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Spiritual Guidance: Shadow priest mailbag for Cataclysm and 4.0.1


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Your host for the shadow-flavored Wednesday edition is, as always, Fox Van Allen -- an indestructible specimen of draenei might. In fact, there are only three things that can even dent his armor: saccharin hugs from his holy counterpart Dawn Moore, caramel corn and that stupid bug that kills you every time you try to enter the Maelstrom in the Cataclysm beta.

I've noticed that an awful lot of people seem to be playing shadow priests these days. Way more, it seems, than back in the days of Ulduar. Now, that can mean one of two things: Either Blizzard has gone the distance and finally made shadow priests competitive enough and fun enough to draw in large numbers of new endgame raiders, or -- and I'm going out on a limb here -- my columns here have been just so popular that record numbers of priests are forsaking the light just to be more like Fox Van Allen.

You can probably make a stronger argument for the "Blizzard fixed our class" reason, but that doesn't really do much for my ego or make a good segue into today's article. So, for the purposes of today's Spiritual Guidance, I shall be the shadowy beacon that made a spec popular through naught but the raw power of his own charisma.

As you can imagine, such a shadowy beacon gets asked an awful lot of questions. Occasionally, in between all the people asking, "Can I buy you a drink?" and "Can I have your babies?", a shadow priesting question gets asked. They're seldom involved enough to write a full article about, but I feel like I have a responsibility to shadow priesting kind to answer them, regardless.

And so today, I'm taking on a few questions about patch 4.0.1 and Cataclysm. Let's jump right in.

Now that patch 4.0.1 is live, what's going on in the Cataclysm beta for shadow priests?

Honestly, not a whole heck of a lot. There have been a small handful of beta builds, but relatively few of them had shadow-specific changes that we haven't seen on the live servers. There was a pretty major Shadow Word: Death nerf on the beta servers ... but it turns out that we pretty much got the same exact nerf live as an emergency "bug" fix.

One change PvPers would be interested in is a nerf to the Improved Mind Blast talent. On the live servers (4.0.1), the talent gives you "a x% chance to reduce all healing done to the target by 25% for 10 sec." On the beta servers (4.0.3), the talent "has a x% chance to reduce all healing done to the target by 10% for 10 sec." It's not a shadow priest-specific change, though -- the reduced healing debuff has been slashed to 10 percent across all classes.

The most recent beta build contained a buff to Inner Fire's spellpower bonus. It used to give you a 425 point bonus at level 85; it now offers 531 points. Yes, this is a generalized buff, but still not really anything to get too excited about. Shortly after (or possibly before) Cataclysm goes live, all the classes should go through a damage-balancing pass, which could very well change spellpower coefficients and thus change what those extra 106 points means.

Why am I so confident? Because they sure as hell didn't bother with a damage-balancing pass before 4.0.1 went live. It has to happen sooner or later, amirite?

For those of you who do a heck of a lot of PvP, you may be excited to know that MMO-Champion recently datamined the season 9 priest gear. It looks somewhat generic to me, to be honest. Still, considering how ill-fitting shadow priest tier 11 looks, maybe generic is a good thing. Take a look.

The new, new, new, new version of Mind Spike

A (presumably) loyal reader with a weirdly inappropriate email address wrote:
I haven't heard a lot about Mind Spike (the level 81 talent) lately. How does it work into our rotations in Cataclysm?
You're right -- I've been focusing so much on patch 4.0.1 lately that we've been neglecting the new-for-Cataclysm talents here in Spiritual Guidance. It's just as well, though -- the ability has gone through a number of changes since it was introduced. The latest incarnation of Mind Spike does a number of things:
  • It still does damage in two schools: frost and shadow. I mention this only because it's about the only thing that hasn't changed about the ability since its inception. Mind Spike will still be your go-to spell for when you're locked out of the shadow school (PvP).
  • It is not a high-threat generating ability (for now). Blizzard has gone back and forth on the threat generation portion of Mind Spike. In the spell's most recent incarnation, Mind Spike behaves as any other spell with regard to threat. That's good news (sort of); when Mind Spike was a high-threat spell spell, its use was effectively barred in 5-man instances and raids.
  • Using it erases your DoTs that are currently active on the target. This unfortunate new aspect of Mind Spike is primarily designed to keep us from using it on bosses. It gives Mind Spike a very specific niche -- the spell is now only useful as an opener.
  • Each cast raises the critical strike chance of your next Mind Blast by 30 percent. As you can see, this is precisely why Mind Spike is useful as an opener. You get a quick shot of medium-level damage in, and at the same time, you set yourself up for bonus damage down the road when you (inevitably) cast Mind Blast. When soloing, this is especially useful; Mind Blast criticals proc Paralysis (when talented), which all but guarantees the mob you're attacking will be dead before it can ever reach you. For this reason, two casts of Mind Spike followed by Mind Blast works quite well for soloing in places like Vashj'ir and Mount Hyjal, where you'll be close enough to level 80 to enjoy the high levels of crit from your existing pieces of tier 10.
So, to answer the question as succinctly as possible: Mind Spike is an opener and little more, and the Blizzard development team is aggressively engineering the spell through constant revisions to make sure it stays that way. It'll be the first spell you cast on most fights, and often the second and third spell you cast, too. You won't weave it into your regular rotation anywhere else.

Cure Disease and patch 4.0.1

Kevin wrote in to me on behalf of his girlfriend:
My girlfriend plays a shadow priest, and we've noticed something odd since the patch. Casting Cure Disease causes her to fall out of Shadowform. Is my memory flawed and this happened forever, or is this new with the patch? If it's new, why in the world would they do this? It's very strange and annoying.
I'd guess that 90 percent of shadow priests will never wind up casting Cure Disease once they hit level 80. But for those 10 percent who do, it's a damn important spell. Imagine being the lone priest on 10-man Rotface. You have to cure diseases like crazy, and at the right times, too. It's no small task for someone accustomed to DPSing.

Shadow priests' ability to cast Cure Disease was one of the first casualties of Cataclysm (really, of patch 4.0.1). It was part of an effort to make status effect mitigation a little more tedious and specialized, and to a lesser extent, part of an effort to reduce the size of the bloated Shadowform tooltip. After all, Cure Disease is a holy school spell, and shadow priests really don't have any business casting holy spells. The exemption didn't really fit the game, so Blizzard removed it.

But here's my problem -- the developers at Blizzard went through a lot of trouble adding a level of homogeneity to the classes, making sure no singular class was a "must-bring" to a raid. (If you need proof, just look at the number of specs that can cast a version of Heroism/Bloodlust now.) The changes made to Cure Disease -- that is, making it kick us out of Shadowform on use -- work against this goal.

I was never a fan of the change, as I tend to oppose any change that takes away non-DPS utility. Of course, as you note, we can still cast the spell -- it just kicks us out of Shadowform. It just adds an annoying extra step to the Cure Disease process.

My only recommendation to your girlfriend is to create a simple Shadowform macro so you can jump back into the fray as soon as possible.

Sup brah, what you play?

Every single person I met at BlizzCon asked:
Yo duuuuuuuude what is goin on man, hey, hey, hey lemme ask you a question man, just let me answer ... I mean ask ... ask a question. Alliance or Horde?
I don't know why, but this question always made me uncomfortable. It's like when all the people at the office started asking me who I was voting for this week. There's always a right answer, and it never seems like you're giving the right one.

"Oh, is that who you voted for? I don't understand -- you looked like such a smart guy. I don't know how you could vote for someone so stupid. Oh well -- I hope you don't mind me never giving you your interoffice mail again, terrorist."

But I digress. The answer to the Alliance or Horde question, if you can't tell from most the screenshots I use here on Spiritual Guidance, is Alliance. It wasn't some complex, thought-filled decision -- my roommate played Alliance, so I played Alliance to join him. I like playing with my friends more than I like playing with strangers, so ... there you are.

Beyond the surface question of Alliance versus Horde lies a better one, though: What race? Or, perhaps more accurately, what racials would you prefer your shadow priest to have? I recently race-changed my shadow priest to human to take advantage of the reputation bonuses. (Wait, do you mean to tell me that you're not grinding obscure reps in preparation for Cataclysm?) In terms of churning out DPS, I've always preferred the draenei hit bonus. For those of you who play Horde, I will always be in love with the troll Berserking racial.

If you're still trying to decide between rolling a worgen shadow priest and a goblin shadow priest for Cataclysm, the racials probably won't be of much help. Worgen currently get a 1 percent bonus to crit as their showstopper racial; goblins get a 1 percent bonus to haste. I anticipate that we'll see the two stats stay on relative parity, as minor tweaks to our spells (and mastery) continue over the coming months. I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable declaring one racial better than the other until the final Cataclysm build is here.

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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