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Spiritual Guidance: A guide to Mind Control for shadow priests (and tanks)

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. The shadow-specced Fox Van Allen returns every Wednesday to denounce the evils of truth and love (and healing) in an overwrought effort to extend his reach to the stars above. And yes, that makes our healing priest columnist Dawn Moore Jessie.

Cast Mind Blast on targets afflicted with Vampiric Touch. Keep Shadow Word: Pain refreshed by casts of Mind Flay. Cast Shadow Word: Death as a finishing move. Rinse and repeat.

I love shadow priesting, but it can get a little repetitive at times. It doesn't have to be, though -- shadow priests hands down have access to more abilities than any other class in the game.

How is that possible? Through Mind Control. It opens up an entire world of new abilities to shadow priests. By controlling our enemies, we can control what they do. Sure, you've cast Devouring Plague. But have you ever cast Disease Breath? You've boosted your tank's maximum health through Power Word: Fortitude, but have you ever done it through Renegade Strength? Like some kind of shadowy blue mage, we have access to hundreds of our enemies' abilities through Mind Control.

Mind Control is the most misunderstood crowd control ability in the game. It's also the most powerful, hands down. Shadow priests and tanks, take notice -- if you're not utilizing Mind Control, the way you run Cataclysm heroics is about to change forever.

The basics of Mind Control

Mind Control (MC) is a crowd control measure that shadow priests learn at level 38. When most people think of crowd control (or "CC," since no one in heroics ever wants to spell a word out), they usually think about spells like a shaman's Hex or a mage's ability to "sheep" (Polymorph). Mind Control, if you haven't guessed, is a bit different. (In a good way, I promise.)

Casting MC on an enemy does two important things. It stops the targeted bad guy from attacking your party, of course (hence why it's called crowd control), and it also gives you control over that character's actions. You control where the MCed mob moves. You control who the MCed mob attacks. And you also get to control over that MCed mob's special abilities (in PvE).

To the uninitiated, Mind Control often appears to be the weakest of the crowd control measures. You can only Mind Control humanoid enemies, whereas other classes are less limited in what they can CC. Unlike other crowd control methods, Mind Control is a channeled spell; you can't cast any other spells while MC is active. It's also got the shortest duration of all the CC methods; while Hex, Sap, and Freezing Trap all buy a group 1 enemy-free minute, Mind Control only gives you 30 seconds of CC. And you're lucky to get all 30 seconds -- taking damage makes your channel suffer "pushback," reducing the maximum duration with each hit.

Once you get to experiment with Mind Control, however, you'll understand why it's actually the most powerful of the game's CC methods when it comes to dealing with humanoids. When cast on enemy mobs, they're automatically flagged as "friendly" to your party -- which means they're similarly flagged as "hostile" to your opponents. That's means your own teammates can't break your CC. (Ask a frustrated tank: Polymorph and Hex get broken by overzealous and inattentive players all the time.) Better yet, it means that the bad guys will turn on the MCed mob -- it will take AOE and direct-damage attacks from mobs without breaking.

The optimal way to use Mind Control

Mind Control has been around as a crowd control spell forever, but most tanks and healers are unfamiliar with its mechanics and uses. This is somewhat forgivable -- after all, the spell was infrequently used in Wrath because of its (then) unpredictability. Still, a highly limited number of tanks understand the optimal way to use Mind Control. Because of this, your random heroics may require a little bit of explanation up front.

As with any form of crowd control, you should communicate with your tank beforehand that you're able to (and want to) Mind Control mobs. It's confusing when a hostile mob suddenly turns friendly when you're not expecting it. More importantly, though, a tank needs to know to pick a MCed mob up after the channel ends. It's helpful to have whatever mobs you're going to be Mind Controlling marked beforehand -- not just for you, but for everyone involved.

Hands down, the best way to use Mind Control is as a pull -- and specifically, as the only cast. If the spell connects, your target will aggro the entire trash mob it's a part of and start taking damage from its former "friends." Typically, this means that whatever you're Mind Controlling will be killed in short order. And while you're "waiting" for your Mind Control target to be killed, you're dishing out huge amount of damage through its attacks. After all, your enemies often hit for 30,000 or more hit points per swing. When it comes to Mind Control, that's a very good thing.

This all only works, of course, if the tank's smart enough not to try and grab aggro from your mob and if the other crowd controllers in your party know to cast their spells after MC ends. (It's also worth noting that MCed mobs can be healed -- and that they shouldn't be.) If the tank grabs aggro, it's not the end of the world. Just make the most of your 30 seconds to attack the bad guys, and try to soak up any extra damage you can.

Using Mind Control on the fly

The best way to use Mind Control is as a pull, but of course, you can use it on the fly, too. The main difference here is that your MCed mob won't have aggro and will probably have trouble gaining it. Still, there are a couple new things to remember if you're casting MC on the fly:

  • Don't cast Mind Control on something that's already crowd controlled. Your MC casts won't break other crowd control methods, like Hex or Banish. Thus, if you cast Mind Control on a Hexed or Banished mob, you'll gain control over a mob that can't do anything. A big waste of time.
  • Don't be afraid to grab aggro if you can. If your mob takes aggro off the tank, then your tank has one less mob's worth of damage. Definitely a good thing, especially in giant pulls.
  • You can DoT something up before you cast Mind Control. This is one of the beautiful features of Mind Control. If you have the time to spare, apply Shadow Word: Pain, Vampiric Touch, and Devouring Plague to your Mind Control target. All three of these will drain your target's health, even as it's normally invulnerable to your party's attacks. It's an elegant way to tack on an extra 150,000+ points of damage to a helpless enemy.
  • Move your shadow priest somewhere safe. You can take damage while MC is active, and since you don't have control over your own actions, your shadow priest is defenseless. To be safe, I like to cast Power Word: Shield on myself before casting Mind Control.
  • Be ready to Fade when you're finished with Mind Control. Mind Control earns you a lot of threat, so be ready to slough that off when your channel breaks. Alternatively, you can just recast Mind Control for another 30 seconds of fun. Whatever you choose, though, be quick!
  • Don't cast Mind Control on things that are immune to Mind Control! Mind Control earns you a metric ton of threat. Generally, mobs with excessive amounts of health (over 1 million) are immune to MC. You can't MC a boss. Some enemies have dispellable buffs that make them immune to MC. And you can only MC humanoid mobs. The "humanoid" bit can be confusing -- and awful lot of things in Grim Batol look humanoid but actually aren't.
Mind Control is a tricky spell to master, since each Mind Controlled enemy has different abilities. But that's just part of the fun -- experiencing and exploiting the variety of attacks that your opponents have to offer. The best way to perfect your technique is through practice. Lots and lots of unbelievably fun practice.
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

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