Hey Folks, I decided that since I had outlined on what you should be looking for to better one’s play style stepping into arenas and battlegrounds, I would also breakdown the schemes of how you would approach your opponents on a spec and class basis. As a shadow priest, you hold an advantage over a lot of damage dealing classes by being dot based, however, 4 of your spells have a cast time, so you are also one of the most vulnerable to spell locks and spell interrupts.
Let’s take a look at how you stack up against other builds:
Note: All of these analyses are based on your opponent is of equal gear and skill set as yourself.
Key: VS = Very Strong Against, S = Strong Against, E = Evenly Matched, W = Weak Against, VW = Very Weak Against
Frost/Unholy: (VW) – Death Knights are the bane of shadow priests out there, and being disc generally only delays the inevitable. While all DKs have the same counters to your abilities, frost and unholy will end up wasting you that much quicker. AMS to stop all dots, reduce damage by 75%, and stop mind flay from being cast, combined with lichborne and a pvp trinket for 2 fear breaks, (one for fear, the other for psychic horror). Not only an interrupt, but a silence to boot, and its capped off by one ability that gives all mana users fits, Necrotic Strike. 30% slower cast time AND absorbs healing on you. If you have the option of fighting a DK or someone else, fight someone else.
Blood: (E) – With the great vengeance nerf that came to pvp, nuking a blood Dk (or any tank for that matter) doesn’t power them up like the incredible hulk when you hit them. They still possess the same anti-priest counters their dps counterparts have, but will not have the damage output. Their self-healing is also tremendous, but their blood shield only absorbs physical damage. You should be able to live long enough for your fear to come off cooldown and tip the scales back in your favor.
*Hot Tip for DKs* – When approaching a Death Knight, open with your silence ability, this will prevent a ton of things from happening. They will not be able to use Death Grip, Strangulate, AMS, Mind Freeze, Icy Touch, Chains of Ice or Howling Blast for the duration, this enables you to get a small amount of damage in while they basically are helpless. They can choose to trinket your silence, but that will leave them vulnerable to one of your fears, giving you a better chance to survive one.
Restoration: (VS) – Somewhere out there, I just lost a handful of readers. As a shadow priest, Resto Druids are the least troublesome for how they can CC/snare/avoid you in terms of killing them. They have, at most, 2 forms of CC, the first being cyclone, and the other being Bear Form + Bash. If they end up using the second option on you, it means they aren’t healing (something). Aside from Living Seed, Barkskin, and Replenishment, two of which they need to spec into, you are able to dispel any buff a druid casts on themselves. A resto druid can only dispel two of your dot spells, and run the risk of fearing themselves and anyone near them for 3 seconds if they choose to do so. (They also need to spec into that cleanse.) They certainly have the potential to run you oom on your own, especially since if you dispel lifebloom, you will heal them for a lot. There are two tricks and tips for fighting a resto druid that will drive them nuts.
*Hot Tip 1 (Resto Druid)* – That wonderful spell that healers love to hate, Mana Burn. A resto druid does not have an interrupt like Paladins or Shamans do, nor the counter move in silence like priests do. They only way they can stop mana burn is to outrange it or take the lesser of two evils route. You want to make them choose either eating a mana burn, or shifting into cat or bear so that mana burn has zero effect. However, by shifting into cat/bear, they stop healing for at least 2 Global Cooldowns, thus putting more pressure on them to catch up.
*Hot Tip 2 (Resto Druid)* – This trick works very well in arena matches, specifically 2v2 scenarios and matches that tend to run longer than a quick gank. You can always keep a resto druid visible on the map by making their partner your kill target. Aside from CCing them, you can always keep your Devouring Plague active on the resto druid, as they cannot dispel this debuff, What this does is, it prevents them from stealthing and then drinking in the map, thus always keeping them visible and easier to put back into combat should they try to venture off and recover some mana. (Any disease will work.)
Balance: (S) – Much like yourself, they balance druid, relies heavily on their dots and then a strong ramp up, without being attacked or silenced. If paired with the glyph of dispel magic, you can effectively heal yourself for 6% of your health every time a druid hits you with Insect Swarm/Faerie Fire/Moonfire. Moonkins also have no counter to your dots, such as, they can’t dispel them. They have no reduced duration on either your fear, silence, or psychic horror, and you can fear their burst (treants) away rendering them useless. The only vulnerability you have against a resto druid is if you are slow to dispel roots off of yourself and get caught in their solarbeam. It will be a 10 second silence should you be unable to move out of it. I would recommend using dispersion here, because even using the trinket to get out of roots will still keep you silenced, and dispersion will reduce all that damage they are unloading by 90%.
Feral (Cat) (E) – Ferals tend to present a challenge for priests, their slowing debuff is a hindrance, their bleeds hit hard even with resilience and damage reduction from Inner Fire and Shadowform, and they are immune to your Psychic Horror, and when I say immune, they certainly are not immune to being feared in place for three seconds, but the disarm portion has no effect on the damage output a feral will do to you. They also have a short interrupt that if they switch to bear, can use at short range instead of melee. If they use tiger’s fury and berserk immediately after each other, they can burst you down very quickly, even with a dispersion.
*Hot Tip (Feral Druid)* – I know its almost an impulse reaction (even on my part) to immediately hit your fear when a melee jumps you. For ferals, you may not want to be so quick on using fear. If you use psychic horror as your first CC and get them to burn their trinket getting out of it, you can then fear them for the full 8 seconds, instead of using fear, having them trinket, and then only getting 3 seconds out of psychic horror. That 5 seconds can make a world of difference in surviving.
Beast Mastery: (S) – Playing a beast master all comes down to how well you use the terrain to your advantage. It may also be a good idea to eliminate their pet, considering that’s whats going to deal a hefty chunk of damage to you. Combined with its intimidate and Bestial Wrath, you can be torn to shreds in that 4 second duration. If you find yourself in the open, you are going to have to play close quarters combat and deal with snake traps and whatnot to minimize what a hunter can do to you. Since they can’t dispel your buffs, kiting is a viable way to wear them down, a but a good use of your abilities should tip the battle in your favor.
Survival: (S) – Survival Hunters are a blessing in disguise for you. Sure they gain the extra CC in wyvern sting, but their burst damage is really dependant on them getting you into traps, which if you can avoid, greatly increases your chances of winning. You can dispel their hunter’s mark, you can also dispel black arrow, which is their dot used to try and get lock and load procs, and take their burst down to nothing. Their pet is nothing more than an annoyance, unless its a monkey, crab or spider, and you should handle your adversary well
Marksmanship: (W) – Marksmen, combined with the right pet, are lethal for any caster class out there. You already have scatter shot, now add in, the traps, a silence on a 20 second cooldown, and readiness to rest the cooldowns on all your abilities and you have a recipe for some very big time headaches. The amount of sheer damage they can put out is very high in addition to all the various types of crowd control, you will need to make very efficient use of your terrain to stand a chance.
*Hot Tip (Hunters)* – Get into a hunters melee range asap. Ideally you want to fear them and get them to trinket out right away. What this will do is allow you to psychic horror them and leave them dealing with the disarm/fear. If they are good, they will have a weapon chain on and only be disarmed for 4 seconds, if not, you get the enjoyment of them not being able to attack for 10 seconds.
Arcane: (S) - The famous one button mage. They become tricky if they get the jump on you, especially with Arcane Power, Mirror Images and Time Warp active. It may turn into a nightmare quickly. The nether vortex talent, while dispellable, will slow your movement and casting by 30%, however, its refreshed so often, they only way to escape is outrange or LoS. However, you good silence is enough to get a full set of dots on them and then kite, throwing a psychic horror in for good measure. Adding your shadowfiend as a pet will eliminate the mage quickly.
Fire: (VS) – Its almost like Christmas when you see a fire mage. All of their damage, save for Scorch, Pyroblast, Pyroblast(Dot), and Fireball are dispellable, which means you get to enjoy being hit for relatively low amount of damage, since fire mages wont be hard casting fireball or pyro in any pvp scenario. Fire mages will fight in close quarters though to make use of their Blast Wave and Dragon’s Breath abilities, so do try to keep your distance as much as possible to avoid those CCs.
Frost: (W) – The amount of control a frost mage has is ridiculously absurd. Sure all of their slows are dispellable, but you can either spend your time dispelling and not doing damage, or trying to do damage and being rooted/frozen/slowed/etc. You can easily survive a burst of a frost mage, if you get caught in a deep freeze by just dispersing it. However, the cold snap ability brings everything right back off of cooldown for them to do it again. Silence and Psychic Horror will definitely your biggest timing abilities here, but even with those, the amount of damage Ice Barrier and Mana Shield absorb may be too much from an equally skilled opponent.
Retribution: (E) – Ret paladins have a nice tendency to be very bursty about their dps, however, you can dispel all of their burst rendering it null and void. They do have the melee interrupt in addition to Hammer of Justice. They key to a ret paladin is trying to figure out just when they are going to bubble. Silence and Psychic Horror will not stop the bubble, but if you can pinpoint when the bubble is coming, you can pre-cast Mass Dispel and take the bubble off right as they activate it. Ret paladins can close quick and censure can stack quickly, most ret paladin fights you have will be very close.
*Hot Tip (Ret Paladins)* – Sacred Shield. The one thing that may give you fits is this ability. Not only does it seem like it absorbs an obscene amount of damage, but they can also heal themselves with Word of Glory 20% better while active. To minimize this, when you see a paladin getting below 40% health you want to line up a string of spell that will cause their health to drop below 30% but also under 25% before the shield activates. This will allow you to shadow word: death twice, and quickly eat through the shield so you can finish them off.
Holy: (E) – Holy Paladins, while having no real offense, do have a number of ways to make things annoying for a priest. They can dispel all of your dots, if they get into melee range they can interrupt you, they can stun you, and they can bubble, forcing you out of dpsing or mana burning to remove the shield. The one big ability they have for clutch situations is Aura Mastery.
*Hot Tip (Holy Paladins)* – Aura Mastery from holy paladins can drive shadow priests berserk. Bursting down that target and getting ready to silence the healer? Aura Mastery just trumped your silence and laughed at it. When fighting a holy paladin at low hp, stay in close quarters. If they are about to use aura mastery, and you see it activate (looks similar to Fear Ward’s animation), don’t silence them and waste it, use your fear. If your fear is on CD, use your psychic horror, this will not only CC them, but it will also chew up all of those seconds that aura mastery has left.
Protection: (S) – Again, since the nerf to vengeance, they won’t really hit hard as a significant threat to your health. They share the same stuns and interrupts as the other specs of paladins, and they gain avenger’s shield, which will silence and daze, but because they will use it so frequent in their opening attacks against you, the silence portion will go on DR very quickly. A fear hear, a silence there, and a psychic horror to drop their shield should make very easy work of them.
Holy: (S) – The only thing holy priests have for them is blessed resilience and Guardian Spirit. They do not enjoy the luxury of bigger bubbles, bubbles on crit, 24% extra healing from grace, Focused Will, Pain Suppression, nor Power Infusion or Barrier. They can escape your mind flay snare with the pvp 4 piece bonus combines with body and soul, but its only an escape. They wont have the time to mana burn or try and CC you, the damage you will be doing will pt way to much pressure on them to continue to heal and move.
Discipline: (W) – By far the worst healer you can encounter as a shadow priest in battle. They can dispel your dots, bubble themselves to absorb a considerable amount of damage while in turn trying to mana burn you, pain suppression for even more reduction, power infusion for faster mana burns or more damage from another caster ally, focused will for 20% less damage taken. The Coup de Grace is rapture, so even when you starting runnng them low on mana, they can still get 6% of their mana back each time their shield is absorbed completely or dispelled, if done so in certain intervals.
Shadow: (E – Huge shocker, didn’t see that a mirror would be an even match at all!) – Getting the advantage on a shadow priest all comes down to who needs to use their CC first. The person who uses their Silence and Psychic Horror first is usually the one who is at a disadvantage, because in a utopian world, the two of you would just trade off CCs, with the last person getting the most time to benefit from the chain of control. Ideally, if you can get all your dots up on a shadow priest before you need to use silence, you should be a great advantage, unless you run into a dispel happy priest (like myself) in which case a little burst of mind spike to put them on the defensive would be your best play.
Assassination: (W) – The deadly brew talent is going to be a thorn in your side, since whenever they apply poison to you, it will also apply crippling poison. And since phantasm wont save you until MoP, you are stuck for now. Their burst is mutilate until sub-35% then backstab ramps up for them. They wont have the combo point generation a sub rogue does, but the increased energy regen from overkill may be too much for you to survive, if you can survive their trinket + cloak + vanish + 2nd opener, you certainly have a good chance to win. Otherwise, the combination of stuns, interrupts and constant slow may overwhelm you.
Combat: (E) – Combat really isn’t seen much in pvp, the few times I have encountered it, it really didn’t seem very burst like, because of the ability and poison choices of the rogue attacking me. I can certainly see how adrenaline rush + savage combat + combat insight can wreck someone, I just think with the amount of CC being used by you on them (and around you), such a combination may only exist in Utopia.
Subtlety: (VW) – The burst, the stuns, the silences. Sub rogues have a nasty way of torturing you with their cooldowns. One full set CCs (garrote, Kidney Shot, blind) is bad enough. Now add to that Shadow Dance (use of garrote and cheap shot out of stealth) and preparation (another instant sprint, smoke bomb, kick, etc). The only hope is that you can get a peel of you, or that you can find a way to survive this, as there is no way to avoid the burst….. or is there?
*Hot Tip (Rogues/Feral Druids)* – Ever want to make a rogue or feral druid half as useful as they are? Sure you do! This scenario works mainly in arenas, but in some cubbies in battlegrounds it can too. You want to position yourself in such a way that you are standing in a corner, facing away from the corner, with the back of your character directly in line with where the two sides of the wall meet. Then place yourself directly into that corner. What this does is make it exponentially hard for rogues and druids to “get behind you”. The shadowstep and feral charge (cat) mechanics will automatically put them in the one sweet spot behind you, but after yo fear them, it becomes damn near impossible for the player to get to that spot, and thus, they can no longer backstab or shred.
Elemental: (S) – Elemental Shaman have a few tricks up their sleeve, varying from grounding totem, to hex, to wind shear, but all of their damage aside from Flame shock is hard cast spells. One good silence will stop them in their tracks for 5 seconds, for good measure line up Psychic Horror right after and make it 8, and if their grounding totem is also gone, make it 16 from your fear. Elemental Shaman have some decent utility and can chase you around with Ancestral Swiftness or Glyph of Lightning Bolt, but your dots, and your ability to fear and silence will heavily outweigh their, at times, uni-linear attacks.
Enhancement: (W) – Enhancement Shaman pose a threat to anyone when their spirit wolves are ready to be used. The spirit wolves persist for 45 seconds, and basically leap to wherever their target moves to, so there is no escaping them. The wolves also stun periodically, and that combined with instant casts from maelstrom, interrupts, high burst from stormstike, and possibly and fire elemental and heroism/bloodlust tossed in there. There is a lot going on, and sometimes, just way too much to handle.
Restoration: (W) – Not as bad as discipline priests, resto shaman don’t have the capacity to mana burn and give you troubles that way. But they have much more ways of just generally annoying you than any other healer. They have no additional CC options from the other shaman specs, but versus a healer, being crow controlled or locked for that long against a healer marginalizes your effect greatly. Add into this that earth shield has 9 charges and you have on individually dispel each charge off to negate the shield, plus the fact it can be recast right away, makes them a very tough target to handle from a killing perspective on your end.
*Hot Tip (Shamans)* – Be mindful of how you approach shamans, their ground and tremor totems may become the bane of your existence. While their is nothing you can do about them dropping tremor totem after a fear, it is nice to know where it is in case another fear or sleep or chamr is going out, so that you can get rid of the totem. Grounding totem however will make or break fights. If they sense a silence or nuke is coming, they will wait and allow you to start casting the nuke before dropping it right before the cast finishes. Its a good idea to have a cancelcast macro in case, that way if you see a grounding totem buff on them, you can eat it up with a shadow word pain, and then unload your silence or bigger nukes.
Affliction: (E) – Affliction locks will function the exact same way you do. They have multiple dot effects, their main nuke is a channeled spell (Drain Life vs. Mind Flay), and their silence will wander around in the form of a felhunter and opposed to you casting it. They only real performance difference is how Psychic Horror works in comparison to Death Coil. You may want to open with your instant dots on a warlock first, then fear both the felhunter and warlock together, so you cant be spell locked while casting Vampiric Touch or any other cast time spell. If you get the jump, you should come out on top, if they get the jump on you, Unstable Affliction is a hard thing to overcome. Your opponent will also try to play the LoS game with you, if they do that, make sure to put some damage into their felhunter, if they lose their felhunter, they lose their silence and the 25% damage reduction from soul link.
Destruction:(S) – The destruction warlock used to be feared immensely in pvp. But the seduce/soul fire option has fallen greatly out of favor due to the much larger health pools against damage that didn’t increase to match the health gains. Most destruction warlock will run a succubus as their pet, if you kill it, its game over for them. Also, the will generally only use one dot in Immolate, this is in order to ramp up their Conflagarate, Incinerate, and Chaos Bolt damage, however all 3 of these spells have a cast time (Conflag is instant), so casting your silence while they are casting immolate will freeze their burst and usually push them into a defense mode when they just use a multitude of fear and death coil while they try to regroup. Shadowfury is a decent stun, but only if its on top of a crowd of people, and most of the effects of a destro lock can be dispelled. 3% healed per magic buff dispelled (You should really get that glyph! Its amazing!)
Demonolgy: (S) – Demonology locks play a bit in between both affliction locks and beast master hunters. They will send their felguard into to stun you, perhaps after trying to root you in their Hand of Gul’dan spell, and to top it all off, they will metamorph into a demon and immolate themselves to burn you while stunned, rooted, and their damage bonus is active. One quick trinket while this happens and followed by a fear, completely negates any offense from the demo lock and its felguard pet. Demo locks do tend to have a higher survivability than other locks, but if you can get your dots and your shadowfiend on them, you can kite them around for hours and finish them off with ease, just make sure to not get caught in a hand of Gul’dan, or you are going to be on the defensive.
Arms: (W) – Arms warriors are particularly nasty. I approach arms warriors like I do shadow priests. It all comes down to who has to use their cooldowns first. If you find the need to use up your dispersion and psychic horror before they use their throwdown and bladestorm, you may find yourself at the spirit healer very shortly. You always, ALWAYS want to keep your psychic horror ready for Bladestorm, its their 31 point talent and with one simple disarm, you can render it useless. You will generally not keep a warrior feared because of Berserker Rage having a similar cooldown to Psychic Scream. If you are able to juke cast** any melee who might interrupt you, you can get some channeled and cast time spell in on your opponents, just don’t get hit by a pummel, rebuke or kick, or it becomes much harder to recover.
Fury: (S) – While fury does have the stacking mortal strike effect, it just does not have the utility that arms does. No improved hamstring, no throwdown, no deadly calm. The addition of bloodthirst for healing is ok, but lacking all of the aforementioned abilities to keep a target within reach is lethal for them. A good warrior will make sure to have Heroic Fury, Heroic Leap, and Intercept ready for when you fear and try to kite, make sure all your dots are up and you should have no problems kiting a fury warrior even with disperse, because they certainly wont be stunning or knocking you down anytime soon.
Protection: (E) – The damage output by prot warrior isn’t a problem here, its just the amount of CC and surivability they have when facing you. Concussion blow, intimidating shout, shockwave, shield wall, spell reflect, Last stand + enraged regen, and gag order silences on heroic throw and pummel. Brutal. A good prot warrior can keep you permanently unable to do anything to them, make sure you use your psychic horror early so that you can get some dots active on them, and then go into kiting mode.
*Hot Tip (Warriors)* – When warriors, especially prot warriors, sense heavy spell casting coming in, spell reflect is almost a natural reaction for them. Take advantage of this in one of two ways, you can either anticipate the reflect coming and Psychic Horror their shield off for 10 seconds, making them incapable of using spell reflect and shield wall, or you can cast SW:P when you see the icon go up, and then dispel yourself, causing their spell reflect to actually heal you.
While this guide is designed for how to handle opponents as a shadow priest, the mechanics or a shadow priest are shared by other classes and can be used by them in the same fashion for the same results:
Silence – Mage, DK, Priest
Disarm – Rogue, Warrior, Hunter(pet), Priest
Horror – Warlock, Priest
Fear – Priest, Warlock, Warrior
Any class with those abilities can use similar effects to gain the desired result, in fact, other classes can use different abilities, like stuns, over a fear for when a paladin uses aura mastery to get the same effect of getting the effect to expire without wasting a silence or kick.
May this guide help you in seeing what your opponent has prepared for you and to handle what you are about to encounter for a more enjoyable battleground experience. And if you made it to the end in one sitting, you deserve a medal, a coffee, and someone to cook you dinner tonight, because this was taxing even for me! Thank you for reading!