A Simple Guide to Improve Your DPS
Disclaimer: I want to apologize for any hard to understand sentences or grammatical errors, English is not my native language
Too many times on this forum I have seen Shadow Priests asking for, in my opinion, irrelevant information. Too many Shadow Priests ask how to improve their DPS and think getting hit capped or reaching a haste plateau is the best way to do so. This does not make you a better player, it just makes your toon better and it does not even improve your DPS in any significant way. To improve one's play is the first thing I believe any player wishing to improve their DPS should do. But even here, most Shadow Priests seem to look for something special. "Should I clip Mind Flay?", "What are the conditions for casting Mind Blast most effectively?".
What I say to these people is: Keep your DoTs up and Mind Blast on cooldown. I really believe that that is what you should work on first and that is all you should do. Once you have gotten extremely comfortable doing these two things while still avoiding fire and following tactics, you can proceed trying to be awesome.
An analogy can be made with StarCraft 2. On teamliquid.net I see far too often Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and (Diamond)* players ask things that are unnecessary and they are just wasting their time trying to figure these things out. Most of the top players will just say: "Work on your macro". And this is true, work on your fundamentals(=macro) first before you try to do fancy stuff, because without good fundamentals, your fancy stuff won't even be as effective as they can be. It is funny that I did not even realize this until I actually had good macro and played in Masters. It is not until you have actually gotten strong fundamentals that you realize that much of what you tried to learn when being noob was a total waste of time.
This is why I am writing this. Players searching for help to improve their DPS have not yet realized this basic concept. If you just manage to keep your DoTs up and Mind Blast on cooldown you will do competitive DPS. It will probably even make you one of the better players in your guild. And I guess that is what you are ultimately looking for when wanting to improve your DPS.
How do I improve my fundamentals?
In music, when learning a more advanced song, you usually break up the song into smaller pieces and practise on each piece individually until you really get it. So, how do we apply this to World of Warcraft? By only tracking our DoTs and Mind Blast cooldown and nothing else. This way, you will only focus on that and trying to follow tactics. It will increase both your ability to keep DoTs up and your ability to dodge fire (more awareness).
The priority system:
Shadow Word: Pain
Shadow Word: Death if target below 25%
I have excluded Shadowfiend and Archangel which should be used on cooldown. Those two spells are long cooldowns which you do not need any sense of timing or similar to get used to. Just use them on cooldown, use an addon to track it for you.
Following this simple priority system is your goal.
Dummy, dummy, dummy
Practise your rotation/priority system on a dummy. This is really crucial and will help you out a lot. By just sitting on a dummy for 30 minutes or more, on a daily basis or something similar, your shadow priest play just becomes so much better. When I do boss encounters, I can switch to another target and yet still have a feeling for when my DoTs on my old target are about to fall off without using timers. This is due to practice and experience which has given me a sense of timing. You start to get a feel for when your Mind Blast is ready, about how many spells you can cast before you need to refresh DoTs and such. This is so important. Make sure you keep focusing on the fundamentals though; keeping your DoTs up and Mind Blasting on cooldown. Anything other is just fancy stuff that no one cares about when actually fighting the boss.
I hope you have found this guide helpful. Improving in the way I suggest takes a bit more time and effort compared to just fixing your toon. However, do not get discouraged by this because the results will be so much better.
*In StarCraft 2 the leagues are Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master and Grandmaster