Brain Clutter

February 21, 2007

Shadow Priest 5-Man Viability in TBC

Filed under: gaming, shadow priest, the burning crusade, World of Warcraft — brainclutter @ 4:14 pm

My other posts about shadow priests can be found here:

I have been shadow-spec since I started my Undead priest, Snafzg, because it really fit into my solo-questing playstyle. In Azeroth, I rarely joined instance groups with the exception of Scarlet Monestary to upgrade my gear, bank some cash, and take advantage of accumulated rested XP. For some reason, I just couldn’t find many efficient pick-up groups and found a better time to XP ratio by keeping to myself.

Then the Burning Crusade expansion came out and I really liked the 5-man instance implementation and the quality of party-members increased as well. Horde priests are pretty rare on my server, so I’ve also noticed an increase in group invites. I tried a few groups out of shadow-form as the main healer and found things to be quite manageable in a balanced group (warrior/feral druid, mage, main healer (me), and two other hybrids). Sure it was my primary job to keep people healed up, but certain situations allowed me to go into DPS mode with vampiric embrace + vampiric touch up. Easy pulls mean you can employ the “the best defense is a good offense” strategy. I would stay out of shadow-form just to make sure I could easily drop a flash/greater heal when needed, but I’d say I had a 50/50 DPS to healing ratio.

A friend suggested that I go holy/disc spec because I was in so many instances and it would really increase my efficiency and desirability. Respecs are cheap enough so I took the plunge. My goal was to get Surge of Light in holy with the rest in disc because I wanted some sembelance of solo-viability. Unsurprisingly, my solo efficiency dropped… by a lot… but it would all be worth it if I could own up the 5-man instances. I got my chance to test things out as a “pure” healer and I have to say, “Yawn!” The mana-inefficiency of offensive holy spells prevented me from participating heavily in the DPS category, which meant I was relegated to buffing and healing if I wanted to keep my blue bar in the workable zone. But in TBC, they seem to have nerfed the different heals scalability and efficiency levels. For example, in the past with enough + healing, chain casting “rank 2 Heal” would be more efficient than less frequent greater heals (or so I’ve heard from my holy friends). I found that, at level 63, casting anything but my highest rank Greater Heal was very mana/cast-time inefficient. Maybe it’s better for priests with better +healing than my +540 (in healing suit). For me is was very boring. I had to rely on trinkets, other “use” items, or talents to do anything worthwhile.

I lasted one full level before respeccing back to 41 shadow. A different friend of mine thinks that shadow-priests in a 5-man instances are “a waste of space” but I heavily disagree. I can’t argue that a shadow-priest can be as helpful to a group if their main role is healing, but in an assistive role, they can definitely hold their own. We definitely have group utility if you put a heal-specced druid/shaman/paladin/priest as the main healer.

What utility do we bring?

  • Stamina buff
  • Instant shields
  • HP regen with VE2 (insufficient as main heal source but is a great heal over time effect)
  • Mana regen with VT
  • Damage over time with SW: Pain
  • Second resurrector if main healer wipes
  • Extremely mana efficient DPS (mind flays with sufficient +damage aren’t to be trifled with)
  • Instant AE Fear (though not always advisable)
  • Dispel and Abolish poison
  • Shackle (undead crowd control)
  • Chance for stun with black-out / good mana regen with spirit tap (if we land deathblow)
  • Relatively low threat since most of our damage or heals are over time rather than burst

What do we lack in comparison?

  • Big burst damage
  • Efficient crowd control (aside from ae fear and shackle)
  • Big heals
  • Healing ourselves in combat

In a standard group archetype of Prot Warrior, Holy Priest, Ice Mage, I think we’re definitely a good option to fill in one of the remaining two spots.

Good shadow-strategy in 5-man instances:

  • VE
  • VT
  • Flay
  • Re-VT if necessary
  • Keep flaying until dead

Remember to Fade periodically or when necessary and if you find you’re drawing too much aggro, you can always put points into the shadow threat reduction talent. If you want to continue in shadow-form during level 70 raids, it’s definitely a good idea to invest in the threat-reduction talents. Some shadow-priests report their flays landing for roughly 500 per tick and Mindblasts for 3000+.

What are your thoughts?



  1. Why dont you add SW:P to that list? im speced 100% shadow and SW:P is one of my best friends. just a suggestion.

    -Tanios level 63 shadow priest

    Comment by Tanios — March 12, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

  2. I shall add it! I can’t believe I forgot it myself, since it’s so obvious 😛



    Did you mean add it to the “What we bring” part or the “Good shadow-strategy in 5-man instances” part?

    I added it to the first part and as for the second part, I think SW: Pain is great for bosses but it’s a bit lacking for the “trash” mobs that litter the rest of the dungeons. Most mobs will die way before the SW: Pain expires, so it seems like a bit of a waste of mana when compared to Flay. If you were out of shadow-form and the main healer SW: Pain becomes more useful because you can just drop it on the NPC then concentrate on healing while doing damage over time. I can see it working well there.

    Long story short, I guess SW: Pain is situational.

    Comment by brainclutter — March 12, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

  3. At 70, a holy paladin, shadow priest and any warlock are a huge force to be trifled with. Spiritual Attunement in the Holy Pally section regains mana from Vampiric Embrace’s overheals, and in my case my pally doesn’t drop below 75% mana EVER unless I run out of mana. The 20% spell damage buff (5% from Misery, 15% Shadow Vuln.) that Warlocks receieve plus the life they receieve from Vamp heals gives them a huge damage boost (like they needed it) and an infinite source of mana via Life Tap.

    With a good tank and around ~650 spell damage I can out put about 420 DPS (more on multiple targets) constantly without pulling agro but mashing fade when it comes up. I can do this for quite a while as well with the Shadowfiend. Only when I start running low on mana do my party members start running low. A good 3rd dps to add to your party is a Hunter, they gain lots from Vamp Touch as well. I have four-manned Durnholde with a hunter pet tanking, since the DPS is off the charts. The pattern I use is this:

    Tank Pulls with damage (not body) -> Vamp Embrace
    Vampiric Touch
    Shadow Word: Pain
    Mind Blast
    Shadow Word Death
    Mind Flay back to full health
    REPEAT from Mind Blast
    Renewing VT, VE and SW:P when they come up, watching my agro via KTM and mashing fade when it comes up.

    Lastly, I disagree with *not* dropping a SW:P. First off, it’s quite mana efficient especially if you spec into it, secondly, it’s an instant-cast source of Misery, thirdly, it’s another source of damage WHILE you’re mindflaying. If you’re in a party with a pally healing there is really no reason NOT to go all out.

    The way I look at it is, after every fight, you’re going to drink anyway, might as well toss out the most damage you possibly can during the fight. Unless you’re having OOM problems, why not beat the crap out of everything as hard as you can?

    And finally: Does anyone else NOT see Gladiator’s Satin Mantle and Hood at the Arena vendor?

    Comment by Adam — March 27, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  4. I have plenty of shadow spec friends on my server and i have to say that now with us running the regular instances i end up tanking as moonkin, with normally a shadowpriest and ele shaman acting as the source of my heals, and if my best group 1lock/mage or 2 locks and we pwn basically everything from our +8 spell crit, curse of shadows, (wateva the shadow vuln debuff on shadowpriests), and between the blackouts/wartombs/seduce/sheeps/mind control we dont have cc problems and with our full dps we kill everything b4 they get 4 feet from me

    btw mind control isnt the most reliable cc but it still works and u can do it even when in combat…. we laughed cuz we had our shadowpriest solo most of the pulls in mechanarr

    Comment by Dafriz — June 29, 2007 @ 12:19 am

  5. […] Shadow Priest 5-Man Viability in TBC […]

    Pingback by Top spell damage gear for Shadow Priests « Brain Clutter — July 18, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

  6. I have a 70 Shadow priest on dalaran server. Once you start getting gear VE is not a viable option. Unless you have some source of aggro reducing buff (salv). On a prolonged fight if i use VE even half way through I will pull aggro. Nothing fade can do to help this. I have 1022 bonus shadow dmg as well so I put out a little bit of dps. Just so people know that read this you need to know the amount of threat VE does and not always use it.

    Comment by James — October 15, 2007 @ 2:58 am

  7. Hi James,

    Thanks for the comment! I haven’t played WoW for many months but back when I did, I believe Shadow Affinity was helpful in countering the aggro from shadow damage + vampiric embrace heals. Then again, I never had much over 1000 + spell/shadow damage so maybe I was at a sweet spot.

    Comment by brainclutter — October 15, 2007 @ 7:49 am

  8. […] Shadow Priest 5-Man Viability in TBC […]

    Pingback by WoW Shadow Priest // Ultimate PvP gear at level 70! (Version 2) « Brain Clutter — November 13, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

  9. using sw:death before mindblast is a good idea if you have ve up as the mindblast will help get some of your health back.

    BTW even on 5mans I need the threat talent. I’ve got 1150 shadow dmg unbuffed and it’s far to easy to grab agro without even trying. Thats the main issue you’ll have when you hit the 1000dmg mark.

    But also, SP are one of the best classes to take to a 5man. They can do amazing dmg, there arent many people that can out dps me. They give people mana back. They have the ability to res people if needed (very handy if you have a druid healer say). Some nice stam buffs.

    SP are far more viable in 5mans than holy priests which imo is wrong but does also mean i get to group a lot 😉

    Comment by carpetbelly — November 16, 2007 @ 5:43 am

  10. Good points! Thanks Carpetbelly. It’s great to know that Shadow Priests are still viable since I wrote this in February! 🙂 I always found mine extremely entertaining to play in 5-mans because you are constantly busy.

    Comment by brainclutter — November 16, 2007 @ 8:28 am

  11. James,

    I’m sorry that I am so very late to the party. Maybe I can still help you with your guide. There are a couple of mistakes that I can fix for you.

    #1 Shadow Priests don’t cast Abolish Poison, Druids do. Priests can cast Abolish Disease.

    #2 Shadow Priests do have issues with Threat generation. Every Shadowpriest knows this. Shadowpriest spell damage is not burst-like and therefore is more manageable but you can’t consider it to be low threat.

    #3 Shadow Priests can heal themselves in combat. A Shadow Priest who is unable to heal themselves in combat is a less experienced player. Drop out of Shadowform and heal if that’s what is needed. Healing a Shadow Priest is at the bottom of a group healer’s responsibilities, right next to healing a Hunter’s Pet.

    #4 Compared to other Priest Talent Spec’s as well as other classes, Shadow Priests, Vampiric Embrace excluded, are not mana efficient. Vampiric Embrace is separated out because it is not always a good debuff to use. It asks more of a tank and the extra mana may not be of greater benefit, depending on the fight and group composition. Even with VE active, in an average 5 person group, the Shadow Priest isn’t going to be mana efficient, not like a casting Druid, an Affliction Warlock or a Holy Priest would be.

    #5 Surprisingly, the Silence spell goes completely unmentioned. It has great utility and a distinctive feature of Shadow Priests. Any good assessment of a Shadow Priest as a viable party member should mention Silence.

    #6 Landing a killing blow for a Spirit Tap proc is easier said than done. I recommend slamming a Shadow Word: Death at the end of fight. Spirit Tap has no value in fighting bosses in 5 person Dungeons and that’s the part when mana regeneration is most important. It is a rare pull when Spirit Tap is much of a difference maker. Overall, it is a weak Talent, one that any Priest can get into. It doesn’t define a Shadowpriest like Shadowform, Silence, or the Vampiric spells do.

    I hope that these few additions to this guide have been helpful. Have fun playing the World of Warcraft and take a look around the World Wide Web for some quality sites that focus on Shadowpriests. There are many of them and there is a lot to learn.

    Comment by Science Fiction Twin — May 18, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

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