The Holy Shock nerf is minor
I should probably admit now that the Holy Shock nerf isn't as big as I originally thought it was. It's not actually a 30% cut to its healing, only a 30% nerf to its base healing. When Holy Shock's base healing in Wrath is only 2,500 life, and we're seeing crits for 10,000 on a regular basis, it's clear that most of the spell's potency is coming from our spellpower. As spellpower continues to scale higher and higher in Cataclysm, I don't see a nerf to the base value as being very important. It will actually affect low-level holy paladins the most, although I haven't had the opportunity to level as holy on a beta server yet.
One holy power point per cast
Tower of Radiance is a very interesting talent, in that it rewards us for doing something atypical: healing the target of our Beacon of Light. Due to its unique nature, it's also had several balance issues in its earlier incarnations, with the most recent beta build completely removing anything interesting from the talent. Previously, we could use our holy power release, Word of Glory, on a Beaconed target, which would generate a holy power point, which we could then recycle into another Word of Glory. The cycle could repeat itself indefinitely, and obviously there were problems with that. Blizzard quickly removed Word of Glory from the list of spells that triggered Tower of Radiance.
Holy Shock generates a HPP on its own, and when used on our Beaconed target, Tower of Radiance would grant us an extra HPP. I thought this was a fairly interesting and dynamic mechanic, since we could choose to heal suboptimically in order to quickly boost our HPP in a time of need. Having choices is an important part in making a class fun to play, and removing the interaction between Holy Shock and Tower of Radiance seems pretty negative to me.
Holy Shock's cooldown still regulates our total holy power generation, and I can't really figure out how an extra HPP every now and then was game-breaking. Ghostcrawler, the lead systems designer, submits that too many paladins were simply using Holy Shock and Word of Glory to do all of their heavy lifting. If a tank only needs two weak heals in six seconds, then pretty much any combination of spells are going to do the job. We could cast two Holy Lights or two Divine Lights in the same amount of time, which is actually the better solution since then our instant casts are available for movement and reactive healing. We'll see if this change stays in place, although I hope that we see this one reversed.
It's all intellect's fault, again
Divine Plea scales with our maximum mana, and so it was nerfed into the ground. Seal of Insight previously scaled with our maximum mana, but no longer does. Illumination's mana returns previously scaled with critical strike chance, and now we're certain that the talent is gone completely. Are you seeing a trend? Holy paladins have been stacking intellect for years while abusing Holy Light's massive throughput. That paradigm needs to go, and Blizzard is ensuring that it's DOA by Cataclysm's launch.
With intellect and critical strike chance no longer pouring mana into our blue bars, what are our options? Spirit. If all of our "maximum mana" returns remained in place, intellect would be the same runaway stat it is today, except that it would also be increasing our throughput. In order to truly create a separation between throughput and longevity, Blizzard needed to destroy any regeneration based on intellect. I think that they've accomplished that goal, as we're basically down to a gutted Divine Plea and Seal of Insight for mana regeneration abilities. Spirit is going to be necessary for us, and there's no way around it.
Rather than have holy paladins spend the first few months of Cataclysm try to find a way to extend the reign of Wrath's healing dynamics, Blizzard simply executed every ability that supported that playstyle. We're moving into brand new territory, and we've got to be willing to accept that we need to actually pick up regeneration stats on gear and that running out of mana shouldn't only be a monthly occurrence. It's hard for me to wrap my head around it, but we're not really going to have a choice. Either we adapt to this paradigm by balancing our gear to pick up both longevity and throughput stats, or people start dying. You don't need me to tell you that when a group wipes, blame goes to the healer first. Let's do our best to not let them be right.
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.