I apparently failed to mention this, but if you are still visiting this site for Shadow Priesty information, you will not be seeing the most recent updates.  I have moved my site over to Wordpress (http://spriestblog.wordpress.com), because I like some of the features better on that site.   This site will no longer be maintained.
Blizzard announced today some changes to their raiding system, which basically boils down to the following:
  • There will be only one (1) raid lockout per raid instance per week, so if you get saved to a 10-man raid, you cannot then do the same raid with a 25-man group.
  • Heroic mode settings will be determined on a per-boss basis, similar to how Icecrown Citadel currently works (likely too that you will have to complete the entire instance before you can switch it to Heroic).
  • The discrepancy between 10-man and 25-man difficulty levels will be leveled out (this means that you won't end up having a boss that is incredibly easy on 25-man while being a raid killer on 10-man, or vice versa).
  • 10-man and 25-man raid bosses will share a loot table (meaning the 10-man version of a boss will drop the exact same items as the 25-man version of the same boss), however, to compensate, 25-man versions will drop a higher quantity of items.  In addition to 25-mans dropping a higher quantity of loot, they will also drop more badges and more gold.
  • When first entering raid content, there will be many raids with few raid bosses (instead of one raid with 11-15 bosses, we will see 3-4 raids with 4-6 bosses).
  • Raid content will again be gated (meaning you either have to complete a certain bit before progressing, or you have to wait until the additional wings of the instance are released).
  • Entry level raids will be tuned for players in leveling (blue) and crafted items.
With these changes in mind, let's take a look at how they will actually change gameplay:

Since players will only be able to progress through a raid instance once per week, they will have to first make a choice:  do 10-man and have an easier time of getting a group together, possibly sacrificing group cohesiveness or do 25-man, and deal with organizing a larger group, but getting a better chance at the item you want.

If you are in a guild, it will likely be a decision based on the size of your guild.  If you have a guild that is able to field enough people to put together a 25-man raid, it would definitely be in your best interest to do 25-man, simply because you have a better chance at the gear you are after.

Likewise, if you are in a smaller guild, the 10-man version will allow you to still complete the instance without feeling penalized for not doing 25-man content.

However, if you more often participate in Pick Up Groups (pugs), you may be at a disadvantage.  Let's say you are in a guild with 17 active raiders, do you try to pick up the remaining few to make it a 25-man?  Well, what if you cannot tell how good those other 8 players actually are?  If they are poor players, you may only make it through 50% of the content on 25-man, but what if you could have easily made it through 80% of the content on 10-man?  You would have made more progress, but lost out on gear.

This issue could be alleviated by allowing for the ability to switch between 10-man and 25-man modes (similar to switching between normal and heroic modes).  The major problem with doing this is that certain bosses, simply by the nature of the encounter, are going to be easier on 10-man, while others may be easier on 25-man.  So, to stop a raid from switching between the two modes on a whim, I would say a two (2) hour soft reset is required before the switch could be made (if you are not familiar, a soft reset usually takes 1-2 hours of nobody being inside the instance).

Whichever way you choose to raid will be up to you, but there are a few things that this will undoubtedly do:
  1. Reduce the overall amount of time that people are raiding.  This is because you won't have the option of spending 3 hours in 10-man followed by 4 hours in 25-man.
  2. Reduce gear inflation.  One major issue in Wrath of the Lich King was that gear inflated too quickly due to having 3-4 levels of gear per patch (10-man, 10-man heroic, 25-man, 25-man heroic).  Less gear inflation also has the added benefit of having smaller patches, and less time between patches (because fewer game files need to be added/programmed/designed).
  3. Less of a reliance of gear as a definition of skill.  If the gear is more accessible, then you will determine someone's ability by actually playing with them.  This will in turn make add-ons such as GearScore and ElitistGroup both less effective, and more effective at the same time (gear at levels A-B, skill will be indeterminate, but at level D-E, you may be able to say "you know, that guy has some impressive
Also, because bosses will share a loot table between 10-man and 25-man (coupled with the stat changes they are making), properly gearing your character will be more direct.  No more, I need XXX from this boss in 10-man, but YYY from this boss in 25-man.  You will be able to just say, I need XXX from this boss.

With regards to the complaints from the community, I think some people are overreacting a bit to these changes.  Will the changes be the "death of 25-man raiding", absolutely not, Blizzard does want people raiding 25-man content, but they don't have to if that is not their thing.  The idea is that the content is more accessible, not necessarily easier, and because some people equate accessible with easy, they have begun to present themselves in a way that makes them look like drama queens, which is rather unsightly.

Is Blizzard making things easier and less time consuming for the average player? Yes, absolutely.  Are they evolving their game to keep pace with their player base? Very much so.  Are these changes actually harming your gameplay? Umm...probably not.

Personally, I look forward to the day where I don't hear "We should be doing 25-mans so we can get better gear to do 10-mans", when we often don't have people showing up past the first night.  I would rather progress through the content with a smaller group that actually wants to play, learn the fights, and pick up gear along the way.

See you in the Shadows,
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,
Many World of Warcraft players are bored with the overused mechanics (tanks swap at x number of stacks of this debuff), as well as feeling like certain encounters types are too common (like fights with dragons).  With that in mind, Matt over at the Outlandish Podcast, recently requested (as part of a competition to win some interesting in-game prizes) that followers of the podcast come up with their own encounter (or raid) design.

While I will lay out my plans for a specific raid encounter below, I encourage you all to also create a raid encounter of your own, and both submit it to the Outlandish Podcast and if you post it in your blog, put a link in the comments below.  Perhaps as a community, we can create enough unique encounters (or raids) that will keep our interest in the game for years to come.

The Setup
While I understand that people are bored with the fights against dragons, I also understand that dragons in general offer the ability to come up with new and exciting ideas when it comes to encounters.  Also, because I have been fascinated by dragons for a long time, I felt that a "dragon fight" would be an appropriate encounter for an idea, but I also realize that the encounter has to be nothing like other encounters (or like all of them combined).

The Story
Because I was always interested in more of the storyline that could have been when it comes to Nefarian's experiments with the Chromatic Dragonflight, and because we will be returning to Blackrock Mountain (where the experiments were taking place), and we may be seeing the return of these dragons, I would like to see specific encounters with his experimental dragonflight.

The Encounter
The encounter takes place in the Blackwing Corridor, a small instance that requires players to complete it before they can enter Deathwing's Lair (similar to the gated effect of the Icecrown 5-man instances and Blackrock Depths/Molten Core).  In this instance, which is reminiscent of Onyxia's Lair, you are first required to follow down a spiraling tunnel, and kill a series of trash mobs, made up of various species of dragonkin (i.e. whelps, drakonid, dragonspawn, and drakeadon).

When you reach the bottom of the tunnel, you are presented with a long, stone-walled room.  The room is very long, with high ceilings, and five doors on either of the side walls.  Above each door, there is a banner corresponding to each of the dragonflights (red, green, blue, bronze, and black).  At the far end of the room, in the center of the stone wall is a large doorway, with a door on either side.  Above one of the doors is a banner with the color of all five dragonflights, and above the other is a similar, but more translucent banner.  Before the large door is a throne, with two smaller thrones on either side.

As you enter the room, you immediately notice Lady Briana Voracia, a human female, with long hair that sparkles like the stars, dressed in noble attire, sitting in the center throne.  Flanked at her sides are an elf of either race.  The one to the right is a blood elf, who goes by the name Baron Edward Perilion, his hair is iridescent, and shimmers like a rainbow.  The other is a night elf named Lord Byron Seditian; he has long white hair that glows like the moon.

A dialog ensues, with Lady Voracia where she informs you that she cannot allow you to proceed.  As she stops speaking a band dragonkin pour out of each of the doors on the sides of the room.  These are obviously members of the individual dragonflights, but appear corrupted, as if by some strange power.  Amongst the kin, you see every type of dragon under the sun, drakonid, dragonspawn, whelps, and even the occasional drakeadon.

The Lady informs you that, while "The Master" is waiting for his children, there is nothing wrong with a little entertainment, and she instructs the dragonkin to dismantle the ragtag group that approaches her without an invitation.  You immediately begin to be attacked by dragons of every color, unable to determine when the onslaught will end.

As you finish taking care of the last remnants of the dragons, Lord Seditian informs Lady Voracia that he is becoming impatient, and transforms into a massive Twilight Dragon.  His translucent scales remind you of nightfall, and he quickly attacks with ferocity.  During the fight his scales seem to slowly change colors; from the color of the day shifting into nightfall, to the color of midnight, to the golden shade of dawn.

When Seditian eventually falls limply to the ground, a slumber falls over you, and you hear the crackle of lightning combined with the roar of a burning city.  When you awake from your sleep, you see that Lord Perilion has morphed into an large Chromatic Dragon, whose scales flicker in the light like a prism in the sun, and seem to be every color at the same time.  His wings span the width of the room, and his head reaches the vaulted ceiling, he is indeed a massive dragon.

The fight begins, and you soon find that Perilion fights with unmatched malice, he burns you with his engulfing breath and arcane magic is thrown about with ease, the earth quakes as he teleports around the room as if time has no meaning to him, and members of your party to fall into a deep slumber as he flaps his massive wings.  He seems to become more and more agitated as the fight progresses, and slowly moves away from his magical abilities, toward using brute force.

As his body falls to the ground in defeat, he transforms back into his humanoid form, warning the group of the terrors that lay ahead with "The Master".  As he lay on the floor, you see five sparks of life float toward the ceiling.

Seeing the lords fall in battle, Voracia yells to the group to come face her if they are brave enough.  As you reach her, she is joined by a small band of chromatic and twilight dragonkin.  As you dispatch of the lesser dragons, Voracia shifts into a dragon, the likes of which you have never seen before.

Voracia exclaims, "I am the sunlight and the shadows, the sinner and the saint! I am the 'Every Dragon!'" With that, she charges toward the party, rears up on her hind legs and spouts fire toward the ceiling.  As her front claws slam on the ground, the party is thrown to the back of the room by the entrance; you can see now that her size rivals that of the Aspects, with her wings touching both walls, and her spiked tail reaching the other end of the room.

After regrouping, the party engages Voracia, who attacks with lightning speed, and armor melting breath.  She occasionally rears up, casting a spell toward the shadows of the room, where lesser dragons spawn, seemingly out of thin air.  After a point, she rears again on her back legs, and again spouts toward the ceiling, and slams back into the ground, causing the party to once again be thrown toward the back of the room.  The quake causes a rift in the floor to open, out of which spawn elementals of molten flame.

Upon seeing the rift open, she takes flight, and opens a portal toward the back of the room.  As you finish clearing up the elementals, a flock of whelps exits the portal.  Once the whelps exit the portal, the portal closes and she flies toward the opposite end of the room spouting flames at the party.

When she reaches the other side, she begins opening another portal, this one spawns drakonids, who attack very quickly, targeting the weakest amongst you.  When this portal closes, Voracia once again flies toward the other end of the room, spouting flames at the floor as she travels.  She begins opening a third portal.

When the drakonid are taken care of, a drake spawns from the third portal, and Voracia lands.  She instructs this drake to rid her of your presence, turns and starts out the exit on the other end of the room.  The drake flies at you quickly, and attacks you in the center of the room.  While still a drake, the enemy has impressive strength, but due to its limited experience the drake is sloppy, and makes many mistakes that allow you to take advantage.

After a short period fighting the drake, you notice that the ceiling is beginning to cave in behind you, forcing you to kill the drake quickly, and make your way to the exit in pursuit of Voracia.

There is a short hallway once you take the exit, with a small door at the other end.  Upon entering the room, you see Voracia at the ready, but once you take a few steps toward her, a sleep spell is placed on the entire group, at which point, Voracia attacks the party.  Upon being attacked, the members of the party are awakened, and the fight continues.

Voracia uses the abilities of every dragonflight seemingly at random; when she realizes that she may actually lose the fight, she becomes extremely angry, and starts spouting off random spells in every direction, which are amazingly potent, but easily avoidable.

Once Voracia falls in battle, the group is rewarded for their efforts, and a group of representatives from the Wyrmrest Accord appears, and decide to collect a scale from the Broodmother of the Every Dragons for examination.  After examining the Scale of the Every Dragons, Alextrasza informs the group that the scale has magical properties that will allow entrance into Deathwing's Lair.

The Conclusion
That is the end of my idea for a raid encounter, and I hope you enjoyed it.  Please feel free to leave your comments below.  Remember, if you have any ideas for a raid, or encounter, either post them in the comments or post them on your own blog and put a link to it below.  I plan on posting a follow-up to this one eventually, which will include links to the various ideas, as well as possibly combining ideas into full blown raids (but no promises).

See you in the Shadows,
The loss of a family member, a loved one, or a friend is never something that is easy to deal with, nor is it something that most people like to talk about.  However, death is a fact of life, and something that is rarely ever discussed in the realm of online gaming.  The only time I have seen death discussed in regards to gaming is either when someone decides to play themselves to death (by not sleeping/eating/drinking for days), or the occasional in-game funeral for a fallen friend.

While I have never personally experienced the death of one of my online friends, I do know that if one of them were to slip into the shadows, I would want to know.  Which brings about the question, if you were to pass away, how would you want your online friends to be informed about your passing?

After reading an article recently about an in-game funeral, I have pondered this, and have decided that like so many other aspects of life, "it depends" is once again the best response to this question, because it really does depend on both your personal life (Are you single or married? Do you have a will? Have you been experiencing any illness?) as well as your relationship with your online community (How well do you know each other? Have you been interacting with each other for a long time?).

If you are or have been experiencing any illness or disease which would be life threatening, and are relatively close with your online community, I would suggest informing them of the situation, at least in part, so that they are not caught off-guard should something happen.  If you are married or have children, it may be beneficial to discuss with them what you would want done if you were to pass away.

While it may sound almost morbid to discuss these topics, it is very much similar to preparing your last will and testament (and could likely be included as part of your will, if you have one), and is intended to make your passing easier for your loved ones.  Some things you might want to consider are the following:
  1. Of your online friends, which ones would you want to inform? (As many people as possible, or only the ones you interact with on a regular basis, like your guild or raid group?)
  2. Who from your real life community would you want to inform your online friends? (Wife, siblings, real life friend, etc.)
  3. Which method of communication would you want used to inform your online friends? (Posting on a website, Twitter, Facebook, VoIP (i.e. Ventrilo, Teamspeak, Mumble)).
  4. When would you like to have your friends informed of your passing? (Immediately after passing? A week or so after passing?)
  5. What would you want to have done with your online account? (Cancel the account all together? Sell the account (which is against the ToS)?)
  6. If you have any in-game wealth, would you want it distributed to the members of your community?
  7. Would you want an in-game funeral?

Personally, because I am married, I would prefer to take the burden of telling my online friends off the shoulders of my wife, as I would expect her to have other things on her mind.  Instead, I would want one of my brothers to let my friends know via either our guild website, or via whichever VoIP software we are using (which is Mumble if you are curious), as soon as possible after my passing. This is partially because they are more familiar with technology than my wife, especially when it comes to VoIP software, and because I think they would be able to relate to my online community better.

As far as my account is concerned, I would prefer to have as many of my belongings as possible sold off, and the resulting wealth distributed amongst my friends.  This way, I would be able offer them a small bit of joy in the midst of the sadness.  I would not, however, wish to have an in-game funeral, as that would bring about sadness from both my online community, and unnecessary sadness for the person that would have to play my character for the event.  Instead, if my friends wanted to honor my memory in some way in-game, I would much rather have a celebration.  Assuming my current WoW community, I would prefer to have fireworks, drinks, food, and dancing.

While I hope that both you and your online community never have to experience the loss of an online friend, I will pose the question: What would you like done if you were to slip into the shadows?

See you in the Shadows,
Recently, a member of my guild decided to post on our website a question inquiring about the origin of our screen/character names (sorry, it was a guild only post, so you won't be able to see their responses).  The post received an amazing response from guild members, all with their own little reason for the name.  I thought it was an interesting idea, one that could promote a sense of "family" amongst guild members, I decided to provide a post there as well.

The history of my character's name is actually a long one; one that as of today spans about 27 years.  That's right, it goes back to when I was a baby (aww, how cute, I know).  When I was a baby, I was given the nickname "Moosie" by one of my relatives.  Nobody actually recalls the reason why I was given the nickname, but many members of my family still refer to me by the name.

The nickname has followed me throughout life; when I was in middle/high school, the nickname "Moose" was used when I was participating in sports.  The reason for this: most athletes in our school were just referred to by their last name, however, I was always participating in the same sports as my older brother, he was referred to by our last name already, so I needed a nickname, so I provided one that I had for years already, and didn't mind.

When I went to college, our Community (a.k.a. Resident) Adviser wanted to know our nicknames for some door decorations.  Once again, I provided my nickname, and because we had 5 other people with the same first name (Eric) as me on my floor, it was just easier to call me by my nickname.

A short while into my freshman year of college, I began playing Counter Strike and joined a "clan" with the rest of the guys on my floor that played (I believe there were 7-8 guys total).  The name of the clan was "[Spaz]", and each of the players (except my roommate for some reason) had a screen name related to an animal of some sort (Cowz, Monkey, etc); thus, I became [Spaz]Moose.

A few years later, I was elected as president of our Residence Hall Association (and was still known by the nickname "Moose"), and was having a conversation with one of the other officers in the organization.  I was playfully teasing her about something, and she said that I was like a little devil, and began calling me "Moosifer" (which is a combination of "Moose" and "Lucifer").

After I had graduated from college, I was having difficulties finding a job, and began playing WoW.  My first character was a Tauren Hunter named Spazmoose, a continuation of my name from Counter Strike.  I didn't care for playing a hunter much at the time, and then ran into one of my former co-workers who mentioned that his guild was looking for priests.  I said that I would give it a try, and he told me to let him know when I got to level 60. 

I thought about being a healer, but didn't think it fit my play (or life) style, so I decided to turn to the darkside.  Because my character was leaning toward more fiendish things I felt that the name had to fit the character, and that "Spazmoose" just wouldn't be a good name for him.  However, I did want to stay with a similar name (so that others could find me if they wanted), so I decided to combine some of my past nicknames, resulting in "Spazmoosifer, Priest of the Shadows", and he has been my main character ever since.

Well, there you have it, that is the history of my main character's name.  Now, I ask you, "What's in a name?"

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.
Many of those that walk in the shadows also dabble a bit with walking in the light as either a Holy or Discipline Priest, and currently, there is an effort to improve healing all around the WoW universe, especially with the healing bloggers out there.  This effort to improve healing is taking place in the form of a blogpost survey, here's my contribution:

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer?
Spazmoosifer, (primarily Shadow) Holy Priest

What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
Split between 10 and 25-man raid healing, with the occasional 5-man.

What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?
Prayer of Mending is by far my favorite healing spell, not only does it heal for a decent amount, it also jumps around like a kid with ADD.  It also reminds me of Ron Popeil, where you set it, and forget it (for like 10 seconds).

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?

Noobishly, I tend to not use Binding Heal very often, which is most likely due to the fact that I am rarely taking damage, because I avoid the fire like the plague.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?
I definitely think that the biggest strength of a Holy Priest is the ability to adapt to various situations.  During the course of a night, I may be asked to raid heal, tank heal, or even just jump into healing while I am specced Shadow.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?
I would say that the biggest weakness is the comparatively low amount of healing that we do, which is likely due to shields and efficiency, however, this low "amount" of healing, can often cause a pick up group to choose another class instead (which is why recount sucks).

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?
Personally, I don't care to be a tank only healer, as I feel like my abilities are being wasted.  I prefer raid healing, because I have found that I am quick to getting heals on the people that need them the most.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?
I absolutely love healing with Shaman healers, because I have found that I mesh well with them, and usually end up having less overhealing and having better mana efficiency.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?
While I love Druid healers, and their ability to throw out HoTs, I absolutely hate being on a healing team with them.  This is due to the fact that, while their HoTs will usually do the job, during my quick reaction, I often toss a heal out that will basically cancel out the HoT, ultimately wasting mana and time of the healing group.

What is your worst habit as a healer?
My worst habit is probably my overuse of Flash Heal, I rarely use Greater Heal, even when it may be the more effective spell to use.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?
DPS that doesn't do anything to help out the healers, which I have found is more of a problem with the non-hybrid caster DPS classes.  They tend to get overly focused on pumping out the damage, that they end up dying from purely preventable damage (which is I still haven't been in a group that has gotten the Cheese the Freeze achievement on Hodir).

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?
I think that there are some minor issues regarding balance, but overall the balance is pretty decent. However, I think the main balancing issues currently exist as encounter design issues rather than with the classes themselves.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?

Our guild uses World of Logs, and I often take a look at what I can do to improve by taking a look at those logs.  I also personally use WoW Meter Online to do some additional comparison, which has helped me to notice a few issues in the past that I missed on WoL. I also do like to take a look at Recount after various fights to see if I can determine who is "slacking" on our healing team, and what changes can be made to improve success.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?
Holy Priests can't main tank heal.  While a Holy Priest may not be the best person suited for main tank healing, we sure as hell can do a decent job when the need arises, however, I find that main tank healing is a waste of both the talent and the spells at the Holy Priest's disposal.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?
Coming into WotLK, I had never healed more than tossing out a few heals here and there while I was DPSing. I found that learning how to heal was easy, but learning how to heal while not going out of mana, not overhealing, and using the right spell for the job has by far been the most difficult thing to learn. Gear itemization and finding the right balance of Intellect vs. Spirit vs. Spell Power and Crit vs. Haste was also an issue.

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)?
The first thing I look at is how many (if any) deaths occurred, and what breakdown occurred that caused the death (did the person just not receive any healing, or were they standing in the fire?).  Specifically in regards to Recount, I take the results with a grain of salt.  I learned long ago that I should not necessarily compare my healing to that of other healers (though vast differences can indicate an issue).  I have also found it useful to compare my HPS with my overhealing, and look at if I run out of mana to determine if I was properly conserving when I needed to be.  I also like to take into account what other utility I am providing, such as dispelling, and factor that in, as it can sometimes be more important than the actual heals.

Haste or Crit and why?
I like to work on a balance of both, but it really depends on the situation.  If the encounter requires kneejerk reaction and fast heals, I will stack haste.  If I have to land larger heals, I will stack Crit.  However, I have found that balancing the two is usually the best method, as it keeps people alive while not going out of mana.

What healing class do you feel you understand least?
Holy Paladins are probably the class I understand least.  I know they are effective main tank healers, however, I have seen some that are incredible raid healers.  I have not played one at all, and don't know what they all have in their arsenal.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?
I am what I like to call an add-on junkie, if there is an add-on for something, I have probably tried it.  That in mind, I personally use HealBot as my healing addon of choice.  This is due to a couple reasons:
1. It displays things in vastly different colors (depending on your set up), which I have found more effective for me when compared to viewing buffs.
2. I can move it out of the way when I am not healing, but still have it handy if I need to off-heal.

While I have tried other add-ons, namely Grid + Clique I didn't care for the setup, and found HealBot to be a much easier interface to learn when I started healing.

As far as macros are concerned, the only one I really use is my /focus macro, so that if I accidentally click somewhere, I can get back to my target quickly.  I do however, use a ton of macros for my DPS spec, just never found the need for them while healing.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
I have found that this is very situational, at least for myself.  In total, I have somewhere around 12-16 different gear sets (with intermingled gear) that I use for various situations. I try to keep the names of my gear sets (using ItemRack) applicable to how I use them, and have gear sets with the following names:
  • Intellect (for fights like General Vezzax where mana regen is an issue)
  • Haste (when quick heals or mass dispells are the priority, such as Faction Champs)
  • Holy Haste (when quick heals & mana conservation are the priority)
  • Crit (when I need big heals)
  • Mana Regen (when I have to stretch the time I can last healing)
One of the many challenges for any class in World of Warcraft is determining whether an item is an upgrade when you are running an instance, many people affectionately call this the "Numbers Game".  This is especially true when you get into higher end raiding, where the differences between items is not necessarily that significant.

To assist the world of Shadow Priests out there, I have created a program for analyzing items from the game, so that it is easier to determine which item is a bigger upgrade for you.  The program will allow you to change certain values for items, but is currently only set up to include those stats that are sought after by shadow priests, including Hit Rating, Spell Power, Intellect, Spirit, Critical Strike Rating, and Haste Rating.  Also, while the program does come with pre-defined default scaling factors built in for these stats, which are based off the scaling factors found on www.shadowpriest.com, the program does offer the ability for you to set your own scaling factors (as well as setting values for gems, enchants, and trinkets).

Another thing that you may want to note is that, while this program was designed with shadow priests in mind, the program will likely work well for other casting classes (warlocks and mages come to mind), with a little tweaking of the scaling factors to suit your needs.

The program does have some nice features, such as a search option at the top of the "Dashboard" which will allow you to do a quick search on Wowhead, as well the actual calculator form will do a search for the item information you enter into the "Item Name" textbox, and will parse through the item's data, and automatically fill in the stat information.

Below I have listed some of the pertinent facts regarding the program:
Name: SpriestPPCalc

Author: Spazmoosifer of Khadgar

Cost: Free to use

License: This product is free to download, use, and transfer to other people, however, all rights to the code remain the property of Spazmoosifer of Khadgar, with all other media remaining as the property of their respective owners (specifically Blizzard and Wowhead come to mind).

Warranty: This program is provided as-is, with no implicit or explicit warranties for its use.

Where to Download:  Click Here to download the program

What to do after downloading: This program does not require installation in order to use.  Once you download the program, you can just extract it from the .ZIP file, and begin using it.

Regarding Updates:  While this program is available for use, I am sure that there will be an occasional update, which may or may not include additional features, as well as bug fixes, etc.  If an update occurs, I will try to remember to make a post on this site, but do not make any guarantees.

Please let me know your thoughts about the program, or if you have any suggestions to make the program better.  As a side note, while I understand how much more useful this would be in-game, I do not plan on converting this program into an add-on at this time.  If you have experience creating in-game addons, and would like to have assistance in creating an addon based on this program, please feel free to contact me.

See you in the Shadows,