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

This guide is meant to teach you the fundamentals of shadow and help you succeed in clearing the content you want to clear. I welcome feedback and discussion.

Please feel free to reach out to me or any of the team here at WCP. My btag and twitter can be found at the end of this guide. Additionally, feel free to join further discussions in our Discord channel! Warcraft Priests is one of the largest Discord servers in the world and is constantly growing every day. Feel free to join by clicking this link:

What Changed in Prepatch?

Shadow has received an extensive list of changes in Shadowlands. Not every change or addition is going to be available in prepatch, as some of the new abilities such as Power Infusion require higher levels than currently obtainable. Because of this, the guide will focus on prepatch Shadow and not Shadowlands Shadow.

Here is a quick list of major changes Shadow has received:

  • Voidform is now a 90 second cooldown and we no longer use the voidform cycle
  • Insanity has been reworked into a spender resource, with Devouring Plague being the baseline spender
  • Our Mastery has changed to increase our damage by X% per DoT on the target
  • We have a new passive ability, Dark Thoughts, which is a proc that lets us cast Mind Blast during Flay/Sear
  • Shadow Apparitions has received a fairly major design change

For a more detailed list of new changes, click below:

  • Desperate Prayer has been returned to Shadow, allowing us to have an on-demand instant heal that does not share a cooldown with potions or stones.
  • Mastery has been changed to provide an additive % increase to damage for every DoT you have on a target. This won't fundamentally change your rotation, but might be gameable on fights with increased damage taken phases.
  • Shadow Word: Death has returned as a base ability. Be careful though, it damages you back!
  • Voidform has been completely overhauled. You cast Void Eruption to activate it, unleashing an AoE centered on your target. You then gain a few benefits, outlined in more detail in the Voidform section.
  • Dark Thoughts is a new passive that gives your Flay and Sear a 3% chance per DoT on each tick to give you an instant Blast that can be cast during Flay and Sear.
  • Devouring Plague has returned and is our primary spender of Insanity. 
  • Shadowy Apparitions are no longer tied to crit chance. Now, whenever you cast Blast, Bolt, or Plague, a spirit will travel to every target with your Vampiric Touch. If the trigger spell crits, you will spawn two spirits instead of one.
  • There are various new talents that you can explore at your leisure. The most important one to note is Searing Nightmare. This is an AoE insanity spender that can only be cast while using Mind Sear. Casting it applies Pain to all targets hit and if the target already has Pain, it deals double damage.


Shadow actually has some choice in talents! You will find the various combinations below, as well as some basic explanations for each.

Single Target

For single target fights, the setup is rather simple. ToF and Misery are essentially equal value, even on ST. Take your pic.

Multi Target

Once secondary targets enter the equation, Misery picks up strength incredibly quickly. Now that we can no longer extend our DoTs infinitely, Misery saves a significant amount of GCDs during a fight.

In a burst scenario, Ancient Madness can be better than Hungering Void, but HV will edge out in most cases because of our gear in prepatch.


Dungeons are where things start to get tricky. Full disclosure, we have not run extensive dungeon sims.

For the level 15 tier, both DnM and UD have potential. DnM functions to get you more DPs rolling, fueling more apparitions to spawn. UD is just a pure damage increase.

For the level 30 tier, this depends heavily on the pacing and number of mobs being pulled. If the dungeon is focusing on big pulls and/or small adds, then Searing Nightmare will be the go-to. If things are living for a decent time or you are pulling smaller, Misery is going to be putting in some heavy work.

For the level 50 tier, all three talents actually have their place. However, in prepatch, we believe that HV will take control. By quickly dotting targets with Misery and then entering voidform, you will be doing a massive amount of damage from spirits.


Our rotation has simplified heavily in this expansion, thanks to the removal of the Voidform cycle. Our basic rotations can be found below:


  1. Cast Devouring Plague to prevent overcapping Insanity
  2. Keep up Pain and Touch
  3. Use Shadowfiend
  4. Use Void Eruption to enter Voidform
  5. Cast Bolt
  6. Cast Devouring Plague
  7. Use Shadow Word: Death if the target is under 20% health
  8. Cast Blast
  9. Cast Sear or Flay as filler

Dungeons with Misery

  1. Cast Devouring Plague to prevent overcapping Insanity
  2. Use Misery to keep up both Pain and VT
  3. Use Shadowfiend
  4. Use Void Eruption to enter Voidform
  5. Cast Bolt
  6. Cast Devouring Plague
  7. Use Shadow Word: Death if the target is under 20% health
  8. Cast Blast. If more than 4 targets, only cast with Dark Thoughts
  9. Cast Sear or Flay

Dungeons with Searing

  1. Use Shadowfiend
  2. Use Void Eruption to enter Voidform
  3. Cast Sear
  4. Cast Searing Nightmare
  5. If using Hungering Void, cast Bolt
  6. Cast Blast only with Dark Thoughts procs and if you cannot cast Searing Nightmare
  7. If there are less than 8 targets, cast Touch when you do not have the insanity for Searing Nightmare and no DT procs

Now let's look at what our openers would be:


  1. If using Formless Void major, precast for CLF
  2. Precast Touch
  3. Cast Pain
  4. Cast Blast
  5. Use Fiend
  6. Use your major essence
  7. Cast Void Eruption
  8. Cast Bolt
  9. Cast Plague
  10. Cast Blast


  1. Cast Blast
  2. Cast Touch as the tank is pulling mobs
  3. Use Fiend
  4. Use your major essence
  5. Cast Void Eruption
  6. If using Searing Nightmare AND Hungering Void, cast Bolt
  7. If using Searing Nightmare, cast Sear and begin using SN
  8. If using Misery, cast Plague
  9. Cast Blast

Let's take note of a few things now.

Devouring Plague: DP is our only baseline spender for Insanity. However, this spell has a built in rollover function. This means that if you cast DP on a target already afflicted by the DoT, all the damage from the first DP will carry over into the new one. Because of this, feel free to DP away!

Do make note though, you should pay attention to how fast the target is dying. You don't want to lose damage!

AoE: Shadow's aoe kit has a few factors to consider. First, Sear only replaces Flay when you have three or more stacked targets. This is both because of damage and Dark Thoughts procs.

If you are talented into Searing Nightmare, use that spell anytime you have a clustered group of enemies. Remember, you can only cast it during Sear!

Funnily enough, Shadow has gone untouched by the AoE cap changes in Shadowlands.

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!


Our primary cooldown does deserve a bit of explanation on its own. When Voidform is activated, you will immediately gain three benefits:

  • Your Void Eruption spell will transform into Void Bolt
  • You will reset your Mind Blast and also gain a second charge of Blast
  • You will cap out your mastery value against all targets for the duration of Voidform

Now what does all of this mean?

Void Bolt is simply a spell that you want to be casting every third global in Voidform. This is the only time that you have access to the spell, so make sure you are pressing that button on cooldown!

Because Blast is reset and also gains a charge, you do not necessarily need to use blast prior to Voidform. If both are off cooldown, Voidform takes higher priority.

Because our mastery caps out, this means that every target will take maximum damage from your abilities, regardless of whether or not they have DoTs. This means that Voidform can be activated and you can target swap without any repurcussion or setup to do maximum damage.

Stats, Essences, Azerite, and Trinkets

Please note that not everything in this section has been thoroughly simmed. Most of the effort is being put towards optimizing stuff for Shadowlands. Please, please go and use simcraft to help you figure out what you want for your character. To do this easily, go to Raidbots and run the sims for your character.


Int > Haste > Crit > Mastery > Vers

We do know that the value of crit changes if you have three SA azerite traits, so don't be surprised if mastery overtakes crit if you have less than three of those traits.

An important thing to remember is that secondary stats have been nerfed going into Shadowlands. Because of this, secondary stats reach soft caps at 30% of their value.

There is one small caveat to this statement: mastery. For mastery, the soft cap is actually 19%.


We are not going to run a significant dive into essences for prepatch. We have done some basic sims and they are showing the following order for major essences:

  1. CLF/FV
  2. BotE (this requires you to be in melee)/Worldvein
  3. Iris/Breath

For minor essences, we suggest the following:

  1. CoF
  2. Lucid
  3. Iris

Take the time to experiment with the essences and find what works best! I will update this section as we receive new info.


We believe the best setup is going to be:

3 Spiteful Apparitions
1 Whispers of the Damned
2 Heart of Darkness or Death Throes if you do not have HoD



For trinkets, look no further than our lovely github page located here. The shadow team puts a lot of work into this, so make sure to give them the credit they deserve!

Remember, if you are ever doubting something, just make sure to use Simcraft to help answer your questions!


"Follow your heart" – Hygeia, 2016

Racials are still close in SL, though we are starting to see a tiny edge case from best to worst. That being said, the difference is only a few %, so play the race that you want or focus on other things, such as Rocket Jump, Arcane Torrent, or Will to Survive.


Note that your gem/food/enchant choice will change depending on your gear. When in doubt, sim it out!

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.

My btag is Melgane#1380 and my twitter is @Melganewow


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  • 13 Oct 2020 - Forgot to include Bolt in ST rotation, sorry about that! Also we got trinket stuff done, woohoo.
  • 12 Oct 2020 - Posted for SL prepatch