Spiritual Guidance: The Mists of Pandaria pre-beta shadow priest

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Spiritual Guidance: The Mists of Pandaria pre-beta shadow priest
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.

In case you haven't noticed, WoW Insider's class columnists have been on a pretty big Mists of Pandaria kick lately. It's because Blizzard just released a pretty big update to the talent calculator. Certain spells got shifted around; certain spells got changed.

I'm damn starved for MoP info, so naturally, I was eager to pore over all the new changes. But admittedly, I was a little bit disappointed. There's not a whole lot of new information for shadow priests since the last time we talked last MoP back in November.

But perhaps that is the news. There were some shocking omissions last time, namely Mind Blast and Devouring Plague, two spells that help define shadow priesting. I was quite confident we'd see both of them again -- their omissions from the MoP leveling experience just had to be accidental.

But here were are, four months later. Guess what's still not in the game?

The symphony of the shadow priest

When I'm playing my shadow priest, I feel something akin to a dark, shadowy conductor. The shadow priest is my symphony. The individual spells are my instruments.

OK, so yeah, that's a terrible series of metaphors. But in terms of the leveling process, it feels like an appropriate one. Level 85 shadow priests make absolutely beautiful music. And as shadow priests of the future slowly push their way to 90, I want to make sure they slowly but surely get access to the instruments they need to make beautiful music.

So, what instruments do the leveling shadow priest get in Mists of Pandaria? Let's look at the first few levels, focusing solely on the shadow spells.
  • Level 1 Smite
  • Level 3 Shadow Word: Pain
  • Level 10 Mind Flay
  • Level 15 First talent point (crowd control)
  • Level 21 Mind Blast
  • Level 24 Shadowform
  • Level 30 Second talent point (movement speed)
  • Level 32 Shadow Word: Death
  • Level 45 Third talent point (DPS)
  • Level 46 Vampiric Touch

The grim specter of Phil Collins

So, we're starting out with some promise -- Shadow Word: Pain. That's a shadow priesting staple, like the synth drums on a Phil Collins song. It's a crucial part of mid-'80s pop, but that can't be all we're given, especially when it's a spell a lot of shadow priests don't bother using on underpowered trash. Smite has to fill in the gaps, as it does now. Ugly, but unavoidable.

At level 10, we get Mind Flay, just as we do in the current game. Cue Phil Collin's voice. Now we got something. Yeah, this is going to be an awesome song. But then we get to level 12. Level 14. Something's missing. Level 15 comes and goes, and we get only what's sure to be an underused CC talent. And then we get to 18 and ... nothing shadowy.

Where are the trumpets? Where's the sax? Oh God, this isn't Don't Lose My Number. It's not even Sussudio. They're giving us In The Air Tonight.

But is this Genesis Phil or Disney Phil?

Don't get me wrong, In The Air Tonight is a fine song about this one time Phil Collins witnessed a drowning or something. Powerful stuff. But it's not a symphony. It's missing something, and it's missing something important. Specifically, it's missing Mind Blast, which we don't get until level 21.

We're going to go mad waiting for that one awesome point three-quarters of the way through the song where dude goes nuts on the drum machine and we finally get something more than Phil Collins' sad, depressing voice. And even then, we're getting "new" Mind Blast, the incarnation where you consume Shadow Orbs to get it.

Is new Mind Blast going to be better? Maybe. A lot of it depends on the Shadow Orb generation percentage, and that's probably going to be one of the last things to get tweaked. But certainly, there's not a lot to get excited about regarding the shadow leveling process. We get Shadowform at 24, but that's more because we just don't get any notable non-shadow spells after that point. We don't even get Holy Fire.

It's not that Holy Fire is a terrific spell or anything -- most shadow priests only use it for a few levels anyway. But it's something to break up the monotony of the leveling process. New spells feel like fun, even if you abandon them shortly after you get them. Saxophones! Keyboards! Trumpets! Reagan puppets! Give us something, here, Blizzard! Don't make us grind out 20 levels with just SW:P and Mind Flay. You're simplifying, but you're simplifying too much.

Every time I see Phil Collins perform solo, I can't help but shake my head and think that he's getting worse by the minute. After all, there's nothing that makes me appreciate Genesis quite like the sad trajectory Phil Collins' career has taken since. I don't want to have to think that about WoW, too. But this simplification does make me nervous.

Especially because I know what happens after In The Air Tonight: We get Another Day in Paradise. And then, God help us, You'll Be in My Heart.

Stopping Phil Collins before he destroys us all

Blizzard wants to make the leveling process easier for us to understand, and I appreciate that. It's a laudable goal. I didn't know how confusing the leveling process could be until I started leveling a worgen hunter. Over the course of three levels, I wound up having to deal with no fewer than seven new spells and abilities. It was just too much at once.

That's certainly not optimal, and it's not something I'd wish on a leveling shadow priest. But is the leveling experience currently broken for shadow? As someone who leveled a new 85 shadow priest from scratch in Cataclysm, I have to say no. But hey, change is coming anyway. (Must be an election year.)

What's the ugliest of the changes? Devouring Plague -- the spell is still nowhere to be seen. Now, I'm as big of a fan of simplification as the next guy, but is this thing really gone for good? Why? It's not a spell shadow priests use in every situation (that's a good thing), it's an easy-to-manage spell that's not forgettable (that's a good thing too), and it's something that fills in that long, lonely trek to 85 (that's a very good thing).

It could be the case that Blizzard forgot to put it in back in November, and then after we wondered aloud what happened to it, forgot again to put it back in this February. But it's looking more and more like DP was intentionally removed. Uh-oh.

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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