HoTs and DoTs: A Restoration Druid and Shadow Priest

Mastering the Shadow Priest
Before 85: DoTs and Haste

3 Dots Cassandri at Training Dummy

3 DoTs. Couldn't be easier, right?

Dusknoir, who has been playing his Shadow Priest to level 85, has given me lots of food for thought in his latest post. Frankly, since the game was patched with our Cataclysm talent trees and mastery I’ve been trying to play my Shadow Priest at level 80 the way that I’ve played her during Wrath of the Lich King.

Well it’s time to come to grips with the Cataclysm Shadow Priest play style. And we have nearly all the tools and time at our disposal to perfect our spell casting while we level up.

In Part 2 I’m going to help you (and me) come to grips with our Mastery: Shadow Orbs and Mind Blast. In this post I’m going to try and break you of six years of conditioning and teach you to recast your damage over time spells early.

If, like me, you’re a NW (Non Warlock) I strongly suggest that you head over to Cynwise’s blog and read his post about Warlock DoTs in Cataclysm. There are lots of diagrams, I promise. I’m going to just look at how the new Damage over Time approach applies to our Shadow Priest spells: Vampiric Touch, Shadow Word: Pain and Devouring Plague.

I’m going to try and give you diagrams too.

Breaking the Habit

Prior to the release of Cataclysm Shadow Priests strived for 100% DoT uptime. That hasn’t changed. We want our DoTs to be up on the target all the time, reapplying our DoT the moment it runs out.

Old model: Reapply too early and you will overwrite and “clip” your previous application of the DoT, wasting a damage tick and wasting your casting time (when you could have been casting something else) and wasting your mana. Inevitably there would be tiny gaps of time in between applications. Frankly, I was usually pretty happy to get to about a 95% DoT uptime.

New model: Blizzard have been kind to DoT casters and Shadow Priests. Now, in the same manner that you can queue up your next spell while still casting your current spell, you can queue up your next application of a DoT.

If, for example, your Devouring Plague spell has just 1 more tick of damage to dole out before expiring, a new application of Devouring Plague will allow the first application and its last tick to play through before starting in on the new duration. It won’t clip your last tick.

100 percent DoT Uptime

Recasting a little bit early will give you 100% DoT Uptime

Theoretically this allows for 100% DoT uptime. And, as aspiring master Shadow Priests, we should work very, very hard to play just that precisely.

Aim: Cast after the 2nd last tick but before the last tick and before your DoT expires.

Recast too early – before the 2nd last tick – and you will clip off the end of your first DoT application. Recast too late – after the last tick – and you will delay the first tick of your second application and lose DPS.

So the next question you should probably ask is, if the last tick occurs right as my DoT expires with 0 seconds remaining, when does my 2nd last tick occur? How do I know when I have entered the ideal recast window of opportunity?

Ticks, Haste and the Countdown

If you love ForteXorcist as much as I do, you can easily configure your Spell Timer to display the tick intervals on your DoTs. In fact, the diagram above was retooled from a screen capture taken with ForteXorcist monitoring my Devouring Plague applications.

At level 85 Haste will not effect the duration of our DoT spells. They will remain constant regardless of the amount of Haste Rating you equip on your gear. Instead Haste Rating will increase the number of times damage is dealt during your DoT, and, in the case of Vampiric Touch, Haste Rating should decrease the time it takes to cast the spell.

Devouring Plague ticks at different Haste amounts

Devouring Plague ticks at different Haste amounts

If we take the example above, let’s look at it again with 5% Haste (any high level Shadow Priest in Shadowform would benefit from their own Mind Quickening buff), and with a significant amount of Haste Rating from gear (in my Tier 10 gear set).

You can see that with more Haste the recast window of time shrinks as damage is inflicted more frequently in the same period (24 seconds for Devouring Plague). This is the challenge of the well geared Shadow Priest: adapting and becoming more precise.

Devouring Plague

In the example above Devouring Plague deals damage 9 times over the course of 24 seconds. There is a 3 second gap between each tick (8 intervals between 9 ticks). In the Hasted example above Devouring Plague deals damage 12 times over the course of 24 seconds. There is a 2.18 second gap between each tick (11 intervals between 12 ticks).

Devouring Plague with and without haste in seconds

When to recast Devouring Plague

I use ForteXorcist’s countdown timer on my Spell Timer bars. This means that I can see the time (in seconds and tenths of a second) still remaining on my Devouring Plague. So the number to keep in my mind when wearing my current gear is 2.1 seconds. If I see my Devouring Plague with less than 2 seconds remaining I should recast Devouring Plague on that target.

What makes Devouring Plague unusual is the restriction that dictates only one target can be afflicted by your Devouring Plague disease at a time.

If you cast Devouring Plague on one target, and then only a few seconds later cast Devouring Plague on a second target the first DoT immediately drops off. That said, I think it wise to only recast Devouring Plague early (just before that last tick) if you intend to remain on the same target. If you wish to dot up a different target with Devouring Plague I think it best to let your current Devouring Plague run its full duration and expire entirely before you recast.

Shadow Word: Pain

Shadow Word: Pain lasts 18 seconds. With no additional Haste from gear it deals damage 6 times over the course of 18 seconds. There is a 3.6 second gap between each tick (5 intervals between 6 ticks). With 39% Haste Shadow Word: Pain deals damage 9 times over the course of 18 seconds. There is a 2.25 second gap between each tick (8 intervals between 9 ticks).

Unlike Devouring Plague we don’t (or shouldn’t) need to recast Shadow Word: Pain to keep it active on our target. Instead we cast Mind Flay on our Shadow Word: Pain afflicted enemies to reset Shadow Word: Pain.

Talented we have only a 60% chance to refresh Shadow Word: Pain with 1 Mind Flay. If you’re DPSing on just one target this is fine: you’ll Mind Flay your target many, many times within 18 seconds. If you’re focusing on another target and only swapping back to a mob in order to refresh SW:P that 60% chance makes things much harder to predict. I know that in the last few weeks I’ve had many a SW:P DoT expire because Pain and Suffering hasn’t worked.

I think a more sensible approach would be to anticipate that you will need to cast two Mind Flays in succession to guarantee (or near abouts) a refresh of Shadow Word: Pain.

Shadow Word Pain with and without haste

When to refresh Shadow Word: Pain with Mind Flay

Theoretically it is possible to start up two Mind Flays inside that optimum window before the second last tick. Honestly, I don’t think this is going to work well in the actual game – especially once you take lag into consideration! Clipping a tick or two of Shadow Word: Pain isn’t a huge DPS loss or waste of resources: after all, casting Mind Flay is a nice chunk of our damage on its own.

I think I will be target switching back to my Shadow Word: Pain targets once SW:P has about 4 seconds remaining and lining up two Mind Flays in quick succession. Only once I’m sure that Shadow Word: Pain has been refreshed will I switch back off.

Vampiric Touch

Vampiric Touch is our only DoT that has a cast time to reapply. We need to take that into consideration and start casting just that bit earlier again. Naked with 5% Haste, Vampiric Touch deals damage 5 times over the course of 15 seconds. There is a 3.75 second gap between each tick (4 intervals between 5 ticks). In the 39% Haste example above VT deals damage 7 times over the course of 15 seconds. There is a 2.5 second gap between each tick (6 intervals between 7 ticks).

Vampiric Touch With Haste

When to recast Vampiric Touch

If we factor in the time it takes to cast Vampiric Touch (1.39 seconds at 5% Haste, 1.04 seconds at 39% Haste) the point at which we can recast Vampiric Touch is actually quite early. With 3.5 seconds still remaining on my first Vampiric Touch in my current gear I can start casting the second one safely.

A Discovery: The start of your DoT is padded

ForteXorcist tends to morph the positioning of ticks on its Spell Timer bar in the second or two after you apply a DoT. I assume that it calculates the positioning of each tick given your current amount of Haste immediately after you cast.

This led me to question how accurate the display was. I assumed that a DoT would tick immediately on application and then always tick as it expires. With this assumption my Spell Timer bar mislead me and I often counted 1 additional tick that, according to Recount, didn’t exist.

I went back to basics. I applied one DoT, just one spell, and actually counted the number of times WoW popped up a damage number. I soon realised that most DoTs, in fact, do not tick immediately after application. But they do always tick just as they expire. I believe this is the new way that Blizzard have approached their Haste calculations.

For example, at 5% Haste you get 5 ticks out of Vampiric Touch. Now imagine that at 6% Haste you tip over into the next bracket in which you get 1 more tick in the same duration.

Haste steps and Vampiric Touch

Being just under a Haste tipping point (eg 5%) sucks

In the first example there’s a good second or two of wasted time before your spell even starts to do damage.

This leads me to believe that however Blizzard have spaced out ticks across the static time duration of a DoT, they’re doing some rounding to keep the intervals to say, half second possibilities instead of tenths or hundredths of a second. Perhaps it’s possible to have DoTs tick at:

5 seconds, 5.5 seconds, 6 seconds, 6.5 seconds = interval of half a second

but not possible to have them tick at:

5 seconds, 5.95 seconds, 6.9 seconds, 7.85 seconds = interval of .95 seconds

The Haste Sweet Spots

In this article I’ve compared Haste at 5% vs Haste at 39%. Is it likely that Shadow Priests will be raiding with a 39% Haste at level 85? Eventually, yes, I think so. I haven’t done any investigating of gear for max level Cataclysm Shadow Priests just yet but with each new maximum level cap the amount of Haste Rating needed to provide 1% of Haste increases quite a bit. This means that once I reach level 85 I might need double the Haste Rating that I have now to get even close to 39% Haste.

It looks like early calculations are saying that 128 Haste Rating at level 85 is an increase of 1% of Haste.

Extra Haste Rating might not result in a steady, gradual improvement to your DPS. If you knew that equipping just 1 more point of Haste Rating would give your DoTs and additional tick (instead of a bunch of padding/wasted time) – you would do it whatever it took to get that 1 point. Reforge, re-gem, whatever!

However I think it’s safe to say that each of our three DoTs (Shadow Word: Pain, Vampiric Touch and Devouring Plague) are likely to gain extra ticks at different Haste points. After all, each has a different duration.


Amounts of Haste that will give you an extra tick of damage

This means that even if one of your DoTs isn’t quite getting that extra free tick at your current Haste Rating, perhaps one of your other DoTs is. And the steps between Haste “sweet spots” probably isn’t as big as you’d expect.


The three DoTs gain additional ticks as you increase Haste

And if you’d still like to know precisely when Haste will give you an extra DoT tick here are the tables from Nysem posted on Elitist Jerks:

Vampiric Touch Devouring Plague Shadow Word: Pain
Ticks Haste % Ticks Haste % Ticks Haste %
5 0 8 0 6 0
6 10% 9 6.25% 7 8.33%
7 30% 10 18.75% 8 25%
8 50% 11 31.25% 9 41.66%
9 70% 12 43.75% 10 58.33%
13 56.25%


Worry about Haste, but don’t worry too much about it! Every point is likely to help one of your three DoTs… and if nothing else, your Mind Flays will be faster.

8 Responses to “Mastering the Shadow Priest
Before 85: DoTs and Haste”

  1. CynwiseNo Gravatar says

    I’m really glad you’re looking at the Shadow Priest DoTs, Cass. It’s interesting how ForteXorcist spaces out the ticks, but how they aren’t entirely accurate. The default UI is also not accurate – the tooltip of the DoT reports the interval incorrectly, based on your current Haste levels instead of the cast time Haste (which determines the haste for the duration of the DoT).

    The only way to really be sure about intervals and ticking is to watch the combat log, which is a total hassle. I found it helpful to just look at the timing and figure that I should refresh any dot at < 2 seconds as a rule of thumb. (My Haste just ain't that high.)

    Are there any Shadow Priest abilities that base their damage upon a different DoT, like Conflagrate?
    Cynwise’s last post: Patience

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      No, our DoTs are tied to our direct damage casts (Shadow Word: Pain ups the damage of our Mind Flay and releasing our Mastery with a Mind Blast boosts our DoT damage) but no one DoT improves the damage of another.

      At least, I don’t think they’ve added that in Cataclysm! There are a few mistakes with the article – things that have changed with Cataclysm that I missed – which just prove that there is a lot still to learn. My baseline 5% Haste naked isn’t really 5% at all: we also have talents which boost our Haste % beyond the 5% from Shadowform/Mind Quickening.

      We also don’t have any DoTs that get more powerful as they tick through – like Curse of Agony (Bane of Agony now?) or even Living Bomb.

      • SwivelhipsNo Gravatar says

        In reference to
        “Are there any Shadow Priest abilities that base their damage upon a different DoT, like Conflagrate?”

        Yes, works in a slightly different way, but you will see an increase in Improved Devouring Plague damage as you gain haste. This can be easily seen on a fight where you gain a substantial haste buff such as Sinestra.

  2. DharmabhumNo Gravatar says

    Awesome post! Very clearly laid out and explained, and the illustrations only make it easier to intuit what you’re saying. Bookmarked!

  3. MandNo Gravatar says

    So, provided that the Elitist Jerks post on what percentages guarantee an additional tick on our respective DoT”s, couldn’t we assume a soft haste cap of ~32%, since striving for any of the next haste “sweet spots”, the lowest one at ~42%, seems if not impossible really implausible? We still have crit and now mastery to try to get the most out of, and unless itemization is extremely kind to us – placing dps stats on gear with spirit – also hit rating. Mind Flay may continue to benefit from additional haste, however, ALL of our spells will benefit from stacking up more crit including MB, MS, and SW:D all of which could really be said don’t benefit immensely from haste, especially SW:D which doesn’t benefit at all. Our DoT spells would also benefit more from mastery rating after this point providing we’re striving for as close to 100% uptime on empowered shadow as possible. So, even assuming we could get to 39% haste, would that really be beneficial?

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I don’t think it’s as easy as saying getting Haste to 39% (or some other percent) is more important than stacking any other stat. As you pointed out we still benefit very nicely from Critical Strike and we can’t afford to ignore Spirit either (for our hit chance).

      And Mastery is another puzzle altogether.

      It’s going to be about finding that balance – which is good because the game of itemisation is much more fun when it’s not an easy answer! – between our stats. Hopefully this post will help you ensure you’re not just 1 Haste Rating away from getting another free tick, though.

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