Enter: The Battlegrounds – Spec, Stats and Gear
Its been a bit over six months since my inaugural post here and looking back, I haven’t really touched upon the area of pvp as a shadow priest in cataclysm. The thing about pvp in any expansion of WoW is that what works in one season or arenas and battleground, does not always carry over into next one based on the types of items and item sets that are released. For instance, a lot of people who do pvp will use pve items (most notably legendaries from all previous expansions and some trinkets) to try and obtain an advantage over their opponents. Dragonwrath and Fangs of the Father will have superior impact for you and your team heading into the expansion due to the procs associated with them.
As a shadow priest in arena or battlegrounds, your role is 75% damage, 25% crowd control. Your three main forms of CC, each have a considerable cooldown which makes you a favorable target to the enemy if all of them have been used. You should generally attempt to stay out of the fray unless you need to fear someone off of a flag spawn or for good measure to stop a heal/counter attempt in arenas. Lets take a look at your 3 forms of usable CC in PvP.
Psychic Scream – Your bread and butter spell that you have had since you were a youngling priest back in your starter zones. Despite knee jerks reactions to use this spell asap if melee are beating on you, you should probably try to wait to use this spell when multiple enemies are nearby to get the best effect out of it. Because 90% of the time, whatever melee is on you and you fear them, they will trinket out of it and resume pummeling you. There are tricks and tips to using this and outsmarting your opponent I will cover later on in this post.
Psychic Horror - 25 Point talent that causes your target to tremble in horror for 3 seconds, and disarms them for 10 seconds as well. 2 Minute Cooldown. This is a must have for any shadow priest doing pvp, unfortunately it is not a baseline spell, so you will have to spend one of your talent points for it, but you can easily pick this talent up as well as having what you need in the shadow tree without losing anything major. This is an effective CC on all players, however, you should try and save this for physical damage dealers over casters, with the exception being feral druids, who suffer no penalty from being disarmed.
Silence - Nothing fancy about this spell, as it does what its name says it should do, silences spellcasting for 5 seconds. 45 second cooldown. Until MoP, this is something you will have to spend 3 talent points to get, but isn;t really an option when trying to neutralize your opponents. There are a bunch of unconventional uses for this spell, particularly on melee classes, however, priority for this spell goes to healers and spellcasters after.
There are two setups right now that I have found to be viable for shadow priests in battlegrounds, the first being the standard all resilience set. This includes 4 pieces from the holy/disc set, which gives you the bonus of when you PW:S yourself to not have your movement impaired for the next 4 seconds. This set will (likely) give you the most stamina and will give you the most damage reduction via resilience. You should be somewhere around 4850 resilience with full cataclysmic gear, and thats gemming with intellect in red slots, intel/haste in yellow, and intel/spirit or intel/stam in blues. This set will favor players who may not enjoy raiding, as the 403 item level will provide superior spellpower to the 397 pve counterpart. This set will also favor people who choose to be a bit bolder in their play style if they choose to, as the added resilience and stamina will allow them to survive for a good duration should they choose to rush into a foray and drop a fear.
The second set is a mix of pve gear with pvp gear. This mix includes 4 pieces of the tier 13 shadow priest pve set, combines with the rest of the gear being all pvp based. This in essence turns you into a more glass cannon spec, which will increase your burst damage on targets, specifically in 2s or if a flag carrier has high stacks of focused assault. However, you are going to lose about 1200 resilience in the process, and you will be able to tell the difference in damage you take. I call it the three minute priest build, I even think there is a song for it somewhere…..
“….Shadowfiend, creating Shadow Orbs, and they don’t like, no three minute priest….” —–> Its Not a Rick Roll
I think that’s how it goes anyways, it better at least, because if I have to create another terrible remix out of a hip-hop song, WordPress may shut me down.
This setup requires you to stay closer to healers for the increased damage you will be taking, it does turn out to be better as far as output if you run with people who can peel dps off of you or can cycle healing cooldowns on you well enough to get the dps to change to someone else. It also favors quick matches (2v2 double dps or vs double dps) or surgical quick strikes (2+ 1 stealth offense CTF games, flag returns).
For outlasting, Resilience will always be the choice stat to go for first. Intellect will always be the next stat in line, followed by haste, crit, and mastery at the end. Try to avoid having any mastery on your gear if you can help it, it is a very underwhelming stat for pvp.
Two things to note: Your hit cap for pvp is 5%, if you are well over that you can safely reforge off until that point and not worry about missing. However, to make sure you don’t encounter spell resists, you will also need to have 240 spell penetration as well. This is not hard to obtain, as any season of pvp cloak or neck has this much or more.
Now you may ask yourself: “But Srs, all resist buffs give a maximum of 195, why is the cap 240 for shadow priests?” Shadow resist from a priest or paladin will stack with mages running in mage armor, this will effectively give them 240 resist that you will have to bypass to ensure you don’t end up seeing a resist.
A few things that may stand out: No Improved SW:P, No Pain and Suffering, No Shadow Apparitions. None of these talents are taken, because they center around the shadow word: pain spell, which is not a game breaker in pvp, largely due to the fact it is easily dispellable with no penalty. Most of the rest are self-explanatory.
3/3 Darkness – 3% Spell Haste, Yep. All over that.
2/2 Veiled Shadows – Minus 6 seconds to fade and minus 60 seconds to shadowfiend. This is a doubly useful talent, it allows your burst (while running 4 piece 13 to come off cooldown quicker, and it allows you to fade out of snares quicker as well.
2/2 Improved Psychic Scream – Minus 4 seconds to Psychic Scream, required for Silence. Mainly used to get to silence. 4 seconds less on fearing someone away from you, an ally or resource node helps too.
3/3 Improved Mind Blast – Quicker Cooldown on your main nuke, that also applies an undispellable 10% healing debuff. That extra 1.5 seconds helps a ton for your burst, its a general improvement for non burst as well, just watch you don’t get spell locked on this or Vampiric Touch.
2/2 Improved Devouring Plague – This is a finicky talent. The nature of DP is low damage over a long period of time, however the 30% initial damage is helpful to chip away at opponents health and can be used as a second execute with SW:D if needed.
2/2 Twisted Faith – Filler talent. 2% Shadow spell damage is very minor, the spirit to hit conversion allows you to focus on more damage based throughput like haste and crit instead of going all hit gear.
1/1 Shadowform – Yeah….
2/2 Phantasm – Allows you to break snares without having to disperse or pvp trinket out of it, it very powerful with the right spec and glyph choice.
2/2 Harnessed Shadows – Every time you get crit, you gain a shadow orb for your nukes, stacking up to three, great talent that shines after being crit a few times and then paired with your fear.
1/1 Silence – Your clutch CC ability. Self-explanatory.
1/1 Vampiric Embrace – Passive healing from all your shadow damage, required for Vampiric Touch.
2/2 Masochism – 10% Mana back when you take 10% or more of your health and damage, or are hit with recoil from SW:D, mostly a filler talent, nice if you have mana issues and also happen to be the kill target, but most people will ignore an Oom shadow priest for that very reason.
2/2 Mind Melt – Instant Mind Blast Crits and reduced damage taken from SW:D recoil, all over that.
1/1 Vampiric Touch – Your most powerful DoT in terms of damage, and will fear any target near the person who dispels the debuff for 3 seconds with no diminishing returns.
2/2 Paralysis – Mind Blast crits root the target for 4 seconds. Great for isolating someone in the map, however it is dispellable, choose your targets to root carefully, ideally with 3 mind spikes then a mind blast.
1/1 Psychic Horror – Secondary CC, highly effective against physical damage dealers. Because of the longer cooldown, this spell is a bit more touch and go for when to use it, opposed to silence.
2/2 Sin and Punishment – 100% chance that your VT will fear anything within 6 yards of the dispelling target, and every time your Mind Flay crits, the remaining cooldown on shadowfiend is dropped by 10 seconds. A very versatile talent that allows for increased burst opportunity while providing a secondary CC in the presence of dispel happy healers.
1/1 Dispersion – Pretty straight forward, the mana return is nice, but the damage reduction is the main use for the spell in moments where you just so happen to get death gripped by a DK followed up by a rogue stun.
Shadow only has 4 glyphs total, 2 of which are musts for pvp, the other is a flex.
1) Glyph of Mind Flay – +10% damage to your main offensive spell. Take it.
2) Glyph of Shadow Word: Death – Gives you a second execute, for if the first doesn’t get the job done. Take it.
Flex Glyph: Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain versus Glyph of Dispersion. Neither are highly appealing for pvp. In either the burst or conventional setup, shadow word: pain can still be easily dispelled making the glyph and subsequent talents associated with it, moot. Likewise, dropping the cooldown on dispersion by 45 seconds implies that you may be thrusting yourself into the center of action a bit too much or aren;t getting anything peeled off you. I prefer to use the SW:P glyph for my burst, forcing healers to worry about keeping the target alive first, and then dispelling later. I would strongly consider taking they dispersion glyph over SW:P if they replaced the current effect, with something similar to the glyph of Evocation, where you would regenerate 5% of your health every second for 6 seconds, instead of dropping the cooldown by 45 seconds, but that may be a tad OP.
At least the major glyphs gain some appeal for the pvp side of shadow, whereas they are extremely lackluster for all cases of pve right now.
1) Glyph of Fade – Reduces the cooldown of fade by 9 seconds. Paired up with Veiled Shadows, this drops the cooldown to 15 seconds, which means you can fade out of snares that quickly. Take it every time.
2) Glyph of Psychic Horror – Reduce the cooldown of Psychic Horror by 30 seconds. Reducing the cooldown of one of your CCs? Sign me up.
Flex Glyph: Glyph of Dispel Magic versus Glyph of Fear Ward. You have the choice of reducing cooldown on how often you can be feared as a form of CC, or healing yourself if you are actively aware of your debuffs when attacked. Fear does not bother me, I know not the meaning of it. Whereas it is really beneficial if you have a moonkin, fire mage, or aff lock dotting you up (before Unstable Affliction) and watching as your health goes up, instead of down. Ideally wait for 2 magic debuffs to be applied, and then dispel to get a 6% heal and maximize its effect.
I am going to be labeled as an absolute heretic for when I post my choices, so I may as well get it out of the way and say that I DO NOT HAVE GLYPH OF LEVITATE IN MY CHOICES. And you may now proceed to point, laugh, and mock. There is really no flex glyph for minors, as all three I have, believably, serve good purpose.
1)Glyph of Shackle Undead – Reduces the mana cost of shackle undead by 50%. Helpful for the Ghoul Pets, Gargoyles and Lichborne used by death knights. A good trick here is fearing a death knight, having them use lichborne and then shackling them.
2) Glyph of Fading - Reduces the mana cost of fade by 30%. Depending on who your fighting for how long, you might be using fade quite a bit to get out of snares while expending mana to dps and CC, every little bit helps. Take this.
3) Glyph of Shadowfiend – When your shadowfiend is killed, not expires, you get 5% mana back. In pvp situations, people will try to CC your shadowfiend as best they can (most notably with fear). If you decide to fear ward it and make it immune to that CC, chances are people will attack it to stop your burst, and the result is you getting 5% mana back. A loss in the end, but it still curbs the loss somewhat.
This setup should help you prepare for doing pvp on a regular basis, and should serve as a primer to help you have an enjoyable experience in the battlegrounds, or at least as much as you can on your end. Because lets face it, sometimes you just end up getting people who do not have any idea how to do pvp, or they are a fresh 85 queuing up with 75,000 hit points. This should ensure that you at least have the capacity to perform well on your end. If you disagree with my spec and glyph choices, tinker with ones you think would work better. Trial and error is always the best way to find something that suits your playstyle. PvP can be a very frustrating experience, especially running into premades, I hope this guide helps your experience in a positive manner, and thanks for reading!