Friday, March 22, 2013

Mind Flay Mechanics

I'm not really sure what a naga is doing in the
middle of a forest, but hey, it's Mind Flay.
So, I bet you were all worried about me when I disappeared a week after returning from my winter hiatus. What? No one? Really? I see, you all had faith I'd be back with more advice and theory. Well, there was a bit of a crisis in my guild, but today I do have some theory for you all. It's time to talk about something every Shadow priest should be familiar with: Mind Flay. I've seen quite a bit of ill-informed rambling about it on various priest forums and around the blogosphere in the last few weeks, so it's time to set a few things straight.

As we all know, Mind Flay is the basic filler spell for Shadow. It's learned at level 10 when you pick Shadow spec, and doesn't really change unless you pick Solace and Insanity much later. Mind Flay is a 3-sec channeled DoT dealing a smallish amount of damage every second. For the first half of its duration, you're locked into the spell by the global cooldown, and so you can't cast anything else. After that, unlike most spells, you can cast something else and it'll interrupt Mind Flay. We call this "clipping".

There are many advantages to Mind Flay being a channeled spell like this. The most powerful of which is that if we do clip it for any reason, it may still have dealt some damage. This means interrupting it for something like movement won't cost us the full 3-sec worth of DPS time. Another benefit is that if the target becomes unattackable for whatever reason after we begin the spell, we can still finish the attack. This effect isn't very pronounced, considering the spell is only 3sec, but it can be of use with Mind Sear if you know an enemy is going out of line of sight.

Until recently, being channeled used to be a disadvantage as well; it didn't work with the spell queue until 4.0. (Actually, it still doesn't, but it no longer costs us DPS.) Nowadays, it works just like any other DoT would if you clip it with itself. The biggest misconception I see floating around about Shadow is the idea that clipping Mind Flay with itself is bad; it's not, always clip subsequent Mind Flays. Note that there is an important exception to this rule: Mind Flay (Insanity) and Mind Flay aren't the same spell internally, and so don't get this nice behavior with each other.

The last important aspect of Mind Flay that I feel needs to be mentioned is Mind Flay's movement speed effects. Unglyphed, it slows the target by 50% while active. This is very rarely useful in most raid situations; anything that needs to be slowed probably should be slowed by 70% instead, out uptime for the slow is poor, and it roots us in place to maintain it. Glyphed, on the other hand, it boosts our own movement by up to 45% for a few seconds after we stop flaying. This can be very useful on fights where you frequently need to move out of the fire. Always consider whether the Mind Flay glyph can help you on any given fight; it's one of my most-frequently swapped glyphs. While it's obviously good since we don't value the slow it removes, it does have to compete with other obviously-good glyphs like Inner Sanctum.

Smite smite smite smite smite smite smite
Now, I have some fateful news, my Shadowy friends: I'm not Shadow anymore. *pauses to let the outraged cries die out* Recently, nearly all the healers in my guild quit. So now, I'm Atonement spec. Expect the next few weeks to be Disco-DPS theorycraft. As I'm still the "swing" healer for my raid team, I'll probably still be doing Shadow stuff from time-to-time, but it's not going to be the majority anymore.

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