31 May 2008

Carpentry for beginners

Kaliope of the excellent WoW crafting blog is campaigning for improvements to the professions system in the next expansion. I'm a big fan of professions and would love to see a lot of her suggestions implemented. If you get chance, pop over to her blog for a browse, and don't forget to vote in her crafters' wishlist poll.

Looking at the professions system, I've long thought there is a gap for one that works with wood — call it carpentry. This would tie in wonderfully with Kaliope's observation that there are some rather large gaps in the list of things that can currently be crafted. But I think the profession could be something more than just a gap filler. It could be what engineering tries to be but fails — the one profession that provides all-round benefit and application regardless of your class, regardless of your spec. The armour professions are class specific; alchemy and enchanting, while powerful, are quite specialised. Carpentry is the perfect all-rounder, an ideal profession for the very casual player.

So here are my top ideas for carpentry items:

  • Staves, bows and crossbows — what I see as the core of carpentry. I think these are the only weapons that can't currently be crafted (not sure about polearms) and fall very neatly under the scope of woodworking. And while we're at it, what about fishing poles?
  • Basic shields and maces — at later levels, these items would more obviously be crafted by blacksmiths, but low-level items could easily be made of wood.
  • Wooden rods for use by enchanters in rare and epic wands. In fact, the scope for synergies with the other professions are endless — bowls for cooking recipes, parts for engineers, handles for weaponsmiths, looms for tailors and frames for leatherworkers. Ok, maybe not endless, but plentiful.
  • Saps to provide temporary weapon or armour buffs, similar to oils, and also for use by other professions. (You see? More synergies.) Perhaps these could only be applied to wooden weapons. It would be good to be able to add temporary enchants to ranged weapons and wands for a change.
  • Idols, totems and relics — it wouldn't be stretching the concept of carpentry to imagine them carving intricate little idols and totems, although I admit relics might strain the imagination (give relic recipes to jewelcrafters?) These are the only three slots that can't be crafted. Casters can carry wands, other classes get ranged weapons. My shaman levelled all the way to Nagraand before picking up a totem. Unlucky? Maybe, but it highlights a general shortage of these items in the game, which is why I think it would be fantastic to have crafted versions.
  • Consumables with on-use effects — in my mind, carpenters would be able to craft a range of items that could heal or protect. I've been mulling over the idea of seeds — the carpenter plants a seed on the ground that takes root and provides a buff for a short duration, say a hot, damage reduction or aoe dot. Seeds are a bit removed from the practicalities of carpentry and probably fit more neatly into the realms of herbalism, so I'm not sure. An alternative would be a range of totem-like items, but then you're stepping into shaman territory.
  • Spears, poison darts and rudimentary traps — the wooden equivalent of an engineer's bombs.
  • Hitching posts — hunters have long bemoaned the pain of stable slots. You might be able to own three pets at once, but this is effectively reduced to two if you want to pick up new skills from other animals. I'm not proposing to radically alter that system, but a hitching post could be a neat way around it. It would enable a hunter to temporarily deposit a pet on the ground (hitched to the post, natch) while he trained a new pet and learned the skill. Perhaps the post would expire after 30 minutes and the pet would be abandoned if not reclaimed — long enough for the hunter to take care of business without the need for another stable slot.
  • Temporary post boxes — how cool would it be to whip up a mailbox in the middle of nowhere and empty your bags back to an alt? Engineers get repair bots, so this isn't so much to ask for.
  • With the advent of siege weapons in Wrath, carpenters could provide essential materials or perhaps have their own epic variety of engine.
  • Standards — consumable flag posts with your guild logo on them. Might be fun in BGs?
  • Toys and trinkets — like wooden trains, non-combat pets, deck chairs, artificial Christmas trees etc. I'm not really into this side of professions, but I know a lot of people get a lot of joy from it. Carpentry is perfect for this kind of stuff.
Clearly this isn't enough to justify a whole new profession, but I'm sure the creative minds a Blizzard would be able to expand on the basic concept.

You would require a gathering profession to support it of course — either via a new profession of woodcutter or lumberjack or through the existing herbalism skill. There are plenty of trees around Azeroth to support a profession, or you could add fallen sticks and logs instead.
I'm sure it could work. I've already cleared my bag slots for chisel and lathe. What do you think?

29 May 2008

The results are in!

Thanks to everyone who voted in the misery poll, which asked: what do you want to read about?

The results above show that spell rotation and gear are of moderate interest, so I'll try and write some more about those.

'Other' was also a popular choice, and of the suggestions proffered, pvp and teletubbies garnered the most votes. I must confess to a general feeling of trepidation: neither are subjects in which I am well versed. Does this mean we shall see Merlot venturing into arenas any time soon? Or calling in sick from work to catch the kids' tv slot? I'll leave you in suspense...

There'll be another misery poll when I can think of something interesting to ask you.

/conjure Tumbleweed (Rank 1)

Doing damage on the move

It's hard enough to stand still and dps as a shadow priest. Your dots have irregular durations, your nukes have irregular cooldowns, and your mind flay has a crappy range. Add the need to move constantly throughout an encounter and you can kiss goodbye to respectable damage. Fights like shadow labs' grandmaster vorpil and the mechanar's nethermancer sepethrea are a perennial headache.

The same thoughts keep crossing my mind while I'm running around in alarm and mashing my keyboard: I'm going to die; why does mind flay have such a crappy range; do other shadow priests struggle as much as me; I'm going to die; shit, I didn't mean to hit shadow word: death; I wish I'd rolled a lock; I'm going to die; shitshitshit.

If there's a secret to walking these encounters, I haven't found it. The best I can muster is a vague list of priorities to forget while spinning in panic.

First off, I know it's obvious but my number one priority is to stay alive. In a standard fight, that usually means managing agro while slapping the bad guy as hard as I can. I can rely on healers for the most part to take care of splash damage. Not so on mobility fights: they're not designed to be healed through; you have to move. So there's something else for me to think about besides what spell to cast next.

If I determine I am not in mortal peril, only then do I think about casting any spells. My spell rotation inevitably suffers. As a general rule of thumb I cast vampiric embrace and shadow word: pain while running, and slot in everything whenever I can. Vampiric touch is my first choice, then mind blast. Mind flay is often out of the question because of range. Only when I'm sure I'm safe and I have three seconds to spare do I even think about it.

Mana conservation goes out of the window. Even with vampiric touch up I'm not putting out a high enough dps for it to have much of an effect. On top of that, I shield, I fear, I heal, I bandage, I pot, I drop back into shadow, I spam mind blasts, I shield again, I overlap dots. Every other player is under the same pressure as me. While healers will do their best to keep me alive I can't rely on them. They may be under fire themselves, or else out of range or otherwise tied up.

Gear is a constant dilemma too: do I dress for survival or damage? I am a very fragile priestie in my standard raid gear and lack a pvp set like some. My fallback is resistance gear, as mobility fights generally involve a lot of magical damage. I've a few nice crafted fire and arcane resist items, but even stacking boe greens I can raise my stamina a few thousand and build up a hefty resistance to once school of magic at the expense of some damage. I've tried both ways but without much scientific method. My gut tells me to dress for survival if it's a new encounter or an inexperienced healer; go all out damage otherwise.

Is this a textbook strategy? I doubt it. When it comes to mobility fights, I get the feeling I'm missing an important piece of the jigsaw. They are things that deeply irritate me and I'm constantly looking for ways to get the better of them. If you have any ideas or strategies, please let me know.

27 May 2008

Bling bling (the post about gems, geddit?)

My readers, like my hair, are a bit thin on the ground. And like my hair, I'm prepared to do everything I can to keep them. You can't buy dodgy preparations from the back of Sunday supplements for blog readers, so when someone pointed out the lack of gem-related information on the blog, I jumped swiftly into action to redress it.

Gems are a bit boggling when you first encounter them. Six different colours, mysterious 'meta' gems, wildly varying prices, and countless combinations of stats and effects. It's much easier to get your head around the system when you see all the different gems laid out on one page — wowwiki's entry is perfect.

Standard gems
Standard gems are really quite dull for shadow priests. Don't be intimidated by the variety. You should only really be interested in two things: reaching the hit cap and increasing your damage.
I've talked about spell hit before. You need 76 with talents. All your gems should be yellow spell hit gems until you hit that figure — great golden draenite, great dawnstone or great lionseye. Pick the best gem you can afford, taking into considerating the item you are gemming. You will keep your frozen shadowweave set for a long time, but that level 69 quest reward may not be around long enough to justify an expensive gem. Uncommond gems are, well, uncommonly cheap, so you never have an excuse to leave a slot empty.

After that, it's red all the way. Anything with runed in the name. The uncommon runed blood garnet if you're poor or are likely to upgrade an item soon; the rare runed living ruby otherwise. If you're rolling in cash, you can even splash out on the epic runed crimson spinel. You will get one of this last variety as quest reward for magister's terrace. If you are a jewelcrafter, you may cut yourself the bop don julio's heart, but you may only have one equipped at a time.

If you have enough slots, you could instead use the orange gems that combine these stats — veiled flame spessarite, veiled noble topaz or veiled pyrestone — but I'm not sure you gain anything by doing so. In fact, I think you might even loose out.

Do not be fooled into meeting an item's gem requirement. The bonus's are rarely, if ever, worth the compromise.

Meta gems
Meta gems are a little more interesting. I say a little, as your aim is still to stack as much spell damage as possible. Any perception of choice you may harbour is purely illusory. But meta gems have some quirky special effects on top of the main stat, which gives them a bit more sparkle, if you'll excuse the pun.

Meta gems, as you probably know, are special gems that can only fit into meta gem sockets and only helms can have meta gem slots. They are not of much practical use to me right now, as I am currently sporting the spellstrike hood. If you aren't raiding tier 5 content you should be too. But I will generously assume you are either saving up for the mats or have found something better.

Additionally, each meta gem has a set of requirements relating to the other gems you have equipped. This limits our choice somewhat. If you have (rightly) stacked red gems, you will be stumped by a meta gem that requires two blue gems to equip. Thankfully, Blizzard has come up with an ideal solution to our quandary as we shall see.

So here are my top three picks for your meta gem, in reverse order.
This can be purchased for 8 spirit shards from the pvp vendors in terrokar forest, which makes it easy or awkward to acquire depending on how lucky you've been with your auchindoun runs. On my server, the region is almost permanently in the hands of the alliance. The spell damage is nice and the run speed, while situational, can come in handy on some boss encounters. It requires two yellow gems on top of a red, which makes it an ideal starting gem if you are stacking spell hit.
If you have reached the spell cap and replaced your hit gems, this is a reasonable choice. Yes, you're right, it's actually a healing gem, but provides 9 spell damage. A little less than the swift starfire diamond but you will more than make up for it by replacing the two yellow gems for red. It requires more red gems than blue, which won't be hard. The beauty of this gem is the 2% reduced threat. If you're one of those annoying shadow priests who never has an issue with threat, this won't be of interest. But for me, it's enough to make my palms sweaty with desire. It is a crafted item, so head over to the auction house and be prepared to fork out a couple of hundred gold. The recipe is from consortium and requires revered.
With 14 spell damage and 2% intellect, this is my top choice for a meta gem. And look: it requires at least three red gems. It was made for us. Again, it's a crafted item and the recipe requires revered with the shattered sun offensive.

Now before you rush off and snap up your gems, I should point out that shadowpriest.com disagrees with my recommendations — and they are, unfortunately, far better informed than I am. They suggest the following:
As you can see, it has a chance to increase spell casting speed and requires more blue gems than yellow. So you can easily get away with one blue gem to activate it. shadowpriest.com recommends either a fluorescent tanzanite or a glowing shadowsong amethyst.

The reason I don't like it? I'm just not certain of the value of spell haste from random procs. I'm still getting used to quagmirran's eye and find that I waste as many procs as I use effectively. Admittedly, a better shadow priest might be able to make better use of it. But right now, for me at least, the jury is still out.

21 May 2008

Wrath leaks

So you've probably seen the 'leaked' Wrath of the Lich King information already. I don't want to get too excited, because it's still only in alpha testing and I'm non too sure of the authenticity of the info anyway. I don't want to get excited, but I can't help trembling just a little at the thought of mind sear, a channelled aoe dot. Wouldn't that be sweet? Even more delicious is the thought of growing pains, a talent which gives mind flay the ability to refresh the duration of shadow word: pain. Will that make the final cut? Never having to reapply the single highest damage dot in the game? I can't imagine it. But it's fun to try.

If you're busy hunting down any of this information (and you can find a lot of it here), don't hold too much stock in it. Even if it is a true and accurate report from the test realm, we're along way from shipping. At best, it's a rare and fascinating window into the minds of the developers, giving us a hint of their hopes and dreams for our classes.

20 May 2008


If it's possible to roleplay mental illness I'd say Merlot is bipolar. A month or two back, with a string of Kara kills and a trip to Zul'Aman under his belt, all was rosy. Now things are slacking off, guild events have dried up and everyone seems to be focusing more on their alts.

It would be tricky to put a finger on a single cause of the malaise, but a couple spring to mind. Our guild has been slow to react to a general sense of impatience among the better-geared players with a lack of progression. If you mix and match your dps for Kara runs, you'll inevitably find yourself treading water. And any attempts at progress generally take place at the weekend, which is reserved for my partner.

So what happens? People grow bored and switch their focus — perhaps they respec because they find themselves grinding or turning to pvp. Or perhaps they role an alt because it's more rewarding than standing around in Shattrath trying to pug a tank for a heroic.

The upcoming expansion also looms over us and contributes to a growing restlessness with the end game. On the one hand, I think people are excited and impatient for new talents, spells and content. On the other hand, the prospect of levelling multiple characters to 80 is pretty daunting — particularly if some of them aren't even in Outland yet. I've still not got all my alts to 70, and I think this alt anxiety is driving a frenzy of alt levelling on my server.

So Merlot is in a funk. Badge grinding has dried up and I've nothing to focus on that doesn't involve killing Prince or Nightbane. It's all very depressing. I've even respecced my very casual shaman to resto for a challenge. Can you imagine it, a shadow priest on a healer? It's anathema. I need a way to get back into the game and pronto. What's the roleplaying equivalent of a mood enhancer?

14 May 2008

Should buffs scale?

At level 64, shaman get the delicious wrath of air totem. This stick of goodness increases spell damage and healing by 101. When my elemental shaman got this baby at 64, he had only a couple of hundred spell damage; this totem alone bumped it by a mega 50%. As I'm pushing 1000 spell damage at the moment wrath of air would give me a respectable 10% increase. Our raid healers would be lucky to get a 5 or 6% increase to healing.

At level 70, a talented prayer of fortitude will increase your stamina by 102, conferring 1020 hit points. To a mage with 7000 health, that's a very sweet improvement of nearly 15%; to a warrior with 13,000 health, it's less than 8%.
Do you see where I'm going with this? There are a plethora of buffs out there that just don't scale very well for end-game content. In general, the better your gear, the less useful the buff. Just ask a raiding druid what they think of mark of the wild...

This isn't the case with everything. A beastmaster hunter's ferocious inspiration, while only a temporary buff, increases all damage by 3% for its duration. Compare that to a marksman hunter's trueshot aura, which provides a flat increase to attack power alone.

I wonder if buffs should more consistently scale. What would be the harm of using percentages instead of flat numbers?

I suppose you could argue it doesn't make any difference. Blizzard has tuned instances to the capabilities of the classes as they are now. If buffs were to get more powerful over time, instead of less, they'd simply retune the content to arrive at the same balance.

But it does seem more in keeping with the idea of end-game progression that characters should get more powerful, not less, over time.

The obligatory gloat post (and second thoughts)

It was to be my last jaded foray into the cavernous maw of heroic slave pens.

After months of fruitless adventuring, I had resolved to make one last concerted lunge for quagmirran's eye. If, when, it failed to drop, I would give up and spend some badges on an icon of the silver crescent. You will no doubt recognise this latter trinket as the better option anyway, which is true. But I'm saving my badges for the dagger and this would have put me back weeks.

So we rolled up to the bog lord, whipped his grassy arse, and guess what sprung up on my screen? Yes indeedy, his bulging, bloody eye! Hooraah for me! Even better, there wasn't even a mage or lock in the group to roll against me. That trinket was mine!

The first thing I did was swap out that offensively green ancient crystal talisman and skip off to grind and test the proc.

As the tooltip says, the trinket provides 37 spell damage, a nice boost of 11 from the talisman. It also has a chance of increasing spell haste by 320 for 6 seconds.

I observed it triggering once or twice a minute, which fits nicely with the 10% proc rate listed on wowwiki. And while I have absolutely no idea how spell haste works in theory, in practice it chopped .3 of a second off a 1.5-second mind blast - according to Quartz. A back-of-a-fag-packet calculation using wowwiki's equations showed the cast time to be more like 1.25, so I'm assuming Quartz rounds off to one decimal place.

Spell haste is a completely new concept to me, but it appears to provide a percentage benefit based on the original cast time — so a 3-second mind flay benefits more from the trinket proc than a 1.5-second mind blast (by approximately .5 of second if my calculation is correct). As of patch 2.4, spell haste also affects the global cooldown, but I'm not sure by how much.

So the theory is this: the proc from quagmirran's eye reduces cast time and time between casts, enabling you to cast more spells in the same time than you would without the benefit of the haste boost. But while I ran around Nagrand skinning clefthoofs for the daily, I began to wonder if my lowly talisman, a mere quest reward from hellfire peninsula, might in fact be the better trinket. Oh god, had I really wasted months of my life grinding the same, gloomy instance for no reason?

Even with the combined might of wowwiki and my maths GCSE, I'm not at all certain. Shadowpriest.com says the eye is a decent investment for my level of progression and rates it above the eye (thank you Aaron M). But it's going to take some getting used to. I don't know whether to watch for the proc and adjust my spell rotations to take advantage of it, or just ignore it and let the haste do its work without a thought. If you have any experience of haste, please enlighten me.

At least I don't have to step foot in slave pens again, although now I see how close I am to exalted I'm tempted to keep grinding away. 6000 rep equals what, another three runs? Maybe just for the dailies...

9 May 2008

Merlot's instance etiquette

PUG is a dirty word in my guild, which has its pros and cons. With such a stigma on going out of guild, you can't always get a group when you want one. But when you do, it's marvellous. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses, we have a laugh, we are patient of real-life interruptions and forgiving of mistakes. And on those rare occasions when you pluck up the courage to break the PUG taboo, you suddenly realise how lucky you are to have such a great bunch of mates.

Of course, there's nothing inherrently wrong with random groups, especially if it's the only way you'll get to run that instance. But the bad reputation stems from the fact that a lot of people really don't know how to behave properly. The phrase 'does not play nicely with others' comes to mind.

So this is my guide to playing nicely. And I'm going to ignore the fact that people who read blogs are probably not the target audience for such advice. I need a post and this is it, so there.

Be prepared. If you come to an instance without food and water I will quit. Even if you're expecting a mage. Even if it's only pet food. Don't forget your regents. That means you too shaman. Remember those ankh things? If your armor goes red after the first wipe, I won't be hanging around for you to repair and return. If you whisper that other hunter in the group and ask for ammo, don't be surprised if they kick you. Be prepared. It only takes five minutes, it makes you look professional, and it shows your respect for the other players who have all taken the time and money to prepare too.

Know your class. And know everyone else's. Every class has a bunch of abilities that they just don't need for levelling. But when you walk into an instance they suddently become rather handy. Dropping the right totem or popping the right aura will mark you out to the rest of your group as someone who knows what they're doing. Not everyone will be familiar with your enounter though, so it's useful to know what other parties can bring to the table. Could we have aspect of the wild please mister hunter? Would you mind using curse of recklessness here please missues warlock?

Be polite. Say please and thank you. This may not be the real world but these are still real people who deserve respect. You'll be amazed how a few nice words can change the mood of a party and even improve performance. And if things go wrong don't shout and swear and stamp your feet and blame other people - even if it is their fault. What you should do is 'fess up when you cock up. Everyone makes mistakes and it's no crime to admit to them. Just say you're sorry and move on.

And be considerate. This means waiting for your mage to drink, letting your tank set up the pull (unless you've agreed an alternative strategy), asking before skinning, herbing, minig, and waiting patiently if a player has to go afk a sec.

Play for the group, not for yourself. This one is more for dps than tanks or healers. Make sure your objective is to beat the encounter, not just top the damage meters. Don't push your tank's threat, and don't waste mana on inefficient actions (warlock curses, for example: agony does damage but elements may be more beneficial with a mage in your group).

Be fair with loot. Yes, I know, this is probably the only reason you're in the group in the first place. But if you're an elemental shaman don't roll need on some hunter mail cos you'll just get a bad rep and nobody will ever play with you again. It's fair to ask if you can roll for off-spec gear if nobody else wants it. Chances are there will already be unwritten loot rules on your server but if in doubt ask the rest of the group before rolling.

Don't post damage stats. Ever. Anyone who cares about damage enough to want a printout will have their own meter. They are only useful for measuring personal performance anyway. And the total quantity of damage done rarely reflects a player's contribution to a group. Plus, only wankers post damage stats.

I'm feeling quite smug at this stage as I've just realised these are all the things that my guild do anyway. Do you think it's asking too much to expect this behaviour in a pick-up-group?

7 May 2008

Managing threat

To play a shadow priest is to walk a tightrope between life and death. Well, it's not always a tight rope. Sometimes it's a very loose rope, and sometimes it's only tied at one end. So it would be more like a rope ladder, and you'd be clinging to it rather than walking. At any rate, to play a shadow priest is to spend a rather lot of your time contemplating all things rope-like in an attempt to balance your threat with that of the tank. Threat is the price of our Faustian bargain with the shadow and it is our constant companion.

In full flow and under optimal conditions you are a threat battery. It's an unavoidable part of playing a shadow priest and one which you'll need to master if you are to avoid getting squashed twenty seconds into every encounter. Admittedly, it's something I'm still working on...

What is threat?
The first part to mastering our threat is to understand it. Basically, threat is a measure of an NPC's aggression towards player characters. Under normal circumstances, NPCs keep a 'hate list' of people with threat towards them and attack the one at the top of the list. But they don't switch targets the instant one player's threat tops another. There is a buffer, or more accurately, two buffers, depending on how close you are to the mob. In melee range, the mob will switch target when one player's threat exceeds 110% of the threat of its current target; at range, the mob will switch target at 130% of threat.

We build threat through the actions we take while in combat, and we can conveniently lump threat into two types, so I can use some bullet points and break up this big chunk of text:

  • Damage threat — if you hit a mob, it will naturally be unhappy about it. One point of damage equals one point of threat. This threat applies only to the target of the attack. Just being in the vicinity of a mob does not cause threat — it simply places you on their threat table with a threat of zero.
  • Beneficial threat — threat caused by beneficial things, which most commonly means healing and mana regeneration. This is calculated at a rate of .5 threat for every point or health or mana returned. This threat is divided equally among all of the mobs that are aware of you. So if you heal a tank that is being attacked by 5 mobs for 100, you will generate 50 threat or 10 threat per mob. It's this amorphous threat that usually causes stray mobs to peel off and hunt you down.
Of course, there are many things which can affect these basic figures — talents and spells that can both reduce and increase the amount of threat you generate, special moves and abilities with bonus threat values, and NPCs with special moves that either alter or ignore the order of threat against them. We'll come onto these later. This is just the basic mechanic of threat. It's also worth pointing out at this stage that you can never have negative threat on a mob.

How do I generate threat?
So shadow priests face a triple whammy of threat from the damage, healing and mana regeneration we put out. Often, this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that over-healing generates no threat, nor does mana regeneration for non-mana users. Nonetheless, you will be generating considerably more threat per point of damage than any other class in your group — except, hopefully, the tank. This is especially true in fights with aoe damage, such as my nemesis Quagmirran in Slave Pens. In a worst-case scenario, with four other mana users in your party and all players taking splash damage, you will be generating threat before modifiers of:

damage done + (15% of damage done/2 x 5) + (5% of damage done/2 x 5) = 150% of damage done
(somebody please show me how to write that in a sensible equation)

On top of your standard dps spell rotation, also bear in mind the following things:

  • Mind flay apparently carries a threat 'bonus' — probably because of the snare effect — although I have been unable to discover how much.
  • Shadow word: death does no additional threat. However, in a threat-sensitive fight, if you heal the damage done by the spell's kickback through vampiric embrace it will clearly add to your agro. Similarly, the healing from prayer of healing, should you trigger it, counts towards your threat. It's sometimes better simply to remain at full health.
  • Power word: shield generates about half the threat of healing per point absorbed. Not that this shitty little bubble is going to make a difference in heroics. But if you can spare the mana, it will help mitigate the damage of pulling threat by giving your healers a slightly bigger cushion and minimising the gap your tank has to make up.
  • Power word: fortitude and prayer of fortitude will generate threat if cast in combat. I think it's roughly the equivalent of healing the amount of hit points the spells provide.
  • Mind control has a bonus threat value. Don't ask me how much it is. It's big though. It's like you kicked them in the nuts and called their mother a ho.
  • Spell resists don't apply threat, but they put you on the target's threat list. So if that mind soothe is resisted, your tank better be ready to jump into action.
Threat control
Threat management for all dps classes starts with the talent spec. Every raiding shadow priest should have three points in shadow affinity, reducing your threat by 25%. This isn't the best threat reduction talent in the game but it's better than nothing.

The next thing you should do is download a threat metre and keep it up to date. I recommend Omen (get the latest version from files.wowace.com). Threat metres give you a visual representation of threat in real-time and provide alerts when you reach preset thresholds. Preferably, all players in your group should be using the same metre; at the very least, you should ensure your tank is.

Know the encounter. Some fights are very threat-sensitive. Mobs may have abilities that wipe the threat table, deliberately target players who are second in threat, or not have threat tables at all. Get a more experienced player to explain the fight first or read up about it in advance on sites like wowwiki.

Play intelligently. First of all, give your tank a break and let them get a head start. Paladins are very good at top-loading threat so you shouldn't need to worry so much with them. Make sure you have an established kill order and follow it. Focusing fire on a single target helps the tank keep ahead of you on threat. If you go around dotting anything that moves you can't blame the tank if you wind up dead. Alter your spell rotation according to the encounter. Vampiric embrace is a spell you can often do without, and it will save you a considerable chunk of threat. Dropping mind blast and shadow word: death will reduce your spike damage and make your threat more predicable. And if aoe threat is an issue, dropping vampiric embrace will ensure that all your threat builds up on a single target, although you'll run out of mana pretty quickly if you go down this route.

You can also benefit from a couple of party buffs if grouped correctly. If you're lucky enough to group with a paladin, always ask for a blessing of salvation. This little gem reduces your threat by 30%. And a shaman can sometimes drop a tranquil air totem in threat-sensitive fights. This is a tricky one though because it affects the whole party in range, effectively cancelling out any threat-reduction gains if it falls on the tank too. In raids it's not so bad, because you probably won't be in the main tank group, but in 5-mans it's usually unworkable.

Finally, there's also a cloak enchant called subtlety which reduces your threat by 2%. The enchant is available from Thrallmar and Honour Hold and requires exalted reputation and the mats are not that bad. It's the only decent enchant for the slot anyway so you have no excuse not to get this.

If you do find yourself with too much agro, there's not an awful lot you can do about it. Clearly, the first thing to do is stop attacking, but with your dots still running this will be of limited value. Your main fallback is the rather controversial ability fade. The tooltip for this spell reads "discourages enemies from attacking you" which is misleading at best. What it actually does is reduce your threat on the tables of all mobs who are aware of you by a fixed amount; at rank 7 this means by up to 1500 (remembering you cannot have negative threat). This lasts a paltry ten seconds, after which time the 1500 threat is returned. To start with, there's no guarantee that fade will work — sometimes, you remain at the top of the threat list even after the reduction. And if you and your party don't deal with the situation within the time limit — either by killing the target or re-establishing proper threat — it could come straight back to you. The other problem with fade is what happens to the mob once you shake it off. It might turn back to the tank, but the healer could well be the next person on the threat list. That makes using it in tight spots a gamble that sometimes isn't worth taking. Either way, this is not a spell you should rely on for managing threat.

Certain items can also provide a temporary threat reduction, similar to fade. These are on-use effects and come with a cooldown of a few minutes each. The hypnotist's watch and spore-covered drape are two very easy items to get hold of, while the jewel of charismatic mystique drops from grandmaster vorpil in Shadow Labs. With no spell damage, they will gimp your dps but not by nearly as much as dying.

Finally, the shrouding potion will reduce your threat by about the same amount as fade, only permanantly. The potion is craftable by alchemists and the recipe is available from Sporeggar with exalted reputation. Unfortunately, it shares a cooldown with mana pots, making it less than desirable for the oft-thirsty shadow priest. (Thanks to Grayhammer for some of these tips.)

The last drastic recourse available to you for ditching threat is death. That's one sure way of wiping the threat table. Clearly, this is not a practical (or affordable) approach to maximising your contribution to the party on a regular basis. However, with the use of a soul stone or druid's combat res it is possible to deliberately go all out on damage knowing you will be given a clean slate after death.