Priest Leveling 4.0.1: Shadow 1-29

20 Oct

Outdated Content: There will be a New Guide very soon.

How many fools seek shelter in the “Light”. How many of those same fools were sent to the grave with vain whispers of, “may the Light embrace you.” The numbers are too high to count, and only a greater fool would attempt to do so. The Holy Light. The salvation of fools.

I was a fool, once… I had placed my faith in the Light. But all of that changed when my life was consumed by darkness. When those I had looked to for teaching and knowledge of the Light called to the Light and used it as a weapon against me for things I did not do, for events in which I took no part. I remember well their champion as he sought to kill others like me shouting is warcry, “Light, give me strength!”

In that darkness we found our answers. It was never knowledge that we gained from the Light, only a blindness and shortness of sight. They told us that the shadow must flee and hide when the Light draws near, but they failed to see it for what it truly is; and illusion. For once the Light is removed only Shadow remains. It is not the Light casting Shadow aside, destroying it as it goes, it is merely a blanket illusion hiding the darkness that sits in unseen in plain sight.

Playing a Shadow Priest
Shadow Priests play similar, in some ways, to Affliction Warlocks. They deal a lot of their damage by using DoT’s, spells that deal their damage over a period of time rather rather that dealing it all directly after the cast. They have other similar tools at their disposal as well, like causing their enemies to run away in fear or healing themselves by inflicting pain on others.

But that’s not all that a Shadow Priest has to offer, as rather than focusing on dealing damage to the body as a Warlock does, Shadow Priests assault the mind instead. They can take control of your mind if they wish, and with it your body. With a single word they can cause you continuous pain, or they can simply tell your mind to die, and it will obey.

Shadow Priests excel in all aspects of the game, whether it be questing, running dungeons, or facing off against other players. With the changes brought to us in 4.0.1 the Shadow Priest has become one of my favorite classes. From consecutive pulls of over 30 mobs to soloing the Ragefire Chasm instance at level 17, it’s been one of the most pleasant leveling experiences I’ve had in a while.

Shadow-Specific Tips
Shadow Priests work off of two types of DPS; direct damage spells (nukes), and damage over time spells (DoT). Knowing how those work and how/when to use them determines how effective you are at playing the class. The most important thing to do early on is to learn your spells. I’m not talking about going to a class trainer to be able to cast them, I’m talking about you learning what your character’s spells actually do.

When you get a new spell, look at the amount of damage that it deals, how long its cast time is, and how long the cooldown for that spell is (if it has one). It’s especially important on your DoT’s, notably Shadow Word: Pain (SW:P). Pay attention to how much damage it deals each time you level (since spells scale with level now), and when you’re going to attack a mob note whether SW:P is enough to kill the mob by itself or if you’re going to need to cast another spell to finish them off. If you need more damage then pull them with one of your direct damage spells first, and then follow it up with SW:P.

Before you get Shadowform at level 29 you have all of the spells in your book at your disposal, including your heals and bubbles, but when you are using Shadowform you can’t use any Holy spells or they’ll cancel your form, so once you get to level 29 you want to stick to Shadow spells as much as possible. So be familiar with which spells fall under which categories. Generally speaking, if it’s not on the Shadow tab of your spellbook, then it’s not castable in Shadowform.

Important Spells & Abilities
Priests have a fair number of spells and abilities at their disposal, so it’s always good to know which ones you have available to you. I’m not going to list every spell that you get here, I’m just going to point out the ones that you’ll use at least fairly often while leveling. Number in parenthesis after spell names indicate the level at which you can train the spell.

Level 1-10

  • Smite (1): Smite an enemy for 33 to 35 Holy damage.
  • Shadow Word: Pain (4): A word of darkness that causes 66 Shadow damage over 18 sec.
  • Power Word: Shield (6): Draws on the soul of the friendly target to shield them, absorbing 177 damage. Lasts 30 sec. While the shield holds, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage.
  • Inner Fire (7): A burst of Holy energy fills the caster, increasing the armor value from items by 60% and spell power by ??. Lasts 30 min.
  • Mind Blast (10): Blasts the target for 50 to 52 Shadow damage.
  • Mind Flay (10-Shadow Spec): Assault the target’s mind with Shadow energy, causing Shadow damage over 3 sec and slowing their movement speed by 50%.

Smite is your starting spell, and your primary nuke for your first 10 levels. Typical Priest leveling involves Smite-spam where you just cast this over and over until things are dead (2-3 casts in most cases). I would tell you not to get used to casting it since this is the only guide you’ll see it in, but you really don’t have any choice at this level. At level 4 you get Shadow Word: Pain which is your bread and butter DoT (damage over time) spell. You’ll use this one for the rest of your shadowy career, so get used to it.

Power Word: Shield is your “bubble” spell, absorbing damage for you so that you don’t actually take damage. It’s a great spell while you’re leveling in this bracket or when you need to act as a healer. You’ll use it quite a bit while leveling, especially when you’re doing it solo.

Mind Blast is your first shadow nuke, dealing decent damage with a fairly short cast time. The 8 second cooldown on it prevents you from spamming it, but you’ll likely be dealing enough damage with other spells that the cooldown won’t really matter.

For choosing to become a Shadow Priest at level 10 you’re awarded use of the Mind Flay spell. Mind Flay is a channeled spell that deals a lot of damage over 3 seconds and also slows the target by 50% while it’s being channeled. Combine this with either SW:Pain and/or Mind Blast and you basically have yourself a dead target.

Level 11-20

  • Power Word: Fortitude (14): Power infuses all party and raid members, increasing their Stamina for 1 hour. If the target is in your party or raid, all party and raid members will be affected.
  • Psychic Scream (14): The caster lets out a psychic scream, causing 5 enemies within 8 yards to flee for 8 sec. Damage caused may interrupt the effect.
  • Holy Fire (20): Consumes the enemy in Holy flames that cause 45 to 55 Holy damage and an additional 14 Holy damage over 7 sec.
  • At level 12 we get Inner Fire which has changed in 4.x. It now provides a 60% armor bonus as well as a bonus to Spellpower. You always want to be sure this buff is active. Power Word: Fortitude is another buff that you want up at all times, which will increase your party’s Stamina for 1 hour.

    Psychic Scream is your version of crowd control and/or emergency button. It causes up to 5 targets around you to run away for 8 seconds or until damaged. I like to use it while questing by casting SW:Pain on several targets to draw them to me and then using Scream to send them running away where I’ll pick them all off with either spells or my wand (assuming SW:P isn’t enough to kill them by itself).

    I list Holy Fire here only because it’s a good spell to use in this leveling range when you’re pulling a boss or an elite mob with a lot of health. It does good damage and has a longer cast time than all of your Shadow nukes, and it also has a DoT effect for extra damage. You won’t use it anymore once you get Shadowform at 29, but until then it’s a decent damaging spell.

    Level 21-29

    • Fade (24): Fade out, temporarily reducing all your threat for 10 sec.
    • Dispel Magic (26): Dispels magic on the target, removing 2 harmful spell from a friend or 2 beneficial spell from an enemy.
    • Devouring Plague (28): Afflicts the target with a disease that causes 88 Shadow damage over 24 sec. 15% of damage caused by the Devouring Plague heals the caster. This spell can only affect one target at a time.

    At level 24 you get Fade, to reduce your threat generated. If you’re solo questing then it doesn’t do much of anything for you. It has some small amount of value in PvP against player pets if used properly, but it really shines in dungeons so that you don’t draw agro. Dispel Magic is how you’ll get rid of debuffs that hit you, or how you remove buffs from enemy targets. You’ll probably use that one more for PvP in this level range, but it’s good to know you have it.

    Last up we have our other Shadow DoT for this level range, Devouring Plague. The great thing about this one is that it also heals you for 15% of the damage that it deals. While that might not be a huge amount of healing by itself, when you combine that with the 15% damage reduction from being in Shadowform and the ability to bubble and/or heal yourself you can really start to see just how powerful a Shadow Priest can really be.

    Leveling a Shadow Priest

  • Questing Rotation 1: Shadow Word: Pain, (Devouring Plague), Mind Blast, Mind Flay
  • Questing Rotation 2: Holy Fire/Smite, Mind Blast, Mind Flay
  • Heirlooms Rotations: Shadow Word: Pain, afk bio
  • LFG Trash Rotation: Shadow Word: Pain (all targets), Mind Blast/Mind Flay (as needed)
  • LFG Boss Rotations: Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague, Mind Blast, Mind Flay
  • I’ve got a few different rotations here so that you can find one that fits your play style. The rotation I don’t mention is the one you use prior to level 10, which is simply spamming Smite until everything is dead. Once you get to level 10 these options start to open up for you.

    Questing Rotation 1 is your typical rotation if you just started up a brand new priest on a brand new server, meaning that you’re in questing gear rather than heirlooms. Start off with a SW:Pain to get the damage ticking, follow it up with Mind Blast for a fast nuke, and then finish them off with Mind Flay. In some cases you can skip the Mind Flay because SW:Pain will deal enough damage to finish off what Mind Blast doesn’t cover, but Mind Flay gives you that extra damage at the end to seal the deal. I’ve included (Devouring Plague) in parenthesis because you don’t learn it until level 28, making it unusable for most of this guide, and because you can only have it cast on one target at a time. So if you’re fighting multiple targets then you will cast it on the first target, but not again until the first target is dead or it has worn off.

    Questing Rotation 2 is for those of you who are used to firing off your spells until the target is dead. If you’re not too big on the whole damage over time (DoT) thing yet and want to be more in control of when things die, then this is the rotation you’ll use. Once you get Shadowform at level 29 this one goes away because you can’t cast holy spells in Shadowform, but if you’re trying to ease into it then this is how you do so. Start off with Holy Fire or Smite since they have longer cast times, follow it up with Mind Blast for more direct damage, and then finish the mob with Mind Fly. Like I said, this one goes away so don’t get too used to it.

    The Heirlooms Rotation is for those of you who have Heirlooms, especially those who have also enchanted said heirlooms. This patch brought some big buffs to low level damage just from spells and talents alone, but when you add in good gear with excellent enchants it becomes quite nearly insane. Once you’ve reached level 4 to get Shadow Word: Pain you can cast that spell alone and kill basically every mob up through level 13 or so with just a single SW:P cast and nothing else.

    Talent Spec: 29 Shadow Priest

    • Improved Shadow Word: Pain 2/2: Increases the damage of your Shadow Word: Pain spell by 6%.
    • Darkness 3/3: Spell haste increased by 3%.
    • Twisted Faith 2/2: Increases your shadow spell damage by 2%, and grants you spell hit rating equal to 100% of any Spirit gained from items or effects.
    • Improved Mind Blast 1/3: Reduces the cooldown of your Mind Blast spell by 0.5 sec., and while in Shadowform your Mind Blast also has a 33% chance to reduce all healing done to the target by 25% for 10 sec.
    • Improved Devouring Plague 2/2: Your Devouring Plague instantly deals damage equal to 30% of its total periodic effect.
    • Shadowform: [Instant cast] Assume a Shadowform, increasing your Shadow damage by 15%, reducing all damage done to you by 15%, and increasing all party and raid members spell haste by 5%. However, you may not cast Holy spells while in this form.

    Shadow Word: Pain is a big contributor to our damage, so our first priority is increasing that damage. Finishing off the first tier we’re going to grab some haste from Darkness to further increase our damage output and the speed.

    From there I suggest going Twisted Faith first to improve our hit chance. I used to not worry about Hit very much at all while leveling, but after leveling my Rogue I’ve seen the real value in hit while leveling, so I suggest you go ahead and pick this up now. Improved Mind Blast shortens the cooldowns for one of our nukes, and has a PvP’ish benefit to reduce healing as well. If you don’t like Twisted Fate, feel free to move it’s points over to this for now and then fill TF in at later levels where the hit will be more important. You’ll want 3/3 here eventually anyway so that choice is yours.

    Improved Devouring Plague won’t help you much when you first start putting points into it, because you won’t actually get the spell until level 28 though I’m suggesting you take the points in this talent at 25 and 27. Even though those points get “wasted” for a few levels it will pay off once you get the spell. And at level 29 we get the signature Shadow Priest ability, Shadowform with a 15% damage increase and 5% haste.


    For Prime glyphs I suggest either of the above. My preference is SW: Pain because when you’re fully equipped with enchanted heirloom gear SW:P kills just about every mob you’ll face while questing by itself. If you’re not using heirlooms, then I suggest you take Mind Flay instead. You’ll want both of them eventually, so you really can’t go wrong with either one.

    • Glyph of Psychic Scream: Targets of your Psychic Scream spell now tremble in place instead of fleeing in fear, but the cooldown of Psychic Scream is increased by 3 sec.
    • Glyph of Fade: Reduces the cooldown of your Fade spell by 9 sec.

    I have two options for your Major glyphs as well. I’m going to rank Psychic Scream above Fade here strictly because Fade has no use (at this level) while soloing. If you’re a solo quester, go for the Scream. If you’re going to do a lot of dungeon runs or if you like to PvP a lot, then I suggest you go with Fade first instead. Again, you’ll end up using both of them eventually, so you can’t really go wrong here.

    Two options for Minor glyphs too. Since you’ll use PW:Fortitude both soloing and in groups, it’s the clear winner for me. Fading will only be used when you’re in a group. Just from the frequency of casting them I’d go Fortitude over Fading, but either one will work. Minor glyphs are just that, minor, so don’t worry about screwing this one up as neither one really provides any significant benefit.


    Posted by on October 20, 2010 in Caster, Class, Guide, Leveling, Play Styles, Priest


    Tags: ,

    35 responses to “Priest Leveling 4.0.1: Shadow 1-29

    1. Jasyla

      October 20, 2010 at 10:03 AM

      What a timely post, I just started a new priest last night. This will be helpful, thanks!

      • Psynister

        October 20, 2010 at 10:29 AM

        Priest leveling, for me at least, used to really suck. I managed to get one to 37 before deleting it, but that was as far as I could go.

        With the change to talent trees though, Priest leveling is actually a lot of fun now.

        So go forth! And slay many things!

    2. Anafielle

      October 20, 2010 at 10:15 AM

      I’m leveling an ickle priest too, but I must admit, I went Disc and I’m totally loving it. :D She’s 25 right now.

      Good thing you didn’t post this a week ago or I’d’ve gone Shadow; this looks fun too!

      Leveling a priest used to be absurdly painful. Now it’s quite fun. I’m definitely enjoying the 4.0 changes.

      • Psynister

        October 20, 2010 at 10:25 AM

        I really want to give Disc another shot now that Penance is level 10. I might dual spec at 40, or I might just roll a second Priest, I haven’t decided yet.

    3. Spleenie

      October 20, 2010 at 12:54 PM

      Digging the illustrations!!

      Great post!

    4. anexxia

      October 21, 2010 at 12:35 AM

      For the Dark Lady!

      The world needs more baby shadow priests. This should encourage and enable them immensely.

      • Psynister

        October 21, 2010 at 9:39 AM

        I agree, the world definitely needs more baby shadow priests!

        I don’t need any of them running into my dungeons and stealing my loot, but we could definitely use some more. ;)

        • Steven Johnson

          January 17, 2012 at 3:28 PM

          I am a new abby shadow priest!

          • Steven Johnson

            January 17, 2012 at 3:34 PM


    5. Saga

      October 21, 2010 at 8:35 AM

      I absolutely adore your illustrations :)

      I haven’t leveled a priest in the lower levels since I leveled the one I currently have, and I guess I won’t either. But remembering how horrible it was I’m glad to read that it’s not as bad anymore.

    6. Dave

      October 27, 2010 at 2:00 AM

      Thank you for a great article. After reading it I was inspired to have another go with a Priest – an attempt earlier this year sucked massively and, like you, ended with my deleting the toon. So glad I did – my new Shadow Priest is one of the most fun to play toons ever!

      • Psynister

        October 27, 2010 at 8:11 AM

        I’m glad to see I’m not the only one here, Dave.

        It really has been a lot of fun. I’m working on leveling a priest now in live since the one I was leveling was in beta, so I have to regain all those levels I was racking up on a toon that doesn’t really exist. The next part might be a little late coming out because of that, but shadow priesting just keeps on getting better.

    7. Bruce Baugh

      October 28, 2010 at 9:56 AM

      Thank you for this! I have a couple discipline priests I’m leveling up and wanted to try shadow second specs, but wasn’t sure where to start. This was hugely helpful.

      • Psynister

        October 28, 2010 at 10:21 AM

        Always a pleasure to be of service. I only like to blog about leveling after I’ve experienced it myself, and I’m just now working on my SPriest in live, so the next post on SP will take a few weeks as I get mine leveled up there, but this should give you a good start and I can give you links to other SP blogs if you need info for higher levels.

    8. Okii

      November 3, 2010 at 7:27 PM

      about to start level a fresh priest tonight after work after reading this post! seems like fun, thank you for the useful yet intriguing writings :D

      • Psynister

        November 4, 2010 at 8:21 AM

        My pleasure, Okii.

        Playing through the Beta, I knew that the SPriest was going to be one of my favorites for leveling once they changes went live and they haven’t let me down.

    9. Valnar

      November 8, 2010 at 5:29 AM

      Don’t you find you have mana problems while leveling?

      • Psynister

        November 8, 2010 at 8:24 AM

        I did run into some mana issues from time to time, especially when doing a lot of SW:P spam on several targets at a time. While a Warlock can spread his DoT’s for 9 mana/cast, a Priest of the same level does so for 39 mana/cast.

        So while facing several mobs at once, I definitely had mana issues, but when facing them solo I rarely dropped below 90%.

    10. Darkjoshua

      November 12, 2010 at 6:26 AM


      Liked your post about priest very much m8 :)

      Currently i am leveling a Shadow Priest (lvl 31) and have Heirloom Shoulder, Chest, Staff and one trinket.

      What should i use as a rotation while questing m8?

      I am having some mana issues after 4-5 mobs…

      Currently using: Bubble+SW:P+DPlague+Mind Flay

      What should i change?

      Thanks :)

      • Psynister

        November 12, 2010 at 8:31 AM

        The thing to drop in your rotation is probably going to be Mind Flay. With full heirlooms (and you did get them enchanted, right?) you’ll likely kill all of the mobs with your DoT’s alone; Mind Flay is probably overkill.

        Mobs still need something happening to them to prevent a despawn, so I like to pull them all together once I have the DoT’s rolling and then use Psychic Scream to make them all run. Once they take off you can either continue waiting for them to die, pick them off one at a time with your wand, or Mind Blast/Flay casts if you need them.

        If you’re just still not getting the kills like you want, then you may consider dropping the full-on DoT pulls and switching to more direct damage and single target kills. For that I use Mind Blast, Mind Flay, Mind Flay which kills just about everything for me. When you start running into mana issues, it’s time to look at how you can conserve. The best way to do that is to just look at your mana costs and find cheaper options:
        Mind Flay: 9% base mana
        Mind Blast: 17% base mana
        SW:Pain: 22% base mana
        Devouring Plague: 25% base mana
        SW:Death: 12% base mana (level 32)

        So your big mana sink right now is DP which you really don’t need. It’s dealing damage for you which is good, but it’s healing you for damage you probably aren’t taking in the first place or that can be more easily healed by just using your healing spells after the fight is over. Right now you’re using 25+22+9=56% of your base mana to kill each mob, so try switching it up to MB>MF>MF and see if you can kill things with only 17+9+9 = 35%.

        Once you start using SW:Death then DP will become more important for your health since SW:D bites you when it doesn’t kill the target.

        And remember, if all else fails – bubble and wand.

      • Psynister

        November 12, 2010 at 8:34 AM

        Also remember that your crits deal twice as much damage because you spec into shadow, so your DoT’s and your Mind Flay all have multiple chances to crit, making Mind Flay your potentially highest damaging spell while also being the cheapest to cast.

        • darkjoshua

          November 12, 2010 at 8:56 AM

          Thanks m8…

          I will try that tonight…probably gonna stick to MB+MF+MF…

          Only using dots when i pull a group of mobs.


      • Kris

        May 10, 2011 at 2:03 PM

        Getting the Glyph of Spirit Tap — Will let you regain 12% of your mana over a 12 second period if you are successful at killing your target with Shadow Word: Death. This made leveling quite simplistic for myself, never running out of mana because of it.

        • Psynister

          May 10, 2011 at 2:15 PM

          I used that glyph from the time it became available (level 34, which is why it’s in the nest level bracket’s guide), until a few weeks after I hit 85. It’s a fantastic glyph for anyone dealing with mana issues.

    11. Jasyla

      November 12, 2010 at 8:59 AM

      Have you noticed anything strange about SW:D?

      Mine always hits for about half of what it’s supposed to according to the tooltip. It has also never hurt me when it’s failed to kill the mob.

      • Psynister

        November 12, 2010 at 9:39 AM

        I haven’t noticed, but I also haven’t exactly been paying attention. I’ll take a look this weekend and see what I find out.

    12. shadowpriest vs mana

      December 25, 2010 at 2:38 PM

      i’ve got a question:
      iam level 29, playing shadowpriest and i still got one probleme:
      my mana!
      when i play before along time affliction warlock it was still so simple: 3 dots (with siphon live [yes before a long time]). dot everything i see full and all dies behind me. when i run out of mana i still casting life tap and walk.
      but now… i dot 3 (only 3) npc and i am still OOM.
      when i play wl… it was so OP i run->dot->kill everything
      but here… i still have to say: i need 90% of my money to buy drinks…
      please help me. was everything wrong i do?

      • Psynister

        December 25, 2010 at 7:21 PM

        Shadow Priests have a lot of mana issues right now and they’ll keep recurring throughout the leveling process as well. Just when you think you’re set you’ll gain another level or two and find yourself OOM once again.

        Once you get to level 34 you can alleviate a lot of it by using the Glyph of Spirit Tap, but it doesn’t last forever. The only thing you can really do is not play your SP like an SP should really be played. Instead of using your DoTs you’ll need to focus fire things down. Take a look at your spells and focus on damage and mana cost. Use your cheapest spells, typically Mind Flay, and burn the mobs down one at a time with those instead of using DoTs. And once you do have that glyph, be sure to actually kill everything with Shadow Word: Death so that the glyph triggers your mana regen.

    13. shadowpriest vs mana

      December 26, 2010 at 8:27 AM

      it works fine…
      i only cast mindblast and mindfly and it still works… not so fast, but i works
      thank you and merry christmas xD

      • Psynister

        December 26, 2010 at 1:49 PM

        It does work, it’s just not how you’ll play later.

    14. moi

      May 29, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      impossible rotations, since you are oom all the time as shadow priest.

      • Psynister

        June 1, 2011 at 8:33 PM

        None of those rotations are impossible.

        The only one that comes close is the LFG Trash for spamming SW:Pain across all the targets. With a mana cost of 22% of your base mana you can cast it just shy of 5 times if you have absolutely no Intellect gear on at all. In dungeons, almost every pull that includes more than 5 mobs will be made up mostly of non-elite mobs which don’t have enough health for you to bother using SW:P on them anyway.

        Shadow Priests, even priests in general, have mana issues until their mid-30’s to mid-40’s, it’s a simple fact in today’s game. If you’re having mana issues I have other posts directed specifically at Shadow Priests that talk about dealing with those mana issues and how to overcome them.


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