The smiter is one of the strongest Paladin builds. Like most conventional paladin builds, one key strength is its near-indestructibility thanks to high resistance potential and huge defense, with good health. The other, most essential strength is its potential to deal tremendous, consistent damage. It's one of the best uber tristram classes IMO. Its biggest weakness is its lack of crowd control and difficulty dealing with physical immunes.
1 point in smite (for PvM). If you run the calculations for maxed smite vs. 1 point of smite, then the largest damage difference (assuming you're running the best gear for damage) comes out to be about a 1,500 damage difference. If you're running most conventional gear, the difference is much smaller.
If you are PURELY smiting (a great idea for a PvP build, a horrible idea for a PvM build) then pour points into smite to your heart's content. Those 19 points that could be spent elsewhere gives a great deal of flexibility to the rest of the build, however.
For the rest...
20 Holy Shield, 20 Fanaticism, 20 Defiance, 1 Charge, Holy Bolt, Blessed Hammer, Might, Blessed Aim, Concentration. So the basics of the build can be secured with as low as 66 skill points. But the nice thing about Paladins are their customizing options and utility skills:
Vigor: Though it needs 2 prerequisites, it's a possibly nice utility skill to have, particularly on a character with low run/walk (if you're running goblin toe, for instance).
Sanctuary: Many of the physical immunes in Hell are undead. Sanctuary removes all physical resistance from undead. The very essence of a one point wonder.
Redemption: Some like this. I think pots are cheap and redemption's a waste of time. This is particularly true on higher levels where the paladin's nearly indestructible anyway.
Salvation: A massive increase in resistances can make this vital until you get some good gear.
Zeal: One of only two good crowd control paladin skills, and the only one that works well with minimal investment.
Vengeance: for physical immunes. Again, I'm perplexed as to why all the guides seem to act like physical immunes just don't matter for a smiter.
Resist Fire/Lightning/Cold: Dump all remaining points here (possibly 44) for the passive bonus to max resists. Lightning might be a priority since it's by far the most dangerous. If you're running thundergod's, dwarf star, or the like then adjust the risks accordingly.
Looking for life, resists, IAS, Crushing Blow. Life/mana steal is useless (doesn't work for smite, though life tap does), as is deadly strike and elemental damage. Plus skills is sorta nice but not as big of an impact as on other classes. Unlike most other classes, the Smiter does not rely on skill points to do the bulk of his damage.
It's probably worth pointing out that after you reach a certain amount, extra Crushing Blow is not very useful. Having 50% crushing blow vs. 90% crushing blow doesn't increase total killing time that much--maybe just a couple of seconds for bosses. You're attacking many times per second so even a low chance of activation still results in plenty of crushing blow hits, and after you get a dozen or so crushing blow's done about 95% of what it can do anyway. So just having, say, Guillame's Face and Gore Rider is perfectly acceptable.
- Guillaume's Face: Biggest Crushing Blow bonus in the game. Str and FHR is nice.
- Kira's Guardian: huge resists, cannot be frozen. Frankly if you already have high enough crushing blow (25% is honestly adequate) then this outclasses Guillaume's Face. Also allows you to ditch Raven Frost for a more useful absorb ring or possibly an MF ring.
- Harlequin Crest: good for anyone.
- Mara's Kaleidoscope: like a harlequin for your neck. Good for anyone.
- Seraph's Hymn: Does anyone know if the increased damage to demons/undead work with smite? If so, this could be quite good.
- The Cat's Eye: IAS. The defense it gives is much higher than it implies due to the massive +% defense paladins get with good holy shield+gear. FRW and that big Dex boost are never a bad thing.
- Highlord's Wrath: IAS, +1 to all skills. Deadly strike doesn't matter, though. Forums seem to swear by it; can't figure out why. The rest of its bonuses aren't special at all.
- Metalgrid: The huge bonus to defense is greatly compounded by the paladin's personal buffs. All resistances is great. Iron Golem summons can potentially be very interesting. This might be the all-round best choice, and definitely the strongest one for survival.
- Rare, +skills, resists amulet.
- Chains of Honor.
- Duress: Cheaper than the above, crushing blow.
- Fortitude: The 300% ED stands out. I think this armor adds the greatest increase to Smite damage.
- Guardian Angel: The plus to all resists is extremely interesting and frees up some of your skill points from resist cold/fire/lightning. Faster/more block is great, and so is defense. If you already have great resists this is definitely an armor to be considered. Upgrade it for truly monstrous defense (though this is almost always overkill considering the already ridiculous defense you have).
- Treachery: huge IAS, plus a chance for high level Fade, make this amazing considering its very common runes. If you can be bothered doing this every time, stand in some fire with it on to activate Fade, and then just take it off and put on better armor and enjoy your huge boost to defenses.
- Grief: The best weapon for a smiter in terms of damage, by far. Put it into a phase blade for the fast attack since the damage bonus is flat. The displayed damage in the character screen is far less than the actual damage dealt. The other modifiers are unremarkable (some mana and life leech are nice though), but good. Put it in a phase blade for max attack speed.
- Last Wish: The best weapon for a smiter while Uber Tristraming/fighting extremely hardy foes. Berserker axes are good for this. The 70% crushing blow is frankly overkill, and allows you to drop other CB gear. Then there's life tap (making Exile/Dracul's Grasp less essential), as well as the decently high level Fade adding an impressive 56% resist all and 11% phys resist when it activates; the high level might aura means you can switch out an act 2 offense merc for something else, maybe holy freeze.
- The Redeemer: A huge bonus to damage, plus to Paladin skill levels. This is the second-highest damaging weapon for a smiter. A very distant second to Grief, but still.
- Black: Crushing blow 40%? Yes please! Cheap, too: this is probably the most easily obtainable Smiter weapon. Oh and 15% IAS.
- Astreon's Iron Ward: potential +4 skills is nothing to sneeze at. IAS, slows targets, crushing blow are all great. This actually comes out dealing considerably more damage then Last Wish, though it lacks some of the tasty properties Last Wish has.
- Call to Arms: buffs. Useful but boring and tedious. It's worth pointing out that probably the best weapon to make this with on a paladin is a scepter with +3 to holy shield, so that you can get an extra strong holy shield whenever you alt for the other buffs.
- Goldstrike Arch (upped) or other bow: keeping in mind the Paladin's very high attack rating and dex (particularly with a good amulet), goldstrike arch can be a very useful backup weapon to pick off priority targets from afar. It's the superior choice since you already have fanaticism which is the meat of what makes Faith good, and Faith's one of the very few competitors to Goldstrik Arch.
- Azurewrath or other high magic damage weapon: if you really, really insist on not using Vengeance and you happen to find one, it can help with phys immunes. Djinn Slayer and Lightsaber also work.
- Ethereal, +resist Exile: Absolutely sick. Huge defenses, defiance, +max resists, life tap on strike. Life tap! Why is it even here? Totally justifies its expensive runes. Only problem is lack of resists, so find a shield that comes with innate bonuses or get it from other equipment. Except its lack of resistances, Exile is by far the best shield in terms of defenses.
- Herald of Zakarum: Standard Paladin shield, good for nearly all builds. I prefer Exile if I have the resists from elsewhere. It deals higher smite damage than Exile at the cost of poorer defensive capabilities, though it has higher blocking chance and more resists.
- Alma Negra: Deals more damage than Exile or Herald. Inferior defensively.
- Phoenix: This is the highest damaging Paladin shield by a considerable margin. Poor defensively in most regards (though it has fire absorb and + to some max resistances). To make up for it it has a high redemption aura on at all times.
- Diamond or um filled socketed paladin shield: Extremely easy to make, but in return you can get a mind boggling 120+% resist all. Just hold on to a high resist shield when you find it and have lazurk socket it for you.
- Spirit: Paladins get access to this FAR earlier than most other characters since they have access to shields with four sockets far earlier. A very strong early choice, and useful in the later game for off-switching to Call to Arms with for the +2 skills.
- Crafted blood gloves. Crushing blow. IAS is great. Other useful mods include mf, stat boosts, defense. Paladins aren't really spoiled for good modifier rolls on gloves so frankly a +10% crushing blow +20 IAS is good enough, even if the rest of the mods are junk.
- Dracul's Grasp: Essential if you don't have Exile, for the life tap.
- Steel Rend: It has the same bonus to crushing blow as blood gloves. The huge increase to defense is beneficial, though not particularly exciting. HOWEVER it has no IAS which sucks.
- Dwarf Star/Raven's Frost/Wisp Projector: Absorbs fire, ice, and lightning respectively, making your character pretty much invulnerable to the elements when combined with high resistances. Cannot be Frozen/Oak Sage/Heart of the Wolverine are all useful.
- SoJ/Bul-Kathos: +1 skills. Not much else to be said here, since smiters do not leech nor do they benefit much from mana. More life is nice for Bul-Kathos.
- Rare/Magic Ring: +resistances, health, stats, magic find, stats etc. Affixes are much more limited on rings than amulets but they can still be decent. With enough good mods the best rare rings can contend with the ones I've listed above.
- Verdungo's Hearty Cord: Damage reduction, hp increase.
- Thundergod's Vigor: lightning absorb. If you have Dwarf Star and Raven Frost, this makes a nice trifecta for absorbs.
- Goldwrap: Magic find.
- Arachnid Mesh: +1 all skills.
- Gore Rider: FRW, crushing blow, open wounds. Good straight up damage.
- Goblin Toe: A less compromising version of Gore Rider. It has 10% more crushing blow but not much else, not even FRW. Good if you're running Cat's Eye/don't mind plodding like a turtle.
- Sandstorm Trek: + FRW, stat boosts. Thoroughly meh in my opinion, but people keep telling me how great these are so I'm listing this here as a courtesy.
Just for fun...
Below is me indulging on my fantasies as to the possibilities of the gear here. You can ignore if you're a realist and/or hater of Brainwasher5 having fun :(
A completely defensive build would use Guardian Angel+Exile+thundergod's to get a 95/95/95/90 resistance, and then run wisp projector/raven frost/dwarf star for the absorbs. The problem with such a setup is that you're missing out on the plus to all resists a lot of high end armor gives you. Assuming a perfect Exile (good luck with that) you have +45 from that, +30 from resist scrolls, +35 from a perfect metalgrid, and +20 from perfect anni and 20 from perfect torch. That comes down to...+150 resists. You SHOULD get +195 all (or technically +175 all and +20 to fire, lightning, and cold) to make all that +Max Resist worth a damn, so that adds up to 8 +5 shimmering charms...or foregoing Guillame's and just grabbing something with big resist alls, perhaps Rockstopper (it doesn't give poison resist but no one cares about poison resist in PvM), Veil of Steel or ideally Kira's.
95/95/95/90 with absorbs to all three elementals. Jesus. Course, then you should really consider having CB gloves and gore rider/goblin toe to do anything approaching respectable damage. Or you can throw on Venom Grip/Andy's and get 95 poison resist, too.
A more compromising paladin would just bite the bullet and put on CoH or something else good and just be a good boy and invest in the resist fire/cold/lightning skills. CoH gives +65 resist all. Boom. Problem solved. Guillame's Face +35, crafted gloves +10, and gore rider's +15 gives a respectable 60% of crushing blow. Plop last wish on there for ubers and you can even swap it out with a resist helm for topping resists against uber meph's conviction.