Test Realm Patch notes are available. There's lots of changes, so I'll take them one section at a time.
Sometimes I feel that no one at Blizzard plays a paladin. Then I see patch notes like these and I know that no one plays a paladin. These are the changes which effect Holy Paladins.
- Mana Regeneration: All items that provide "X mana per five seconds" have had the amount of mana they regenerate increased by approximately 25%.
- Replenishment: This buff now grants 1% of the target's maximum mana over 5 seconds instead of 0.25% per second. This applies to all 5 sources of Replenishment (Vampiric Touch, Judgements of the Wise, Hunting Party, Enduring Winter Frostbolts and Soul Leech).
- Lay on Hands: The buff from this ability now reduces the physical damage taken by the target by 10/20% instead of increasing the target's armor. (I assume this is Improved Lay on Hands)
- Sacred Shield: When a paladin casts Flash of Light on a target with this buff, they also now place a heal over time effect on the target, healing that target for 100% of the Flash of Light amount over 12 seconds.
- Judgement of Light: Now heals for 2% of the attacker's maximum health instead of a variable amount based on the spell power and attack power of the judging paladin.
- Beacon of Light: The healing amount on the Beacon of Light target is now based on the total healing done (including over-healing) instead of the effective healing done. Radius increased to 60 yards. Multiple Paladins can now have this active on the same target. Buff indicating a player is within range of the Beacon target is no longer displayed.
- Divine Intellect: This talent now gives 2/4/6/8/10% increased intellect instead of 3/6/9/12/15%.
- Illumination: This talent now returns 30% of the mana cost of the spell instead of 60%.
Major reductions in mana regeneration. Our regeneration from critical heals is halved. There is about a 20% nerf in regen from Replenishment and the change to Divine Intellect. We do get an increase in effectiveness from mp5. On the whole, mana conservation and controlling overhealing will become a lot more important. I don't think that Holy Light will be able to be used as heavily as before.
However, I think this is a good thing. I called for Illumination for Holy Light to be cut to 30% back in December. We've been ignoring mana for too long, and it will be good to have to consider it once again.
Beacon of Light
First, let's get one thing straight: This is a complete buff for paladins. The new Beacon effectively doubles paladin throughput.
However, it's also a terribly stupid idea which doesn't actually solve any problems that paladins were facing.
In my experience, the fights where I feel the most constrained as a paladin are fights like Mimron Phase 2 or XT's Tantrum. Fights with a lot of raid-wide damage. The new Beacon does not really change much for these fights. It also doesn't change much for the 3rd or 4th paladin healer in a raid. Those paladins are still useless and can't really contribute. Tank healing is already been taken care of by the first couple paladins. I know that having 3-4 paladin healers is not ideal, but it is a much worse position than having 3-4 of any other class.
Second, it changes the dynamic between healer and tank. Paladins will be tank healers who never, ever cast heals on the tank. We heal the tank by not healing the tank. Even if everyone else in the raid is at full health, it is better to cast a heal on a random DPS than it is to cast it on the tank.
This is just wrong. I like casting heals on the tank. I think that going from spamming heals on the tank to spamming heals on everyone but the tank is just stupid, and not in line with what a healer should be doing.
Honestly, I don't see how Blizzard can manage to miss the mark so completely. We're fine as tank healers. Our problem comes when when the tanks are already being taken care of by others. If that ever happens, our usefulness goes to zero. The new Beacon does nothing to rectify that situation.
The other changes are pretty decent. Imp Lay on Hands gives another cooldown that's useful all the time. The new Flash of Light/Sacred Shield interaction adds some more ablation on the tank, while still preserving the doubled throughput. Judgement of Light is reigned in, and now will probably be cast by Holy paladins, allowing the Rets to maintain full Wisdom uptime. All good tweaks.
Mana regen changes hurt but are necessary. Beacon changes are a buff, but are stupid and miss the mark. The other small tweaks are good.