During Cataclysm, I played a holy paladin -- and had since Burning Crusade. Having played since before dual specializations had been implemented, I tended to run holy whether I was soloing or healing in a group with a spec and gear that focused on maximizing my crit and using holy spells whether I was taking out enemies or healing allies. Before dual specs, this was just what healers did and I found it a lot easier to play as a plate-wearing holy paladin than I had as a cloth-wearing holy priest. It wasn't an optimal playstyle, but I'd never had much interest in the class's retribution spec and since I was geared for and accustomed to holy, I stuck with it.
But Cataclysm changed paladins a lot. In addition to removing the traditional talent trees from all classes, it shook up the way paladins healed a lot and added a new holy power resource their abilities needed to draw on. Logging in for the first time during Cataclysm was a shock: I no longer recognized the buttons on my button bar, I had a new resource system to figure out, and some of holy's soloing ability had been removed. I struggled for a while to relearn my class, trying to spec ret to solo as I seemed intended to. However, being geared for holy, retribution was an even worse soloing spec... not to mention that it wasn't a style of play I particularly enjoyed, so I found my way back to holy. Even soloing, slowly, as I was accustomed to, as holy grew increasingly problematic because quest rewards simply didn't offer gear for holy paladins.
The end result? I quit playing WoW
and didn't come back until we were well in to Mists of Pandaria
. And when I did, I didn't go back to that paladin that I'd played through two expansions -- I started a new as a monk, leveled to 90, spent my time questing and raiding and collecting achievements. It's only recently, during this long content drought, that I've thought much on my former life as a paladin, revisiting my long-unused character to burn through some quest achievements for Outland and Northrend that I'd never gotten close to on my new main.
The character was sitting in Hyjal, equipped with a mix of mail and leather because of a lack of plate quest rewards with intellect. Once-collected armor sets were gone because I'd abandoned the character before transmog and didn't have the bank space to keep it all. (Though, fortunately, early Cataclysm
gear didn't have the colorblind clown look of early Burning Crusade
gear.) I'd missed playing this character, and especially missed the feeling of invulnerability I'd had as a holy paladin -- though I couldn't solo quickly, the character was very difficult to kill with plate armor to soak up damage and plenty of healing to deal with damage taken. This time, I didn't even think about picking up ret: instead, I looked into how to solo with a holy build
Holy soloing still isn't exactly
something Blizzard seems to be encouraging... but there are a selection of spells, talents, and glyphs that offer you to trade off holy healing utility for holy damage utility, even though you'll go entire talent tiers with nothing of use to such build. It's never going to be a good DPS spec and once you pick up the right talents and glyphs it's not even a very good healing spec anymore. But it allows me to play the game in a way I always enjoyed playing it -- despite the fact that the game has changed quite a lot since then.
The moral of the story? Change is coming, but it's not the end of the world. If you're in the beta or reading about the beta and don't like something you see, don't panic: comment. Let Blizzard know what you think in as clear a way as possible, because the game is always changing based on player feedback. Even when changes seem big and overwhelming, many things about the game world stay the same -- and you might find yourself on the other side thinking it's not so bad after all.