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So Mists of Pandaria is just two weeks away now, and while I’m far from considering myself an expert shadow priest (more on that later) I’ve leveled a few shadow priests to 90 on the beta in preparation for the race to level 90. In the process I think I’ve figured out some of the nuance, so I thought I’d share it so you can start thinking about how you’ll get your own 85 shadow priest to level cap.
Incase you’ve been living under a rock …
By now you’ve probably logged onto live and experienced the changes that came along with patch 5.0.4 yourself. If you didn’t however, there are a few things you’ll notice right away.
There are lots of other changes, some big and some small, but these three jump out immediately if you try to play your shadow priest the way you did in Cataclysm or evenWrath. Now that you know, you won’t need to panic.
These are my personal recommendations for leveling. If you prefer something else, explain why in the comments!
You’ll want to use Mind Blast as much as possible, but after that multi-DoT your enemies with Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch. For normal quest mobs, Devouring Plague can be used with just two Shadow Orbs to great effectiveness. On stronger mobs, such as elites or named quest mobs, you can go ahead and wait for your third orb since they take longer to burn down. Use Shadow Word: Death as you normally would, though you may want to hold its execution in higher priority now since it generates Shadow Orbs in addition to juicy damage.
Vampiric Embrace is your go to spell for healing, but with a 3-minute cooldown you’ll often find yourself in situations where you still need more health. So from there, Power Word: Shield is the next best thing. Like I said earlier, I found myself using Power Word: Shield more and more as I gained levels. Oddly, I never seemed to suffer any mana problems from doing this (or anything as shadow, for that matter).
With the Glyph of Dark Binding, you’ll have the option of using Renew and Prayer of Mending on yourself too. Just keep in mind that neither of these spells are life savers the way Vampiric Embrace and Power Word: Shield are. Instead, they’ll serve you the best if used regularly, as though they were maintenance workers for your health bar.
And when everything is bad … You should know to use Dispersion by now.
When I first started leveling on beta with the new shadow priest changes, I always waited until I had three Shadow Orbs before I’d use Devouring Plague. I thought that more damage was best at the time. Turns out it might not have been.
Devouring Plague with three Shadow Orbs is an extremely powerful spell. Whenever I used it on a mob that had already taken some damage, the poor thing would just melt away in a matter of seconds. Seeing this, I instinctively started to reserve my Devouring Plague for pulling new mobs that were at 100% health, instead of something at 60% health which would die after a few ticks. But after playing like that for a while, I realized my method was flawed; I’d sometimes end up only using Devouring Plague on every third mob.
So I decided to experiment with using only two orbs instead of three … The results were great. I was able to use the spell more regularly and as a result things were dying much, much faster. Leveling seemed to have rhythm, instead of being awkward and clunky.
I didn’t experiment much with one orb Devouring Plague, but I think the important thing to stress here is that you shouldn’t have that completionist mentality about Shadow Orbs, or at least you shouldn’t with leveling. Leveling is more about min/maxing your time than your damage.
Have you ever had one of those chats in a class or job where the authoritative figure basically tells you that they have no idea what they’re doing, without explicitly saying so, then reassures you that you’ll all work through this together anyway? Yeah… So here’s the deal, I haven’t played shadow with any seriousness since Wrath of the Lich King. Because of this, I don’t currently consider myself all that qualified to tell you about competitive play or min/maxing. Fortunately, it looks like I’ll end up playing shadow just as much or more than I play discipline or holy in this next expansion. Once that happens, I expect I’ll be better equipped to aid you.
Until then, I’m going to do some investigative work and see what kind of information I can get from shadow priests who participated in raid content on the beta. I figure first hand accounts will be worth a lot while shadow theorycrafting is still being finalized by the math wizards and Simcrafters. I apologize if the information I have provided so far is not especially concrete, but I would rather wait to give you the right information than give you the wrong information now. Until next time!