The grand design…of sorts
There’s a lot of clamoring about Shadowpriests in the current Beta build;
I can’t verify any of it since I don’t have Beta access myself, but I will try and make a coherent baseline setup of what we’d be looking at doing in the current build from what I’ve gathered. (I received Beta access with the second wave of keys, with most of the other GreyBeard accounts). There are, as always, major concerns and gaps which need to be filled, but we’ll have to hope these get addressed as time marches on.
Keep in mind the general changes to the game, such as Intellect no longer providing mana, meaning we all have the same mana pools, and that Replenishment is gone.
Note that, due to my personal affection for my class, some ranty elements might be included in this post, for which I apologize beforehand. I love my class, and that sometimes gets the better of me.
The base system: Shadow Orbs
Shamelessly lifted off of the Paladin model, Shadow Word: Pain and Mind Blast generate Shadow Orbs, which are used to unleash our most potent attacks. I can’t tell if there’s a limit to the amount we can have, but this picture by Theed on the MMO-Champion forums suggest 3 (three), since the UI has been changed to make room for three slots under the character portrait.
Option 1:Shadowy Apparitions is now a triggered ability, which consumes all Shadow Orbs to generate 1 SA per Orb.
Option 2:Psychic Horror now costs Shadow Orbs to trigger, no mana, and lasts longer with more Orbs. [PvP, do not touch!]
Our new Mastery is a straight %Increase to our Shadow damage dealt, and when we trigger Shadowy Apparitions, there’s a chance to be refunded Shadow Orbs when they deal damage. This seems to feed into a system where we trigger Shadowy Apparitions in “lean times”, hoping to be refunded the Orbs. Currently, since the only other thing we can do with them is triggering Psychic Horror, we will do this a lot.
Talents we take
Tier 1: Psyfiend (Static Fear), Shadowy Tendrils (Root), Dominate Mind (New Mind Control) – all of them are as useful or useless as you make it, pick one.
Tier 2: Path of the Devout (Increased speed while Levitating), Phantasm (Fading currently gives you a Smoke Bomb effect as well as a Root escape) – take Phantasm, unless you like recasting Levitate every 5 seconds. (There’s currently word that the speed buff lasts 30 seconds, which would make this a more equal draw).
Tier 3: Dark Archangel (25% Damage boost) or From Darkness Comes Light (VT damage procs an instant MSpike without losing DoTs) – We probably need to calculate burst damage benefits versus the benefit of having a semi-useful MSpike every so often – I probably will go for Dark Archangel then. There’s one spot for an unannounced talent, so let’s hope there’s something good to be had here.
Tier 4: Void Shift (Swap Health and heal lower health target by 25%) – the others are healing talents.
Tier 5: Power Infusion (Straight damage buff), Divine Insight (MB casts allow you to treat your target as <20% for SW:Death), Twist of Fate (15% damage on healing and damage on targets below 20%) – Divine Insight will be the key to the immense damage overload of SW:Death, so I would take it over ToF. PI will be the winner in the beginning, when we have to adjust to our rotations and our mana returns are still bad.
Tier 6: If the “Coming Soon” talent in the preview is Shadow related, take that. Else take Divine Star (Holy Jojo) to steal a Mage’s Fire Orb that also comes back because our spells are loyal to us.
- Vampiric Touch no longer triggers replenishment, which has been removed. It instead heals you for 15% of the damage it deals.
- Devouring Plague has been removed; its initial damage aspect has been moved to SW:Pain.
- SW:Pain now deals instant damage, and generates 1 Shadow Orb when it is cast (no when it ticks).
- SW:Death now deals X damage to both you and your target, 4x times damage on a target below 20%. It no longer provides mana. When you fail to kill the target its cooldown is reset, as if you had the current SW:Death glyph.
- Vampiric Embrace now has a 3 minute cooldown, but when triggered heals (Party Memebers) for 50% of the damage you deal.
- Vampiric Dominance (New) used to be a talent but is now baseline or replaces VE possibly, heals 3 nearby low-health targets for 15% of damage dealt. It cannot be cast in Shadowform however, which is completely against the nature of its ability, name and icon.
- Mind Control has been removed and replaced with Dominate Mind, which has a 30 second cooldown, maybe (?) instant cast, and affects all non-mechanical targets. Considering people are speaking of using other spells while mind controlling, it might be that this is a full CC or that you get a pet bar instead of losing control.
- Psychic Scream is baseline again, because screaming like a little girl while tossing dots around didn’t go out of style, no matter what the Devs thought.
- Spectral Guise is a new ability, generating a copy of you while making you invisible. If your real form is hit with direct attacks 3 times, the spell dissipates.
- Inner Fire: Now gives a 10% static boost to Spellpower.
- Shadowfiend’s cooldown has been reduced to 4 minutes.
- Empowered Shadows is gone entirely.
The dynamics of a [SW:Px3, SA, MB, MF] rotation, while horribly similar to a Paladin’s or Fire Mage’s rotation, can be very interesting but it’s a sudden change in direction. We have one less DoT, and the remaining DoTs need to be more significant to not let this talent spec become the “infant terrible” among DPS, with lots of new kids lolling about how “easy the spec is”. There’s an immense amount of battlefield control – Scream, Horror, Dominate/Tentacle/Psyfiend, Silence which will make us versatile in PvE but a destructive train engine in PvP.
The combination of SA, MB and SW:Death in its current form also means we are absolute masters of the Execute, which will have people cry for nerfs in PvP about three minutes into Live.
We have strong (albeit strange) escape mechanisms including the new Phantasm and Spectral Guise, which seem aimed at making us more like real ninjas than rogues are. I mean, we can’t just go invisible, but we leave a double behind. We have a Smoke Bomb which also breaks roots. It feels a bit like being in an episode of Naruto.
Shadowpriest talents and abilities still seem horribly aimed at healing (VE, VD, Void Shift, Divine Star), while our raid support otherwise is still non-existent. TBC saw the nerfing of our raid Shadow healing, WotLK saw the nerf to replenishment and subsequent increase in our damage. Cataclysm saw our first real revamp where Shadow Orbs and advanced SW:Death techniques were added and VE healing further nerfed. But through all this, we haven’t gained anything worthwhile (in fact everything that was added will be removed or completely revamped in MoP) whether in personal or raid support.
Dispersion is a survival cooldown and I am called on a lot to soak/survive crazy stuff like solo-soaking Zon’ozz orbs or Hour of Twilight from heroic Ultraxion. So only now does that ability really shine. But when I compare it to things like the Doomguard/Infernal, Demonic Teleport and Demon Form from Warlocks, or most of the awesome things Unholy Death Knights get I feel a bit shortchanged. And when I look at what extra work is done on these classes for MoP, it makes sticking to my Shadowpriest actually hard. I mean I want to play my Shadowpriest, and I remind myself that this is only Beta, but I see ourselves being so much more boring than the Warlocks while offering nothing an Affliction Warlock couldn’t.
There does not seem to be a real proper design direction for Priests, which heavily impacts the current choices. It all seems like some random “do damage”, “boost damage” and “heal crowd” abilities being tossed about at various levels, trying to put them in such an order that we’d have a hard time picking between them. The developer Metagame of “tease the player, not the class” takes an all new high in attempts to make us jump through hoops to do the same damage as other classes while still being elected “off healer of the year” the moment a healer doesn’t show up for a raid.
I’d say forget about the talents for now. It’s obvious they will either fall in the “pick one, they don’t matter” or “mandatory” classes. The core of the class is the manner in which we deal damage. We used to be “Dots with benefits” but it seems the designers want to move away from this role to give the Affliction locks more breathing room. This is fine, but this does mean we need to have a new, proper role that does not make us infringe upon the intellectual property of Mages.
I have made several posts before about design philosophy and design, and I see the same mistake being made daily in Process Management and Document Control – the lack of a proper foundation, lack of a “Management Summary” which all designers can stick to, no “winning themes” or “design document” which details the end result that the designers want to achieve. I am not sure, I have to assume that the Developers have these, but the more I see the new changes I am wondering what it could be…
The change from Shadowpriests to a more balanced, direct-damage type seems to be in full swing, but otherwise there is no real flavor to the class. The mana issues have recently been handled with reductions in mana costs across the board, but the lack of raid utility seems rampant. To this, I must ask: “Why would I play a Shadowpriest over a Warlock? What does a Shadowpriest have that is fun and unique?”
I am currently looking for the answer and dreading the outcome. I want to play my Shadowpriest, but I won’t sacrifice my fun to do it.