Spiritual Guidance: Shadow priest addons for a post-Cataclysm world

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Spiritual Guidance: Shadow priest addons for a post-Cataclysm world
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving Pilgrim's Bounty holiday, the shadow-specced Fox Van Allen has been pondering that which he is thankful for: a broken (but new!) world, a constant supply of minds to flay, and his Joan Rivers-esque good looks.

When I heard for sure that patch 4.0.3a would be hitting yesterday, I immediately thought to myself, "What kind of information about the post-Shattering world will shadow priests need to know?" The idea was to create a great big article all about those changes so that everyone would be prepared.

But here's the thing -- all the major Cataclysm changes happened to shadow priests in patch 4.0.1. Patch 4.0.3a is almost all about changing the world around us (and also about nerfing warlocks). There are a few spriest-specific changes worth noting, but they're largely passive:
  • Vampiric Embrace has been nerfed, as discussed a few weeks ago. We now only get 6 percent of the damage we deal back as self-healing, down from 12. Ouch.
  • Our mastery has been reworked. Casting Mind Blast (with a Shadow Orb active) now procs a non-stackable, 15-second buff, Empowered Shadow. It increases the damage of shadow DoT spells by 10 percent (base), plus 1.25 percent per point of mastery. You should be experiencing close to 100 percent uptime with that buff.
  • Our talent tree has been reset, mostly due to tinkering in the non-shadow trees. This is my preferred, crowd-control-free talent tree for your last few days at level 80.
If you found yourself unsatisfied with the damage you were doing in 4.0.1, these few changes are probably going to leave you wanting. You'll need to find some other way to boost your damage or manage your spec, and there's really only one foolproof way of doing that (aside from practice, of course): addons.

Why muck up your interface with addons?

I probably find myself in the vast minority here, but I'll admit that I actually like the generic World of Warcraft interface. I've been mocked incessantly because of that fact, but honestly, it helps me do just about everything that I need to. I need to see my spells, I need to see what's attacking me, and I need to see my mana and health bars. The stock UI lets me do all that just fine.

There are a few things it doesn't help me do, however. My internet service provider is kinda hit or miss (like all internet service providers), and I need something to help me account for the latency in my connection. And sometimes, I'd like to be better able to manage my DoTs beyond the tiny little default icons. For these reasons, there are addons.


If I had to choose just one addon for shadow priests -- or really, just about any caster -- it'd be Quartz. On the most basic level, it replaces your default casting bar with something more visually appealing. On a deeper level, it helps minimize the effects of a bad connection, helps manage your damage over time spells, and helps you plan around cooldowns.

Why you want Quartz As far as all-in-one addons go, Quartz is about as good as it gets. It performs a number of different functions that provide an awful lot of value to a shadow priest:
  • Latency managment No matter how you're playing World of Warcraft, you need to deal with the timing delays caused by the back-and-forth transfer of data (latency). Quartz measures your average latency and provides the information (in red) on your cast bar. It gives you a visual cue as to when it's OK to start casting your next spell. For those with serious latency problems, an addon like Quartz can increase your DPS by a good 10 percent or more.
  • DoT timing When I said all-in-one, I meant it -- Quartz takes on the task of managing your damage over time spells and does it beautifully. Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague, and Vampiric Touch all have different debuff lengths. Seeing these spells listed in vertical format makes it easier to plan your next cast.
  • Customizability Quartz lets you track just about anything you'd want to track with a time variable. It also lets you untrack things, so you can pick and choose exactly what you want Quartz to show you.
  • Quartz is an established addon. Quartz is an established player in the addon game -- it's time-tested and regularly updated through each major patch. You can be sure that, should World of Warcraft be updated again in the near future, an update for Quartz will soon follow.
Why you might not want Quartz If you already have, like, and use ForteXorcist to manage your DoT spells, you may find Quartz to be unnecessary. Quartz gives you the basic tools to decide what to cast and when, but it's not as explicit about it as some beginners may like. There are a lot of options to Quartz, which may be daunting to beginners looking for simplicity. Otherwise, there's not a lot to dislike.


Like Quartz, ForteXorcist is a popular addon amongst shadow priests for organizing their various timers. It was made for warlocks specifically, but it works just as well for any class with DoTs or timed buffs.

Why you want ForteXorcist Want to be able to track when you need to cast Vampiric Touch next? It can do that. Do you not want to track when to cast Inner Fire next? Done. Want all the information to appear in a different font? Simple. The program is almost intimidating in its level of options, but thankfully, the menus are easy to navigate and customization is a snap. It has a great polished look, too.

Why you might not want ForteXorcist A lot of its functions are redundant with those of Quartz, so if you have one, you may not want the other.


MikScrollingBattleText is all about organizing information. When you're raiding (or even running a 5-man instance), you can have a lot of information thrown at you. MSBT puts it all in one place -- around your character -- in a way that makes it easy to absorb.

Why you want MikScrollingBattleText It's all-inclusive. MSBT tells you just about anything you want it to tell you. It can tell you how much damage you're causing and how much is being inflicted to you, including information about how much damage was resisted. It can provide low health and low mana alerts. It can tell you what buffs you gain and when they drop off. It can tell you when abilities come off cooldown.

Why you might not want MikScrollingBattleText This one is all about your own preferences. You might not like the way MSBT presents information, which is admittedly something that takes getting used to. You may also find yourself simply overwhelmed by the quantity of information it provides.


The default way that World of Warcraft displays cooldowns -- that is, that by graying out a fraction of an icon as if it were a clock -- is often less than ideal. Have you ever had that moment where you're trying to send out your shadowfiend, but can't? And then, after a few moments of trying, you see a little flash and realize that you still had a few seconds left on the cooldown -- it just wasn't obvious enough? Cooldowns replaces that "gray clock" with a number that makes planning (and processing information) easier.

Why you want Cooldowns You want Cooldowns if you believe that, in general, numbers are superior to makeshift, grayscale pie charts.

Why you might not want Cooldowns If the standard way of viewing cooldowns is enough for you, you may not want to muck things up with an unnecessary addon. It can also be a little bit buggy, though it hasn't given me any problems lately.

FaceMelter Reloaded

As you can probably tell by the name, FaceMelter was designed specificially for us shadow priests, which I love. It's a "spell recommendation" addon. If Quartz is your car's gas gauge, FaceMelter is the little fuel tank warning light that comes on to remind you that it's time to fill up.

Why you want FaceMelter One of the hardest aspects of shadow priesting for people to master is their rotation -- knowing what spells to cast when. FaceMelter spells this information out for you. Better yet, it's customizable enough that you can set it to remind you to cast Mind Blast only after a certain number of Shadow Orbs are generated and to cast Disperse only after your mana drops beneath a threshold you set yourself.

Why you might not want FaceMelter Think of this addon as training wheels for your shadow priest -- at some point, you may find the information from the addon redundant with what your own brain is telling you. You may also feel that the "cast this spell now" nature of the addon makes things just a little bit too easy.

Other addons you may be interested in

  • OmniCC This addon is like the Burger King to Cooldowns's McDonalds. OmniCC an be a little bit buggy, but it was recently updated for 4.0.3.
  • Recount Despite being regularly abused (by PUG members, natch), Recount is an excellent tool for measuring your DPS.
  • Deadly Boss Mods In World of Warcraft, most boss actions are decided by a timer, not a random number generator. Especially good for beginners (and for those learning new content), Deadly Boss Mods tells you when to expect a boss to execute a given attack. Most raid groups I've participated in make running DBM a requirement, and for good reason -- it's an exceptionally powerful addon.
If you're interested in more information about customizing your user interface, I suggest you check out Mat McCurley's column, Addon Spotlight, in which he regularly provides addon suggestions. He also regularly provides pictures of his cat, which you may not find as useful.
Are you 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? Hunger for the tangy flesh of gnomes? The darker, shadowy side of Spiritual Guidance has you covered (occasionally through the use of puppets).
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