“Just a Shadow Priest”


“I’ve been shadow up to 69. I’ve still been able to heal instances just fine. You just need a set of healing gear. +Heal with added Stats as well.” -author unknown

Let’s all gather around the fireplace and let Toque tell you a little story about an incident in-game that opened my eyes to a misconception about Shadow Priests. The event itself is minor, but it made me realize that the idea that Shadow Priests = No Heals is a lot more common than I realized. And also flat out false.

When I was in my upper 40s, my guild master asked me if I wanted to come heal Zul’Farrak on Lekku, my Shadow Priest; he was in a PuG and they needed a healer. My guild is a wonderful guild and knows full well that I am Shadow specced. It’s never mattered to any of them before, because I’ve been the main healer on countless previous instance runs as far back as Deadmines along with numerous group quests, successfully. I agreed, and they gave me a few moments to run to the bank so I could grab out my full +heal set before they summoned me. When I portaled to the meeting stone, I immediately came out of Shadowform and donned my +heal gear. Everyone greeted me, I buffed everyone up, and we were off.

We were only about three pulls into the instance when one of the pug party members made a fatal misstell in party chat. He must have been chatting in his own guild chat or was whispering to another player, but the sentence was a mid-conversation reply to someone else about how I was “Just a Shadow Priest.”

Naturally, I was curious as to what he meant. I heal just fine and have never had any issues healing instances for groups before, so I called him on it. He got defensive, which I assumed was because he was a little embarrassed about his slip, and proceeded to tell me that I don’t heal as well and that I should be Holy specced to run this instance with them. I laughed and said “Hey, no problem, if you’d like to wait for a Holy Priest to join you, I can leave.” I don’t want to point fingers or name actual names, so going forward, let’s just refer to this person as “Willis.” Because I’m what Willis was talkin’ bout.

This didn’t go over well with the rest of the group, who felt I was healing well so far. Even Willis protested that I should stay, just so long as I “heal him good, lolz.” I let it drop and we continued, but others in the group sent me tells suggesting jokingly that I not attend to his health as urgently, and while the image gave me a chuckle, I was there to do a job and I don’t like letting anyone in my party die — even the jerks.

Willis was a Rogue who felt, even though he was a few levels below the elite mobs, he could tank by himself. He would get impatient when the rest of us were following the Hunter’s marks and target rotation and start engaging single pulls further ahead while the rest of us were working on a strategized group pull. The Hunter pet tanked better than Willis did, and so I was forced to focus most of my heals on him separately. This was annoying. It got even more annoying when he’d finish off a mob and exclaim that he alone could tank the elites. I gently reminded him that he survived against the elite because of my “lowly Shadow Priest heals.”

The rest of the story is fairly uneventful. We didn’t get too much further before Willis suddenly had to go. It was coincidentally a pull after he leveled up, but that’s neither here nor there. We decided to just try the instance another time, and as I was headed back to grind out levels, I started thinking about what Willis had said: that Shadow Priests don’t heal as well as Holy Priests and that I should be Holy specced in order to run instances. I didn’t take the comment personally — Willis doesn’t know me and was only making his comments based on my spec and not me as a person — but I suddenly wondered if most people felt the same way about Shadow Priests, thus inspiring this article.

I’d never really questioned my healing ability as a Shadow Priest. On Toque or one of my other alts, I’d been in groups or instances with a Shadow Priest healing, and I can honestly say that I’ve never encountered any bad experiences from the other side of the coin, either. I’ve been healed perfectly fine by Shadow Priests before, and as a Shadow Priest, I’d healed my groups so far perfectly fine as well. I am very much aware of the fact that if I were to spec my talent points into Holy or even a combination of Holy and Discipline that I would heal more efficiently. That makes sense, but that’s never meant someone who was specced into Shadow COULDN’T heal. And even heal well, if they were geared appropriately. I’d planned to be Shadow specced from day 1 of my Priest in order to help me level, and I’ve found it to be a real blast. So much so that Toque is getting dusty up there on the shelf. And I’ve always known since I placed that first talent point at level 10 that I would need to compensate as much as possible for my choices in talents by keeping up with a +heal set to wear in instances for better and more efficient healing. Sure it’s not going to be exactly equivalent, but it’s a considerable difference, especially when I’m in charge of healing a well geared tank who knows what they are doing.

My ultimate plan is to level to 70 as Shadow and then respec into pure Holy or a Holy/Discipline combination to optimize my healing power for end-game instances. Ultimately I want to be a healer, as it was my purpose in rolling and leveling a Priest in the first place, but getting to that end goal and the end game requires a lot of leveling that I find much more enjoyable while specced Shadow. And to be honest, almost every Priest I see running about Azeroth leveling along with me are also Shadow. I don’t know about them, but when I tried leveling a Troll Priest with Lucas, I was bored to tears and didn’t survive well on my own, making me less and less interested in ever playing her. When Lucas stopped playing WoW, I stopped playing the Troll Priest because I was ignorant to the Shadow spec and couldn’t imagine anything more painful than leveling a purely Holy and/or Discipline Priest, which I used to think was all I was good for. The Troll Priest was eventually deleted to make way for another alt. One day when I realized my guild needed more healers, I started reading up on Priests and decided that the Shadow spec for leveling sounded like it was just up my alley, and I gave Priest another go. I’ve never looked back, and look forward to playing Lekku and literally melting through levels with her. Sometimes I even feel like it’s unfair just how powerful a force I am on my own. I’m not bragging about my personal skills here — any tricks I’ve learned about playing a Shadow Priest I’ve learned from others by reading heavily into their guides and strategies — but honestly, I feel unstoppable when I play her. Vampiric Embrace coupled with Vampiric Touch and my high +spirit makes me a self-sustaining killing machine that hardly ever has to rest between encounters. I sweep through quests and mobs like they were nothing, and usually don’t need to catch my breath before moving on to the next challenge. I can kill things that are ridiculously higher level than me as needed, even moreso than when I was playing my Hunter. Not because I’m “leet”, because I can assure you I’m not, but just because Shadow Priests are built to melt through faces and levels. I love it. But that doesn’t really answer my question about my healing abilities or limits as I close in on the end game, and that’s what prompted me to write this article in the first place.

I wanted to know what the consensus of the official Priest Forum was on this topic, so I started a thread there, telling the basic story about my encounter with Willis and how it made me question my personal limits and the limits of Shadow Priests in general when it came to healing. Instances are a huge part of the 60-70 bracket and end-game life at 70, and I want to have fun on my way there, but also don’t want to miss out on instances if I am viewed as “just a Shadow Priest.” Would I be fine to heal up until 70 like I had originally planned, or would I really absolutely have to grind out those last 10 levels Holy because I wouldn’t make it in Outland as a Shadow Priest? I got a lot of constructive feedback that I was most grateful for, and it has made me more confident about where those limits are and also where they are not. Here are some highlights from that feedback.

  • Shaithara: Shadow-Priests can heal any five-man just fine all the way to 70. I’ve even healed Heroics as Shadow, though only with well geared tanks. While the tanks were certainly “carrying” me in Heroics, the fact that I was able to do it at all should tell you that Shadow is more than fine in any normal mode 5-man.
  • Exegesis: i can tell it getting a bit harder 60+, but its doable with a smart group
  • Kayliss: As far as I have found, the limit for shadow priest healing is ZA or SSC/TK. I have healed every normal instance, 75% of the heroics, Kara, and Gruuls lair as shadow spec. Granted it would have been easier if I was holy, but it is possible.
  • Sollara: There is nothing wrong healing as a a shadowpriest, I do it all the time. Until level 60 you won’t have any other problems in healing until level 60. Actually, since you care enough to have a spare healing set you could heal instances specced shadow possibly until level 70.

    Just because people think you can’t heal because of your spec it isn’t true. (a lot of what people think IS true but this isn’t neccesarily one those things).

    A lot of people are prejudiced against non-healing spec people to heal but if that person can finish the instance and heal through the bosses then it is alright. If you can heal through a boss people will get over their doubts due to the shortage of healers nowadays.

    PS: I’d rather heal in holy gear and shadowspec then heal in holy spec and dps shadow gear.

  • Crashernok: As far as healing in Shadow, I’ve done several Heroic runs as the main healer and it worked out fine. Your heals wont be as fast and will cost a bit more mana, but as long as your tank has decent gear, there shouldn’t be much of a problem.
  • Lightsguard: If you focus on getting a lvl 60+ healing set, you can heal instances from 60-68, I wouldn’t recommend healing level 70 isntances as shadow.
  • Mesha: IMO anyone with a modicum of skill and solid healing gear can heal any five man, regardless of their spec, up to and including level 70. Once you get to around BRD/ST level is where it starts to become more difficult to heal as shadow spec, but it is still very possible. I’ve personally managed to heal a few of the easier heroics with solid tanks as shadow, not wanting to spend 50g on respec when a guildy needed a heroic run in between raids and I was farming spec. It highly depends on the group your with and the skill level of the person playing the priest. If the rest of the group is solidly geared, and your healing gear is good, I wouldnt put it past a shadow priest to heal kara decently even.
  • Harmat: My thoughts: Shadow is no hindrance to healing. The +10% shadow damage isn’t a -50% healing debuff on your spells. You do miss some important talents by speccing shadow, such as major +healing bonuses from the holy tree and 2.5 sec cast time. There’s also that talent in the disc tree that gives holy spells slightly less threat. All this means is that you risk running out of mana.
  • Yoru: Not only should you be able to easily heal any pre-BC instance while fully specced into Shadow, but you should be able to heal easily without any +healing gear at all.

    I didn’t have a problem healing an instance as a shadow priest until ramps, but even then it was because I could never find a decent tank.

  • Illegalalien: I’ve always looked at it like this: a shadow priest is better at healing than a holy priest is at damage. Despite the heal/dmg buff, I maintain this rule. Speccing for healing while you level will only serve to slow the leveling process. There is nothing you can’t heal up to 70 as long as you keep your heal set as up-to-date as you can along the way.
  • Sito: And in a raid situation pulling 1k DPS is attainable by many classes but to turn that into 250 Health per second and 50 mana per second for the party isn’t something to snuff about.

    Who in their right mind would turn down 250 Mp5?

  • Shadowfriend: Shadowpriests are far and away the best offspec healers out of every class that can heal.
  • Ghostfreak: I have ~ +1700 healing in my “Shard Loot” set and have no problems healing anything pre SSC/TK, including ZA.

    I may have to drink every other pull, and pot on long boss fights, but it’s still fun to heal every once in a while without having to respec.

  • Deinne: There are certain instances that will give you problems healing as a shadow priest depending on your group make up and gear. Mana Tombs will give you issues on the first boss, because of all the AE healing. Shadow Lab will be annoying because of Inciter blowing your mana. Pretty much any instance with a mana intensive fight will give you headaches, and probably cost you money in pots. Pre-BC though, there is no instance at all that should give you a problem.
  • Ranissa: Shadow priests are a “good thing” end-game. Period.

    More on-topic, healing pre-BC instances as shadow is cake. Heck, it’s cake to heal pre-BC instances as a feral or boomkin druid, a ret or prot paladin, an enh or ele shaman…you get the idea. You don’t even need gear that has +healing. Stack some int and off you go.

    For BC, I’ve main-healed a couple of Heroics as shadow and most of the regular instances shadow. It’s not as “cakey” as pre-BC but it’s doable, especially with a good, solid group. Just get some good gear, make or buy some +healing pots and mana pots and…off you go.

At the time of this writing, Lekku has just hit 60. She has breached the Dark Portal and is adventuring in Outland, looking forward to eventually settling down and being a healer for the greater good of the group. After all, that’s why she was created in the first place. Until then, she will continue to melt through levels to get there and can and will be capable of healing through instances along the way, too.

The main point of writing this article was to get my thoughts off my chest about the misconception that Shadow Priests cannot heal. After having my eyes opened by Willis and realizing that people actually think that’s the case, I wanted to get down to the truth of the matter instead of accepting what others think I can and cannot do. Before you diss the next Shadow Priest healing in your group, consider that you may have a hard time finding a purely Holy Priest running around before the end-game anyway, since speccing at least somewhat into Shadow is popular. Give that Shadow Priest a chance. Being specced into Shadow does not mean they are incapable of healing, especially if we’re talking about non-heroic instances. If the Shadow Priest has +heal gear and half a brain, it will do you no good to diss them, especially if you expect them to keep you alive, which they can do… well, even! And from my discussions with other Priests on the subject, I’ve also learned that healing completely aside, there’s a purpose and need for having Shadow Priests in your group and plenty of benefits that they bring to the table in level 70 instances. Who would turn down INSERT MANA STATS HERE paired with damage comparable to other DPS classes? Based on the feedback on the Priest Forums, I am convinced I will be just fine healing with +heal gear as a Shadow Priest until the end-game, so long as I am on my game and/or the tank is well geared with half a brain as well. The better the group composition, the better the run will go. Funny how that’s the way it is for every instance run, no matter which angle or class you look at it from.

The bottom line is to enjoy the game you pay $15 a month for. Play how you want to play and spec how you wish to spec. Don’t let others tell you what your limits are; show them what you’re capable of, define your own limits, and have fun doing it! :)

Articles may not be republished elsewhere in whole or in part without permission. Feel free to link directly to this post. ©2005-2008 by Lesley Karpiuk (Toque of pinktoque.com)



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I'm Toque, (aka @geeksoap) and I'm a gamer girl. This is where I've been blogging about the game(s) I play and sharing screenshots and gaming articles I've written since 2006.

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WoW Characters


Amoodala, Tauren Monk on the Emerald Dream US realm. Horde main, Mistweaver spec. Guilded with After Hours.

Amoothyst, Tauren Druid on the Emerald Dream US realm. Resto main, Balance secondary. Guild: Bloodscourge Pillagers.

Lumiya, Blood elf Hunter on the Emerald Dream US realm.

Guild Wars 2 Characters


Lumryia, asura ranger on Sorrow's Furnace. Guilded with Ultimate Genesis [GEN]. Account currently inactive.


Llumyria, asura guardian on Sorrow's Furnace. Also in [GEN], but account currently inactive.



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