Seri sez: Shadow for the Holy CL, revised (patch 3.0)

October 16, 2008

As promised, I’ve updated my guide for reviewing Shadow Priests for patch 3.0. If you read the original, this will probably seem very familiar! Although much of the wording remains the same, the details about gear rankings, spell hit cap, stat balance, talents and spell rotations have changed significantly.

At one time, I had 10 Priests under my purview. Although there have been a few casualties, we are still legion; the Priest class is the largest in our guild and it’s my job to evaluate both the Holy and Shadow Priests. I’ve always been Holy, so when I took on a class lead role I knew I had my work cut out for me. Fortunately for you, you can now benefit from all of my hard work. By following these guidelines, you can whip those Shadow Priests into shape… or at least find out what sort of shenanigans they’ve been getting away with.

Reviewing Gear

Reviewing any character is a multi-step process. I like to start with their armory profile. Have a gander at their gear, and determine if it is appropriate for the level of content that you’re running. ShadowPriest.com has a great gear list that you can use to see if they are missing easily obtainable upgrades. Just keep in mind that just because something is higher on the list than something else doesn’t necessarily mean it is more desirable; it depends on what else the SP is wearing and what their over all stat needs are. There is a ‘big picture’ here and you have to take that into account.

Spell Power: T6 Shadow Priests should have at minimum 1100-1200 Spell Power–more if you’ve been deep in T6 content for a while.

Hit Rating: Shadow Priests hit cap at 289.55 Hit Rating, with 3/3 Shadow Focus and 3/3 Misery (more about that later).

Critical Strike Rating: One of the big changes in 3.0/Wrath is that Mind Flay can crit. (Also, spell crit chance is being added to DoT damage in the beta, so that may go live eventually too. If you have 20% crit rating, your DoTs would do 120% damage every tick with this change.) Critical Strike Rating is now much more valuable to Shadow Priests, but most won’t really have a chance to start stacking it until Wrath due to the increase in hit rating requirements.

Haste Rating: Shadow Priests shouldn’t start stacking haste until they are up around 1400 Spell Power fully raid buffed. However, once they get to that point, haste is love.

Enchants: Make sure they have an enchant for all enchantable slots (helm, shoulders, cloak, chest, wrist, gloves, pants, boots, weapon) including rings if they are an enchanter. They should have spell power for bracers, gloves (hit or crit also acceptable depending on individual needs) and weapon, though Soulfrost is also good to see (and as far as I know still exists in 3.0). Chest should be +6 Stats or Mp5. I require Subtlety and Boar’s Speed for my Shadow Priests, but your policies may vary.

Gems: Rather than simply gemming for max spell power, Shadow Priests now need to balance spell power with hit, crit, spirit and (eventually) haste. Gem choices may vary a little bit depending on individual needs, but if you see anything wacky like Spell Penetration wield your clue-by-four with impunity!

Reviewing Spec

Next, tab over to their talent sheet. There isn’t a heck of a lot to look for here, because if you opened up your Shadow tree and face rolled on your keyboard you would be bound to get most of your points in useful talents. It’s not uncommon to see Shadow Priests sink 50+ talent points in Shadow. However, an optimal raid spec will make room for key Discipline talents. Things to look for:

PvP Talents: Make sure the Shadow Priest isn’t raiding with a PvP build, which will be characterized by things like Imp Psychic Scream, Silence and Psychic Horror. The jury’s still out on Improved Shadow Form. It can be situationally useful in PVE, but at level 70 a Shadow Priest really doesn’t have enough talent points to pick it up without losing something more useful.

Twin Disciplines/Improved Inner Fire: Remember I mentioned that Discipline tree? Twin Disciplines is a must, as it directly affects Shadow Word: Pain, Shadow Word: Death, Mind Flay & Devouring Plague. That’s something like 95% of a Shadow Priest’s spell rotation right there. Improved Inner Fire only becomes important at level 71, when Inner Fire grants a spell power bonus as well as an armor bonus. Not terribly important as of 3.0, but something to keep in mind come Wrath.

Shadow Affinity: Threat reduction? Yes, please.

Improved Vampiric Embrace: Although Vampiric Embrace is required for Shadow form, Improved VE is completely optional for raiding. VE generates a ton of threat, making it only situationally useful. If your Shadow Priests are putting points in Imp VE, make sure they’re not neglecting something else.

Shadow Weaving: This talent was reduced from 5 points to 3 points in 3.0, and all 3 are worth having. This debuff now only affects the Shadow Priest rather than the entire raid. Nonetheless, it’s a debuff no Shadow Priest will want to do without.

Shadow Focus and Misery: As mentioned earlier, with 3/3 Shadow Focus and 3/3 Misery, a Shadow Priest hit caps at 139. This is almost double the hit cap from pre-3.0, with 5/5 Shadow Focus. Although the hit cap is higher now, it’s still possible to reduce the # of points spent on Shadow Focus/Misery (though why you’d want to reduce points spent in Misery is a mystery to me) if there is a surplus of hit rating.

Spell Hit Caps (courtesty of SP.com):

* 289.55 hit is the cap with 6 points between Shadow Focus and Misery
* 314.78 hit before you can go to 5 points between Shadow Focus and Misery
* 341.02 hit before you can go to 4 points between Shadow Focus and Misery
* 367.25 hit before you can go to 3 points between Shadow Focus and Misery
* 393.48 hit before you can go to 2 points between Shadow Focus and Misery
* 419.71 hit before you can go to 1 point between Shadow Focus and Misery
* 445.94 hit before you can go to 0 points between Shadow Focus and Misery

Reviewing WWS

If you are a serious raider, you’re probably already familiar with WowWebStats. If not, well, this section might not make a lot of sense but hopefully you can follow along. WWS reports are a bloated with information, and either adored or reviled by raiders. While I enjoy digging around in WWS to look at stats, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. WWS takes a lot of flak for creating unnecessary competition between raiders, but for me it’s a great tool for performance evaluation. The trick is knowing what to look at and what to not care about.

Forget Trash: When reviewing your Shadow Priests, drill down to individual bosses. While it might be useful to take a quick glance at the trash stats, trash is not optimal for performance tracking for casters–especially casters that rely on DoTs and channeled spells for a lot of their damage.

Don’t Forget Mobility: A lot of boss fights are about mobility, and the more time folks spend repositioning themselves the less time they spend DPSing. Pick low mobility fights as your ‘benchmark’ fights when looking for raw DPS numbers.

Spell Rotation: Shadow Priest spell rotation is done by priority rather than casting things in a set order. The idea is to keep Shadow Word: Pain, Vampiric Touch and Devouring Plague up at all times, Mind Blast whenever the cooldown is up, Shadow Word: Death whenever it’s safe and otherwise Mind Flay. Ideally, the SP should be using a DoT timer and refreshing DoTs right as they wear off. For example, VT has a shorter duration than SWP; it should be refreshed whenever it needs refreshing rather than waiting until SWP wears off. When looking at an individual Priest’s stats, look for the ‘Dots’ field for all DoTs. These numbers should be the same if not close to the same. If there are large variations here, the SP is not staying on top of their DoTs. Bad SP, no biscuit!

Calculating DoT Uptime: DoT Uptime is defined as ‘the amount of time DoTs are kept up’. This isn’t something you’ll want to do after every raid for every boss, but I like to spot check folks here and there–sort of like a pop quiz for Shadow Priests. The formula is pretty simple (it’d have to be, because I suck at math):

DoT Uptime % = (# dot ticks * 3) / fight-duration-in-seconds * 100

So, let’s say a fight is 4 minutes long and during that 4 minutes a SP had 80 ticks of SWP:

80 * 3 = 240
240 / 240 = 1
1 *100 = 100%

There you have it. 80 ticks of SWP in a 240 second (4 minute) fight is 100% DoT uptime. That’s pretty optimistic though, let’s take a real world (such that it is) example:

These screenshots are taken from an actual WWS report, for a Teron Gorefiend fight. This particular priest died during the fight, but was present for 97%. We’ll use the amount of time she was alive for our calculations… after all, we can’t really hold her accountable for keeping DoTs up after she died. As you can see from the first picture, she was alive for 3 minutes and 47 seconds, which is 227 seconds according to my calculator widget. Next, look for the SWP ticks on the ‘dots’ column of the damage out breakdown: 71. Plugging it in:

71 * 3 = 213
213 / 227 = .938(ish)
.938 * 100 = 93.8%

So, for this Gorefiend attempt this Shadow Priest’s DoT Uptime was 93%… I should give her a cookie. I love to see DoT Uptime over 90% but anywhere in the mid-80’s is acceptable for mobility fights (which Gorefiend is not).

What else can WWS tell you? All sorts of things. Just looking at the above images, you can see that our guinea pig’s DPS for that fight was 1264 and that her VT/SWP ratio was pretty close. If anything, I’d suspect that she was waiting for VT to wear off before re-casting. Since VT has a casting time, you can start casting it before VT actually wears off (without clipping the last tick) as long as you’re watching the dot timer. WWS will also show you buffs gained, so you can tell whether someone was using a flask, how often they used buff food, mana potions, their Shadowfiend and more.

Personal Observation

Last but not least: the often underestimated personal observation stage of the review process. Does the SP show up for raids on time and stocked with all the consumables and reagents that they need? Do they help with buffing Fortitude and Shadow Protection as needed? Are they dying a lot, and if so is it because of threat issues or poor situational awareness? Are they following instructions? Going AFK frequently? Zoning out on trash? Managing their mana/cooldowns well? Set them as your focus target for an hour or so if needed to keep an eye on them.

Final Thoughts

Even though we Holy Priests are healing specialists, that doesn’t mean that we have to be ignorant about how the ‘other half’ lives. My studies of Shadow Priest tactics/gear have made me a stronger player in general, not to mention a stronger Class Lead.

Although patch 3.0.2 is now live, Blizzard is still rigorously testing talents for Wrath and beyond; changes are bound to be made in the coming weeks. I’ll keep revising this document whenever it seems necessary. Your comments and suggestions are welcome; past comments have already contributed to improvements in this revision!



  1. Just a note about SW:P – due to the new Pain and Suffering talent, SW:P refreshes on a cast of Mind Flay 33/66/100% of the time (per talent point). A raiding Shadow Priest (in fact, most any Shadow Priest) should have this talent and then will not have to worry about refreshing SW:P unless they have to spend more than 18 seconds not casting Mind Flay. And a Mind Flay doesn’t even have to connect for any damage – a priest can tap MF for the refresh and immediately cancel-cast into whatever they actually want to do. So your sections on rotation and DoT uptime may need some updating. Also, you may want to mention the choice a priest has between 2/3 P&S or 3/3 P&S in the talents, since I think it will vary based on personal play-style and confidence and not on significant DPS increases one way or another.

    Otherwise, great update to a great guide. Love the blog’s fun attitude!

  2. @ Xtian – Good catch! I was focused on updating the verbiage in that section to not make it sound like SWP and VT were the only things to worry about. I completely forgot about Pain and Suffering refreshing SW:P (and what an awesome thing that is too, I got a kick out of it when I was doing DPS testing on the beta). I think I’ll revamp that section so the comparison is between VT and DP (but I don’t have a post-3.0 WWS report to work with yet). I think I’d also like to mention Pain & Suffering specifically in the talents section so… maybe I’ll revise the guide a little this afternoon.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  3. […] Seri, from World of Snarkcraft, goes over shadow priests! […]

  4. i’ve seen priests with shadoweave set using crit gems and haste items lol
    i have a shadowpriest too and man, im so agree to your post.

  5. Remember, Imp SF now has an innate 30% threat reduction, making it cheaper than Shadow Affinity (1 less talent point) and with added benefits (pushback reduction).

  6. @ Rav – According to the talent calculator (I can’t check the live version right now), it’s Shadowform itself that has the innate threat reduction, not Imp Shadowform. As long as that is the case, I still recommend the added threat reduction of Shadow Affinity over Imp Shadowform. 🙂

  7. Ah, you’re right. I remembered threat reduction to be on Imp SF instead of regular ole SF. I don’t know where I make that mistake. 🙂

  8. It’s always possible that it WAS at some point during the talent tree revisions. Let’s go with that. 😉

  9. Whenever you have raid damage, imp SF is useful, and tbh, I think 2/3 Pain and Suffering (unless you are a SW:D spammer) and 2/3 Shadow Weaving should be enough. Unless you are in Tank’s group, imp VE is totally useless, hence it will be nerfed to 5% down from 25% to your party in next patch.

    I think the most threat reduction you have, the better it is, don’t forget there will be no blessing of salvation or grace of air totem in WOTLK.

    Imp MB should stay at 4/5 instead of 5/5 because that half second is not a great advantage due to human error, even with OmniCC is not easy to know exactly when the CD is off, and if you add the lag error than you are sure to be the same DPSer with 4/5 or 5/5.

    In disc, its as you said.

    But why don’t you mention dispersion ? is it useful for raiding ? 6 seconds without doing anything for 36% mana, i guess it can be, but you have to make sure all your dots are up during that time, and you just use MB before you disperse so you get the mana regen from Vampiric Touch hence the 5SR (five seconds rule).

    Cheers, great guide anyways.

  10. […] Quelle Seri sez: Shadow for the Holy CL, revised (patch 3.0) […]

  11. […] Quelle Seri sez: Shadow for the Holy CL, revised (patch 3.0) […]

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