So, Blizzard has given us four flavors of tanking other than gimicky encounters that have mages/locks/hunters soak damage. We have Death Knights, Druids, Paladins (yay), and Warriors. The next few posts will be commentary on the styles of each tank and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. I will also be posting on how these tanks interact with boss encounters in Ulduar. Each will be prefaced with a brief overview. For a more compresensive look at each tank, there are lots of resources found online which get into fine detail about the nuances. Elitist Jerks forums are some of my favorite places to go when I need maths.
Since I know Paladins the best, let's start there.
Paladins are tanks that rely on plate armor, and a huge damn shield to mitigate damage. We utilize Righteous Fury in concert with holy damage in order to generate threat. We have several ablities to use to generate threat: Judgement, Hammer of the Righteous, Shield of the Righteous, Holy Shield, Consecration, Avenger's Shield, and Exorcism. The first five are used in the basic 969 rotation, and the last two are great for ranged pulling of mobs. Paladins have two taunts in their arsenals as well, single targets with Hand of Reckoning and up to three targets (shotgun taunt) Righteous Defense.
The general philosophy behind paladin tanking is rely on your shield for damage mitigation whether it be single target or AoE tanking. Paladins excel at taking a steady intake of damage with each attack blocking a good chunk of the incoming damage using Holy Shield; more steady and predictable damage means that there is less pressure on the healers as healing you is generally easier.
Generally paladins do not have as many "Oh Sh*t" buttons as the other tanking classes, but that is the trade off for our ability to soak steady damage. Paladins in general have one damage reduction cooldown: Divine Protection. Basically a carbon copy of the Warrior's Shield Wall (50% damage reduction for 10 sec). We can glyph for a 20% reduction effect to Hand of Salvation, but this has a dangerous downside for threat sensitive fights. We don't get a Last Stand, or a Frenzied Regeneration type cooldown. A paladin tank can compensate with healer cooldowns, like Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit, or Divine Sacrifice but these can't be always relied upon.
I would argue that paladin tanks take less damage than any other tank, but handle spike damage very poorly. Fight's like Loetheb, General Vezax, and any other boss that deals steady damage are ideal for a paladin tank.
Another strength of paladin tanks is AoE tanking. We have some of the best multi-target threat abilities in the game and when you couple that with the ability to block a good chunk of every incoming attack, AoE tanking becomes the hallmark of tankadins. Often it is better to put a tankadin on boss adds than bosses due to their ease in dealing with multiple enemies.
That's it for now, next up Warriors.