Spiritual Guidance: Playing catch up with shadow priests

Fox Van Allen steps out of the shadows every Wednesday to take control of Spiritual Guidance, telling you all you need to know to melt faces with expert precision.

The era of patch 3.2 held some dark days for a shadow priest. The fights in Trial of the Crusader were definitely not built for shadow priests, especially in heroic mode. We scaled terribly with new gear. Our tier 9 gear was questionably designed. Every class has their own problems, but the problems that besieged shadow priests were bad enough to negatively effect raid performance. It wasn't hard for shadow priests to get left behind.

Patch 3.3, though -- this is our time. The changes to the spec have already been detailed: buffs to our glyphs, talents, and haste-affected DoTs gave us a ten-to-twenty percent boost to our damage right off the bat. Our tier 10 gear gives powerful two- and four-piece bonuses. And best yet, the fights in the new Icecrown Citadel five-man dungeons and raids seem as if they were built for us. We add tremendous value to an ICC raid in almost every fight.

Actually seeing those fights, though -- that can be a challenge. Patch 3.2 did a lot of damage to the shadow priest class's reputation. An increased emphasis on "gear score" in the game can (unfairly) get an average-geared shadow priest written off. We can't just take playing for granted -- past problems with the spec means there's a higher bar for us.

If you got left behind in the last patch or even if you're a newly minted level 80, don't worry -- you can catch up quick. Here's how.

The release of every major patch coincides with a soft gear reset. Every random heroic dungeon you run earns you a slew of Emblems of Triumph, redeemable for level 245 epic gear, the same quality of items that drop from the 25-man version of Trial of the Crusader. You can also buy tier 9 armor, which come with desirable multi-piece bonuses.

If you're starting from scratch, your first order of business should be to put together a two-piece tier set. The easiest and quickest route is to pick up Velen's Handwraps of Conquest and Velen's Mantle of Conquest, each of which cost 30 emblems. The two-piece tier 9 bonus, a longer lasting Vampiric Touch, is especially friendly to newer players who have trouble juggling their DoTs.

When putting together the rest of your Icecrown-ready gear set, keep the basics in mind. The shadow priest hit cap is 289, so aim to get your hit rating as close to that number as possible (for Draenei, the hit cap is 263). Spellpower is the best stat for shadow priests, but haste is very close behind. Critical strike rating is our third best stat, making gear with all three ideal. Continue enchanting for spellpower if you can.


Those who need a new, "grindable" helmet should take a look at the Helm of Clouded Sight, available for 75 emblems. Fill that yellow gem slot with a Reckless Ametrine, which is the new yellow gem slot filler of choice for shadow priests. The meta gem of choice remains the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond -- make sure you have at least two Purified Dreadstones on hand to activate the meta bonus.


There are a handful of chest pieces to collect in the new five-man heroics, but you're better off working toward the four-piece tier 9 bonus with the Velen's Raiments of Conquest. Tailors will probably find more benefit from crafting a Merlin's Robe. With the changes to stat scaling in the latest patch, Major Spirit is now the best enchant for your chest piece in terms of maximizing DPS. Seriously.

Once you've filled a number of your gear slots with Emblem of Triumph pieces, you should try venturing into the new Icecrown five-man instances. The Devourer of Souls, the end boss of the The Forge of Souls (heroic), drops an excellent neck piece for shadow priests, the Arcane Loops of Anger.

If your shadow priest still needs hit to get to the magical 289 number, the Bracer of Worn Molars from heroic Halls of Reflection can help. Otherwise, spend those Emblems of Triumph on Crusader Orbs and have a tailor craft a pair of Bejeweled Wizard Bracers, which still outshine virtually every ICC drop available.


The Strip of Remorse, available from the Captain's Chest at the end of the instance, makes an excellent belt if you're in need of one -- just don't forget to maximize the benefit from it by picking up an Eternal Belt Buckle off the auction house and filling it with a Runed Cardinal Ruby.

If you've made the decision to build a four-piece tier 9 set, then Velen's Pants of Conquest is your best best. If you don't need the hit, you'll get better DPS (ironically!) by spending your tokens on the healing tier 9 pants, Velen's Leggings of Conquest.

Feet Slot
You can grab the Prelate's Snowshoes off Scourgelord Tyrannus in heroic Pit of Saron.

If you can get into a reputation run of the ICC raid, you can get the Ashen Band of Destruction as a reward for grinding your way to "friendly" with the Ashen Verdict. Even if your DPS isn't quite ready for taking ICC raid bosses, you should be able to put up convincing enough AoE numbers to take on the trash and earn the rep you need for the ring. For the other slot, the Band of the Invoker is available for 35 Triumph Emblems.

First of all, let's get something straight: The Talisman of Resurgence is really easy to obtain through Emblems of Triumph. It's also a really terrible trinket for shadow priests. We get almost no benefit from intellect. You're better off with the Abyssal Rune, found in the non-heroic version of the five-man Trial of the Champion.

To fill the second trinket slot, try to pick up the Nevermelting Ice Crystal from Scourgelord Tyrannus in heroic Pit of Saron. Its on-use proc can raise your critical strike percentage as high as 50% for a short period of time. Better yet, if you cast Shadow Word: Pain immediately after using the the Nevermelting Ice Crystal, the DoT will keep its 50% critical strike rate for as long as it stay auto-refreshed by Mind Flay. That nice little feature will keep the Nevermelting Ice Crystal relevant well into Icecrown.

Once you've got a solid base of higher-end epic gear, you can start exploring the Icecrown Citadel five-man dungeons. In the heroic version of Pit of Saron, Forgemaster Garfrost drops the Surgeon's Needle, which is a great weapon for DPS shadow priests despite the attached MP5. Better yet, if you're lucky enough to find a Battered Hilt, you can complete the quest chain to get the amazing Hammer of Purified Flame.

If you're using a one-handed weapon, be sure to pick up the Shriveled Heart out of the Halls of Reflection. It's a great off-hand, and definitely worth the grind.

The Brimstone Igniter wand is still the most easily accessable wand in 3.3, available for only 25 Triumph Emblems. The Coffin Nail, a bind-on-pickup trash drop off heroic ICC instance mobs, is marginally better but more difficult to obtain.

The list above is, of course, incomplete. Not all gear is created equal, and you can get some nice upgrades over what's presented here by running a 10- or 25-man version of Trial of the Crusader. But for someone with limited time and limited access to raids, emblems and heroics will get your foot in the door.

As you get geared, remember that the duration of your damage-over-time spells will change with each piece of gear that has haste attached. If you notice a marked change in your haste rating, spend a few moments getting used to the new timing before heading into a raid.

Remember, good gear is only the first step. The second and most important step is your own performance once you have the gear. We'll cover much more on that, starting next week. In the mean time, practice your rotations and give us a good name -- shadow priests need all the good PR we can get.

Hunger for more information about bending the light to your advantage? More interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? Think it's neat to dissolve into a ball of pure shadow every few minutes? The darker, shadowy side of Spiritual Guidance has you covered.