Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I can haz ansers?! - 10 Basic Shadowpriesting Tips for the Nub Shadowpriest

So I got this comment on a recent post:

Sad day! I just finally started building a shadow off-spec for my priest. It's disappointing to know that class scaling combined with my inexperience and second-round gear will make it pretty much pointless.

That said, I imagine there will still be times when I'll have to dps, so, if you don't mind my asking, do you have any basic pointers for shadow spec dps? I'm doing alright, but I know I could be doing better with the gear I have (3-4k depending on boss in ~Ulduar10 with some ToC10 gear). I haven't really messed with it since level 59 three years ago... Any particular must-have mods or easy to convey spell priority clues?

Someone actually asking me for tips! I also got an email asking for basic tips, maybe from the same person. I will now attempt to make myself sound smart/knowledgeable about shadow priesting.

Tip #1: Get a DoT-tracking addon.

I highly, highly, highly recommend getting something to track your DoT's. One I've found absolutely invaluable is one called Fortexorcst. I'm sure there are other DoT-tracking addons like this one, but make sure that it is one that tracks not only the DoTs on your target, but the ones you've put on OTHER TARGETS. I cannot stress this enough - it WILL up your dps if you keep Shadow Word: Pain from falling off of your targets after applying it.

This is what the timer bars look like in action. You can change the size and scale of them and whatnot to suit your needs, but mine are pretty small. The red bars are for spells that are about to end due to the target being almost dead. The solid bars are for the spells on the current target, and the more translucent bars are for spells on other targets.

As mentioned before, I find this almost invaluable for making sure that the souped up, Shadow Weaving x 5 stacked, Potion of Wild Magic-buffed SW:P never falls off of the mob or mobs that I put it on while souped up.

Take Gormak the Impaler. I ramp up my spells on him, stack SW to 5, pop any trinkets (I have no on-use trinkets, but here is where you would do it yourself if you did have some), chug a PoWM, and apply SW:P. Mind Flay/refresh DoTs until Snobold comes out.

Now I have to switch to the Snobold. But I just applied that super version of SW:P up with my only PoWM for the entire encounter! I do not, under any circumstances, want that to go to waste.

So I attack the Snobold until SW:P has about three seconds left on Gormak, which I can see due to ForteXorcist bars. I clip a MF to refresh that super SW:P, then get back on the Snobolds.

Viola! That SW:P never falls off of Gormak, ticking for the maximum damage until he is DEADED!

Now ForteXorcist left me a little confuzzled the first time I tried to edit it, so here are the basics.

a. Download it.

b. Open game. Get on your super shadow priest and do the following:

Yup, that's how you open the configuration menu - a simple /fx. You'll see this gobbledegook pop up:

Before you have a heartattack, ignore all the "soulstone tracker" and "summon assistant" stuff and go straight to Spell Timers, which is circled in the photo. Scroll down to "coloring/filtering" subheading, and you'll see a line that says "Customize enter ability/spell/item name." Click it.

Yup, enter all of your spells and such into this. Make sure the boxes I have clicked in the photo are clicked, including "normal", "cooldowns", and especially "unique". For some reason, Devouring Plague falls under the "unique" category while everything else should be under "normal". To cover them all, just click everything I did. :-D

On a side note, I also clicked "heal". When I'm on S and I'm throwing HoTs around, I get Rejuvs and Regrowths and stuff to show up. Handy! Renew will show up here when you are healing, as well.

You can add more stuff (trinket procs like Elusive Power [from Abyssal Rune, the ToC 5-man normal trinket, etc.]) to it, as well, under the same "Customize" bar. If you add something and then don't see it show up, you can play around with the settings (clicking more of the "type" boxes - maybe it's a "friendly buff" instead of a "powerup buff" or whatever).

Which leads me to:

Tip #2: Make sure five stacks of Shadow Weaving are applied before doing SW:P

The way you apply the five stacks may vary, of course, depending on the situation. When running in, you'll be using your DoTs more since they are instant cast (you can use SW:P as one of your SW stack applications, then reapply it once five are up).

When standing in place (let's say on a boss, not on trash mobs that die too quickly), I like the following "opening":

Vampiric Touch > Devouring Plague > Mind Blast > Shadow Word: Death > Vampiric Embrace > (Potion of Wild Magic, trinket pop) > Shadow Word: Pain

If you have a "proc" trinket instead of an "on use" trinket (like Abyssal Rune or Dying Curse), you may want to skip out on the potion and trinket popping until your proc hits, then immediately pop your other trinket/chug your potion and reapply SW:P. SW:P will continue to tick with whatever buffs and stuff you apply to it before you actually put it on the target, as long as you don't let it fall off and continue to reapply it via Mind Flay (hence tip #1, important when you have to temporarily switch targets).

When running in to a boss (Anub'arak comes to mind), I like to do the following "opening":

Shadow Word: Pain > Devouring Plague > Shadow Word: Death (and by this time you should be in place) > Vampiric Touch > Vampiric Embrace > (PoWM/trinket) > Shadow Word: Pain

Multiple mobs, Mind Sear to oblivion. Especially if other dpsers are doing aoe abilities as well!

In regards to the use of Shadow Word: Death, there's been some going back and forth on the efficiency of this spell since I first started raiding. The latest thing I read about it recommended that you use it in your opening right behind Mind Blast.

After you ramp up SW:P and everything is up on your target, you're ready for the meat and potatoes of your dps. Keep SW:P up - it's not in your list because it will always be ticking, right?

Priority is something like so:

Vampiric Touch refreshed > Devouring Plague refreshed > Mind Blast > Mind Flay

Most of the time, you will have time after the initial ramp-up and the application of SW:P, to start in with Mind Flay x 2, Mind Blast, Mind Flay, Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague, Mind Flay, Mind Blast, repeat sequence again starting with Mind Flay x 2.

Mind Flay is always, always your filler spell, in between making sure your DoTs are refreshed and Mind Blast is cast every time it's available. SW:D is for your opener, don't cast it during your "rotation". At least, I don't.

Tip #3: Be in shadow form

No, really. Sometimes, after I rez someone while group is running to the next mob or group, I'll run up to start dpsing and wonder why the heck I'm casting Greater Heal. Oops!

Tip #4: Account for lag

Addon called Quartz. Simple and shows a red bar to account for latency and stuff. Invaluable, yo. And to go along with that:

Tip #5: Don't clip Mind Flay or reapply VT or DP before the last tick of damage

This is a common problem with a lot of shadow priests, and especially if you lag a lot. That last tick of damage is important! Unless you are purposely using a clipped Mind Flay for refreshing SW:P quickly, you should wait until the channel is complete before starting again. But of course, the longer you wait, the less dps you are doing. Just pay close attention - shadow priesting isn't all "auto attack" and "jam your buttons" like ret paladins - we have to watch for beginnings and ends to spells.

Tip #6: Be hit capped!!!!!!!!!

No matter what, make sure you are hit capped. This is more important than anything else! Draenei (or almost always group with one) - 262. All other shadow priests - 289. Learn the number and love it.

Tip #7: Use Nigel every cooldown

Shadow priests typically don't run out of mana, so your trusty shadowfiend is mainly there to provide you a little extra dps boost. Use it! After you apply your bigtime SW:P, release the hound fiend! Make sure the boss you're releasing it on is not about to do some big aoe raid damage, or he'll be crushed and you will have wasted him.

Tip #8: Don't be afraid to multi-dot

I don't do this enough myself, honestly, but whenever there are more than multiple mobs that are NOT going to die in 0.2 seconds, go ahead and dot them all up with a little SW:P. If there are more than three, the focus on one and go to town with Mind Sear, but if not, then ramp some VT/Mind Flay action on each target one at a time until squashed.

Tip #9: Trash that "rotation" macro

Don't use a "rotation" macro. There are some out there, but shadowpriesting is more about reapplication of dots and finding the right time (you'll eventually get a feel for it) to recast Mind Flay as close to after the last tick of damage as possible. Also, situations change and the spells you use need to be available for those situations. I do believe there's a "no clip Mind Flay" macro but I have no idea if this works - I've never tried it. Who knows, maybe I've clipped my Mind Flay more often than not and a macro like that would serve me well? But I'd rather rely on my own eyes and fingers as to when exactly to hit my number 5 button (where Mind Flay is keybound to).

Tip #10: Practice!

It does make perfect - don't go into raids with this information without first testing it out on test dummies and heroics. Go with pugs, too. Make sure you visit several heroics. Also try to go out and kill big trash packs. A good test for me used to be those traveling groups of mammoths running around near Hibernal Cave in that valley between Dun Niffelum and the big Amazon lady place in Storm Peaks. Bubble, target the one that's up front and farthest away from you, and Mind Sear. Bring them all close to you. Practice multidotting. Practice Mind Searing while keeping yourself alive (bubble ftw). Get used to seeing all those timer bars on your screen and what they are telling you. Move around, try to give challenges to yourself by killing a stray worm outside of the mammoth pack with the "opening" sequence. Practice that opening sequence on everything - heroics bosses, test dummies, the neutral bucks roaming around Crystalsong Forest beneath Dalaran.

Don't get discouraged - shadow priests have had scaling problems with gear for ages, and you will most likely not outdps similarly-geared dpsers of other classes. Rogues will pwn you, hunters will squash you, and warlocks will make you want to cry. Bad advice coming from me, I know, but shadow priests CAN do extremely awesome dps when the player sets his or her mind to it and has the gear to pull it off.


So there's my two cents. I have explained on this very blog before about how I get outdpsed by boomkins in lesser gear than me, so my word is obviously not gospel and these tips are all from my own personal experiences and trials and errors. Shadowpriest.com (excellent source for information about all things spriest) may say differently. People may have other suggestions about addons. These are what I've found to work for me.

How about you other great shadow priests out there - any helpful tips to add?