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Spiritual Guidance: Diving in to the dark side


Every Sunday, Spiritual Guidance will offer practical insight for priests of the holy profession. Your host is now usually Matt Low, the grand poobah of World of Matticus, but this week he has midterms and you're left to suffer with a substitute. Elizabeth recently toyed with the darker side of the priest's profession, but for better or worse, is holy again this week.

I rolled my first Priest for a very simple reason -- I wanted to play with my friends, and I got sick of always having to wait on a healer when we wanted to do something together. With every group stalled for need of healing, picking up a healing class myself seemed a pragmatic solution. (And three healers later, I'm still at it.) So a few weeks ago when we happened to have plenty of healing... but were short DPS... by the same logic I decided I could respec Shadow and lend a hand. And though the plan may seem simple enough, there are quite a few things DPS classes have to worry about that healers may not pay attention to at all.

Ever think about joining the dark side? There are a few things to consider before-hand...

Sure, a healing Priest has to consider threat... a little. But healing causes a lot less threat than damage (and with talents you can make it cause even less) and pulling aggro is usually not a concern unless...
  • You're being careless, perhaps casting a pre-pull Renew that goes off right after a body-pull or having a Greater Heal land just after an aggro wipe. I've managed to pull aggro with both methods myself -- but they can be avoided with a bit of knowledge about the encounter and by paying attention to your timing. (Or a pre-heal Fade to reduce your aggro for those few seconds the tank needs to grab the mob's attention.) Pulling aggro with healing output alone is highly unlikely.
  • You're playing with an inexperienced tank who may not understand healing threat -- or that mobs are smart enough to go after the healer if they don't do anything to get their attention.
  • You body-pull something. Don't do that!
If you're running with a good group of players and you're all familiar with the dungeon you're in you should almost never pull aggro. (And if you do? I cite one of my tank friends' sayings, "If the tank dies first, it's the healer's fault. If the healer dies first, it's the tank's fault." Though there are occasions on which this is not the case, good tanks will go out of their way to keep their healers safe. Because, after all, without a healer, a tank isn't going to last very long.) However, for a DPSer, pulling aggro is always a risk -- and for a Shadow Priest worst of all, because not only are they dealing aggro-causing damage, they also cause threat by healing and restoring mana to their party with Vampiric Embrace and Vampiric Touch.

Of course, your chances of actually pulling aggro depend on how well geared you are, what you're specced (the 25% threat reduction from Shadow Affinity makes a big difference), how well the rest of your DPS is geared, and how well your tanks are geared. The important thing to remember is that you have to pay close attention to how much damage you're doing and your position on the threat list. Download a threat meter like Omen (Omen seems to be the most common, but pick up whichever threat meter your guild recommends) and pay attention to it. If you get too close to the tank, take your hands off the keyboard for a few seconds. Trust me, it's better than becoming a Priest-sized smear on the ground.

Though I clearly can't speak for everyone, when I'm playing the role of healbot, I tend to follow along just behind the rest of the group while staring intently at the little green bars on my screen. Are we killing one target? Two targets? Ten? The little green bars don't tell me anything about what the raid is attacking. While a healer needs to be aware of how many people are likely to be taking damage, a DPSer needs to know exactly how many targets are in the fight, which ones to attack first, and which ones are crowd controlled (read: the ones not to cast Shadow Word: Pain on). Sure, targeting just requires paying a bit of attention, but it requires paying attention to something completely different than what you're used to paying attention to -- and watching those little green bars can be a hard habit to break.

Tab targeting in this situation will only cause you misery (and the occasional accidental pull), because to bring targets down efficiently, all of the raid needs to be focusing their DPS on one target at a time. A typical raid will either...
  • Mark targets with raid symbols indicating the order you're supposed to take the target down in (skull, x, box...). Be sure to take note of which targets are which -- some of them will be CC targets you shouldn't touch. (And one of them could be a CC target for you!)
  • Have a "main assist" whose target you're supposed to follow.
  • Announce target changes via Ventrillo, TeamSpeak, or whatever voice chat option your guild prefers.
  • Or any combination of the above.
It's my personal preference to have an assist macro ("/assist playername") bound to an easy-to-reach hotkey which you can tap occasionally to make sure you're on target. (This is certainly the method that requires the least attention on your part -- but if the main assist dies, you'll have to go back to the old fashioned method of paying attention.)

Spell Hit
Since heals can't miss, it's no surprise healers don't stock up on gear with spell hit rating. However, it doesn't matter how much spell damage you may have equipped if your spells don't hit your target. With zero spell hit gear, you have a 17% chance to completely miss a boss-level mob with anything you cast. Ouch! A missed spell means cast time and mana wasted to zero result. If you want to try to join a raid as DPS, picking up spell hit gear to negate this should be high priority.

Fortunately, however, Shadow Priests start out ahead on this front. While most casters need 202 spell hit rating to drop that down to a 1% chance to miss, which is as good as you can get. By dropping 5 talent points in to Shadow Focus a Shadow Priest only needs 76 spell hit rating -- a much more reasonable number. (If you're lucky to have more than 76 spell hit rating already... but not quite 202... you can start moving points out of Shadow Focus. Just remember that each point is worth about 15 spell hit rating.) Gving specific gear advice is a bit beyond of the scope of this piece (look around on Wowhead and Kaliban's Class Loot Lists for more gear advice), don't forget that there is one enchant that will improve your spell hit. Though the mats are nothing to sneeze at, you can enchant your gloves with Spell Strike for an easy 15 spell hit.

Though this guide is meant for a healer interested in trying their hand at DPS, if you have more than a casual interest in raiding as a Shadow Priest, I highly advise doing your homework. The forums at and Elitist Jerks are packed with great information that will help you along your way. Good luck!

Want to find more great tips for carrying out your Priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered with all there is to know!And don't forget to check the WoW Insider Directory for more priestly info!

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