Friday, February 24, 2012

Shadow Tier 13 Set Bonus Analysis

Fox Van Allen recently wrote a post over at WoWInsider regarding the shadow tier 13 4-piece bonus. While true and informative, he didn't treat the subject in any real depth. In this post, I aim to settle once-and-for-all just how good the 4-piece bonus is, and what you need to do to optimize it.

There are three set bonuses of interest here: 2pc t12, 2pc t13 and 4pc t13.

2pc t12 - SF -cooldown, +damage.

This is the set bonus that some people occasionally use instead of our current unusual 4-piece bonus. Reduces the cooldown of Shadowfiend by 75 sec, and increases its melee damage 20%. A very solid set bonus, worth about 800 DPS from damage alone.

Also increases mana income from Shadowfiend by 45%; this may have an indirect effect on DPS, particularly on movement, AoE, or multi-DoT fights where mana becomes an issue, or if your raid asks you to de-form to heal.

2pc t13 - SW:D -backlash, +damage.

This set bonus isn't really in question; tier-13 items have more stats than tier-12 ones, and this set bonus is better than the tier-12 4-piece. Reduces SW:D backlash by 95%, and SW:D damage by 55%. This adds 816 DPS on a typical stand-and-burn fight where HP wasn't a concern.

In practice, however, the backlash protection also helps your healers, and allows you to use SW:D at times where you shouldn't've, due to low HP. Thus, in practice, the true effect is more pronounced. Also becomes more valuable on fights with adds or multiple parts, as you'll hit execute phase more often and SW:D more.

4pc t13 - SA and SF +orbs.

This is the contentious set bonus. It's unintuitive, play-style altering, hard to math out, and suffers heavily on movement fights. Grants 3 Shadow Orbs whenever Shadowy Apparitions or Shadowfiend deals damage. If you simply wear this set bonus to a stand-and-burn fight and don't even alter your rotation, it's worth 1100 DPS; slightly superior to the 2pc t12 bonus, but without the bonus mana.

You can, however, squeeze a good deal of extra damage out of this set bonus. First, some data:

This is the output from my shadow simulator, regarding different rotation options used with 4pc t13 (2 Normal, 2 Heroic). The final line of the output corresponds to 2pc Heroic t12 + 2pc Heroic t13.

The two best rotations are as follows. In both cases, it is a damage loss to delay SF to sync it up with AA, or to delay AA to sync it up with SF.
  1. Use MSp/MB rotation when SF is up; return to normal rotation after 2nd MB, despite that SF has 2-3 melee swings left.
  2. Use MSp/MB rotation when SF is up.
This raises the value of this set bonus to ~2480 DPS. This is huge, and definitely worth doing.

There are also two other things you can do you squeeze extra DPS from the set bonus.

Firstly, reforge any Haste in excess of 30% to Mastery. This was already done for the data you see above, but without it, the value of the set bonus was ~600 DPS lower.

Secondly, move unnecessarily. By raising the portion of SW:P ticks under movement, you raise the portion of MB hits under 3 orbs. Whenever you cast an instant spell, move a little bit. Assuming ~0.5 sec movement per instant spell, this adds about 500 DPS, bringing the total value of the set bonus to ~3000 DPS.

Take caution, however; you are extremely sensitive to interruption during the burst window. If you or your Shadowfiend has to move (or Dispersion, or Heroic Will, etc.) during it, you'll take a massive damage loss, potentially in the ~200-300k range for only a couple seconds of movement.

Furthermore, on multi-target fights, or fights where you're asked to heal, you will have very few Shadowfiends, as you'll not be casting MF much, and so the benefit will be reduced. On such fights, the value of this set bonus may fall well below the value of 2pc t12.

Consider switching to a 2pc t12/2pc t13 setup on fights with heavy unpredictable movement, target swaps, or mana issues, as that set bonus is better on those fights, and this bonus is worse.


Next week, fight-specific tips for Ultraxion through Madness. Also, sorry about the poor formatting again this week. Blogger don't always show formatting issues correctly until the post goes live, and my internet was out for about 24 hours.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fight-Specific Tricks (Dragon Soul part 1 of 2)

Read part 2 here: Fight-Specific Tricks (Dragon Soul part 2 of 2).

The last few weeks, I wrote about the basics of shadow priest DPS, and advanced shadow priest DPS tactics. This week, I'll be writing about things you can do on each fight in Dragon Soul to help your raid out. This post will not be written with LFR in mind, but some of these tricks may apply there. Similarly, while I intend to point out Heroic-specific things you can do, I simply don't know all of them. I'm only familiar with 3/8 Heroic.

Morchok is by far the easiest encounter in Dragon Soul on both difficulties. The fight consists of a stand-and-burn phase and survival phase.

During the burn phase, DPS will need to move to handle certain AoE damage mechanics. Use good movement DPS tactics to minimize damage lost, and position yourself so that the Resonating Crystal will push you towards where you want to be when it explodes.

When Black Blood of the Earth is cast, try to head for a place with two shards of Earth's Vengeance close to each-other. Once behind, you can shoot through the gap between them to continue DPSing through this phase. Failing that, it is sometimes possible to shoot past the edge or over the top of a single shard, if you stand back to max range.

Heroic: There are two Morchoks. And what do we do to two targets? That's right, we multi-DoT! Try to load up both right after the split, and when you need to run for Black Blood, try to get between them to DoT up both. (Beware, you need to LoS both sets of Blood.)

You may be called upon to help your tank soak the Double Stomp. Shadow priests glyphed with Inner Fire can survive a Double Stomp without any extra protection on 10man, but as this fight is primarily about healing, you should use PW:S and Dispersion to help take the edge off. As always, you can support the healers with your Hymns.

Warlord Zon'ozz
Warlord is often a stumbling block for PuGs and low-end guilds. The fight involves bouncing a ball around, dispels, and intense tank and AoE healing demands, at least compared to other early normal-mode fights.

During the ball phase, DPS is pretty simple, and there's not a lot you can do to increase DPS. Most wipes happen because a tank dies towards the end of this phase, or the DoTs go undispelled. Mass Dispel (possibly glyphed) goes a long way towards easing the healing burden. I would say "you can use Dispersion in case your HP gets too low to safely dispel," but really, that shouldn't happen; you have your own dispels and powerful passive heals.

At the start of the AoE healing phase, the boss gains stacks of a 5% damage taken increase debuff. There's no need to re-cast your DoTs; they update automatically with damage taken effects on the target. You should however try to pop any cooldowns that became available in the preceding ~30sec right at the start of this phase. You may be called upon to give a Divine Hymn during this phase. Try to anticipate this and not hold Dark Archangel only to waste it on healing.

Heroic: For the love of god, don't Mass Dispel on heroic. During the AoE healing phase, you'll have adds like the ones from the trash. Use cooldowns on them and prioritize the eye stalks. Multi-DoTing is your friend.

Yor'sahj the Unsleeping
Affectionately referred to as "Skittles" by my raid group, Yor'sahj's central mechanic is about choosing which of his 15 (Heroic: 20) modes you wish to fight from a selection of 3 (Heroic: 4) options presented to you at each time.

Blue skittles: You may be called upon to give a mana Hymn right after the drain finishes. Try to anticipate this and refresh DoTs immediately before. If not, Shadowfiend or SW:D immediately before the end of the drain, or Dark Archangel immediately after can ensure you have mana to work with.

Black skittles: The adds for this phase initially spawn spread out. Try to hit each with DoTs as they spawn. Switch to Mind Sear centered off of Yor'sahj once at least 3 cluster up. Cast a Mind Blast to refresh your Empowered Shadow if it falls off and you have orbs; it effects Mind Sear.

Yellow/Black skittles: You'll have two sets of adds, one of which will come simultaneously with the next set of oozes. Roll SW:P on the lot while you get into position to kill the new oozes.

Yellow/Red or Yellow/Green skittles: You'll probably be called upon to heal during this phase. Divine Hymn into Prayer of Healing alternating on each group with Prayer of Mending on cooldown. Glyphed Prayer of Mending is worth the glyph slot, as it's only a major glyph; glyphed Prayer of Healing is not.

Black/Purple skittles: Many wipes occur on this phase due to individual raid members dying from focused damage. As a shadow priest, you're quite unlikely to be the one to bite the dust, so if your raid is single-targeting adds, burn someone else's first. I contend that the best thing you can do to help raid survival is to just blast your AoE and kill them all ASAP though. If your HP drops into the sub-20% range, Dispersion to save your bacon. Do not, under any circumstances PW:S anyone.

Black/Green skittles: Unlike most black phases, the adds will be spread out. Multi-DoT is, as always, your friend.

Hagara the Stormbinder
Hagara is really easy on normal. Not so much on heroic. The fight consists of a main phase alternating with one of two elemental phases, either ice or lightning. You can see which elemental phase she plans to use next by the enchant on her weapons.

Main phase: As a shadow priest, you're pretty much ideal to soak ice lances. Mare your paladins give Concentration aura so your DPS is unaffected. At the beginning of the second and later main phases, Hagara will suffer a 15sec 100% increased damage taken debuff. This is prime time for cooldowns. In later main phases, two raiders will be ice-blocked, a la Sindragosa. Their HP is too low for multi-DoT; Mind Sear if the boss is close to both, Mind Spike/Mind Blast otherwise.

Ice Phase: At the start of the phase, position yourself between two crystals, DoT both up. Position yourself 10% counter-clockwise from the midpoint so the initial Ice Wave misses you. Once you have to move, DoT up the crystals as you pass them, and keep up mobile DPS. You can use Dispersion to let an Ice Wave wash over you if desired.

Lightning Phase: The add always spawns to the north, so get up there and start DPS. Once you start chaining the lightning, regen with Dispersion, or help heal with instant heals.

There you have it, fight-specific tactics for the first four bosses in Dragon Soul. Next week, I have an in-depth analysis of the tier-13 4-piece bonus for you. The week after that, I'll give the final four bosses of Dragon Soul the same treatment as this week's four.

...and my apologies to anyone that may have seen the original version of this page. I had some major HTML errors that made it more than a little bit hideous.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mind Blast and Shadow Orbs, revisited.

When, specifically, we should cast Mind Blast is a topic of contention among theory-crafting shadow priests. Many beginners make the mistake of only using it with 3 shadow orbs. This is wrong. However, among high-end theory-crafters, there are two common and opposed schools of thought, and a rarer third more detailed perspective.

The most common view is that Mind Blast should be used on cooldown, every cooldown. This is popular, because it's simple; no real thought required to execute it. My personal rule of thumb is cast Mind Blast whenever you have at least 1 shadow orb, and it's off cooldown.

My sims indicate that holding Mind Blast for 1 orb is a modest damage gain of 88 DPS (0.2% gain) relative to using Mind Blast on cooldown on a stand-and-burn fight. This effect becomes slightly more pronounced on fights with unpredictable interruptions from movement or other reasons (Fading Light, for example.) The effect is less pronounced, but still positive, when using the 4pc t13 with MSp/MB.

I recently forwarded this claim on a thread, and in my Advanced Shadow Priest DPS post. A commenter mentioned that you should be able to squeeze out slightly more DPS by using MB without shadow orbs when either Empowered Shadow will remain active for a while, or your DoTs will not need refreshing soon. However, in practice, this increases the difficulty of the rotation, and might offset such a small effect.

Nonetheless, I simmed it. The effect was miniscule; I required a 1M-trial run to get the margin of error to be smaller than the effect. My results indicate that this is a damage loss of 6 DPS (0.014% loss) relative to holding for 1 orb. True to intuition, this did increase Mind Blast damage appreciably, but small infrequent lapses in Empowered Shadow uptime offset the gain via lost Mind Flay and Shadow Word: Pain damage.


As I've stated before, both using Mind Blast on cooldown and holding Mind Blast for 1 orb are competitive, viable strategies. While you may claim that the increased difficulty of paying attention to orbs could offset the gain from holding for 1 orb, I should point out that my sim code never clips an in-progress Mind Flay to cast Mind Blast; in practice, the effect is likely to be slightly larger than my sims would indicate, and thus offset the loss from increased difficulty.

I still recommend holding for 1+ orbs.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Guardian Spirit Nerf

The all-knowing Google informs me that 50% of the people finding their way to my blog were searching for "guardian spirit nerf". I find this strange, because I couldn't find my own blog while searching for that... but whatever. I figure I should give the people what they want.

Now, I don't know how recently this change was applied, but I found out myself a few weeks ago when we were attempting Madness of Deathwing with a low-DPS group that Guardian Spirit doesn't quite do what the tooltip states. Originally, we had planned to single-tank the fight, using Guardian Spirit to soak the second Impale on the tank. ...and he kept inexplicably dying. Not every time, mind you, we would have known what was going on if that had been the case; just every once in a while. Most times, he'd take the hit, and not even fall below 100% HP. Other times, he'd insta-gib. Why?

According to these patch notes, Guardian Spirit was nerfed to only absorb up to a maximum of 200% of the target's max HP when it prevents a killing blow. If it would need to soak more damage than that, it prevents none instead (but still gets removed and triggers the heal).

So, long story short, no using Guardian Spirit to cheese the Impales; you'll need other cooldowns too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Shadow Priest Basics

[This post is outdated! This describes shadow in patch 4.3. An updated guide for 5.0 is available here.]

My previous post was an advanced guide to shadow priest DPS. This post is to help new shadow priests get started. If you just turned 85, or you're just now becoming a shadow priest after a lifetime of healing, this is a guide for you.


As of patch 4.3, Priests desire gear with the following stats:

  1. Intellect
  2. Spell Power
  3. Haste (until 30% haste)
  4. Hit or Spirit (until cap - 17% for raids, 6% for heroic 5mans, 4% for PvP)
  5. Haste
  6. Critical Strike
  7. Mastery
This order of desirability will change when you reach raid-ready gear levels, particularly if you pick up certain proc-trinkets, or the shadow tier-13 4-set bonus. New shadow priests should prioritize stats in this order though.
A common question regarding shadow priest gear is "do we take hit cloth or spirit cloth?" The answer is both. Hit and spirit are equally valuable for shadow, so treat them just the same when you decide whether to take an item or not.
You'll want to enchant your gear before heading into a raid. Use the following enchants, unless your profession gives you a better one:
Be sure to fill your sockets. If you can't afford rare gems, buy cheaper uncommon gems instead. Very few people are willing to drop the huge amount of gold to buy epic gems. In general, the lower-quality gems you're using, the more important it is to match the socket color. (Socketed items come with a Socket Bonus, some bonus stats you get for filling the sockets with gems of the same color. You are not required to socket gems that match the color; sometimes filling in with red gems is better.)
If you can't afford the recommended gem for a given slot, you can use Reckless in red sockets, or use Reckless/Purified in Yellow/Blue sockets even when the socket bonus is small.
Wear the following glyphs. Listed in order of importance within each category.
  • Mind Flay - Mandatory.
  • Shadow Word: Death
  • Shadow Word: Pain
  • (Dispersion) - Optional: Can be helpful on some fights to protect against damage or regain mana. I recommend replacing Shadow Word: Pain if you decide to use this, however it has been argued that replacing Shadow Word: Death may be viable as well.
  • Spirit Tap
  • Psychic Scream - Mandatory for 5mans.
  • (Mass Dispel) - Optional: Helpful on some fights if you need to dispel your party or foes.
  • (Psychic Horror) - Optional: Helpful in 5mans if you spec into Psychic Horror.
  • (Inner Fire) - Optional: Helpful if you pull aggro or otherwise take physical damage.
  • Fading - Only minor glyph with any significant effect in combat.
  • (Others) - Optional. None of the others have a significant impact on combat.
Standard spec: 8/0/31 (+2) - Use the spec in the link, and spend the leftover two talent points in whatever you like. Psychic Horror is a good choice for 5mans.
Commonly, I get asked by new shadow priests what the rotation is. My answer is, invariably, it depends. Use the following priority list for boss fights:
  1. Vampiric Touch
  2. Shadow Word: Pain
  3. Devouring Plague
  4. Shadowfiend
  5. Dark Archangel (with 5 Dark Evangelism)
  6. Shadow Word: Death (if target is below 25% HP, or you're low on mana)
  7. Mind Blast (with at least 1 Shadow Orb)
  8. Mind Flay
Try to re-cast DoTs only when they have less than 3 seconds remaining.
For trash, use Mind Sear if it is likely to all die within a few seconds, or if there are 4+ foes. Beware, this can break crowd control spells. If you need to avoid breaking CC, or if the foes are spread out too much, you can't use Mind Sear.
If you can't use Mind Sear for trash, you have two options. In both cases, use Shadow Word: Death to finish off low-HP foes.
  • If the trash is likely to live for at least 15 seconds still use your boss rotation. Try to keep Vampiric Touch active on everything.
  • If the trash will probably all die faster than that, use Mind Spike 3 times, then cast Mind Blast. Repeat until everything dies.
Make sure you have the following buffs on you. These are all buffs you can supply to yourself.
Moving Forward
As you go from fresh 85 to raid-geared, you'll encounter some changes.
With rising stats and set bonuses, you'll have fewer issues with mana due to more shorter Shadowfiend cooldowns. Due to this, you'll be able to use Devouring Plague to deal damage while moving without going OOM, and you'll be able to stop using Shadow Word: Death for the mana return. You'll also be able to take over or assist in healing for a longer, but still short, time if necessary.
With rising mastery, your Empowered Shadows buff becomes more important to maintain. There's a section labelled 'Buff Management' concerning this in the Advanced Shadow Priest DPS guide from last week.
Haste will also begin to taper off in value, and likely be surpassed by mastery, particularly as you get better at managing Empowered Shadows. In general, try to hit 30% haste without going too far over that, and use Reforging to convert your excess to mastery, where possible.
Q: Help! I'm out of mana all the time and my DPS is terrible!
A: Shadow priests have mana problems at very low gear levels (fresh 85). Make sure to use your cooldowns whenever they become available; they don't just boost your damage, they also restore a lot of mana. Use Shadow Word: Death to finish off low-HP foes, or even use it on high-HP foes if you're running out of mana. Intellect, Hit, Spirit, Haste and Crit on gear all help your mana last longer. The 2-piece tier-12 bonus helps immensely and can be bought for Justice Points. Make sure to only re-cast DoTs when they're almost over (and not if the foe is about to die). Use Mind Flay to refresh Shadow Word: Pain instead of re-casting it. Use Dispersion if you can't DPS (for example, between fights.)

Q: DoTs don't seem to be worth it, everything dies too fast!
A: Shadow has a hard time dealing significant damage to anything that doesn't survive for at least 15 seconds. Use Mind Sear or the Mind Spike/Mind Blast rotation on foes that will die quickly.

Q: I can't seem to do more than 20k DPS, and I'm doing everything you said here.
A: You've mastered the basics! Time for some advanced lessons: see last week's article.
There you have it, a simple, direct guide to shadow priest basics. Was this helpful? Did I forget something? Tell me in the comments. Also, if this was helpful, pass it on to other shadow priests you know.
Next Friday, I'll post a fight-specific breakdown of things you can do to help your DPS and your raid in Dragon Soul.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Advanced Shadow Priest DPS

[This post is outdated! This describes Shadow in patch 4.3. An updated guide for 5.0 is in the works. I'd rather not post crap though, so it'll be up when it's good and ready.]

This is a guide to preforming high sustained DPS against a single target that will survive for several minutes. This guide also assumes high-end normal Dragon Soul gear levels, and basic knowledge of spriest-related abbreviations and rotation/priority order. This guide is unlikely to be applicable to non-raid situations, or to non-raid-geared shadow priests.

DoT Uptime

Shadow priest DPS is based primarily off of DoT effects. The most basic and central skill for any raiding shadow priest is maximizing DoT uptime, and to a lesser extent, minimizing DoT casts. When a DoT is cast, one of two things happen:
  • If that DoT was not already active on that target, then it applies the DoT to the target. The game records your current spellpower, haste, crit and damage multipliers (Dark Evangelism, Empowered Shadow, Dark Intent, etc.) These values, if changed after applying a DoT, will not effect that DoT. For Devouring Plague, it will also strip the DP DoT off anything else it was on, if applicable.
  • Otherwise, it will refresh the current DoT, plus one tick, without delaying the next tick. Spellpower, haste, crit and damage multipliers are re-recorded. Shadow Word: Pain refreshes from Mind Flay also work this way.
Thus, it is optimal to refresh VT when it has exactly one tick remaining. Refreshing earlier wastes time on casting which could have been used for Mind Flay. Recasting later delays DoT ticks. The duration of this window of opportunity is 3.0 seconds, unhasted, or about 2.2 seconds with current gear. This window drops to 1.7-1.8 seconds for DoTs under Heroism. Use an addon which marks remaining DoT durations textually, and aim to refresh VT within that window. Remember to account for the cast time; you'll want to begin the cast early.

Due to Improved Devouring Plague, refreshing DP prematurely is not a damage loss if it is displacing Mind Flay. Use DP as filler when moving, or refresh when the time is low. If VT and DP conflict, VT is more important. However, this should not happen, as you can simply cast DP ahead of time to eliminate the conflict.

Plan for interruptions. When you will have to move (or Dispersion, or Divine Hymn, or...) it is a damage gain to refresh DoTs early if you would be unable to refresh them in the window of opportunity.

DoT Summary:
  • SW:P - Refreshed by Mind Flay.
  • VT - Reapply with <2.2 sec remaining. (Begin cast 2.2-3.3 sec remaining.)
  • DP - Reapply any time before it expires.
Buff Management and DoT Recasting

Next up is buff management. Dark Evangelism and Empowered Shadow both dramatically boost DoT damage. Managing them is the next skill to master for aspiring shadow priests.

Dark Evangelism will be at maximum potency for most of the fight, and should only become inactive at the start of the fight, or immediately following Dark Archangel. Thus, DoTs cast at those times are weaker than DoTs cast the rest of the time. Despite this, it is better to begin combat by applying all DoTs immediately (unless opening with 4pc t13; see below.) When Dark Archangel becomes available, hold it until you will not need to refresh any DoTs within the next 5 seconds. Dark Evangelism adds 10% DoT damage.

Empowered Shadow is often misunderstood by new priests. This is the buff gained by casting Mind Blast with at least one shadow orb. The potency of Empowered Shadow is the same, regardless of the number of shadow orbs consumed. As long as at least one orb was spent, you gain a full-potency Empowered Shadow. In current gear Empowered Shadow adds about 32% DoT damage.

These numbers are quite significant. If you have an active DoT that was cast without Empowered Shadows, and you gain Empowered Shadow, you should reapply all DoTs. Similarly, if you foresee the Empowered Shadow expiring, it is wise to reapply prematurely. These guidelines also hold for Heroism. (Note: While DP is obvious to refresh, some people dispute refreshing VT when gaining buffs. This is wrong. Always reapply VT when entering any buffs worth at least +20% DoT DPS. Due to DoT refresh mechanics and the cast time of VT, it's impossible to reapply it "too early" for a buff.)

Also of note for AoE situations: Empowered Shadow effects Mind Sear ticks, but Dark Evangelism does not. Consider holding a shadow orb in anticipation of an upcoming AoE phase, or for prolonged AoE, consider rolling SW:P on 2-3 targets for the orb procs.

Gaming Mastery buffs will not be covered in this article, as such trinkets are sub-par in current raids, even when used well. If you use one, I recommend Google-ing: shadow priest game mastery proc.

Buff management summary:
  • Re-cast VT and DP when entering buffs worth at least 20% DoT DPS. SW:P updates automatically.
  • Re-cast VT and DP before losing buffs worth at least 20% DoT DPS.
Mind Blast and Shadow Orbs

There are three common schools of thought relating to using Mind Blast: use immediately, wait for 1 shadow orb, or wait for 3 shadow orbs. To put it simply, waiting for 3 shadow orbs is wrong. Use Mind Blast whenever it is available and you have at least 1 Shadow Orb.

See my detailed analysis here, if interested.

Clipping Mind Flay

Mind Flay is the shadow priest filler spell, used only when no other spell needs casting. Due to being channeled, it is possible to interrupt MF mid-cast, and still gain part of its benefit. We call this "clipping".

Interrupting MF with a new MF causes no damage loss; like DoTs, it refreshes with an extra tick and will not delay the next tick. Because channeled spells do not work properly with the spell queue, whenever you cast MF back-to-back, you should clip it.

Interrupting MF with anything else, in a perfect world, does not have to waste any time. In practice, however, any spell following MF, clipped or not, wastes a small amount of time. There are two "perfect" times to clip MF: immediately following the second tick, and immediately following the completion of the channel. Clipping after the first tick is impossible due to the GCD. Whenever you need to interrupt MF for another spell, aim for after 2 ticks or after completion.

Despite all efforts to the contrary, there will always be some variability in latency, and in your own reaction times. This is devastating if it causes you to clip immediately before a tick. Aim for a split second after the tick, just in case. (This can be worth about 1.5-2k DPS.)

Even when your clips do occur shortly after a tick, you waste a non-zero amount of time with every clip. For this reason, you should aim to clip as rarely as possible. Since casting DP early is DPS-neutral, you can use DP as "glue" to connect multiple interruptions together, if they're less than 1 GCD apart. For example, if you need to cast VT at time X, and MB at time X+3, then casting VT-DP-MB makes more sense than attempting to cast VT-MF2-MB. (MF2 refers to Mind Flay, clipped after the second tick.)


As a caster, we don't like having to move. As raiders, we have to move. This is a conflict. Most spells cannot be cast while moving. The four spells we can use to fill movement time, in order of desirability, are: Shadowfiend, Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Death, and Shadow Word: Pain.

For short bursts of movement (1 sec or less), use DP to cover the gap. For longer movement, and because DP cannot be cast back-to-back (you get an error message preventing this) alternate DP and SW:D, starting with DP. Cast SW:P instead of SW:D while moving if it's not active on the target.

Movement summary:
  • For non-execute phase:
    • 1 GCD - DP
    • 2 GCD - DP, SW:D
    • 3+ GCD - DP, SW:D, DP, -wait-, DP... repeat. This can be taxing on mana, however the damage gain outweighs the loss from needing to use SW:D rotationally after movement is complete.
  • During execute phase, with SW:D off cooldown:
    • 1 GCD - SW:D
    • 2 GCD - SW:D, SW:D
    • 3 GCD - SW:D, SW:D, DP.
    • 4 GCD - SW:D, DP, SW:D, DP. While this does delay the next pair of SW:D casts, the damage gain from casting while moving outweighs the loss from delaying SW:D.
    • 5+ GCD - DP, SW:D, DP, SW:D, DP, -wait-, DP... repeat. Same as above.

Shadow priests have three DPS cooldowns, not including use-trinkets (which aren't prevalent in Dragon Soul, anyway): Shadowfiend, Dark Archangel, and Volcanic Potion. Usage depends on whether or not you have 4pc t13.

No 4pc t13: Use SF and DA whenever they become available. SF will lose some damage if you switch targets shortly after casting it, as it will switch with you, causing it to lose melee swings to movement. DA will lose some damage if you need to recast DoTs shortly after casting it, or need to move during its duration. Using them at the same time is irrelevant. Both combine well with Heroism, and you should use your Volcanic Potion with Heroism as well. Shadowfiend only benefits from Heroism if it is summoned before Heroism is cast.

4pc t13: With the set bonus, SF generates 3 shadow orbs every hit. When doing the "normal" rotation, most of these will be wasted, due to the Mind Blast cooldown. Instead, save SF until you will not need to move or change targets within the 15 second SF duration. (If a fight's mechanics are such that this is an impossibility, consider using 2pc t12 instead, if available.) Use it, then use the Mind Spike burst DPS rotation until you've cast 2 Mind Blasts. Remember to /cancelaura Mind Melt twice right before Mind Blast. Reapply DoTs afterwards. On some fights, it is helpful to open with this; Mind Flay until DA is available, do not apply DoTs until afterwards. Other than at the start of a fight, holding DA to sync with SF, and holding SF to sync with DA are both a damage loss.

Sample Mind Blast macro for use with 4pc t13:

Serious shadow priests should carry and use Volcanic Potions on progression fights. While I explained when to use a Volcanic Potion mid-fight in the above section, you can also use a second Volcanic Potion at the beginning of the fight. Nearly all potions share a 1 minute cooldown, with a catch: the cooldown will not begin unless or until you're out of combat. If you drink a Volcanic potion shortly before the fight begins, you'll start out with the 1200 Intellect buff, and about 1 minute into the fight, you'll become able to drink one again. This technique is known as pre-potting, and can be done with any potion.


Shadow priests offer serious healing support in short bursts. When planned in advance with your raid, this can greatly aid progression. See my full article for whens and how-tos.


Whew! There you have it, all the non-fight-specific advanced shadow priests rotational topics I could think of off the top of my head. Did I forget anything? Did this help? Leave a comment, us bloggers love to know people are reading our stuff.

Also, if anyone from Blizzard sees this, feel free to use the "Dark Archangel" image I made to give us an alternate spell icon in Shadowform.