Spiritual Guidance: Mists of Pandaria and the evolution of a shadow priest

Spiritual Guidance Mists of Pandaria and the evolution of a shadow priest

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

Ladies and gentleman, I have returned! I know the wait was absolutely excruciating, and though Dawn Moore was an apt replacement for a week, it's like getting a hit of methadone instead of your pure Fox Van Heroin.

This week, I hope you'll bear with me, because I'd like to tell you a bit of a story: the story of how one Fox Van Allen found a game called World of Warcraft and of how his approach to the game changed throughout the year. There's a message buried in there somewhere, I promise.

Anyway, think back to it -- your first day of WoW. Maybe you played a priest since the very beginning, but for me, it was a warrior. Priests, so far as I was concerned, were a healing class. And I wanted to break stuff.

So, there me were. Me Fox. Me smash! But me no happy. Warrior make Fox sad. No like fight boomchicken close up. Want ranged attack! Control chicken mind! Make fall off cliff! Boomkin sadness fun for Fox!

... so wait, where was I? Oh, right -- my early days. See, back then, I was blissfully unaware of what it meant to min-max a character. Trying to grind out that Illustration of the Dragon Soul wasn't even a thought in my head yet. Heck, the simple act of finding a blue item in the world was a momentous occasion! I was just trying out different classes and exploring the world. It was a simpler time, to be sure.

Of course, I eventually tried playing a priest. I don't need to tell you guys that I fell in love with the experience. I wanted to learn more about the class. I wanted to know what all the spells did and when I should cast each one. I did research on my talent trees. I just needed to know more to give my favorite class (and later, my favorite spec) the respect it deserved.

That's how I wound up down this dark, shadowy path, friends. I did my homework on, much the way many of you do now -- or on howtopriest, or right here at Spiritual Guidance. We care, and we want to learn as much as we can about that thing we love. Because on some level, it's enjoyable to us.

But here's something to think about: It's not enjoyable to everyone. A lot of people out there don't want to spend an extra two hours a week doing research to better play a game they use to relax. And that's especially true when you're talking about marginal gains. It's one thing to spend a grand total of 30 seconds Googling "best shadow priest talent build"; it's another to maintain a series of complex spreadsheets showing which piece of gear is worth a fraction of a point of pseduo-intellect more than the rest.

After maintaining these complicated calculations for years, I'm starting to grow weary of it. I still love shadow priesting -- it's just that the way I prefer to play the game has changed. I'm evolving. Clearly, I'm not the only one who is starting to tire of needlessly complex determinations of which weapon is marginally better than the next, which only serves as the starting point of a lengthy grind of heroics wherein you run Grim Batol 20 times in succession trying to win some lousy trinket.

New ways to get shadow priest gear

I gave you that bit of personal history to lead into this: The way we'll be acquiring gear is changing in Mists of Pandaria in some very intriguing ways. Most notably, we'll be given the opportunity to upgrade our existing gear via valor points.

The simple version of how the new mechanism appears works: Say you win an epic i500 Van Allen Belt while in a raid, a sexy haste-plus-mastery caster belt designed to hold up your expensive, skin-tight designer jeans (or sexy caster pants for pew-pewing, whatever). Now, you could trash that belt next tier in lieu of a less attractive crit-plus-mastery i525 belt. Or, with the valor upgrade feature, you could just pay a 300 valor points (or whatever the final cost winds up being) to bump your Van Allen Belt up to i525. Since item level is simply a function of stats, all the associated stats of the belt would scale up.

Why would you want to go through the trouble? Well, say your name is Fox Van Allen, and something called a Van Allen Belt drops. Then you could totally just wear the same belt forever just because you're an egotistical jerk and it has your name on it.

Spiritual Guidance Mists of Pandaria and the evolution of a shadow priest

Oh, and did we mention that select raid-level gear will start showing up on the Black Market Auction House? According to hipster-esque CM Zarhym, it won't be a reliable way to gear up a character, but it'll still provide an alternative to the mindless grind, in case you find other aspects of playing the game (cough, making money, cough) more enjoyable.

Less grind, more fun

So I've grown to hate grinding. Life's short, I don't have time for nonsense. I want my World of Warcraft experience to be fun. Which segues into the must-mention bits of fun that are coming to WoW in Mists of Pandaria.

That's right. You know what I'm about to say. Because I've been begging for it for years. And now they're finally real: MOTHER F-ING SHADOW RAVENS.

Spiritual Guidance Mists of Pandaria and the evolution of a shadow priest

For those who missed the news in my absence, yes, we're getting Shadow Ravens. It's a new minor glyph added to the game for MoP. It doesn't add anything to the game except for the fact that oh my god we have shadow ravens now how awesome is that. The functionality is currently in the game (as you can see above), though it is glitchy. The ravens almost instantly disappear after they appear. At least I hope that's a glitch, because I want to be a weird Batman villian who's constantly surrounded by birds for some reason. Because it is fun.

See, this is where I am in my World of Warcraft life. I'm good at the game. I could obsess over that elusive 30 DPS bump over the best piece of gear and the second-best piece, but I don't. I just want to casually sign on, casually melt faces, and do it all while surrounded by three damned shadowy birds of doom. And you know what? While I'm doing it, I want to look like a friggin' Dark Archangel whenever I apply Devouring Plague. Yeah, that's right, they just added a minor glyph to the game that does that, too. And I love it. Because it is fun. So suck it, nerds.

WoW is evolving

I've gone through a lot of different phases during my time playing World of Warcraft. I've changed, and I know the playerbase has changed too. That's just life. And it's one of the reasons why World of Warcraft is still the undisputed number one MMO after seven years: It knows how to change and adapt with a changing playerbase. You may be the guy who misses the grindy nonsense of vanilla, but the game has evolved and you haven't. That's really all there is to it.

Feel free to complain if you don't like it. But I'll be too busy enjoying the squeals of evil joy from my squadron of miniature Shadowfiends, thank you very much.

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.