With 5.4 right around the corner, I would suggest against a paladin at the moment if you have any other healer you're interested in. Right now, PTR has paladins at... 20% below the lowest other healer? Yes, buffs will be incoming, but the problem is that with that severe of a discrepancy, the amount of buffing required will likely cause a drastic change in paladin playstyle. With no recent news on updates, nobody can predict how we'll turn out, and that's not what you want when rolling a new class.
Right now, however, I put us as "solid."
We have amazing, sustained, stacked, AoE heal. On a fight such as Jin'Rhok or Megaera, where there are 12-20 seconds of constant damage that needs to be healed, paladins pump out the HPS.
Very fair tank healing. When a tank is taking major damage and needs constant heals (Horridon enrange, etc.), Divine Light spamming ---> Word of Glory is king, especially as our Mastery applies a shield, both reducing overheal and giving us a larger window within which to get them up to snuff. Lay on Hands gives us a second chance (it also applies mastery, which is important!), but, you know, that special comes with a 10 minute cooldown and applies Forbearance, and Light forfend you're a second late, because then you self-cast it because Corpse. >_<
We have Hand of Protection, which can gimmick out of select boss maneuvers. Typically (such as on Horridon), its usage is just quality of life rather than game breaking, but there are exceptions.
Low overheal (will change in 5.4) allows a lower geared paladin to meet the HPS of those with higher iLevels.
We wear plate and wear shields, so we take less damage than most other healer classes... except on fights where it'd be useful, since some boss attacks ignore armor (I'm looking at you, Attenutation! D:<
We are terrible at recovering from raid-wide Burst damage compared to many other healers. In a short damage window, such as Tortos' stomp or Wind-Lord's Rain of Blades... whereas a Monk can use Revival, or a Druid Tranquility, and priests do whatever the heck it is that causes health bars to shoot up, our only method of dealing with sudden burst damage is to blow Wings/Divine Favor and HOPE that people are stacked for our Holy Radiance (10 yard radius heal), or to talent into Holy Avenger and hit the raid with 4-5 weak Light of Dawn's over 15 seconds (with enough haste and some luck), or to do the same trick but instead hit the lowest 4-5 raiders with a very powerful single target heal (Word of Glory/Eternal Flame). Clearly less useful in 25-man.
Spread healing, as mentioned, is terrible. If you keep Holy Power banked at 5, you've got an easy emergency heal to hit any raider with. This method of healing, however, reduces your overall output by NOT striking more players with weaker Eternal Flames for the increased shield duration (effectively giving our Mastery 45 second shields instead of 15 second). Everyone except for Shaman can handle this better.
The only thing we bring is HPS and minor shields (except in tank healing spam mode). We do not bring damage, such as Monk or Disc priest (and two other classes in the next patch, at least). Our utility is boss-fight dependent (Hand of protection on physical debuffs, Devo Aura on Magic fights. Devo makes us competitive, but I would strongly argue against OP-ness).
Poor mobility. Many healers suffer, which is intended, but we're very limited. We basically have three spells we can cast here. Holy Shock, on a 6 second cooldown. Word of Glory IF we have banked holy power. If you're zero, tough luck. If you're not, you can get one spell off. ANd three, lay on hands, with its 10 minute cooldown. The obvious solution here is to befriend a warlock and put up with their poor hygiene, terrible taste in clothes (and friends), and the inevitable dark betrayal as they consume your soul in order to cast a bigger fireball, so thatway you have a handy-dandy portal.
Int gear. Not quite PvE related, but we are the only spec in the game that uses int plate. As such, leveling without heirlooms is a chore (and subject to abuse as you roll on caster cloth/leather/mail). More to the point, in order to do dailies or any kind of solo activity, you need a second full set of gear, which will never be as strong as your main set (case in point: my Holy set vs. Ret set is 535 vs. 505). You will be bored. And you will not have the option to do a different role without climbing some major hurdles. The other healers do not have this issue... Shadow, Boomkin, and Elemental use almost identical gear as their counterpart, if reforged a bit. Mistweavers are in a spot like ours, but their base damage is higher and most importantly, they have an actual cleave mechanic that isn't a level 90 talent on a 1 minute cooldown.
A paladin will not be sat, and we have nothing to truly complain about. We have a lot of weaknesses, but not quite glaring ones. We bring solid HPS and enough party mechanics to justify a raid-spot, and our Mastery, while it cannot trivialize or negate any kind of mechanics unlike a disc's shields (ours are usually only 30-50k on a select handful of people), it DOES help with the flow of battle by giving healers that extra half-second to focus on the newly injured, and is quite noticeable on a tank.
But since the onset of 5.4 will change the way we play in an unpredictable manner (as of this post), I'd advise a different class. Priest, which has 2 heal specs so at least one is usually favored, is always a good target. Druids are fun from all that I hear, Shaman are finally getting a little bit of love, and Monks have amazing special abilities.
I suggest a Monk, despite their newness making them prime targets for unexpected playstyle changes. Two healing styles in one spec, and most important of all... many many races to pick from! :D
Edited by Wards on 7/10/2013 1:03 PM PDT