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Build Shop: Priest 35/5/21

Eliah Hecht

Talents in trouble again? Must be Tuesday! Welcome back to Build Shop, where we look at reader-submitted talent builds. This week's build comes courtesy of Hamacus on Sen'jin, and it's an unconventional sort of Priest DPS build, which is why I picked it -- after last week, I wanted something a bit unusual. Hamacus neglected to inform me as to his goals with the build (shame!) so I made some educated guesses. There's no kill count or arena teams on his Armory page, which means he has less than 1337 honor kills, and he skipped the common PvP talent Martyrdom, so I figured PvE is his focus. On the other hand, he does have full Blackout, so I could be wrong. More on that later. He's a Priest, so it's obviously not a solo build. That leaves group PvE.

35/5/21. Why does that look odd? Oh yes, it's because nobody ever specs between 5 and 31 points in Shadow: people tend to either put 5 in Spirit Tap for leveling/soloing, or at least 31 for Shadowform (SF). SF is such a tree-defining talent that it's often held up as an example for the other trees (as in "please make our other 31-point talents this good"). For the uninitiated, for one point, SF lets you raise your Shadow damage by 15% and decrease your physical damage taken by 15%. So why on earth would anyone want to skip it? In a word, versatility. When in SF, you can't cast any Holy spells, which of course includes all our heals (even Gift of the Naaru, the Draenei racial, in case you were wondering). And by not investing all those points in Shadow, this build is able to grab some general-purpose talents in the other trees.

So we've seen the big talent this build doesn't have: Shadowform. What does the build have? Well, the key points are Discipline down to Power Infusion and 4/5 Reflective Shield, including full Meditation and Divine Spirit (DS) with 1/2 Improved DS; Imp. Renew and Healing Focus in Holy; and Mind Flay and Silence in Shadow. Based on the wide variety of talents the build includes, I'm going to have to conclude that it's meant for a 5-man DPS/support build. I had a Paladin fill a similar role in Mechanar last night, and it went very well -- a"fifth man" is a lovely thing to have to fall back on. Let's move on and see how the talents shake out.

5/5 Wand Spec is a great choice to start out with. While it may seem weak at first, the opposite talent -- Unbreakable Will -- actually hurts your character. Why? It gives stun, fear, and silence resistance. With 5/5 Unbreakable Will, there's a decent chance that an AoE fear will hit everyone except you, and then the mob will automatically attack you. Not fun; I'd rather be feared. The next tier in Discipline is always an annoying one to get past, since most of the talents in it suck. A lot. Silent Resolve is the usual point sink for healing priests, but seeing as how it was recently nerfed not to affect Shadow, I would skip it with a shadow-damage build, as Hamacus has done. That leaves Imp. Power Word: Fortitude, Imp. Power Word: Shield, and Martyrdom. Martyrdom is a great PvP talent, since it procs from being crit, but in PvE one doesn't tend to get crit very often at all. Therefore, for a PvE build, as, again, I'm assuming this to be, skipping it and (regretfully) filling in Imp. Fort and Imp. PW:S is probably the right move.

Moving down Disc, finally we get some great talents. Inner Focus is a free spell every three minutes, and Meditation is godly for mana regeneration. In fact, Medi is so strong that many people consider 14 points in Discipline "required" for Priest builds, much like the Arcane tree used to be for Mages before their talent review. Next comes Mental Agility; 10% mana off all instants is nothing to scoff at. I'm not sure what's up with the Improved Inner Fire (IIF), though. With max-rank IF, IIF gives you an extra 474 armor, which translates to something like a 3% decrease in physical damage taken, or 1% per point. While this almost looks like it meets my 1% benchmark, it doesn't: Priests in five-mans take very little physical damage. The large majority of the damage a Priest (or any caster) takes is typically AoEs, volleys, bolts from untanked casters, and that sort of thing. That makes IIF a weak choice outside of PvP.

Next we have Mental Strength. 10% more mana is always a good thing. Divine Spirit is also nice, and Imp. DS is a good call for this build as a whole, since you gain spellpower for all your spells from it. Then comes an odd choice: Force of Will is skipped entirely. 1% spell damage and 1% spellcrit per point verges on imbalanced -- why skip this? I have no idea. Seeing that choice made me almost think this was a healing build, but there are very few healing talents in it, so I doubt it is. I would certainly find some way to spare points for FoW here. Anyway, we now reach the conclusion of the Disc part of this build: Power Infusion (PI) and Reflective Shield (RS). PI is a great support spell for all occasions, and if you're that far down in Disc there's no compelling reason not to grab it. RS? I'm a little split on it. It's obviously nice for PvP, especially battlegrounds where mana efficiency is typically not an issue (you're just trying to do as much as you can before you inevitably die). However, in PvE, I think PW:S is still a little too expensive to use outside of emergencies. But don't take my word on it -- let's run the numbers!

Top rank PW:S shields from 1315 damage and costs 600 mana. The Imp PW:S talent bumps that up by 15%. 4/5 Reflective Shield adds 40% of the amount shielded as damage, basically, assuming the shield doesn't expire. 5/5 Mental Agility reduces the cost by 10%. PW:S also gets 10% from +healing; let's say you have a 500 +damage/healing. So what's the total output? (1315*1.3+50) healing, and (1315*1.3+50)*0.40 damage, for 600*0.9 mana. That works out to 3.26 healed and 1.35 damage per mana. Let's compare to other spells. Flash Heal comes out to 5.01 hpm with the same setup, and Mind Flay is about 3.07 dpm (if I'm right about MF's +damage coefficient being 21%). So yes, PW:S is still pretty inefficient, but actually a lot less bad than I thought. I still wouldn't use it as a staple -- outside of PvP.

So much for Discipline. Holy in this build is just a brief segue between Disc and Shadow, but let's see what it's got. 2/2 Holy Concentration is great, and I wouldn't skip it for any build that expects to heal much: 70% interruption resist is a life-save, and it stacks with Paladins' Concentration Aura for 105%. 3/3 Imp Renew? OK, and clearly a better choice than Holy Specialization for a player that's not going to be either smite spamming or healing a ton. And even healing, Holy Spec is weak unless you have Inspiration (which I do recommend, but that's another topic). So if you're putting 5 in Holy with this build, those are the talents to go for. However, I wouldn't necessarily put those points in Holy at all; I think they could be better used elsewhere.

Shadow! The dark heart of the priest. And in this build, it starts off with a great big "um." As in, "um...why 3/5 Spirit Tap and 5/5 Blackout?" Spirit Tap (ST) is amazing for soloing, and useless elsewhere, since you have to get the killing blow to proc it. If you're soloing, you want 5/5 ST. If you're not, you might as well dump your points in Blackout; random stuns never hurt. Next, Imp SW:P is good: mana efficiency, basically, since it gives you two extra ticks for the same mana. Then we come to Mind Flay, which is incredible. More so when combined with later talents in Shadow, but still good untalented. Imp. Psychic Scream is needed for Silence, and decent on its own for PvP. And you still need to dump more points somewhere, so I suppose Imp. Mind Blast is a good place for them. MB, along with MF, is a shadow Priest's main nuke, and being able to cast it more often will help your DPS, especially now that it no longer causes extra threat.

Shadow Reach and Shadow Weaving are obvious choices. MF has a pathetically small range, and Shadow Reach makes that decent. Shadow Weaving is one of the talents that helps push shadow Priests' dps over the top, and it does it well, while helping Warlocks along the way. Bonus! In fact, it's so good that I would put more than 2/5 in it. And the endpoint of this tree is Silence. Great in PvP, nice in PvE as well -- it happens pretty frequently that I'm sitting on the back lines seeing a mob charge up some icky spell (Charged Fist was the most recent example, and Dalilah's self-heals), and being able to shut it down would be pleasant. 225 mana for Silence is almost certainly cheaper than cleaning up the pieces after a mob casts something nasty.

So that's the point-by-point critique. Zooming back out, I would have to say I'm on the fence about this build. I like that it points out how much of a damage/healing hybrid Priests can be, but to a certain extent it feels like it's spreading its points a little too thin Over all, I'd have to say this is a pretty messy build. What say I try to clean it up a bit?

  • For a little more emphasis on DPS while still keeping the no-SF versatility that I think is the spirit of this build, I'd go for something like 29/2/30. You're getting some huge boosts to your Mind Flay both from Shadow talents and from Force of Will over in Disc. You lose PI and RS, but you gain the ever-lovely Vampiric Embrace, helping to keep your group topped off at all times. I cannot stress enough how fun it is to have a VE priest in your group. Plus, with VE, everything that helps damage helps heals as well, contributing even more to versatility and support. I also moved some points around near the top of some trees, and stripped the Imp. Renew from Holy since the deeper talents that I now had access to are far more attractive.
  • Of course, you could always take the plunge and go for Shadowform. I don't think that's what was intended by the original build, and there's plenty of good Shadow builds out there, so I won't give one here, but it's an option to keep in mind.
  • Finally, if you really want to keep PI and RS, 35/2/24 is a streamlined version of the original build, which basically trades Imp. Renew for VE and Imp. VE. VE will heal -- for free, basically -- far more than Imp. Renew ever will. If I misread all along and PvP was the original intention of the build (or a balance between PvP and PvE, which this build could actually excel at), this is probably what I would use, maybe moving some points in Disc over to Martyrdom.
Well, that's all for me. Now I turn the stage over to you, commenters: how do you like Hamacus's build? What would you change, what do you like, and what do you think it would be good at? And don't forget to send in your builds for next week to! Armory profiles work just fine; talent calculator links are OK too. Either way, please make sure to tell me what the build is for -- PvE, PvP, group, solo, and so forth.

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