Spell Focus: Shadow Word (Pain)

Welcome. It’s time again to take a look at another of the Shadowpriest’s tools, the importance of which is only surpassed by Vampiric Touch. Although available to all priests, the Shadowpriest gains the greatest mileage from it, and it is among the highest-damage spells we have. Also, it being a DoT, means that it scores well on the coefficiency, as well as allow us to cast other spells as it ticks.

The spell

One of our two bread-and-butter DoTs, Shadow Word: Pain is designed to be fire-and-forget. Along with Vampiric Touch, you should strive to keep this spell on your target at all times. The second it falls off the mob, reapply it if possible. Be careful of not refreshing it too soon, or the last “tick” of damage will never happen, which hurts your DPS and is also not very good for your mana efficiency.

  • 110% coefficient, meaning 100 +Shadow damage will increase the damage dealt by 110.
  • No cooldown, and an 18 second duration.
  • Shadow Word: Pain can crit, and its ticks are unaffected by Haste.
  • Procs Shadow Weaving and Misery


There are several talents in both the Shadow and Discipline trees which affect the use of Shadow Word: Pain.

  • Improved Shadow Word: Pain (requires 5 points in Shadow): Increases the duration of your Shadow Word: Pain spell by 3 seconds per point. (Max 6 seconds)
  • Shadow Reach (requires 15 points in Shadow): Increases the range of your offensive Shadow spells by 10% per point. (Max 20%)
  • Misery (requires 30 points in Shadow): Casting SW:P, VT or Mind Flay on the target also causes it to suffer 5% extra spell damage.
  • Mental Agility (requires 15 points in Discipline): Reduces the mana cost of your instant-cast spells by 2% per point. (Max 10%).
  • Shadowform (requires 30 points in Shadow): Gives SW:P the ability to crit in the first place.

General Use

Always keep this spell on your targets. Always. It is one of the most efficient spells to cast, and the fact that it is a DoT means that it is a criminal injustice to not have it on your target while doing other things. While tab-dotting multiple targets may not be efficient and may cause you to feel inadequate, until Mind Sear hits the streets this is the only real way to DPS over large numbers of targets.

Also, unless you want to quickly build up charges on Shadow Weaving, do not – I repeat: do not!- spam this spell. Because it would be reapplied within the 3 seconds required before it starts dealing damage, spamming it means SW:P will actually not cause any damage at all.

Tips and Tricks

After you cast this spell on a target, it takes 3 seconds for the first tick of damage to actually be applied. Because of this, to gain maximum effect, cast SW:P first, and then VT. VT has the shorter duration after being talented, and making sure the first tick of SW:P happens as close to VT’s application as possible means you maximize its efficiency.

How will it be in Wrath of the Lich King?

The Improved SW:P talent will increase the damage by 5/10% instead of its previous effect. Also, the talent Pain and Suffering has a chance to reset duration of your SW:P to be to full whenever you cast Mind Flay on the target. This does not cause you to lose ticks of SW:P, don’t worry!

Also, Misery changed from 5% spell damage to 3% spell hit for the raid, but besides the fact that this is an entirely different discussion, it also is still just a side-effect of us casting our spells.

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