Spiritual Guidance: Diagnosing bad shadow priest DPS

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Spiritual Guidance: Diagnosing bad shadow priest DPS
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.

Shadow priests are in a glorious place right now, just as they've been for most of the Cataclysm expansion. We top the DPS charts on a number of different fights. We're no fire mages, but shadow priests are all over the Warmaster Blackhorn and Madness of Deathwing top 10 DPS lists. Unless you're in a raid with one of the best fire mages in the country, there's no reason why you can't be at the top of the DPS charts too.

If you're not, though, there's hope. The website World of Logs (and its equivalents) offers a lot of great ways to analyze your own personal performance and the performance of your fellow raiders. But how do you use it, what should you look for, and what metrics actually matter for shadow priests? Let's take a look.

The absolute basics

At its most basic level, World of Logs is a site that collects data specific to your raid and gives you lots of tools to analyze it. And this information is pretty comprehensive. It tracks every hit, every miss, and each raider's DPS at every given second of the encounter. There's so much information there, in fact, that using the site can be a bit daunting.

But first things first. To get anything out of World of Logs, at least one member of your raid needs to have an account there and make the effort to use its uploader. Most raid teams already have someone doing this, and it's easy to check if yours does too. Just go to the World of Logs Realms page, choose your realm, and then look for your guild's name. (Or if your guild's website has a direct link, just use that. Easier yet.)

If no one in your guild is uploading data to the site, you should check in with your raid leader to offer to do it yourself. The whole process is pretty easy to do, and it's really useful to have this data when you want it. I'd walk you through it here, but if you don't know how to create a free account on a website, your shadow spec DPS is probably the least of your problems.

Finding your own personal data

World of Logs creates a separate report for each individual night of raiding, so to get started, you'll need to choose a specific raid night. Now for our purposes -- that of diagnosing our own personal shadowy skill -- the main page of any given raid night doesn't offer much useful information. To start looking at the good stuff, we'll need to hone in your performance on specific fights.
  • First, choose Players from the top menu.
  • Then, choose your own name, which should be buried under the Priest sub-tab. This will load a confusing-looking, not-so-useful graph of your overall DPS for the night.
  • Finally, choose a specific boss attempt in the Full Report tab (Bosses sub-tab). The longer the fight goes on, the more useful the data will be.
For sake of explanation, I chose a random Ultraxion-10 attempt of one of the top-ranked shadow priests.

This isn't a hugely useful graph, either, but it does illustrate a rather important point: The first few moments of a fight are typically when you'll do your highest DPS. It's a factor of all your procs going off around the same time. If you want to top the charts -- or even just put out the best DPS you can -- it's important to make the most of those first few seconds. Use all your on-use trinkets and all the buffs you can in those first moments, and take advantage of your Shadowfiend and Dark Archangel too. (I know I say that a lot, but it's really important.)

DoT uptimes are crucial

Now, immediately above that graph is a series of tabs. One of the options is Damage by spell, and there's some really useful info in there. Let's click it:

This tab has some of the most important information to a shadow priest: DoT uptimes. It's a really important benchmark to analyze. You'll never see them at 100%, but you want to see them as close to that number as possible.

As you can see, the shadow priest I chose to analyze has really strong uptimes. And on a fight like Ultraxion, your uptimes should be strong (~90%) too. There's no complicated target switching in this fight. All you have to do is smartly refresh DoTs the moment before they drop off. If you're seeing uptimes that are significantly lower than these for Ultraxion, you're definitely going to want to pay more attention to your DoTs.

Remember the basics of shadow priest DoTs: You want to refresh each DoT after the second to last tick but before it expires. The more successful you are at doing that, the higher your DoT uptimes will be -- Mind Flay included.

And while you're tracking uptimes, be sure to keep an eye on your Empowered Shadow buff. You can find this data under the Buffs gained tab:

Again, 96.5% is terrific for a fight like Ultraxion -- it's about as close as you can get to perfection. Granted, you may suffer a lower uptime for Empowered Shadow simply because of bad RNG luck. Still, the more you Mind Flay, the more Shadow Orbs you generate. And the more Shadow Orbs you generate, the more likely you're to have a near 100% uptime on Empowered Shadow.

And what's the best way to increase the amount of time you spend Mind Flaying? Why, by refreshing your DoTs at the precise moment between the penultimate and final tick.

If your uptime numbers look good for Ultraxion, good for you -- you've passed Shadow Priesting 101. Next stop is Shadow Priesting 201: checking your numbers for Warmaster Blackhorn. It's the ultimate multi-DoT fight this raiding tier. You want to see a high Empowered Shadow percentage combined with a low damage done percentage for the Mind Flay spell. (Your uptimes should be lower across the board.)

What numbers are good for Warmaster Blackhorn? Well ... let's empower you to figure that out for yourself, shall we?

Don't just look at your own info

Being able to see your own data is only half of what make combat logs such a powerful tool. The other half is being able to see what other shadow priests are doing so you can compare performance. After all, how else are you going to know whether or not your 85% DoT uptime on Madness of Deathwing is good or not unless you compare it to what others are doing?

Where's the best source for this data from other shadow priests? I suggest you look to the world's best shadow priests. Fortunately enough, it's easy to find mindblowingly good ambassadors of the shadow on World of Logs. Just go back to the home page and choose Rankings from the top menu. From there, choose DPS, and then Dragon Soul for the most relevant data for a current raider.

First of all, these are literally the best DPSers on the planet right now. These folks had the benefit of every raid buff possible, the best gear (usually), and the best possible RNG luck. But most importantly, they have skill. Don't beat yourself up if you're not on this list -- it's a damn tough list to get on. (Especially if you're not a dumb stupid jerkface fire mage. Sigh.)

If you want to see what your shadow priest could be, I suggest picking one of these top-ranked shadow priests and spying on their performance. Compare apples to apples the best you can -- your uptimes during Ultraxion to their uptimes. Your uptimes during Warmaster Blackhorn against their uptimes. Compare the number of times you cast SW: Death to the number of times they do.

What makes you different is often what is currently holding you back.

Know what doesn't matter

World of Logs has a lot of information -- too much, if you ask me. It's really easy to get lost on the site, and it's even easier to pay too much attention to irrelevant information. And no piece of information is more irrelevant than your overall DPS for the night.

Some fights simply are not built for shadow priests. Other fights have massive DPS buffs that skew the overall data, like Warlord Zon'ozz. And even worse, some fights have you standing around for long periods of time doing nothing, like Hagara the Stormbinder. Heck, even one stupid mistake during a trash pull could kill your overall numbers.

Simply put, the overall data for a night of raiding isn't useful to a shadow priest. It doesn't compare from priest to priest, and it really tells you nothing about how to improve your performance.

Are you more interested in watching health bars go down than back up? We've got everything a shadow priest will need, from the basics of shadow priest PvP and advice on gearing up for Raid Finder raids to the hottest trinkets and weapons for today's shadow priests.

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