Archive for the Theory Category

Insanity – and they weren’t kidding!

Posted in News, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory, Theorycraft with tags , , , on January 17, 2013 by Natarumah

ability_warlock_eradicationIt is hardly a secret that Shadowpriests have been avoiding Power Word: Insanity like the plague; an ability that consumes your Shadow Word:Pain in return for a modest amount of damage (and only if consumed at the very last moment) is like trying to play whack-a-mole with a set of tweezers. Now Blizzard noticed this and tries to put the plague back into this talent, redesigning it for patch 5.2.

The Deal

The current incarnation of the ability as presented is “Solace and Insanity”. We ignore Solace – that’s for our healing brethren. The “Insanity” portion basically causes your Mind Flay to deal double damage while there are three shadow damage DoT’s on the target. This wording is very important because it’s the difference between Insanity being total suck or total win.

First Impression

When you think of the reasonable application, it means that Mind Flay deals double damage only with three of your shadow damage over time effects. That would be all three of VT, SW:Pain and DP. And considering that DP can be applied with 1 to 3 Shadow Orbs (increasing its damage) it suddenly becomes a pain game of deciding whether a 2-Orb DP + double damage MF more often is worth it over a 3-Orb DP with less double damage Mind Flays. In practice, it won’t be.

Taking an 8 second cooldown, you will have a 3-Orb Devouring Plague every 24 seconds, after which your Mind Flay (3 second channel base) will deal double damage. Of course you might get lucky with the Divine Insight procs, but we should discount this for now to get the base value of the talent. This “bare increase” will give Mind Flay a slight boost in DPECT (Damage per Effective Cast Time). Basically, it’s DPECT value increases by 100% but only 1/10 of the time.

To get to this 3-Orb Devouring Plague we need:

  • Three Mind Blasts (1.5 second cast time)
  • Three Mind Blast cooldowns (8 seconds each)
  • Devouring Plague (Instant cast + GCD)
  • We can start casting Mind Flay

Total time required: 4.5 seconds casttime, 24 seconds cooldown, 0.5 seconds GCD = 29 seconds (let’s round to 30); Devouring Plague lasts 6 seconds base, giving us room for 2 Mind Flay casts. This gives us an active time of 12 seconds per minute; 20% uptime on the buffed Mind Flay. This also means a 20% increase (roughly) of the Mind Flay damage you’d see in your logs.

In the red corner, replacing our retarded Shadowfiend: Mindbender. With a minute cooldown base, the Mindbender is fire and forget, deals more damage and restores more mana than the Shadowfiend. It deals about 60% of the damage of a normal Shadowfiend, but can be used three times as often. You will see your “Shadowfiend related damage” increased by 80% if you have the Mindbender talent.

The key here is: which one’s higher?

If we read the tooltip literally

Well, we’d be happy with all our Warlock and Shadowpriest colleagues in the raid, that’s what. If we read it literally, it doesn’t say that we need 3 of our own shadow DoTs on the target, meaning we get the buff as long as aside of our main DoTs (VT, SW:P – which we should keep on our target at all times) one other Dotter is doing his job.

Corruption, Shadowflame, Unstable Affliction, Doom, and Shadowpriest DoTs will all count, and we can effectively say that in a 25man raid we have a 100% uptime on Insanity. That quite changes the outcome of things.

The Match

I am going to take the damage per cast time for Shadowfiend and Mindbender, and bring them back to damage per minute (the shortest cooldown), then I can see the benefit that Mindbender gives as opposed to having a vanilla Shadowfiend over a similar span of time.  I don’t need to do that for Mind Flay, because it has a convenient channel time I can abuse for this. Here I can simply check the direct increase in damage based on its uptime of roughly 20%. (so also 20% more DPECT). 

Shadowfiend DPECT (my gear):51529 (3 minutes cooldown) = 17.176,3 per minute
Mindbender DPECT (my gear): 36.129 per minute
Benefit of Mindbender vs Shadowfiend = 18.952,7

Mind Flay DPECT (my gear): 38.969 (3 second channel)
Insanity DPECT increase: 100%
Active time: 12 seconds/minute (20%)
Benefit of Insanity vs vanilla Mind Flay = 15.587,6

If all DoTs are counted, then the uptime of Insanity becomes about 10o%, massively improving the output of Mind Flay.

Mind Flay DPECT (my gear): 38.969
Insanity DPECT increase: 100%
Active time: 100%
Benefit of Insanity with all DoTs = 77.938 (!)

Results

We can tell that if Insanity is triggered only by our own DoTs, it suffers from giving us a smaller increase in damage even if we’d time our Mind Flays perfectly, and on a Patchwerk style fight. With increasing Haste, the value of Insanity will slowly creep up to the value of Mindbender, but as soon as we have to move or suffer from lag, its value drops significantly. Also note that the 20% active time is really generous, considering it’s 6 seconds of buff for 29 seconds of rampup. Over a fight of 10 minutes you will have 34  buffed Mind Flays (so closer to 17%).

Only when it counts for all Shadow DoTs, from all other raid members, does Insanity catch up – and then it shines. Of course I did count 100% uptime here, but I think that’s reasonable considering that it takes only two Shadowpriests or Warlocks to get this done.

Do note that Mastery, which increases our Shadow DoT damage (and thus Mind Flay) scales very well with this talent. While Mind Bender doesn’t benefit from Mastery at all, a Mastery-heavy gear set will not only bump up DoT damage a lot more, but when combined with Insanity will also interact with the 100% damage buff. A +10% damage from Mastery effectively doubles while Insanity lasts and with a 17% uptime this will work out to 11,7% in practice (or +20% if all DoTs count).

I am not sure which design Blizzard is going to take, but if my napkin math hits anywhere near home, this choice will determine whether we will ever use the talent or not.

As we prepare for our journeys

Posted in Guides, News, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , on September 3, 2012 by Natarumah

With the release of patch 5.0, the servers have been flooded with people resubscribing to get into the game before Mists releases. There’s something cute about dozens of people milling around in confusion, trying to find out what their talents are doing, whether their class is still competitive and where they can train for pet battles (which they can’t, until Mists launches).

Shadowpriests are in a good spot at the moment. We’re not so overpowered that the nerfbat looms over us, yet we’re not so much behind or broken that we can’t simply play the game. In fact, I would categorize us as the “somewhat boring, safe choice” at the moment. Warlocks certainly had all the goodies, but from their angle I see a lot of complaints about mana issues, restrictive rotations and the lack of DPS cooldowns.

Our basic rotation

Priority one: Keep up Shadow Word:Pain and Vampiric Touch at all times, on all targets. Shadow Word:Pain gives us Shadow Orbs and Vampiric Touch regenerates health and mana for us.

Use Devouring Plague at 3 Shadow Orbs to be safe, or use it whenever the old one starts to drop off (this may be a DPS loss). Mind Blast on cooldown, Mind Flay as filler. Assuming that you took From Darkness Comes Light and Divine Insight as talents, you’re going to see 2 procs:

When your FDCL procs, your Mind Spike becomes Instant cast, costs no mana and doesn’t wipe DoTs. This is the only time I will use MS, and combined with the Mind Spike Glyph it meshes well with Mind Blast. When DI procs, you get an Instant cast, free Mind Blast. So two procs to juggle, not too serious.

Finally, <20% Health you start prioritizing Shadow Word:Death for execution – if you have it glyphed you can use it while on the move even above 20% health, but otherwise there’s little reason to touch it. Its damage is inferior when not in the Execute phase. Multidot when there’s 2-3 targets, above that target your tank and Mind Sear away.

Cooldowns

First off, Silence and Psychic Horror are now baseline. These are great tools while questing and even in dungeons, but they were never worth it to invest talent points in. Rather than including them in the new talent choices (where they would again be ignored, most likely) the Developers decided to add them to our standard toolkit. I am grateful for this, because it also gives us baseline PvP ability right off the bat.

The first tier of our talents are all about control – which you take depends on your personal preference and content. Dominate Mind is great for instancing and mayhem in PvP. Psifiend is of most use when you expect to stay around a single spot for some time – this usually is a raiding situation where you need to keep adds of you – but this is mostly good as healer defense. The Void Tendrils are a good go-to and the one I took for myself – an AoE root around yourself is a great escape.

Your talents will hold a few other choices, most of them up to you. One of the talents I picked up to test them out was our Camouflage, which is simply hilarious. I can’t really judge how effective it would be in a real raiding situation, but in an Ulduar fun-run we had I managed to get aggro on some mobs, and then pop this. They went after my decoy and started hitting it – and by the time it went poof they had to move all over the room to get to me again. This is great as an escape mechanism, especially when combined with Fade, but it will also surprise a lot of people in PvP.

Vital statistics

With the gear chances, Hit isn’t really going to be an issue. We will gain Spell Hit from Hit, Expertise and Spirit now. If you are anal about the hit cap, then the Human race is for you: Expertise bonus with Maces as well as a Spirit bonus. If you are an experienced Shade, 13% Hit will be plenty.

We still favour Haste, but Crit and Mastery are now on a more equal footing. Since they both do the same thing (doubling damage) the only difference is that Crit can help our Shadowfiend cooldown via Mind Flay while Mastery cannot. That said, to prevent gimping yourself due to Diminishing returns, balancing Crit and Mastery isn’t a bad deal. After all – you can have your damage doubled by both a Crit and Mastery at once.

On a personal note: preparations

For alts I often rely on the Darkmoon Faire to get around those pesky sore spots in levelling professions where I’d need to sink in tons of gold. Alas, the Faire’s quests weren’t properly reset this month so that plan went out the window. Since I don’t know whether I want to focus on levelling my Warlock, Death Knight orPaladin after my Priest, I gave them all sufficient shiny gear to survive the starter zone. With my Warrior at 85, I now own an 85 of every class except for the Shaman, which I just never really got into. If I find the energy, I might decide to spend the time before Mists leveling it to 85 just to have a “full stable”

I am looking forward to the pet battles, but I can already see an issue on the horizon. There are quite a few pets of which I have 5 or more copies – in Mists we will be limited to three of each type. As we can’t crate them for trade before Mists actually launches, I worry that some of these pets will be crunched in between “can’t crate it” and “crate or lose it”. With a modicum of common sense, Blizzard will first enforce a “never gain more once you have three of a kind” first and not hard enforce the limit until a month or so passed.

My focus points on the moment are getting my Warlock her droolishious Conquest outfit for mogging, now that it is available for Honor. I was already halfway saving conquest, but things speed up nicely this way. Second on the list is winning that darn Fishing Competition so that I can get my Salty title. Problem is, I am hated by Booty Bay leaving only the Dalaran fishing competition – and that’s a tight window.

The future of Shadowpriests

We are safe for the moment, a good choice. I can see how people from less favored class reroll when they get disappointed about how their classes turned out after the beta. Many times the beta’s start was shiny and new, and the Developers tried lovely new things – only to discard them (like Warlock tanks). But these ideas rooted in the minds of people, as they really liked them. And now that the patch is here, they see their class hasn’t even got half the shinies it was offered.

With Shadowpriests receiving little to no “fun” goodies (less shadowy shadowform? Shadowy pets? Why would I take those?) and is using basically all the old abilities in a slightly modified rotation from before, I think we came out better than I expected. Good damage (but not jaw-droppingly so), plenty mana and a Shadowform that just won’t quit - what more could you wish for?

Learning a class anew

Posted in Guides, PvP, Raids and Instances, Theory with tags , , on August 8, 2012 by Natarumah

When a new expansion is introduced, you will always see people switching their main characters. Either they got tired of their old class, they want to try out a new role, or they believe that that shiny new alt they rolled is going to be a better fit for them. With Mists, you can also add the reason: “help, my class has been completely overhauled”. You will find that there’s a lot of catching up to do, and you don’t really want to wait until the next raiding season to practice all those cooldowns, rotations and gimmicks.

So here’s what you can do: find equivalent practice.

Equivalent practice

In the basics, it’s looking for a training experience equivalent to whatever you are practicing for, except easily repeatable and sometimes secluded for better number crunching. It’s like stepping into a simulator to train your muscle memory for the operations needed to drive a car before setting foot into a real vehicle. You already get the kinks out before stuff gets real.

Training Rotations

The first step in learning your rotations is to map them out: find a good blog, elitist jerks or a skilled friend and find out what buttons you push and in what order. A simple way of doing this is to make a sort of flow chart on a piece of paper, where you put the abilities you cast into boxes and connect them based on 1) what needs to be up in what order of priority and 2) what needs casting based on a prerequisite (such as SW:Deathx2 below 25% health).

You then map out your button bar so that it reflects this chart; in other words, the most important and often used abilities go at the start of the bar, in easy reach. I like to keep Fade and Shield at the back side of the bar, still within quick click range, in case things go wrong. This is a good place for DPS cooldowns as well, such as Archangel and Shadowfiend. Then comes the next step: practicing at a training dummy.

Training Dummies, while awful for finding out what your DPS would be in a raid or the like, are really amiable targets for repeated and continuous spamming. So basically grind out your basic rotations for half an hour or so, trying to get the best grip on it you can. Because there are no mechanics to worry about, you can easily focus on your buttons and bar to work on a good sequence and timing.

Many people would now consider the next step to go into a dungeon – however for reasons I will mention this is usually a bad place to practice these things. Instead, join up for an LFR run. Since with moderate skill you can already do really well there, and mechanics (while present) are not really dangerous, you can afford to spend more time working on your casting sequences. I imagine that this will be no different in Mists of Pandaria, although it does mean you will need to already have reasonable gear for your toon.

Training burst damage and spatial awareness

For these things, the random dungeon finder is awesome (or even better: queueing up with friends). Assuming you know the basic rotations well enough now, this is the place to learn how to apply burst damage and train spatial awareness. Since people in dungeons are often overgearing the place once the raid seasons started, you will have less chance to practice sustained DPS. The more damage the other people are doing in your group, the less time the mob has to live – and the less time you have to practice.

There’s also the matter that low DPS and attempting to learn a rotation while in a random dungeon (especially heroic) is going to make people really edgy. Most people there just want to rush through for gear and Valor points, and they aren’t really waiting for someone who’s still learning the ropes. However, the fact that the heroics/dungeons have proper encounter mechanics to follow means that you will get practice in spatial awareness and performing your role while paying attention to your surroundings.

Survival and creativity training

To be fair, nothing beats learning to survive and creative use of your skills as does PvP. Random battlegrounds are a good start, and you can easily jump right in with a starter kit made by a crafting profession. In the beginning you will die a lot, but as you become more savvy and get better gear you will live longer and be a more threatening target. This is great to learn what possible means of survival you have when playing that class.

Second, since you fight against Human opponents, you need better and more surprising tactics to fool them. This means you will learn by instinct what abilities (and combinations) will work to lock an opponent down or leave them behind while you escape. All skills which will be valuable while raiding.

Class and spec-specific tricks

These are perhaps the only things that can only be learned by using them in arenas, rated battlegrounds or raids. These are either class-specific tricks (Prot warrior charge/intercept, hunter kiting/jump shot, Priestly Hymn of Hope + Shadowfiend) or role-specific (corner pulls, heal stacking, multidotting) and you are going to have to learn them the hard way, by experience. Often it’s these tricks that make the difference between a good DPS and an amazing DPS, and you will learn a lot instinctively and with experience.

Conclusion

There are plenty of ways to train yourself in your class before the raids start – and with Mists of Pandaria bringing in a breath of fresh air for a lot of classes, even experienced players might benefit from a few simple tips on how to (re)learn critical skills for raiding and PvP. If you identify yours now, you can be up and running while your fellows – I mean competition – are still learning to walk again.

Dot Removal – an early view

Posted in News, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , , on June 29, 2012 by Natarumah

One of the things that seems to be the newest hit in Shadowpriest design land is the “dot removal”. For one reason or another, after the relative faillure (read: very situational use) of Mind Spike, the addition of Shadow Word: Insanity seems to solidify the juxtaposed phasing of Shadowpriest abilities in a “Dotting up – Explode dots”  model.

How it is today

Mind Spike as a spell hits as hard as Mind Blast, but removes all dots on the target. Properly talented, it is buffed by Shadow Orbs and itself will reduce the cast time of Mind Blast, effectively making the next one instant. The basic idea is that this spell will only be used when its Shadow Orb-buffed damage exceeds the damage your Dots do in that time plus the time it takes to reapply them all.

Currently, the only time when this happens is when you have small, easily killed adds that you cannot AoE down, or on Spine of Deathwing (once you have 4piece T13). The latter is because you will use all cooldowns on the Tendon phase, meaning Shadowfiend will give you a lot of Orbs, causing practically all your Mind Spikes and Mind Blasts to benefit from a full three Shadow Orbs.

In Mists of Pandaria

You won’t have the tier 13 bonus, unless they choose to roll it into a talent or glyph, which is highly unlikely. This removes the benefit of using Shadowfiend as a buff for Mind Spike. This means that Mind Spike will once again struggle to overcome the barrier of (Damage Done)>(Dots DPS + DPS loss from recasting dots).

Shadow Word: Insanity has a similar model, except that it will extinguish your dots and then increase its damage done by up to 100% per dot removed. The bolded part is important, because it is dependent upon how long your dots were ticking when they were removed. This means that the SW:I will deal the most damage at the last second of each dot.

The picture above is a basic model of how this would work (click it for a larger view); base damage of the spell is rather low (arbitrary “half a DoT’) but is boosted by the consumed DoTs. It has a break-even point, after which the SW:I will deal more damage that the DoT itself, but you’d want to wait a bit more to ensure you also “cover” the time lost recasting the DoT.

This is split-second timing over 3 dots (SW:Pain, Vampiric Touch and the currently languishing Devouring Plague) and their respective durations. Fortunately it’s instant-cast, so it only has to overcome the barrier of lost recasting the dots, which you would have to anyway considering you cast this spell close to the end of a dot duration. There are a few scenarios to think of as to the use of (and reason to introduce) this spell:

SW:Insanity as a cycle ender

Basically, using SW:Insanity as close as possible to the end of the dots, using it to clean the slate and reapply all dots. This comes down to casting this spell every 12 seconds or so, after which you spend 3-4 seconds reapplying them. This could be a DPS gain or loss – but it would take quite some maths to figure it out since the break-even point of SW:I is highly dependent on gear and scaling. It is, without a doubt, hideously mana inefficient if not used at the split second before a dot would expire needlessly – and with three dots this is likely the case.

SW:Insanity as Burst

If the target is going to die before the dots will do their job (a problem we Shadowpriests are well familiar with) then you can use SW:I to “explode” the dots, allowing you to at least get some damage in before the target dies. This will be mostly useful in 5mans, where dot classes suffer noticeably under more bursty classes. If a mob has 1 million HP, and your party members burst more than you, you end up at the bottom of the meters. It may not be important, but neither is it fun – so this is probably the best use for this spell.

New mechanic is new

A last scenario is not a scenario for the uses of the spell, but the reason for its introduction: innovation. In order to distinguish us from the (arguably superior, more fun and better presented) Affliction Warlock, the developers tried to diverge our methods. We both rely on dots, but where the Affliction Locks use Malefic Grasp to “supercharge” their Dots, we “explode”  them.

This is of course a valid option, although I find my nose rankling at the thought of being a dot class that removes its dots willingly. Mind Spike at least was only marginally useful, so it was safe to ignore this spell all through Cataclysm until the Spine of Deathwing encounter. Shadow Word: Insanity is liable to become one of those spells the entire spec is going to be balanced around.

Conclusion

Maybe this is a gesture towards the Shadowpriests who clamored for maths and complexity, or maybe it’s an unintended complicated mechanism – this is its second incarnation, with a more clear description.

Personally, I think  the spell has potential in the margins. With superior gear, it’s possible an advanced Dot-Explode-Dot cycle becomes a bursty and viable way of dealing with bosses. It’s also a good way to ensure that your dots will not go to waste, as any lost potential is pumped into its instant damage. With proper development it might have use, but it will require more information and a truckload of maths to figure out when it’s useful and when it’s a loss.

The Old Gods and their new toys

Posted in Diary, Fun, News, Roleplaying, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , on June 3, 2012 by Natarumah

Things are starting to get rolling in the Priest department, it seems. When MMO-Champion released a video of the new priest animations (check it out here) by Kit, the first thing that went through my head is “hey – I think I see a theme…” which is a good thing, definitely. While the Holy and Discipline priests have their clear and present feels, I posted before on how Shadowpriests need to be re-examined and have their theme pulled tight again.

When I look at these animations, however, I have to say that the ballpark seems to be squarely in the Old Gods department again. Let’s have a look at a few telling animations, and see what we can gather from it…or what may be yet in store.

Psyfiend

The Psyfiend looks like a strange mixture between the Sha (The spiritual manifestations of bad and twisted emotions in Pandaria) and an evolved Shadowfiend. As you can see, it has the Shadowfiend’s head and back (including gaping maw) with its lower half devolving into a legless form of spirit and Shadows.

Considering that the Sha represent emotions and are a major threat to Pandaria, I wouldn’t be surprised if this cemented the link between the Shadowfiend being a gift from the Old Gods and the Sha being the creations or manipulations by one. Of course, we’d have to follow through on the Mists of Pandaria storyline in order to find out for sure, but the chances are high that we may find some solid linking between the various concepts.

If you look at the Sha on WoWPedia, you will find that there’s a good resemblance between the Sha types and the Shadowfiend, as well as the ominous stained glass window that was revealed  (which is of course a representation of Yogg-Saron). If we will be eventually facing an Old God in this expansion, it’s therefore likely to be a shadowy one – perhaps finally revealing where the Shadowpriests of the Horde and Alliance are getting their powers from.

Void Tendrils

Of all of the new Priest abilities, this is the most no-brainer of them all. Tendrils that look like any used by the Old Gods and their servants. From Ch’tun to Yogg-Saron, from Vezzax to Zon’ozz, you can’t seem to fight these guys without tripping over tentacles. And right now, Priests can do that exact same thing. It’s possibly the most telling example of the connection between the Old Gods and Shadowpriests, but also the most iconic. Raise your hands if you have run Ch’tun and Yogg-Saron even in Wrath to get your hands on any of the tentacle trinkets?

Mindbender

And the last of the abilities I want to focus on is Mindbender, allowing us to control others’ minds. Where the Shadowfiends dutifully suck out all of that delicious mana for us to use from our enemies the Mindbenders pop out of whatever Shadowy hiding place they come from and give us more soldiers to use in our battles – and these Mindbenders are creatures we’ve seen before. One of them controls Erunak Stonespeaker in the Throne of the Tides, and will jump to party members to do the same.

And one large specimen of this creature controls a Flesh Giant in the Twilight Highlands (Julak-Doom) while Ozumat is likely the largest specimen of this type encountered near Azeroth. The fact that this race is aligned with, and probably spawned by, the Old Gods and now in service to Shadowpriests is telling of our allegiance in the great race between Order (Titans) and Chaos (Old Gods).

Conclusion

We are looking at a solid design element here, Old Gods. People have speculated about them for years now, and I would be delighted if Shadowpriests were actively part of that lore. It’d make us bad guys, sure – or at the very least anti-heroes, but it would give us plenty of visual elements to give us new toys with.

Imagine powers based on the Faceless Ones, such as shadowy globs that explode on impact or eye stalks that cast Mind Flay? Why not some form of buff that makes us bigger and turns out arms into tentacles (or have them grow out of our backs) to show the corruptive influences of our magics?

And if you ever want to remake the Shadowpriest (like what happened to Warlocks) I can offer up one suggestion: replace the mana bar with a Sanity bar. As we go along, many of our abilities reduce our Sanity, producing various nasty visual results, until we ran out of Sanity and can no longer cast spells. We regain Sanity by draining it from enemies (as we do now) or by casting spells that are helpful to our raid (Shadowy healing, buffs, and the like). It might be that certain powerful abilities – instead of being on a cooldown – require the Shadowpriest to be below a certain level of Sanity (thoroughly insane to grasp these terrible secrets) before they can be used.

I hope Blizzard will stick with the Old Gods theme, because as you can see there is so much that can still be done and left to explore. It certainly would keep me playing my Shadowpriest!

The grand design…of sorts

Posted in Fun, News, PvP, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by Natarumah

There’s a lot of clamoring about Shadowpriests in the current Beta build; I can’t verify any of it since I don’t have Beta access myself, but I will try and make a coherent baseline setup of what we’d be looking at doing in the current build from what I’ve gathered.  (I received Beta access with the second wave of keys, with most of the other GreyBeard accounts). There are, as always, major concerns and gaps which need to be filled, but we’ll have to hope these get addressed as time marches on.

Keep in mind the general changes to the game, such as Intellect no longer providing mana, meaning we all have the same mana pools, and that Replenishment is gone.

Note that, due to my personal affection for my class, some ranty elements might be included in this post, for which I apologize beforehand. I love my class, and that sometimes gets the better of me.

The base system: Shadow Orbs

Shamelessly lifted off of the Paladin model, Shadow Word: Pain and Mind Blast generate Shadow Orbs, which are used to unleash our most potent attacks. I can’t tell if there’s a limit to the amount we can have, but this picture by Theed on the MMO-Champion forums suggest 3 (three), since the UI has been changed to make room for three slots under the character portrait.

Option 1:Shadowy Apparitions is now a triggered ability, which consumes all Shadow Orbs to generate 1 SA per Orb.

Option 2:Psychic Horror now costs Shadow Orbs to trigger, no mana, and lasts longer with more Orbs. [PvP, do not touch!]

Mastery

Our new Mastery is a straight %Increase to our Shadow damage dealt, and when we trigger Shadowy Apparitions, there’s a chance to be refunded Shadow Orbs when they deal damage. This seems to feed into a system where we trigger Shadowy Apparitions in “lean times”, hoping to be refunded the Orbs. Currently, since the only other thing we can do with them is triggering Psychic Horror, we will do this a lot.

Talents we take

Tier 1: Psyfiend (Static Fear), Shadowy Tendrils (Root), Dominate Mind (New Mind Control) – all of them are as useful or useless as you make it, pick one.

Tier 2: Path of the Devout (Increased speed while Levitating), Phantasm (Fading currently gives you a Smoke Bomb effect as well as a Root escape) – take Phantasm, unless you like recasting Levitate every 5 seconds. (There’s currently word that the speed buff lasts 30 seconds, which would make this a more equal draw).

Tier 3: Dark Archangel (25% Damage boost) or From Darkness Comes Light (VT damage procs an instant MSpike without losing DoTs) – We probably need to calculate burst damage benefits versus the benefit of having a semi-useful MSpike every so often – I probably will go for Dark Archangel then. There’s one spot for an unannounced talent, so let’s hope there’s something good to be had here.

Tier 4: Void Shift (Swap Health and heal lower health target by 25%) – the others are healing talents.

Tier 5: Power Infusion (Straight damage buff), Divine Insight (MB casts allow you to treat your target as <20% for SW:Death), Twist of Fate (15% damage on healing and damage on targets below 20%) – Divine Insight will be the key to the immense damage overload of SW:Death, so I would take it over ToF. PI will be the winner in the beginning, when we have to adjust to our rotations and our mana returns are still bad.

Tier 6: If the “Coming Soon” talent in the preview is Shadow related, take that. Else take Divine Star (Holy Jojo) to steal a Mage’s Fire Orb that also comes back because our spells are loyal to us.

Spell changes

  • Vampiric Touch no longer triggers replenishment, which has been removed. It instead heals you for 15% of the damage it deals.
  • Devouring Plague has been removed; its initial damage aspect has been moved to SW:Pain.
  • SW:Pain now deals instant damage, and generates 1 Shadow Orb when it is cast (no when it ticks).
  • SW:Death now deals X damage to both you and your target, 4x times damage on a target below 20%. It no longer provides mana. When you fail to kill the target its cooldown is reset, as if you had the current SW:Death glyph.
  • Vampiric Embrace now has a 3 minute cooldown, but when triggered heals (Party Memebers) for 50% of the damage you deal.
  • Vampiric Dominance (New) used to be a talent but is now baseline or replaces VE possibly, heals 3 nearby low-health targets for 15% of damage dealt. It cannot be cast in Shadowform however, which is completely against the nature of its ability, name and icon.
  • Mind Control has been removed and replaced with Dominate Mind, which has a 30 second cooldown, maybe (?) instant cast, and affects all non-mechanical targets. Considering people are speaking of using other spells while mind controlling, it might be that this is a full CC or that you get a pet bar instead of losing control.
  • Psychic Scream is baseline again, because screaming like a little girl while tossing dots around didn’t go out of style, no matter what the Devs thought.
  • Spectral Guise is a new ability, generating a copy of you while making you invisible. If your real form is hit with direct attacks 3 times, the spell dissipates.
  • Inner Fire: Now gives a 10% static boost to Spellpower.
  • Shadowfiend’s cooldown has been reduced to 4 minutes.
  • Empowered Shadows is gone entirely.

The good

The dynamics of a [SW:Px3, SA, MB, MF] rotation, while horribly similar to a Paladin’s or Fire Mage’s rotation, can be very interesting but it’s a sudden change in direction. We have one less DoT, and the remaining DoTs need to be more significant to not let this talent spec become the “infant terrible” among DPS, with lots of new kids lolling about how “easy the spec is”. There’s an immense amount of battlefield control – Scream, Horror, Dominate/Tentacle/Psyfiend, Silence which will make us versatile in PvE but a destructive train engine in PvP.

The combination of SA, MB and SW:Death in its current form also means we are absolute masters of the Execute, which will have people cry for nerfs in PvP about three minutes into Live.

We have strong (albeit strange) escape mechanisms including the new Phantasm and Spectral Guise, which seem aimed at making us more like real ninjas than rogues are. I mean, we can’t just go invisible, but we leave  a double behind. We have a Smoke Bomb which also breaks roots. It feels a bit like being in an episode of Naruto.

The bad

Shadowpriest talents and abilities still seem horribly aimed at healing (VE, VD, Void Shift, Divine Star), while our raid support otherwise is still non-existent. TBC saw the nerfing of our raid Shadow healing, WotLK saw the nerf to replenishment and subsequent increase in our damage. Cataclysm saw our first real revamp where Shadow Orbs and advanced SW:Death techniques were added and VE healing further nerfed. But through all this, we haven’t gained anything worthwhile (in fact everything that was added will be removed or completely revamped in MoP) whether in personal or raid support.

Dispersion is a survival cooldown and I am called on a lot to soak/survive crazy stuff like solo-soaking Zon’ozz orbs or Hour of Twilight from heroic Ultraxion. So only now does that ability really shine. But when I compare it to things like the Doomguard/Infernal, Demonic Teleport and Demon Form from Warlocks, or most of the awesome things Unholy Death Knights get I feel a bit shortchanged. And when I look at what extra work is done on these classes for MoP, it makes sticking to my Shadowpriest actually hard. I mean I want to play my Shadowpriest, and I remind myself that this is only Beta, but I see ourselves being so much more boring than the Warlocks while offering nothing an Affliction Warlock couldn’t.

The ugly

There does not seem to be a real proper design direction for Priests, which heavily impacts the current choices. It all seems like some random “do damage”, “boost damage” and “heal crowd” abilities being tossed about at various levels, trying to put them in such an order that we’d have a hard time picking between them. The developer Metagame of “tease the player, not the class” takes an all new high in attempts to make us jump through hoops to do the same damage as other classes while still being elected “off healer of the year” the moment a healer doesn’t show up for a raid.

I’d say forget about the talents for now. It’s obvious they will either fall in the “pick one, they don’t matter” or “mandatory” classes. The core of the class is the manner in which we deal damage. We used to be “Dots with benefits” but it seems the designers want to move away from this role to give the Affliction locks more breathing room. This is fine, but this does mean we need to have a new, proper role that does not make us infringe upon the intellectual property of Mages.

I have made several posts before about design philosophy and design, and I see the same mistake being made daily in Process Management and Document Control – the lack of a proper foundation, lack of a “Management Summary” which all designers can stick to, no “winning themes” or “design document” which details the end result that the designers want to achieve. I am not sure, I have to assume that the Developers have these, but the more I see the new changes I am wondering what it could be…

Concusion

The change from Shadowpriests to a more balanced, direct-damage type seems to be in full swing, but otherwise there is no real flavor to the class. The mana issues have recently been handled with reductions in mana costs across the board, but the lack of raid utility seems rampant. To this, I must ask: “Why would I play a Shadowpriest over a Warlock? What does a Shadowpriest have that is fun and unique?”

I am currently looking for the answer and dreading the outcome. I want to play my Shadowpriest, but I won’t sacrifice my fun to do it.

Ten ways to increase DPS that should be obvious

Posted in Guides, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , on February 22, 2012 by Natarumah

Looking back on all the posts I made, I realized I never made one in the style of “Ten ways to…”, so I decided to rake together a number of ways to increase your DPS that, while obvious, aren’t known or used by everyone. Considering the current lack of real news regarding priests in general (and Shadowpriests in particular) that emerges from the Blizzard HQ these days, we might as well make the best of the content we have…

10: Un-clutter your UI

A clean and well-organized User Interfance makes the battlefield a lot easier to oversee, gives you swift access to your abilities and the information you need and may also reduce (input) lag. One of the things you could go for once you have mastered keybinding is a minimalist UI, where nothing shows up unless you need it (not even buttons). However, it might be that you have very different needs if you switch between PvE and PvP a lot, or if you want to have a minimalist setup only on fights that aren’t on farm.

In this case, you might use an addon called Reflux, which allows you to save the setup for your UI as a profile, and switch between them with a text command. By making your UI match your personal preferences and making use of as little interface as possible, you can gain valuable time and focus.

9: Always be casting – Always

While it should be somewhat of a mantra for most DPS, any time where you aren’t casting is time where your DPS drops. No matter what else you are doing, you should always be hitting buttons around the GCD. Devouring Plague spam, Shadow Word:Death, Shadowfiend are all prime spells to cast in such times. But if there’s heavy damage incoming that might kill you, you can also use movement time for Power Word:Shield, Renew+Shadowform, and the like.

8: Practice Fights

If you are in any way serious about raiding, you should know what you’re getting into. At least read the boss’  abilities in the Dungeon Journal (Shift+J) for a basic idea, and a strategy guide as found on Bosskillers, Icy Veins, Tankspot, Wowpedia or Wowhead. If you have time, check out a video of the fight, preferably from a ranged DPS view. This gives you an idea what the fight will look like in reality, since looking at 2D maps and John Madden Charts will not prepare you for where to move.

If you are going to go to a Dragon Soul fight with a (new) raid, try running it in LFR difficulty first. Sure it won’t be quite as difficult as the fight will be on Normal mode, but it will tell you how and when boss abilities fire, what they look like, and a basic idea of where not to stand and what not to do. This will allow you to focus on refining your tactics in the normal run.

7: Use consumables and Services

When raiding, always have a Flask active. If it isn’t done yet, ask if the tanks can count down before they pull the boss and use a Potion (Volcanic Potion for us smart types) on the count of “2″. This way you will have the benefit of the potion the first 12 seconds of the fight, and are able to use another potion somewhere halfway the fight (during Heroism or below 25% is a good call). Known as “double-potting”, this practice can easily put another 50-100K damage on a boss in a fight per raid member.

Try to carry a stack or so of Volcanic Potions with you at all times – two stacks if you plan a wipe night. While this might seem expensive, you will shorten the time to kill and learn a boss, increase your DPS and show that you are a real contender in a raid.

6: Move in the GCD

There are quite a few fights where you have to move only a little bit at a time. Haggara’s storm strikes on the ground you move out during her lightning phase are an example, or when shifting DPS to a tentacle in the Madness of Deathwing. As an extension of “Always be Casting”, it will pay to learn to move in the Global Cooldown. Even when you have metric kilotons of Haste, the GCD will always be a second (give or take, with lag). This means that in many cases you can cast a spell, and hit a movement key right as it ends to start moving. When the GCD is finishing, immediately queue another spell.

This way you minimize the movemement you need to make, meaning you maximize DPS time. Oh, and if you are having difficulties with movement or are a bit slow, enchant run speed on your boots. If you aren’t sure of it, this will increase your DPS most of all.

5: Toss and Turn

Another trick is the “half-strafe”, which I jokingly called the “PvP Run”  when I was a wee pre-60. If you use WASD to move, simultaneously hold your right left mouse button and move the mouse to move your view around without changing directions. If you let go of the mouse button, you will immediately shift directions to move where you were looking. You can use this technique to keep an eye on objects/creatures you will need to target soon (Haggara’s ice phase pillars, Yor’Sahj’s globules). Using the right mouse button will allow you to turn the camera and also move in that direction.

As another obvious point, Mind Flay will turn you in the direction of your target if it means. This means that you can use Mind Flay to keep you turned without moving when fighting Yor’Sahj’s globules for instance. If it passes you by, use Mind Flay and immediately once you turned around cast another spell at it. You will never waste DPS turning again.

4: Use boss-specific opportunities

Every boss fight has special opportunities to increase (or minimize loss of) DPS. Your job as a Shadowpriest is to recognize them and use them to your advantage. Whether it is casting at Morchok from between two of his pillars during the black sludge, multi-dotting giants and dragons during the Blackhorn encounter or using Dispersion to soak Hour of Twilight on Ultraxxion. Many of these opportunities are explained on blogs, tactics or class-specific sites, but also research the fight yourself to make sure you get all you can out of it.

Speaking of Dispersion, if you use the following macro, you can Disperse and tap the button again to get out of Dispersion and resume DPS quicker:

#showtooltip
/cancelaura Dispersion
/cast Dispersion

3: Get a hold of your loot

If you are in a raiding guild, chances are you will be using some sort of loot distribution system. Regardless of the type (Suicide Kings, DKP, EQDKP, Loot Council, etc.) you are best off learning exactly how it works. Nothing bogs down your DPS like not being properly geared, and the loot system is in place to make it fair. However, if you lack knowledge, others have a distinct advantage in getting better gear.

Avoid tactics that are considered to be unfair, like driving up a bid for an item you don’t intend to buy, or change your mind after bidding, and the like. Be sure you know what you want – make a list of the items you want to have, order them by how hard you need them and make sure you have a maximum bid in your mind. It doesn’t help if you pay a lot for an item, only to lack points to bid on/opportunities to win an item which is one you have more need for.

Also: be proactive. Bid aggressively on items you really need. Don’t buy Valor Point items for yourself before a raid, do it after a raid when you know nothing you wanted for that slot will drop. Run LFR difficulty to fill up any “weak spots” in your gear. If a particular trinket is in high demand, chances are that even if it drops, others will bid on it heavily. Best thing is to run LFR difficulty and try to get at least that version of it, so that you don’t stick with lesser trinkets just because you are hoping for that one big payday.

2: Don’t be a miser

It may take you weeks to get a good set of DPS gear together, only to find that your next upgrade puts you over the Hit Cap, or somehow skews your Haste rating. Don’t be cheap and leave it like that, continually invest in keeping yourself at top of the line strength. Reforge, regem as needed, stock consumables, carry extra food and the like. You’re going to spend more on repair bills, I can guarantee you that, and this will at least show up in the meters.

When buying or bidding for items from raids, or even LFR items, don’t just consider whether they fit your kit now. If you know that the “leg” slot of your tier is the weakest link, but it’s all you have to keep your 4piece, don’t hesitate to still get the Best in Slot leg piece. One day you are going to get a replacement tier piece so you can get rid of your tier legs, only to find out you now have to wait for the BiS leg piece to drop again…

This also goes for gearing up an alt, applying to your first raiding guild, or switching mains – if you want to impress people and show that you can handle it, you may need to spend some big piles of gold to get it done. Don’t fall in the trap of “good enough” – eventually those little slip-ups and lazy moments will catch up and show you a 10K DPS difference with your class colleague.

Last but not least – level your professions. It happens quite often someone applies for a raiding spot and then has “10 Mining” or “300 Alchemy”. It’s ok to be in the process of leveling them – but tell it to your raid leader/in your app and make sure you get it done. Profession benefits add to DPS in almost all cases, and not having them shows that you are either lazy or unwilling to invest.

1: Socialize and be flexible

Being sociable not only helps in meshing well with the raid. Talking with your fellow class members may bring you a fresh look on things, or a previously unknown trick of the trade. Your other raid members might also help in upping your DPS when it helps the raid as a whole. For instance, a Power Infusion during a really difficult add phase, Dark Intent from a Warlock, or a Paladin’s bubble-of-immunity are all things that greatly help to increase DPS (or prevent loss of it by dying). Don’t be afraid to at least bring it up, and how it helps the raid as well.

And always remain flexible, especially now in the face of a coming expansion. Talent trees are overturned, stat balances change, even getting better gear might make you rethink your gearing strategy. Stay flexible, willing to learn and wide-eyed. Imagine every raid to be like your first and keep a mindset that you have to prove yourself to win your raid spot. You will find that the early adapter scores some quick wins in the DPS department.

Conclusion

There are many small things that contribute to better DPS. But remember to make sure that this is quality DPS. Massive damage on adds which leaves the boss alive to reach the enrage timer is not quality DPS, and while you may win on the meters, eventually it will be found out and you will be asked not to. Make sure that every point of damage you do contributes to reaching the raid’s goal – a boss kill and nerd screams on vent.

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