18 November 2008

Rough guide to shadow talents

Work is hectic at the moment and the blog is having to take a back seat — which is a shame because some of the guides are out of date or just plain wrong and there are many, many great blogs I need to profile and add to my blog roll. I'll get around to it eventually.

In the meantime, there's a small chance some hapless young priest might stumble upon this blog in search of help and advice. What would happen to that bewildered adventurer if they saw me now? They would leave disappointed, confused, rudderless. That's a burden I'm not willing to bear.

So here, like a prophylactic for ignorance, is Merlot's rough guide to shadow talents — for pve, that is. While I could hazard a guess about pvp, I'd be talking out of my meta socket.

We're all pretty focused on levelling right now, so I've scored each talent out of five for its usefulness while levelling as well as raiding — five is most useful, one is pretty much useless.

What really struck me as I played around with my own talents and wrote this guide is how bottom-heavy shadow feels for levelling. To move on up the tree you really need to pick up talents that are of limited or questionable use for everyday grinding and questing. That's why I haven't bothered posting a levelling build yet — there are so many optional talents it really comes down to what works best for your play style.

If you're one of those bewildered adventurers searching for meaning in a strange new world, remember to check the comments where my more experienced readers will undoubtedly have exposed my horrendous errors.

Tier 1

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating
Spirit tap

3

5

2

Improved spirit tap

2

1

5

Blackout

5

3

1


Spirit tap is the star of any priest levelling build but it's only of situational use in a raid. Shame then that it's a prerequisite for improved spirit tap, as you'll need this in raids. Conversely, improved spirit tap is not much use for levelling — whether you crit a lot or not, the benefit is small on short fights and spirit tap will overwrite it when the mob dies.

Blackout's really not needed while levelling, but it definitely makes it easier. In raids, I'd avoid it: bosses are immune and tanks won't thank you if it procs while they're trying to move trash.

Tier 2

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating
Shadow affinity

3

1

5

Improved shadow word: pain

2

5

5

Shadow focus

3

3

5


For levelling, you don't need shadow affinity. To be honest, I don't even know if you need this talent in raids anymore, given shadow form's innate threat reduction. But I'll assume in a full raid build and geared properly it will come in very handy. No doubt we'll be hearing more about this from theorycrafters if it is indeed an issue.

Improved shadow word: pain is a no-brainer. More damage = good.

Shadow focus is one of those optional talents for levelling. Remember you need 4% spell hit to eliminate resists on equal-level mobs — well, between this and misery further down the tree, you're going to have 6%, enough for mobs two levels higher. That's not taking any hit you may have from gear into account. But you'll need 17% hit for raid bosses, so you won't want to skip this as you enter Naxx.

Tier 3

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating
Improved psychic scream

2

1

1

Improved mind blast

5

2

5


Improved psychic scream is a waste of points in any pve context; take this talent only if you want silence as it's a prerequisite.

Improved mindblast isn't terribly useful when levelling, but it is needed for raiding — the only question is how many points you should spend. Four points is probably enough here, unless you're factoring in a lot of haste.

Tier 4

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating
Veiled shadows

2

1

4

Shadow reach

2

5

5

Shadow weaving

3

3

5


Veiled shadows isn't terribly useful for levelling, but the reduced cooldown on your shadow fiend will be important in long raid encounters.

Similarly, shadow weaving isn't that important for levelling (you probably won't have time to benefit from a full stack, even if the mob is alive long enough to build it up) but it's a cornerstone of your raid dps.

Reach is almost mandatory with mind flay. Always take this.

Tier 5

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating
Silence

1

3

2

Vampiric embrace

1

5

2

Improved vampiric embrace

2

5

3

Focused mind

3

3

5


Silence is nice to have while levelling but you can easily survive without it, while in raids there are generally better options for interrupting caster trash and, as usual, bosses are immune. But I still like having it.

Since the nerf, I'm not sure how useful vampiric embrace is to raids, even in its improved form. But solo, it's still a wonderful spell and I'll never leave home without it.

Focused mind is easily skippable for levelling but it's important for your longevity in raids.

Tier 6

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating
Mind melt

2

3

5

Darkness

5

5

5


I don't think you're going to notice a 4% increased chance to crit while levelling, but I'd pick this talent up anyway for want of better options. For raiding it's a boost, no matter how small.

Darkness, again, is a no-brainer.

Tier 7

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating
Shadow form

1

5

5

Shadow power

5

5

5


No ambiguity here, no doubt — pick up your shadowy purple goodness and finally join the ranks of casters who enjoy double-damage crits. It's about time.

Tier 8

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating
Improved shadow form

2

5

3

Misery

3

4

5


The tooltip for improved shadow form must have been written by the work experience kid because it is grammatically — and therefore literally — wrong. What this talent actually does, in addition to the snare removal, is give shadow form 70% passive pushback reduction, and for that it is rather useful for levelling. Now you can more-or-less melt faces at point blank. What little pushback that remains will gimp you a little, but in two levels I've had no problems at all. So much so, that I rarely even bother to fear-flay any more. In BC raids I hardly ever wished for pushback protection, but I think it became more important in later content. That's why I've given it a rather non-committal 3 rating for raiding, but I'm sure someone will put me straight if I'm underestimating it.

Misery's great in any situation for the 15% spell power bonus; the hit may or may not be useful to you and your raid, but it comes as a package so make use of it if you can.

Tier 9

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating

Psychic horror

2

1

1

Vampiric touch

1

5

5

Pain and suffering

3

2

5


Psychic horror is in the improved psychic scream category: worthless for pve. It may even be worthless for pvp. Regardless, don't waste your points.

Vampiric touch is essential for any shadow build. It's now our most powerful dot (I think...) as well as triggering the rather underwhelming replenishment buff. What can I say, rain is as good as a river if your thirsty.

Pain and suffering doesn't really do much for levelling builds but you will be grateful for it in raids.

Tier 10

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating

Twisted faith

5

5

5


My favourite new talent is a dps win in virtually every situation, even though the spirit-to-spell power conversion is a bit lacklustre. For Merlot, at level 72, it equates to about 30 spell power or less than 3% of my total bonus spell power, but I assume that will get better as I collect raid gear designed around it. I love spirit and love having an excuse to gear for it. It works with spirit tap and improved spirit tap too, for an extra boost. The mind blast and mind flay boost is the best bit — shadow word: pain should almost always be up.

Tier 11

RanksLevel ratingRaid rating
Dispersion

1

2

3


And after my favourite new talent, comes my most disappointing.If you are this high in the tree — and really, if you're dps, you've no reason not to be — you might as well pick it up. But don't expect it to change your life.

While levelling, it may, at a push, save your life, but six seconds is a very short time in which to extricate yourself from danger and it is more than likely only going to delay the inevitable. Remember, those are six seconds during which you cannot shield, heal yourself or fear. My experience of it in solo combat so far is that it's simply a frustration. I don't even generally need the mana.

In raids, it is situationally useful. Before the expansion, I popped it in Kara when Nightbane feared me into charred earth and I popped it when Illhoof sacrified me. It was too short for both situations, but it was better than nothing. It will likely be used like this in Northrend too — our challenge will be to time our mana needs around specific boss effects to ensure we get the most out of both the damage reduction and mana regeneration, otherwise it just becomes a mana pot with a silence. Not what any of us hoped for our top tier talent, but I've been over that enough times to know when to quit moaning. No honestly, I have.

* PS, if you think the tables look weird, they are. Blogger hates me.

6 comments:

Leigh said...

Man Dispersion for levelling and raiding is a 5/5.
Without a doubt the best talent you can take for levelling. So far at level 72 outside of instances i have never drank, not once, ever ever ever EVER!!! I go through my quests use my shadow fiend if/when i need it, when i'm walking from one mob to the next if need be i pop dispersion and between it giving me over 600 mana a tick and spirit tap from the last mob i am close on 100% mana again. Do not underestimate the value of this talent. If you pull adds, SWP them, pop this and when it's off cooldown fear and tab spam MF to renew SWP, move away and you can have 2 or 3 of them severly weakened or enough time to throw a heal on yourself.
In raids you 100% need this, as it replaces 6% of your max mana and 16K mana is not unreasonable for a Naxx geared spriest your looking at a sizeable return. Bearing in mind that the boss might not be debuffed to take more shadow damage, thus reducing the effectiveness of the shadow fiend.

"D" said...

Ooh, I agree with leigh - Dispersion is a great talent, very handy with leveling. I hardly ever stopped to drink, either, and all of my mana pots were collecting dust in my bags - between Spirit Tap, my trusty Shadowfiend, and Dispersion, along with the nice bit of +spirit gear I've collected, my mana regen is terrific. (I've specced to holy for a while, long story, but I was able to stay shadow through level 70 and 71 in Northrend before switching to holy, and I'll be switching back to shadow as soon as I possibly can.)


And I agree with you about Psychic Horror -- is this even going to get used by ANY Shadow priest, ever? I found that it was pretty useless in PvP, too, when I tested it out. I think Blizzard should periodically check out talent trees across class groups, and if there's a talent out there that's not being utilized by, say, over 5% of the people that spec into that tree, then they should rethink that talent. What a waste, really. At least it's not a prereq for something useful, though (I skipped the whole Imp. Psychic Scream/Silence bit on my own priest, but I understand why some would want to spend their points to get Silence).


Any insights into placing some points into the Disc. tree? I suppose that when we're not 80, we can't really "test" out different specs and how well they work out, but my tentative lvl 80 spec will include maxing out Imp. Inner Fire and getting down to Meditation. What do you think?


Sorry to be hearing that the blog will be taking a "back seat" to that pesky RL stuff like work - I really enjoy your blog. :-)

Merlot said...

Ok, clearly I need to revise my position on dispersion. But here's the thing: I just don't need it for levelling. Maybe this is one of those talents that suits one play style better than another, but the occasions when I am below full mana when spirit tap expires are few and far between. It's an emergency button when I get into trouble, that's all, and the silence effect makes it a gamble to use in those situations.

Instances are a whole other issue. I have huge mana problems there and dispersion is very much needed then. But then I'm not in a raid build and can't guess how beatuful meditation and improved spirit tap will be with decent spirit gear. And that doesn't change the fact that if you're using it as mana pot then it's a hugely underwhelming top-tier talent.

D, absolutely I'll be looking at discipline too soon. I love the discipline tree and would like to see greater synergy with shadow dps, but right now it's looking like we'll stick at the BC standard of 14 points for inner focus and meditation. The good news is the points you spend to get that far will work more for you in raids than they used to, but I guess you know that already :)

Esdras said...

I tried the shadow tree with the new talants and just still thought it was missing something.

I was shadow as a raider for all BC but i dont think i would go back now.

Anonymous said...

"...given shadow form's innate thread reduction."

Does this mean people will talk about it less? :)

Sorry, couldn't resist...

Merlot said...

"Sorry, couldn't resist..."

I deserved that! Better go edit it now :P