This is a quick run down of the upcoming paladin changes in patch 2.1. I'm saving the biggest change--the change to Illumination--for another post.
"Ardent Defender" (Protection) now reduces damage taken by 6-30% when below 35% health.
Good change. It's now far more likely that Ardent Defender will actually kick in and prevent some damage. Previously, if a tank got to 20% and took a hit, it was quite likely he'd die anyways, regardless of the damage reduction.
"Avenger's Shield" no longer has a minimum range. It may be used on any target within 30 yards.
"Avenger's Shield": The damage portion of this ability will now be applied even if the victim is immune to snare.
A fairly minor buff, but useful all the same. May even make pulling after a rogue sap easier. Rogue saps, someone pulls normally, and paladin uses Avenger's Shield when the mobs reach the group. Also more useful in PvP.
"Divine Shield": This ability no longer removes or prevents the "Weakened Soul" debuff.
"Eye for an Eye": Some spells did not trigger "Eye for an Eye" correctly. That has been fixed.
Fixed some data errors that caused "Seal of Command" and "Seal of Blood" to generate more threat than intended.
"Forbearance": It is no longer possible to use a macro to gain the benefit of "Avenging Wrath" and "Divine Shield" at the same time.
"Greater Blessing of Kings": The cost for this blessing is now twice the cost of "Blessing of Kings", instead of a fixed cost of 150.
"Greater Blessing of Sanctuary 2": The range on this spell was incorrectly set to 30 yards. It has been changed to 40 yards.
"Greater Blessing of Wisdom 3": The range on this spell was incorrectly set to 30 yards. It has been changed to 40 yards.
Bugfixes. No real effect on the paladin.
"Hammer of Wrath": Rank 4, damage increased.
More HoW damage is always good.
"Improved Seal of Righteousness": The percentage increase in damage from this talent is now applied after all bonuses from items and effects which increase your spell damage.
This change makes ImpSoR actually worthwhile, especially for a Holy paladin looking to increase her damage without getting Seal of Command. I'm not really sure that a tank would get this, but it is an option.
Actually, a 10/41/10 build might be interesting. I'll have to think about this.
New Protection Talent added: "Improved Holy Shield", 2 ranks: Increases damage caused by "Holy Shield" by 10/20% and increases the number of charges of "Holy Shield" by 2/4.
Blizzard seems to be cementing our role as tanks for multiple mobs or bosses with a fast attack rate. I think many paladins would have preferred our block rate to increase by 10/20% rather than damage (to make us uncrushable). But on the whole, this is a nice buff.
"One-Handed Weapon Specialization"(Protection): Now increases all damage caused by the paladin by 1-5% while a one-handed weapon is equipped.
Decreases the extra damage from auto-attack and Seals, but increases the damage from Holy Shield, Consecration and Judgments. I'm inclined to call this one a wash, maybe even a slight buff.
"Sanctity Aura" now increases all damage caused by affected targets by 1/2% and no longer increases healing done to affected targets.
This is interesting. It boosts Ret paladin damage by 2%, and gets her put into a DPS group instead of a tank group. I'm not sure that this will be enough to really make Retribution raid-viable, but will be interesting to watch.
"Seal of Blood": This seal will no longer cause additional chances for weapon procs to trigger.
"Seal of Righteousness": This seal will no longer cause additional chances for weapon procs to trigger.
"Seal of the Crusader": The rank 7 tooltip has been fixed to read the same as other ranks of this spell.
"Spiritual Attunement": First-aid generated healing will no longer trigger this ability. However, "Lifebloom", "Earth Shield", and "Improved Leader of the Pack" will now trigger it correctly. The tooltip has been adjusted to indicate it only works on healing from spells. It will also now work correctly when you are mounted or sitting.
"Spiritual Attunement": Mana is no longer healed if the paladin is at full health.
As predicted, the extra synergy between Holy Paladins and Shadow priests is nerfed. This makes SA pretty much a pure tanking ability, which is what it is intended to be.
"Stoicism" (Protection) should now properly affect all magic effects cast by the Paladin and no longer applies double its intended benefit to "Blessing of Might" and "Blessing of Wisdom".
"Vengeance" (Retribution) now increases Holy and Physical damage by 1/2/3/4/5% for 15 seconds following a critical hit, but the effect now stacks up to 3 times.
A nerf for our burst dps, but a boost for our sustained dps. Early reports from the test server say the Vengeance stack is refreshed each time you crit. It shouldn't be hard for a moderately-geared Retribution paladin to ramp up to perma-Vengeance. Another boost for the raiding paladin.
Vindicator Aesom at Blood Watch will now correctly train a full range of paladin spells.
Good for him.
As well, the effect of glancing blows will be reduced, which is another buff to paladins who melee.
So, in conclusion, we mostly have moderate buffs to Protection and Retribution, with a small nerf to Holy paladins. Not counting the Illumination change, I would say that this would be a decent patch from the paladin point of view.
The Illumination change, though, is far more complex, and so I'll save that discussion for another time.