PW:S was broken for 2 expansions (though really it was closer to 4). As was the spirit shell version in WoD/MoP. They tried to balance absorbs and couldn’t in the modern game and took efforts to step away from absorb based healing. on all classes.
The whole point of turning PW:S into a CD is to make it an absorb that feels more significant. Chances are it sees some sp buffs. This is the same thing as the legion iteration, except Renew is better than plea was.
Why would this make Disc play like holy? Disc played more like holy in WoD when they had PoH and had to spam it for absorbs. If anything, adding a CD to Smend and PW:S push the spec to rely more on atonement and its applicators - which is very very different from Holy.
Being good faith, I think the idea is to make PW:S a better baseline ability for the class. To do that, they need it to feel good for other specs to hit. To have it be that strong an absorb, it can’t be something that Disc can just spam out there, so they need a new default atonement applicator (renew).
Smend didn’t need the change - but to me how I see it is they want all the talents to feel like a choice you might make. Disc wouldn’t TOUCH the left side of the tree with a 10 foot pole if they didn’t want to cast Flash Heal ever - and Smend being on no CD eliminates flash heal use. So they put it on a CD and gave disc flash heal so the left side is a more interesting set of talents with SoL.
At least that’s my guess as to why they went this direction.
Holy in high level play has to use damage spells all the time - casting damage isn’t exactly hard, and Disc actually became a lot better at passive healing now that they have renew ticking and ways to heal out of combat.
I’m not trying to say you’re wrong about how you feel, here, but I just am feeling like what you’re saying isn’t actually what’s happening to Disc. I don’t see any big shift towards holy’s playstyle or anything.
Renew is significantly better than plea because it’s passive healing at a flat mana cost and a HoT (which bolsters up atonement as a pre-emptive heal). Plea was a flat heal and expensive beyond 3 targets at that. Managing Disc in early legion was very difficult. It was powerful because atonement was really, really good for the most part - but man was atonement application a pain.
Plea was a nightmare because of the mana cost increase. It would not have been all that bad if it weren’t for that.
The current changes do very little to change how difficult the spec is. Mostly it adds two keybinds, which is possibly not a good thing - but Disc had less keybinds than holy to begin with.