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Cataclysm Shadow Priest Basics – 4.0.3a

Posted on: Jan 14, 2011 | Author: Aura

Cataclysm Shadow Priest Basics

Playing a shadow priest is a little different in Cataclysm to what people may be used to. While playing with shadow remains largely DoT focused we have a couple of new mechanics that all players should be aware of, both for reasons of damage output and mana conservation. In this post we’re going to take a look at the new level 85 Shadow Priest talent build, optimal glyphs for raiding and some guidelines to follow in order to maximise the DPS from your rotation. Shadow priests are at this point in time great single target DPS; although the AoE of Mind Sear seems to have been nerfed somewhat, it should be possible for most players to reach 10-12k DPS in a mixture of 333-346 blue gear (starter raiding level).

Level 85 Shadow Priest Talent Build

The recommended talent build for a raiding shadow priest begins with 8/0/31 and leaves two talent points to be assigned where you want them. Most of the talents that have already been placed are not optional if you want the best DPS, although two of the points in Improved Mind Blast could arguably be moved elsewhere if you really need them.

Aside from the obvious damage increasing talents there are a few other key talents in this build that have slightly changed the way shadow is played. As an example, before Cataclysm the ability Shadow Word: Death was used almost exclusively in situations where the priest had to move in order to maintain some damage output during movement, and only then if the priest had enough health that the incoming damage wouldn’t kill him/her. However, with talents such as Pain and Suffering and the new Masochism, Shadow Word: Death has become an important part of the overall mana conservation strategy, giving the priest a whopping 10% mana back when they injure themselves with the spell. Another interesting new talent-based mechanic is Dark Evangelism /Dark Archangel. What this does in simple terms is make Mind Flay stack a buff on the priest which increases the damage of periodic shadow spells by 2% per stack and goes up to five stacks. This buff affects Mind Flay itself which is also now treated as a DoT on the target while channeled. This buff can optionally be consumed by using Dark Archangel, which will increase the damage of Mind Flay, Mind Spike, Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death by 4% per stack for 18 seconds, enough time to fire off some nicely buffed damage. Dark Archangel will also return 5% of the priest’s total mana, making it another great tool in the mana management arsenal of the priest.

Of the optional talents in the tree, there is much debate on the best place to put them (and the 2 points which aren’t strictly needed in Improved Mind Blast). Some would argue that extra raid utility could be gained from taking Improved Psychic Scream and Silence, which along with the Glyph of Psychic Scream can be useful for a little extra CC and an extra interrupt. Other options include Phantasm which adds a “get out of jail free” mechanic to Fade, and Psychic Horror which is a sometimes useful disarm.

Best Glyphs for a Shadow Priest

In terms of Prime Glyphs, most shadow priests are currently running with Glyph of Mind Flay, Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain and Glyph of Shadow Word: Death for obvious reasons. None of these are really optional as there are no other choices which improve the priest’s DPS.

Major glyphs include Glyph of Psychic Scream, Glyph of Psychic Horror and Glyph of Scourge Imprisonment for raid utility, Glyph of Spirit Tap for a little extra help with mana on trash mobs, Glyph of Fade for extra threat management, and Glyph of Dispel Magic or Glyph of Mass Dispel if you find yourself dispelling a lot. As mentioned briefly above, Glyph of Psychic Scream is recommended as without it Psychic Scream is unusable in a dungeon/raid environment and it can be really useful to help with CC. Glyph of Fade is also extremely useful if you find aggro problems are frequent.

Minor glyphs are not really as important, but Glyph of Fading, Glyph of Shackle Undead and Glyph of Levitate are probably the most used.

The Shadow Priest Rotation

The top priority for a Shadow Priest remains largely the same in Cataclysm: DoT uptime. Keeping Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague and Shadow Word: Pain up at all times on the mob/boss is vital. DoT clipping is no longer an issue, however, and so DoTs should be refreshed whenever possible in the moment just before they fall off. Mind Flay is also now treated as a DoT, meaning any buffs or procs that affect “periodic shadow damage spell” will also affect Mind Flay. There is an important new mechanic we have to watch for however: Shadow Orbs. Basically, whilst our DoTs are ticking or we are using Mind Flay we have a chance to create Shadow Orbs. These orbs are consumed with Mind Blast which turns them into a buff called Empowered Shadow which improves our DPS by a base amount of 10% plus whatever we add to that with the Mastery stat.

Maximising DPS as a Shadow Priest largely revolves around keeping DoTs active at all times, watching and managing Shadow Orbs and Empowered Shadow, and using Dark Evangelism stacks and Dark Archangel appropriately. It is also important to use Shadow Word: Death at appropriate times both for the extra damage and for the mana. The Shadowfiend is also non-trivial DPS which, if you can manage without it’s mana return you should use almost immediately in a raid boss fight with the hope of using it again during the same fight. This should be helped somewhat by the talents Veiled Shadows and Sin and Punishment. One other thing that not many people think about is the talent Shadowy Apparition; although often treated as a passive proc, it is important to realise that if you are moving, the chance to create apparitions increases by five times to 60% rather than 12% when SW:P ticks. Carefully timed movement can help to ensure you always have 3-4 apparitions moving toward the boss at any one time, maximising the small but still important DPS gain you get from them.

Twisted Faith and the Importance of Spirit

Just a quick note should probably be made here with regards to Spirit. Due to the new talent Twisted Faith, shadow priests no longer depend on pure hit rating to reach the spell hit cap and can use Spirit instead. This effectively means that while you can and still should roll on hit gear, if reforging or gemming to meet the hit cap choose Spirit and not Hit as it provides you with mana regen in addition to spell hit. Of course, you should also always remember that Intellect is your number one stat, regardless of how much hit you have. This means that even if you are below the hit cap after reforging for hit, you should never gem for pure spirit, and if you must gem it at all, do it only for the socket bonus and only with a split Intellect-Spirit gem.

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  • TornNo Gravatar says:

    Great post. I only wish u had elaborated more o rotation lil when to move for shadow apparation proc, and things like that. The specifics are the most important part!!


  • StJohnNo Gravatar says:

    Well done. Understanding that there will always be changes, I find the explanations in addition to the “cast this next,” exceptionally helpful. Thank you for the note about hit/spirit. I’d totally missed that.


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