So by now you've probably seen the preview of the 3.1 class changes. I'm not going to pretend I understand any of the other classes, but I do want to comment on the Paladin changes.
In case you haven't read them yet here they are.
Blessing of Kings – this spell is now a base ability trainable by all paladins.
Thus shall end the great 'Who will spec Kings' debate.
It's possible only the 1 point Kings is trainable (Increases all stats by 2%), and that the Improved Kings (4 additional points to get you up to the well known 10% to all stats) is still in the Prot Tree. Of course, the entire Kings (10%) could be trainable as well, we won't know until we see the new trees and the PTR is up.
So this will free up anywhere from 1 to 5 points in my build.
This was probably a balancing decision for the Devs. Do you assume Kings is available to the raid or not? If you balance the encounter that Kings is available, then it's harder for groups that don't have Kings. But if you balance the encounter not assuming the group has Kings it become much easier for groups that do. So the choice appears to be that the Devs will assume your groups has Kings. 1 Paladin who can fulfill any role in your group is not too much to ask.
Exorcism – this spell now causes damage to all types of enemy targets. However, it always critical strikes undead or demon targets. This change should make sure paladin damage doesn’t drop when going from Naxxramas to later tiers of content.
This is interesting. We won't have to worry about our threat generation being adversely affected by moving up to Ulduar, but I don't think Exorcism is a big part of my rotation right now even on Undead/Demon. I'd much rather get Shield of Righteousness or Hammer of the Righteousness or Judgment back on cooldown than fire off an Exorcism. It is a great pulling tool and with a guaranteed crit on Undead, it will produce some nice burst threat.
Now we have the Glyph of Exorcism with adds an interrupt to the spell. Will that Glyph remain as is? If that is true, Paladins will have a 20 ranged interrupt. This would be fantastic for trying to get a spell caster to come to melee to get a little Hammer of the Righteous loving. The situation that immediately pops to mind is Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle.
This also give Holy another attack to use when soloing and they can use all the help they can get in that regard.
One issue I could see with this is that it gives Retribution even more burst in PVP. It's another instant to use and can go right into their rotation. Add in the fact it crits on Undead and you've got a Death Knight pet killer.
Shield of the Templar now causes your Avenger’s Shield and Shield of the Righteousness to silence targets for 3 sec. The old damage bonus of this talent has been folded into Holy Shield,
Avenger’s Shield, and Shield of the Righteousness.
First of all I'm going to assume that the 3% Damage Reduction is staying in place on Shield of the Templar. With the old damage increase being rolled in, this will again increase the DPS a Holy Paladin can do while solo if they use Shield of Righteousness.
In addition to the damage we used to get from this talent, we now get a silence on Avenger's Shield and Shield of Righteousness. This makes Avenger's Shield an even better pulling tool than it already was, and it means I won't have to fiddle with trying to Line of Sight casters nearly as much. If this goes through, I would like for Blizzard to remove the Daze affect currently on Avenger's Shield.
This also has some interesting PVP applications. Prot Paladins would have a 3 second silence on a 6 second cooldown. That would help immensely when fighting casters. Could Protection Paladins actually be able to PVP?
What I envision is on a 5s and possible even a 3s team, your Protection Paladin becomes the Healer Harasser. His job would be to keep the healer interrupted, stunned, silenced and basically shut down. He can't really kill the Healer, but then again, it's going to be very hard to kill him, and he's basically CCing the Healer the whole time.
It will also make Protection Paladin that much better at what we already do well in PVP (running flags, guarding points, etc).
I have to say that I'm rather excited about the possibility to be able to be competitive at PVP as Protection.
Ardent Defender, Improved Hammer of Justice, One-Handed Weapon Specialization and more have had their ranks reduced.
It looks like Protection Paladins will have some more points to spread around. You could go deeper into Holy for a offheal/offtank type build or deeper into Ret to squeeze out a bit more damage.
Guarded by the Light – no longer reduces the mana cost of shield spells, but now has a 50/100% chance to refresh Divine Plea duration.
This change has to be taken in context with what Blizzard has communicated about Holy Paladins and Mana Regeneration.
Basically, we know Spiritual Attunement is going to be nerfed in some form to make Mana Regeneration a real issue for Holy. However, Spiritual Attunement is the fuel to the Protection Paladins fire. It's what powers our threat generation by refilling our mana bar. I think Blizzard realizes that the nerf they are making to Spiritual Attunement was going to really hurt Protection so this is their answer. Protection gets permanent Divine Plea.
If it works out, and I assume Blizzard has rejiggered the numbers to make it work out, it will be fine. In addition, it will really help out when soloing. Right now I find myself having to use Seal of Wisdom and Blessing of Wisdom when soloing just to keep my mana up. I play on a PVP server so I never like to see my mana below 50%. You just never know when a Druid or Rogue is about to jump you.
Judgements of the Just – now also reduces the cooldown of Hammer of Justice by 10/20 seconds and increases the duration of the Seal of Justice stun effect by 0.5/1 second.
Assuming the Improved Hammer of Justice talent stays as is, you have the possibility of getting your Hammer of Justice stun on a 10 second cooldown. It has a 1 minute base cooldown, then Improved Hammer of Justice can lower that to 30, (and that's the best any reasonable Retribution build can pull off), then Judgements of the Just lowers it 20 more seconds to 10.
Again, this has tremendous PVP implications. Every 10 seconds, I can drop a 6 second stun on you and after you come out of it I nail you with a 3 second silence. Let me state right now, I don't see that making it all the way to live.
Now let's look at it from a PVE perspective. I think that this move indicates Blizzard has designed a Boss for Ulduar with some sort of SpellOfDoom that must be interupted or it'll wipe your raid. Recall that Hammer of Justice is an interrupt on Bosses that are not stunnable. This could be a Reliquary of Souls type situation. Perhaps something like the Bat Boss in ZG where the Boss can heal itself for a huge portion of its life, and the boss has a PbAoE (point blank AoE) that pretty much precludes melee from getting close enough to do it. Maybe it's like Kael's Pyroblast, interrupt it or else you get to inspect the floor for a couple of minutes.
Of course, these aren't the full patch notes. What the Crab said was that they were going to give us a bit of a peak behind the curtain to help us understand the process a little bit. I predict this will come back to haunt them as soon as something is in blue text it's basically gospel. Blizzard has now 'promised' all these things and woe to Blizzard if they do not verily come to pass.
Ultimately, we'll have to wait for the PTR to come online to see the full changes.
Around the Web, some of the best Paladin minds are cranking out their thoughts on 3.1:
Rohan on the 3.1 changes: http://blessingofkings.blogspot.com/2009/02/upcoming-paladin-changes-in-31.html
Shia talks 3.1: http://www.bananashoulders.com/2009/02/06/mana-regen-nerf-incoming/
Josh on the 3.1 Preview: http://e4ae.blogspot.com/2009/02/speechless.html