Starting WoW, my intended main character was a Night Elf Druid. Good damage, heals, and tankability, I had read. They turn into bears and cats and sea lions and trees, which is all the awesome I need. I connected with my triple-xp partner, and we rolled to Darnassus the first night. I messed with trade skills, then we rampaged across Darkshore later that week. The weekend saw us questing to the Deadmines, where we hit a technical outage. That was almost enough to cancel my account, not because I was outraged about inconvenience, but because it stopped the forward momentum. If the game does not get a chance to sink its claws into you, you never form the habit, and I have a dozen “meh” options before me. I always harp on the new player experience because it is essential to hook new players now. As it is, his courses re-started and he has not logged on for a week. If I had been depending on that, I would be done with WoW by now. She is parked at level 22, waiting for her sempai.
My intended alt was a Gnome Mage. I already had my support class covered, so I could go with my other great love: ranged damage. Let’s be direct: Mages are horrible at low levels right now, and Loch Modan is a horrible second zone. My primary mage problem was mana consumption versus recovery: killing an enemy took half a bar of mana plus a few staff whacks, and recovering half a bar of mana took about 18 seconds. The majority of my combat time was downtime. I am told that this is due to formula changes intended for the late game, and maybe it all works out with heirloom gear and such. Next mix in the poor second Dwarf zone. The starting template is pretty simple: newbie town, first real town, bounce off the capital and head to a new zone. Humans get Westfall, Night Elves get Darkshore, and Dwarves/Gnomes get screwed. The content has little variety, is far too spread across dead space, and calls for visits to other zones. Strike two.
On a whim, I made a Paladin. This is the edge of my comfort zone: I do not play meat shields, but this one also heals. I always wanted to like the Captain. And let me tell you, this has been a glorious experience. There needs to be a big sign on the character selection screen telling people to start as a Paladin. After playing a Mage, the survivability is ridiculous. I actively over-pull and try insane things because I usually survive them; my only bane is casting enemies, who tend to run in packs and can get line of sight through wagons and trees. There is nothing quite like discovering adds when three fireballs come through a solid object. Other than that hurdle, being over-powered is nice. I have traded off as much defense for damage as possible, and it really is satisfying to crush your enemies with a giant hammer. I was amazed to see that she out-nukes the Mage: the damaging taunt does not activate global cooldown, so I can Exorcise immediately after starting the pull. Drop a magic hammer as it arrives in melee, get that big first swing in, and the enemy is usually around 25% health. That takes less than a quarter of my mana, and the blue magic hammer gives me mana for hitting the enemy. Average downtime: ~3 seconds per fight, during which I sort out loot.
The night I hit 20 was when it all came together. I joined a guild, tagged along for the Deadmines, and realized I had forgotten that Paladins get free magic ponies. The perfect newbie class: how else will you afford those gold pieces at level 20 on a first character? Probably by not spending what I do on trade skills. A guild tailor gave me four frostweave bags; doubling your pack space is effectively god-moding the inventory management mini-game I hate so much. I got rid of every problem I had: almost 0 downtime; return to town when I run out of quests, not pack space; ride with ease and speed when I do; survivability with new ranged damage; quest dense zones; and people to chat with in /g. My only disappointment is that her current best weapon is a big axe rather than a comically huge hammer. I like its numbers, and she gets huge crits all the time due to Retribution talents, but hammertime was both cathartic and classically Warcraft.
Oh, and I have a few other alts, including Horde. My Horde friends have been even less present than the one who referred me, so I may take a while to get back over there.