Shadowlands Class Update Feedback - Shadow Priest

Hello there, I’ve been playing Shadow Priest since the launch of Voidform in the Legion pre-patch and have been Mythic raiding as Shadow ever since. These days I do a lot of work in the Priest community; writing guides, developing SimC, and creating resources for the community to use. After seeing the initial round of class updates I figured I would post my thoughts here for others to review and comment on going into Shadowlands Alpha.

Note: Before I get into the weeds, I just want to say thank you to anyone taking the time to read this. Myself and others in the Shadow Priest community are eager to test things and give feedback to make the game we love that much better!

Here are the topics I’d like to talk a bit more about:

  • The Voidform Problem

  • Lack of Utility

  • Cooldown Usage

  • Talent Viability

The Voidform Problem

As others have already pointed out on this forum and on Twitter, Shadow NEEDS something to give Voidform…a point. Without things like Chorus of Insanity (BfA) or Mass Hysteria (Legion) staying in Voidform doesn’t give us much value. Yes, we get access to Void Bolt and some stacking Haste but from a damage point of view this isn’t very enticing. I’m not sure if anyone was particularly fond of these options but they at least gave some amount of meat to Voidform which had a cascading effect on the viability of other talents and abilities that cannot be ignored.

Voidform has evolved to being something that we now maintain with near 80-90% uptime throughout fights and NOT being in Voidform feels quite awful since you are just “waiting” to do damage. Nothing in the current update seems to address the motivation for wanting to be in Voidform, other than simply NOT wanting to be out of it, which is not exciting. Back in Legion we got a significant damage increase for staying in Voidform for as long as possible which was nice but not very exciting. This is probably the main reason why many people are advocating for Voidform to be replaced by something that provides a bit more depth and engagement without feeling too punishing if you mess up.

A fundamental problem with Voidform is that it creates a significant ramp to our DPS. In its current state, with Chorus of Insanity, we usually wait 45-60s before our damage peaks. This wasn’t so bad in the past where we would gain significant benefits from staying in Voidform. With the removal of Chorus of Insanity (Azerite Trait) in Shadowlands that reward has gone away and we nowhave cooldowns that sit adjacent to Voidform like Power Infusion and Shadowfiend. Assuming Power Infusion works similarly to how it did in Legion, we will likely just try to use it to extend our Voidform, get some extra haste, and then cast Shadowfiend with that extra haste. Personally I would rather have something I can hit that instantly feels impactful, even if it means dropping Voidform. Some veteran Shadow Priests would love to see the return of a/Mind Spike type mechanic where we sacrifice our DoTs for some big benefit (similar to the Swiftmend change for Restoration Druids) or a Devouring Plague mega-DoT that interacts with our insanity/Voidform in some way…

Lack of Utility

As someone who enjoys pushing high Mythic+ Keystones, and likes the challenge of timing big keys with my friends, the thing I crave most for Shadow Priest is utility. I’ll acknowledge that part of this problem stems from dungeons lacking things that give Priests, and specifically Shadow Priests, some niche to fill into but going off of the past seasons of Mythic+ it seems that playstyle is here to stay.

From the Class Updates post:

…we also want to give players more opportunities to make impactful choices to customize their gameplay and express their own vision of how their characters engage in combat

This part resonates with me big time. The way I read this is that I should be able to make an impactful choice to customize my gameplay based on the content I want to accomplish. Right now the only choice we can make in regards to utility is if we want an AoE disorient, a single target stun, or a slightly reduced interrupt CD. On top of this, we have some niche things like Mass Dispel, Leap of Faith, and Vampiric Embrace but these don’t see much use in the current set of dungeons and would require a big shift in Shadowlands dungeon design to really compete with other DPS classes’ utility. It would be cool to see maybe an extension of our current abilities, i.e. Shackle Undead just becomes Shackle - similar to how Imprison works for Demon Hunters.

These choices are not impactful enough to let Shadow Priest be competitive in Keys. I know it is unrealistic to think that we should always see every class/spec in the latest dungeon tournaments but what I want is to feel like my group is benefiting from choosing to bring a Shadow Priest to the group rather than feeling like they need to build the group around what we’re lacking. This has actually gotten worse since Legion as Mind Bomb was an AoE stun back then, which provided a decent amount of utility and kept us competitive with the other classes that also had them. Comparing Shadow utility to Warlocks that have Healthstones, an Interrupt, AoE Stun, Demonic Gateway, and a Battle Resurrection or Elemental Shamans with Bloodlust and Tank/Stun/Speed/Tremor Totems makes it a tough choice to bring a Shadow Priest. I don’t think it’s fair to compare any ranged class to a melee but I will mention that the comparison between Shadow Priests and most melee classes gets even worse more often than not.

Cooldown Usage

I’m tired of the ramping damage. Shadow Priests have been locked into a punishing cycle of ramping damage for the past two expansions and I think it has run its course. Taking up to a minute to see full damage potential is not only detrimental on short fights but also causes a lot of frustration in any fight that has downtime or in Mythic+ when you aren’t able to chain packs of mobs together (i.e. the Bursting affix). While I’m intrigued to see if Power Infusion helps to fix this problem I’m terrified that this will just bring back the Nighthold-style cycle we had of chaining Power Infusion + Shadowfiend inside of Voidform. Compared to other classes, using either of these spells doesn’t make me feel powerful, it makes me feel anxious that if I mess up any part of my Voidform my damage will be ruined while I slowly ramp again or worse while I wait for Power Infusion and Shadowfiend to come off cooldown. The ramp up is just too long and too punishing for encounters where you can’t plan a full Voidform cycle ahead.

N’Zoth is a prime example of this struggle in the current raid. N’Zoth has a few vulnerability phases that get triggered when the group finishes killing Psychus. Unfortunately, there is no way to plan in advance for when Psychus will die as you are relying on this other group to kill several other mobs while bringing down this add. Not being able to have consistent timings here can really throw off our damage as a Shadow Priest because we have to start ramping damage long before Psychus is dead. Unfortunately, adding the proposed Shadowlands changes to our toolkit won’t change the situation much; we’ll likely hold Power Infusion or Shadowfiend for one of these vulnerability windows but if we haven’t been able to ramp up Voidform the potential of these cooldowns just goes to waste.

…we also want to give players more opportunities to make impactful choices to customize their gameplay and express their own vision of how their characters engage in combat

I would love to see an option where we can choose between ramping damage OR on-demand damage in the form of a cooldown. That way we could choose our playstyle for a given fight rather than feeling locked into our baseline abilities.

Talent Viability

The last section I wanted to discuss from this round of feedback is our talent choices. Based on what we know from the post we have two rows that will be changing going into Shadowlands: the Level 75 and 100 rows. Based on the wording, I’m assuming that Death and Madness will replace Shadow Word: Death, and Surrender to Madness will stay put but at a terrible price

Level 75

The way this row is designed this is where each option has its strength:

  • Auspicious Spirits: Spread Targets/Long Lived general purpose

  • Shadow Crash: Stacked Cleave/AoE

  • Death and Madness: Fights with a lot of adds that die relatively quickly?

The problem here is that Death and Madness is extremely niche. Assuming there is no “grace period”, i.e. Classic Warlocks’ Shadowburn, this talent will struggle next to the other options in a raiding environment, as most adds in raids have 15+ people hitting them, and unless SW:D hits like a truck the reliability of you getting the killing blow is extremely rare. With some play-testing this could be interesting in Mythic+ where you are competing with fewer players for killing blows but then you’re comparing it to the AoE Cleave option: Shadow Crash. Safe to say, I’m a bit hesitant to see how this will play out as in the past, with Reaper of Souls, we almost never saw a reason to use this type of talent.

Level 100

Surrender to Madness is not good enough and is frankly, just boring. This argument mostly circles back to the “Voidform Problem” mentioned previously but without a compelling reason to stay in Voidform longer this talent doesn’t provide much benefit. Sure, we get some more Void Bolts and DoT ticks at the end of a fight but why would we give up a constant 5% damage increase AND a reduction in Void Eruption cast time with Legacy of the Void? This talent seems to try and focus all our damage at the end of an encounter like the original Surrender to Madness from Legion but back then we had Mass Hysteria to prop it up.

For the health of the game this talent scares me. Based on the balancing of Voidform this talent will either be terrible, like it is in BfA OR required like it was at the start of Legion. This is a dangerous place for a talent to live and is one hotfix to Insanity Drain scaling away from getting out of hand or being worthless.

if the caster fails to slay their target during the buff window, they succumb to the shadows and die

For fights with adds, does this mean that as long as you cast it on an enemy that dies within its cooldown you won’t die? Unsure where this would make sense to use, as again we are still forced into an even longer ramp window for us to get at the “peak” of our Voidform.

Other talent rows

For those of you still reading, thanks for bearing with me. I think it’s worth going over some other talent rows that need some help going into Shadowlands. Currently, with the way things work, the Level 15 and 90 rows hardly see any swapping, partially because they are just different spells that all kind of do similar things. We’ve talked about these problems at length in other posts but safe to say I would be sad to see these talent rows get ignored to leave us with our cookie cutter build going into Shadowlands.

Edit: EU Crosspost if you want to comment there: EU Crosspost Link

260 Likes

This is constructive criticism that Blizzard should, at the very least, read over, if not take into consideration.

This should be how feedback is given, not with blanket echo chamber statements of “This thing sucks/Remove this.” and nothing else.

14 Likes

I’m glad you took the time to type this out. This eloquently put my, and I’m sure a lot of other Shadow Priest’s thoughts into one constructive post. I hope that this post doesn’t fall on deaf ears and we hear some sort of response.

8 Likes

Would love to see the return of mind spike or devouring plague. This is a great summary of shadows issues and unlike the BFA alpha I’m hoping that the devs take all this into consideration rather than waiting till 9.1 to begin working on changes.

17 Likes

Personally i would rather have shadow orbs back but if insanity is going to stay, the changes listed are definitely not enough to make voidform interesting. I always thought when voidform was announced in legion that it would fill the void left by blizzard killing the actually fun but thematically scuffed demo. I thought that your spells would change in function. I thought we would evolve or ascend. Instead we got what we have now which is just do your current rotation but faster with nothing to change it up. I’m going insane but I’m still doing what i was doing while sane but faster? Doesn’t really make sense. It doesn’t feel chaotic when i go into voidform, it doesnt feel crazy. Theres not enough decisions to make in voidform. If anything it feels calmer in voidform than out of it. Shadow orbs might have been lazier as a concept but the spec worked outside of just raids. I have a lot of respect for anboni and any shadow priests making this spec work in pvp, i dont have the patience for it. Playing it in open world is obnoxious, playing it in m+ outside of 15s is frustrating.
tldr this thing sucks remove it

33 Likes

“Remove this” is valid feedback. It means you dislike “this” to a large intent. Should you bring arguments why to “remove this”? Probably.

The arguments against Voidform/Insanity have been brought up all throughout Legion, BfA testing, BfA, and even right now, leaving aside the new talent feedback, it’s just another retelling of the same story:

  • long-rampup/cyclic damage doesn’t work in a lot of content, yet it is needed for the basis concept of “extending Voidform as long as possible”
  • voidform gameplay is dull and reliant on high stats(haste) to feel somewhat fluid.
  • voidform has been a balance problem since it’s creation, esp. the mechanics that carried it (Mass Hysteria and Chorus)
  • talent selection is poor (e.g. Shadow Word: Void to fix the MB/VB clash, deadweight talents like S2M being kept alive due to “fantasy”, Insanity generation generally having little value without carries like CoI/Hysteria)
44 Likes

I disagree that it’s valid feedback when you provide no explanation to your grievance. That’s not valid feedback no matter what the context is, whether it’s in WoW, a traditional product, or service.

As a software developer, it’s a skill to be able to wade through the noise of a group of customer’s feedback to find the root cause of a complaint. Feedback without explanation isn’t feedback. It’s complaining. It’s whining. And as a programmer, neither of those two things help me help you. If you just tell me “Change this.”, but don’t tell me why you want it changed or how changing it is going to improve your experience, then it’s just empty words.

You can not like voidform. But not liking voidform isn’t an excuse to remove it, not to mention that what you think should be put in its place, regardless of what it is, would be a greater balancing nightmare than just remedying the underlying issues of voidform to begin with.

Points 1, 3, and 4 are solved through granular balancing, not removing the mechanic. Whether or not you think Blizzard can balance voidform is completely irrelevant.

5 Likes

They failed to do so for two expansions. There is another possibility one has to consider: the mechanic is inherently flawed and cannot be balanced.

The variables you have look at:

  • fight duration: can’t be changed. varies by content from 30 sec (WQs, probably Thorghast), to a minute (dungeon trash), to several minutes (raiding). That alone is a huge variance.
  • ramp-up time: We had 120 second Surrender in emerald nightmare. We had the Nighthold 2 min “cycle” with PI/Torrent. We had the one minute rotational cycle in Antorus. We had the 20 second ramp-up in 8.0. We’re now at roughly a 45 second ramp-up until CoI/LI procs (you technically have to stay at that point for a bit to average out the whole ramp-up process).
  • the rampup amount

Fight duration is set in stone. In general you want the ramp-up to work in as much content as possible. With Thorghast coming as an addition, that likely is pointing to more importance on shorter fights.

Ramp-up duration: We had the full spectrum from short duration rampups, to extremely long duration rampups. Short duration was very dull as you didn’t reach a noticeable impact (can you realistically condense the strength of a 1 min ramp-up into a 20 second ramp-up window?). Long duration rampup doesn’t work in a lot of content (how much can you reduce the ramp-up value to still feel a reward, but not go into being punished if you do not reach your peak performance)

We had a lot of combinations of these variables in Legion and BfA. A more likely assumption at this point is that there is a fundamental issue with a ramp-up design.

21 Likes

Well said. I think it’s important to realize that every point of feedback should be targeted to a clear and concise pain point. Ambiguity and verbosity is the death of communication. That being said, here are my pain points for the current iteration of Shadow.

  • Shadow is not fast enough inherently for a spec so focused on haste
  • Voidform stacks are not rewarding
  • Our utility toolkit, while vast, is not desired enough
  • Lingering Insanity provides necessary speed to the spec, which makes it dominates its talent row
  • No baseline mobility (Dispersion is a DR)
  • Shadowy Apparitions isn’t interesting
12 Likes

In the end it will just increase the gap in the skill cap. The last time I raided was in Warlords. I cannot wrap my head around the constant flux between ramping up to reach a point to enter voidform, and the panic casting to maintain it as long as possible. As it is now, I just play around in the world and do what I know I can accomplish without too much stress. Shadow use to be a class with a lot of utility, it became something else, and I guess there are many like myself that cannot pull ourselves away from the class because we have so many years invested. I have played this character for almost 11 years exclusively. There is nothing that has caught my attention and even if one class did, I know it is only a matter of a tier or two before they revamp it to something foreign to what it was. We went from having a decent utility, with a few options other than the optimal build where with practice you might get to 85-90% of optimal. They stripped us of everything in the name of pruning, and now with the level squish coming, it sounds like they are dumping most of it back it, I guess in a hope something will stick.

I appreciate the time you are putting in to hopefully catch the development teams eye, but my fear is that the primary design for the class is set in stone with only tuning passes to be made.

13 Likes

Couldn’t agree more. I played with Shadow Priests in early Legion, naturally. I was a Frost DK myself though. Many of these things apply to Breath of Sindragosa as well. I like the idea they are going for with these kinds of gameplay styles but since main swapping to Priest (Healing and DPS) the more I dislike dpsing in general. I hope Blizzard reads this post and can get some takeaway and hopefully overhaul Shadow Priest in some way to make that ramp up time less dreadful.

2 Likes

Other dps specs are useless outside of their cd windows; frankly they can just AFK and have huge boring periods most of their rotations. In constrast Shadow has it’s initial ramp; but after that offers consistent damage over the rest of the encounter- or pack to pack if you can chain pull in mythic+. I could argue shadow has it better than any spec in the game because the majority of our dps time we are doing great damage. Again Mythic+ if pulled correctly shadow can destroy every pack rather than every other or every 3rd like other specs. Also; Feel free to deep dive Nzoth where shadow can be very competitive Phycus and boss dmg; where other specs had to choose where to put their dmg. Our tuning is slightly off in 8.3 and even given that we still did fantastic at that. All specs have low points of dmg and high points of dmg; shadow cannot have ‘always high dps’ so ramp is required and again my pov on it is- we pay less than another spec in the game when it comes to low dps periods.

I’m sorry but I feel this comment is about other spec envy; and no the answer isn’t for shadow to ditch ramp and just be good at everything and I feel the version we have is fine.

What I can agree with is when COI is lost we need compensation for that.

Another word on power infusion; they are giving us ‘allies’ version which doesn’t mean we have access to it all the time. It’s a huge +1 on ultiltiy and a reason to have shadow in a comp; however it’s double edged in the fact we lose lucid and gained PI only to give it away? We will need something else then; because PI isn’t going to fill that void left behind with lucid going away.

3 Likes

Adding to this, PI is going to become rest druid innervate for dps. A reason to bring us but likely one we despise as it’s something we could actually use ourselves but must instead forego.

Adding even more to this. I don’t like PI as a cooldown for shadow, I don’t like the idea of using cooldowns to layer on top of voidform, it forces rigid usage timings that if we miss end up punishing us dearly, and are a massive contributor to the voidform extension arms race which continues to backload our damage further and further.

I want to see a cooldown which actually interacts with our spells / voidform to provide something more akin to what a cooldown is actually supposed to do, and help with, instead of just another press X to extend voidform tool that we’ve seen countless times over.

5 Likes

If VF matters (and allot asking for that to be fixed with the loss of COI) then our cd should be pushing it to it’s limits; that’s inherit to it’s design and what some of us love. PI was going to be a great solution to that in some of our opinions at least- as proven by Nighhold gameplay. But I already stated how PI will suck because it will be ripped from us and put on the meta spec of that patch and make us hate the game.

1 Like

You wanna extend voidform you already have shadowfiend and surrender to madness, why do we need 3 things that pretty much serve the exact same purpose layered on top of eachother?

8 Likes

We don’t know how surrender will play out; it’s a talent- not baseline. We cannot pretend for a moment that’s our core build when approaching things

1 Like

I want a cooldown I can actually use as, you know, a cooldown. For on demand damage if and when its required, it shouldn’t be anywhere near the levels we see from fire ret dk etc etc etc. You want to keep the inegrity of the core design of shadow and that requires the sustained damage focus overall.

But I don’t see why every single thing we do has to be tied to VF extension, when VF extension is doing the opposite of what we want a cooldown to do.

14 Likes

I agree with you BUT -I think you over simplified this…my take is “LI is critical to shadow function- which makes it dominate the row.”

If we simply say it dominates the row; then LI just gets nerfed/tuned to the point to fix that- and therefore messes with shadow core gameplay in a negative way. The core issue is LI cannot be a talent and should be considered baseline to protect shadow pacing as core functionality.

The proof in my statement I refer to Uldir gameplay…and one of the big contributors to why it sucked (when LI wasn’t strong enough to be used as a talent).

3 Likes

Because…other specs have cds for burst priority; they pay with super low dps outside of that cooldown window.

If you give shadow the same; we cannot keep our consistent dps profile with a minor penalty in ramp. I also feel this dmg profile we have now has synergy with a dot spec- to deviate too far I worry how it affects our dots and multi dot viability.

You cannot have both; it’s not how that works- you will get tuned around that CD; it’s not an opinion it’s math

wait, on the class post yesterday they didn’t mention flash heal for all priest specs, but in the blizcon panel, it was one of the spells they talked about for the “great unpruning” so which is it?