Shadow Priest FAQ

September 25, 2009 at 4:23 pm (5 mans, Devouring Plague, FAQ, Gearing, Glyphs, Grouping, Mind Flay, Naxxramas, Raiding, Shadow FAQ, Shadow Word: Death, Shadow Word: Pain, Shadowform, Stats, Talents, Trial of the Champion, Ulduar, Vampiric Touch)

A list of common questions people look for when they first start. This isn’t really high end discussion and some things are glossed over. Furthermore, I rarely raid as shadow anymore so much of this comes from (I hope) thorough research. Big thank you to the sites out there like and the various shadow blogs (Shadowaffinity) for their great information.

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All rights belong to *Genzoman Deviant Art.

What’s the spec to use?

The standard PvE spec is this:

The two points in Veiled Shadows are optional and could be moved to Improved Vampiric Embrace. However the reduced cooldown on Shadow Fiend is a nice mana boost and adds a small DPS burst in certain situations.

For PvP your spec would look something like:

How much Spell Hit and Spell Penetration do I need?

For PvE:

  • Spell Hit:

    To have a 100% chance to hit you need 17%.

    You get 3% from Misery, 3% from Shadow Focus.

    So you need 11% from gear. If there is a Dranei in your raid you only need 10% because of their Racial Ability.

    26.23 hit rating = 1% hit.

    So with no Dranei you need 289 hit rating. With a Dranei you only need 263 hit rating.

  • Don’t take any Spell Penetration

For PvP:

  • Spell hit required: The cap is 4% against players of your level. However it depends on the talents of the target. For example, Paladins get a 30% resistance to having their spells dispelled so you could benefit from extra hit against these targets although it’s certainly not worth getting 30% more hit to work around this talent.

  • Spell Penetration reduces the targets spell resistance by 1 point. Around 100 is easy enough to get and should serve in most fights to remove much of a Paladin or Priests resistance against your Shadow spells. While more than this can be of benefit, Spell Penetration is a wasted stat against targets with no Spell Resistance and so it’s not always wise to get too much Spell Penetration.

DPS values for Stats

Gear is very complicated at the moment and when you pick up a new piece of gear with different stats it can be hard to work out whether it’s a real upgrade. Using a lot of maths which people have done you can work out a value to give to each piece of gear to decide which will give you the most DPS. You can use an Add-on like Pawn and put these values in and it will help you quickly work out which is best by printing a value on the tooltip.


Values change slightly depending on your current gear level and set bonuses.

But roughly speaking:

Tier 7:

Intellect: 0.22
Spirit: 0.34
Spell Power: 1
Hit: 1.46
Crit: 0.71
Haste: 0.65

Tier 8:

Intellect: 0.22
Spirit: 0.34
Spell Power: 1
Hit: 1.51
Crit: 0.71
Haste: 0.62

Tier 9:

Intellect: 0.23
Spirit: 0.34
Spell Power: 1
Hit: 1.55
Crit: 0.75
Haste: 0.63

How much Haste Rating should I get?

Thanks to:

Haste does a few things for you. It decreases your global cooldown and increases your casting speed. The Shadow Priest rotation is rather restrictive. Haste helps you cast faster but Mind Blast still has a cooldown, Shadow Word: Pain, Vampiric Touch and Devouring Plague still last the same amount of time, and Haste doesn’t affect these except for slightly increase how quickly you can apply them.

The benefit of Haste is that it reduces your global cooldown so you can cast your spells faster and this lets you squeeze more Mind Flays into your rotation between your other spells. Mind Blast, fully talented, has a 5.5 second cooldown which lets you cast one full Mind Flay and 2 ticks of a second in this time. To increase your DPS you are interested in fitting extra Mind Flay ticks into this cooldown. The following gives you an idea of how much haste you need to fit extra ticks in:

Mind Flay Ticks Haste Required Haste Rating
6 8.5% 274 HR
7 22% 703 HR
8 31.5% 1025 HR
9 39% 1276 HR

This is for perfect conditions. Because of latency and your reflex time, more haste than this is needed in practice.

When can I start doing Heroics/Naxx/Ulduar/Trial of the Champion?

This will obviously change depending on the rest of the raid group. Sartharion 25 man can be done relatively easily with 7 or 8 well geared players. So if you were in a raid with 24 well geared players your DPS wouldn’t matter. The amounts I’m giving are rough guesses from my experience as a raid leader assuming you are beginning raiding with similarly geared players.

Heroics: 2k DPS

Naxxramas: 2k DPS ten man , 2.5k Heroic DPS (remembering you need 17% hit)

Ulduar: 3k DPS 10-man, 3.5k DPS 25-man. For the Keepers, 3.5k DPS 10-man. 4K DPS 25-man

Trial of the Crusader: 3.5k DPS 10-man. 4k DPS 25-man

What is my Rotation?

Thanks to:

  • Single target DPS –

Shadow Priests don’t have a rotation they follow, rather they have a priority system. You cast whatever spell is top of the priority list and not on cooldown/already applied.

The only time this is not true is when the fight first starts. For the opening the key is to stack Shadow Weaving nice and quickly so you can get SW:P on the target with the Shadow Weaving benefits. Once your opener is complete you follow your priority list

Opener: Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague, Mind Blast, Mind Flay, Shadow Word: Pain Shadow Word: Death, Mind Blast.

Priority: 1. MB 2. VT 3. DP 4. MF

  • Two to three targets

    For 2 or 3 mobs the ideal rotation is to DoT them all up whilst casting Mind Blast whenever it’s ready. This means Devouring Plague, Vampiric Touch, Shadow Word: Pain on the main target. Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain on the other 1-2 targets. Use Mind Blast whenever you can.

    Make sure none of the DoTs fall off the other targets by refreshing SW:P with Mind Flays and by recasting Vampiric Touch just as it ends. If you are having difficulty maintaining DoTs on all three targets, without missing refreshes or Mind Blasts, then you are better off doing single target DPS on just one target.

  • Four targets or more

    For four or more targets just use Mind Sear alone without DoTs. Mind Sear at this point is doing more damage than DoTs or Mind Blasts would.

  • Heroism/Bloodlust uptime

    I used to wonder whether when I had Bloodlust it was worth solely casting Mind Flays. It is not. When Bloodlust is up you are able to fit extra Mind Flay ticks in between your Mind Blast cooldowns. However your overall priority remains pretty much the same.

When should I manually re-cast SW:P and when should I just let it be refreshed by Mind Flay?

Pain and Suffering is a talent towards the bottom of the Shadow Tree which makes Mind Flay refresh the duration on your Shadow Word: Pain. Refreshing Shadow Word: Pain is not the same as recasting it.

Refreshing Shadow Word: Pain via Mind Flay won’t apply certain effects, but will apply others.

It will take account of:

  • Changes to your spell power.
  • Buffs or Debuffs on the target which increase the amount of damage they receive. (Things like Curse of Elements, or Mimiron’s Magnetic Field)
  • Improvements to your crit damage. Things like Hodir’s Storm Cloud.

It won’t take account of:

  • Changes (increases or decreases) to your crit chance.
  • Changes to your % spell Damage. (things like Shadow Weaving, Shadowform)
  • Debuffs on the target which which improve your crit chance against them. Things like Improved Scorch.

This means you will need to recast SW:P manually to cause it to benefit from certain effects. But there are advantages too. If you gain a temporary buff, apply SW:P manually, and then simply continue to refresh SW:P throughout the fight and not recast it, your SW:P will continue to benefit from that buff, even long after the buff has faded from you. Things like Potion of Wild Magic for example will let you gain the extra crit on your SW:P for an entire fight.

Should I cast Inner Focus with Vampiric Touch/Shadow Word: Pain/Devouring Plague?

No, Inner Focus will not increase the crit chance of these DoTs (except for the initial damage from Devouring Plague). Use Inner Focus on, ideally, Mind Sear, but otherwise Mind Blast.

What should I cast while questing?

This will depend a lot on your level obviously. When you are level 80, with good gear, your best way to kill mobs while questing is to apply DoTs to multiple mobs. For example, I do quests by applying SW:P and Vampiric Touch to mobs one after the other as they die extremely quickly without me having to re-target them. The only time I would not do this is for mobs which heal themselves, or mobs which stun or interrupt me.

At lower levels, or lower gear levels where mobs don’t die to two DoTs, things are different. Mind Flay is your most mana efficient spell if you aren’t getting interrupted. However if you are having to cast shields on yourself to avoid interruption it’s less efficient because the shields are expensive. Don’t use DoTs on the target unless they are lasting for most of their duration. Applying three DoTs and then killing the mob 5 seconds later is extremely mana inefficient. You are better off applying only one or two DoTs, killing the mob slightly more slowly but saving mana.

What should I cast during short trash fights

This depends on just how long the mob will survive is. Mind Blast is always your best DPS spell and should be your first priority cast.

Once Mind Blast is on cooldown you either cast Shadow Word: Pain, Mind Flay or a DoT depending on how long the mobs will last. If the DoT takes 1.5 seconds to cast then it must do more damage during the fight than 1.5 ticks of Mind Flay would have given.

As for your DoTs: given you will cast MB first, and again every 5.5 seconds after that the target must last at least 6-8 seconds to be worth casting Vampiric Touch. To be worth casting another (probably Devouring Plague) you want the target to survive 8-10 seconds. To be worth a third DoT the target should last 10-12 seconds. This may mean you are better applying DoTs to the second target rather than the primary kill target to allow yourself time to do damage if the targets are dying quickly.

Always squeeze Shadow Word: Death in just as the mob is about to die.

What Glyphs should I take?

Glyph of Mind Flay, Glyph of Shadow, and Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain

If you have any questions, suggestions, correction, or updates to fit with new patches, I’d be very happy to hear them.



  1. BobTurkey said,

    Nice summary.

  2. Bothavia said,

    I have a quest about refreshing shadow word: pain. If swp refreshes with every tick why do i have to wait for shadow weaving to be fully up before i can recast it?

  3. SpotHeal said,

    Sorry I wasn’t terribly clear on that.

    Every time SW:P refreshes it will check how much spell power you have and do more or less damage accordingly. So if you cast it, then use a trinket to boost your spell power, then you refresh SW:P it will check, see that your spell power has gone up, and start ticking for more damage.

    However with other effects, like Shadow Weaving, SW:P will only check for them when you originally cast it, not when you refresh it. So for those effects you should cast SW:P only after you have those effects (or at least re-cast it once manually once you have 5 stacks).
    This has it’s good sides too. If you get a buff to increase your Shadow Damage, cast SW:P and then lose the buff, your SW:P will still benefit from that buff so long as you keep refreshing it.

    Make more sense?

    • SpotHeal said,

      And I’ve rewritten that section to try to be much clearer.

  4. Hulan said,

    I really liked your guide but I’d question whether 2k dps is necessary to run heroics or Naxx. Personally I think that if you’re pulling 2k dps you outgear the instance. I am in a small casual guild and we started running naxx with around 1.5k dps and got along fine.

  5. SpotHeal said,

    Ah good information. I have to admit it’s been a while since I did Nax at the gear level. My feeling is that some bosses are much easier than others. With Thaddius or Kel’Thuzad the higher DPS is probably important, in a fight like Gluth it’s more about managing the gimmicks right.
    That being said I think that if you have the 17% hit and the blue/epic gear that entails, you’d find it hard NOT to do 2k DPS. I presume that not everybody in your raid is doing the same 1500 dps, there must be some variation? Is 1500 the average, or is it the low (or the high!) end of the scale?

  6. Hulan said,

    1500 dps was probably the average, some were a little lower, some higher. I think that as people have geared up we forget about how low our dps was when our first 80s dinged back in the early days of the expansion. When my priest started healing heoics in the early days I remember being impressed if I saw someone approaching 2k dps 😀 Waltzing through heroics in raid gear makes us forget that 1200dps is perfectly feasible for the easier heroics in the same way that around 22k hp used to be considered feasible for a new tank (provided they were def-capped).

  7. SpotHeal said,

    You may be right.
    Although I was in raids with player doing 1200 dps at level 70, so it still sounds too low to me.
    Not that you couldn’t do instances with that DPS, but I’d say you’re holding your group back if you’re doing that DPS. Until you’re doing 1800-2000 dps you ought to be in regular instances or learning your rotations I think.

  8. Gaijing or agamaggan said,

    ty for good tips, got me my OS clearer by reading this
    and + + + for the painter from other painter 🙂

  9. victuga said,

    Hello I am Portuguese, I have a shadow priest Night Elf in the Frostman, and I learned a lot with your post.


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