Shadow Priest DPS Spec, Builds, and Talents — Shadowlands 9.1
On this page, you will find out the best talents for each tier for your Shadow Priest in World of Warcraft — Shadowlands 9.1. We also have default talent lists for various types of content, such as raiding or Mythic+. If you play with Warmode on, we have your PvP talents covered as well.
If you were looking for TBC Classic content, please refer to our TBC Classic Shadow Priest talents.
Talent Choices for Shadow Priest
|15||✓ Fortress of the Mind||✓ Death and Madness||✗ Unfurling Darkness|
|25||✓ Body and Soul||? San'layn||? Intangibility|
|30||✓ Twist of Fate||✓ Misery||✓ Searing Nightmare|
|35||✓ Last Word||✗ Mind Bomb||✓ Psychic Horror|
|40||✓ Auspicious Spirits||? Psychic Link||✓ Shadow Crash|
|45||✗ Damnation||✓ Mindbender||✓ Void Torrent|
|50||? Ancient Madness||✓ Hungering Void||? Surrender to Madness|
Talents can be freely changed when out of combat and in a rested XP area (such as an inn or a capital city). Moreover, Tome of the Still Mind and Codex of the Still Mind can be used to temporarily allow players to change talents anywhere, as long as they are out of combat.
Talent Cheat Sheets for Shadow Priest
While optimizing talents on a contextual basis is the highly recommended method of setting up your build, the talent builds listed below work great for specific purposes.
The video guide below goes over the following choices in more detail to help you decide what talents are best for the current situation. A full video will be published soon, but for now the survival guide gives you all the info you need for this patch.
The builds suggested below are generally good for most content, but if you want specific boss recommendations for the current tier check out the dedicated page below.
- Level 15: Fortress of the Mind
- Level 25: Body and Soul
- Level 30: Twist of Fate
- Level 35: Last Word
- Level 40: Auspicious Spirits
- Level 45: Void Torrent or Mindbender (with Shadowflame Prism only)
- Level 50: Hungering Void
Composite Raid Encounters
Composite in this case refers to a general build to handle a number of\ situations like adds, additional targets, and movement scenarios.
- Level 15: Fortress of the Mind
- Level 25: Body and Soul
- Level 30: Twist of Fate or Misery
- Level 35: Last Word
- Level 40: Auspicious Spirits or Shadow Crash
- Level 45: Void Torrent or Mindbender
- Level 50: Hungering Void or Surrender to Madness
- Level 15: Death and Madness (overall) or Fortress of the Mind (single-target)
- Level 25: Body and Soul
- Level 30: Searing Nightmare or Misery
- Level 35: Last Word or Psychic Horror
- Level 40: Auspicious Spirits, Psychic Link, or Shadow Crash
- Level 45: Mindbender or Void Torrent
- Level 50: Ancient Madness, Hungering Void, or Surrender to Madness
Mindbender should be used anytime you use Shadowflame Prism. Psychic Link is only specifically used with Talbadar's Stratagem in Theater of Pain or Spires of Ascension keys, typically with Fortified. Beyond that, Mythic+ talents can vary widely based on the affixes of the week and the type of damage your group needs. If you want specific advice for Mythic+, check out the dedicated page below.
Generally speaking Hungering Void will be your go-to talent in Mythic+, but the other two options are always there depending on how you pull. Usage of Surrender to Madness can vary from dungeon to dungeon, making its viability less consistent depending on the level of the key/group composition. Ancient Madness can be a great pickup if your group is doing lots of large pulls rather than doing just one pack at a time.
Open World Content and General Use
This build is an excellent starting point for questing and general purpose usage.
- Level 15: Death and Madness
- Level 25: Body and Soul
- Level 30: Misery
- Level 35: Psychic Horror
- Level 40: Shadow Crash
- Level 45: Void Torrent or Mindbender
- Level 50: Surrender to Madness
Several of our talents actively change your rotation, or specifically your priority in given situations. You can find out more in the rotation section below.
Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents for Shadow Priest
|✔ Fortress of the Mind||✔ Death and Madness||✘ Unfurling Darkness|
- Fortress of the Mind makes Mind Flay and Mind Blast deal 10% more damage in addition to generating 20% more Insanity.
- Death and Madness greatly empowers our Shadow Word: Death ability to reset if the target we use it on dies within a few seconds. On top of that you also get a VERY large chunk of Insanity for doing this successfully.
- Unfurling Darkness gives your chained Vampiric Touch casts a large boost in power on the initial hit on a relatively short cooldown while also making it instant cast.
Usually Fortress of the Mind will be your default Single Target option, unless the fight is very movement intensive in which you start casting less and less Mind Flay which can really hurt the value of this talent.
Any scenario outside of Single Target where you have adds that die on a relatively often basis will give tremendous value when sniping that add with Death and Madness, just be careful about the backlash damage on Shadow Word: Death.
That leaves Unfurling Darkness as the general option to use if you find yourself in a situation that has either enough movement to make Fortress of the Mind suffer, or adds that just simply live a long time or do not spawn often. In practice, this will not be used in PvE.
Tier 2 (Level 25) Talents for Shadow Priest
|✔ Body and Soul||? San'layn||? Intangibility|
- Body and Soul causes Power Word: Shield to increase your target's movement speed by 40% for 3 seconds.
- San'layn amplifies Vampiric Embrace, making it heal for 20% more in addition to drastically reducing its cooldown, lowering it down to 1 minute and 15 seconds.
- Intangibility causes your Dispersion to heal you for 50% of your maximum health during its effects. It also reduces the cooldown of Dispersion by 30 seconds.
Body and Soul is our only on-demand movement speed increase, which makes it the default pick for most cases.
San'layn turns Vampiric Embrace into a much more potent utility spell, which is especially relevant for dungeon content. If you can get away with not needing the movement from Body and Soul then the extra utility San'layn gives you can be very useful.
Intangibility is interesting as it increases the usefulness of our defensive, Dispersion, and makes it available more often. In the case that you do not need the mobility from Body and Soul very much but instead need better defensive capabilities, Intangibility is a great option.
Tier 3 (Level 30) Talents for Shadow Priest
|✔ Twist of Fate||✔ Misery||✔ Searing Nightmare|
- Twist of Fate gives us an 8 second buff upon damaging a target below 35% health, increasing our damage and healing by 10%. This buff refreshes itself as long as you are hitting a target below 35% health and it does not stack.
- Misery makes it so that casting Vampiric Touch on a target also applies Shadow Word: Pain at the same time.
- Searing Nightmare is an ability that costs 30 Insanity and spreads Shadow Word: Pain to all targets in an area around the target and doing some decent damage. Additionally, if it hits a target that already has Shadow Word: Pain active it deals increased damage to that target. The trick is, Searing Nightmare can only be cast while channeling Mind Sear, similar to how Mistweaver Monk's Enveloping Mist spell works with Soothing Mist.
Twist of Fate gives us a bit of execute damage and is also useful on fights where there are not a lot of additional targets to DoT. Due to Hungering Void increasing the amount of Void Bolt casts we get off, this talent starts to surpass Misery even in multi-target scenarios assuming mobs are stacked to get the Void Bolt DoT refresh.
Misery is a very good choice for situations where targets are spread out, but also generally a good choice any time there are less than 4 targets even if they are stacked. Generally this shares a lot of overlap with Searing Nightmare, but excels anytime you have spread targets. In addition, this actually deals very similar damage to Twist of Fate on Single Target due to increased time we spend refreshing DoTs over the course of a fight. So depending on your playstyle this might be the easier option for you.
Searing Nightmare is a great hard-hitting burst AoE ability for the Shadow Priest toolkit. Not only does it spread a DoT to all targets, helping us get that easy Mastery bonus, but also does a lot of damage to targets on subsequent casts. Anytime you have more than 3 targets stacked up you will see great results with this talent.
All three of these talents are completely viable in their own right, with the right choice depending on the situation. Your choice will have to depend on the type of adds that spawn (if they spawn at all), or in what part of the fight you really need damage the most. Searing Nightmare and Misery excel whenever there are a bunch of targets (dungeons, as an example) and Twist of Fate is good for its execute property. As a rule of thumb, use Twist of Fate if there are few to no adds in a fight or if having more execute damage is particularly useful, and pick between Misery and Searing Nightmare if helping you apply your DoTs to multiple targets is more important.
Tier 4 (Level 35) Talents for Shadow Priest
|✔ Last Word||✘ Mind Bomb||✔ Psychic Horror|
- Last Word reduces the cooldown of Silence by 15 seconds.
- Mind Bomb replaces Psychic Scream and applies a debuff that lasts 2 seconds, which causes all enemies within 8 yards of your target to be disoriented for 5 seconds after 2 seconds of casting this spell.
- Psychic Horror stuns your target for 4 seconds.
Last Word is good because it brings our interrupt down to a cooldown that is more in line with interrupts of other casters. Solid passive option that is very useful for some dungeons or raid bosses.
Mind Bomb mostly serves as a brief AoE interrupt, as the disorient will be quickly broken if you use it on a pack your group is currently fighting. Generally not worth picking because Psychic Scream can perform the same job, except it requires you to be in melee instead.
Psychic Horror is a solid single target stun. You will usually be picking between this or Last Word depending on whether you need the additional crowd control more, or whether you need more frequent interrupts.
Tier 5 (Level 40) Talents for Shadow Priest
|✔ Auspicious Spirits||? Psychic Link||✔ Shadow Crash|
- Auspicious Spirits cause your Shadowy Apparitions to deal 15% increased damage and generate 2 Insanity when they deal damage.
- Psychic Link causes your Mind Blast to deal 50% of its damage to any target that currently has Vampiric Touch active. Great synergy with Talbadar's Stratagem, making it effectively a multi-target Legendary.
- Shadow Crash fires a projectile at where you aim your mouse cursor, dealing damage to all targets within 8 yards and granting you 15 Insanity. The cooldown is 30 seconds baseline, but is affected by Haste.
Auspicious Spirits is a decent "set it and forget it" talent that will have more consistent damage throughput then the other two options. There is basically no downsides with this talent, and it is extremely versatile. When using the Haunting Apparitions conduit, you will generally favor using this talent over Shadow Crash.
Psychic Link brings a very cool theme of the traditional Shadow Priest skillset to the table in the form of Spread Cleave damage. With current tuning, this will only ever make sense if you are using Talbadar's Stratagem and you are constantly fighting more than 1 target, since it provides no value on single-target. This can be a large sacrifice to single-target damage so it is typically only used in cases where you are always cleaving, or single-target does not matter.
Shadow Crash is a very strong option for any and all content that you can reliably land Shadow Crash on all current targets. This talent is basically equal to Auspicious Spirits in composite raid encounters, but generally falls short when using Haunting Apparitions. This is typically the default setup for Mythic+, where your Spirits do not often reach targets if they are short-lived enemies.
Tier 6 (Level 45) Talents for Shadow Priest
|✘ Damnation||✔ Mindbender||✔ Void Torrent|
- Damnation gives you a single button on a 45 second cooldown that casts all three of your DoTs on the target, free of cost.
- Mindbender replaces Shadowfiend and summons a Mindbender that is available more often (and longer) than Shadowfiend in addition to generating more Insanity on hit.
- Void Torrent is a flat 3-second channel time, during which you deal damage to your target which scales with Haste. Over the duration, you generate a total of 60 Insanity.
Damnation is a great option for open world content where you just want to kill something quickly, and can be used to chain Devouring Plague's together to get a massive 3 "stack" Devouring Plague rolled together. This typically does not matter in most PvE scenarios, but is great anytime you need that on-demand burst.
Mindbender has been hit with a few changes lately that make it a good "set it and forget it" choice if you do not want another button, but generally loses to Void Torrent in raiding encounters. Mindbender is more ideal as a passive increase to Insanity generation when you cannot fit in a Void Torrent channel due to how many targets are present. That being said, when using Shadowflame Prism this talent is substantially better than Void Torrent and should be used any time you equip that Legendary.
Void Torrent is the big single-target-nuke talent, due to how hard it hits and how easy it is to fit into the rotation. You will use this for any PvE content where you care about single-target or priority damage AND you are NOT using Shadowflame Prism.
Tier 7 (Level 50) Talents for Shadow Priest
|? Ancient Madness||✔ Hungering Void||? Surrender to Madness|
- Ancient Madness augments your Voidform to give decaying critical strike rating for the duration of the buff.
- Hungering Void causes your Void Bolt casts to debuff your current target with a debuff that increases all damage dealt to that target by 10%. On top of that, any subsequent Void Bolt's to targets that are debuffed also extend your current Voidform by 1 second on normal hits, and 2 seconds on critical strikes of Void Bolt.
- Surrender to Madness instantly puts you into Voidform and causes all your Insanity generating abilities to generate 100% more Insanity. However, if the target you cast this on is still living after 25 seconds, you die. Horribly.
Ancient Madness is a great option anytime you want burstier Voidforms with that increased Critical Strike adding on top of the damage increase of base Voidform. You should use this talent anytime the other two options in the row do not really make sense. In the current patch, this is typically reserved for large, infrequent, mythic+ pulling styles.
Hungering Void is the clear winner for priority or single target situations where you specifically are trying to kill a single enemy. The Voidform extension mechanic is slightly reminiscent of old Voidform Shadow while giving Void Bolt and Critical Strike greater importance to the rotation. If you want to learn more about Hungering Void you can check out Publik's YouTube Video going over the talent. This talent is extremely strong and can be taken for virtually every scenario.
Surrender to Madness provides a couple benefits, the main one being access to another Voidform. Instead of only getting a single Voidform every 1.5 minutes, you can use this to get one every 45s on average. The main advantage of the talent is this extra Voidform, because casting this on a target that is about to die still lets you keep that Voidform it generated and you just lose the extra Insanity generation. Any fights with consistent adds that spawn around the 45s mark make this a great option, especially in Mythic+ Environments where it is easy to control. If you want to learn more about Surrender to Madness you can check out Publik's YouTube Video going over the talent.
PvP Talents (War Mode) for Shadow Priest
In the open world, you get the option to go into "War Mode". Enabling War Mode provides the following benefits:
- PvP talents enabled in the outdoor world.
- 10%+ increase in World Quest rewards at maximum level.
- 10%+ more experience gained while leveling.
- Earn Conquest Points which can reward gear every week.
With the benefits of enabling War Mode for leveling and PvE content, it is recommended to enable the feature to maximize your leveling and rewards at maximum level. However, you will make yourself available for open world PvP, and the possibility to be "ganked" while leveling or doing World Quests exists.
Shadow Priest War Mode Talents
In this section we will rank the PvP talents best for leveling and doing solo / small group PvE content. Below is a ranking of Shadow Priest-specific PvE talents.
Shadow Priest PvP Talents
- Void Origins makes your Void Eruption an instant cast which is a tremendous quality of life improvement.
- Greater Fade is incredible to play with in the open world, with a versatile speed boost to help make leveling quicker, as well as a solid defensive in the case that you do get ganked or overpull.
- For your last option you can choose between Driven to Madness for higher Voidform uptime or Void Volley if you want to have some fun!
- 23 Jul. 2021: Adjusted PvP talent suggestions.
- 06 Jul. 2021: Updated video link.
- 29 Jun. 2021: Added more clarity to talent choices for Patch 9.1.
- 09 Mar. 2021: Updated talent suggestions for Patch 9.0.5 and Shadowflame Prism.
- 11 Jan. 2021: Updated suggestions with Psychic Link when using Talbadar's Stratagem.
- 03 Jan. 2021: Added embedded video guide.
- 23 Nov. 2020: Updated for Shadowlands 9.0.2 Launch
- 26 Oct. 2020: Updated suggestions for Mindbender and Ancient Madness post pre-patch tuning.
- 12 Oct. 2020: Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
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