Spiritual Guidance: The 10 best weapons for shadow priests in patch 4.3

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen comes from out of the shadows to bask in your loving adoration. All jokes removed to achieve SOPA compliance.

When we met here last, I spent a great deal of time calculating the power of trinkets, partially because it's an important subject and one that's not easy for a shadow priest to unravel without performing their own research (or reading someone else's). The real reason: WoW Insider data shows you guys absolutely love reading about trinkets. And why wouldn't you? Trinkets are the most compelling gear slot to fill. Instead of relying on boring, flat stats, they offer compelling procs.

But trinkets aren't the only pieces of gear that offer compelling procs -- not anymore. Game designers at Blizzard are finally living up to a promise they made way back in February 2010 to "make more proc weapons in the future."

The future is now, but that presents a new challenge to shadow priest. What exactly are those neat new procs worth? And what's our best-in-slot weapon?

There are numerous types of weapons available, but for our purposes, we'll break things down into two distinct categories: one-handed weapons and two-handed weapons. Before we get into specific answers, let's take on the one question that everyone asks:

Two-handed weapons vs. main-hand plus off-hand

In general, all items that share the same item level have the same stat budget when they're being designed. But while a main-hand weapon plus an off-hand frill have a similar stat budget to a two-handed weapon, they're not quite the same. To wit, at i378:

As you can see, you get a little bit more bang for your buck with a two-handed staff than with a main-hand plus an off-hand. But that's before enchanting. When you've got an off-hand frill equipped, you can use the Superior Intellect enchant to add another 40 intellect to your total.

So which is better? Well, they're both pretty similar, but if you're absolutely obsessed about the most marginal of gains (and again, our research shows my audience can't get enough of marginal gains), then your best route in general is going to be to have a main-hand weapon plus an off-hand.

The current BiS shadow priest off-hand is the Ledger of Revolting Rituals (489 PP [pseudopower, a representation of all stats as if they were intellect]), in case you're wondering. If you're running Dragon Soul in Raid Finder, I regret to inform you that even though this is your BiS, you won't be given a role bonus and will automatically lose the item should one of your group's healers want it. The only good news is that the Dragonfire Orb is somewhat competitive (475 PP).

For the pre-raiding shadow priest

Hey, I get it. Not everyone raids. Some folks don't like dealing with the entitled, arrogant attitudes of the incredibly outspoken minority who try to ruin Raid Finder for everybody. Other folks aspire to be raiders, but just haven't gotten the minimum level gear needed to gain access.

If you're not raiding, you'll be looking at the i378-level gear currently available in 5-man heroics. Your best bet will be putting together the Orb of the First Satyr (389 PP), which drops off Peroth'arn in Well of Eternity, with the Fanged Tentacle (2,098 PP), a drop off Archbishop Benedictus in Hour of Twilight. Combined, they're marginally better than the best two-handed staff available at i378, the Stalk of Corruption (2,496 PP), also from Benedictus.

The best raiding gear

Theorycrafting the weapons without a proc is a simple mathematic endeavor. The pseudopower numbers below were calculated using numbers from Mr. Robot and normal mode gear. Numbers for one-handed weapons include the benefit of the BiS enchanted off-hand for comparison purposes.

8. Visage of the Destroyer (2,995 PP), a two-handed staff from Warmaster Blackhorn
7. Scalpel of Unrelenting Agony (3,014 PP), a one-handed dagger from Yor'sahj
6. Lightning Rod (3,029 PP), a two-handed staff from Hagara
5. Maw of the Dragonlord (3,032 PP), a one-handed mace from Madness of Deathwing
4. Vagaries of Time (3,056 PP), a one-handed mace from Morchok

3. Ti'Tahk (3,183)

Shadow priests are a benevolent sort. We offer our allies light amounts of healing. We offer unmatched style, brightening the day of all whom gaze upon us. And with the Ti'Tahk staff, a Madness of Deathwing drop, shadow priests can give their raidmates the gift of haste. Every 45 seconds, you'll receive the benefit of 1,928 haste for 10 seconds while giving a bonus 386 haste to three of your new best friends.

The staff's proc offers you a static 428 haste, but to truly theorycraft this staff, you need to account for the buff you offer your teammates, as well. If everyone else benefits from haste at the same level you do, this staff should be worth a total 3,183 pseudopower, even if part of it doesn't get attributed to you on the damage meter.

2. Rathrak, the Poisonous Mind (> 3,183)

Like the Cunning of the Cruel trinket we discussed last week, the power of Rathrak, the Poisonous Mind is quite dependent on how many enemy targets you're up against at the time. That's because it offers a proc that inflicts a bonus (albeit low-powered) DoT on any enemy with the bad fortune of having you as an enemy. And as someone who picked this weapon up on an alt, I can confirm that it procs quite often -- once per 15 seconds or so.

Coming up with an exact pseudopower value for that proc is difficult. Thankfully, though, we don't need to go through complex math here. Pair Rathrak with the Ledger of Revolting Rituals and you're already up to 3,041 psuedopower, even before the proc. With one target, Rathrak becomes competitive with Ti'tahk. With two targets or more, Rathrak is so much better that it's a slam dunk.

Just be careful -- this happy little fella will break crowd controls.

1. Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa's Rest (~4,290)

It probably shouldn't surprise you at this point that the incredibly hard-to-obtain Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa's Rest is still your best in slot. It's brutally overpowered.

For those of you who don't currently have this crave-worthy staff, let me explain its proc. On each spellcast, you have a chance to gain the Wrath of Tarecgosa, an effect that duplicates the spell you just cast. If it procs off Mind Blast, you get to enjoy an immediate second blast of Mind Blast damage. If it procs off Vampiric Touch, your target will essentially be afflicted with two separate VT DoTs. The proc rate is about 10%, which is pretty spectacular.

There's no perfect way to convert that proc into pseudopower, since the benefit you get from Tarecgosa depends on what other gear you have equipped, as well as how good a player you are. At the most advanced level, however, it's possible to see this proc worth as much as 1,200 pseudopower. Add that to the 3,090 pseudopower that comes from Dragonwrath's base stats, you've got a recipe for your hands down BiS weapon.

Are you more interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? We've got more for shadow priests, from Shadow Priest 101 to a list of every monster worth mind controlling and strategies for raiding Blackwing Descent.