Maximizing S-priest DPS on Bosses

Easily 70% of the following, I’ve said before. And it’s in several other places as well. But I got asked, and you know what a sucker I am for the sound of my own voice. So… gear, talents and techniques in one long post, all with one narrow, narrow focus: How do to the BEST damage to the end-level bosses.

OK, looking at that opening – BEST is not THE RULE. I’m writing for the shadowpriest who is at level 70, done pretty good, but hits the bosses in Heroics and (worse) kara and is struggling. Who hears people say an Spriest should be doing 400 dps minimum to start on kara and goes, “Huh? Nobody ever complained and I’m doing 200? What the…?” If you’re level 70 and you’ve gotten enough time in the trenches and gear to be opening the doors of heroics and Kara… As shadow I did 300 dps with greens and one spelldamage blue. (more blues than that, but they weren’t spelldamage.)

I’m going to assume you already got some spelldamage, some uber gear, a few of this and that – you’re not starting from scratch. What you’re doing is… tweaking. Not twinking, not yet – you’re building a base from which to twink. (Twinking a level 70. snort.) So.

Number one – order, priority, everything. If you are not using 5/5 shadow focus AND have 76 hit rating, fix it. For every 16 2/3 MORE hit rating you have, you can reduce shadow focus by 1.

Look. If you’ve got SF5/5 but no hit rating, you’re missing 7% of the time even BEFORE the bosses start using their oh-so-special loving to make your life harder. You only have to cancel 6% (there’s that annoying “always 1%”). You’re lucky – you’ve got a talent that will make the biggest chunk of your hit cap disappear. Mages… +200 or so damage rating to get to the same level. Next time you feel down about how much more useful crits are for them, remember that.

So you’re up to hit cap. Now what do you look at? Now, we look at mana regen. What, How does this do for DAMAGE? Well, we could jump straight to damage. But by serious measure of DPS for a boss fight the measure is NOT how much damage did you do while you were doing damage, it’s how much damage did you do over the course of the fight? You can plan on boss fights lasting a minimum of 5 minutes – 10 being more common. If you crank out (without becoming george) 2000 dps for 2 minutes and do nothing for 8, and your dps is a whopping 200. Not enough.

As a shadow priest, you are on the same dance floor as the mages and warlocks – no OFSR for you, not for planning. Spirit gear? Some – assuming someone in your party has Improved Divine Spirit so you’re getting damage and mp5 from it. But that’s pretty much the only reason to get it. Frankly, you’ll live by the mana potion. But – and important like logistics is to battles – the mana potion has to last you till the next one. That’s two whole minutes. Mind Blast (11), no talents, is 450 mana every six seconds. 9000 mana per potion timer. Oh – and the super mana potion can give you – at best – 3000 mana. Since the range is 1800 to 3000, the average return is 2400 mana. And sometimes you’re only going to get 1800.

For gear, you want a flat minimum of 100mp5 IFSR. And unlike hit rating, you should always be on the lookout for more – sometimes dropping a bit of spelldamage to get it. But I’ll discuss that tradeoff after we have the basics. For now, if you’re not at least 100 mp5 IFSR, you’re too low.

You also HAVE TO have the following talents. In Discipline, you want Inner Focus and Meditation. Yes, IF is a cooldown thing. In a 10 minute battle you’ll use it three times. That’s three free spells. (yeah, crits, but we’ll get to that later.) Meditation… meditation almost makes spirit worth it for the shadowpriest. Let’s assume you have a 200 mp5 OFSR (you’ll have more, pretty much guaranteed, despite concentrating on IFSR, but bear with me for easier math). That’s 30 mp5. Over the two minute mana potion cooldown that’s an additional 720 mana. You won’t take – this time – Mental Agility. Not one of the 5 points. Yes, the mana savings is huge. But… it’s too high in this tree, and you will sacrifice DPS to get it. Actually, if you’re skilled and tricksy and what I’m saying is old hat you can actually be really effective making some sacrifices in shadow and taking this. But I’m not writing for you folk, I’m writing for the ‘I’m level 70 getting 200 DPS. 400 for kara minimum? HUNH?”

In Shadow, in regard to mana, you WILL TAKE: Focused Mind 3/3; Vampiric Touch. Oh, and Improved Shadow Word: Pain. “OK,” you say, “I get Vampiric Touch. 5% of damage comes back as mana. But Focused Mind? and ISW:P? Shouldn’t you be waiting till you discuss damage for the Pain?” Actually, I bet most of you get the real reasons already. But did you notice I like the sound of my own voice? heh. OK, using mana more efficiently is the flipside of having more mana. I can gain 15%, or I can spend what I have 15% more efficiently, either way I get potentially 15% more spell. And ISW:P? I know how it reads – it’s increasing damage by tacking on more DOTs. It is more damage if time goes on long enough – the key being long enough. Every boss fight is going to be long enough. Congratulations, your Pain Dots are 33% more mana-efficient. You’re welcome. We’re done with gear and talents for increased mana, though we’ll come back briefly when we jump into techniques.

The last place you can bump dps with gear and talent is in actual, yep, spell damage. Finally. Gear first, and it’s a simple measure. 3.5 +damage is nominally +1 DPS. If you’ve got your hit cap and you’ve got your regen floor, add spelldamage. Shoot for 300 has your floor, though I’ve managed with 250. Once you’re at 300, continue adding. Try to bring in mp5 too, but at this point more damage does not cost you more mana. In a perfect world you’re regenerating enough to go a nasty 20 minute fight (Gruul – ahem) without resorting to a pot. The world is not perfect, and besides more damage on Gruul means less time. So we’ve got gear and enchants and gems for damage – let’s look at talents.

YOU WILL have the following talents: Mind Flay; Shadow Weave 5/5; Darkness 5/5; Shadowform; Misery. I’m going to be ambivalent about shadow power. Yes, I’ll explain – haven’t I been doing so? Mind Flay is obvious – another spell damage spell. What isn’t obvious is how it fits for our techniques – and a hint here is that technique is probably the biggest thing you’ll discover to spike your damage. Anyway… Shadowweave, darkness, shadowform and misery are going to give you increased damage to your spells measured in PERCENTAGES. All that gear you have? Bump. +35% to all your damage, and +40 for two critical keystones – SW:P and MF. Oh, and Vampiric Touch. heh. So… why not shadow power?

I have a long post on it, so I’ll link and summarize. At 10% spellcrit from Int and this together, your total spellcrit – pregear – is going to be ~25%. Your net return from this will be in the vicinity of 3% more damage. The problem comes from the temptation to add to spell crit gear. Usually this requires sacrificing spelldamage or spell hit. Although you get it as an incidental (along with more mana) from Int. The thing is, it takes a fair chunk more spell crit to have the same impact as more spell damage. You also have to sacrifice some other talents – and your guild may want you to have Improved Vampiric Embrace, or you may really think silence is critical, or… you get the point. The key here is that it will add spelldamage, but in my opinion the gain is headed into … maybe zone. There’s one more problem with increasing your crits. One of your critical spells is Shadow Word: Death. We’ll be facing that in techniques, but here’s the nasty thing. It hurts you like it hurts the other guy unless you kill him. Big Crits in this are not necessarily a good thing — though if you build a lot of stamina (armor won’t do you any good here) you might be able to compensate. So for increasing spellcrit, you’re forcing a hamper to your combat technique AND you’re going to have to be heavier in non-damage gear. A secret? I’ve met some really dangerous and effective shadowpriests who use crit well. But most of the high-scorers will choose this just below, well, more agility. At least its better than strength…

OK, we’ve done gear and talents (with one exception), let’s take on the big one. Technique.

The key to an effective technique for DPS is getting the most damage to happen in the shortest time – and anything that can happen at the same time is best of all. That’s the key to the danger of warlocks, you know. It’s not the one dot that does so much damage. It’s the dot…dot…dot…dot… all ticking together over and over, stacked on top of each other.

We also want to decrease delay between BIG damage spells. Two 1500 point spells over 10 seconds is 300 dps. Two of them over 6 seconds is 500 dps.

And finally, we want to fill the voids. We want to be doing SOMETHING while other things are cooling down. Because everything that happens is one… more… point of pain.

A quick glance at a talent, and we’ll get into some nuts and bolts. Improved Mind Blast. Reduces cooldown. Now, MB is a big damage spell, but you can’t get it down to ‘back to back’ casting. Since you’re going to have holes, what you need to do is play around with how much you’ll fit and how you’ll fit it and… ok, you don’t want to do all that theorycrafting. I RECOMMEND (not you will, but this works best for basics) IMB 3/5. You’re going to wind up with a big enough opening to do two mindflays or one MF plus a couple of other things, with the occasional lag not really being that disabling.

Here’s the current ‘school of thought’ about how the technique is described. You set all the spells up in a priority list. Line them up in a row on your toolbar, highest to lowest, left to right. You’ve got five damage, plus an oddity that messes everything up but is ‘high demand’ from everyone else: SW:P; VT; SW:D; MB; MF. And VE. Line them up in just about that order – put VE right before VT for now. And when the battle begins, go almost robotic. Click the leftmost ready icon as soon as it’s up. Exception – if you’re in the middle of a mindflay, let the mindflay finish. The last tick of damage is ON the last tick of the last second – cut it early and you cut the DPS from MF by a third. You built for that fraction of a second of lag – the slower start on the next spell will be more than compensated for over time.

OK, it’s not quite that simple – but it’s real close. If you hit a period when it’s necessary to burn the boss down – say, the last 30 seconds – and your party can afford to stop getting the heals, drop VE from the rotation. And every so often you’re going to do Something Else — almost always mana related. See, told you we’d be coming back to it.

Put Inner Focus on the toolbar right above Mind Blast. Make a macro for mindblast so that on modifier (shift, maybe), it casts inner focus and then mindblast. Here, let me write it for you.

/cast [modifier:shift] Inner Focus
/use 13
/use 14
/cast Mind Blast

Yes, I stuck trinkets in there – the 13 and 14. And if they’re up they’ll go off, and if not they won’t (just kick up an error message but WITHOUT stopping the flow). And you don’t have to keep an eye on their status as well. ANYWAY… Use the shift key the first mindblast. And every time mindblast AND inner focus are up, do it again.

Second Something Else. I have all bosses mentally divided into a category I call Fiends. “Singles” and “multiples”. I will use my fiend on every boss – it’s more damage (simultaneous with other stuff which means MORE dps), and it’s a return of mana. On a boss that’s going to last, say, 5-6 minutes, I’m going to pop the fiend when I waste the least mana – that is, when all the mana he gives me goes into my somewhat empty pool, and not ‘wasted’. On the other hand… like I said 10 minutes on a kara boss is not going to be uncommon. If I’ve got a ‘multiple’ boss I’ll pop the fiend early – even if I’m only lightly down on mana. Early enough that I expect to use him again. At around the 1:30 minute mark of a fight with a “multiple” boss the fiend comes out. And then I watch cooldown (as well as mana status) for his next use. But remember… for 15 seconds this thing is delivering,well, before all those +damage talents and gear above it is adding about 75 dps for its duration. And this post is about damage.

A couple of trivial bits before I summarize, ok? First – yes, I stuck SW:D in there even though it’s hammering you as well because it’s not killing the boss. Your VE – and if you chose Improved VE even moreso – will more than fix this problem. It’s a Huge, Nasty, Fast spell with its only flaw being the irreducably long cooldown. Taking it out of your rotation is going to SEVERELY hamper your dps. Live on the edge – feel like a warlock for a little bit. Second – I need to point out that Vampiric Touch is not just a mana pump. It, too, is damage. At 650 damage base it’s not your big spell, but it’s still going to contribute – and it’s fast. You can actually cast it faster – there’s no cooldown – but on a DPM basis that’s… a bad idea. Add in the lost mana from not allowing the ticks to progress and, well, that’s why we don’t chaincast it for our damage.

OK, let’s summarize, shall we?
Gear: spell hit +76, mana regen 75 ISFR, 100 preferred, spelldamage out the wazoo.
Talents, Disc: Inner Focus and Meditation, maxed.
Talents, Shadow: ISW:P 2/2; Shadow Focus 5/5; Improved Mind Blast 3/5; MindFlay; Shadow Weaving 5/5; Focused Mind 5/5; Darkness 5/5; Shadowform (which means you have to have basic Vampiric Embrace); Misery 5/5; and Vampiric Touch. Shadow Power is an option but carries risks that may be… uncomfortable.
Technique: Prioritize the spellcast order so dots stack and high damage is chosen before low damage, but letting low damage fill cooldown holes. Recommended sample order: SW:P; VE; VT; SW:D; MB; MF. Use Inner Focus and Shadowfiend and Trinkets liberally.

Hitting beats missing, and after that stack and then cram and finally increase power of attacks for max dps. That’s it, really, for everybody. This post? The details are for shadow priest, the principles… are for just about everybody.

~ by Kirk on September 16, 2007.

6 Responses to “Maximizing S-priest DPS on Bosses”

  1. Solid guide. I usually start with VT tho, to ensure i don’t miss a tick of SW:P. And to people out there putting down mediation because they don’t need it for Lurker or whatever fight need to remember that we should be spec’ing for the progression encounters out there, not the ones that are already easy for us. That mana regen u don’t think u need on Lurker or Shade or whoever, you will love when you’re fighting mag, or Vashj, or some other 15+ min encounter.

  2. […] Shadow Priest max dps, again I’m still seeing a problem in many, many blogs and reports.  I’m going to repeat, reworded, a previous message.  Actually, I’m going to repeat only a small portion of the earlier post. […]

  3. Okay, I got linked to this via a post on wow_ladies comm in LJ, and I’d like to say that MP5 is the last thing that any shadow priest thinks of. There are two stats that a shadow priest gears for:

    1. spell hit to cap
    2. spell damage

    The more spell damage a shadow priest has, the better mana efficiency they are getting from their spells. Shadow priests will not get any MP5 on their gear until T6. That’s what chain chugging mana pots, inner focus, and their shadowfiend is for. Recommending a shadow priest to gear for MP5 is just plain wrong, because they are doing themselves and their group a disservice. I’ve only just gotten around 100MP5 IFSR, and that’s because I have 3/5 T6! Prior to that, it’s normal to run with ~60MP5. MP5 is for healers, not DPSers.

    If you’re going for higher DPS, your trinkets should be macroed to VT, and not Mind Blast, because there are some instances when you won’t want to use Mind Blast (especially on high threat situations). You’ll see an increase in DPS just by doing that, because you’re refreshing VT every 15 seconds, right? Right?

    Spell priority should be:
    1. VT (your job is mana regen for your group, this must always be up)
    2. SW:P (best DoT in the game, and where 25% of your damage will come from)
    3. VE (will mostly be overheal, and this is something to drop first on aggro sensitive encounters)
    4. SW:D (this spell has the best DPM of all our spells)
    5. MB (if you cast SW:D first, the VE healing from MB afterwards will heal you back up)
    6. MF (bread and butter spell once everything else is up or on CD; it will constitute ~25% of your DPS)

  4. OK I have a question, I’ve just respec’d to shadow after an extended and frankly unwelcome stint of healery, and went into Kara for the first time as shadow this weekend. My DPS was pretty dispointing – around 415 last night. Admittedly I’m a bit rusty at playing shadow, and some of the trash (up to Aran) is immune to spell dmg, but i was expecting more than that. My bonus shadow dmg is sitting about 720 at the moment. I did some prep beforehand so i’m pretty confident my spell rotation is ok : VT, SW:P, (VE if needed), MF, SW:D, MB, MF, MF, MB, MF etc

    Should i be expecting more DPS? I know I’m contributing to the RAID with mana\health regen, and no-on is scomplaining about my DPS (apart from me!) – but I can’t help but feel I should be doing more! I’m used to playing a BM hunter where I’m usually knocking out 700+ and my gear is probably better, or at least comparable, on my Spriest! If I’m out grinding I’m putting out around 600dps, which i more like what i would hope to be doing in Kara. Anything you can suggest? Maybe improving spell hit for instance? I can’t tell you what my +hit is at the moment as I can’t get to armory etc from work.
    Would appreciate any suggestions.
    Lamashtu – Emerald Dream (Europe)

  5. Lamashtu, I don’t know enough about your situation to answer your question.

    For example, one factor that matters is how your raid does trash. If it’s killed fast enough, you don’t contribute much at all — and this reduces your overall effect.

    On the other hand, it could be a matter of talents. Not knowing what you’ve chosen, I’ve no idea. As I (and others) have written before, getting to the hit cap matters. But YOUR hit cap will depend on how much you put in shadow focus.

    My gut feeling is that you should see DPS in line with your shadow-damage bonus when fighting most bosses. So I do suspect something is wrong, but can’t tell you what based on what you’ve given.

  6. @ Kirk, thanks for the reply and ok, fair point. When i get home i’ll post my build and gear – if you could take a quick look and see if there’s anything obvious that I’m missing I’d really appreciate it.

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