Before the Storm - Released 12/5/2006
Alright, so this was technically the end of 2006, and not the beginning of 2007. But this patch did introduce the new talent trees of the Burning Crusade, so I feel it's worth a mention. All classes gained access to their 41 point talents... Divine Illumination, Avenger's Shield, and for Retribution paladins -- Crusader Strike. An instant melee attack with a 6 second cooldown, this turned Ret paladins from the laughing stock of battlegrounds to the deadly, unstoppable juggernauts of battlegrounds. And speaking of battlegrounds, the new honor system was also unveiled this patch, tempting millions of players with what would eventually come to be called "welfare" epics. Before the Storm also marked the beginning of the end for downranking healing spells, since lower level spells no longer received the full bonus from +healing and spelldamage gear.
Patch 2.0.3 - Released 1/9/2007
The first real patch of Burning Crusade! This patch brought a ton of changes, especially to Protection paladins. Improved Righteous Fury was altered to reduce damage taken by 6%, further increasing survivability. Improved Divine Shield was renamed Sacred Duty, and in addition to the normal cooldown reduction / removal of attack speed penalty, the talent granted another 6% stamina. This was one of the first steps towards compensating for the protection paladin's lower base health (compared to warriors and feral druids). Improved Resistance Aura was renamed Spell Warding, and now no longer tied the Paladin to a resist aura if they wanted to reduce spell damage taken.
Some other notable changes include Blessing of Might affecting ranged attack power (instead of just melee), the nerf of Crusader Strike's cooldown (now 10 seconds, up from 6) and the duration of Divine Illumination being increased to 15 seconds (from 10). The most infamous change introduced in this patch wasn't felt until people started hitting 70, and paladins found that Divine Shield, their most powerful bubble, could now not only be removed by Mass Dispel, but that the dispel effect seemed to target it specifically -- shortly after this, the forums erupted with complaints.
The Black Temple: Patch 2.1.0 - Released 5/22/2007
We've fast forwarded a few months to the opening of The Black Temple. Top raiding guilds everywhere rush to down Illidan, and even more changes sweep through WoW and the Paladin class. This patch also introduced Daily Quests, new factions, and several new mounts. Those players who had already obtained their epic flying skill for the cool price of 5000g could now continue to gain rep with the Netherwing faction and gain a Netherdrake mount for themselves after hitting Exalted.
Protection paladins gained some significant buffs with the change to Ardent Defender and the addition of Improved Holy Shield, while Holy paladins everywhere complained to anyone who would listen. Illumination, a key healing talent responsible for a healing Paladin's incredible longevity, was nerfed to only grant 60% of the mana cost of a crit heal instead of 100%.
In a change that affected not just paladins, but raiders everywhere, this patch buffed raid epics to reflect their superior status.
Voice Chat: Patch 2.2.0 - Released 9/25/2007
Voice chat finally makes it into the game, but I still don't know anyone who uses it regularly. Still, it is a worthy addition and perhaps Blizzard will expand upon it in the future. This patch mostly effected the Paladin's various Blessings.
The "tactical" blessings were all changed in some way -- Blessing of Sacrifice and Blessing of Freedom had their cooldowns increased to 1 minute and 25 seconds, respectively, while Blessing of Protection was changed so that it could no longer be cast on others while the Paladin was stunned (however, it still can be used to free yourself from a stun). In a move that pleased paladins everywhere, the duration of all other Blessings were doubled. Regular Blessings went from 5 minutes to 10, and Greater Blessings would now last for 30 minutes. Additionally, pets could now receive Greater Blessings. Hammer of Wrath, which received a damage increase to the highest rank of the spell back in Patch 2.1.0, was also given a shorter cast time (half a second) in this patch.
The Gods of Zul'Aman: Patch 2.3.0 - Released 11/13/2007
A new 10 man raid dungeon, as well as a ton of new gear purchasable with badges was added in the last major content patch of the year. Leveling improvements for levels 1-60 were introduced in this patch as well: going from 20-60 now required less experience per level, many elite creatures were removed, and level 30-60 quests now granted increased experience -- all things that up-and-coming paladins could appreciate.
Expertise was introduced to the game as a replacement for items and talents that granted increased weapon skill (each point of Expertise reduces your target's change to dodge or parry by .25%). As such, the Protection talent Weapon Expertise was changed to Combat Expertise, which not only gave Protection paladins 5 points of expertise but also increased their stamina by 10%, finally giving them as much health as their Warrior and feral Druid counterparts.
Many Retribution changes were also introduced in this patch. After almost a year with the increased cooldown, Crusader Strike's cooldown was brought back to 6 seconds. Fanaticism, a talent deep in the Ret tree, finally gave Retribution paladins the threat reduction they so sorely needed by reducing generated threat by 30%. Improved Seal of the Crusader incorporated the old Sanctified Crusader talent, while SC was replaced with Sanctified Seals, which prevents a paladin's seals from being dispelled and grants an additional 3% to crit. The duration of Vengeance was increased to 30 seconds, making it easier to keep a full stack up on a target.
In the final nerf to downranked heals, Blessing of Light was changed so that paladins using lower ranks of their healing spells had their healing bonuses properly penalized. However, it wasn't all bad for healing paladins -- this patch also changed most healing items so that they would grant about a third of their healing bonus as spelldamage, allowing all types of healers to grind and solo more easily without having to respec.
There were far too many changes in 2007 to cover them all, but what's done is done. Let's look forward, to the future. This year, we can hopefully expect Wrath of the Lich King -- but before that, we have a major content patch coming with The Sunwell: Patch 2.4.0. The Sunwell is introducing new dungeons, a new 25 man raid, new factions, and if the last year is any indicator... additional changes to all classes.
I am looking forward to this next patch and the next expansion with great anticipation -- I can't wait to see what the 51 point talents will be, and what changes are in store for paladins in 2008.