Cataclysm Shadow Priest PvE Guide

1 2 3 26 Next
Shadow Priest PvE Guide (Currently Updated for – Patch 4.2)

The reason why if you click my forum avatar, it says the character is unavailable is because 1. I'm not a dwarf anymore and have not been for awhile and 2. I recently server transfered. I'm still here (Just started playing again actually).

Mostly everything that is written in here is to provide insight about how to do things, but if some of the less essential things do not fit your playstyle, nothing has to be followed down to the point.

I. Abbreviations To Know
II. The Shadow Talent Tree/Viable Raiding Specs
III. Glyphs
IV. Stats
V. Reforging
VI. Gems
VII. Enchants
VIII. Rotation
IX. Strategies For Different Situations
X. Macros
XI. Addons
XII. Sources
XIII. Under Construction (Possibly tips for current raid/s)

I. Abbreviations

Throughout this guide, I will be referring to these spells, and as a sPriest in general, you should become familiar with these terms.

DoT – Damage over Time
ES - Empowered Shadows
SP – Spell Power
MF – Mind Flay
MS – Mind Sear
VT – Vampiric Touch
DP – Devouring Plague
SW:P – Shadow Word: Pain
VE – Vampiric Embrace
MB – Mind Blast
SW:D – Shadow Word: Death
PP – Pseudo Power or Stat Weightings
BiS – Best in Slot
Tick – The part of your DoT that inflicts damage

II. Viable Raiding Specs

Basic Spec -

My Current Spec -

In the Basic Spec, there are two leftover points that you can generally put anywhere you see fit. You can finish off Mental Agility as I have done, put the point into Psychic Horror for heroics for quick CC, etc.
The only viable places that you could put the two extra points would most likely be either finishing up Mental Agility, Inner Sanctum, Phantasm, or Psychic Horror.

III. Glyphs

Along with Cataclysm and the new Glyph System, some glyphs were redesigned, some taken out, some were kept the same.
These glyphs are a must in shadow raiding:


Glyph of Mind Flay – 10% extra base MF damage - Changed in 4.06 to deal the increased damage even without SW:P on the target.

Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain – Increases the damage of SW:P by 10%, free damage, why not?

Glyph of Shadow Word: Death – When our target is at 25% or lower, the cooldown of SW:D is reset, meaning we can cast it twice in a row for free. With Cataclysm, Blizzard buffed our SW:D when a target is below 25%, therefore hard hitting damage and the mana return from our talent Masochism is awesome.


Glyph of Fade – Reduces the CD of Fade, our agro dropping ability, by 9 seconds.

Glyph of Spirit Tap – When we kill a target with our SW:D that would usually reward XP, basically any mob in a raid (includes adds spawned on boss fights), we gain back 12% of our base mana over 12 seconds.

For the third Major Glyph, there really isn’t a set one. Use whatever Glyph fits your playstyle/spec.
-Viable choices include:

Glyph of Psychic Horror – Reduces the CD of Psychic Horror by 30 seconds. Obviously, only take this if you have spec’d into it with your extra point.

Glyph of Fear Ward – Reduces the CD of Fear Ward by 1 minute. Great for certain fights that last longer than 2 minutes and have fear mechanics.

Glyph of Psychic Scream – Makes the affected targets fear in place instead of running all over the place. Good for heroics to toss a quick CC or on a raid fight that requires kiting adds, etc.

Glyph of Mass Dispel - Certain fights have mechanics such as AoE fear and whatnot, so if you do not have a healing priest in the raid, Mass Dispel would help a ton. Faster cast = more pew pew.


Not really any major changes here, shouldn’t need much of a changing up as the others do.

Glyph of Fading – Reduces the mana cost of Fade by 30%, helpful especially right now since many people are going OOM quite fast while tanks might be struggling with agro.

Glyph of Shadowfiend – You receive 5% of maximum mana if your Shadowfiend dies from damage and not expiring. Just a safety that in case the Shadowfiend dies, we still get mana back.

Glyph of Levitate - No longer requires reagents to cast.

Glyph of Fortitude – 50% reduction to the mana cost of your Fortitude buffs, helpful for buffing someone who has been battle rezzed without wasting too much mana.

Glyph of Shadow Protection – Extends the duration of the Shadow Protection buffs by 10 minutes.
IV. Reforging

Cataclysm introduced a way for us to even customize our gear to our liking.. Well, 40% anyways. Reforging is a new thing in Cataclysm, where you take 40% of a secondary stat (Haste, Crit, Spirit, Mastery) and convert it to another secondary stat that is not present on the same item.

For Shadow Priests, Haste is by far the best stat to reforge to. The stat weighing is still the same for reforging as you would be picking out upgrades. Haste should be almost on virtually every piece of gear you own, whether it be by default or reforged from crit/mastery. The best way to get hit capped if you aim for it, is to reforge Mastery and Crit into spirit. Never reforge out of Spirit/Hit if you're under the hit cap.

General Reforge List
Mastery --> Haste > Spirit/Hit until cap > Crit
Crit ---> Haste > Spirit/Hit until cap
Spirit (Only if above hit cap) ---> Haste > Crit > Mastery

V. Stats

Stat weights are found based off work from Kilee on Simcraft - Can be found on and - iLvl 391 BiS profile used to find the numbers.

Last update: 10/12/11

Intellect = 1.00 (Everything compared to Int)
Spirit = 0.46
Spell Power = 0.75
Hit = 0.46
Crit = 0.45
Haste = 0.54
Mastery = 0.46

IMPORTANT!: Scalings may, and probably will, change with different gear setups and specs. It is recommended that you run Simcraft on your own character, as scalings may and probably will change for each separate person.

The “hit cap” refers to the amount of hit you will need to not miss on a raid boss. There is a big debate whether to obtain the cap or not, but it is completely viable to run at cap or a bit below it (Though at higher gear levels, hit cap should not be a problem and obtained). This does not mean you should ignore hit rating altogether, however. In Cataclysm, the hit cap is 17%, or 1742 hit rating. Thanks for our talent Twisted Faith, any spirit that we have on our gear is converted to hit on a 1:1 basis.*

Spell Hit Caps:
* 1742
hit is the general hit cap for most races.
* 1639 hit is the cap as a Draenei due to Heroic Presence*
*Heroic Presence is not shared amongst the group anymore, and only affects you if you are a Draenei.

VI. Gems

Only gems you should be using are..

Meta gemBurning Shadowspirit Diamond; +54 Int and 3% increased Crit damage
Red slotBrilliant Inferno Ruby; +40 Intellect
Yellow slotReckless Ember Topaz; +20 Intellect +20 Haste
Blue slotsPurified Demonseye; +20 Intellect +20 Spirit

VII. Enchants

These are general enchants. The ones you get from Tailoring, Engineering, and some other professions may be, and probably are, better than the ones listed here.

Head – Arcanum of Hyjal – +60 Int, +35 Crit

Shoulders – Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone – +50 Int, +25 Haste

Back – Enchant Cloak - Greater Intellect - +50 Intellect

Chest – Formula: Enchant Chest - Peerless Stats - +20 to all stats

Wrist – Enchant Bracer - Mighty Intellect - +50 Intellect

Hands – [Enchant Gloves – Speed] - +50 Haste

Waist – Ebonsteel Belt Buckle – Adds a prismatic socket; Add in a Brilliant Inferno Ruby

Legs – Powerful Ghostly Spellthread - +95 Int, +55 Spirit

Feet - Formula: Enchant Boots - Lavawalker: Increased movement speed +35 Mastery
or - [Enchant Boots - Haste]
: +50 Haste

MH Weapon – #1 - Enchant Weapon - Power Torrent – Chance on proc to gain 500 Int for 12 seconds.

Off Hand – [Enchant Off Hand – Superior Intellect] - +40 Int

Two Handed Weapon – Enchant Weapon - Power Torrent - Chance on proc to gain +500 Intellect for 12 seconds.
VIII. Rotation

The five main spells that shadow priests use consist of three DoTs (Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague, and Shadow Word: Pain) and two “filler” spells (Mind Blast and Mind Flay).
With Cataclysm, the shadow priest DPS style has changed up a bit, adding in our new talents – Evangelism and Archangel – and our two new class systems – Empowered Shadows and Shadow Orbs from Mastery.

*1 - Opening Rotation:
VT -> SW:P -> DP -> MFx1.5 or x2 -> MB

*2 - Opening Rotation While Running In:
SW:P -> DP -> VT -> MFx1.5 or x2 -> MB

If you're finding yourself in a good place mana-wise throughout fights (which usually is when you acquire more gear) pop Shadowfiend and Archangel as a DPS CD rather than for mana return.

*1 – Same rotation as usual, DOTS up, MF as a filler, and MB when applicable. This is where we have a change. With our Mastery stat, we receive something known as Shadow Orbs which is a buff we receive that proc off of SW:P and MF and can stack up to x3. Shadow Orbs increase our Mind Blast or Mind Spike damage by a percentage depending on our Mastery rating. When you use MB with x1-3 Shadow Orbs up, you get a buff called Empowered Shadows. This is basically a static increase to our DOTS, and has a 15 second duration. As we continue on through our rotation, we need to make sure that Empowered Shadow is always up. Casting MB should only be based on two things – Refreshing Empowered Shadows or casting it on CD knowing that Empowered Shadows will not fall off before it is off CD. With 4.06, Mind Blast does significant damage and from a pure DPS view, is a DPS increase casting it on every CD.

IMPORTANT! – Remember that old thing, Shadow Weaving? Do ya? Well, most experienced Shadow Priests do, and we rejoiced on its removal. Oh? What’s this? Evangelism? Well, this thing is basically like Shadow Weaving, stacking up to x5 and increasing DOT damage by 2% per stack, adding up to 10%. You can only gain Evangelism stacks through MF ticks, so it should generally always be up.

After the opening rotation, spells fall into more of a “Priority List” and they are the following:

1. Vampiric Touch
2. Devouring Plague
- DPS cooldowns such as Shadowfiend and Dark Archangel
3. SW:D ONLY when boss is < 25% x2 (Glyph refreshes CD)
3. Mind Blast (To keep Empowered Shadows up or on CD with good judgement)
4. Mind Flay

IX. Strategies For Different Situations

To maximize your DPS and understand the shadow priest class more, you need to understand the different situations that may happen during raids.

Multi – DoT:

This tactic is where shadow priests shine, if you keep your DoTs up that is. Usually involves a primary target, plus other adds that are either off-tanked or left alone. On the primary target, you want to keep VT, DP, and SW:P up on that target at all times. The secondary target(s) should have VT (And maybe even SW:P) on them. With the mana problems lower geared people are facing, it might be better to not multi DOT unless you are sure you can keep mana up.


Raids require paying attention, and sometimes moving around because of a fight mechanic. While we’re moving, we can’t recast DOTs or use MF/MB, so hit DP as much as possible without OOMing yourself and SW:D for mana return through Masochism. SW:D > DP if the boss is below 25%.

Quick Burn:

Generally used on mobs that spawn off of bosses or trash pulls when the mob will die relatively fast and your DOTS will not have full effect. For this, it is recommended to use Mind Spike, our new nuke spell, and not throw DOTS up because it would be wasted mana and Mind Spike wipes all DOTS on the target anyways. When the quick burn target is below 25%, use SW:D for mana return from Masochism and hopefully even Glyph of Spirit Tap.

Mind Sear:

With fights that have 5+ adds, just straight up use MS. With fights that have 2-4 adds plus the boss, VT each one and then use MS. Mind Sear got a pretty huge buff with 4.1, so it is completely viable to use in this situation now.

Heroism/Time Warp/Bloodlust:

During Heroism, Time Warp, or Bloodlust, you will want to recast VT and DP in order to gain the haste to it ASAP. SW:P is automatically refreshed through MF so no worries there. MB when applicable and MF in between.
X. Macros

Macros aren’t used too much with a shadow priest, but from my point of view, there is only one or two that’s worth using if any.

Quick in and out of Dispersion in one button. Less time in Dispersion to avoid damage, more time to pew pew. Warning: Do not spam, as it may activate then deactivate if you do. Because of this, I have normal Dispersion and this macro on two seperate keybinds.

Defensive Dispersion Macro:

/cast dispersion
/cancelaura dispersion

XI. Addons – NOTE: These are just some, not all

Getting the right addons are key to a shadow priest’s DPS. Using Blizzard’s debuffs under the original unit frames will not give you a good feel of how much longer your DoTs are up for, therefore, DoTs won’t be up for as long as they should be/need to be.

Debuff/DoT timer:

The most important part of any raiding shadow priest’s addon list. There is a wide selection of what to use, I'll just list the one I use but there are many more. Use whichever one helps you the most/you can use best.

- DoTimers – Keeps track of DoTs and debuffs on different targets, giving the name of the target affected by which DoT/debuff. Can be overwhelming at first, but very helpful once used to.

- Forte Xorcist – Design is very good, lines up your DoTs in casting order. Used by a good deal of shadow priests and recommended for its flexibility and customization.

- Power Auras – Tracks many things, including DOTs, procs, etc. - Great to use to track shadow orbs! Go to the PowerAura's page then check out their Wikibase for a pre-set priest setup.

Cast Bars:

The Blizzard cast bar just doesn’t work if you plan on raiding, and the main reason for that is because of latency. There’s a slight delay as your spell cast gets transferred over to the WoW servers, and the information gets back to you showing that the cast is complete. This usually only takes less than 1 second, but it all adds up, and on some fights, the smallest things matter. Any bar that shows latency will work just fine.

- Quartz – One of my personal favorites. I’ve tried others, and by far, I liked this one the most. It’s recent update changed so that it tracks each tick of your MF/other spells that channel. Has the option to track debuffs/DoTs on the target as well if you want to use it as a mini-timer.

XII. Sources

Most of the information found in this guide was compiled through many other sites, and if you’re curious, you can go to these websites for other information that might have not been mentioned in this guide and also the definite math (if you’re that type of person) for why some things are preferred over others.

Other shadow priest guides -

The gathering spot of the shadow priests of WoW - and

BiS List for current patch: 4.2 -

A good article regarding hit cap in Cataclysm -

The latest this will be updated will be 4.3 content. I quit 3 months ago and am just coming back, so information will slowly be trickling in or not at all for 4.2 Firelands content.

- How does Mind Spike fit into our rotation?
- What do I do with this seemingly useless spell?

Mind Spike does not fit into our rotation whatsoever. The downside of this "nuke" is that it wipes all DOTs off of our target. So if we ever use it, we'd be forced to reapply DOTs, taking up 3 GCDs and wasting time without having DOTs ticking, which ultimately means DPS downtime.

The only time you will be finding yourself using Mind Spike on a boss fight would be to nuke down a few (small number of) adds very quickly. Usually things that have ~10 second deaths.

- I'm not very good at interpreting numbers, what's our stat priority?
- With the 4.06 mastery buff, does Mastery come out above crit?

Stat priority has stayed the same throughout most of the expansion so far. Intellect > Haste > Spirit/Hit > (or equal to) Crit = Mastery

It was a well debated idea that Mastery would be worth more since MB got buffed and so did our Mastery effecting it, but they are both about equal.

- Hit cap or no hit cap?

It really all depends on you as a person. If you are comfortable with the chance of missing spells and can keep a close eye on your DOT timer/whatever you use and notice misses, which in turn means you can reapply the missed DOT ASAP, yes running under hit cap is perfectly fine, though this does not mean that Hit as a stat is completely useless. I cannot stress that enough.

However, this does not mean that running either below, at, or at a certain percentage will result in higher DPS. They are all equally viable as long as you are attentive enough to be doing your job within a raid (DPSing, staying outta bad stuff, etc) and still keep DOTs up along with misses.

- How do you propose to getting hit cap?

General answer, all spriests should follow this:

- Do NOT reforge out of spirit/hit
- Reforge all available Mastery to Spirit/Hit if Haste is unavailable
- Reforge all available Crit to Spirit/Hit if Haste is unavailable

- Mana is such a problem, how do you manage it?

It really depends on one thing for this. How is your gear? This is mainly the problem I'm guessing or you're doing something incredibly wrong. After freshly hitting 85, mana is going to be a huge problem/annoyance for spriests until you get about full heroic 5 man geared. However, after this gear threshold, mana doesn't become a problem whatsoever unless you're multi-dotting like a madman (IE - HM Maloriak).

- Okay, All Mighty Haotududis, how do you keep your mana up as a low ilvl'd spriest or during certain heavy multi-dot encounters?

Oh okay stop your grovelling, I'll share my secrets. Basically, what you wanna do if you're having mana problems, mainly at low gear levels, is to keep Shadowfiend and Dark Archangel as mana CDs opposed to DPS CDs.

If you're still having mana problems while doing this or during heavy DOT fights, start using SW:D on CD when you're ~30% mana. Even though this is a DPS loss by using it on a mob that is > 25% health, having 10% mana back every 10 seconds and continuing with your rotation is better than running OOM and sitting there/using Dispersion.

- Shadow priest utility? What do we/they bring to a raid?

Hahaha, utility?! You're too funny! .. Jk, but seriously. We bring alot more than people think we do if we're called to use it.

Our two Hymns are on ridiculously long CDs, so they may only be used each fight/attempt once. Divine Hymn (Healing) is good for when there is massive AOE raid damage going out that might be stressful on healers.

Hymn of Hope (Mana) can be, and should be used when healers are starting to get low on mana and call for it. This should give your healers the ability to push that extra little bit and get through the fight.

Leap of Faith is very situational and can be used to avoid some mechanics/unnecessary damage. Either that, or you're being a good person and saving someone from failing. For example, one use of this is to avoid fall damage.

Mind Quickening is our 5% passive Haste buff that we get for being in Shadowform.

- Mind Blast on CD or wait for Orbs?

MB on CD is generally a DPS increase over the DPET (Damage per execute time) of MF, with or without orbs. However, your priority is to keep Empowered Shadows up, so if you MB without an Orb, make sure ES will not fall off by the time it comes off CD.
where did you get your scsling data from..? its a good ides to check multiple sources snd such on the Best Raiding Gear Available thread. A whole lot of good theorycrafters there, and I tend to agree with them rather than a shadowpriest off of MMO. Generally, the stat weighing is the same, as its Int > Haste > Crit > Mastery.
1) Thanks for posting this. I appreciate people who take the time to put all of the information out there in one document.

2) Have you tested the numbers of your opening rotation? Granted, I don't think it would make a huge difference by changing it up, but I always find it beneficial to start off with SW:P. I do this in hopes that an orb will pop while I'm casting VT and DP so that I can MB right away and get into the MF portion of our priority listing after that. Also, being an instant cast, I can cast it while the tank/everyone is running in and by the time the GCD is up, I will be in position to stop and be ready to cast VT right away.

I should preface this with the fact that I haven't put any numbers behind it myself, either. I'm just curious as to what your's/others' opinions are.
Hmm, I could see how that would be beneficial since the RNG of our orbs is completely ridiculous at times. But on a stand still opening rotation, getting VT up first would result in better long term DPS since it is by far our hardest hitting DoT. Unless you have really bad RNG with the orbs, which we all do sometimes, I suggest throwing VT up first ^_^

However it all changes when you're running in for a fight while the tank gets positioned, etc. because as said in the guide, you'd wanna cast DP and SW:P as you're running in since they're instant casts.

All in all, in the rotation, going VT -> SW:P -> DP instead of DP -> SW:P wouldn't create much of a difference in the long run, I think that most theorycrafters have people casting DP due to the initial damage it does. I haven't tested my numbers yet to be honest, but its working for me and I'm sure somewhere on there's multiple Simcraft examples of using this rotation.
This is by FAR the best post I've read in a long while. Since I hit 85, I've been reading forum after forum trying to figure out how best to play because my DPS sucks. If I had seen this it would have been a MILLION times easier. (See my post: I suck as a Spriest... plz help) lol

Thank you so much for this! How can this post be moved back up to the top page?? I had to search for it by title when I came back to it after downloading the DoTimer Addon.

BTW... I read nothing but bad things about the X-Perl Unit Frames Addon as of late. I went to download that one, but read a million complaints and bugs. Heard it used to be the best, but is now completely out of date. Just a heads up for anyone looking to download it... I'd wait till the next fix for it.
Oh, and 1m thing... if you check out my stuff as of right now it is not fixed. I am re-doing practically everything... Talents, Glyphs, Enchants (none atm) based on the information I gleaned from my aforementioned post and based on the information you have posted. Thank you again... SO MUCH!!
MF should refresh SW:P. I haven't had an issue with having to recast it so far.
01/02/2011 12:06 PMPosted by Ayriel
BTW... I read nothing but bad things about the X-Perl Unit Frames Addon as of late. I went to download that one, but read a million complaints and bugs. Heard it used to be the best, but is now completely out of date. Just a heads up for anyone looking to download it... I'd wait till the next fix for it.

Yeah, unfortunately the X-Perl creator hasn't updated it since Cata dropped, and I'm so used to it but its just too .. Blah right now. Doesn't show debuffs, can't mouseover buffs, etc etc. I'll fix that up on the thread. Also glad I could help :)

Most of this look good, but I think you should add glyph of mass dispel to the list. If there isn't a healing priest in your raid you end up with this job, less time casting mass dispel = more dps.

Mind sear is so weak right now I get better results from multi-dotting on AoE pulls.

First time I've heard it put like this, to clarify for me, Are we supposed to refresh SW:P after 5x Evangelism like the old bugged Shadow Weaving?

Ah that's true. Since alotta guilds are running mainly 10 mans its possible. Thanks :D

Also multi dotting would result in higher DPS, but on fights such as Magmaw when the adds have around 200k health (more or less, just an estimate - on 10 man) DoTs expire before taking full effect which means wasted mana and Mind Spike spam just blows way too much mana. Mind Sear as of now, even though its ridiculously weak, is probably our best way to deal with small health pool adds along with SW:D in execute range.

Regarding Evangelism and Shadow Weaving, no we do not have to refresh SW:P when we get x5 stacks. The refresh with MF is enough to get all your buffs applied to SW:P.
Starting to add the WoW item along with the guide. Bordrem's a hell of a thing. Bamp.
Nice guide, very informative!
Thanks to Omnibadia for pointing out the fact that the stat scale was somehow incorrect. Did some more digging and found an updated scale.

Join the Conversation

Return to Forum