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Shadow Priest PvP Guide (Legion 7.3.5)

Last updated on Apr 12, 2018 at 14:07 by Mysticall 5 comments

Table of Contents


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, gameplay 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 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. Talent Choices for Shadow Priests

Regular talents work in both PvP and PvE content (although they may sometimes work differently in the two environments, which is indicated by their tooltips). In other words, they are always active.

On the other hand, Honor talents are inactive outside of a PvP environment.

2.1. Regular Talents for Shadow Priests

2.1.1. Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents

The best choice in this tier is Twist of Fate Icon Twist of Fate. This allows you to have even stronger damage when damaging an enemy that is below 35% health and helps secure a kill.

2.1.2. Tier 2 (Level 30) Talents

Body and Soul Icon Body and Soul is the best choice in this tier. This is the utility Shadow Priests have. This talent is good for when you or your teammates need help kiting away from enemies.

2.1.3. Tier 3 (Level 45) Talents

If you are playing with a team that has multiple stuns, Psychic Voice Icon Psychic Voice is the best choice in this tier. This is an instant AoE fear that requires you to push into the middle of the enemy team in order to effectively cast it. Alternatively, if you are playing with a team that uses crowd control that shares diminishing returns with Psychic Scream (so other fears), you can use Mind Bomb Icon Mind Bomb.

2.1.4. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents

Reaper of Souls Icon Reaper of Souls is the best choice in this tier. This is a great talent that can help secure a kill. It will also create a ton of pressure on targets that are at low health. This talent works very well with Twist of Fate Icon Twist of Fate.

2.1.5. Tier 5 (Level 75) Talents

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

2.1.6. Tier 6 (Level 90) 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.

2.1.7. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents

Legacy of the Void Icon Legacy of the Void is the best choice in this tier. This will allow you to use Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption much quicker.

2.2. Honor Talents for Shadow Priests

2.2.1. Tier 1 Talents

Gladiator's Medallion Icon Gladiator's Medallion is the best choice in this tier. It is the standard PvP trinket effect with a 2-minute cooldown.

2.2.2. Tier 2 Talents

Mind Quickness Icon Mind Quickness is the best choice in this tier. Haste is the most important stat for Shadow Priests, so this will increase overall damage.

2.2.3. Tier 3 Talents

Pure Shadow Icon Pure Shadow is the best choice in this tier. This talent should guarantee that you will not die in Dispersion Icon Dispersion. It also helps with burst if you have to use Dispersion Icon Dispersion while in Voidform Icon Voidform.

2.2.4. Tier 4 Talents

Void Origins Icon Void Origins is the best choice in this tier. This makes it much easier to enter Voidform Icon Voidform.

2.2.5. Tier 5 Talents

Psychic Link Icon Psychic Link is the best choice in this tier. Because your targets should have Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain on them, this talent increases your sustained and burst damage.

2.2.6. Tier 6 Talents

Void Shift Icon Void Shift is the best choice in this tier. This is an additional defensive ability that Shadow Priests have. It can be used to help a teammate that is low on health (or even yourself).

3. Racial Bonuses for Shadow Priests

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

3.1. Horde

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

3.2. Alliance

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

4. 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 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.

4.1. 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.

4.2. 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.

4.2.1. 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.
  2. Cast Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain.
  3. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast on the main target.
  4. Cast Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay as a filler.
  5. Use Shadow Crash Icon Shadow Crash.
  6. Use your burst rotation when you have enough Insanity to enter Voidform Icon Voidform.
  7. After your burst, perform your sustained damage rotation until your burst cooldowns are available.

4.2.2. 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 Shadowfiend Icon Shadowfiend.
  2. Use Void Eruption Icon Void Eruption to enter Voidform Icon Voidform.
  3. Use Power Infusion Icon Power Infusion if you have this talent.
  4. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast.
  5. Cast Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch.
  6. Cast Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain.
  7. Use Void Bolt Icon Void Bolt to refresh DoTs.
  8. Cast  Icon Void Torrent.
  9. Use Shadow Crash Icon Shadow Crash if you have this talent.
  10. Cast Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay.
  11. Use Shadow Word: Death Icon Shadow Word: Death.

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.

4.2.3. Sustained damage

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

  1. Cast Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch.
  2. Cast Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain.
  3. Cast Mind Blast Icon Mind Blast.
  4. Cast Mind Flay Icon Mind Flay as a filler.
  5. Refresh Vampiric Touch Icon Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain Icon Shadow Word: Pain.
  6. If you get interrupted use Power Word: Shield Icon Power Word: Shield.

4.3. 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. There are several buffs to this through the artifact weapon traits ( Icon From the Shadows and  Icon Thrive in the Shadows) that make it a very powerful defensive.

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.

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.

5. 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.

5.1. 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.

5.2. 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.

5.3. 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.

6. Gear for Shadow Priests

With regards to gear, the biggest change in Legion is that there is no more PvP gear. Your strength in PvP will be determined based on the average item level of your gear (as displayed on your character sheet). For example, the base item level at level 110 is 800, so your stats in PvP will be adjusted accordingly. For every 10 item levels you gain, your stats are increased by 1%.

The implication is that it does not matter where your gear comes from, and all that matters is its item level. Gear from quests or PvE content is just as good as gear you get as a reward from PvP (which, in fact, will be very similar to PvE gear; there are no more PvP stats on gear).

Practically, you will simply look to collect gear with the highest item levels possible, and the stat distribution on the gear will not matter.

7. Artifact Traits for Shadow Priests

Below, we will explain what the recommended order for artifact traits is, if you wish to maximise your PvP potential. It is quite possible that your artifact path (at the time of reading this guide) differs from our suggestions. If this is the case, do not worry, and use the information below to help you understand your traits and guide your future choices.

If you have suddenly decided that you want to turn to PvP, the best thing to do in your artifact progression is continue to your closest Golden trait, and then follow the recommendations below. Picking up the most useful traits ( Icon Thrive in the Shadows,  Icon From the Shadows,  Icon Touch of Darkness, and  Icon Mass Hysteria) along the way is a great way to boost your potential.

7.1. First Golden Trait

The first Golden trait you want to reach is  Icon Mass Hysteria.

  1. Take  Icon Void Siphon.
  2. Take  Icon Death's Embrace.
  3. Take  Icon From the Shadows.
  4. Take  Icon Thrive in the Shadows.
  5. Take  Icon Mind Shattering.
  6. Take  Icon Mass Hysteria.

7.2. Second Golden Trait

The second Golden trait to go for is  Icon Call to the Void.

  1. Take  Icon Thoughts of Insanity.
  2. Take  Icon Sinister Thoughts.
  3. Take  Icon Touch of Darkness.
  4. Take  Icon Call to the Void.

7.3. Remaining Traits

After this, you should head for your last Golden trait,  Icon Sphere of Insanity, picking up any remaining traits after that. There is no particular order that we recommend here but  Icon Mental Fortitude should be taken last.

8. Relics for Shadow Priests

Relics are disabled in PvP, so they are not a concern to you.

9. ChangeLog

  • 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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