Are You Afraid of Shadow in Cataclysm?

3 Aug

Blue Post:

Mind Flay — This is a technical explanation, but basically we had to rebuild it for Lich King to get it to benefit from haste correctly. Now that we have tech to let all periodics scale correctly with haste, we can change Mind Flay back to the way it used to work. The “latency” issues you experience today should be gone. You can just mash the Mind Flay button and the periodic won’t clip.

Mind Blast — With some increases scaling and the Shadow mastery, Mind Blast should always be your highest damage button (other than SW:Death).

SW: Pain — Pain and Suffering refreshes SW:Pain with your current haste, crit etc. values. All damage-over-time refresh mechanics and talents should do this now. You shouldn’t have to recast a dot to benefit from a temporary buff or proc or whatever.

Spec options — We have some plans to make early Disc more attractive to Shadow. There are probably fewer of us than you imagine, and we just can’t work on every class at once.

I’ll admit it, I have concerns about the Cataclysm progress regarding shadow priest play.  Saying that is a little bit like asking an unfinished portraiture why your illustration doesn’t have a chin yet.  The answer: we’re getting to it.

What I posted above is great.  Fixes to long term bugs in the class is as exciting for shadys as blink working correctly would be for mages.  Honestly, though, those are not my major concerns.  Maybe they should have been, but they aren’t.

Two things warrant mention.  First, I love how a shadow priest plays.  I enjoy complex DoT management, I like having tons of small periodic effects whittling my enemies down.  If I wanted to blast giant balls of flame, I’d play a mage.  If I wanted a pet and a lot more fragility, I’d play a warlock (more often).

Second, the damage tree for priests is full of relatively lackluster talents.  Part of this is because of the above: we already have a fair amount going on.  Reducing cooldowns to give us access to spells more often is great.  Cool shadow apparitions that create a neat visual, correct some mobility deficiencies, and don’t force us to completely re-learn the class—perfect!

Now this is a QQ post, so not I’m going to QQ a little.  Stay with me, because underneath my complaints there is a legitimate issue.

Tier 1

Darkness –  In the current beta build this talent increases shadow damage by 6% for 3 talent points.  It also occupies that “low in the tree” spots that make it ideal for other specs to dip in for.  I would love to see this removed completely, or perhaps replaced by a talent like Twisted Faith that gives us Hit from Spirit.  At least that talent is useful for a pvp spec or a leveling healer.  If in the new talent system every point is special, or most are, I hate spending 3 in darkness.

Not past the first tier yet, we hit Improved Shadow Word: Pain.  An exciting change to the mechanic of our signature DoT?  Nope, just another passive increase to damage.  This time its only 2 talent points for 6% damage.  Goodie!  Honestly, this talent would be more exciting as a proc of some kind, perhaps a 50% chance to do 12% more damage.  Even a bonus to crit damage is more exciting than the current talent.  As with darkness, there are no reasons for other specs to even think about this talent.

Spirit Tap has been clearly relegated to the domain of leveling talent.  Honestly, while I’ll miss procing and indirect increase to spellpower, this isn’t really a bad thing.

Tier 2

Improved Mind Blast is a shining example of perfect talent design.  It gives a core ability more use, and it adds a mechanic unique to the spec.  With shadow priest mortal strikes being normalized, this effect will be as strong as a hunter, rogue, or warrior.  For three talent points, this feels right on budget.

I kind of wish shadow had some of our PvP functionality tied into other PvE abilities, so Improved Silence makes me a little sad.  The ability is what it always has been, a few critical seconds shaved off one of our best PvP abilities.  Fine enough, I guess, but this would be an ideal talent to add “and increases your shadow damage by x%.”

Another success story is Veiled Shadows.  This talent reduces the cooldown (and increases our use of) two unique abilities that feel connected by flavor.  Talents like this make us feel more “shadowy” without adding undue complication.

Tier 3

Signature and still great, Shadowform has changed a little.  It still gives us more damage and a little more survivability, so I still love it.  Don’t fix what isn’t broken, eh?

The sister talent, Improved Shadowform, also works well.  It gives us a little utility and a solid raid buff that’s worth taking even for soloing.  My only complaint is how many abilities begin with “improved.”

Not to be outdone, Improved Devouring Plague looks like a passive damage increase on the surface, but it’s actually a well crafted talent.  Adding an up-front damage component to the spell changes the way we use it, and in this respect makes it a bigger part of the shadow toolbox.  Good talents don’t have to hit you on the head with a hammer, but they should feel special.

Tier 4

Deeper into the tree, we see talents like Vampiric Embrace which got a beautiful redesign in WotLK and now functions as a personal buff. I love what this talent does for personal and raid survivability, but could we change it to cause no threat and automatically be up in shadowform?  Rebuffing after a death in a BG shouldn’t take me twice as long as the preparation phase.

Shadow Power is weird.  Do much larger crits change the feeling of a dps class?  I think they do.  +100% for 2 talent points (read, four levels and two “exciting moments”)?  Yes, that feel right.

Significantly re-designed for Cata, Mind Melt currently looks interesting.  Buffing the damage of Shadow Word: Death during an execute phase and reducing the cast time of Mind Blast with Mind Spike creates some interesting rotational changes.  As talents go, altering the interaction of important class abilities seems idealy suited to this level of character customization.

Still needing improved fear to gain the one point for Silence leaves us exactly where we were before—one PvP shadow spec, and one for PvE.  Nevertheless, I am glad to still have the option of this powerful form of CC.

Tier 5

Iconic to the priest, Vampiric Touch hasn’t changed.  If they change replenishment in a significant way, it will effect the entire raid and the many classes now offering this buff.  Gaining abilities from talents is exciting.

With Shadow Orbs being our new mastery bonus, I’m a little surprised they added Empowered Shadow Orbs.  In the defense of this talent, they could have named it “improved shadow orbs.”  The talent increases the odds of gaining an orb.  I don’t understand why they didn’t make this baseline, as designers will have to balance around the talented priest’s mastery bonus scaling.  When the mastery concept was first introduced, the suggestion was we might have talents to let us do things with the orbs.  Apparently this is the end result.  Shadow Orbs are hard to get excited about, when I’m just a semi-translucent shaman.

In stark contract, Shadow Apparition is exciting and visually unique as a talent.  The damage is not game breaking, and it asks you to adjust your playstule in some situations, but most of the time the bonus is passive and the talent is still fun.

Tier 6

Psychic Horror is another talented CC ability that spriests do not seem to have room for in a PvE build.  Oh well.

Converting spirit to hit and adding damage to our rotation, Twisted Faith isn’t bad.  The spell hit aspect gives us a slight advantage when going from holy/disc to a shadow offspec, but our best items are still going to not have spirit on them.  This talent works a passive bonus into an active play style change, so it very much works.  My only issue is I wish it were in tier 1.

As I expressed before, I enjoy the way our class plays.  That’s part of the reason I’m glad Pain and Suffering is reasonably unchanged.  As talents go, this one feels important and does change how we’re doing our damage.  It also makes Shadow Word: Death slightly less risky.  Have I mentioned I really want to see Shadow Word: Death make a comeback?

Tier 7

Dispersion comes under fire from folks who don’t use it often enough.  This talented ability deserves its own article, so I won’t get in too deep, but I have no issues with it remaining completely unchanged.

In summary, our talents feel significantly pruned down, but still remarkable bloated.  Perhaps this is the price we pay for having two healing trees.  Nevertheless, I’m hoping Blizzard takes another crack at our talented customization.


5 Responses to “Are You Afraid of Shadow in Cataclysm?”

  1. Malevica August 3, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    Really nice write-up, and pretty much QQ-free actually.

    You wrote about Imp SW:P, “Honestly, this talent would be more exciting as a proc of some kind, perhaps a 50% chance to do 12% more damage.” The other side of this one is the EJ types who will simply reverse the process you went through, count it as a 6% damage bonus, and move on. It might even get marked down slightly because it’s not reliable on add-burning phases, for example.

    Where I do agree is Twisted Faith. As a healer, and someone who insists on levelling as Holy or Disc, I’d love a way to get “free” hit from my healing gear.

    • calsong August 3, 2010 at 7:41 am #

      Point. Obviously, I don’t belong on the Blizzard design team just yet.

      What about letting you consume a shadow orb to empower the effect of SW: Pain for X seconds?

  2. kirintorfamiliar August 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    I agree with your points about Darkness and VE, but I think your proc idea for iSWP is a bit flawed. As mentioned by another commenter, that’d make it very unreliable. What they should do is tie it into another talent/ability, for instance doing more damage based on how many Shadow Orbs are up.

    I am a big fan of SW:D and would love to see it used more often.

    Also, I’d like to see you post an article on Dispersion. I love it so much, but I feel like I don’t use it to the best of its potential.

    • calsong August 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

      Yea, the iSWP proc has issues. I sometimes post a little “flow of thought” and the results can be pretty unpolished.

      New talents, new article incoming! Dispersion article will follow.


  1. Weapons that would forever change humanity… I was one of those weapons « Mind Spike - August 7, 2010

    […] I posted some thoughts on current talents, and Blizzard went along and shook them up.  All the changes are good!  We saw some serious lover […]

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