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Welcome to my quaint little Paladin guide. Now, first, a few disclaimers:
1) This is a guide, and as such, I feel as though I must say: these are my ideas and experiences; people will undoubtedly disagree with me. If you're not sure about something I say, feel free to test it - what worked for me may not work for you, or it may work well. My hope is that you'll find the latter.
2) Throughout my Paladin career, and still today, I hold the idea that a Paladin has two jobs: to hold hate, and to not die while holding said hate.
With that said, let the guide begin.
Introduction to the Paladin Job
In Final Fantasy 11, there are three classes of jobs: Damage Dealing (DD), Tanking, and Support. Many jobs can skew these lines (take Corsair, for example, which bridges the lines between DD and Support), while some jobs are almost solely focused on one specific classification. Most jobs, also, can equip gear that would normally allow them to do things they normally don't: for example, a White Mage in Reverend Mail, with a Darksteel Maul and Hexa Strike can do good damage, especially on skeletons and the like; however, ultimately, even with all this gear, a White Mage's job is to heal, first and foremost.
Paladin is a focused tank, first and foremost. Paladin Job Abiltiies focus on surviving and gaining enmity, or hate, and a lot of the Paladin-focused armor, including its Artifact Armor, capitalize on the Paladin's ability to hold hate and take hits. This isn't to say Paladins have nothing but Vitality and Enmity: Paladins also have access to good melee stats, and access to some white magic. They can capitalize on this through creative use of subjob and gear, and I will go into this somewhat later, but ultimately, when you become a Paladin, you are becoming a tank. If you're looking for a support class that can take a few hits, look into Red Mage, if you want a DD that can cast magic, I'd suggest Dark Knight. If you want to be a more damage-focused tank, then Ninja is where you want to go. However, if you want to be a brick-wall that can hold hate and blood tank the most ferocious of beasts, then Paladin is exactly where you want to be.
Story wise, Paladins are the knights in shining armor, gallant and noble adventurers who have taken the protection and safety of others to be their primary goal. They are well acclaimed in San d'Oria for their chivalrous deeds, although the steadfast determination and righteousness of these noble warriors is welcome virtually everywhere in Vana'diel. A great many legends surround Paladins and their feats of courage and heroism, and any adventurer wearing the trademark white armor of the Paladin is often given the same respect and admiration afforded the knights in these olden legends.
Stats, Attributes, and You
A lot of guides will tell you a Paladin's primary stat, and what stat is important when. I, too, will tell you the Paladin's main stats - they're fairly obvious once you know how they work, explain what they do, and tell you how I saw things in my experiences. However, as far as which stats are most important is going to depend on your experiences; it is my hope that these explanations will give you the tools to make these adjustments as necessary. I'll discuss the primary attributes first, listing in terms of what I feel to be the most important stats, and then secondary stats.
These stats are the core stats of any character: Strength, Dexterity, Agility, Vitality, Mind, Intelligence, and Charisma. These seven stats, along with the "secondary stats" (themselves modified by the primary stats) are the gauges by which every spell and combat action is calculated.
Many people pin Vitality as one of a Paladin's most important attributes, and I am not going to disagree. Vitality, other than affecting Defense at a rate of 2 VIT = +1 Defense, Vitality basically lowers the "range" of damage. A simplified way of looking at how it works is that Vitality lowers the possible amount of damage you take. Say, for example, a hit could strike you for anywhere from 75-100 damage, but when you add Vitality to it, that range could lower to, say, 60-85 damage. These numbers are arbitrary, of course, but that's the general idea: the more Vitality you have, the lower the "big damage" numbers will be.
Agility affects a great many things in the game, but there are three that are particularly important to a Paladin: the rates of shield blocks and parrying, and calculation of Critical Hits. Basically, the more Agility you have, the more likely you are to block with your shield or parry the attack (and evade, as well, but considering Paladin evasion skill and gear, this is less likely to happen, and shouldn't be relied upon). Also, a Critical Hit is calculated by an opposed check between Dexterity and Agility - which is why you see Thieves crit more and get critted on less. So, in essence, by boosting your Agility up, you will be blocking with your shield and parrying more - which will reduce damage directly - and you will be suffering from fewer critical hits - which keeps you alive longer.
Dexterity and Strength are both important to melee weapons, but in different ways. Dexterity gives to melee attacks accuracy (in the conversion of 2 DEX = +1 Accuracy for one-handed weapons, and 1 DEX = +1 Accuracy for two-handed weapons), and affects some weapon-skills. It is also the stat used to calculate the frequency in which characters strike with critical hits. Basically, even though Paladins are not DD, hitting with their weapon and damaging the enemy is still useful to them for hate and TP, and even in later levels, where Paladins hit for little damage, the bottom line is that you can't use Spirits Within without TP.
Strength determines a character's melee damage. For one-handed weapons, 2 STR = +1 Attack, and for two-handed weapons, 1 STR = +1 Attack. Strength is also a common modifier on many weaponskills. Generally speaking, the more Strength a character possesses, the more damage they hit for. Again, although Paladins are not damage dealers, any extra damage they hit for is more hate for them.
Mind is important to a Paladin for two reasons: cures and resists. Cures take their strength off of Mind, and the more Mind you have, the faster you'll be hitting cure caps, which means more HP for your MP, and more hate for your MP. Also, any Mind-based enfeebles, such as Slow, Paralyze, or Silence, are resisted based on how much Mind the victim has - which means, with more Mind, you're more likely to resist these spells when cast on you.
Although Paladins don't have any native spells that are modified based on Intelligence, they are still going to be hit with spells that base their resist rates on the Intelligence stat. Because of this, any black-magic spells that hit the Paladin - everything from elemental magic to enfeebles such as sleep or bind - are going to calculate their resistance rates off of the Paladin's intelligence.
Charisma is a mysterious stat, as its effects are not often directly seen. It used to be rumored that Charisma affected hate, but Square Enix stated this to be false. Charisma affects offensive bard songs, cures, and the activation of "killer" traits (of which, Paladin possesses "Undead Killer", which is one of the only uses of this stat), and also affects resistance to bard songs and charm effects. Because of the unreliability of killer traits, and the rarity of fighting mobs where charm or bard song resistance is needed, Charisma finds itself relegated to the bottom of this list.
Secondary Stats are stats used in the calculation of various battle actions and spell effects, although they often modify these in different ways than the primary stats and, in some cases, secondary stats are modified by the primary stats, as well.
Defense determines the "average" damage of a hit, and is modified by Vitality. Whereas Vitality affects the general range of damage per hit, Defense makes this range smaller; it keeps the big hits from coming as often. This topic will be discussed more in a later section.
Accuracy determines how often your melee attacks hit and is modified by the Dexterity stat. This stat is important in both normal melee and in weaponskills - especially multi-hit ones. For Paladins, Accuracy gear is important, arguably more so than Dexterity: although our skill in Swords is very good, much of our gear often goes to tanking, which means that directly modifying accuracy instead of Dexterity can often mean the difference between hitting the mob and missing repeatedly.
Attack determines the striking power of melee attacks, and is modified by the Strength stat. Although Attack is important to a Paladin's melee ability, it isn't as important as Accuracy, since, again, much of our gear goes towards tanking, not damage dealing. Still, if the equipment slot can be spared, investing in Attack gear can help with hate management.
Magic Defense Bonus (MDB)
Magic Defense Bonus affects resistance to magic spells in a more dynamic way than the primary stats do. Awarded by the job trait of the same name, available to White Mages and Red Mages, and by various pieces of equipment, Magic Defense Bonus can be useful to a Paladin if he or she knows they will be facing an enemy that relies heavily on magic attacks. Unfortunately, many of the pieces that give uprgades to this stat are in slots that are normally reserved for important pieces of gear, which means that the sacrifies that are needed to equip these pieces of gear are often ill advised for normal tanking situations.
Magic Attack Bonus (MAB)
Magic Attack Bonus does exactly what it says: makes offensive magic spells more powerful. Afforded by the job trait of the same name, Magic Attack Bonus is given by the Red Mage and Black Mage jobs, and also awarded by various equipment. Ultimately, this trait means little to a Paladin, as our only offensive spells; Banish, Banish II, and Holy, are typically ineffective against any mob even approaching the Paladin's level, including undead.
In this section, I'm going to go over a few of the subjobs that are commonly used for Paladin. Ultimately, Paladin has a few useful subjobs, but any combinations that I feel lend little to the job, I'm not going to bother listing, at least for now (technically everything has some use, but as I don't feel like writing that much in this section, I'm going to avoid it for now).
- PLD 10/WAR 5: Provoke - The bread and butter of hate management, this ability nets you a solid amount of hate instantly, with a recast timer on 30 seconds. Because Provoke scales to the level of the user, this job ability never loses its usefulness, and because it is, in practically every sense of the word, "free hate", a Paladin is going to be using this job ability until level 75. Duration: Instantaneous, Recast: 30 seconds.
- PLD 30/WAR 15: Berserk - This ability is quite simple; it increases your attack by 25%, but lowers your defense by 25% as well. Losing this much defense is crippling for a Paladin, although in short bursts, Berserk can help with hate management, such as if you use it just before a weaponskill, and then remove the effect right after, boosting your weaponskill damage a slight amount, with minimal risk to yourself, or your mages' MP pools. Duration: 3 minutes, Recast: 5 minutes.
- PLD 50/WAR 25: Defender - The exact opposite of Berserk, this ability lowers your attack by 25%, but increases your defense by 25%. Whereas Berserk has limited usefulness to Paladins, Defender is a useful ability, especially when it is first acquired. If something is hitting brutally hard, chances are a Paladin won't be dealing much damage to it in any case, so often, Defender can save you a few HP, which can mean a great deal in a long battle. It is important to note that Berserk and Defender do not disable each other, but with both engaged, you will see no net effect - this is useful, as if Defender is active, and you find yourself against a particularly weak enemy, you can use Berserk for that battle to get more attack power without having to disable Defender. Also of note is that Defender's duration is the same time frame as its recast, so it is possible to have Defender constantly active. Duration: 3 minutes, Recast: 3 minutes.
- PLD 70/WAR 35: Warcry - Warcry could be called a party-wide Berserk, but that wouldn't be quite right. Warcry is an AoE ability that hits members of your party: anyone hit with a Warcry will see their attack go up by a little more than 5%. What makes this ability useful to Paladins is that if Warcry lands on all 6 members of a party, it will give hate roughly equal to that of a Provoke, which is a nice source of more hate, should the Paladin need it. Duration: 30 seconds, Recast: 5 minutes.
- PLD 20/WAR 10: Defense Bonus - The first trait that Warrior gives, unfortunately, since Paladin's recieve this trait at level 10, they will see no effect.
- PLD 30/WAR 15: Resist Virus I - This trait gives resistance to the Virus effects. Unfortunately, very few mobs inflict this status effect, and if they do, the Resist trait rarely offers any assistance.
- PLD 50/WAR 25: Double Attack - This is perhaps one of Warrior's most useful Job Traits. It procs aproximately 10% of the time, and when it does, you'll make two attacks in a single attack round, and recieve normal TP for both, should they land for damage. Even with lower damage attacks, there is no denying the assistance this trait gives in building TP.
- PLD 70/WAR 35: Resist Virus II - An improved version of the Resist Virus trait, but it suffers from the same shortcomings as its predecessor.
The Warrior subjob tends to mesh very well with the most obvious and typical of a Paladin's gear. Characters using the Warrior subjob may want to consider investing in some +MP gear if they find themselves running low in battle, and +enmity actually finds more use here than anywhere, thanks to the readily available Provoke ability and TP moves that come in greater supply thanks to Double Attack.
Warrior is a good subjob for most situations a Paladin will find themselves in. Warrior gives a number of easy ways for the Paladin to build quick hate, as well as passive defense bonuses and an ability that lets a Paladin drastically increase their defense (25% bonus to defense at later levels can be the equivilant of the defense of a number of full SETS of armor).
However, Warrior suffers when damage has to be at least partially mitigated instead of tanked, and heavy Paralysis can drastically damage the Warrior subjob's usefulness, as paralyzed ability activations still discharge the ability, which can leave a Paladin with a number of 5 minute recast timers with nothing to show for it. Furthermore, Warrior lends no spells to the Paladin's repetoire, or MP to the Paladin's pool.
- PLD 10/NIN 5: Stealth - This job trait reduces the likelihood of being aggroed by nearby mobs. Although this trait is helpful, it's best not to rely on it in place of Sneak and Invisible, except as a last resort.
- PLD 20/NIN 10: Dual Wield I - Perhaps the most famous Ninja trait, Dual Wield allows a character to use a one-handed weapon in each hand (One in their Main weapon slot, and one in their Sub weapon slot). For Paladins, however, this trait is actually not very useful: to wield a second weapon, the Paladin must give up their shield, which is a very risky move, as a Paladin's shield is one of their most valuable pieces of armor. Still, Dual Wield will increase a Paladin's damage over time (but not TP gain) if they use more than one sword.
- PLD 20/NIN 10: Resist Bind I - This trait helps to resist Bind effects, however like many Resist Job Traits, this one rarely is of any assistance.
- PLD 30/NIN 15: Subtle Blow I - With this trait, enemies recieve less TP when they are hit by your attacks. Although this trait isn't as noticable with one-handed weapons, it can make a slight difference.
- PLD 50/NIN 25: Dual Wield II - An improvement on the Dual Wield trait, this upgrade reduces the combined delay for the weapons used, increasing DoT, although TP per hit also goes down, so weaponskills will come at the same pace.
- PLD 60/NIN 30: Resist Bind II - A slight improvement on the previous Resist Bind trait.
- PLD 60/NIN 30: Subtle Blow II - An improved version of the Subtle Blow trait that increases its effect.
It it important to note that the effect of offensive ninjutsu is determined by Ninjutsu skill, of which a Paladin does not have any native skill in. Because of this, a Paladin's offensive Ninjutsu spells will never be as strong as a Ninja of a comperable level, and because of this, many of the enfeebling and weakening Ninjutsu is completely useless for a Paladin subbing Ninja, and thus not listed here. More information on the unlisted Ninjutsu spells can be found on the Ninja page
- PLD 18/NIN 9: Tonko: Ichi - This spell acts as invisible, and consumes one Shinobi-Tabi per use. This is useful, as it eliminates the need for a PLD/NIN to carry Prism Powders or rely on the sometimes short-lasting invisible spell from a mage. Casting Time: 4 seconds, Duration: 3 minutes, Recast: 30 seconds.
- PLD 24/NIN 12: Utsusemi: Ichi - This Ninja spell creates three shadow images that absorb attacks directed at the user. Each casting of the spell consumes one Shihei. Area of Effect spells can wipe multiple shadows, and some attacks can eat through shadows, but normal attacks and many single-target spells and abilities are absorbed by them. Remember to keep count of the number of shadows up. Casting Time: 4 seconds, Duration: 15 minutes (?) or until 3 shadows are used, Recast: 30 seconds.
- PLD 68/NIN 24: Tonko: Ni - An improved version of Tonko: Ichi. This spell still consumes a single Shinobi-Tabi per use. Casting Time: 1.5 seconds, Duration: 5 minutes, Recast: 45 seconds.
- PLD 74/NIN 37: Utsusemi: Ni - A different version of the Utsusemi spell, with a longer recast but a shorter casting time, this iteration still requires a Shihei per use. Anyone with the Ninja subjob will only get three shadows with Utsusemi: Ni instead of the four a Ninja would get. Casting Time: 1.5 seconds, Duration: 15 minutes or until 3 shadows are used, Recast: 45 seconds.
Paladins subbing Ninja will notice, first and foremost, the loss of Provoke. Because of this, +enmity can help keep hate. +Haste gear is also incredibly valuable, as not only does it increase your attack speed, which means more TP and hate, but it also reduces casting times and recast timers on three vital spells: Flash, and the two Utsusemi spells: in fact, a Paladin with a "Ninja Build" is most often referring primarily to +haste gear.
The Ninja subjob can be a good call for a Paladin whenever they have to face an enemy that hits too hard for straight blood tanking, especially so if said enemy hits particularly slow. PLD/NIN is an excellent tank for when the "loopholes" of Utsusemi (such as Area of Effect attacks) would put a Ninja in dangerous territory with no shadows, as PLD/NINs can still blood tank effectively without shadows. Finally ,thanks to Dual Wield, if a Paladin is concerned about DoT output, Ninja is a superior subjob to Warrior for this.
The Ninja subjob suffers, however, against enemies who hit fast, use Area of Effect or silencing spells and attacks routinely, or when a massive amount of hate must be generated by the Paladin quickly. Also of note is that the Ninja subjob does not become truly effective for tanking until level 74, when PLD/NIN gains Utsusemi: Ni, thus effectively lending 6 shadows every 45 seconds.