Shadow priest PvP
Finally, there's shadow. Without a doubt, when many players wish to just have fun in PvP with their priest, they turn to the shadow spec. In the early days of the game, PvP was pretty much the only area shadow priests excelled at and nobody would want to bring them to raids. They gained PvE viability somewhere along the way and lost a lot of their PvP viability in arenas. Cataclysm
is a whole new ball game, though, and with the advent of rated battlegrounds, expect to see a lot of shadow priests on the battlefield. Let's take a look at what you can do with the spec.
- Veiled Shadows - Basic ability cooldown reduction on tier one, which is expected. You pick this up for the shorter cooldown on Shadowfiend, which is a great ability to regain mana and DPS at the same time, but the real beauty of this talent is the cooldown reduction to Fade. You'll want to pair this up with Glyph of Fade (major) to bring Fade's cooldown to an amazing 15 seconds. Wait, you say, isn't Fade a PvE ability? I laugh a sinister laugh and say, "hang on, we'll get to that in a bit."
- Improved Psychic Scream and Silence - This is the class' best self-peel and can even be used to scatter opponents to save a teammate from a beatdown. Overall Psychic Scream is just an extremely versatile spell that can be used offensively as well as defensively, so you'll want a lower cooldown on that. Lower cooldowns are always good in PvP, but lower cooldowns on a crowd control spell are gold. It's also the prerequisite to Silence, which is about as PvP-centric as you can get to a talent. It has a long 45-second cooldown, but it's a ranged blanket silence, which makes it more powerful than typical interrupts.
- Improved Mind Blast - You want to Mind Blast your opponents, not merely because it'll hurt them a lot, but also because Improved Mind Blast will let you cast more of it while applying a Mortal Strike effect at the same time. This healing reduction only applies to Mind Blasts cast while you're in Shadowform, keeping the PvP aspect of the spell strictly in the hands of shadow priests.
- Improved Devouring Plague - Normally, I wouldn't include simple DPS increases as a PvP must-have, but this talent adds an instant-cast burst component to Devouring Plague. You'll want to squeeze as much damage out of this spell, too, since it also has a healing component. Considering you'll be in Shadowform all the time, you can use all the healing you can get from other sources.
- Twisted Faith - Basic, boring, and bland ... but absolutely necessary. You want that hit.
- Shadowform - You'll be picking up this talent, anyway, but I'll point out that the passive damage reduction is pretty sweet.
- Phantasm - Here's where I continue my sinister laugh and point out that with this talent Fade will allow you to shrug off snares every 15 seconds. Add Dispel Magic into that mix and you'll have practical immunity to all kinds of snares, which should come in handy as you kite your prey to their doom.
- Harnessed Shadows - You want shadow orbs. Shadow orbs are delicious. They're your mastery effect that adds sweet, face-melting power to your spells. Harnessed Shadows makes sure that you'll always have some shadow orbs floating around, and the good part is that you automatically get one if you're crit by an opponent. In PvP, you're pretty likely to get crit now and again, especially with the changes to resilience, so you might as well get something out of it.
- Vampiric Embrace, Masochism, Vampiric Touch, and Sin and Punishment - All these talents are just excellent for PvP, starting with Vampiric Embrace, which turns all your single target DPS spells into passive heals for you and your allies. Since you can't cast any holy spells in Shadowform, Vampiric Embrace is essential to your survivability. The more pain you dish out, the more you can heal yourself. Masochism provides some mana regeneration that procs off taking damage, even self-inflicted ones from Shadow Word: Death. I also highly recommend getting Glyph of Shadow Word: Death (prime) which allows you to instantly recast Shadow Word: Death at your opponents if the first cast fails to kill them off. In conjunction with Glyph of Spirit Tap (major), you're looking at some massive mana regeneration every time you kill a target. You can also gain mana back from Vampiric Touch, a DoT that procs mana refunds whenever you hit the target with the debuff with a Mind Blast. Finally there's Sin and Punishment, which discourages the dispelling of your Vampiric Touch by proccing an AoE horror effect. Overall, just a whole lot of PvP goodness.
- Mind Melt - Make sure you deal that killing blow by packing more punch into your Shadow Word: Death with Mind Melt. In Cataclysm, you'll learn Mind Spike at level 81, which you'll be casting to proc an instant, high- or auto-crit Mind Blast. Extremely nasty ... and it doesn't even end there.
- Paralysis - So you'll be getting 100 percent crits with Mind Blast, right? Well, Paralysis will lock your targets in place with a physical root that can't be dispelled. That's just disgusting. Fortunately for your opponents, the Paralysis effect can actually miss or be dodged because it constitutes some form of physical attack. Don't ask. Blizzard probably just made it that way so that you don't feel too godly.
- Pain and Suffering - Since you'll be applying Mind Flay on your opponent as often as possible to keep them snared and, uh, dying, you'll want to pick up Pain and Suffering to refresh your Shadow Word: Pain automatically. You'll also want it for the 40 percent reduction to the damage you'll take from Shadow Word: Death. Since you'll be able to spam Shadow Word: Death whenever you don't land that killing blow (just make sure not to kill yourself in the process).
- Psychic Horror - Another PvP-centric talent! Although it's designed to give shadow priests higher survivability against melee classes, the spell can be used as crowd control in a pinch against any target. It's also usable as an interrupt whenever Silence is down. Augment it with Glyph of Psychic Horror (major) to reduce the spell's cooldown to one minute. Note that this is a horror effect, so abilities that break fears won't break it.
- Dispersion - I typically don't talk about the 31-point talent in a tree simply because you're supposed to pick it up, anyway, but how can I not mention Dispersion? It's the best PvP talent in a tree that's loaded with PvP talents. Think of it as a priest's own Ice Block or bubble, and you can even glyph with Glyph of Dispersion (prime) to increase your survivability immensely.
The developers worked hard at making shadow viable in PvP -- and it would almost seem like they went a little overboard. What the holy tree lacks in PvP-centeredness, the shadow tree boasts in spades. Survivability is high if only because the new environment is all about higher stamina and shadow priests have plenty of outs -- fears, roots, and even an "oh $#!+" button. Shadow has the most talents geared towards PvP and it should be fun to play it in the battlegrounds. Holy must be shelved for now and players looking to heal in PvP are still better off speccing discipline (EDIT: Readers have pointed out, and I must admit I agree, that holy works well in the battlegrounds. Considering this is a battlegrounds column, I confess I didn't give holy's PvE strength enough credit in the battleground environment). If you need to round out your glyphs, I recommend Glyph of Fear Ward
(major) which reduces Fear Ward's cooldown and duration to 2 minutes, which should be useful for when Fear Ward
is consumed or dispelled too soon. In the next installment, we'll check out those sneaky, stabby creatures known as rogues!
Zach delivers your weekly dose of battlegrounds and world PvP in one crazy column. Find out how the Cataclysm talent tree redesign affects PvP, how sub-speccing will work at higher levels in the expansion, and how the new Azeroth will affect world PvP. Visit Blood Sport for the inside line on arena PvP.