Swashbucklers. No matter how they change it, no matter what feedback you give... As long as the Tree stays powerful, as long as they don't forget about Bards again...

We WILL have to put our Tower Shields away and switch to Bucklers. You get most the advantages of being S&B with all the advantages of SWF, there's simply way too much DPS involved and they also get a lot of defenses in form of Dodge.
Dodge? Erm... so we'll also have to swap our Full Plates for Light Armors but then we can work on getting 25% Dodge. I know that Fighters have a super cheap temporary +9% dodge enhancement that costs the Dodge feat.

Higher PRR and AC will never make up for all the DPS you're gaining, especially with the crazy diminishing returns mechanics, also Bards have access to 6 AC and 6 PRR for 4 AP, so we're not even losing all that much, not to mention Dodge.

There's also Displacement. I'm currently playing a S&B with 5 Wizard levels for permanent Displacement, something that Bards (and thus all S&Bs in U23) get with 7 class levels.

But in a way, this is the greatest indirect boost we could ever (realistically) dream of. We're actually getting good DPS and maybe even more physical defenses. ~ The cost is our pride, our individuality and our Paladin levels!