Shadow Priest DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities in Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.0.1

Last updated on Oct 04, 2018 at 14:42 by Isentropy 25 comments

Table of Contents

General Information

On this page, we list your Shadow Priest core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth 8.0.1. 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 Author

This guide has been written by Isentropy, top Shadow Priest and one of the main theorycrafters of the spec over at Warcraft Priests. He currently raids in Echoes.

1. Shadow Priest Rotational Primer

The Shadow Priest rotation revolves around a build and spend/sustain style of play. You use abilities that generate Insanity until you reach the appropriate threshold (60 with the talent Legacy of the Void Icon Legacy of the Void, 90 otherwise) to cast Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption and enter Voidform Icon Voidform. Once in Voidform, you use a slightly different set of abilities to stay in Voidform for as long as possible. Once you reach 0 Insanity, you exit Voidform and the process repeats.

Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt is the largest change to your playstyle once you enter Voidform Icon Voidform. When Void Bolt strikes a target (after a short travel time) it adds 3 seconds to the duration of Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch on your main target as well as nearby targets. Though this helps delay having to refresh our DoTs, you will still occasionally have to manually apply them.

1.1. Shadowform

Shadowform Icon Shadowform is an aura that increases your spell damage done and reduces your Physical damage taken by 10%. You should always have Shadowform active (you only need to activate it once, and it will remain active until you die; entering Voidform Icon Voidform will temporarily deactivate it but then automatically reactivate it when you exit Voidform).

2. Single-Target Rotation for Shadow Priest

The single-target rotation relies on the following priority system of abilities, depending on which phase you are in. Because of the large amount of active abilities Shadow can get through talents, you can select the checks below in order to determine where they fit into the priority system.

  • Dark Void
  • Shadow Crash
  • Shadow Word: Death
  • Void Torrent
  • Mindbender
  • Misery
  1. Use Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend whenever available, preferably when you have as much Haste as possible.
  2. Apply and maintain Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch on your target, only refreshing them when they are about to fall off.
  3. Cast Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption whenever possible in order to enter Voidform Icon Voidform.
  4. Cast Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt on cooldown when in Voidform.
  5. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast (or Shadow Word: Void Icon Shadow Word: Void if you have taken this talent) on cooldown, inside or outside of Voidform. Note: you do not need to use both charges at the same time, just make sure to not stay at 2 charges if possible.
  6. Cast Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay as a filler when all of the above spells can not be cast or do not have to be cast.

This is the basic priority for Shadow Priest. As a general rule of thumb, you will want to enter Voidform Icon Voidform whenever you have the appropriate Insanity to do so. From there, you will want to optimize your Insanity generation by correctly performing the priority as listed above, with the goal being to stay in Voidform for as long as you can.

3. Shadow Priest Opening Rotation

Shadow has no complex opener as it does not rely on cooldowns to do damage. Below you will find the basic opener which mostly follows the priority as listed above, with the exception of pre-casting Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast/Shadow Word: Void Icon Shadow Word: Void.

3.1. Opener When Using Legacy of the Void

  1. Pre-cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast/Shadow Word: Void Icon Shadow Word: Void.
  2. Apply Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch.
  3. Cast Dark Void Icon Dark Void if taken (do not apply Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain in step 2 if you are using Dark Void).
  4. Cast Shadow Crash Icon Shadow Crash.
  5. Fill with Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay if needed.
  6. Cast Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption whenever you can.
  7. Contiue the regular single-target rotation.

3.2. Opener When Using Dark Ascension

  1. Pre-cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast/Shadow Word: Void Icon Shadow Word: Void
  2. Apply Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch.
  3. Cast Dark Ascension Icon Dark Ascension to enter Voidform Icon Voidform.
  4. Cast Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt.
  5. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast/Shadow Word: Void Icon Shadow Word: Void.
  6. Cast Mindbender Icon Mindbender.
  7. Cast Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt.
  8. Continue the regular spell priority.

4. Multiple Target Rotation for Shadow Priest

Shadow has quite a few decisions to make depending on how many targets you are fighting at any given time and how long they will live for. This can be fairly unintuitive sometimes, so the below rotations are intended to shine some light on what you want to be doing in which situations.

4.1. 2-5 Target Priority

  • When In Voidform
  • Dark Void
  • Misery
  • Mindbender
  1. Use Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend on cooldown.
  2. Cast Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption whenever available.
  3. Cast and maintain Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch on all targets if they will live for 10 seconds or more.
  4. Cast and maintain Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain on all targets. Disregard this step if you are using Misery Icon Misery.
  5. Cast Shadow Crash Icon Shadow Crash, if you have taken this talent.
  6. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast/Shadow Word: Void Icon Shadow Word: Void.
  7. Fill with Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay if you are fighting 2 or less enemies; if you are fighting 3 or more enemies use Mind Sear Icon Mind Sear instead.

4.2. 5-10 Target Priority

  • When In Voidform
  • Dark Void
  • Misery
  • Mindbender
  1. Use Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend on cooldown.
  2. Cast Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption whenever available.
  3. Cast and maintain Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch on up to 5 targets if they will live for 10 seconds or more.
  4. Cast and maintain Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain on up to 5 targets. Disregard this step if you are using Misery Icon Misery.
  5. Cast Shadow Crash Icon Shadow Crash, if you have taken this talent.
  6. Cast Mind Sear Icon Mind Sear as a filler.

4.3. 10+ Target Priority

  • When In Voidform
  • Dark Void
  • Misery
  • Mindbender
  1. Use Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend on cooldown.
  2. Cast Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption whenever available.
  3. Cast Shadow Crash Icon Shadow Crash, if you have taken this talent.
  4. Cast Mind Sear Icon Mind Sear.

5. The Multiple Target Rotation Further Explained

The goal when fighting multiple targets is to maintain your DoTs on as many targets as is reasonable in that specific situation, as well as hitting as many targets as possible with Shadow Crash Icon Shadow Crash and Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption. Dark Void Icon Dark Void and Misery Icon Misery will make it easier to apply Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain to a large group of enemies and Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt will help maintain your DoTs on targets as long as you cast it on cooldown while you are inside Voidform Icon Voidform. As long as targets will live long enough, it is advised to begin by applying your DoTs.

Afterwards, you will want to use Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast/Shadow Word: Void Icon Shadow Word: Void when fighting 4 or less targets. If you have cast all the high priority spells as listed above, you fill any empty global cooldowns with Mind Sear Icon Mind Sear, with it taking priority over Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast/Shadow Word: Void Icon Shadow Word: Void at 5 or more targets. Generally, when you are fighting 10 or more enemies, Mind Sear becomes the bulk of the rotation, whilst still using Shadow Crash Icon Shadow Crash, Dark Void Icon Dark Void (if you took this talent), and Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption whenever you can. As long as you have either of your DoTs up on targets, it is worth casting Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt.

It is important to start off by casting Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch on as many targets as is reasonable at the time. Afterwards, you want to look at getting off your AoE spells depending on which talents you are using. Then, you get to do the basic spell priority by casting Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt once you are in Voidform Icon Voidform and Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast/Shadow Word: Void Icon Shadow Word: Void, or Mind Sear Icon Mind Sear instead, depending on the amount of targets.

6. Important Notes for Shadow Priest

6.1. Insanity Drain

While in Voidform Icon Voidform, Insanity drains at a constant rate that increases every second. It starts at 6 Insanity per second and increases by 0.8 Insanity per second until you exit Voidform. The exact formula is as follows:

  • drain = 6 + (0.8(n))
  • n = number of Voidform stacks

For example, if we have been in Voidform for 20 seconds, we would have 20 drain stacks and would be losing: 6 + ((0.8)20) = 22 Insanity every second.

The drain is constant over each second-long timeframe, similar to Energy generation but in reverse.

Unlike Voidform itself, which caps at 100 stacks, the "drain stacks" have no cap. Insanity drain will continue growing forever until you fall out of Voidform for one reason or another (0 Insanity or death).

6.2. Regarding Dispersion/Void Torrent

There is a way to pause both the drain and the increase in rate of drain of Insanity. While you are channeling Void Torrent Icon Void Torrent, your Insanity will not drain at all and the rate at which your Insanity drains will not increase (but your stacks of Voidform will increase). If you use Void Torrent Icon Void Torrent at 10 Voidform stacks, your drain will then be at 6+((0.8)10) = 14 Insanity per second. Void Torrent Icon Void Torrent stops your drain from going up during the 4 seconds you channel it (meaning that in this example it would stay at 14 Insanity per second) and also completely stops your Insanity from draining at all. By the end of the channel you will now be at 14 Voidform stacks, and still be losing 14 Insanity per second.

Dispersion Icon Dispersion works similarly, but the difference is that you will not continue gaining Voidform stacks during its duration like you do during Void Torrent Icon Void Torrent.

6.3. Optimizing Insanity Generation

Shadow's rotation is fairly static and as such, your Insanity generation is fairly predictable in nature. The most important thing to do as a Shadow priest is to always be generating Insanity. Maintaining proper Voidform Icon Voidform uptime is the key to success of maximizing your damage. If you master the spell priority as listed above, the next step is to make sure you can maximize Insanity in all situations.

6.4. Dark Void Usage

Dark Void Icon Dark Void is an extremely efficient spell when dealing with large groups of enemies, as it applies your Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain to all targets it hits. However, Dark Void Icon Dark Void has a 30-second cooldown and so there might be a period where your Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain falls off on your targets before Dark Void Icon Dark Void is back up again. It is important to make sure you maximize your Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt casts during all Voidforms, as this reduces the length of that period. When fighting more than 3 targets it is advised to not reapply Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain manually at all and instead focus on doing the basic spell priority, or just applying Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch to targets instead.

In single-target situations, the biggest benefit of Dark Void Icon Dark Void is the 30 Insanity it generates. As such, it is recommended you primarily use it outside of Voidform Icon Voidform in order to reduce the time you spend in Shadowform Icon Shadowform.

6.5. Dark Ascension Cycling & General Usage

Dark Ascension is interesting as it adds a great deal of flexibility to when you want to be in Voidform Icon Voidform at all times. There are currently two main uses of the talent that are relevant to mention.

  1. Using it for burst AoE purposes.
  2. Using it to skip the 0 to 90 Insanity ramp up.

Using it for burst AoE largely speaks for itself. For example, on dungeon trash you could go into Voidform Icon Voidform by pressing Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption and then immediately follow it up by pressing Dark Ascension Icon Dark Ascension to effectively double your Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption burst AoE.

Using it to skip the 0 to 90 Insanity ramp up is mostly relevant in single-target scenarios, as unlike when you want to use it for burst AoE, the main benefit here is not the initial Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption damage but rather just reducing time between Voidform Icon Voidform. This in turn means increasing your Voidform uptime, which is an important aspect of Shadow. We call this Dark Ascension Icon Dark Ascension cycling.

You will want to use your Dark Ascension Icon Dark Ascension and Mindbender Icon Mindbender in the same Voidform Icon Voidform to keep this cycle consistent. If you do this, Dark Ascension Icon Dark Ascension and Mindbender Icon Mindbender will come off cooldown just when you are about to drop out of your second Voidform Icon Voidform. After that, these timings will occur every other Voidform if nothing went wrong. Every time it happens you will want to do the following: you drop out of Voidform, press Dark Ascension, do the regular spell priority, press Mindbender between 5 - 10 Voidform stacks and then once again proceed with the regular spell priority. Do note that this may require pretty good gear to pull off consistently and that this is mostly a viable strategy for single-target encounters that do not have a lot of disruptions or movement, although you can recover from that.

Important to note is that you can use Dark Ascension Icon Dark Ascension at any point, whether you are in or outside of Voidform Icon Voidform. This allows you to essentially mix up the two uses as listed above. You could for example use it for burst AoE if adds spawn in the middle of Voidform Icon Voidform, but you can also use it if a singular priority target add spawns in the middle of Voidform Icon Voidform, where the main benefit will be access to Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt and not the initial damage from Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption that Dark Ascension Icon Dark Ascension provides.

6.6. Optimizing Mindbender/Shadowfiend Usage

Both Mindbender Icon Mindbender and Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend are guardians that scale with your stats, which means that using them in combination with, for example, Intellect or Haste procs is ideal. However, for both it is not ideal to delay them too much in order to accomplish this. They are not big enough damage increases to warrant doing so and maximizing the amount of casts is more important. If you lost a Mindbender Icon Mindbender/Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend cast because of delaying it too much, then that will almost definitely not have been worth it. This is especially true for Mindbender Icon Mindbender, which has a short cooldown of 1 minute.

There is an additional aspect to bear in mind here, however. Both Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend and Mindbender Icon Mindbender generate an amount of Insanity whenever they hit their targets. Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend only generates 3 Insanity per hit and so does not really add much in the way of Voidform Icon Voidform duration. Mindbender Icon Mindbender on the other hand generates 6 Insanity per hit and actually allows you to use it as a good way to extend Voidform Icon Voidform. As stated above though, it is not worth it to delay Mindbender Icon Mindbender too often just for the sake of extending Voidform.

As a general rule of thumb you will want to use Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend when you are at high Haste and purely value the damage it puts out. With Mindbender Icon Mindbender if you want to use it to extend Voidform Icon Voidform you will want to use it around 5 - 10 Voidform stacks. You can also choose to just use it on cooldown to be safe and this will hardly have an impact on your overall damage output.

7. Changelog

  • 04 Oct. 2018: Added opener rotations and slightly changed the section regarding Dark Ascension.
  • 30 Aug. 2018: Elaborated on how to best use Dark Void.
  • 13 Aug. 2018: Updated for Battle for Azeroth launch.
  • 03 Aug. 2018: Overhauled the Multiple Target Rotation section.
  • 29 Jul. 2018: Slightly adjusted Mindbender timings and adjusted Dark Ascension opener.
  • 18 Jul. 2018: Made several updates.
    • Added additional explanation regarding Dark Ascension.
    • Updated rotation section to reflect the pre-patch better.
    • Made it so that Shadowfiend disappears from the rotation when Mindbender is selected.
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