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Tips for PVP Shadow Priests in Warcraft's Cataclysm

Updated on February 8, 2011

The 4.01 Shadowpriest's Tips for Pvp

Warcraft's Cataclysm was exactly that: a cataclysmic event that changed the Warcraft we worked so hard to come to know. I, myself, was looking forward to the event but rather unimpressed when the changes took hold. I quickly found out that my then uber discipline priest was relentlessly dying in PVE. Considering the reason to buy Cataclysm was to race to level 85 as quickly as possible, I decided to go Shadow.

I have played a priest on Aerie Peak for four years. To give you a bigger groan- I am also alliance. I'll save the alliance jokes for another time. During my four years on WoW, I can honestly tell you that I had only ever attempted to be a shadow priest once. I can further tell you I didn't like it.

To add to my game play confusion, my boyfriend "rolled" a tank and obviously needed a healer. With him and I in literally in the same room, we downed many bosses, ran over many mobs and looted our little hearts out. Ah... there's nothing quite like hearing your boyfriend scream: "What? I died? Hello! I'm right here, what were you doing?" and being able to turn around and scream in his face, "Adds, adds, adds, adds. I said I had adds on me like 10 billion times, are you deaf?" For anyone not familiar with the term "adds", adds are those annoying little mobs of enemies that proceed to beat your healer in the face. Most tanks are excellent at "picking up adds", or in other words- getting their attention so they leave your healer alone.

Unfortunately, I felt that my healing services were being taken for granted, and rightfully so. So after a year of being a priest that healed in pve raids and dungeons, I decided instead to heal in pvp. Right up until cataclysm was released, I was a duel talented priest. I ran one set of talents in discipline and my other "spec" was a pretty decent discipline/holy hybrid that I rather enjoyed. This of course made my Deathknight tank/boyfriend quite irked, but the fact of the matter is: letting your healer die is one thing; letting your healer/girlfriend die is NOT GOOD. Ok, so I admit- I may have let him die on "accident" a few times. Those would have been the times he died first and I was still at full health and reasonable mana. Chuckle. I won't even get into arena and just how aggravated he often times had me.I do believe that would be a whole different article within itself.

Now let me just saying I was proud of myself for my pvp healing abilities. It wasn't very often that an ally would drop dead at my feet. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I often outranked most healers in most pvp battlegrounds. I would giggle and snort like a two year old as I shrugged off two warriors beating me in the face, yet still managed to get away. I would impress even bystanders, aka... the alliance deadbeats that had a habit of just standing there. Often times I was thanked, kissed, hugged and "wowed". There was also a number of times I was yelled at, but I took it in stride... for the most part. What? Did you really think I was going to pop all of my cd's to save the life of an under geared terribad? Of course not! Then came Cataclysm.

I may have cried a bit when Cataclysm came out. I was still running my healing specs and trying to level. That, my friends, was not going so well. Most of the spirit "ressers" and I had become close friends. In fact, I believe they knew me by name. I swear they did. I sulked as I flew back to Stormwind to respec as Shadow. Obviously, since I was leveling, I picked a face melting  pve spec. However, once I hit level 85, I quickly became bored and wanted to do some footloose in battlegrounds. I visited Stormwind once again and this time picked a Shadowpriest PVP spec.

I was really excited as I waited in Que for my first battleground to pop up. Within seconds, I was in Warsong Gultch. I was a bit unimpressed that my first que couldn't have been a battleground I was unfamiliar with, but quickly got over that. As I mounted up and rode through the graveyard, I wondered how many times I would be standing in it. Five minutes into the battleground, I was wondering how many times I could avoid finding myself in the graveyard. To say that I was killed quickly and quite easily is an understatement. I...was...laughable. To be honest, I actually got laughed at. Vengeance leaked from my pores. I thought for a brief moment that perhaps I should go back to being discipline, but decided against same. I was seeing some numbers and crits that I liked, given I had the opportunity to survive, and followed course with playing a shadowpriest.

It didn't take me long to fill up on the current gear I needed, and as my resilience rose, so did my skill. Playing a "squishy" character in pvp has it's pros and cons. I decided to work my way through the cons and just enjoy the game. Still yet, however, I have noticed that some priests- even discipline priests, are fumbling with their skills and abilities. I was one of those priests and from time to time, I still find myself doing none other than just standing there as I decide what to do next.

Before I go any further, if you are wondering what spec I use, you can find it here: My Current Shadowpriest Build

I do like the functionality of the above spec, but have been tossing around the idea of moving onto this spec: Common Shadowpriest PVP Build

Having said that, here are a few tips and ideas for playing being a pvp shadowpriest in cataclysm:


I will only touch lightly upon gear and stats because as I don't wish most of my information to be solely centered around this. There is an enormous pool of information on choosing the proper gear and stats for your shadowpriest out there, but I'd rather get into the more useful tips to playing a shadowpriest in pvp.

If you don't have an arena team, the chances of getting epic pvp gear is slim to none. When first starting out, the gear that you will want to pick is obviously the Bloodthirsty gear in Satin. Most of the stats on the Bloodthirsty gear in Satin is crit and mastery with haste. Crit and haste gear is exactly what you want. The Bloodthirsty mooncloth set is for healers, and thus is the wrong set for you. Haste is vital for a shadowpriest after crit capping your toon. Generally, it is up to the individual player on what to reforge for. I, myself, have knocked off tons of Mastery on my gear and reforged it for Haste.


An effective pvp shadowpriest should be utilizing macros as often as possible. Besides dot macros that apply all of your instant casts for you, there are quite a few other macros I use:

  • The dis-spell macro. Before I found out about macros, I was incessantly dispelling the enemy player when what I really wanted to do was dis-spell myself. My game play interface now consists of the general dis-spell macro to perhaps dis-spell a warlock that is gearing up a nice fear on me, and a dis-spell macro that only targets myself (even if I have an enemy targeted).
  • Power Word Shield Macro. Ever bubble a friendly target when you meant to bubble yourself? I have. Again, my interface consists of two bubbles: One solely for me (even if I have an ally or enemy targeted) and one I can toss out to a friendly target in need.
  • Renew and Flash Heal Macros. I made these macros as a discipline priest so that I could keep my tanks and allies targeted and heal them with a flash and not have to untarget them to flash myself in between. While these heals can seriously eat through a shadowpriest's mana, I still have these macros available to use them when in need.


What our Mother's taught us is true: "You can't find anything in this mess." Like most toons, shadowpriests have a lot of skills and abilities available. If you find your interface a mess, chances are you are going to find yourself an enemy's lunch in pvp. I am constantly organizing and reorganizing my interface. If your healing capabilities are scattered in between your dots, you have empty flasks and food items hanging out on your tool bars, and the occasional mount thrown in beside devouring plague, I am going to have to assume you may be struggling a bit. My interface is arranged in such a way that my dots are lined up, my food items and drinks are off to the far right, and my "Save me" heals, bubbles, dispersion and macros are all in one place. Of course you can do whatever you chose with your interface, but I would suggest that cleaning it up some will help you to be more effective. PVP isn't the place to stand around and guess where your fade ability is. You will want to know, and need to know where it is. If you are like me, you have the best and most powerful abilities key binded, but have a splattering of useful abilities that aren't. Organize them and try out PVP again. Whatever works for you is


Time and time again, I have seen countless priests demonstrating (or not demonstrating) their abilities or lack thereof. And oh yes, I myself have been one of "those priests" as well. We all have. In my time, I have inadvertently silenced a rogue, tried to silence a totem, psychic screamed absolutely no enemy whatsoever, and actually took the casting time to mass dis-spell a warrior. I'm not even near done with the mishaps that have taken place in pvp, that *I* caused, but we don't have enough time for that, do we? Ok one more quick one: Running around out of shadow form and wondering where my abilities have gone is a classic of mine. Usually when that occurs, I log off as it's a general sign I have been playing way too much pvp.

Occasionally however, I will catch something so mind blowing out the corner of my eye, I have to wonder if some of the priests out there even know what their abilities ARE or what they CAN do. The following is only a list of ideas and tips, and not to be construed as the holy grail from some uber priest. I'm not an uber preist, but I do know that timing and the actual use of abilities are quite important.

  • Fade. Please read the fade ability closely: "lowers threat". There really is no reason (unless your fade is on cooldown) to continue hoping around and running from that big bad kitty cat, now is there? If you are being attacked, or even going to get attacked by a minion, hunter pet, etc., fade comes in mighty handy. Simply press the fade button, and viola- just like that the pet is leaving you alone. Due to some pets abilities and their annoying little owners putting the pet back on you, fade sometimes does not work. However, most times it does. Really, stop blowing your mana beating up the pet. Fade and kill the owner instead.
  • Dispersion. There really is a time and place for dispersion. I have seen priests at full mana being attacked by absolutely nothing roll themselves into a pretty purple ball, and then be attacked minutes later by two angry axe wearing enemies. My general rule of thumb is if I am one on one with an enemy: say a rogue, and said rogue is giving me the beating of my life, I will disperse to hopefully gain some distance on the rogue. If the rogue is beating me up while in my dispersion form, you can bet that I am mashing my "V" key before my dispersion breaks. My "V" is psychic scream. I have the glyph to keep targets in place while using this ability. If I get a psychic scream off on the rogue, I gain even more distance on the rogue then begin to dot him. I'm nowhere near done yet. I have a psychic horror left and can generally make a formerly giddy rogue very upset and very fast. That of course is an example. However, my other rule of thumb is the clobbering instance. My guess is this scenario has happened to you quite a bit: Instead of just one enemy chewing through your HP, you find yourself amidst half of the enemy team who are all more than eager to blow your mind melting face to small pieces. In that case, I usually bust off a psychic scream, gain distance and THEN disperse. Believe me when I tell you that dispersing first is going to lead to half the opposing team STILL chasing you who already have their fingers on every cc they can think of. Once your dispersion breaks, you will be blinded, silenced, you name it. This generally leads to you standing in one place, spinning around aimlessly as you wait for your impending death.
  • Psychic scream: A great place and time to use psychic scream would not only be when you are getting your face pounded in, but when your flag carrier (in flag carrying bg's such as Twin Peaks and Warsong Gultch) is getting their face pounded in. Also, there's nothing quite like busting a psychic scream on someone trying to take your flag in Arathi Basin. Sure, you may not live- but they also might not get that flag before help comes.
  • Mind Control: What priest doesn't love mind control? I don't know about you, but I have noticed quite often in Cataclysm that I am able to mind control more and more enemies. This may be due to their lack of gear, and trinkets at the moment, so enjoy it while you can. But honestly? There really is a time and place to use this ability as well. I've used it in times of need to get an enemy off of me and drop him/her in front of six drooling alliance ( or even throw them off the nearest cliff). Mainly however, I have used it relentlessly to stop an enemy healer from healing. You can either blow through all of your cd's trying to dps a sprawl of enemies, or actually go for the healer healing them. I prefer to aggravate the healers, personally.
  • Mass Dispel: Paladin bubbles and a mage's ice block can be mass dis-spelled. Please keep this in mind. It's irritating for me when I am on my rogue, for example, and nearly have an enemy paladin dead only to watch him bubble. It further irks me when I see a nearby alliance priest twiddling their thumbs. Please use mass dispel when appropriate. Enough said.
  • Dispel. You can use dis-spell to take down a mage's shields before applying dots. Otherwise, you are dotting and wasting valuable mana only to be told the mage is immune. A few quick dis-spells can counter this. I won't even get into the host of enemy abilities and skills that can be dis-spell, just know that not enough dis-spelling is happening in pvp. Please know you can also dis-spell the demolishers in Strand of the Ancients.
  • CONTROL V: The use of Control V puts the enemy ( and ally) health bars over their head. I personally cannot play without using Control V. Not only does it show you the hp of players near you, it also warns you when they are coming. I can stand up against the flag room wall in Warsong Gultch and using Control V ( which is always on as a rule for me), see that ten horde are approaching. It gives me enough time to decide to run, or fight.
  • Sound: If you want to be effective in pvp, you have to hear. Generally, I can hear a rogue coming before I can see him. That's quite useful. A lot of the time, I know what ability was just tossed out at me by the way using that ability sounds. I have pretty much trained myself on sound when I was a discipline healer. The sound of decursive, the sound of warstomp, the sound of a ton of other skills still ring through my head. If you aren't playing with sound, kudos to you, but I generally think same is an unwise idea.
  • Rotation of abilities: How you play in pvp, and what damage buttons you press is yours to chose. Trying to use a rotation skill in pvp is often times impossible. Some priests dot everything in site, some priests focus in on just one target, and some priests dot one player then mind seer all the angry enemies in front of them. I've been known to mind seer a time or two.
  • Mind Seer: This is not a single target ability, so please save your mana. Unless you have a mob of enemies in front of you ( yes, even in pvp), there really is reason to be burning mana using mind seer. I actually watched a priest mind seer a warlock for about four minutes straight in Arathi Basin. He of course ended up dead, and I then had the task of dealing with the big bad warlock.


Yes, its player versus player. Yes, you are in your battleground to pound out as much damage as you possibly can. That's great and all but the fact of the matter is, you're going to be able to obtain much more damage if you are actually alive. If, for example, Joe Schmo the Warrior was able to take you one on one just seconds ago, I highly doubt that riding into Joe Schmo and his buddy, Bob the Paladin is going to turn out any different. You'll spend a ton of mana dotting up Joe Schmo which will likely be dispelled by Bob the Paladin and soon after find yourself sulking in the graveyard. You pretty much just accomplished nothing except finding yourself dead again. Unfortunately, we are squishy toons and that isn't going to change anytime soon.


Max distance is the distance in which you can be away from your target enemy and still use your abilities. LOS is just short for line of site. Us shadowpriests have a pretty decent range in which we can dot and melt a face. Please use it. Now granted, there are plenty of times (ok most times) in which you cannot, under any circumstances, avoid being in the middle of a battle wherein your enemy is in your face. For me, I like to stay up in a warrior's face as much as possible so they cannot charge and stun me. Again, the way you play is generally up to you but survivability is key. We wear cloth, so running into a mob of five horde is usually going to get you killed. Wherein, hiding on the other side of that tree in Twin Peaks and dotting away can be a bit more effective.

An effective shadow priest is often times seen Line of Sighting. Again, we are squishy and wear cloth. The survivability rate of a priest in pvp depends on being sneaky as well. A lot of players don't Control V which is actually great. I can't tell you the countless times I have hid behind something and wreaked havoc on a horde player that couldn't find me.


Remember those players that couldn't find me? Its generally a great idea to know when they did spot me. Furthermore, not every player can have eyes in all directions at once. I actually rather enjoy being told that I have aggro, as it gives me warning a lot of times when I think I am alone. Generally, aggro mods will not work on stealthers, but there have been times when a stealther has been so close to me, my aggro mod went off. I find it a valuable little tool and it only takes a few clicks to turn it on.


If it is one thing I agree with, its that Shadowpriests are not healers. Admit it, you have wanted to scream that through vent or slap the crud out of someone who insisted you should heal them, correct? Still to this day, I have gone into battle grounds only to watch people type out "Yay, we have a healer!". I'm not exactly sure what part of my character makes them think I am a healer, except the class name "priest". I mean, generally a long trail of the color purple oozing from underneath my gear should give way to a little fact: shadowpriests are not healers. Furthermore, if you actually want to drain your mana pool, healing someone to full life is a great way to do it.

But, there are instances in which to heal. Again, the decision is yours to make and it usually must be made quickly. Again, you must question survivability. For example, if my myself and ally Bob the Warrior is in a battle with the enemy Sally the Paladin, and Sally starts winning, it may be a great idea to heal Bob the Warrior. Why? In that scenario, if Sally the Paladin is being dps'ed to death by both Bob and I and STILL winning, having Bob die is going to end up with Sally smashing your face in next. To be quiet honest, either Bob is a terrible warrior or Sally is a great Paladin. You could also chose to run, which would be quite understandable as well. That of course may make Bob angry and have him ask "why didn't you heal me" to which you could reply "I'm not a healer", or you could tough it out and actually help; especially when the end result could be Sally stealing your flag.


I'm not really sure that this tip deserves a whole lot of fluff along with it as it is generally understandable. There is nothing wrong with typing out "inc" when you see one. In fact, please get used to it. Now granted, if you play alliance like I do, you can call "incoming" until you are blue in the face and still see no results. However, once in a blue moon you do get a battleground full of seasoned, or at least adult pvp'ers who respond. Try it, it just might save your life.


I see this all the time: Shadowpriests that stand still. Yes, there are abilities that cannot be cast while moving and I do fully understand that. I play a shadowpriest, remember? I am quite aware of the functionality of some skills and the inability to move while casting others. But for the love of Warcraft, please move. Being effective in pvp takes a ton of skills being used at once, and that includes your ability to cast, wiggle, jump, run, apply bubbles, dis-spell when you can ( and what you should) and then rinse and repeat. There is nothing quite like watching another player "take it in the face" by standing as solemnly still as possible while gently pressing abilities. Come on now, let your hair down, take off your big boy panties and have some fun!

There are so many faucets to being a shadowpriest in World of Warcraft, its impossible to get into them all here. I sincerely hope however that you have taken something from this you can use, and that your game play experience can be a bit better because of it. Remember, Warcraft is a game so treat it as such. My only final tip then would be: Please don't tell off your team mates when something doesn't go your way.

Now go PVP and kick some rear!

Want to Learn More about Shadowpriests in World of Warcraft?


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    • Audarah profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Awesome tip, guest. Thank you!

    • profile image

      Another seasoned Shadow Priest 

      6 years ago

      Just wanted to add the right action bar (when enabled) can be used as a second main casting bar when locked out from MC. Although the spells are taken from main action bar the the side bars (optional bars) will still display the spells when locked out. This means you can continue to dps/heal after being locked out using these bars instead of having just 3 abilities.

    • Stevethepainter profile image


      6 years ago from Illinois

      I can tell that you poured your heart into this.

      When you talk about squishies in pvp, I sensed your tears.

      And when you summed it all up with a scream of encouragement to go back in there and kick some butt ~

      I cheered, too.

      /Cardinalcyn of Shadowsong 450+/played


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