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Spiritual Guidance: What's up Shadow Priests?

Matt Low

Every Sunday (usually),
Spiritual Guidance will offer practical insight for priests of the holy profession. Your host is Matt Low, the grand poobah of World of Matticus and a founder of No Stock UI, a UI and addons blog for WoW. Get ready for something you'll thought you'll have never read!

Sorry healing Priests, it's your week off today. I've never written much about Shadow Priests at all mostly because I don't play one extensively enough to confidently write about them. I can tell you basic stats to shoot for like the amount of hit necessary and that crit is an excellent secondary stat. But full in-depth guides for what to do on bosses? Nope, sorry.

Anyway, this week's post isn't about that.

I wanted to write this post from the perspective of a raid leader instead of a person playing a Shadow Priest. We're going to take a look at Shadow DPS as a whole.

Is Shadow DPS high enough?

It doesn't feel that way to me right now. I look at various DPS charts over the past week and Shadow Priests consistently make up the bottom on different fights. While I may not have a Shadow Priest, I am no stranger to playing a DPS class. I have an Elemental Shaman and a Retribution Paladin I like to play during off raid times. I can tell you with some degree of certainty that there are three simple reasons why a player's DPS isn't up to par.

  • Latency: The speed at which information transfers from your computer to the server or the rate at which your screen refreshes information can affect DPS severely. There's nothing that can be done from that aside from switching ISPs or getting some new hardware.
  • Gear: Easy. The player lacks the gear that the encounter requires in order to defeat it. Don't expect to do much damage in Crusader's Coliseum with a hybrid of Naxx level epics and dungeon blues. All things being equal, the better the gear, the better the damage output. No, I'm not going to take into account extraneous factors like movement, encounter strategy and so forth. Let's try to keep the playing field level here.
  • Skill: This is the final piece. Are players doing what they can to maximize their DPS? Or they refreshing their spells and making use of every global cooldown? Individual performance affects DPS.

So when I spoke to several Shadow Priests in my guild and other guilds, I did my best to isolate and control for these factors. All Priests I've spoken are sporting Ulduar level gear or higher. Some are even wearing a piece of tier 9 or two along with minor upgrades. I'm also fairly certain it's got nothing to do with latency or skills either. They've been playing the game for quite some time and have done their work. One Priest even spent an enormous amount of gold to swap out gems and enchants in a bid to see if it was possible for other improvements.

I have a tingling sense that Shadow Priests might need a slight bump. During the time I was brainstorming this post, there weren't any announced changes to Shadow Priests yet.

The latest patch 3.2.2 PTR build yielded these changes:

Improved Spirit Tap: Mind Flay periodic critical strikes now have a 50% chance to trigger this talent.
Twisted Faith now grants spell power equal to 4/8/12/16/20% of spirit, up from 2/4/6/8/10%.

It appears that Priests are supposed to take a closer look at gear with Spirit on it. With Mind Flay capable of activating Improved Spirit Tap, the chances of the Spirit bonus activating increase. This further ties in with Twisted Faith. In other words, more chance to trigger Spirit increases along with Spirit adding slightly more spell power bonuses. I haven't spoken to any Priests on the PTR who've experienced these changes first hand. Obviously there is going to be a slight DPS improvement to tweak the Shadow Priest damage upwards.

This approach to class balance and design is a marked departure from Burning Crusade. Read the following excerpt by Ghostcrawler on Elemental Shaman DPS.

One thing I will add is to fret less about scaling. In BC if you didn't scale well, you were going to be in trouble for many tiers of content. These days we adjust classes so frequently that it's much less of an issue. Worst case is you will start to slip slightly behind other classes as everyone gets gear, but then the very next tier will be a reset (and honestly we really only have one tier left).

Put another way, if you and your friend start an instance at 5000 dps and then as you get gear she goes to 7000 dps while you go to 6000 dps, then that's a scaling problem. But under out current design philosophy in WoW we will adjust you if you fall that far behind.

Every patch yields minor adjustments to various classes to give them a slight boost to whatever role they play. The Spirit improvements above are an example of this. There's no knowing how effective it will be in a raid environment just yet. Maybe some more numbers need a bit more tweaking. But we won't know until it's released with all changes finalized.

Would I bring Shadow Priests to raid?

What ever happened to the bring the player-not-the-class mentality, right? Shadow Priests do provide an amazing amount of utility between Replenishment (mana restoration), Vampiric Embrace (health restoration), and Misery (extra chance to hit). That's a good amount of extra raid-boosting stuff that they contribute. I'll usually bring 1 or 2 Shadow Priests to the raid because I know they're solid players who are capable of dodging fires and the like.

On most encounters, this is true.

However, when faced with an encounter where the DPS benchmark is insanely high, I'd have to rethink the roster. I know if I'm working on certain hard modes, there is a DPS minimum required in order to win. At that point, I would be faced with no other option to take and use whatever class is at my disposal to get the job done.

Yeah, it's a real diplomatic answer isn't it?

So Shadow Priests, where do you think you stand right now?

Got some Priest issues or topics you want to see addressed? Feel free to follow me on Twitter!

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 out our other Leveling Guides as well as our Wrath Guides and Galleries!

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