Priests are the only class in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands with two healing specializations. This comes with the cost that they have only one DPS specialization at their disposal: Shadow.
In both player-vs-player (PvP) and player-vs-environment (PvE) encounters, the specialization is highly sought after due to its great damage and utility for teammates. While Shadow Priests weren’t accepted widely by dungeons, raids, or arena members at the beginning of the season, the spec became much stronger once players got some more gear and received multiple nerfs to bring its power down over the expansion.
In PvP, Shadow Priests are hard to kill due to having multiple defensive cooldowns at their disposal alongside a possibility to swap health with their teammates if they pick up a PvP talent. They have multiple viable compositions at their disposal, which makes them flexible partners in arenas.
In PvE, they provide a good mix of single-target, area-of-effect damage, as well as utility. They have a stun, silence, fear, movement speed buff, and much more. Their damage scales well throughout the expansion as they acquire more gear, making them great teammates in the long run.
Here are the best Shadow Priest talents and build for PvP and PvE.
Shadow Priests are in a great spot PvP-wise due to multiple utility and CC cooldowns available to them, which can help you easily adjust to any composition you’re facing. The ability to be flexible like this is unmatched, and while other classes have some hard counters, you can adjust your base or PvP talents to match the playstyle you’re facing to diminish any incoming pressure.
One big drawback to the spec is that you have one primary casting school, so if you get locked out of Shadow, you won’t have many things to do. It’s important to fake cast to bait kicks from your opponents before you begin hard casting spells.
Level 15: Unfurling Darkness – The ability to replicate Vampiric Touch within eight seconds of casting it on another target is unparalleled. Other talents don’t even come close to the efficiency and damage of this one, especially considering that this talent synergizes well with others, such as Misery and Damnation.
Level 25: Intangibility – The cooldown reduction and healing on Dispersion is crucial to surviving most melee encounters. While you have quite a lot of other defensive cooldowns as well, Dispersion is your primary one, so reducing its cooldown is more important than the benefits from the other two talents.
Level 30: Misery – Vampiric Touch will also apply Shadow Word: Pain, saving you a crucial global in applying the DoT and giving you more room to cast other abilities instead. If you’re playing in the two-vs-two bracket, going for Twist of Fate is a good alternative if you play a composition that relies on bursting down only one target.
Level 35: Psychic Horror – The stun talent is the one you should pick by default in most of your matches. If you’re playing with someone with a stun already on your team, then going for other talents might be a better option sometimes. But by default, the stun from this talent is good and should be picked if you’re unsure about the utility of other talents.
Level 40: Shadow Crash – This is a decent damaging ability that generates a bit of Insanity on a low cooldown. It should be the default pick in most scenarios. If you’re playing a DoT comp or mostly in rated battlegrounds, then going for Auspicious Spirits is better since it’s going to give you more Insanity generation over the course of the match.
Level 45: Damnation – This is one of the best talents in the row since it has a 45-second cooldown and allows you to save multiple globals. It applies all three DoTs and activates Unfurling Darkness, giving you the option to instantly apply Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain to another target. If you’re facing a composition without a lot of lockdowns, you can go for Void Torrent, which deals a lot of damage if it’s not interrupted.
Level 50: Hungering Void – This is the best talent by default, increasing damage taken by your Voidbolted target by 15 percent. The other talents are lackluster in PvP. Ancient Madness is useful in rare scenarios where you have a lot of Critical Strike gear, while Surrender to Madness is unusable in PvP since it will kill you.
Your stat priority is Versatility > Haste > Mastery > Critical Strike.
With the fast-paced arena meta, you need to able to cast your spells as quickly as possible—and having a lot of haste to do so is a requirement. But before that, you want to prioritize Versatility for the additional damage and damage reduction. With the double PvP trinket bonus, Versatility is the best primary stat. Haste is second in priority due to the ability to use abilities quicker and faster. Mastery and Critical Strike are lower in priority, but if you have higher item-level gear with these stats, feel free to use them instead.
As for the Legendary item, you want to go for Sephuz’s Proclamation because it reduces incoming CC by 10 percent and gives you a nice boost of stats whenever you CC, dispel, or interrupt a target.
The optimal covenant for a Shadow Priest in PvP is Venthyr. It grants you the ability to blink via Door of Shadows and one of the best covenant abilities in Mindgames. The usefulness of it is unparalleled compared to others since you can use it as burst damage on the main target or use it on the healer to make them damage allies instead of healing for the next couple of seconds.
The three PvP talents you should use by default are Void Shift, Greater Fade, and Lasting Plague. They’re all great in either giving you additional utility or damage by default. In some matches where you get trained, you can swap one of them for Driven to Madness to be able to Void Erupt more often.
Priests in PvE provide a good source of damage, while also having the tools to deal with plenty of mechanics unharmed, such as Power Word: Shield, Leap of Faith, Mass Dispels, and others. Their utility coupled with their ability to do a lot of damage makes them great teammates in dungeons or raids.
While the DoT playstyle was rewarded in the previous expansion, right now, the DoTs by themself don’t do that much damage. Thus, many players have rerolled to Warlocks to play with the same playstyle. But those who have stuck with the class found new limits after the latest ability additions in Shadowlands.
Level 15: Fortress of the Mind – The pure damage and Insanity increase given by this talent is the best in the row overall, especially in long encounters. For dungeons, the other two are decent in niche situations.
Level 25: Body and Soul – The movement speed increase on Power Word: Shield will come in handy in multiple encounters, so this talent takes the cake in this row. San’layn isn’t required if you have a competent healer in your group, while Intangibility will rarely help you in groups or raids due to it being only a personal cooldown.
Level 30: Twist of Fate – All three talents are viable in various scenarios, but Twist of Fate is the best one in the row by default. It allows you to deal increased damage and healing after damaging a target below 35 percent health.
Level 35: Psychic Horror – The stun talent is the one you should pick by default since it’s helpful in various dungeons or raids. The ranged ability to stun an additional enemy is unparalleled and saves your melees from having to walk up to them to CC them.
Level 40: Auspicious Spirits – An increase in damage and Insanity generation to your Shadowy Apparitions passive is great. And while the other two talents can be useful in some situations, this one is the best to take by default.
Level 45: Void Torrent – This is your main single-target burst ability. It allows you to pump out a lot of damage, especially when buffed up with various effects.
Level 50: Hungering Void – This is the best talent by default, increasing the damage taken by your Voidbolted target by 15 percent. The other talents here are lackluster in PvE since they require specific scenarios to be useful.
Your stat priority is Haste > Mastery > Critical Strike > Versatility.
Unlike PvP, in PvE, you don’t need to stack up on Versatility. You benefit from all stats quite well, but Haste is king in a PvE environment. It allows you to cast spells more often, which will lead to a higher DPS. Afterward, you want to go for Mastery to do more shadow damage. Critical Strike is close to Mastery in terms of power but is still behind. Talbadar’s Stratagem is the best legendary by default since it allows your Mind Blast to do 60 percent more damage when used on a target with all three DoTs, which is quite easy to apply.
The optimal covenant for a Shadow Priest in PvE is Venthyr. It grants you the ability to blink via Door of Shadows and one of the best covenant abilities in Mindgames. While the abilities might lack utility in PvE like others, if you’re a frequent PvPer, Venthyr is the best covenant to pick. It’s great in both types of content and doesn’t require you to constantly farm renown for other covenants.