PvP Shadow Priest Rotations, Cooldowns & Abilities

wotlk classic pvp shadow priest rotation abilities cooldowns png

Player versus Player requires a bit of a different mindset compared to the PvE content. It necessitates fast thinking, fast reactions, and adaptability to each situation. This guide will go over all of your useful spells, and cover how to use them as effectively as possible.

Strategy & Spell Priority

When it comes to player-versus-player combat in Wrath of The Lich King, there is no true rotation for Shadow Priests. Instead, you need to be aware of what spells you should keep up on yourself and your enemies (spell priority), and you’ll want to understand the strategies involved in playing your class effectively.

When it comes to priority, we will talk about several key spells that you will want to upkeep on yourself and on your enemies at all times.

First of all, you should maintain your buffs on yourself at all times, even if somehow they are purged or dispelled. You will want to buff yourself back during combat if your enemy decides to purge your abilities, rest assured that you can do so from the safety of your Shadowform.

Secondly, you’ll want to upkeep different dots on our targets at all times. Vampiric Touch is the very first dot you will want to place on a target, allowing you to create issues for your enemies if they wish to dispel themselves of dots. Vampiric Touch will deal instant damage to any target that attempts to dispel the debuff. 

Shadow Word: Pain and Devouring Plague are the next spells you should prioritize, upkeeping those spells on your targets will be crucial to your gameplay. However, keep in mind that Devouring Plague can only afflict one target at a time, so make sure to place it on the target you are trying to burst down.

You only have access to 3 dot abilities, maintaining them properly will be crucial to your enemy’s demise. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Shadowform prohibits you from using any spell from the Holy spells tab in your spellbook with the exception of two, however, you have a free range of casting abilities when it comes to the Discipline spells in your arsenal.

No matter who you want to focus on in a fight, Mass Dispel is one of your biggest allies. Mass Dispel allows you to effectively destroy any beneficial effects from your enemies while also destroying any negative effects from yourself and your allies. You can use this spell to even destroy vulnerabilities such as Ice Block or Divine Shield. 

Next up, you can use your utility spells such as Dispel Magic and Abolish Disease to remove most of your enemy’s negative effects placed upon yourself or your allies without the need of cast time. Use this to your advantage at all times, especially if your opponents possess an interrupt ability and you are afraid of casting Mass Dispel.

If you are dealing with troublesome healers, you should prioritize dotting up your targets and then simply spamming Mana Burn. Mana Burn is one of the most powerful spells in the game, as it can very easily render any healer or caster useless while also inflicting huge amounts of damage.

Regarding the priority of your Shadow spells, after you place your dots on the target, you have different choices depending on what type of enemy you are facing. You can choose to instantly Silence a caster or a healer and then start off with a Mind Blast and proceed with Mind Flay.

As stated earlier, Mind Flay is your filler spell, you will find yourself casting this ability at all times when it comes to ranged combat, with the addition of  Mind Blast in between used on cooldown. 

In case you deal with pesky melee enemies, you can choose to just dot them up and spam Holy Nova and instant healing spells on yourself while also using your Shadowfiend to deter them.

Power Word: Shield is an ability that you can cast while in Shadowform and you should always aim to maintain on yourself at all times, do not forget that you can also buff your allies.

Psychic Scream should always be used to interrupt your enemy’s agenda, it is a powerful crowd control tool that can deter most enemies while also having a low cooldown. You will want to use this ability either at the beginning of a fight if you are dealing with melee enemies or get in close to casters and use this after you manage to dot them up.

When it comes to possible strategies, you can choose to play your class in a few different ways. You can choose to either LoS your targets while crippling them with dots, play a burst type of gameplay and rush your enemies while also dispelling any potentially beneficial effect that they may have, or play a hybrid and choose to become an off healer while also contributing to killing your enemy, the possibilities are endless.

Knowing how to properly LoS your enemies will be core to your gameplay, as your dots can prove to be quickly ravishing for your enemies. Proper pillar play and using ramps and most of your environment depending whether you are in an arena or a battleground will determine how well you will fare against most other classes, as you have the ability to endlessly heal yourself if you manage to utilize LoS properly.

Choosing to focus directly on bursting your enemies can be done quite easily by initiating with Silence followed up by Vampiric Touch, Shadow Word: PainDevouring Plague, and then ultimately spamming Mind Flay. You will want to utilize Psychic Scream and Psychic Horror after the silence is complete and finish up with Shadow Word: Death. Using Shadowfiend before you silence your target, will also improve your overall damage.

Playing as an off healer can be quite rewarding, you can choose to focus on just dotting up your enemies and forgoing Shadowform in favor of spells such as Flash Heal and Renew. This can be done only if you are teamed up with another powerful damage dealer.

With proper practice, you will manage to master the ways of a Shadow Priest and slowly drive your enemies into insanity while completely crippling and desecrating their bodies. Keep in mind that your arsenal is quite vast and you have a lot of options to take into consideration and a lot of different playstyles to grasp. Mixing all of the before-mentioned playstyles can pave the way to becoming one of the most ferocious gladiators on Azeroth!


In this section, we will go over all relevant spells and discuss when and how to use them.

Holy Nova is an instant cast area-of-effect spell that deals holy damage to all enemies in a 10-yard radius while also healing all allies in the same radius. This spell can be extremely powerful against enemies while they are grouped and you have already placed your damage over time abilities on them. Use this spell to prevent multiple people from capping a base in a battleground or to simply discover hidden enemies. This spell is also extremely useful when you are attacked by a melee enemy and you know that their interrupt ability is up.

Mind Flay is your main “filler” ability that you will be using most of the time besides your other normal abilities. This spell is affected by haste, it has the ability to lower its channel time by considerable amounts depending on how much haste you manage to acquire. 

Mind Sear is the area of effect variant of Mind Flay, however, it deals damage to all the enemies in a 10 yards radius without affecting the main target that you cast this ability on. This spell has only one viable use and we showcase it here to make sure that you do not confuse Mind Sear with Mind Flay in your PvP encounters. The only use that this ability has is to stop multiple people from capping a base or a flag from a distance in a battleground.

Psychic Horror is an instant cast spell that allows you to place a fear effect on the target, only that it acts as a “stun”, effectively allowing you to immobilize them for 3 seconds and disarm them of both ranged and melee weapons for 10 seconds. 

Mind Blast is another one of your core abilities, allowing you to deal high shadow damage to a single target. This is a castable ability, so you should beware of interrupting effects. You will want to use this ability as often as you can due to the debuff effect that it can place on a target.

Shadow Word: Pain is your main damage-over-time ability, it causes damage over 18 seconds, copying your empowering effects. This spell also has the ability to critically strike. This is one of the first spells that you will want to place on your target, and upkeep at all times.

Shadow Word: Death is an execute type of spell, allowing you to deal instant high damage to the target. The only drawback of this ability is that if it does not kill its target, you will receive the same amount of damage as well. This ability should be used as much as possible when the target gets close to 30% health, as it can provide instant pressure. Even if you receive a drawback from this ability by receiving the damage as well, you do not have to worry about it as you have talents specifically designed to mitigate a large portion of that damage. You can also shield yourself or heal yourself instantly afterward to mitigate the damage, even more, to further reduce the drawback of the ability.

Shadowform is your main tool of the Shadow Specialization, it allows you to engulf yourself in a shadowy form providing you vast benefits such as increased shadow damage, increased critical strike damage for your dots, reduces the damage you take, and also allows Devouring Plague and Vampiric Touch to be affected by haste. The only major drawback of this ability is that you can not cast Holy spells while in this form. However, and this is what most people either forget entirely or don’t even know, you can cast Mana Burn in Shadow Form.

While in Shadowform, you can not use any of your abilities that are listed in your spellbook under the Holy Magic tab, with the exception of Cure Disease and Abolish Disease. However, you can cast all of your spells that are listed under the Discipline tab!

Shadowfiend is an ability that allows you to create a shadowy aberration that attacks your target for 15 seconds, recuperating  5% of your mana pool for you with each of its attacks. This ability should be used only in desperate situations when your mana is low enough. However, you can also choose to use this ability as a way to pressure your enemies when you know that you will bring forth their doom at a quick pace. You can use this ability early on in duels that you know will end abruptly. 

Vampiric Embrace is an ability that acts as a self-buff, allowing you to effectively leech off health from your enemies, healing you for 15% of the shadow damage you deal to the target. This ability also allows you to passively heal your allies by 3% of all the shadow damage you deal to a single target. This is a buff that you should never forget to place on yourself!

Vampiric Touch is another damage-over-time ability that you can place on your enemies, however, it has a short cast time compared to the other DoT abilities in your arsenal. This ability should always be placed among the first abilities on a target, as its damage can be quite substantial while also providing an instant damage part if the target dispels itself of the effect.

Another benefit of Vampiric Touch is that you can provide a replenishment effect if you cast Mind Blast on the target afflicted by it.

Devouring Plague is your last available DoT ability, allowing you to instantly place a disease on the target, the disease heals you for 15% of the damage it causes to the target. The catch of this ability is that you can only have it placed on a single target, so make sure to always place it on the target that you are trying to burst down, as it can be one of your most valuable assets.

Mind Control is an ability that allows you to take control of another player’s character for roughly 8 seconds. The effect of this spell can be broken by a lot of other effects such as instant cast damage or crowd control effects, however, you should be able to use it effectively nonetheless. Mind Control allows you to dispose of your enemies momentarily by abusing the geography of your battlefield. You can cause players to fall down tall mountains, bridges, ramparts, and even pillars, allowing you to quickly isolate another enemy or produce a massive gap between your allies and their team.

Silence is one of your most powerful tools against a caster, allowing you to instantly prevent spell casting for up to 5 seconds. You can choose to use this effect in a multitude of ways, choosing to start with this spell in a fight against a caster or to use it right before the moment you anticipate they will try to burst you down. 

Mana Burn is a spell that allows you to destroy your target’s mana. This spell is considered one of the most dangerous spells that Priests possess, proving to be a fatal threat to other healers or casters. The beauty of this spell is that you can effectively spam it infinitely with little to no consequence. 

Inner Focus is a self-buff type of ability that allows you to reduce the cost of your next ability by 100% and increase its critical strike chance if it is able to deliver a critical strike. This ability can be combined with a lot of your other abilities, namely, Shadow Word: Death.

Dispersion is one of the strongest defensive tools in the game, it allows you to transform into a ball of pure shadow energy, drastically reducing any incoming damage taken by up to 90%. This amazing spell can be used even while stunned, feared, or silenced and removes any movement impairing effects as well. During the time while u are in dispersion, you will regenerate up to 36% mana but you will not be able to use any spells.  This spell should always be used as your last resort as it can massively reduce any incoming damage, alternatively, you can use it to entirely counter someone’s burst window. You should not try to use this spell for mana regeneration alone, as there are other better ways to recuperate your mana.

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, you will generate the Weakened Soul effect and will not be able to place another shield on the target for the next 15 seconds. Considering that our specialization is Shadow, we will want to place this spell on us and our allies before engaging in combat. After the initial moment of engagement, the use of this ability depends entirely on the situation and what you are trying to achieve at that very moment.

Healing spells will be crucial to your gameplay, even if our specialization is Shadow. Do take in mind that you can not use healing spells in Shadowform! Improper use of healing spells will lock you down in GCD.

Renew is an instant cast heal-over-time spell that can be placed on any number of targets. This is a very good spell to place on yourself while los-ing your enemies. Do take in mind that this spell can not be used in Shadowform

Prayer of Mending is an instant cast spell that allows you to place a buff on a target that heals them the next time they receive damage. This spell bounces between allies if you are in a group, having 5 stacks. However, if you are not in a group, this spell will use all of its stacks on you instantly. 

Flash Heal is a direct healing spell that heals you for moderate amounts, it has a low cast time. This should be your basic healing spell, allowing you to rapidly recuperate most of your health when in the safety to do so, meaning that you should not use this spell if you are in danger of being interrupted. 

Greater Heal is a direct healing spell that heals you for high amounts but has a high cast time. Even if we stack haste with our Shadow Specialization, this spell should only be used in the direst situations and only if you are not in danger of being interrupted.

Divine Hymn is a channeled ability that allows you to heal up to 3 of your lowest health allies, this can prove to be extremely useful as the spell ticks every 2 seconds for up to 8 seconds and provides high amounts of healing. You can use this ability in battlegrounds in case you need to immediately heal your allies and play as an of-healer.

When it comes to Utility spells we will talk about either crowd control abilities, empowering buff abilities, or dispel type of abilities. You should never forget to buff your allies! Most battlegrounds or arenas are lost due to the discrepancy of buffs in the opposing team, especially after death! 

It is often due to a lack of buffs that you may find yourself losing the battlefield, so convince your allies to do the same, as you provide them with multiple empowering buffs.

Shackle Undead is a utility ability that allows you to completely block off an undead, crowd controlling it into place. You will only have two uses for this ability in a PvP scenario, you can only use this ability on a Death Knight’s pets, also known as Ghouls or Gargoyles, or you can use this ability on a Death Knight while he is under the influence of Lichborne.

Power Word: Fortitude is your first buff type of spell that you can cast on yourself and your allies, effectively increasing your stamina. You should never forget to buff your allies! Most battlegrounds or arenas are lost due to the discrepancy of buffs in the opposing team, especially after death! 

Dispel Magic is an instant-cast ability that allows you to effectively dispel either 2 beneficial effects from an opponent or two negative effects from yourself. Keep in mind that you can only purge magic effects with this ability. Even as a Shadow Priest, this spell has tremendous use, especially due to its instant cast nature. One extremely good side effect of this ability is that you can use it in Shadowform

Mass Dispel is a castable ability that allows you to dispel one beneficial effect from your enemies and one negative effect from your allies in a large radius. This spell can target up to 10 allies and 10 enemies at the same time. 

Cure Disease is an ability that allows you to remove one disease instantly from a friendly target. You can cast this while in Shadowform

Hymn of Hope is a channeled ability that allows you to restore 36% of your mana pool and that of 3 other allies over the course of 8 seconds. You should use this ability only when you are close to being OOM and you are sure that you will not be interrupted. This ability is a good alternative to mage food or PvP food.

Levitate is an ability that can help you in many ways, especially in battlegrounds. It allows you to float on magical air, considerably slowing your falling speed. You can place this on yourself and your allies in order to mitigate fall damage in battlegrounds such as Arathi Basin, Wintergrasp, or even Isle of Conquest. You can also use this ability to place DoTs on enemies while slowly descending onto the ground! We can call this: Spreading plagues from above. 

Divine Spirit is a buff-type ability that allows you to increase the target’s Spirit by up to 80.

Inner Fire is a buff-type ability that you can only place on yourself, increasing both your armor and your spell power by considerable amounts! However, one problem with this ability is that it uses stacks, with each stack lost, its effect is diminished. Each melee or ranged hit will reduce one stack of this ability.

Shadow Protection is a buff-type ability that increases the target’s shadow resistance by up to 130.

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.  This will be one of your main tools against Death Knights and other Shadow Priests!

Fear Ward is an ability that places a protective ward on a target, negating the next fear effect that they will receive. This ward lasts for 3 mins on a target and can sadly only be used on one target. Use this on yourself at the beginning of arenas!

Psychic Scream is an ability that allows you to fear up to 5 targets in close proximity! This is one of your core crowd control abilities that will allow you to disrupt an enemy team in the arena or to set up a potential kill. The proper use of this ability will determine how many of your fights will end!

Mind Vision is one of our “fun” abilities, it allows us to view the world through the eyes of another player for about 1 minute. You can use this ability in order to spy on the enemy team in battlegrounds or terrorize people in the open world.


About the Author


Hey there folks, I am Nevermore and have been deeply passionate about WoW for more than a decade. Whether we talk about the hidden mysteries of Azeroth or the otherworldly Outland, my journey brought me here to share the things that I have experienced with you all.
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