HoTs and DoTs: A Restoration Druid and Shadow Priest

A Focused Mind

Frost Tombed during the Sindragosa encounter

Enjoying the mana returns from 3/3 Meditation (inside a Sindragosa Frost Tomb)

Natarumah at Twisted Faith recently theorised that there might be a point at which a heavily hasted Shadow Priest would “gain” more mana during combat by talenting into Focused Mind instead of Meditation. He’s absolutely right to ask the question.

Meditation works off our least favourite DPS boosting stat: Spirit. Furthermore even at high Spirit amounts it returns mana in the form of mana per 5 seconds (Mp5) which returns a constant stream of mana back to us for the length of the fight regardless of how many spells we output in that space of time. As we cast more and more spells during a set period, for example a standard 5 minute boss encounter, Mp5 becomes less valuable and insufficient to replenish (for lack of a better word) our resources as we spend mana more quickly.

Focused Mind, on the other hand, is a straight up, spell for spell, discount.

The trouble is this: we’ve been led to believe that 3/3 Meditation is mandatory in any Priest’s raiding build. And that Focused Mind is unnecessary because we shouldn’t lack for mana as Shadow Priests. Is that really still the case? Which is better in Icecrown Citadel, in practice?

A Case Study – Me

At the start of Icecrown Citadel I was talented for 3/3 Mediation and 1/3 Focused Mind – freeing up 2 points for Improved Vampiric Embrace. Months later and my talent build hasn’t changed. I started ICC with about 750 Haste. I gemmed for it, chose lower ilvl trinkets for it.

Now I’m at 935 Haste. I don’t gem for it, I don’t actively seek out Haste items. Yet even I have noticed a change in how I approach and manage my mana bar between then and now. That is to say – I didn’t bother managing it at all at the start of ICC. Shadowfiend was a DPS boost on a 3 minute cooldown and Dispersion was my 90% immunity, get-out-of-jail-free card. Now I actively use Shadowfiend to refill my mana bar as early in the fight as I can and try and bring him out a second time before the fight ends. If there’s even a tiny five second window in which I need to run across the room, run out of fire or stop casting for some other reason I reach for Dispersion.

Maybe it’s time to change our thinking. Is Meditation really so great? In my mind there’s only one way to know for sure. In this post I’ve gone through my latest World of Logs parses and extracted data from three fights in which:

  1. I’m pretty confident that I played it (cast x,y,z) the same way I have been for weeks
  2. I didn’t die
  3. We didn’t wipe and followed a pretty standard strategy/approach

The three fights I’ve chosen – Festergut, Professor Putricide and Sindragosa – have been selected to represent how a Shadow Priest might cast in three very different fights – Single Target, Multi Target and AoE – respectively. I’ve tried to liven things up by colour coding a lot of the spell specific stuff. Hopefully it will also make the tables easier to understand. I’ve also dragged out the methodology and assumptions and stuck them way at the bottom as totally optional reading.

The Three Encounters

Festergut Duration: 4 minutes 24 seconds
Spell Damage Done Hits Hit Dmg Crits Crit Dmg # Cast
Mind Flay 1106197 40.2% 122 368634 118 737563 80
Vampiric Touch 535541 19.5% 46 139868 62 395673 22
Devouring Plague 431557 15.7% 54 126649 61 304908 15
Shadow Word: Pain 251725 9.2% 34 59988 50 191737 2
Mind Blast 195248 7.2% 14 198248 10 118910 24
Improved Devouring Plague 77685 2.8% 10 42605 5 35080 0
Shadow Word: Death 17704 0.6% 0 2 17704 2

Assumed that SW:P was cast twice: once with 5/5 Shadow Weaving and once with max debuffs from other players.

Professor Putricide Duration: 8 minutes 34 seconds
Spell Damage Done Hits Hit Dmg Crits Crit Dmg # Cast
Mind Flay 1532723 34.4% 172 515002 161 1017721 111
Vampiric Touch 1137829 25.5% 88 265694 138 872135 46
Devouring Plague 703765 15.8% 83 184881 111 518884 13
Shadow Word: Pain 563270 12.6% 89 160889 107 402381 17
Mind Blast 316890 7.1% 17 92296 19 224594 36
Improved Devouring Plague 156043 3.5% 10 15337 3 28870 0
Shadow Word: Death 44207 1% 3 15337 3 28870 6

There is no easy way to see how many times SW:P was applied. So I went in and counted each one in World of Logs for the duration of the fight. Shadow Word: Pain was cast 7 times on Prof Putricide and 10 times on Gas Clouds and Volatile Oozes. Therefore Shadow Word: Pain was cast 17 times.

Sindragosa Duration: 9 minutes 23 seconds
Spell Damage Done Hits Hit Dmg Crits Crit Dmg # Cast
Mind Flay 1090402 29.1% 122 378959 113 711443 79
Vampiric Touch 787334 21% 75 234193 86 553141 33
Devouring Plague 583924 15.6% 60 129851 94 454073 23
Shadow Word: Pain 458802 12.2% 65 119972 87 338830 19
Mind Sear 383374 10.2% 56 155566 53 227808 22
Mind Blast 249571 6.7% 15 868714 13 162697 28
Improved Devouring Plague 119510 3.2% 14 62184 9 57326 0
Shadow Word: Death 39192 1% 2 8902 3 30290 5

Counting the Shadow Word: Pain casts individually shows that I cast it 8 times on Sindragosa and 11 times on Ice/Frost Tombs. Therefore Shadow Word: Pain was cast 19 times. I should also point out that I didn’t cast any AoE during the first of the 3 air phases, presumably because I was in a Frost Tomb myself. I think that’s pretty normal, but if you get lucky and don’t get Frost Tombed during any of the air phases your Mind Sear count would be higher.

Spell Costs (in Mana) with and without Focused Mind

Talenting into Focused Mind only reduces the cost of our “Mind” spells. It’s a direct discount on the cost to cast Mind Sear, Mind Blast and Mind Flay by up to 15%. No other spells are affected. Base mana of a level 80 Priest is 3863 mana. Final values are rounded up/down to closest whole number.

0/3 Focused Mind 3/3 Focused Mind
Spell % of Base Mana Mana Cost % of Base Mana Mana Cost
Devouring Plague (DP) Rank 9 25% 966
Mind Blast (MB) Rank 13 17% 657 14.45% 558
Mind Flay (MF) Rank 9 9% 348 7.65% 296
Mind Sear (MS) Rank 2 28% 1082 23.80% 919
Shadow Word: Death (SWD) Rank 4 12% 464
Shadow Word: Pain (SWP) Rank 12 22% 850
Vampiric Touch (VT) Rank 5 16% 618

If you apply those costs to the number of each spell cast in the three fights (Festergut, Putricide and Sindragosa) you end up with these final mana costs:

Encounter 0/3 Focused Mind Mana Cost 3/3 Focused Mind Mana Cost
Single Target (Festergut) 74322 67786
Multi Target (Professor Putricide) 120500 111164
Mind Sear (Sindragosa) 130774 120308
  • In Festergut talenting into Focused Mind would gain you 6536 mana
  • In Professor Putricide talenting into Focused Mind would gain you 9336 mana
  • In Sindragosa talenting into Focused Mind would gain you 10466 mana

Lets Consider Meditation

I have 238 Spirit. But just in case I’m not normal – which is quite possible – I’m going to calculate off the BiS (non heroic) 25 man gear set from which ends up with 250 Spirit (base spirit + 70 from gear). When calculating Mediation I think it’s important to factor in the 80 Spirit we get by buffing ourselves with Prayer of Spirit. This boosts the BiS Shadow Priest gear set up to 330 Spirit; 210 mana per 5 seconds (mp5) while not casting.

Three points in Meditation that gives us half of our mana regeneration from Spirit out of combat (210 mp5) back to us during combat: 105 mp5. The amount of actual mana returned depends on the duration of the fight. In the three examples:

Encounter Encounter Duration Units of Mp5 Mana Returned
Single Target (Festergut) 4m 24sec = 264 sec 48 5040
Multi Target (Professor Putricide) 8m 34sec = 514 sec 102 10710
Mind Sear (Sindragosa) 9m 23sec = 563 sec 112 11760
  • In Festergut talenting into Mediation would gain you 5040 mana
  • In Professor Putricide talenting into Mediation would gain you 10710 mana
  • In Sindragosa talenting into Mediation would gain you 11760 mana

Mediation vs Focused Mind in Conclusion

Now we get to the most important bit – which talent actually returns the most mana fight for fight?

Encounter Mana from 3/3 Focused Mind Mana from 3/3 Meditation
Single Target (Festergut) 6536 5040
Multi Target (Professor Putricide) 9336 10710
Mind Sear (Sindragosa) 10466 11760

Focused Mind or Meditation return nearly identical results in practice at this level of gear: heavily hasted (thus casting more spells) with very little spirit items equipped. There’s simply not much difference between the performance of either talent.

Meditation seems to win out on longer fights, with or without Mind Sear.

Perhaps Meditation will always perform well even when we avoid equipping items with Spirit simply because Priests start out with a nice base amount of Spirit and we will always be able to boost that quite significantly by self buffing Prayer of Spirit.

Focused Mind only reduces the cost of our least expensive commonly used spells: Mind Flay and Mind Blast. Single target fights aren’t the fights that really drain our mana pool – saving mana here isn’t really a concern.

The fights that really drain our mana quickly are fights that give us multiple targets to DoT up. Our DoTs are our most expensive spells. If Focused Mind applied to our DoTs (Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague and Shadow Word: Pain) instead of our direct damage casts I would definitely recommend choosing Focused Mind over Meditation. It would make for a much more interesting talent choice too: something that you would really only benefit from in fights where you are running several DoTs over multiple targets. But that’s when Shadow Priests really need some mana returned back to us.

Focused Mind might have performed better in Festergut because, not only is it a short fight, there is very little downtime during Festergut and no phase changes like there is in Professor Putricide and Sindragosa. Phase change downtime is an ideal chance to reap the benefits of mana returned through Mp5. Remember, Focused Mind isn’t going to save you mana unless you’re casting one of those three “Mind” spells. It might be worth mentioning that about one tenth of the Festergut fight will see me under the effects of Heroism – during which I cast pretty much nothing but Mind Flay – a situation in which Focused Mind would really shine.

But I have 4 talent points?!

Considering how similar the actual returns from Focused Mind and Meditation are in the three fights that I’ve analysed I would normal advise Shadow Priests to choose whichever talent is less difficult to reach in the talent tiers, or whichever talent has less prerequisites. Fortunately neither Focused Mind or Meditation are really out of our way in the talent tiers and furthermore, most Shadow Priests have more than 3 talents hanging around that could be dropped into mana regenerating talents.

I really like Improved Vampiric Embrace. That leaves me with 1 point in Focused Mind and 3 points in Meditation. Have you also got 4 points spread amongst the two? Is 3/3 Mediation and 1/3 Focused Mind the best option? Or is there a significantly better combination?

  • 3/3 Mediation = 105 Mp5
  • 2/3 Mediation = 69 Mp5
  • 1/3 Mediation = 36 Mp5

The winning combination for each fight is highlighted below:

Encounter Talent Option #1 Talent Option #2 Talent Option #3
3/3 Mediation 1/3 Focused Mind 2/3 Mediation 2/2 Focused Mind 1/3 Mediation 3/3 Focused Mind
Single Target (Festergut) 5040 2179 3312 4314 1728 6536
7219 mana returned 7626 mana returned 8264 mana returned
Multi Target (Professor Putricide) 10710 3112 7038 6162 3672 9336
13822 mana returned 13200 mana returned 13008 mana returned
Mind Sear (Sindragosa) 11760 3489 7728 6908 4032 10466
15249 mana returned 14636 mana returned 14498 mana returned

Point for point the talents perform equally well. There is no clear winning combination.

Throw your final points into either talent and I doubt you’ll be able to tell the difference. I do think it’s fair to say that 3/3 Meditation is no longer mandatory. I wouldn’t refuse a Shadow Priest raiding applicant if they talented for 3/3 Focused Mind instead of 3/3 Meditation.


Some notes on how I got to the actual results are below. If you trust me – feel free to skip the small print!

How I Counted the Casts using World of Logs Data

Channeled Spells: Mind Flay and Mind Sear I assumed that each counted Mind Flay and Mind Sear (both channeled spells) hits and crits – displayed as Direct Damage in World of Logs – are actually recording 1 tick of the channeled spell.

Mind Flay ticks 3 times in 1 channeled cast. So in the Festergut table 122 hits with Mind Flay + 118 crits with Mind Flay = 240 ticks of Mind Flay. 240 divided by 3 is 80 so it is assumed that I cast the spell Mind Flay 80 times, not 240 times.

Mind Sear ticks 5 times – once per second – in one 5 second channeled cast. So in the Sindragosa table 56 hits with Mind Sear + 53 crits with Mind Sear = 109 ticks of Mind Sear. 109 divided by 5 is 21.8 so it is assumed that I cast the spell 22 times, not 109 times. I should also point out that I only cast Mind Sear during the second and third air phase and not at all during the first. I was one of the trapped players in the first air phase. If I had not been trapped I would have cast more than 40 Mind Sears during the fight which might have led to a different conclusion.

Devouring Plague and Improved Devouring Plague Improved Devouring Plague is an effect that occurs when Devouring Plague is cast and instantly deals some damage. It is a side effect of casting the spell Devouring Plague, not a spell you can cast with a mana cost associated. However, as this effect occurs just once at the start of each cast of Devouring Plague I used the Improved Devouring Plague count to count how many times Devouring Plague was cast.

Vampiric Touch Vampiric Touch is a damage over time spell. It deals damage every 3 seconds over 15 seconds per cast – 5 ticks for 1 cast. The number of hits and crits are added together and then divided by 5. Remainders are rounded up in case the spell has been reapplied too early or it did not tick out when combat ended.

Shadow Word: Pain In both the Festergut and Sindragosa examples Shadow Word: Pain was counted manually from the World of Logs timeline showing damage done by this spell. As Shadow Word: Pain can be refreshed indefinitely there is no clear cut method to calculate when it was cast based on the amount of times it ticked or dealt damage.

The Tedious Spells Cast x Spell Cost Calculations

This is the full table that I used to multiply all the spell costs by the number of times each spell was cast.

0/3 Focused Mind 3/3 Focused Mind
Spell # Cast Spell Cost Mana Cost Spell Cost Mana Cost
Single Target


DP 15 966 14490 966 14490
MB 24 657 15768 558 13392
MF 80 348 27840 296 23680
SWD 2 464 928 464 928
SWP 2 850 1700 850 1700
VT 22 618 13596 618 13596
Total 74322 Total 67786
Multi Target

(Professor Putricide)

DP 13 966 12558 966 12558
MB 36 657 23652 558 20088
MF 111 348 38628 296 32856
SWD 6 464 2784 464 2784
SWP 17 850 14450 850 14450
VT 46 618 28428 618 28428
Total 120500 Total 111164
Mind Sear


DP 23 966 22218 966 22218
MB 28 657 18396 558 15624
MF 79 348 27492 296 23384
MS 22 1082 23804 919 20218
SWD 5 464 2320 464 2320
SWP 19 850 16150 850 16150
VT 33 618 20394 618 20394
Total 130774 Total 120308

4 Responses to “A Focused Mind”

  1. JaediaNo Gravatar says

    Interesting analysis! I haven’t played my Shadow Priest in months, and theorycrafting usually glazes over my head (so much maths!) but this gave me a few things to bear in mind.
    .-= Jaedia’s last blog: Some Things… =-.

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I wanted to discover something groundbreaking: like that 1 point in Meditation is really all you need and 3/3 Focused Mind is WAY better… unfortunately everything pretty much turned out to be equally good. LOL. Ah well, most use I’ve gotten out of World of Logs data :)

      • ShivaNo Gravatar says

        Have you considered on fights with adds you can/may get full Spirit Tap which would increase the usefulness of Meditation?

  2. NatarumahNo Gravatar says

    Meditation’s a steady trickle of mana, it’s a priest’s paycheck. Focused Mind is the discount at walmart. At a certain point, you will find that if you buy enough stuff at walmart, their discount would be more valuable than an increase in your paycheck.

    For most people, a paycheck increase is better. For us, at our current gear levels, it makes little difference.

    Who knows, once we’re draped in iLevel 277 epics and run the math again, we might find that we prefer the five-finger discount instead. Either way, it’s a good way to practice different playstyles, and perhaps even prepare for Cataclysm.


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