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.


Halo is currently the "cookie cutter" DPS talent from this tier, and with good reason. It's a damage gain on single-target, it's amazing for burst AoE, and unlike Cascade, provides powerful free healing to the raid even while you're using it for damage. While its hefty mana cost is a problem for healing priests, for Shadow, it's definitely a worthy expenditure.

For those who may not know, Halo deals a variable amount of damage based on how far the target is from you when the halo ring reaches them. It deals almost zero damage to targets in melee range, steadily increasing with distance, before spiking between 22 and 28 yards. The healing scales in the same manner. When you first cast the spell, it checks for possible targets within 28 yards of you, then later deals damage to anything on that list when the wave reaches them. This has important implications, because it means that casting it early to hit things moving into range isn't possible. It also means that non-moving targets more than 28 yards away can't be hit.

There are a few useful ways you can track the range on Halo. For any player with Deadly Boss Mods, a simple /range 28 command will bring up a visual range checker, complete with your raid members labelled on it. Of course, you're more interested in where the enemies are, but it's helpful nonetheless. There's also another newer addon made specifically for Halo that can help, HaloPro. It shows a visual distance indicator for your current target, friend or foe. HaloPro isn't nearly as precise as DBM though; it only shows distances in increments of 5 yards. A much more crude method of judging distance, you can move to the edge of Silence's range, and then step forward a few yards. Lastly, there's the obvious method of guessing it by "feel" after getting some practice. This method is sketchy at best, but still provides reasonable performance - about 70% of optimal in my experience.


Until it got the 25% damage buff, I couldn't really think of a realistic situation where you would want to use Cascade, where Halo wouldn't be better. Maybe a perfect circle of 7 foes all in a 35-yard radius ring around you? Like Halo, Cascade also deals a variable amount of damage based on distance, but unlike Halo, it can only hit a maximum of 7 targets, does only damage or only healing, and hits appreciably less. Thanks to the 25% buff though, it's now an acceptable alternative to Halo for pure single-target DPS, you trade the free healing from Halo for the nicer range restrictions of Cascade.

Cascade's damage scaling is much simpler, and much more forgiving. The damage scales linearly from 40% in melee range up to 100% between 30 and 40 yards. After hitting the target, it launches two more Cascades from the target's location at whatever would take the most damage from it. Then those launch two more each, and then it's over. An ideal situation for Cascade would be a group of 7+ enemies spread more-or-less randomly around a room, or split into two nice stacks each 30-40 yards from the other. Whether or not it does damage or healing is based on the very first target you shoot it at.

The problem with Cascade is that in the vast majority of situations where it's good, Halo is better. For targets spread randomly around a room, Halo will hit more. For targets in two nice stacks, you can just move to the side and it'll hit way more. If you have to be stacked up, neither is worth casting; you're better served by letting the cooldown sit idle. In any situation, Halo provides "free" healing, wheras Cascade must sacrifice all of it's damage if you want it to heal.

Divine Star

Divine Star is the answer to "what do we use if we have to be stacked up?" Divine star hits all targets in a short (25 yards?) line twice, dealing about 20k damage per target total. It's not worth casting on a single target unless you care about the healing, but if you're AoEing targets and you need to be stacked up on them, burn it on cooldown; its DpET is about 200k on 10+ targets.

Divine Star doesn't really have the same kinds of intricacies in its use that Halo and Cascade do, and the ones that it does have are less important, due to rarity. Divine Star has a not-so-sweet spot at its maximum range where it will hit a target only once. It also can technically hit a target more than twice if they're moving really fast in line with the star. Lastly, while it fires out straight, it follows a standard WoW projectile spell path back to you, meaning that if you're moving while it's out, then it may follow a different path on the return. None of these considerations are overly important, but you should be aware of them.

So, what should you use? I find Halo is best for general-purpose use, though you do need to take caution not to over-pull with it. In the few cases where the other talents would do more damage, I tend to pick Halo anyway, simply for the free healing spikes it gives. Nothing makes the healers' jobs easier than huge healing spikes from the Shadow priests right after huge damage spikes from the boss.

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