I wanted to get some hands-on experience in the race to level 90 before I wrote this article, so I took a few days off work, stocked up on caffeinated goodies, and bribed Matt Walsh into letting things hit him in the face by promising to shell out a metric ton of bacon-wrapped scallops for his eager consumption. Unfortunately for him he doesn't have a good agent because I neglected to mention that this payment will be made over the next two thousand years. I sure hope neither animal goes extinct before then!
Originally I planned to write this as soon as I was done leveling, but real life intervened and separated me from my precious internet connection for a few days while I moved. I apologize for the delay, and I hope that at least a few of you still find these tips useful!
Some people prefer to quest their way to the level cap -- I am one of those people. It's a great way to see the sights, get your reputations up, earn some coin, and get a few nice pieces of gear, so why not? Well, before you trigger that loading screen between Azeroth and Pandaria, I have a few pointers to help you get those last five levels.
The paladin shuffle I developed an affection for Speed of Light in the dwindling days of Cataclysm, a love that only made it harder to let go when my airship arrived in the skies above The Jade Forest. Having a sprint on a 45-second cooldown is nice, but in my opinion it doesn't beat the constant movement speed increase of Pursuit of Justice. When you're running around, trying to tag a monster or mine some ore before Johnny Rogue can get his grubby little hands on it, the last thing you want to see is that your movement speed talent is still on-cooldown.
Long Arm of the Law would be a good alternative, but remember that you need to have a target to judge to get the full benefit, which means this talent isn't terribly useful if you're running around strip-mining every node of Ghost Iron right out from under the pandaren's furry noses.
When bandages won't cut it With Mists, our healing toolbox shrunk quite a bit as holy paladins snatched up every healing ability except for Word of Glory and Flash of Light. Luckily we still have Supplication which makes FoL an instant crit after a kill that grants experience or honor. Since you will undoubtedly be killing many, many creatures of all shapes and sizes, this ability should prove to quite useful.
Of course, this leads well into a discussion of our third tier of talents, namely the decision between Selfless Healer and Sacred Shield. Lately I've found myself reluctantly in the former camp, pretending that I didn't spend most of Cataclysm protesting its very existence. Even if you're leveling solo, the guaranteed crit from Supplication combined with the instant and free modification from Selfless Healer means you can chain pull fairly effectively by minimizing downtime. Of course, if you're leveling with a buddy you can take advantage of the effectiveness boost of SH by using your crit FoLs to heal him or her.
One of the more efficient, though monotonous, methods of leveling is running dungeons over and over again. If you have a good group, you can breeze through these instances and pick up some decent gear along the way to the level cap.
Stun, stifle, or snare You may be thinking that dungeon-running in Mists is the perfect time for Repentance to shine, but hold on just a minute. Of the normal leveling dungeons (Temple of the Jade Serpent, Stormstout Brewery, Shado-Pan Monastery, and Mogu'shan Palace) I have done three, as well as a few more heroic dungeons thus far. From my own experience, crowd control is rarely handy and sporadically used. I think I have used Repentance on three things, and each time the tank has told me to "quit goofing around!" Naturally, the talent is there if you absolutely need to CC something, but you probably won't need to.
Therefore, your choice for the second tier of talents is between Fist of Justice and Burden of Guilt. I find FoJ to be much more useful in a dungeon because anything that would run and pull more mobs is almost definitely going to be stunnable, and a 30-second stun can be really nice for certain boss encounters (the Sha of Violence's exploding adds come to mind).
Twirling towards freedom In the same vein, it seems that most dungeon trash mobs are designed with AoE damage in mind. You will definitely want to keep Seal of Righteousness, Hammer of the Righteous, and Divine Storm in an easily accessible place because you will be using them often.
The decision of when to swap to AoE damage is a little bit harder than it has been in the past. Current theorycrafting states that you can swap from Templar's Verdict to DS at 2 targets, Crusader Strike to HotR at 4 targets, and Seal of Truth to SoR at 6 targets. All of these assertions are based on when one ability's total damage exceeds the other. If you want a hard-and-fast rule to go by, I'd recommend 4 targets to switch gears.
I'll leave you with some assorted tips that didn't neatly fit into my corny categories:
- Inquisition isn't really worth maintaining outside of an instance unless you are fighting a particularly challenging monster or large group of baddies. Save that holy power for damage and healing!
- The Glyph of Double Jeopardy gives a nice damage boost for when you're chain pulling out in the wild, or when you're AoEing a large pack – just remember to switch targets.
- Blinding Light can give you a nice reprieve from overwhelming damage intake, or help you make a quick escape.
- When running dungeons, Sacred Shield could have more personal benefit than Selfless Healer, especially if you pull threat or the tank becomes incapacitated (Disorienting Smash, for example).
The Light and How to Swing It teaches you the ins and outs of retribution paladins, from Ret 101 and how to gem, enchant and reforge your retadin, to essential ret pally addons.