The Problems with Shadowy Apparitions and How to Fix Them

Update 2012/05/01: In Build 15657 released today, Shadowy Apparitions have changed to being spawned at a 12% proc rate from Shadow Word: Pain with a cap of 15 out at a time. It doesn’t appear there are any despawn timers but that has not been verified yet. Also it appears that Shadowy Apparitions can fly as a baseline now. As it is no longer a core ability, the decision of using the “SA Button” vs. another button is also resolved. The only issues remaining now are that they still move slowly and don’t retarget if their spawned target dies. In my opinion, these changes address concerns about their usefulness and viability in helping with Shadow DPS.

Shadowy Apparitions, since their first appearance in Cataclysm, have been an interesting idea if nothing but poorly executed. Throughout Cataclysm, these translucent companions of ours have been largely overlooked, seen as both extra DPS and useless at the same time due to their slow movement speed, being useless if the target dies or is off the platform, and caps on the number allowed at any time. Our 4p T13 set bonus (before MoP) allowed us to get 3 Shadow Orbs instantly when one of our Shadowy Apparitions struck their target, making them slightly less worthless. (Our 4P T13 set bonus is changing in MoP to a flat +15% damage by Shadow Word: Pain)

In Mists of Pandaria, Shadowy Apparitions will no longer spawn randomly but rather will consume Shadow Orbs and be a castable ability (on the GCD), spawning one Shadowy Apparition per orb consumed, directed at a target. These Shadowy Apparitions do a fair amount of damage and cap at 9 out roaming around at any given time. One advantage to this is you can ‘save’ Shadow Orbs to use to spawn Shadowy Apparitions for a phase in a fight where you need every ounce of DPS possible (though this is rare, since it will take you no more than 20 seconds — 3 Mind Blast Casts and their cooldowns — at a maximum to get to 3 Shadow Orbs) or only cast them at a specific target rather than whichever one you are currently doing damage to. There has been a thread discussing the new Shadowy Apparitions over at HowToPriest.com since the beta began over a month ago.

Even with these changes, though, Shadowy Apparitions are still clunky, uninteresting, and underwhelming even in the best of situations:

  • Shadowy Apparitions move very, very slowly still. If you are too far away from your target (or if the target is constantly moving around), our Shadowy Apparitions might never hit their target because of their despawn timer or may even reach the cap of 9 out at any given time, thus preventing us from spawning any more until they either a) hit, or b) despawn. A DPS loss all around.
  • In the same train of thought as the previous item, allow me to reiterate that Shadowy Apparitions are now summoned by an ability on the GCD. I need a compelling reason to use the “Shadowy Apparitions Button” as opposed to, say, my “Mind Flay Button.” The prospect of playing damage roulette on whether or not a Shadowy Apparition will actually reach their target is not the kind of RNG I prefer.
  • Shadowy Apparitions can only hit targets that are airborne if you are glyphed with the newly introduced Glyph of Shadowy Apparition. As I stated in the thread over at HowToPriest, I am more than a little disgusted that one of our core abilities doesn’t work properly in all fight scenarios unless we use a glyph — this is just bad game design, in my opinion. Yes, this is a minor glyph and not a major glyph, but that still doesn’t mean that an entire spec should have one of their glyph slots dedicated to something that should be baseline instead of choosing other ‘quality of life’ glyphs that Holy or Disc could have access to.
  • If a target dies, your Shadowy Apparitions are wasted and just stand there until they despawn.

There are a few small changes that would fix all of these problems and increase Shadow Priest quality of life immensely in regard to Shadowy Apparations:

  • Make Shadowy Apparitions able to fly by default. There is absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t be baseline.
  • As an alternative to the previous suggestion, change Shadowy Apparitions to be projectiles and reduce their usable range.
  • Add a new major glyph to increase the movement speed of Shadowy Apparitions.
  • Add smart-target functionality to Shadowy Apparitions so that if the target they are focusing dies, they try to attack another agro’d unit before despawning. Alternatively, allow any summoned Shadowy Apparitions that do not strike their target because the target dies to have a % chance to regenerate a Shadow Orb for the caster.

If any of these buffs were to occur, there would most likely be a slight nerf to damage as a tradeoff. This is fine, in my opinion, as it would take care of addressing quality of life concerns for the community.

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