Humans get the slightly useful racial talents of +5 to swords and Maces, a tiny Spirit bonus, and Diplomacy which helps you gain reputation 10% faster, which is nice. Dwarves get Stone Form, +5 guns (which a Pally cant use at all), +10 Frost Resistance, and Find Treasure with you wont use because you’ll be using Find Minerals (will explain soon). I prefer Humans but, in the end, there is not much important difference.
Every time you level up to an even numbered level go see the Paladin trainer. They will have new skills for you to learn. Get them all and learn to use them. At lvl 8 you get Hammer of Justice (HoJ, 3 sec stun) which allows you to heal or stop a fleeing mob. At lvl 10 you get you first taste of overpowered with Blessing of Protection (BoP, castable on either you or others) and Lay of Hands (LoH). BoP makes you immune to physical damage for 6 seconds and LoH restores ALL your health at the cost of all your mana (which you should have pretty much used anyway). If you play wisely its almost like 3 lives if you use BoP to heal.
Find yourself a good 2 handed weapon (preferable a mace or sword if human) and plan to stick with 2H weapons for quite some time. You mail armor will give you the defense you need and the extra hitting power is better than the extra armor from a shield. In fact, only break out the sword and shield when in instances with groups.
Always have your aura up, a blessing on yourself, and seal active when youre fighting. The only aura you have is Devotion at this point. Later you get others which are pretty self explanatory. Use the right one at the right time.
Learn to judge Seal of Rightousness for extra damage. You also get Seal of the Crusader (SotC) at lvl 6. If you judge this it increases subsequent Holy damage. This can be handy.
Acquire 4 bags ASAP. The bigger the better. More space means fewer trips to the vendor to sell the crap you find but don’t need.
Critical: As soon as you can get to your major city and learn your two professions Mining and Engineering. If you want something else you’re making a big mistake. Remember, all the crap others make you can always buy but all the great Engineering stuff is for Engineers only. Engineering serves to fill in designed in gaps in the Paladin character. Paladins benefit from Engineering more than any other class benefits from any profession. You take mining because it supports Engineering.
See the weapons trainer in your major city and learn 2 handed Maces and Sword at a minimum. Learn everything you can afford except maybe daggers.
Get your mining pick and turn on Find Minerals ASAP. Mine every node of copper you see and start advancing your Engineering Skill as aggressively as possible. In no time you’ll be able to make Rough Copper Bombs and will have a ranged means of pulling non-player character opponents (referred to as mobs from now on). Other Engineering goodies include mechanical pets whose level is your Eng. Skill divided by 5. So, if at level 40 you have 300 Eng. Skill your Mithril Mechanical Dragonling will be level 60. There are also multiple snaring devices that keep your opponent in striking range like Net-o-Matic projector, explosives that stun, and the Dreaded Goblin Rocket helmet. There is also a huge damage dealer known as the Gnomish Death Ray which can crit for up to 5,000! That is why you will be taking Gnomish specialization when the time comes.
Do all the quests you can in your starting area.
Look for equipment with stamina and intelligence (of the eagle suffix) or strength (of the bear suffix), or strength & intelligence (of the Gorilla). Mana wont be much of an issue at this point and strength gear is more common thanks to Warriors so you’ll likely end up with plenty of that.
Learn First aid, saving mana by using bandages is a very good thing.
At level 10 you get your first talent point, put it in Improved Blessing of Might (IBoM). You are going to put your first 31 points in Retribution so its that or Benediction. At this early stage IBoM will help you more.
At lvl 11 you should have no problem taking on 2 or even 3 mobs of your same level or one mob 3 levels higher and living through it. You cant do it all the time but you should be able to do it. Other characters wont be able to though. From lvls 10-20, after some practice, you should be able to beat any class in a duel. Between your mail, healing, BoP, HoJ, relatively good DPS, Blessing of Freedom, and LoH (shouldn’t have to use) you have everything you need to succeed.
You learn some good new skills in this range such as Redemption (resurrect dead players), Blessing of Wisdom (quicker mana regen), Retribution Aura (deals a bit of damage), Blessing of Freedom (immunity to movement impairing effects), Divine Protection (total immunity to all damage and debuffs for 8 secs), Seal of Command (excellent damage dealer w/ 2H weapons) and Righteous Fury (generates extra threat to focus mobs attention on you). Divine Protection activates a debuff that prevents BoP from being cast for one min.. So, you cant have back to back immunities.
Head to Westfall and do the many quests there. The Deadmines is also the first instance you should encounter. You get the main quest for the place by following The Defias Brotherhood quest chain. Use this as an opportunity to learn to group with people. In addition to killing mobs keep everyone blessed all the time, heal and purify them when they need it and keep the appropriate aura up all the time (usually Devotion). You need to master doing this combination of jobs in order to be an effective Paladin. If you don’t have some way to get a decent money supply besides grinding you’ll probably want to do the Deadmines several times for the better than average equipment drops and stuff to sell.
Your talent points will be spent on filling out IBoM, then 2 in Improved Judgment, and the other 3 in either Improved Seal of the Crusader (ISotC) or Deflection. I could argue the merits of either of those two about equally so you decide. I tend to favor ISotC since it improves damage and encourages the use of Judgments. Bad Paladins seldom use Judgments. The 11th point goes in Seal of Command (SoC).
Continue to aggressively advance your Engineering. At 85 skill you get to make Target Dummies which are very helpful in soloing hard quests or when you have no choice buy to take on larger groups than you would like. When they are destroyed/expire don’t forget to loot the Dummy. You get some of the materials back and may get the, hard to otherwise get, Fused Wiring. Fused Wiring is used in advanced Engineering devices. It can also be sold at the auction house for 10-15 gold. At skill 100 you can make Flying Tiger Goggles. If you’ve been doing a good job advancing your Eng. These will be the first piece of head armor you can get. Its cloth but has some stamina, spirit, and armor so its better than nothing. They look like sunglasses as well.
At level 20 you get the quest in SW Cathedral for your seriously overpowered (for its level) hammer known as Verigans Fist (http://www.thottbot.com/?i=4190) . Focus on this alone until you get the hammer. See Thottbot for where/how to get the components. You’ll need help with Jordans Hammer and I recommend asking a level 60 Pally for help. They have an emotional tie with the class and that weapon and it they know it wont take them long so the chances are good that they will help. Have your griffen point in Southshore established so you don’t waste their time. Now you have a weapon that is waaaay overpowered for level 20 and will be better than anything else you can get until you are in your mid/late 30s. SoC with Verigans Fist = some of the heaviest damage a level 20 can do. Get a good enchant on there as soon as you can. Firey Weapon is ideal but somewhat pricey. Get the gold somehow.
At lvl 19-20 you can proceed to The Wetlands and Duskwood for some appropriate questing. Duskwood has plenty of undead which is nice since at lvl 20 you get Exorcism from your trainer. Do the Stalvan quest chain as soon as possible. It involves a lot of running around but you get tons of experience for it. Almost a whole levels worth from just that quest chain. You’ll have to wait a bit for the final part. Stalvan himself is level 32 I believe.
Continue to look for equipment with stamina and intelligence (of the eagle suffix) or strength (of the bear suffix)or strength & intelligence (of the Gorilla). Really try to keep your gear up to date with a level requirement near your current level.
Most of your questing will be in Duskwood, Redridge Mountains, Hillsbrad Foothills, and The Wetlands.
Put your next 5 talent points in Conviction followed by 3 more in Vindication. These compliment you SoC/Verigans fist combo. The next 2 will go in Eye for an Eye. This helps with the casters.
Keep on that Engineering. At lvl 30 and 175 Eng. Skill you get the Compact Harvest Reaper which is your first helpful mechanical pet. At that same point you learn to make Iron Grenades which are useful the entire game. The key thing about this grenade is that you can use it while you are moving and it stuns the target for 3 secs. This allows you to stun a runner so you can catch up. You’ll need to learn to throw the grenade where the will be when it hits. At lvl 30 and 200 Eng skill you gain access to your Mechanical Dragonling which will likely be your fist trinket. Its an shorter duration pet but does good damage and is reusable without additional materials.
If you’re on a PvP server here’s where you’ll start seeing Horde. With the exception of Hillsbrad Foothills you’ll mostly see level 60s who enjoy killing low level players. Not much you can do about it except run if you can. If you do see a Horde player (even up to 5-8 lvls higher than you) you stand an excellent chance of winning if you stay cool and all you special abilities are not on cooldown. Keep them in melee range and they should be dead.
Continue to look for equipment with stamina and intelligence (of the eagle suffix) or strength (of the bear suffix). Really try to keep your gear up to date with a level requirement near your current level.
Most of your questing will be in Desolace, Arathi Highlands, The Badlands, and Stranglethorn Vale (gank central). Look at the maps in the link at the beginning, there are other places as well but the ones I mention will keep you plenty busy.
Use your talent points on Two Handed Weapon Specialization, Vengeance, Sanctity Aura, and possibly Repentance. Repentance is yet another great way to stop runners. For PvP its great but its not as much use in regular play (PvE). If you don’t take this you’ll be able to get a combination in the holy tree that gives a free critical heal every 2 mins. I’ve recommended a pretty rigid talent path but when a Pally is young and has Verigans fist Retribution just works best.
In this area you will venture into the Scarlet Monastery. This quest line begins in Desolace (at lvl 30) from Brother Anton who is in the upstairs of the Inn in Desolace. This is a fun instance, with good quest rewards, and good drops within. Most of the good stuff in there has a level 37 requirement to use so you may want to wait until around then to hit the actual Monastery.
Have you kept on the Eng. Advancement? Its about to pay off big time. You probably had to buy some of the materials that were not available to you in the auction house but that’s money well spent.
In this range you should be able to make some of the best Eng. Items. At Eng. skill 200 you make the choice between Gnomish and Goblin eng. This choice is not reversible. I recommend Gnomish for one key reason, the Gnomish Death Ray. Most of stuff Goblin Engs can make can also be used by Gnomish Engs and vice versa. However, the Death Ray is Gnomish only and its just so much better than the Goblin alternative of the Dragon Gun. See the Thottbot comments and you see screenshots of crits of up to 5,000. You can get this in your mid 30s if you’ve diligently worked on your Eng skill (240 skill needed). Around this time you can also get the Net-o-Matic projector which is yet another way to stop runners. Then there’s another helpful pet known as the Gnomish Battle Chicken. I choose to run around with the Death Ray equipped and either the dragon or chicken in my trinket slots.
When you meet Horde anywhere near your level its dead horde time. Even two at a time is quite possible with all your abilities coupled with these Engineering goodies. Initiate fight, use hammer/grenade to keep the opponent in range. If that’s not enough Divine Shield and fire up the Death Ray then heal. Still not enough? Let the Dragon rip. At this level with what we’ve discussed so far you’re just about invincible against anyone whose level you can see. You can even beat up on some skull level players thanks to the dragon and Death Ray.
At level 40 proceed to SW Cathedral for your free horse.
Hurray, you can wear plate mail now. Continue to look for equipment with stamina and intelligence (of the eagle suffix) or strength (of the bear suffix) or strength & intelligence (of the Gorilla). Intelligence is becoming more of a concern here. Start to really try to find some of the Eagle plate soon. Somewhere in here its also time to trade in your Verigans Fist for a better 2H weapon. There really aren’t many to choose from. There is an epic called Nightblade with a 39 level requirement. Its nice. Fiery remains a good choice for an enchant. With Nightblade and Firey, just about every hit you’ll proc either SoC, Fiery, or the shadow bolt. Good times. Maybe throw a little Frost Oil on for fun. My 42 Pally is using this combo right now. I’m killing mobs absurdly quickly and have no problems with horde except the level 60 gankers.
Questing areas include Tanaris Desert, The Hinterlands, Arathi Highlands, Searing Gorge, Azsahara, Feralas, and Stranglethorn Vale.
You can slow down on the Engineering now but the sooner you get to 300 the better. Remember, the mechanical pets level is your Eng. skill level/5. Another tip, always look for cheap goods at the AH and put in the minimum bid. Sometimes you get good stuff cheap. Place bids just before server maintenance shutdown for the best odds. Just yesterday I got 4 stacks of 20 Thorium Bars for about 1.3G each. I have them in the bank and could easily make 5G on each stack if I just list them when the supply is low. As I said before, find a way to make money and devote it to Engineering. I have 300 skill at lvl 42 and I can only call my character overpowered, it wont last but, hey
Continue to kick the crap out the horde whenever you see them. As you get nearer to lvl 50 you many notice its not as easy as it used to be. Just concentrate on outlasting them and you’ll continue to do well.
For these 10 talent points I recommend the Holy tree for your remaining points since it is more group friendly. I like Divine Intellect and Spiritual Focus for this level range. As you approach level 50 you may even decide to give up on your Retribution focus in favor of Holy for group support emphasis. You could also go protection for tanking or the dreaded Reckoning for PvP burst damage but I think the Protection tree isn’t what it used to be. More on this soon.
This level range also has 3-4 instances that should help hone your group skills Uldaman, Sunken Temple (may be better in the next range), ZulFarrak, and Maraudon. The bosses in these places can easily give you gear that you can find yourself wearing at level 60. In these places you really need to use all your skills to keep the group productive. You must do damage, heal, buff, cleanse, manage runners with Judgment of Justice, and generally keep aggro off the cloth wearing classes. If you have not figured it out, Blessing of Salvation is the one for just about everyone who might take agro away from the main tank (usually a Warrior, sometimes you or a bear form Druid) in instances. They may ask for others but don’t give it to them. Aggro management is a key skill and damage happy boneheads can really ruin your groups progress when the damage classes keep getting themselves killed. If you have a Priest in the group, consider it your job to help keep them alive. Priest healing draws aggro very effectively if the tank cant maintain threat on all the attacking mobs. At this point, group dynamics will clearly show you what’s in store for the future. You’ll see many mistakes that will alert you to bad groups in the future. If you’re not in a good guild now is the time to seek one out. Grouping with strangers is sometimes unavoidable but try to do it as little as possible.
Make sure to get your Thrash Blade after you kill the princess in Maraudon. The quest for this is Corruption of Earth and Seed. Its a fine 1H sword that you may well be using at level 60.
At lvl 44 you get Hammer of Wrath. This is hammer of Holy energy that that you can fling at runners. It can crit for up to 1200 armor penetrating Holy damage but is only usable when the target is at or below 20% health.
The home stretch. Here you’ll spend most of your time in Un Goro Crater, Searing Gorge, Winterspring, and the Eastern and Western Plaguelands (EPL & WPL). The Plaguelands have lots of undead so you’ll like it there.
There is also a Paladin specific quest in Chillwind point available at level 50. This is fun. Sunken Temple, Dire Maul (get the Energized Chestplate from DM East!), and Black Rock Depths (BRD) are the instances for you until you hit 60. You can try Scholomance, Stratholme, and Blackrock Spire before 60 especially if you have a good guild. However, at lvl 60 you do get the final rank of many of your good abilities so most folks only want sub-60s if they are friends/guildies or they absolutely cant find anyone else. The new instance group size caps make this more of an issue. DM and BRD along with all the quest grinding should get you to 60 in short order.
In BRD get all the Marshall Windsor related quests out of the way up to and including Jail Break. This is the quest chain that you need to get your key to Onyxia’s lair. You also need to do Attunement to the Core to allow you access to Molten Core later.
Other quests of interest that provide good rewards are The Battle of Darrowshire and Order must be Restored. You can knock out both back to back with a group of 15-20 folks. Tons of people have these but haven’t gotten around to doing them. Look for a group in IF for both and you’ll get it soon enough. Tip: In order to complete Darrowshire you have to leave the raid group after all the killing is done. See Thottbot for details.
The advancement from lvl 50 to lvl 60 is pretty quick, Id say, with all the quests and content available and all the undead that allow you to use Exorcism and Holy Wrath. This turns into a Grind guide at later levels from 57-60 mostly.
Now for the biggest consideration of all. In this range, you will find it hard to deny the fact that your relative damage is now below that of other classes. You still have enough to get the job done but the easy superiority you once enjoyed simply isn’t there anymore. Your damage dealing abilities quit advancing a while ago and the other classes and mobs continued to advance. When you run into Horde its not the all but guaranteed victory it was 10ish levels ago. Even Engineering does not work as well as it did. A level 60 Dragon is less effective against a lvl 60 player than it was against a lvl 45 player .
This is where many acquire their dissatisfaction with the class. Hey I liked this overpowered character, what happened?! It is my opinion that balance happened. Given the broad combination of Paladin abilities like plate armor, the ability to equip a shield, healing, LoH, two forms of invulnerability, buffs, cleanse, ability to resurrect, and auras, how could the damage stay relatively high without making the other classes look like crappy alternatives? Other classes have some of these attributes but none has all of them all the time like the Pally. Like it or not, this is what we get. After 1.5 years it is safe to assume that the class will not be changed much so try not to think in those terms.
This is not to say that the Pally cant do damage, they can. Its just that relative to other classes it is lower and more random.
Finally, in this range you might consider a talent respec. Everything will depend on how you want play your Paladin. PvP oriented? Configured for raid instances? Other? You decide.
At lvl 60 groups will expect you to use your group support capabilities very fully. You will be expected to have a mana pool of around 4,000+. You will be asked to heal and cleanse because you can. You will not be welcome as a tank, Warriors have always been better than you at that. You can still focus on the Retribution tree and have enough in Holy to be an effective Pally. However, you need to acquire a bunch of Intelligence heavy gear. You should really keep multiple sets of gear so you can change your focus by way of gear.
In conclusion, do as you like but understand the limitations of the class and the reasonable expectations of those you group with. Try to avoid sacrificing everything for a bit more damage. You’ll never be on a par with other classes but you will diminish your other virtues that are your real strength. You are a hybrid, efforts to strongly specialize are an unproductive exercise in futility. This is by design.
For me, the hyper versatile Paladin is the finest class in the game.