Shadowpriesting Styles

We all know that in real life, you sometimes have to adjust your pace, speech or actions to your environment. It will do little good to address a businessman for a deal wearing baggy trousers any more than speaking like the prime minister to your mother’s going to get you anywhere. The same goes in World of Warcraft, where your current environment can drastically alter the way you play.

Raiding

When raiding, you can be sure that the tank will have reasonably steady aggro. Tricks of the Trade and Misdirect add a huge chunk of threat, so that issue is generally off the table. You still have to be careful in those fragile first few seconds, but after that, going full-out makes no difference anymore.

Once you have your raiding priorities and keybinds engrained into your memory, you will find the time to look around you, avoid danger and make optimum use of environmental bonuses (like the fires and moonlights on Hodir) or ways to assist others (killing zombies on Valithria).

Raiding in many ways presents an “optimum” baseline for us, because there are plenty of times when we can “stand and deliver” and we have little worries about being beaten on by scary monsters.

5man Heroics

This is where you will find a few more restraints being placed on us. Heroic fights are usually very short and very deadly, meaning that it isn’t rare for our DoTs to not even tick fully before everything is dead. This is why in heroics, we usually put a VT or DP on the main target and Mind Sear away.

This generates quite a bit of threat, and the tank is not guaranteed to be of equal gear level or having Tricks/Misdirect. As a result, watching the aggro meter suddenly becomes a little more important. We can take a hit or two, Fade or use Dispersion, but pulling aggro on a tank is also a dent in our style. We should be better than that.

The need for burst damage and less reliance on making our mana last through a 10 minute fight also means we regularly skip Replenishment. Always check your healer’s mana though – if he goes OoM fast or seems a bit spammy on the heals (fresh healers are like that) at least chuck in a VT + MB combo every 15 seconds.

Player-versus-Player

Here we come to the greatest restrictive environment of all. Aggro does exist, but it is player-controlled, and not calculated by the server. This means we can be attacked at any time, by any class, with any of a myriad of abilities. This makes PvP combat one of the hardest to get right, because there are many variables and a limited time to respond.

The two greatest dangers we face to our performance (aside of being killed) are being Stunned and Silenced. Silenced also includes being locked out of our Shadow school (by Counterspell, for instance) because that is effectively the same.

When we are stunned, this leaves us quite defenseless, and without aid from our friends we can be dead in seconds. Two options exist, namely to use your PvP trinket/Every Man for Himself to get out of the stun, or use Dispersion to weather the storm. Against Rogues, with multiple stuns and combos, this can be an exceptionally tricky choice.

If you get out of the stun, chances are you will be stunned again right after. And Dispersion is simply six seconds of free combo point generation to a rogue. Unless you have DoTs ticking on him, you’re toast. A good trick here is to use a /cancelaura Dispersion /Cast Dispersion macro, which you can press a second time to remove Dispersion. Use Dispersion when you are stunned, and cancel it on second 4 or 5. Rogues will be able to see how long you’ve been in Dispersion, but hardly ever anticipate it being removed early, followed by a Fear. Those one or two seconds can save your life against a non-veteran rogue.

Being Silenced means that you cannot do much of anything to save yourself, except move away. When locked out of Shadow you can at least put a shield on yourself. This debuff is not directly dangerous like being stunned is, but indirectly it is all the more dangerous.

All of the above, and a dozen other tricks and responses, will be part of your toolkit when PvPing, and that is in combination with staying with allies, not getting boxed in, putting pressure on healers and not wandering into the enemy group accidentally. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and this is also why good PvP players are a rare breed.

Going Solo

Alone, you are free to cast whatever you want and even heal yourself. There’s very little pressure on you except for the fact that you will have a mob or two beating on you. A good example of this is the daily quest in Icecrown where you are tasked to kill 15 cultists. They are not very dangerous, just shield, DoT up 5 or 6 of them and kite them around until they die.

Your DPS will be low, since you put only one DoT on each, but you save time by killing a boatload at once. Such behaviour in a raid or 5man would earn you ridicule, but it works wonders when questing. At T9/T10 level of gear, your offensive power is so high you will reach the Warlock’s God of Death Mode (healing more than any level 80 quest mob can damage you for) if you do it right, and very little can hurt you.

Going out of your comfort zone

The final “change of style” I’d like to address here is the one where you do something out of your normal business entirely. Tanking Keleseth, for instance, even though this is designed so it can be done by a caster, is a tough thing. You have to keep the shadow orbs on you so you do not die from his Shadow Lance, while generating enough aggro to allow the raid to DPS him. This style is more like thinking as a tank, and your pure DPS suddenly matters a lot less. Survival becomes key.

Shadowpriests at T10 gear level can tank normal dungeons just fine. If you are worried about being Crit, take some PvP gear (high stamina)  and you can get to uncrittable. Your only drawback is 30% threat reduction in Shadowform, but if you are running a few characters below 80, their aggro will likely be much less than yours.

I accidentally even ended up tanking one of the Val’kyrs in a ToC10 run. I happened to over-aggro on the tank by mistake, and the mob stuck. I seemed to survive it quite well with little real attention from the healers, so the tank decided to just leave it on me, and it died pretty quick after. Out of my comfort zone, but possible.

Conclusion

Being a good Shadowpriest means that you can perform well in your chosen role (most likely raiding) and know how (and why!) to do things. You will be able to survive with minimal healing and while our priority system’s not the easiest, it is very rewarding.

However, a great Shadowpriest manages to go beyond it, able to adjust his style to the current requirements, make decisions on the fly and obtain a measure of situational awareness close to that of tanks and healers. All that is required is that you first get your basics down, and then experiment with it. Enter battlegrounds, Wintergrasp and Arena to taste the excitement and faillure of PvP. Try and squeeze out all damage you can in the 10-second fights in Heroics. Offer to tank for your guildies’ alts and surprise them when you succeed.

Squeeze out of this game all the fun and challenge that you can, and bask in the glow of your new-found sense of tactics.

Why I wrote this post? Next week I will be attempting to get some PvP achievements, and I will need my own advice to get through it in one piece…or at least as few as I can manage.

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2 Responses to “Shadowpriesting Styles”

  1. Weatherlight - Runetotem EU Says:

    Loved the “tank normal dungeons” idea! Think I’ll try it even today.

    • Well, there’s a few articles on Shadowpriest.com about it; in general the easiest way to get it done is using PvP gear to become uncrittable (5,6% chance to be missed I believe) and use DPS gear for the rest for aggro generation.

      A good idea is to use “emergency trinkets” like Ick’s Rotting Thumb or the Flawless Fang of Sindragosa (if you have access to it and tanks got it already) for surviving hairy maneuvers.

      But honestly, Shadowpriests are not hard to keep alive if we decide to be.

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