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 guides applicable to your level:
Priest Leveling: 1-29 Shadow
Priest Leveling: 30-49 Shadow
Priest Leveling: 50-69 Shadow
Playing a Shadow Priest
You’re going to find a couple of changes to how you play a Shadow Priest in this level range. The first thing is that you actually get an AoE spell at level 74. It’s not great, but it is useful if you’re in an AoE situation and you’ve already got your DoT’s spread around. The second change is that once you hit 81 you get a new spell that completely changes how you quest, called Mind Spike. I’ll get into the specifics of it down below, but for now just know that you have two methods of leveling through Cataclysm content at that point – DoT’s or Nukes.
We still run out of mana easily, but we also still have a lot of tools for getting that mana back. As we spend talent points in the Discipline tree we get even more ways to manage our mana successfully while also increasing our performance. Again, more on that down below.
Playing a Shadow Priest even at level 85 shares a lot of similarities to other classes. We’re part Warlock, part Mage, part (healer of choice), and 100% face melt. We have multiple play styles within a single spec, have excellent survivability spells, we heal while we kill, and we’re just plain fun to play.
The tips for playing Shadow in particular remain mostly the same. Finish off every mob that you can with Shadow Word: Death casts to trigger the mana regeneration from your talent points and glyphs, as that is the most common form of replenishing our mana. Speaking of replenishment, make sure you follow a rotation that allows you to take advantage of other forms of mana return, such as the Replenishment effect you get from casting Mind Blast on a target that already has your Vampiric Touch debuff active.
If you step away from your DoT rotation after level 81 and switch over to Mind Spike and Mind Blast, remember that you can still take advantage of your mana regenerating abilities, including Replenishment from Vampiric Touch and Mind Blast. Also remember that if you’re using the direct damage route rather than DoT’s, you’ll often encounter mobs while questing that die from the direct damage crits before you can trigger SW:Death returns so you might consider dropping back to a DoT rotation for a single mob now and then just to trigger those returns.
No matter which rotation you tend to use the most when you’re soloing or fighting dungeon trash, remember to stay flexible for the situation you’re in.
Shadow Priests have mana issues no matter what level you are. The higher you get in level though, the more tools you get to manage your mana and restore it so that it’s less and less of an issue for you, but it’s not so much that the mana issues go away as it is you learning how to deal with them and get around them so that they no longer hinder your performance.
The following are your tools for managing your mana.
Vampiric Touch: Causes up to 10 party/raid members to regain 10% of their mana over 10 seconds if you cast Mind Blast on a target that’s inflicted with Vampiric Touch. Vampiric Touch itself has no cooldown, but the trigger for the replenishment effect (Mind Blast) has a default cooldown of 8 seconds which can be reduced to 6 seconds by spending 3 talent points in the Improved Mind Blast talent.
Shadow Word: Death: By itself does nothing for mana returns, however 2 talent points in the Masochism talent causes you to regain 10% of your mana instantly if you cast SW:Death and do not kill the target. The Glyph of Spirit Tap causes you to regain 12% of your mana over 12 seconds when you do kill a target with SW:Death. Default cooldown is 10 seconds, but the Glyph of Shadow Word: Death causes the cooldown to instantly refresh if you cast it on a target below 25% health if it doesn’t kill them which allows you to double-dip either Masochism for 20% mana instantly if they don’t die from both casts, or Masochism + Glyph of Spirit Tap for 10% mana instantly plus 12% mana over 12 seconds.
Dispersion: The keystone of the Shadow Talent tree, this ability restores 6% of your mana every second for 6 seconds, a total of 36% mana returned. Default cooldown is 2 minutes, but can be reduced to 75 seconds by use of the Glyph of Dispersion.
Shadowfiend: A summoned pet which restores 3% of your mana every time it attacks. Over it’s 15 second duration it averages around 10 attacks if it’s not killed or CC’ed in some manner, resulting in up to 30% mana return. Default cooldown is 5 minutes which can be reduced to 4 minutes with 2 talent points in Veiled Shadows, and 2 talent points in Sin and Punishment reduces the current cooldown by 10 seconds every time your Mind Flay crits.
Archangel: From the Discipline tree restores up to 25% of your mana instantly when you use it. In order to use Archangel you have to build stacks of Evangelism which you do by casting Mind Flay, resulting in 1 stack each time Mind Flay deals damage up to a maximum of 5 stacks, and each stack results in 5% mana returned by Archangel. Cooldown is 90 seconds.
Hymn of Hope: A channeled spell that restores 2% mana to up to 3 targets low on mana, ever 2 seconds for 8 seconds. It also increases the targets’ mana pools by 15% for 8 seconds (this effect is refreshed each time it ticks, so it lasts even after the channel). Cooldown is 6 minutes.
All of these effects allow you to replenish your mana at varying rates and amounts. Combined with one another they provide a vast amount of mana regen, enough even to go from 0 to full in a matter of seconds. One of the most effective ways to get your mana back if you need a large amount is to cast summon your Shadowfiend, channel Hymn of Hope, and then drop into Dispersion. Hymn of Hope’s 15% buff to your maximum mana means that the percentages of mana restored by Shadowfiend and Dispersion restore more per hit/tick than they would otherwise.
If you need some mana and you need it quick, toss a SW:Death cast on anything you can find that it won’t kill to regain 10% from the Masochism talent, follow that with two casts of Mind Flay to get 5 stacks of Evangelism and then pop Archangel for 25% mana instantly. That amount of mana should be enough to get you back on your feet and into a rotation that will restore even more mana if needed.
Important Spells & Abilities
- Mass Dispel (72): Dispels magic in a 15 yard radius, removing 1 harmful spells from each friendly target and 1 beneficial spells from each enemy target. Affects a maximum of 10 friendly targets and 10 enemy targets. This dispel is potent enough to remove Magic effects that are normally undispellable.
- Mind Sear (74): Causes an explosion of shadow magic around the target, causing 104 to 112 Shadow damage every 1 sec for 5 sec to all enemies within 10 yards around the target.
- Mastery: Shadow Orb Power (80): Increases the damage done by your Shadow Orbs by 11.6%. Each point of Mastery increases damage by an additional 1.4%.
- Mind Spike (81): Blasts the target for 1083 to 1143 Shadowfrost damage, but extinguishes your shadow damage-over-time effects from the target in the process. Mind Spike also increases the critical strike chance of your next Mind Blast on the target by 30%. Stacks up to 3 times.
- Inner Will (83): A burst of Holy energy fills the caster, reducing the mana cost of instant cast spells by 15% and increasing your movement speed by 10%. Lasts 30 min.
- Leap of Faith (85): You pull the spirit of the friendly party or raid target to you, instantly moving them directly in front of you.
Mass Dispel is a great spell to have, but one you probably won’t be casting very often unless the task is assigned to you in a raid or instance that has large scale AoE debuffs. I use it it PvP quite a bit, but basically never in PvE up to this point.
Mind Sear is our only Shadow AoE. It’s damage isn’t all that great, but it’s still a good option when you’ve got several mobs you want to damage at once when you’re in a group. The cool thing about it is that you can cast this on a friendly target because it doesn’t do anything to the actual target, instead it deals damage to everything around the target while you channel it. The bad thing is, it doesn’t deal damage to the target, so if you did cast it on a mob that mob doesn’t take damage from Mind Sear.
At level 80 we unlock our Mastery: Shadow Orb Power which gives us additional damage on our Shadow Orbs based on our Mastery stat. Our Mastery is pretty good, but I’ll leave it up to the experts to tell you how good and why.
Mind Spike is the spell that changes how we play, if we decide to use it. It’s a direct damage “nuke” spell that removes all of our DoT’s from the target with no benefit of doing so (unless you need to clear DoT’s off of a raid boss or something). It also puts a stacking debuff on the target that grants +30% Crit Chance to our next Mind Blast spell on the target, to a max of +90%. You now have the option of burning targets down with direct damage rather than waiting on your DoT’s to tick. I find the smoothest flow of questing is to use a combination of these two of different mobs I face at the same time, typically finishing my DoT target with SW:Death casts as the direct damage route often kills the mobs outright so that I can’t use SW:Death for mana regen.
Level 83 adds a new buff called Inner Will which gives a 10% movement buff it cuts the mana cost of your instant cast spells by 15%. Sadly you can’t have Inner Will and Inner Focus active at the same time, so I tend to use Inner Focus for the extra spellpower. It’s a good buff though, and one that I do take advantage of in certain PvP fights.
And our reward for reaching level 85 is Leap of Faith, more commonly known as “Life Grip”. It works just like the Death Knight spell Death Grip (hence the nickname), except that you cast it on your allies rather than your enemies. Its uses are endless, though most of them are mischievous. Just to point it out for the sake of completion, Leap of Faith is a Holy spell and it will take you out of Shadowform if you cast it.
Leveling a Shadow Priest
Same old DoT rotation we’ve been using. In Wrath content you probably don’t need the Devouring Plague cast in there, but it will help you while you’re leveling through Cataclysm. Sometimes I use it while questing, sometimes I don’t so just figure out which method you prefer and go with it.
After level 81 I rarely bother with the DoT rotation while I’m soloing because it’s just faster to kill things with the direct damage.
This is the rotation I end up using the most right now. I sneak a Vampiric Touch cast in before my Mind Blast so that I trigger Replenishment just in case the direct damage spells are enough to kill the target before I can SW:Death.
If you’re running low on mana and you’ve already spent talent points in Evangelism and Archangel, then I suggest you go ahead and skip SW:Death on the end and instead cast a second Mind Flay to build up your 5 stack of Evangelism. Once you have that 5th stack go ahead and cast SW:Death if the target isn’t already dead, but don’t worry about it if they die during the Mind Flays. Once you have the 5 stack go ahead and pop Archangel for 25% of your mana instantly returned. You also get a 20% damage buff to your direct damage Shadow spells while it’s active so just keep right on killing things while you’ve got your wings.
This one changed once again thanks to our new spells that became available. Get Replenishment going first with VT>MB and then start the SW:Pain spam rolling on all of the targets (assuming they won’t die in .2 seconds anyway). Follow that with Mind Sear on your tank for AoE waves of death and snipe every kill you can with SW:Death when it’s off cooldown.
If the trash isn’t going to last long enough for SW:Pain to be cast on them I suggest you use the Nuke Rotation above and just apply it to the tank’s target.
Again, we’re going to get Replishment rolling first off, then we’re going to establish DoT’s. Reapply your DoT’s as needed, but remember your Mind Flay will refresh SW:Pain once you’ve spent your talent points to get the effect. Vampiric Touch (VT) will wear off before Devouring Plague (DP) will, and you’ll have enough time to cast 2-3 spells after refreshing VT before you need to refresh DP.
Keep your DoT’s up at all times. If you need mana, get it. Shadowfiend, SW:Death, Replenishment (Vampiric Touch + Mind Blast), Dispersion, Archangel, and Hymn of Hope are all sitting there just waiting to be used, so don’t let yourself run dry for no reason. If you’re especially low on mana then cast your Shadowfiend first and follow it with an immediate Hymn of Hope. Both of them restore your mana by themselves, but Hymn has the added bonus of increasing the size of your mana pool and the amount of mana returned by the Shadowfiend is based on your maximum mana, so all of its attacks will restore more thanks to Hymn. If you’re still worried about mana when Hymn is done channeling, pop your Dispersion for another 36% mana.
Talent Spec: 85 Shadow Priest
- Twin Disciplines 3/3: Increases your Shadow and Holy spell damage and healing by 6%.
- Mental Agility 2/3: Reduces the mana cost of your instant cast spells by 7%.
- Evangelism 2/2: You have a 100% chance when you Smite and 100% chance when you Mind Flay to gain Evangelism. Stacks up to 5 times. Lasts for 20 seconds. [Dark Evangelism] Increases the damage done by your Periodic Shadow spells by 2%.
- Archangel 1/1: Consumes your Evangelism effects, causing an effect depending what type of Evangelism effect is consumed. [Dark Archangel] Instantly restores 5% of your total mana and increases the damage done by your Mind Flay, Mind Spike, Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death by 4% for each stack. Lasts for 18 seconds. 90 second cooldown.
- Harnessed Shadows 2/2: Increases the chance for you to gain a Shadow Orb when dealing damage with your Mind Flay and Shadow Word: Pain by 8%, and you have a 100% chance to gain a Shadow Orb when critically hit by any attack.
I decided to go straight into the Discipline tree once my mandatory 31 points had been placed in Shadow. I do go back and put a couple more points into Shadow at the end, but you get more benefit from reaching Evangelism/Archangel as early as possible.
Twin Disciplines is a straight 6% bonus to our Shadow damage as well as our healing. We don’t do a whole lot of direct healing, but we do indirectly heal through abilities such as Devouring Plague which benefit here as well. Mental Agility will help with some of your mana issues, especially while you’re still killing everything with DoT’s.
Evangelism by itself is is a nice bonus to your DoT damage, with 5 stacks granting them 10% more damage. When you combine it with Archangel though, it becomes both a damage increase and a mana returning tool. With all five stacks of Evangelism up casting Archangel will instantly restore 25% of your total mana and increase the damage of your direct damage spells by 20% for its duration. It also has the spiffy animation of giving you wings which just plain look cool.
The last two points go back into the Shadow tree with Harnessed Shadows. Now that you can actually find and use the Mastery stat you might as well take advantage of getting extra use out of it, right? This talent helps you build up Shadow Orbs faster which increase your DPS when you cast Mind Blast or Mind Spike which consumes the orbs.
Level 75 opens the three remaining glyph slots, allowing for 3 of each type to be used.
- 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%.
- Glyph of Shadow Word: Death: If your Shadow Word: Death fails to kill the target at or below 25% health, your Shadow Word: Death’s cooldown is instantly reset. This effect cannot occur more often than once every 6 sec.
- Glyph of Dispersion: Reduces the cooldown on Dispersion by 45 sec.
Primes for PvE
I list the Prime Glyphs in the order that I suggest them. Mind Flay and Shadow Word: Pain are both great for your DPS, and the two I recommend most. Shadow Word: Death is another good option as it not only gives you a better chance of getting your Spirit Tap glyph and/or Masochism talent to proc, it also gives you a way to deal some quick burst damage to mobs or bosses that are low on health. Dispersion is a decent glyph if you’re looking for more survival or more mana regen. It drops the cooldown from 2 minutes to 1 minute and 15 seconds so you can use it a lot more often, but I’m not sure that you really need to cast it that often if you’re using the methods I’ve been discussing throughout these guides to help manage your mana.
Primes for PvP
Dispersion is a fantastic glyph for PvP as it reduces damage, clears movement impairments, and restores your mana all at the same time. Shadow Word: Death is the next one on the list because being able to double your SW:Death casts on a target near death is very important in the world of Resilience stacking. Last up is Shadow Word: Pain as it’s the most likely DoT for you to cast on multiple people at once and it’s damage is already good so you’re only making it that much better.
- 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.
- Glyph of Psychic Horror: Reduces the cooldown of your Psychic Horror by
Majors for PvE
Spirit Tap remains the top priority here, though with more mana tools coming out in this bracket you could probably drop it if you really wanted to without worrying too much…maybe. Fade is a really good option for me since I like to hit LFG now and then to help me level and it’s also good for PvP against pet classes as Fade will often make a pet leave you and target something else if you’ve not done anything to harm the pet. Psychic Scream is a good option if you’re going to do a lot of LFG leveling by making the mobs tremble in place instead of running off in random directions. Last up is Psychic Horror which cuts its cooldown
in half by 30 seconds, though you’ll have to spend the talent point to get the spell in the first place before this glyph does you any good.
Majors for PvP
Fade is one of the more important glyphs in this bracket as reducing the cooldown of Fade means you’re able to break out of slows and snares more frequently thanks to the talent that adds that effect to Fade. Psychic Horror is next up on the list because it’s basically the key to you killing a healer as you’ll need to CC the snot out of them and then nail them with something like this to initiate the burn phase to bring them down. Psychic Scream is next up on my list because it allows you to still use the CC but also maintain control over the effect rather than having everyone run in random directions. Spirit Tap is still a really good glyph to use in PvP, but whether or not you use it I’ll leave up to you since you get more direct benefit from these others.
- 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%.
- Glyph of Shadowfiend: Receive 5% of your maximum mana if your Shadowfiend dies from damage.
Minors for PvE
Minor glyphs are still really minor so take whatever you want. Levitate is my first option just because I like using spells like Levitate and don’t like having to keep a supply of some stupid reagent in my bags in order to use it. Fortitude is great if you’re into LFG and just decent otherwise. Fading isn’t a bad option, though it’s not especially good either. Shadowfiend has some real good potential, but I don’t think my Shadowfiend has died from damage even once so it wouldn’t do me much good right now.
Minors for PvP
I suggest you use Shadowfiend over Fading for PvP if you’re going to bother making any change here at all. Sometimes my Shadowfiend is CC’d, sometimes he’s left alone, and sometimes he’s killed. Levitate and Fortitude are still the best options overall.
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
Once you hit level 78 you might want to take a look at the Auction House for any green quality items from Cataclysm that are significant upgrades to your existing Wrath gear. You’ll likely replace it soon anyway, so don’t spend a fortune on it, just pick up any cheap pieces that are significant upgrades.
Once you reach level 80 you can start to equip pieces of the Deathsilk Set made by tailors which is an excellent starting set for a Shadow Priest entering Cataclysm zones. There are eight pieces in the whole set, four of which can be used at level 80 and the other four at level 81. The full set provides almost 20,000 health and mana, over 1,300 Spellpower, 334 Haste, and a great amount of Hit, Crit, and Mastery as well. In total this set requires the following mats to craft from scratch:
When you reach level 85 I suggest you pick up yet another tailor-made set of gear, though technically it’s not a “set” since there’s no bonus for wearing additional pieces. As with the Deathsilk set above, there are a total of eight pieces in this “set”, but all eight require level 85. Technically this gear is PvP gear since it has resilience on it, but due to the fact that Blizzard decided to make all of the level 85 crafted cloth gear PvP gear you’re just kind of out of luck. Luckily, the set has excellent stats anyway so it’s still a great place to start. With this set you’ll receive almost 28,000 health and mana, 1,800 Spellpower, 378 Haste, and even more Crit and Mastery, though the bonus to hit that Deathsilk offers is replaced by the Resilience stat for this set. In total this set requires the following mats to craft from scratch: