We're exactly one week away from the big Mists of Pandaria press event. What does it mean, exactly, that Blizzard is giving Team WoW Insider a major reveal? It means that we're getting closer and closer to that magical day the beta opens and, of course, the magic day that MoP hits store shelves and goes live to the public.
In the meantime, there's a lot of development going on behind the scenes. But what kind of priorities are the development team working under? What priorities should it have? What do you want out of your spec in Mists of Pandaria? And does your priority make the list?
1. Competitive DPS A lot of changes are coming to shadow priests in the next couple of months. We'll be getting more spells. Our existing spells will be getting makeovers. Change is scary, if only because we're sitting at such a great place right now.
Staying on top of the charts -- or, at least, staying competitive with the top of the charts -- may sound like a pretty basic request. After all, why would Blizzard consciously put shadow priests in a terrible place? But as any shadow priest historian could tell you, we haven't always been competitive. Our DPS output in Wrath (at least the first half of the expansion) was absolutely miserable. We've come a long way in Icecrown and all throughout Cataclysm.
When the dust clears, I think we'll do just fine here. Though I think Cataclysm will be the shadow priest's high water mark in terms of DPS, I'd be quite surprised if we came even close to the dark days of Wrath. It's hard to be too upset with that.
2. Multi-DoT opportunities As we have been discussing the last few weeks, Blizzard has been aggressively trying to nerf the shadow priest's multi-DoT superiority. It's understandable -- we do phenomenal DPS when there's more than one target available to be saddled with Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain. Too phenomenal, admittedly.
But truly, it's those multi-DoT opportunities that make shadow priesting fun. We like the ability to skip from one target to the next, making cost-benefit analyses on the fly. Is it better to nuke the target marked with skull for 22.5k DPS, or do 30k DPS across all three targets available? The answer to that question isn't always easy and often depends not just on your opponents, but also on your teammates.
Sure, there's some skill required in maximizing your DPS on a single target. But there's something magical about taking that to the next level through multi-DoTing. It's a huge challenge that takes years to master, but once you do master the skill, there's no better videogaming high. And perhaps it's exactly that level of difficulty that puts the practice on the endangered list.
3. Moar DoTs! (Or at least the same number!) If Blizzard thinks DoTs are overpowered, that's understandable. But if it's actively taking DoTs out of the game because it fears their power ... well, that's just the wrong road to take us all down.
Personally, I feel that DoTs are what make shadow priests fun. Like I said, I get that the game developers don't want shadow priests consistently topping the charts, but there's a happy medium to be had. You don't have to cut out entire spells to reduce the shadow priest's DPS, nor their ability to multi-DoT.
If the end result of Mists of Pandaria pushes shadow priests away from being a DoT spec and toward being a direct damage spec, I'm going to be a sad (shadow) panda. Direct damage just isn't what shadow priests are about; it's not what we all love about the class.
There's bad news on this front -- we look likely to lose Devouring Plague in MoP. Sure, a game with fewer DoTs would be simpler to play. But if you want to make the game simpler, take away the complex tedium, not the fun complexity. And for the love of all things shadowy, nerf our DoTs if you really must, Blizzard, but spare us our Devouring Plague.
4. PvP prowess and survivability If you're a regular reader of Spiritual Guidance, you already I'm not a huge PvP afficionado. I've got a pretty basic level of PvP knowledge (which I shared in my basics of shadow priest PvP article). I prefer to settle my differences with others on Judge Judy, not the battlefield.
But still, though I'm not huge into PvP, I understand that PvP is a huge part of the shadow priesting lifestyle. Between our DPS and our healing, we've got a huge amount of utility.
Here's the problem, though: Blizzard is taking away our healing, just like it's taking away the healing ability of all the other DPS hybrids. Boomkins are being stripped of most their heals. So are elemental shaman and ret paladins.
Don't get me wrong, we're keeping some of our heals -- mainly, Flash Heal. It's a great part of our emergency toolkit, but it's hardly the best of our emergency toolkit. We're losing Renew, which is a great on-the-go instant-cast before switching back to shadow. We're losing Divine Hymn, which has saved my party's butt a number of times in both PvP and PvE.
All of it makes leaving shadowform to do anything seem entirely futile. And really, isn't that why we're supposed to want to play hybrid DPS characters? Because we can do more?
5. Shadowy cohorts! One of my favorite parts about Cataclysm -- and it was definitely on my 2010 wish list for the expansion -- was the increased prevalence of our Shadowfiend. One part of this is the Sin and Punishment talent, which slashes 5 seconds off the Shadowfiend timer for each Mind Flay crit. Veiled Shadows cuts the timer by 60 seconds at rank 2. And while we were lucky to have it, the tier 12 shadow bonus took yet another 75 seconds off our Shadowfiend timer, down to a spectacularly frequent 2 minutes and 45 seconds.
Unfortunately, though, that's all going away with Mists of Pandaria. No more Sin and Punishment. No more Veiled Shadows. And our tier 12 bonus -- long gone. We're back up to a 5-minute default timer, and that makes me terribly sad.
Shadow priesting is more fun when you're doing it with a friend. And while I absolutely love the fact that Blizzard is giving us a new friend in the Psyfiend, I'm going to miss seeing my Shadowfiend as often as I do now. Perhaps it's time to start up the Save our Shadowfiend Foundation?
Are you more interested in watching health bars go down than back up? We've got everything a shadow priest will need, from the basics of shadow priest PvP and advice on gearing up for Raid Finder raids to the hottest trinkets and weapons for today's shadow priests.