Leveling a Shadowpriest in the age of Deathwing

While one of my readers had asked to update the Shadowpriest leveling guide, I thought it would be more prudent to start from scratch. That way, it’s also more convenient to find for others as well. The format will basically be the same, and I will discuss the gear, talents, glyphs and professions that will benefit your new Shadowpriest on its way through the post-Cataclysm world. This will delay the Discipline Priest healing guide (part 3) but on a Shadowpriest blog, I am willing to take the risk.

EDIT: Well, hello Mists of Pandaria! How nice of you to completely turn over how classes work…see the updated guide here: https://twistedfaith.wordpress.com/melting-faces-101/leveling-a-shadowpriest/


Heirloom gear is still the panoply of choice to wear for the discerning Shade. These are available either by spending Justice Points or Champion’s Seals from the Argent Tournament. I can imagine that doing the Tournament dailies might feel like a chore, but at 85 they are very quick and easy to do – and it saves you from having to spend Justice Points if you still need them. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Tattered Dreadmist Mask: available for 1,350 gold from a guild vendor if you are honored with your guild and it is level 20+ (Sta/Int/Crit/Haste, +10% XP bonus)
  • Tattered Dreadmist Mantle: available for 2,175 Justice Points or 60 Champion’s Seals (Sta/Int/Crit, +10% XP bonus)
  • Tattered Dreadmist Robe: available for 2,175 Justice Points or 60 Champion’s Seals (Sta/Int/Crit, +10% XP bonus)
  • Ancient Bloodmoon Cloak: available for 1,200 gold from a guild vendor if you are Honored with your guild and it is level 10+ (Sta/Int/Crit/Haste, +10% XP bonus)
  • Dignified Headmaster’s Charge: weapon available for 3,500 Justice Points or 95 Champion’s Seals (Sta/Int/Crit/Spellpower)
  • Discerning Eye of the Beast: a trinket costing 2,725 Justice Points or 75 Champion’s Seals (Intellect/2% mana return on kill) of which you can have 2

Other heirlooms of note:

  • Dread Pirate Ring: available as a reward for winning the Kal’uak Fishing Derby (Sta/Hit/Crit, +5% XP bonus)
  • Excquisite Sunderseer Mantle: available for 2,175 Honor Points at the Wintergrasp or Honor Vendor (Sta/Int/Crit/Resilience, +10% XP bonus)
  • Grand Staff of Jordan: weapon available for 3,500 Honor Points at the Wintergrasp or Honor Vendor (Sta/Hit/Resilience/Spellpower)

When possible, you should go for the PvE version – they are more powerful and they don’t have resilience, which eats item budget but does not provide any benefit against non-player targets. However, if you are on a PvP realm, there might be value in using them if you are in danger of equal-level players a lot. If you are deciding to level through BGs rather than questing or dungeons, the PvP gear is obviously also a superior choice.

Most heirloom gear will only function up to level 80, meaning you have to replace them with regular items at that point. The cloak and headpiece available from the guild vendors will continue to improve its stats until level 85.


As ever, enchanting is a powerful profession to make money with, as you can disenchant your questing gear and make sure even gear that runs behind can match your current level by enchanting it. However, now that Mining and Herbalism offer XP per node, it is more beneficial if you are leveling through questing to get those professions instead. With both of these professions (and the fact that they benefit from rested bonus) you will gain an enormous chunk of XP as well as goods to sell or level your final professions at 85 with.

In PvP, engineering at the lower levels is still valid, but becomes more and more restricted as you level up. When questing  it provides you with unique teleports to Everlook/Gadgetzan, Area 52 and several places in Northrend. This allows you to quickly move back and forth for various quests, resupplies and the like.


If you are looking for a guild to join, there are many perks that can help you.

  • Fast Track (level 2 and 6) improves XP gained by 5%/10%
  • Mount up (level 3) improves mounted speed by 10%
  • Hasty Hearth (level 8) reduces Hearthstone cooldown by 15 minutes
  • Mobile Banking (level 15) allows you to summon a guild chest to access the guild bank
  • Have Group will Travel (level 21) allows you to summon group members
  • Bountiful Bags (level 23) sometimes gives you extra mats when mining, skinning, disenchanting or herbing
  • Mass Resurrection (level 25) allows you to resurrect your group at once

All of these will shorten your leveling time, improve your mobility and make you your dungeon group’s best friend. Bountiful Bags combined with two gathering professions makes for a lot of money or a shortcut to max level professions.


Our talents received a major overhaul right before the Cataclysm, and the leveling builds have been changed accordingly. Below are presented sample builds for every 10 levels; one will be a “questing build” focused on questing and solo play, while the other is a “dungeon build” designed for running dungeons. At the end of this section I will discuss the few PvP-related talents for those of us who level through BGs.

Keep in mind that I tried to avoid talents at levels where you wouldn’t have the relevant ability (like Veiled Shadows major effect on Shadowfiend, which you don’t get until much later) or where the target wouldn’t live long enough to gain a benefit (Pain and Suffering’s effect on Shadow Word: Pain).

Level 10: Choose the Shadow spec; Questing build/Dungeon build
Level 20: Questing build/Dungeon build
Level 30: Questing build/Dungeon build
Level 40: Questing build/Dungeon build
Level 50: Questing build/Dungeon build
Level 60: Questing build/Dungeon build
Level 70: Questing build/Dungeon build
Level 80: Questing build/Dungeon build
Level 85: Questing build/Dungeon build

When leveling through PvP, the following talents will be especially tasty: Improved Psychic Scream, Silence, Psychic Horror, Phantasm and Improved Power Word: Shield. Paralysis is too unreliable, especially at lower levels, and you can cannibalize Harnessed Shadows for points because it too is reliant on RNG a lot.


Until you get Shadowform, a Shadow Priest can be a bit unwieldy to play. When questing, it basically boils down to Shielding, putting up Shadow Word: Pain on the target, maybe Mind Flay until it is in range and then wanding it to death. Spirit Tap will give you back quite some mana, so even without mana efficiency talents you should have relatively little downtime. You will see some downtime, as the mana-efficiency talents and glyphs will become available only later. Shadowfiend (32), Masochism (49) and Glyph of Spirit Tap (32) are spread out between levels. While the cost of spells is considerably lower at lower levels, expect a mana crunch at levels 60, 70 and 80, when the gear available for a starting character is not fully suficient to keep mana up.

After Shadowform you will see more use from Crit rating, your damage numbers will go up, and Mind Blast becomes more interesting. If you are in dungeons you will find that mobs live long enough that your dots will tick for long enough to make them worthwile, but your Mind Blast has a tendency to be a bit late.

Once you have Vampiric Touch you can use Mind Blast to grant Replenishment to your party, but the buff lasts long enough that you don’t really need the reduced cooldown yet. VE and VT will make you loved in your group though, and your DPS will be competitive.

From level 60 on your survivability will be enormous, you can take on larger and larger packs of mobs, and your self-healing and mana regains will be improving. You will not reach the “God of Death Mode” that affliction warlocks seek out at this time, but you will find that you have more tools to play with now than before.

From level 70 on, you will find that our playstyle is much the same as it has always been; keep up DoTs, Mind Blast if you have 1 orb up and Mind Flay as filler. SW:Death when you get below 50% mana or to score a kill on a low-health mob.

Glyphs and Consumables

Questing Shades will want the following glyphs, in order:

  • Prime: SW:Pain/Mind Flay/SW:Death or Dispersion
  • Major: Spirit Tap/Psychic Horror/Fade
  • Minor: Any

Dungeoneers will want to get the following glyphs, in order:

  • Prime: SW:Pain/Mind Flay/SW:Death
  • Major: Psychic Scream/Fade/Spirit Tap
  • Minor: Any

For PvP leveling, you probably want to take the Questing glyphs, but add PW:Shield as a glyph instead of Mind Flay. This way your shield becomes a cheap heal as well as a protection ability. The glyph of SW:Death becomes very potent once you reach level 81 and can use the dreaded MS/MS/Insta-MB/SW:D/SW:D combo.

For other consumables, potions and scrolls are generally very cheap as alchemists and scribes level on them. These days, leveling characters are more likely to vendor their old potions rather than put them on the AH, but it does happen. Place any consumables on your bars, so you don’t forget to use them. Nothing is more wasteful than reaching level 30 with a stack of unused level 21 potions, except maybe dying when you could have taken one to save your life. Also, bring water at all times – downtimes may be a bit lower, and half a stack of level-appropriate water will last you quite some time.


Leveling is now easier than ever, and the new questlines offer a fresh face of Azeroth to prospective new Shadowpriests. Between heirlooms, xp from gathering professions and the possibility of using the Recruit a Friend option (which has now been extended to level 80 from 60), your character will hit the Cata zones in no time!


2 Responses to “Leveling a Shadowpriest in the age of Deathwing”

  1. Thank you so very much for this new leveling guide.

    I logged onto my email account earlier today not even expecting a reply to the request I made to you only yesterday, for an update to your pre-cata shadow priest leveling guide. I can’t believe you have completely wrote a new guide in just a matter of hours.

    Like it or not you now have a new regular visitor and I am now off to start my new adventures with baby Shade.

    Once again thank you for your time and sharing your knowledge, its much appreciated.

    Best regards,

    • Good to hear you enjoy the guide – always willing to lend a hand to a fellow Shade, especially those hard baby-steps when all the buttons look strange and nothing does what you think it does ^_^.

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