There's a cloud of gloom hanging over our collective Paladin heads over here at WoW Insider, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that Divine Plea still works. Even with the 50% healing penalty, Divine Plea is still a critical spell that's used without much of a second thought. Now it's just used a tiny, tiny bit less. Of course, Ghostcrawler also mentioned in his explanation of the new mana regeneration changes that they're going to nerf Spiritual Attunement for "non-tanking Paladins," too. So yes, there's that cloud.
Here's the thing, though... that change will hurt Retribution Paladins more than it will Holy Paladins. Retribution Paladins rely on the synergy of Spiritual Attunement and Seal of Blood / of the Martyr in addition to Judgements of the Wise, Replenishment, and Divine Plea. We'll probably have to see exactly what the incoming nerf looks like before we panic, but considering how Paladins have a history of getting beaten by the nerf bat, it's not an altogether rosy proposition. In fact, I think Paladins are probably going to get nerfed beyond the current Divine Plea and the future Spiritual Attunement. My thoughts after the jump.
Arenas. That's it. I predict that Paladins are going to get beaten to a pulp with the nerf bat because Paladin representation in high rated Arena play is exceptional right now. Even though Paladin representation in raids or ability to heal in raids is about on par with other classes, the fact that our survivability and fast, big heals are dominant in the Arena environment spells inevitable doom. Blizzard has a history of nerfing Paladins when they're on the rise. Remember the nerf to Blessing of Freedom? The nerf to Blessing of Sacrifice? Directly because of Arenas.
In fact, Kalgan's post back in 2007 is somewhat telling of Blizzard's attitude towards balance. He said that Paladins were "grossly over-represented" at that time, even though this was merely the beginning of Season 1. Those nerfs led to Paladins becoming the worst represented class in the 3v3 (the format of professional Arena play) months later (2nd worst in 2v2 and 2nd best in 5v5). I think Blizzard has improved a lot in their attitude and sensibilities since then, but the stigma remains.
Unless the other classes -- even at least the healing classes -- start catching up in Arena representation soon, Paladins are going to get whacked by the nerf bat. Mark my words. It will have little to do with mana regeneration, it will have little to do with raid superiority. It will have everything to do with Paladins making up a full quarter of the top classes in Arena play. Guess what? Survival Hunters make up a fifth of that. So they're going to get nerfed, too. This is part of Blizzard's struggle to keep all classes balanced in all aspects of the game. It's an impossible task, but you have to hand it to them for trying. In the meantime... panic.