As you may or may not know (as if you didn’t, you will now), I play on PVP server called Altar of Storms. My experience with PVE servers has been somewhat limited.
I originally rolled my Paladin on Rexxar, a PVE server, and if it had been my choice I probably would have stayed PVE.
But Aoesrus, the real life friend who got me involved in the game, wanted to be on a PVP server called Dark Iron, so we rerolled there. My Paladin on Rexxar was all of 16 or 17, and questing in Redridge. I really should go back and play him sometime. I would eventually transfer off of Dark Iron and come to Altar of Storms.
There are times when I really like the fact that I play on a PVP server and times when I don’t.
The biggest pain of a PVP server is that pretty much from around level 20 on you are permaflaged for PVP. This means that in addition to fighting and questing your way through the levels you always have to be on the constant lookout for Horde.
There are different types of Horde you encounter as you level up.
The most annoying is the The Ganker who is a level 70 and just running around a lowbie zone one shotting people. My personal favorites are the Gankers who choose zones where even the guards are no threat to them. These types usually run at the first sign of anything that can remotely give them a challenge. They are annoying, but simply part of the leveling up process on a PVP server. I generally tried to find another zone or go PVP in a battleground for a bit. If that’s how they choose to spend their playtime, well it's their 15 smackers. I tried it once and it wasn’t very much fun. I usually try to /peon, /cry, or /lol at them as they kill me. At least on my Paladin, I could annoy them for a few seconds.
One thing you learn quickly on a PVP server is to rez behind a tree or in a bush, anywhere that might conceal you long enough to eat, drink, and buff up.
Then you have the Challengers. These are at or near your level and engage you in PVP. You continue to engage challengers even at the level cap.
These are some of the most memorable, and exciting fights I have had. I had a fantastic battle with a Tauren Resto Shaman at the Darkmoon Faire just a couple of months ago when it was in Mulgore. They will force you to learn every skill and talent you have and how to use it. I always learned something from these fights win (rare) or lose (common). You learn to identify things that give away a persons spec and you formulate strategies for how to fight each class/spec combination. You know some are almost guaranteed wins and some are almost assuredly losses.
My personal favorite type of Horde is the CareBear. They just want to quest and are not really interested in PVPing. I encountered an Orc Hunter of this type while leveling up in Desolace and we actually helped each other complete a quest.
One thing I learned was never attack Horde in an area where you want to quest, especially if you have one of those Kill X of Y and get Z drops from them type quests. People whom you defeat in PVP have this uncanny way of finding you and trying to settle the odds. Then of course, you retaliate and the next thing you know, it's an hour later, you've got 4 Honor Kills and made no progress on your quest.
The next huge pain of a PVP server is that we have several extra World PVP Objectives that don’t exist on PVE Servers. These are referred to as Summoning Stones. Getting a summon to a Raid or Instance on a PVP Server is far from a sure thing. It can make getting replacements for people who have to leave midraid a huge chore. You zone out (always 4 to 5, never send just 2) and hope that some Horde guild isn’t holding the stone. You do get to recognize the names after a while. AoS is a medium population server so there are not many guilds capable of doing SSC and TK.
“Whose at the stone?”
“Oh gosh, they're awful, we can take it.”
“Hold up, I see some Cynosure.”
“*explictive*. You guys better jump on the bird and walk. No Summons tonight.”
In addition to fighting over the stone, you also have to run through Horde to get to your instance portal. You should see the entrance to Karazhan most nights; the entire area is just littered with bones. This is an older picture but you get the idea.
Then there is that awkward moment in Shattrah City where you see one of the Horde you were fighting.
Surprisingly enough, I find Horde tend to leave you alone in Ogril'la and Netherwing. Most people just want to get their quests done and get on to PVPing or Raiding.
Then you have those moments which are referred to as the CareBear Stare. You come up on a Horde, and you look at him, and he looks at you. Both his hand and your hover over your weapons, and the words of incantations spring to your mind. You wait for the tiniest indication he will attack.
I don't know how it is on PVE Servers, but guildies and even random people in the zone seem to be quick to respond to calls for help in General Chat. Especially when its a group of Horde ganging up on a single Alliance.
Playing on PVP server can be a pain sometimes, but those unplanned, and often unwanted 1v1 battles in the middle of nowhere are some of the most exciting times you have in game. You get to explore your character deeply, and be prepared for battle at any moment. I'd go to a PVE server if I had to, but I'm pretty happy where I am on a PVP server.