In an Underdark campaign, I have a Tiefling Valor Bard who is about to hit lvl 4. I want her to eventually pick up a couple levels of Paladin, and her primary role is as a melee character, with a bit of spell panache to help control the battlefield. She also is able to be the "face" of the party if needed.
Her current stats are:
My optimization question is whether Warcaster is just too good to pass up, or if I should instead take ability score improvements at lvl 4 (targeting Con and Cha). Odds are that I will be taking paladin as lvls 6 and 7, so I will not get my next feat/ability until lvl 11. Design-wise, I would pick up some additional damage from smites as a Paladin and the Protection fighting style. The extra Con would help this role, and the extra Cha would help my spell saves, which are low at 13. However, Warcaster is just really good, with it's OA spellcasting ability, freeing my hand to take a shield (since my focus is already hands-free, see mechanical note below), not to mention the Concentration save buff.
One mechanical note is that my DM has already allowed me to use an amulet from my backstory as an arcane focus instead of a musical instrument, and it happens to also be the symbol of the God I would most likely follow as a paladin.
For completeness, here are my spell choices:
0: Thaumaturgy (Tiefling), Minor Illusion, Thunderclap
1: Dissonant Whispers, Silent Image, Tasha's Hideous Laughter, Thunderwave
2: Heat Metal, Hellish Rebuke (Tiefling), Suggestion
My overall goal for this character is to be survivable in melee, and still get utility out of Bard spells. I am resigned to the fact she will always be outpaced by the evocation wizard and fighter/rogue in terms of damage, and the monk in terms of survivability. If I had to pick one over the other, survivability wins out over utility.
I welcome any other comments, but my primary concern is whether to take Warcaster at lvl 4 or buff my abilities.