On the beta: Survivability and DPS at stake

The current Beta build, 13221, has some nerfs for Shadowpriests in store which will hurts us bad – and I mean really bad. I am not talking about “oh gosh I am no longer in the top 10 DPS anymore” but “even I am wondering why this class is getting this treatment”. Of course, this being the Beta, no numbers are final – this means that we could be on the “downward swing” of balancing and we’re not going to see ourselves being molested this way.

Let me shed some light on the situation:

Shadowy Apparitions Limiter

In the current Beta build, the number of Shadowy Apparitions spawned is limited in number. How many we can spawn is not confirmed yet, but it seems to be about the same as a glyphed Mirror Images spell – so I’d say four.

Why this is bad: Shadowy Apparitions was already nothing more than a “fun” talent, since its damage is not that high, and the whole point of the talent was to limit our DPS lost to moving around. Of course, the more you had to move, the more DPS you lost. The more you had to move, the more apparitions would spawn. In other words, it seemed balanced.

Losing out on the apparitions is no concern in most stand-and-nuke fights, but Cataclysm promises that very little. There will be a lot of movement and tactic involved, so less nuke time, which means that SA was a balancer. It no longer is.

This nerf is of course largely for PvP, to prevent us from dotting up multiple people and running around. While this tactic seems brainless and probably is only used by people who really don’t like hitting buttons, it was obviously enough of a threat.

Why this is good: I am guessing it is a bit confusing to people in the raid to see me walking around twelve times, exploding on contact with many mobs. I can also see that in fights where you have to not stand in fire, people think you’ll be standing in fire and yelling at you.

You can save yourself the pain and skip the talent, getting Improved Psychic Scream and Silence instead. You will be able to interrupt and have some added value controlling adds (if you have glyphed your Fear). If the numbers turn out that a maximum of 4 apparitions provides sub-par DPS, no matter how fun this talent is, out it goes.

Vampiric Embrace to 6%

The biggest hit we’re taking is that the self-healing component of Vampiric Embrace has been reduced to 6%. Yes, you heard that right. We will be healing ourself for 6% and our party-members for 3% of our single-target Shadow DPS. Let that sink in for a bit.

Why this is bad: Well, for a number of reasons actually, some game-breaking. First off, Shadowpriests have always been based around the idea of siphoning health and mana from our foes. Through repetitive nerfs (some justified, some less so) these abilities have faded more and more into the background. Our only realy kicker was being able to survive incidental AoE or the occasional big hit unassisted by VE self-healing. With this changed into this meager trickle heal, combined with our lack of AoE (Holy Nova is our best AoE!) means we will continually multi-dot just to get enough health and DPS in to do our thing.

Second, we are the only class with an Execute (<25%) ability that hurts us…bad. VE helped us survive our Shadow Word: Death. It no longer will. The nerf to the Glyph will be meaning less since you can only use it twice in a fight or risk dying. And since SW:D is also our mana refiller (10% mana when you are hurt by it) it also hurts our mana regeneration.

Third, don’t forget that Health pools will start to grow immensely in Cataclysm. Shadowpriests will be running around with 60-80K health easily, so the value of VE was already going down significantly since our DPS will drop wildly at first until we have Tier 11, and then probably will settle at the same value as now.

So we got hit in self-healing, but also Burst (ironic!) and our ability to increase our DPS during Execute phases. This also hurts our mana regeneration, when reports from the Beta indicate that we really, really struggle. With less mana regeneration, the only sensible thing is to stack more Intellect, but we cannot. It’s already our number 1 stat, we would already stack it as high as we can.

Finally, of course, this is a blow to PvP. I can’t say much for PvP on the Beta, but on Live currently PvE gear rules. My PvP gear used to give me 4K extra health, but putting it on now actually loses me health. And the Resilience present on it could be reached by gemming and enchanting for it, resulting in a same-level kit with more health and a little less Resilience. Which leads people to go into BGs without Resilience at all, and then cry when they are hit by monster-combos or the Shadowpriest helaing himself up to full with VE healing.

Why this is good: No reason, I can’t see it as more than a knee-jerk PvP nerf, unless our Cataclysm entry-level raid DPS will be over 25K. Anyone on the Beta who can tell me what entry-level DPS is for a Shadowpriest? If it’s less than 20K we’re in trouble I guess.


I have the idea that if this vicious cycle goes live for Cataclysm, we will see a marked drop in:

a) Survivability, caused by the degradation of VE compared to health pools
b) DPS, caused by lower stat budgets than on live
c) DPS, caused by the lower value of SW:D in Execute phases
d) DPS, caused by lower value or removal of SA for moving phases
e) Mana, caused by not being able to use SW:D on cooldown due to healer rage

I can’t suggest much for the Shadowy Apparitions, since in my opinion they are just a novelty if their function is not maintained to off-set lost DPS in movement phases. Perhaps the fix would be to make them proc ONLY when you are moving, and remove the base chance altogether.

As for VE, considering ours will now self-heal for less than Affliction Warlocks (6% of 20K DPS is 1200, 2% of 60K health is 1200 – so we need to have DPS equal to 1/3 of a Warlock’s health pool to be on par) it might be an idea to have VE proc a heal on the group members for a % of their health as well. A simple suggestion would be to heal yourself for 2% of your total health when dealing damage, and your group for 1%. This would maintain Shadowpriest self- and group-healing abilities and also make them easier to scale.

Percentages of health are much more controllable, even in PvP, than percentages of DPS.

5 Responses to “On the beta: Survivability and DPS at stake”

  1. Note that on the Beta, Inner Fire was also buffed by 100+ spellpower for level 85, but that is a non-scaling buff that applies to all priests. I doubt it really adds all that much to DPS then.

    On a related note, all Mortal Strike effects have been reduced for 25% to 10% (including our own) which might give an additional reason for the VE nerf.

  2. Ugh.. Really hope we don’t end up at a similar level to TBC, I enjoy being able to compete with other classes on the meters, not just other Shadow Priests and perhaps Moonkins. Still, time will tell etc. I doubt Blizzard would intentionally nerf us *that* hard now that we aren’t really much of a utility class (Obviously we are, but other classes have our things now, not like we aren’t replaceable).

    • Don’t get me wrong – we’re not doing bad.

      To me it’s just the disappointment that other classes get shiny new toys, and our new toys require us to either give up old toys first or are downgraded to the point where playing with them becomes a bit less fun.

      • That is true, especially after playing my Ret Paladin and Hunter a bit. I do hope it stays as fun as it is now though because I don’t really want to end up rerolling… again.

  3. […] surprised me when I read Natarumah’s Survivability and DPS at stake post in which he outlines the direction that Blizzard are taking with Shadow Priests, Mastery and […]

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