Should you play a paladin in WoW?

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Should you play a paladin in WoW?

If you're just getting started with World of Warcraft, the range of class options available to you can be a bit daunting. Which class is the best? Which class is the most fun? Which class will you enjoy? There's no answer that's right for everyone -- and you may wind up trying a few classes before you find the perfect fit. But where to begin? Today's class run-down will cover paladins, WoW's holy warriors.

As Blizzard puts it, paladins are called "to protect the weak, to bring justice to the unjust, and to vanquish evil from the darkest corners of the world." But your paladin may have its own motivations -- indeed, within the game you're certain to meet paladins with motives less pure. In fact, one of the interesting things about the paladin class is how different various paladins are: while alliance paladins very much fall along Blizzard's class description, the blood elf paladins, who style themselves Blood Knights, haven't always been particularly good guys.

But enough of that: what you want to know is how paladins play, so read on for more.

Just what is a paladin?
Paladins are a hybrid class that can heal (holy specialization), tank (protection specialization), or do melee DPS (retribution specialization). They wear heavy plate armor and can equip shields, which makes them very durable -- even the healers, who can take more of a pounding than any other healing class. All specs of paladin use mana to power their abilities but some abilities require a secondary resource called holy power, which is like a monk's chi or a rogue's combo points. You generate holy power by using certain abilities and other abilities require holy power to use.

The class has a decent selection of weapons available to them and can wield one-handed axes, one-handed maces, one-handed swords, polearms, two-handed axes, two-handed maces, and two-handed swords. However, can doesn't necessarily mean should: if you mean to tank, you'll want a one-handed weapon and a shield; if you intend to DPS, you'll want a high-damage two-hander; and healers can go with whatever gear gives them the best stats, though they often go towards one-handers and shields. Paladins, which used to be an alliance-only class, has a very restrictive selection of races, only open to draenei, dwarves, humans, blood elves, and tauren.

A class built around versatility
How a paladin plays is very dependent on your current specialization:
  • Holy paladins will typically stay to the back, where they have a clear view of the action and can keep their targets healed. They can heal both single and multiple targets and they have the survivability to wade into the melee -- which they sometimes will, to generate more holy power or regenerate mana in combination with Seal of Insight.
  • Protection paladins will be front and center, absorbing hits with their heavy armor and shield and using holy magic to reduce their damage taken and keep their target's attention.
  • Retribution paladins will be in the center of the action, smashing their foes with heavy weapons and holy magic.

All paladins have access to a variety of buffs that they can use to aid their party. While you might consider this kind of thing the domain of healers, any savvy paladin can provide a lot of utility to their group -- or just themselves, if they're soloing.
  • Blessings: You can only have one of these buffs per paladin -- so if you're in a group with two paladins, you can have both, but otherwise you have to pick. Your choices are Blessing of Kings, which is a good all-around buff, though druids, hunters, and monks have similar buffs that won't stack with your blessings; and Blessing of Might, though shamans and hunters have similar buffs that won't stack.
  • Hands: Each of these spells provides great utility, though on a cooldown. Your options are: Hand of Freedom, Hand of Protection, Hand of Sacrifice, Hand of Salvation, and Hand of Purity (which is a talent).
  • Healing: Though all specs have healing abilities, paladins who aren't specced holy probably aren't interested. But they'll still appreciate Lay on Hands, an instant-cast, zero-mana heal which heals any target for the amount of health you have. With a 10-minute cooldown, this spell is easily one of the best panic buttons in the game.
  • Crowd control: If you want even more utility, paladins can pick up the talent Repentance, which CCs demons, dragonkin, giants, humanoids, and undead for 1 minute.
And this is a long way from everything a paladin can do: whatever the spec, a paladin is versatile, with the ability to heal, protect others, take hits, and dish out damage. They're the multitool of WoW classes -- and we mean that in the best possible way.

Who should (and shouldn't) play a paladin?
We think you'll like paladins if:
  • You're looking for a class with high survivability: you can't do much better than a paladin! However, hunters also get good marks here because of their pets.
  • You want to be able to switch between different class roles easily (though keep in mind that druids can do this just as well).
And you might not like the paladin if:
  • You really want to play a race other than the scant five available to paladins. Blizzard has added new race options to the class since the game's release and they might add more in the future... but we don't recommend holding your breath.
  • You're interested in doing ranged damage or you want to play a caster class. While paladins do wield holy magic, they aren't ranged casters like mages, warlocks, are druids -- attacking from a distance is not their speciality.
  • You just want to hit things. Retribution paladins can do this, and well, but if you don't want to deal with all the other things paladins can do, you may be more interested in a pure DPS class.

Want to know more about paladins?
Here's where to get started: Paladin not for you? Then be sure to check out our guide to druids, hunters, monks, and warlocks -- and look for more newbie class coverage coming soon!

Just because you're a newbie doesn't mean you can't bring your A-game to World of Warcraft! Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from the seven things every newbie ought to know to how to get started as a healer or as a tank.
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