I have already gone over AoE grinding a little bit from the perspective of my paladins both here and here, but I wanted to go into a bit more detail to guide you along the path if you chose to follow it.
What Is AoE Grinding
AoE Grinding is using Area of Effect (AoE) spells, abilities, and items to kill multiple mobs (grinding) at a time. The paladin has a wide variety of tools that helps him do this and allows him to do it a bit more efficiently other classes, including the amazing Frost Mage.
Great, When Can You Start
While many people tell you not to bother even trying AoE Grinding until level 30, or even level 40 in some cases, it’s really more a matter of personal preference. For me, I start at about level 8. At this early stage of the game, you don’t really have any abilities that allow you to damage multiple targets, so people ask me how I manage it. I first discussed these options in some detail here.
There are a couple of answers to that question, and they aren’t always acceptable for everyone because “they aren’t efficient enough” or “aren’t reliable enough”. Since I have done this myself with relative ease and great success, I simply disagree with them.
The first answer is one that can be done by anybody, and it is by using the Engineering profession’s explosives. You can make these explosives by use of the Mining skill to gather Rough Stone which is then converted into Rough Blasting Powder, and by killing humanoid and undead mobs that drop Linen Cloth. Explosives further down the tree require Copper Bars as well, and though there are even stronger explosives you are not likely to get to those unless you want Engineering as one of your professions.
The great thing about these explosives is that you can do a very strong burst of damage to everything in an area. The damage is oven equal to, or greater than, the amount of damage that you can deal with your attacks.
The one drawback to using the explosives, and it’s main reason for people arguing against it, is that they all work off of the same 1 minute cooldown. Since AoE Grinding is typically a matter of killing one group after another, people don’t always like this wait nor do they always agree that the cost is worth the benefit you get from it.
In my opinion, this is a great way to get yourself some early experience with AoE grinding as well as helping you to level faster at the very least up to level 20.
These are items made by Blacksmiths which deal damage to mobs when you block their attacks with your shield. Shield Spikes act like enchantments and they are one-use items, so once you use it on a shield the Spike is destroyed and your shield is enchanted with it. If you try to use a regular enchantment on the shield later, it will overwrite the shield spike.
These items are typically expensive for lower level characters since you will have to purchase them from the Auction House. I have seen the low level spike sold for anywhere from 1-6g each, which can be expensive real quick especially if you are new to the server. This is one reason why I made my newest Paladin a Blacksmith himself, was so that he could make his own shield spikes.
The cost of these items in relation to being a low level character is the primary argument against this method. If you don’t have the gold to spare, then by all means skip this one. If you do have the gold, then this only serves to help you kill more mobs in a shorter time span.
If you happen to have a leveling partner who is a Druid, you can also add to your low level grinding ability through the use of their Thorns spell which deals damage to enemies that attach you.
Alright, When Can You Really Start
While you do receive a boost to your AoE abilities when you hit level 16 with Retribution Aura, it’s not until you receive Consecration at level 20 that you really start to take down multiple mobs at a truly increased rate. You still lack two of the key requirements for serious AoE grinding, which you get at later levels, but that does not mean that you have to put off trying it out and getting the hang of how it all works.
You also get Rank 3 of Devotion Aura at level 20 if you feel like you need the extra armor, but with the paladin’s healing capabilities as well as their bubbles, I prefer using with Retribution Aura to help bring down the mobs faster.
The key to AoE Grinding is to gather the enemies up around you. They take damage when you attack them, when they attack you (Ret Aura, Shield Spike, or both), and when they stand in your Consecration. And while that is happening you are either gaining life or mana through your own attacks via your Judgments.
The opposition at this stage is either that take too much damage, or that you run out of mana too fast. In response to that I say that while you may run out of mana faster than you would if you were not using Consecration, you are still accomplishing the goal of AoE Grinding, which is to kill a group of enemies as fast, or faster, than you would a few number of enemies. The time that you save by killing multiple mobs at a time is outweighed by the 30 seconds or so it might take you to drink and restore your mana. If you are running out of mana every single fight, then you might be doing too much.
Alright, So When Can You Really, REALLY Start
Alright, for getting serious about AoE Grinding you do need reach level 30. This is when you get Rank 2 Consecration, Rank 3 Devotion Aura, and Seal of Light. And if you have done as you should and spent all of your talent points in the Protection tree, then this is also where you pick up one of your key abilities, Blessing of Sanctuary. You will also have gained another rank of Ret Aura at level 26 if you choose to use it over Devotion Aura as I most frequently do. If you are being hit too much, then you need to increase your armor with Devotion Aura. If your damage is minimal, or you happen to be running with a healer, then having Ret Aura up tends to be more beneficial.
Another major benefit you get at level 30 is the use of your mount which makes gathering larger mobs far easier to accomplish, as well as reducing the time spent traveling from one group of mobs to another. It is not required, but it does help.
With Seal of Light (SoL) you now heal while you attack, Blessing of Sanctuary is reducing all the damage you take while also replenishing your mana for you any time you block, your opponents are either taking extra damage from Ret Aura or having a harder time hitting you with Devotion Aura, and you are either replenishing your life or mana with your Judgment while also ticking away your enemies’ health with Consecration up.
You do hit a bit of an easy street here, and you start to see it pretty quick. With SoL now available you begin to throw Judgment of Wisdom more often than Judgment of Light, and you really start to see some of the true potential of the AoE Prot build. It’s not quite as blatantly obvious as it will be when you hit level 38 where you get Seal of Wisdom instead, but this is where you get serious about ending your fights in about the same state you were in when you started them (if not better).
Now is when stopping to take a bite to eat or drink to replenish yourself becomes a rare occasion. After level 38 comes along to replace SoL with Seal of Wisdom (SoW), then this becomes nearly nonexistent instead. Two levels later at 40 you add Holy Shield to the mix which helps to grind the mobs down even faster as they begin to take even more damage when you block their attacks.
Where To Start
Round ‘em Up!
The first thing you have to do if you want to AoE Grind is gather up the mobs. In some cases this can be a simple matter of just doing “body pulls” which is where you just run close enough to make them chase you, and in some cases you need to use spells to Pull the mobs to you. The best method of Pulling mobs prior to level 50 is to use Hand of Reckoning (HoR). This is a ranged attack that deals a whopping 1 point of damage, which generates some threat and causes them to target you. If you target a melee mob with it, which is what you should be doing, then the mob will chase after you and join your little ring of death around you. Casters on the other hand will just turn in your direction and start flinging spells in your face. By the way, that’s a bad thing.
Gathering the mobs takes a different strategy with each group. Your actions depend on how spread out the mobs are, how many of them you can handle at once, and so on. If the mobs are close together then you may not have to do anything other than a simple body pull by running up close to them. If they are spread out you may have to either use your mount to body pull them, or you may have to use a combination of your mount and HoR.
In some cases mobs are so spread out that you have to resort to Consecration kiting. In order to do this you simply gather as many mobs as you can, cast Consecration so that it deals damage to all of them, and then continue moving on in the direction of the next mob(s). When Consecration’s cooldown is up you can do it again. If you wait too long between dealing damage to the mobs though you may lose agro and have them leave combat and return to their spawn points which wastes the time and effort you put into doing it.
Consecration kiting is not all that common, and in fact the only time I have really had a need for it was when I was farming the turtles just east of Tarren Mill to get the clams that they drop in hopes of finding Iridescent Pearls. I spent three hours grinding the turtles before I found the second pearl and I used Consecration kiting going back and forth up the entire length of the river. I have used it simply for the sake of gathering larger mobs as well, but it was not necessarily required so much as a choice I made to gather a larger crowd.
Grind ‘em Down
After you have the mobs grouped up around you, then it’s time to grind them all down into loot and experience points. If you are using Ret Aura then it will already be dealing damage to them, as will a shield spike if you managed to get one. The first step you want to take depends on the situation a bit as well. If you are already starting to take a fair share of hit point damage then it is better to get your Judgment of Light off first so that you can start healing. If you are not taking much damage yet, then it is better to cast Consecration first so that you start eating away at their hit points. If you have engineering explosives, then now is the time to use those as well.
With AoE Grinding there really is not set rotation that you are going to use because each time you pull could be a different scenario. If you are fighting casters then you want to DPS them down as quickly as possible. If you are losing health way too fast for you to keep up without being healed, then you may need to bubble and heal yourself. If you are fighting all melee mobs and your superior armor rating is causing them all to miss, then you may need to let the fight go on while you run to grab yourself something to eat (kidding, but only slightly as I’ve done it before).
Where you go from there depends on the situation as well. You may need to cast Consecration multiple times, or you may only need it once. You may need to use Exorcism‘s instant-cast DPS to take down a fleeing mob of a spell caster that is out of reach. You may need to do any number of things, and each fight will likely be different. This is the reason why there is no set rotation when grinding. There are patterns in what you do, but things change and you have to be willing and able to adapt rather than getting set on doing a specific list of things.
When I first looked at starting a Paladin, there was one man in particular who inspired me to do so, who goes by the name of WoWHobbs. I saw his videos on YouTube, and was inspired to follow his example.
When I decided to follow in his footsteps, I knew I needed to do some research on the Paladin class, and one of the best resources I found was on wowhead in an article titled Consecrating Your Way to Ding. That particular thread there has a lot of very useful information in it. I do disagree on a few points that svirve has made in there, but it’s his thread so he is free to say and do as he pleases. Regardless of our differences, the thread is a valuable source of information.