I think that holy paladins have been pretty blessed this expansion, pun definitely intended. Our holy tree has been very solid throughout Wrath, and we've even got a few flex talents that we can use to pick up Improved Lay on Hands or even Blessed Hands. Our massive healing throughput has also made us one of the healers of choice for Anub'arak and the Lich King on heroic mode and even for bugging out Yogg-Saron's heroic mode, as well. Our progression throughout Northrend has settled holy paladins into a pretty comfy healing niche. Even with all of the development our class has seen in the past few months, a few questions still remain.
For example, why are we still using the item level 200 Libram of Renewal instead of one of the shiny new librams from the Emblem of Frost vendor? The reason is that our old libram is too strong, and our new librams are poorly designed. Specifically, the Libram of Blinding Light just doesn't mesh well with our playstyle. It forces us to use Holy Shock on a regular basis to keep it active and only provides extra spellpower. Of all the stats possible, spellpower is probably the one that holy paladins need the least of. What can Blizzard do to get things right the next time around?
Librams are now stat-sticks
We've learned that our pseudo-ranged-slot items, librams, will no longer provide class-specific benefits in Cataclysm, as they have in the past. Instead, they'll just be stat-sticks, like ranged weapons are for warriors or melee weapons on a hunter. This should help reduce our desire to stick with a weaker libram, as it's going to be incredibly simple for Blizzard to simply make a better version of that libram, which we'll instantly desire. It will also help Blizzard balance stats with caps, as paladins and death knights were previously unable to do any min-maxing with their relics, while warriors could.
Moving to a stat-specific scaling system makes more sense in the long run. It may have been nice to have some flavor in our librams, but for the most part, they were a failure. Holy paladins used one libram for the entirety of Wrath, unless we were in the arena; retribution paladins simply saw a minor strength boost with each new tier. When every class' stats are similarly distributed, balancing those classes is much easier and can help ensure that scaling is set up properly for the future.
Illumination isn't dead yet
I was going over a few World of Logs parses from some recent raids, and I noticed something interesting. On several fights, I'm regenerating more mana from Illumination than from any other source, even Replenishment. As my group gets more and more disciplined and takes less and less damage, I end up not having to use Divine Plea as often. Even on fights when I'm using Divine Plea as often as possible, Illumination still makes up a significant portion of my mana regeneration.
There used to be a time when critical strike rating was the ultimate holy paladin mana regeneration stat and Soul of the Dead was absolutely tops. Times have changed, and critical strike is now below both haste and mana per 5 seconds in terms of value for us. That doesn't mean that we're not critting at all, and we can't avoid having some crit on our gear. This is especially true for the top tier of raiders, as there is nearly no mail or plate gear itemized with haste and MP5 at the ilvl 277 level. We're stuck using haste/crit mixes on any gear we want to be ilvl 277, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Crit is a mix between a throughput stat and a regeneration stat. It's not the best at either; it's certainly not terrible, either. I've actually been enjoying picking up more critical strike rating, and I've noticed my Glyph of Holy Light splashes onto the melee have increased significantly as I trade MP5 for crit on top ilvl gear.
We need more than one dress
While there's only one fight in the game currently that requires holy paladins to use their full throughput (Valithria), Cataclysm will destroy that paradigm. We may keep a set of gear featuring critical strike rating and spirit for lengthy encounters and a set of haste and mastery gear to handle situations when throughput is of the utmost importance. Our massive throughput at the moment basically precludes us from caring about spellpower or critical strike rating, but our single-target HPS has been significantly reduced in Cataclysm.
Area-of-effect heals also encourage us to diversify our toolbox. As a general rule, AoE spells are the ones that benefit the most from throughput stats, as they're typically designed to only handle weaker incoming damage. Light of Dawn and Holy Radiance (the new name for Healing Hands) will both see massive benefits from additional throughput, so keeping a set of gear that focuses on throughput will help us through the more AoE-focused fights to come.
I look forward to being able to choose the right gear to help me augment the weakest part of my healing, whether that be throughput, mana regeneration or even stacking a particular stat like mastery for certain fights. We've been missing out on much of the fun of choosing gear, as intellect trinkets and gems are basically mandatory, we've been using the same libram since Naxxramas, and haste is really the only throughput stat we care about. Cataclysm will open up a level of gear diversity for holy paladins that's unheard of right now, and that's got me excited to start planning how my paladin will be geared when we go head to head with Deathwing.
The Light and How to Swing It (Holy Edition) helps holy paladins become the powerful healers we're destined to be. Learn the ropes in Holy 101. We can help you keep a tank alive, heal a raid when necessary and beat the global cooldown. Tanking is a job, DPS is a craft -- but healing is truly an art.