So You Want to Play a Shadowpriest.

19 Jan

So you have a priest. Maybe she’s a total badass with her shadow powers cranked up to eleven, blastin’ bad guys and defending her city. Perhaps he’s a helpful sociopath looking to rid the world of everyone who isn’t useful. Or maybe he adores puppies, kittens and sunshine, but everything he touches sort of dies.

Whatever your priest’s temperament or agenda, odds are good you’d like him or her to live up to the sweet-ass persona you’ve created. As far as roleplay is concerned, you could just pretend that they’re really awesome and be done with it. But if it bothers you that your all-powerful shadow-grappler consistently gets her ass kicked by minor demons, crouching somewhere below the tanks on the damage meter; if you feel like you’re living a lie; if you’d rather BE awesome and let your actions speak for themselves, this post is for you.

The mechanics aren’t scary. You can master them with a little practice juggling the priority of the spells you cast. Let’s assume you’ve already leveled your priest and are familiar with basic spells and game mechanics. (Can you make macros? Excellent!)

First, go make this macro:

/cast [nochanneling]Mind Flay

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

This is by far the best shadowpriest-specific macro I’ve ever used. It allows you to spam Mind Flay without clipping because a new MF channel won’t start until the current one completes. Why is clipping bad? It takes up to 3 seconds for your new spell to start doing damage (ie, the first tick). Let’s look at Vampiric Touch, which ticks every 3 seconds. If you reapply VT 2 seconds before the last tick, it will do zero damage for 5 seconds even though it never technically fell off the target.

Now you’re looking at Boss McPhatloots. The tank’s just pulled and is positioning Phatty so he isn’t crapping fire all over the raid. What do you do? First, cast Vampiric Touch. Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague, and Shadow Word: Death come next, and since they’re instants, you can slap them on while you run to your position.

Once your dots are on, it’s Mind Flay time. MF is especially important because, when talented, it has a 60% chance to refresh your SW:P every time it does damage (you need to put 2 points in Pain and Suffering for that. Go do it now if you haven’t already).  Lean on that MF macro until one of three things happen:

1) Mind Blast lights up!

You have three shadow orbs now so you may as well nuke the bastard. Rock on.

2) VT or DP are about to expire.

Dots are your bread and butter. Don’t neglect them. It used to be you had to watch your dots very carefully when you refreshed them or you’d end up losing a substantial amount of damage over the course of a fight due to clipping, but as of Cataclysm they’ve changed it so you have a little wiggle room. You can conceivably have 100% dot uptime as long as you are being sure to refresh very close to the moment the dot will drop off on its own.

3) SW:D comes back up.

Why SW:D? If you put two points in Masochism, it grants shitloads of mana every time you use it. Glyph for SW:D and be ready to spam it on cooldown once the target hits 25% because it allows you to do it twice in a row every 6 seconds. You get so much mana back doing this it’s stupid. Screw gearing for spirit, you don’t need it. INT and haste, INT and haste, INT and haste. Repeat after me. INT, haste, and SW:D.

That’s your basic casting priority. Always keep your dots rolling, always fill the gaps with MF, and please, for zombie Jesus’ sake, don’t clip.

Once you’re comfortable with all that, it’s time to practice adding your damage cooldowns to the mix. As a rule, you’ll want to blow all of them at once (I’m looking at you, Dorri). They work better stacked!

Archangel. Do yourself a favor and spec for Archangel. It lights up at 5 stacks, giving you a whopping 20% damage bonus to MB, MF and SW:D for 18 seconds.

Trinkets. Om nom trinkets. Most trinkets these days have an on-use effect that gives you more spellpower, haste, crit, or the less useful spirit. Whatever it is, use it. Every little bit counts.

Racials. Most races don’t have an on-use damage ability, but trolls have berserking, which grants haste. It’s rad. I like it.

Potions. Potions that grant spellpower, crit, and haste for a period of time are great for boosting the benefit of your cooldowns. You can only use one per fight, so it’s best to stack it right off the bat. (Exception: technically you can use a potion just before going into combat, which is a sorta expensive way to up your DPS a little. The timing can be a little tricky, so be careful not to waste the potion by drinking it too early, or make inefficient use of your cooldowns by using it a little too late.)

Shadowfiend. Did you know your shadowfiend is a DPS cooldown? Even without raid buffs, even though 30% of its hits were glancing blows, my fiend  just did over 51k damage when I used it with other cooldowns. 51k for a single GCD? Yes please. The only time you’ll want to save this ability is on a fight where you typically have mana problems. Otherwise, use that sucker every time it’s up. He (she? it?) benefits from your buffs too, so use it after you pop all those other cooldowns.

As for timing, it’s up to you to judge whether your tank has solid aggro. I like to dump all the cooldowns as soon as Archangel lights up, and I recommend doing so unless your tank is having threat issues. If you’re worried about it, though, you can always just fade before you really dig in.

Now for the disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an expert on shadowpriests. If you see any glaring errors or minor tweaks that need to be fixed or updated, post in the comments so I can see what you have to say! This is just a guide for priests who aren’t sure if they’re doing it right and don’t want to be carried through content. If you follow these rules and have a passable internet connection, you’ll be melting a respectable amount of face in no time.

Hint: It's Still Melty


7 Responses to “So You Want to Play a Shadowpriest.”

  1. Ttrinity January 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    Thanks so much for this post. I have a shadow priest off spec I want to improve (heal disc) and saw this on Twitter. I”ll get that macro set up and look at my spec again. Cheers!

    • Bika January 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

      Awesome. Let me know how it goes and feel free to post here if you have any questions later on! 🙂

  2. Bryterside January 20, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Try this macro. I couldn’t get yours to work.

    /cast [nochanneling]Mind Flay

    • Bika January 20, 2011 at 12:22 am #

      Oh, good catch. Clipped off part of my old macro when I put it in and didn’t notice-this version is cleaner though. Updating, thanks!

      • Bryterside January 20, 2011 at 10:40 am #

        Not sure if I like the rotation/priority order as much. I just dinged 84 last night and I’m learning too.
        My normal rotation is Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Pain then Mind Blast, 2 Mind Flay/Sear and then, either repeat skipping SW:P or if their health is low enough a double Shadow Word: Death.
        It’s just what feels comfortable to me I could be totally off.

        The macro is an awesome idea, I didn’t know it was possible. I made one for Mind Sear too.

      • Bika January 20, 2011 at 11:29 am #

        I don’t think it really matters what order you stick your dots on in the first place. I start with VT because it makes sense to open with the one dot that has a cast time, but the instants can go on however you’re most comfortable with as long as you keep them rolling. Sometimes there’s not enough time for two full MFs between other spells, and sometimes you can cast three while you are waiting–so I don’t really count them anymore. Muscle memory makes me lazy, I guess. xD The most important thing is establishing a rhythm and watching your spells without standing in fire.

        When I first started raiding as an Spriest I asked a friend of mine what he did to get such high dps, and the macro was his first recommendation to me, too. That, and EventHorizon, which is a nifty little addon that displays all your dots on a rolling timer bar. I haven’t installed it since Cata came out so I’m not sure if it still works, but you could certainly give it a try. There’s video of it in use on YouTube, which I recommend if you do end up installing it.


  1. So You Want to Play a Shadowpriest. « Bika Central - January 19, 2011

    […] of uncontrolled fangirl drooling over the shadowpriest concept, I finally sat down and wrote a how-to article about playing one. I can promise that if you follow my advice, you won’t suck. At playing a […]

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