WoW Patch 3.1 PTR Shadow Priest changes

The PTR patch notes have hit, and while we don't have the entire spread of changes yet (they'll be coming in waves), we do have a lot of pretty good material to look at. Personally, I think the Shadow Priest changes are pretty great this time around. PvP Shadow Priests might feel a little disappointed, but PvE Priests should be fairly happy with how things are going so far.

Even PvP received a few good buffs, but while it's a step in the right direction, it simply isn't enough. It feels as if they're trying to approach some of the big issues carefully, when they really do need to go in there and start making pretty sweeping changes to the PvP-centric talents of the Shadow Priest. A lot needs to change to make the Shadow Priest relevant in PvP again without strapping a Warlock to their hip at all times.

Enough of that, though. Let's look into the changes, shall we?

  • Shadowfiend: Health scaling increased. Now receives 30% of the master's spell power. Mana return increased to 5%, up from 4%. The Shadowfiend now receives mana when its melee attacks land, rather than when it deals damage. Movement speed normalized to player movement speed. Tooltip revised.

Well, Shadowfiend needs serious buffs in some situations, and while this will help a bit, I think it's too little. One of the big issues with Shadowfiend is that it's so easily juked in PvP. Absorption shields on the enemy won't totally hose you anymore (since the attack just needs to land, not do damage) and that's a good thing, but it's still going to be able to be kited around. It needs to move faster than players, not as fast as players. Against someone who's playing smart, the Priest simply won't get a mana return from the Fiend.

It's not going to do its job in PvP until that happens, period. It's a little better, but still not so good.

PvE, the bugger might be a lot more reliable if that HP buff is substantial. Having him die to random things makes me facepalm each and every time, there's no reason he should be able to die at all, so if they can prevent the gibs I'm perfectly happy with him. It also looks like he'll be doing more damage, so that should be neat.

This doesn't come as a shock, we saw it coming. It's a bit lame since it was one of our best 'defenses' for so long, but RNG stuns going away is not at all something that blows us away.

  • Darkness: This talent is now in Tier 1, moved up from Tier 6.

I'm somewhat surprised they put this talent so high up in the tree, opposite Spirit Tap. I can't really see a problem with its placement, to be completely honest, but it feels weird to me for some reason I can't explain. That placement does make potential split/tri-specs a bit more appealing. You know, the specs that are primarily healing but go Shadow through Mind Flay? Those specs might get a little juice out of this placement (though they'd likely ignore it for Spirit Tap), but otherwise it shouldn't bother anything at all. Which is likely the point.

  • Devouring Plague has a new icon.

Greatest change they've made to the game in the last 5 years. Hands down.

  • Dispersion: Now clears all snare and movement impairing effects and makes you immune to them while dispersed.

This had to happen, and I'm glad to see they did it. Dispersion wasn't truly an escape maneuver, it was more of a delaying maneuver. Live six more seconds, hope someone rescues you. This should give Dispersion a little more usefulness, and when combined with Improved Shadowform's Fade effect, it should prove difficult to keep a Shadow Priest in melee range. Well, hopefully. The whole 'cooldowns' bit might rain all over that parade.

  • Shadowform: Bonus damage from critical strike chance removed and replaced by the ability of those periodic damage spells to generate critical strikes.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's official. DoTs can now crit. Do you hear that sound? That melody?

That's angels singing.

  • Silence: Range increased to 30 yards.

It's about freaking time.

  • Vampiric Embrace duration increased to 5 minutes, up from 1 minute. PvP duration is now 60 seconds. Cooldown removed.

I don't really grasp why it needs to remain at 1 minute in PvP, but oh well. No cooldown is good. Longer PvE duration is good. I support this change.

  • New Talent: Improved Devouring Plague (Shadow): Increases the periodic damage done by your Devouring Plague by 5/10/15%, and when you cast Devouring Plague you instantly deal damage equal to 5/10/15% of its total periodic effect.

A straight buff to the spell through this talent, that's pretty nice. It's also very interesting to see this talent give the DoT a direct damage component. I might be mistaken, but I think patch 3.1 is the first time we're seeing that sort of modification to HoTs and DoTs via talents. Our Holy brethren see a similar treatment with Empowered Renew. Hopefully it works out and they explore more of it, it's a pretty nice way to give DoTs an extra little kick. It also makes reapplying all of your DoTs a bit less boring, because it gets the damage rolling again right away.

My big concern with the addition of this talent? Previously, a PvE build totally ignored Blackout, picked up Spirit Tap and Improved Spirit Tap, and worked down the tree. Now a PvE build will be picking up the Spirit Taps, then Darkness, and then start working down the tree. That's going to be more talents spent in the tree than we were previously, and most Shadow builds barely scraped together enough points to pick up Meditation in the Discipline tree for our mana regen.

Now, will this be a problem? Potentially, but perhaps not. My Shadow Priest doesn't run out of mana at all at this point, but I have Meditation. Does Meditation make that big of a difference? Will the buffs to the Shadowfiend make up for a potential loss of Meditation's mana regen? Or will we need to gloss over some of our DPS talents to get those points into the Discipline tree?

I suspect that we'll be fine passing over Meditation. Hopefully Improved Spirit Tap, Replenishment, and the Shadowfiend buffs will keep us in the green. We'll find out sooner or later.

There are a few other changes coming for Priests in patch 3.1 that aren't aimed directly at the Shadow tree, but will help us out a bit anyway. Divine Spirit, as we've mentioned before, is becoming baseline. Every Priest will get the first rank at level 31. It won't be the fancy improved Divine Spirit for us Shadow Priests, but additional Spirit always rules and we'll be able to buff it ourselves now.

Improved Fortitude is getting a secondary effect as well, it's going to grant the Priest an additional 4% stamina with two points in the talent. Priests can always use a bit more survivability, both in PvE and PvP, so if they're going to add on some extra health to a talent I was investing in anyway, I'm really not going to complain.

Patch 3.1 brings us Ulduar, dual specs, significant changes to all the classes, and more! We've got you covered from top to bottom with our Guide to Patch 3.1.