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Life as a Shadow Priest: Day One

When I first rolled my priest, I planned to do more PvP with it than I had with my other characters.  And as I leveled up, I'd usually spend an evening or two a week running through Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and eventually Alterac Valley.  But after hitting 60, I found myself wanting to PvP less and less.  I've talked a bit about struggling with healing in PvP, and while it's certainly possible, I can always tend to think up more entertaining things to do than venture into the battlegrounds these days.

Yesterday, when a friend asked me if I wanted to go to Alterac Valley with him, I replied immediately:  "No - all I do there is die over and over.  I'm no shadow priest!"  My friend had a quick comeback: "Why not respec?" 

I didn't have any response to that.  I'd leveled up with a holy/discipline build that had served me well, but in the past few days respeced several times in an attempt to make solo and PvP a little more fun, without gimping my healing abilities.  I hadn't been entirely happy with any of the results, so perhaps this was the time to consider more serious measures.  I headed straight for the priest trainer and, after some hesitation, paid the fee to unlearn my talents.

I put 20 points in discipline and remaining 31 in shadow.  I was now, officially, a shadow priest.

I headed for the PvP queues and ended up in Alterac Valley.  I dropped into shadowform and rode out to the front lines, intent on melting faces.  Well, I died, and quickly, too.  Switching from the mindset of a back-lines healer to front-lines DPS was not something I was prepared for, and I wasn't yet accustomed as to how best to use my new abilities.  I kept noticing people taking damage and trying to heal them - and hitting healing hotkeys in shadowform has little effect. 

The hectic environment of a battleground probably wasn't the best place for me to learn how to play a DPS caster, and I was somewhat relieved to when some friends asked me to run Stratholme with them.  I could fall back to the comfortable, familiar role of a healer - where I knew exactly what to do.  Of course... this wasn't as easy as I recalled, either.  The extra casting time on my greater heal spell kept throwing off long-practice reflexes on how and when to heal, and I kept falling back on shields and flash heals to save time.  With my smaller mana pool and more expensive instant cast spells (talents higher in the discipline tree formerly provided a 10% boost to my mana pool and a 10% reduction in casting cost of instant cast spells - such as Power Word: Shield), these were pricey alternatives, and I would end up drinking between every fight.  The loss of a talent in the holy tree making my heals more difficult to interrupt also caused me difficulty.  In my previous builds, if I pulled aggro, I'd finish whatever I was casting and then immediately fade - but this no longer worked very well, as hits kept causing me to loose casting time. 

A couple of hours - and a couple of wipes - later, we were through.  It was neither the best nor the worst instance run I'd participated in, but it felt very hectic, with most of the run feeling like I was barely keeping all the healing in check.  Of course, with necessity being the mother of invention, this has hopefully this run has added a few new tricks to my bag.

Will I stick with shadow?  Well, I think with a little more practice I'll get used to working in and out of shadowform in this new spec.  And I'll probably stick with it for a while - for easier times in PvP and solo PvE.  But I've already learned a lot from this spec that's given me ideas for my next talent build... but when?  Who knows!

Filed under: Priest, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Instances

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