[WOTLK] Shadow Word: Pain and Haste

A. Spriest balance in wrath reflects an older philosophy that hybrid DPS < pure DPS (2)
B. This is in some tension with “bring the player not the class” philosophy, also original to Wrath (6)
C. During wrath, devs considered adding haste for SW:P (1)
D. The original decision against hasted SW:P depended on (A), but also concern that it would be overpowered (4)
E. Later changes to haste snapshotting on Corruption, if applied similarly to SW:P, should ease concerns that hasted SW:P is overpowered (5)
F. Therefore, following the “bring the player, not the class” philosophy, and taking into account these later corruption changes, it makes sense to add hasted SW:P following the corruption model

My name is Linelo and I am an avid shadow priest theory crafter, co-creator of the shadow priest sim and am a active member of the wow classic community

Wrath of the Lich King classic (WoTLKC) is right around the corner and the classic Priest/Shadow priest discords are flooding with questions regarding the viability of shadow priest in the next classic expansion. As with any classic release there is already a “pre-defined” meta and class performance expectation. The most common response to shadow priest viability in wrath is “there is no longer a need for shadow priests as their DPS is lower than pure classes and other hybrid classes such as balance druid, and debuffs are no longer unique.” Ghostcrawler put an argument together on 10/26/09 titled “Hybrid tax (2).” In this blue post, Ghostcrawler essentially argues that hybrid classes should do less damage because they can respec to fulfill a different role while “pure” classes must reroll entirely. This argument only negatively impacts the DPS spec of the hybrid class and only dilutes spec diversity. Throughout the last few years of classic the shadow priest has been either an entire meme, or a complete support class. In vanilla classic, shadow priest is a non-existent class or a hybrid healer/DPS support. The best representation of the “hybrid tax” was TBC shadow priest where their DPS was mediocre, but utility was necessary. This type of balance allows people to play the class they enjoy without being pushed off due to not being “optimal.” In WOTLKC shadow priests go through a complete identity switch from “hybrid” support class to a “hybrid” DPS class. This is where the issues arise. If a shadow priest produces less DPS than a mage or a warlock by sheer default of being a hybrid, then playing hybrid DPS is undesirable unless it’s for encounters that require a healing spec. In this classic-meta-optimal-raiding era most high-end/competitive guilds/raids won’t be seeing many hybrid DPS at all anymore. Most Hybrids will be tanks or healers, and the DPS spots will be left for the pure DPS classes. In TBCC a shadow priests raid spot was essentially a guarantee due to their powerful support ability, but in WoTLKC shadow priests are not necessary for a raid as their DPS is lower than “pure” classes and other hybrid classes that bring similar utility. This means that a shadow priest’s DPS becomes the sole distinguishing factor that determines their raid spot (other than social factors, but generally this means “respec to benefit the raid or play your “pure” DPS alt class.`` During the 2008 BlizzCon WoW Class Panel, Ghostcrawler said “you’ll want to bring the player and not the spec in the upcoming expansion.(6)”

Patch 3.3.0 PTR (10/20/09) initially had:

“Shadowform: This talent also now causes Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Pain, and Vampiric Touch to benefit from haste. Both the period length and the duration of these spells will be reduced by haste. In addition, the mana cost has been reduced from 32% to 13% of base mana.(1)”

This same patch added

“Glyph of Quick Decay: This glyph allows for the warlock’s haste to reduce the time between periodic damage effects of Corruption.(1)”

Both are good DPS buffs for each class. Corruption for warlocks is essentially the same Shadow Word: Pain (SW:P) for shadow priests with respect to the ability to refresh throughout the fight. In the actual release of patch 3.3 shadow form talent no longer included SW:P as a DOT that benefited from haste, but Glyph of Quick Decay was kept in. The argument that “Ghostcrawler – 11/15/09” used was:

“We removed Shadow Word: Pain from scaling with haste because we thought Shadow dps was too high with all 3 dots hasted. There is a bug where you can get big SW:P dots and then keep them rolling at that magnitude forever since the spell gets constantly refreshed. It’s a nasty bug to fix.(4)”

The use of phrases “we thought’’ and “too high” seem to be referencing the ''hybrid tax” argument (however, I expect real numbers were used in this decision but were not shared). Post 3.3.5 shadow priest DPS in original WOTLK was still below most “pure” classes and the added DPS from a hasted SW:P would not push shadow priest above classes like mage/hunter/warrior/rogue/lock especially if SW:P haste snap-shotting was updated in the 3.3 hotfix (SW:P DPS per Haste Rating is ~0.13-0.17 depending on various factors). On 12/11/09 Ghostcrawler had a post on 3.3 hotfixes one of which was:

“Rolling Corruptions no longer use the initial haste value indefinitely.(5)”

This change came after the PTR when SW:P was already decided to not benefit from haste. If this change was also implemented on SW:P, then potentially shadow priest dps would not have seemed “too high.” There are two possible paths that have been historically implemented to allow SW:P to benefit from haste. First is to add SW:P back to shadow form talent with Devouring Plague / Vampiric Touch. Second is to revert Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain (like the original proposed blue post plan (“For 3.3 we are talking about introducing three new glyphs for Shadow Word: Pain, Corruption and Rejuvenation that would allow these spells to tick faster with the more haste you have.”(03)) The second approach will potentially decrease the strength overall by forcing decisions on which glyphs to use as a shadow priest. This is also similar to how corruption was implemented for affliction locks. The currently released Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain is not expected to be used as it does not scale well. 1% of base mana for a level 80 priest will be 38-39 mana per tick, so this glyph is worth just over 64 [MP5]. Ideally this glyph would get reconfigured back to the original 3.3 state where SW:P benefits from haste with the additional changes to how haste snapshots. The “pure” vs “hybrid” argument has been going on for years, and as WoW has evolved the “hybrid” DPS gap relative to “pure” DPS has been shrinking. The philosophy shift to “bring the player, and not the class” is a step in the right direction. With WoTLKC #somechanges, myself and thousands of other dedicated shadow priests would love to be able to compete at a high level playing the class/spec that they love, and a change that can achieve a similar result seen with Retribution Paladins in TBCC which was noted by developers and appreciated by players would be a change to Shadow Word: Pain and its interactions with haste

Citations (not allowed to include links, so note the *)

  1. “Patch 3.3 Guide: Patch Notes.” Wowhead, h*ttps://www.wowhead.com/patchnotes=3.3.0.
  2. Tracker, Blue. “Blue Tracker.” World of Warcraft Blue Posts, h*ttps://www.bluetracker.gg/wow/topic/us-en/20143783047-dots-hots-and-haste/.
  3. Tracker, Blue. “Blue Tracker.” World of Warcraft Blue Posts, h*ttps://www.bluetracker.gg/wow/topic/us-en/20677330431-hybrid-tax/.
  4. Tracker, Blue. “Blue Tracker.” World of Warcraft Blue Posts, h*ttps://www.bluetracker.gg/wow/topic/us-en/21048545285-swp-and-haste-in-33/.
  5. Tracker, Blue. “Blue Tracker.” World of Warcraft Blue Posts, h*ttps://www.bluetracker.gg/wow/topic/us-en/21730605184-impending-33-hotfixes/.
  6. h*ttps://www.tentonhammer.com/articles/blizzcon-2008-wow-classes-panel

Based /10 chars


I’m all for it! I don’t think we’ve ever asked a shadow priest to perform spot heals on one fight vs another, If anything, the off-tank paladin had that role.

I can see the argument that if Shadow Priest did the same damage as a mage, then why bring mages, because now you can have a much more flexible raid team.

So without knowing the actual numbers and not reading into your citations, if the haste buff can benefit the shadow priest without over taking the others, then they should go for it!


Linelo carries priest class channels. Really appreciate the time they put in and the comprehensive information they share. I would love to see this change.


Too bad wow devs only play warrior/paladin

This so called “hybrid tax” is such degenerate design. Very interesting and well supported write-up.


Thank you :smiley:

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Very well written post.

From a purely PvE perspective, I agree fully with you that the hybrid tax makes little sense, especially considering the cost in DPS attached to the time spent casting heals, my personal concern here would be how this would affect PvP where the hybrid tax does make sense.

It’s a tough line to thread as Shadow Priest is a very solid spec for PvP in WotLK.

What are your thoughts on this? Could there be a compromise here that would only affect PvE without disrupting the PvP balance?


This is where you fall on treacherous ground. You make a good case regarding their dps. But you forget that the game is not soley PvE. Spriests are phenomenal in arena often regarded as an S tier class. If you increase their dps output, you are just making them even stronger.

I main an elemental shaman and this argument is sinilar to ours. We have sub par dps after T7 and we bring no unique buffs that a resto shaman could bring. Yet if they were to increase our damage, thunder cleave and LSP (often considered the top 3s comps) get even stronger. Our toolkits + burst are already insane and increasing our overall pressure would just widen the gap.

Since wrath holds a special place for many PvPers, they have to be VERY careful about any kind of class balancing, which is why they have been wise to NEVER touch classes with any changes.


Very good point. I agree shadow priests are strong in PvP. I’m not super familiar with the damage breakdown per spell of a shadow priest in a PvP environment, but I could see that getting an extra tick of SW:P before it is dispelled could be a big buff to shadow priest. I am not pushing to buff PVP, an approach that would only allow SW:P to be hasted in PVE would be ideal. Maybe that could go in the glyph wording (potentially).

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Make hasted swp a glyph?


As others have pointed out this would solely need to affect PvE without affecting PvP as shadow is already very strong there.

In theory Blizzard should be able, if they are willing, to make a change where SW:P gains benefit from haste on Non-Player characters. This would allow it to gain the PvE benefit but not the PvP. I’m not sure however if that distinction would cause an issue with pets of players (or guardians etc) in PvP if you applied SW:P to them. But in Theory Blizzard can make a change and maybe tack it on into the Improved Shadow Word Pain talent with SW:P benefiting 100% of your haste (except on player characters).

EDIT: As for those suggesting a new Glyph for it, I think it would be better to have it baked into Improved Shadow Word Pain because its a talent all shadow priests will be taking. As compared to a new Glyph (though S Priests would likely just drop Dispersion) I don’t think would be a good idea as it may cause other classes wanting new glyphs as well to fix a perceived problem which isn’t as well documented as in this case.


Agree with this post about the real benefit and qol shadow priests will have in the PvE setting in WOTLKC from a change like this. Shadow priests realistically will occupy 1 slot in a raid team if they are needed; the damage is low a change like this will allow us to keep raiding and not just be replaced by other classes entirely. I mained a shadow priest through TBC and would like to be continue to be able to in WOTLKC, rather than being potentially forced to switch to another class to be able to raid in a competitive progression environment.

In the case of PvP balancing: someone else mentioned an easy enough solution seems for SW:P to benefit from haste on NPCs only, eliminating the issue of them becoming too overpowered in a PvP setting while keeping them viable for PvE content.


If Shadow Word: Pain only benefited from haste effects while active on NPCs, it would eliminate a possible PvP balancing issue.


As a long time Shadow player myself, would love to see these changes.


That is effectively how retail has handled a lot of the PvP balance and I don’t disagree with it. I am very much in favor of making a few balancing changes, although it needs to be done carefully and with the willingness to make further adjustments or revert the changes down the road if they prove to be problematic.


I mained shadow priest from classic through legion. Played it in wrath a lot specifically in pve and arena. I agree with your post in terms of pve for sure. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to start making changes like this, it could set a precedent to start changing all the classes numerically and functionally, which would just not be wrath. If they did some sort of wrath+ after wrath instead of cata, I would be down.

Indeed, and the balancing changes that may be suggested because of a hybrid tax I would only be comfortable with the change(s) if we have documentation such as dev posts at the time, implementations on the PTR back then, etc. and assuming the balancing change would be reasonable and affect only PvE.

EDIT: Further expanding that would leave us with hybrid classes of Druid, Paladin, Warrior, Shaman, and DK.

Warriors, Paladins, DK’s and Druids are in a very good place in WotLK and shouldn’t need any changes. Shamans are also in a good spot as well.

So of all the other hybrid classes there shouldn’t really be any complaints with one change to S Priests.

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They made changes in TBC Classic to the Ret Pally that made them more viable and the community appreciated and it did not majorly affect TBC.

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Also the seal change (and twisting) was for parity so Horde wouldn’t have a major advantage over alliance.