First of all, big apologies to my 1 reader out there for not updating as much last week. Things just got... busy.
With that weight off of my shoulders, I'd like to talk a little about the Priest and what I've been doing with her (sounds dirty, but trust me it's not). We'll get to arena and BG's soon enough, but really, the meat of my past week's Priestly endeavors has been raiding. In this time period we have attended and saved ourselves to every raid in TBC except BT and Sunwell, where an extremely undergeared Priest, no matter how skillfully played, will have issues justifying her presence. We've gone from blues and greens to nearly all epics, a few blues (need the Scryer's Bloodgem for the hit rating) and one green (why are there no good offhand drops?!). We've gone from 600 spellpower to over 1000 spellpower and we still have less than 3 days of /played time at level 70.
Throughout all of the raids and heroics, the goal has been to find a decent PvE guild with some strong leadership and a mature atmosphere, because, as I've (and many others) seen before, a good fit guild can make playing the game that much more enjoyable, even to the point that, signing on to talk to friends and jump around in the major cities (I miss Ironforge square jumping), is something to look forward to. I've definitely found a few guilds on Kel'Thuzad I could cross off my list and a few to look into further. There were even a few where I found myself stepping into a leadership role in their raids, because of the inexperience of the leadership, no matter how good intentioned they were. Hopefully, we'll find ourselves a new home soon, because talking in a private chat channel is much less enjoyable than in /g chat... and typing /6 is a pain due to little Asian hands. I expect to have arthritis in a few years.
I digress. In the world of beginner Shadow Priest raiding, I've been taking as much epic gear as possible, going as far as crafting the entire Frozen Shadoweave set and getting some Bracers of Nimble Thought made for me. I've contemplated making the BT haste shoulders, but I haven't seen the pattern on the AH recently. Aside from all of the gear crafting, the confusing aspect to all of this raiding and PvE gearing is the synergy between the gear and the talents. See, with the changes to the Shadow tree and game mechanics, obtaining mana at 70 is a different task. Specifically, the restriction of one potion/fight and the change to Vampiric Touch providing the Replenishment buff instead of mana returned based on damage dealt, mana for the undergeared Shadow Priest is pretty dicey, especially if you're as undergeared as I am. Furthermore, the stats allocation on typical gear also doesn't help.
To preface the explanation, lets define the two means of passive mana regen other than Shadowfiend and Dispersion:
Meditation (rank 3): Allows 30% of your mana regeneration to continue while casting. (Discipline tree)
Improved Spirit Tap (rank 2): Your Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death critical strikes increase your total Spirit by 10%. For the duration, your mana will regenerate at a 20% rate while casting. Lasts 8 sec (Shadow tree)
Notice: Both talents run off of Spirit to determine the amount of passive mana regen.
Obviously, before we go any further, I realize that with WotLK, spirit will be itemized better, but we're playing in the here and now, so it's a valid current issue.
Now, lets look at the issue. When analyzing non raid gear, each piece can generally be categorized based off of various characteristics: DPS and Healing. Traditional 'DPS' gear has Stamina, Intellect, Spellpower and Crit. This type of gear is supported through the various crit talents such as Improved Spirit Tap and the other +crit rating (Mind Melt) and +crit damage (Shadow Power) talents. With the change to dots now being able to crit, crit rating is definitely desired. Conversely, traditional 'Healer' gear has Stamina, Intellect, Spirit and Spellpower. Interestingly, this gear is also supported through Shadow talents such as Improved Spirit Tap and Twisted Faith (Increases your spell power by 10% of your total Spirit, and your damage done by your Mind Flay and Mind Blast is increased by 10% if your target is afflicted by your Shadow Word: Pain).
Big deal right? Well, yes, this is a pretty big deal to the beginning Shadow raider, because virtually no gear outside of raid gear has both spirit and crit and we need both. Here's why: When trying to overcome my mana issues, I could spec two ways: either 13/0/48 for Meditation or 5/0/56 to max out the damage talents. If I go with the first spec, I could gear for spirit and be fine on mana, enjoying a 30% regen rate, but my damage becomes gimped, especially concerning Mind Melt and Shadow Power as I am not able to max out both talents. In addition, 3/5 Twisted Faith means less damage overall on the two most spammable spells in my arsenal. With Pain and Suffering keeping Shadow Word: Pain up indefinitely, giving away extra guaranteed damage seems counter productive. With the second spec (how I usually spec for Raiding), I do gain Dispersion for mana regen (basically a second pot) but the reliance on crit is much more extreme. If I don't get crits on Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death, I am completely reliant on cooldowns for longevity. But, if I do crit, I need enough spirit so that my regen is worthwhile!
So, what's the right way to gear/spec for the beginning raider? Well, if your group is competent and you're clearing farmable content, definitely go with the 5/0/56 spec and hope for Mind Blast/Death crits. There's a good chance your group is going to burn down the boss fast enough as it is, so your mana issues won't become apparent. If your group is just starting the raid scene and fights are taking much longer than they probably should, Meditation and Spirit gear may be much more beneficial, especially if you're multi tasking to cover your raid weaknesses (shielding, dispelling)
So, how did I do this week? Well, aside from at least 8 upgrades: Head, Neck, Chest, MH, Gloves, Pants, Boots, Trinket, we managed to break into the top 5 on a Hyjal boss. How? Well, as much as I'd like to preen about my undeniable skill, I'd actually have to give credit to all those 'raiders' who evidently love to stand in the fire.
Evidently, PvE is hard.