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WoWMay 11, 2016 5:00 pm CT

Shadow Word: What Shadow Priests could borrow from Whispers of the Old Gods

Last month, Hearthstone released its latest expansion pack, Whispers of the Old Gods. If you hadn’t guessed already, the expansion pack is still full of a Shadow Priest’s favorite things: Old Gods. And while Hearthstone has never pretended to adhere to lore — sometimes boastfully so — it’s not unheard of for Blizzard to borrow ideas from one game and put them into another. So today we’re going to take a break from the Legion news, have a little fun with our imaginations, and focus on what Shadow might look like if it took some inspiration from Blizzard’s latest mind control trick.

Before we dive in, I should make it clear: I would never expect all of these ideas to be implemented — as you’ll see, that would make Shadow incomprehensibly overpowered (fitting for Old Gods, but not for gameplay). This post is meant entirely as a fun little side venture, so just sit back and enjoy the ride!

cthun during the black empire

The power of the Old Gods

Four Old Gods are waiting for you to add them to your collection, ready to devour your opponents: C’Thun, Yogg-Saron, Y’Shaarj, and N’Zoth. Of course, where there’s a god, there’s a cult, and C’Thun especially is bringing plenty of friends to the table.

The official Whispers of the Old Gods page lists a couple major features of the expansion and each works fairly well as a starting point for a WoW-based discussion. Up first, naturally, are the Old Gods themselves. Each Old God costs 10 mana (the highest amount possible) and the power from playing each Old God comes from its effect rather than its actual health or damage. In order, the Old Gods have the following effects:

  • Yogg-Saron — Battlecry (i.e., when the card is first played): Cast a random spell for each spell you’ve cast this game (targets chosen randomly).
  • C’Thun — Battlecry: Deal damage equal to this minion’s Attack randomly split among all enemies.
  • N’Zoth — Battlecry: Summon your Deathrattle (i.e., minions with an effect that activates upon dying) minions that died this game.
  • Y’Shaarj — At the end of your turn, put a minion from your deck into the battlefield.

CThun Header

So how exactly would these effects fit into WoW? Given WoW’s current systems, as either an aura, a talent row, or a set of glyphs. Although if we’re discussing options for empowering a single spell, these would fit very nicely as a talent tier that modifies Mind Blast. And since each Shadow Priest is free to worship his/her own Old God, it could easily be a tier built around which Old God we worship.

Worshiping Yogg-Saron could give Mind Blast a chance to cast a random spell from our arsenal on active enemies within a certain range. This would have a similar effect to Multistrike (also RIP) with a fittingly Yoggy twist. Those who choose to worship C’Thun actually have a similar effect in the Legion alpha with the new Mind Spike, which builds up stacks and detonates them with Mind Blast. To be more in-line with the card and to make it a tougher decision, though, the effect could be split amongst enemies once detonated.

N’Zoth and Y’Shaarj are both a bit more difficult to figure out, since they deal with minions and, well, we don’t have that many. Not to worry! Reducing the cooldown on Shadowfiend each time we cast Mind Blast would work in a similar way to the old Sin and Punishment talent, while a second variant could have a chance to summon a Void entity for a short duration. Either effect would add to our arsenal while still maintaining the essence of the Hearthstone effect.

Will we ever see a similar system in WoW? Who knows. But with Legion’s emphasis on class fantasy and a deepening of Priest lore, it would be cool to see us allowed to fully embrace the roots of our class: the Void and all its masters. Giving Shadow Priests a choice of Old God to worship would add flavor and power to us, no matter what form it ultimately takes.

Corrupted Vale Header Modified

Your friends, corrupted

The Old Gods’ aura of corruption has taken hold of the cards themselves, adding twisted new versions of a few familiar faces to the mix.

At first, this one seemed ripe to be a standard group-buff effect such as Bloodlust, Aspect of the Fox (RIP), or Devotion Aura. Yes, it’s still ripe for a group buff, but we’re Shadow Priests and we don’t do anything “standard,” so clearly this should be implemented in the most insane way possible.

In my mind, a WoW-ized version of this aspect would mean something that distinctly shows its effect on our group. Perhaps the entire party/raid gains a temporary Shadowform; perhaps each member gets a few extra tentacles; or perhaps even each person gains a Dark Archangel-like effect that hovers behind them. If we’re corrupting our friends, though, it’s going to have to be noticeable…

Corrupted Frog

…but the effect is where the real fun happens. We’ve seen plenty of buffs in-game with an effect along the lines of, “Your damage done is increased by X% but your damage taken is also increased by Y%” so why not something similar here? Instead of a flat percentage, though, maybe our entire raid’s ability have a chance to deal a percentage of damage back at a random raid member. And maybe this effect grows in time, so toward the end of the duration your raid is dealing more damage but also taking more.

Yes, this sounds crazy — that’s intentional. To keep this from being just a way to hurt your raid, it could be an effect baked into Vampiric Embrace. The spell is, well, downright awful compared to how it used to be and adding a group buff such as the one above would help balance out the low healing. Plus, increasing the damage you do over the duration would mean more healing being done and would put more responsibility on the Shadow Priest to execute a solid rotation during its duration. In effect, the amount of damage the raid takes would be equivalent to a pulsing AOE damage because you’d be compensating as the buff went on.


Forbidden cards

As if insane deities from beyond weren’t scary enough, Whispers of the Old Gods also introduces Forbidden Cards. Playing a Forbidden card consumes all your available mana for this turn to fuel the card’s effect; the more mana used, the more powerful the effect.

It’s hard to think of a more fitting way to implement this effect than something that consumes all your Insanity with an effect that increases the more used; however, it would have to be an effect that couldn’t be used out of Voidform, since the entire idea of Voidform is to maintain Insanity as long as possible. Primarily, such an effect would be useful as a last-minute method to make use of Insanity that would either not reach 100 before a boss dies or as a way to destroy enemies while soloing if you won’t be able to make use of Voidform.

But that sort of gameplay could introduce a host of potential issues with min/maxing and effective rotations. A better (slightly less inspired) option would be to re-implement a system along the lines of the old Devouring Plague, which was the “spend” portion of our build/spend system and (at one point) varied based on how many Shadow Orbs we spent. Ironically, it’s a simpler design but more complicated to imagine a version of it working in our new and improved playstyle coming with Legion. All the same, it’s one that would work well depending on how much Blizzard wants to change Shadow in the future — personally, I miss Devouring Plague and wouldn’t complain if a more complex rotation meant its return.

The cuteness

Okay, this last one’s not really a gameplay change but seriously, look at those things. One of the best parts of Hearthstone (and to an extent, Heroes of the Storm) is the fact that neither pretends to be anything more serious than it is. WoW has a place for the silly and the cute hidden among the seriousness. With class halls and campaigns already showing hints of class-specific rewards, it wouldn’t hurt to give us an adorable little Faceless One to replace the slightly more menacing one we lost a few builds ago. More than that, it’s worth remembering that glyphs can be made fun, too. There’s plenty of room in WoW for all kinds of flair and, in my mind, there’s no harm if some of it is a bit silly.

But again, I’m very happy with how Shadow is shaping up in Legion. I don’t expect any major changes to make their way into the game at this point, but it’s still fun to imagine (and hope!) that Blizzard might not be afraid to take inspiration from Hearthstone when it comes to future iterations of Shadow. At the very least, the beta’s imminent arrival will hopefully mean that we see some more glyphs and flavor items for Shadow Priests make their appearances.

Until then, always remember: Shadow has the ability to control minds… and hearts.

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