Quick Thoughts – 5.4 PTR Build 17056

Just when everyone was settling in to the fixed/updated set bonuses for Shadow’s T15, Blizzard is already pushing 5.4 PTR builds out! Tonight we have the first build with A LOT of interesting information…

Here are the notable changes and additions for Shadow:

  • Shadowform’s passive damage reduction has been completely removed. Obviously, this will have an impact in our roles for solo-soaking boss abilities as well as make us weaker in PvP.
  • Twist of Fate is getting a substantial buff, now activating at 35% or lower on a target than 20% or lower. This brings the baseline uptime up to where it currently needs to be before even being considered as a viable talent on a boss fight. For fights where adds die quickly, this will have a minimal impact on damage done, but on fights with adds that live for longer durations (~1min+), the DPS increase from choosing this ability over Divine Insight or Power Infusion will be quite noticeable. This will also have a noticeable and favorable impact on From Darkness, Comes Light thanks to the T16 4P Set Bonus, which brings us to:
  • The T16 2P Bonus causes any Mastery ticks that crit to do 300% damage instead of the normal 200% damage.
  • The T16 4P Bonus grants you a substantial damage buff on the next Mind Blast, Shadow Word: Death, or Mind Spike you cast within the next 12sec. Each orb grants +20% more damage, so if you cast a 3-orb Devouring Plague (like you should always be doing) your next nuke cast will have +60% damage.

What does this all mean, though, from a gameplay point of view?

First and foremost, increasing the damage bonus of Twist of Fate leads to many interesting possibilities. For example (as hinted at above), Mind Spike procs from From Darkness, Comes Light already have a +50% damage bonus {150%}. You can already get the 15% damage increase from Twist of Fate {172.5%}, though the baseline uptime of this buff is increasing by 75%. This means that, on average, you will be going from a baseline average Mind Spike proc damage value of 154.500% per cast to 157.875%. Again, this is a baseline increase and will likely be smaller in practice through saving procs, and/or, higher actual uptime on Twist of Fate. What is interesting about this is that, with the T16 4P bonus, if you cast an instant Mind Spike to consume the proc you are also gaining 60% more damage on the cast (including Twist of Fate procs), raising the damage bonus total to 276% damage. Using the same ranges as before, this comes out to an effective baseline of 247.2% to 252.6% of normal Mind Spike damage. Without Twist of Fate, Mind Spike’s bonus damage will be 240%.

This is a significant damage boost through the synergy of the set bonuses. Which spellcast ends up being the most worthwhile will depend largely on what abilities are on cooldown in addition to what procs you have up.

Another angle to approach the T16 4P bonus from is that of Divine Insight. With the high haste levels we are currently seeing–GCD capping–we should expect at least 2 Divine Insight procs per minute (including undershooting Mastery levels and not including Haste procs/buffs for simplicity) in single target encounters. This means, outside of sub-20% execute range with Shadow Word: Death, we can expect to have ~9 orbs per minute, or 3 Devouring Plague casts per minute (vs. ~6-7 orbs and 2 casts per minute without). This directly translates to how many casts per minute the T16 4P buff be able to provide bonuses to. When looking at sub-20%, the number of casts with this bonus damage will increase dramatically with up to an extra 10 orbs being generated per minute thanks to Shadow Word: Death casts. Assuming 18 orbs total (with Divine Insight), that is an extra 6 casts per minute benefiting from the +60% increased damage during execute phases.

Ultimately, the T16 4P will make us consider the state of other abilities before casting a 3orb Devouring Plague, specifically if you have From Darkness, Comes Light chosen as you Level 45 / Tier 3 talent.

Switching topics quickly, lets look at the T16 2P bonus a little bit closer. Having all of our Mastery Crits hit for 300% damage is very interesting, albeit underwhelming. Assuming we will still gear with Haste in mind (to GCD cap or some other breakpoint), how will we gear afterwards? Going Mastery heavy will generate more Mastery procs which can Crit, but lowers the overall Crit chance of our T16 4P buffed abilities. Going Crit heavy will enhance the effects of the T16 4P nuke spells cast as well as generate more Shadowy Apparitions, but we will not see many Mastery procs occur that will benefit from the chance at increased damage. A balanced approach may end up being the best bet, though this may be tricky as the ratios for each stat are far apart (333.5 = 1% for Mastery, while 600 = 1% for Crit).

All in all, between the T16 2P and T16 4P bonuses, there will likely never be an encounter where Mindbender will be a viable Level 45 / Tier 3 talent choice for Shadow. For the Level 75 / Tier 5 talents, Divine Insight will likely remain strong with Twist of Fate receiving the buff it desperately needed to remain relevant, while Power Infusion will become a more niche talent for those predictable bust phases in certain encounters.

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