It has taken me a few tries to talk about Shadow Priests today, because I've had a difficult time even wrapping my mind around last night's Wrath Beta patch. It was one of those dreaded "balancing" patches, in which everything and everyone is brutally beaten with nerfs to bring their damage in line. The only problem with that is Shadow Priests were beaten just as hard, if not harder than many other classes, long before we ever had anything resembling competitive damage.
Edit: It looks like this is mostly being reverted, so the changes in this content patch were ultimately completely arbtirary and baseless. If you're still curious as to what those changes were, keep reading.
Let's look at what this patch had in store for us, shall we?
Fade now only has one rank, and it temporarily drops all of your threat.
Well, this is good. You can make as many arguments for the old Fade as you want, but it was just dumb. A tiny temporary threat drop that didn't scale was a pain to use, even if it was possible to use. Just because you can use something doesn't mean it's especially effective. I like this change. However...
Fade no longers removes snares when used with Improved Shadowform.
Well, that's one PvP buff down. I can understand if the 24 second (talented) cooldown on Fade was too short of a cooldown on a snare removal for the arenas, but if that's the case we should probably receive something like it in another form with a longer cooldown. Call it "Shifting Shadows" or give it some other generically shadowy name and put it on a one minute cooldown, if you need to do that.
I'm not the greatest PvPer in the world, so I can't say I entirely grasp the impact this talent may have had on the other classes, but I'm still of the opinion that gutting this talent entirely was just silly.
Dispersion reduces all damage taken by 60% (no longer 90%) and regenerates only mana (no longer health and mana).
Another PvP nerf. Dispersion was already considered a mediocre talent by most Shadow Priests due to its limited PvE viability, and the fact that it silences you for the duration. It's now far, far worse. Shield Wall abilities are not good if they actually make you more vulnerable. Sure, that damage reduction is great for stopping assist trains, but that's really all that it is. It doesn't help you get out of melee, a place that casters never want to be. It actually stops you from using your other abilities and defenses. That was excusable when it had higher reduction and healed you. Right now it's just a long cooldown, short duration self-Silence. I really don't understand how they made the decision to nerf an already bad talent. I can somewhat see reasoning for the other nerfs, but this one screams, "We have no idea what we are doing and nerfed things arbitrarily to see what happens."
Twisted Faith now increases your spell power on all spells by 2/4/6/7/10%. It used to be Shadow spells by 6/12/18/24/30%.
At least Shadow Priests can heal better now? My best guess is that this change was pushed through because percentage based damage increases scale very, very well. However, there was no compensation for this loss on any of our other spells, really. No numbers I've seen really reflect the need to gut this talent. The highest DPS I've seen out of a Shadow Priest before this patch is roughly 2000 DPS on Patchwerk, the tank and spankiest of DPS checks. Again, that was before all of these nerfs, and it was still practically bottom of the barrel. Yet our damage continues to be tuned down.
Well, it was good while it lasted. You know, 5 days. After Misery was changed in their raid buff shuffle, Shadow Priests spoke out that it would be yet another gouge to our personal DPS. This secondary effect was added in response. Less than a week later, it's gone again. Okay.
Improved Spirit Tap allows 10/20% of mana regeneration to continue while casting after a Mind Blast or Shadow Word: Death crit, and increases your spirit by 10%. Originally 25/50%.
I can promise you that Shadow Priests are not swimming in mana right now, though that could largely be because the Replenishment deal they tacked onto Vampiric Touch currently does not work properly for Shadow Priests. This change was probably done to prevent incorrect Spirit scaling somewhere down the line in end-game, because it currently is not called for at all.
Improved Fade is now Veiled Shadows. With two points, it decreases the cooldown of Fade by 6 seconds and the cooldown of Shadowfiend by 2 minutes.
Hey look, a buff. To our mana regen. That they just nerfed. Why?
And while this isn't Shadow-specific, it still hurts...
Twin Disciplines now only affects instant spells.
All in all, I am severely disappointed. The class developers finally put forth some slight idea that they understood what Shadow Priests needed (and wanted), and then we're hit with this. I really, honestly don't know what to say! You would think that they would be trying to make the Shadow Priest a playable class/spec before nerfing the Hell out of it. I understand 'balance' patches must happen, but how do you make the decision to tune a class down when it's already so far out of competitive levels with the other classes? How do you nerf what's already broken?
I've tried to be optimistic about my Shadow Priest, especially since the devs have recently made an active effort to give us information, but that optimism is just about gone. I know that the devs aren't evil bastards nerfing us just for jollies, but I can't help but feel slighted and betrayed here. "Buffs are on the way! Oh no, just kidding, haha." Hey, at least Mind Flay isn't a squiggly line anymore. It's more of a spinny line. Huzzah. Yes, I realize two different teams work on art and class balance. Hush. I'm being grumpy.
Oh, and if you don't want to take it from me that Shadow Priests are in a tight spot, why not check out what one of the top Shadow Priests in the world has to say about it?
Ghostcrawler herself says that these patch changes were made without hard numbers in mind, but I don't understand how you can change numbers so drastically when you have so little to work with. Budget is worthless when you don't know what that budget means.
[ Unofficial patch notes via MMO-Champion, commentary my own ]