Feeling Frosty? 04/12/2010
Blizzard recently announced the changes that they will be making to Shadow Priests in the Cataclysm expansion, and while I don't necessarily agree with all of the changes, I do see a benefit that many people may not recognize in some of the changes.  That being said, I am going to try to analyze some of the changes and how they will affect my shadowy brethren.

Mind Spike
Mind Spike is the new spammable Shadowfrost nuke spell for shadow priests.  The way it is going to work is that it places a debuff onto the target which improves subsequent Mind Spike damage, ultimately resulting in DPS about on par with a Shadow Word: Pain/Mind Flay combo.  Also, because this is not a Shadow spell, but rather Shadowfrost, it will not get locked when getting locked out of the Shadow school, giving priests an option other than Holy Fire and Smite.

Pros: Mind Spike will give shadow priests something to cast when locked out of the Shadow school of spells (
that won't take you out of Shadowform), and something to throw out during fights which require a higher amount of movement (where it may be detrimental to cast a Mind Blast).  It will also give Holy/Disc Priests (assuming it is a baseline spell) something to cast that might actually do some damage if necessary.

Cons: If the intent is that this will be used on trash, I think that Blizzard still doesn't have things quite right, unless they change significantly how trash is handled in the expansion (where you actually need to perform crowd control again).  I really only think that this will end up being useful in trash packs of 2-3 mobs; any more, and most priests will use Mind Sear; any less, and your normal spell priority will likely do more damage.

Other Thoughts: It perplexes me as to why the developers decided on a Shadow/Frost combination spell, because priests otherwise don't use frost spells at all.  A Shadow/Holy spell would have made more sense, but perhaps it was because of the whole dropping out of Shadowform when casting holy spells issue, or because the game doesn't allow for Holy Resistance that the developers decided against a Shadow/Holy combination.  In the end, I still feel that this is a much needed spell that will likely be beneficial for all shadow priests.

Grade: B+ (for finally making us able to do something when getting spell locked)
HoTs and DoTs and Death...Oh, My!
Another change that we can expect (assuming they don't change their mind once again) is that ALL HoTs and DoTs will be benefiting from Haste and Critical Strike.  While Vampiric Touch and Devouring Plague already do benefit from both stats, Shadow Word: Pain does not right now (it did at one time on the Public Test Realm). 

While this may seem like a pretty basic change on the cover, if you look more into what they stated with the change, it becomes more interesting.  Basically, hasted HoTs/DoTs will last for the same amount of time as a non-hasted HoT/DoT, but will tick faster (meaning you will "gain extra ticks to fill in the duration").  Along with that, re-casting a spell will no longer reset the ticks, but will simply refresh the HoT/DoT.  What this really means is that if you have to re-cast a HoT/DoT, it shouldn't significantly impact your DPS if you are early, but if you wait too long after, it may be detrimental to your DPS.

In the same section as the HoT/DoT changes, you will find that there are planned changes to Shadow Word: Death.  While they didn't go into much detail, they did mention that they want to bring it back as an "execute", or something that you are doing when the target is at or below 25% health.  Here's to hoping that they either reduce or eliminate the backlash from it (I know I am not the only one to accidentally kill my self by using it on Hodir).

Pros: Less restrictive HoT/DoT management may make shadow priests a bit easier to play and make DPS a bit more consistent for people at similar gear levels.

Cons: Bringing back SWD makes spell casting priority a bit more difficult than it has been in Wrath, but from previous experience, it still shouldn't be that bad, as long as the backlash is less likely to kill people on gimmick fights.

Other Thoughts: The HoT/DoT changes should make spell casting priority choosing a bit easier, perhaps allowing for a "rotation" instead, which should make casting a little easier.  Also, I did miss haste affecting SWP in Wrath, I had the opportunity to play with it a bit on the PTR, and it seemed like a nice addition that I am really looking forward to.  However, the changes to SWD have me most intrigued right now, because I would really like to see something that could potentially increase our damage once we get to to the "execute" range of a fight.

Grade: B (for fixing things that we had a taste of in the past).
Talent Changes New and Old
Blizzard has come out and said that they want to improve Shadow for short fights (because they finally realize that it is a problem), as well, because they are trying to do away with passive damage-boosting abilities as a whole, it looks like the Shadow tree is going to get a major overhaul.  Additionally, the developers are getting rid of pretty much all talents that affect spell hit, so not only are they changing the game play of Spriests, they are also significantly changing how we will select gear (likely making us compete even more for gear that mages/warlocks want).

In addition to the loss of the hit rating benefit of Misery, we will also be losing one of our two largest buffs in Prayer of Spirit, pretty much leaving us with two buffs (Fortitude and Shadow Protection), both of which can be brought to a raid in different forms (Runescroll of Fortitude andShadow Protection Aura), which means that one of the main reasons from Burning Crusade to bring a priest over other classes (their buffs) has basically been eliminated over the course of two expansions (in Wrath, Replenishment became available through other classes).

Pros: Selecting gear for your shadow priest may become more of a linear process, meaning that upgrades to your gear will likely be more defined.

Cons: Priests look to be losing a lot of the buffs that they bring to a raid, meaning they will be less sought after overall.  Why bring a priest when you can bring a shaman or druid?

Other Thoughts:  It seems to me that the changes to hit rating buffs is related to making updating the game easier for developers.  Just think, if they make it so that their is only one number to adjust with regards to damage increases, the number can simply be stored in the database, meaning they can update the value on the fly as a hotfix, whereas if the necessary changes must take place in a calculation, they would likely have to update the entire game, meaning it could be weeks before anything is actually changed.

Grade: C- (for removing reasons to actually bring a priest into the group).
Masters of our Universe
One of the biggest changes that we are likely to see in Cataclysm is the introduction of Mastery bonuses.  These are passive bonuses that we will receive simply for putting more points into our main tree (from what I understand, you will only receive bonuses for your "main" tree).  Shadow's main bonuses are simply changing the talents that provide passive damage-boosting effects into passive damage-boosting effects simply for having points in the tree.  However, the third bonus is something that is entirely new to the game: Shadow Orbs.

From how I understand the Shadow Orbs, you will build up orbs through your normal "rotation" while DPSing, and will be able to consume the orbs when we feel it is time to do so (perhaps you can consume them during Bloodlust/Heroism in order to pump out some impressive damage.

Pros: The replacement of our passive talents with passive bonuses from simply taking talents I think will be a rather nice change, allowing more variation in talent specs.  Along with that, the Shadow Orbs seem intriguing to the extent that they may add a bit more complexity to the shadow priest game (because you know we need more complexity to our gameplay).

Cons:  With Shadow Orbs being a relatively new mechanic for spriests, I can forsee many complications with the implementation at the start.  Also, new mechanics usually feel clunky at the beginning.

Other Thoughts: The Shadow Orbs may make lower level shadow priests feel more "shadowy", and I don't expect them to be too hard to get a handle on, because if you play a shadow priest, you are likely a relatively adaptive player (as is the nature of the class).  However, I just hope that the Shadow Orbs don't look like purple Thorns that circle around us.

Grade: B+ (for making rather simple changes, and adding something new and interesting)
Other Stuff
One change that I am looking forward to is a new buff called Inner Will, which provides a run speed increase, and mana cost reduction.  This buff will share a buff slot with Inner Fire, but they are removing the stacking nature of the buff (so that it doesn't disappear when you get damaged).  From what I understand, it looks like Inner Will will likely be more of a healing oriented buff, but it will probably have applications for shadow priests as well.  Also because of the nature of the spell, it will likely have PvP applications (run away from those darn melee faster, and using less mana when attacking).

It does look like Inner Will is going to be able to stack with other run speed increasing buffs (Tuskarr's Vitality for instance), and I am sure that there will be fights where we will be able to take advantage of the mana reduction (General Vezax-esque fights perhaps?).

Pros: A new buff that will allow more flexibility without having to micromanage should be interesting.  It also seems like it will be useful when/if you are having mana issues for certain fights.

Cons: The buff really seems like it will be very fight specific, and will likely be almost useless when overgearing a fight.

Grade: A- (for providing something actually useful)

Overall Grade: B

Final Thoughts:  Some of the changes look like they will offer a bit of a change-up for existing shadow priests (which I suspect many will not like), and some of the changes look like they are doing more harm than good in the end (is it really necessary to remove all of our buffs, and basically all reason to include us in a raid?) .  Overall however, I don't think the changes are really that bad, or that good; rather that it will be business as usual for shadow priests (which may not be a good thing).

See you in the Shadows,
When playing on my priest lately, I have noticed a significant increase in the number of whispers that I receive with regards to both "rotation" and gear for shadow priests.  Many of these whispers are from guild-mates who play a shadow priest as an alt or as their secondary talent specialization (or spec).  However, I have also begun receiving whispers from players that I see in PuG raids and even from random priest that I have never met before (but are likely told to ask me by guild-mates).  I am actually amazed by the number of whispers, but I am happy to help as much as I can.

The two major things that people have been asking about are gear (and how to choose which gear to use) and rotation (*).  While both are major topics in their own right, I would like to focus on current gearing for the spriest.

The entire focus of a spriest is to maximize damage-per-second (DPS) while also providing appropriate utility to the raid group.  Much of the utility brought by spriests is in the form of buffs/debuffs that are applied simply by the use of our normal combat mechanics.  Thus, we can focus on maximizing our DPS, which will in turn maximize our utility.

One of the ways to maximize DPS is by properly gearing a spriest, which has changed recently (in patch 3.3) due to how haste now affects certain damage-over-time spells (DoTs).  This change basically allows DoTs to tick faster depending on the amount of haste that you have available. Note, however, that with the current implementation, SWP does not benefit from haste (so you will not need to re-cast it during Bloodlust/Heroism).

Anyway, if you are interested in min/max-ing your spriest, I would suggest stopping by the BRG (Best Raid Gear) forums on www.shadowpriest.com, but make sure you are looking at the information for the current patch (3.3).  If you are not really the min/max type of player, but would rather settle for a general idea of how to gear, just follow this simple rule:

Hit (**) > Spellpower = Haste Rating > Critical Strike Rating > Spirit > Intellect

Keep in mind that is using raw (rating) values, so 1 point of Spellpower would be equivalent to 1 point of Haste Rating (not 1% Haste).

While that is the general rule, you may want to also keep in mind that Haste is a stepped type of stat, where 1 point of Haste Rating may not be entirely equivalent to 1 point of Spellpower.  In fact, depending on what your current haste rating is, it may be significantly higher than spellpower.  If you were to see a graph of the two, it would look something like the image above (though likely more of a curve than entirely stepped).  The idea is to get enough haste so that your spells coincide with your global cooldown, which (if I remember correctly) happens somewhere around the 600 Haste rating and 900 Haste Rating marks (a.k.a. the sweet spots), though I wouldn't quote me on those numbers.

So, with that, I wish you good luck in picking out your new gear, and hope that I have steered you in the right direction.

See you in the Shadows,

* Spriests don't necessarily have a "rotation" to speak of, but should focus on using a priority list.
** When under hit cap.

My previous post had me delving into the lighter side of things, and joining in with the "non-meme" Circle of Healers thing.  This time, I am joining Death Goddess in filling out the DPS Survey, which I have decided to call the Circle of Killers.

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary dps?
Spazmoosifer, Priest, Shadow (13/0/58)
Spazknight, Death Knight, currently Blood/Unholy

What is your primary dpsing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
Spazmoosifer: Mostly 10 & 25-man raids, with the occasional 5-man run.
Spazknight: Primarily 5-man instances and some 10-man raids.

What is your favorite dps spell/ability for your class and why?
Spazmoosifer: I don't have one particular spell or ability that I like necessarily more than others. I do like the synergy between various spells, for example, I love the fact that Vampiric Touch and Mind Blast work together for replenishment, while Mind Flay and Shadow Word: Pain mix well too.

Spazknight: Prior to the changes to Unholy Blight, that would have been my favorite ability, however, I have become rather fond of Hysteria lately, which I like to cast on other melee DPS in order to help out the entire group.

What dps spell do you use least for your class and why?
Spazmoosifer: Shadow Word: Death has pretty much fallen out of my casting priority all together, except when I am running into a fight and need a filler spell.  The reason being is that other spells generally take a higher priority due to higher damage gains, and I don't suffer the backlash (that can kill you on some fights like Hodir if not managed properly).

Spazknight: I have the horrible tendency to not use Rune Strike at all.  Though I am planning on adding it to my macros in order to make it more of a "without thinking" kind of ability.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your dps class and why?
Spazmoosifer: Shadow priests are amazingly adaptive, especially with the ability to switch to healing on a whim.  When played properly, a well geared shadow priest can surprise even seasoned veteran DPSers.

Spazknight: The biggest strength of a death knight, in my opinion, is their ability to switch from a DPSer to a Tank with little more than a gear change, and likewise, a DK Tank can easily switch to DPS if necessary.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your dps class and why?
Spazmoosifer: Shadow priests have had consistent issues with scaling for quite a long time.  A result of these issues is that in lower tiers of content, they are very much sought after, and become less sought after when moving to higher tier content.

: Death knights are still a baby when it comes to the evolution of the information that is available when compared to other classes.  This is due to both being the newest available class, as well as the fact that there are many more options available for talent trees when compared to other classes, allowing for a wide variety of game play.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best dps assignment for you?
Spazmoosifer: Because I think it is the biggest strength of the shadow priest, I believe that any assignment that I am given is appropriate, as long as the raid leader is assigning other DPS to appropriate roles.  If I am asked to single target DPS, I will single target DPS like a mad man.  If I am asked to AoE DPS, I will wipe them all out.

Spazknight: Because I am less comfortable overall with my death knight, I do prefer to do more single target damage. Specifically, if the target is moving very little, or moving around but slowly, I can usually keep up with others.

What dps class do you enjoy dpsing with most and why?
Spazmoosifer: When playing on my shadow priest, I absolutely love DPSing with Warlocks and Boomkins.  The buffs that they provide help increase my overall damage by a lot if the players know what they are doing.

Spazknight: Because Hysteria is my current favorite ability, I absolutely love throwing it on a warrior.  It is even more fun when they don't quite realize what is going on.

What dps class do you enjoy dpsing with least and why?
Spazmoosifer: I actually don't like mages when it comes to DPS, as they seem like they are overly self focused as a class, though I do appreciate the biscuits and intellect buff I get from them.  Also, the fact that mages seem to be able to get much higher on the DPS charts with a lot less trouble is rather annoying, along with the fact that many of them have issues controlling their threat, and end up dying.

Spazknight: Paladins.  Never liked DPSing with them...not quite sure why.

What is your worst habit as a dps?
Spazmoosifer: My worst habit (and possibly most beneficial to the raid as a whole) is that I am very willing to stop DPSing and begin healing if I determine it is necessary.  I am not sure, but I think that this may annoy some people, especially when all it does is prolong a wipe.

Spazknight: Pulling aggro, but not by overtaking the tank in threat.  Rather I don't rely on the tank always having a taunt, etc. on cooldown when another DPSer pulls threat, so I will try to bring the target back via Death Grip.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while dpsing?
Spazmoosifer: People that don't move out of the fire.  If you are running DBM or BigWigs, you should never have a problem with this if it is set up properly. Move your ass out of the fire, and pay attention.

Spazknight: Not getting heals.  A lot of times, melee DPS are given less priority because of their relative location compared to the tanks.  However, I do appreciate those healers that use their "smart" heals, such as Circle of Healing or Chain Heal.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other dps?
Spazmoosifer: I actually don't feel that the shadow priest is balanced well with other DPS classes.  Blizzard has made the comment that "hybrid" classes should have lower DPS than "pure" classes, which I am completely okay with.  I do have a problem, however, when a DPS class that is more than one tier under me is able to throw out more damage during a fight.

Spazknight: I don't really feel comfortable with giving a definitive answer to this, as I have just recently picked up on playing my death knight again, though from what I have seen, I think the class is relatively well balanced when compared to the other melee DPS classes.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a damage dealer?
Spazmoosifer: I use a number of tools to evaluate my performance, including Recount, World of Logs, WoWMeterOnline, ShadowFriend, doing DPS testing on target dummies, and keeping a mental note of where my performance was previously on encounters.

Spazknight: Because I play my death knight more casually than my priest, the only real tool that I use to evaluate my performance is Recount.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your class?
Spazmoosifer: The biggest misconception about shadow priests is that they cannot compete with other classes in DPS.  There have been numerous times when I have gotten whispers asking how I am so high on the "DPS meters".  I believe that this misconception comes from people that don't spend the time to learn how to properly play the class.  Just a note for people: if you know your class, you can beat out others on the meters.

Spazknight: Death knights are overpowered.  While at the beginnings of the class, the death knight was indeed overpowered, which was a class balancing issue.  Now after people have geared up more, and Blizzard has implemented changes, the classes seem much more balanced.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new dpsers of your class to learn?
Spazmoosifer: The most difficult thing for new shadow priests is how to manage your spells when casting.  The biggest problem that I see is that people don't know how to manage the various DoTs, and casting spells at inopportune times, causing a loss of DPS.

Spazknight: Many people playing death knights switch over from being casters, and managing the runic power along with the runes can be a major issue.

What dps class do you feel you understand least?
Paladins are probably my least understood DPS class, this is likely due to the fact that I have never played a paladin, and during my play time, I have actually run with relatively few paladin DPSers.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in dps?
I am what I like to call an add-on-aholic.  All together, I have 82 different add-ons installed right now.  However, I am constantly switching between add-ons, getting rid of the ones I don't like, and finding new ones.  However, if I were to recommend any add-ons to aid in DPS, I would say the Forte group of add-ons are spectacular (and were actually created by people on my server which is pure win).

Strength over other stats or balanced stat allocation, and why?
For both my priest and my death knight I try to keep my stats pretty well balanced, and watch the areas where there are "caps" in place (such as hit, expertise, etc.) so that I don't stray too far away from those "cap" values.  I do keep more up to date on my priest by regularly viewing the forums over at ShadowPriest.com.