Illumination is just gone
It looks like T.S. Eliot was right; it ends with a whimper. The latest beta patch removed Illumination from the game completely, without any fanfare. The mana regeneration talent that's carried us from the very beginning, the talent that shaped our gearing choices for years, the talent which single-handedly allowed paladins to heal at all before Wrath, and it's gone. Critical strike chance was already floating towards the bottom of our preferred stats due to the massive amount of crit from talents for many of our healing spells. I don't expect for any holy paladin to choose crit gear now.
Maybe the developers didn't want there to be a dual-purpose stat, providing both throughput and regeneration. That could make sense, except they actually buffed Improved Water Shield for restoration shamans to continue doing just that. Priests get Evangelism and Archangel to help their blue bar stay full when they cast Smite, which is almost a direct mirror to Exorcism now. Illumination was replaced by talents that will have us casting Exorcism for bonus DPS, but will end up taxing our mana pool even more without any mana-return mechanic.
While nearly every sign points to Illumination being removed in the latest build of the Cataclysm beta, a fellow paladin blogger, Kurn, has found some evidence that it may still be around. While talents often stick around as "ghosts" when players have put points into them and then the talents disappear in a later build, it's also plausible that Illumination could be the missing 3rd mastery bonus for the holy tree. The only way we'll know for sure is if Blizzard clearly specifies what their intentions for Illumination are in the long-term.
Divine Plea gets wrecked
Holy paladins don't really need Illumination, do they? Illumination was only a crutch, a relic of the past. We're Wrath paladins, and we're more sophisticated than that. Our healing ancestors may have thought that Soul of the Dead was the best thing since sliced bread, but not us. We've got the answer to every mana problem that comes our way. We've got Divine Plea. Right? Nope.
Let's look at what happened to Divine Plea. Start by doubling the cooldown, effectively halving the availability and flexibility of Divine Plea. That's a pretty significant blow to Divine Plea, and a 50-percent cut would usually be enough to kill a spell. Blizzard wasn't done yet, though. On top of that, they nerfed the mana returned by 60-percent. That's right, using Divine Plea on cooldown now yields a meager 20-percent of what it would today. I can't even get my head around that. I'm trying to imagine needing to push Divine Plea five times for every time I push it today, and yet not even being able to.
Divine Plea also still has the ancient healing-reduction effect as well, which needs to go immediately. Let's not make a bad spell worse by penalizing us when we use it. Innervate restores more mana-per-minute than Divine Plea, and is usable on other players. Mana Tide Totem restores about the same mana-per-minute as Divine Plea, except that it restores it for five different people. Divine Plea went from the mana regeneration ability that everyone wishes they had, to the absolute worst mana tool in the game.
Hope is not lost
Blizzard can still turn this around. Imagine that Divine Plea's healing-reduction effect was removed, and so it was just a 15-second buff that restored mana, like Innervate. There could be a holy talent that added the old Divine Illumination effect to Divine Plea, cutting the cost of our spells while under its effects. When we need mana the most, we get an extra bit of relief. That's synergy, and that's what Divine Plea needs right now. We could time our Divine Plea windows to recast Beacon of Light, allowing good holy paladins to distinguish themselves by properly timing their abilities. Plus, considering that both Illumination and Divine Illumination were removed in Cataclysm, the name is newly available.
For our mana regeneration as a whole, we're going to be leaning on spirit and Seal of Insight to help us maintain our healing output. Ghostcrawler, Lead Systems Designer, confirmed that Seal of Insight is intended to help holy paladins with their mana issues. The fact that SoI is our strongest mana return just further cements the idea of our place as melee healers. Instead of complaining about our weaknesses, we have to focus on our strengths. With our new variety of instant heals in Cataclysm, we should have plenty of time to get a few melee swings in to restore mana. It seems like every expansion requires holy paladins to forget everything they ever knew about healing. Luckily for us, we're quick learners.
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.