However, despite the similarities on the surface, the deeper mechanisms of the classes are two completely different beasts. The Shaman's entire healing system seems to be based off of creating intuitive rhythms and flows, and adapting to the situation at hand—it works extremely well with the water theme of the Shamans' Restoration tree. The Paladin healing system, on the other hand, is an extremely forward min/maxing system. All of the "interesting" parts are designed to maximize the strengths of each individual spell while mostly ignoring the weaknesses. Take Infusion of Light for example—it currently makes our fast heal, Flash of Light, even faster, and our big heal, Holy Light, even bigger. In Patch 3.3, it will also make our damage stabilization spell, Sacred Shield, provide more stability via Flash of Light HoT (technically, the base spell is being nerfed and Infusion of Light is being updated to un-nerf it for Holy, but that's besides the point).
There's very little in the Paladin Holy tree that encourages making use of the entire toolkit. Sure, Holy Shock (with Infusion of Light) encourages using Flash of Light or Holy Light, but that's not really much of a choice due to Holy Shock's cooldown. Flash of Light does nothing to encourage use of Holy Light, and vice versa, which has resulted in the current Paladin strategy of just picking one spell between the two primary heals, gearing to maximize it's potency, and then spamming it as long as possible. Holy Light builds are generally built around the idea of being able to cast as many Holy Lights as possible—the occasional Flash of Lights mixed in is simply a necessary evil required to not empty one's mana reserves too quickly. Flash of Light builds are designed to make Flash of Lights hit as hard as Paladinly possible, and the occasional Holy Lights are simply a necessary evil when Flash of Light simply does not have sufficient throughput (which is pretty much all the time nowadays). Beacon of Light and Sacred Shield add very little to the equation (in terms of interactivity/fun)—in practice they're just abilities that require maintenance every 30-90 seconds, depending on talent specs and glyphs.
What I'd really like to see in Cataclysm is a series of changes to the Paladin Holy tree that is designed to make Paladin heals synergize with each other rather than compete with each other (hopefully in amusing off-the-wall ways). The Flash of Light portion of Infusion of Light is definitely good in this respect, but so much more can be done to encourage the Paladin to use the entire healing arsenal available. For example:
- Update the Holy Light portion of Infusion of Light into something more fun. While crits are usually fun, a slightly higher chance to crit is completely lackluster—how can you tell if even helped you on any individual cast? Instead, make it something that's not only useful, but also noticiable. Perhaps a chance for your next Holy Light cast to trigger a bonus Illumination effect. Heck, even an uninspired and boring "makes your next Holy Light spell heal for 5% more" has a tangible impact on healing, as compared to the current effect.
- Make Flash of Light do something beneficial for Holy Shock and/or Holy Light. Perhaps give it a chance to trigger a buff that adds a HoT/shield/increased heal effect to the next Holy Shock or Holy Light cast. Maybe the buff could be stackable and the number of stacks determines the strength of the effect (say, for sake of example 3/6/10% of a Holy Light or 10/20/30% of a Holy Shock).
- Give Sacred Shield some interaction with Holy Light. One idea would be to allow a Holy Light crit on a target with Sacred Shield splash mini-bubbles on nearby targets, thereby encouraging the Paladin to Flash of Light those targets to leave behind lots of HoTs. Another idea would be to give a Holy Light cast on a target that has Sacred Shield to energize the next bubble, allowing it to absorb more damage than it would be able to normally.
- Similarly, allow Sacred Shield and Holy Shock to interact. For example, allow Holy Shock to "pop the bubble" causing the current or next Sacred Shield proc to instantly heal the target for its absorption amount, rather than (or in addition to) its normal effect. Or maybe let it bounce a copy of a Sacred Shield bubble onto the lowest health party or raid member within 40 yards.
- Finally, allow Holy Light to help out Holy Shock and/or Flash of Light. One possibility would be to let a Holy Light crit finish the current (or prevent the next) Holy Shock cooldown, and/or to increase the spell power coefficient of the next Flash of Light cast but with a corresponding increase in mana cost.
Ultimately, the goal would be to create a dynamic system that has a great deal of complexity, but is relatively simple to just jump into and play around and experiment with. In other words, the idea is to make healing on a World of Warcraft Paladin akin to fighting on a Diablo 3 Monk.