A long-time reader/commenter/friend Kayeri recently had a dilemma; her guild asked her to do something she'd never done before. Normally a Tree, they requested that she switch her main to her Holy Paladin (as they seem to be becoming some sort of endangered species). She agreed to give it a shot, and then came to me to talk about it.
I wrote a while ago about some differences I noticed immediately when starting a Paladin after only healing with a Druid. Cast times, mobility loss, no HoTs, AoE issues...it all hit rather hard, to the point where I was stressed whenever I tried to heal on Bellbell. It was so different, and at the time, it felt weaker.
This, unfortunately, was due to me not playing to, nor understanding, its strengths.
Druids are HoT healers. Anyone spamming Nourish is almost certainly doing it wrong. We blanket raids, we roll stacks of various HoTs, we run around and hop side to side. We shift out of snares, dispells curses and poisons, and we Cyclone, on the rare occasion it is necessary. But what makes a Paladin?
Paladins are direct damage healers. Except for their HoT on targets effected by Sacred Shield, they do not have any skills that continue healing after the initial burst has landed. With a Paladin, what you get hit with is what you get. This takes a lot of habit breaking from playing a Druid. You can't just pop a heal on someone and leave them alone if they're low; their health won't continue to rise on its own.
A Paladin's strengths are in big (costly) heals and cooldowns. This class has cooldowns for everything. Increase healing. Regen Mana (at the cost of healing). Reduce Mana cost. Take damage for another. Take damage for the raid. Make another player immune to physical damage. Make yourself immune to all damage. Drop someone's threat. Remove and prevent snares. Heal to full in an instant. A sudden boost to any aura you're wearing to weather practically any elemental storm or, since it's usable while mounted, burst your entire raid from teleport pad to Gunship in six seconds.
It is very easy for people to say "All Paladins do is Holy/Flash of Light." That is the really boring, really narrow, mediocre, annotated, TL;DR, lazy version of Paladin healing. And it may seem like, wow, next to a Druid, there seem to be so few spells...
Well, that's because most of the spells aren't about directly healing, even if the ones you use for the majority of the time are.
Druids are about rolling HoTs, right? Well, then you should already be familiar with the concepts needed to maintain, and transfer, Sacred Shield and Beacon of Light to appropriate targets. They are, in application, like extended HoTs in that you do not want them to fall off. If they fall off, your tank starts taking more damage or your heals around the raid are not going to your Beacon target. I'm not sure about you, but if my HoTs ticked on the tank every time they ticked on someone else, I'd make sure that Beacon never disappeared. The same holds true for the Haste buff that comes from Judging on an enemy target. Without it, your heals are slower and less effective.
Oh yeah, and Holy Shock is like Swiftmend without the need to heal them with something else first. Very pro.
Holy Paladins are highly mana-dependent, especially when going into a Holy Light spec (this is the Holy spec that delves into the Devo tree for improved shields and the ability to absorb damage on the raid). There are very good reasons why Paladins gem as much Intellect as possible; Holy Light is expensive to "spam," and Divine Plea will restore a quarter of your mana (usually used in conjunction with Avenging Wrath to buffer the loss in healing output). Think of it like an Innervate with some penalties, and that needs to be managed well. You can also use it along with Divine Illumination, and with 2-piece T10, Divine Illumination buffers your healing as well, making it a good candidate to use in combination with Divine Plea, allowing you to stagger the cooldowns and have more options to gain mana.
Paladins should have sharp raid awareness. You should be ready to switch auras for situational damage just like you would be ready to shift forms out of a snare. People will call for a lot of things you never had to worry about before as a Tree. Freedom through ooze, Salvation for a tank on Festergut or an over-eager DPS on any fight, a Hand of Protection for a Warlock about to pull every Vengeful Fleshreaper on his face on the way through Plague Wing trash, an iceblock breaking too early on Sindragosa and needing to Aura Mastery + Ice Resist Aura through a Frost Bomb...you get the idea.
But really, until you've lived it, you don't. Druids aren't cooldown based classes at the moment, because we don't mesh well with them. Paladins do. They open their magic toolbox and throw their toys around and they have a magic toy for almost any situation. If all you are doing is spamming Holy Light, then you are doing as poorly as a Restoration Druid who only hits Rejuv or Nourish.
Remember how Resto Druids have a sort of "bastard cousin," the Dreamstate Druid? How, at one point, Dreamstate was where the hip kids were at, and then it changed?
All right, now I'm sure you've heard about Flash of Light and Holy Light Paladins. There is a difference. Astounding, I know! Flash of Light is less bastard, however, and is more the spec that is just not bad but not as good when it comes to a raiding situation. Flash of Light goes into the Ret tree instead of the Devo, upping personal crit instead of gaining a raid cooldown. They are about quick, high-hitting Flashes of Light on as many people as possible. They go for Crit gear and Spellpower gems, when a Holy Light Paladin would prefer Haste and Intellect gems.
Do you guys know that belt off of Gunship 25 man? That belt every Paladin seems reluctant to take?
It's because it sucks. You're better off with a mail belt than that thing. The Mp5 is okay (did you know Crit was devalued and Mp5 revalued for mana regen?) but the crit just destroys the belt. Most Paladins get their crit from combined haste and crit pieces; solely crit pieces are a bit of a sacrifice.
So if you've ever wondered why that belt goes for so low in your GDKP run, to an offspec Paladin at min price, it's because it's just not something that great to wear. Sure if it's a huge upgrade, you'd put it on, but it's about as great as an Intellect Trinkett with a Spellpower cooldown would be for a Druid, and looks just as pro to any Paladin who knows what they're doing.
Oh yeah, and, 2 piece T10 is awesome! 4 piece isn't worth your time; find better off pieces for the other slots.
This has been my extremely nutshell'd version of Paladin healing, with some Druid analogies and comparisons thrown in to help ease the way. I hope this helps a bit with the drastic class shock of switching between the two types of healers, for Kayeri and anyone else attempting the switch. I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments, and if I don't know the answer I'll probably just go whine to Sharlet (my mentor in the ways of Paladin'ing) until I get it.