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Spiritual Guidance: Shadow priest glyph shopping for 4.0.1 and Cataclysm

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of Spiritual Guidance, your one-stop source for all the information on shadow priesting you want and need for your on-the-go lifestyle. Your host Fox Van Allen brings information on your spec of choice on a silver platter, helping you stretch your World of Warcraft knowledge to infinity and beyond. Sit back, relax and prepare to be "wowed"!

I have a confession to make: I've never really found glyphs to be that sexy. I don't know why. Maybe part of it was the hassle of having to travel halfway across Stormwind to find a Lexicon of Power just to add a glyph to my character. Maybe it was the frustration of learning later that I didn't need to find a Lexicon of Power to add a glyph, and the shame that came with knowing I had wasted about 30 or 40 trips along the canals over the last year and a half.

Still, sexy or not, glyphs are powerful as all hell. They provide useful benefits by increasing our DPS, eliminating the need for reagents or reducing cooldowns. There's no reason not to like these damn things. And if you already like them on the live Wrath servers, you're going to love what's coming for glyphs in Cataclysm.

We're about to have even more choices to make than ever before. That may seem a bit daunting, at least at first, but don't fear -- we're going to be better shadow priests for the experience. More slots, better choices and added convenience: It's all coming in patch 4.0.1, and it's all here in today's Spiritual Guidance, just after the break.

A new glyph system

Before we discuss the shadow priest specific glyphs, let's take a quick moment to talk about the major changes that are happening to the glyph system in general:

  • Glyphs are now broken up into three categories. In Wrath, we had major glyphs and minor glyphs. When patch 4.0.1 drops, all of a sudden we'll have access to a third type of glyph, prime glyphs. We get to choose three glyphs from each category.
  • Major glyphs aren't really so major anymore. In Wrath, we had a boatload of major glyphs to choose from, but in reality, only an incredibly limited handful were even worth considering. For patch 4.0.1, the most popular of the major glyphs (like Glyph of Mind Flay) are becoming "prime glyphs," while the less popular major glyphs (like, say, Glyph of Inner Fire) are staying "major."
  • Glyphs are no longer consumable -- learn them once; use them forever. There's a catch, of course -- once you place a glyph on your grid, you'll need to use a Dust of Disappearance to erase it and make room for a new one. You won't need to repurchase the six you have now -- they should be available to for re-glyphing on Day One.
  • You can start shopping for your new glyphs this very second. It's basic math -- if you're an endgame priest, you've got six glyphs now. When patch 4.0.1 hits, you'll need at least three more. You can avoid the inevitably high prices of the post-4.0.1 rush and shop for your Cataclysm glyphs now. If you buy them now and hold on to them until patch day, you can save yourself a few gold. And if there's one thing Aol's market research shows, it's that our visitors just can't resist a bargain!

"Prime" is the new "major"

There are currently 12 prime glyphs available to priests in the latest Cataclysm beta build, but as you can imagine, most of these are more applicable to holy and discipline priests. There are only five that will likely see much use by shadow priests:

  • Glyph of Dispersion The basics of the glyph aren't changing -- it still takes a full 45 seconds off the cooldown for Dispersion. Obviously, given the lengths at which I've talked about nerfs to shadow priest mana regen over the last few weeks, it's not hard to see what kind of benefit a shadow priest would get out of this glyph in Cataclysm. If you don't use it in Wrath already (it gets a lot of great situational use in Icecrown Citadel), this is definitely one you'll want in your arsenal, even if you find it just as situational as before.
  • Glyph of Mind Flay Like Glyph of Dispersion above, the only change to this glyph is that it's now a prime glyph -- it still provides a raw 10 percent damage boost to Mind Flay when Shadow Word: Pain is active. It's going to be a "required" glyph in Cataclysm's endgame, just as it currently is in Wrath. It won't be nearly as useful as you level and solo content, though.
  • Glyph of Power Word: Shield Obviously, the ability to tack on some healing to Power Word: Shield is not going to be as useful for raiding shadow priests as it is for healers. Still, for those shadow priests who are leveling solo or running Cataclysm 5-man instances, that 20 percent bonus healing can provide a really nice added value. Situational though it may be, I still recommend you pick it up for that inevitable day when you'll want to use it.
  • Glyph of Shadow Word: Death In Wrath, Shadow Word: Death suffers from lack of use. Fixing the spell was a top priority of the Blizzard development team, and as such, SW:D is getting a total overhaul in 4.0.1. Part of that overhaul involves an overhaul to this glyph -- the old version provided a limp 10 percent damage increase to an seldom-used ability; the new version turns SW:D into a spammable execute once an enemy drops below 25 percent health. Given that the Masochism ability actually results in each cast of Shadow Word: Death's giving you back more mana than it costs, this glyph can be an exceptionally powerful tool even in raids. That aside, it's worth noting that spamming SW:D for an extended length of time is not a viable raid strategy due to the massive amount of damage you can inflict on yourself in a very short period of time. Be careful you don't wind up committing suicide in the quest for slightly higher DPS -- those SW:D crits hurt.
  • Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain This glyph is pretty mediocre in Wrath -- that rebate of "1 percent of your base mana" per tick doesn't amount to much. That small rebate may have wound up being far more valuable in Cataclysm, but we'll never know for sure: The glyph was changed back to a raw damage increase. It now boosts the damage of SW:P by 10 percent, which feels like a pretty nice trade off for raiding shadow priests.

Looking over the limited choices available and the effects the glyphs have, it appears that raiders have a definite right answer to the question of what prime glyphs to take: Glyph of Dispersion, Glyph of Mind Flay and Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain. For leveling shadow priests, both Glyph of Mind Flay and Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain take a serious hit in usefulness, leaving room for Glyph of Power Word: Shield and Glyph of Shadow Word: Death.

The not-so-major-feeling major glyphs

Most of the changes to the glyph system in Cataclysm can be found in the major glyph category. In Wrath, all of these would be lumped in with the prime glyphs above. In the post-4.0.1 world, though, most of the leveling and PvP glyphs inhabit the major glyph tier all by their lonesome:
  • Glyph of Dispel Magic Due to being locked out of holy spells, shadow priests are extremely limited in the ways we can heal others. The 3 percent healing provided by the glyph doesn't amount to a whole heck of a lot in PvE, but if you find yourself casting Dispel Magic a lot (PvP; arena), that small amount of healing can definitely add up.
  • Glyph of Fade This glyph reduces the cooldown on Fade from 30 seconds down to 21. Now, there haven't been a lot of times when I've needed to use Fade but found it stuck on cooldown, but the few times it did happen were uncomfortable situations to say the least. If your playstyle is a bit on the aggressive side, definitely give this glyph some consideration. (I initially left this off the list by accident [hat tip to anonpferd for noticing], but it's one of the few useful PvE glyphs, so I had to backtrack and add it to the list.)
  • Glyph of Fear Ward Unchanged for Cataclysm, the Glyph of Fear Ward remains an almost exclusively PvP-oriented glyph.
  • Glyph of Inner Fire This glyph found some situational use in Wrath to be sure (extreme soloing, anyone?), even at the high cost of a glyph slot. Now that the opportunity cost of using this glyph has been reduced, I predict we'll see a lot more people taking it. It's still not that useful for PvE raiding (more armor only raises your defense against physical attack), but PvP players and those who solo content will definitely want to learn this one.
  • Glyph of Mass Dispel A glyph that reduces the cast time of Mass Dispel doesn't really come across as sexy for PvE players, since we don't face a lot of fights in which debuffs are spammed. For PvP players, this essentially amounts to having your battleground or arena team suffer one fewer second of Divine Shield or Ice Block.
  • Glyph of Psychic Horror If you've already spent a talent point to take Psychic Horror, then you should also take this new-for-Cataclysm glyph to enhance it -- it's as simple as that. Following a trend in Cataclysm major glyphs, this is primarily PvP-oriented. With crowd control abilities being increasingly valuable, however, you may get some solid PvE use out of this once you start playing around with the new 5-man instances. Any PvPer (or anyone who suffered through learning heroic Faction Champions back in ToC) can testify to the value of Psychic Horror. This glyph, which reduces the spell's cooldown from 2 minutes to 1 minute, could wind up playing a valuable role as PvE crowd control in Cataclysm.
  • Glyph of Psychic Scream Psychic Scream was always a great ability for PvP, but it's always had very limited (emergency-only) use in PvE. After all, how helpful is a fear if it results in more mobs getting aggroed? The good news for Cataclysm PvEers is that the Glyph of Psychic Scream is getting a major overhaul -- instead of scattering mobs for 2 seconds longer than usual, it now keeps them from running off. This is a tremendous boon for PvE players, who can suddenly find use for Psychic Scream as a serious, safe crowd control ability.
  • Glyph of Scourge Imprisonment Same old lame glyph -- all it does is cut 1 second off its namesake's cast time. Given how few undead you'll wind up coming across in Cataclysm (at least so far), there's no real compelling reason for anyone to take it.
  • Glyph of Spirit Tap When Spirit Tap was stripped from the talent trees in the Cataclysm beta, I wept. That was only because I was not privy to the master plan -- it wasn't disappearing from the game, it was just changing from a talent to a glyph. There's a brand new limitation to Spirit Tap now, though -- it requires the killing blow to be made with Shadow Word: Death. Even with that, this glyph still stands out as one of the best (if not the best) major glyphs available. Mana regen is just that critical.

As of right now, Glyph of Spirit Tap, Glyph of Psychic Scream, Glyph of Fade and Glyph of Inner Fire stand out as the most useful for those leveling through new PvE content; raiders will probably take these glyphs as well. For those who enjoy PvP, the Glyph of Psychic Horror seems to be a good replacement for Glyph of Psychic Scream. Of course, playstyles will vary; if one of these major glyphs looks especially useful to the way you play, then take it!

Minor glyphs -- still as useless as ever

I jest, of course -- there's always some (highly limited) use to major glyphs. This subset of glyphs really didn't see much (if any) change in the move to Cataclysm, but the added importance of your shadowfiend in mana regen seems to hint at the Glyph of Shadowfiend being a good pick. Likewise, if you find yourself using Fade a lot, you'll get good use out of the Glyph of Fading. Glyph of Levitate, Glyph of Fortitude and Glyph of Shadow Protection are all good choices as well. Remember, this tier is supposed to be all about convenience rather than DPS, so take whatever minor glyphs you'd like. There aren't any "wrong" picks.

Are you more interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? Think it's neat to dissolve into a ball of pure shadow every few minutes? Hunger for the tangy flesh of gnomes? The darker, shadowy side of Spiritual Guidance has you covered (occasionally through the use of puppets).

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance, Cataclysm

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