Saturday, December 1, 2012


As some may have noticed, I haven't been writing lately. Between exam season and the holidays, I probably won't be writing again until January. Cheers!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Discipline priest buffs.

So, Discipline just got some more buffs via hotfix earlier this week. I was surprised; I was already dominating the healing in early Heart of Fear. While this may have been (mostly) due to ideal fight mechanics, I still shudder to think what the healing meters will look like this weekend. Just from shifting Divine Aegis from 30% to 50% (base; pre-mastery) I should gain about 17% healing output, and a bit of mana, as I can stop casting on the raid after Force and Verve sooner. The Rapture change from 150% to 200% should ensure that my mana won't run low before the boss dies anymore.

All-in-all, I'm feeling vindicated about my feelings earlier this expansion regarding Discipline balance. Now if only Mistweaver monks had nerfs in the pipe instead of more buffs.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What you should know about Mistweaver monk healing.

So, I rolled a monk. As I'm the optional 3rd healer in my raid, and because Disc has some problems, I leveled a Mistweaver. Unlike some well-prepared people, I leveled it all the way from level 1, without any instant recruit-a-friend levels. But that's not what this post is about; the actual healing at level 90 is. First, I'll start with things important to non-Mistweavers.

Healing Spheres

The little green balls everywhere? Those are healing spheres. They can be manually cast, or proc off of any heal. They heal 25-35k or so if an injured player touches them. There's no cooldown on touching your monk's balls, so if there's a bunch of them, you can heal tons of health all at once by walking through them. Think of them as a second Healthstone. Tanks, particularly, can make use of these to great effect by tanking near a few, and sidestepping into them if things get rough. (Everyone can do that, it's just most awesome when tanks do it.) When most of my Healing Spheres get used, they're about 20% of my total healing, so if you're grouped with a Mistweaver, do pay attention to them, particularly if you're moving anyway, or the healer is struggling.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


No post this week; exam season.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shadow Priest Level 90 Talents

So, unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure everyone knows that priests got a new set of talents when we hit level 90. This talent tier has a host of problems and intricacies that any good priest needs to be aware of. Today, I'm going to analyze the level 90 talents from a Shadow perspective.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pet Battles: More fun than expected.

 So, I know I said I'd update the Shadow DPS guide last week. Well, I've been busy. (Haven't we all!) Don't worry, it's still coming, just not for a bit longer. Leveling was much more interesting than I had expected. I've never been very interested in quests, (and I still wasn't,) but hunting down and soloing all the various rare champion mobs was seriously fun. Heroics have been mostly a bit of a letdown, but challenge modes are just about perfectly tuned. Organizing a Sha of Anger raid was hard, but the fight itself was easy. I also rolled a monk. As expected, they're crazy OP. My level 15 mistweaver is doing 100 DPS... while also healing. None of that has anything to do with this post though; today, I'm writing about pet battles.

As the title says, pet battles are more fun than I expected. To get started, ask a guard to direct you to the pet battle trainer in Stormwind or Orgrimmar. You'll need 100g to begin, which you'll soon win back in prizes from defeating NPC pet battlers. The trainer will give you your starter Pokemon pet, and then the fun begins.

Battles take the form of alternating turns between your pet and the opponent's. On a turn, you select one of 6 actions: 3 pet specific attacks, throw a trap, switch pets, or do nothing. At first, your level 1 pets will have only one attack, but will quickly learn more. Unlike Pokemon, status-altering and other non-damaging moves are actually worth using most of the time. The battle continues until either team flees from battle, or either team has no remaining pets. Then the other team is declared the winner. Each pet on the winning team receives XP based on the difficulty of the battle, and healing proportional to how much HP they lost in that battle.


The primary activity you can pursue in pet battling is levelling your pets. Because XP in pet battles has similar mechanics to XP in the rest of WoW, most of the time your pets will level the most quickly by fighting other pets of similar level. This means most battles are not trivial, and pose a significant threat to your pets' HP. Since fainted pets receive no XP, you must take care to keep them all alive long enough for Revive Pets to come off cooldown. The cooldown is 8 minutes, which is about 4-5 battles if you're focusing on it.

To survive all the way to the 8 minute cooldown, you need to pick your fights carefully. As you level in a zone, you'll begin to learn which wild pets are dangerous, and which are easy pickings. For example, frogs are easy, until level 4 when they learn Frog Kiss, a potentially-devastating move that can repeatedly CC your team every turn if you're unlucky. On the other hand, rats are pretty much always easy, as their moves do terribly-low damage. Fights can also become much easier (or much, much harder) based on type and mechanic interactions. Like Pokemon, there are several different pet and move types, which interact to boost or reduce damage dealt. Sometimes, pets' passive effects or moves are particularly suited to fighting some kind of opponent. Returning to the previous example, all critters are immune to the CC from Frog Kiss, thanks to the Critter passive, which reduces the duration by 1 round, down to zero.

Switching pets in battle can also help you level faster. Starting at about level 4 or 5, most wild pet encounters will feature two enemy pets, so obviously switching can help you deal with the type and abilities of the hidden second pet. Like in Pokemon, you can also use the "bait and switch" method: send out a weak pet, then quickly switch it to something stronger. Unlike in Pokemon, each pet must attack at least once in order to get XP for the battle. A third reason to switch: XP is not "split" fully between participants; one pet winning a fight earns less total XP than two pets winning that fight, which earn less still than if you had used all three. Also, many pet abilities persist after the pet switches out, and may also interact with mechanics they don't have, and so switching can be strategically relevant to the fight itself.


If you're not new to WoW, you probably already have a LOT of pets. But we can always use more, right? Right. So how do we get them? Well, all the old ways of accumulating pets still exist, but you knew about those. Let's talk about catching 'em all.

To catch a wild pet, first you need to weaken it to less than 35% of its max HP. There's an achievement for catching one below 5%, but you'll get that by accident at some point. I think, but do not know, that having the HP lower improves your odds. At any rate, once a wild pet is low enough, simply throw a trap and hope for the best. If it fails, you can try again on your next turn. Each failure improves your odds on future tries in the same battle, so just keep trying. If you succeed, you can't catch any more pets in that battle, so think carefully about which pet you want to capture in a battle with more than one!

Now that you know how to capture, let's talk about what to capture. At first, you won't have very many pets, and nearly all of them will be critter or beast type. To start off, you'll probably want to sample pets of different types and mechanics. For example, even though a Fawn is critter type, it's interesting because it has the ability to heal other pets in your party on its turn. Also, you should pay attention to how strong wild pets seem, because different individuals of the same species come with different stats. If they hit harder than other pets of the same species and level, or have more HP, you should try to catch them. It uses the standard WoW item quality colors; particularly strong pets are rare quality, while crappy ones are poor. Even within the same species, same level and same quality, stats vary a bit. Catch the strongest pets you can.

Lastly, let's talk about where to find pets. As a rule of thumb, pets tend to show up in any non-instanced area that all players can travel to, that has quests in it. So that rules out dungeons, battlegrounds, the Deeprun Tram, the goblin starting area, etc. Pretty much anywhere else is fair game - including cities. If you know exactly what pet you want to find, you can search for it in the ingame pet journal, and the journal can tell you which zone or zones it appears in. If you can't seem to find it, it may be rare, or may only appear in certain conditions, like 'at night' or 'near water'. It may even only appear as the hidden pet in a battle with other pets. Also, some will require a flying mount to get to, even in newbie zones (curse yoooooou, Tiny Brown Ram!)

Parting Thoughts

It would be fairly simple to write a variety of addons that could provide additional information to pet battlers. For example, an addon that shows a list of pets that can be caught in your current zone and which ones you have. Or one that would show whether or not you've caught a member of a species you're facing in battle, and if so, the stats of the strongest one you have compared to the new wild one. Or an addon that tells you whether the pet you're facing is rare/uncommon or not. Maybe some of these even exist already; I haven't looked yet.

Just remember, none of this will in any way effect your raiding, PvP, or whatever else. It's for fun. If you're not having fun with it, don't force yourself. Just because I like pet battling doesn't mean you need to.

Shadow DPS Basics Updated

The enchants section of the 5.0 Shadow DPS guide has been updated for level 90. View it here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

[MoP] Shadow DPS Guide - Basics

So, I'm sure you were all expecting this post a month ago when 5.0 hit. Well, better late than never. Here's a Shadow basics post, updated for patch 5.0.
  • Freshly updated for level 90!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Monk Heirloom Gear & Enchants

With Mists of Pandaria looming, only one thing is for certain: we're about to be awash in a jade sea of incompetent monks. I'm sure many remember with horror how it was at the start of WotLK, when 50% of the server was DKs, 90% of DKs were terrible at their class, and they beat us all in PvP and damage anyway, because they were super-OP. So of course, we have to prepare ourselves, and what better way than by getting our twink gear in order right now? After all, we won't be able to beat them until 5.1 nerfs them into line, so we'd better join them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Shadow Priest Glyphs [Mists]

Prime glyphs are gone.
With Mists less than two months away (and no recent Shadow changes), I think it's high time to start theorycrafting for Shadow in 5.0. One of the big things that'll strike right when 5.0 drops is the new glyph set. We'll probably need to buy mostly all-new glyphs, as a lot of the old item IDs no longer refer to valid glyphs. Unlike before, it's hard or impossible to say what will be the best ahead of time. Very few glyphs, if any, offer any sort of damage increase, and the ones that do are extremely situational and minor. Probably, the "correct" glyphs will vary on a per-fight basis, and we'll need to swap glyphs between every encounter. To that end, you may want to buy and learn more than just what you plan to use immediately.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

5.0 (Pre-Expansion Patch) Release Date

Spoiler Alert! Snape kills Dumbledore!
Er, I mean, the Horde kills Jaina.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012.

This is the pre-expansion patch, introducing account-wide pets, mounts, and achievements, and the new talent and glyph system. It may also include the Battle for Theramore event. It won't include pandas, monks, panda-land, or levels beyond 85.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Future of Dispels

Mass Dispel looked like this in 2007. Cool, huh?
On the Mists beta, all defensive dispels have been given a cooldown. Single-target dispels all gained an 8 second cooldown, and Mass Dispel gained a 15 second cooldown. Since this change has been active since the very early days of the beta and hasn't been adjusted at all since then, I'm pretty sure it will make it to live. Additionally, the defensive component of all of our dispels now removes all harmful effects on the targets that match the category, not simply one or two.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Introductory Raids in Mists

Great news on the PvE front, regarding the launch of Mists of Pandaria! There will be zero raids available at launch. You may be thinking, "How is that great news??" Well, in today's post, I'll tell you why.

"[We might] delay opening Mogu’shan Vaults until a week or so after the expansion’s release, similar to how we’ve always handled the start of the PvP season, just to give players a little time to reach level 90 along with their friends and get acclimated to Pandaria’s new 5-player dungeons, daily quests, and scenarios."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mists of Pandaria Release Date

Tuesday, September 25, 2012. That is all.

HoT/DoT Breakpoints and Haste Mechanics

Picture unrelated. Just pretend she's
a math angel, here to bring you math.
Time for some meaty math! With a new expansion looming, it's hard to write any theorycraft posts that will be of use to people by the time the expansion actually launches. So, I'm writing about something a little bit more abstract: haste breakpoints. What are they, how can we calculate them, and do they matter? I'll answer all of that in this post.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pre-Expansion Lull - Levelling as Holy

Like many players, I've been playing less in the last couple weeks than I usually do. The guild is done progressing (for real this time; we went back and hit H Rag and Sinestra, the two we still didn't have,) even though we're still farming Dragon Soul, it doesn't even fill a single raid night, and interest in alt runs is down. Lots of people in my guild have been leveling alts, doing PvP, and preparing for Mists.

I expect that I'll likely level primarily as a healer in Mists; last time around, dungeons were much faster XP than questing, at least until 83 or so, when it became more even. On that note, I rolled a second priest, so I could learn Holy properly. Long-time readers - or people who just went digging in the archives - may already know that I used to play Holy back in the first half of Wrath of the Lich King. Well, I was never very good at it to begin with, and it has changed a lot with the addition of Chakra and Holy Words.

One thing I'm noticing about the Holy talents, is that they're not really made with leveling in mind. If they were, they would either be useful for solo questing (damage) or 5man dungeons (tank heals/mana). As is, some of the "strongest" talents are -0.5 seconds to Renew GCD, (yes, because I really need to blanket a raid with Renew,) Desperate Prayer (right, I need a personal cooldown when nothing hits me ever), +30% Spirit Regen in combat, (there's barely any spirit gear to be had,) and Lightwell, (no one uses it.)

On the other hand, I'm really digging having an interrupt. Holy Word: Chastise may have a long cooldown, a mana cost, and not actually be an interrupt, but in a world where most specs don't have anything that can interrupt at all, and lots of foes burn their spell cooldowns at the start of the cast time instead of the end, it's actually quite useful. It's miles ahead of having precisely nothing to work with as Shadow. I'm almost dreading hitting level 51 and getting Revelations, because it will mean I lose access to Chastise.

Lightwell is busy living up to its reputation. It heals a potential 17k total for a paltry amount of mana, exceedingly rapidly: about 300 HPS per target. To compare, on an intense multi-pack fight, I can heal about 40k with a full mana bar and a mana potion, at about 400 HPS. So on the one hand, it's unbridled awesome. That would be like a Disc priest having a shield that absorbs 1.5M at level 85. On the other hand, no one ever uses it. I typically only use it when I'm worried I might not be able to heal the fight otherwise, and people would deny me 30% of my healing longevity? Rage. I could use that Glyph of Lightspring from the Mists beta right about now. Also, asking people to use it is completely fruitless. Oddly, I can explain fight mechanics and expect people to obey ("If you stand close to him, he can't charge you.") but clicking on a glow-y bowl is too hard for everyone ("OOM! Use the Lightwell or die.")

It's kinda strange, Renew actually being useful. I'm used to it being horribly wimpy, and a huge waste of mana. As Holy, it's par with GHeal for mana efficiency and HpET. Both are only slightly behind Heal in terms of mana efficiency, but have dramatically higher HpET. Once I get Chakra (and 12.5% haste) it will jump up even more. You'd think that a previously worthless spell becoming a staple would take some getting used to, but I've actually already made the switch, and it wasn't very hard.

All-in-all, it's not very different from Disc (yet.) Instead of micromanaging Rapture all the time, you micromanage Renew on the tank all the time. Once I get Chakra and Revelations, it should morph into something a bit less familiar.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shadow Priest Healing: When and How

Beta update: Blizzard put up a new talent calculator as of June 14. Link. That's my tentative build. It doesn't look like they're done balancing it yet, so I chose the mechanics I think would be fun (mathematically, a lot of what I marked was very weak.)

It's a well-known fact that Shadow is a fairly unusual spec, in that one of our utilities is healing. Most DPS specs bring utilities such as shared raid buffs, CC, burst DPS, or interrupts. Our most widely-used heal is Divine Hymn, a raid-wide healing cooldown. This is a utility we share with only one DPS spec: Balance druids (feral has it too, but it's like peeing into the ocean). We also have Power Word: Shield, which does not strip us from Shadowform, and a full healing toolkit which does. The healing kit and our mana regeneration is strong enough to permit Shadow to heal 5mans, although you would always be better served by a similarly-skilled healing spec.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shadow Word: Insanity Mechanics

Archangel is no longer a talent option (probably because it was garbage for Holy). It has been replaced with Power Word: Solace, which deals a pitiful amount of Holy damage (or Shadow damage in Shadow spec) and restores 2% max mana. If you shift into Shadowform, however, it morphs into Shadow Word: Insanity. Its tooltip lies; see below.

Straight from Ghostcrawler (Source) :

"The damage scales based on the percentage of ticks that have already gone off from the spell (specifically, for each DoT, the damage is increased by (# ticks elapsed / (total ticks – 1)) * 100%, so for a base SW:P which would tick 6 times, SW:I gains 20% damage per tick elapsed), the tooltip should reflect this in a future build. The intention is that you can use Shadow Word: Insanity in solo combat when a mob is getting low to help push them into Shadow Word: Death range, or before your DoTs fall off on a raid boss to eek some more damage out of them. The damage increase based on duration is there to avoid a situation where the right way to play is to apply your DoTs and then blow them up, which we don’t consider fun gameplay."

It's obviously IMBA for PvP, but its PvE uses are less obvious. For narrow bust windows, if any, it may be useful. Depending on its base damage and SP-coefficient, it may also be rotational if/when your DoTs all run low at the same time. If our mana income is too low, then the talent also gives us the option to leave Shadowform to spam Mind Siphon. Frankly, I would be surprised if the talent comes anywhere close to viable when compared to the other options on that tier, but I haven't run the math yet.

Halo and Cascade Mechanics

Zarhym has put out an open call for theorycraft regarding talent and spec balance, (Source) based on the latest beta build. While I intend to submit my own analysis regarding Shadow, I think the following information may be of use to anyone else planning on doing the same.

"Cascade does a % of its max damage/healing based on linear distance between the source and target of the bounce. It does 40% of its maximum damage at 0yd, and 100% at 30+yd, scaling linearly between those two points (anywhere between 30yd and 40yd will give 100%). It prefers farther away targets when it bounces.

Halo’s damage scaling is… a bit more complex. Sometimes the formulae that are under the hood are extremely complex looking, because we build in several knobs that we turn to get the tuning where we want it. Halo is one of those cases. The easy to understand way to think of it is that the multiplier on the max damage/healing is 10% at 0yd, up to 40% at 17yd, spikes up to 90% at 22yd, 100% at 27yd, then down to 60% at 35yd. The intent is that it is weak on targets near you, but there’s a sweet spot in a ring from 20yd to 30yd from you, and that the edges of that ‘sweet spot’ are smooth. The actual formula (warning, may seem scary!) is… 0.5 * (1.01)^(-1 * (((Distance-25)/2)^4)) + 0.1 + 0.015*Distance. I’m sure someone can post a graph of that pretty quickly. One thing to note is that the max range is 30yd, but that it includes creature’s hit boxes, so the distance between the caster and a valid target may be slightly larger than 30yd, which is why the formula makes sense out to 35yd. Again, you absolutely do not need to understand any of that to benefit from the heal!"

In an attempt to simplify the above, here's that graph he mentioned.

Note that the distance used is from the source,
and the source isn't always you.

It has a "soft" 30 yard range limit; it accounts for the targets' hit boxes.
It has a "hard" 35 yard limit. Nothing centered 35+ yards away will be hit.

Friday, June 8, 2012

H Madness of Deathwing - Defeated!

Me, enjoying the spoils of war.
Well, we're finally done. What did we do differently? We brought one rogue. That's all it needed to fix everything. The first time we made it to phase 5 (took a few tries to get there, several people had never been to Madness before) we killed it. We went from routinely letting 1-2 bloods be absorbed per set, with the rest barely dying, to killing every last one of them effortlessly before they even made it half way in. Having a reliable, spammable, AoE 70% slow is mandatory for this fight. Do not attempt without one.

Also, we developed a complicated maneuver to permit a Shadow priest to soak an Impale, as we had some issues with our usual method. As per usual, all players other than myself vacated the melee radius just prior to the Impale. I used Fade as they were leaving to shunt any melee swings onto warlock pets (they died) and Dispersion as soon as the Impale cast began. It worked splendidly. The warlocks disagreed.

Trouble actually putting together a full raid team aside, I'm pretty happy with how we did this raiding tier. Pic related. Both of the mounts dropped (rare and heroic), and I got the heroic one. I also got [Rathrak, the Poisonous Mind (Heroic)]. [Not Caster Gear] dropped too. I'm not sure who took it, but I'm guessing it wasn't a caster.

On a related note, I will be entering a period of reduced posting until Mists of Pandaria. I will be updating once every two weeks until then. Good luck in Dragon Soul to everyone who's still progressing, and I hope to see you all in Pandaria! May all of your Elementium Fragments spawn in a nice, little, easily-cleavable pile!

Friday, June 1, 2012

How to: Connect to a Mumble Server

Update: I've added a section on pre-potting to Advanced Shadow Priest DPS.

As most raiders know, quick voice communication mid-fight can turn wipes into kills. As such, a reliable voice-chat program is a must for most raids. While WoW does include a voice-chat feature built into the game, it has several major flaws, such as poor sound quality, and high latency in groups of more than 5. Ventrilo is the most popular voice-chat program, followed by TeamSpeak, and my personal favorite, Mumble.

Mumble has two main features that make it better than Ventrilo: lower network usage, and automatic volume adjustment. The main thing holding it back is Ventrilo itself; since Ventrilo is so popular, very few people know how to use Mumble, and so, Mumble is harder to use because you need to walk people through using it. In this post, I'll present a simple guide to connecting to a Mumble server.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Second Singularity

This is a work of science-fiction, based off of and replying to: the Singularity, by Terry Bisson. The original work can be viewed here. I'll still have a WoW-related post on Friday this week.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Layout

A typical reader.
Hey, everyone. New layout for the blog. I tried to keep it as similar to the old layout as I could. As you may notice, however, I failed to make it visually indistinguishable. From my experience with changes to Gmail, Youtube, etc., I know that this will be universally hated. Oh well. There were many minor things I wanted to change, and using Blogger's built-in system was simpler than learning HTML.

New Features
  • Slightly grayer text background, 98% less likely to drive readers insane.
  • Slightly wider main column, the first paragraphs in my posts are now golden rectangles.
  • Added popular posts box on the right. 55% of you were coming here for the DPS guides anyway.
Collateral Damage
  • Blog title now ugly(er).
  • I will be widely hated by returning readers for the near future.
  • That Blogger bar at the top now is now gray, down from blue.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Heroic Madness of Deathwing

Destroyer of Raids.
Astute readers may notice that it has been rather a long time since I wrote about H Spine. Through a combination of general apathy, summer rescheduling and Diablo III, we've been unable to field a raid until this week. Anyway, it's time to write about H Madness!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pimp my UI: Help/Harm Macros

Macros: not this complicated.
Inspiration, yay! Those who read last week's post will know that I've been seeking a topic to blog about for a few weeks now (my post buffer used to be 2 weeks long, and I used it all up). Then, a friend of mine who's leveling a priest sent me a simple whisper asking about help/harm macros. How could I have forgotten to write about something so core to the class? So, this week, it's all about macros.

Macro Basics

While I bet a lot of my readers have heard of macros before, here's a short introduction for those who haven't. A macro is a short program you can write to convert a single key-press or mouse-click into more than one game action. Generally, anything you could do with the chat box is something you can make a macro do, like saying something in chat, inviting someone to your group, or even casting a spell. Unlike most real-world programming languages, macros are designed to be simple, and you don't need to learn a lot to make use of them. Macros are part of the game, you don't need any addons to use them, and they're completely approved by Blizzard.

To make a macro, first, open the macro window by typing /m into the chat box and hitting enter.

Help/harm macros are simple macros you can write to condense one helpful spell and one harmful spell into a single button, freeing up space on your keyboard and action bars. You'll see two tabs near the top of the window, General Macros and Specific Macros. You'll probably want character specific macros for today. Once you've selected the kind you want, click the New button in the bottom-right corner. This will open a smaller window for you to name the new macro and pick an icon for it. Once you've done that, click Okay. You'll now have a new blank macro button in your macro window, and a blinking cursor in the box below labelled "Enter Macro Commands:". Type the macro commands in there (I'll explain this part in a little while), then drag the macro button onto your action bars just like a normal spell.

As I mentioned above, macros can do anything you could from the chat box, and to make it do something, you just put that command in the macro. To do more than one thing in the same macro, just put the next command on the next line. Today I'll be focusing on casting spells, but if you're interested in doing other things, here's some further reading: Slash Commands on WoWWiki (a little outdated, but still good.)

Making a Help/Harm Macro

Help/harm macros are simple macros you can write to condense one helpful spell and one harmful spell into a single button, freeing up space on your keyboard and action bars. Normally, you can't use multiple spells that have a global cooldown in the same macro, but help/harm macros can because they only try to use a single spell at a time.

You make a macro cast a spell like this:

That will cast Flash Heal when you activate the macro. You can use any spell name or item name, and it will try to cast the spell, use the item or equip the item. So far, this macro's not any better than just putting Flash Heal on your action bar. Now we'll make it do something Flash Heal can't on it's own: work when you target an enemy.

This will cast Flash Heal if you were targeting a friendly player, and cast Mind Flay if you were targeting an enemy. Cool huh? Now you only need a single button for both spells. For any macro command, you can put a set of square brackets between the command itself and the rest of the line. Anything between the square brackets will modify how the command works. [help] makes it skip the command if you're not targeting a friendly target. [harm] makes it skip the command if you're not targeting an enemy. You can also preface any modifier with "no" to make it mean to opposite. For example:

This is almost the same as before, but now it will also heal you if you're not targeting anything. (Of course, it might also strip you out of Shadowform if your target dies right before you hit the macro! Oops!) Anyway, using these tags, you can build your own macros to do whatever you need.

Advanced Macro Construction

Here are some more modifiers I find useful:
  • [mod] - Only do this if you're also holding a modifier key (meaning, Shift, Ctrl, or Alt.)
  • [exists] - Only do this if you actually have a target.
  • [spec:1] or [spec:2] - Only do this if you're in your primary or secondary talent specialization.
  • [form] - Only do this if you're in a form (meaning, in Shadowform.)
  • [dead] - Only do this if your target is dead.
  • [mounted] - Only do this if you're riding a mount.
  • [@player] - Use this on yourself instead of your target.
  • [@focus] - Use this on your focus instead of your target.
You can also set multiple different modifiers to the same command. For example:

This will use Power Word: Shield on myself if I hold a modifier key, or use Power Word: Shield on my target if I'm targeting a friendly player. By putting multiple modifiers together in the same set of square brackets, separated by commas, they all apply together. By making a separate set of square brackets, the next set will only be attempted if the first set gets skipped. You can also put [] with nothing in it to make it just try to cast the spell with no modifiers at all if the other brackets got skipped.

By creatively using all the tools I've provided here, you can fit a ton more stuff onto your bars, and make some pretty handy stuff. Soon you'll be making complex macros like these ones that I use:

Friday, May 11, 2012

[MoP Beta] Shadow Priest Update - May 11

Huge rotation-changing, er, changes, are getting less frequent. Thus, these beta updates are getting progressively more boring. If I had something more interesting to write about, I'd probably be writing that instead.

Sources of Shadow Orbs

Currently only Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death (below 20%) provide Shadow Orbs. This makes Shadow Orb generation very predictable and regular, and as such, Devouring Plague is likely to be used at a very regular interval, much like it is today.

Mind Surge has been reworked, now allowing Haste to shorten the Mind Blast cooldown, which again smooths out Shadow Orb generation, and allows that part of the rotation to scale with Haste. The previous Mind Surge mechanic has been moved to the Divine Insight talent (level 75), so if nuke procs and irregular Shadow Orb gains are your cup of tea, you can spec into it.

Shadow Heals

Like many overpowered things in beta, the Shadow healing spec is mostly gone. Glyph of Dark Binding now applies to Prayer of Mending, Renew and Leap of Faith. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great glyph. It's just not the core piece of a viable hybrid spec anymore. Similarly, Shadow never got Discipline's mana/haste procs; that was a data-mining error. Oops!

Another glyph option, Glyph of Devouring Plague is available to increase your self-healing, but won't help the rest of your raid. It's actually quite sizable, increasing the damage-to-healing conversion from 15% up to a whopping 48%. (The tooltip lies.) On a related note, Devouring Plague has been nerfed into oblivion. I expect it'll get fixed in an upcoming beta patch though, beta balance is always wonky.

Mind Spike Proc

It's back, this time procing from Vampiric Touch ticks with the From Darkness, Comes Light talent (level 45.) This is a fun mechanic, and I was sad to see it gone last build.

Talents now Shadowform-Friendly

Many talents which previously broke Shadowform don't anymore. Huzzah!

Dungeon-Friendly CC

The Glyph of Psychic Scream now also applies to the Psyfiend talent. Also, huzzah!


This isn't Shadow-related, but Discipline just got flip-turned upside-down. Spirit Shell is now a cooldown that converts all direct heal spells into absorbs. Neat! I fully expect this mechanic to change a lot over the coming weeks.

Shadow Overview

The beta Shadow rotation now closely resembles the live one. It's all about DoTs and using Mind Blast on cooldown, with Mind Flay filler. Sure, you can build a proc-filled rotation, or shift focus away from your DoTs, but those are talent choices, and if they get the balance right, will just be a matter of choice. Our scaling looks good, our new mastery looks, if anything, even better than the current one. In general, Shadow is in a pretty good shape right now. Switching from live to beta right now is about as seamless as the shift from 3.3 to 4.0 was. So relax everyone, the sky is no-longer falling like it was when Shadowy Apparitions was our primary nuke.

Friday, May 4, 2012

[MoP Beta] Shadow Priest Update - May 1

Need a new talent?
Why not Zoidberg?
Well, it looks like it's time for another beta post. I know I've been posting more about the beta than anything else lately, but there are just so many changes. Enough to warrant this post.

Recent Beta patches: Tuesday May 1, Friday April 27.

I actually wrote a full rant about the state of Shadow priests after the April 27 patch, which was made almost wholly obsolete by the May 1 patch. You can see that rant here, if interested. If you're wondering why the tone of all my beta posts is so positive, it's because things actually are looking good. That rant is a great example of what I write when things are bad; because they were, and I did.

The New Mastery

Mastery: Shadowy Recall - Your DoT ticks have an X% chance to deal damage twice.

It's like crit rating that only applies to DoTs... or is it? Many of our abilities have a chance to trigger on DoT damage. In addition to behaving like crit rating, this will also increase Shadow Orb procs from MF/SW:P, mana return and Mind Blasts from VT, and Shadowy Apparition procs from SW:P. Also, as we gear up, DoTs will shift towards greater prominence in our rotation. Cool. I like the new mastery's design.

Shadow Heals

With the addition of Glyph of Dark Binding, Shadow priests can now heal without a double-whammy to their DPS from needing to re-cast Shadowform. Combined with a level 75 talent option, Twist of Fate, it will be a damage gain to heal someone who is below 20% HP.

At 0% haste, the buff gained from Twist of Fate perfectly cancels the time lost to casting a Flash Heal, assuming you won't cast any DoTs during the 10 second buff, and exceeds it if you do. As haste levels rise, both the cost of casting the heal, and the benefit to DoTs rises. Not only can you spec to heal your raid, but there's also a real DPS incentive to do it.

In addition to proccing off of intentional heals, Twist of Fate has also been proccing off of SW:D backlash and Devouring Plague heals when you're below 20% HP. This makes Twist of Fate appreciably more valuable than it previously was for Shadow, making it more competitive against the other level 75 talents. (Previously, it was weak.)

Shadowy Apparitions is passive again (and there was much rejoicing!)

Last beta patch, Shadowy Apparitions was our only rotational Shadow Orb-dump. Now it's the same old passive proc from SW:P. Huzzah! See my rant for why this is a good thing. Also, their chance to proc no longer rises while we're moving. Good. Another bad mechanic gone. Finally, the summon limit has been raised to 15, which should help in cases of path-finding errors. Now while several of them stand around useless, at least we'll still be able to proc more on something else.

Devouring Plague is back!

Devouring Plague had been gone since the start of beta, apparently never to return. Then, it returned today as our new Shadow Orb dump. It deals 2.5k per orb instantly, and another about 8.8k per orb per second for 2 seconds. Notably, our Shadow Orb dump still interacts with our mastery nicely. This DoT has two relevant haste breakpoints. It gains an extra tick at 25%, and a second extra tick at 75% (reachable with a base haste of 34.7%, plus Heroism.) 25% haste is likely to be a very important mark for Shadow in early Mists, possibly surpassing hit capping, as haste did in early Cataclysm.

Notably, Vampiric Touch no longer self-heals, but Devouring Plague does. 15% of damage dealt is converted to health. This amounts to a quick ~20k self-heal, which can be used on-demand to soften certain fight mechanics. Nice.

Sphincter Guys

Spectral Guise is slightly improved relative to when I wrote the rant. It still bites, but it now grants stealth instead of invisibility, meaning we can still see our foes. This is a minor step in the right direction.

Vampiric Touch procs stuff.

From Darkness, Comes Light no longer procs from SW:P, leaving VT as the only thing to proc Mind Spikes. Also, we got a new baseline passive ability, Mind Surge, which procs instant Mind Blasts off of VT. While VT was heavily nerfed 2 beta patches ago, it's still a little stronger than SW:P, and more so due to these procs.

State of the Spec

Things are looking pretty good. All of our talents are looking at least situationally viable. We have options for an off-healing spec, proc-heavy rotations, and/or burst cooldowns. We're almost free of all of our known buggy mechanics -- Shadowy Apparitions, while still susceptible to path-finding errors, is at least a minor part of our DPS once again.

Also, scaling looks likely to preserve our rotation as we gear up. Late in Wrath, we had issues with Mind Blast dropping out of the rotation at ICC gear levels, but the new mastery design seems built to reinforce the usage of spells that are already limited: DoTs and cooldowns.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Glyph of Dark Binding

I don't know how I missed this. With this in place, the recent addition of several Discipline abilities to Shadow spec seems more likely to be intentional. There has been a bit of buzz around the blogs about Shadow perhaps becoming a true hybrid spec, preforming nontrivial amounts of healing while in a damage spec. I'm starting to agree; it does look like that's the goal.

This glyph in particular looks very powerful. Even on live, I frequently de-form to heal someone in our H DS runs, both on farm bosses and on progression. With how many globals I lose to casting Shadowform, this would actually replace Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain for me from a raw DPS standpoint, not to mention the increased uptime on Shadowform's damage reduction. Also, this looks obviously god-mode and/or mandatory in PvP.

Shadow already has a lot of passive mana income from Vampiric Touch ticks, and with the addition of a 25% meditation effect, and Rapture, we should have the mana longevity to chain-cast heals for quite a long time. We may even see people using Shadow as a primary healing spec on easier fights, or where damage output is more important than healing. I must say, it's an exciting time to be a Shadow priest. This must be what it was like for the warlocks when they thought Demonology was becoming a tank spec.

(For some more analysis on the addition of Discipline abilities to Shadow, see this post.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

H Spine of Deathwing - Defeated!

Beta updates:
  • Mass Dispel is now much cheaper, but has a 15 second cooldown (like all other dispels in the beta).
  • Void Shift is now baseline (level 87), and has a 6m cooldown. Now, much like Life Grip, all priests will have a new griefing tool. Or something functionally equivalent to Lay on Hands. Depends how responsible they are.
  • Related: Spectral Guise is now a talent in the survivability tier.
  • Many talents (mostly healing) have had their numbers tweaked. Yawn.
  • From Darkness, Comes Light - Now can accumulate two charges. Cool, fewer go to waste, and can accumulate them for burst.
  • Twist of Fate - Now lasts for 10sec after damaging/healing a low health target. This should make it appreciably better than it was, as before it was dramatically weaker than the other options on the same tier. Now on add fights it may be far superior.
  • Mindbender - New talent. It's another Shadowfiend with twice the mana return, but a longer cooldown.
  • Shadow got a bunch of Discipline abilities. Bug maybe? The list: Borrowed Time, Meditation (25%), Rapture, Spirit Shell. If this is not a mistake, then my thoughts are twofold. One: it's nice for Disc/Shadow priests so they don't need to heal like a holy priest if they need to heal in Shadow spec. Two: Healing is now much more appealing for a Shadow priest, as you'll likely be compensated for the time spent to cast a PW:S here and there in the form of haste and mana. It is possible that PW:S might become rotational, for the boost it offers to a DoT used immediately after, particularly with the tier-14 4-piece bonus. At first glance, PW:S seems to be DPS-neutral, which means it may as well be rotational for the survivability boost.
  • Glyph of Fade now grants 10% damage reduction. Cool. More survivability tools are always welcome.
  • We now have preliminary tier-14 set bonuses. 2 piece: +10% Mind Flay crit. Since we still have the MFcrit-to-Shadowfiend conversion, this will be a powerful mana boost. 4 piece: +3 sec DoT durations. Not overwhelmingly powerful for single-target, but sexy-awesome for multi-DoTing. I approve.

So, on Thursday, we rolled in and oneshot H Spine. I was surprised; when the fight ended abruptly, I thought we still had one plate to go; it felt just that easy. Needless to say, there was much rejoicing.

What we did differently

Our tendon burst DPS has been creeping steadily upwards the entire time we've been attempting H Spine, and feeling it was no longer necessary, several other DPS and I stopped trying to get cooldowns up before we detonated the Amalgamations, and simply focused on burning it as fast as possible. One of our tendon burn phases was perilously close to not meeting the DPS requirement because of this, but it made the fight dramatically shorter. The faster Amalgamation burn also caused the tendon phases to sync up nicely with the Fiery Grips so that we didn't need to kill the Corruption to reset the timer before entering tendon phase.

Our tanks adopted a different strategy for the 5th and 6th lifts; instead of attempting to kite the bloods, they stacked near the rest of the raid and dropped as much AoE as possible. The incidental AoE from procs and the tanks themselves killed 9 bloods almost precisely when the Amalgamation got low on HP. Also, this allowed them to more reliably establish aggro on new spawns, preventing them from meleeing random people.

We had a perfect storm of good RNG luck. I got such a good string of crits once, that I did 1.4M during a single tendon phase- not counting Shadowfiend damage. Likewise, despite making no attempt to get my Shadowfiend, and despite having about half the usual time between plates, he came up for 5 of the 6 plates. Other DPS report similar uncanny levels of luck. Also, the Blood Corruption: Earth was remarkably kind to us, dropping two stacks on both tanks right off the bat, and coating the majority of the raid before the end of the fight.

So was it just RNG then?

While the RNG probably helped immensely, the fact is that the healers finished the encounter with about 60% mana each, and unused healing and mana cooldowns. RNG simply doesn't account for that. Clearly the strategy changes were enough, and the favor of the RNG gods was just icing on the cake.

We spent considerable time on H Madness that night as well. I can see why very few guilds are 7/8H; Madness does seem much easier than H Spine. On about our 5th attempt, we made it to the final phase, and wiped only because we'd never seen it before. The fight is brutal on healing, but as a DPS, it's only marginally harder than normal mode, and this coming from someone who's having to use Dispersion to soak a 1.08M damage Impale meant for the tank. If we get it down before then, I'll write up a detailed account of our strategy for next week.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Preparing for the new Expansion

Blizzard: Pandaren to their customers.
So, I image there are a few of you out there that have never played when a new expansion hit. Even for those of us who have, there are still things to recall from last time and prepare for this time. If you're interested in racing to realm or world firsts, you'll need a very different approach than if you're taking it all at a more mellow pace.

Things to Remember

All current gear is going to be worthless by level 90. This does not mean getting gear now won't help you later, just that it won't be worth as much as if there wasn't an expansion looming. What gearing up alts to Raid Finder levels will do is speed up your leveling, and allow you to queue for leveling dungeons right away. When Cataclysm hit, chain-dungeons were much faster XP than questing, simply due to the sheer number of people who were competing for your spawns. Around level 82-83, the crowds thinned out, making questing more effecting than chain-dungeoning. Mists of Pandaria may be different, but I doubt it. Launch day crowds will likely be as thick as ever.

There will be a lot of new alts around in the weeks and months following launch. There's a new race and a new class, and many people will make one of both. This means that leveling good like bags, glyphs, profession skill-up mats, heirloom item enchants, and maybe twink gear will all see a surge in demand. Monks use leather, so expect demand for leather BoEs to remain high after launch longer than other armor types.

Dungeons and raids will be hard again, (like they are every expansion.)  Almost nobody is going to know the strategies for your leveling dungeons, and when you get to max, still nobody is going to know the strategies for your heroic dungeons. That said, if you get to cap early enough, you'll probably find yourself in excellent groups. I recall pugging into multiple 4/5 Bane of the Fallen King and the Light of Dawn groups. Expect to run into a lot of Saviours of Azeroth in pugs if you get to max in the first couple days. Despite this, dungeons will be hard because absolutely no one will over-gear them. From there, the dungeons will get worse before they get better. Just as the elite are figuring out the fight mechanics, the flood of slower levelers will show up. As you move out of dungeons and into raids, expect normal mode to be a bit of a wake-up call; it won't be nerfed by 15% like it is now, and you won't have all or most of the gear from it.

Current trade mats will change to moderate prices. Very expensive items, like Essence of Destruction, Maelstrom Crystals, Rare gems and Epic gems will likely fall in price dramatically, and stay down permanently. Very cheap items that will be used to level professions through the 450-525 range will likely raise very high in value a few weeks after MoP launches - when the Monks and pandas all get to level 80 or so. After that, those items will probably settle out higher than they are now, but not by a lot. Items I expect to rise include common Cata ores, low-level inks, Cata leather, common Cata herbs, and volatiles. You may be able to turn a profit buying these cheaply now and selling them later.

Things to Prepare

If you're planning to race for a first level 90 (or your guild leadership scheduled a raid for Tuesday night >.>), remember that you won't be the only one rushing to cap. People will have planned out well in advance which quests and dungeons to do or skip on the way to 90. If you don't hop on the beta and do the same, you'll be at a disadvantage. Aside from planning your route, you should prepare your character so you won't be slowed down. Cleaning out your bags and bank now will save you time later when your time is more precious. You could also consider stocking up on flasks and buff food if you're really serious about it. On PvP servers, you can hire bodyguards to gank enemy players competing for your quest targets, and protect you from griefers.

If you're not racing to cap, there are two different things you could do to make your launch experience more pleasant. A lot of what I put in the "things to remember" section were about the massive crowds of players on the first couple days. On of the biggest things you can do to make your leveling experience more pleasant is to either get ahead of the crowd or wait a couple weeks to level to 90 and roll a panda or Monk alt instead. While I expect there to be a ton of panda alts by the end of the first week, on the first day on the other hand, I expect the newbie zones to be much emptier than the level 85-86 leveling zone. If you're not rushing to max, I strongly recommend not trying to level through the crowd of players though; it's downright unpleasant. I would however go check it out. It's quite a sight seeing swarms of players rolling across the zone like locusts, devouring all the mobs in their way.

The other philosophy I can offer to more casual players is this: now is a prime time to become filthy rich. Hardcore raiders will pay an arm and a leg for MoP enchants, food, flasks and BoE crafted gear. Hardcore traders will pay an arm and a leg for trade skill-up mats. If you can provide either of those to them, you stand to make an absurd amount of money. Consider learning two of Skinning/Mining/Herbalism on the character you'll level to 90 first. If you already have a lot of gold, you might take an interest in getting one of your crafting professions up quickly. The mats may be pricey, but if you can be the first person on your server to sell a particular gem cut, or enchant, or flask, then expect the hardcore raiders to be lining up to give you their money.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Heroic Spine of Deathwing

I've decided to stop dedicating entire posts to beta updates. It seems futile. The changes are just too frequent. I may do another full beta post in a month or two when things have settled out. For now, I'll just comment on beta changes at the start of another post like I'm doing now. All priests (not merely healing specs) got a new spell called Feathers from Heaven. It's placed like Lightwell, allies can walk through it to gain a burst of speed identical to the one from Body and Soul. Also, Shadow's spirit-to-hit conversion is back, and Vampiric Touch restores 15% max mana over its duration. This means we'll not have mana issues when multi-DoTing for a change.

I have been fighting this for entirely too long.
So, the guild has been stuck on H Spine of Deathwing for a few weeks now. The last remaining hurdle for us to overcome is surviving the third plate, as the bloods are spawning so quickly that they can neither be safely tanked, nor destroyed. This post is going to be a combination of tricks I've learned to help shadow priests, as well as a request for advice if anyone knows what I can improve.

Tendon Burst

I already wrote a post over at on this topic, but that was intended for regular Spine. On Heroic, the damage requirement is far more strict. On 10man, with the current 15% nerf, each DPS requires 900k damage over the 18sec vulnerability window (assuming standard 2/3/5 raid comp). While quite doable, it does demand that Shadowfiend, Archangel, and Bottled Wishes be used on every tendon. While the 90sec cooldown on the latter two is available without any additional effort, Shadowfiend requires some gymnastics to activate in time.

Activating Shadowfiend basically means spamming Mind Flay to the exclusion of all else until it's time for tendon burst, and hoping it's enough. I'd say this gives me about a 19/20 chance to have Shadowfiend by the time I need it. If I were missing even a single crit buff (5% on raid, 5% on target, 3% from Focus Magic) I'd have unacceptably high odds of it failing to come up. If my haste wasn't already reforged as low as it could go, I would reforge some of it into crit to try and smooth out my Shadowfiend uptime. Note that while crit is superior to haste for the actual burst phase, it's still inferior to mastery.

Preforming the burst itself is quite simple. Summon shadowfiend, during the GCD activate Archangel and Bottled Wishes, MSp x3, MB, MSp until MB comes up again, MB, MSp until time runs out, DP instant cast at the final moment. If it's the second burn on that particular tendon, try to replace MSp casts after Shadowfiend has expired with SW:D. Obviously, if you don't yet have your 4-piece, you're simply incapable of meeting the demand.

Handling Fiery Grip

By all accounts, shadow priests are ideal to handle the grip. On normal, it was a no-brainer to assign us to grip duty. On Heroic, this can jeopardize Shadowfiend uptime. Consider telling your guild to make someone else do it. Seriously. Especially if you can't get Focus Magic. That said, despite this, I've been on grip duty on all of our attempts. Because the Corruption probably should be made to die right before the tendon burst phase (so as to prevent a grip during it), you may want to assign two people to breaking grips, both so they break faster, but also because some "overkill" damage is desirable to get its health low. We have myself and an arcane mage on grip duty.

Sealing the Deal

We've made it to the 5th plate a handful of times, and made it past that once. The trouble is, it seems that our healers can't handle the sheer flood of Bloods that spawn with 5 stacks of Degradation (which both lowers the raid's HP and increases the spawn rate of the Blood.) So we've got two strategies that we're planning to try to get us over the final hump.

The simpler of the two, we use Heroism on the first tendon burn, use burst potions, long duration cooldowns, and have the tanks and healers assist on DPS. ...except we' can't do it. We tried a few times and got it to about 7%. A little bit more gear, a little bit better class stacking (warlocks, for example, seem non-viable, and yet, we're using one,) or another 5% nerf and we could do this. That would mean that the most stacks of degradation we would ever face would be four.

The other, more realistic plan we have right now, we collect two Amalgamations for the 5th and 6th plate. We get both to low health. Detonate one, burn. Detonate the other, burn. Hope we don't wipe while burning. Heroism should compensate for the fact that no one will have time to get cooldowns back in between. Unfortunately, we've never survived long enough to try this since we thought of it.

Those Fucking Debuffs

As I just mentioned, we haven't made it past the 5th plate since I came up with the two-amalgamation idea. Why? Those fucking debuffs. Guild leadership thought it was a good idea to rotate out a stellar tank and healer for some alt tanks and healers. And Blood of Deathwing keeps detonating. So on top of our common fuck-ups regarding add aggro, or rolls, or damage control, or damage output, or- well, you get the idea, we now also have about a 50% chance to wipe via instant death because the new healer can't dispel.

Since it's not stated clearly anywhere:

Approximately 10 sec after each Corruption is killed, a random raid member receives Blood Corruption: Death, a 16 second debuff, which, if it expires, wipes the raid instantly. When dispelled (it's magic) it hops to a random raid member, keeping the same remaining duration, and it has a chance (seems about 40%) to mutate into Blood Corruption: Earth, which applies 1 stack of permanent 20% damage reduction at 8 sec remaining, and when it expires. Dispelling that (also magic) makes it hop to another raid member, but it can't turn back into Blood Corruption: Death (the Dungeon Journal is a liar; it claims that it can.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mastering Mind Spike

(Note: this post is not about Mastery.)

In Cataclysm, we got a new DPS spell, called Mind Spike. By design, it lets us deal passable damage without ramp-up or the need for the target to survive particularly long. Also, due to it dealing shadowfrost damage, it can harm shadow-immune mobs (are there even any left?) and be cast after something interrupts our shadow spells. For both of these reasons, the spell has seen excellent use in PvP. Unfortunately, all-too-often, we see novice shadow priests using it in PvE when it's really not applicable. In this post, I'll give some guidelines on Mind Spike usage in PvE.

Generally, you should rarely need Mind Spike. If you find yourself using it more than a handful of times in any PvE setting, you're probably doing it wrong. If you're in the habit of using it, (be it from PvP, or from solo questing) break that habit. Stopped using it? Good. Now I'll tell you when it actually is appropriate.

  1. Fighting a single low-HP foe. If your group pulls just one, or maybe just two foes, and you know the fight's going to be over very quickly, then MS/MB is appropriate. If there's more than that, Mind Sear is probably a better idea.
  2. A priority burn target joins a fight in progress, and will die very quickly. Some examples: the Malignant Troggs in the General Umbriss fight (Grim Batol), or the Twilight Sappers in the Warmaster Blackhorn encounter (Dragon Soul). If it will survive 15sec or more, then you should apply DoTs.
  3. You need a quick burst of damage for a specific mechanic. For example, interrupting the Fiery Grip during the Spine of Deathwing encounter (Dragon Soul), or damaging the Twilight Soulblade trash mobs when they're using Blade Barrier (Bastion of Twilight). These cases are quite rare, much more so than the other two.
  4. You want to remove your DoT effects from a target. For example, if the Hideous Amalgamation's HP is falling too low during the Spine of Deathwing encounter (Dragon Soul).
  5. You have the 4-piece tier-13 shadow set bonus and your Shadowfiend is active. In which case, see this article for more information.
So why do we cast Mind Spike in PvP? This, I believe, falls under reason number 3 (or 5, if you're crazy enough to show up in raid gear >.>). We use Mind Spike in PvP, because our opponents are capable of healing, dispelling our DoTs, and disrupting our attacks. Using Mind Spike allows us to quickly unload onto a low-HP target that the enemy healers may not be prepared to defend, possibly allowing us to finish them off before the healer can react, and it also insures us against having our DoTs dispelled.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Death Log (Recount addon tips)

Most people use Recount (or Skada, its leading competitor.) For those that may not know, both are combat log parsers, addons that read the combat log and collect useful data from it that might otherwise be hard to find by reading the combat log manually. Both addons' primary use is for their damage meter function. They can also display a lot of other very useful information. Today, I'll be explaining how to use a severely under-used feature of Recount: the Death log.

By default, Recount shows its Damage Done meter, but it has numerous other settings that can be accessed by right-clicking on the Damage Done text in the upper-left corner of the Recount display. To access the Death log, right-click and select Deaths (about 40% of the way down the list). This will bring up a count of how many times people have died.

Alone, this is not very useful. Once someone has died, however, you can click on the bar for them. This brings up a detail window, displaying more information on what caused the death (you can get details on other Recount settings too, for example, a breakdown of which attacks caused the damage for Damage Done.)
Click for a bigger version.
In the Death Details window, you'll see a listing of all times that player has died since you cleared your Recount data, in reverse chronological order (most recent on top.) On the right, the actual details for the selected death are shown. You can change which details to show, but by default, it will include all incoming damage and heals on them, and the actual moment of death, for up to 10sec before they died. This is extremely useful. You can see, for example, which healers healed a tank that died in the moments leading up to the tank's death, or what sorts of damage someone took. Without this information, you'd have to just try again and hope for the best. With it, you might learn that a certain DoT must be dispelled, or a specific spell must be interrupted, and can try again forewarned, and therefore, forearmed.

Lastly, for a quick at-a-glance summary, you can bring up a graph of the person's HP made from the data shown in the Death Details window by clicking on the Show Graph button in the lower-right. The Death Graph can be used to quickly see whether to blame the healers or not. If they went from full-to-dead in less than about 2 seconds, then it's not reasonable to think any healer could have responded. Similarly, if they were receiving a lot of heals, but died anyway, there's still nothing more the healers could have done.

One common complaint I hear from new healers is that they get blamed for any and all deaths (even when, as the healer, they know there was no way for them to fix some of the deaths.) By proper use of the Death log, you can not only figure out what went wrong on your wipes, so as to fix it, but you will also begin to see that in most cases the healers are not why someone died. I hope that eventually blaming the healer won't be the default stance for anyone who dies, and fewer new healers will be scared away from the role.

Friday, March 23, 2012

[MoP Beta] (More) Mists of Pandaria Shadow Priest Changes

Some exciting things have changed since my previous post on the topic!

Spell/baseline passive effect changes:
  • Mind Blast now generates 1 shadow orb on use, rather than consuming them. 6 sec cooldown, so expect it to take 18 sec to prepare a 3-orb special ability. More on those below. No word yet as to whether we also generate shadow orbs from Shadow Word: Pain.
  • Mind Spike no longer interacts with shadow orbs.
  • Vampiric Touch now refunds 15% of the damage dealt as Health. Notably, we now don't have a mana return mechanic that does not interrupt our DPS. Looks like we're using Dispersion for mana. However...
  • Mind Flay is now free (no mana cost.)
  • Shadowy Apparitions is now a level 10 spell instead of a passive effect.
  • Shadowy Apparitions and Psychic Horror now use shadow orbs.
  • Shadowy Apparitions summons 1 apparition per orb. This is likely a core-DPS spell.
  • Psychic Horror now terrifies for 1 sec per orb. The disarm is still 10sec either way.
  • Our Mastery: Shadow Orb Power now grants 1.6% per point to refund a shadow orb for each Shadowy Apparition summoned, and the same amount to all periodic damage (regardless of whether you've spent orbs recently or not.)
  • Vampiric Embrace is now a cooldown. 15 sec duration, 2m cooldown. Converts 50% of all damage dealt to healing, which is then split evenly among the raid.

Talent changes since last week:
  • Tier 1: Mind Control has replaced Psychic Scream as a tier-1 talent. It now has a 30sec cooldown.
  • Tier 2: Phantasm now makes us untargettable by ranged attacks in addition to suppressing snares and roots.
  • Tier 2: Path of the Devout now persists for an additional 30sec after levitate ends.
  • Tier 2: Body and Soul now grants a 60% speed boost, up from 40%.
  • Tier 3: From Darkness, Comes Light now makes your next Mind Spike instant and not consume your DoTs.
  • Tier 3: There is an empty slot where Divine Star used to be (it is now tier-6).
  • Tier 4: Angelic Bulwark is no longer a tier-4 option.
  • Tier 4: Void Shift is now a tier-4 option (previously, tier 6) and it now heals the lower health pool 25%, instead of always healing you. This change is clearly designed to further support battleground griefing.
  • Tier 5: Twist of Fate now has the magnitude of the damage/healing boost specified. 15%.
  • Tier 5: Divine Insight redesigned. 40% chance on Mind Blast hit to cause your next Shadow Word: Death to treat the target as though low HP. With current numbers, this is now the best sustained DPS talent on this tier.
  • Tier 6: Vampiric Dominance is gone. Its place is empty for now.
  • Tier 6: Divine Star is now a tier-6 option. (Previously, tier-3.)
  • Tier 6: Vow of Unity redesigned. 15 sec duration, 2m cooldown. Copies all heals between the two of you. Splits X% of all damage between the two of you. Cannot be cast on tanks.
Shadow-relevant new glyphs:
  • Glyph of Dispel Magic - Your Dispel Magic spell also damages your target for X Holy damage when you successfully dispel a magical effect from a foe.
  • Glyph of Enfeeblement - When you critically hit with your Mind Blast, you cause the target to be unable to move for 4 sec.
  • Glyph of Inner Sanctum - Spell damage taken is reduced by 6% while within Inner Fire, and the movement speed bonus of your Inner Will is increased by 6%.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mists of Pandaria Shadow Priest Changes

What? SHADOW PRIEST is evolving!
*Pokemon evolution music*

(For those interested, the current publicly available info can be found here.)

Ah, another expansion! We live in exciting times, folks. There's nothing quite so exhilarating as playing a brand-new expansion. We'll get to re-evaluate our entire class, compete with 200+ other players to tag our next quest mob, and boldly go where no panda has gone before (at least, if you level quickly.)

For now though, here's some pseudo-patch notes I've compiled from the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator.

  • Shadow Protection removed; magic resistances removed.
  • Dispel Magic now removes ALL harmful spells when cast on self, but has an 8 second cooldown.
  • Mind Blast is no longer baseline. It is now shadow-specific.
  • Psychic Scream is no longer baseline. It is now a talent.
  • Specializations
    • Shadow
      • Devouring Plague removed, in order to simplify the spec.
      • Mind Blast now requires at least 1 Shadow Orb to cast.
      • Silence is now baseline. (And there was much rejoicing!)
      • Psychic Horror is now baseline.
      • Vampiric Touch now heals the caster for 50% of the damage dealt as Health and Mana. We will never have to worry about running OOM again, even when healing.
      • All heals other than Flash Heal and Power Word: Shield are no longer baseline; our healing toolkit will be much diminished.
      • Many utility or situational spells no longer have a 40-yard range. Core DPS-rotational spells still have a 40-yard range, but we will once again have a positioning conflict when our utility is necessary.
      • Pain and Suffering now has a 100% chance to refresh Shadow Word: Pain up from 66%, but it can no longer trigger off the initial application of Mind Flay.
  • Talents
    • Level 15 (Crowd Control)
      • Void Tendrils - This is a mage's Frost Nova, but with a twist. Instead of breaking when the target takes damage, this will break when the tendril holding them dies. Mobs will likely break themselves out when they have no other target nearby. Lasts up to 20 sec.
      • Psyfiend - Repeatedly fears anything attacking you for up to 1 minute. (The fear lasts 1 minute, not the Psyfiend.) Due to the long cooldown, I would assume that it fears more than 5 targets (the number Psychic Scream does), but it will take 1.5 sec to cast each fear. Less useful if you need stuff to stop attacking you right now. This is serious CC, and is likely to be highly desired in 5man dungeons in early Mists.
      • Psychic Scream - Unaltered.
    • Level 30 (Mobility)
      • Body and Soul - Unaltered. Yay! Finally Discipline and Shadow get to have Holy's most fun toy. If used at maximal uptime, grants a 10.67% average movement speed increase. Due to the bursty nature of the movement though, this is likely meant for short sprints like getting out of the fire. On a 5.6 second or longer bout of movement, the speed boost will refund the time lost to casting PW:S. Can be used on others!
      • Path of the Devout - +25% movement speed when you have anyone's Levitate on you. Good for long runs (like, running back into a wiped instance, for example.) Useless in combat, and also useless for over-world travel, since you will have a mount by this point. May allow us to kite in future raids.
      • Phantasm - Also suppresses roots and snares for 3sec after use in addition to current effect. As always, will have uses in PvP. Likely to remain largely-useless in PvE.
    • Level 45 (Core DPS or HPS)
      • From Darkness, Comes Light - 15% chance on Mind Flay tick to grant a free, instant Mind Blast. Likely to be the best sustained DPS option, as the others have side benefits that would make them strictly better if this was not. The healing half of this talent is unusable for shadow priests, as we lack the spells required to consume the proc.
      • Divine Star - A clone of a mage's Flame Orb, with a twist: also heals allies in the path. Of these three talents, this provides the most "free" healing. Likely to be lower DPS than From Darkness, Comes Light because of that. I will be a sad panda if this kicks us out of Shadowform, but I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard did do that.
      • Archangel - No longer restores mana. Damage boosted 25%, up from 20%. The healing half of this talent is now unusable in shadow spec. Provides burst DPS on demand. Likely to be the highest DPS option for short fights, and obviously good for fights that need burst (like the Spine of Deathwing tendons.) Should be lower sustained DPS than From Darkness, Comes Light, because if it's not, then this is strictly better.
    • Level 60 (Defensive Cooldowns)
      • Desperate Prayer - Instantly heal yourself for 30% of max HP. 2 minute cooldown. Notably, this interacts with the new version of Vampiric Embrace, causing the healing to splash to some of your raid. At maximum usage, this has the highest sustained HPS of the talents on this tier. I would be unsurprised, but disappointed, if Blizzard makes this strip Shadowform.
      • Angelic Bulwark - Increases your shields on yourself by 30%. You'd need to shield yourself 3-4 times per minute for this to even come close to the other talents. PW:S is our only shield, and it has a 15 second "cooldown". Do not take this talent; it is BAD for shadow.
      • Final Prayer - When an attack reduces you below 30% HP but doesn't kill you, you gain a shield for 20% of your max HP. 90 second cooldown. Pros: automatic, shorter cooldown (may sync up with some fight mechanics better than Desperate Prayer). Cons: does not interact with Vampiric Dominance, lower average HPS, cannot be used on-demand, can be wasted when it is unnecessary (for example, Decimate effects). A viable choice, but Desperate Prayer is likely better in most situations.
    • Level 75 (Situational DPS or HPS)
      • Twist of Fate - Increases damage and healing dealt to targets below 20% HP. Does not say how much the increase is. Likely to be the best sustained DPS of the talents on this tier, otherwise Power Infusion would be strictly better, due to utility. In order to beat out Power Infusion for raw DPS, this needs to be +25% damage or more, and so I predict that it will be +25% or more.
      • Power Infusion - Unchanged. Can be a burst DPS cooldown, or a healing cooldown if given to a healer. A fun toy, and may even be the best DPS talent if other spellcasters in the group can make better use of this than you. Obviously great utility.
      • Divine Insight - Mind Spike hastens your next Mind Blast. Identical to our current Mind Melt effect. Boring, near-useless for PvE. May still see use in PvP.
    • Level 90 (Healing)
      • Vow of Unity - Links you to another player. Whenever you heal them, you gain HP equal to 20% of the heal. Whenever they take damage, 50% of it is redirected to you over 6 seconds. Ends if they take a hit greater than 30% of their max HP (has no cooldown, you can just reapply it). This is an extremely powerful defensive buff that you can put on anyone that needs to stay alive. Won't trivialize massive damage spikes in raids, but will trivialize trash mobs and basic boss melee swings on your tank. Unfortunately, exclusive with Vampiric Dominance, so you will need a source of external healing to survive this for long.
      • Void Shift - Swap HP% with target ally. You heal 25% max HP. Everything that Vow of Unity is not, this is. Can trivialize massive bursts of raid damage, and can also be used to grief raid-members or battleground-mates. Can also be cast on self for an instant 25% heal, making it like a second, weaker Desperate Prayer. 3 minute cooldown.
      • Vampiric Dominance - This is Vampiric embrace on steroids. (Meaning, almost exactly what it was 1-2 expansions ago.) Heals 3 "nearby" allies for 15% each of any damage you deal. We can assume that it will prefer low-HP allies. It's unclear whether this healing splashes near whatever you damaged, or if it's centered on you. Notably, this does not have the restriction to only proc off of single-target damage. I expect that to be fixed. If it doesn't though, cue massive HPS on AoE fights.
Notable Missing Spells/Mechanics
  • Masochism - Likely a Glyph.
  • Improved Devouring Plague - It's possible we'll get a new spell (or Devouring Plague will come back) to spam while moving. If not though, it may be intentional that we're losing a mobile DPS option. After all, we are getting some major movement utility; what better incentive for us to actually use it?
  • Paralysis - Probably a Glyph.
  • Sin and Punishment (both parts) - Probably intentional that we're losing dispel protection for Vampiric Touch; dispels in general are being given a cooldown. Mind Flay crits reducing the cooldown of Shadowfiend may have simply been forgotten in the current talent calculator, or it could be a Glyph.
  • Soul Warding - Not many shadow priests specced into it, but with Body and Soul around, we might have wanted to for the utility. Notably, Discipline is missing this too. Might be a Glyph?
  • Most of our heals - I'm sad to see shadow's healing options so stripped, but it looks intentional.
  • Cure Disease - Also looks intentional. When was the last time we actually used it though?

I for one am excited by these changes! Sure our rotation is being simplified a bit, but we're getting a TON of utility! If fights focus more on using our utility well, and less on DoT juggling, then I'm ok with that. Plus, we don't even know what new spells we'll be getting on the way to level 90. Maybe some of them will add back the rotational complexity we seem to be missing?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Shadow Priest Trinkets [4.3]

Trinkets. Love 'em, hate 'em, gotta have 'em. Alongside weapon and set bonus, trinkets are some of the most important things you can equip. So which ones do you wear? Below I'll list some commonly-available trinkets for the 4.3 shadow priest, and how good they are. Note: these are listed in ascending order of desirability for Ultraxion (because that's easy to simulate.) I'll try to note when a trinket preforms unusually on other fights, but I probably won't have any solid numbers to back it up.

Bottled Wishes - 2.43
Purchased for VP. Easy to come by, but probably not worth it, when compared to other items you could spend VP on. Macroing it to AA and macroing it to SF leads to the highest sustained DPS output, but it's still quite low compared to other trinkets. Preforms quite well amazingly on the Spine of Deathwing tendons, due to being a controllable on-use trinket. Best-in-slot for that fight, followed closely by the PvP spellpower-use trinkets.
Source: Valor points.

Necromantic Focus - 2.56
This is a very reliable, boring trinket that may as well grant a static 390 mastery rating. Not as good as it sounds. Worse yet, it only triggers off periodic spell damage, meaning it will drop off during your burst-phase. Pity; that's exactly when this trinket would otherwise have shined.
Source: Baleroc (Firelands).

Darkmoon Card: Volcano - 2.98
Created by scribes, this could either be the easiest trinket to obtain, or the most difficult, depending on your financial situation, and the markets on your server. Watching for its proc and intentionally refreshing DoTs during that time adds about 50 DPS.
Source: Crafted (Inscription).
Proc: 30% on spell damage, 45 sec ICD.
Proc damage: 1378.39 + 0.1151sp. (Crit: x1.50)

Insignia of the Corrupted Mind - 2.75 / 3.10 / 3.49
A decent trinket, to be sure. It would be better if, by the time you'll be finding this, you weren't already hitting the 30% haste mark. Haste over this is of lessened value, but dropping haste to account for this trinket isn't a damage gain either. Only the heroic version of this trinket is strong enough to warrant re-casting VT specially to take advantage of it.
Source: Yor'sahj the Unsleeping.
Proc: 15% on damage, 110 sec ICD.

Foul Gift of the Demon Lord - 3.14
Easily obtained from 5mans, this trinket is a good starter trinket for any shadow priest. The value listed here is assuming no proc gaming, with good gaming, the value is even higher. Notably, the use-effect, despite being nearly-worthless on its own, can trigger other procs with each pulse, including Spellweaving, the extremely-potent AoE proc granted by the aspect of magic during the Madness encounter.
Source: Mannoroth (Heroic Well of Eternity).
Proc: 15% on spell damage or healing, 45 sec ICD.

Cunning of the Cruel - ? / 3.61 / ?
This trinket was very hard for me to find solid numbers for, due to the fact that I don't have one. As such, I've only listed the normal-mode version here. This trinket preforms quite respectably on single-target, and may scale better than other trinkets to AoE fights.
Source: 1.8% drop from Dragon Soul bosses without a loot chest.
Proc: 15% on spell damage, 25 sec ICD.
Proc damage:  9368.5 + 1.57765sp. (Crit: x2.00)

Will of Unbinding - 3.42 / 3.87 / 4.35
Simple, boring, and undeniably good. By every trinket list I've seen, this will be either your best or second-best trinket. Grab it and never let go.
Source: Spine of Deathwing.

Variable Pulse Lightning Capacitor - 3.93 / 5.39
This trinket doesn't do what its tooltip says. Through in-game testing, I found that the normal-mode version deals +2122 damage per charge over the tooltip damage, and I'm assuming that the heroic version does the same. Based on that assumption, I came to the values you see here.
Source: Ragnaros (Firelands).
Proc: 100% on magic crit, gain Electrical Charge; 20% per charge on gain charge. 2.5 sec ICD.
Proc damage: 3247 (heroic: 5423) per charge. (Crit: x1.50) Does NOT scale to spellpower.