My Shadow Priest reached level 51 last night, so the time has come to implement the second part of the Shadow Priest leveling guide. If you’re just getting started on a Shadow Priest of your own, or considering one, then I suggest you take a look at the previous guide, Priest Leveling: 1-29 Shadow.
Playing a Shadow Priest
As I said in the 1-29 guide, while the Shadow Priest shares similarities to other classes such as the Affliction Warlock, playing a Shadow Priest is really only like playing a Shadow Priest. At least, that’s what it’s like if you keep it to game terms. If you broaden your mind a bit though, it’s actually a lot like playing a Sith Lord. “Hello, I am Darth Psynister, and I’m here to flay your mind! /cast !Mind Flay”
You want to talk about Jedi mind tricks? Then you better go roll yourself a Shadow Priest, because you’ve got some minds to start controlling. Granted, we can’t wield cool looking lightsabers, but who needs a 3 foot sword that can cut through anything when you’ve got a 40 yard Mind Flay that can cut through brains? We might not be able to jump fifty feet into the air with a triple front flip, but we can walk on air and hover over water with nothing but the sheer power of our minds (and levitate spell).
Shadow Priests do an excellent job of combining spells that deal damage, restore health, and hinder opponents into a very appealing package wrapped in shadowy goodness.
The first thing to know is that if you’ve been having mana problems then today is a day of rejoicing. Well, it is if you’re in this level range at least. During this span of 20 levels you get three tools that help you keep your mana topped off during and after every fight.
Up to this point playing a Shadow Priest is all about maximizing damage while minimizing mana costs. Now that we have the means to control our mana replenishment it’s time to fully embrace the shadow and start doing what we do best – melt faces.
The most important tip I can give you about playing a Shadow Priest is to learn how to ninja kills. If you’re playing solo then you don’t have to worry about the ninja’ing part so much, but if you’re in a group then you should get as much practice as you can at stealing the killing blow on every target possible. Shadow Word: Death is the key to keeping your mana high. In this level range you’ll have both a glyph and a talent that allow SW:Death to restore your mana on use.
The reason why mana is so important is because now you can also start to cast your DoT spells much more frequently. You’ll see an increase in your kill speed as well as how fast you can burn through kill quests by spreading DoT’s across several mobs at a time. By getting spells and abilities that also grant you and your party healing based on the damage you deal you’re also able to stay alive in situations that most other cloth-wearing casters would have a trip to the spirit healer.
Shadow Priests aren’t designed to burn things down with massive bursts of damage, instead they’re meant to overwhelm their targets with so much damage from so many different sources at once that they can’t even get to you before they’re dead. And when a Shadow Priest tells someone to die, they list.
Important Spells & Abilities
There aren’t all that many new spells that get introduced in this level range. The spells that do get introduced though, are a pretty big deal.
- Shackle Undead: Shackles the target undead enemy for up to 50 sec. The shackled unit is unable to move, attack or cast spells. Any damage caused will release the target. Only one target can be shackled at a time.
- Shadow Word: Death: A word of dark binding that inflicts Shadow damage to the target. Deals three times as much damage to targets below 25% health. If the target is not killed by Shadow Word: Death, the caster takes damage equal to the damage inflicted upon the target.
- Levitate: Allows the friendly party or raid target to levitate, floating a few feet above the ground. While levitating, the target will fall at a reduced speed and travel over water. Any damage will cancel the effect. Lasts 2 min.
- Mind Vision: Allows the caster to see through the target’s eyes for 1 min. Will not work if the target is in another instance or on another continent.
- Mind Control: Controls a humanoid mind up to level 41, but increases the time between its attacks by 25%. Lasts up to 30 sec.
While you won’t use Shackle Undead on a frequent basis at all, it’s important to be aware of what forms of Crowd Control you have available in your class. This spell effectively removes one undead target from the fight for 50 seconds, or until damaged. As Discipline spell you can cast it in Shadowform safely.
Shadow Word: Death is the most important spell for you to get familiar with in this bracket. A lot of people get a little freaked out by the part where it deals damage to you too if you don’t kill the target with it, but that’s why you’re going to practice using it on every mob you face. You’ll lessen the damage you take with talent points, though it’s not anything to worry about in the first place, really.
Levitate is one of those spells that’s just plain useful. In relation to combat about the only time I use it is when I’ve got some great terrain I can take advantage of where I can DoT the mobs and have them chase me up a cliff and then I can just off and Levitate down slowly while they continue to chase me and my DoT’s kill them off without me ever getting hit. Otherwise it’s useful in getting around pre-flying mount and for fishing if you like to fish on the water where mobs won’t (usually) attack you.
Normally I wouldn’t even bother mentioning Mind Vision, but its usefulness in PvP is worth mentioning. You can follow people just about everywhere with this spell so you can either use it on your own teammates to be an extra scout for them or you can cast it on the enemy flag carrier to know exactly where he’s hiding or the path he’s taking if he’s running away. It’s a sweet spell to have in PvP even if it’s usefulness in dungeons or solo questing is pretty limited. If you’re trying to find a special mob that you can’t see though, you do have the option of using a “/target MobName” to target them and then using this to see where they actually are.
Mind Control is the reason I got interested in Priests in the first place. Being able to take control of your target and make them do what you want is a lot of fun, especially in PvP. The only thing I like more than knocking people off of cliffs is making them jump off “voluntarily”. It’s especially fun when the target is in PvP and knows the effect and what’s about to happen, and then the spell breaks because of damage and they don’t take control back immediately because they expected to die, and then you grab them again just as they find hope and fling them off the cliff anyway. I love this spell.
Leveling a Shadow Priest
This is my rotation right now for killing single targets. Prior to level 49 when you actually learn Vampiric Touch, just substitute it with a Mind Blast instead. The point here is to start the damage on the target with the DoT’s/MindBlast, use the Mind Flay to help speed the drop the target to 25% Health or less and then finish them off with a SW:Death cast.
If the target isn’t at 25% by the time Mind Flay finishes you need to make a judgement call. Either you Mind Flay them again because they’re way over 25% health, or you just sit there and wait a few seconds for your DoT’s to get them there, and then you finish them with SW:Death.
If my target isn’t high enough for another Mind Flay I usually just go grab another target and start doing the same thing to it while I wait for the previous target to get within SW:Death range, then I’ll switch target to them, SW:Death, and then back to my current target. I suggest you use a Name Plates addon if you’re not using one already. My addon of choice for this is called TidyPlates/ThreatPlates because it also makes the nameplates show agro so I know when I need to back off to let my tank get agro back.
The way this one works doesn’t necessarily come out in listing the spells, so here’s the deal. Pick a target and cast Vampiric Touch followed by an immediate Devouring Plague. Remember, you can only have Devouring Plague on one target at a time, but having all three of your DoT’s on a non-boss is typically overkill. So the first target gets Vampiric Touch and Devouring Plague and then your additional targets get Vampiric Touch and SW:Pain.
Whenever you see one of the mobs getting close enough that SW:Death can finish them off, use it. Once your Devouring Plague target dies, use it in place of SW:Pain on the next mob you pull. Two DoT’s should be all you need to kill the mobs, or at least get them close enough that SW:Death can finish them off. If you find that you aren’t doing enough to kill them with that go ahead and add in Mind Blast first (because it will trigger Replenishment from Vampiric Touch to restore 10% of your mana) and Mind Flay when Mind Blast is on cooldown.
I also suggest you go ahead and bubble yourself after pulling the first or second target just to on the safe side. Kill off all the targets you can with SW:Death to trigger its mana regeneration as well, and don’t worry if it doesn’t kill them since Masochism will kick in at that point to reward you with 10% of your mana anyway. Just be sure to keep an eye on your health when pulling several mobs and using SW:Death because it does have the chance to be deadly if overused when you’re already taking heavy damage.
For LFG trash I like to go ahead and spread SW:Pain around to all of the mobs first because it’s an instant cast. After all of them have their DoT’s I’ll go ahead and Vampiric Touch one of them just to trigger Replenishment with my next Mind Blast, and then I’ll just switch between Mind Blast and Mind Flay to finish everything off.
The point is to get some damage rolling on all of the mobs from your DoT and then burn them down one at a time with your direct damage spells (Blast/Flay), using SW:Death to kill them off whenever possible.
Remember, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, if you get the chance to kill something with SW:Death – do it. Priests and Warriors are the only classes that I know of that have a special ability that triggers off of landing killing blows that’s actually significant. For Priests it’s mana regen via the Spirit Tap glyph and for Warriors it’s additional damage and healing via Victory Rush (I love that spell). Stealing killing blows from other Priests and Warriors is kind of mean, so at least consider whether or not you’re sure you want to steal a kill from one of them, but for all other classes just remember – you’re a Sith Lord, not some code-following Jedi.
This is the rotation I prefer to use with a boss fight. You start it off by applying all three of your DoT’s, then a Mind Blast to trigger the replenishment effect for your party. SW:Death comes next to deal some instant damage and also give you back 10% of your mana form the Masochism talent followed by Mind Flay casts until Mind Flay comes off of cooldown.
Refresh your DoT’s as needed and cast Mind Blast when it’s not on cooldown both for the damage and for the replenishment effect. SW:Death will help you keep your own mana topped off, but feel free to skip casting it if you feel like you’re dealing too much damage to yourself to justify casting it. Sniping a boss kill with SW:Death is a lot harder than normal mobs because so many different people will be hitting it at the same time that you’ll usually end up casting it too early or the boss is dead before you get the cast off.
Talent Spec: 49 Shadow Priest
- Improved Mind Blast (+2) 3/3: Reduces the cooldown of your Mind Blast spell by 2 sec., and while in Shadowform your Mind Blast also has a 100% chance to reduce all healing done to the target by 10% for 10 sec.
- Improved Psychic Scream 2/2: Reduces the cooldown of your Psychic Scream spell by 4 sec.
- Vampiric Embrace 1/1: Fills you with the embrace of Shadow energy, causing you to be healed for 6% and other party members to be healed for 3% of any single-target Shadow spell damage you deal for 30 min.
- Masochism 2/2: When you take a damaging attack equal to or greater than 10% of your total health or damage yourself with your Shadow Word: Death, you instantly gain 10% of your total mana.
- Silence 1/1: Silences the target, preventing them from casting spells for 5 sec. Non-player victim spellcasting is also interrupted for 3 sec.
- Mind Melt 1/2:
Increases the damage done with your Shadow Word: Death by 15% on targets at or below 25% health, and when you deal damage with Mind Spike, the cast time of your next Mind Blast is reduced by 25% lasting 6 sec. Mind Melt can stack up to 2 times.
- Vampiric Touch 1/1: Causes 540 Shadow damage over 15 sec to your target and causes up to 10 party or raid members to gain 1% of their maximum mana per 10 sec when you deal damage from Mind Blast.
The first thing on the list here is to finish off Improved Mind Blast so that we can get that cooldown reduced and use it more often. If you already spent points here then I suggest you put those two points into Twisted Faith instead so that you can turn your Spirit into Hit Rating.
Improved Psychic Scream by itself isn’t all that great unless you’re really using Scream a lot, but the reason we’re taking it is to open up access to Silence further down the tree. If you don’t want either of these two talents, which I know some of you will not, then I suggest putting 2 points into Harnessed Shadows to increase your Shadow Orb generation and move the point in Silence over to Mind Melt to max it.
Vampiric Embrace is an excellent buff that causes your direct damage spells to heal you and your party for a percentage of the damage that you do. You want to keep this buff active at all times.
Masochism is the moon to our mana pool’s sun, otherwise known as Shadow Word: Death. It causes you to restore 10% of your Total Mana any time a single attack hits you for at least 10% of your health or when you damage yourself with SW:Death. So if you cast SW:Death and it doesn’t kill them, then this talent restores 10% of your mana, but if it does kill them then the Glyph of Spirit Tap will restore 12% of your total mana. It’s a win-win situation.
Silence is an excellent tool. If you’re just solo questing then you can probably skip this one because casters aren’t going to be a huge threat to you. If you’re doing LFG or PvP though, then you want to be able to use this. The main reason I took it was to get the casters to close into melee range on the ignorant tanks I was running with who didn’t know to pull melee mobs onto the casters so they would stop trying to kill our healers.
Mind Melt has a couple of really cool effects, though we only benefit from one of them in this level bracket. Increasing the damage that SW:Death deals to targets below 25% health helps to ensure that you get your 12% mana returns from the Glyph of Spirit Tap when you kill targets with SW: Death. I only have one point in it for now, but the next talent point we get outside of this bracket I placed here to increase it further.
Vampiric Touch is the final touch we were waiting for to solidify the end of our mana issues. This spell is a DoT with a cast time, but we can put it on any number of targets. It also has the added benefit of causing a Replenishment effect on up to 10 raid/party members in your group when you cast Mind Blast. Replenishment causes the targets to restore 10% of their maximum mana over 10 seconds. Once you get this spell it becomes the one you’ll use to pull from here on.
- Glyph of Mind Flay: Increases the damage done by your Mind Flay spell by 10% when your target is afflicted with Shadow Word: Pain.
- Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain: Increases the periodic damage of your Shadow Word: Pain by 10%.
Even though mana issues melt away in this level range and you can more freely use your DoT’s, I still think that Mind Flay is the best choice here because of how often you’ll end up casting it, especially on boss fights. Using SW:Pain will increase your DPS on trash in LFG if you’re spreading your DoT’s around, but you’ll have to decide how important that is to you. I would freely support the use of either one, though.
- Glyph of Spirit Tap: When you kill a target with your Shadow Word: Death and yield experience or honor, you instantly receive 12% of your total mana over 12 sec.
- Glyph of Fade: Reduces the cooldown of your Fade spell by 9 sec.
- 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.
Without a doubt, your major glyph of choice is Spirit Tap. This glyph is what causes you to stop having mana issues. I’ve recently found that I’m pulling threat like crazy, so I’m pushing Fade up a bit in the priority list. Psychic Scream is a decent option, especially if you’re going to run LFG, but I generally cast this when soloing or in PvP where I would prefer the targets flee.
- Glyph of Levitate: Your Levitate spell no longer requires a reagent.
- 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%.
I don’t find Levitate to be nearly as useful as a Mage’s Slowfall spell, but it’s not a bad substitute so I like to be able to cast it without having to worry about a reagent. Fortitude is a great option if you like to chain LFG runs for quick and easy experience as it will cut down on your mana consumption. You shouldn’t have problems with mana, but there’s no reason to waste it, right? Fading isn’t bad, especially if you find yourself pushing your tank’s threat a lot. Where Fortitude reduces your mana spending outside of combat, Fading does so during combat so you might find it more useful.
Gearing Up Your Priest
At this level range you should have enough of your mana returning spells and effects that Spirit isn’t quite so important now as far as mana is concerned. Spirit is still a good stat to have, especially with points in Twisted Faith turning it into Hit Rating, but at this point I wouldn’t bother stacking it above other stats that are more important to your DPS.
Stat Priority: Intellect > Haste > Crit > Spirit
So I’ve changed up the priority list just a little bit, dropping Spirit down a couple of notches because it’s not as important anymore. Intellect is always the top priority for DPS casters as it provides mana, spellpower, and spell crit. I have Haste ranked next because it can increase your DPS in multiple ways, but it’s especially good for classes that make use of DoT’s. I bumbed Crit up in the list mostly because of the drop in Spirit’s importance, but also because watching all of your DoT’s crit and taking a target from 85% down to 14% is a wonderful sight to see, and makes excellent SW:Death fodder for refilling your mana pool.