Archive for Patch 5.0

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?

Expectations for Shadowpriest design in 5.0

Posted in Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , on November 10, 2011 by Natarumah

The class Q&A which unfolded last night shone in the relative absence of any Shadowpriest information. This is to be expected, considering that we are the odd one out as a DPS spec for a primarily healing-oriented class. Still, they give a bit of insight in the direction that Blizzard wants to take the game (and us) as well as some glaring holes in our basic design if this comes to pass.

Shadow Orbs

Currently, Shadow Orbs are generated by SW:Pain ticks and Mind Flay. You can store up to 3, and when you cast Mind Spike or Mind Blast, the orbs are consumed for additional damage. It also triggers Empowered Shadows when Mind Blast is cast with at least one orb.

According to the Q&A, Shadow Orbs will become a resource (probably more akin to the Monk’s Dark Force) with no cap. Casting Mind Blast will cost one Shadow Orb, and it will have no cooldown of its own. This indicates that the damage boost to MB and MS will have to be baked into those spells to keep us competitive, and that something is likely to be changed in Empowered Shadows.

My initial guess would be that it is removed entirely – Blizzard originally wanted to give us original gameplay, but juggling both Evangelism and Empowered Shadows at the same time might have been too much for the average player, as well as cause too much ramp-up time. Battle-rezzing a Shadowpriest currently is a sub-optimal choice because it takes us half a minute to get up to speed again, versus a lot of other classes who can just put up one or two buffs and be at full efficiency.

If it isn’t removed, then it would need to be procced by something else – an interesting choice for that would be Mind Spike. If the dot-removal effect of Mind Spike was removed (since to be honest Mind Spike sees use today mostly on Ragnaros adds and PvP which is hardly a good basis for keeping the spell in the game) and casting it on a boss would cause Empowered Shadows, the gameplay would be a bit more manageable and less prone to randomness.

Replenishment

After the severe reduction in efficiency of Vampiric Embrace (putting us well below the Warlocks in terms of self-healing through damage – let alone Affliction) it was only a matter of time when Replenishment got the boot. Blizzard wants us all to manage our own resources, and not be shackled to outside help (for healers especially). Instead of a team of 25, a raid should be 25 individuals who just happen to work together. But, you know, if they don’t that’s also fine (queue LFRaid Finder jokes).

What isn’t fine is that this reduces our utility yet again – and we bring very little PvE utility to begin with. Our fear is mediocre as add control, and if the talents shown are anything to go by, the old vanilla Psychic Scream is a talent choice next to more interesting but niche-based fear spells. Of course, most people will take Psychic Scream since it’s the most generally useable one. As long as people don’t finger it as a reason to say that “our fear is fine” it’s acceptable I guess.

So what do we bring in 5.0 – without tremendous loss of DPS?

  • One (1) root or fear effect
  • Vampiric Embrace
  • Fortitude Buff
  • Possibly Vampiric Dominance at level 90
  • Offensive and self-dispel of Magic and Disease
  • Mass Dispel
  • Mind Control (also a self-CC)

I say ” possibly” at Vampiric Dominance because it’s not only a level 90 talent (meaning a choice), but also because I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard to remove Vampiric Embrace entirely and force us to buy Vampiric Dominance to get back a similar, but less useful ability. If it is in addition to/stacks with VE – then huzzah.

Compare this to Warlocks:

  • One single-target Fear
  • One AoE Fear, single-target Horror or Stun
  • Battle Rez through Soulstone
  • Healthstones
  • Self-healing or a healing received boost through self-buff as well as a tier-1 DPS talent
  • Self-dispel of Magic, Offensive Dispel or Fascinate through Pet
  • Mobility through Demonic Circle
  • Summoning raid members (depreciated in most cases through guild perks)
  • Dark Intent

Or Mages:

  • Arcane Brilliance
  • Polymorph
  • Spellsteal
  • Dispelling Curses
  • One (1) root
  • One (1) Stun
  • Counterspell
  • One (1) Slow/Knockback/Disorient
  • Focus Magic

It is quite likely that quite a few of these abilities are going to be changed, limited or removed. But still you will find that the Mage and the Warlock not only have more utility and encounter-interaction, but also more interesting ones. Sure we can heal by dropping Shadowform – at the cost of DPS, mana lost returning to Shadowform and building up our DPS again. And when we do heal, we go OoM very quickly.

Current Design Philosophy

It is obvious that Shadowpriests currently do not occupy the minds of the developers much. The talent trees revealed so far give our goodies to the healing priests but give nothing back. In fact, the very statement made during the Q&A revealed all:

“Leap of Faith will continue to have a facing requirement because healers should not just be staring at health bars but should also be paying attention to the raid environment.”

They don’t even consider us using this spell, since it drops Shadowform. Obviously only healers use it. Shadowpriests are generally more suited for using Leap of Faith because we are in the fight, but we lose tons of DPS while using it. So we don’t, on the whole, if another priest can do it instead. A prime example of a wasted opportunity.

What we need

It is not just that we’d need more utility – for one, without a hybrid tax we can only hope that the DPS can now be homogenized enough that it’s easier to divide the utility around the various classes and specs. What we need is something exciting, something new. We’ve been clamoring for it for ages, and got nothing.

  • We got an “exciting” Archangel/Evangelism + Empowered Shadows combo to replace the old – equally unexciting – Shadow Weaving
  • Shadow Orbs rangs from floor-scrapingly bad RNG faillure to practically overpowered – all within the same minute
  • Mind Spike’s introduction was a faillure – it’s a PvP spell and used in a limited fashion on adds (hint: 3+ adds means Mind Sear, which is the rule in Firelands today)
  • Raid utility was reduced as abilities were removed – other classes got more utility (and in a few cases, our utility was given to them instead)

I think the problem lies with our theme. We are shadowy punishers, who bring pain and misery on our enemies as we bring power to our allies. But if it’s anywhere near cool, it is given to Warlocks instead. And if it’s shadowy, the Rogues have first dibs. This leaves us in a lot of cases with nothing more than “not the healing priest”  as theme or using ” the mind”  as part of the theme, which just is not going to give us exciting visuals.

What I think we need is a redesign in philosophy – going back to the basics. Even just a few minutes of thought provides some ideas:

  • Shadowpriests don’t heal – in fact, you could permanently transform all our healing spells to damaging effects while Shadow-specced. Smite equals Mind Blast already, so no problems there. Holy Fire would make an interesting Direct-Damage spell that leaves a DoT. Leap of Faith could be reversed into a single-target knockback and Divine Hymn could become an Channeled AoE effect.
  • Our powers deal with the mind (Mind Vision, Mind Control, Fear) – since we seem to lack CC/control, one more effect along these lines in the talent spec abilities might do wonders. If the information at Blizzcon is any indication, we might get Psychic Horror and Silence as baseline Shadow abilities. That would solve all of this.
  • The very Shadows are part of our theme – and a lot of things can be hung on this theme, including a mobility effect allowing us to move closer to our allies through the shadows.
  • And finally, we bring pain and misery – creatures of vengeance. If Monks can balance Light and Dark, why can’t we balance Agony and Mercy, for instance? Increasing agony would increase our damage done, while mercy would increase our defenses or bolster our utility effects. This is not dissimilar to how a Demon Hunter works in Diablo III, for instance. I don’t think it’s a coincedence that the new Monk class’  abilities seem quite close to systems used in Blizzard’s new game either.
  • Since they are planning not to directly base mana off Intellect anymore, I can see us either needing even more mana regain abilities, cheaper spells or indeed more use of a secondary resource. It would be quite a stretch of technology, but I wouldn’t mind being a Shadowpriest meaning we’d lose Mana and instead gain the aforementioned Agony as resource (like a Monk who gains or loses Mana as a resource based on spec).

There are plenty of ideas to pick from, and the imagination hasn’t been stretched at all yet. Granted, the above is very unlikely, but it shows that there is plenty you can do without borrowing from the Rogue, Mage or Warlock toolkit directly. It pays to make abilities that are fun and useful, while still remaining unique. I hope we can look forward to positive changes in the beta for Mists of Pandaria, quality input by Shadowpriests and a listening ear on the part of the developers.

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