In the proposed patch 3.0.2 (pre-WotLK patch) going on the test realms in a few weeks, there could be some serious changes to shadow priest utility.
Zarhym (Warcraft Community Manager, and seemingly frequent harbinger of bad news) made a post on the regular Warcraft Raids & Dungeons forums the proposed utility changes for each class. (It’s a long post, so I won’t quote the whole thing, just the relevant priestly bits):
We also needed to address the “mana battery” roles in a raid. The mana regeneration effect they grant is no longer limited to their own party, and it no longer depends on the amount of damage they deal. Each time they trigger the mana regeneration effect, 10 people in their raid group will receive a buff which causes them to regenerate 0.5% of their maximum mana each second. This buff, Replenishment, will be given preferentially to raid members with the lowest mana, but will re-evaluate which raid members receive it each time it is fired. Replenishment is provided by Shadow Priests, Survival Hunters, and Retribution Paladins.
Misery: Causes spells cast at the target to have +3% spell hit.
Shadow Weaving: Buffs only self.
Vampiric Touch: Grants Replenishment mana regeneration buff to up to 10 raid members on dealing damage.
The changes to shadow priest are quite significant. Let’s break them down:
New mechanic: Replenishment
How it works: Every time Vampiric Touch’s mana regen property is triggered, it will look for the 10 people with the lowest remaining mana in the raid. Those people will then gain the “Replenishment” buff that regens 0.5% of their total mana every second as long as the buff is active. However, if a player is no longer within the bottom 10 people mana-wise, they will lose the buff the next time Replenishment is triggered (as it will jump to a new player with low remaining mana).
Replenishment from shadow priests is triggered every time shadow damage is dealt. It will stay up in the raid as long as Vampiric Touch is active.
Let’s say Player A has 14,000 base mana and Player B has 16,000 base mana and both players have the replenishment buff on them.
Player A will regen:
14,000 x 0.5% = 70 mana/sec = 350mp5
Player B will regen:
16,000 x 0.5% = 80 mana/sec = 400 mp5
Player A gains 350 mp5 while the Replenishment buff is on them, and Player B gains 400 mp5.
It is worth mentioning the the mana regen mechanics have changed a bit, too. Currently, mana will increase in “ticks” every two seconds. In WotLK, mana will smoothly regen, increasing every fraction of a second. In case you were worried about frequent hopping of the Replenishment buff cheating you out of mana from jumping around before it “ticks” on you: stop worrying! With the new smooth mana regen, you will benefit from Replenishment even if it is only on your for a moment.
As Vampiric Touch exists in Warcraft right now, it will regenerate 5% of the shadow damage you do as mana for your party. With the proposed change, Vampiric Touch will no longer scale with damage done. In most cases, the amount of mana it will regenerate is still being decreased from what it provides now.
- Pros: You no longer need to be well geared to regen mana well. More players will benefit from Vampiric Touch.
- Cons: No more stacking shadow priests for insane mana regen. Other classes can bring the same effect (survival hunters, and ret paladins) and the buff won’t stack with them, either.
Misery will be changed to a 3% bonus to spell hit (from a 5% increase to magic damage). Yes, this is a nerf. Some classes will still have trouble maximizing their hit at 80, but many (like shadow priests) will have no trouble scraping together their 133 spell hit. How Misery increases magic damage now, it is guaranteed to benefit all caster DPS. Now, it will benefit a smaller group of people.
Misery will not stack with Improved Faerie Fire from your friendly neighborhood lightning chicken boomkin. Let’s face it, Boomkins appear to be the new shadow priests: King of the Utility. They are one spec that brings a lot to the table. Repeat after me: It’s okay! Do I want to benefit from their Earth and Moon buff (magic damage increased by 13% on a target)? Hell. Yes.
Let us all take a moment and bow to our new magic-damage-increasing overlords. We salute you!
… Five talent points seem pretty costly for Misery, now.
This benefit of this buff becomes self-only.
Warlocks are not going to love us anymore.
I think I’m okay with that.
Other Changes that Will Affect Us
Improved Shadow Bolt from Warlocks also becomes a self-only buff, so we will no longer see a slight bump in DPS from it.
Overall, the potential benefit from raid buffs increases significantly. Moonkin Aura (+spell crit) will affect the raid. Bloodlust/heroism will, too, as well as totems. And the list goes on… The other side of that coin is that encounters will likely be tuned with that in mind.
- Will our DPS increase now that it isn’t directly proportional to Vampiric Touch and our utility has been diminished?
- Will Misery become 3 talent points instead of 5?
- There was no mention of Vampiric Embrace. What will happen to it, if anything?
I remain optimistic that all hope is not lost for shadow priests. Blizzard seems to be truly endeavoring to make every single talent tree raid-viable. Sure, shadow priests may not be king of utility anymore, but something will have to be done to make us raid desirable. My money is on tweaking our DPS output. Now that high DPS cannot potentially lead to insane mana regen through Vampiric Touch, I am see a door opening for us. This is an opportunity, not a nail in the coffin. We could be topping DPS meters once again (provided changes are made!).
On the flip side, I am still trying to re-program years of conditioning that the shadow tree is the best for leveling. At this point in time, 70-80 seems to go faster as holy. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes, too.