I think it will come as no surprise, at least to those that can read tea leaves, that Paladin healing changes are on the horizon. Right now things are just being 'evaluated', but I have to guess that we're going to see a fairly significant shift come 3.2.
What others are saying
I have to tip my hat to Ferraro, she's a smart lady and obviously a great Paladin. In a recent post she talks about the itemization on healing plate in Ulduar, and points out some logical flaws in the thinking behind it. I have to agree with her, at least until the next expansion, that the gear is poorly set up. I actually traded out my Tier 8 chest for some cloth robes off Kologarn last night (don't ask me why the priests/mages all passed) because they were a solid upgrade for some encounters.
Ghostcrawler has come out saying that Illumination may be too good. For those that were healing before the big nerf in BC, this is troubling news. He does list off some possible changes, such as basing Illumination off mp5, or replenishment off ooc mana regen, but I don't really like those changes. The impacts will have reachings far past the healing community, as I'm fairly certain I don't have mp5 on my ret gear.
What I see
Right now there is probably something wrong with our healing/mana, but I really don't think it's an Illumination problem. The other day I asked the question "how do you heal" and a response was left along the lines of "say no to FoL". This bothered me, but I'll get to it in a second.
At this stage in the game (at least for us), I see many Paladins still sporting 4pc T7.5 in favor of Ulduar pieces, simply for the mana cost reduction of HL. Combined with the libram and glyph of Wisdom, it's simply too powerful for current HL spam fights. Warning, math follows.
HL is our nuke heal, and runs a whopping cost of 29% of base mana. This means at lvl 80, every HL will burn up 1275 mana per cast. If you run Glyph of Seal of Wisdom (5% mana cost reduction), 4pc T 7/7.5, and the Libram of Renewal (HL cost reduced by 113), you are cutting almost 20% off your HL cost right from the jump. Our nuke is now down to 1034 mana per cast - and it gets even better.
Illumination works off the original cost of the spell, not the final cost. On a crit HL, with the setup above, you will get back an amazing 765 mana per crit - lowering your final overall cost of HL to 269 mana. Compared to the 308 mana cost on a non crit FoL (123 mana cost on a crit) and you can see why HL spam is so popular. Delivering up to 4x the healing (love 20k HL crits on rogues) at just double the crit cost - FoL begins to pale in comparison.
First - crit and int. They are just too damn good. Intellect is amazingly powerful, delivering a huge boost in throughput by giving us mana, spellpower, mana return (via DP and Replenishment), and crit (more mana, and bigger heals). What we're already seeing is Paladins able to stretch HL bombing out for extended periods of time, with little thought to mana conservation. I am last in line for gear upgrades in Ulduar, and even I am sporting a base 38% crit on Holy spells. Add in another 6% from Sanctified Light, raid buffs, and full auras (plus the Arcane Mage 3% crit buff - he loves me) and I'm pushing 50%+ without breaking a sweat.
Plate gear isn't even near the top of my list right now for upgrades, though since we got that elemental shaman in I've been having to pass to him now, and I'm looking at mail and leather/cloth with a serious eye. I'm concerned with two of six stats on healing gear, crit and Int, everything else is secondary. Lose 30 sp for 1% crit? Done. Lose 1% haste for 20 int? Done. My heals are bigger and last longer the more of these stats I have - and nothing is slowing me down right now.
Second - T8 bonuses are fairly lackluster when compared to T7, especially if you're doing nothing but rolling HL all day. 4 sec buff on SS vs 6 sec? This would have been really awesome if I could put it on more than one person - but 5% mana reduction edges it out. The 2 piece bonus isn't that great either, though I do love me some HoTs (15% of a crit HS applied as a 12 sec HoT). When you compare this bonus to the no ICD instant starfire 4pc for Moonkins, the no ICD AP buff for Hunters...well, you get my drift.
But what if this was all by design, and not just some developer falling on his head while working on Paladins? GC has stated many times that they like how simple Paladin healing is compared to the complexity that is Priest or maybe even Druid healing. They want a healer out there that is simple to play, while still having a decent tool-box to choose from. Our problem though is our hammer is just too good.
I think Paladins are falling into the same trap that held Shaman's in BT/Sunwell days - where they bound every key but one (Heroism/Bloodlust) to Chain Heal and just mashed the keyboard. We have our BoL (60/90 sec if glyphed), SS (30 sec), HS, FoL, and HL. Sure we have hands of xyz on two minute cooldowns, and a powerful cleanse, but those are usually discounted since they aren't direct heals. Divine Protection is nice as well, but I hate that it puts forbearance on me...
Even though I use my 4pc T8 and FoL spam for some fights, I keep my 7.5 around for fights that will require non-stop HL spamming. It's a dangerous trap we're hovering over right now - one that I'm not quite sure we can see the bottom of. They didn't put all that mp5 on our gear for nothing, but I don't know what the answer is.
Changes are coming - of that I'm sure. I don't know if it's going to be a change to Illumination or one to Replenishment, but I think Illumination is probably the one going to get hit first. What's worse is just like the Spirit nerf, this will probably affect more up and coming Pladins working to 80 and through first heroics than it will end game healers.
I may just have to run EoE for the mp5 trinket if it gets bad enough.