Shadow is the only damage specialization available to Priests. Shadow received a rework in Legion, which introduced Voidform and completely changed the flow of shadow. Battle for Azeroth iterated on that concept even more. With Shadowlands, Shadow received another large rework. Our specialization identity is a bit confusing as we still use void abilities, but we have ties to our older plague/vampiric roots. Below is our collective feedback and opinions on the current state of shadow that is set to go live when Shadowlands launches next week.
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Check out all our Shadowlands Launch Opinion articles by our Class Writers and members of the community! Click on any of the colored specs below to see what articles we’ve released so far.
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The Big Rework
Shadow received a substantial rework in Shadowlands. Voidform is now a cooldown we use, rather than a buff we try to maintain at all times. Some players already miss the heart pounding pace as you reach higher stacks of Voidform and your Insanity drains faster and faster. While that was a fun playstyle, it was very easy to mess up and the new incarnation of Shadow, which is similar to Shadow prior to Warlords of Draenor, is easier to pick up and still maintains a good skill ceiling.
Additionally, Insanity generation has been reduced across the board slightly and instead we have Insanity spenders, Devouring Plague and the talent Searing Nightmare. We’ve also gained a new passive, Dark Thoughts, which gives us more incentive to have Shadow Word: Pain, Vampiric Touch, and Devouring Plague active on the target we are using Mind Flay or Mind Sear on.
Voidform no longer being tied to Insanity and acting as a true cooldown has been great for the spec. For several expansions, the only cooldown we had, if you can even call it that, was Shadowfiend. We did have access to Power Infusion, but that just served to fuel high stack Voidforms and was short lived. Now, when we enter Voidform, we feel an instant increase in power. We get 2 charges of Mind Blast and access to Void Bolt, which essentially lets you not worry about managing Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch for the duration as you’ll automatically extend them with each Void Bolt cast, letting you focus on upfront damage dealing abilities. Additionally, you still get the cool Voidform aesthetic.
As mentioned in the big rework section, Shadow now has a slightly different playstyle than before. While we still make use of our core spells, the spec does feel slower than it did with ramping haste and Voidform stacks.
- Devouring Plague has made a return to Shadow. It’s gone through a few changes on Beta, and is now one of our hardest hitting abilities. A new mechanic of Devouring Plague is that it functions similar to Ignite. Any time you cast Devouring Plague on the same target the damage from your previous Devouring Plague will be rolled into the new one. This is great for single target fights or fights where you need to funnel damage into one target while dotting many targets.
- Shadow Word: Death has also made a return, this time baseline instead of a talent, however there are some potential issues with the current implementation. While the ability hits hard on targets below 20% health, it doesn’t integrate well into the rotation and the reflected damage could be detrimental should we encounter fights where our maximum health is reduced or targets take additional damage.
- Power Infusion is now a baseline ability for all Priest specializations. You can cast it on ally, but generally you’ll use it on yourself. With a 2 minute cooldown, it feels a little weird as it doesn’t line up with the cooldown of Voidform, but overall it feels like a good button to press. Additionally, it’s off the global cooldown.
- Desperate Prayer is now available to all Priest specializations.
- Mind Soothe, a spell that’s generally seen as extremely niche has also returned.
With the rework of Voidform, we need to manually recast our dots much more often. While this is how Shadow played before Legion, it does feel a bit strange going back to it after the past two expansions. Thankfully, we have a few talents like Misery, Damnation, and Searing Nightmare that can help make this easier.
Shadow’s mastery, Mastery: Shadow Weaving, has changed this expansion. It is now based on Shadow’s dots being on the target rather than passively adding damage to spells. This synergizes well with one of our passive procs, Dark Thoughts. Additionally, during Voidform, all targets will receive the maximum benefit, making Voidform standout as a true cooldown for Shadow.
Shadowy Apparitions were changed to spawn on targets afflicted by Vampiric Touch when Mind Blast, Devouring Plague or Void Bolt are cast, rather than triggering from a critical tick of Shadow Word: Pain. That’s left Shadow Word: Pain feeling a bit lackluster in what it brings to the table. Meanwhile, Vampiric Touch now has everything going for it. Targets that have Vampiric Touch on them will contribute to the number of Shadowy Apparitions spawned, it can apply Shadow Word: Pain when talented into Misery, be buffed using Unfurling Darkness, adds damage to targets when casting Mind Blast while talented into Psychic Link, and also heals us passively per tick. We would love to see Shadow Word: Pain synergize with our toolkit beyond Searing Nightmare interactions.
Talents are honestly in the best balance they have been in any expansion. While sims do say certain talents are better in a given scenario, and that will always be the case, some talents are viable in multiple situations. That being said, there are some competing synergies and some weak talents that still need to be addressed in tuning.
This row feels mostly balanced. Fortress of the Mind definitely feels like a raiding talent, mainly because it doesn’t buff the damage of Mind Sear, which is what you’ll be using as your filler in Mythic+. Death and Madness is our bread and butter in Mythic+, which feels great. Unfurling Darkness is the PvP talent for this row, due to its synergy with Damnation.
Searing Nightmare replaced Dark Void with a better spell. It’s our only other Insanity spender and it does a fantastic amount of damage. Misery is still useful in fights that are spread out where Searing Nightmare cannot affect sufficient multiple targets or you just want to spend fewer casts on dots. Additionally, Misery is better than Searing Nightmare at lower target counts. Twist of Fate is only slightly ahead of Misery in terms of DPS on pure single target encounters.
Current sims have Shadow Crash as our best talent, providing you hit all targets with it every cast. Auspicious Spirits is better on spread encounters and generally more consistent. Psychic Link just doesn’t do enough damage and has counter synergy when talented into Searing Nightmare.
This row feels weird. Damnation works well in PvP, or when you need to instantly get your dots on a target.Void Torrent is a short CD single target nuke with a fixed channel time. It’s best to have your dots on the target prior to casting it to get the full Mastery benefit, but it hits hard nonetheless. Mindbender is your press and forget button for passive Insanity generation, which is great for Mythic+ when you’re hard pressed for GCDs. Generally speaking Void Torrent will be the go-to talent for most PvE scenarios, it just hits very hard and looks awesome.
Hungering Void is by far our best talent in this row. The initial critical strike gain of Ancient Madness is nice for burst packs, but Hungering Void will give you a longer Voidform, resulting in more damage over the course of a fight, be that short or long. Surrender to Madness is great when you can successfully kill a target marked within its debuff window, granting you additional Voidform uptime. Additionally, Surrender to Madness is the go-to pick for Mythic+.
- Mind Soothe is available at level 52. This is a fairly niche spell. Mind Soothe has very few use cases, as it’s limited to Humanoid and Dragonkin targets. You should use it to avoid aggroing mobs when you just want to skirt by. If the target resists it, they’ll aggro to you. Additionally if you use it on an enemy player, it will cause guards of neutral cities to aggro you.
- Psychic Scream gains a rank 2 passive ability, Psychic Scream at level 54, which increases the amount of damage a target can take before breaking out of your fear. This doesn’t really have an impact on how you would use Psychic Scream
- Silence gains a rank 2 passive ability, Silence which increases it’s range by 10 yards. This finally puts us on even footing terms of range of an interrupt with other caster classes.
- Power Infusion is available at level 58 and you’ll want to use it on cooldown, even outside of Voidform. It’ll make burning some hard to kill targets easier for you.
You can use the cleansing effect from Summon Steward if needed, but we have our own tools for cleansing yourself through Purify Disease, Dispersion, and Mass Dispel (which also benefits our allies). .
When it comes to the actual covenant ability, Boon of the Ascended is absolutely bonkers. You’ll want to use it with Voidform, Power Infusion, an Intellect Potion, and any on use trinkets you may have to boost it’s damage. One special note about it is that Ascended Blast has a 1s global cooldown, which is hasted, it will feel a bit awkward as the rest of our spells trigger a 1.5s global cooldown, also hasted. It’s worth waiting for it to be back up rather than missing a cast. Ascended Blast does not grant insanity, which will feel a little weird.
When it comes to the other soulbinds, they just don’t measure up, Pelagos is too strong by comparison. even after the nerfs.
Boon of the Ascended can be buffed using the Courageous Ascension conduit, which increases the damage Ascended Blast does and Ascended Eruption will deal 1% more damage per stack of Boon of the Ascended. It adds a decent amount of damage value to Boon of the Ascended, but it’s more noticeable in Mythic+.
Your covenant ability with the Venthyr covenant is Mindgames. The spell doesn’t really require any thought or special handling, just cast it on cooldown. You can technically minmax it with periods where you know a mob will be dealing damage, for example a warrior using Bladestorm against you. Additionally you have access to Door of Shadows which can be a niche utility to go from A to B quickly. This covenant serves as a good choice if you’re going to be playing a healer, as the soulbinds are quite close in value. Additionally if you plan on seriously playing PvP, this is the best covenant to do so.
As far as soubinds go, Theotar and Nadjia are fairly close to each other, assuming specific pathing. Draven isn’t too far behind (literally 1%), so you can go with whichever soulbind you want in this case and have it only minimally impact your potential DPS.
Mindgames can be buffed by using the Shattered Perceptions conduit. This causes Mindgames to last 2 additional seconds, deal more initial damage, and causes more damage or healing to be reversed. It’s not really worth taking in any scenario.
Going Night Fae gives you access to Soulshape and Fae Guardians as a Shadow Priest. Soulshape is semi useless for us as majority of the time you’ll be talented into Body and Soul. One upside to it is that you’ll have a much longer duration inside of rested areas. which makes navigating cities that don’t allow mounts in certain areas slightly faster.
When it comes to DPS, Fae Guardians is interesting. Casting it provides your spells with 3 additional effects. Wrathful Faerie follows whichever target you’ve recently cast Shadow Word: Pain on. Note, this does not include Shadow Word: Pain inflicted when casting Vampiric Touch while talented into Misery. Guardian Faerie provides your target to take 10% reduced damage, useful to place on your tank unless someone else needs it. That is triggered by casting Power Word: Shield onto a target. Lastly Benevolent Faerie increases the cooldown rate of a major ability by 100%. For Shadow Priests this currently uses Void Eruption to reduce it’s cooldown to roughly 70 seconds.
For soulbinds, all three soulbinds are fairly close (within 1% of each other) with proper pathing and conduits.
Fae Guardians can be buffed using the Fae Fermata conduit, which causes any of the Faeries to leave a reduced power version of their benefit on the target for a short while. We won’t be moving around our buffs as often as some classes, so we gain very little benefit from this conduit.
Shadow Priests get access to Fleshcraft and Unholy Nova. Fleshcraft is hardly worth casting, except in a pinch where you’ll need the extra survivability. Unholy Nova does surprisingly well on lower target counts thanks to it’s square root scaling. Basically, it’s stronger on lower target counts, but weaker with higher target counts. You’ll want to use Unholy Nova when you know targets will live as close to the full duration of Unholy Transfusion as possible. Unlike Kyrian’s Ascended Nova, you do not need to be in melee range to use this covenant’s ability and it will instead spread to targets within 15yds of it’s impact zone. There is a caveat though, Unholy Nova behaves a lot like shadow crash. You can target an enemy and cast Unholy Nova, however it will lock it’s landing location based on where the target was standing at the time you cast it.
For soulbinds, you’ll want to go with Emeni, as they’re a bit ahead DPS wise in all scenarios.
Unholy Transfusion can be buffed using the Festering Transfusion conduit, which extends it duration by 2 seconds and increases its damage. The added damage this provides is negligible. Unholy Transfusion already has some issues where the targets need to live the full duration to get value out of it, meaning adding more time to that is giving you a bigger window to miss out on damage. Provided you get the full duration of Unholy Transfusion, it’s not bad, but we have better options.
Most of our covenant choices are really close. You can really pick whichever covenant you want and still do comparable DPS. For PvP, you’ll want to pick Venthr, as Mindgames is the best covenant ability we have access to in those situations.
Which would I choose if Shadowlands came out tomorrow?
With the rapid fire changes that are currently happening on beta as we approach closer to release, the small gap between covenants is getting smaller. If I had to choose right now, personally I would go with Necrolord. The main reason for that is I enjoy running dungeons and it’s one of Shadow’s best covenants for dungeons. It also performs decently on single target encounters, even beating out Mindgames.
Given my above choice of a covenant, this is the pathing I would take for Emeni, my chosen covenant.
Emeni provides a couple of interesting nodes:
- Lead by Example, the initial trait in the tree, functions as group utility. Your party members are granted them 2% primary stat, and you gain up to 8% primary stat yourself.
- Emeni’s Magnificent Skin allows you to get some extra health, really we only want this for the potency conduit.
- Emeni’s Ambulatory Flesh allows you to cast Fleshcraft while moving, This isn’t worth taking in most situations as we lose a potency conduit.
- Gnashing Chompers provides stacking haste when defeating mobs. This comes at a cost of an extra potency conduit and is fairly weak in comparison.
My second soulbind would be Plague Deviser Marileth, mainly so I could get access to Plaguey’s Preemptive Strike which is useful in Mythic+ for burning down priority targets.
Overall, we only have a handful of potentially good potency conduits. Since we’re limited to at max 2 potency conduits for any given soulbind, that vastly limits our choices. Additionally, there are a couple cases where you’ll only want to grab 1 potency conduit as the alternative path will buff the damage of that soulbind our the class ability enough to outweigh the gain of the potency conduit.
That being said, you’ll never want to pick a covenant specific potency conduit as the shadow priest potency conduits are stronger.
Dissonant Echoes and Haunting Apparitions are our best potency conduits. Dissonant Echoes should be slotted in first if you’re talented into Hungering Void or Surrender to Madness. Haunting Apparitions should be slotted first if you’re talented into Ancient Madness.
Here’s an example of when to take the other Potency Conduits
The majority of the legendaries available to us are terrible. Our best legendary, Eternal Call to the Void, will not be available to us until the raid comes out. Three of the four Shadow specific legendaries are ok but have their own issues. Twins of the Sun Priestess is a good secondary legendary as you’ll have more control over it than Eternal Call to the Void, and get to use Power Infusion on another ally while still benefiting from it yourself.
That said, here’s the rest of the legendaries that are available to us:
- Echo of Eonar: Just doesn’t bring enough DPS to the table to choose to use it.
- Judgment of the Arbiter: A cool concept, but doesn’t do enough damage and requires specific positioning to maximize the value of it.
- Maw Rattle: Most groups of mobs should die around the same time in dungeons. The delay makes this an even worse choice. For raids, it just doesn’t do enough damage. That said, the damage reduction component could be fairly niche, but you’ll be better off killing something faster.
- Norgannon’s Sagacity: This is a bit of a training wheels legendary. If you’re just swapping to a ranged DPS class for the first time after playing melee or a beast mastery hunter, this may help you get used to having to plant your feet to deal damage. Once you get used to that, the value of this legendary drops dramatically and it’s better to just learn to play a caster properly than gimp your DPS by choosing the wrong legendary.
- Sephuz’s Proclamation: The stat proc is nice. Back in Legion, the ring version of this was our best in slot. However, it just doesn’t give us the oomph that it used to. This could change as the expansion goes on.
- Stable Phantasma Lure: This provides no DPS to us.
- Third Eye of the Jailer: This just doesn’t provide enough oomph to be competitive.
- Vitality Sacrifice: This may be decent in open world content or pvp, but generally you want to avoid taking damage when possible.
Shadow feels quite strong going into Shadowlands. We’re not reliant on any borrowed power of the covenant system. Shadow’s framework feels very solid and you’ll have options to carve out needs for your raid. Shadow brings decent sustained single target damage, excellent spread target damage, decent stacked AoE damage, and off healing. Shadow does lack in the mobility department, the loss of stutter step casting with Void Bolt will require Shadow Priests to plan ahead of where they need to be and will result in less damage on big moves. That said, we’re not completely powerless as we do have several instant cast spells we can use on the move. These are Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Death, Mind Blast (with a Dark Thoughts proc), and Shadow Word: Pain. Overall, Shadow has come out performing well with the rework and looks very promising regardless of content you’ll be participating in.