Sources are saying that a new Alpha build showed up on the WoTLK Alpha servers yesterday, featuring a few interesting changes. Kalgan's promised spellpower change we have mentioned, and it now appears to be on the Alpha servers. In addition, it looks like the dev team is working on consolidating even more stats. As of the latest build, all instances of haste rating, hit rating, and critical strike rating on gear will now modify both physical attacks and spells at the same time.
This should be especially good news for Paladins and Shamans. Protection Paladins and Retribution Paladins both generally focus on getting melee hit and let spell hit fall by the wayside, but they still do need spell hit rating for a couple casted abilities and judgments -- Protection Paladins more than Retribution Paladins, these days, but the need still exists for both. Likewise, Enhancement Shamans still use Earth Shock and Flame Shock in order to crank out the most DPS possible. Since hit rating will now take care of spells and physical attacks at the same time, it should allow them to do more DPS via spell effects (or gain more threat in the case of Protection Paladins) and hit with needed crowd control and interrupt mechanics at a more reliable rate. Of course, critical strike rating will synergize nicely with shocks as well.
In addition, Kalgan's promised spellpower change has made the patch notes as well. In short, all items with spell damage and healing will receive the new spellpower stat, which will consist of one number that applies to both healing and damage spells. Pure spell damage classes and specs should notice no change to the total +damage listed on their character sheet, but healing classes and specs will notice their healing fall a bit. The coefficients on all healing spells have been adjusted in order to make up for the fall and to leave healing at the same level it was before. Some talents have been adjusted to reflect the change as well.
On the plus side, this is a good thing. With spellpower, hit, haste, and critical strike stats being more universal, more classes should be able to use more gear, meaning gear will get sharded at a much slower rate, and people can feel like they're progressing faster instead of waiting for that one drop. In addition, it should bump healer soloing and DPS ability up another notch, providing them with the full benefit of spellpower on their gear instead of the current 1/3rd of healing power.
At the same time, this might lead to quite a few struggles. If the spellpower on a robe makes it good for both healing priests and damage casters, how do you decide who gets priority? Of course, hit rating items will likely still go to damage casters, but healers may still lay claim on items with haste to speed up certain spells, or claim that spirit-heavy items should go to them for mana regeneration purposes or because of talents. Then again, that is what DKP systems are for.
Overall, this type of consolidation really seems like it should be a good thing. It will firm up gear choices for certain hybrids and casters and allow drops to have more of a chance to be useful to a raid instead of being disenchanting fodder after the first few times. I'm excited to see how it will affect itemization and gear drops in the future, and if it will end up being as big a shot in the arm for magic-and-melee hybrids as it appears to be.