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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 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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
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.
- Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain: Increases the periodic damage of your Shadow Word: Pain by 10%.
- Glyph of Mind Flay: Increases the damage done by your Mind Flay spell by 10% when your target is afflicted with Shadow Word: Pain.
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.
- Glyph of Fortitude: Reduces the mana cost of your Power Word: Fortitude spell by 50%.
- Glyph of Fading: Reduces the mana cost of your Fade spell by 30%.
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.