Introduction

Hello everyone and welcome to the Battle for Azeroth Shadow guide! My name is Melgane, one of the many Staff members of WarcraftPriests.com. I've been raiding as a priest since AQ and been playing shadow for every tier except ICC.

This guide will cover everything from the fundamentals of playing shadow priest to the advanced playstyles, theorycrafting, and personal experiences that are needed to compete at the highest level. I welcome feedback and discussion.

Please feel free to message me here on WCP if you do not feel comfortable asking your question publicly. My btag and twitter can be found in my signature down below. Additionally, feel free to join further discussions in our Discord channel! Warcraft Priests
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Acronyms

MB – Mind BlastVoiEr – Void EruptionVoiT – Void TorrentToF – Twist of Fate
MF – Mind FlayLI – Lingering InsanityDA - Dark AscensionFotM – Fortress of the Mind
VT – Vampiric TouchVF – VoidformSW:V - Shadow Word: VoidSW:D - Shadow Word: Death
VE – Vampiric EmbraceVB – Void BoltLotV - Legacy of the VoidStM – Surrender to Madness

What Changed in Battle for Azeroth?

Patch 8.3

  • Chorus of Insanity critical strike bonus reduced by 25%
  • Auspicious Spirits damage bonus reduced to 25%
  • Spiteful Apparitions now deals the correct amount of damage if the Auspicious Spirits talent is taken
  • Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch damage lowered by 8%

Patch 8.2

  • Auspicious Spirits lowered to 50% damage
  • Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch damage lowered by 9%

Patch 8.1.5

  • Auspicious Spirits lowered from 100% to 70% increased damage

Patch 8.1.0

  • Void Bolt now generates 20 insanity, up from 16
  • Insanity drain has been reduced 15%
  • Voidform now gives 20% spell damage, up from 10%
  • Dispersion now reduces damage taken by 75%, up from 60%,  and gives you 50% movespeed
  • Mania has been replaced by a new talent called Intangibility.
  • Please read the talents section below
  • Shadowform physical damage reduction removed. Focused Will is replacing it, which causes you to take 15% less damage for 8 seconds after taking a melee attack
  • Hallucinations, a new passive, gives you 6 insanity when casting certain spells
  • Lingering Insanity now fades every 3 seconds, up from 2
  • Surrender to Madness is now a 3 minute cd and the insanity penalty is now 15 seconds
  • Void Torrent now generates 30 insanity over it's duration, no longer needs Voidform, and does 20% more damage
  • Mind Bomb/Psychic Scream take 40% longer to break from damage
  • Mind Sear damage increased 20%

Patch 8.0.1

  • Voidform now gives less haste
  • Drain has been increased
  • Leap of Faith and Mind Sear have returned
  • Mass Dispel now has a 45 second cooldown
  • Void Torrent is now a talent
  • Various talent changes. Please read the talents section below
  • Voidform can now be activated at 90 insanity, down from 100

Talents

Green means it the default talent.

Blue means the choice has merit, but for a specific case.

Red means do not take this talent.

T15

  • Fortress of the Mind – Flay and Blast deal 10% more damage and generate 20% more Insanity
  • Shadowy Insight – Shadow Word: Pain’s periodic damage has a chance to reset the cooldown on Mind Blast and make your next Blast instant. 3 rppm
  • Shadow Word: Void – 1.5 sec cast, 2 charges, 9 second cd that deals 130% spell power and generates 15 Insanity. Replaces Mind Blast.

SW: Void grants an extra charge of Mind Blast so you can handle mechanics.

T30

  • Body and Soul – Shield gives you a 40% movement speed for 3 seconds
  • San’layn – Reduces the cooldown of Vampiric Embrace by 45 seconds and increase its healing by 25%
  • Intangibility – Reduces dispersion's cooldown by 30 seconds and heals you for 50% of your health over it's duration

Body and Soul favors consistent movement. The other two can still be useful, situationally.

T45

  • Twist of Fate – After damaging a target below 35% health, you deal 10% more damage and healing for 8 seconds
  • Misery – Casting Vampiric Touch also applies Shadow Word: Pain
  • Dark Void 2 second aoe cast that deals 100% spell damage and applies Pain to all targets within 10 yds. 30 second cooldown, generates 30 insanity

This is a powerful row with a lot of different uses. What talent you use here is very fight dependent. ToF is likely the strongest choice on single target fights, with Misery picking up power on MT fights.

T60

  • Last Word Reduces the cooldown of Silence by 15 seconds
  • Mind Bomb – Leaves a 2 second debuff on the target that disorients all enemies within an 8 yd radius for 5 seconds. 30 second cooldown, replaces Psychic Scream
  • Psychic Horror Stuns the target for 4 seconds. 45 second cooldown

Similar to the T30 tier, these talents have situations where they are useful. Last Word being useful on fights with interrupt rotations while Psychic Horror is more general purpose utility that gives us additional crowd control. Mind Bomb did get improved, but is still the weakest of the three.

T75

  • Auspicious Spirits – Your Shadow Apparitions now deal 50% more damage and generate 2 Insanity
  • Shadow Word: Death Spell that deals 187.5% spell damage to a target. Only usable on targets 20% or less health. 2 charges, 9 second cooldown. Generates 15 insanity. If the target dies within one second of casting, generates an extra 15 insanity.
  • Shadow Crash – Hurls a shadow projectile that deals 125% spell damage and generates 20 insanity on cast. 20 second cd

AS is the default talent of this row.

T90

  • Lingering Insanity – When Voidform ends, its haste bonus fades by 1% every three seconds, instead of ending immediately
  • Mindbender – Summons an improved Shadowfiend for 15 seconds that attacks the target and generates 6 Insanity every time the pet attacks. 1 minute cooldown
  • Void Torrent 4 second channel that pauses insanity drain, generates 30 insanity. and deals 360% spell damage over the duration. 45 second cooldown

LI is the default choice.

T100

  • Legacy of the Void – Increases voidform's damage bonus by 5%, reduces cast time of VoiEr by 40%, and reduces activation point to 60 insanity
  • Dark Ascension Immediately activates a new voidform. Casts VoiEr and generates 50 insanity. Resets your current voidform if used during voidform. 1 minute cooldown
  • Surrender to Madness – All your spells generate 100 insanity and you can cast while moving for 1 minute. After 1 minute, you take 90% of your maximum health in damage and cannot generate insanity for 15 seconds

LotV is the default choice.

Azerite

For azerite, your primary goal is to run the following:

1 Whispers in the Dark
2 Chorus of Insanity
2 Shadowy Apparitions

Once you have this setup, the final trait is determined by your gear. If you have between 2100-2400 crit rating before Severe, as well as 48% Severe, you can run a third SA. If you do not have this available, run a third CoI.

You may also notice some people running 1 CoI and using Death Throes for dungeons. This is possible, but mandates you have very high ilvl gear. Do not attempt to practice this setup unless you are essentially finished with Mythic Nya'lotha.

Rotation/Priority

Because our class is separated by the VF mechanic, we have two separate priority lists depending on VF. Dark Ascension has some specials notes in both this section and the advanced section, so please check those out.

Out of VF
  1. Cast Void Eruption
  2. Cast Blast
  3. Keep up Pain and Touch
  4. Use filler
In VF
  1. Cast Bolt
  2. Cast Fiend / Bender when you feel you need help maintaining voidform
  3. Cast Blast
  4. DoT new targets/maintain DoTs
  5. Use filler

Let's take note of a few things now.

General Rotation: The priority of our spells is Bolt > Blast > Flay.

Mind Sear: As with any aoe spell, it is important to figure out when your aoe overtakes your single target spells. Sear replaces these spells at this number of targets:

DoTs: Assuming that the mob is going to live for certain periods of time, it is worth it to place DoTs up. If the mob lives for at least five seconds, cast Pain. If it lives at least seven seconds, cast VT. The ideal time to cast DoTs is when it would be replacing Flay, but you can substitute Blast if the mob will live longer. Make sure to cast Bolt on cd though!

Dungeons

For dungeons, your general talent set up is the following:

  • T15 – Shadow Word: Void
  • T30 – Depends on dungeon
  • T45 – Misery
  • T60 – Psychic Horror
  • T75 – Auspicious Spirits
  • T90 – Lingering Insanity
  • T100 – Legacy

For more specific details, please check out Publik's wonderful post on Mythic+.

Voidform

Voidform is the main mechanic of our class. We start with zero Insanity and can fill it to 100. Once at 90 insanity (60 with LotV) we can activate VF with the spell Void Eruption. VF generates a stacking buff. We gain one stack of VF for every second that we spend in the form and each stack grants 0.5% haste. This maxes out at 100 stacks.

VF is not permanent. Our Insanity bar depletes naturally over the course of the VF according to this equation:

d = 6 + 0.68*x
where d = total drain of Insanity over 1 second 
x = # of “Insanity Drain Stacks”, which is NOT the same as Voidform stacks

Once we reach a value of zero Insanity, we leave VF. We then have to fill back up our Insanity.

When we leave VF, we lose all bonus haste unless we have taken the Lingering Insanity talent. In that case, we lose 1% of the bonus haste every three seconds. This haste buff is not removed when entering the next Voidform.

Now that we understand what VF is, how do we generate Insanity? With our spells of course! Below I will list all the spells that generate Insanity and how much they make:

  • Blast – 12 Insanity
  • Pain – 4 Insanity on the application of the debuff
  • VT – 6 Insanity on the application of the debuff
  • MF – 3 Insanity per tick, 6 Insanity per gcd, 12 Insanity per full cast
  • Sear – 1 Insanity per target hit
  • Fiend – 3 insanity per hit
  • Shadowy Apparitions – 2 insanity per spirit if talented into Auspicious Spirits
  • SW: Void (Talent) – 15 insanity
  • Dark Void (Talent) – 30 insanity
  • Death (Talent) – 15 Insanity always, 15 more Insanity if the target dies within 1 second of the cast
  • Shadow Crash (Talent) – 20 Insanity
  • Bender (Talent) – 6 Insanity per swing
  • Void Torrent (Talent) – 30 insanity over the duration
  • Dark Ascension (Talent) – 50 insanity

Once we generate the appropriate amount of insanity, we have to activate VF using Void Eruption. This is a 2-second casted spell that deals 160% spell power damage to all targets within 10 yds of your target. This spell is replaced by Bolt during VF.

Additionally, there is a spell we gain only during VF called Void Bolt. This is an instant-cast, projectile spell that generates 20 Insanity. This projectile extends your DoTs on the target and all enemies within 8 yards once it hits the target and has a 4.5-second cooldown, modified by haste.

So with this knowledge, the basic idea is to use everything on cd to get into VF, then use the general rotation of:

VB > MB > Filler > VB > Filler > Filler

It is also important to note that Dispersion halts Insanity drain. However, it does halt stack generation. This means that spell will keep you at your insanity level, preventing decay, but will also not allow you to generate stacks of Voidform. This essentially acts as a 6-second pause on your Voidform.

Stats and Gear

For BFA, the stat priority appears to be:
Haste = Crit >  Vers > Mastery > Intellect

Therefore, choose pieces that are haste/crit and choose higher ilvl. Try to avoid mastery and vers when you can.

Keep updated on essence values with this post.

Keep updated on trinket values and uses with this post.

Racials

"Follow your heart" – Hygeia, 2016

Racials are extraordinarily close to one another in BFA, comprising less than a 1% difference. Technically, there is some strength appearing in tauren/dwarf and human racials. However, this difference is still small, so go whatever race you want!

Consumables/Enchants

Corruption

Now that we have the corruption vendor, it's important to talk about what happens for us.

Overall: 5 Severe 3, 4 Expediant 3
Dungeons: 6 Severe 3, 3 Expediant 3
ST parse builds: Expediant and Infinite Stars

You are not going to break your overall dps by running pure stat corruptions on ST fights or running the overall combo in dungeons. Do not use the ST build in dungeons, however.

Credits and Thanks

A big thank you to the WCP community. This would not be possible without any of you, especially our theorycrafting team!

And a huge thank you to everyone reading, commenting, and supporting this! We all appreciate you all the most since you are the people that we do this for.

Changelog

click to show
  • 1 Aug 2020 - Formatting fixes
  • 14 July 2020 - Updated for the state of the game, fixed old inconsistencies and information. Sorry guys, but I'm finally back!
  • 12 Jan 2020 - Updated for patch 8.3
  • 6 Aug 2019 - Updated dungeons section
  • 24 June 2019 - Updated for patch 8.2
  • 27 May 2019 - General cleanup
  • 30 Mar 2019 - Updating stat weight suggestions and dungeon talent suggestions.
  • 17 Dec 2018 - Updated drain formula for 8.1
  • 12 Dec 2018 - Quick typo fixes
  • 11 Dec 2018 - Fixed mind sear at 2 targets and coloring of some talents
  • 10 Dec 2018 - Updated for Patch 8.1.0
  • 1 Sept 2018 - Changed AS crit threshold from 20% to 18%
  • 29 Aug 2018 - Updated t75 talents. Updated voidform rotation
  • 20 Aug 2018 - Updated rotation with more up-to-date info + added SWD. Added dungeon section and updated DA info
  • 12 Aug 2018 - Updated azerite and trinkets with links to Publik's pages. Updated weapon enchant and potion
  • 10 Aug 2018 - Updated for BFA
  • 2 Aug 2018 - Fixed DA cooldown. Added DoTs in VF rotation. Added SW:V/t21 note. Updated gem
  • 17 July 2018 - Guide made public with 8.0 release