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Shadow Priest Mastery: Shadow Orbs Explained

This round of “Voices from the Community” is brought to you by a shadow priest named Snakeneyes. He is in Undying Resolution on Elune (yes, that’s Lissanna’s guild), and he may be joining Restokin more frequently with shadow priest hints and tricks.

Understanding the Mastery of Shadow Priests is critical for determining which spells need to be cast and when. The priest mastery is called Shadow Orbs.

Although the Shadow Priest Mastery is on the complicated side, there are only 3 stages to think about. The current stage you are in will determine which actions you should follow up with.


  1. No Shadow Orbs are revolving around yourself.

  2. 1-3 Shadow Orbs are revolving around yourself.

  3. You have the Empowered Shadow buff on yourself.

It is important to note that stage 3 can occur at the same time as stage 1 and 2.

Stage 1

A typical combat encounter begins with the player at stage 1. The goal of the shadow priest is to cast Shadow Word: Pain (SW:P) and Mind Flay (MF) to gain at least 1 Shadow Orb. SW:P and MF have a chance when dealing damage to trigger 1 Shadow Orb.

Stage 2

With at least 1 shadow orb floating around, casting Mind Blast (MB) or Mind Spike (MS) will cause you to gain Empowered Shadow. A higher number of orbs will cause Mind Blast and Spike Spike to deal a higher amount of damage. Once Mind Blast or Mind Spike is cast with at least 1 orb, you will gain Empowered Shadow.

Stage 3

Congratulations, you have Empowered Shadow! This is a self buff that allows all of your periodic damaging spells to deal more damage. This includes Shadow Word: Pain (SW:P), Vampiric Touch (VT), Devouring Plague (DP), and Mind Flay (MF). The buff becomes stronger as your mastery stat increases. But does not get stronger with more Shadow Orbs.

The Mastery stat effects 2 major areas of our DPS. Mastery increases the damage boost that each individual orb gives to Mind Blast and to Mind Spike. Secondly, Mastery increases the damage boost that Empowered Shadow grants periodic damage spells (SW:P, VT, DP, MF). While Shadow Orbs increase the damage of MB and MS depending on how many orbs are stacked, a higher stack of Shadow Orbs does not increase the damage benefit Empowered Shadow gains. One Shadow Orb grants the same Empowered Power buff as three.

Keeping track of your mastery is essential to playing the Shadow Priest class well. If you do not have a Shadow orb, SW:P needs to be on the boss and MF needs to be spammed until the first Orb shows up. As soon as you see you have that first orb, cast MB to gain Empowered Shadows. Next, cast your remaining DOTs (VT and DP). Make sure to only refresh VT and DP if the Empowered Shadow buff is present.

Posted in Cataclysm, Priest, Voices From The Community

Cataclysm feedback: AOE healing class balance

While it is still a little early to talk about overall class balance, I would like to take some time to talk about mana costs of AOE (multi-target) healing spells for the various classes.

Disclaimer: When reading this post, DO NOT use it as an excuse to cry about the sky falling, as the sky is definitely not falling. Please keep comments & feedback based on this post constructive, since problems examined in this post CAN (and likely will) be addressed before Cataclysm goes live. Please do not go EMO on me, as the point of this thread is to get things examined before Cataclysm actually goes live. Thanks!

Druid multi-target heal base mana costs:

  • Wild Growth: 55% base mana, 10 second cooldown, heals 5 people, HOT.
  • Tranquility: 32% of base mana, 8 minute cooldown, heals 5 people, Channeled HOT.

Priest multi-target base mana costs:

  • Circle of Healing: 21% of base mana, 10 second cooldown, heals 5 people, instant cast, direct heal
  • Devine Hymn: 41% of base mana, 8 minute cooldown, heals 3 people, channeled spell, HOT.
  • Prayer of mending: 18% of base mana, 10 second cooldown, jumps to heal up to 5 people.
  • Holy nova: instant cast, 15% of base mana, heals people within 10 yards of caster.
  • Prayer of healing: 3 second cast, 36% of base mana, heals a 5-man group, direct heal.

Shaman multi-target base mana costs:

  • Healing Rain: 46% of base mana, 10 second cooldown, heals 5 people, HOT.
  • Chain heal: 17% of base mana, 2.5 second cast, heals 3 targets, direct heal

Paladin multi-target base mana costs:

  • Healing Hands: 40% of base mana, 1 min cooldown, HOT that heals all people within 10 yards,
  • Light of the dawn: 21% of base mana, 30 second cooldown, direct heal to all people within 30 yards.
  • Paladins also have Beacon of Light to get 50% of their healing done also done to a secondary target with Beacon on them. However, their other AOE-style heals seem to be on long cooldowns.

Druid level 80 mana costs:

  • Level 80 mana costs (no mana cost reduction talents): Wild Growth is 1922 mana, Tranquility is 1006 mana.
  • Single-target heals that could be used for raid healing: Regrowth is 1223 mana, Rejuv is 874 mana, Nourish is 219 mana.

Tier 2 in the balance tree (which druids can’t get if we pick up Heart of the Wild from feral), only our single-target spells (nourish, HT, regrowth, & rejuv) are reduced by up to 9%.

Priest level 80 mana costs:

  • Circle of healing is 811 mana, Devine Hymn is 1545 mana, Holy Nova is 579 mana, Prayer of Mending is 695 mana, Prayer of healing is 1390 mana.
  • Single-target heal costs: Renew is 811 mana, Heal is 231, Flash heal is 1081, Power word: Shield costs 733 mana.

From Tier 2 in the holy tree, priests get a mana reduction of 15% on their heal, greater heal, renew, divine hymn, and Tier 1 discipline gives them another 12% mana reduction on any of their instant cast spells (which would include renew, circle of healing, Holy nova, prayer of mending, etc).

Shaman Level 80 mana costs:

  • Chain heal: 747 mana before talents, Healing Rain is 2022 mana (1922 mana after talents),
  • Riptide is 412 mana, Lesser healing wave is 1186.

Tier 1 resto for shaman has a 9% mana cost reduction on all of their healing spells.

Analysis of what it all means: I don’t have a level 80 paladin to get mana costs for their heal spells. However, with paladins’ current roles being focused on tank healing, the strength of their AOE healing tools is less of a concern than for druids, who typically put HOTs on the tank and then raid heal in the current WotLK design.

With mana problems being something likely to occur in Cataclysm, the class balance of raid healing tools is going to matter, where the people less likely to run OOM while raid healing will be the ones most likely assigned to raid healing.

Looking at the mana cost & tools available, shaman and holy priests are going to make much better raid healers than druids, because the tools available to them allow for fairly mana efficient raid healing, by mixing lower mana cost spells with higher mana cost spells.

Unfortunately, all druids have to raid heal with are either very expensive AOE heals, or very expensive single-target heals. There isn’t anything besides Nourish (a single target heal that other classes are unlikely to raid heal with) that has a reasonable mana cost out of druids’ tool set. We get no additional benefit at all if we cast nourish on non-tanks, as the Lifebloom refresh is likely to only happen if we cast nourish on the tank.

Level 83 druid mana costs: While level 80 mana costs don’t look that out of hand, if you actually take the level 83 mana costs, you can see why the mana costs might start to get out of hand for druids:

  • My total mana pool at level 83 is: 34,912. My in-combat regen is 377.
  • Druid spell amounts: Wild growth is 5,248 mana. Tranquility is 2,747.
  • Single-target heals that could be used for raid healing filler (no moonglow): Regrowth is 3,339. Rejuv is 2,385 mana. Nourish is 600 mana.

In combat, at level 83: I can last for about 20 seconds worth of healing if I cast nothing but wild growth & regrowth (no buffs, with talents, no innervate). I last 25 to 30 seconds casting rejuv & wild growth (no buffs, with talents, no innervate). In 5 minute fights, we just won’t have the mana resources in raids to work as raid healers because Wild Growth will drain our mana pool too fast.

Wild growth with rejuv & regrowth weaved between them is not going to work for AOE healing for druids, because all 3 are really mana intensive heals. While my mana pool is also larger, the smaller base mana costs for other healers’ spells (besides shaman’s healing rain) makes druid healers at a mana cost disadvantage in Cataclysm.

Conclusions & suggestions for improving:

While I’m not usually one to freak out over the current state of Beta, I would like to highlight the fact that druid AOE/raid healing tools need a second look.

The best thing to do would be to make Wild Growth cost A LOT less mana, so that we can use it every time it’s off cooldown. If Wild Growth is going to stay prohibitively high, then druids need another multi-target heal in our toolset (like chain heal that shaman have, which costs less mana than druids’ regrowth, rejuv, & wild growth). Spamming mana-expensive single-target heals between refreshing a super expensive AOE heal is not going to work as a healing style. Thus, druids are not currently a good choice for raid healing in the current class design, due to not having a lower mana cost raid heal that we can weave between our more expensive raid healing tools. Instead, all of our raid healing (AOE and single-target HOT) tools are prohibitively expensive for us to work as raid healers in the current Beta design.

Instead, we have pretty strong tank healing tools, so we’d be assigned only to tank healing, where we will save Wild Growth for Omen of Clarity procs, because by level 85, the mana cost is going to be prohibitive to cast it without an OOC proc.  Even tree form’s cooldown encourages us to spam our mana-expensive flash heal (regrowth) without a mana cost reduction on it, with tree form not having an effect for Nourish.

If we could proc effloresence from Nourish, then Nourish could possibly be used as a raid healing tool – however, effloresence is highly unreliable, and when it does proc, people could always accidently move out of it without knowing. We can’t use lifebloom as a raid heal, since lifebloom can only be on one person at a time, so our mana efficient heals don’t work as raid healing tools right now.

Another fix for resto druids could be giving us more mana reduction talents in the resto tree somewhere accessible, so that we will be able to be a competitive raid healer. Moonglow could also be moved to Tier 1 Balance, so that it’s more accessible to restoration druids (with Nature’s Grace moved to Tier 2 balance instead). Reducing rejuvenation’s mana cost could also work for helping to keep resto druids raid-heal viable – However, it would encourage druids to use the same rejuv/WG-spam that we do now (though there is not much breaking this trend in Cataclysm, anyway, since Wild Growth costs too much for us to spam regrowth between refreshing WG).

Now, they want us to have to make choices about how to not run out of mana. However, I don’t feel like we have a choice – because I don’t think Nourish will work as a raid healing tool, so at this point I feel like we have to focus mostly on tank healing, without AOE healing for druids being something very viable compared to shaman or priest AOE healing (with druids probably still being ahead of paladins on AOE healing, due to paladins having such high cooldowns on their new AOE healing tools). There is plenty of time for Blizzard to work on mana costs, and GC may be mad at me for looking at class balance this early. However, I think that looking at JUST mana costs of AOE spells is a focused enough feedback report that it was worth doing. I’m also not sure how base mana will scale for shaman & priests from 80 to 83, since I don’t have a level 83 priest or shaman. I also don’t know what class balance will actually look like at 85, and I don’t know what plans Blizzard has in store for future talent builds.

Posted in Cataclysm, Paladin, Priest, Restoration Healing Trees, Shaman, Uncategorized

Cata class mechanics: The waiting game

So, druids don’t get their class preview until Friday. However, I’ll have intermittent internet access over the weekend, so I wanted to get up one more post before I left. There are some things in the priest reviews that I find particularly interesting and wanted to talk about the implications that my cut across classes. I want to be a resource here for analysis on Beta druid mechanics, and so I’m really bummed about having to be out of town. However, I’m still going to do my best to cover everything, even if I’m a little slow. So, on Friday, I have a guest poster who will be covering the druid change post (ie. I begged my boyfriend). I’ll be able to post more about it later in the weekend, with a more in-depth analysis planned for Monday or Tuesday. I’ve found that it helps to let the “ooh new toys!” feeling wear off before I’m good at being critical.

So, here’s what we know so far (DOTs & crit – hase? Yes, please!):

First, they seem to have made a similar DOT mechanic change across both priests & warlocks. I expect druids to benefit from this, as well, and I’ll be pretty mad if we don’t:

  • (from the priest review): All (priest) HoTs and DoTs will benefit from Haste and Crit innately. Hasted HoTs and DoTs will not have a shorter duration, just a shorter period in between ticks (meaning they will gain extra ticks to fill in the duration as appropriate).

This is going to make haste a very desirable stat for resto & moonkin if this change really does go through. It will go a long way to making crit more desirable for resto druids if all our HOTs can crit. If it’s not in Friday’s preview, I expect to still see it by Cata for at least moonkin. For now, I can just do the guessing game. I would be really happy if this was a sweeping change that effected all classes, and not just a couple of them, really. The problem with haste before is that it made HOTs & DOTs last for a shorter period of time, so there was a pretty huge cost/benefit ratio, which would be going away with this mechanic change.

Priest & Shaman both got new lower-level abilities:

This is actually really promising, because it means they thought about re-balancing classes at the lower levels, in addition to giving interesting tools at the higher levels. I posted a long time ago about lower level abilities, which I thought druids needed to make the earliest levels more fun. So, I’m hoping they’ll announce something about druid lower-level abilities. While it seems that they focused more on healing spells, they did do one change for Enhancement shaman for leveling damage purposes.  Also, since bear is losing (the current version of) maul, it’s likely that they will announce & further clarify what maul’s replacement ability is for having a button to mash while leveling 10 to 20 (or, maybe they’ll give us cat form earlier – one can only hope!). What they’ve discussed as the new mechanic for maul won’t be the same kind of spam-able ability that it is now (and would work better if there was other buttons at level 10 to push).

Shaman and priest both got movement & escape utility abilities:

The most interesting change I saw out of the previews is a shaman ability, where they seem to be introducing the “cast on the run” mechanic:

  • (Shaman Ability): Spiritwalker’s Grace (level 85): When this self-targeted buff is active, your spells are no longer interrupted by movement and possibly even by your own attacks. This will give shaman of all three specs another way to heal or do damage when it’s necessary to move in both PvE and PvP. Instant cast. 10-second duration. 2-minute cooldown.

Moonkin have been asking for mechanics similar to this for a long time (ie. in Burning crusade, we asked to make meleekin more viable with being able to cast while attacking in melee. In WotLK, moonkin made a big push to get the “spells no longer interrupted by movement” mechanic – neither of which we ever got). I’m happy to see that Blizzard is putting this into the game mostly because it’s no longer an impossible thing to ask for. I’m also really excited for my resto shaman alt that is lacking mobility.

They are also giving two movement-utility abilities to priests (one makes them move faster, and one lets priests pull raid members out of fires). This makes me hopeful that they will give moonkin some sort of ability or mechanic that addresses our movement issues (and if they don’t, this will be one area for us to continue working on).

Other ability predictions & conclusions:

  • We know that Gift of the Wild & Mark of the Wild is losing the spirit bonus. (as stated in the priest preview)
  • Healing ability changes for shaman & priests lead me to believe that they probably plan to make Healing Touch more viable as a healing tool, and possibly adding another direct healing tool for druids, as well.
  • They are getting rid of the “5-second-rule” for mana regen after casting, but still want mana to be a concern for healers. This was talked about in the priest preview & generally should apply to resto druids.
  • Moonkin should still be getting a talent that turns spirit to hit rating (they told us previously, & it showed up in the Shaman talent preview).
  • We haven’t seen any melee previews yet, so there’s not much I can say about bear & cat at the moment. However, I will focus on bear & cat as much as possible between now and Cata’s release. I know that feral druids have lost a lot of the strong voices from their community over time, and so I’m willing to be the champion for all druid specs. I’m an equal-opportunity druid!
  • Regardless of what the preview looks like, it will be more of an appetizer than a complete meal, meaning that it will really be hard to analyze changes like these out of the context of actually seeing them in-game. A lot of things (like Eclipse) looked great on paper, but didn’t feel so great in practice.
  • If I am able to secure a beta invite, I will work really hard testing the druid mechanics in-game as much as my time will let me. Even if I don’t, I will still work really hard at giving feedback to the developers and to the larger druid community, because that’s what I do. I’ll mark any class mechanic posts with the “Cata class mechanics” label (or something similar), and if I’m going to post about non-mechanic things (ie. world changing, lore, or whatever), then I’ll make sure I warn about spoilers at that point, too.
Posted in Cataclysm, Druid - General, Priest, Shaman

My new alt: Shadow Priest

So, I consider myself more of a specialist. My focus of everything that I do is my druid. However, while I was rewarded in Vanilla and Burning Crusade for being a specialist, Wrath instead rewards generalists.

My boyfriend wins out in WotLK because he has 10 alts. The dungeon system rewards having multiple characters, since you can benefit from the gear rewards better by splitting loot across multiple characters (some of whom actually need the blues & greens from heroic dungeons), rather than just picking up badges on a raid-decked-out main.

So, I got bored after 3.3 came out because I only have one character that I focus on. So, I spent some more time focusing on my shaman – I got a set of healing gear, a set of enhancement melee gear, and I even did the holiday achievements. However, this still isn’t enough – especially since my druid hasn’t been able to raid more than once a week over the holidays. So, the last couple weeks, I’ve been rather bored on my druid, since I ran out of interesting non-raiding things to do, besides my one random heroic that gives me frost badges.

So, to cure this Christmas Break boredom, I started a new character. I know I said a couple posts ago that I wasn’t going to start a new non-druid character, but I ran out of other things to do. I decided to start a priest because I wanted to try to learn more about another healing class, and first hand experience is the best way to do it.

My priest is Annalis on Elune, and is a Draenei priest, so that I could play in the newer starting zone.

When I hit level 6, I ran to Azure Watch and picked up all my pets & heirloom items (cloth chest & shoulders, PvP staff, spell power trinket). At level 15, I started running the “random classic” dungeons. At level 15 and 16, the random dungeon is always Ragefire Chasm. My shadow spec’d priest can still heal that dungeon, since no one takes that much damage. I’m currently level 16.

One thing that leveling a priest does is that it allows me to talk to low level druids from my battle group when I’m in the random dungeons, so I can see what low level characters are actually doing. This ends up being good research for my leveling guide, since it helps me see what things tend to confuse low level characters that I’m playing with in the dungeon. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep playing this priest, but the cloth heirlooms will transfer okay to another character if I decide to stop leveling it. If I keep going, I’ll probably post more about my alt’s leveling experiences – between raiding guides, so that I don’t come across as disconnected from the leveling advice that I give people.

It’s actually more fun than I thought it was going to be, since the random dungeon feature is actually really nice at lower levels.

Posted in Leveling, Priest


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