Beginner’s Guide to Shadow PvP

spell_shadow_auraofdarknessAh yes, well…I would be the beginner here. I’ve been doing BGs for quite some time, mostly to get goodlooking gear for when I was still RP’ing. I normally do not really enjoy it, since there’s a large amount of competition, tea-bagging and /spit involved, and it seems a situation almost not worthy of Human attention. Even so, it may pay to explore also this dark little corner of the WoW universe, so I decided to set up a few basics for Shadow PvP…

This will be a reminder to myself, a basic guide, as well as a work in progress for understanding PvP in general and Shadow PvP in particular.

Battlegrounds or Arenas?

Well, Shadowpriests have bonuses and drawbacks in either, so this choice is mostly personal. Arena games are much harder due to limited ability to “snipe from the back”, and also suffer from the “you must be this spec to join”. Finding an Arena team that will take you on will be tough. So, we’re going to start off with the precept: “Doing Battlegrounds in preparation for Arenas”.

What do I need?

Resilience. And a lot of it. A good start would be pieces from the Deadly Gladiator set, all except the legs. This will set you back about 200 Emblems of Conquest, which are easily obtainable – it’s about 40 heroics. For the leg slot, a good one would be the Titanforged Cloth Leggings of Salvation, which cost 40 Marks of Wintergrasp. These legs are much better than the Deadly Gladiator ones, and you will already have the 4-piece set bonus anyway. Doing Wintergrasp will also give you a lot of honor for another few upgrades, as well as access to some upgrades in Vault of Archavon.

This base set will give you 537 Stamina, 279 Resilience and 475 Spellpower, before gems and enchants. The 2-piece bonus gives another 50 Resilience, and the 4-piece bonus reduces the effect of Weakened Soul on you by 2 seconds. The gloves also reduce the cooldown of your Psychic Scream by 3 seconds.

As an aside, if you do WG first before a heroic spree and win it, you also get Stone-keeper’s Shards, which will get you some upgrades as well (the head enchant). The enchants for Spellpower/Resilience are called Arcanum of Dominance and Inscription of Dominance. Together they will cost 70 Shards and offer 52 Spellpower and 35 Resilience.

Following this link will lead you to a WoWHead list of items that can be purchased with Honor without requiring Arena points or rating. What items you go for depends on how fast you feel you are dying. If you still feel squishy, get more resilience items with the Honor you have gathered so far. Note that a lot of the T8 and higher level gear features quite a bit of stamina, and you may get away with using it in Battlegrounds. Especially for the Weapon slot, I’d go for your best PvE weapon for the time being.

Note that a lot of these items also drop from Emalon the Storm Watcher in VoA, so it’s best to run this during the week before actually spending honor on those rewards; getting a drop you bought a day ago is sad and bitter indeed.

Trinkets can be hard or easy depending on what you have access to. The Medallion of the Alliance (or the Horde variant) are a good investment at 30,400 Honor Points. They give 84 Resilience and the goold-old get-out-of-jail free card on a 2-minute cooldown. Note that if you are Human, the use effect shares a cooldown with Every Man for Himself (if you don’t have it on your bar, now is the time!). This means you can skip this trinket and instead go for the others. Examples are Flow of Knowledge and Platinum Disks of Sorcery, both of which can be obtained for 25 WG Marks.

As you can see, this is quite a list of items, but you hardly have to collect all at once. In Wintergrasp, my Druid (healer) managed to get 5K honor and 3 WG marks by simply standing back and healing, and the occasional AoE. I did die about 5 times, but considering I had no Resilience and only 16K Health, that was to be expected.

A typical run…

If in a week you run Voa, 1xWG per day and 2 Heroics per day (including the daily), your total haul will be:

  • 10 Emblems of Triumph
  • 60 Emblems of Conquest (about)
  • 7-21 Marks of Wintergrasp (depends on win/loss ratio)
  • An untold amount of Stone-keeper’s Shards
  • Possibility of gear upgrades in VoA
  • 21K-35K Honor Points

Which would allow you to get 1 EoC upgrade per week and 1 upgrade from Honor Points with everything else being a bonus. That is none too shabby. You just need the patience for it. You should aim for at least 500-600 Resilience and 25K Health. This will give you some comfortable “play time” in BGs yet still pack a punch. Arena junkies scoff at these low numbers, so it is good to save for bigger upgrades later while learning the game of Dispel, Chase and LoS.

Gems and enchants

Gem and enchant rules still apply, but you want to be a lot more defensive. Spellpower/Stamina, Spellpower/Resilience gems will be much more common. Your head and shoulder enchants should be the Dominance mentioned above. On your legs, use the Spellpower/Stamina spellthread.The chest enchant of choice is Resilience as well.


Glyphs are almost always Defensive in PvP, since that is our main weakness. Glyph of Dispel Magic gives a small heal to friendly people you dispel (including yourself) and is one of the best ways not to die in PvP. Glyph of Power Word: Shield gives you a heal whenever you shield, and you should always be shielded. Both of these will allow you a minimum of healing while still remaining in Shadowform.

The third glyph depends on your playstyle. For the Shadow Tank displayed below, the Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain seems like the best option; for the Glass Cannon I’d say go for the Glyph of Mind Sear and try to find situations of bunched-up people.  The Glyph of Fade is also a good one for this, reducing the cooldown of Fade by 9 seconds (see tips and tricks below).


Everyone will tell you that Discipline works best in PvP. While this is true, we are trying to stay true to being Shadow, so we are going to invent/abuse some Discipline/Shadow Hybrid specs and see which will work. Note that my actual PvP experience is rather limited, so I am going by gut feeling here. Once I have more experience I will update these specs. If you have better spec suggestions, do make them. ^_^

The Shadow Tank

This series of talents is based around DoTs and fears, while keeping yourself shielded. This specc has the benefits to shields from Discipline, but has more DoTs, Shadow Form damage reduction and the escapes of Improved Shadow Form. I avoided meditation (as your Spirit will be crap in most PvP gear) but went for Spirit Tap and Mental Agility instead. I did not go for Focused Mind, because you are likely to get interrupted using Mind Flay and Mind Blast while under fire, and Mind Sear is not useful unless a lot of people are clumped up (such as on the EotS flag). Instead I went for Absolution, to reduce the mana cost of your dispels and cleanses, which will save the day.

Between VE, DP and the glyphs above, you should be able to hold out a lot longer, supported by boatloads of Resilience and Stamina. This is a very defensive build.

The Glass Cannon

A lot less survivable, but more so than the average raiding Shadowpriest. This focuses really on being protected by a group and aggressively burning down foes. Mana Burn healers, Fear incoming melee/casters (Retribution Paladins and Enhancement Shamen) and multi-dot everything. Less average playtime, higher damage, absolutely not suited for smart playing with dispels and debuffs.

These are the two builds I am going to test and see how they will stand up to unfriendly fire. My gut instinct tells me I like the Shadow Tank best (can also double as old-world raid solo build). But, we’ll see!

In both specs I did not choose Improved Mind Blast (20% healing reduction on cast) for the following reasons: MB is easily interrupted, it is not too hard to heal through this little Mortal Strike effect, and you are going to be very often in a situation where you are running rather than casting. If it turns out that I can actually use Mind Blast efficiently, I might spec into it, but for now I will leave it.

Tips and Tricks

Rogues will often Sap you and wait nearby. Don’t trinket out of this, or you will just give them an opening to stunlock you from 100-0 in a few seconds. Instead use it on the second stun (if they bother) and unleash a Psychic Horror and Shadowfiend. If they trinket, use your normal fear. If they Vanish, the Shadowfiend will find them (it’s likely bugged).

Power Word: Shield will absorb 2230 damage and negates pushback from damage. It has a 4-second cooldown and places the Weakened Soul debuff on you, meaning you can’t be shielded again. Soul Warding reduces the cooldown by 4 seconds (gone!) and reduces its mana cost by 15%. The 4-piece bonus of your PvP set will reduce the Weakened Soul debuff’s duration by 2 seconds. Try and keep yourself shielded all the time, because without it, you are considered to be easy prey.

With Improved Shadowform, your Fade spell will remove movement-impairing effects (such as Hamstring, Freezing, Slowing Traps, and so on. Veiled Shadows 2/2 will reduce the cooldown by 6 seconds, to 24 (down from 30). If you have the Glyph of Fade, it will be reduced by another 9 seconds. This means you can escape these measures once every 15 seconds, which will add a lot to your TTL (Time to Live).

Mind Control is especially handy when used on an enemy healer. Note that it only works on Humanoids, so don’t bother with Druids in this regard. Mind Controlling people off of cliffs seems to be very popular, still. If someone is standing closeby an enclosure (such as near the Blacksmith in AB) you can Mind Control him and send him inside. Good chance he’ll be instantly killed by his own buddies, and also serve as a warning for you that there are hostiles nearby.

When in a high spot (such as the Lumber Mill in AV) and having your Viewing Distance set to max in the interface options, you can see all the way down to the Blacksmith. Use Mind Vision on someone to announce the number of defenders to /BG. Even more fortunate, if you can link Mind Visions you can scout the entire battlefield this way, serving as a spy. Note that you cannot see what happens around you, so be defended!

Another Mind Vision trick is that if you use it on a Priest, they almost always have the instinct to target you and cast Mind Vision, to see what you are doing. If you do this right as your friends assault his position, you have taken him out of the fight long enough that he is a sitting duck. Get out of there fast though, because he will alert his friends where you are as well as revenge!

Never disregard the use you may have of your professions. Engineering has many useful CC trinkets (as Gnomish engineer) and long-range boom-boom (as Goblin), as well as gear enchants. With enchanting you can place Stats on your rings if you feel squishy, else Spellpower. And alchemists have the new Flask of the North and Endless Mana/Health pots, which will be re-usable and thus never wasted for BGs.

As always, the basic rules apply of staying near the group, removing your debuffs while dispelling buffs and LoSing whatever you can. As a novice PvP player, I have to admit that I play too much on rage and damage still, rather than the calm and tactical approach that might win the game. Wintergrasp alleviates this a bit due to the way it works, but I will have to work on my calmth until then. ^_^

The things I learn in this little BG experiment I will post in its own page (accessed from the right menu) after I get my thoughts together.


3 Responses to “Beginner’s Guide to Shadow PvP”

  1. Some great priest tips – I’m definitely trying some of these! I like to Mind Control in BGs just to upset the enemy – I usually pick on Tauren Warriors just because I really dislike it when they whirl around my friends. Shame the retaliation is always so brutal :)

    I know I need to work on my calm. And I haven’t quite grasped knowing-when-to-retreat side of battlegrounds. I tend to fight over the flag as long as possible, even as my allies are slowly retreating.

  2. oooops – I read WG and thought Warsong Gulch :( Oh well worth it for the honor I spose.

    • Well, a lot of the tips that go for one go for the other, to be honest. Warsong Gulch is in my opinion the most frustrating battleground to play (limited number of people and a nasty objective), but the Shadow Tank build would go a long way as an offensive build/flag carrier.

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