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Spiritual Guidance: The shadow diaries

Eliah Hecht

As you might expect for someone who writes a Priest column, my main is a priest. I've been Holy for quite some time (enough that it's starting to make me feel old), and I feel like I know the Holy game play style pretty well. I even leveled Holy from 60 to 70, shortly after Burning Crusade came out, and it was a blast. And I love healing. But lately I've been hearing the call of the dark side: I want to play Shadow.

But this leaves me with a conundrum. I can't really get my Shadow on without abandoning (albeit temporarily) my Holy nature. Or can I? After all, we get up to 50 characters per account; there's no reason I can't delete one of those level one alts I made to talk to somebody for a story and make a brand-new priest, destined for Shadow, instead!

So that's just what I did. I had other motivations, of course; just wanting to play Shadow probably wouldn't be enough to get me to trudge through the 1–60 levels yet again. I've never played much Horde, so I'd like to see how the other half lives a bit. I've never played a Blood Elf at all, and I'd always heard those zones were well designed. And I wanted to hang out with some people on their server, which would mean rolling a new character anyway. Several factors conspired, and Hieronymus of Draenor was born (that link is giving me an error right now, but I assume it'll go away).

What I propose to do is this. As I level my new little elf, I'll keep notes, and every so often I'll bunch up my experiences and post them as an installment in the Shadow Diaries. This is up to you, though, for every post beyond this one: let me know in the comments if you don't want to hear any more of my quest towards Shadow Form, and I'll figure out something else to post in my next Spiritual Guidance. After all, the site exists for you readers. That said, you don't have much say over this post, so I'll plow on.

As you can see from the Armory link (if it's working), I have a mere 19 levels under my belt so far. In fact, with the talents I have, it's questionable whether you can even call me a shadow priest at all yet. However, all that is set to change next level when I get to start melting some faces all up and down the Barrens. So far, I've taken Spirit Tap because it's pretty much the best leveling talent in the game, Improved Shadow Word: Pain because it doesn't suck that bad, and 3/5 Shadow Focus because I needed somewhere to dump the points and getting resisted is never fun. Imp Pain will become more handy once my fights get longer and an un-improved Pain would run out before the fight is over.

So far, my general strategy for a fight has solidified as follows. Pull with Smite, strafe away while casting Pain, and then as soon as the GCD is up stand and cast Mind Blast. Then simply wand till the mob is dead. After the fight, I recast Inner Fire if necessary (i.e. if it has less than five charges or is about to run out), and slap a Renew on myself if I'm below about two-thirds HP. I never run out of mana, thanks to Spirit Tap. Every so often a fight goes bad due to resists or adds or what-have-you and I'm compelled to use Psychic Scream, Shield, extra damage spells, and so on, but my basic casting order gets me pretty far.

I cannot underscore enough the importance of having a good wand. Never is this more true than in the early levels. In fact, for a time, my Greater Magic Wand had higher DPS than my Smite. So casting Smite was literally a waste of time; I just wanded instead, and got everything done quicker using less mana. The first thing I do every time I go back to the city to train new spells is check the AH for a better wand. Unfortunately I'm on a server where I don't have a high-level main feeding me gold, otherwise Skycaller would have been mine in a snap. 20 gold may seem like a lot when you're under level 20, but for a level 70 it's the work of 15 minutes' farming.

As far as the quests, I'm not sure I'll have too much new to say. Most of you have probably experienced Everwood and the Ghostlands already. As a quick impression, I didn't find it nearly as compelling as the Draenei areas. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's because I've always been a big science fiction fan, and the spaceship and little bits of gadgetry strewn around those islands appeals to me more than the sorceror's-apprentice widgets that hang around the Blood Elf starting grounds. Maybe it's just because killing cats makes me sad.

Another thing I was slightly disappointed by was the fact that the culminating Deatholme questline in Ghostlands requires a 5-man group. I never saw four other people on at the same time as me in that zone, let alone four others that had the quest, were of appropriate level, and wanted to group with me. I would have liked to see what it was like. As a consequence, I ended up having to leave the area, zep it over to Kalimdor, and run to the Barrens, without any breadcrumb quests leading the way out of Ghostlands. I'm sure I would have felt a little lost if I were a new player.

But all that is behind me now! The Barrens lie ahead for a little while, and probably my first instance in the Wailing Caverns, if I end up deciding to go for that. Also, my general rule is to start buying equipment at the AH when I get to 20 or so, so I might do that; I'll probably be on the lookout for Spirit at this point, since in my view that is the paramount Priest leveling stat. This is the talent build that I think I'm going for; I've only allocated points up to level 40, but I'm not sure how much time I'll be having to play in the near future, so that'll probably get me a ways. What do you guys think of the build? And do you have any tips for an up-and-coming minion of the dark?

More importantly, what do you think of this column? Would you like to see more Shadow Diaries in the future, or do you want me to keep my latest flare-up of altitis to myself?

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