Donned in heavy plate armor, emblazoned with symbols of their faith, and wielding holy armaments, the paladins of Azeroth stand at the forefront against every threat rising from the darkness in service to the Light. Paladins are masters of every combat role — capable of tanking, healing, and DPSing. Known for their multitude of buffs and powerful emergency cooldowns, paladins can make the nigh impossible possible.
If you want to take on any role and fill whatever gaps your party needs, perhaps you should heed the Light’s call. But which race should you choose to become an avatar of justice? While paladins can handle nearly any challenge, having a powerful racial ability on standby always helps. Your innate abilities may serve as a game changer, helping your team push past the last remaining health on the boss.
With that in mind, we’ll be going over the best races for paladins in WoW: Shadowlands. We have iconic paladin options for Alliance and Horde players alike, and will be covering all types of gameplay.
Let’s get started!
Best Race for PVE Paladins
Unfortunately, there’s no hands-down, definitively best race for paladins on either side. Each role has a race that’s better suited to it, so we’ll be covering each section individually.
If you are looking to play all three roles on a single character, we recommend going Human or Blood Elf. Their general, all-purpose racials provide some value in every situation.
Best Races for Retribution Paladins: Lightforged Draenei/Blood Elf
Now for the specific categories. If you’re all about dealing damage and laying down justice, we’ve got the picks for you. The best races for paladins of vengeance are Lightforged Dranei and Blood Elf. Their abilities let you pump your burst as high as possible for the moments when your procs and cooldown windows line up.
Alliance: Lightforged Draenei/Dark Iron Dwarf
For the best Alliance race for retribution paladin, we’re going with the Lightforged Draenei due to their Light’s Judgment ability. Every 2.5 minutes, you can call down an artillery strike of AOE holy damage after a three-second delay. Since retribution paladins’ mastery stat increases all holy damage they deal, your Light’s Judgment becomes a fairly strong AOE blast. This is great for add control, and makes Lightforged the best for AOE damage by a large margin.
Light’s Reckoning can technically be useful for healing your allies, but it requires you to die. That’s obviously less than ideal. But since you’re expected to die a lot while progressing, it may come in use in some niche situations.
Note that Dark Iron Dwarves are also a contender as the best race for retribution paladins. Their Fireblood racial gives massive primary stat boosts. The only problem is that it’s completely situational, as you have to be afflicted by a cleansable effect. This is common in some fights; in others, it’s non-existent.
Horde: Blood Elf
On the Horde side, the three best races for retribution paladins are largely neck-and-neck. We’re going with Blood Elf here, however, due to the potency and effectiveness of Arcane Torrent. Since paladins lack a way to purge buffs from enemies, Arcane Torrent is a handy thing to keep around. It’s also an AOE that can potentially cripple certain packs of enemies and generate Holy Power!
While you’ll mostly be furiously button-mashing through your rotation during end game content, there’s an occasional lull where all your Holy Power generators are on cooldown. If you know there aren’t any important buffs that need to be dispelled, you can use Arcane Torrent to fill the down time and keep up your assault.
Plus, the constant 1% boost to your crit chance from Arcane Acuity is always appreciated!
Best Races for Holy Paladins: Human/Blood Elf
If you prefer to keep your allies alive and kicking, you’ll want to ensure your heals are as effective as possible and that your mana never runs dry. There aren’t any racials that help on the mana front, but we do still have a few recommendations. Our picks for the best races for paladins with Holy Power are Human and Blood Elf.
It’s hard to overcome the sheer stat bonuses from The Human Spirit. The additional 2% gain from all sources to your secondary stats is huge. It also goes a long way to bolstering your performance as your gear continues to improve.
Plus, being stunned is a death sentence for you and your team. If you’re not healing, someone is dying. Thankfully, Will to Survive is a great get-out-of-jail-free card that lets you save your pally bubble for bigger emergencies.
Horde: Blood Elf
Given how important crit is for holy paladins, the 1% crit chance bonus from Arcane Acuity is a much-appreciated blessing.
As for Arcane Torrent, the ability to instantly generate a charge of Holy Power is a massive life saver. If someone gets hit back-to-back by massive attacks, it lets you chain cast your stronger heals. It does not restore any mana for paladins, but having an AOE purge is still nice.
Best Races for Protection Paladins: Dwarf/Tauren
If you plan on leading the charge and taking all the hits to the face, you’ll want to be as sturdy as possible and have racials that boost your survivability. If you’re all about protecting your allies, the best races for paladins are Dwarf and Tauren.
Unquestionably the best race for protection paladins, it’s almost unfair how good dwarves are at tanking. This is largely thanks to Stoneform — arguably the best tanking racial in the game. It cleanses nearly every negative effect and reduces all physical damage taken by 10% for 8s. Given how many bosses require tanks to taunt off each other due to accumulating stacks of some debuff, this one ability effectively lets you cheese fight mechanics.
It’s amazing when your other tank needs a little bit more time for their defensive cooldowns to be on standby. Plus, Stoneform is on only a two-minute cooldown, letting you use it multiple times in a longer fight. Some of the top Horde raiding guilds faction-swapped solely for their tanks to have access to this ability for raid/mythic+ progression!
On top of that, you have Might of the Mountain to boost all your critical damage and healing by 2%. Since you’ll often heal yourself with Word of Glory, an extra 2% on a critical heal can go a long way to surviving massive hits.
It’s fitting that the towering bovine race is the best race for protection paladin in the Horde. Their higher Endurance gives them a nice little bonus to stamina (meaning more health), making them sturdier than the other races.
More importantly, they have access to War Stomp for a near-immediate AOE stun. You’ll often be swarmed by packs of adds while tanking, and this extra crowd control can be critical for kiting them. Alternatively, use it to interrupt enemies when your Shield of the Righteous is on cooldown. However, it is limited to only five enemies, so keep that in mind.
Much like their Dwarf counterparts, they also have a 2% bonus to critical damage and healing via Brawn. Once again, this is quite nice whenever you get a critical heal with Word of Glory.
Best Races for PVP Paladin: Dark Iron Dwarf/Zandalari Troll
In PVP, you’re looking for a race that gives your paladin a little more survivability or nuke potential to execute your enemy. Thankfully, the best races for paladins in PVP is cut and dry in comparison to PVE.
Alliance: Dark Iron Dwarf
When fighting other players, you’ll inevitably get debuffed. Opponents will try to force you to pop your pally bubbles so they can burst you down. Thankfully, you can turn all those debuffs into a massive boon as a Dark Iron Dwarf.
Once you think they’ve debuffed you as much as possible, pop Fireblood to cleanse yourself and gain an additional 600 to your primary stat for each debuff removed. During this eight-second window, pop all your offensive cooldowns and nuke your enemy out of existence. No other racial comes close to the power spike that Fireblood can give you. Learn to recognize when you can gain the most value out of it!
If you happen to be fighting indoors, you also gain a nice 4% move speed buff from Dungeon Delver, making it easier to catch up to enemies who are trying to kite you. Plus, the 1% less physical damage taken from Forged in Flames is nice too.
Horde: Zandalari Troll
There’s one thing all paladins are known for — bubble hearthing. If you’re a Zandalari Troll paladin, add bubble regenerating to the list. We recommend Zandalari Troll as the best Horde race for PVP paladins due to Regeneratin’ — a channeled ability that fully restores your health over six seconds but is interrupted by damage.
For any other class, this ability is only useful if you can get to a safe distance. However, since you’re a paladin, you have a couple abilities that basically make you immune to damage just long enough to fully top off from Regeneratin’. Watch your enemies rage as you go from the brink of death to full health again. They’ll be stuck flailing angrily about not being able to do anything about it (unless they’re a warrior or a priest with Mass Dispel).
On top of that, you can choose from six different racial buffs to further buff yourself. Notable ones are Kimbul for bleeding your enemies, Pa’Ku for random procs of 4% extra crit, and Akunda to occasionally trigger another heal on your target. Just note that you can only change this buff every five days.
You also have Pterrordax Swoop as a free slow fall in the event you get blasted off a ledge somewhere. This way, you can save Blessing of Protection for more important things.
Best Races for Lore Paladins: Human/Blood Elf
Now onto our lore picks! In terms of WoW lore, the best races for paladins are Human and Blood Elf.
It’s only fitting that we choose the Humans, as they were the first paladins of Azeroth. Lordaeron specifically sought out noble and virtuous knights in the wake of the Second War’s devastation. Taught the ways of magic, these paladins set out to help heal the war-torn land and restore the people’s faith.
The word and teachings of the paladins spread throughout Azeroth as a beacon of hope and justice. Though tragedy would soon befall the paladin order due to the corruption of Arthas Menethil. Disbanded for refusing to obey Arthas’ order to purge infected citizens of Stratholme, the paladin order began to diminish. Things took a further turn for the worse when Arthas returned to conquer his kingdom, resulting in the tragic death of Uther the Lightbringer. The paladin order was largely destroyed, but their faith persisted amongst survivors.
Humans continued to follow the teachings of the original order of paladins to uphold justice and protect the weak. They shared their knowledge and practices with the dwarves of Ironforge and embodied the holy warriors’ creeds.
Many of the most famous paladins in Warcraft history are Humans. Uther and Arthas prove that the path of a paladin is not suited for everyone. Tirion Fordring restored the paladin’s order, wielded the legendary Ashbringer, and led the assault on the Lich King. Even now, Stormwind is temporarily led by the Light-blessed Turalyon, who spent eons fighting the Burning Legion across the cosmos.
Perhaps in time, even you will stand amongst the champions of the Light. We will see.
Horde: Blood Elf
As for the Horde side, their first paladins came from the Blood Elves. To call them paladins may be in poor taste, given how they derived their powers initially.
After the Third War, many Blood Elves turned away from the Light for having failed them in their greatest hour of need. With this rejection, many lost the ability to channel Light, but refused to abandon the need for its power. If the Light would not willing grant its power, they would forcibly take it.
Following an assault on the alien Tempest Keep, the Blood Elves discovered and captured a naaru known as M’uru. The Blood Elves began experimenting on M’uru to draw out and wield its power. After countless experiments and untold cruelty, they succeeded.
Lady Liadrin formed a new order of paladins that gained their powers from this stolen energy. Though incredibly effective, this inhumane process ultimately resulted in M’uru darkening into a Void entity before being stolen away by the traitorous Kael’thas.
Powerless and betrayed, Lady Liadrin and her order had no choice but to beg the naaru A’dal for forgiveness. A’dal revealed that this turn of events merely played into a prophecy at work — one that would redeem the Blood Elves. Surprised and grateful for forgiveness, Lady Liadrin pledged her forces to fighting against her maddened prince.
In time, M’uru would be confronted and defeated, with only a crystal left behind to indicate it ever existed. The prophet Velen used this crystal to reignite and purify the Sunwell, allowing the Blood Elves to free themselves from their reliance on fel energy and be reborn as true paladins once more.
Though darkness may taint your people’s past, you are not beyond redemption.
Best Looking Races for Paladins: Lightforged Draenei/Blood Elf
If you care less about lore and more about looks, we have the recommendations for you. Our aesthetic picks for the best races for paladins are Lightforged Draenei and Blood Elf.
Alliance: Lightforged Draenei
It should come as no surprise that Lightforged Draenei are the best looking race for paladins. They’re quite literally infused with Light, their bodies adorned in glowing tattoos.
Nothing screams warrior of light more than the Lightforged Draenei. With their golden glowing eyes, tattoos, and religious zeal for serving the Light, they’re the quintessential image of a paladin. Though if you want to see your characters’ tattoos, you’ll probably need to transmog into some skimpier armor.
Horde: Blood Elf
Given the Blood Elves’ preference for red and gold color schemes, it’s only fitting that they look good decked out out in glowing golden armor. Their long, flowing, golden hair only further augments the aesthetic and enhances their claims to having a long noble lineage. It also helps that in comparison to the Tauren and Zandalari Trolls, they look much more at home in glowing light-infused armor.
Alternatively, if you want to take the name Blood Knight a bit more literally, you can go for dark red armor and look like someone strolling in from the battlefield. Still a holy warrior, just caked in the blood of your enemies.
Best Races for Paladins in WoW Classic and Burning Crusade: Human/Blood Elf
Finally, if you’re playing Classic or Burning Crusade, here are our picks for best races for paladins.
The best race for paladin in Classic (even factoring in the addition of the Draenei with Burning Crusade) is a clear-cut choice. Since you’re likely to be wielding a mace or sword, the +5 bonus from Mace/Sword Specialization can go a long way to help you actually hit your targets.
Additionally, the 5% buff to your spirit stat from The Human Spirit is very useful for regenerating mana, given how quickly paladins chew through their mana reserves in Classic.
Perception can also give you the edge over stealthers in PVP. Nothing ruins a rogue’s day like getting ripped out of stealth a second before they can open on you.
Horde: Blood Elf
The Horde couldn’t actually play paladins in vanilla Classic and only gained access via Blood Elves in Burning Crusade. Because of this, the choice for the best race for Paladins in BC should be obvious.
As this is the era before Holy Power was introduced, the Blood Elves’ Arcane Torrent instead regenerates some mana when you hit enemies with it. Given that managing your mana is still a mechanic during this era, it’s rather useful.
Additionally, you have Magic Resistance, reducing the chance you’ll be hit by enemy spells by 2%. Not massive, but it might let you avoid the occasional spell or two.
Join the High Ground
And that’s it for our take on the best races for paladins in World of Warcraft. If you have a different opinion or any comments that you want to share, subscribe and leave a comment below!