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Shadow Priest PvP Guide in Battle for Azeroth (BfA 8.0.1)

Last updated on Oct 03, 2018 at 21:35 by Mysticall 6 comments

Table of Contents

Introduction

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to play a Shadow Priest in a PvP environment. The guide will cover everything from talent choices, artifacts, PvP talents and rotation, and useful racial bonuses. It is most applicable to Arena content, but most talents and racial bonuses will work in Rated Battlegrounds and skirmishes.

About The Author

This guide has been written by Mysticall, a seasoned PvP player who has repeatedly achieved Arena Master and 2500 rating. You can watch his stream on Twitch, and you can also check out his YouTube channel.

1. Spec Overview / Place in the Current Meta for Shadow Priests

Shadow Priests are a force to be reckoned with. What Shadow Priests lack in defensives, they make up for in damage. If left unchecked, a Shadow Priest can melt an entire team in seconds. Not only do they have strong single target damage, they have utility. Spells like Mass Dispel Icon Mass Dispel and Power Word: Shield Icon Power Word: Shield make Shadow Priests a very versatile caster.

1.1. Strengths of Shadow Priests

1.2. Weaknesses of Shadow Priests

  • No mobility
  • Struggle to cast against melee teams
  • Very few defensive cooldowns

2. Stat Priority for Shadow Priests in PvP

The stat priority for Shadow Priests in PvP is as follows:

  1. Intellect;
  2. Haste;
  3. Versatility;
  4. Mastery;
  5. Critical Strike.

Intellect is the best stat in all situations. Haste is the strongest secondary stat at all times due to it reducing the Global Cooldown on abilities and increasing the tick rate of your DoTs. Versatility is also crucial because it increases your overall damage dealt and reduces damage you take.

3. Azerite Traits for Shadow Priests

Azerite traits are unlocked in you helm, shoulders and chest. With each Azerite level in your neck, you get closer to unlocking the center trait in your gear. These traits vary from increasing damage or healing of certain abilities to helping increase your survivability. Depending on what traits you use, it can completely alter your playstyle and what talents you should be using.

3.1. Outer Ring

Below are the best Outer Ring traits.

  1. Death Throes Icon Death Throes
  2. Archive of the Titans Icon Archive of the Titans
  3. Spiteful Apparitions Icon Spiteful Apparitions
  4. Chorus of Insanity Icon Chorus of Insanity

There is one trait that you are going to want in all pieces of your Azerite gear and it is Death Throes Icon Death Throes. This will drastically increase your spread pressure. Archive of the Titans Icon Archive of the Titans and Spiteful Apparitions Icon Spiteful Apparitions both increase your sustained damage output. Chorus of Insanity Icon Chorus of Insanity increases your burst damage when you leave Voidform Icon Voidform. This will help keep pressure on the enemy team once your burst cooldown is on cooldown.

3.2. Middle Ring

Below are the best Middle Ring traits.

  1. Unstable Flames Icon Unstable Flames
  2. Heed My Call Icon Heed My Call
  3. Overwhelming Power Icon Overwhelming Power
  4. Earthlink Icon Earthlink

The Middle and Inner Rings are important for additional damage. Unstable Flames Icon Unstable Flames, Overwhelming Power Icon Overwhelming Power, and Earthlink Icon Earthlink give an increase to your stats. These are minor stat boosts, but still increase your damage. Heed My Call Icon Heed My Call will help increase both your single target and spread pressure.

3.3. Inner Ring

Below are the best Inner Ring traits.

  1. Resounding Protection Icon Resounding Protection
  2. Azerite Fortification Icon Azerite Fortification
  3. Impassive Visage Icon Impassive Visage
  4. Twist Magic Icon Twist Magic

All of these traits give you additional ways of surviving. These are all passive, but are crucial to have.

4. Talent Choices for Shadow Priests

Level Choices
15 Fortress of the Mind Fortress of the Mind Shadowy Insight Shadowy Insight Shadow Word: Void Shadow Word: Void
30 Body and Soul Body and Soul San'layn San'layn Mania Mania
45 Twist of Fate Twist of Fate Misery Misery Dark Void Dark Void
60 Last Word Last Word Mind Bomb Mind Bomb Psychic Horror Psychic Horror
75 Auspicious Spirits Auspicious Spirits Shadow Word: Death Shadow Word: Death Shadow Crash Shadow Crash
90 Lingering Insanity Lingering Insanity Mindbender Mindbender Void Torrent Void Torrent
100 Legacy of the Void Legacy of the Void Dark Ascension Dark Ascension Surrender to Madness Surrender to Madness

While the above table provides a generally accurate overview of the viability of talents, some finer points are discussed in the sections that follow, and we recommend you read those for a deeper understanding.

5. Regular Talents for Shadow Priests

5.1. Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents

Shadowy Insight Icon Shadowy Insight is the best choice in this tier. This gives you more sustained and burst damage that is instant.

5.2. Tier 2 (Level 30) Talents

If you are playing on a team and your primary goal is to crowd control the enemy healer, Body and Soul Icon Body and Soul is the best choice in this tier. This will make it easier for you to get Psychic Scream Icon Psychic Screams on targets far away. Otherwise, use San'layn Icon San'layn. This gives you an additional powerful defensive.

5.3. Tier 3 (Level 45) Talents

Misery Icon Misery is the best choice in this tier. This talent is crucial when your DoTs are constantly being dispelled. This will help with overall spread pressure on the enemy team and you can use the extra time you gain by helping your teammates or kiting enemies.

5.4. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents

Psychic Horror Icon Psychic Horror is the best choice in this tier. This gives your team additional crowd control for healers or kill targets. The cooldown of Psychic Horror Icon Psychic Horror pairs well with the cooldown of Silence Icon Silence.

5.5. Tier 5 (Level 75) Talents

Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death is the best choice in this tier. This makes is much easier to kill targets when they have low health.

5.6. Tier 6 (Level 90) Talents

Mindbender Icon Mindbender is the best choice in this tier. This talent increases your burst damage and helps you enter Voidform Icon Voidform faster.

5.7. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents

Dark Ascension Icon Dark Ascension is the best choice in this tier. This gives you an additional opportunity to enter Voidform Icon Voidform and allows you to use Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt more often. This ability can also be used in Voidform Icon Voidform to increase the duration of Voidform Icon Voidform.

5.8. PvP Talents for Shadow Priests

The first PvP talent tier is will give you a choice between Gladiator's Medallion Icon Gladiator's Medallion, Relentless Icon Relentless, and Adaptation Icon Adaptation. Gladiator's Medallion Icon Gladiator's Medallion is the best choice in this tier. It is great for removing crowd control on you that your healer cannot dispel.

You can choose 3 of the following PvP talents. Each of them has their uses, but some are better for certain strategies than others. The top three choices are the most useful, but can be replaced with other PvP talents depending on your team's goal.

Edge of Insanity Icon Edge of Insanity is the absolutely best PvP talent you can have and is mandatory. This reduces damage dealt to you by 20% permanently as long as you have 90 Insanity and not in Voidform Icon Voidform. You will lose your burst damage from Voidform, but your survivability will drastically increase.

Void Origins Icon Void Origins makes Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption instant. This is great because it makes it easier to enter Voidform Icon Voidform. It allows you to burst when you want and not have to wait.

Driven to Madness Icon Driven to Madness makes it so while Voidform Icon Voidform is not active, being attacked will grant you 9 Insanity over 3 seconds. It is important to note that these attacks need to be melee and this is a powerful PvP talent against teams with a melee DPS on it.

Psyfiend Icon Psyfiend summons a Psyfiend beside you to attack the target at range with Psyflay Icon Psyflay. Psyflay deals up to 1% of the target's total health in Shadow damage. It also slows their movement speed by 50% and reduces healing received by 50%. It is important to use this when the enemy team is stunned because of how little health the Psyfiend has.

Void Shift Icon Void Shift swaps the health between you and your current target. It also increases the lower health percentage of the two to 25% if below that amount. A great defensive for short games or against teams that might try to kill your healer. You can switch Psyfiend Icon Psyfiend for this talent.

Pure Shadow Icon Pure Shadow reduces damage taken by an additional 33% while Dispersion Icon Dispersion is active, and causes Voidform Icon Voidform to not drain Insanity for an additional 6 seconds after Dispersion ends. This works great versus teams that will be primarily focusing you. You can switch Psyfiend Icon Psyfiend for this talent.

6. Racial Bonuses for Shadow Priests

Racial bonuses can provide interesting PvP benefits. Here are the best races to choose for each faction.

6.1. Horde

The passive Troll racial bonus (Berserking Icon Berserking) is a great cooldown to use when using burst cooldowns, as the Haste buff from it greatly increases Shadow Priest damage.

6.2. Alliance

The Human racial bonus (Every Man for Himself Icon Every Man for Himself) is a great way to get out of stuns.

7. Playstyle for Shadow Priests

The main role for a Shadow Priest is complex. A large majority of the time, you will just try to stay alive. You will be the focus for many teams. Make sure your partners can help peel for you, so you can get away and cast. Not only that, but you will also have to help your teammates survive if they are being focused. There are two main things you will focus on as a Shadow Priest has in Arena.

The first is keeping you and your team alive. This is a weird role to have as a DPS specialization. Most DPS classes will just focus on using crowd control and doing damage. Shadow Priests have unique utility that no other casters have, such as abilities like Power Word: Shield Icon Power Word: Shield, Leap of Faith Icon Leap of Faith and Void Shift Icon Void Shift that help you and your teammates when being focused.

The thing you will focus on is to always have spread pressure on the enemy team. This can be difficult when being focused, but it is crucial. Shadow Priest AoE pressure is unmatched. Always refresh your DoTs and enter Voidform Icon Voidform when there is an opportunity to free cast.

7.1. Before Gates Open

Before the gates open, know exactly who you will using crowd control (Psychic Scream Icon Psychic Scream and Silence Icon Silence) on. Another ability to coordinate is Void Shift Icon Void Shift; make sure not to overlap it with other defensive cooldowns. Make sure to use Power Word: Fortitude Icon Power Word: Fortitude on your teammates. It can be dispelled by abilities like Purge Icon Purge or Spellsteal Icon Spellsteal, so be prepared to apply it often.

7.2. Offensive Rotation

There are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Try to get into Voidform Icon Voidform as quickly as possible.
  • Most teams will focus you, so be prepared to cast spells as soon as you get the chance.
  • Try to "juke" enemies into wasting their interrupts. This means to begin casting a spell and canceling it to get the enemy team to use their interrupts on nothing.
  • Always keep your DoTs (Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain) on all enemies.

7.2.1. The Opener

The opener refers to your team's opening crowd control chain and damage done as soon as you get out of the gates. The main goal in the opener is to force your enemies to use their cooldowns. If the enemy healer uses their trinket in the opener, they are in trouble. With a ranged Stun and Silence, Shadow Priests no longer have to overextend to get crowd control on enemies. This helps with survivability and damage output.

Likewise, if an enemy DPS uses their trinket, you can crowd control the healer and stun the DPS without a trinket. This means they can be burst down in a stun and possibly killed.

When opening do the following:

  1. Cast Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch. If you are using Misery Icon Misery, it should also apply Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain.
  2. Cast Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain if you are not using Misery Icon Misery.
  3. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast on the main target.
  4. Cast Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay as a filler.
  5. Use your burst rotation when you have enough Insanity to enter Voidform Icon Voidform.
  6. After your burst, perform your sustained damage rotation until your burst cooldowns are available.

7.2.2. Burst Damage

When you have the enemy healer in crowd control and you are trying to kill an enemy, you use your burst damage. To use your crowd control, simply cast Mind Bomb Icon Mind Bomb or Psychic Scream Icon Psychic Scream on the enemy healer. Once it expires, use Silence Icon Silence.

  1. Use Mindbender Icon Mindbender.
  2. Use Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption to enter Voidform Icon Voidform.
  3. Use Psychic Horror Icon Psychic Horror on the kill target. If you are playing with a class that also has a stun you should use this after the stun. At the same time you should Silence Icon Silence the enemy healer.
  4. Use Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast when you get a Shadowy Insight Icon Shadowy Insight proc.
  5. Use Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt to extend the duration of you Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch's and Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pains.
  6. Use Psyfiend Icon Psyfiend.
  7. Use Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay as a filler.
  8. Use Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death if your target is at 20% health or less.

Make sure to refresh your DoTs by using Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt. This will drastically increase your damage output and lets you use more important spells. This also generates Insanity quickly.

7.2.3. Sustained damage

Sustained damage is damage you do when your burst cooldowns are not available.

  1. Cast Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch. If you are using Misery Icon Misery, it should also apply Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain.
  2. Cast Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain if you are not using Misery Icon Misery.
  3. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast.
  4. Use Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast when you get a Shadowy Insight Icon Shadowy Insight proc.
  5. Cast Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay as a filler.
  6. Refresh Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain.
  7. If you get interrupted use Power Word: Shield Icon Power Word: Shield.
  8. Use Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death if an enemy is at 20% health or less.

You can use Dark Ascension Icon Dark Ascension in either your burst or sustained damage rotations. In your burst damage rotation, you can use it when you have low Insanity and you can continue to use Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt followed by the rest of the burst rotation. In your Sustained Damage rotation, you can use it while you have high Insanity to start using your burst rotation.

7.3. Defensive Techniques

Dispersion Icon Dispersion is the main defensive cooldown for Shadow Priests. This reduces all damage done to you by 60%, but you cannot use any abilities while it is active.

Void Shift Icon Void Shift is another great defensive cooldown. With a 5-minute cooldown it is likely to only be used once a game, but can help stabilize your team instantly. This cooldown needs to be coordinated with your healer so there is no overlap with other cooldowns. Use this when being focused and swap your health with a teammate at higher health. Alternatively, you can use it on a teammate that is at low health. Keep all of this in mind when you are choosing your third PvP talent.

Vampiric Embrace Icon Vampiric Embrace is a defensive ability that, when used properly, can stabilize your team quickly. When you or your teammate is taking heavy damage and you have time to free cast, use this ability. Abilities like Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch and Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay can completely heal your team.

Power Word: Shield Icon Power Word: Shield is a versatile spell that helps your team. With talents like Body and Soul Icon Body and Soul to buff it, use this ability when you or a teammate needs to run away from enemies.

Shadow Mend Icon Shadow Mend is a direct heal that can be used on teammates. This is a great ability when you are trying to get the enemy team to interrupt you or if there are no more interrupts left. Although it does not do a substantial amount of healing, it can help your healer if they are in crowd control.

8. Best Team Compositions for Shadow Priests

Now that you have the correct talents and understand your damage rotation, it is time to step into the arena with your team. Shadow Priests have the ability to rot teams down in seconds if they get a chance to cast while in Voidform Icon Voidform.

8.1. 2v2 Arena

In 2v2 Arena, you want to be playing with a healer that has a reliable stun. Your goal is to get into Voidform Icon Voidform as fast as you can so you can start casting powerful DoT spells. When you are ready to use your burst rotation, you should Silence Icon Silence the enemy healer. Your healer should stun the kill target so they cannot kite or interrupt your damage. Follow up your Silence Icon Silence with a Psychic Scream Icon Psychic Scream. If you are playing with a Holy Paladin, they can then use Repentance Icon Repentance. You can do this crowd control chain every 45 seconds.

Here is a list of the best team compositions for 2v2:

  • Shadow Priest + Holy Paladin
  • Shadow Priest + Restoration Druid
  • Shadow Priest + Restoration Shaman

8.2. 3v3 Arena

Your role in 3v3 is similar to 2v2 Arena. Shadow Priests are crucial to their team. You need to maintain your DoTs (Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain), but you must also crowd control the enemy healer and DPS. You do this by using Silence Icon Silence on the healer and Psychic Horror Icon Psychic Horror on your kill target or the target you want to peal. The Silence Icon Silence prevents the healer from dispelling the Psychic Horror Icon Psychic Horror. Be careful, because some classes can reflect/immune the Mind Bomb Icon Mind Bomb. For example, a Havoc Demon Hunter can use Reverse Magic Icon Reverse Magic or a Death Knight can use Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell. Outside of doing your normal/burst rotation, you have great utility in the form of Leap of Faith Icon Leap of Faith.

Here is a list of the best team compositions for 3v3:

  • RLS (Shadow Priest + Subtlety Rogue + Restoration Shaman)
  • Shadow Priest + Havoc Demon Hunter + Restoration Shaman
  • Shadowplay (Shadow Priest + Affliction/Destruction Warlock + Restoration Shaman/Restoration Druid)

9. Useful Macros for Shadow Priests

Macros are crucial to be successful in PvP. They allow players to use abilities on enemies without having to target them. This helps increase overall damage/healing and general awareness in the arena. Here is a macros that all Shadow Priests can benefit from.

9.1. Silence 123 Macro

  • #showtooltip Silence
  • /cast [target=arena1] Silence

Using this macro will cast Silence Icon Silence on arena enemy 1. This makes it easier to crowd control an enemy while staying focused on your target. If you want macros for the second and third enemies, simply change the arena1 to arena2 or arena3.

9.2. Silence Focus Macro

  • #showtooltip Silence
  • /cast [target=focus] Silence

If you find that you do not have much room on your action bars, you can use a focus macro. This is much simpler to use than the arena123 macro. Put an enemy on focus and this macro will use Silence Icon Silence on that player while you are still focused on your target.

9.3. Life Swap Party Member Macro

  • #showtooltip
  • /cast [target=PUTNAMEHERE] Void Shift

This macro will use Void Shift Icon Void Shift on whichever player you put in the macro. It is recommended that you make a macro for both of your arena partners.

10. Changelog

  • 03 Oct. 2018: Removed Artifact Traits section.
    • Removed Relics section.
    • Added Stat Priority section.
    • Added Azerite Trait section.
    • Added Talent Table.
    • Updated PvP Talents.
  • 02 Oct. 2018: Removed PvP Gear and War Mode sections.
  • 27 Aug. 2018: Updated Air Drops section.
  • 01 Aug. 2018: Updated guide for patch 8.0.1.
    • Updated Introduction and spec overview.
    • Updated all talent sections.
    • Added PvP (War Mode) talents and gear sections for the new BfA system.
    • Updated Racial Bonuses section.
    • Updated Burst Healing and Sustained Healing sections.
    • Updated Macros section.
    • Removed Gear section.
    • Updated Artifact Traits and Relics sections.
  • 09 Jun. 2018: Added an Arena Compositions section.
  • 12 Apr. 2018: Made several updates to the guide and its structure.
    • Added sections for Macros, Strengths, and Weaknesses.
    • Moved Gear, Artifact Traits, and Relics sections to the end, since they are not that important.
  • 07 Feb. 2018: No major changes needed for patch 7.3.5.
  • 16 Dec. 2017: No major changes needed for patch 7.3.2.
  • 09 Sep. 2017: Performed several updates to the guide.
    • Removed Artifact Trait descriptions.
    • Updated recommended Tier 7 regular talents.
    • Updated recommended Tier 4 honor talents.
    • Updated burst rotation.
  • 12 Jul. 2017: Updated Recommended Tier 5 and 7 regular talents and Tier 3, 4, and 6 honor talents. Updated Burst damage rotation.
  • 19 Apr. 2017: Updated recommended Tier 6 regular talent and Tier 4 honor talent.
  • 09 Apr. 2017: Updated recommended tier 4 honor talent and updated burst rotation.
  • 29 Mar. 2017: Guide added.
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