In a previous post I mentioned how much I like having 3 offensive abilities with 6-10s cooldowns, like the current WotLK Retribution and Protection trees have. I've been thinking about it, and my fondness for that structure and pacing has only increased. I think it would be really nice if the baseline paladin played like that.
We are a long way from the days of 15s Judgements, but still, levelling a paladin is much less interactive than any other class. I do like how paladins have a more moderate pace than rogues and warriors, but only using Judgements until level 40 is a bit too boring.
However, one of the problems with giving the baseline paladin new abilities is that when the paladin gets new abilities in the talent trees, she gets new buttons to press during combat. This leads past the sweet spot of 3 abilities, and into more warrior/rogue button-mashing territory.
Then the solution hit me. Instead of giving the paladin entirely new abilities in the talent trees, the new abilities should be upgrades and replace the baseline abilities in the paladin's rotation.
WoW doesn't use a lot of upgraded abilities. New abilities and spells are usually additive, meaning you often use them in addition to your current abilities, as opposed to instead of your current abilities. There are some replacement abilities, however. Devastate replaces Sunder Armor, Mangle replaces Claw. And there are a few when levelling. Cleanse replaces Purify.
So what I was thinking for the paladin class is that the baseline paladin gets three active combat abilities before level 12 or so:
1. Judgement. Has a 10s cooldown and is like the WotLK version.
2. A weak Strike (Holy Strike?) with a 6s cooldown.
3. A weak Cleave/melee-AoE style ability with a 10s cooldown.
This base paladin would play very similarly to the WotLK Retribution or Protection paladins, at least in terms of buttons pushed during combat.
Then as you go down the trees, you get new abilities that replace the second two baseline abilities. These abilities are tailored to the specific talent tree. Each ability would share their cooldown with the baseline ability, ensuring that the paladin would switch to the upgraded ability without changing the pacing of the class.
For example, in Retribution, the paladin would upgrade Holy Strike to Crusader Strike at level 40. At level 50, Divine Storm replaces the baseline Cleave. In some ways, each ability performs the same function as the previous ability, only tailored to the spec.
In Protection, Holy Shield replaces the Cleave, and Hammer of the Righteous would replace the Holy Strike.
In Holy, Holy Shock would replace the Strike. It's a 6s ranged strike, with a healing component. We'd need a new ability to replace the Cleave, but it would be something that hit multiple enemies and yet had a healing or ranged component to it.
The basic idea is that all the Strikes share a cooldown, and all the Cleaves share a cooldown. This way the pacing of paladin combat is maintained, the baseline gameplay isn't so boring, but each spec gets upgrades and a unique playstyle, and ends up in more or less the same position as current design.