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wow paladin icon Smart Paladin Leveling

Posted by Khor | 8/27/2009

As I have been leveling up my retribution paladin with full heirloom gear, I have been learning new limits and boundaries to what I can and cannot do. As my 4th Paladin to level, this one is by far going the fastest (with the help of the heirloom gear). But also, I have perfected my rotations, and gear choices are becoming smarter and providing optimal dps results.

Leveling DPS Rotations

As you level, you gain access to new spells. Incorporating these spells into an optimal rotation is key to how fast you level, and how quickly you can bring down mobs.

At first, your options are very limited. Using Seal of Righteousness, you have auto attack and Judgement. This is 100% of your dps until Hand of Reckoning opens up at level 16. Hand of Reckoning only deals damage if the target is not focused on you, so it is the hands down opening spell in the rotation. It also works if the target is fleeing.

At level 20, you can start implementing Consecration and Exorcism. Exorcism I didn't really use because of the cast time. Hand of Reckoning was able to deal any ranged damage I needed. Smart rotations would not include single target Consecrates, as that is a huge mana drain, eating up chunks of your time spent drinking. Only use Consecrates in packs of mobs.

After level 20, you are stuck with that rotation for 24 more levels. At 44, Hammer of Wrath unlocks, and at 50 you finally get Crusader Strike. The missing link is Divine Storm, which is obtainable at 60.

After your opening rotations, if the mob isn't already dead, then it switches to First Come First Serve (FCFS) basis, based on the current level range rotation. This is how we refer to our rotation at level 80 endgame (FCFS).

So, here are the rotation lists for their respective levels:

* Hand of Reckoning is listed first to denote that it is my opening pull spell. If HoR is not applicable, ignore it and assume the rotation without it.

** Hammer of Wrath is under the assumption the mob is below 20% health. This takes precedence over the other spells when it is off cooldown.

Levels 1-3

  • Auto Attack

Levels 4-15
  • Judgement
Levels 16-19
  • Hand of Reckoning > Judgement
Levels 20-43
  • Hand of Reckoning > Judgement > Consecration (packs only)
    (Use Exorcism if you want, I used it occasionally to pull Undead targets)
Levels 44-49
  • Hand of Reckoning > Hammer of Wrath > Judgement > Exorcism > Consecration
Levels 50-59
  • Hand of Reckoning > Hammer of Wrath > Crusader Strike > Judgement > Exorcism > Consecration
Levels 60+
  • Hand of Reckoning > Hammer of Wrath > Crusader Strike > Judgement > Divine Storm > Exorcism > Consecration
*Please note these rotations are NOT based on level 80 endgame raiding. These are based on leveling, and assuming a general non-elite mob population of enemies.

Exceptions to the Rule

You should expect, absolutely 100% expect, to modify these rotations as needed, as each encounter can pose different and unique combat scenarios.

For instance, when I am in a pack of mobs while leveling, I rarely open with a ranged pull, opting to instead close in on foot. I hit Consecrate, then use Divine Storm (if 60+), then Holy Wrath (if Undead), then I switch into my normal dps rotation.

When fighting Undead, Exorcism comes to the top of my list if Art of War is procced, since it is an automatic critical strike against Undead mobs.

Make adjustments as needed, but still try and stick as close to the basic rotations as possible.

Level 40 Art of War and Judgements of the Wise

For those that don't know...
At level 40 you can start putting talent points into Art of War (AoW) and Judgements of the Wise. These are two huge and absolutely critical talents that have a major impact on leveling.

My first choice was to put points straight into Judgements of the Wise, to eliminate all my mana issues. I kid you not, from the moment I had all three points in Judgements of the Wise, I never had to stop and drink again until after 60. The 25% instant replenishment was huge.

Not only that, I could now use Consecrate without the mana drain (having the Consecrate Glyph helps, too). I would open with Hand of Reckoning, cast Judgment, then lay down a Consecrate. If a second Judgement was necessary on the mob, that would replenish my mana. After that mob was dead, I'd move on to the next, and when I cast Judgement again, the mana would be back to full if it wasn't already. A beautiful cycle.

Next I put points into Art of War, making my Flash of Light and Exorcism a instant cast on my melee criticals. This is also a huge boost to DPS and getting mobs down quickly. My favorite is when I have a proc right as I kill a mob, then move on to the next. I open with Hand of Reckoning, pop my instant Exorcism, then Judge and the mob is just about crippled before he even lays a hand on me! One quick auto attack and BOOM!...dead.

When both these talents are maxed out, you'll notice a significant decrease in downtime from level 45 on. Even at 80 now, I never have mana or health issues when doing my PvE.

Health Issues

I have none. Literally, none. No downtime, no bandaging, no food to eat. With Judgement of Light, I've rarely had health issues from the moment I acquired the spell. Constant judgements, as well as Art of War FoL procs keep my HP running high at all times. If my HP is down for any reason (maybe a large pack of mobs), I throw on a quick Holy Light and I move on.

The key to leveling quickly is minimizing your downtime. Recovering health and mana sucks up more time than you would think, and Paladins are the crown jewel of low leveling maintenance.

Gearing Up

My Heirloom items are as follows:
Every other piece of gear bought was a BoE green or blue item from the AH. Occasionally I would use a quest reward gear piece. The key to buying BoE armor is finding what best suits your needs.

Here is how I rank Stats for leveling:

Levels 1-40
  1. Strength
  2. Intellect
  3. Stamina
  4. Agility
  5. Critical Strike
* Survivability is key, and stamina helps there, but Strength is the stat to pile on at first. Mana is also an issue once Consecrate comes into the picture, so Intellect is high up there as well. I love critical strike rating, but agility and its counterpart crit take a backseat to the top 3.

Levels 41+
  1. Strength
  2. Agility
  3. Critical Strike
  4. Stamina
  5. Intellect
* After Art of War and Judgements of the Wise come into the picture, I basically stopped worrying about HP and mana. I went straight to gear with Strength and Agility as my primary focus. Getting my damage up, along with my crit rating made for an exceptionally strong Paladin. I was moving through zones faster than I ever had before.

BoE Gear Choices

Levels 1-40
  1. ...of the Bear
  2. ...of the Gorilla
  3. ...of the Tiger
  4. ...of Strength
  5. ...of the Eagle
Levels 41+
  1. ...of the Tiger
  2. ...of the Bear
  3. ...of Strength
  4. ...of the Gorilla
  5. ...of the Eagle
After much experimenting, I finally found the optimal gear for leveling. At the beginning levels, up to level 40 or so, I mixed and matched mail armor items of the Bear and of the Tiger. At 40+, I started hunting for BoE items of the Tiger, with no major preference to plate, mail, or leather (the only difference being armor). Since I had no real health concerns, the armor rating didn't carry as much weight any more.

See, I was always going to have to plate heirloom pieces with exceptional stats that I never need to replace. That meant I could venture out and try for the best combination of Stats. I started choosing the best piece available from Plate, Mail, and Leather Gear. Plate took top priority, then Mail, and finally Leather. Whichever piece of gear from the three was the best choice, that's what I went for.


If you play smart, you will find that leveling a Paladin (as ret) is extremely easy and fun. The thrill of it is seeing how powerful a Paladin can be when you play the class correctly. After leveling just about every class there is in the game, I can say definitively that for my part, a Paladin has such high initial burst damage, that it has surpassed every other class in terms of kill speed and damage. Couple that with Paladins being the kings of 'no downtime', you have one hell of a class to play and level with.