Getting the Basics Right (Part 1)

So you just hit 85, and have no idea what to do?

I remember that feeling. Unfortunately, the learning curve in WoW takes a sudden leap when you hit 85. Wrong choices that didn’t really matter while levelling can suddenly gimp you significantly, and a wide variety of gear, gems and enchants can definitely be overwhelming.

First off, it is very important to spec right. Talents that were useful while levelling, such as Paralysis, are no longer viable in PvE gameplay at level 85.

The common optimised spec for shadowpriests right now is this, and it is easy to see why. The talents under the Shadow tree is rather restrictive well-designed, so this spec captures all the required talents to maximise your DPS. The only leeway you have is the one point in Inner Sanctum, and even that is arguable. This is because there really aren’t any other talents worth putting that one point into, and Inner Sanctum helps your healers by mitigating spell damage.

Our glyphs are actually quite limiting as well. The Mind Flay, Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Word: Death prime glyphs are the only ones that actually increase our DPS, so they are largely compulsory. In major glyphs, Fade and Spirit Tap are miles ahead of your other choices and should be included in your set-up. The third major glyph is really personal preference, and I slant towards Mass Dispel. Two other useful ones are Fear Ward and Psychic Scream, but they’re really situational. Minor glyphs are really just that – minor. That said, I highly recommend that you glyph Shadowfiend and Levitate. That way, you’d still get some mana back if your Shadowfiend dies, and you no longer have to bring feathers around in your bags.

Another part of the game that many new 85s find daunting is stat priorities. As a caster, Intellect is definitely the best stat for us. It increases our spellpower, making us hit harder, and increases our mana-pool, making us last longer. Haste is our best secondary stat, and the reason is really simple – it makes our dots tick faster and reduces the global cooldown, thereby allowing you to cast more spells.

Spirit, through Twisted Faith, translates into Hit for us. Back when Cataclysm first launched, many shadowpriests argued that getting hit-capped is not important and they were right. However, the changes to shadowpriests in 4.2 has once again made getting hit-capped (6% for heroic instances, 17% for raids) a significant step in gearing up. Mastery used to be the worst stat for us, but as expected earlier, started to scale well as our gear levels improved. I personally don’t think it will reach a point where it becomes better than Haste, but that really is anyone’s guess.

Hence, the stat priority is Intellect > Haste > Spirit/Hit > Mastery > Crit.

With all that done, you’d still need to actually cast spells to kill stuff! As a shadowpriest, the priority is to keep your damage-over-time (dot) spells up. These are Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague and Shadow Word: Pain. Shadow Word: Pain refreshes automatically when you cast Mind Flay, so you usually just need to cast it once at the beginning of the fight. Vampiric Touch and Devouring Plague have different durations, and it is important that you re-cast them before they fall off. An add-on such as ClassTimer would be a significant help, but more on add-ons in a future post.

You should also keep your Mind Blast on cooldown, even if no orbs are up. The only time you should deviate from this is when your Empowered Shadow buff is seven seconds away from falling off. This is to ensure maximum uptime on Empowered Shadow, which increases your dot damage by 10%.

When all three dots are up, and Mind Blast is on cooldown, spam Mind Flay. That is your filler spell, and in some cases cause the most damage in a fight. Use it all the time. When the boss’ health is less than 25%, keep Shadow Word: Death on cooldown. This is your execution spell so use it, unless the backlash damage is too much of a risk.

If mana is a no-issue for you, pop your Shadowfiend and 5-stack Dark Evangelism early as well. These are significant DPS increases, and popping them early ensures that you can use them again later in the fight. Before popping Dark Evangelism, remember to refresh your dots when Evangelism hits five stacks! That’s another buff to your dots damage that shouldn’t be neglected.

Whew! That was a large chunk to absorb, wasn’t it? There’s no easy way to getting your basics right though. In the next coming post, I’ll be sharing some strategies that would allow you to gear up as efficiently as possible, so keep a lookout for that.

As always, feel free to email me at or leave a comment here if you have any feedback.


One response to “Getting the Basics Right (Part 1)

  1. Nice read. I have been quite depressed as of late, as all my Shadowpriest blogs are seeming to disappear. Good to find another one. Keep it up!

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