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Spiritual Guidance: What's the best race for a Horde shadow priest?

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen rains down sheer purple destruction on all who oppose him (but he does so with love!). Fox encourages you to follow him on Twitter.

A few weeks ago, I ran an article called "What Alliance race is best for shadow priests?" And man, did I get my ass flamed for doing it. A whole bunch of you complained that I was too hard on Team Blue, that a Horde sympathizer such as myself had no business writing such a thing. Just a small sampling of the fun comments:

Wow arent you a tool. Why not throw in some Justine Bieber, George Bush, McDonalds, and whatever else is popular to hate bashing in there to get the fanboy juices really flowing?

To answer the question, yes, I am a tool. That still doesn't change the fact that gnomes are the worst thing to happen since that time I saw Justine (sic) Bieber and George Bush eating at a McDonald's. With Gary Coleman? In a Suburu? Remember that, Lois?

Anyway, follow me after the break. There aren't any Family Guy cutaways, I promise. We do kill off and eat a weatherman, though. So there's that.

Base stats by race

As mentioned the time we discussed Alliance shadow priests, races have a base stat allotment. We're really only concerned with intellect when it comes to doing damage; stamina is useful too, but only to compensate when Dawn Moore does a really bad job in healing us. Base spirit is useful if you're going to switch over to the dark side (light side?) and do some healing.

Base stats by race, level 1 (source)
Race Base Intellect Base Spirit Base Stamina
Undead 18 25 21
Tauren 15 22 22
Troll 16 21 21
Blood Elf 24 19 18
Goblin 23 18 20
These basic stats are interesting (all of you damned nerds love numbers, don't you?) but not that meaningful. That's because they don't scale at all -- a blood elf will always have 9 more intellect than a tauren, regardless of level. The difference between 15 and 24 intellect is obviously huge; the difference between 1,500 intellect and 1,509 intellect ... not so much. But there is a difference -- otherwise, I wouldn't have spent hundreds of gold on gems to increase my intellect by such a small margin.

Like with all the Alliance races, though, what really counts for the Horde are the individual racials.

Undead

It's a story as old as time: Boy meets girl. Boy gets plague. Boy turns undead and loses independent thought. Boy eats girl. Boy is liberated from his undead servitude and regains independent thought. Boy remains strangely okay with having eaten girl and starts thinking about other people he can eat. Boy's arm falls off.

When it comes to shadow priests, we fit in the best with the undead. They're the only race with solid, verifiable shadow priest lore built. (You could even say that the undead wrote the book on shadow priesting. Literally.)

Some famous undead shadow priest figures throughout history include Shadow Priest Allister; Shadow Priest Sarvis; and Michele Morrow.
  • Cannibalize, in my humble opinion, is one of the coolest abilities in the game. I mean, seriously, you get to eat your humanoid enemies after you kill them to recover some precious health and mana. It's super-useful while leveling to reduce downtime. I have killed the weatherman! HIS STRENGTH BE IN ME!
  • "Being Forsaken has its benefits. Let me see ... I am able to practically live underwater. I can stay submerged 233% longer than any fleshy mortal. Yes, count it, 233%."
  • Will of the Forsaken is a pretty useful racial that allows you to break charm, fear, and sleep effects. Unfortunately, like the human racial Every Man for Himself, it shares a cooldown with other similar CC-neutralizing PVP trinkets.
  • Being followers of the shadow (as opposed to the Light), undead have an innate level of Shadow Resistance. This is only useful until you get access to the Shadow Protection buff at level 52, as the two do not stack.
Cons: Well, some would say a near-instinctual desire to serve the Dark Lady is a con ... but those outsiders just don't understand. Otherwise, these dudes (and ladies) probably smell real bad.

Tauren

Up until Deathwing came and sundered the world in the Cataclysm, tauren lacked the ability to be shadow priests. The reasoning behind this is spotty; supposedly, they use the power of the sun or whatever the way night elves use the moon.
  • Being glorified cows, tauren know all about delicious grass and the things that grow in grassy areas. Presumably, this is why they're able to use their Cultivation ability to yank herbs from the ground faster than everyone else.
  • Tauren have Endurance, which means they're pretty damn tough to take down. The extra 5% health matters way more in PVP than PVE, but still ... extra health is always a good thing.
  • Being in tune with nature, tauren have an innate level of Nature Resistance. This is useful only so far as you don't have a druid, paladin, or shaman supplying any level of nature resist, because the effects do not stack. (On edit: Oh my god, people. Though paladins do not have a nature resist aura, they can supply a measure of nature resist via Blessing of Kings. Technically, the tauren's Nature Resistance is better, but by a terribly marginal factor. And as was mentioned in the comments, hunters can provide nature resist if it's necessary, but doing so makes them sad.)
  • War Stomp is one of the cooler racial abilities out there. It's a 2-second stun that can hit up to five targets -- terrific for interrupting spellcasts. Like most racials, it's mainly used in PVP, but if you get surrounded by NPCs, it can buy you the time needed to get off a few heals.
Cons: You are a walking hamburger.

Troll

Yo, mon. I tink trolls be a fine race, I tell ya dat. Be lots of shadow priests dere who practice de voodoo. But de true power lay in de racials. (And in Hakkar the Soulflayer.)
  • Being experts at jungle living, trolls are experts at jungle killing -- specifically, jungle beasts. They're good at Beast Slaying, I guess, is what I'm saying. That extra 5% damage bonus comes in especially handy when you consider that bosses, like Beth'tilac, can be beasts.
  • Da Voodoo Shuffle is a pretty decent racial for anyone who PVPs. Those first few stuns ... you can trinket out of those. But when you're hit with a stun you can't escape outright, having to put up with it for only 85% of its usual duration is a nice thing.
  • Regeneration provides a pretty lousy level of health regen to shadow priests, in combat and out. For a raiding level 85 shadow priest, that adds up to about 0.1% of your max health every 2 seconds -- maybe 60 health per second for a raider. But hey, better than nothing.
  • Berserking is the troll racial. It gives you a 20% casting speed buff that lasts for 10 seconds once every 3 minutes. At level 85, that amounts to a short-lived buff of 2,563 haste just about whenever you want it. So long as you always use it the moment it comes off cooldown, Berserking has a minimum averaged value of 142.36 haste -- somewhere around 80 intellect. This racial is incredible. I love it. I love it so hard I want to marry it.
Cons: Hey, mon! Trolls be racially insensitive stereotype, mon!

Blood elf

Blood elves take a lot of crap. Twelve-year-olds complain that they're "gay," probably after seeing their little twirling jump animation. Their reputation as tweeked-out addicts aside, they make pretty fierce shadow priests.
  • Arcane Affinity increases a blood elf's enchanting skill by 10. This comes in pretty handy when leveling the profession, but really, only while leveling.
  • Arcane Resistance, like the other magic school resistances, is useful only when you don't have a more powerful buff overwriting it.
  • Arcane Torrent is a spectacularly useful ability in both PVP and PVE. In the PVP setting, it works as an interrupt and silence, which can be the critical difference between a win and a loss. In a PVE setting ... hey, it still gives you 6% of your mana.
  • Blood elves' damn good hair and Fox Van Allen-esque good looks frequently crit foes with Arcane Sexiness. (This may not be canon.)
Cons: Significant hair product bills. A father who disapproves of your blood elf lifestyle. No DPS-increasing abilities.

Goblin

The goblin priesthood, for the most part, is based around the collection plate. While that's not necessarily the "dark and shadowy" we shadow priests are used to, it's a different type of dark and shadowy. Like Craig T. Nelson's character in Action Jackson. Or the dude who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby for cash. (Too soon?)

  • Best Deals Anywhere kind of speaks for itself -- it allows you to get items at the cheapest possible price at any vendor that offers a faction discount.
  • Better Living through Chemistry is a 15-point buff to alchemy. Like all the other profession buffs, it's useful while leveling, but only during leveling.
  • Pack Hobgoblin gives you access to your bank whenever you want, once per 30 minutes. A pretty cool quality-of-life ability.
  • Rocket Barrage is something akin to a goblin-only spell. It's an instant cast that triggers the global cooldown. It's situationally useful if you're on the move, since you don't need to be facing your target to use it, but only if your opponent is over 25% health (or, if below 25% health, when Shadow Word: Death is on cooldown).
  • Rocket Jump shares a cooldown with Rocket Barrage. In PVP, this is phenomenal. It's also pretty good for trying to break the game and get places you shouldn't be able to.
  • Time is Money gives goblins an incredible 1% flat bonus to your haste, something that comes in very handy in the end game (and heck, on your way there). That's equivalent to 128.13 haste rating at level 85, which makes it slightly less impressive than the trolls' Berserking. But still, even considering that, it's better than anything the Alliance side has to offer.

Cons: The stereotypical New Jersey accent. And let me tell you, I know something about a bad Jersey accent. Just ask me to say "water."

But which one is best?

Really, this is a total judgement call. In terms of cranking out top-flight DPS, the correct answer here is "troll." Berserking is an absolutely legendary racial, and if you're using it on a beast-type enemy during that sweet spot in the fight when all your procs are up at the same time ... man, are you looking at a solid DPS increase.

Beyond the mathematical analysis, anything else is a judgement call. When I faction-changed to Horde back in 2009, I really wanted to roll a blood elf shadow priest ... just because. Ultimately, I went troll based on the numbers, but since then, I've started an undead shadow priest and a goblin shadow priest. The former is a terrific choice if you're really into roleplaying; there's just so much to work with, lorewise. I rolled the goblin just to experience the goblin starting area, and I really enjoyed myself. I'll probably get her to 85 someday.

Like when choosing an Alliance race, it's hard to go wrong. Sure, trolls perform the best, but choose whatever you love. At the end of the day, if you're rolling a Forsaken shadow priest and having fun doing it ... well, isn't that what this game is all about? Having fun?
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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