Ah, welcome to the gravy train…at least for the duration of the current expansion.
Without hope of competition, paladins are undeniably the strongest tank in the current expansion so if you’re already playing one or already in the process of levelling one up, you’re in luck as you’ll have at least a couple months more of riding the gravy train.
Paladins are blessed with arguably the strongest AOE threat generation as well as very decent single target threat. On top of that, they have the extra mitigation that the block value provides as opposed to those poor bears and death knights. Survivability is unparalleled with the current iteration of the Ardent Defender talent so if you have a little paladin running around in Northrend right now, enjoy it while it lasts because along with all of the other huge changes coming around with the Cataclysm expansion, that talent is on the chopping block for big changes.
The current iteration of the Ardent Defender talent in the Cataclysm beta is one more in line with the cooldowns that the other tanks enjoy today. It essentially removes the purely passive benefit of the talent, making it something that you actually have to think about whether or not you want to pop it right then and there.
From the perspective of prot paladins in game at the moment, it’s going to be a pretty big hit to survivability. While it remains a pretty powerful cooldown all on its own, the simple fact is that human reaction times don’t hold a candle to the instantaneous response of a computer program. While people can have some excellent reaction times, you’ll never really know if that time you used a cooldown is a time that it saved your life or not.
The automatic nature of Ardent Defender makes it obvious if the talent really saved your life or not. When the expansion patch hits, that change is going to require a major adjustment to how prot paladins play but the essential core of the class will remain as it is today; a class that excels in the majority of boss encounters today. Playing a paladin will give you control of a class that’s probably the closest to the “classic” style of tanking that warriors brought to the scene back in vanilla WoW.
There are some cons to the life of a paladin tank of course. The primary problem is that the majority of your tanking rotation comes from casting spells instead of simple physical attacks like warriors, druids and death knights. This makes paladins doubly vulnerable to enemies that silence regularly whereas their other counterparts would breeze past it. While this is only a slight problem in terms of threat generation, it can make a huge difference when it comes to timing your survival skills. An improperly timed silence lined up with a devastating attack could render the paladin unable to react or throw up a defensive cooldown to save themselves.
Paladins are a fun class to play. If all you’ve played before were the other varieties of tanking classes, a paladin can be a fun change of pace. There’s a bonus to variety of play style due to the fact that paladins have three specs to try out. Due to spellcasting, they’re a little more vulnerable to anti caster mechanics during fights but that’s a very small price to pay for such a versatile and powerful tanking class.