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Shadowpriest Theory Craft - 3.2.2 Edition!


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#1 Mearis

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 10:26 AM

Welcome to the new shadowpriest guide, updated for 3.2.2!

Shadowpriests completely changed with wrath of the lich king, and have gone from being a mediocre DPS class with unmatched utility to a regular DPS class that can provide replenishment and has excellent AoE and multiple target damage, although our single target damage is lackluster.

What changed with 3.2.2?

Tier 9 is now available. Tier 9 changes our stat weighting by a fair bit, making haste a fair bit more valuable due to the loss of the 4-piece tier 8 bonus. Twisted Faith also got boosted to be a 20% spirit to spell power instead of 10%, however, gear with heavy spirit remains terrible compared to alternatives.

First, basic specs:

PvE specs

Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft

Is a very good spec for well geared shadowpriests. Improved spirit tap is now OK as a mana regen talent. The last point in psychic horror can be swapped with whatever you like - inner focus/shadow affinity are all OK choices.


For PvE, the traditional major glyphs are:
- Shadow Word Pain
- Mindflay

The third glyph is more controversial.
- Glyph of Shadow is the only other glyph that has a decent effect on our DPS, but, it works out to be ~70 spell damage or so for maybe 80% of the time, making it quite marginal.

- Glyph of Dispersion gives you unlimited mana, but realistically speaking, you won't be needing all that mana all the time. I favor glyph of dispersion since having a very low cooldown 'oh shit' button is pretty awesome.


Damage cycles:
Shadowpriests can now achieve 5000+ single target DPS without too much effort. While in most fights shadowpriests will not be fighting for the top spots, the damage we can put out is respectable and quite close to other classes that provide replenishment.

To simplify things very much, keep the spells up in this priority:
Vampiric Touch
Devouring Plague
Mind Blast
Mindflay

Shadow Word Pain should only be cast once all relevant debuffs are on the boss. It is much better to wait a few seconds to put up SW: P to ensure that scorch/curse of elements/judgement of the crusader are placed on the boss than to start 'rolling' a shadow word pain with crappy modifiers. By extension, make sure to recast shadow word pain every time you get a debuff that temporarily increases your damage - like thaddius polarity or the crit modifier on loatheb.

Gear:
Stack +damage wherever you can. A loose rule of thumb is that 1 damage is worth 0.7 crit or 0.7 haste, and that spirit and int are more or less worthless (0.3 and 0.2 spell damage respectively). You should gear up for 11% hit, or 10% hit if you always raid with a draenei.

Gemming:
You want to gem epic red + spell damage gem wherever you can, using 2 blue gems to achieve the requirement for the metagem or when you get a very very good set bonus for doing it.

For a good guide to best in slot gear, check out:
shadowpriest.com • View topic - Best Raiding Gear Available 3.2

Keep in mind a lot of this BiS gear is not readily available, check the itemization thread for more details.



crunched out from folks at shadowpriest.com using simcraft (thanks Althaor).

#2 tedv

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 03:09 PM

Thanks for throwing this together. Disclaimer: I've been leveling my Death Knight, so I haven't raided on my priest at 80 yet. Just wanted to throw in my thoughts on a few things.

First, I'd cut Inner Focus from that base talent spec skeleton. Inner Focus is great, and I'll certainly be taking it as part of a "standard" talent set, but it's not a requirement. There were some recent tests on Inner Focus + Shadow Word: Pain, and the conclusion was that Pain does not get +25% damage if you cast it with Inner Focus. This brings the talent spec to 13/0/55+4. In addition to Inner Fire, I can see situational PvE uses for every talent in the shadow tree. You'll want 2/2 Improved Vampiric Embrace when working on Sapphiron for example. Getting 4/5 Blackout sounds good on every fight with a lot of adds. And I haven't tested it, but I assume Mind Sear can proc blackout? Getting an AoE stun sounds utterly ridiculous to me, and possibly worth trimming 1 point from Focused Mind to get the full 5/5 Blackout if you're working on that kind of a fight.

On the subject of cast priority, Mind Blast is our second hardest hitting spell, after Vampiric Touch. And keep in mind that this is because Touch has double the spell damage coefficient of most 15 second DoTs, and the damage disparity between the two isn't that much. If they nerfed Touch from a 2x coefficient to 1.5x, you'd cast Mind Blast first. In particular, cast Mind Blast before Devouring Plague.

Regarding Shadow Word: Death, I'll note that Mind Flay seems to beat Death on paper, but it also depends on gearing levels. I want to see actual WWS reports to decide when its worth casting. My suspicion is that if you have 2 seconds until your next "cooldown" and can't cast anything but Death and a clipped Mind Flay, then Mind Flay is the right choice, regardless of gear levels. But if you only have 1.5 seconds, Death will be the right choice at certain gear levels. Again, this is just speculation, and we need actual data to make this decision.

I also want to stress the importance of waiting for the full set of crit increasing debuffs before casting Shadow Word: Pain. While the spell damage modifying pain will change with your spell damage (like lifebloom does now), the crit modifier and shadow weaving stack are locked in (like lifebloom used to work).

Here's what you get from waiting:
Shadow Weaving 5: +10%
Earth and Moon: +13%
Improved Scorch: +10%
Elemental Oath: +3%

This works out to 40.8% more damage on your shadow word pain. Or inversely (1 / 1.408), your pain will deal 71% of the damage it could be dealing. If pain accounts for even 20% of your total DPS, you've taken a overall 6% DPS loss by casting Shadow Word: Pain initially. It's well worth waiting even 10 seconds just to make sure your Shadow Word: Pain gets all the buffs applied.

#3 dyelynn

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 03:42 PM

I'd go even further than Tedv and say This build would be more baseline. 3/3 TF isn't a requirement, given you have 18 seconds of tick time in which to refresh SW:P...although I'm leary about going to 1/3.

Imp fade only seems necessary if you're having mana issues or you have problems using your fiend properly.

Inner focus really seems pointless now. Obviously you could slap it on MB for the increased crit chance, but unless theres absolutely no place else to put that talent, I'm of the opinion it's a bit of a waste for an extra 25% crit spell for free every 3 minutes. In the old days it worked well with DP because the cooldowns were the same and DP was pretty expensive, now it just doesn't seem to work well with anything.

Also, I don't know if this is a no-no, but the BRGA thread over at shadowpriest.com is kind of a 1 stop shop when it comes to gear listings, hit cap, gem choices and even the formula behind it all... including numerical values for hit, crit, haste, ect, ect.
Shadowpriest.com's Best Raid Gear Available

#4 Kakitajamie

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 04:22 PM

In addition to what dyelynn mentioned, you can take the raiding build even further baseline by removing Dispersion and Shadow Reach.

Dispersion- Between Mediation and Imp. Spirit Tap mana should not be an issue. The damage reduction is nothing more then a oh sh%# button that you shouldn't need if you are not failing in the first place.

Shadow Reach- If your not using the Mind Flay glyph then yes this talent is needed. However you shouldn't be dispelling between pallies and heal priests in a 25 man raid and the Shadow Word: Death glyph still doesn't make Shadow Word: Death worth being in your rotation outside of movement. 30 yards is plenty of range, enough to make Shadow Reach optional.

#5 tedv

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 04:34 PM

In addition to what dyelynn mentioned, you can take the raiding build even further baseline by removing Dispersion and Shadow Reach.

Dispersion- Between Mediation and Imp. Spirit Tap mana should not be an issue. The damage reduction is nothing more then a oh sh%# button that you shouldn't need if you are not failing in the first place.

Shadow Reach- If your not using the Mind Flay glyph then yes this talent is needed. However you shouldn't be dispelling between pallies and heal priests in a 25 man raid and the Shadow Word: Death glyph still doesn't make Shadow Word: Death worth being in your rotation outside of movement. 30 yards is plenty of range, enough to make Shadow Reach optional.


I disagree regarding dispersion. The damage reduction is actually quite meaningful. It's true that 95% of the time you need to use it for the shield, someone has failed. But that person might not have been you. Maybe you legitimately took some spike damage because of how the encounter works and the healers simply failed to heal you.

Besides, who here actually plays perfectly? I know I don't. The purpose of any talent is the same-- to turn wipes into boss kills. Dispersion isn't useful in the fights where everything goes well, but you were going to kill the boss anyway. It helps a lot when something goes wrong, and that's the time you most want to prevent a wipe. The talent is definitely weak, and I agree with Snowy that its +30% health restoration should be reinstated, but it's still worth spending one talent point.

I'm actually okay cutting shadow reach if you have the Mind Flay glyph, and also Veiled Shadows, but I can't come up with a credible reason for doing so. Where else will you spend those points in a meaningful manner? Your discipline options involve Mental Agility, for example, which seems catagorically worse than Veiled Shadows. These aren't great talents, but you have to spend the points somewhere and there's nothing more compelling. Also, the difference between 30 and 36 yards can be substantial, depending on the fight.

#6 Kakitajamie

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 04:57 PM

I disagree regarding dispersion. The damage reduction is actually quite meaningful. It's true that 95% of the time you need to use it for the shield, someone has failed. But that person might not have been you. Maybe you legitimately took some spike damage because of how the encounter works and the healers simply failed to heal you.

Besides, who here actually plays perfectly? I know I don't. The purpose of any talent is the same-- to turn wipes into boss kills. Dispersion isn't useful in the fights where everything goes well, but you were going to kill the boss anyway. It helps a lot when something goes wrong, and that's the time you most want to prevent a wipe. The talent is definitely weak, and I agree with Snowy that its +30% health restoration should be reinstated, but it's still worth spending one talent point.

I'm actually okay cutting shadow reach if you have the Mind Flay glyph, and also Veiled Shadows, but I can't come up with a credible reason for doing so. Where else will you spend those points in a meaningful manner? Your discipline options involve Mental Agility, for example, which seems catagorically worse than Veiled Shadows. These aren't great talents, but you have to spend the points somewhere and there's nothing more compelling. Also, the difference between 30 and 36 yards can be substantial, depending on the fight.


I'm not saying that I won't pick up all of those, in fact I plan to.

I'm just saying that stating they are a necessity to the cookie cutter base is not true. A cookie cutter base should be made up of stuff that you can't raid efficiently without. Dispersion, Shadow Reach and Veiled Shadows (given the proper mana regen and blizzard not implementing a screw you range fight) all are not necessary components to producing optimal dps, thus not base talents.

Although mentioning optimal dps, the argument could be made that both Veiled Shadows and Inner Focus tied to MB could be considered dps increases thus adding to optimal dps.

#7 Snowy

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 04:58 PM

Except from my experience, mana is an issue when you first reach 80, and will continue to be so until you upgrade your gear to mostly ilevel 200+ epics. Fights like Sapphiron and Kel'Thuzad, as well as Sartharion with drakes up are long, long enough where I can use shadowfiend twice and dispersion twice and still need to use that mana pot. In a fight like Malygos, you can spike pretty badly and find yourself in situations where you need to make a long run, hitting Dispersion here while you run to the next shield is free mana regen time while allowing you to stay alive.

#8 Mearis

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 05:00 PM

I was convinced IF worked on dots - if it doesn't, then it is pretty useless. Tedv, good point about mindblast ahead of plague, somehow I am stuck in the habit of putting dots up first, but it is quite obviously incorrect with the damage mindblast deals out.

Is this true even at very high + damage levels?

Twisted Faith is very very good if you are dotting multiple targets with pain, and then tap and refresh pain between the mobs using only mindflay. Even on movement fights, having mindflay guarantee to refresh is very nice.

#9 Xtoforas

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 05:13 PM

Having just stepped into Naxx10 the past few days I would like to share some of my experiences.

I'm currently spec'd this and for the majority of the fights I'm having serious mana issues. This is probably due to me not picking up many upgrades (only new weapon/ring/trinket for hit) and therefore having a pretty small mana pool.

To overcome these mana issues I've augmented my spell priority in the following manner

-> Like stated above, only cast SW:P when all the beneficial crit buffs are applied
-> Drop DP/SW: D from your rotation when you're at 75% mana (meaning you should only cast it at the beginning of the fight at most)
-> Only cast Mind Blast to maintain the replenishment buff up. This meant for me that I would cast VT followed by MB, wait 10 seconds, cast MB again, let VT fall off, when there was 5 seconds left on the replenishment buff cast VT followed by a MB again.
-> Mind flay (when you have 3/3 P&S) to keep SW:P and Misery up.

Following the above with 3/3 Veiled Shadows and popping Mana Fiend at 70% and Dispersion at 60% and Runic Mana potting at 50% I was able to have around 30% mana by the time the "burn" part of the fight happend (< 20%) and I could go into a full dps rotation as stated in the previous posts.

Some caveats are:
- My gear (albeit mostly from Sunwell) doesn't have enough int to really sustain a full dps cycle
- I'm still 1.2% below the hit cap
- I had Inner Focus + MB macro'd

I just found that mana is a major issue for Spriest dps at the moment until you get many of the upgrades in the heroics/naxx10 but it was nice to see me coming close to topping the meters on most fights (ran it with 2 hunters, rogue, dk, 3 healers, 2 tanks)

#10 mjs9893

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 05:15 PM

I'm new to shadow (pretty much got into it for leveling) and am confused about something I am seeing again and again.

Improved Mind Blast 5/5 on every spec. Why is this? 5/5 puts your cooldown on MB down to 5.5 seconds which means you still have 0.5 seconds to wait before you can cast it if you are using every GCD. Why is 4/5 not standard putting it at 6 seconds cooldown and falling in line with your global cooldowns.

I suspect this is a haste issue which I don't have a ton of experience with. I hear (oh noes hearsay) that haste does not scale well with us (dots, cooldowns), but is it something I should be actively trying to get for gear or should I just say screw haste and go SP/crit over all?

At what point of haste does having 5/5 MB make a difference or am I completely off track with my whole thought process?

#11 mako

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 05:43 PM

On the subject of glyphs, I hardly see it as fair to call all minors useless. They're considered minor for a reason, but there's still a couple that stand out.

Particularly these two:
Glyph of Shadowfiend - In a worst-case scenario (instant fiend death) you're getting 5% mana back, and since you used fiend in the first place, any mana is better than no mana.
Glyph of Fade - This is very fight dependent (primarily helpful on adds-fights), the mana savings are beneficial if you find yourself needing to use the ability more than 0 times per fight.
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#12 tedv

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 06:19 PM

I was convinced IF worked on dots - if it doesn't, then it is pretty useless. Tedv, good point about mindblast ahead of plague, somehow I am stuck in the habit of putting dots up first, but it is quite obviously incorrect with the damage mindblast deals out.

Is this true even at very high + damage levels?


It's actually even more important at high damage levels. If you have both Plague and Mind Blast available for casting, then you have to defer one of them. Optimally you can cast one mind blast every 7 seconds (5.5 second cooldown plus 1.5 second cast time). So deferring a Mind Blast costs you 1.5/7 times its damage by delaying all future Mind Blast cooldowns. Similarly, deferring Devouring Plague costs you 1.5/30 times its total damage. As long as Mind Blast deals at least 7/30ths as much damage as Devouring Plague, it will be the higher priority spell. Since Mind Blast scales well more than 7/30ths as much as Plague does, having more +damage means it's even more important to keep Mind Blast on cooldown.

#13 Lanthon

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 08:54 PM

I have to agree that Dispersion should be in every Shadow Priest build. Xtoforas mentions mana issues at 80, which is a valid observation. Secondly, every Shadow Priest has the full burn spell rotation and the mana efficient spell rotation. Having Dispersion means spending more time in the full burn rotation. Finally, we haven't seen all the boss mechanics yet, but any boss with Mana Burn will necessitate Dispersion. Any boss with long Silence or Stun effects will benefit from Dispersion (might as well regen). I agree that health regen is needed, and would like to see it restored via Major Glyph.

#14 Pluff

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 10:20 AM

5 Shadow Word Death iff you need to refresh a dot in ~2 seconds and mindblast is on cooldown. Shadow Word Death is almost never worth using except when opening, since it causes two shadow vulnerabilities when building up your stack.

Simcraft tool tells us that SWD should be included in rotation. Shadow priest has +0.2xSpirit spellpower (with active Glyph of Shadow proc and TF) and as we can see only MB and SWD can proc Imp.Sprit Tap (giving us +10% to spirit and rising our in combat manaregen up to 50%). Also with 4 pieces of tier7 we have +10% critchance to SWD => more damage and more Imp.Spirit Tap procs.


About DP - with DK in raids DP has +30% increased damage, so i agree with Mearis about DP > MB in casting priority

P.S.Does destruction potion will affect SWP damage? If it does then it should be used.

P.P.S.Meta gem question: Chaotic Skyflare Diamond > Ember Skyflare Diamond ?

#15 Manes

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 11:40 AM

Not exactly spec/glyph related, but since there is no other shadow priest thread here at the moment:

How many targets are needed for mind sear to outweigh dotting multiple mobs or single mob targeting? In heroics I've found myself dotting the first mob and only preceding to mind sear the rest if there are a total of 4+ mobs.

#16 Mearis

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 01:45 PM

Simcraft tool tells us that SWD should be included in rotation. Shadow priest has +0.2xSpirit spellpower (with active Glyph of Shadow proc and TF) and as we can see only MB and SWD can proc Imp.Sprit Tap (giving us +10% to spirit and rising our in combat manaregen up to 50%). Also with 4 pieces of tier7 we have +10% critchance to SWD => more damage and more Imp.Spirit Tap procs.


Hmm, that's only true if mind blast crits are not sufficient to obtain a high uptime of improved spirit tap. I am not sure if that outweighs it, I'd have to see the math - they are all open formulas so they should be amenable to simple analytical solutions.

#17 dyelynn

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 03:33 PM

I'm new to shadow (pretty much got into it for leveling) and am confused about something I am seeing again and again.

Improved Mind Blast 5/5 on every spec. Why is this? 5/5 puts your cooldown on MB down to 5.5 seconds which means you still have 0.5 seconds to wait before you can cast it if you are using every GCD. Why is 4/5 not standard putting it at 6 seconds cooldown and falling in line with your global cooldowns.

I suspect this is a haste issue which I don't have a ton of experience with. I hear (oh noes hearsay) that haste does not scale well with us (dots, cooldowns), but is it something I should be actively trying to get for gear or should I just say screw haste and go SP/crit over all?

At what point of haste does having 5/5 MB make a difference or am I completely off track with my whole thought process?


It's largely irrelevant if you're only using a shadow build for leveling... but in raiding, you want the fastest MB cooldown you can because it's the best dps spell we have. Thus, you want to be casting your best dps spell as often as possible.


Mako

Glyph of Fade - This is very fight dependent (primarily helpful on adds-fights), the mana savings are beneficial if you find yourself needing to use the ability more than 0 times per fight.


While I won't argue with you that it's better to do something, rather than nothing, even if that something turns out to be wrong... and depending on whether or not there's some other minor that's moderately worth putting in, i'll probably use this glyph... The simple fact of the matter is, that for spriests, fade is still a broken spell. Every other dps class that has an aggro reducing ability have a permanent threat loss assosiated with that ability. Fade is still a temporary threat loss. So, when a mage goes invisible, when he comes out of invisibility he has less total threat on x target(s). When a warlock soul shatters, he reduces his threat on all targets within 50 yards by half.

When a priest uses fade, we lose all aggro for 10 seconds... then we get it back. So if you continue to dps while your fade is active you get all the threat you generate while it's active as well as all the threat you had before hand. Fade, like the mechanics of inner fire are still antiquated abilities that blizz hasn't done enough to update for what they call a "true dps class". However, with shadow talents that offer 52.5% passive threat reduction, it's unlikely we'll get a change to fade in our future.

#18 Nhala

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 03:52 PM

P.P.S.Meta gem question: Chaotic Skyflare Diamond > Ember Skyflare Diamond ?


Yes, this is the meta you'll want to be using from now on.

#19 Spearrs

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 03:56 PM

Not exactly spec/glyph related, but since there is no other shadow priest thread here at the moment:

How many targets are needed for mind sear to outweigh dotting multiple mobs or single mob targeting? In heroics I've found myself dotting the first mob and only preceding to mind sear the rest if there are a total of 4+ mobs.



So far my experience has been to mind sear any trash pull with 3 or more mobs.
Mind sear is absolutely stellar as an aoe ability and I am really enjoying Fighting with Hunters for top of the meters during trash.

#20 Xtoforas

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 10:12 PM

Having just stepped into Naxx10 the past few days I would like to share some of my experiences.


I would like to revise my comments since last night I stepped into Naxx25. As a shadowpriest you can easily run a full rotation (i.e. keep Devouring Plague/SW: D on cooldown/VT always up) on most if not all bosses in a 25 man environment.

In Naxx10 I didn't have AI or BoW which really hurt as the mana returned from VT, Dispersion and Mana fiend were reduced due to it. In Naxx25 with all these buffs I never had to pop a runic potion for any boss fight.

The additional intellect (going from 11k in Naxx10 to 14k in Naxx25) from being properly buffed as well as the crit bonuses (roughly 12% in Naxx10 to 32% in Naxx25) that allow for more IST uptime is something to be mindful of when trying to make an optimal group (be it 5/10/25 man) and something that I initially overlooked in my initial post.




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