Shadow Priest Playstyles (WoW)  

Disclaimer: This FAQ is a work in progress. I do not claim to know everything, and comments, suggestions, questions, corrections, are more than welcome. I have probably overlooked some stuff, and forgot some other, so anything useful you can add, will be added to the FAQ.

Credentials: ''I have played a Shadow Priest in a top raiding guild on Lightning's Blade (EU) for the last year and a half. I have been to BWL/AQ/NAxx as a Shadow Priest.

Holy/Disc: Because of this, I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to Holy/Disc priests. I will therefore let someone else do a Holy/Disc FAQ.''

Contents [hide]


  1. Which race should I choose?
  2. What new things have Shadow Priests got in TBC?
  3. What is the best Shadow Priest spec?
  4. What stats should I look for?
  5. What gear I should be trying to obtain with my Shadow Priest?
  6. Can I heal as a SP in instances?
  7. Is a SP a viable addition to a raid?
  8. Will Shadow Priests become obsolete once better gear comes around?
  9. I get owned by locks, what should I do??
  10. Should I stack up on +Crit gear?
  11. How much +dmg should a SP have at 70?
  12. Can you please break down all the talents in the shadow tree and rate them?

Which race should I choose?

I will talk about both racials and Priest racials as though they were the same. Shadow Priest racial abilities are not as important as for Holy/Disc ones, simply because we usually don't have to worry about Fear Ward.


  • Blood Elves get Mana Tap, which allows you to tap mana and regenerate it for yourself, and Consume Magic which allows you to regain mana by consuming one of your buffs.


  • Dwarves get Desperate Prayer (instant self-heal), Fear Ward and Stoneform, all of which can be useful in certain situation. You can't really go wrong rolling a Drward priest, save for the look of the female specie.

  • Humans get Diplomacy, always useful especially in TBC, Desperate Prayer (same as Dwarf), Human Spirit (+5%spi), Feedback (Any successful spell cast against the priest will burn x of the attacker's Mana and y Shadow damage for each point of Mana burned for 15 secs), and Perception, which can be useful against rogues in PvP.

  • Night Elves have one decent talent, Shadowmeld, and many useless ones, including Elune's Grace (useless), Starshards (useless in 99% of situations) and Improved death aka Wisp form. You roll an NE for the look, not for the racials.

  • Draenei also get Fear Ward, Gift of Naaru (a Heal over Time), the Presence buffs (+1% to hit for party), Symbol of Hope (regens X amount of many every 5 sec, for 15 secs), and some shadow resistance. [2]

What new things have Shadow Priests got in TBC?

  • Vampiric Touch: The 41-point talent of the shadow tree. This is a God-send for us. Not only does it give us another DOT that scales quite well andhas a short cast time, it makes us loved in 5-man, and even gives raid leaders a good reason to take us. 5% of our shadow damage is given back to the party in mana. I can't begin to tell you how useful this is in raids. Paladins will absolutely adore you, since they have a talent to transform the heals they receive into mana. Basically meaning, they get almost infinite mana from your VT.
  • Misery: This talent is not that incredible for soloing, but it's very nice for raids. It gives 5% spell damage to the whole raid. This and Shadow Weaving means that Shadow Priests increase considerably the casters' damage in any given raid/party.
  • Higher Crit: Not incredibly useful in raids, mostly because of the aggro issue, but very nice for PvP and soloing. There is also quite a lot of +crit gear out there, and I find myself critting with these spells very often.
  • Shadowfiend: Our "Evocation". This spell is not perfect: The little guy dies easily, sometimes breaks CC targets, and doesn't last very long. He scales with +dmg gear, however, and seems to be affected by SW. Not only that, but his dmg is "shadow melee". Meaning that armor does not make a difference as to how hard he hits, but shadow resist does. This is great news, since he will hit almost as hard on a boss than on a random mob. If someone knows whether CoS affects it, it would be great. Better hope the boss does not have an AOE tho.

What is the best Shadow Priest spec?

It depends on your gear, on what you spend most of your time doing, and on your playstyle but here are few ideas:

  • Raiding: Most of these talents are self-explanatory. I chose Meditation since lots of +dmg items now have spirit on them, and since mana regen has often been a problem for us in raids. I really think that with VT, Shadowfiend, and Meditation, mana regen should be a breeze now. I didn't take PWF since there will be a Holy/Disc Priest in your raid that will have this talent. Shield is quite useless too to waste talents points there.

Since the change in Silent Resolve, this talent is now useless for Shadow Priests. Take 2/2 Imp. PWF instead, and 3 talent points elsewhere. Thanks to Khalane.

  • PvP:I Pvp a lot less than I PvE, so if you have a more effective spec, please post it and explain why. I will be more than happy to replace this one, if you think it sucks.

  • Soloing: This is a good progression (thanks to MookusOU).

  • 5/5 Spirit tap
  • 2/2 Improved Shadow Word: Pain
  • 3/5 Shadow Focus
  • 1/1 Mind Flay
  • 5/5 Improved Mind Blast
  • 2/2 Shadow Reach
  • 2/5 Shadow Weaving
  • 1/1 Vampiric Embrace
  • 2/2 Improved Vampiric Embrace
  • 5/5 Shadow Weaving
  • 3/3 Focused Mind
  • 1/5 Darkness
  • 1/1 Shadowform

Once you get to 40 you should have a relatively good feel for how to spend the remainder of your talent points. I suggest maxing out Darkness and Shadow Power followed by Vampiric Touch. At that point you are 50 and can either continue maxing the Shadow Tree or move over into a bit of Discipline. Personally I wouldn't go shadow-sub holy (except for Healing Focus) since Discipline compliments your shadow talents much better.

  • Off-spec for levelling/instances: This is the spec I used from 60-70. The shadow tree is great for levelling, soloing and PvPing, while the points in Holy are a great help in instances when one has to heal. 2.5sec GHeal is a life saver.

What stats should I look for?

  • +Dmg: This is the bread and butter of a SPs' stats. The more dmg you do, the more VE will heal, and the more mana VT will give back. If you can get your hands on +Shadow dmg, even better since all of the offensive spells for SPs are shadow, and since +shadow dmg is cheaper than +dmg.
  • Mana/sec: Very important too. One of the SPs biggest problem tends to be that they run out of mana pretty quick. Make sure you can stack up on those, especially for those long boss fights.
  • Int: Useful, but not as much as the other two. More int is better than no int, but it's still inferior to mana/sec.
  • Spirit: It seems that Blizzard has decided to put some spirit on SP items. If you have a build that includes Meditation, then it can be useful. Otherwise, not really.

What gear I should be trying to obtain with my Shadow Priest?

While levelling, I think it is imperative to have both a healing set and a dmg set. I use Outfitter to switch from one to the other with one click of a button. Pre-70, you will most likely take Mage/Lock gear. Once you get to 70, the very best items available at the moment are the crafted ones. So, if you are wondering what profession to pick, Tailoring is imba. Failing that, pray one of your friends is a tailor.

A few examples

Spellstrike Hood
Spellstrike Pants
Shadoweave Robe
Shadoweave Boots
Shadoweave shoulders
Cloak of the Black Void

If you are not a tailor, then I would suggest going for the lock/mage set, or even better, the Shadow Priest set: Mana-Etched set example.

Linked Examples

Courtesy of zomvito - Priest Loot Another good link, thanks to Khalane - Class info

Can I heal as a SP in instances?

Pre-70, you should have no problem if your healing gear is good.

For the level 70 instances, it's much harder to be the only healer. Not impossible, but you will need a very good and organized group. You will run out of mana fast, and won't have an Oh sh*t button you can press. It's not impossible, but level 70 instances require each player to be awake and aware of his role. You'll shine as a dpser, but will struggle as a lone healer.

Is a SP a viable addition to a raid?

Yes. Today, there is no doubt about it. Our dps has been greatly increased. Check out Nihilum's website, their shadow priest was top of their damage meters. Not only that, but the Mana regained through VT, Misery, and Shadow Weaving are all great support. We can even shackle and dispel in Shadowform.

With good gear, you will rival Hunters and Rogues. You will increase Mages and Lock's dps, and you will enable the healers to heal a lot more.

VT, Shadowfiend, and some good talents should enable you to not run out of mana. Add some Mana pots to that, and you'll be cruising.

The change to Silent Resolve in the latest patch makes aggro more of an issue. It is still viable, but you have to watch KTM very carefully in raids. Remember that healing-effective VE adds a lot of threat, so don't add it unnecessarily.

Will Shadow Priests become obsolete once better gear comes around?

It's too early to tell yet, but possibly. Mind Flay still scales badly (57%), so that will be a problem. On the other hand, our DOT scale very well, and the mana regen will still be very useful. I'll try to keep you updated.

I get owned by locks, what should I do??

Silence, fear and runaway. If we are paper, the locks are shredders.

Should I stack up on +Crit gear?

+Crit has gone from completely useless to being slightly useful. It's not the primary stat you should look for, but it is moderately useful. MB and SWD both benefit from it, and with the talents in Shadow Power you can easily get around 25% crit for these two spells. I personally wouldn't take it over +dmg, since SWP, VT and MF are still our primary damage spells, especially in raids/instances since both MB and SWD cause a lot of threat.

How much +dmg should a SP have at 70?

Without Tailoring and pre-raid, anything over 600 is decent. With Tailoring and a little effort, it's not too hard to reach 700-800. And 100 without any raid gear is doable, with Tailoring.

Can you please break down all the talents in the shadowtree and rate them?

Spirit Tap: Provides a spirit bonus and allows mana regeneration while casting if the priest lands the killing blow on a mob that grants experience. Key words: Killing blow. An absolute must have for any priest who is leveling up.

PvE Grade: A
PvP Grade: D
Raid Grade: C

Blackout: Grants a chance that any damage dealing shadow spell will cause the target to be stunned for 3 seconds.

The stun is not interrupted by damage. Pre-Burning Crusade, Blackout was almost a given in shadow builds for both PvP and PvE. However, with the introduction of new damage boosting talents, Blackout has dropped in popularity. Most leveling builds now exclude Blackout. It is still considered a useful spell in PvP.

PvE Grade: D
PvP Grade: B
Raid Grade: C

Improved Shadow Word: Pain: Shadow Word Pain is among the best DoTs in the game and this talent only serves to make it even more potent. Almost all shadow builds incorporate Improved SWP.

PvE Grade: A
PvP Grade: B
Raid Grade: A

Shadow Affinity: Reduces the amount of threat generated by shadow spells and thus lessens the chance a mob will attack the priest.

I have no personal experience with this talent so the grades are based on theory. However, most builds opt to bypass this talent. It is utterly useless when soloing or PvPing. It becomes effective when the shadow priest is staying in shadowform during an instance. The reality is that in most instances priests are not in shadowform and are healing.

PvE Grade: D
PvP Grade: F
Raid Grade: A

Shadow Focus: Decreases the target's ability to resist shadow spells cast by the priest.

As a "filler" talent in order to get to Mind Flay, almost all priests have at least 3/5 Shadow Focus. PvP priests tend to leave Shadow Focus at 3/5 while PvE priests tend to put 4 or 5 points here.

PvE Grade: B
PvP Grade: C
Raid Grade: A

Mind Flay: A damage spell that is spread over a 3 second “beam” which also slows enemy movement by 50%.

This is the bread and butter damage spell for shadow priests, doing good damage and having no cool down. Mind Flay is very good for damage / mana but is incapable of critical hits. However, it remains one of the most important talents for a shadow priest and must be taken, no questions asked.

PvE Grade: A
PvP Grade: A
Raid Grade: A

Improved Mind Blast: Shortens the casting time of the Mind Blast spell.

This talent is almost always taken to a certain degree. PvP Priests tend to go 5/5 because Mind Blast criticals are where the huge hits come from and this talent allows them to cast more often. PvE priests tend to go no less than 3/5, and many still max the talent.

PvE Grade: B
PvP Grade: A
Raid Grade: F

Improved Psychic Scream: Shortens the cool down timer of Psychic Scream.

Psychic Scream has a rough history with priests who often complain of the spell being bugged and easily broken. PvE priests rarely use Psychic Scream and thus have no desire to improve upon the skill. PvP priests take Improved Psychic Scream because it is marginally useful but more importantly because it is a requirement for the Silence talent.

PvE Grade: F
PvP Grade: C
Raid Grade: F

Shadow Reach: Increases the distance at which shadow spells can be cast on the target.

Shadow Reach may sound dull compared to the flashy benefits of other talents but do not underestimate its importance. For all casters, fighting at maximum range is vitally important to their survival.

PvE Grade: B
PvP Grade: B
Raid Grade: C

Shadow Weaving: Provides a chance that an offensive shadow spell will place a debuff on the target, making it 3% more vulnerable to shadow spells cast by any player.

The debuff can stack up to 5x for a total of 15% added damage. Any talent boasting a boost in damage should be considered. Shadow Weaving adds a 15% bonus not only for the priest, but any player who casts shadow spells against the target. Warlocks love shadow priests, and this talent is the reason why. The talent slips a grade in PvP due to the fact that enemy players are often killed before shadow weave can fully stack.

PvE Grade: A
PvP Grade: B
Raid Grade: A

Improved Fade: Reduces the cool down timer on the Fade spell.

This talent is generally skipped over by priests. Like Shadow Affinity, the talent is utterly useless in solo or PvP play. In instance runs fade becomes an important skill. However, the group's tanks and crowd controllers should be the main line of defense against aggro. If the priest is being forced to rely on fade, the group is most likely doomed by factors outside the priest's control.

PvE Grade: C
PvP Grade: F
Raid Grade: F

Silence: Interrupts any spell being cast by the target and then prevents any casting for 5 seconds.

Generally passed over by PvE priests who are unimpressed by the benefit of a talent that essentially requires 3 points (2/2 in Improved Psychic Scream is a requirement). However, for PvP priests this spell is a must have.

PvE Grade: D
PvP Grade: A
Raid Grade: D

Vampiric Embrace: Returns 15% of shadow spell damage caused by the priest to be returned to party members as health.

A great talent for any shadow priest. Healing through damage is huge for soloing or group questing. In instances it works as a heal over time spell while causing damage. Once Shadowform is obtained it becomes the primary way for priests to heal themselves. It slips a grade in PvP due to the fact that enemy players can DPS much higher than PvE mobs and the priest will often have to use consumables or even cast heal to keep HP up.

PvE Grade: A
PvP Grade: B
Raid Grade: A

Improved Vampiric Embrace: Increases the % of health returned from Vampiric Embrace.

Another talent taken in almost all shadow builds. Vampiric Embrace is a crucial skill for shadow priests and this talent makes V.E. more effective.

PvE Grade: B
PvP Grade: B
Raid Grade: A

Focused Mind: Reduces the mana cost of Mind Flay, Mind Blast, and Mind Control.

This talent is a give or take depending on how heavy the priest is going in the shadow tree. If it is a minimalist build, this talent can be passed over while if it is a full shadow build this should be taken. In short, this talent allows more spells to be cast and ultimately reduces downtime. As mentioned in the Vampiric Embrace commentary, PvP combat is much more dependent on consumables, it is better to carry mana potions than rely on talents like Focused Mind.

PvE Grade: B
PvP Grade: D
Raid Grade: A

Shadow Resilience: Reduces the chance that the priest will be the recipient of a spell critical strike.

I have no personal experience with this spell so the commentary is based on theory. With that said, I see very few shadow builds taking this talent. For PvE builds it should definitely be skipped, while it could be marginally useful in PvP.

PvE Grade: D
PvP Grade: D
Raid Grade: F

Darkness: Increases damage done by the priest's shadow spells.

As mentioned earlier in the Shadow Weaving commentary, any talent that boosts damage should be given consideration. Maxed out and then coupled with a stacked Shadow Weave these two talents combine to increase damage by 25%. Darkness is taken in most shadow builds.

PvE Grade: A
PvP Grade: A

Raid Grade: A

Shadowform: Increases the damage of shadow spells by 15% and reduces physical damage by 15%.

The priest cannot cast holy spells while in Shadowform. Next to Mind Flay this is the most important talent for a shadow priest. If used with Darkness and Shadow Weave, the shadow priest's damage is now increased by 40%. A priest's DPS is very high now and the returns from Vampiric Embrace begin to make the priest viable as a DPS class in instances while the group chooses another class to "spot heal".

PvE Grade: A
PvP Grade: A
Raid Grade: A

Shadow Power: Increases the critical strike chance of Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death.

Shadow Word Death is not obtained until level 62 so for most priests this spell will only effect Mind Blast. However, a higher critical strike chance is very much worth taking and it begins to balance out the damage / mana gap between Mind Blast and Mind Flay. The talent gets a boost in PvP due to burst damage from critical strikes being more important in PvP.

PvE Grade: B
PvP Grade: A
Raid Grade: D

Misery: Places a debuff on the target making it more vulnerable to all spell damage cast by party members.

Misery is triggered by the priest's DoTs and Mind Flay. Again, any talent that boosts damage is worth looking at. Try to continue thinking of damage boosting as a cumulative effect and not a single talent.

PvE Grade: B
PvP Grade: B
Raid Grade: A

Vampiric Touch: A DoT spell that, while active, returns 5% of shadow damage caused by the priest to be returned as mana to the party.

Vampiric Touch adds another DoT to the priest's arsenal. The spell is not as potent as Shadow Word Pain but has increased practicality due to its ability to return mana to the party. In instances this makes the priest even more attractive as a DPS class as all damage caused by the priest now returns 30% HP (with improved V.E.) and 5% mana to the party. The spell drops to a grade in PvP for two reasons. First, PvP is more dependent on consumables for mana. Secondly, it is not an instant cast spell and is much more challenging to use on moving targets in PvP.

PvE Grade: B
PvP Grade: C
Raid Grade: A


  • SP: Shadow Priest
  • MF: Mind Flay
  • MB: Mind Blast
  • SW: Shadow Weaving
  • SWP: Shadow Word: Pain
  • SWD: Shadow Word: Death
  • VE: Vampiric Embrace
  • VT: Vampiric Touch
  • PWF: Power Word: Fortitude
  • PWS: Power Word: Shield

That's all for now. I'll add anything useful you guys post here, as soon as I can.

Special thanks to MookusOU, and Maxzzz


  1. ^ Undead seems the better choice PvP-wise, while Blood Elves might have a slight advantage in PvE.
  2. ^ For the Alliance, all have their advatanges, save maybe for the Night Elves.

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This page last modified 2008-09-15 13:10:30.