Shadow Priest questions answered

Alex Ziebart
A. Ziebart|07.02.09

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Shadow Priest questions answered
Shadow Priests have been up in arms all over the official forums recently, and it seems to have reached a bit of a breaking point. Rather than waiting for the official Priest Q&A in the developers' Q&A series, Ghostcrawler chimed into an unofficial Q&A thread to give some insight. Since it's unofficial, the questions asked are very direct and specific, aimed at the posters in that thread rather than the playerbase as a whole. Still, the tone is mostly the same: Don't expect major announcements while reading the thread, it's more a discussion on class direction and philosophy rather than patch news. That being said, there is some good news in the whole thing. Some bad news, too.

I strongly recommend reading the whole thing on the official forums, but I'm going to pull out some bits and pieces here.

The first big thing that jumped out to me was in response to a question regarding Haste and DoTs. Have they considered DoTs scaling with Haste? Ghostcrawler says... yes! It's something they're apparently actively discussing. That doesn't guarantee we'll see it, but the fact that they're talking about it is promising.

Ghostcrawler also answers a question about dispel protection. Is it a problem? Are there plans to fix it, if so? Ghostcrawler says straight up that "the whole spell protection game needs to be overhauled." That's not the first time we've heard it, and it's good to see they're still of that opinion. Also, Ghostcrawler reinforces something I've been saying since they implemented the mechanic: The penalty for dispelling Vampiric Touch is "so low as to be silly," and says, "that's something we would like to boost for 3.2." Yes! I've argued since day one that the Vampiric Touch protection is far, far too conservative to be useful. It might as well not exist. I eagerly await the upcoming changes, whatever they may be.

On the topic of Shadow Priest damage taking so long to 'set up' compared to most other classes, Ghostcrawler says, "We would not want any spell that Shadow Priests felt like they could just cast instead of doing their rotation, and if the instant-damage spell was weaker than the rotation, it would likely see only situational use (though maybe that's a fine niche)." Greg, my buddy. Greg, my pal. A situational nuke is exactly something that Shadow Priests need these days.

A spammable (emphasis on spammable, Mind Blast is definitely not able to be spammed) nuke that is lower DPS than Mind Flay but higher front-loaded damage than Flay is a tool Shadow Priests could make great use out of in Ulduar, and even other places. There are situations in Ulduar where you have a mob with health so low that by the time you roll out your full rotation to get your damage started, the mob is dead and you haven't actually made an impact. But their health is high enough that just throwing out a Mind Blast and a Shadow Word: Death doesn't cut it, or the mobs are coming frequently enough that those two spells are eternally on cooldown and you just get to stand around with your you-know-what in your hands trying to figure out what to do to help.

The usual solution to this problem is that Shadow Priests simply pretend there are no adds, and DPS away without a care in the world on the boss or whatever. That's called not being a team player, and that's the playstyle our mechanics encourage. If things are going to Hell, I would love a tool that will let me lend a hand, but I don't really have that. I'm perfectly fine if that spell isn't as efficient as tools other classes have, and I'm fine if that spell isn't going to replace Mind Flay in a normal DPS rotation. It would just be nice to simply have the tool if it's needed. Call it a quality of life issue, I suppose.

Anyway, moving on. There's some stuff there about PvP and Diminishing Returns... but to be completely honest with all of you, I'm not going to trust myself to touch any of that. I'm intimately familiar with PvP issues that crop up in Battlegrounds like dispels and such, but I'm not going to get anywhere near primarily arena issues like who shares diminishing returns with who. If you're interested in that sort of thing, head over to the thread and read what Ghostcrawler has to say.

Dispersion is a topic that comes up, and I might as well throw my two cents in there: Dispersion has the potential to be a very useful spell in PvE, but it's not there. I don't consider myself qualified to discuss it in the arena. I do have the talent (which I mention because Ghostcrawler says many Shadow Priests take it), but I am not happy with it. I take it simply because I have a compulsion to do so. It looks useful, it sounds useful, and it's my 51 point talent! I would just feel weird if I didn't have it. I was quite happy with it, but Ulduar broke that love.

Every boss fight in Ulduar has high damaging abilities that a Shadow Priest might want to use Dispersion through to take the load off of Healers, or simply a last minute survival tactic, like a Mage's Ice Block. Using it in that way is certainly a sacrifice, since it cuts off our DPS due to the silence component (which I'm okay with in PvE, for the record). However... most of those things you want to 'shield wall' through for the sake of your healers? They pierce right through Dispersion. If you don't want the damage reduction to work in PvE, you might as well give it two rulesets like you did with Curse of Doom and pre-3.2 Exorcism. The tooltip as it stands is essentially a lie.

Examples of things Dispersion does not protect against: XT-002's Searing Light, Ignis the Furnace Master's Slag Pot, and Kologarn's Stone Grip. I could go deeper into Ulduar, but I don't really think I need to do that. Already, that's three out of the first five bosses of Ulduar that ignore Dispersion. That's a problem.

If the PvE and PvP rulesets are intended to be the same to keep the game easy to understand, then don't design abilities that you need to specifically design around when creating bosses. If Dispersion's damage reduction is a dangerous PvE mechanic for Priests to have, state clearly that the damage reduction will not work in PvE. Spells should, by and large, work as their tooltips say they work. This is not true with Dispersion in PvE in all of the situations you might want to actually use it. That is the biggest problem I see with Dispersion. Other Shadow Priests may disagree with me on what the base problem is, but there's my take.

The topic of Devouring Plague is another that grabbed my attention. Purplecadet, the person who started the thread, said, "From my understanding, there is a cooldown on Devouring Plague to keep us from putting it on multiple targets. Couldn't you just make Devouring Plague only usable on one target at a time and remove the cooldown?"

Ghostcrawler responds, "Yes. I'm not sure many players would consider that a buff though."

If players don't consider that a buff, they are mad. Like, mad cow mad. There aren't many other ways I can think to phrase that. The change described in the question would be an incredible improvement, especially in the endgame. There are endless situations in Ulduar where I sit on Devouring Plague for an incredibly long time (time is relative in battle), simply because I'm waiting for a boss to spawn an add or change phases or whatever else. Why? Because if I use Devouring Plague in that stretch of time between Devouring Plague expiring and the next phase starting, it won't be available when I really need it. It isn't a multiple mob issue. The issue is that I can't utlitize the spells given to my class that my DPS is balanced around. I have to put forth a subpar performance because I literally cannot use a spell that is a notable amount of my damage, because if I do use it at the wrong time, it won't be available when it really counts. That, quite honestly, sucks. It's not a DPS cooldown like Icy Veins or Blade Flurry, it's a core spell.

That was a lot of ranting, and probably a little more QQ than I would have liked! I suppose I'll include the disclaimer that I don't think Shadow Priests are in that bad of a spot right now. In fact, they're probably more fun to play than they were in The Burning Crusade, at least to me. It's nice being more competitive DPS-wise, and while we're not the PvP powerhouses we were in Vanilla WoW, we're not the sitting ducks we were in BC. We're pretty good! I just don't think that 'pretty good' should ever be good enough. Not for Shadow Priests, not for Priests in general, and not for any class. If Shadow Priests didn't change at all until the next expansion, I wouldn't stop playing my class. The situation isn't quite so dire. I just hope for a little love in the near future.

I also want to give Ghostcrawler a quick thanks. Shadow Priests have been waiting for some feedback for a long time, and while that doesn't mean you're obligated to give it to us, you did. Thank you. We don't agree on everything about the class and simply due to the nature of the game we never will, but I respect the time you took to answer the questions
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