Shadow Priest Review - Battle for Azeroth Community Opinions
Throughout the pre-patch, we'll be launching a community opinions article for every class and spec. We're continuing our Battle for Azeroth Class Reviews and in this post, we'll be taking a look at the state of Shadow Priest. See if this spec appeals to you in Battle for Azeroth!
We reached out to the Shadow Priest community to give their thoughts and opinions on the changes and the current state of the spec.
If this spec appeals to you after reading this article, check out our
Battle for Azeroth Shadow Priest Guide
Anshlun - Theorycrafter, SimC Shadow Module Maintainer, WarcraftPriests Admin, Wowhead News Writer and Editor.
Twintop - Theorycrafter, Addon+WeakAuras Dev, WarcraftPriests Admin
Semicolondash - Theorycrafter, Magicsim dev, Shadow Content Manager, sim analysis.
Djriff - Theorycrafter, Wowhead Guide Writer
Publik - Theorycrafter, SimC dev, & Guide Writer
Melgane - Guide Writer and Theorycrafter
Ellipsis - Theorycrafter, Forum busybody, Guide writer, specialises in think piece and ‘deep dive’ articles / discussion.
Isentropy - Theorycrafter and Guide Writer
N1gh7h4wk - Theorycrafter and SimC dev
Entenzwerg - Feelycrafter and PvPer
Jaerv - Theorycrafter and Hardcore raider in Future on Twisting Nether-EU
Talk about the changes going into BFA
The biggest change for shadow in Battle for Azeroth is the role that
now plays for the spec. In Legion,
was a massive increase in power over
. Primarily due to Mass Hysteria, you were rewarded greatly for getting the maximum amount of
stacks possible -- the flipside of this was that there was also a big punishment attached to
should you drop out earlier than expected. Sometimes this was due to your own fault, sometimes it was out of your own control, but this added a great deal of frustration to the spec when things went wrong. It also made balancing the spec outside of raids much more difficult, particularly in dungeons, as you might not have been able to reach your max stack potential. The problem is that the
minigame only truly works when there is a big reward to getting the highest amount of stacks possible, and this is where Blizzard may have missed the mark with
in Battle for Azeroth. While
was frustrating when it went wrong, it enabled a fast paced playstyle that created frantic gameplay. We’ve lost much of the fast paced playstyle due to getting less haste from
and from gear in general, on top of the reward for staying in
as long as possible being massively reduced, which exposes shadow’s rotation to be the boring 3 button rotation it was all along. Except this time, there’s no
minigame to really be excited about either.
Blizzard significantly neutered the strength of
: we get half the haste per stack we used to, the drain got nerfed and we also lost our artifact trait Mass Hysteria. Among a few more other things, this significantly changes the way we view
. It is no longer about getting as many stacks as possible, all we truly care about is
uptime (spending the least amount of time in
as we can) and amount of
s we cast (as
is now the biggest benefit that
gives us). However the spec’s design is still very much aimed at you caring about maximizing insanity generation, and several talents such as
still reflect that. This almost creates a conflict of interests within the spec, which is exacerbated by how important
is to the spec for AoE now.
By losing Mass Hysteria, the damage potential of our dots has been significantly reduced, which nerfs our spread cleave and also shifts more of our damage to our single target spells (
) and in doing so, they are hurting our movement even more. With
going from more of a filler to a spell that actually contributes a lot to your overall damage, losing casts hurts your DPS a great deal. For a class without any movement skills at all, this is very questionable.
Aside from how
got changed, there were a couple of other changes worth mentioning:
was taken away as a baseline spell and is now a talent on our level 75 row,
has returned as its own active spell and we have received several new talents that help address shadow’s problems in AoE. Moreover,
is now available to shadow again too.
Talk about Talent changes
Shadow priest received many different talent changes, ranging from good to bad, and even to straight up questionable designs.
Overall, it’s a pretty good row with
providing solid Single target damage since it buffs two of our biggest single target spells in
but falls low on high movement and AoE.
makes up in scenarios where
is still plagued with the same problems it had since Mists of Pandaria, as long as the buff does not stack you lose too many potential
casts since it can procc while you still have a procc. The change to make it into RPPM just represented an overall nerf to the effect as it lost great part of its multi-target potential. Overall it feels like SI interrupts the flow of the rotation more than it adds to it, though the instant proc still has high value in PvP.
This is in general our “survivability” row. Either through increased movement speed or a straight up buff to our raid cooldown. However, since priests do not have a baseline mobility tool, in comparison to every single other range class, we generally take a movement talent, which leaves
in the dust.
A powerful row with a lot of valuable choices depending strongly on the fight.
is even after the nerf (15% to 10%) a strong pick for ST and certain fights where you can have high uptime on the buff because of low health adds spawning throughout the fight,
gains value on council style fights where you have 3-5 sustained targets and
is strong on add wave fights where you need burst AoE.
is, even if it’s its fairly strong, a very boring talent because you often do not have control over it. The passive activation and resulting flat damage bonus prevent players from really interacting with the talent.
Here we have our first questionable change in the talent tree,
has gone from baseline to a talent, and doing so it almost never sees use. Even if
was not the best, or hardest hitting ability in Legion, it offered a slight rotational change in execute, and added a reactionary element to add fights where the player could snipe targets with
It’s such a core ability that almost every Shadow Priest is scratching their head in disbelief.
You could do so much more with this slot if we still had
But over to the strength of the talents.
scales too much with Crit and will not see use until you have a high amount of crit. It is another very passive talent, but it gives the spec a better flow with increased resource generation outside of
. While in
, its value is questionable, with all the nerfs to the mechanic in BFA and leaving it feeling out of place as it focuses on
is likely to be the go to choice for the majority of content in BFA, providing fair AoE and additional insanity generation for single target that does not rely at all on secondary stats.
The 90 row is filled with questionable and straight up dead talents, currently
is the only choice, no matter fight, scenario or place.
With the loss of high
lost almost it’s entire value. You do not gain enough stacks to make
provide enough haste. It’s one of those spells that would be perfect as a Baseline ability, as it was back in 7.0, just because of the fluidity it gives the specc. It’s not about the damage.
And then we have
, our beloved artifact ability. With the nerf to Secondaries, the nerf to Drain Rate, and the removal of Mass Hysteria, staying in
and building as high stacks as humanly possible is no longer the way we play, removing almost the entire value of
. Apart from it being a 4-second channel where you can not move, you also lose
casts doing so. With those casts lost, the added “possible” stacks gained do not make up for the damage lost during the channel.
, and the previously mentioned
are not in line with the goals of the spec in BFA.
are fairly close in a lot of situations, but if played properly
gives the player more value. It offers you more control of
, more burst AoE options, and a way to enter
mid movement if planned properly. An amazing design all around.
is a still a solid option and it comes down to personal preference and playstyle more often than not.
, the last dead talent.
A talent stuck in the Legion style of Shadow where
stacks was everything that mattered. Currently, it’s a 1-minute cast while moving cooldown with a 30-second downtime.
The damage gained from the additional insanity generation is negligible, since you do not have the tools to build any significant amount of stacks with the extra insanity generation, and even if we had, with the loss of Mass Hysteria and the nerfs to the haste gained from
stacks, the added stacks barely matters. On top of that, losing 90% of your maximum health almost always forces you to hold
or one of your healer’s major cooldowns, and the 30 second downtime that follows leaves one of the level 30 talents,
, completely unusable.
Shadow in Dungeons
Compared to Legion, shadow is in a much better spot for dungeons in Battle for Azeroth. However, it still has a number of problems that prevent it from being as enjoyable as it could potentially be, and a lot of these are deeper problems that are hard to fix with just an aura buff or through redistributing damage sources. This doesn’t mean that the spec has no chance of being viable in dungeons from a numbers perspective, all it means is that from a gameplay perspective these problems can end up becoming not enjoyable for players,
First of all, our AoE is almost entirely locked behind talents to an extent that we don’t see too often in this game. We have a total of 4 talents that do this:
(these two share the same row) add a great deal of convenience as well as strength to our multidotting. They significantly reduce the amount of globals we have to spend on applying our DoTs to targets in their own way, which frees up the rotation to press other buttons more.
is a standard, short cooldown spell that does a decent amount of burst AoE damage to enemies in a radius.
gives us the flexibility of entering
whenever we want to, in addition to dealing a burst of AoE damage to enemies around your target; the damage this does is equal to the damage
Why is this problematic? With all these options to add burst AoE to shadow’s kit, it leaves little room for shadow’s baseline AoE to be interesting, let alone powerful. Though the tradeoffs in terms of talents don’t necessarily feel bad, it does feel as if these talents are not augmenting or adding onto shadow’s baseline kit, rather they are giving shadow any AoE in the first place. There’s also the fact that these talents are essentially standalone in the sense that they do not interact with shadow’s kit in any way.
As an example of a burst AoE talent done right, Cataclysm for destruction does burst AoE damage but also applies Immolate, and Immolate helps Soul Shard generation. A similar synergy exists for shadow in the form of
is a talent and Shadowy Apparitions don’t generate any Insanity baseline. Of course not all AoE talents need to also synergize with something else in a toolkit, it’s fine for them to be relatively boring as long as they are functional. The reason why this is problematic for shadow is that baseline AoE is equally boring and lacking of any interactions.
Baseline, all shadow has is
to deal with AoE situations. We do not consider our DoTs to be viable AoE options without either picking
is the spell that also allows us to enter
, and isn’t controllable as to when you want to cast it. Delaying
in favor of using it for AoE feels bad as it delays
, which is supposed to be the highlight of shadow’s gameplay. This creates a conflict of interest that is hard to solve without detaching
from also being the spell that puts us into
Then you have
, which is still relatively weak as an AoE spell. As it has no cost to it nor a cooldown, it has to be weighed up against other spells in our kit such as
and our DoTs. When do I want to start using
as an actual AoE spell, and when is it just the filler in the rotation replacing
above 3 targets? It’s a complicated puzzle of comparing damage per execution time between spells and having to determine how long combat is even going to take, something that is not at all obvious to most players.
’s role in the rotation continues to be a bit of a mystery unless you’re willing to sit down and calculate these things as it certainly doesn’t feel intuitive in the moment. When you do decide that mostly casting
is the correct play, you’ll quickly realize just how dull this is and also somewhat counterproductive as staying in
longer only delays your next
DoTs in dungeons are in a bit of a weird spot right now for shadow because it feels like there’s just too much going on with the spec in AoE situations in order to get around to casting them sometimes. We have so many other things we want to cast as well. There’s
as possible talent choices that provide us with extra buttons for AoE, in addition to
as a baseline AoE button that also puts us into
is when the real problems start, as another spell gets added to your rotation in the form of
’s cooldown also gets reduced, bloating the rotation even further. When you have to DoT in
, you’re almost inevitably giving up some of the
gameplay in favour of getting your DoTs out. This creates yet another conflict within the rotation and leads to bad gameplay. Ideally you get your DoTs out before going into
, which then allows you to use
to sustain them until you drop out, but you may not always have that luxury. What it ultimately boils down to is that in
, shadow can’t be an effective DoT spec without affecting
gameplay, and vice versa.
The loss of Artifact traits, not only hurts our DPS but hurts our survivability as well. Shadow is very much a turret DPS outside of
letting us stutter step cast during the GCD, the artifact gave us the buff to
that we’ve had since it was introduced and healed us. Additionally losing the shield
gave us is a noticeable loss of survivability and for leveling almost makes you talent into San’layn just to survive 1-2 hard hitting mobs so you can DPS rather than just spam
, we can only spam this on ourselves 5-6 times before we go oom. Then we have to rely on
(if our “pet” is out), Vampiric Embrace, or a CC. While we don’t need to be able to bomb heal ourselves, we lack the CC other ranged classes have or a dedicated pet. Boomkins can easily heal themselves up without really slowing down, mages can CC mobs and kite for days, and both warlocks and hunters have pets that can tank for them in addition to CC.
While priests are capable of swapping to a heal specialization for more survivability, they shouldn’t have to as a DPS should be fully capable of mowing down 1-2 mobs with minimal damage to themselves and not having to spam heal between pulls.
What Shadow Needs?
Moving into BFA, shadow still has many of the problems that plagued it throughout Legion. The main one being a lack of control over how when resources are spent within the spec -- this works great from a thematic point of view but in practice leaves players without the ability to make meaningful decisions in their rotation or gameplay. If you want to hold
for an opportune moment you’re wasting resources and you’re unable to engage with a major part of your rotation, and as
serves as the spec’s only resource spender, the player has very little choice over how or when that resource is spent.
Shadow’s simple rotation is also a product of this ‘
is the only spender’ style gameplay, as the goal is to generate as much insanity as possible. On the surface this seems interesting and engaging but that’s only skin deep; the problem is that doing so boils down to a small rigid button priority where nothing can be ‘pooled’ or rearranged to take advantage of different situations. This is not to say that a rotation with a simple premise is inherently poorly designed, but instead that flexibility should be a core trait of any rotation, especially a simple one.
Breaking away from this rigidity is difficult in BFA, even with the as yet unknown changes which aim to be out around 8.1. The issues with shadow’s rotation stem from something much larger which will have to be tackled at a later date. For 8.1, however, the focus should be placed on rebuilding the talent tree to provide options which make more sense alongside the goals of
in BFA, and on making
feel different to
without it becoming oppressive like it was in Legion. This is a hard balance to strike, but one that is currently much too close to making
irrelevant to both the feel and output of the spec. Mastery is also in dire need of work, as the flat damage increase to a majority of our abilities not only feels dull and is incredibly weak with current tuning, but it also constantly devalues talent options which are not part of mastery, as well as not affecting our single target burst from
and causing us to fall behind in potential burst damage as the expansion progresses.
Shadow Priest has been left in a position of uncertainty moving into BFA and beyond, with further changes supposedly coming in 8.1 and rumblings amongst the community about the need for something much bigger in the future. For now, Shadow Priest has successfully shaken off its heavy reliance on ramp up of
stacks and gained some burst aoe tools in its talent tree, though these don’t come without their own problems. The talent tree itself has many drastically undertuned options and almost all of them fail to impact gameplay in any meaningful way. This situation isn’t helped by
’s overarching design in both Legion and BFA creating a linear and scripted rotation.
As far as potential changes for 8.1, the talent tree is in need of fresh thoughts and less recycled Legion concepts. Mastery is in a poor state, and though the spec has gained aoe burst damage, the drop in pace from Legion is too large to facilitate the simplicity and rigidness of Shadow’s rotation.
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