This post ended being much much longer than I thought at first when I started it. But I was always adding new views and after a few hours it got quite gigantic. I organized the ideas so that you can pick up what you're interested in or find back some points more easily after reading the whole thing. I'll try to post better inputs on some parts of it later in separate posts if I can find some time for that.
Now let's start with the beast.
It is no news that patch 3.2 changed a lot for Holy Paladins. I have already written several posts on the topic: Patch 3.2 will change just everything ...
You can also find very good analysis of the changes on: Banana Shoulders and Holypaladin.net.
Now what did it changed for me after a few weeks of raiding? Though my experience is limited to Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader 10-Man, I think it is enough to see the big changes that 3.2 brought us.
At first I was very worried with the mana regen nerfs, and for a good reason, I was right. But in the end patch 3.2 gave us so much that I'm not complaining at all, as long as you can adapt to a new style. Let me explain my views, and then talk about gameplay changes.
What changed with 3.2 and how does it impact us?
First big mana & mana regen nerf, Divine Intellect was nerfed from 15 to 10% (about 5% total mana loss) and Illumination was nerfed from 60% to 30% regained from the mana cost of the spell that crits (second nerf it was 100% before WotLK). You can also add the small nerf to Replenishment affecting all mana users. On paper a severe nerf to our mana and regen, and in the game too. Depending on how you played, it will affect you more than others. I had an intellect & crit build so it had a strong impact on my regen and I use Holy Lights much more carefully now while I was sometimes "splash raid healing" with the glyph before, which was an obvious overshot but affordable.
Second change of Beacon of Light and addition of a hot to Sacred Shield, Beacon of Light now works with overhealing and has a 60m range, and if you cast a Flash Light on the target of your Sacred Shield it will gain a hot. The Sacred Shield hot is fine, it is not strong, but it is free, doesn't really cost you any global cooldown (though you have to recast a direct Flash Light on your tank here and there) and helps with maintaining a constant healing influx to your tank (the obvious target of your Sacred Shield). Now the real big boy here is the change to Beacon of Light. It was useful before, and helped you to do a bit of raid healing while still covering your tank. It is now very powerful and allows you to become a full (or nearly) raid healer while at the same time being as reactive as before on your tank and able to land one of these life-saving healing bombs at all time. I'm explaining more clearly that in the next paragraph.
Beacon of Light is your new best friend.
The job of a main tank healer is to always be able to react quickly and do his best to save his tank if a damage spike occurs, which you all know is very common in WotLK. Beacon of Light was created to allow you to do some healing on other members of your raid while still healing your tank, *but* you had to retarget your tank in case of damage spike as any overhealing done was not sent to the Beacon (and hence there was no way to heal your tank for 15K but to target him, unless another member of the raid was also injured for at least 15K, and in a 30m range from your tank). This meant some heavy macro building, using right click to target your focused main tank for example. Or some target change delay, and delay is bad when it's an urgency.
Now all overhealing is also transferred and the range is 60m. You don't have to retarget your tank anymore for this 15K healing bomb, and you can even do it while being too far to even be able to target him, by targeting a member of your raid between you and him.
This is such a strong change that I'd say I'm enjoying raid healing again, it's not any more complex than before (even probably easier if you're following the tips I'm giving later on) but you have much more freedom in who you heal, and it's much less frustrating in the sense you don't have to make this Cornelian dilemma of keeping the strong heals on your mt rolling or trying to help with raid healing.
New Beacon require a new gameplay.
Mostly you have to maintain 4 effects at all time now. Before patch 3.2, depending on who you were healing, the Beacon was not always mandatory, and the Sacred Shield hot didn't exist. So mostly it was only Sacred Shield on your tank & Judgement of Light/Wisdom for your raid. Now a Holy Paladin not using Beacon of Light at *all* times is just a dreadful dumb monkey :P It is just too strong to not be used at all times, unless, perhaps, you're completely sure that only the mt will take damage as in some old vanilla boss fights.
So what do you have to maintain? Beacon of Light (B) on your tank, Judgement of Light/Wisdom (J) on the main raid target (if possible each 20s for the raid heal), Sacred Shield (S) on your main healing target (not necessarily the main tank, I will give an example of that), and the Flash of Light hot (F) on your Sacred Shield target. It requires more attention than before and I strongly advise you to use an add-on to track these 4 mandatory effects that I will name the BSFJ effects.
Gameplay by examples.
As nothing is better than examples, I'll give you what I see as the two gameplay configurations we have now, depending on the boss encounter. As you could guess, I assume that as a Holy Paladin you are assigned to tank healing.
So let's take these examples, the two first beasts of the Northern Beasts trio from Trial of the Crusader.
Gormok the Impaler
This is what I call a single tank situation, it can still require tank switching but at any given time there is only one tank.
Focus you tank (use a focus macro with a shortcut to help if there is some tank switching) and keep at all time Beacon of Light and Sacred Shield on him. When the Flash of Light hot goes down, recast a Flash of Light on the tank. Keep the Jugement of Light/Wisdom up on the boss. And now all you have to do is heal the raid and keep the BSFJ effects up.
The two Jormungars
This is what I consider as a 2 tanks situation (if more than 2 tanks are required, you'll need another Paladin buddy to cover the 3rd tank and helps you on the MT), at any given time at least 2 tanks are taking strong damage, one being the MT usually taking more damage.
The idea is to heal both tanks at the same time, using the Beacon. It was possible before, but it's way more effective now. Cast the beacon on the one you are not assigned to as main healer, and the Sacred Shield on the one you will be targeting most of the time (to maximize the Flash of Light hot uptime). Then cast Judgement of Light/Wisdom on the boss and maintain a regular influx of Flash of Light on your target (with the occasional Holy Light if him or your BoL target needs it).
You're set for double tank healing, and with some training and getting used to it you can mostly heal the two tanks from this encounter alone in 10-Man.
But what about mana regen now?
If you follow the gameplay guidelines I've given earlier, you will see that your tank (which should be your main target during a raid) is receiving a strong and regular flux of healing even if you're mostly casting only Flash of Light on the raid. This is a strong change from before, and means that you should be using less Holy Lights (at least in 10-Man, the boss damage being lower).
But even with a more sporadic use of Holy Light you'll see your mana going down, especially as you should be recasting Beacon of Light for sure each 30s now (I'll have to do the math on the BoL glyph as concerning mana efficiency).
As for myself I went back to the Glyph of Seal of Wisdom (5% healing cost reduction) instead of the Glyph of Seal of Light, and I'm using strong mana regen trinkets and meta-gem. I'm still using my int/crit gear and spec, and it still do the job, I have to use mana potions much more often though, and Divine Plea for these 25% mana as often as I can.
My observation from raiding is that we still have a good lasting power, but we need to be much more cautious with our mana. With my two trinkets () and meta-gem (Insightful Earthsiege Diamond) I can regain more than 2000 mana each 50s (du to the trinkets hidden 45s cooldowns), to which I can probably add about 3000 mana each minute (?) from Divine Plea (I rarely can use it for its full duration but I try to use it each time it's out of cooldown). That's about 5 to 6K mana/minute, not bad without counting any mp5 or spirit (haha).
Minimum Mana Use and Healing Lasting Power
Let us give a look to mana costs now. Just to maintain your BSFJ effects during a minute, you have to cast (with a base mana of 4394 for a lvl 80 paladin):
2 Beacon of Light (35% of base mana),
2 Sacred Shield (12% of base mana),
5 Flash of Light (8% of base mana),
and 3 Judgement of Light (5% of base mana)
That gives you a minimum mana cost of about 6240 mana with 2 Flash of Light counted as a critical (40% crit).
So, just to keep up with the spells you need up at all time you will have a MMU per minute of 6240. Divide your total mana by that and you know how much you can last at the theoric maximum (don't be frightened but now you can see how much mana regen we need).
Now to maintain a regular Flash of Light casting, with 40% critical and 1.5s casting time you'll need to cast 20 Flash of Light per minute, which would cost you about 20 * (3/5*1+2/5*0.7) *352 = 6196 mana per minute.
Add this MMU to the FoL spam cost and you have a rough idea of your mana cost in a raid boss fight. Now calculate your mana regen as I did before, and add in your mp5 (and replenishement if you are sure to have it). Reduce your mana cost by your mana regen each minute, and divide your total mana by that. You will have a rough idea of your mana durability in a boss fight.
Ok this is not easy calculus and you don't really have to do it, but keep in mind that you'll use around 12.5K mana per minute probably half your mana if you have an average gear. Yes mana regen will hurt and you'll have to take it into account much more than before.
And for next time
In my next post I will discuss about healing macros and how they can really change your raiding experience as a Holy Paladin. Being more reactive, keeping up your multiple effects more regularly, avoiding wrong targeting when recasting Beacon of Light (which can be really deadly now) ... all of these can strongly change with macros.
If you want more inputs on healing post patch 3.2, you can read the guide on Holypaladin.net, it is full of gear & gemming information.