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
/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.