DPS Q&A – Bring the pain

In line with the Q&A answered at Hots&Dots and Death Goddess, it’s time to put pen to paper and fill in one of them “Kyu-ennd-ays” for some insight in how I like my DPS. While I have a mage, druid, warlock and in the process of leveling a warrior, my Shadowpriest is closest to my heart and my main drive in the game – let’s face it, I blog about it, I raid as Shadowpriest, PvP as Shadowpriest and refuse to spec holy or discipline for utility.

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary dps?

Natarumah, priest, Shadow

What is your primary dpsing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)

25man raids, including hard modes, with the raiding community Unity

10mans with my guild, Saga

What is your favorite dps spell/ability for your class and why?


It is the one true defining ability that sets up apart from the Discipline priest that has some Shadow talents. It hides our fugly outfits we would wear with shame by draping them in darkness. It reduces the damage we take, and the damage we deal. It makes crit a useful stat for our dots, and will make haste useful soon too.

Once improved, our Fade spell turns from an Aggro-surviving tool into a snare-release, saving our asses on nasty Faction Champions fights. And it prevents us from losing casting time because of random raid damage, where others would lower their DPS due to casting pushback.

What dps spell do you use least for your class and why?

Like Cassandri, I have to vote for Mind Soothe. I never used it when I was the appropriate level, but not even in BRD. It just doesn’t make sense, is hardly useful, and can bug out nastily at times or get resisted. It’s garbage.

That said, I would like to cast the spotlight on a little-used utility spell I have always loved: Mind Vision.

From the proper location, Mind Vision can be used in Dalaran to scry any of the locations where one of the Studies of Magic books are found. I have used it in Karazhan many times to see where lost guildies are and guide them to the raid over Vent. On Quel’Danas I spied ahead of the party to see what companions Priestess Delrissa has, before deciding to reset the heroic. I use it today on Faction Champions, to spot what that one mob at the back really is.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your dps class and why?

Survivability, no doubt about it. With 15% damage reduction from Shadow Form, self-healing through VE, Dispersion when focus fired and Improved Shadowform’s ability to get out of snares using Fade, Shadowpriests are almost as survivable as warlocks (used to be) are. If we had a pet or Drain Life we’d be monsters.

Many times if we wipe, I am one of the last five remaining. Low aggro footprint means I am selected later than most, even when continuing DPS (faint hopes of the glory of downing a boss while being the last one alive) and it often takes 2 hits for a boss to kill me (not on hard modes).

We don’t do good DPS because our DPS is good. We do good DPS when other DPS die and we don’t.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your dps class and why?

Our class is seen as a spec. Whereas an Enhancement Shaman or Boomkin is considered a full DPS, Shadowpriests are just a spec, not a class, and should shut up.

Countless times I have been told that I should heal, or that if my DPS is low I should just reroll. I refuse. I love the mechanics of the Shadowpriest, and refuse to give up. But when people hardly recognize your hard work, when you have to bust your ass to end up very low on the DPS meters, it can be damn tough.

Yes, priests have 2 healing priests. We are the awesome mind-tearing, hope-stomping and teeth-grinding children of darkness who make up for having two sissies as companion talent trees.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best dps assignment for you?

Multi-dotting as always, single-target our DPS is just plain awful. Mind Sear is the best thing since sliced bread for trash mobs. On Faction Champions I usually toss a few dots while dispelling the main kill target and blanking the area with Mass Dispels. On most fights you can assume my debuffs are all over the adds (when not CC’d) like a bad case of acne.

When something has a raid symbol that indicates it should die, it must.

What dps class do you enjoy dpsing with most and why?

Shadowpriest. Don’t mind you that I have done Feral Kitty DPS, or have a warlock (Affliction/Demonology dual spec), a Frost Mage, and am trying to figure out how warriors do their thing. From the first day I rolled my Shadowpriest I was hooked, and everything else is just alts. My Shadowpriest is my account, basically.

What dps class do you enjoy dpsing with least and why?

I have to say, at this point, that I find the least enjoyment in Destruction Warlock DPS. It could be because I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet, but I always feel like I am running behind on the facts a bit. Like it’s learning to play a Shadowpriest, but without the benefit of experience.

Frostbolt-spamming is also one of those things I don’t really like, but when I was raiding on my Frost mage at 70 in Karazhan, I loved the numbers popping up from doing so. In those days, my Frost Mage had comparable DPS to my Shadowpriest. Sigh.

What is your worst habit as a dps?

Kill order. We have a kill order measured in raid symbols, and I just can’t get the hang of it. It’s something like: “Star, Circle, Diamond….ah whatever, I forgot what’s next,  let’s target the Retri Pally and see what he’s killing”.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while dpsing?

Negativity, stomping on the DPS.

Let’s face it, it may not be as exciting as healing or tanking, but it is a job in the raid. Just because I could be replaced by any other DPS doesn’t mean I am less worth. When I enter a raid, I enter with the thought that we will focus, pwn stuff and win. To do so, I have to set aside any negativity, open myself to the raid leader’s tactics and the strengths/weaknesses of my raid members, and focus hard to get the job done.

That is why I don’t get cleaved or pull aggro. That is why I don’t stand in the fire. That is why my DPS is not 2K. That is why I feel I am allowed to come along. (Let’s face it, if I routinely did any of the above bad things, I would have forced myself to leave my raiding group).

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other dps?

When Ghost Crawler made some vague statements regarding “Given equal skill and gear” I knew we were in trouble. Shadowpriests have to do a lot of work to be comparable to DPS who have considerably easier rotations and more room for error.

Don’t get me wrong, the base of our class is working properly. It’s just that we’ve been nerfed quite a lot, lost a lot of our identity when Wrath hit, and get buffs measured very, very carefully measured on vague analyses.

Like I said before, the only thing that helps us is that we stay alive longer. Better to do 4K-5K dps and survive the fight than do 12K DPS and die in a fire after a minute or two.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a dps’er?

Basic tools are a damage meter (Skada in my case) which measures my DPS and damage done. I often don’t do too well on DPS (low burst) but my damage done can be quite nice overall. I check the total of a fight, as well as during an entire raid, and try to see if I had great variations, and why.

Unity uses World of Logs to create and parse combat logs, which I analyze to see if I could get my DoTs refreshed tighter, could get better DoT uptimes, or wheter I failed a lot of encounter-based things (like fires).

Finally I trust my gut instinct. “Did the raid feel right”, “Was I getting frustrated?”, “Did I feel like I did a good job?”.

The answer you give yourself could be more valuable and accurate than any damage meter.

What DPS class do you feel you understand least?

Death Knights. I leveled a few past the starting areas, but I just couldn’t get into it. Must be their “faceroller” stigma, but I thought it wasn’t fun or very structured. I wonder how much that would change at 80, but I don’t have the patience to level one all that way. Which is strange, considering I leveled 5 characters to over level 60 now, which you basically get for free on a DK.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in dps?

I use … (Ellipsis) as a DoTtimer and cooldown timer, and Vudoh as raid frames (it is a grid replacement with lots of nice options, easily dispelling and debuff tracking).  Skada is my damage meter by choice.

As for macros, I have one macro that tries to sequentially target raid-critical targets (Bomb bots, Infernal Volcanoes, etc.) and casts Shadow Word: Death on them. This allows me to quickly switch to critical targets in hectic fights. Thanks for this one goes to Shylocke who brought it to my attention.

I also have the typical Shackling macro from Wowwiki, which sets my target to Focus, shackles it, and re-shackles my focus by clicking the button. In other words, a macro that is a leftover of my days in Karazhan, when that was my duty at Moroes. I replaced Shackle with Mind Control for hardmode Thorim fights, and Dispel Magic for Steelbreaker.

I tried using mouse-over macros, but decided it is just not working quite as I wanted to. Not to mention that mouse-overing a mob in a fight is a tough, tough thing to do. I should check them out in a future post, perhaps…

What stat to stack, and why?

Spellpower. Nothing scales for us like Spellpower, and Spellpower is even used as the base for stat comparisons (like: 0.7 Crit = 1 SPP). Hence the adage of “if the socket bonus sucks, stack Runed”.



7 Responses to “DPS Q&A – Bring the pain”

  1. You’re right. We do think alike :) Perhaps that’s because we’re both in the same kind of place with our Shadowpriest and are forever pushing them to do more.

    “We don’t do good DPS because our DPS is good. We do good DPS when other DPS die and we don’t.” Unfortunately this is absolutely true. It’s not good sportsmanship to rejoice when your Mages die. But I can’t help myself :(

    I always forget about Fade dropping snares. I don’t PVP as Shadow and this change to Fade is new enough to me as a spriest that I always forget it. Kind of like I always think Shadow Word: Pain is our most dangerous DoT. Part of my brain is stuck in the past.

    “When Ghostcrawler made some vague statements regarding “Given equal skill and gear” I knew we were in trouble. Shadowpriests have to do a lot of work to be comparable to DPS who have considerably easier rotations and more room for error.”

    I feel that we have to work damn hard to pull out any kind of DPS. And I feel that our raid leaders (fortunately one is an Ex-Spriest) often have to make excuses “anyone who did less damage than Cassandri on the Nether Portal is getting -DKP next round” for our failings. Yet Blizzard seem so certain that we’re valuable and competitive and would be OP if not careful. I just don’t see it. It makes me wonder if I’m biased – I only really have experience playing 1 other class (a Rogue) which I didn’t find nearly as demanding and I raided with my rogue for 1 year.

    Are we biased? Is Shadow really that hard to play right? Are we just patting ourselves on the back?

    Then tonight we pugged a Shadow Priest to do ToC10 (normal) and he could barely scrape in with 2k DPS. I don’t know what he was doing, but he opened with 2 Mind Flays, which is not commonly held to be ideal. So I don’t think you can faceroll a Spriest.

    • Well, to be fair it is easily forgotten. Not everyone puts the points into Improved Shadowform to give this ability to Fade. And if you’ve never done it before, it’s easy to forget.

      It rocks ass though, whether on Faction Champions, Hodir giving me frozen feet or the slowing effect of paralyzing poison on normal-mode Jormungars.

  2. My main (and only raiding toon) is an undead spriest and I love raiding with her very much. Luckily my position in my guild is quite secure as I am always *near* the top of the dps heap at around 4k in raid. (We aren’t very hardcore, only raid 10-mans, are most of the way through the Ulduar hardmodes, and just starting with ToGC.)

    Nevertheless, I am really, really starting to lose faith. While I do have a couple of other lvl 80s (rogue/shammy) I don’t really want to raid on them so I am giving serious, serious consideration to just dropping badges on heirlooms and rolling a warlock.

    There are three big reasons why:
    1. We can, and are often asked/expected to heal. I hate healing, I’m not particularly good at it, and don’t want to pressure/responsibility of doing it. However, refusing to heal often results in exclusion.

    2. Our dps should be considered “acceptable” at best. As you mention, we also work very hard to get up to par with some of the other faceroller specs.

    3. Blizzard thinks that we’re fine despite the fact that this opinion flies completely in the face of all evidence I see on worldoflogs and wowmeteronline and opinion across the ‘nets.

    Sure we have promises of improvements with 3.3, but as best as I can tell, we’ll be seeing a 5% dps improvement. For me, going 4k to 4.2k is nowhere near the adjustment that I was looking for.

    When I look at these three “problems” I find that warlock have none of them. Am I perhaps a warlock in a priest’s robe (clothing)?

    I’ve been reading you and Cassandri for a long time. I love what you guys write very much. While what I’ve written above is a bit ranty, and very “me”-centric (sorry), I’m interested to hear what you think. How do you stay so positive about raiding shadow in the face of these problems? Am I fit to be a shadowpriest?

    • First off, 4K in a 10man is very respectable, and shows that you can handle the work, so to speak. It is often the case that in 25mans we are at the bottom, while dominating the 10mans. Because our scaling is bad, the less buffs there are the better we perform in comparison.

      If you don’t like healing, there is no need to heal. I get into 25mans with Unity just fine, and I don’t even have a dual-spec (especially to prevent being asked to heal). The point of the matter is:

      Do you like being a Shadowpriest? Do you enjoy what we can do, instead of what we can’t do?

      In my case, I know my (averagely) 5K DPS does not compare to the 6-8K DPS that is provided by the top damage-dealers in Unity. But I don’t mind being the worst of the best, so to speak. In my opinion, I am taken along for the buffs I provide, replenishment, positive raiding attitude and being able to not die in fires.

      Had I been playing a warlock, would I have had the same benefits?


      But a Shadowpriest is what I am, so that’s what the package entails. If you feel insecure about what to go for, remember that this in the end is about what you find enjoyable. If you like raiding on your Shadowpriest, then do so. It will allow you to learn and improve, and is what you like to do.

      • Thank you for replying. I really do appreciate the time you took to read my post and respond.

        Your bottom line is as it should be: “do what you like to do”. It seems that in your case, you are at ease with what I perceive to be the spriest “problems” while I am still struggling to resolve them for myself.

        My biggest annoyance about a spriest is the whole “priest is teh healing b/c dps is teh suxor” attitude. I have learned to deal with this and can certainly live with this attitude.

        My heartbreak is our lack of burst. There are just some fights where having a big burst is invaluable to the raid. While just about everyone else can unleash a furious dps spike during a bloodlust, I just tick along at my usual steady pace, throwing in a fiend for a meek dps boost. A Sarth3D zerg or p3 of the Iron Council hardmode (both of which I’ve done, but was certainly not a major contributor) are examples of the situation I’m thinking about.

        I’m striving to reach a point where my dps contribution is as valuable as any other dps in my party/raid. I would prefer a situation where my skill determines whether I’m better or worse than the people around me (in terms of contribution to the dps effort). At present, I have doubts that my beloved spriest will allow me to do that.

        PS> I haven’t spent emblems yet… but I did log out beside the emblem vendor.

        PPS> I took some time to roll a warlock to see if I like the first 10-15 levels. /scowl

        • As for your warlock, yes you will like it. I leveled one (for roleplaying, and I wanted to have a toon in Warlock Tier 1) and I breezed through 80 levels. I will not gear her or raid with her, but she’s an awesome little toon.

          You will most likely find that there are 3 schools of thought on our DPS; Crit over Haste, Haste over Crit and Balanced. I currently am at 900+ Crit and about 400 Haste, while another SP I know is about reversed. Our DPS is comparable. My DoTs tick harder, his Mind Flay and Mind Blast are faster. In the end, it evens out.

          When I was trying to stay balanced (about equal crit and haste) it was not very good and I lost DPS all the time. Come patch 3.3, this gearing style will probably output the highest DPS I think.

          I think you will come back to your Shadowpriest – as long as the toon is on your login screen, one day it’ll be fine. ^_^

  3. “How do you stay so positive about raiding shadow in the face of these problems? Am I fit to be a shadowpriest?”

    That’s easy. I log on and play my rogue or shaman in a heroic. Ugh. Shadowpriesting is just tons more fun. It sets of the happy-brain-receptors or something for me. Can’t explain it, but it sounds like you’re the same.

    My advice on how to get out of healing is simple. If you get asked to heal PuGs the answer is always “Sure! I’m not very good, but I do have dual spec”. Trust me, they’ll do everything in their power to find another healer before lumping you with the responsibility to heal. Nobody likes to wipe.

    If your guild has this expectation and you want to change that I would just dropping hints about “experimenting with a strange pvp offspec” and just occasionally confess that “uh, sure i’ll heal, can I get a port so I can respec?”. Comments about having 300 hit is pretty useless when you’re healing is a good one.

    The day my guild asked me to swap specs and swap gear to heal and I replied with “Swap gear? This IS my healing gear” was the very last time they asked me to heal.

    ps. 4k in 10 mans is pretty damn good imo

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