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Spiritual Guidance: What Alliance race is the best for shadow priests?

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen regularly insults normal people, so you should never take his writing seriously. Fox encourages you to follow him on Twitter.

Rejoice, brethren! Since the Cataclysm, the shadow priesthood is more accepted than ever before. A full 11 of the 12 races can now be priests. (Orcs are the holdout, which is a shame -- they have a terrific plus-spellpower racial.) We have a wealth of options when starting a new shadow priest or when dropping some coin on a faction or race change.

I was thinking about starting this particular column with some kind of bold statement such as "Fox Van Allen is a racist," but that could hurt my future political career. (Van Allen for Vice President! Call me, Mitt.) Still, there's no escaping the fact that in WoW, some races are just plain better than others. And some -- gnomes -- are clearly inferior.

Eventually, our analysis will take a look at all the Horde and Alliance races. For now, though, we'll focus on Team Blue. Which Alliance race is best? Which gnome recipe is the tastiest? Can I manufacture a reason to reuse that picture of Taylor Lautner staring with lust at John McCain? All questions will be answered ... after the jump.

Base stats by race

Each race has a base stat allotment. As priests, there are really only three base stats we care about: intellect, which determines how much damage we do; spirit, which helps determine (via Twisted Faith) how often our spells connect with enemies for a hit; and to a lesser extent, stamina, which determines our maximum health pool. All players start with a base amount of each stat as determined by the race they choose:

Base stats by race, level 1 (source)
Race Base Intellect Base Spirit Base Stamina
Human 20 20 20
Dwarf 19 19 23
Night Elf 20 20 19
Gnome 23 20 19
Draenei 20 22 19
Worgen 16 19 20

Now, the follow up question: How much do these base stats matter? Not much. That's because these base stats don't scale at all. At level 1, a human has 1 more point of intellect than a dwarf. At level 20, that same human still has 1 more point of intellect, all else being equal. And, at level 85, a human has ... you guessed it, exactly 1 more point of base intellect than a dwarf.

It's like the difference between an SAT math score of 440 and 441 -- one is technically better, but either way, you're not getting into Harvard. Only the lowest level of twinks will notice a difference in base stats. And even for them, said difference is still vastly outweighed by the individual racials.

Humans

Since most of us are human IRL (read: most), the World of Warcraft version of the race holds a special place in our hearts. There are three main benefits to being a human:
  • The Human Spirit is the main DPS-increasing racial that human shadow priests get. The benefit is actually quite small -- in tier 11 gear, The Human Spirit contributes somewhere between 40 and 50 points of spirit. This is equal to about +0.4% or 0.5% hit via Twisted Faith, which in turn is worth somewhere around 20 points of "pseduo-intellect." It's notable that unlike a lot of other racials, this will scale. (We might see somewhere between 50 and 60 points of spirit in tier 12 gear.)
  • Every Man for Himself is a useful PVP-geared ability removes all movement impairing effects from your character. (It's also situationally useful on fights like Cho'gall, where you can break your own Conversion with it.) Since the ability shares a cooldown with other CC-neutralizing PVP trinkets, the main benefit here is that you have more choice in your PVP trinkets.
  • Diplomacy is the driving reason behind why my shadow priest is a human. Extra rep doesn't boost your DPS directly, but by reducing faction grinds, it gets you better rep gear quicker. That means getting your Avengers of Hyjal epics 10% sooner when patch 4.2 launches.
Cons: Humans benefit from both Sword Specialization and Mace Specialization, neither of which does a priest a lick of good. Also, human males suffer from some sort of genetic condition that makes them ugly as sin during adulthood. Also: the hands, dear God, the hands. (At least the female humans look good, right guys?)

Dwarves

Stubby little beasts, these. When I first rolled my priest years ago, I made a dwarf. Why? Because I did a cursory search on the internet for "what race should I make my priest" and someone suggested dwarf. After playing one for a year (if not more), I can say ... eh.
  • Stoneform is, in actuality, quite the powerful PVP ability. It's survival-based, but the ability to clear yourself of poisons, diseases, and bleeds once every 2 minutes is a great thing. The extra 10% damage reduction is icing on the cake. Pretty useful for fights like Nefarian, with large and predictable bursts of raid-wide damage.
  • Frost Resistance is a somewhat more universal survival-based ability that reduces frost-based damage. This was much more useful against a Sindragosa-type boss that used heaps of frost-based skills. I'm not sure how much use you'll get out of this with the fire-themed bosses of patch 4.2.
  • Explorer is a new-for-Cataclysm racial that gives a buff to the archaeology profession. While there are neat i359 weapons and gear for shadow priests via archaeology, they're all bind-on-account. (That is to say, it's worth having a dwarf Explorer, but there's no benefit to having a shadow priest dwarf Explorer.)
  • I've also heard some bunk about them being "uncommonly good looking." They aren't really my thing, though.
Cons: Though dwarves can be priests, their DPS-beneficial racials revolve around non-priest classes. They crit more often with guns (we can't equip those) and they get more expertise when using maces (we don't melee). An underwhelming choice for your shadow priest, overall.

Night Elves

Night elves are an interesting bunch. They don't worship the Light, per se -- they're all about Elune. I'm certainly no lore expert, but as such, rationale for shadow priest night elves is weak.

Speaking of weak -- here are the night elf racials you'll benefit from as a shadow priest:
  • Shadowmeld is probably the most useful of the bunch. Using it will, essentially, drop your aggro to 0 and put you out of combat (if you're the only person in combat at the time). It's a great way to escape a wipe and be present to res your comrades. Be warned, though: Some enemies will be able to see through your Shadowmelded state if they get close enough to you, and AOE/raid-wide attacks will still hit you (and throw you out of Shadowmeld). If you drop out of Shadowmeld while in combat, you'll get all your aggro back.
  • Quickness is a pure survival ability that reduces your chance to be hit by melee swings or ranged attacks by 2%. This is more useful in PVP than PVE -- DPS take very limited amounts of physical damage.
  • Nature Resistance is similar to the dwarven ability Frost Resistance, but of course, the effect is for the nature magical school. The ability comes in handy when engaged in fights involving poisons and boomkins. (Not to be confused with a fight involving a poisoned boomkin, which is exactly what happened that one time I tricked Tyler into eating bad seafood.)
  • Wisp Spirit does little more than help you get back to your corpse quicker. I never die -- ever -- so I don't see how this would be useful. *cough*
Cons: These things are just as ugly as humans, at least when you're playing a male. Oh, and they don't really have any DPS-augmenting abilities -- it's all mitigation.

Gnomes

Alliance and Horde players alike can agree: Gnomes are the most delicious of the 12 playable races. They are best browned in a skillet over a light drizzle of oil. Add water and sliced onion, then cover your gnome in for 2 hours in a cast iron pot. Add carrots and potatoes; cook until done. Keep soy sauce and flour on hand for making a fine gravy with the juices (optional).
  • Escape Artist: While cooking your gnome, be aware that they have the ability to escape their bonds once every 90 seconds. I recommend bludgeoning your gnome with a large mace prior to cooking, thus reducing its ability to remember it has the cooldown available.
  • Expansive Mind: Gnomes brains are tender, succulent, and filled with delicious knowledge. Note that gnomes are not smarter -- there's no intellect buff here -- they just have 5% more blue mana fluids in them. Tastes like blueberries!
  • Arcane Resistance: Gnomes take less damage from arcane spells than other classes do. Since shadow priests do not use arcane spells, this makes us better suited for hunting them down and melting them in the wild than, say, a mage or fluffkin.
  • Engineering Specialization: Gnomes have a 15-point advantage in the realm of engineering, which means they are 15 points more likely to explode when you cook them. For safety reasons, strip your gnome of any mechanical devices before cooking, lest you accidentally transport your cookware to Gadgetzan.
Cons: Gnomes have a high propensity for summoning fearsome doomguards (that have a high propensity to kill said gnome despite the gnome's insistance that it's "in charge here"). Gnomes have Shortblade Specialization, but that only benefits them in melee. On the bright side, since gnomes are more likely to be carrying knives; a resourceful shadow priest need only bring a fork to the dinner table. Also, gnomes are dumb and ugly. Please do not play one.

Draenei

Draenei are, for lack of a better description, alien goat men. They seem to take well to being shadow priests -- especially those corrupted ones in the area surrounding Auchindon. Corruption is awesome.

Gift of the Naruu is a unique heal-over-time racial. It's useful to shadow priests in that we can cast it while in Shadowform. (On edit: Damn. I guess you can't use it in Shadowform after all. Useless crap, this racial is.) It restores 20% of a target's max health over 15 seconds at no mana cost.
Heroic Presence is the key Draenei DPS racial. It's a 1% boost to spell hit, which translates to about 102 hit rating (or about 40 pseduo-intellect). As of Cataclysm, it only affects draenei and not those in the draenei's party.
Shadow Resistance allows a draenei to take less damage from shadow spells. This could be useful if you're dumb enough to keep casting spells against enemies with a reflect mechanism.
Gemcutting: This racial ability was buffed to +10 in Cataclysm. It's useful while leveling up jewelcrafting, if that's indeed the profession you've chosen for your draenei. Once you hit 525 (535?) -- not so much.

Cons: There aren't many cons from a gameplay perspective -- Draenei are a solid choice for a PVE shadow priest, especially. If you're into alien goat men, that is.

Worgen

Worgen are the new-for-Cataclysm Alliance race. In addition to an innate resistance to nature and shadow effects, they have arguably the most compelling set of racial abilities of all the Alliance races:
  • Jacob looked at the watch, the bands of which were painfully pulling the fur from his arm. "Oh man, it's 9:50. If I don't get to Club Booooooooof by 10PM, I'm going to have to pay a cover!" With that, Jacob quickly spritzed himself with glitter, activated Darkflight for the speed boost, fell to all fours (saving him the cost of a ground mount), grabbed his human suitcase, and rushed off.
  • Jacob gazed at Bella longingly. She gazed back. He licked his dog-like lips. She smiled ever so softly. He winked at her knowingly. She blushed, giving away her feelings for him. He grabbed a two-by-four and bashed her over the head with it. And the attack was a critical hit, thanks to the worgen's +1% crit passive, Viciousness. (At level 85, one percent crit is equal to 179.3 critical strike rating, or ~70 pseduo-intellect.)
  • It was the night of the spring formal, but Jacob was sitting at Forks Diner alone. He'd have gone with Bella, but alas ... he had naught to wear. "She'll never be impressed with these shoddy clothes ..." His thought trailed off as, through the diner windows, he spied a cow in the pasture across the street. One hour later, he arrived at the ball in a new leather suit, courtesy of some quick thinking and his +15 skinning Flayer ability.
  • Bella placed her tiny hand on the forsaken's broad, sparkling shoulder. "I'm sorry, my undead love. I know we've been through a lot together. It's just ... I've fallen in love with another." Bella turned, nodding towards the worgen in the corner. "He's from Gilneas. He looks tough, but he has a good heart. And when he's in human form, his abs ... they're just fantastic."
Cons: Twilight. Worgen pun names. A bungled storyline.

But which one is best?

The answer to which Alliance race is the best for a shadow priest honestly depends on what you're looking for. If you're approaching your racial choice from a pure PVE min/max perspective, you should choose to be a worgen. After all, they offer 70 points of pseduo-intellect (in the form of increased crit) as compared to a draenei's 40 (via hit) and the humans' 20 (via spirit). The other races have no real DPS benefit, unless you count gnomes' slightly higher base intellect stat.

If you're a PVPer, there are more important concerns than just DPS. Humans, gnomes, and dwarves all have terrific on-use CC-mitigation abilities, and Night Elves are just plain harder to melee.

If you want an all-around type, consider the common human. Sure, they lack a lot of pizazz, but the Diplomacy racial is just terrific, especially if you're trying to farm old school rep for achievements. Worgen are a pretty good all-around type too, with the most "fun" racials of the six. Night elves are cool too if you like flip jumps, I guess.

Thankfully, the differences between the races are not significant enough that it's possible to cripple yourself by making the wrong choice. In the end, you should keep the above racials in mind, but just choose whatever race you think would be the most fun to play. If you base your choice on what seems the most "fun," it's really hard to be disappointed.
Are you more interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? We've got more for shadow priests, from Shadow Priest 101 to a list of every monster worth mind controlling and strategies for raiding Blackwing Descent.

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

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