Shadow Priest DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoD 6.0.2)

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General Information

On this page, we list your Shadow Priest core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft WoD 6.0.2. We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that you will need to know if you want to excel at playing a Shadow Priest.

The other pages of our Shadow Priest guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Reviewer

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Twintop, one of the main Shadow Priest theorycrafters, who runs Shadow Orbs and Mind Spikes and works on How To Priest.

6.0.2 Transition Guide

If you want to read all about the Patch 6.0.2 changes and learn how they affect your character, make sure to read our Priest Transition Guide!

1. Single Target Rotation↑top

As a Shadow Priest, you should always have Shadowform Icon Shadowform active while DPSing.

The single target rotation for Shadow Priests is based on a rather simple priority system. It can best be summarised as:

  1. Cast Devouring Plague Icon Devouring Plague with 3 or more Shadow Orbs.
  2. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast if you have fewer than 5 Shadow Orbs.
  3. Cast Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death if you have fewer than 5 Shadow Orbs.
    • Always cast Shadow Word: Death a second time unless you have 5 Shadow Orbs. Both casts in the double-tap grant Shadow Orbs.
    • Shadow Word: Death is only usable on targets that are below 20% health.
  4. Cast Insanity Icon Insanity on the target when you have the Shadow Word: Insanity Icon Shadow Word: Insanity buff (if you are using the Insanity talent).
  5. Cast Mind Spike Icon Mind Spike if you have a Surge of Darkness Icon Surge of Darkness proc (if you are using this talent).
  6. Apply and maintain Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch.
  7. Cast Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay as your filler spell.

2. Multiple Target Rotation↑top

The multiple target rotation depends on how many enemies you are facing and how long these enemies will live. Use the following guidelines, but do not hesitate to adapt your playstyle to your particular situations.

2.1. Persistent Enemies

If your enemies will live for a rather long period of time, then make use of the following guidelines:

2.1.1. Against 2-3 Targets

  1. Cast Devouring Plague Icon Devouring Plague with 3 or more Shadow Orbs.
  2. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast if you have fewer than 5 Shadow Orbs.
  3. Cast Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death if you have fewer than 5 Shadow Orbs.
    • Always cast Shadow Word: Death a second time unless you have 5 Shadow Orbs. Both casts in the double-tap grant Shadow Orbs.
    • Shadow Word: Death is only usable on targets that are below 20% health.
  4. Keep Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain up on all targets.
  5. Keep Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch up on all targets.
  6. Cast Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay as a filler.

2.1.2. Against 4 or More Targets

  1. Cast Devouring Plague Icon Devouring Plague with 3 or more Shadow Orbs.
  2. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast if you have fewer than 5 Shadow Orbs.
  3. Cast Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death if you have fewer than 5 Shadow Orbs.
    • Always cast Shadow Word: Death a second time unless you have 5 Shadow Orbs. Both casts in the double-tap grant Shadow Orbs.
    • Shadow Word: Death is only usable on targets that are below 20% health.
  4. Cast your tier 6 talent.
  5. Keep Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain up on all targets.
  6. Keep Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch up on all targets.
  7. Use Mind Sear Icon Mind Sear as a filler.

2.2. Short-lasting Enemies

Keep Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain up on all targets, and use Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay as a filler.

Cast Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death on low-health targets, in order to generate more Shadow Orbs.

If there is a large number of enemies, you can resort to channeling Mind Sear Icon Mind Sear.

3. Cooldowns↑top

As a Shadow Priest, you have few cooldowns.

  • Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend (or Mindbender Icon Mindbender, if you have taken this talent) should, essentially, be used on cooldown.
  • Dispersion Icon Dispersion should be used to allow you to survive dangerous mechanics. We explain it in greater depth in our section dedicated to Dispersion.
  • Vampiric Embrace Icon Vampiric Embrace is 3-minute cooldown with a 15-second duration. It causes all the single-target damage you deal to heal your allies for 10% of the damage.

To read about these abilities in more detail, we recommend our detailed cooldown section.

You also gain several new abilities from your talents. You can read about these below.

4. Optional Read: Mastering Your Shadow Priest↑top

Shadow Priests have a relatively simple rotation. However, there are several things you must understand in order to play your character to its full potential.

4.1. Shadow Orbs and Devouring Plague

Each time you deal damage with Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death, you generate a Shadow Orb. The only spells that cost Shadow Orbs to cast are:

  • Devouring Plague Icon Devouring Plague, a powerful DoT that costs 3 Shadow Orbs;
  • Void Entropy Icon Void Entropy (a tier 7 talent), a DoT that costs 3 Shadow Orbs;
  • Psychic Horror Icon Psychic Horror, an incapacitate that lasts for 1 second, plus 1 second for each Shadow Orb consumed, up to 3 Shadow Orbs.

You should always use your Shadow Orbs on Devouring Plague (barring some exceptional encounter mechanics where you may need Psychic Horror). The damage of Devouring Plague is based on the number of Shadow Orbs you cast it with. We advise you to always cast it with 3 Shadow Orbs.

Much of your rotation actually revolves around making the best out of your Shadow Orbs. You have to pay special attention not to waste any Shadow Orbs by casting Mind Blast or Shadow Word: Death when you have 5 Orbs.

4.2. Refreshing Your DoTs

As a Shadow Priest, a great part of your DPS comes from your 3 DoTs (Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague Icon Devouring Plague, and Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch). Devouring Plague, however, cannot be "refreshed" since it lasts 6 seconds, and it cannot be cast freely.

If you refresh your DoTs when they have 30% or less of their duration left, the remaining duration will be added to the new DoT and none will be wasted. Specifically, this means that Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain should be refreshed with 5.4 seconds or less remaining and Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch should be refreshed with 4.5 seconds or less remaining. This does not apply to Devouring Plague Icon Devouring Plague (see below).

Historically, Shadow Priests have had their DoTs affected by the critical strike chance, Mastery, and spell power at the time of the application of the DoT. This is no longer the case, and now all ticks are determined by the values of these stats (as well as of Multistrike) at the time of each individual tick. This means that you do not need to concern yourself with the dynamic power of DoTs any longer.

4.3. Mind Blast

Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast has a base cooldown of 9 seconds, and a cast time of 1 global cooldown. The base cooldown can be increased by Glyph of Mind Harvest Icon Glyph of Mind Harvest. This increases the base cooldown 6 seconds, raising it to 15 seconds.

The cooldown of Mind Blast is affected by Haste in the same way that the global cooldown is. With a base cooldown of 9 seconds and 20% Haste, you will have a 7.5 second cooldown. The cooldown is determined when the cast of Mind Blast is finished.

4.4. Devouring Plague

Devouring Plague Icon Devouring Plague always uses 3 Shadow Orbs. It lasts for the equivalent of 4 global cooldowns, and ticks 6 times. The duration is lowered by Haste.

It heals the caster for the same amount it damages for, both on-hit and per tick. Tick damage is snapshotted based on the amount of up-front damage done. In other words, the total damage of all 6 ticks is equal to the amount of damage done up-front.

The ticks of Devouring Plague cannot be critical strikes and they cannot trigger multistrikes.

Devouring Plague has an Ignite mechanic. If you reapply Devouring Plague, the damage from any ticks from the previous Devouring Plague on the target will be added in to the total tick damage of the new application of Devouring Plague. This refreshed Devouring Plague behaves like DoTs did in Mists of Pandaria, where the 'final tick' of the previous Devouring Plague is added to the new Devouring Plague. This causes the total damage for DoTs to be spread over 7 ticks rather than 6 ticks. Multistrikes on application of Devouring Plague cause Devouring Plague to refresh with this Ignite mechanic.

Each tick, including the extra tick from a Multistrike, is capable of triggering Surge of Darkness Icon Surge of Darkness.

4.5. More on Single Target Rotation

To better understand how you will put into practice the priority listed at the start of this guide, we will quickly walk you through it.

You should apply and refresh your Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch on the target, based on the above guidelines (that is to say, do not refresh them too early). Then, if both your DoTs are ticking, you should use Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast as soon as it is available. The situation will rarely occur when a DoT will need refreshing just as Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast comes off cooldown, but if it does happen, we recommend casting Mind Blast first. If you benefit from a Shadowy Insight Icon Shadowy Insight proc, then you absolutely should cast Mind Blast, regardless of the state of your DoTs.

Then, when Mind Blast is unavailable and your DoTs do not need to be refreshed, channel Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay on the target. When a higher priority action is needed, simply interrupt your current Mind Flay and perform it. Indeed, it will prove a sizeable DPS increase to interrupt Mind Flay as soon as you need to cast something else. It is useful to have a cast bar addon that allows you to see when Mind Flay ticks, as it is most beneficial to interrupt it right after a tick.

Your next step will be to cast Devouring Plague Icon Devouring Plague (you need to have at least 3 Shadow Orbs to be able to do this). If you need to do some burst damage, save up 5 Shadow Orbs, so that you can cast Devouring Plague, generate another Shadow Orb with Mind Blast, use filler spells while Devouring Plague expires, and them immediately re-apply it.

You should use Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death on enemies that are below 20% health. This ability is so strong that it takes precedence over refreshing DoTs.

Finally, you should use your Tier 6 talents.

4.6. More on Cooldowns

4.6.1. Shadowfiend

Your Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend (or Mindbender Icon Mindbender, in case you have taken that talent), as a DPS cooldown, provides a small DPS boost. Mindbender also restores Mana to you, so you can use it with this purpose in mind, although your Mana should not be a big concern.

The damage that the Shadowfiend deals is based on your current statistics (most importantly, your spell power), so using it when you have important procs is beneficial.

It is ideal to cast Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend after Heroism Icon Heroism/Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust/Time Warp Icon Time Warp has been cast. This way, the Shadowfiend will benefit from the increase in attack speed for its entire 12-second duration. If you cast Shadowfiend before Heroism/Bloodlust/Time Warp, there will be at least a few seconds of its duration (before Heroism/Bloodlust/Time Warp is cast) during which the Shadowfiend will not have increased attack speed.

When Heroism/Bloodlust/Time Warp has already been used in the fight, or it will not be used for some time still, you should simply use Shadowfiend on cooldown.

4.6.2. Dispersion

Dispersion Icon Dispersion is an interesting ability on a 2-minute cooldown. It provides you with several benefits during its 6 second duration:

  • All damage you take is reduced by 90%.
  • It can be used while stunned, feared, or silenced, and it clears all snare and movement-impairing effects.
  • You cannot be snared, and movement-impairing effects cannot be used on you while Dispersion is active.

As a drawback, while Dispersion is active you cannot attack or cast any spells. Your DoTs will still deal damage, though.

Dispersion's primary use is to avoid dying, to minimise the damage you take, and sometimes to bypass various deadly encounter mechanics.

4.6.3. Tier 3 Talents

Insanity Icon Insanity increases the damage of your Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay. The damage increase comes in the form of a buff (called Shadow Word: Insanity Icon Shadow Word: Insanity), so to make best use of it make sure you are casting Mind Flay as much as possible while the buff is up.

Taking Solace and Insanity has some repercussions on your single-target rotation, in the sense that you should plan ahead of casting a Devouring Plague so that you will not have to interrupt your Mind Flay to refresh a DoT. Specifically, this means that both Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch should have at least 7.5 seconds remaining on their durations when you cast Devouring Plague.

If you have chosen Surge of Darkness Icon Surge of Darkness, you will have to be on the look-out for these instant cast, supercharged Mind Spike Icon Mind Spikes, and you must use them regularly. As you can tell, it is not a difficult task at all. Keep in mind, though, that you cannot have more than 3 charges from this talent at once, so if you have 3 charges, you need to quickly cast a Mind Spike in order to free up room for additional charge, and to avoid wasting DPS.

You should expect new charges from Surge of Darkness after casting Devouring Plague. If you have the opportunity of casting a second Devouring Plague, try to cast it on a different target, since the two Devouring Plagues ticking simultaneously will increase your chance of triggered Surge of Darkness.

If you have chosen Mindbender Icon Mindbender, simply use this ability as many times as possible during the fight.

4.6.4. Tier 5 Talents

Power Infusion Icon Power Infusion should be treated as a DPS cooldown, and used as often as possible. The benefit of the cooldown is increased the more DoTs you have up on targets.

Twist of Fate Icon Twist of Fate causes its effect passively, so you do not need to concern yourself with it.

Finally, procs from Shadowy Insight Icon Shadowy Insight should be used right away. This will increase your Shadow Orb generation, allowing for higher Devouring Plague Icon Devouring Plague uptime. This is especially useful on fights with multiple adds, where you will get a large amount of procs (assuming that you have Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain up on multiple targets), allowing you to cast Devouring Plague a lot more often.

4.6.5. Tier 6 Talents

Simply use the ability granted by your Tier 6 talent (Cascade Icon Cascade, Divine Star Icon Divine Star, or Halo Icon Halo) on cooldown, whenever you can damage multiple targets with it. In the case of Cascade and Divine Star, if you know multiple targets are about to enter the fight, it is best to save the ability and wait for them.