Player Spotlight: Nataleya

Hello everyone! Welcome to the first RaiderIO Player Spotlight of Season 3 and the seventeenth consecutive Spotlight of my series. My name is Samantha aka Vitaminpee and with this series, I am aiming to highlight the amazing players of World of Warcraft regardless of their chosen class, spec, language, and/or region. I hope to bring you valuable information and help you learn more about your favorite top players or discover new ones who you may not know.

This week, I interviewed the #1 Priest in Season 3 Mythic+, Nataleya, who also finished Season 2 as the #1 Priest in the world. Nataleya continues to top the leaderboards with his excellent Shadow Priest gameplay and has showed us that they do extremely well in high Mythic+ on live servers, even if we didn’t see them used in the MDI. We are now slowly seeing a resurgence of Shadow Priests in Mythic+, so I thought it would be a good idea to bring you all more information about the class whether you plan to play it yourself or simply fully utilize its strengths and understand its weaknesses when opting to bring a Shadow Priest to your keys. As someone who has been running into more and more Shadow Priests in keys this season, I hope you guys find this interview as informative as I did and I’d like to give a big thanks to Nataleya for providing such thorough insights!

“Shadow Priest is one of the most challenging specs to play in Mythic+ and requires a deep understanding of both the spec and the dungeons to consistently excel, but that’s also what makes it so rewarding to play.”

VitaminP: Hi Nataleya! Can you please tell us a little more about yourself?

Nataleya: My name is Dan and I’m from Upstate New York. At age 34, my teammates often refer to me as the old man in our group or simply as “Dad”. I’ve been playing WoW since launch, most commonly as a ranged DPS or healer. I fell in love with gaming the moment I first tried it and spent countless hours playing EverQuest, StarCraft, and Super Smash Bros. to name a few. The introduction of Mythic+ in Legion was a game changer and has provided me an endless challenge in WoW doing my favorite type of content.

VitaminP: We haven’t seen too many Priests successfully and consistently completing high keys so far this expansion, let alone Shadow spec. Why have you continued to play Shadow Priest? What utility/benefits does your class/spec bring that may be overlooked by people who follow strict meta comps?

Nataleya: I kind of fell into playing Shadow Priest as a main on accident. I picked it up during the last few weeks of Season 1 and really enjoyed the playstyle. Coming into Season 2, I didn’t expect to be able to push high keys as Shadow, so I actually transferred servers intending to Mythic raid just to be able to play the spec regularly. I asked a lot of the people I’d been running keys with in the prior season if they’d mind me playing my Priest at the start of Season 2 to gear up, expecting that at some point we’d hit a wall with it and I’d need to swap classes to keep pushing. They were open to me giving it a shot and, as we progressed, I surprisingly found Shadow to be incredibly powerful in high keys and gaining strength as the level of the key and our gear progressed. Aside from being the ranged spec I have the most fun playing, I also believe that Shadow has the strongest overall damage potential in prolonged multi-target combat, which is prevalent in high Mythic+. Their utility toolkit is not as flexible or broadly usable as, for example, an Elemental Shaman, but it is extremely unique and if you know how to apply it to the right situations, nothing can match it where it shines. Vampiric Embrace, especially if talented, can easily break into the 50–100k effective HPS range on even medium size trash pulls, allowing the execution of certain pulls that might otherwise be impossible or relieving pressure on your healer to free them up to deal damage, handle Emissaries, or even exit the pull completely. Leap of Faith, Mass Dispel, Disease Dispel, Offensive Dispel, and Mind Control have their moments. Power Word: Fortitude and Power Word: Shield can allow your team members to survive and DPS through mechanics they might otherwise die to, such as the Freehold bosses. Despite being thought to have a long cooldown on their standard interrupt, Shadow’s default interrupt does come with a blanket silence in addition to having two other enemy ability disruptions with single-target stun and AoE fear on reasonable cooldowns.

VitaminP: What do you think are the biggest weaknesses of your class/spec in Mythic+ and/or raiding? What do you and your group do to work around and even overcome these obstacles?

Nataleya: In both Mythic+ and raiding, the standout weakness of a Shadow Priest is burst damage. They have no real cooldowns to speak of, and very few tools to provide single-target or AOE burst. This is even worse when engaging combat without having recently come out of a prior combat phase, due to carry over haste and critical strike rating obtained via Lingering Insanity and Chorus of Insanity. If you’re looking to jump on a Void Emissary and blitz it down, a Shadow Priest is probably the last DPS you would want. To counteract this glaring weakness, I almost always play Essence of the Focusing Iris as my major to give one burst damage tool and work with my teammates to come up with routes and pull patterns that have prolonged combat sequences or, at worst, very fast chain pulls as often as possible. This enables me to maintain Voidform and the secondary stats that are tied to it. Additionally, we will collectively plan our builds and cooldown usage so that the group can cover moments where high burst is required, such as a tough Void Emissary.

VitaminP: That being said, I noticed that you tend to always run with a Protection Paladin, which seems like a good pairing when running a comp with Shadow Priest or another ranged DPS due to the almost limitless amount of interrupts with Avenger’s Shield. What do you and your teammates to do specifically to work with or around your class?

Nataleya: The main group I’ve ran with this season has included a Protection Paladin, Restoration Druid, Rogue, and Demon Hunter. The composition wasn’t necessarily chosen strategically. It was more a result of the comparatively limited community on NA alliance for high Mythic+ and a level of stubbornness on behalf of myself and Felinator to play the classes we found most enjoyable, instead of those that were generally considered the most powerful. With that said, I do think we found a lot of ways to synergize and take advantage of the unique aspects we brought to the group. Nothing in the game competes with Avenger’s Shield in interrupt flexibility and frequency. Depending on the dungeon and group, this can range from being completely overkill and not needed, to impossible to live without. Shadow Priest’s 45-second interrupt is on the longer side even for a ranged DPS, but with two Melee DPS in support (thanks to Psychox and Thalamir for doing the dirty work and letting me hang back to focus on dishing out damage) along with a tank, you very rarely need a shorter interrupt in standard dungeon routes. Where the Paladin’s interrupt capabilities begin to shine are in two (or even three) ranged DPS compositions which are a ton of fun for me personally but are rare in higher Mythic+. Alternatively, it enables you to create trash pulls that would normally be unthinkable for most groups, relying on the Paladin to fully lock down multiple enemies, which is what our main group would do. Some examples would be five Diseased Lashers together in Underrot, any combination of Shrine of the Storm’s Spiritualists and Attendants, or crazy Motherlode pulls with multiple Refreshment Vendors, Hired Assassins, and of course the Mechanized Peacekeepers and others tied to them.

Another strength of Prot Paladins is the ability to provide survivability to other team members through their Blessings: Protection, Spellwarding, Sacrifice, and Freedom. This was particularly useful as a Shadow Priest, because one of my main weaknesses is fragility during certain trash pulls and bosses, such as the Underrot Matrons, Headhunters, and Bloodswarmers, or Overseer Korgus in Tol Dagor. In return, I’m also able to provide added survivability to Felinator and the group, especially in multi-target, long duration combat segments, which Prot Paladins can struggle with. They have one of the lowest uptimes among the tank specs on their primary active defensive ability, Shield of the Righteous. A strong Vampiric Embrace will give 15 seconds of relief, which in turn increases the damage of both the tank, healer, and sometimes the rest of the group as well if the alternative would be for Felinator to kite away, thus spreading out enemies and lengthening the combat duration. Trying to squeeze extra damage out of Displacerz, the Restoration Druid, has also been a goal of the group. It fits his playstyle and is also well supported by Shadow Priest and Prot Paladin cooldowns. A Divine Shield taunt into a Vampiric Embrace can turn what was an extremely difficult pull into 20-30 seconds of pure healer DPS time where no tank attention is needed. Boss fights such as the first and third in Motherlode, or the last in Shrine of the Storm, were also great fits for this approach through well-timed Mass Dispels, Vampiric Embraces, and Power Word: Shields combined with Blessing of Sacrifice or Spell Warding, to remove the need for healing or extend the duration of increased healer DPS phases.

VitaminP: What is your go-to Shadow Priest talent build for Mythic+ and what Azerite traits and Essences (major and minor) do you favor? What variations might you make to everything for various affixes combinations/dungeons?

Nataleya: The go to talent build I use is:


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Body and Soul is used when movement speed is needed for survivability and it is nice for general quality of life. San’layn is a good default choice when movement is not an issue or when additional healing support is beneficial.

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The choice between these two talents is largely determined by which enables the most efficient application of Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch. Other factors to consider are your Azerite trait build, pull duration and frequency, and if burst Insanity generation is needed from Dark Void to regain Voidform quickly. I always play Misery in Temple of Sethraliss and Motherlode. Everywhere else I use both talents situationally.
The Azerite trait setup I run most often is 3x Chorus of Insanity, 2x Spiteful Apparitions, 1x Whispers of the Damned. However, I do change Azerite traits frequently and believe that Shadow Priest is one of the few classes where every class specific trait is strong and can be incorporated into effective Mythic+ builds. For example, in dungeons like Shrine of the Storm and Waycrest Manor, I’ll occasionally run a setup using five different traits: 2x Spiteful Apparitions, Chorus of Insanity, Death Throes, Thought Harvester, and Searing Dialogue. Even with an odd setup like this, I’m still able to achieve 70k+ a run DPS because the build fits well into the varied pull types and boss encounters with multi target that are found in both of those dungeons.

I almost always have Essence of the Focusing Iris as major with Blood of the Enemy and Memory of Lucid Dreams as minors. In limited situations, I might swap to Condensed Life-Force as a major, or Conflict and Strife as a minor.

VitaminP: What are some of the dungeons you feel Spriest really shines the most? Alternatively, what are some of the hardest dungeons for your spec and why?

Nataleya: The dungeon that best demonstrates the strength of Shadow Priest is Temple of Sethraliss. Their damage is unmatched on the first and last bosses—especially the last boss, due to their ability to maintain DoTs on all targets even while those targets are spread, enabling cleave damage where almost all other classes cannot maintain it. Vampiric Embrace is also extremely powerful, particularly when the San’layn talen is chosen. Most of the trash and bosses include heavy tank and group damage, which combined with lots of targets for Spriest to deal damage out to, leads to high healing throughput from VE. Other dungeons that play well to Spriest strengths are Motherlode, Freehold, and Underrot.
A couple of the hardest dungeons to play the spec effectively are Atal’Dazar and Tol Dagor. Atal has a lot of different types of trash pulls, which force difficult choices in Azerite traits and talents. Depending on your group, it can sometimes be better to build knowing you’ll be extremely weak at some pulls if it allows you to carry others. The first and last bosses in Tol Dagor create survivability issues for Shadow Priests in higher keys, especially if it’s a Tyrannical week or you get unlucky with the frequency of boss mechanics targeting you.

“Beyond actual performance, it’s also going to have a lasting impact to the community’s perception of Shadow Priests in Mythic+, something that has been a challenge all BFA. Many of us work hard to fight against that perception, as for many Shadow Priests, their biggest challenge in M+ is not as much performance as it is lack of opportunity.”

VitaminP: Shadow Priest seems to have taken a HUGE hit with the recent announcement of the nerfs coming in 8.3. What are your thoughts? Is the sky falling for Shadow Priest in Mythic+, or does it tend to scale really well regardless? Are you considering rerolling to another class for Season 4?

Nataleya: I’m sure this an unpopular opinion in the Shadow Priest community, but it’s the truth—we need to be nerfed. We took a nerf coming into 8.2.5 and we needed it then too. Just imagine if we hadn’t: the ability to deal damage to an almost endless number of targets spread across a large area is beyond unmatched; no other spec even comes close. The longer combat persists, the stronger we are compared to others. Our damage is unrelenting. It just keeps coming. In Mythic+ at the higher end, it’s not uncommon in some keys to see me deal 20–30% more damage overall than the other DPS in the group, and it’s rare that I’m anything worse than even with them. Having said the above, I don’t support everything about the 8.3 nerf. The communication was inaccurate and gave limited justification with no mention of Mythic+ repercussions. With our spread cleave being taken down a peg or two, it would be nice to see something with an eye toward our stacked cleave capabilities. Our single-target DPS is also at risk, considering that many of the same tools used for spread cleave damage are also large components in our single-target breakdown. Patch 8.3 is going to feel rough, particularly early on. The nerfs bring an immediate and significant reduction in our damage output. Beyond actual performance, it’s also going to have a lasting impact to the community’s perception of Shadow Priests in Mythic+, something that has been a challenge all BFA. Many of us work hard to fight against that perception, as for many Shadow Priests, their biggest challenge in M+ is not as much performance as it is lack of opportunity. However, at the end of the day, I’m not that concerned for Mythic+. I’ll continue playing Shadow as long as it is very fun for me, and I don’t see anything in the nerfs that will significantly change the overall feel and enjoyment of the spec. I expect Shadow Priest to be, at worst, average for ranged DPS performance. It’s true that Shadow Priests tend to scale with item level and additional secondary stats better than most other classes, but this nerf is large enough that I don’t think we’ll simply “out scale” it. Rather, I think we’ll need to be more inventive with our Azerite builds and get used to playing a variety of setups fit to each dungeon and situation, instead of the current tendency to default to a “raid” archetype build simply because it has been so powerful and also accessible this season. Other build structures that avoid some of the areas the nerfs are hitting are a lot stronger than many give them credit for, they just haven’t been experimented with enough due to the strength of things like Chorus of Insanity and Spiteful Apparition traits plus Shadow Crash.

VitaminP: What are some of the funniest moments you’ve been able to capture on stream in Mythic+ so far in BFA? If not funny moments, do you have any clips you can share from your stream of cool plays or weird bugs?


VitaminP: What are some final pieces of advice you can provide to someone looking to play Shadow Priest in competitive or even casual Mythic+? Should they reroll to something else in Season 4 if the patch goes live in its current form?

Nataleya: If you enjoy the class and the playstyle, then stick with it! Shadow Priest is one of the most challenging specs to play in Mythic+ and requires a deep understanding of both the spec and the dungeons to consistently excel, but that’s also what makes it so rewarding to play. For newer Shadow Priests, focus on applying your DoTs efficiently, getting into Voidform quickly, maintaining good Voidform uptime, and using your Void Bolt on cooldown. For those who are more experienced, I’d encourage focusing more on the use of utility abilities and understanding how to synergize with your group to fill areas of need since Shadow Priest can be so flexible. Also, work on recognizing how small changes in your talents or Azerite traits can shift your strengths and rotational priorities in combat. Possibly more important than anything else, it helps to develop a network of people you can run dungeons with regularly, who you can both demonstrate the strength of your class to and educate on how to assist you in maximizing your output through pull sequences, timing, routes, and damage allocation.

For more insights on Shadow Priest in Mythic+, please check out Dratnos's Spec Spotlight video here:


About the Author

Vitaminpee mains a Brewmaster and loves to do competitive Mythic+. She is the Social Media Manager for Big Dumb Gaming and is attending Graduate School to pursue her Masters of Business Administration. She is a partnered Twitch streamer and Discord Partner who plays all tanks at max level and loves pushing keys with her friends on both the NA and EU regions. Feel free to message her via Twitter for any business-related inquiries.