Three major changes were implemented for Paladins that affect all three specs in the latest Wrath Beta build. Beacon of Light was reworked, Blessing of Sanctuary was buffed, and Retribution was nerfed through changes to Blessing of Might and Judgements of the Wise. The nerfs aside, the two other changes make a significant difference in gameplay, particularly the change to Beacon of Light.
Beacon of Light
The target becomes a Beacon of Light to all targets within a 40 yard radius. Any heals you cast on those targets will also heal the Beacon for 100% of the amount healed.
The promised rework of Beacon of Light is finally here and it's absolutely amazing. It fits better with the Paladin's kit, which is -- still -- cast heals vs. HoTs and single target healing. Paladins are the best single target healers in the game and the new Beacon of Light capitalizes on that by adding a secondary target to the primary heal. It's not quite the group heal we've been asking for, but it does the job quite nicely. In fact, it's like the now retired Blessing of Light's great granddaddy for heals because when you heal the Beacon of Light's target, the heal is doubled. I don't know if that's intended or a bug because when you cast Beacon of Light on yourself, it won't work.
Here's something else... Beacon of Light can crit. At Level 75, I healed a target with a 3.1k Flash of Light crit and the Beacon of Light subsequently crit for 5.3k. That's essentially an 8.4k on a single target for a little over 200 mana. That's absolutely insane. Of course, the Beacon of Light costs 35% base mana, but the buff lasts for one minute. If you're spamming heals on the raid or even just the Main Tank with the buff, it pays for itself over time.
Of course, Beacon of Light only works off effective heals and not total heals, so healing a target at full health will result in the Beacon of Light getting healed for 0. The great thing about this talent is that it doesn't penalize Paladins for taking our eyes off the Main Tank, our usual assignment. This allows us to heal other raid members without having to worry too much about catching up heals on the Main Tank, which is often the case during encounters where the entire raid gets damaged.
Group heals? Not quite, but close. It will take some getting used to, perhaps setting the Beacon of Light's target as your focus in order to keep tabs on their life to see if they need direct -- or double -- healing. It's an awesome spell with more flexibility that the old HoT version, offering group utility while maintaining the Paladin's phenomenal burst healing. It may be too early to celebrate, but right now, it looks like Paladins have finally been given a worthy 51-point talent for the Holy tree.
Blessing of Sanctuary
Places a Blessing on the friendly target, reducing damage taken from all sources by 3% for 10 min. In addition, when the target blocks, parries, or dodges a melee attack the target will gain 10 rage, 20 runic power, or 2% of maximum mana.
The current version of Blessing of Sanctuary merely deals additional damage with every block... a Blessing so unattractive that it's only ever applied when all other Blessings were covered. [EDIT: The 3% damage reduction is an effective nerf for AoE tanking, as the flat 80 damage reduction was better for smaller, faster hits.] It is a talent most tanks pick up simply because it's on the way to Holy Shield. It generates additional threat, sure, but threat generation was never the big problem for for Tankadins. More often than not, the problem is mana. Being able to tank a lot of mobs is cool and all, but having to drink after almost every pull most definitely is not.
The one mechanic for mana regeneration is the baseline Spiritual Attunement... a weak source of mana regeneration that relies on two things: getting damaged and getting healed by another player. It also scales inversely with a tank's gear. Blessing of Sanctuary changes all that. In fact, it's a Blessing so good that it might even replace Blessing of Kings as the Blessing of choice for tanks.
The new version scales with gear. The better a tank's avoidance and mitigation, the better returns from this Blessing. With no visible hidden cooldown, it's possible to generate ludicrous amounts of mana (or rage or runic power) throughout an encounter. It's also now a great utility blessing for raids, so useful to all tanking classes that people will actually ask for it now. With this change, the Protection tree will receive two of the best Blessings available.
Judgements of the Wise
Your Judgement spells have a 33/66/100% chance to grant up to 10 party or raid members mana regeneration equal to 0.5% of their maximum mana per second.
If you aren't in Beta, then you won't feel the pain of this change so much. But everywhere there is the collective cry of Retribution Paladins in anguish. The old -- admittedly ridiculous -- version returned 60% of damage dealt on a Judgement as mana. It was insane and was certain to get hit by the nerf bat, but it solved one of our biggest problems -- mana management.
The new Replenishment buff, which lasts 15 seconds, is an extremely poor substitute. Sure, you can keep it up indefinitely, but the mana regeneration is mediocre. Furthermore, because it's % of maximum mana, it benefits those with larger mana pools. Obviously, Retribution Paladins don't have large mana pools and we actually get worse returns from this. That's just wrong. The problem is that Replenishment doesn't scale at all. Bringing a terribly geared Retribution Paladin (or Hunter or Priest) to the raid will net exactly the same mana regeneration as a well-geared one. It's a pretty stupid concept.
Because Replenishment is static, it doesn't take advantage of all the talents in the Retribution tree geared towards Judgement crits and damage unlike the old Judgements of the Wise. The change is meant to put Retribution Paladins in parity with Shadow Priests and Survival Hunters as mana batteries. An understandable concern, but this means that a raid's mana replenishment remains static even though its collective strength grows over time. Mana regeneration needs to scale, it's as simple as that. The dynamic between the old Judgements of the Wise and other Judgement talents was very good, even though the numbers were admittedly too high.
There are other changes, such as the nerf to Improved Blessing of Might that evens out because they improved the baseline spell. It's essentially back to the live realms' status quo but with a better Blessing overall. Protection gets great love from Blizzard as Shield Specialization now increases Block Value instead of just damage absorbed and Toughness now works exactly like the Shaman talent by also reducing movement impairing effects. Required PvP talent? Almost certainly.
While the changes are few, the three major changes have a profound impact on the class. Both Holy and Protection look extremely viable and fun to play, with the new spells looking very strong. Blessing of Sanctuary will no longer be a last option but even a primary one for tanks in raids. The big loser in this build is Retribution, which had its most promising raid utility spell nerfed to mediocrity. Despite the last disheartening change, I'm confident that Blizzard is taking baby steps in the right direction for the class.