (33). A clear upgrade over the Sunwell Item, but in some ways harder to obtain.
Ok. What If Casters Complain?
So now you know that spell damage weapons rightfully belong to the Tankadin, but you encounter a small problem. The Shadow Priests, Mages, and Warlocks are all rolling against you. They want to do some leet DPS, and they don’t want you to stand in their way… so what do you do?
Boot them. You’re the tank, you’re in charge.
If you’re less gruff than that, here’s a more diplomatic solution.
Explain to your DPS casters, very patiently and slowly, that their DPS is restrained by your TPS – threat per second. If they can do 2000 DPS but you can only do 1000 TPS… they’re only going to be doing 1000 DPS.
Before a Shadow Priest can use the full potential of his Reign of Misery, the Tankadin must have something equally powerful to generate threat. There’s no point in giving casters the best weapon in the game if you’re leaving your tank with the second best.
If they still don’t see it your way, boot ’em. Good tanks are hard to come by. DPS is not.