In a recent 9.2 PTR build, there were two large nerfs to Shadow Priest. One to the strength of the tier set in Single Target and AoE, and one to the power of the Necrolord covenant legendary, Ordre exsangue
. This build also came with some new and old bugs that have been affecting Shadow throughout the PTR cycle, and made it difficult to test changes up until recently.
- Ombre vivante is once again no longer affected by mastery (This has been fixed but you will have felt its impact if you did any testing last week)
- Ombre vivante can deal damage to your target if it's not already in combat
Purely from sims, the nerfs looks to be 7-10%
on Single Target, for both the nerf to the legendary and set bonus, depending on second legendary choice and encounter duration. The nerfs are likely to be larger in Mythic+, but it's hard to say any exact numbers because of the bugs which nerfed things even further than intended on PTR last week. As the set bonus was doing a lot for us in Mythc+, arguably propping up the spec in certain situations, it would make sense to have much more impact.
This change has had a fairly large impact on talent, legendary, and covenant choice going into and throughout the next patch, notably.
- Potential to run Folie antique or Misère in a raid environment has been significantly reduced, with Vide affamé and Tour du destin now firmly ahead in Single Target
- Any builds using Stratagème de Talbadar and Damnation are significantly weaker than they were
- Prisme d’Ombreflamme is now Shadow's main legendary choice going into the next tier as any covenant
- Night Fae and Necrolord are pretty much neck and neck in M+ and Raids with optimal play, prior to acquiring a second legendary
- Night Fae has potential to be a viable option for Mythic+, even after double legendaries are available. In raids, however, Necrolord remains the only choice outside of potential niche situations
Reducing the power of the set bonus impacts the value of Attaque mentale
, and any legendaries which directly increase its value throughout the rotation. The nerf to Ordre exsangue
makes it no longer Shadow's best Single Target legendary.
Whilst Pacte de Bwonsamdi
has little to no value in a raiding environment, the downtime between trash pulls in Mythic+ allow enough leeway between the cooldowns of Gardiens faë
and Éruption du Vide
that you get to use Éruption du Vide
once on every trash pack.
Shadow losing 7-10% damage on Single Target is a significant hit for next tier. The set was likely above par compared to other specs, but the spec itself has, outside of early progress, struggled to keep its head above water in SoD. With the data currently available, it looks to be middle of the pack next tier (though tuning is far from finished).
Prior to the release of sanctum, Shadow received nerfs to both of its main legendaries, as well as its Insanité
spender Peste dévorante
. Shadow was performing towards the top end on Single Target, making up for its lack of Multi Target, but I don't know... Maybe it had potential to scale too well as item level increased in SoD? Clearly that scaling never fully materialised, with other more versatile specs pulling ahead or catching up throughout the tier. With that being the case, and these hefty nerfs, it would make sense to counter balance them somewhat by putting some power back into Peste dévorante
The impact on Mythic+ is much harder to measure, and ultimately can't really be counter balanced by number buffs or properly compensated. Given the state of the PTR it's hard to think nothing will change for Mythic+ balance, but Shadow was still in a precarious place prior to 9.2. It was good at high sustain damage across multiple large pulls, but it was much much worse in smaller pulls of 3-5 mobs. This has lead to a divide where Shadows playing in coordinated groups at the higher end were doing much better than those pugging medium to low keys, with standard routes and single pack pulls. This is exacerbated by the existence, and necessity, of Cauchemar brûlant
, which is an awkward way of doing AoE damage off putting to many players. While the new set bonus wasn't a solution to this problem, it was a lot of the spec's damage on those smaller pulls, and offered a way to deal AoE without having to resort to Cauchemar brûlant
Shadow's AoE is deeply flawed, and while a technical solution to that was never going to be on the table in 9.2, the set did offer a large amount of AoE damage without having to necessarily interact with Cauchemar brûlant
. While the power of the set prior to the nerf was too high in large pulls (especially given the recent nerf to frost mage), hitting it with a blanket nerf of this size does mean the people hit hardest are the ones who were already struggling with Shadow in Mythic+.
The covenant legendary nerf is a little different, it was strong, probably too strong, and it's easier to reduce the strength of one thing than buff the other three. The thing is though, it doesn't feel good when the other three options are close to zero dps value, being too variable and inconsistent to work in raids, and 40% is a lot. Shadow will still be Necrolord in raids after double legendary unlocks (barring some incredibly niche interactions), it'll just be worse than it was. Again, this is less about the nerf itself and more about the egregious state of Priest's covenant legendaries, things should not have reached this point.
I'll briefly mention PvP. While I don't know much about PvP this expansion, I can imagine a 40% nerf to the spec's most used legendary is going to hurt.
In a vacuum, and especially after seeing the nerfs other specs are getting, the nerfs to the Shadow set and the Necrolord covenant legendary are unarguably warranted. The impact of the nerfs, and my thoughts on them, centres instead on how they bring light to the state of Shadow's AoE rotation and covenant legendaries which are both quite dire. The spec will very likely need some form of tuning or compensation to offset something this impactful given its position on live, I think buffing the baseline damage of Peste dévorante
and Cauchemar brûlant
would be the simplest way to do it.