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As you are levelling your priest with shadow talents, your tactics will change during three phases. First, you have below level 40. You can not get Shadowform until level 40. Next is at level 40, where you should repec into Shadowform . Last is at level 70, where you must decide to spec as PvP, Holy Raiding, or Shadow Raiding. The final option was unpopular when the level cap was 60. The increased availability of suitable gear in Outlands has made this an increasingly popular choice.
For levelling all the way through level 40, you should begin each fight as follows: Power Word: Shield , Mind Blast /Smite , and Shadow Word: Pain . Always have your shield up before you begin the attack. There are two reasons for this. First, the shield will last for 30 seconds, but you will not be able to cast it again for 15 seconds. If you pull too many mobs, you will likely lose your shield in the middle of battle and not be able to recast it immediately. If you cast it before the fight begins, chances are it will be available to recast when you need it. This usually gives you enough time to take down one mob or run away. Second, casting after the fight begins lowers your DPS and allows more time for the enemy to attack you while you are not doing damage. Now that your shield is up, use your highest damage spell, which will eventually be Mind Blast . Since you have not yet initiated the battle, the casting time is basically free. Next, you want to throw the DoT Shadow Word: Pain because it is an instant cast and because it deals damage over time. The sooner you apply it the more damage it does.
Until you get Shadowform , your wand is your best friend. Put all the points in Wand Specialization as soon as you can. Buy the wands enchanters make from the auction house as they are cheap and have better DPS than wands at the same level. If you don't want to spend the money, consider making a run through Blackfathom Deeps for the Gravestone Scepter , a quest reward for a quest given by an NPC inside the instance. If you are fighting mobs the same level as you, you will be able to kill mobs quickly over time. Coupled with Spirit Tap , you will never need to stop for mana. You may not put down a single mob as quickly, but you will put down 20 mobs faster.
Once you reach level 40, respec to gain Shadowform . You will still use your wand, but much less now. Again, use the beginning three action strategy mentioned above. Shadowform fights will look like this: Power Word: Shield , Mind Blast , Shadow Word: Pain , Mind Flay , Mind Blast , Mind Flay , Mind Flay , Mind Blast . Keep repeating Mind Flay, Mind Flay, Mind Blast until either the enemy is dead or you need to conserve mana. If you need to conserve mana, use your wand once the enemy approaches about 30% health to finish it off. Make sure you're not wasting time getting Mind Flay interrupted when your shield goes down; if so, you will not channel for the entire time of the cast.
When you reach level 50, you will get Vampiric Touch . Let's take a second to analyze the spell, it's value is not that obvious. Rank 1 deals 450 raw damage; let's say you have 100 shadow spell damage, 5/5 Misery , 5/5 Darkness , and of course Shadow Form, which increases the damage to about 715. Vampiric Touch costs 325 mana, that's a not-so-great damage to mana ratio of 2.2. However, Vampiric Touch regenerates mana. Let's say a mob has about 4000 HP. If you manage to deal 4000 damage within the 15 seconds Vampiric Touch is up, you regain 5%*4000 = 200 mana. So in total, you only paid 125 mana for Vampiric Touch! This modifies the damage to mana ratio to a great 5.7, which makes it by far your best spell with regards to damage per mana. Mind Flay only comes in second with 3.3 damage/mana, given the same damage modifiers. Now let's say the mob dies earlier, and Vampiric Touch only ticks 3 times, lowering the damage to 715*3/5 = 429, and thus the damage/mana to 5.7*3/5 = 3.4. Even with only 3 of 5 ticks, it's still better than Mind Flay! Bottom line is: Always use Vampiric Touch; unless a mob has very little HP, it's worth it. To maximize the benefit you get, you should start every fight with it.
If you choose to stay shadow at level 70 for raiding, you will still be able to heal very well. Ideally however, you will be in a group with holy spec priest to do the main healing. In this case, ask to be in a group with either all warlocks or rogues. Your Vampiric Embrace will be enough usually to completely keep up the rogues. This will take pressure off the main healers and let them concentrate on the tanks. If you are grouped with warlocks, your Shadow Weaving will greatly improve their DPS . Mind Blast is no longer a high aggro spell, but this change is often overlooked. However Mind Flay is more mana efficient and it slows the enemy. Many raiders therefore use this almost exclusively. The improved Mind Blast talent is therefore unpopular. If you plan to raid, make sure you get Shadow Affinity . This will greatly reduce your aggro. Shadow Reach can also be very useful. Vampiric Touch gives significant mana to your party as you deal damage.
In a raid group you need to understand your role. If you are doing something like MC / BWL / AQ / ZG, you will probably need a healing rotation. This requires a lot of communication with the people in your raid. Normally in a 40-man raid, there is at least one healer per group. In your group, there is usually a tank of some sort. Note: With proper talents and gear, a shadow priest can provide good DPS in raid groups that provides 15% more shadow damage and nearly infinite mana (through the warlock's Lifetap and the priests Vampiric Touch) for any warlock in their party. In addition, if placed in a tank group, the priest provides damage mitigation in the form of healing to the tank, effectively reducing the DPS of the mob being tanked by at least 85 (the average healing per second for a shadow priest with +150 shadow damage gear that uses Mind Flay and Shadow Word: Pain). If a raid chooses to go without a shadow priest, that raid effectively gimps it's warlock DPS. With the expansion release, there are 40 available debuff slots, which makes it a no-brainer for most guilds.