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Spiritual Guidance: Some shadowy notes from the Twitter dev chat


Once a long-upstanding follower of the light, Spiritual Guidance woke up this morning in Deathknell with a little bit less flesh than usual and a bizarre "maggot-ish" taste in its mouth. Since the creatures from the Nether didn't seem to want the column, Fox Van Allen took it in (like he does every Wednesday), put 58 of its talent points in shadow, and corrupted it in the most beautiful way possible.

Let's get something straight: I'm really excited about Cataclysm.

Last week's hyperbole aside, I'm not ready to storm the gates. I'm not going to hang up my shadow priestly robes in protest (to the dismay of certain folk). I'm can guarantee you that I'll be one of those people standing out in the cold midnight air on the release date. I'll even call in sick to work the following day with a severe case of Devouring Plague.

As a nice little supplement to the class changes we learned about earlier in the month, Blizzard held a #Blizzchat on Twitter this past Friday. Not a whole heck of a lot of valuable questions were answered, but it did hold some actual promising news for shadow priests and a little bit more insight on what's coming for us in Cataclysm.

Yes, I said promising news. This week, we're shelving the QQ.


Could the shadow priest's Mastery bonus instead be something more distinctive from shaman shield orbs (like shadow ravens)?

The original "fantasy"; behind the Mastery bonus is that you're storing shadows through combat with you, that you can unleash out using Mind Blast or Mind Spike for more burst damage. We're not sure about ravens or how that relates to a Shadow priest, but we're definitely going to do some unique art for them.

I'm absolutely starved for as much information I can get regarding the new Shadow Orb mastery system for shadow priests and was glad to see it addressed even if in this superficial way. It's nice to see that these new Shadow Orbs aren't just going to be palette-shifted shammy shields or a recycled troll racial from days of yore. We're getting a little bit of spriest-specific love here in the form of new art, and it feels good.

And as speculative as the Cataclysm priest preview was earlier in the month, the fact that Blizzard is again talking about Shadow Orbs being used for burst damage would seem to indicate that they're pretty set on this particular mechanic for them. Granted, it's not the most exciting mechanism in the world (it's pretty much just a fancy, scaling, on-use trinket), but it's a lot better than a boring flat damage percentage increase.

It does beg the question, though: Exactly what the hell are we going to have to watch orbit us for hours on end? (I have my fears that Blizzard is not taking my suggestions for orbs modeled after dead gnomes seriously.) I was initially hesitant about the "shadow raven" concept -- I mean, dude, this isn't The Crow -- but I think I'm warming up to the idea a little. It wouldn't be entirely without precedent.

There are already shadow priests in the Dragonblight with little shadow ravens fluttering about them, and they do look pretty awesome. Sure, they might not quite fit in with the lore of shadow priests, but then again, I'm not sure how space goats quite fit into the shadow priesthood either.

Ravens have a place in literature as agents of darkness (quoth the shadow priest, "nevermore"). Since we're manipulators of the light, so to speak, ravens don't seem that out of place as a sort of non-sentient "pet." A lot of our lore is pretty sketchy, but our family tree definitely goes back to the forsaken and their Cult of the Forgotten Shadow. Whatever we wind up seeing will hopefully harken back to that.

It's not going to be ravens. Still, I do hope that we see something with a little bit of personality. My Shadowfiend could use a new friend.


Can you make crowd control in raids and 5-mans an important aspect of the PvE game again?

An emphatic yes.

I want to believe. I so want to believe.

Priests have an awful lot of spells at our disposal that just don't seem to come in handy as much as I'd like. Mind Control is the prime example of a talent with so much unrealized potential in PvE, but Shackle Undead seems to come in a close second. Our version of CC only works on the undead, making the spell so highly situational that it seems to collect cobwebs.

Blizzard made a stellar attempt to bring back priest crowd control in Patch 3.3. It was something of a perfect storm: an instance full of undead combined with gigantic trash packs. Raid leaders designed crowd control plans because a lack of planning could cause a humiliating trash-caused wipe. Crowd control felt genuinely important again -- enough that I even glyphed for it.

To my dismay, however, the new found use for crowd control was short lived. Sheer numbers of mobs weren't enough to keep CC viable. Trash pulls quickly degraded from a planned affair to a mindless chore often performed by 20 players or less. In a way, it's just the nature of the game -- we expect to eventually out gear old content.

Still, it'd have been nice to see CC stay as part of the strategy for longer than it did. It's a difficult task to be sure, but I want to believe that Blizzard is learning something as they continue to design encounters. To hear that they're "emphatic" about making crowd control a part of PvE is a good sign that they're doing their best to fix its inherent problems.

The only downside is that there's likely to be fewer opportunities to battle those from beyond the grave in Cataclysm (the scourge is in retreat, after all). Still, I'd be surprised to see an entire expansion go by without at least a handful of undead-themed instances or raids where shadow priests can really shine in a crowd control role.

Don't let me down, Blizzard.


Can you allow points spent in your off tree give a diminished amount of mastery bonus toward your main tree so as to not nerf hybrid specs?

Does the Elemental shaman really want more melee damage though? Does the Shadow priest really want to heal better? If anything it feels like it would be a nerf to hybrids, since a warlock would get more damage from any tree, while a DPS hybrid might only get more damage from their tree.

If hybrids end up coming out a little short, we'll compensate in other ways (such as more oomph in talents) instead of doing hacky things with the mastery system.

This comment got a little bit lost in the shuffle, but it got me thinking a little bit more about our spec (and hybrids) in general. I might get a little bit of grief for this but... I wouldn't mind healing better. Let me explain.

As a community, it's really easy to get caught up in the great DPS race. We want to feel useful as a raider, and the simplest way for us to do so is to melt face as quickly and as hardcore as possible. More damage seems to be the number one desire for shadow priests since the introduction of Wrath, and for good reason. Big yellow numbers look awesome.

When I rolled my first priest, the idea of dealing damage with it never really crossed my mind. Neither did end game raiding, really -- I just wanted to play a toon capable of helping other players. Eventually I fell in love with shadow priesting, but my favorite part isn't necessarily the raw, unadulterated face melting. It's being able to melt faces and help my party at the same time. (That's part of why I'm so defensive about changes to Replenishment.)

In a world where people seem more concerned about min/maxing, a poorly implemented attempt at homogenization will lead people to forsake less desirable builds and classes in favor of stronger ones. We have a built in 5% disadvantage thanks to the hybrid tax (6.29%, but who's counting), so it's nice to have something else to bring to the table. If Mastery or even a new talent could provide an added benefit to Vampiric Embrace, I'd immediately consider it for my build. First and foremost, I'm a part of a raid team, and I want to do whatever would best benefit my team, not just my own DPS.

I'm not saying this is the direction Blizzard will take (in fact, a quick read of the quote above confirms that they're not), but I did want to rebut the argument that more healing would necessarily be a nerf to shadow priests. DPS isn't everything.


Will there be any new pet families added, or will we simply see more additions to existing ones?

We're not sure yet whether we're adding new pet families or not. It's possible. Expect to see some monkeys, foxes and other new pet possibilities though!

We can clearly divine from this comment the fact that Blizzard has a favorite writer and is paying homage to him by including foxes in the game as pets. Comments that the development of Cataclysm predates his hire as a columnist will be ignored, regardless of accuracy.

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? Hate gnomes? The darker, shadowy side of Spiritual Guidance has you covered.

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