My dear friend Frostheim once proclaimed that shadow was a gateway spec. He warned me that priests who delved into shadow's dark delights were at a heightened risk of one day becoming warlocks. Yes, warlocks.
Of course, nothing has been proven yet. Early clinical trials have only shown us correlation, not causation; so if you're willing to accept the risk, today's guide is for playing a shadow priest in Mists of Pandaria.
Before we begin, let me once again warn you that I am by no means a veteran shadow priest. The information in this guide is subject to error, and should you be a veteran shadow priest yourself, I encourage you to contact me or leave a comment if you think a change or addition is in order. I've compiled the information in this guide, to the best of my ability, from respectable shadow priests and the writings of shadow priest theorycrafters found at HowToPriest.com and elsewhere.
Shadow stat weights
If you've played a shadow priest in the past, you'll find that your stat weights aren't wildly different from what they've been before. Take a look.
Additional things to know
- If you're a draenei, your racial lowers your hit cap to 4,760.
- If you're a human, it's highly recommended you gear for hit using spirit. Since spirit and hit are interchangeable 1 to 1, the human racial lowers the hit cap to 4,940 spirit if you gear for hit exclusively with spirit.
- If you're a goblin, your racial lowers your haste breakpoint to 7,584.
And if you're curious, the haste breakpoint you're aiming for is the second breakpoint for Shadow Word: Pain, meaning that much haste grants you two extra ticks of Shadow Word: Pain every time you cast it. The second breakpoint Devouring Plague, and the first for Vampiric Touch are below this amount of haste rating, so you will also gain two extra ticks of Devouring Plague and one extra tick of Vampiric Touch at this amount of haste.
The new priest talents
- Void Tendrils This AoE crowd control affects enemy targets close to you, allowing you to root and run. The cooldown is quite short, so if you switch between using this and Psychic Scream, you can easily keep mobs off you while leveling or doing dailies.
- Psyfiend What's nice about Psyfiend is you can specify where it spawns with a targeting reticle; a great alternative since Void Tendrils requires you to be in close proximity to the mobs you want to crowd control. Combine it with the Glyph of Psychic Scream and the mobs will just freeze in place.
- Dominate Mind Very similar to the old Mind Control, except it can be used on more than just humanoid targets now. PvE use will be very situational though, since you're locked into controlling the afflicted mob.
- Body and Soul With this talent, we have the option of applying Body and Soul whenever we use Power Word: Shield on ourselves (or others). Keep in mind that if you're playing with another priest, Weakened Soul could occasionally prevent you from shielding.
- Angelic Feather Rather than assigning Body and Soul to a target, you can now apply the buff to a specific location in the form of a glowing feather. The feathers can be used by any friendly target though, so if you're using these to run out of fire there's always a risk someone else might step on them and get the buff instead of you. If you're cutting it too close, that could result in death. The talent has advantages, though; it costs no mana and since you can use as many feathers as you have charges, you can get a lot more uptime on the buff.
- Phantasm This talent is primarily designed for PvP escapes, but it does work in some PvE situations. When working on a fight for the first time, it's always worth seeing if you can Phantasm out of any disables you encounter.
- From Darkness, Comes Light This is the talent you'll want most of the time. It almost always outperforms your other two options for damage. Be sure to pair it with the Glyph of Mind Spike so you can reduce the cast time on Mind Blast. This talent increases in value the more targets you have to apply Vampiric Touch to.
- Mindbender This talent beats From Darkness, Comes Light on fights where you're moving a lot. (Don't forget that multiple targets improve From Darkness, Comes Light. The gap between Mindbender and From Darkness, Comes Light closes quickly as you increase possible targets in a fight.)
- Power Word: Solace (Shadow Word: Insanity) Avoid this talent for now. It just doesn't keep up with the alternatives.
- Desperate Prayer A strong, instant cast self-heal. You can use it like an extra Healthstone.
- Spectral Guise This ability has lots of apparent uses in PvP, but none in PvE. If you have any ideas, leave them in the comments.
- Angelic Bulwark A fool proof alternative to Desperate Prayer. The shield activates automatically when you drop to below 30% health. Doesn't heal you for anything, but buys you (or the healers) time to heal.
- Twist of Fate This is a flat DPS boost when in execute range. It performs best on Patchwerk-style fights.
- Power Infusion The problem with Power Infusion as a shadow priest is that Mind Flay is the only true spammable spell we have. DoTs have fixed durations, Mind Blast, Shadow Word: Death, and Halo all have cooldowns, so Power Infusion can only help us get through our list faster. That has advantages in some situations (DPSing down adds before a boss event) but not all.
- Divine Insight The chance to proc might seem low, but this is the talent beats Twist of Fate more often than not. Just like with From Darkness, Comes Light, this talent will offer more chances to proc when you can cast Shadow Word: Pain on more targets.
- Cascade I suspect this spell would be great if you played a shadow priest in arena, but in PvE it's lousy. Stick to one of the other two.
- Divine Star For soloing and 5-mans, this is a great little spell. The only downfall is the short cooldown constantly sticks its nose into your priority system and sucks up GCDs. Good for tagging groups of mobs though.
- Halo The best of the tier 90 talents for a shadow priest. This spell does the most damage, which makes it the choice for raiders. Be careful about using it on trash, however.
Your spell priority
Shadow priests have a spell priority instead of a static rotation. Different encounters always introduce different variables, which can change your priority. The instruction below should work for all general purposes though.
- DoTs (Devouring Plague with three Shadow Orbs > Shadow Word: Pain > Vampiric Touch)
- Mind Blast
- Shadow Word: Death (once target is below 20% health)
- Level 90 talent (usually Halo)
- Shadowfiend (or Mindbender)
- Mind Spike procs (If you've taken From Darkness, Comes Light)
- Mind Flay
In general, the optimal shadow playstyle is very proc based now. You'll have lots of decisions to make every few seconds (or less) which means you'll have to practice a lot to get comfortable making those decisions on the fly. Good luck.
What major glyphs should I use?
There is really only one glyph you need to take as a shadow priest and that's Glyph of Mind Spike. This glyph will reduce the cast time on your Mind Blast each time you use Mind Spike, which should be quite often if you have the talent From Darkness, Comes Light. (Without the talent, this glyph loses most of its appeal.)
Sadly, no other glyph has as significant an impact on your damage dealing as Glyph of Mind Spike. The glyphs below do offer quality of life improvements though.
- Glyph of Dark Binding Ideal for soloing, this glyph will save you the hassle of shifting back into Shadowform when you have to heal yourself with a few choice spells.
- Glyph of Inner Sanctum Makes Inner Fire even better by adding 6% reduced spell damage to the buff. In a raid or dungeon where you don't anticipate having to cast any heals on yourself, this is a good replacement for Glyph of Dark Binding.
- Glyph of Mind Flay When you find the chance to Mind Flay, this could save you the time of using Body and Soul or Angelic Feather.
- Glyph of Shadow Word: Death Mostly for soloing, this will let you use your execute on creatures that are above 20% but have very low HP in total.
- Glyph of Vampiric Embrace Good for saving yourself, even better for helping out the healers during heavy damage phases.
Reforging, gems, and enchants
When reforging and gemming your gear in accordance to your breakpoints and caps, do not sacrifice any opportunity you have to increase your intellect. If you can meet your haste breakpoint and hit cap without gems, you'll be free to gem for intellect. Keep that in mind when you have multiple enchant options too.
- Meta Burning Primal Diamond
- Red Brilliant Primordial Ruby
- Orange/Yellow Reckless Vermilion Onyx or Quick Sun's Radiance
- Purple/Blue Purified Imperial Amethyst or Sparkling River's Heart
- Shoulders Greater Crane Wing Inscription (Secret Crane Wing Inscription for scribes)
- Back Superior Intellect (Lightweave Embroidery for tailors)
- Chest Glorious Stats
- Wrists Super Intellect or Mastery (Fur Lining – Intellect for leatherworkers, Socket Bracer for blacksmiths)
- Hands Greater Haste or Superior Mastery (Synapse Springs for engineers)
- Waist Living Steel Belt Buckle
- Legs Greater Cerulean Spellthread or Greater Pearlescent Spellthread
- Feet Greater Haste or Pandaren's Step
- Fingers Greater Intellect for enchanters
- Main-hand Weapon Jade Spirit or Windsong
- Off-hand weapon Major Intellect
Which consumables to use?
- Food Mogu Fish Stew is your best choice. If you choose to eat from a banquet (the MoP version of Fish Feasts, sort of) you will not get an equivalent stat bonus. Mogu Fish Stew grants 300 intellect, while Pandaren Banquet and Great Pandaren Banquet only grant 275 in a useful stat. This is what you need to know for min/max, but I recommend reading more on buff food in Mists of Pandaria.
- Flasks Flask of the Warm Sun
- Potions Potion of the Jade Serpent
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.