If you played a Shadow Priest during Cataclysm you may or may not have been aware of the vast amount of RNG in the Shadow Priest damage. Much if this stemmed from the new mechanic they introduced: Shadow Orbs. They were obtained from a 10% chance to proc on your Shadow Word: Pain and Mind Flay abilities, stacking up to three times. After you’d obtained an Orb, you could cast Mind Blast or Mind Spike to “use” these orbs as a means to increase your damage on that spell and (more importantly) to give you a percentage increase to your DoTs. Anyway, long story short, this proved to be very shitty for our damage. Sometimes you would start the fight and get an Orb proc right off the bat and go about your merry way, but other times you wouldn’t get one for upwards of 30 seconds to a full minute. Of course it was a rare occurrence that a full minute would go by without an Orb, but you can start to understand what I’m getting at. There was no guaranteed way to have consistency with your Shadow Orbs from start to finish of a fight, and therefore, you would lose out on around at 25-30% damage increase on your DoT’s for some portion of that fight.
I don’t know about other people out there, but I simply don’t like this design. Sure, it’s fun to put some RNG proc’s into the game for some variety and to make the game not stail, but what about when you’re trying to push the highest DPS you can and it actually matters? For hardcore raiders, we want to be able to push out the maximum damage possible, as consistently as we can. A simple example: Heroic Ultraxion, where we literally wiped at less than 500K HP on the boss several times before getting the kill. I remember looking at logs in between attempts and wondering, “Why am I 1-2K DPS less than I was last attempt? I felt like I did better this time.” When we are attempting a boss with such a strict enrage timer we needed every little bit we can squeeze out, and it’s just disappointing to wipe at such low numbers knowing you had no control whether or not you did 38K DPS or 42K DPS.
So, now we’re here in Mists of Pandaria Beta; what does Blizzard have for us in store? Well to start, let me give you a brief run-down of the changes that I feel are very impactful towards our damage/rotation:
- Shadow Orbs are now generated from Mind Blast instead of from procs
- There is no more Empowering Shadows (the percent damage increase from using Mind Blast with Shadow Orbs)
- Devouring Plague now costs Shadow Orbs instead of mana and does significantly more damage
- Shadow Word: Pain is now our “spam” ability while moving with a frontloaded damage portion to it
Now of course there are many more small changes that I haven’t mentioned, but these are the big changes that significantly affect our damage output. We went from having a random aspect to our rotation (Shadow Orb procs) to being rewarded for casting our Mind Blast on cooldown and generating Shadow Orbs to cast Devouring Plague which, from experience on Beta, is our number one priority. Blizzard is moving in the right direction, giving us more damage for skillful play as opposed to giving us damage randomly with no skill attached. Other than that change, there are some new differences that might take some getting used to, like Shadow Word: Pain no longer being refreshed by Mind Flay, but nothing that an experienced Shadow Priest will have a difficult time with. There are also some interesting choices in the new talent tree that allows for some diversity in specialization, but I’m sure anything to do damage will be calculated out through SimCraft.
Of course, RNG is never going to completely gone from our rotation… I mean, it’s World of Warcraft we are talking about; however, the more they make X happen because of Y instead of X happening on a percent chance the more people will feel rewarded for their skills. I play this game because I enjoy the progression race. I enjoy taking the time to strategize a boss and execute said strategy with 24 other people. On top of that, I can compete with other DPS within my raid, and now with World of Logs and similar websites, I can complete with the rest of the world. True enough, it’s not very difficult to press my buttons in the right order, move out of fire on the ground, or use my cooldowns when I’m supposed to, but it’s the combination of everything all at once and being able to still beat other people doing the same thing is what drives me to play well. At the end of the day, making my rotation based more on skill and less on RNG aligns with my desires in the game, and so I’m very pleased with Blizzard’s change to my class.