Usually, I'm uninterested in hearing about anything but how good-looking or awesome I am. I tend to make an exception on topics relating to shadow priesting though. It's a fun spec in Cataclysm, and I sure hope it stays a fun, competitive spec in the Pandatown expansion too.
Thankfully, there's something we can all do to guarantee the future of shadow priesting. Blizzard has started a thread on the official Blizzard forums specifically soliciting feedback from priests of all stripes. They ask some important things of us: what we think makes shadow priesting fun (and not fun), what we think of our rotation, our wish list, and what spells we use the least. The answers will be read by the development team and used to mold the shadow priest of 2012-13.
Given the importance of the thread, I thought it'd be interesting to go through the responses there so far, share a few with you, and give my own answers and reactions. Today, it's all about where shadow priests are and where shadow priests should be going.
If you haven't replied to the thread yet, take a moment and do it now. It's kind of like voting, at least in the sense that you're not really sure if your individual voice actually makes a difference, but it's pretty cool to be able to spend the next four years saying, "If only they had listened to me ..."
The shadow priest census begins by asking some basic information to give some context to subsequent responses: Do you prefer PVP or PVE? What kind of content do you participate in the most (raids, Battlegrounds, Arena, etc.)? After that, we get into the meat:
Here are a few of the more common responses:
Many priests have no idea how to balance stats. This is an ugly little problem, not just for shadow priests but really for priests of all types. Overall shadow priest damage is a black box. Numbers go in, numbers come out -- but it's impossible to know for sure what we can do individually to maximize our performance because we all play differently (and because all fights are different). We know that haste is the most important secondary stat -- to a point. And then mastery starts getting more important. And you can't just ignore crit.
SimulationCraft is a great tool for guessing, but it'd be nice to be on more solid ground with respect to what we should be looking for to maximize our DPS. In general, stats should be complex enough to be fun but simple enough so you don't need to do heavy outside research to find out how you should gem. A balance needs to be found, and we're not there yet.
Shadow orbs are difficult to track; they're too random. In the heat of battle, shadow priests must always be cognizant of how many orbs they have and know whether Empowered Shadow is up or not (so it can be triggered if it's not). Further, it is a constant source of frustration that Orb generation is highly random. In fact, I'd say that it was easily the biggest complaint.
Personally, I've never been bothered by the randomness. Empowered Shadows rarely falls off in boss fight situations. And while it can be frustrating not to see an Orb generate until 15 seconds into a fight sometimes, this randomness is a very minor factor in our overall DPS. It's like getting 99% on a test in school and obsessing over the fact that you didn't get 100%.
The complaint about how difficult the buff is to track is a little more valid a concern. I generally just assume that I always have Empowered Shadows up and only actively track it during my opener (so I know when it's safe to DOT/re-DOT). I doubt it would help much visually, but I've always wondered why the Shadow Orb animation always shows you with two Orbs, regardless of how many you actually have. Except when they proc -- when that happens, it looks like you have four. Huh?
When it comes down to it, shadow priests have five different buffs to apply. We could cut it to four with VE. And while we're on the subject, Power Word: Fortitude could be merged with Shadow Protection. (I'd even be cool with making Shadow Protection a priest-only passive.)
Triple spec would be cool. As a hybrid, there are a number of us who are called to do double duty: DPS some fights; heal others. That's fine -- having two specs allows us to accommodate this. But if we are doing that double duty, we can't really have a PVP spec, too. Dual Specialization was a great innovation, but it has created certain expectations for hybrid classes. Three specs would give us more freedom.
Blizzard has said that triple specialization is not something it is actively considering, but it hasn't been ruled out for the future.
On the subject of rotations
Eight, then seven, then nine, then "-." Once that's taken care of, I quickly hit nine, and then four until it's time to press eight or nine again. That's my general rotation, and I'm pretty cool with it. But enough about me -- let's find out about you and yours.
For the most part, it seems a lot of you like the shadow priest PVE rotation. It's complex but not too complex; it's situationally different but not too different. Not everyone agrees, of course, but it seems there's at least some consensus. I'm quite satisfied and consider our current rotation an improvement over that of Wrath.
For PVP players, there's no real set rotation. You have to preemptively act and then react to the strategies of your opponents. That calls for different spells at different times. Still, a lot of shadow priests find it difficult to feel our DOTs are meaningful in PVP. That's not to say they aren't; Dispelling eats up healer time and mana. We seldom see them ticking for much damage, and when we do, it's only because the team we're playing doesn't seem to know any better.
The shadow priest fun factor
While all shadow priests obviously put a priority on doing a lot of damage as quickly as possible, few of us would actually want to play the spec if we didn't enjoy it. That's the topic of the next two questions:
For me personally, one of the most fun things about shadow priests is being able to switch things up and utilize my healing abilities in absolute emergencies. I loved being the savior of early Cataclysm heroic PUGs, preventing wipes with a clutch Divine Hymn or taking over for a dead healer. It doesn't happen now as much as it used to, but when it does, I feel extraordinarily useful. That's part of why I only play hybrid classes -- I like being the jack of all trades. And a lot of you agree with me. You love utility. (Not that everyone agrees we have enough of it, of course.)
When it comes to what makes shadow priesting less fun ... well, that's a hard question to answer. But that's a good thing. It means Blizzard is getting far more right with shadow priests, in general, than it's getting wrong.
A few of you out there don't like that you can't see your armor in Shadowform. I don't really mind that (and I like the overly shadowy nature of Shadowform), but I can accept a criticism there as a valid personal preference. Similarly, there are a lot of complaints about taking damage from Shadow Word: Death. I couldn't disagree more; I think it's a terrific mechanic and welcome the added risk and reward to using it. The changes to the spell remain one of my favorite changes to shadow priests in Cataclysm.
A lot of PVP players complain about going out of mana (OOM) frequently. I've noticed this too. Being throttled in Battlegrounds isn't fun, and there's no reliable way to prevent the OOM situations. Still, I'm not sure there's a remedy here -- we can't expect infinite mana, otherwise there'd be no reason to even have the resource in the first place. Mobility is another near-universal concern in PVP.
What we want for Christmas
Shadow priests are awesome, but could we be even more awesome? The answer is yes, and man, do you guys have some ideas.
The last time I sat on Santa's lap, I wished for a minor glyph to turn my Shadow Orbs into shadow ravens. (At least the guy said he was Santa, but now that I think about it ...) That's not likely to happen, but I'm keeping it on my wishlist anyway.
On a more serious note, I'd love to see my Shadowfiend get used even more often. I love the two-piece tier 12 bonus, and it's going to kill me to have to give it up. Having my little guy out and attacking with me is just plain fun.
I'd also like to see Vampiric Embrace make a comeback -- or, at least, its usefulness. Since it was nerfed for Cataclysm, the healing we can offer our teammates seems largely irrelevant. It's too bad, because I really like the feeling of helping out in ways other than providing raw DPS.
I wouldn't mind it if there was some kind of indication as to what mobs were Mind Controllable and which ones weren't. Further, in PVP, I'd love to be able to use other players' abilities when I'm MCing them. Maybe it doesn't need to be as extreme as being able to ruin a Heroism cooldown, but still, I'd like that MCed mage to do more than stab at his friends.
As for all of you guys -- again, you mostly harped on Shadow Orbs being too reliant on the ol' random number generator. Others complained about a lack of casting options while on the move. And for our PVP friends, well ... they'd settle for just being able to be more mobile in general. Damn rogues, man, I'll tell ya.
... and the useless
Finally, there's this:
Shadow priests -- and really, priests in general -- are in agreement with regard to what spells we don't use. Mind Vision has always been much cooler in theory than in practice, and I doubt few priests seriously use it. Mind Soothe sounds useful, but because aggro radii vary so widely, it's a guessing game as to what situation its applicable for. Shackle Undead is useful as crowd control in very few situations; the only time we use it is in heroic Shadowfang Keep, if even then. (I find mob-type limitations for CC to be confusing and unnecessary in general.)
As for my own personal answer: I've been very disappointed this expansion with our level 85 spell Leap of Faith. I've used it once or twice when fooling around with friends before a pull or during raid downtime and a couple of times on the Cataclysm PTR to see how it worked. In live server battles? I've never had occasion to use it, nor can I recall a situation where it was worth dropping Shadowform to do so. It's really too bad -- the spell has a high potential "fun factor."
A few PVE players said they never use Mana Burn, though I'll readily note that it's well-used in PVP. I wouldn't be opposed to seeing a PVE use for the spell, but right now, it seems that NPC mana pools are infinite -- there's almost never a benefit to attacking a mana gauge in PVE.
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.