World of Warcraft: The Guide to Shadow Priests - The Basics

World of Warcraft: The Guide to Shadow Priests - The Basics
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Those purplish ghostly beings you see running around: those are Shadow Priests. Shadow Priests are casters who aren’t all all that interested in healing you, although they do have ways of making your regen your health and mana. They’re far happier with causing pain, despair and torment, and are often accused of wishing that they were Warlocks. They don’t, by the way; they’re satisfied with just a Shadowfiend for a few moments every now and then.

In the beginning, the Shadow Priest was neither respected nor feared. Her primary purpose was to be a “mana battery” for the raid and to Silence and Fear opponents in PvP. The Shadow Priest has gone through a great number of changes in the years since World of Warcraft was released, and the Cataclysm expansion brought some of the biggest and best changes so far.

When it comes to raids, a well-played Shadow Priest is one great addition to the team. Still, the spec is rather under-reprented compared to Mages and Warlocks. Additionally both Holy and Discipline Priests are now capable of providing dps in addtion to healing. However, they are out of the scope of this article and if you are interested you can read this healing guide.

What the Shadow Priest does for the raid?

We already mentioned he is bringing some useful buffs and passive heals, let’s look closer.

Improved Mind Blast

By taking all three points in this talent, your Mind Blasts will reduce the healing done to the target by 10% over 10 seconds. Primarily a PvP talent, IMB is also marginally useful in PvE encounters where mob healing cannot be interrupted.

Vampiric Embrace

This talent has taken big hits over the last few expansions, much of which reduced its effectiveness severly. The most current version of the ability isn’t applied to mobs. Instead, it’s a buff that is cast on the Shadow Priest herself and lasts until death or re-spec. This ability, designed to make the Shadow Priest life easier, now provides 6% of the damage done as passive healing to the caster and an additional 3% to the party members.


This is applied by casting Vampiric Touch on mobs. The buff is shared by few other classes also - Warlocks, Mages and Retribution Paladins. It gives 1% of the maximum mana to 10 casters every second. Very useful for PvE and helps the Shadow Priest mana management in PvP. Keep in mind that the buff is no longer working in arena, except to the caster himself.

General Buffs

In this category we can fit Power Word: Fortitude and Shadow Protection, which are also shared by the other priests in the raid.

Common Warcraft Abbreviations You Will Need

If you ever wonder what someone, including myself, is trying to explain to you when it comes to priests, I hope this basic list helps.

  • DOT - Damage Over Time

  • MB - Mind Blast[

    Shadow Priest Guide Gear Dps


  • MF - Mind Flay

  • SWP - Shadow Word: Pain

  • DP - Devouring Plague

  • VT - Vampiric Touch

  • VE - Vampiric Embrace

  • CR - Crit Rating

  • SP - Spell Power

  • HR - Haste Rating

  • DPS - Damage Per Second

Keep in mind that this list is very limited. If you want to understand the World of Warcraft Terminology fully, I suggest you to read these series of articles that fully explain the slang and the terminology.

PvP Talents

Shadow Priest Talents and Gear

Every player will have his own idea about distributing talent points. However, experts in the community usually say that are certain talents in the shadow tree which are a must for any PvPing Shadow Priest. You can always change something depending on your play style, but since we are mostly working for the highest flexibility and damage done, we don’t have many choices.

Improved Psychic Scream: being able to use this ability more often is always a plus.

Phantasm: allows you to break free from snares and roots.

Silence: the anti-caster spell you should never be without.

Paralysis: it’s only a 2 second snare, but those 2 seconds can make a world of difference.

Psychic Horror: a second Fear, even though it only lasts 3 seconds.

PvE Talents

Improved SWP: a flat boost to your most potent DoT, Shadow Word: Pain.

Improved Devouring Plague: adds some immediate damage to this DoT.

Vampiric Embrace and Vampiric Touch: the signature Shadow Priest talents, along with Shadow Form, of course. These give you back health and mana.

Pain and Suffering: reduces the number of times you need to cast SW:P in a single fight, as it gives Mind Flay a chance to refresh your DoT.

Shadowy Apparition: gives a relatively significant dps boost in the form of spirits that walk toward the target and then detonate.

Dispersion: Helps the mana management and reduces damage taken by 90%, very useful in close-to-death experiences or hard boss moments.

Learn More About Shadow Priests

There is much more to know about playing a great Shadow Priest. Check out these articles:

I Dinged Level 80: Now What? Preparing for Raiding: Heroics, Enchants, and more for the Priest

Top 5 Inside Jokes in World of Warcraft - The origin of the phrase “Shadow Priests - they melt faces”.


  • All screenshots and information was taken from the World of Warcraft game client.

This post is part of the series: World of Warcraft Priest Class Guide

A comprehensive guide on the World of Warcraft Priest class.

  1. World of Warcraft Class Guide: Priest
  2. The Shadow Priests Guide: Chapter First - Introduction, Mechanics and Talents
  3. The Shadow Priests Guide: Chapter Second – Theorycrafting, Stats Weight and Gear