HoTs and DoTs: A Restoration Druid and Shadow Priest

Shadow Priest Design: Never Broken

The Shadow Priest concept remains strong and sound. But we still need attention.

I started writing a very long comment in reply to Natarumah’s very interesting analysis on the Priest Class Q&A and Expectations for Shadowpriest design in 5.0.

My point of view is a little different. I agree that a lot of creative thought at Blizzard seems to be placed on the healing aspect of Priest-ing. And there are many wasted opportunities for Shadow Priest game play improvement and design. As I spend most of my time soloing content and doing dailies, with the occasional 10 man raid thrown in – I do, occasionally, get to participate in my guild’s “alt” runs – I see our spell and talent abilities differently than players who only raid or PVP with their Shadow Priests.

Natarumah makes many excellent points about the current problems a Shadow Priest is likely to experience while raiding. And he has many creative ideas on how the class could be re-imagined and further developed. Please do read his well rounded post. And then come back and try and understand my impressions and haphazard observations.

First and foremost I do think that a big reason that developers don’t try and “fix” Shadow Priest game play is simple numbers. People still play Shadow Priests. Many players choose to play Priests. DPS Priests and Warriors never seem to fall out of favour with the player base. Numbers indicate that there is no problem with Shadow Priest-ing. So why change it?

If it ain’t broke…

Every single 10 man raid that I’ve done this expansion (and I think, at most, that’s about 10 or 15 raids) I’ve been one of several Priests. And often not the only Shadow Priest. Priests, in general, seem to be abundant.

I do believe that a lot of design focus is driven by numbers right now. Blizzard are likely worried about getting a certain percentage of players into the normal modes of their next raid zone. They’re worried about getting a percentage of players through the hard mode of their next raid zone. They’re worried about losing subscribers. They’re trying to meet KPIs.

When almost all the Rogues in Azeroth put down their swords (or daggers if you like) and choose to play as a different damage dealing class the developers notice. I still remember the scarcity of Rogues at the start of Wrath of the Lich King and Blizzard responded by revamping the Subtlety talent tree and put the OP feeling back into Rogue game play. (Sure, it was nerfed with the next major content patch but for weeks you’d run into Rogues boasting about their Honor Among Thieves combo points or crits or whatnot). Even though they didn’t receive a straight up boost to their damage output, they received some talent revisions that made players feel powerful once again.

Shadow Priests and DPS Warriors usually see a different scenario: a patch is released, a spell is fine tuned or new content is available, and suddenly one of our abilities becomes noticeably glitched. And if it glitches in a way that we can exploit, or results in us topping the damage charts, heads and shoulders above Mages (or Rogues), we’re quickly brought back into line.

But I wouldn’t still be playing my Shadow Priest if they didn’t still work. I’m not talking about damage output numbers. Something about the spells, the abilities, the utility buffs we provide, something… still feels very, very right. The Shadow Priest isn’t showy. But many of the Shadow Priests that I’ve played with – often players who have only recently picked up the class/spec – very nearly slip into role playing without much prompting from me. Pretty uncommon to find on a PVP server.

I’m convinced that Shadow Priests really inhabit their avatars. They are their character. Manipulators of the mind. The ones who rejected the healing side of our nature. The black sheep.

Or perhaps only a Hunter would recognise another Hunter as deeply immersed in the class as they themselves are. Who knows?

Mind Spike

The one place where I have to disagree with Natarumah is on the topic of Mind Spike.

I adore Mind Spike. I rarely use it during raiding, sure, but it’s my go to spell for dailies and solo content. I don’t think that I used Mind Spike very much during leveling but now that I have gotten used to it… it’s perfect for taking down a level 85 mob. The Mind Spike x 3 + Mind Blast + SW:D combination will take down 9 out of 10 mobs. Most will go down before reaching for SW:D if you get a critical strike. It’s fast, and you take little damage simply because you can bring down your foe often before they even reach you.

I really like it. Even though I picked up Cataclysm to see my Priest sprout wings and to save the day with Leap of Faith… I am more impressed with Mind Spike than either of those other new-with-Cataclysm abilities.

Juggling DoTs… and Buffs

Unfortunately I’m not particularly impressed with the implementation of Evangelism and Empowering Shadows. I don’t think Evangelism (eventually consumed by Archangel) is particularly intuitive to understand. I don’t understand it. Frankly I think I need to consult some external game resources to understand how to use Evangelism and Archangel to best effect. Playing the game itself doesn’t really teach me enough.

I should feel powerful when I cast Archangel, but I don’t. I actually feel that it throws all my carefully juggled buffs out of whack. And I spend the duration of Archangel trying to get all my buffs back up and running instead of simply kicking ass.

Frankly I think I spend way too much time watching my stacks of Empowering Shadows and Shadow Orbs when I’m in combat. I can’t imagine playing with the default UI and staring at the rows of buff icons.

Managing your Shadow Orbs is too random and uncontrolled. I have come close on many occasions to announcing out loud on vent “Can we pull in the next 5 seconds? I’ve got an Orb right now! I can’t afford to waste it!” and I’ve also come close to complaining verbally at the – far too frequent – occurances of terrible bad luck when the constant tick of a single Shadow Word: Pain and the constant casting of Mind Flay doesn’t produce one single Shadow Orb for the entire 15 second duration of Empowered Shadows.

I may have held my tongue so far but I can promise you that my internal monologue goes something like this “okay… just a few more seconds before Empowering Shadows drops off… been a long time since I cast Mind Blast… how is it I still don’t have an Orb? I need an Orb! What another Mind Flay that generated no Orbs?! I need an Orb! What? Is that the 5th or 6th Mind Flay that didn’t generate…” while I watch Empowered Shadows drop off. Terrible RNG happens much more than it should in regards to Shadow Orbs.

The slow build up of our damage dealing is worse in Cataclysm than ever before. I thought the intention with Cataclysm was to reduce the Shadow Priest damage ramp up time by removing Shadow Weaving. But I’d take Shadow Weaving back over what we have now. Shadow Weaving stacks could be built up immediately and with predictability as you launched into a fight. And unless there was an extremely lengthy phase change with no combat you could easily build up Shadow Weaving and then mostly forget about it.

And just focus on DoT uptime instead.

Class balance

I’m not sure what to make of the plans for 5.0. I still think we have some awesome things going for us as a damage dealers especially compared to our cloth-wearing cousins: Mages and Warlocks.

Our DPS seems to be on par. That is no small thing and not to be dismissed.

Mind Sear is freaking awesome in my opinion. I adore that we can now cast off a tank or friendly target. In fact I wish more of our abilities could be thrown on a friendly target. I’d love to have Psychic Scream fear 3-5 mobs in a 8 yard radius around a tank, or a healer.

Our crowd control isn’t good enough for a damage dealer and I still feel that I drag down a 5 man group in that regard. We can reduce damage (Scream) and occasionally interrupt one mob (Horror) but we can’t tie up a mob indefinitely unless we resort to Mind Control which is clunky and disorienting and is usually a DPS loss. It also makes your own avatar very vulnerable and no matter how well you plan your MC there’s going to be a chance that another enemy mob will charge your avatar, launch an AoE attack in the general vicinity of your avatar or otherwise lay a fire at your feet that will put you in a difficult decision: break MC and potentially unleash that mob on your healer or yourself, or wait and see if your avatar can survive the “bad” that you’re unable to move away from.

Mind Control is going to need some serious improvements to turn it into a workable method of CC. And even then I can’t imagine it being anything other than slightly awkward.

I do feel that in raids I am more resilient (so to speak) than Warlocks and Mages. The immunity to damage granted by Dispersion means that you can live through almost anything other than a boss beating on you without cease. Vampiric Embrace seems to keep my health bar somewhat stable. Levitate shouldn’t be forgotten either.

Leap of Faith and Missed Opportunities

I do feel that Evangelism + Archangel were designed for healing Priests and – in its dark from – is mostly confusing as a Shadow Priest. It’s an opportunity to feel powerful and it totally misses the mark. It could be an on demand (ok, there is some prep work required) I Win/Burn Phase button.

Leap of Faith removes Shadowform and I can’t agree more with Natarumah on this one: it’s a lost opportunity to approach this as a healing utility spell that only a healing Priest would/should use. Why can’t a damage dealer be raid aware enough to pull a friend out of danger? I think Leap of Faith could save a life if Shadow Priests weren’t actively discouraged against using it in the same way we are discouraged to drop Shadowform and heal.

“Leap of Faith will continue to have a facing requirement because healers should not just be staring at health bars but should also be paying attention to the raid environment.”

I’m not sure if Blizzard are stereotyping Shadow Priests and damage dealers as being selfish, damage meter hogging whores or if Blizzard are slighting healers for not being more aware of their surroundings. I think all Priests might have been insulted with that reply in the Q&A.

***

What do you think?

Do you feel the same way about your Shadow Priest? That, deep-down, we just work as a concept and a spec? Do you feel we have been largely forgotten while the focus has stayed on Discipline and Holy Priest-ing?

8 Responses to “Shadow Priest Design: Never Broken”

  1. NatarumahNo Gravatar says

    I concede the point regarding Mind Spike – its usage in doing dailies (MSx3, MB, SW:Death) is very powerful, and this is how it’s used in PvP as well. Gear levels have skyrocketed to the point where multi-dotting and running circles may come in vogue again as well. ^_^

    One of the things I am worried about is that priests are, indeed, typified as healers. The other day I had a personal encounter with this, as some misguided person chided me for being a Shadowpriest and hogging DPS gear. While his acrid fumes were most likely triggered by a particular staff I had equipped at the time, it did get me thinking.

    Such pidgeonholing is effectively encouraged by almost everything in the game. Shadowpriests use healing gear to DPS mostly because Blizzard wanted healing priests to be able to off-DPS more easily. Not a word about turning our Hit rating into healing stats, there.

    And as I said before, it’s reflected in the new talent trees as well. We have to pick between half-chewed utility spells we likely can’t use without dropping Shadowform, healing (which we are unlikely to do), or even more self-damage mitigation. In reverse, healing priests get a few nice Shadowy goodies for free.

    Best example of the latter: Vampiric Dominance.
    Shadowpriest: I hurt my enemies, so I heal my allies with it.
    Healer: I heal my allies, so I heal my allies with it. (what?!) Oh and it also works when I smite.

    But fortunately, we are more of our own “style of priests” then when we were the PvP talent tree tacked onto the Holy priest.
    Natarumah’s last post: Expectations for Shadowpriest design in 5.0

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I agree – I think they’re very keen to attract players to healing in general. I think a few hybrids are seeing that the next iteration of talent trees also give more options for healers and seem less interesting for damage dealers.

  2. FertZaneNo Gravatar says

    I am reserving judgment till I see a list of class and spec spells. Until then you just have the pencil sketch of the picture they are painting. They could give us all the good stuff base and want to make us choose our utility and extra healing goodies in the talents.

    Will be nice when healing heroics.

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