If you read the last two posts, you have a rough idea of what a priest is and what stats they use. Today, I'm going to dig into the Shadow tree and parts of the Discipline tree, and give you my opinion on how points should be spent as a shadow priest is leveling. At the end I will post a final spec for a PvE shadow priest. I may even get ambitious and pretend I know something about PvP, and post my interpretation of a PvP shadow build. Don't take my word on this as law. I know a few things, but I'll bet that if you are reading this, you are also quite intelligent and can reason your way into spending your own points!
I will be basing this on the new talent trees going live with patch 3.1. I wanted this post to be relevent for more than a week, so hop into the future with me, if you dare!
So, you've hit level 10 and you have a whole talent point to spend. Congratulations! When I spent my first point, I spent it on Spirit Tap . I spent my next two points on that, too. Anything to keep your mana up will reduce down time, which leads to faster leveling. Level 13, and we have a new point to spend. If you want to hit Shadow Form by 40, we need to continue spending points in that tree. So our next talent to fill will be Darkness. At levels 18 and 19 we're going to want Improved Shadow Word: Pain filled, so we can get Mind Flay at level 20. At 21, until the talent is filled, I like to fill in Improved Mind Blast. At this level, you only have 4 shadow spells. The more you can use one, the better! The order you spend the next 4 points in is a matter of taste. I prefer filling in Shadow Reach before I touch Shadow Weaving for 2 points, because I like to keep mobs as far away as possible. Did you notice I only put 2 points in Shadow Weaving? That's all it takes to open up Vampiric Embrace , which needs to be open in order to get down to Shadow Form, but is also useful if you are taking on more than one mob at a time. While you are killing one mob, keep one with a dot or two on it and Vampiric Embrace to get a bit of health regen while it is slowly dying. Now, at level 32, we can finish off Shadow Weaving and spend our next points in Focused Mind, because less mana spent means more to deal damage with. The next 5 points are really a no brainer, because at this tier, there are only 5 points to spend. Improved Devouring Plague, at its top rank, says it increases the periodic damage of the spell by 15%, and deals 15% of the total periodic damage when cast(this could change, as 3.1 hasn't been set in stone yet). After those three points, or before, Mind Melt will add to your critical chance.
Now, we are level 40, and we get Shadowform! We have gained the effect that not only shouts out to all of Azeroth that we are shadow priests, but it sure disguises ugly armor. At level 40, the way you spend your points is all a matter of taste. If you are grouping a lot without another priest as healer, you might want to go a few points into the Discipline tree first. Start with Twin Disciplines for extra damage, then Improved Power Word: Fortitude for a little better buff. For now, that is probably all you will need to spend there. I might even suggest going back to Tier 2 of the shadow tree and grabbing Shadow Affinity for the extra threat reduction. From there, I would choose Shadow Power, then one point in Misery at level 56 would let us get Vampiric Touch at 57. Level 58 and 59 I would finish out Misery, so at 60 I could start filling in Pain and Suffering. By the time that is filled, if we were diligent about training, it would benefit our newly gained spell, Shadow Word: Death.
At 62, I like to hop back to the Discipline tree. Here is where you need to think a little. Do you want to spend 3 points in Silent Resolve or Improved Inner Fire, or spend 2 points in Martyrdom and stick a single point in Improved Inner Fire? Your choice. I'm not sure there is a perfect answer. If you find yourself healing in pinch, you might go with the first. If you are on a PvP server, the last might be your answer. Inner Fire is not a great spell, but if you must choose something, I'm sure not many will criticize you for choosing to improve it. The whole goal here is to get down to Meditation and Inner Focus. Once you have filled these, you will be at the ripe old age of 69, and getting ready to hit Northrend!
At 70, our next talent to fill will be Twisted Faith. Again, damage is your friend, and the more friends/damage, the better! At 75, you can pick up the ultimate talent in your shadow tree, Dispersion. This is a great talent for both PvP and PvE, and shouldn't be passed up (in my opinion, anyhow). Why would anyone pass up the chance to be a floating purple mass of shadow?
For our last 5 points, we will skip back to Shadow Focus and fill it, then even further back to Improved Spirit Tap. By this time, we will want the added hit bonus, and the added mana regeneration.
All that work, and we are now level 80! Here is our finished talent tree. Right here, my attempt at a PvP talent specialty. Now we can start getting together our gear. Next class will be about Shadow Priest Fashion for the new level 80. The bell is ringing...Recess Time!
At 80, if you find that you are needing more mana and threat reduction than range, a quick respec to add Veiled Shadows and lose Shadow Reach might be in order. Your results will vary! :)