pve shadow priest stat priority (wotlk 3.3.5a)

The Shadow Priest rotation is divided into two parts, the opener, and the regular rotation. The opener is different because of the way your Damage Over Time effects like Shadow Word: Pain interact with your stats, as explained under “Snapshotting Explained“. The rotation is generally easy to understand but can be tricky to master, making Shadow Priests easy to start with but giving them a lot of room for improvement and player skill.

The rotation will be mostly the same throughout the expansion, but once you have the 4-piece bonus from Tier 10 your priorities will likely shift around a bit, focusing more on Mind Flay.

Basic Opener

  1. Cast Vampiric Touch, gaining your first stack of Shadow Weaving
  2. Cast Devouring Plague, gaining your second stack of Shadow Weaving
  3. Cast Mind Blast, gaining your third stack of Shadow Weaving and Replenishment
  4. Channel Mind Flay, gaining your 4th and 5th stacks of Shadow Weaving
  5. Cast Shadow Word: Pain with 5 stacks of Shadow Weaving

Basic Rotation

The rotation for Shadow Priests can be much better described as a priority system, where you always attempt to do the highest priority task and if you can’t, you move on to the next. This is because your rotation is never fixed and will constantly shift because a lot of your timers don’t line up with each other.

  1. Apply Shadow Word: Pain if missing
  2. Apply Vampiric Touch if missing
  3. Apply Devouring Plague if missing
  4. Cast Mind Blast
  5. Fill time with Mind Flay
  6. Cast Shadow Word: Death if moving
  7. Cast Devouring Plague if moving

AoE Rotation

2-5 Targets

With 5 or fewer enemies you will likely have high health enemies in the mix. For these lower amounts you want to make sure you blanket everything that will survive long enough (Around 12+ seconds) with DoTs, and then either Mind Flay or Mind Sear, depending on how many targets.

  1. Apply Shadow Word: Pain to all enemies that will survive more than 12 seconds
  2. Apply Vampiric Touch to all enemies that will survive more than 12 seconds
  3. Apply Devouring Plague to a single priority target
  4. Cast Mind Blast on a target with Vampiric Touch if you or your group need Replenishment
  5. Cast Mind Sear if 3+ targets
  6. Cast Mind Blast
  7. Cast Mind Flay
5-8 Targets

At this point it is less likely that your DoTs will be worth it, but there may still be some priority targets. If you for example have 3 high health enemies and 4 low health enemies, you should throw your DoTs on the high health enemies and then channel Mind Sear onto a low health enemy, so that it hits all the high health enemies.

  1. Apply Shadow Word: Pain to a high health enemy if missing
  2. Apply Vampiric Touch to a high health enemy if missing
  3. Apply Devouring Plague to a high health enemy if not up on any enemy
  4. Cast Mind Blast on a target with Vampiric Touch if you or your group need Replenishment
  5. Fill time with Mind Sear
8+ Targets

When you reach this many targets there is rarely any reason to try and use your DoT spells, at this point you can simply start using Mind Sear and ignore your other abilities, unless you still have a high priority kill target. I recommend trying to cast your Mind Sear on the target that will die last, just to be sure you don’t end up having to recast it because your target died.

  1. Mind Sear

Snapshotting Explained

Snapshotting is a term used to explain how various effects interact with your stats. Damage-over-time effects will generally either scale dynamically with your stats such as Spell Power, Critical Chance and Haste, constantly updating as your stats change, or they will “snapshot” your stats at the moment of casting, meaning if you cast it with 40% Critical Chance and then go down to 15% Critical Chance, the damage-over-time spell will still have 40% Critical Chance. Some classes may be able to maintain a snapshot by refreshing the effect before it finishes, but this is generally not true for Shadow Priests, though the rules do change from spell to spell which are explained in their individual section below.

Shadow Priests have a somewhat unique interaction with the talent Shadow Weaving. Every time you you hit with a shadow damage spell, you gain 1 stack of Shadow Weaving, up to a maximum of 5 stacks. All of your damage-over-time effects snapshot your current stacks of Shadow Weaving, so if you have 1 stack at the time of casting, your DoT will only have a 2% damage increase even after you gain more stacks. This is not very important for Vampiric Touch and Devouring Plague but is key to maximizing Shadow Word: Pain damage, explained below.

Shadow Word: Pain is a unique situation when it comes to snapshotting. This spell is only ever actually cast once and is then refreshed with Mind Flay and Pain and Suffering. Because of this, it will keep its initial snapshot for the entire fight, unless the debuff falls off entirely, which would take 18 seconds of not casting a single Mind Flay and is unlikely to actually be an issue.

Shadow Word: Pain scales with both snapshotting and dynamically depending on the stat. This can be confusing and unintuitive but only ever needs to be considered once during a fight.

Your Spell Power scales dynamically, in this case whenever you refresh Shadow Word: Pain by casting Mind Flay your Shadow Word: Pain will change its damage based on your current Spell Power.
Your Critical Chance snapshots, meaning that whatever your Critical Chance is when you cast your initial Shadow Word: Pain will stick around for the entire fight. This does not include the Critical Chance bonus from Inner Focus, meaning there is no reason to combine the two.
Percentage based buffs such as Shadow Weaving and Heart of the Crusader snapshot, meaning that all percentage based buffs applied after the cast of Shadow Word: Pain will not effect it. This is crucial to our usage of Shadow Word: Pain, because we want to always be sure we have 5 stacks of Shadow Weaving before we apply it, otherwise it will be dealing up to 10% less damage for the entire fight. This is why our opener is different to our main rotation.
Haste does not impact Shadow Word: Pain at all so it is not considered.

Vampiric Touch scales similarly to Shadow Word: Pain, but because we manually refresh this every time it falls off, its effects will be constantly changing and you generally do not have to worry about snapshotting.

Your Spell Power is refreshed every time you reapply Vampiric Touch.
Your Critical Chance is refreshed every time you reapply Vampiric Touch. This does not include the Critical Chance bonus from Inner Focus, meaning there is no reason to combine the two.
Percentage based buffs are snapshot on application, meaning they will not be refreshed during the spell but will be refreshed when you reapply the spell.
Your Haste is refreshed every time you reapply Vampiric Touch.

Devouring Plague scales the same as Vampiric Touch, but because we manually refresh this every time it falls off, its effects will be constantly changing and you generally do not have to worry about snapshotting.

Your Spell Power is refreshed every time you reapply Devouring Plague.
Your Critical Chance is refreshed every time you reapply Devouring Plague. This does not include the Critical Chance bonus from Inner Focus, meaning there is no reason to combine the two.
Percentage based buffs are snapshot on application, meaning they will not be refreshed during the spell but will be refreshed when you reapply the spell.
Your Haste is refreshed every time you reapply Devouring Plague.

Devouring Plague when combined with Improved Devouring Plague has an upfront damage portion that works differently to the damage-over-time part. The upfront damage deals 150% critical damage as opposed to the damage-over-times 200% critical damage and is treated as a direct-damage ability.

Abilities Overview

  • Vampiric Touch is a talented damage-over-time spell that has a short cast time, lasting for 15 seconds. Whenever you hit an enemy with Mind Blast while they have Vampiric Touch up, you also proc Replenishment for your raid, an important mana restoring buff. This is generally your highest priority DoT, having a low duration and high damage. This spell has the ability to critically strike and benefit from Haste while in Shadowform. For more details on how Vampiric Touch interacts with your stats and buffs, refer to the Snapshotting Explained section.
  • Devouring Plague is your newest damage-over-time ability, allowing you to instantly place a disease on the target that lasts for 24 seconds. This disease heals you for 15% of the damage it causes to the target. You can only have Devouring Plague active on one target at a time, so make sure to place it on whatever is your highest kill priority at the time. When combined with Improved Devouring Plague it also deals a small amount of upfront damage, meaning it is useful during longer periods of movement, giving you a no-cooldown option. This spell has the ability to critically strike and benefit from Haste while in Shadowform. For more details on how Devouring Plague interacts with your stats and buffs, refer to the Snapshotting Explained section.
  • Shadow Word: Pain is your first damage-over-time ability. It causes damage every 3 seconds for 18 seconds. With the talent Pain and Suffering this spell will be refreshed every time you cast Mind Flay, meaning you will only manually cast this once during a fight and it will mostly maintain itself. This spell has the ability to critically strike while in Shadowform but is oddly not affected by Haste. For more details on how Shadow Word: Pain interacts with your stats and buffs, refer to the Snapshotting Explained section. Mind Blast is another one of your core abilities, allowing you to deal high shadow damage to a single target on a short cooldown. You will want to use this ability as often as you can, not only for its high damage but also for the various effects it can grant such as Replenishment, Improved Spirit Tap or procs like the 4-piece bonus from T8. When talented this spell also reduces healing done to the target by 20%. While this is mostly not useful in PvE, it is a nice free boost in PvP.
  • Mind Flay is your main “filler” ability that you will use to fill any time your DoTs are up and your Mind Blast is on cooldown. This spell ticks 3 times over the duration and is affected by Haste. These 3 ticks will always happen at 33%, 66% and 100% of the cast, regardless of how much haste you have. If you ever need to interrupt this cast for whatever reason, it is recommended to do it right after the second hit of damage happens, because your global cooldown will be ready and you won’t have any wasted damage. This spell will be your most cast ability throughout the expansion, so get comfortable!
  • Shadow Word: Death is an instant-cast direct-damage spell, allowing you to deal instant damage to the target. As a drawback, if this spell does not kill the target it will also deal the same amount of damage to you. This spell is generally weaker than your other spells, but because it is instant-cast it is very useful while moving.
  • Mind Sear is the area of effect variant of Mind Flay, dealing damage to all enemies in a 10 yards radius of your target. Oddly, this spell does not hit the target it is channeled on, so you will need to target appropriately to not waste hits. This will be your main AoE spell, replacing Mind Flay in your rotation for small amounts of targets, or just being the only spell you cast on larger packs.
  • Shadowfiend is an ability that allows you to create a temporary pet that lasts for 15 seconds. Each time this pet attacks it will restore 5% of your mana. Your Shadowfiend also has its own ability, Shadowcrawl. This ability allows it to teleport to an enemy and causes them to take more damage from your Shadowfiend for 5 seconds. You can either autocast this for maximum usage, or manually cast it if you need to quickly swap your pets target. At max level you shouldn’t have many mana issues, meaning you can use this ability as a DPS cooldown instead of a mana cooldown.
  • Inner Focus is a talent from the Discipline tree that you will often grab even as Shadow. When active your next spell costs no mana and has a 25% higher critical chance if it can crit. This spell should generally be used together with Mind Blast for damage or with more high mana utility spells like Divine Hymn in emergencies.
  • Dispersion is one of the strongest defensive tools in the game, it allows you to transform into a ball of pure shadow energy, reducing any incoming damage taken by up to 90% and recovering 6% of your mana every second for 6 seconds, totaling 36%. This is a key component in our kit, allowing us to soak mechanics intended for multiple people, such as Meteor type abilities. This amazing spell can even be used while stunned, feared, silenced, or rooted and will remove those effects from you. You can also use this while mounted without dismounting.
  • Power Word: Shield is a spell that allows you to place an absorption effect on any friendly target, including yourself, allowing you to mitigate a large amount of damage. However, after placing this effect on a target, they will receive the Weakened Soul debuff and will not be able to receive another shield for the next 15 seconds. Because of this, you rarely want to use this on anyone but yourself, as it will prevent them from receiving stronger shields from your Discipline Priests.
  • Shadowform is an iconic Shadow ability, turning you purple and semi transparent while giving you important benefits that effectively enable Shadow to deal proper damage. While in Shadowform you deal 15% increased Shadow damage, take 15% less damage from all sources and generate 30% less threat. Your Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague and Vampiric Touch gain the ability to deal criticals for double damage and your Devouring Plague and Vampiric Touch will benefit from Haste, dealing the same amount of hits in less time. A drawback of Shadowform is that you can’t cast spells from the Holy tab in your spell book, with the exception of Abolish Disease and Cure Disease. For the most part this won’t have any impact on your game-play, it just makes it less effective for the Shadow Priest to off heal. You want to always keep this ability active when dealing damage.
  • Vampiric Embrace is a 30 minute self buff that causes you to be healed for 15% of all single-target shadow damage you deal. This is a great way to keep yourself on high health in most situations and should always be active. Your party members will also be healed for 3% of all single-target shadow damage you deal, but this does not extend to your entire raid.
  • Hymn of Hope is a new ability in Wrath of the Lich King that previously was exclusive to Draenei Priests. Channeling this spell restores 3% mana to party or raid members every 2 seconds for 8 seconds and increases their max mana by 20% for 8 seconds. This effect uses smart targeting, meaning it prioritizes low mana targets first. Ideally you won’t want to use this as a Shadow Priest because that is up to 8 seconds without you dealing damage, but desperate situations do occur and you should be prepared to cast this if it means saving the raid.
  • Fear Ward is an ability that places a protective ward on a target, negating the next fear effect that they will receive. This ability lasts for 3 minutes on your target, but has a 3 minute cooldown so it will only be active on one target. If it does block a fear, the buff will be removed.
  • Abolish Disease is an ability that allows you to instantly remove 1 Disease from you and 1 more Disease effect every 3 seconds for 12 seconds. You can cast this while in Shadowform, even though it is a Holy spell.
  • Dispel Magic is an instant-cast ability that allows you to effectively dispel either 2 beneficial effects from an enemy target or 2 negative effects from a friendly target. Keep in mind that you can only purge magic effects with this ability. This ability has consistent use throughout all of the game and is an important part of your utility as a Priest.
  • Mass Dispel is a 1.5 second cast time ability that allows you to dispel one beneficial magic effect each from up to 10 enemies and one negative magic effect each from up to 10 allies in a large radius. This spell also removes undispellable magic effects such as Divine Shield and Banish. This spell can target up to 10 allies and 10 enemies at the same time.
  • Inner Fire is a 30 minute self buff that increases your Armor and starting at level 71 also increases your Spell Power. Because of this you want to always keep this buff active on yourself for the damage boost it provides. This buff is odd in that it has 20 charges and each physical hit you take removes one charge. If this reaches 0 charges it will fall off regardless of duration.
  • Power Word: Fortitude is a Priest exclusive buff that gives its target a large increase in Stamina. Prayer of Fortitude is a later version that buffs your entire raid instead of one person, but uses a Devout Candle each cast. You will always want this active on everyone in your group.
  • Divine Spirit is a buff that gives it’s target a large increase in Spirit. Prayer of Spirit is a later version that buffs your entire raid instead of one person, but uses a Devout Candle each cast. This buff is shared with the Warlock buff Fel Intelligence and does not stack. You will always want one of these two active on everyone in your group.
  • Shadow Protection is a Priest exclusive buff that gives its target a large increase in Shadow Resistance. Prayer of Shadow Protection is a later version that buffs your entire raid instead of one person, but uses a Devout Candle each cast. You will always want this active on everyone in your group if you are fighting enemies that deal Shadow damage.
  • Divine Hymn is a new ability in Wrath of the Lich King. Channeling this spell restores health to party or raid members every 2 seconds for 8 seconds and increases their healing received by 10% for 8 seconds. This effect uses smart targeting, meaning it prioritizes low health targets first. Ideally you won’t want to use this as a Shadow Priest because that is up to 8 seconds without you dealing damage, but desperate situations do occur and you should be prepared to cast this if it means saving the raid.
  • Prayer of Mending is an instant cast spell that allows you to place a buff with 5 stacks on a target that heals them the next time they receive damage. This spell bounces between party or raid members, consuming one stack each bounce. However, if you are not in a group, this spell will not bounce and will fade after one use.
  • Renew is an instant cast heal-over-time spell that can be placed on any number of targets. This can be OK to toss on yourself while questing or in PvP, but outside of those situations you will likely be better off just using Flash Heal.
  • Flash Heal is a direct healing spell that heals for moderate amounts, it has a low cast time. This should be your go-to direct healing if the need ever does arise.
  • Greater Heal is a direct healing spell that heals for high amounts but has an equally high cast time. You generally won’t want to use this ever, preferring Flash Heal if you ever do need to cast direct healing.
  • Psychic Scream is an AoE fear, hitting 5 targets within 8 yards, fearing them for 8 seconds. This is very useful in open world content and PvP content, but is very rarely useful in dungeons & raids, either because enemies are immune to these effects, or because you generally don’t want the enemies to run out of position.
  • Psychic Horror is a new talented Horror and Disarm effect. Horror is closer to a stun than an actual fear effect, causing the target to tremble in place instead of running around aimlessly. The Disarm lasts for longer than the Horror, giving you a lot of leverage against physical classes, including hunters, This is still rarely useful in PvE content because most enemies are immune, but it is a fantastic tool for open world content and PvP, giving you some much needed breathing room.
  • Silence is a talented Silence and Interrupt effect, Silencing for 5 seconds and interrupting non-player targets for 3 seconds. The interrupt is important to note because a lot more enemies in raids & dungeons can be Interrupted than can be Silenced. Unfortunately, this costs 3 talent points to get and for that reason is very rarely grabbed for PvE. This is a must have for PvP though, and some people swear by it for open world content.
  • Shackle Undead pacifies and roots an enemy for up to 50 seconds. This is no longer the great tool it once was, mainly because long term crowd control just isn’t very useful in dungeons & raids. The restriction of only Undead targets also means this has a very small niche in PvP, namely against Ghoul pets and Death Knights in Lichborne.

 

About the Author

Passion

I love MMOs of all shades, especially the nitty gritty numbers parts of them. You might recognize me from the Shadow Priest discord, otherwise I play a little bit of everything, especially games with support roles available.
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Domino
Domino
4 months ago

The guide reffers to SW:P as the most power dot which is not. It also states that “copying your Haste, Spell Power, Critical Strike Chance, and other empowering effects” and also “You will always want to cast this ability while having the enhancing effects from your trinkets and potions up…” which is not true. SW:P only snapshots crit and % percentage damage effects (like corerctly stated about Shadow Weaving), but it doesn’t snapshot Spell Power or Haste.

earendel
earendel(@earendel)
Reply to  Domino
4 months ago

Thanks! I didnt know… so if it does not snapshot spell power, then when you have a spell power proc (Tailoring back enchant) then the dot you already have on target automatically doesm ore damage?

KungPow
KungPow
Reply to  Domino
2 months ago

how do you figure it doesnt snapshot for spellpower? when i pop trinkets it seems to snapshot

Passion
Passion
Reply to  KungPow
2 months ago

It snapshots them for the duration, but refreshing the spell with Mind Flay will refresh the spell power.

Arugal_Raider
Arugal_Raider
3 months ago

Question regarding snapshotting:
– You have mentioned a few times that “you generally do not have to worry about snapshotting” when applying Vampiric Touch (VT) and Devouring Plague (DP). I believe you would try to snapshot these DoTs with Spell Power, Critical Chance, and percentage based buffs/cooldowns/procs. Let’s say you have an on-use or proc-based trinket, and the duration of it’s effect is in it’s final few seconds, would you break rotation to reapply VT and DP in order to snapshot the DoTs and have them still receive the proc benefit after the buff has faded from you? Do you think you would ever reapply SW:P (deliberate cast) in the same scenario, or it really wouldn’t be worth it because you will refresh that with Mind Flay soon afterwards anyway.
Thanks.

samuel
samuel
6 months ago

When do you use IF + Shadowfiend?

earendel
earendel(@earendel)
4 months ago

The guide missing some information or is not clear in some points.. you say Aoe but you dont specify the number of targets… since Mind Sear is not hitting out target, do we cast it on 3+ mobs (hitting only 2 mobs) or on 4+ mobs (hit 3 mobs)? What if we fight 2 targets? Do we only multi-dot SW: Pain or we also cast Vampiric Touch?

Bal
Bal
1 month ago

I’m troubled by something, I was doing the rotation on a dummy and got about the same DPS doing the whole thing with and without Mind Blast. Is not casting Mind Blast in the rotation at all a thing?

Ravenite
Ravenite
14 days ago

Hello,

thank you for the guide.
I have a question regarding Mind Flay interruption to reapply VT, DP or cast MB when off cooldown. I couldn’t find if it’s dps increase to interrupt the cast after 2nd tick to cast higher priority spells (i.e. everything else).

Khon
Khon
4 months ago

Short question regarding to shadow weaving.
If it affects all renewed swp with the stacks when it was first applied. Does that also mean that it would keep SP procs from trinket, weapon/cloak enchant so taht it might be usefull to monitor procs + activate on use Trinket so it keeps all thoose Spellpower when beeing renewd?
Also is swp able to crit so inner focus on it is usefull?

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