So, you're thinking of playing a paladin? This page is intended to give a short overview of what to do over the first 10 levels or so, just to get you started on the right path. If you're looking for more of an overview of the class's abilities, see the main paladin page. For more advanced topics, see paladin tactics.
Things to consider when picking a paladin:
- Do I like to be able to play any of three roles on demand (DPS, tank, and healer)?
- Do I mind having a small choice of Ranged and AoE attacks?
- Do I like to be able to solo effectively?
For a more general overview on starting out playing WoW, please check out the newbie guide.
In the original World of Warcraft game, paladins were an Alliance-only class. Even in the Alliance, only dwarves and humans could be paladins. In general, neither race is better than the other. Dwarves have a few nice abilities that will help you out (Cold Resistance, Stone Form), while humans have benefits to maces and swords that help as well, not forgetting the +10% reputation gained. The one primary thing to note is that the bonus dwarves get, the gun skill, is lost on a paladin since they can never use guns. Not a gamebreaker, but just be aware of it. Dwarves start with higher Strength and Stamina, but have less Intellect than Humans.
With the Burning Crusade expansion, blood elves, the new race of the Horde, are able to choose the paladin class (also referred to as Blood Knights). Arcane Torrent, a blood elven racial, is an AoE silence which is very useful against casters. It also restores a small portion of total mana, which is particularly useful for paladin healers. Draenei, the new Alliance race, are also able to choose the paladin class, and have two abilities useful for a paladin; one is a HoT spell, while the other is a +hit% aura.
Overall though, particularly for casual gamers, there's really no major difference between the races aside from faction - choose the race that you want to play, whether for its looks, its voice, or because it's simply good fun!
The easiest way to progress through the early levels is to simply do any and all of the quests you can find. Not only will you breeze through the first 5 to 10 levels, but you'll get useful gear and precious money. Money is particularly important so you can purchase your spells and abilities.
You will spend levels 1 to 5 in your starting town. Make sure you get all the abilities and spells you can from your trainer. Between level 5 and 6 you'll find yourself heading off to your second town and a new trainer who can teach you various things. At the second town, repeat the process - do each and every quest you can find. It's important to keep up with your abilities and your gear, because mostly a paladin can not win battles of higher level without having his/her new abilities. Now is also an appropriate time to start training in your chosen professions. It is no longer necessary to train new weapon skills. Since Cata expansion, these are starting skills.
See the paladin quests page for more information about the paladin-specific quests.
Notable early quests
A listing of all paladin specific quests can be found over at Thottbot here. The quests listed below are the low level quests (1-10) that get you some equipment useful for a paladin at that time. Also, be sure to complete your Level 10-13 quest series (Tome of Divinity) which gives you the ability to raise others.
-  - The Boar Handler Gloves are a good prize at early levels.
-  - Rustic Belt.
-  - Upgrade your weapon.
-  - Dwarven Kite Shield.
-  and  - A decent axe.
-  - Starts the quest chain to gain Redemption.
On soloing and grouping
During the early levels, you should spec retribution for higher melee damage. Use a 2-hand weapon with good DPS, and wear mail armor (plate after level 40) with Strength and Stamina. You should also keep a shield and a fast 1-hand weapon in the bag for special situations. Be sure to get Improved Judgements at 14-15, Seal of Command at 20, Art of War and Judgements of the Wise at 40-44, and Crusader Strike at 50. The other talents should be pretty self-explanatory (more damage is good).
Paladin soloing is dull but fairly fast. At early levels, you don't have very many buttons to press, but with a good weapon you have enough burst that things will die quickly. Pull with (at level 16 or above) Hand of Reckoning; this does a lot of damage for very little mana and is off the GCD. Judge whenever you can. That's basically it. If the mob runs, Hand of Reckoning will finish it off (since it's no longer targeting you). Exorcism is useful when cast while pulling but not while the mob is hitting you, since it interrupts your melee attacks. When you have Art of War, Exorcism becomes instant cast and should be used whenever possible. You'll finally get a short-cooldown attack at 50 with Crusader Strike, and another at 60 with Divine Storm.
After level 20, you can kill 3-5 mobs pretty easily by using Consecration and Seal of Command's cleave ability. Don't bother using Consecration on single mobs until you get Judgements of the Wise, since it's a big mana hog.
When fighting, always remember to keep your Aura, Blessings and Seal up all the time! You generally want Retribution Aura, Blessing of Might and Seal of Command, but consider Blessing of Kings and Devotion Aura when soloing elites.
You have a lot of options when things get dicey. Lay on Hands is a full heal on a moderate timer. Hand of Protection and Divine Shield make you invulnerable long enough to heal up with Holy Light. If these are all on cooldown, put on Concentration Aura and try to get Holy Light off before you die. Hand of Justice, Turn Evil and Repentance can all help incapacitate a particularly dangerous mob.
Glyph of Seal of Command is great to reduce downtime at lower levels, though between 40 and 45 you'll get Judgements of the Wise, giving you nigh-infinite mana and making the glyph unnecessary. Glyph of Judgement and Glyph of Exorcism are both moderate DPS boosters. The minor glyphs worth using are Glyph of Blessing of Might, a nice time saver, and Glyph of Sense Undead, the only minor glyph that increases damage.
As a paladin you can play any of three roles (described in greater details in the paladin tactics section). Paladins can DPS, tank, or heal, but which of these roles you are strongest at is based on your talent spec and the gear you bring with you. It is important to know what your role is before getting into combat and acting accordingly to prevent unnecessary party deaths and disasters.
As DPS, you'll use a a slow, hard-hitting two-hand weapon and points in the retribution talent tree. On multiple mobs, keep up Consecration and use Seal of Command. If you're really taking a beating, you can swap in a shield in combat to increase your survivability, or use your Hand of Protection or Divine Shield skill to remove aggro from yourself and back out of melee to heal. Always be prepared to help off-heal if it becomes necessary or to cleanse debuffs off of party members. A DPS paladin can also be very useful for helping the tank get aggro off of a healer, since the paladin can taunt the mobs at range using Righteous Defense and allow the tank to take them off of him without having to run across the room. At higher levels, use Seal of Vengeance on single mobs that live longer than 20 seconds (bosses), Seal of Righteousness on single mobs that don't live long, and Seal of Command on multiple targets.
As a tank, you bring the benefit of being able to hold aggro very well on multiple mobs and you can front load a lot of aggro quickly, allowing DPS to get into the fight early. As a paladin you must rely on your spell damage output to hold aggro. Use Righteous Fury and do as much holy damage as you can. Try to start with Avenger's Shield if you have it, and Hand of Reckoning if you don't. Retribution Aura can be very effective against multiple mobs, since you'll passively generate threat on each one every time it hits you. Consecration is also a great way to build aggro. Keep up the buffs on your teammates - it will help the entire group in the long run.
As a healer, remember to heal the tank. Since your mana pool will be small at lower levels, use Flash of Light instead of Holy Light whenever possible, since it's far more efficient. Only use Holy Light if the tank's health is dropping too fast for Flash to keep up. Make certain you continue to keep everyone buffed to the best of your ability. Keep Devotion Aura up to help the tank out, unless you need an elemental resistance aura or Concentration Aura for your own heals. If you're low on mana after a fight and need to drink, tell people! Overeager tanks may charge on ahead if you don't ask for time. Be sure to have a stack of water ready before going into a dungeon, though a mage can give you free drinks if you're grouped with one.
Note that in anything below a level 80 heroic you do not need to specced for healing or tanking to perform those roles. You do, however, need appropriate gear. That means a one-handed weapon and shield and plate/mail armor (ideally with lots of Stamina and Defense Rating) for tanking, and gear with Spell Power and Intellect on it for healing. To tank as retribution, keep Righteous Fury on, pull with Hand of Reckoning and use Seal of Command and Consecrate to keep your threat up. To heal, take advantage of Sheath of Light, and consider healing at close range in order to get mana back with Judgements of the Wise.
The paladin can benefit directly and indirectly from many of the professions available.
- This combo affords the paladin an easy way to upgrade arms and armor if they are unlucky with drops. However, nearly all useful blacksmithing gear is bind on equip gear available at the auction house, and the profession can be quite expensive to level.
- Two gathering skills (one of which requires the mini-map to find resource nodes) can provide a strong income. Many players begin their careers as dual gatherers, changing to a crafting profession in later levels as they become more established.
- Since you can heal yourself with spells, even in combat, Alchemy is somewhat less useful to paladins than to non-healing classes. One benefit of Alchemy is mana potions: without mana a paladin is in trouble, so these potions are vital in case of emergencies. In addition, a health potion can be downed quickly to bring back your health when making a quick escape. Be aware that potions can be found as drops from mobs and purchased at the auction house, but purchasing them will cost more than making your own.
- Tied to a money-making gathering skill, this would allow you to enchant your weapons in the way you want, when you want. Overall however, it may just be easier to find an enchanter and pay them to do the work for you. Although it is nearly impossible to make money enchanting until you near maximum skill, you can make a decent sum disenchanting unneeded soul-bound quest rewards, since the value of the materials you'll make by disenchanting them is usually greater than the money gotten by vendoring them.
- Engineering can be a great profession pair for paladins for one reason - it's one of the few ways for a paladin to get a ranged attack (see ranged options in paladin overview. Dynamite and bombs allow the paladin to have at least one (albeit minor) ranged attack that they can use. While difficult to see at lower levels, the disadvantage of not having a ranged attack becomes glaringly apparent when trying to pull enemies (particularly from camps) at higher levels. If you plan on taking your paladin far, Engineering also has some plate pieces for the 60+ levels (TBC/WotLK only).
- With the release of the Burning Crusade, and the Jewelcrafting profession, this combo is now a viable option for just about any class. The introduction of rings and necklaces at very early levels in the game is a new advantage Jewelcrafters will enjoy, as most rings and neck pieces aren't achievable until the late teens.
In the end, do what you want. Many of the combinations help a certain style of play and selecting a combination based on your play style will just enhance your enjoyment of the game. Remember that you can later change professions if need be. Start your professions early: they are usually inexpensive, and starting early helps ensure that anything a Paladin can create with his/her skills is applicable to the character's level.
If you're choosing professions with an eye toward end-game viability:
- For tanking, Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, Enchanting and Mining will all give you about 60 bonus stamina. Engineering gives bonus armor, and is comparable to the others. Inscribing is weaker because the inscriber-only bonus boosts defense rating, which is usually less desirable than straight stamina. Tailoring, Herbalism and Skinning are worthless.
- For healing, all the crafting professions are about equal, Skinning is marginally valuable, and Herbalism and Mining are worthless.
- For DPS, Jewelcrafting and Blacksmithing are the clear winners because they can give bonus strength, your best stat. The other crafting professions give bonus attack power or haste, which are not quite as good on a per-point basis. Skinning is marginal and the other gathering professions are worthless.
Cooking and First Aid are of less use to paladins than most melee classes, since paladins can heal themselves. Many cooked foods, however, do provide buffs such as a boost in total health and/or spirit. In addition, cooked foods typically sell for more than their components, providing a useful source of extra money after normal hunting. First Aid can be useful for healing when you are trying to conserve mana (or are simply out of it). Many high-level raiding groups require every character to have a high First Aid skill for those reasons. Fishing is no longer the money-maker that it once was, but can still be useful to raise your cooking skill and provide buff food.
Paladin-specific quest rewards
This two-handed mace is a decent weapon for a young Alliance paladin and can be obtained at level 20. Because of its high damage and stats, it will last you until the mid 30s. For more information about the quest to obtain this item, see the Paladin Quests entry.
This polearm is a decent weapon for a young Horde paladin at level 20, but you must train the polearms weapon's skill to use it, and the Sin'dorei Warblade, a two-handed sword, is an easier to obtain weapon with similar stats.