Some of these are mistakes I have personally made, and some are things I just consider to be common sense but have seen many others make. Regardless of how intuitive some of these things may seem, I thought I’d share a brief list of some common errors that level 70 priests make when new to raiding/grouping as shadow.
- Do Not Only Have One Set of Gear
Yes, even though some of your gear may say “Increases damage and healing by up to…”, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep a nice set of healing gear as well. Part of being a “utility” class is knowing that on certain (potentially rare) occasions, you may be called upon to toss a few heals. However, it doesn’t end there. If you PvP, you will want a set of gear with +resilience, +stamina, and +damage. If you will be raiding a fair amount, you will want to collect a “stamina” set for specific encounters. If you ever think you will change your tailoring spec, be sure to stash away a few pieces to fill empty slots. And the list goes on… My point is that when it comes to gear choices, it pays to be a packrat.
- Do Not Doubt Your Healing Ability
Zero points in your holy tree does not mean you won’t be able to heal instances, even at level 70. Keep up a healing set of gear and learn to be very careful to limit overhealing by adapting a proactive healing model (starting and interrupting spells if not needed) and downranking to preserve mana. You won’t be able to create miracles, but you will be able to keep any reasonable group alive.
- Do Not Distrust Your Healers
If you have a lot of experience raid healing, sometimes the inclination to fill up a quickly depleting health bar is just too tempting. If you are constantly stopping DPS to drop out of shadowform, toss a few heals, and switch back, then you are just wasting precious mana. In most cases, your healer(s) will already be working on healing up whomever is taking the damage. Sure, there are times when it is completely appropriate to try to save someone in a dire situation, but if you keep getting the “healer twitch” then learn to let it go. Your primary focus is no longer your party/raid’s health bars, but that of the big bad guy(s) trying to squash you all.
- Do Not Gear for “Pure” Stats
Gearing is a balancing act of sorts, but there are priorities. In a nutshell, you should be looking for +hit (to the cap), then +damage or +shadow damage, enough stamina to survive, mana regen, and lastly intellect. Pre-TBC, Stam/Int/Spirit pieces were pretty nifty, but it really is reasonable that you should be looking for some +damage on every piece of gear now.
- Do Not Gem for Sockets
Gods of socket bonuses be damned. I know putting in that blue and yellow gem makes the text ungrey on that socket bonus, giving you some paltry reward, but unless you are getting something good out of it (needed +hit, or +damage) or need to meet a meta gem requirement, then feel free to plug in as many red +damage “runed” gems as you can.
- Do Not Miscalculate Your Threat
Shadow priests have no permanent threat reduction (short of death), and have what is called “backloaded threat” (meaning, the bulk of our threat generation happens well after the casting of our DoTs, as they tick down). When watching the threat meter, it is good to get an idea of how quickly you are gaining on your tank. You need to be able to back off well before it becomes a problem. It is also recommended to give yourself a some buffer room for your DoTs to tick. Estimate how much threat you typically generate in five seconds or so (more on longer fights, less on shorter), and use that amount of threat as your buffer between your threat level, and the amount in which your would pull aggro off your tank. A good shadow priest just does good DPS. A great shadow priest can scrape the aggro ceiling with a toothbrush.
- Do Not VE All the Time
Old school thought on shadow priests (pre-TBC) saw the passive party health regen from VE as the main reason to bring a spriest to a raid. However, VE is now our greatest liability. Given the backloaded nature of our threat, and the lack of control over the amount of threat this spell generates, this has the word “CAUTION!” written all over it. Using VE without regard to situation is arbitrarily throwing a giant unknown into a very precisely tuned equation. Vampiric Embrace lasts 1 minute, so you have to be sure you want it up when you put it up, as you can’t “undo” it until it times off. With our nifty epic crafted gear sets or smart itemization, it is very easy to outgear a tank and run into aggro problems in level 70 instances or early raiding. Also, healers are there to heal, so let them heal! Nothing stops you from putting up VE if the healers start to have trouble. Sure, in an ideal world you should use this all the time, but in reality, you have to be super cautious of threat. Only put it up if you know you can use it safely.
- Do Not Reapply DoTs Early
You likely spent two talent points to increase the length of time of your SW:Pain. This increases your DPS as time in which you would otherwise be reapplying this you could be casting another damage spell. It increases your mana efficiency by decreasing the number of times you would have to cast it during a fight. However, if you start reapplying this (or VT) early, you are doing just the opposite: decreasing both your DPS and mana efficiency. Sure, the fundamental objective of our spell casting it to “keep our DoTs up!”, but it is better for your DPS and efficiency to recast something half a second too late than too early. Try to reapply as close to when they end as you can, without going over.
- Do Not Pot Too Late
On long fights, every bit of your mana counts. Use your mana pots (and shadowfiend) as soon as you know that their use will bring you back to full mana (or close to it) without going over. Don’t wait until that mana bar is empty to use it! So, for example, try to use your Super Mana Potions when you have used up 3k of your mana. The reason using things early helps is that on longevity fights, you will likely want to use these as many times as the cooldown allows. You may be able to squeeze an extra use of a mana pot out of this, which could mean an extra 2.5k mana for you!