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The Beta Shadow Priest: First Impressions April 21, 2012

Posted by Stormy in Beta, Classes.

When I started The Asylum Wall I honestly didn’t have a “plan.” I knew I wanted to rant and rave about the good and the bad in Azeroth, but I didn’t have much to bring to the table in terms of class information, guides, raid strategies or the like. I was never going to be The Authority on Holy Paladins like Kurn or the Oracle of Resto Druiding like Jasyla. I didn’t even really have a “main,” and in fact eschewed the whole concept of having one character that monopolized most of the time I spent in WoW. Over the past year or so, though, I’ve fallen madly, deeply in love with a raven-haired badass chick named Tormenta, a Silvermoon native with a sharp wit and a flair for the dramatic. Affectionately known as Tori, my shadow priest is now my official pet, mount and achievement collector, my aspiring Loremaster who’s simultaneously working toward the Exalted title. I love all my toons, but Tori is the one I’m emotionally attached to, the toon I actually talk to out loud while I’m sitting at my computer (yes, I’m nuts!). In short, Tori is*gasp* my main.

I finally got my beta invite in this last wave (*shakes fist at Blizzard*), and although I’m looking forward to exploring Pandaria and getting my hands on a Mistweaver monk, my first and most immediate goal was to investigate the changes to shadow priesting and get Tori’s feet under her so she could hit the ground running when Mists is released. Tori will be the first of my toons to 90 and will most likely be my focus for the first several months as I work through rep grinding, gear purchases and the like. When I went to log into the beta I was forced to change Tormenta’s name to Ilahi (“divine” in Turkish), so she’s a shadow of her former self…(get it?).

I headed for a target dummy, and here’s what I found:

1. I have no idea what’s going on with hit rating in MoP. She’s apparently just short of hit-capped in Cataclysm terms, but way over the hitcap for MoP.

2. I’ve always loved the self-healing and raid-healing baked into shadow priests. I felt like I brought a set of tools to the table that was just as compelling as a mage’s crowd control abilities or a warlock’s dynamic portals/lock candy combo. In LFR/LFD wipes I’m often the last one standing because the health regen baked into Vampiric Embrace and Devouring Plague makes me damned difficult to kill. Removing Devouring Plague and replacing the DoT-monitoring component of Dev Plague by forcing us to refresh Shadow Word: Pain manually doesn’t make shadow priest play any more compelling than it was previously, but does take away the baked-in survivability advantage spriests had in Wrath and Cata. I could wantonly cast Shadow Word: Death on cooldown (I’m sorry, it’s really a habit at this point) and not worry about the teensy bit of damage it did, because it would easily be healed up by Dev Plague within a second or two.

3. The new Shadowy Apparition mechanic is clunky and really highlights the deficiencies in the stock WoW UI. The first thing I’m going to do when addons are enabled in the beta is find a better and easier way to track shadow orbs so my eyes aren’t constantly glued to the upper left corner of my screen. I hate the overly-complicated and bizarrely convoluted Power Auras, so I’m thinking TellMeWhen is going to be my new best friend in Mists.

Moreover, I’m concerned by the trend toward giving every class its own form of combo points. The basic mechanic of “use this ability to build a stack of charges that will affect the strength of another finisher ability” was originated in rogues, then copied in paladins with Holy Power, and now in Mists we’re seeing it in shadow priests’ shadow orbs and monks’ chi*. I don’t want to be That Guy who rants about class homogenization, but I love the idea that all of my toons have a distinct and interesting playstyle, and I get annoyed at the notion of having to monitor combo points in my priest, paladin and potential monk.

(*Side rant: it’s “chee”, as in “life force”. Not “chai,” “ki,” “kee,” or anything else. It’s “chee.” There is no debate about this.)

4. Unless I’m missing something, it seems like the Shadowy Apparitions have a mind of their own. The tooltip suggests that casting Shadowy Apparition once will consume all of your current shadow orbs to determine the strength of your Shadowy Apparition, but in practice it seems to either a) work as the tooltip suggests, or b) consume one shadow orb, requiring you to hit Shadowy Apparition more than once if you have more than one shadow orb. I’ve also seen it actually launch two or three shadowy Toris instead of just one super-charged shadowy Tori. Bug or feature?

5. As I’ve said before I’m not a theorycrafter. I’ll wait for someone smarter and more mathematically-inclined than I to do the math and figure out whether we’re taking Power Infusion (15 sec. lowered mana cost and increased casting speed every two minutes) or Twist of Fate (15% increased damage on targets below 20% health).

6. I’m beyond confused about what’s going on with mana in Mists. From a healing perspective I understand that everyone is given a flat 100,000 mana and we will depend on spirit to constantly refill that mana bar. (Which raises another issue entirely: previously the length of time a raid could spend beating on a boss was inexorably tied to the limits of healers’ mana bars. When your healers were OOM everyone died and the encounter was over. In Mists, if a healer stacks enough spirit they could theoretically keep healing indefinitely.) I have yet to find a cogent explanation of how this is going to work for caster DPS. I remember working on regular Magmaw in early Cata and being hampered by a tiny mana bar as I chain-casted Mind Sear, and by the end of Cata, between the mana return from Replenishment, Shadow Word: Death, and Dispersion I don’t think I could empty Tori’s mana bar if I tried.

Anyway, that’s my bleary-eyed two cents after spending a whole hour messing around with my main in the beta. It’s early and there’s lots of finagling and finessing to be done between now and Mists’s launch, but for now I hope this is some food for thought.



1. Rush - April 21, 2012

For the self-healing, Vampiric Touch has the does what VE used to do, but only for the spriest (unless this has since changed as I’ve been mostly monking in the beta.) And I think they added a mana-return to that too. But now you use SW:D “procs” if you take the talent for that, or below 20% as the damage it does to you is constant now and not tied to how much it does to the target (or so the tooltip implies, once again YMMV.)

I agree that the combo-like part of Shadow Orbs isn’t new, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the previous system which was just kind of there. A resource that’s entirely RNG-based is kind of lame, and I’m glad that at least now we can control it. Maybe they’ll come up with something more for us to do with it. The beta still has some time left.

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