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Spiritual Guidance: Top 7 shadow priest questions about patch 4.0.6

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Wednesday's shadow-specced version of Spiritual Guidance was taped before a live studio audience.

Shortly before patch 4.0.6 went live, I took a glance at the final version of the patch notes. There were hundreds of changes, spread out across each and every class. And yet, with all those changes, there were really only four of major consequence to the practicing shadow priest. Taken from yesterday's official patch notes:


Patch 4.0.6 Official Notes
  • The mana cost of Power Word: Shield has been increased by approximately 31%, but its effect has been increased by 208%.
  • Mind Blast now does 18% more damage than Mind Spike.
  • Mind Sear can now be channeled on friendly targets in addition to enemy targets. In addition, Mind Sear's damage has been increased by roughly 15%.
  • Shadow Orbs benefit from mastery has been increased by approximately 16%.


No, shadow priests, your eyes do not deceive you -- that is indeed four consecutive buffs without a single nerf. Together (especially the last three), they add up to a solid DPS increase. That's clearly good news for us, but it doesn't tell the whole story of 4.0.6 -- there are still some yet-to-be-resolved questions. Is haste still our best secondary stat, or should we gem for something else? Do the changes mean we should now be hit-capped? How do the changes in 4.0.6 affect rotations?

If you still have questions about patch 4.0.6, then today's column is for you -- it's all about answers.

How should I change my talent tree?

Each major new patch is a good time to reevaluate whether or not you've spent your talent points wisely, and 4.0.6 is no different. Buffs to Mind Blast make the Improved Mind Blast talent valuable enough to invest three points in. Improved Power Word: Shield has also been buffed, making it a very attractive choice if you don't need the mana cost reduction ability of Mental Agility.

Sounds simple, right? Not quite -- the challenge is figuring out exactly where to get those three points to put into Improved Mind Blast, especially if you're putting together a talent build centered around running heroics. For these people, this 8/0/33 talent tree is a good place to start. It still takes the valuable Silence talent, sacrificing a point in Masochism.

For raiding shadow priests, I created a 10/0/31 setup. Silence is far less useful an ability in a raiding environment, so I took that talent point and reinvested it in Masochism. I moved the two points in the even more useless Improved Psychic Scream over to the discipline tree, going a full 3/3 in Mental Agility (remember, PW:S now costs more mana to use). I put the final point in Improved Power Word: Shield.

As for your glyphs, there's really no reason to change them with the coming of 4.0.6. It's worth noting, though, that Glyph of Mind Flay no longer requires the target to be afflicted with Shadow Word: Pain.

How does this change my stat weighting?

NOTE (added Feb. 9, 9:20 PM): These weighting numbers are based on a 4.0.6 PTR build of SimCraft. The program has recently undergone a 4.0.6 live update, and is reporting drastically different numbers. There are reports at Elitist Jerks that SimCraft's current 4.0.6 live build may be faulty. Until this information is verified or corrected, please use caution when changing or modifing your shadow priest's gear.

NOTE (added Feb. 11, 2:00 PM): SimCraft's Althor has posted over at Elitist Jerks about the program's modeling issue. Now that corrected numbers are available, this section has been modified to reflect them.

When mastery was first introduced, it was broken -- hands down, a shadow priest's worst stat. Blizzard's game developers acknowledged problems with mastery at BlizzCon (back in October 2010) and have been promising us a fix ever since. A number of patches have come and gone since then, and yet still, mastery remained at the very bottom of the shadow priest barrel.

This Tuesday's patch 4.0.6 marks the end of mastery's uselessness. The stat -- heck, the whole mastery mechanic itself -- has undergone buffs galore. Each point of mastery is now worth 1.5%, up from 1.3%. And if that's not enough, that mastery component is now added to a base 10%. You'll see the buff in Empowered Shadows -- that is, you'll see your DoTs hit even harder once you consume a shadow orb.

There's been a lot of controversy over the value of stats lately, but according to the most recent build of SimCraft -- that is, the Feb. 11 patch 4.0.6 live build -- not an awful lot has changed since patch 4.0.3.

The specific stat weighting for your shadow priests continues to depend on your specific gear set and playstyle, so the numbers to follow are simply estimates. Assuming a raid-geared, best-in-slot ilevel 372 level 85 spriest in tier 11:
Intellect 1.00
Spellpower 0.78
Haste 0.58
Crit 0.45
Mastery 0.44
Spirit/Hit 0.39
Again, let me repeat -- that's for a raid-participating, best-in-slot shadow priest in tier 11. Intellect is still king, with spellpower coming in a close second. Haste is still the best secondary stat (by a decent margin), while mastery is approximately equal to crit. Spirit (hit) winds up being our worst stat. That fact begs the question ...

Should I cap my hit now?

In my column The calculus of shadow priest hit in Cataclysm, I discussed the controversial idea that hit may not be a shadow priest's best stat and that shadow priests may be better off not being hit-capped. The reasoning was that hit was valued significantly lower than haste. With patch 4.0.6, that's appears to still be the case.

That doesn't mean there isn't value to capping, though. Missing costs your group buffs, can throw you off your rotation, and could ultimately lower your performance regardless of what SimCraft says. For reference:
  • PvP shadow priests still cap at 4% -- 410 points.
  • Shadow priests running heroics should cap at 6% -- 615 points.
  • Raiding shadow priests cap out at 17% hit -- 1,742 points.
Whether or not you think it's worth it to play at the hit cap, slightly under the hit cap, or at a minimal value of hit (to maximize your theoretical DPS), the choice is up to you. If you want to increase your hit above where it is now, the best place to start is reforging.


How do I reforge for 4.0.6?

If you're a raider in need (or want) of extra hit, start by converting any mastery or critical strike rating on your gear to spirit, then convert haste to spirit as a last resort. If your gear already has spirit on it, you can always double down by converting your crit, mastery, or even haste to hit. If you still need hit after all of that, I recommend looking at Enchant Bracer - Exceptional Spirit or investing in the Stump of Time trinket (found at your Tol Barad quartermaster).

If you're only running heroics (or regular 5-man instances), you'll probably find yourself over the 615 hit cap by default. Each point over that lower cap is wasted and could be better used to increase your DPS. Start by converting any hit to haste (or mastery/crit), then convert spirit to haste (or mastery/crit) right on down to 615.

Remember, any reforging you do now can be quickly undone should you decide to start (or stop) raiding.

Can Fox still defeat Dawn in a one-on-one fight in 4.0.6?

Is Dawn less than 8 seconds away from the edge in Eye of the Storm? If so, then yes.

How do I gem in 4.0.6?

First things first: Patch 4.0.6 brings with it a new meta gem cut, the Burning Shadowspirit Diamond. It offers 54 intellect and 3% increased damage from our critical hits. Unlike the (4.0.3 version of the) Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond, it activates upon your having at least three red gems socketed. We complained about the blue gem requirement; they fixed it. You may want to wait a few days to pick it up, though -- the post-4.0.6 prices on it are likely to be exorbitant.

NOTE (added Feb. 9, 9:20 PM): Because it's been brought up in the comments, I think it necessary to clarify: the Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond has undergone changes in patch 4.0.6 -- it is now a +54 crit and 3% increased damage gem that requires red, not blue, gems. If you can't afford the current sky-high prices of the Burning meta cut, the Chaotic meta cut is a good temporary substitute.

Your top gemming priority then will be keeping at least three Brilliant Inferno Rubies (or, for jewelcrafters, three Brilliant Chimera's Eyes) socketed to keep your meta bonus active. From there, I advise to use this rule of thumb:
  • For all red and prismatic sockets, use a 40 intellect Brilliant Inferno Ruby.
  • For yellow sockets, use the 20 intellect and 20 haste Reckless Ember Topaz if, and only if, the gemming bonus is 10 intellect or better (~15 haste or ~20 mastery/crit/spirit/hit). Otherwise, use a Brilliant Inferno Ruby.
  • For blue sockets, use the 20 intellect and 20 spirit Purified Demonseye if, and only if, the gemming bonus is better than 12 intellect (~21 haste, ~27 mastery/crit, or ~31 spirit/hit). Otherwise, use a Brilliant Inferno Ruby.
How does patch 4.0.6 change my rotation?

For the most part, it doesn't. The only real change is with Mind Blast; its damage is now juicy enough that you'll probably want to cast it immediately when it comes off cooldown (rather than waiting for 3 shadow orbs, as you used to). Otherwise, for lengthy fights, keep your DoTs rolling at all times (if you can help it), and use Mind Flay for filler. Rinse. Repeat. Collect loot.
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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