The paladin is getting a significant mechanic change in Cataclysm in the form of a Holy Power mechanic, similar to rogue combo points or Shadow priest orbs. Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous, and Holy Shock build a charge of Holy Power, stacking up to three times. These charges can be released to fuel powerful abilities like Word of Glory or Inquisition. This resource is in addition to the paladin’s mana pool, not in place of it.
In terms of role, the paladin is essentially unchanged. Protection paladins are still strong AoE tanks, Retribution paladins still focus on DPS, and Holy paladins are still primarily tank healers. Due to the way talent trees
work in Cataclysm, there will be less hybridization in the past, meaning less survivability for Ret and Holy Paladins.
NEW PALADIN ABILITIES
Divine Light: A slow, expensive, large heal.
Holy Radiance: An AoE heal-over-time centered around the paladin. Good for healing packs of melee.
Guardipn of Ancient Kings: A summonable “pet” on a cooldown that grants additional abilities based on the Paladin’s specialization.
Inquisition: Consumes all Holy Power to increase damage by 30%, lasting four seconds for each charge consumed.
The Holy tree invokes the power of the Light to protect and to heal. While paladins have received two new AoE heals, they both have lengthy cooldowns, high mana costs, and prohibitive positioning requirements. For a paladin to provide adequate group healing, he’ll need to be up front, supporting the melee pack. Otherwise, the focus continues to be on tank healing and two-target healing via Beacon of Light.
Mastery (Illuminated Healing): Your healing spells place an absorb shield on your target for 8% of the amount healed, lasting six seconds. Each point of mastery increases the amount absorbed.
Protection paladins use Holy magic to shield and defend allies from attackers. The standard rotation is changing in Cataclysm, now focusing on Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous to build Holy Power.
Attacks which spend Holy Power will generate higher threat. Protection patadins also benefit from the new Vengeance mechanic for tanks, which grants increased attack power based on damage taken.
Mastery (Divine Bulwark): Increases your chance to block melee attacks by 16%. Each point of Mastery increases block chance by an additional 2%.
Righteous crusaders who judge and punish opponents with weapons and Holy magic, Retribution paladins will worry less about mana and more about Holy Power, since Retribution now plays similarly to a rogue in terms of building and spending “points!’ Abilities like Crusader Strike build Holy Power, while attacks like Templar’s Verdict and Divine Storm spend it. Good Retribution paladins will keep up the Inquisition buff as often as possible, while still building Holy Power quickly enough to fuel their most powerful abilities.
Mastery (Hand of Light): Your auto-attacks have an 8% chance to grant Hand of Light, causing your next Holy Power ability to consume no Holy Power and to cast as if three Holy Power were consumed. Each point of Mastery increases the chance by an additional 1%.
Paladin raid roles remain relatively unchanged in Cataclysm. While Holy paladins have gained a few additional tools for group healing, it remains largely a tank/healing specialization. Protection and
Retribution paladins will perform the same roles as they did in Wrath of the Lich King, though Blizzard plans on changing their rotations to be more involved with the fights.