With the latest build of the 9.1 PTR, Shadow has received another round of changes to both its base spells and two of its most used legendaries. Here I will list the changes, before going over the implications of each one in detail, and giving my opinion on the state of Shadow in PvE after these changes in 9.1.
Unlike the change to Dissonant Echoes
which we saw before, this round of changes will have an impact on Shadow's standings and performance in PvE content, as well impact legendary choices moving forward into 9.1. Taking all the changes we know about as of now into account, Shadow is looking at a roughly 4% overall nerf in Single Target damage. This isn't insignificant, but it's not enough to reduce the spec's overall output to a point where its viability might be brought into question. Shadow in 9.0.5 is an exceptionally strong Single Target DPS spec, and with more gear was potentially looking to pull away from the pack, these changes likely prevent that from happening, but I still see Shadow being a strong single target pick for the next raid all things considered, though probably not the top dog.
Beyond Single Target, Shadow might actually be looking at a slight buff in encounters with 3-4 consistent targets. Once the go-to multi dotter in Battle for Azeroth, The removal of Azerite Traits and subsequent spec rework took a lot power out of our bread and butter dots. Luckily, however, Castle Nathria did not really have anywhere for multi dotting to shine to the degree it has in previous raid tiers, focusing instead on Single Target. Something Shadow happened to be good at.
A lot of people, myself included, did miss having some amount of multi-DoT prowess though, and while it's not going to put Shadow anywhere close to where it has been in the past, it's at least something. To those unfamiliar with Shadow Priest, and really the state of DoTs in general in Shadowlands, a 25% increase might seem like a lot. DoTs are, in fact, close to the weakest they have ever been right now. Hopefully this change helps, and hopefully there's some sustained Multi Target encounters in The Sanctum of Dominion for us to sink our teeth into. This is also likely to have some value in Mythic+, though it's too early to say how much, or if it outweighs the nerfs to other areas of the spec.
The nerfs to Shadow's legendaries are likely to be the most impactful changes Shadow receives in 9.1. Shadowflame Prism
, the premiere choice for Shadow Priests of the Night Fae Covenant, is receiving what amounts to a roughly 10% nerf overall. Talbadar's Stratagem
, which is used by Shadow Priest of the other three Covenants is also receiving a slight hit. The main headline from these changes is that, with the data we have now, the gap between Shadowflame Prism
and Talbadar's Stratagem
has been significantly reduced, and might mean even Night Fae shadows have a choice of Single Target legendary, depending on encounter design. It will still be the go to in Mythic+ though, and provides slightly more burst damage than Talbadar's Stratagem
. For raiding, Shadow Priests might have the option to return to their pre 9.0.5 build of Talbadar's Stratagem
and Void Torrent
My opinion on this is rather mixed. On one hand, the changes to Shadowflame Prism
in 9.0.5 came somewhat out of left field, with both a damage buff and the effect's addition to mastery equating to a combined damage increase of roughly 40%. On the other, the gameplay provided by this legendary on Single Target was for me a lot of fun and it's a shame that a legendary which brings its own gameplay and playstyle might be beaten by one that simply provides a damage buff. Both of these legendaries appeared above the curve compared to most spec's best options, and following the nerfs to Balance Druid's Balance of All Things
, they were both likely to take a hit, so no real surprises there.
Before I go over the potential implications of the nerf to Devouring Plague
, the legendary changes noted above might actually make this nerf a tad smaller than it would appear, playing in 9.0.5. When playing Shadowflame Prism
, Shadow Priests run the Mindbender
talent instead of Void Torrent
generates significantly more Insanity
than Void Torrent
does, resulting in much more casts of Devouring Plague
during Shadow's potent burst windows. While Shadowflame Prism
still maintains a slight lead, the potential to go back to Talbadar's Stratagem
will reduce the amount of damage Devouring Plague
contributes to Shadow's rotation.
Nerfing Devouring Plague
has changed the number of targets at which you should replace it with Searing Nightmare
. Currently on live, the breakpoints are 3 targets outside of Voidform
and 4 targets inside. In 9.1 those will change to, in theory, be 2 targets outside and 3 targets inside. Searing Nightmare
overtaking Devouring Plague
on 2 targets is significant because of the requirement to cast Mind Sear
at 2 targets also, generating less insanity and less Dark Thoughts
procs than Mind Flay
. It might be the case that while simulations say Devouring Plague
should only be cast over Searing Nightmare
on Single Target, it's not practical to do so, but time and experience will tell.
The other thing nerfing Devouring Plague
does is reduce the value of Insanity
, and Insanity
generating abilities. While this has no concrete implications, it does slightly reduce the value of talents and covenant abilities whose primary function is to generate Insanity
instead of increase direct damage, or deal damage themselves.
With Shadowflame Prism
now much closer in value to Talbadar's Stratagem
, and the value of Insanity generation reduced, the Night Fae Covenant might see a noticeable drop in power. However, with 9.1 still a long way off, and numerous parts of the covenant system either untested or unimplemented, it's too early to take any guesses at what or if Shadow will have a best covenant in 9.1.
Shadow looks to be taking a noticeable but survivable hit to its damage as far as raiding is concerned, 4% on Single Target isn't a lot, and the potential for some more effective multi dotting is something to look forward to. As for Mythic+, though it's very early, I can't see too much changing, even with buffs to both of our basic dots.
Damage over time effects for all specs, not just Shadow, are at an all time low for their strength, and seeing a buff of 25% might point to a larger problem with dots and dot classes in Shadowlands.
Shadow's AoE rotation is often criticised for being cumbersome and overloaded, as well as lacking a baseline Insanity
spender. Moving numbers around isn't going to change any of this, and I'd be very surprised if we see a solution before the next expansion.
Priest is also still awaiting its Covenant Legendaries, and while Talbadar's Stratagem
and Shadowflame Prism
are unlikely to be dethroned, something might surprise us.