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World of Warcraft: Shadow Priest vs. Warlock in the MOP expansion
A class comparison in PVP
Ever since Warcraft's newest Pandaria expansion, in the darker circles of Azeroth, an eternal debate still lingers for new and veteran players alike: should my alignment-evil toon be a shadow priest, or a warlock? Will an aura of shadow energy pulsating around me better accessorize my nefarious schemes, or would a demonic sidekick? Should I simply stick with my boom-boom-chicken?
Well, as with so many either-or decisions, it really depends on what you're looking for. For purposes of comparison, I'll be using shadow priest vs. (more specifically) affliction warlock, as both have channeling AoE and single target spells, powerful DoTs, and generally more similar PVP tactics.
During the beta tests for MoP the warlock class was admittedly clunky, and shadow priests were at the top of DPS meters. However, the final release proved a big improvement to both classes, and arguably casters as a whole, with warlocks now topping DPS meters with seemingly no plans to change this for the remainder of the expansion. With the possible exception of a well played destruction warlock, shadow priests have larger (with shadow orbs present) powerful burst damage, and reliable DoTs. Devoring Plauge + shadow orbs = massive burst damage. An affliction lock with soul-burn + soul swap can however instantly apply all DoTs to a target, Haunt no longer returns healing like in previous expansions, but when combined with DoTs and Malefic Grasp you can see an enemy literally melt before your eyes. It comes down to a point of choosing between burst damage or, in an affliction warlock's case, absolutely no burst damage but unparalleled DoTs. It's a close one with pure DPS overall, but warlocks still take the bacon, but shadow priests have a bit more versatility in actual DPS choices.
Shadow priests have maintained their defensive spells largely intact, psychic horror is now orb-dependent, however the glyph dark bidding, which allows players to cast healing spells in shadowform, is the new hotness -- flash heal however can still break this effect as can hymn of hope if you happen to be low on mana. Warlocks, have gained some impressive new defensive spells, however, they're largely dependent on what choices you make in choosing your talents. Even with this in mind, warlocks can't exactly spam heal themselves or cast Dispersion if they're in trouble, and a lock with defensive spells on cool down is, in most situations, a lock in trouble. Shadow priests win this one.
In the realm of character control warlocks still reign supreme, spammable fears are still a powerful tactic (unless the blood fear talent is chosen), and as a warlock you can take a certain glee in melting an enemies health down while fear-spamming from a distance. I wouldn't recommend the Blood Fear talent for warlocks in a PVP environment as upon use it drains 10% max health, and more than likely an enemy will just trinket out of it and you'll have to reapply it (after its 5 second cool down) and be down 20% max health. You could pop a healthstone to bring you back to full health, but that's on a 2 minute cool down. Howl of Terror and Mortal Coil are extremely versatile, and in the case of Howl of Terror can be used just as a shadow priest's Psychic Scream. Shadow Priests still have Psychic Scream but this is still more useful if a rogue happens to get behind you, or if things get a little too dicey in your immediate area. Running into area and popping your Psychic Scream is useful to save a healer that's under attack, but it puts you in melee range. The Summon Psyfiend talent can give a shadow priest access to spammable fears for a limited time, it's a very nice AoE Fear spell, however you can't directly control who does and doesn't get feared, and it is on a cool down. You can use this as a proxy to take some heat off a healer, or in a choke point, so it's still tactically very useful. Shadow priests have three total fear spells, Psychic Horror, Psychic Scream, and one talent related fear to choose from (Void tendrils/Pysfiend/Dominate Mind) they're all quite useful and versatile, but non-spammable. Warlocks have two fear spells: a spammable Fear, with a relatively short cast time, and another talent related fear to choose from (Howl of Terror/Mortal Coil/Shadowfury). Both classes have silences and dispels, though for warlocks this is through one of their minions. For the shadow priest, their silence is on a (slightly) longer cooldown than the warlocks, though this is reversed for dispels. It's a close call for this one -- I'm usually a fan of more versatility of any given situation, but spammable CC will always be a powerful card to play. Warlocks get this one.
Shadow priests have Inner Will to increase movement speed by a modest 10%, but otherwise if they get into the thick of it with melee classes or in range of casters, they can expect to get pounded. This is part of the reason they have some of the most powerful defenses in the game. Warlocks have two get-aways: they can teleport to a Demonic Circle that's in range, and/or summon a Demonic Gateway. In a sense, these are like a mage's Blink spell, but on steroids. The only real downside is if you don't have situational awareness you'll run outside of range of these rage-inducing-get-aways. Plus: your party members can use these gateways as well. Warlocks get this one. General tip though: taking the second to cast that Demonic Circle will have to become second nature, much like casting the shadow priest's Renew or Prayer of Mending spell. Something I've noticed among warlocks and shadow priests on battlegrounds or PVP servers is they don't practice what every good mage does: ABC (Always Be Casting) and always have a contingency plan in case that rogue decides you look tasty; because rogues are, after all, the bane of all cloth wearing classes.
If you're going in a battleground with a dedicated healer, warlocks are a viable highly versatile option, and even favored over shadow priests. On the other hand, shadow priests are probably the safest option for random battlegrounds, given their sheer survivability.
Now, you won't just be PVPing, more than likely, with your favorite fiendish character. Warlocks are still favored for their raid utility. Shadow priests can always switch to their off-spec healing specialization for dungeons (can we say shorter queue times?). Arena's can be toss-up, and will really depend on the team your interested in forming, how the classes complement each other is extremely important. Though, shadow priests and mages seem to be a favorite in arenas, as are warlocks and shamans.
So which do you prefer?
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