This guide is geared towards PVE shadow priests, with an emphasis on beginner raiding. You can apply the same information to 5-man heroics as well for the most part. World PVP, battlegrounds and arenas will not be discussed at this time.
Pre-The Burning Crusade and patch 2.0 (the introduction of Misery and Vampiric Touch) a shadow priest was more of a novelty in a raid than a staple. Most of the time our shadow priest was in the melee dps group with the rogues and dps warriors so they could get the benefit of Vampiric Embrace. They weren't near the top of the damage chart, or the healing chart, but were decent at both.
Then came The Burning Crusade and the emergence of the Shadow Priest as a viable 5-man and raid spec. This was all possible because of two talents: Misery (adding 5% to all spell damage in the raid) and Vampiric Touch (returning 5% of damage done as mana to party members). The introduction of epic tailoring pieces also put shadow priests at the top of the damage meters in Karazhan for the first time.
Currently the role of a shadow priest in a raid is to return as much mana as possible to party members by doing as much damage as possible while remaining under the tanks in threat. Health return through Vampiric Embrace is only a side benefit of a Shadow Priest these days. The use of VE is very situational and depends on the fight.
In 5-mans we provide mana/health returns to the group which makes the role of the healer easier. We can also provide crowd control through the use of Mind Control, though its use is situational depending on the instance/mob you are facing.
The first thing to consider as a shadow priest is your gear. What stats should you be focusing on as you do 5-mans to gear up for Karazhan?
Spell hit rating. This stat will give you more of a DPS increase than any other stat until you reach the hit cap. Spell hit rating increases your chance to hit with spells. However, there is a base 1% chance to miss that cannot be overcome. Your chance to hit against level 73 mobs (raid bosses) is 83%. Therefore, you need 16% hit rating to become hit capped against raid bosses.
Luckily, shadow priests are one of the easiest classes to reach the hit cap with. By taking 5/5 points into the talent Shadow Focus, you will have an innate +10% to your chance to hit. In other words, you need to obtain 6% more spell hit from your gear, which works out to be +76 spell hit rating. (at level 70, 12.6 spell hit rating is equal to 1% spell hit)
+shadow damage or +spell damage. All of our abilities scale with +shadow/spell damage. A large portion of your damage as a shadow priest will come from our two damage over time spells: Shadow Word Pain and Vampiric Touch, as well as the channeled spell Mind Flay. These three spells cannot crit, which is why the shadow priest class favors shadow/spell damage over any other stat once they are hit capped.
Stamina. A dead shadow priest isn't returning mana to their group. For just starting Karazhan, a nice goal would be between 7.5-8k health once raid buffed. Once you get into Gruul's Lair and beyond, 8.5k+ health is the target, with Tier 6 content requiring 10k health raid buffed on certain encounters.
Intellect. While having a large mana pool is nice, other stats are much more important to a shadow priest than intellect is. Anywhere over 7k mana unbuffed is perfectly fine. Part of being a shadow priest is learning a shadow fiend/mana pot rotation so that you never run out of mana, but always finish a fight with as little mana as possible. This takes practice.
+Spell crit. This stat only affects two of our spells as a shadow priest: Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death. As such, this stat is nice if you can get it, but not something you should go out of your way to focus on.
Mana per 5 (mp5). One of the challenges of playing a shadow priest is balancing how aggressive your spell rotation is in terms of mana use. You don't want to run out of mana 2 minutes into a long boss fight, nor do you want to finish with only half of your mana pool depleted. That said, mana per 5 is a stat that is great if you can get it. However, your role is mana return to your whole group so don't give up much +dmg just to gain a few more mp5.
Spirit. This stat provides very little benefit to a shadow priest as we are always casting spells during battle so cannot benefit from mana regen outside the five second rule. You should never take spirit over any other stat. However, having a little on your gear is always nice so that you get the benefit of the talent Meditation.
This list will consist of the top 3-4 options in each slot for pre-kara gear. This will include crafted, quest, instance, and heroic gear as applicable. They will be ranked with the best being at the top. However, your first priority is to reach the spell hit cap, which is 76 spell hit rating if you have 5/5 points in Shadow Focus. Be smart and choose gear from these suggestions to reach the hit cap first. It is strongly suggested to take tailoring as on of your professions as some pieces will not be replaced until T6 content.
Enchant: Glyph of Power
Enchant: Major Spellpower
Meta: Ember Skyfire Diamond. Easy to meet requirements as all gems should be red for the most part. Another option is Chaotic Skyfire Diamond but the requirements are more difficult to meet and crit rating isn't great. Finally, there is Mystical Skyfire Diamond which grants 320 spell haste rating for 6 seconds if it procs. Since the nerf this meta is no longer as good.
Every gem slot should be gemmed with Runed Living Ruby or Runed Blood Garnet if you don't have the gold. Other gems should only be used to meet a meta requirement or if the socket bonus gives you more +dmg than socketing with all red gems. Use Glowing Nightseye for blue sockets and [http://wow.allakhazam.com/db/item.html?witem=31867 Veiled Noble Topaz or Reckless Noble Topaz for yellow sockets.
Spirit Tap 5 points Gives you a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to gain a 100% bonus to your Spirit after killing a target that yields experience or honor. For the duration, your mana will regenerate at a 50% rate while casting. Lasts 15 seconds.
This talent is my personal pick for Tier One. Amazing talent while out grinding, making it so that you rarely have to stop and drink. Can also be useful on raid fights with adds where you can snipe the killing blow with Shadow Word: Death.
Blackout 5 points Gives your shadow spells a 2/4/6/8/10% chance to stun the target for 3 seconds.
This talent is great if you pvp on the side. However, it does not affect any raid bosses. It does work on some trash mobs so can be beneficial at times during a raid. As a note, it only has a chance to proc of the first tick of a dot or mindflay, not on any subsequent ticks.
Shadow Affinity 3 points Reduces the threat generated by your Shadow spells by 8/16/25%.
A must have talent for any level 70 shadow priest, even if all you do is 5-man dungeons and heroics. We do not have any way to dump threat like, for example, a hunter can with Feign Death. So, we need to reduce the threat generated by our spells as much as possible.
Improved Shadow Word: Pain 2 points Increases the duration of your Shadow Word: Pain spell by 3/6 seconds.
Another great talent. With two points, this talent increases the duration of SW:P to 24 seconds, giving two more ticks at the same damage as the others with no increased mana cost. It makes our most efficient spell even more efficient.
Shadow Focus 5 points Reduces your targets chance to resist your shadow spells by 2/4/6/8/10%.
One of the first goals of anyone preparing to raid is to max out their chance to hit. Against raid bosses, the chance to miss with spells is 16%. By maxing out this talent, you only need to obtain 6% from gear (+76 hit rating). Once you get more than 6% spell hit on your gear, you can begin to move points from this talent elsewhere.
Improved Psychic Scream 2 points Reduces the cooldown of your Psychic Scream spell by 2/4 seconds.
Most PVE priests only use this spell in emergencies and as such do not need a reduced cooldown. It is nice for pvp though, and is a pre-requisite for Silence which many shadow priests like to take in their talent build.
Improved Mind Blast 5 points Reduces the cooldown of your Mind Blast spell by 0.5/1.0/1.5/2.0/2.5 seconds.
This talent is always under debate. Some say go 5/5 or don't bother; others say 1/5 is enough. Technically 4/5 would make Mind Blast fit exactly in between two mind flays, but latency and other factors usually prevent this from becoming a reality. My advice would be to leave 5 free points in your build if you really aren't sure what to do. Then, after each raid add one point if your spell rotation needs tweaking until you find a number that works for you. Any points into this will increase your dps, as long as you are casting Mind Blast every time it is off cooldown.
Mind Flay 1 point Assault the target's mind with shadow energy, causing 528 shadow damage over 3 seconds and slowing their movement speed by 50%.
One of the signature spells of a shadow priest. This is our most mana efficient direct damage spell. As an added bonus, it is great for slowing people in pvp, or runners in an instance. If you are a shadow priest, you have this spell.
Improved Fade 2 points Reduces the cooldown of your Fade ability by 3/6 seconds.
The most useless talent in the tree.
Shadow Reach 2 points Increases the range of your offensive shadow spells by 10/20%.
If you are only doing 5-mans then you can get away without taking any points in this talent. If you raid then you will want to put in two points. The range on Mindflay is abysmally short to begin with. Even with this talent, there will be fights in which you need to move a yard or two to avoid AOE spells (the Prince fight and his shadow nova come to mind).
Shadow Weaving 5 points Your Shadow damage spells have a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to cause your target to be vulnerable to Shadow damage. This vulnerability increases the Shadow damage dealt to your target by 2% and last 15 seconds. Stacks up to 5 times.
The warlocks in your raid will love you for this talent as it will increase the damage of their shadow spells in addition to your own. Essential for any shadow priest build. Some advocate taking 4/5 or even 3/5 if there are always two shadow priests in the raid as they contribute to the same Shadow Weaving debuff stack. This would free up a point or two to place elsewhere.
Silence 1 point (requires 2 points in Improved Psychic Scream) Silences the target, preventing them from casting spells for 5 seconds.
This spell is great to have in pvp, any pvp build would have it. It also has its uses in 5-man dungeons. However, all raid bosses are immune so most pure PVE raiding builds forgo taking this talent due to its high cost of having to place two points into Imp. Psychic Scream, another marginally useful talent in PVE.
Vampiric Embrace 1 point Afflicts your target with Shadow energy that causes all party members to be healed for 15% of any Shadow spell damage you deal for 1 min.
A must-have for the simple fact that it is a pre-requisite for Shadowform. However, it has a lot of use in 5-man content and on many boss fights in raids so people would take it anyway.
Improved Vampiric Embrace 2 points, requires 1 point in Vampiric Embrace. Increases the percentage healed by Vampiric Embrace by an additional 5/10%.
This is one of those talents you either love or hate. It makes your Vampiric Embrace heal for 25% of your damage done when fully talented. VE is mostly overheal anyway, and also adds to our threat management issues. Take if you want it, don't worry about it if you don't.
Focused Mind 3 points Reduces the mana cost of your Mind Blast, Mind Control, and Mind Flay spells by 5/10/15%.
Anything that makes Mind Blast and Mind Flay cost less is full of awesome in my book.
Shadow Resilience 2 points Reduces the chance you'll be critically hit by all spells by 2/4%.
This is the second worst talent in the tree. It could have its place in pvp, but it is a very poor talent choice for pve. We have so many great talents, it would be a waste of two points to use them here.
Darkness 5 points Increase your shadow spell damage by 2/4/6/8/10%.
This talent is well worth the 5 points, and gets even better as your gear improves because it scales.
Shadowform 1 point (requires one point in Vampiric Embrace) Assume a Shadowform, increasing your Shadow damage by 15% and reducing Physical Damage done to you by 15%. However, you may not cast Holy Spells while in this form.
THE definitive talent of the tree and one of the best talents of any class. Not only does it increase our shadow damage, but it also reduces physical damage taken which helps while soloing or pvping.
Shadow Power 5 points Increase the critical strike chance of your Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death spells by 3/6/9/12/15%. This talent sounds great on paper. However, the actual benefit you get from this talent will depend on how often you use each of the spells. There is a debate over which offers more overall for your dps, Imp Mind Blast or Shadow Power. To help you decide, please see this website: http://wiki.shadowpriest.com/index.php?...ShadowPower
Misery 5 points Your Shadow Word:Pain, Mind Flay and Vampiric Touch spells also cause the target to take an additional 1/2/3/4/5% spell damage.
This is another talent that earns a shadow priest a raid spot. It effectively increases the DPS of every caster by 5%. It's even worth the 5 points if all you do is solo and run 5-mans.
Vampiric Touch 1 point (requires 1 point in Vampiric Embrace and 1 point in Shadowform) Causes 685 to 690 shadow damage over 15 seconds to your target and causes all party members to gain mana equal to 5% of any Shadow spell damage you deal.
This spell will cause people to fight over you. Everyone with a mana bar will love having you in their raid group. It is amazing how much mana you can return over the course of a long boss fight, all while staying near the top of the damage meters.
Most shadow priests put at least 14 points into the Discipline Tree for talents that help out with mana efficiency.
Unbreakable Will 5 points Increases your chance to resist Stun, Fear, and Silence effects by an additional 3/6/9/12/15%.
A great talent for pvp. Also useful in PVE to resist things like Nightbane's AOE fear.
Wand Specialization 5 points Increase your damage with wands by 5/10/15/20/25%
A great talent while leveling, it still helps at level 70 while soloing. Though not a tactic used much in raids anymore, having a high dps wand can help regen mana through Judgement of Wisdom if you are really desperate for mana.
Silent Resolve 5 points Reduces the threat generated by your Holy and Discipline spells by 4/8/12/16/20% and reduces the chance your spells will be dispelled by 4/8/12/16/20%.
This talent used be great back when it also affected Shadow spells. Now that it no longer does, the only use for this talent would be in pvp, to prevent dispels.
Improved Power Word: Fortitude 2 points Increase the effect of your Power Word: Fortitude and Prayer of Fortitude spells by 15/30%.
As the other talents in this tier are lackluster, be nice and take this talent so you can help the holy priests buff Fortitude in raids. It also help out in 5-man content.
Improved Power Word: Shield 3 points Increases the damage absorbed by your Power Word: Shield by 5/10/15%.
At level 70, at 3/3 this talent makes your shield absorb 1512 damage rather than 1315. Not something that you will need in raids or 5-mans, but it can be nice while soloing or in pvp.
Martyrdom 2 points Gives you a 50/100% chance to gain the Focused Casting effect that last for 6 seconds after being the victim of a melee or ranged critical strike. The Focused Casting effect prevents you from loosing casting time when taking damage and increases resistance to interrupt effects by 10/20%
If you pvp a lot, this talent may be more beneficial to you than Imp. Shield.
Absolution 3 points Reduces the mana cost of your Dispel Magic, Cure Disease, Abolish Disease and Mass Dispel spells by 5/10/15%.
Potentially useful in the arena, but most shadow priests do not have the talent points to spare if they are going for a raiding oriented build.
Inner Focus 1 point When activated, reduces the mana cost of your next spell by 100% and increases its critical effect chance by 25% if it is capable of a critical effect.
This is a great talent for only one point. Use is before casting SW:P in a raid to save the high mana cost, or before Mind Blast to increase its crit chance, save the mana cost and return a nice chunk of mana to your group all at the same time.
Meditation 3 points Allows 10/20/30% of your mana regeneration to continue while casting.
This talent helps our longevity in raid fights quite a bit, even though we are generally lacking in spirit. I think it gives me ~40 mp5 even though I have 0 extra spirit on my gear. Once you get into Tier 5 gear and beyond this talent will give even more mp5.
So, after all that, where do you spend your 51 talent points? A lot will depend on your style of play. If all you do is raid, this is easy. If you pvp and do 5-mans as well it becomes harder to decide where to put those last few points.
The talents that are required for any raiding Shadow Priest are:
5/5 Unbreakable Will OR 5/5 Wand Spec (personal preference) 2/2 Imp. Fort 3 points in anything you like as long as it's not Silent Resolve. This will vary depending on your play style. 1/1 Inner Focus 3/3 Meditation
5/5 Spirit Tap OR 5/5 Blackout (play style preference) 3/3 Shadow Affinity 2/2 Improved Shadow Word: Pain 4/5 Shadow Focus 1/1 Mind Flay 2/2 Shadow Reach 5/5 Shadow Weaving 1/1 Vampiric Embrace 3/3 Focused Mind 5/5 Darkness 1/1 Shadowform 5/5 Misery 1/1 Vampiric Touch
This leaves you with 8 talent points left (and also assumes you will be the only shadow priest in the raid and have 76 spell hit). If you do not want/need Silence I would go with 4/5 Improved Mind Blast and 5/5 Shadow Power. This gives you the typical 14/0/47 build.
While browsing various forums, one question that seems to pop up over and over again is what is the best spell rotation for a shadow priest? The answer? There isn't one. If only life were so simple.
If you take a look at our spells, you will notice that they all have odd cooldown times and our damage over time spells don't last the same amount of time either. If you tried to plan out an exact order for spells you were going to cast during a fight, it could stretch on for pages, and then be ruined once you had to move to avoid splash damage. So make it easy on yourself and determine a priority list of spells based on each fight. The priority system can be visualized in the flowchart to the right.
It takes a little getting used to, but it is key to becoming a great shadow priest.
In a perfect situation you would be able to use the highest damage priority list for an entire fight. Sometimes this isn't possible, due to being limited by threat or by mana so part of the fight is spent in high dps/mana use mode and other parts spent in low mana use mode.
Vampiric Touch is always your #1 priority. We are in the raid to return mana to our party members. Sure, your personal dps numbers might be higher if all you did was cast SW:D, MB and MF, but you would be useless to your group members.
You also need to think about when to use your +dmg trinkets. The best time to use them is once you have a full Shadow Weaving stack on your target, and if you have the Crusade card it is good to get a full stack of it going as well. Then when you pop your trinkets you will get the most benefit out of them possible. Use a trinket right before you refresh VT and SW:P so they benefit from the +dmg. If the trinket lasts long enough, you can even get 2 VTs off while the trinket is active.
Threat management is the number one problem you will have while raiding, especially if you are better geared than your tank. Even if you are moderately geared and the tank is amazing, you are still going to have problems on some fights.
Wait for the tank to call out for the dps to assist before you start casting spells. Do it. Install a threat meter and use it.
It is very important to know the mechanics of each encounter before you try it for the first time. Sure the raid leader may go over each fight beforehand, but sometimes things slip especially if they assume everyone knows the fight well. It is your job to know if the tank must always be #1 on the threat list, of if you can be 10% above him and still be safe or if you can go all out because there is no threat list. Be on top of the game.
The number one thing you can do to reduce your threat is always get Salvation from a paladin. If there is only one paladin in the raid, priests get Salvation. You can return more mana to the holy priests in your group than they would get from Wisdom, as long as you are free to dps as hard as you can. Salvation is your friend. If you must, get a 5 minute Salvation right as the fight starts, and ask for a refresh if it expires mid fight.
Learn to regulate your threat on long fights, especially fights you are learning. Start out slowly with only DoTs and Mindflay until the tank establishes a comfortable threat lead. Then start to ramp it up and observe your position on the threat meter. Is it rising rapidly? Staying stable? Change your spell priority based on what you see. Sometimes this means stopping all damage for a few seconds to allow to tank to re-establish a lead, or recover from something. No damage for a few seconds is a lot better than no damage for the rest of the fight because you pulled aggro and died. Think of the other people in the raid. One death can sometimes be enough to cause a wipe.
Enchant your cloak with subtlety if you must, you would be surprised at how much that extra 2% threat reduction helps! Even something that may seem small, like not using Vampiric Embrace during a fight like Gruul that has a lot of raid wide damage, can make a huge difference to the amount of threat you generate.
Being an effective shadow priest means always coming to a raid prepared with consumables. At the very least, you need to have a large supply of super mana potions. You WILL be chugging them constantly. Wizard oil, +spell damage food, and +spell damage potions or flasks will all help your mana pool by increasing the damage you deal and the mana returned by Vampiric Touch. On really long fights where both mana and threat are an issue another option is to use Mana oil, mp5 food and mp5 potions or flasks instead.
However, nailing down the right time to use your mana potion cooldown and your shadow fiend is the key to longevity. You want to avoid dropping into the low dps/mana cycle as much as you can. This will become easier as you learn each encounter.
Use your first mana potion once you have used around 3k mana. This gets the 2 minute cooldown timer going. If the fight is a shorter one (around 5 minutes) you may opt to use your shadow fiend when you are around 60% mana instead, to save yourself the potion cost. If the fight is a very long one (around 7-10 minutes) consider using your shadow fiend after ~2 minutes so it is available to use again near the end of the fight. Just be aware of the mechanics of the fight so you don't get to 50% mana, send your shadow fiend in and have it die in the first second and have mana issues for the rest of the fight.
In fights which have adds, it may be better to send your shadow fiend to attack them rather than the boss. This is because your pet will have a lower miss rate than on the boss, so will return more mana. Also try to send him in during phases where a boss is weakened (such as when Curator evocates, or when Netherspite is banished) and when you have full shadow weaving on your target and use your trinkets. If done right, you can fill up almost your entire mana bar. If you still have issues, consider farming up some Dark/Demonic Runes. These are on a separate cooldown from your mana potion (though are on the same one as a healthstone) so may be enough to tide you over between mana potions.
First of course are the add-ons which are useful to all classes. First and foremost, install a threat meter. Omen is the threat meter du jour.
The first add-on you want to get after these is some sort of timer so you can see how much time your DoTs and VE have left before you need to recast them. A few examples are Class Timer, Natur EnemyCastBar, and DoTimer
Another add-on which can help increase your dps significantly is Quartz. This cast bar will show you how much time is added to each spell due to latency. You can begin your next spell cast while the current spell cast is in the red portion of the bar. This can shave fractions of seconds off your cast time, which adds up over the course of a long boss fight.
|Parts of this page were originally written by Khalane.|