Welcome to our WoW Classic guide for the dark and sinister shadow priest! Shadow priests are pure damage dealers unlike the other two priest specializations, and are unable to even cast healing abilities while using their iconic Shadowform.
To fully realize the potential of your shadow priest, you’ll need to understand several things about the class. This guide will cover several things like race options, talent choices, and the rotation you should follow to output the most damage. We’ll also talk about all aspects of optimization, including stat priorities, enchanting, beneficial professions, and the consumables that make your character complete.
Most priests opt to play as holy or discipline, but shadow is just as important as the other two specializations. Shadow priests have Shadow Weaving, which boosts all shadow damage done by 15%. This definitely helps the shadow priest, but it also helps warlocks as a much of their damage is shadow-based. Raids are certain to have multiple warlocks, so this makes Shadow Weaving, and therefore a shadow priest, an essential member of any raid group.
Best Shadow Priest Races
Race options matter more for priests than they do for other classes. Not only do races have their own unique passive bonuses and active abilities, but they also have unique abilities tied specifically to the priest class. This means that every race has special priest abilities that cannot be learned on a priest of another race.
Because of this, there are definitely clear favorites for both factions. Alliance players will definitely want to play a dwarf, while horde players will have an excellent time should they choose a troll. If you want to see all the differences between the race options, check them out here!
Any race of the Alliance can be a priest except for gnomes. This means that you can be a priest as a human, dwarf, or night elf. Despite closely tying into lore, night elves make the worst priests. None of their racial abilities are of much help, and both priest abilities aren’t very useful.
Humans are a pretty good choice, seeing as they get a +5% bonus to Spirit through The Human Spirit. Additionally, their priest abilities are pretty useful. Desperate Prayer is an instant, self-heal that can restore upwards of 1500 health. Feedback is less useful, draining mana and health when spells hit you.
That makes a dwarf the best choice for an alliance priest. Their racial passive aren’t helpful, but their priest abilities are fantastic. They also have Desperate Prayer, but they have Fear Ward, an invaluable ability that is mandatory for certain boss encounters. While both abilities aren’t offensively helpful, they offer fantastic utility and support, a key marker of the priest class.
Horde options when it comes to priest are a little more restricted. There are just two choices, undead and troll. Both options are actually fairly decent and you can’t go wrong either way. If you’re really concerned about maximizing, you should pick a troll.
Undead might find use from Will of the Forsaken to remove fear, charm, and sleep effects. Or in niche situations, Cannibalize to restore health. Their priest abilities are more useful, as Touch of Weakness reduces damage and deals damage upon being hit. Devouring Plague is much more useful as it does big damage over 24 seconds.
Trolls are the better choice because they have Berserking, which increases casting speed based on missing health, Hex of Weakness, which reduces enemy damage, and Shadowguard, their strongest ability that passively hits enemies every few seconds. Shadowguard by itself is the biggest DPS increase, which makes trolls a clear winner if you’re focused on maximizing damage.
Shadow Priest Talents
Your talent choices for a shadow priest will depend on what situation you’re going into. If you’re primarily running dungeons, you can run a niche build that will help out there. Some of those abilities are no longer available in bigger raids, which will require you adopt a different build altogether. Feel free to move points around as you feel necessary, but these builds should help you output the most damage.
This build is what you should use if you want to do 5-man dungeons. With this 14/0/37 build, you’ll go deep into the shadow tree to fill out Shadow Reach and Shadow Affinity. This allows you to generate virtually no threat, while also having excellent range in the mobile environment of a dungeon. This build will make use of Vampiric Embrace, so you could consider adding an additional point in Improved Vampiric Embrace for even more healing.
While this build isn’t too different from the dungeon build, it definitely works better in a raid environment. Threat and range are less of an issue in a raid, so a shadow priest benefits from 5 points in Mental Agility in the discipline tree to help lower mana costs. You also won’t use Vampiric Embrace in a raid, as it typically does more harm than good for you. You’ll still have access to Inner Focus, which grants a mana-free Mind Blast with a great chance to crit.
Like any other class and specialization, you must also take the time to optimize a shadow priest. The amount of added power you’ll gain through consumables alone is enough to see the difference, but you’ll also need to pay attention to all aspects of optimization. This includes your stat priorities, professions, enchants, and consumables!
As a caster, shadow priests by nature want intellect and spell damage, but they have issues with mana. Because of this, you’ll need to find a good balance between damage and mana regeneration. After all, the amount of damage a spell will deal doesn’t matter if you don’t have the mana to cast the spell in the first place!
With those ideas in mind, you’ll want to prioritize these stats as a shadow priest:
- Spell/Shadow Power – Spell power is how casters get their spells to deal more damage. Most gear you find will have spell power on it, so you’ll want as much of it as you can find! You can also directly benefit from shadow power considering that is the nature of your spells. Shadow power is usually found from consumables.
- Intellect – After boosting the power of your spells with spell power, you’ll want some intellect to increase your overall mana pool. It will boost your spell critical strike chance, but that isn’t very important to a shadow priest.
- Hit Rating to 6% – Caster classes also need to reach a spell hit cap. Because of the talent Shadow Focus, you actually only need to acquire 6% from gear. This makes it very reasonable to reach 6%, which will ensure that only 1% of your spells miss.
- Mana per 5 (MP5) – You’ll also want to stack as much MP5 as you can. Shadow priests tend to have problems with mana, and therefore need MP5 to restore mana throughout a fight. Much of this will come from consumables, but don’t pass up gear with MP5. If you’re having issues with mana, consider prioritizing MP5 over capping your hit rating.
While actually hitting with a weapon isn’t important for a caster class like a shadow priest, the passive bonuses you’ll gain from maxing your weapon skill make them worth capping. Shadow priests benefit even less than other casters because two of their main abilities cannot be critical strikes. However, weapon skill does offer important defensive stats in the event you get hit by an add.
In addition to helping you avoid damage, each weapon skill point gives you:
- 0.04% reduced chance to miss.
- 0.04% reduced chance of opponent blocking attack.
- 0.04% reduced chance of opponent parrying attack.
- 0.04% reduced chance of opponent dodging attack.
- 0.04% increased critical strike chance.
Shadow priests can choose any profession they like, but there are some that make sense considering the nature of the class. By default, you’ll need several potions and flasks to help empower your character. Additionally, mana potions are often actually a part of a shadow priest’s rotation considering their mana issues. This makes alchemy a natural choice, but there are a few others that will also help you out.
Here are the best profession choices you have as a shadow priest:
- Alchemy – Like we mentioned above, alchemy is fantastic for crafting your own flasks and potions. In a raid environment, you’ll likely use hundreds of Major Mana Potion every week. This can get quite expensive, so save yourself some trouble and pick up the crafting profession yourself!
- Herbalism – If you’ve picked up alchemy with the intention of saving yourself money, then you also need to select herbalism. With herbalism, you can collect all the herbs necessary to craft those useful potions you so desperately need! This combination is also great as a money-maker, considering other players also need flasks and potions!
- Tailoring – If you aren’t interested in the potion route, you can also pick up tailoring. Tailoring is fantastic for creating cloth armor you can wear, but it isn’t essential considering all armor will be tradeable. This is still a great standalone choice considering you’ll find cloth on monsters all across Azeroth.
- Enchanting – Another fantastic choice is enchanting. A big part of optimization is enchants that add powerful passive bonuses. These too can get fairly expensive, but you can drastically reduce that cost by picking the skill up yourself. If you’ve selected tailoring, enchanting is a great pairing because they both don’t require a dedicated gathering profession to supply it.
There are many enchants that you can find that will make a huge difference in the damage and longevity of your shadow priest. Optimizing is all about finding a proper balance between regeneration and raw damage, but this also takes into account the options you actually have available to you for each equipment slot. There are a few options for multiple enchants, these usually serve as cheaper and far more accessible alternatives.
Here are all the enchants you’ll need as a shadow priest:
- Helm – Lesser Arcanum of Voracity, +8 Intellect or Libram of Focus, +8 Spell Damage
- Shoulder – Zandalar Signet of Mojo, +18 Spell Power
- Cloak – Subtlety, -2% Threat, or Greater Resistance, +5 All Resistances
- Chest – Greater Stats, +4 All Stats
- Bracers – Mana Regeneration, + 4 MP5 or Greater Intellect, +7 Intellect
- Gloves – Shadow Power, +20 Shadow Damage
- Pants – Lesser Arcanum of Voracity, +8 Intellect or Libram of Focus, +8 Spell Damage
- Boots – Minor Speed, + Movement Speed
- Weapon – Spell Power, +30 Spell Power
While consumables certainly aren’t everything, they definitely make a big impact. Without consumables, shadow priests probably would never be invited to raids considering that they’d always be out of mana! If you do your best to stock as many of these consumables as possible, you should never run into mana issues. You’ll also notice that they help your spells pack quite the punch, what’s not to love other than the time and cost to acquire them?
Here are the most beneficial consumables to stock for a shadow priest:
- Flask – Without a doubt, your best option in the flask and elixir department is Flask of Supreme Power, which gives a whopping +70 Spell Power. Alternatively, you can use Elixir of Shadow Power for +40 Shadow Damage.
- Potions – Potions are much more of a requirement for shadow priests, especially considering that they play a key role in the rotation to help conserve mana. You’ll want several Major Mana Potion, which gives ~1750 mana on a 2 minute cooldown.
- Food – Your food choices are those that offer mana regeneration. This includes Nightfin Soup, which grants +8 MP5, or Sagefish Delight, which will give +6 MP5.
- Weapon Oil – For temporary weapon enhancements, look no further than Brilliant Wizard Oil, which will give +36 Spell Damage and +1% Crit!
- Others – The above consumables are often considered mandatory, but there are a few others that will also benefit you if you have them. This includes Demonic / Dark Rune, which converts health to mana, and Scroll of Intellect, which will give +17 Intellect.
Rotation & Gameplay Tips
Now that you know how to optimize your shadow priest, you’ll need to understand how to actually play one. While shadow priests are technically a supportive damage-dealer, they don’t have as much responsibility as hybrid classes like a retribution paladin. You don’t have buffs to maintain, and your support comes in the form of passive bonuses you apply.
What makes a shadow priest essential is 5 points in Shadow Weaving, which increases a targets vulnerability to shadow damage by up to 15%. Considering you’ll often have multiple warlocks in your raid group, shadow priests can noticeably boost overall raid damage just by being there and applying Shadow Weaving through their natural rotation.
Another thing of note is Vampiric Embrace. While this may seem like a useful ability that heals party members for 20% of shadow damage you deal, it isn’t useful enough in a raid environment to be worthy of the threat it generates. The ability only heals based off damage that you deal, and it only heals the other 4 members of your direct party. This means you’ll almost never use it in a raid, unless specifically asked to.
You’ll also want to ensure that you stay in Shadowform at all times for the +15% boost to shadow damage and reduction to damage taken. This does prevent you from using any kind of healing spells, but then again you’re a shadow priest, not some kind of silly healer! Realistically, a shadow priest just does not have the mana capacity to help with healing.
Since Mind Blast is the only ability that can crit, you’ll want to use Inner Focus in conjunction with it. Otherwise you’ll waste the bonus crit chance on Shadow Word: Pain or Mind Flay, both of which cannot crit.
A shadow priest’s rotation is fairly simple considering there are just three spells to use. You’ll want to keep Shadow Word: Pain applied at all times, use Mind Blast on cooldown, and fill in the gaps with Mind Flay. This often means that you’ll be able to get two full Mind Flay channels in between each Mind Blast.
On top of that, you’ll also need a “rotation” to keep up with mana regeneration. You’ll generally want to use a Major Mana Potion after you’ve used enough mana to fully benefit from one. If you have enough health and raid damage is low, you can also use a Demonic Rune. If both of those are on cooldown, you’ll want to stop using Mind Blast in your rotation, and instead just cast Mind Flay when you have enough mana to keep Shadow Weaving applied. If you’re really lucky, a druid might Innervate you (don’t count on it).