I spent a long time trying to come up with the perfect word for what's happening to shadow priests on the beta right now. At first I thought up déjà vu, but that didn't seem quite right (and shut up, I know that's a phrase, not a word). Then I got bored and played Civilization 5 for a while. Then I made a sandwich.
I don't know where I'm going with any of that, but I did eventually settle on a word: backtracking. That's what happening with shadow priests -- Blizzard is revising the class and hastily making a retreat on just about every unpopular decision it's made over the last few months in the beta. Two weeks ago, Blizz did it by backing down on its decision to axe Devouring Plague. This week, it's backtracking again, giving us back yet another thing it had axed going into MoP.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? In a sense, both. But we'll get into that shortly.
The hot summer trend: Fewer changes?
On the one hand, not having a lot of changes to the way shadow priests play kind of sucks. It's a new expansion. Things are supposed to change. I know we're all comfortable with the way things are, but I don't know ... If we raise objection to each and every change because it's weird and different, then the shadow priest of Mists of Pandaria is going to look little different from the shadow priest of Cataclysm.
In a sense, that's not a terrible thing -- after all, shadow priests are pretty effin' rocking in Cataclysm. But a new expansion is supposed to be like Christmas morning. You're supposed to get presents. New, cool stuff. And sometimes, that new cool stuff is just so big and important that it means you have to get rid of stuff you already have. Sad, but a fact of life!
A few months ago, Blizzard developers were trying out some cool new mechanics that I actually liked. Shadowy Apparitions were dynamic, not passive -- you had to press a button to send them off. There was a whole new mechanic for casting Mind Blast where you had to save up shadow orbs. Different, sure, but on the whole, not bad.
Recently, though, Blizzard is in full rollback mode with shadow priests, undoing changes and making the shadow priest of MoP look a lot like the shadow priest of Cataclysm. The most recent of these changes: The talent Divine Insight was changed to offer some functionality that should look very familiar to shadow priests. The new tooltip (emphasis mine):
I'm quite glad to see that return. A lot of shadow priests take for granted not having to constantly refresh Shadow Word: Pain and really don't understand how terrible it would feel to play without it. Extra casts take up mana. SW:P has an 18-second duration, sometimes less when affected by haste. It may not seem like much of an imposition to press that key to refresh the spell that infrequently, but when you're in the heat of the battle, it really is.
Discipline: When you cast Spirit Shell, there is a 40% chance your next Power Word: Shield will both ignore and not cause the Weakened Soul effect. Holy: When you cast Greater Heal, there is a 40% chance your next Prayer of Mending will not trigger its cooldown, and will jump to each target instantly. Shadow: Periodic damage from your Mind Flay refreshes the duration of your Shadow Word: Pain on the target.
When Blizzard had taken away Devouring Plague, it made sense to take away the SW:P refresh along with it. Without refreshing DP, the shadow priest experience would feel like it was missing something -- essentially, SW:P just took DP's place.
But when DP returned, everything changed back the way it was. Suddenly, shadow priests had to refresh all three DoTs manually -- something we haven't really had to do. It just doesn't feel right; too much time is getting eaten up with DoT casts. And yes, even though SW:P is an instant-cast spell, it does cost a global cooldown.
So really, I don't have any criticism about the SW:P refresh being put back into the game -- it would have been sorely missed. The only real criticism I have is making it an optional talent. It's never going to truly feel optional. And that's too bad, because taking Power Infusion had seemed like such a strong option up until now. The whole thing is really making me start second-guessing whether or not we really were better off without Devouring Plague in the mix.
Some shadow priest eye candy
I'm a sucker for the visual. Thousand-dollar charges at Nordstrom are the norm for me, know what I mean? That's why one of my favorite aspects of any new expansion are the outfits.
Our friends over at Wowhead have datamined some of the hottest shadow priest fashions for fall 2012, and I've got to say, I rather like the priest PvP set. (But what else is new -- don't PvP sets always look fantastic?) Here's a shot from their model viewer:
The last time we got together, I talked about the new Glyph of Dark Binding, a way-too-sexy glyph that offered shadow priests the ability to perform some limited heals in Shadowform. I flagged it as too good to be true, and I'll be damned if Blizzard didn't go ahead and listen to me. The devs changed it and made it far less powerful. Sorry, you guys. The new text:
Seems much more sensible to not be able to cast Flash Heal. Much less useful, but much more sensible. I'm sure I'll still take it -- being able to cast Prayer of Mending and Renew is still pretty sexy.
You can now cast Prayer of Mending, Renew, and Leap of Faith without cancelling Shadowform.
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.