Warning: WotLK spoilage ahoy!
I remain dismayed at the state of shadow priests in the WotLK beta. We are well into the “class balancing” phase, and the spec remains lacking in DPS. Let me put it bluntly: we are on the endangered list. We need to take steps NOW to avoid going the way of the dodo.
There is No Such Thing as an Off-Spec
… and there is no such thing as a support class. Well, not in WotLK, at least. Every talent tree will be raid viable, and every DPS class can bring some utility to the table.
Shadow priests scale very poorly in high level content now, but remain desirable due to the raid buffs they bring to the table: Vampiric Touch, Misery, Shadow Weaving, and even Vampiric Embrace. Most raids will have at least one present for the overall increase to raid DPS.
In WotLK when every DPS class can bring nice buffs to the table, will shadow priests still have a place in raids? As it stands now, their DPS continues to scale poorly and many of the nice bonuses they bring to raids are being matches by other classes:
- Shadow Weaving – Raid synergies have changed, leaning more toward the elemental with abilities like Winter’s Chill and Improved Scorch; both buff Arcane/Frost/Fire spell damage. Destruction/fire seems to be a strong warlock spec going into WotLK, removing a sizable percentage of the potential beneficiaries of the shadow weaving buff from the raid equation. Thusly, the value of this buff to the raid has diminished in WotLK.
- Misery – This still gives the raid a 5% boost to magic DPS. However, it has met its match with an Elemental Shaman’s Totem of Wrath plus Bloodlust/Heroism.
- Vampiric Touch – Survival Hunter, Frost Mages, and Ret Paladins can all return mana now, plus shaman totems are currently raid-wide effects. Group mana regen buffage is no longer unique to us.
- Vampiric Embrace – The scaling of this spell was not adjusted in WotLK, leaving it very strong. However, VE has always been redundant with healing done by actual healers. The healing it does is not “smart” healing, but rather a passive health regen bonus to the group. It’s good for splash damage encounters, but provides little benefit otherwise.
Shadow priests should not be second class citizens in the realm of DPS classes. If we have strong utility, then we are fine with having low DPS. If our utility is par for the course, then our spells, scaling, and stats need to be readjusted. We do not need to be uber-OP. We just want to be a fair competitor for DPS raid slots.
Players are right that Mages are in some cases getting more utility now with new talents. We’ll evaluate the strength of classes utility when we tweak DPS output numbers. If a Mage spell is giving more utility than a Warlock spec, obviously the Warlock should be doing more DPS.
Hopefully, the same logic would apply to shadow priests when balancing, but so far no word about it.
We want there to be a reason to bring us to raids, whether that reason be DPS, utility, or some combination of the two, it doesn’t matter. We just want to be a raid benefit, not a raid liability.
Fix Our Spell Scaling
If we were to look at raising shadow priest DPS, the simplest way to do so would be to adjust how much our bonus spellpower affects our spells, the prime example being Mind Flay. Mind Flay currently gets about 57% of our bonus spell damage added to its damage (that figure, 57%, is called its “spell coefficient”). This is considerably lower than other 3 second spells and considerably lower than the mage channeled spell Arcane Missiles (which gets 150% of the benefit from spell damage that Mind Flay does when averaged over time, assuming Arcane Missiles isn’t talented, and assuming that it never crits).
Mind Flay’s spell coefficient is penalized partly due to the fact that it snares enemies. We have a glyph in WotLK that will remove the snare effect from Mind Flay, granting us greater range on the spell. How about removing the penalty to its scaling from the snare?
We juggle DoTs and spells with cooldowns. Mind Flay is our bread-and-butter filler spell, and gets a lot of use. Generally, about 30% of our raid damage comes from it. What if its spell damage coefficient scaled like Arcane Missiles? Then it would receive about 50% more benefit from bonus spell damage. Given the amount we use Mind Flay, we could see an almost 9% increase to our overall raid DPS from changing this one spell coefficient.
The weird thing is that Mind Flay is over-penalized for having a snare. Spells with snares, such as Frostbolt, are typically penalized 5% of their spell coefficient for being a snare. Frostbolt gets 81.4% of the bonus from spell damage. Mind Flay seems to be an exception to this rule at 57%. Frostbolt scales 43% better than Mind Flay does, and for no apparent reason. Why can’t Mind Flay scale as it was supposed to?
Let Us Use Our Stats
A look at a breakdown of where a shadow priest’s raid DPS comes from may show something a lot like this:
30% Mind Flay
25% Mind Blast
Almost two-thirds of our raid damage is not affected by the spell crit stat (Mind Flay, SW:P, VT). About a third of it gets essentially zero benefit from spell haste (VT and SW:P).
Our scaling with straight spell damage is less than that of other casters, as illustrated by the example with Mind Flay above. We also get less use out of spell crit, and less use out of spell haste, as they each affect a smaller percentage of our raid damage when compared to other classes.
What if we let Mind Flay crit? Arcane Missles can.
What if we let VT and/or SW:P be affected by haste? Starshards already is.
What if we lessened the cooldowns on Mind Blast or SW:D? Would it really be that game breaking?
Give Us Some Spells!
The way we DPS will not change in WotLK, save for the reapplication of SW:P. We are casting all the same spells, and they are making up about the same percentages of our damage.
It’s a new expansion. Give us something new! Do we really have to keep raiding in the same way we have been since the introduction of The Burning Crusade?
Yes, we do have a new shadow AoE, but as someone pointed out to me a little while ago: it does about the same amount of damage as Rain of Fire and costs more mana…
Give us a new spell we can actually use.
What Can YOU Do About It?
I am frustrated and very concerned. I am not alone. If the future of raiding as a shadow priest concerns you, you are not alone, either.
For more information about the worrying state of shadow DPS in the WotLK beta, go check out the shadowpriest.com community feedback project. They are taking an organized and constructive approach at giving feedback to game developers.
There are posts on the EU priest beta forum and US beta forum organizing concerns and soliciting feedback about shadowpriests:
If you are in the beta, then give feedback! For the love of Pete, THAT IS WHY YOU ARE THERE!
If you aren’t in the beta, then educate yourself on the current state of the class. Speak up if you are dissatisfied. Be constructive. Use numbers. Don’t flame.
We’ve been told that shadow priest changes are coming soon, but yet another patch went live today and once again there are no priest changes to be seen. We have seen patch after patch in the beta arrive with no improvements to the shadow priest situation. If you are concerned, let Blizzard know you are concerned.
We have been patient long enough. The time for waiting is over. Go, make your voice heard. Let Blizzard know we care about our spec, and they should, too.