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Thread: Shadow Priest Guide (3.3)

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    Shadow Priest Guide (3.3)

    Hello and welcome to the Tankspot Shadow Priest Guide! My name is Aliena, and in this video I'll be covering all there is to shadow priest talents, gearing, and DPS. This guide is accurate as of patch 3.3.0; future changes may adjust stat priorities, rotations, or other aspects of the class.


    Spells

    Shadow is one of the two major damage-over-time based damage specs, along with affliction warlocks. On any given fight, most of your damage will come from your three DoT spells: Vampiric Touch, Shadow Word Pain, and Devouring Plague.

    Vampiric Touch is the highest DPS spell of the three and will tick the hardest, base every three seconds for fifteen seconds. It is also the only one with a cast time, base 1.5 seconds, which you'll need to consider when reapplying to try and maximize uptime on your target. Vampiric Touch scales with spell haste, so besides the cast time being shorter, the time between ticks will also decrease. For example, with 25% haste, Vampiric Touch will tick every 2.4 seconds, and remain on the target for 12 seconds total.

    Devouring Plague comes second in DPS but has the best damage per cast time, since it ticks for base 24 seconds on an instant cast spell. Devouring Plague can only be placed on one target at a time -- applying it to a second target will remove the DoT from the first. Like Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague will scale with your spell haste, so the actual period and duration will likely be lower.

    Shadow Word: Pain does the least DPS of our three dots but is generally the easiest to manage. With a proper spec, casting Mind Flay on a target will refresh the duration on Shadow Word Pain to the full 18 seconds, which means as long as you're able to squeeze one Mind Flay in before the duration expires you can keep a single cast of Shadow Word: Pain ticking indefinitely. As of 3.2.2 there's currently a long-standing bug that will cause Shadow Word: Pain to drop off if there's time left on the spell but it won't tick in the time remaining; that is, since it ticks every 3 seconds regardless of the duration shown due to refreshing it, there may be times when there are 1-2 seconds left on the spell but it won't tick again before falling off. If this happens, the spell will fall off the target even if you think you still have a second to refresh it again. It's always best to try and refresh it when you have at least 3 seconds left. Note that Shadow Word: Pain does NOT scale with your haste; it will always be 3 seconds between ticks.

    Shadow priests round out their arsenal with two standard direct damage spells and one channeled direct damage spell.

    Mind Blast is our standard nuke and hits relatively hard for a 1.5 second cast. With a proper spec, it has a 5.5 second cooldown. Casting Mind Blast on a target that also has Vampiric Touch applied will provide you and your raid with Replenishment. In most raid settings, it's very important to make sure you're doing this at least once every 15 seconds to keep Replenishment up.

    Mind Flay is your bread-and-butter filler spell, and will usually account for roughly a quarter of your total damage depending on the mechanics of the fight, though it has a few peculiarities. Before haste effects, it channels for three seconds and ticks once every second after casting; as haste reduces the channel time, the time between ticks is reduced proportionately. It's worth noting that unlike normal cast-time spells, channeled spells do not benefit from server-side spell queuing; basically, this means you can't continually spam the next spell you want to cast while channeling Mind Flay, or else you'll cancel your Mind Flay mid-cast. It's highly suggested you find an addon like Quartz that measures latency on your cast bar, so you can accurately know when it's safe to click your next spell. It takes some practice to minimize the time between Mind Flay and other casts without clipping the final tick of Mind Flay.

    Shadow Word: Death is usually not used as long as you're able to stand still and cast your other spells. However, since it's instant cast, it's an excellent spell to throw out when you have to move and are unable to cast Mind Blast, refresh a DoT, or channel Mind Flay. It usually hits for about 80% of what Mind Blast would hit for, and properly specced, you will take damage equal to 70% of what you dealt with Shadow Word: Death.

    Besides these primary damage spells, shadow priests also regularly employ a few other spells. Shadowfiend -- which at best, has a 3 minute cooldown -- does a fair chunk of damage and restores up to 50% maximum mana, though its use must be timed properly, as if it dies quickly due to an unfortunate AoE attack, it won't restore anything.

    Vampiric Embrace is a self buff that causes 15% of your single-target damage to also be healing to yourself and 3% of your damage to be healing on the rest of your group. In most situations the group healing is insignificant, but the healing on yourself can be very useful in surviving incoming raid damage. Vampiric Embrace can also be improved to heal 25% and 5% of your damage on you and your group, respectively. It's worth noting that damage caused by Mind Sear does not work with this skill.

    Dispersion, our 51 point talent, is a bit of a double edged sword: it silences for 6 seconds, rendering us unable to attack, while restoring 36% of our maximum mana and reducing all incoming damage by 90%. Ideally you should not use this during times when you could be DPSing, but timed during phase changes and other downtime it can be a great mana restoration tool, and it's always useful as a panic button if you're about to die. It has a cooldown of two minutes.

    Mind Sear is a very powerful AoE spell with an interesting quirk; it's a 5 second channel on a primary target that ticks every second on every enemy within 10 yards of the target, while leaving the primary target completely unharmed. While usually this amounts to little more than one target in an AoE pack taking less damage than the rest, it does mean you can, say, channel it off a CC'd target that you don't want to break while AoEing everything around it. Usually you only want to use Mind Sear when there are at least 3 targets that will be hit by the spell -- that is, 4 or more in the pack, since one will not be affected. Even then you may want to put Vampiric Touch on every target first.

    Talents & Gearing

    Before we dive into spell rotations and strategy, let's cover proper talent spec and gear choices -- after all, if you aren't talented or itemized properly, you're hurting your own DPS before you even start.

    Like all priests, even Shadow has to put some points into the Discipline tree first. The choices are very simple; your first five should go into Twin Disciplines, which along with instant casts, notably also increases damage done by Mind Flay. The second tier has Improved Inner Fire for additional spellpower and Improved Power Word: Fortitude for buffing purposes and for the personal stam bonus. The third tier houses Meditation, which is absolutely necessary if you don't intend to go out of mana two minutes into the fight. You might be tempted by Inner Focus; for now, leave those 13 points in Discipline and we'll talk about that later.

    Moving into the shadow tree, there are a lot of flat damage increases and passive abilities that are no brainers; we'll get all of those then talk about other options later. Darkness is a clear damage increase, followed up in Tier 2 by Improved Shadow Word: Pain for more damage on that spell and Shadow Focus for some free spell hit and a small mana reduction on your shadow spells.. Pick up Mind Flay, of course, and 5 points in Improved Mind Blast to lower its cooldown to where it needs to be.

    Tier 4 houses two absolutely necessary talents and one very useful one: Shadow Weaving is another raw shadow damage increase, and Shadow Reach gives you a little extra range. Veiled Shadows is occasionally skipped over, but I personally would always take it: besides the little extra damage you get from popping Shadowfiend on cooldown, having it as a three minute cooldown instead of 5 minutes makes your mana management a lot easier, and in some fights it can get a little tight, especially with refreshing DoTs more often with haste scaling. I highly suggest it.

    Three points in Focused Mind will also help your mana situation somewhat with cost reductions on Mind Blast, Control, Flay, and Sear, and of course put one point in Vampiric Embrace. The damage and critical strike chance increases from Improved Devouring Plague and Mind Melt in tier 6 make them easy choices, but not as easy as Tier 7, with the absolutely vital Shadowform, and Shadow Power to increase your critical strike damage bonus. Misery provides us a solid self buff to Shadow Word Pain, Mind Flay, and Vampiric Touch, and a vital raid debuff of 3% hit. Vampiric Touch waits for you in Tier 9 along with Pain and Suffering, which is necessary for the refreshing of Shadow Word: Pain via Mind Flay. Twisted Faith in Tier 10 lets 20% of your spirit work for you as spellpower while increasing Mind Blast and Mind Flay damage if Shadow Word Pain is on your target. Dispersion rounds off the necessary talents at the bottom of the tree.

    At this point, you have seven points left over. I highly recommend placing two points in Improved Shadowform; the pushback reduction isn't usually that crucial for raiding, but it's an extremely nice thing to have nonetheless, and the snare removal via fade is a nice bonus. From here you truly do have options, as there are not many solid DPS boosts from the points you have left. You could place the five points in Spirit Tap and Improved Spirit Tap for some additional mana regeneration and a very small spellpower bonus from the additional 10% maximum spirit you gain (keep in mind, with full talents and glyphs, that 10% maximum spirit effectively means 5% more of your spirit as spellpower when the buff is up; on a well geared priest, this is usually no more than 30 spellpower). While priests do have threat reduction inherent in Shadowform, taking Shadow Affinity makes pulling aggro on a mob almost unheard of, which can be useful for large aoe situations and allow you to DPS earlier and safer. Improved Vampiric Embrace can make for some very substantial healing on yourself, which can be nice for big raid damage fights. You could pick up Improved Psychic Scream and Silence if you wished -- note that Silence now also acts as an interrupt on NPCs, which means you can use it in raid fights where interrupts are necessary, though it does have a large cooldown. You could pick up Psychic Horror for only one point as a fun option, or throw a point in Inner Focus back in the Discipline tree if you'd prefer that. Really, what you do with the final points is up to you and what you'd like to have.

    Glyphs are less ambiguous. All shadow priests should have Glyphs of Mind Flay, Glyph of Shadow Word Pain, and Glyph of Shadow; the end effect of this set is 30% more of your spirit as spellpower on non-periodic spell criticals, 10% more Mind Flay damage when Shadow Word: Pain is on your target, and 1% of your base mana restored every time Shadow Word Pain ticks. The only other real option for shadow priests is Glyph of Dispersion, which takes 45 seconds off of the cooldown for the spell. For some particularly mana intensive fights, such as Yogg-Saron, or fights in which dying is somewhat likely, such as Faction Champions, it may be worth replacing Glyph of Shadow Word Pain for Dispersion, but it's debatable at best.

    As of 3.3 and the scaling of two of our DoTs with haste, as well as higher spirit to spellpower conversions, gear and stat priorities have shifted fairly dramatically from what they've always been in the past. The basic rules are as follows: Point for point, spellpower and haste are roughly equal. Five points of critical rating are worth as much as four points of spellpower. 2 points of spirit are worth roughly one point of spellpower. Before your hit cap, one point of hit rating is worth as much as two spellpower. Hit cap is always your first priority: For most priests this is 11% hit after your talents and the Misery debuff, which adds up to 293 hit rating. If you're a draenei, or have one in your group, this number drops to 10%, or 262 hit rating.

    Gemming and Enchants

    Gemming is an exercise of weighing the set bonus to see whether it's worth using other gems instead of Runed Cardinal Rubies. If the use of one yellow gem will get you a spellpower, crit, or haste set bonus, you should use a Reckless Ametrine. If the use of a blue gem will get you a set bonus worth 7 or more spellpower, you should use a Purified Dreadstone. You will always need to have at least two Purified Dreadstones in your gear to activate the preferred meta gem, the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond, which has 21 crit rating and a 3% increased critical strike damage bonus. In red sockets, or if the set bonus is not worth taking, you should use a Runed Cardinal Ruby.

    Enchants
    are largely a simpler story. In all slots, you should choose the option that provides the most spellpower. Best options for slots in which this is not immediately obvious are +10 stats to chest and 23 haste to cloak unless you're a tailor, in which case you should use Lightweave. For boots; if you need the hit rating, Icewalker is a fine choice, but if you don't, the speed increase from Tuskarr's Vitality will almost always result in more DPS than the 12 crit rating would. Trust me, run speed IS that good for DPS, even if you can't measure it on your character sheet. Engineers, of course, should use their Hyperspeed Accelerators, Nitro Boosts, and Springy Archanoweave options for all of those slots.

    Rotation

    Now that you've got a proper spec and you're geared correctly, it's time to learn how to actually deal damage as a shadow priest. Shadow Priests work through a priority system, as there is no truly set rotation that we can use due to incongruous timers between all of our dots and cooldowns. In a nutshell, we DPS by making sure everything is applied to the target and/or on cooldown, and filling in downtime with Mind Flay. The priority is this: Vampiric Touch > Devouring Plague > Shadow Word: Pain > Mind Blast > Mind Flay; that is, if Vampiric Touch is on the target, cast Devouring Plague; if both are, apply Shadow Word: Pain; if all your DoTs are up, cast Mind Blast; and if Mind Blast is on cooldown, use Mind Flay until a DoT needs to be refreshed or you can cast Mind Blast again. It's a fair number of timers to watch and can take some practice to work out properly, but it's a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.

    The true strength of the shadow priest class, however, comes not from our single target damage, but from the fact that we can roll DoTs on multiple targets and be doing damage to all of them at the same time, even if there aren't enough to make proper use of Mind Sear. In general, if there are two to four targets to fight, you should be maintaining Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain on all of them, plus Devouring Plague and Mind Blast on the primary target. Maintaining so many DoTs and reapplying them as necessary is very tricky and will take practice, and in fact was made even more difficult with the DoT haste scaling, but the reward is evident in your DPS. Stick with it and you'll be working the meters in no time.

    This concludes the TankSpot Shadowpriest guide. Thanks for watching this movie! As always, feel free to ask questions or add suggestions either on YouTube or in the thread on TankSpot.com. Also, TankSpot Donors can download all of these movies in High Definition directly from our servers -- so if you'd like to learn more about that, just click the second link in the movie information box!

  2. #2
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    This was like an unspoken prayer. I was just about to make my Shadow Priest when I thought I'd check here first, low and behold, Aliena was on the task. I haven't read it yet, but judging by your past guides I've read I know this one will be fantastic.

    Thanks so much.

  3. #3
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    Great simple guide

    QUESTION: No mention of intellect. Is it a dead stat to us now?

    RECOMMENDATION: Maybe flesh out the stat section just a teensy bit more? Not sure the best way to do it, just that I was still a bit confused as to the proper order of stats (if there even is one).

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    Hi. No video! bwahahaha. I posting useless facts. Unless you know there's no video there, then it's tres importante.

    Thanks for the guide, I'm looking to dual-spec my disc priest and this will definitely help!

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    From a purely throughput standpoint, if mana and survival aren't an issue, I would think that the SW glyph would be slightly better than SW:P glyph, especially if you reduced the CD on your fiend and take all the spirit tap options. Unless there's a disc priest around, I have no problems with popping a PW:S on myself and popping SW instead of a filler Mindflay. Even without the shield, specs with improved vamp embrace should see significant healing come back to offset the damage, not just from the SW itself, but the mindblasts as well.

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    Is there going to be a video posted soon?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by belidra View Post
    Is there going to be a video posted soon?
    Judging by the wording, I'm assuming yes. They usually take a bit to upload.

  8. #8
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    The guide was probably posted so people could get an overview while the video is being made.

    I'm not sure if it's a later-on-in-the-game sort of thing where Priests actually have Mana, but my new character (Level 10) is having the hardest time trying to keep Mana while using only Shadow Word: Pain and Smite spam.

  9. #9
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    Great guide.

    Perhaps Aliena, you or someone else could go into addons that can help with managing dots on multiple targets?

    I've been using powerauras and focus frames, but since /powa only uses target and focus checks its hard to go beyond 2 target. I've tried a few others, but its tough to get really efficient with them.

    Intellect is marginal because the crit is negligible and more mana != more DPS (it may = more damage over very long fights though).

    Rough stat weights are:

    Spellpower>Haste>Crit>Spirit>Int>Hit (unless you need it for the cap, then its the best stat)

    You also need to consider your opener, because if you put Shadow Word: Pain up before you have 5 stacks of Shadow Weaving, it will save that value when you refresh it. A good standard opener would be:

    VT-DP-MB-MFx2 (two ticks to get to five total stacks of Weaving)-SW:P

    Inner Focus works best with your channeled spells, because the chance to crit carries over for all ticks in the channel. Therefore, when AOEing, use it with Mind Sear, and use it with Mind Flay on single targets. Next best option is on a Mind Blast.

    This is a raiding guide. Many talents that make Shadow's mana viable over long fights are deep in the tree, so low level Priests aren't going to be able to have access to them. The dirty secret of leveling as a Priest is that until Shadowform, the damage talents in Holy are better. Also, wanding is better DPS than most of your spells at that level. Lowbie Priests live and die by their wands. A good plan of action there for getting the most use out of your mana is to DPS until the mob is at about half health, then wand it until it's dead. Not too glamorous, but once you have full talents in Spirit Tap, combined with this tactic, you should have few mana problems. You can choose not to use your wand, but that means drinking. So, you can spend your time wanding, or spend your time drinking. Your choice.

    Also, if you put a dot on a mob, make sure the mob will live through the whole dot or its a big waste of mana.
    Last edited by Knighterrant81; 12-29-2009 at 05:34 PM. Reason: Replying to an earlier post

  10. #10
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    Hrm, maybe it's time to level a priest =x

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  11. #11
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    Hello Aliena,

    I was wondering if the required ticks of shadow weaving are not required anymore? There was no mention of this in your guide so I thought I would ask. In the past, applying SW:P before you had the 5 stacks up could significantly hurt your dps....
    Deeps for show..... tank for dough.....

  12. #12
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    She didn't go into the opening rotation. The rotation Aliena listed is for once the fight is going and you are rolling along melting faces. Unless something has changed recently the standard opening rotation is:

    Vampiric Touch, Mind Blast, Mind Flay, Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Pain

    This will give you were 5 stack of shadow weaving and allow plenty of time for other dps to get their debuffs up for max SW:P damage. Also note that certain cooldowns (Crit gain for Nevermelting Ice Crystal for instance) can be popped during opening sequence and can carry over on your SW: P for the rest of the time you dont let it fall off.

    Lastly, (I hope this okay to say) shadowpriest.com is the main website of the shadow priest community. Most of the more indepth information about spriests is located there. Also contains stat weighing in more depth, and a Best In Slot gear list.

    One VERY important thing that I personally think you should include Aliena is DO NOT CLIP your dots. I see a lot of spriests doing this very costly mistake and it makes me die a little inside everytime. Dots final tick is when it falls off so when running through your rotation, you want to apply dots as quickly as possible after they fall off. But only AFTER they fall off. Takes some practice but precasting Vampiric Touch (beginning cast when there is less time on DoT then there is in your cast time of it) is a simple way to dramaticly increase your dps.

    Great intro guide though, Aliena. Good for both old and new spriests to read. Amazing how some people cant figure out the basics.
    Last edited by Xoliewoar; 12-31-2009 at 10:06 AM.

  13. #13
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    Excellent post...working on a Shad priest right now and this answered a lot of questions. Thank you
    Carpal tunnel is a small price to pay to get hit in the face

  14. #14
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    The actual hit cap for 11% is 289, not 293 >.> Besides this little hiccup, this guide is a great starting place for new shadow priests. I see so many nowadays that can't melt face properly, it sickens me :'(

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    Well in Cataclysm i hear we are losing spellpower so int is gonna be one of the most important stats

  16. #16
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    Excellent guide. I can't believe I missed that Devouring Plague can only be on one target at a time! That nugget will save some fruitless cast time.

    For tracking DoTs I use Satrina Buff Frames. I also use it to track Shadow Weaving stacks (very helpful in fights with brief pauses in the action). Just a fantastic add-on for keeping track of any buffs or debuffs.

  17. #17
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    Just a slight correction, the Purified Dreadstone (spell/spir) gem is currently worth 17.9 Pseudo Spellpower so a socket bonus with 6 Pseudo Spellpower or greater would make it worth it (7 is not necessary). This is due to the buff to the Shadow Glyph in 3.3.

    To answer others questions: Yes it is advisable to wait until 5x shadow weaving is up before you apply SWP. The best way to do this is to start with a specific opener that is consistent and then abide by the priority. I like to use: VT, MB, DP, MF x 3, SWP to start.

  18. #18
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    Great!!! A SPriest guide!!! I love shadows!!!! But i have to tank or heal

    I think there is something left: The art of SW: Death!!
    I LOVE that spell!!
    Itīs hard to use it: crit+ damage income= selfkill xD
    Even a high crit could kill you...(Remember Hodir? xD)
    Did i said i love this spell? xD
    In my opinion, sw:d is the best way to start. BUT, itīs just my way to play.

    I highly recommend to reach 20% crit as soon as possible to people getting gear. Big numbers are great :P

    (Aliena, i think you REALLY need a tri-spec... just dual isn`t enough for you and you priest!)

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Insahnity View Post
    From a purely throughput standpoint, if mana and survival aren't an issue, I would think that the SW glyph would be slightly better than SW:P glyph, especially if you reduced the CD on your fiend and take all the spirit tap options. Unless there's a disc priest around, I have no problems with popping a PW:S on myself and popping SW instead of a filler Mindflay. Even without the shield, specs with improved vamp embrace should see significant healing come back to offset the damage, not just from the SW itself, but the mindblasts as well.
    not withstanding the auto conversion of : D to in that horrible post..

    With 3.3 haste, it's pretty Mindflay doesn't seem so bad, it goes by quickly with lots of haste, and especially with a wrath of air totem!

  20. #20
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    only problem i have with my shad prst is that when i mindflay now with vampiric embrace up my video card goes in to meltdown on 25 man. Haste ftw but my screen is a sea of green.

    Oh and can i just say, power auras ! never clip your dots.
    Belgariad: EU : Lightnings Blade. Once a Tank. Always a Tank.

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