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.

Friday, March 2, 2012

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

Read part 1 here: Fight-Specific Tricks (Dragon Soul part 1 of 2).

Two weeks ago, I began a two-part series on fight-specific things you can do to help your DPS and your raid in Dragon Soul. This week, I'm picking up where I left off. As before, this post is not written with LFR in mind, but some of the tips may apply there. Likewise, while I would like to give Heroic-specific tips, I simply don't know many of the fights.

Ultraxion is the Patchwerk of Dragon Soul; he's a raw DPS and HPS check, with very few gimmicks and no movement.

After the first Hour of Twilight, DPS may be subject to Fading Light up to twice per hour. If you're using the MSp/MB rotation with 4pc t13, try to begin it immediately after the first set of Fading Lights for the hour, so you won't be interrupted.

Other than that, this fight is all about raw output. Be sure to pre-pot, and consider checking out my advanced shadow priest DPS guide, if you're not up to snuff.

Heroic: You'll likely be called upon to help soak one or more of the Hours of Twilight. Use Dispersion, and make a /cancelaura macro so you can get back to DPSing as quickly as possible. Here's mine:

This macro casts Dispersion if you don't hold a modifier key, and removes it if you do. (By default, the modifier keys are Ctrl, Alt and Shift, but you can change which keys count as modifier keys in the WoW options.)

Warmaster Blackhorn
Blackhorn is the gunship fight in Dragon Soul, and a perfect place to master multi-DoTing, and to show off your monstrous DPS numbers once you do master it.

Drakes: The drakes spend the first ~20 seconds of their life out of attack range, and if DPS is low, fly away again later. You can and should load these up with DoTs as they fly overhead to drop off each set of melee adds. Beware that Shadowfiend has difficulty meleeing them, even when they're harpooned.

Twilight Sappers: You can hit them with an instant cast DoT right as they land. DP is a good choice. After they reappear, Mind Flay spam will help your melee catch up to them. They're immune to our fears.

Twilight Onslaught: Use Dispersion on these to help your healers out.

Phase 2 (Goriona/Blackhorn): Groups progressing Blackhorn will want you to focus all DPS on Goriona, and specifically to NOT multi-DoT them both. If you're in a farm run though, feel free to do so. If you foresee yourself failing to avoid a Shockwave, you can cheese the damage with Dispersion, but the stun will still hit you.

Spine of Deathwing
The Spine of Deathwing fight is all about precise damage and healing, rather than large raw output. Think of it as the antithesis to Ultraxion.

Burning Tendons: I wrote a detailed analysis of this portion of the fight over on It's as relevant today as it was last Christmas. Check out my guide here. Seriously, do it. It'll almost triple your output on the Tendons.

Fiery Grip
: As a shadow priest, you can turn this fight from healer hell into just another raid boss. After your group is done cleaning up the initial Corruptions, focus the final one and pay loose attention to its cast bar. It will cast Searing Plasma x4, then it will begin channeling Fiery Grip. As the 4th Searing Plasma cast nears completion, pre-cast a Mind Spike, cast a second Mind Spike, and cast an instant Mind Blast. This will interrupt the Fiery Grip after ~1.5 seconds, long before it would deal any damage to anyone. If the grip is on you, use Dispersion to soak the damage and call for help. Your raid will love you.

Late fight (many Corrupted Bloods, handle it!): As the fight draws to a close, you're likely to see Corrupted Bloods spawning faster than the raid can make use of their residues. 1-2 DPS should devote themselves to AoE; the bloods deal far less damage as they explode than they do if left alive to melee the healers. Your raid may also call upon you to help heal. Divine Hymn, as always is quite helpful, then I recommend Flash Heal spam on players with the debuff.

Madness of Deathwing
Madness of Deathwing is the final boss of Cataclysm, and in my opinion, the best-designed raid endboss since Ulduar. This fight taxes every aspect of your raid, from healing to raw DPS, to burst DPS, single-target, AoE, defensive cooldown use, multi-DoTing and more.

Mutated Corruption: If your group isn't depending on killing it before a second Impale, or if you'll manage that regardless, you can multi-DoT the limb tentacle while this is up. Also, Shadowfiend had been known to have problems meleeing this. Take care not to push the limb tentacle to 75% during this phase though; you'll spawn Blistering Tentacles.

Elementium Bolt: If the time zone is active, MSp/MB will likely kill it before it lands. If not, MSp/MB is still the most effective way to kill it, just make sure to be far away from the impact site.

Blistering Tentacles: Multi-DoTing or MSp/MB are both good options here. Tailor your choice to your raid group.

Regenerative Blood: Make sure you have a fresh Empowered Shadow as these spawn, and center Mind Sear off of your tank.

Cataclysm: For the love of the Light, don't use Shadow Word: Death here without 2pc t13! Once it's over run with your raid to the next platform. As mana can be tight on this fight, consider using Dispersion for the mana while running.

Phase 2 (Elementium Fragments): DoT up any loners, then center a Mind Sear on the biggest grouping of the buggers you can find.

Phase 2 (Elementium Terrors): MSp/MB + cooldowns on the first kill target. After that, de-form and begin blasting the tank with Flash Heal. I don't care if you weren't asked to; he's going to be taking upwards of 100k every second. Keep blasting him until his HP bar stops resembling a tennis rally.

Thus concludes my 2-part series on Dragon Soul bosses. Next Friday, I'll either write an analysis of shadow priest trinkets, or do something else. Aren't I specific? Feel free to suggest desired topics in the comments.