Intent behind the Eternal Flame change
We’ve made some changes to Eternal Flame because we feel the talent was being overrepresented within the Holy Paladin population.
Our intent for was for Holy Paladins to pick Selfless Healer if they like to Judge, Eternal Flame if they like heal-over-time spells, and Sacred Shield if they liked damage absorb shields. As it worked out, most every Holy paladin chose Eternal Flame, and we don’t want every Holy paladin to be a heal-over-time machine. (That’s a niche best served by Restoration Druids and Holy Priests.)
We don’t think Holy Paladin’s healing throughput is too high overall (though we’ll gather more information from testing on the 5.4 PTR), so our intent is not to nerf but to reduce reliance on Eternal Flame. One of the biggest problem with Eternal Flame is the way it interacts with the Illuminated Healing mastery, which turns the heal-over-time spell into a potent shield as well. If needed, we will compensate by buffing healing elsewhere.
Our plans for now, are to revert the nerf that was done to the initial healing component of Eternal Flame, but we are unlikely to change the Illuminated Healing back to the way it was.
Regarding Sacred Shield, we tried giving the talent as a baseline ability to Protection, but we’re unhappy with that experiment and are likely to revert the change. We agree that the current (old) version of Sacred Shield is more attractive to Holy than the (new) version. We also would likely have to nerf Protection to compensate for getting Holy Shield in addition to another talent. Overall, we think the current (old) version of Sacred Shield is a better design. Perhaps we can still make Sacred Shield more attractive for Holy and Retribution, and make the other two talents (Selfless Healer, Eternal Flame) more attractive to Protection.
We understand that Selfless Healer requires a certain playstyle that not every Holy paladin will find attractive. So we want to make Eternal Flame and Sacred Shield feel like viable talent choices as well.
Mastery not benefiting from Execution Sentence or Light’s Hammer isn’t intended and probably just got caught in the change to make Eternal Flame’s heal-over-time not benefit with mastery. We will correct that.
Remember, at this early stage in the PTR, our designers’ focus are on implementation changes (mechanics) first, and tuning changes (numbers) later. Your feedback at this stage will be more helpful to be focusing on the mechanics (e.g. “I liked using hots” or “I like to Judge and wish I could use Selfless Healer more”) and less on “OMG 30% nerf.”