A 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) paladin is very different than the paladin from any previous edition. It is still a holy warrior, but instead of being a hybrid spellcaster and warrior, a paladin has been re-imagined as a defender. Paladins in 4th edition call on the power of deities to strengthen their fighting prowess and provide protection for allies. As defenders, paladins mark enemies and deal radiant damage to enemies that defy the mark. Paladins have some of the best defenses in the game and can provide limited support to allies. While some paladins provide significant support to allies, avenging paladins forgo most ally support abilities in order to deal additional damage and to gain additional defensive benefits. When building your avenging paladin, the following optimizations will serve to make you an effective offensive defender.
Ability Scores – Avenging paladins use strength as their primary attribute and wisdom as their secondary attribute. Both constitution and dexterity make good choices as a tertiary attribute and avenging paladins are one of the few class builds that may want to devote significant points to their tertiary attribute. Strength is essential because it is the primary attribute used for attacks and damage. Wisdom often improves the secondary benefits of powers and limits the number of uses per day of the avenging paladin’s Lay on Hands class feature (or replacement feature). If you intend to use Lay on Hands or use hammers or axes as a weapon, constitution should be your tertiary attribute. If you do not intend to use Lay on Hands and you intend to use a heavy blade, take dexterity as your tertiary attribute. Intelligence and charisma are basically unimportant to an avenging paladin, except for some skills. Unlike most class builds, you will want to occasionally improve your primary attribute and your tertiary attribute when you get attribute increases, rather than just your primary and secondary.
Race – The best race for an avenging paladin is a longtooth shifter. Almost equally good are a half-orc for paladins with a good dexterity and a warforged is good for paladins with good constitution. If you choose to entirely ignore your tertiary attribute, choose longtooth shifter and start with a pair of 18’s in your strength and wisdom after race bonuses. Otherwise, you will want an 18 in your primary attribute, a 16 in your secondary attribute, and at least a 14 your tertiary attribute after racial bonuses. Your attributes will be a little lower, but human is also reasonable due to the bonus feat and additional at-will power. Also, your defenses will be exceptional.
Skills – Due to your good wisdom, you definitely want heal and insight as trained skills. They are always good skills to have and your wisdom attribute should be good. Whether or not you have a high constitution, endurance should be your last choice. In the worst case scenario, training will cancel out your armor check penalty. If you are human, choose a skill that nobody else is trained in, just so somebody in your party has the skill, as your bonus skill.
Feats – The absolute essential feat for any avenging paladin is Mighty Challenge. This feat makes your Divine Challenge class feature actually useful. After that, you should probably take a Weapon Proficiency feat in a superior weapon. Other good feats include your deity specific Channel Divinity feat, Weapon Expertise, Weapon Focus, Improved Initiative, Toughness, and Durable. At paragon tier, the first feat you should get is Honored Foe. In addition, you should get Paragon Defenses, Uncanny Dodge, Invigorating Critical, and Untiring Virtue. Also, get any of the following you qualify for: Armor Specialization (Plate), Shield Specialization, Heavy Blade Opportunity, Deadly Axe, and Hammer Rhythm. At epic tier, you should get Epic Defenses, Mastery for whatever weapon type you use, Divine Mastery, Divine Health, Icon of Purity, Paladin’s Truth, and Pious Champion.
Powers – The first decision you must make as an avenging paladin is whether to keep Lay on Hands or replace it with Virtue’s Touch. If your constitution is low, replace it. Otherwise, either choice is good. For your at-will powers, any set of Virtuous Strike, Holy Strike, and Valiant Strike is good. If you wish to focus on damage, take the last two. If you wish to focus on empowering yourself, choose the first and one of the other two. Which encounter and daily powers you take depends on whether you want to focus on dealing damage or empowering yourself. If you are interested in damage, Radiant Smite, Blood of the Mighty, Force of Arms, and Pyre of Judgment are good choices. If you are building to empower yourself, Flames of Devotion, Comeback Strike, Guardian Light, and Strength from Valor are good choices. Finally, for utility powers, you should get as many encounter powers as possible. The majority of paladin utilities are daily powers, so it is important to have a few that aren’t. Virtue, Pure Devotion, Shield of Discipline, and Benediction are all good utility power choices.
Paragon Paths – Champion of Order is by far the best paragon path for avenging paladins, just due to the incredibly powerful Certain Justice encounter power. If for any reason you aren’t permitted to take this paragon path or you simply don’t want to, Hammer of Moradin is pretty good for followers of Moradin that use a hammer as a weapon. Astral Weapon is a pale substitute if neither of the above fits. Alternately, if you are multiclased into fighter, Iron Vanguard and Kensei are both good paragon paths that will focus a defensive or offensive build, respectively.
The avenging paladin is basically the selfish paladin. With the exception of Virtue’s Touch or Lay on Hands class feature, an avenging paladin provides little support to allies. Instead, an avenging paladin either uses powers that increase the paladin’s ability to fight or simply deals high damage. Whatever the approach, the avenging paladin is a force to be reckoned with and a powerful defender. Conveniently, optimizing an avenging paladin is simple. Look for options that work with your focus and simply take the next most efficient one. There are more than enough options to create a powerful character.