Shadow Priest Playstyle and Rotation Guide

Patch 10.2.5 Last Updated: 26th Jan, 2024
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Jaerv

Playstyle & Rotation

General Rotation:

The rotation is more of a priority list that changes based on talents and target counts.

This priority is assuming that you have the T31 Tier Set 4 piece. If you do not currently have it you will not cast the high priority Shadow Word: Death’s.

Opener:

Opener for Dark Ascension on Single Target:

Note for DA opener: If you have enough insanity to cast a Devouring Plague directly after your Dark Ascension, you can enter your cooldowns earlier before you press Shadow Word: Death and Mind Blast. For example if you start the pull with 20+ Insanity, you can instantly go 

And then continue with the priority…

Opener for Void Eruption (Voidform):

The Opener might look a little bit all over the place, but the idea behind it is to get Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death on Cooldown, dump your insanity with Devouring Plague and then get a Void Bolt > Void Torrent > Void Bolt cast off. So when that Void Torrent happens can fluctuate a little bit.

Multi Target

With the removal of Mind Sear, and the simplification made to our rotation, our multi target priority is the same as our Single Target priority. The only difference is that you keep Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain up on ALL targets, and you can use Divine Star or Halo “on cooldown”.

Every spell we have in our rotation cleaves from Psychic Link now, and they all cleave for the same amount, so the priority of the spells do not change. It’s all about Vampiric Touch management and making sure that the majority of the targets have Vampiric Touch on them before you press your big damage abilities.

The only thing you really need to think about is that if you play Distorted Reality in AoE, you want to spread out your Devouring Plagues on different targets to get additional value from Phantasmal Patogen and a little extra Mastery value. It is not worth doing with Mind’s Eye since the duration of DP is too short.

Playstyle

The Shadow Priest playstyle has since Shadowlands turned into your typical builder/spender playstyle. The very simple explanation of Shadow is that you keep your DoTs active on your target(s), use your builder spells (Mind Blast, Void Bolt, Mind Spike, Mind Flay etc.) to generate Insanity and spend your Insanity on Devouring Plague or Mind Sear.

The complexity of Shadow has evolved into knowing what spell to press in what situations. Since we have a lot more spells than your typical spec, it often causes the feeling that you have too many things available at the same time, and you want to use them all. This all comes with experience, and after a while you notice that it all kinda has a flow to it.

Some small tips or rules that might help are.

Global Cooldowns

Every spell's cooldown can be turned into global cooldowns instead.

Every hard-cast spell (Mind Blast, Vampiric Touch, Mind Spike etc.) is 1 global long.

Every channel can be cut into global cooldowns where 2 ticks is always 1 global long.

And when you think about that you can start to see that things always line up correctly. Things like that you can always fit 3 globals in between your Void Bolt casts, or that the cooldown of Mind Blast is X globals long. 

Damage Over Time (DoTs)

Another thing a lot of people seem to struggle with is when and how to apply DoTs in multi-target situations, and there are a few rules that can be followed to make this easier.

Rule 1: Try to always apply your DoTs BEFORE going into your cooldown windows. Having everything ready and applied before you cast your Void Eruption will not only stop you from wasting globals inside your cooldowns reapplying dots, it will always keep getting extended by Void Bolt.

The same applies to your Dark Ascension window since the duration of your DoTs is longer than the duration of Dark Ascension, so you do not have to spend time inside your cooldowns reapplying DoTs.

Rule 2: Outside of cooldown windows, try to treat the reapplying of DoTs as your filler instead of Mind Flay / Mind Spike. Weaving in a cast or two of Vampiric Touch in between your Mind Blast casts will not only stop you from losing casts of more important spells. It will also stop you from getting into the situation where you need to reapply every single DoT at the same time. Spreading them out slightly is fine, and will remove the overwhelming feeling of everything just crashing down at the same time.

Also always try to reapply your DoTs inside the pandemic window as much as you can, this reduces the amount of times you have to reapply them during an encounter.

The Pandemic window is <30% of the total duration, which is <6.3s for Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain (if talented into Misery).

Movement

As someone who helps with going over logs a lot, a very normal issue is movement.

And it's not really an easy issue to fix either because it has so much to do with pre-planning and fight knowledge, but a few tips to think about while learning are.

Stutter-stepping is a thing mentioned in a lot of games, and when mentioned in WoW it probably has a very different meaning than when it is used in League of Legends for example.

But the base idea is to use your instant cast spells to move a short distance ahead of time rather than moving all of the distance the second something happens.

As an example, let's say the boss has a mechanic in 30 seconds that requires you to be in a position that is 40y away from where you are. Instead of standing still until the 30 seconds have passed and then just running the 40y, you would start to move slightly every instant cast spell so that when the time comes, you are already there and haven't lost a single cast doing it.

Practice this by just moving slightly every time you cast an instant cast spell, even when you do not have to, and it will become muscle memory after a while. 

Spell casts you can use to move during: Devouring Plague, Void Bolt, Shadow Word: Death, Shadow Word: Pain, Divine Star, Shadow Crash, Power Word: Shield etc.

Survivability / Defensives

Shadow is very strong when it comes to surviving constant damage. You have very good self-healing from Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague, Mental Fortitude, the occasional Power Word: Shield, Flash Heal, Vampiric Embrace etc. 

For anything else it’s all about using your on-demand damage reductions accordingly. Use your Fade and Desperate Prayer for the smaller instant damage intakes. Fade has a very short cooldown if you talent into it, so use it often.

And then you use your Dispersion for the very very hard hitting mechanics, or if you are close to dying.