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Shadow Priest Guide

The Basics

Shadow Priests, like any other cloth DPS currently in game, are bound to the role of ranged DPS (sorry to kill your dreams of being a melee Priest). However it is very rare to see a Shadow Priest make the top of any damage meter. While Shadow Priests have come a long way since vanilla WoW, they are still in need of some tweaks to improve their DPS. Don’t be disheartened though; while you won’t be topping the damage meter, you won’t be last either. Keep your DoT’s up, know when to use your various spells, and above all stay alive and you will push out some relatively competitive numbers.

Now that we have gotten past the rather nasty news that Shadow Priests still are in need of some fixes to help them compete for top damage, let me share the secret that most people seem to forget. Shadow Priests are usually not brought to raids just for their DPS. /GASP! You as a Shadow Priest are being brought to raids for the various buffs you can provide that make everyone else’s raid experience oh so much more pleasant.

A single Shadow Priest can provide a debuff a lot like a Warrior’s Mortal Strike (Mind Blast), give mana (Vampiric Touch) and health (Vampiric Embrace) back to some of your raid members, and increases the hit chance for the entire raid (Misery). As you can see, while a Shadow Priest will never put out the numbers a mage or warlock can, keeping one in the raid is a very good idea. Plus you get to do all this in Shadow Form, which makes you into a sort of shadow of yourself and increases your Shadow damage, reduces your threat and damage taken.

Item Stats and Bonuses

As a Shadow Priest you are going to want to stack Spellpower whenever you can. Love it, own it, gem for it, you can never go wrong with Spellpower. There is no ceiling on how much Spellpower you should/can have, so stack it till you can’t stack anymore.

Hit for the Shadow Priest is all important. If you are constantly missing the mobs, you aren’t doing damage, which reduces you to nothing more than a shadowy lump taking up a raid spot. Since the 1% miss cap has been removed from spells with the introduction of patch 3.0, 17% hit is required for a naked, untalented Priest to never miss on a raid boss.

Don’t panic though, as you won’t be untalented or (hopefully) naked, meaning you will only need to reach around 11% hit (10% with a Draenei in the group). This should be easy to do with the amount of hit Blizzard has made available on Shadow Priest gear. Sticking close to hit cap should always be in the back of your mind when choosing gear. Don’t be too far under or too far over, since both will hamper your damage in the end.

Since you won’t really need to be stacking hit thanks to the amount currently available on the gear you can easy pick up, you should be looking into Haste and Crit. While there is really no set amount of Crit and Haste you should have, both are important to the Shadow Priest. Loosely 1 Spell Power is worth around 0.7 Crit, or 0.7 Haste.

Unlike Disc or Holy Priests, Intellect and Spirit are pretty much worthless for the Shadow Priest. Both stats will be on the gear you pick up, but unless you have no other choices you should never gem or enchant for these stats. You will gain more than enough from the gear you pick up.


As a Shadow Priest you are going to want to pick up as many DPS talents as possible. A good skeleton (not fully filled out) build to start with is 8/0/51. After you have picked up all the DPS talents available you will have roughly 12 points to play with. These points can be placed in the mana regen talents (I.e. Meditation, Veiled Shadows, Dispersion) , or utility talents (Psychic Horror, Improved Power Word: Fortitude, Improved Power Word: Shield) based on your personal preference.


Shadowform is what makes Shadow Priests unique from all other casters. Much like a druid shifting into bear or cat, a Shadow Priest in order to do the maximum damage needs to shift into Shadowform before every fight. Once in Shadowform the Priest will turn into a shadowy form of him or herself. Shadowform increases Shadow damage, reduces all damage done to the Priest and reduces the threat generated by the Priest, and gives the periodic damage from the Priest’s Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague, and Vampiric Touch the ability to critically hit for 100% increased damage.

Speccing into Improved Shadowform (2/2) gives the Priest even more advantages. Improved Shadowform gives the Priest’s Fade ability a 100% chance to remove all movement impairing effects and reduces casting or channeling time lost when damaged by 70% when casting any Shadow spell in Shadowform.

As with all things, there is a downside for the Priest in Shadowform. Once in Shadowform the Priest will no longer be able to cast Holy spells. This means that the Priest loses the ability to heal themselves, forcing them to rely on others to do it for them. Not all is lost, the Priest can still cast important spells such as Cure Disease, Abolish Disease, and even throw Shields if they are in a fix.

If Shadow Priests finds themselves in a situation where they must heal, they simply have to drop out of Shadowform. However it should be remembered that doing this takes a large amount of mana, and their healing will be severely gimped. Popping out of Shadowform should only be done in the utmost emergencies.

Spell Rotation

Unlike most other classes, Shadow Priests do not have any spell rotation that is set in stone, however, there is a simple priority list that can be stuck to that cano help maximize your damage. The list is as follows:

Vampiric Touch
Devouring Plague
Mind Blast

Cast Shadow Word: Pain on the boss only after debuffs such as Curse of Elements, Scorch, etc are placed on the boss. If you have the Glyph of Mindflay, you should only need to cast Shadow Word: Pain once per fight. Shadow Word: Pain should only be recast if there is a change in your % of crit, or a change in your % of damage.. If you do not have the Glyph of Mindflay (and you really should) Shadow Word: Pain will need to be applied every time it runs out.

Helpful DPS Tips

Do not cut short your DOTs. Vampiric Touch and Devouring Plague are the only two you really need to worry about. Get a DOT timer that shows exactly when your DOTs will expire. Also pick up a good cast bar that estimates latency within the cast. It will take a little getting used to, but eventually you will avoid falling victim to loss of damage due to lag.

While throwing DOTs on everything in sight (multi-dotting) may seem like an easy way to improve your DPS you may be surprised to find it could actually hurt it. Many factors need to be taken into consideration such as time to live on your secondary target, the Global Cooldowns you will use to place the DOT on the secondary target, and several others. If you feel the situation is ideal for multi-dotting be sure that Shadow Word: Pain or Vampiric Touch do not fall off as both will result in DPS lower than that on a single target. Also watch your mana, and never forget your other priorities such as using Shadowfiend, or moving out of fire.

As a Shadow Priest be prepared to be in a continuous cast. If you aren’t casting something you are wasting DPS. If everything is on cool down use Mind Flay until something else becomes available. You will find that Mind Flay will become your bread and butter as a Shadow Priest.

Mind Flay is a channeled spell, and as such it can be broken by movement, or by accidentally (or intentionally) clicking a new spell. Since Mind Flay is so low on the priority list, you may be tempted to break the channel, or cast another spell before the channel ends. This is a mistake! Never, ever break Mind Flay before the second tick unless faced with some impending doom.

Shadow Word: Death is a great spell to be used while running, but otherwise can be thrown in based on the Shadow Priest’s personal preference. However it should be used with caution, as you can kill yourself with this spell. Using this while at low health is a very bad idea.

During heavy movement fights the priority system should change, instant casts should be organized so they are the spells being cast while you are moving. Down time should be used to cast Mind Blast and Mind Flay.

Always ask yourself: Is my Inner Fire up?

Aggro Management

Part of any DPS class’s job is to make sure they do not pull aggro from the tanks. Pulling aggro can get you, and possibly the rest of your raid killed. Get a threat meter, learn to use it, and keep your eye on it at all times. If you find that you are close to pulling aggro, don’t fret, Priests have the ability to use Fade which drops the Priest’s aggro for a short time, allowing the tanks to hopefully pull ahead. Keep in mind that once Fade wears off all your aggro will come back in full.

Knowing your tanks is a very important part of aggro management. If you raid with the same tank for a long period of time you will instinctively know how hard you can push before pulling aggro from them. You should also learn if they need a few seconds before they peak at max threat generation once a mob is pulled. If this is the case, pre fading and casting will give you higher DPS results than simply standing around during that time.

Mana Regeneration

Mana is of course very important to a Shadow Priest. Without it you can’t cast any of your damage spells and are rendered fairly useless. Unlike their healing counterparts, Shadow Priests do not rely on Spirit and Intellect for their mana regeneration. Instead Shadow Priests make use of a series of talents such as Meditation and Vampiric Embrace to aid them along the way.

Shadow Priests also have access to Shadowfiend. This should be used on every cool down without hesitation. Since most Shadow Priests have 2 talents in Veiled Shadows, Shadowfiend is only on a 2 minute cool down and can usually be used several times during any boss fight.

Dispersion is also common for Shadow Priests to be specced into, allowing for one more mana regaining talent. Dispersion allows the Priest to regenerate 6% mana every 1 second for 6 seconds, but the Priest is unable to attack or cast any spells. This talent is also on a 2 minute cool down and could be used in between Shadowfiend cool downs


To be the best you can possibly can be, come to raid prepared with the right consumables. Flask of the Frost Wyrm should always be used, combined with a Fish Feast, or if not available use Shoveltusk Steak or it’s fish equivalent. Finally, bring Wild Magic Potions; these should be used during Bloodlust/Heroism.