Thursday, April 16, 2009

Affliction Warlock Spec and Rotation For 3.1

(Updated for 3.2 - there weren't any Warlock changes to affect this)

All right, this is it. The big one. Everything you want to know about how to set up your Affliction warlockery in the 3.1 World...of Warcraft.

The Spec
(Edit: This spec was more of utility spec and I think a lot of people were wanting more of a raiding spec... that can be found here, as I have since revisted and cleaned up my spec for raid purposes)
First off, spec. The tree didn't get a full makeover, but it did get airbrushed quite a bit. My pre-3.1 spec was a bit messy too, as I'd been holding off for the patch to clean it up for raiding. As of Tuesday, though, its here! So, after much thought, I'm running a 61/0/10 spec. Here is the work-friendly pic of that spec (wowhead was a bit messy, so my destro stuff got a bit clipped, I think it works though):

I didn't take the Amp'd Curse route or Recklessness, they're just not worth the points, imo. I also am not concerned about push back (especially with the new limit of 2 pushbacks per cast if you're getting hit), in a raid environment, I shouldn't get hit very much. Thus, not really worth the points either.

I'm still choosing to make up 3% spell hit with my talent choice. I've always felt it is better to spend the points here, get capped earlier, and then work on stacking spell power and other good stats instead of wasting time trying to find an excessive amount of hit, especially since it comes with a bonus mana-reduction (though that's not really a big deal). As I get better and better gear, the hit may come naturally, but I've shimmied it down in my stat priorities after capping in order to stack other stats and open up more gear choices.

I basically specced up to get haunt, getting all the talents that I felt improved the spells I planned to use in my rotation along the way, and then spent ten points in the destro tree before filling up my "optional" affliction talents. The ten points spent in destro are directly applicable to my shadowbolts, which are a must in the new rotation. Other than that, though, I didn't feel the urge to go any deeper into destro. Thus, I was sitting with some extra points on my hands.

I wanted to get my instant howl of terror because I feel safer with it, so I spent two points there. I popped one point in improved fear to be able to proc the nightmare slowing effect should I need to use fear. I picked up Demonic Pact because there are just some fights when I feel life tapping puts undue strain on my healers, or I'm just taking a lot of AoE damage and don't want to have to make a choice between dieing or being OOM. Perhaps it is because I don't manage my rotations well enough, but I've always just found it comforting to have.

At this point, I had one point left, so I slapped it in Improved Life Tap because I didn't really feel like putting it anywhere else. This is probably a questionable move since I ran without the talent before and never had issues. Plus, when I'm able to get the glyph (and maybe the T7 bonus too), extra life tapping isn't completely bad. Still, I think numbers have been shown that less life tapping is still better for your DPS. More on that in a moment.

Thus, I had 5 points that I would call "optional" for a raiding affliction 'lock. I think the other talents are all well worth the points, though I may be wrong. This is certainly the spec that fits my playstyle, and hopefully can at least get you started on your own. I'm definitely open for constructive criticism :-).

The Glyphs
Moving on to Glyphs, here is what I'm shooting for:
Out with the old, in with the new.

I currently have Corrpution, Drain Soul, Souls, and UB... as well as Siphon Life and Shadowbolt. Obviously I'm going to get rid of those last two in favor of the new ones as soon as I can. I will likely not use the Curse of Agony glyph because I always want to choose glyphs that I will get the most use out of. Curses are really my lowest priority spell (except in terms of making sure not to clip and such when it is up). I don't use them on trash a lot of times because it dies too fast, and on bosses, sometimes I'm the one putting up CotE, etc. I just don't feel like popping a glyph in there that may be useless for a lot (or even some) of the time. This may be a bad idea, but it makes sense in my head.

I really wish we got some new choices for minor glyphs. I keep looking at my DK ones and seeing how ridiculously useful they are (ghouls without dust, that's like a must have for any DK... why not demons without shards or something?). However, in the absence of good minor glyphs, the ones I have are situationally useful. I would still trade just about any of them in a heartbeat.

The Rotation
As you've probably heard for a while now, the Affliction rotation was greatly simplified in 3.1. Siphon Life was changed from a spell into a talent (update your macros!!), making its healing a side-effect of Corruption. Unstable Affliction and Immolate now occupy the same "slot" on mobs, meaning you have to choose between one or the other. Shadowbolting and Drain Souling were given some buffs to compensate for the removal of spells (as well as allowing Corr and UA crits). With all this in mind, and after some fiddling with a dummy, we now see a rotation that looks like this:

Corr > Haunt > Shadowbolt > UA > CoA > SB filler until refresh

As I've mentioned in the past, I put Corruption first to "set it and forget it". Normally this is done while positioning myself (thus I'm on the move and can't sit through the cast times for H and SB yet). For more complicated positioning I'll sometimes even put up my Curse early too, just to not waste that time. Other rotations may recommend leading off with H and SB to get your shadow's embrace effect up right away. That's fine, but you're not hurting anything by leading off with a couple instants as the subsequent ticks should be affected by the embrace (and the Haunt bonus) just the same (someone correct me if they know otherwise, that is how I understand the mechanic though).

This rotation is short enough that you will probably use the same idea on both bosses and trash (depending on length of life). For shorter living mobs, I'll leave off my curse first, then UA if its exceptionally short. Also, if I'm responsible for CotE, I try to put it up earlier in my rotation for the benefit of others, but if that throws you off, you can just sub it in for CoA. As I understand it, the curse of the elements mechanic is the same as Haunt and S-embrace (that is to say, they're not like a trinket which affects your base stats of spell power, etc, they are a percentage multiplier that affects each tick as long as they are active).

While we're on the topic of trinkets, lets look at that mechanic real quick. You should always pop your trinkets BEFORE casting your fist DoTs as trinkets modify the base stats (i.e. spell power) off which your DoT damage will be determined (how's the for alliteration?). In the same vein, the life tap glyph (and T7 bonus) operates like a trinket (as I understand it), thus it is a good idea to lead off with a life tap as well. Thus your baseline spell power will be at its highest before applied your DoTs (giving them the best possible ticks).

Currently, I macro any "poppable" trinkets to my Corruption key, so that when I lead off with Corr, it pops my trinket right before the cast (put the "use" function before the "cast" function and you should be fine). I actually don't think I have any poppable ones right now though. When I get hooked up with the Life Tap glyph, I plan on "leading off" with a quick tap before setting up my Dots to get the short spell power bonus. I may even switch my trinket bind to my life tap key (!), but I'm not that crazy yet.

As far as whether you should throw in a life tap EVERY rotation, I'm not so sure. Initially, I thought: Sure! I want to keep that bonus up. However, I've been since told that math has been done (I believe at EJ) to the tune that losing extra GCDs to unnecessary life taps offsets any bonus you gain by keeping that "trinket" popped. I don't personally have the information for it, and would invite any of my readers who do have the hard math to either let me know in comments or email as I'm sure there are a lot of interested warlocks.

As it stands, I plan to just life tap as usual (as needed) and enjoy the bonus when it comes, with the exception of leading off with a life tap immediately before a fight starts (thus no GCD is wasted because you did it before the fight), and trying to insert my necessary tapping right before refreshing any DoTs if I can help it.

Finally, whenever ANY mob is below 25% health, you want to replace your SB filler with drain soul ticks. Basically, when you get to the point your rotation where you would normally squeeze in a SB, you should pop on drain soul. I believe the ticks are between 2-3 seconds (depending on your haste), so it's almost a 1 tick for 1 shadowbolt trade (not quite, but close). And the damage! The reason we wait until 25% health is because that is the point where our talents improving the spell kick in. Thus, if my shadow bolt is CRITTING for 5k, I may see a NORMAL drain soul tick around 8-9K. That's 3k extra damage!

Obviously these numbers will change based on gear level, but the point is that draining takes the place of your shadow bolt spam because it just plain hits for more at that point per tick without sacrificing much time. Recall, however, that the damage is multiplied by the number of DoTs you have up, so you still want to keep all your DoTs up (and may want to toss a bolt in there in the normal spot of the rotation in order to keep SE up too), thus you will probably need to interrupt the spell with refresh casts (especially on longer living bosses). This is okay, just try to do it immediately following a tick. Look for the 9k monster numbers popping up for indication of a tick (depending on your UI setup, mine do the normal float-above-the-head thing).

Even with all this, the rotation ends up being easier in the long run since most of this stuff is what we'd be doing anyways. You still will want to throw in your night fall procs. You still want to avoid black holes of death. We're just watching fewer timers and having more time for filler and gathering our wits.

I didn't get to raid last night because our server was flaking out (so much so that I spent the night playing EVE instead because we got stuck in three different instances without being able to do much of anything). Therefore, I don't really have good test numbers yet, only what I've done in the environment and on dummies. Also, can someone who can access wowhead double check the tooltips for the two talents that modify drain soul? The lower tier one is soul siphon and the higher one is death's embrace, I believe. I thought I remembered reading that soul siphon kicked in at 35% health and am not sure about death's embrace. If so, we want to start drain souling at 35% and not 25% (as is popularly believed). I want to make sure I'm not telling everyone wrong here :-).

As always, feel free to leave me any questions or comments and I'll see what I can do. Tomorrow I plan to have the DK version of this marathon of information up.


  1. With Glyph of Life Tap, always lead off with a Rank 1 Life Tap before your rotation. Although I highly doubt that Glyph of Life Tap will be available till at least mid next week on most of the higher populated servers.

  2. Same goes if you have that trinket off Sarth, the Illustration of the Dragonsomething or other. Rank 1 lifetaps before an encounter to get yourself up to 10 stacks of the bonus. It seems so obvious, but I used to make my healers curse up a storm that they had to heal me back to full almost twice before we even pulled.

    As for specs, I went with affliction and destro as my dual spec. I tried a couple fights with the new rotation (which I had practiced a lot on dummies) and enjoyed affliction. It was pretty stupidly easy to keep up, but ok, let's simplify for everyone's benefit.

    Then I switched to destro. I simply cannot justify going back at this point. While on the test dummy by dps was similar (3.1k in affliction and 3.3-5k in destro), raid buffs apparently make destruction specs shoot through the roof. Affliction only went up to 3500, but my destro was going up to 4500 easily on most fights. And it starts off at 3500, skipping the long, slow Affliction dps build-up.

    Byebye simplified Affliction, hello new destro (with mana battery) and dual pvp demo/destro spec!

    (based on nothing else than personal observation of hundreds if not thousands of WWS reports of my raids and observing Recount, lifetapping more than I have to has always hurt my dps, regardless of 4pc bonus)

  3. Yeah, I don't have the Sarth trinket, but down ranking still works for Life Tap I assume from this, and it's obviously a good idea, especially if you're doing it more than once to build up those stacks.

    I haven't dual specced yet, but may have to try destro from all the positive reports coming in. I wanted to try a meta build too though... choices choices. My heart is always with affliction, however.

  4. underct, I take it you are talking deep destruction with CB, right? I think I might also give that a try this weekend as well. From the limited tests I have done so far I'm thinking that in raid the Decimation build is going to be super tricky to juggle unless it's a Patchwerk fight.

  5. With so much emphasis on Shadowbolt now, why not throw 5 points in to Ruin for larger crits?

    If your raid uses a Mage and a Priest, the buff your Felhunter provides doesn't stack with AI or Divine Spirit (even with Improved Felhunter from what I've read on Warlocks Den) so I've seen a lot of Affliction Locks using their Succubus now for more DPS. Is this something new?

    My affliction spec was 56-0-15 for Haunt/Ruin but we raid with a Mage who gives AI and there aren't enough people in my raid to benefit from spirit so I've been using my Succubus as well since her DPS is slightly higher.

    I guess it just depends on your raid makeup but that would free up some points for Ruin to give you a little more burst if you want it.

    Just an idea ;)

    Thanks for the rotation info as well. I bookmarked the post so I can get edumacated in what you affliction type people do lol.

  6. - I really should fiddle with putting a shortcut to posts like this on my sidebar as they're a bit more important than your normal daily drivel.

    I have a hard time giving up my optional points, but ruin is definitely a good idea. In fact, it is almost always included in any true raiding affliction spec. I'm just not sure I want to part with my utility points. Our group make-up is so irregular that I really can't count on buffs to be there or not be there, but I've heard the same as you... namely that using the Succy will net you more DPS especially when the FH buffs aren't needed. That being said, I still think the mana regen is better for the FH, and I think the pup is hardier. That may be a matter of personal opinion though (and contingent upon the fact that I still demon tap from time to time).

    Short story is you're right, I'm just stubborn :-).

  7. Hey, different strokes for different folks man lol. I didn't even take Dark Pact in my Haunt/Ruin spec because the constant healing from haunt and corruption feed back any health I get from Life Tap and I don't get enough mana back per global cooldown on Dark Pact either. But a lot of people still take it lol.

    If you don't know who is going to be in your raid, that could be a make or break for spending your points in to Improved Felhunter so yeah, I agree with you.

    As far as spells gaining spellpower DURING the duration the DoTs (from trinket pops, procs, etc.,) this is true. The only thing that doesn't (or didn't) change is the crit%. So if Imp Scorch goes up or Improved Shadowbolt, UA and Corruption won't gain the addition crit % unless they're refreshed. Thats how it was for Shadow Priests but I don't know if that was fixed in 3.1

  8. @feardotwin RE:Succubus
    I've seent a lot of people posting either a 55/1/17 or a 55/0/18 spec with their affliction build. In the destro tree, they'll get bane, imp SB, ruin, and...can't remember the name atm...the one that reduces the lash of pain cooldown. It seems that due to the aforementioned issues with the felhunter's buff, that the succubus becomes the pure dps pet of choice for affliction locks.

    The difference of the 1 point in the specs has been to add 1 point to fel synergy to help keep the pet alive better (safety kinda point) otherwise the braver souls have been using it to decrease the mana cost of their SB's. I went with the fel synergy path and I haven't had any issues with my pet staying alive as long as I put her in the right spot...out of frontal AoE locations etc.

  9. @Fulguralis
    I had a look at your post, but unfortunately being at work I can't actually see the build itself. Both the build and the rotation seem simmilar to what I was using pre 3.1 and now post 3.1. I think I need to tweak my build slightly.

    That being said my dps pre 3.1 never really surpassed 2k and I'm about 1.5k at the moment. Watching other locks run 25 man VOA, they all seem to be doing upwards of 2.5-3k dps with Destruction or Demon/Destruction builds.

    I'm really trying to build up my gear by raiding, but I seem to be caught in a paradox. I can't produce high enough dps to be valuable to raid parties (people say my gear isn't good enough) but I can't get better gear with out raiding.

    Do you think I would be better off the switch to a Destro build for more dps? I really like the Affliction rotation but at this point I'm considering scrapping my lock all together.

    Any insight would be appreciated.


  10. @SS - I have a few comments. First of all, if you're talking 10-man Naxx, just starting off with 1.5k (before having run it a few times to get drops/emblems) is not really that bad. The groups I first led were lucky to have anyone over 2k. You can certainly be successful with all of your DPS being in the 1.5-2k range.

    Second, I ran a bunch of heroics prior to raiding to be able to break the 2k DPS mark with very solid pre-naxx gear (also, the emblems help a lot, you can get some good tier and epic pieces from 10-man emblems). If you can't get in heroics, try pugging VoA or OS at least once a week. You may get drops or at least emblems. You may be unlucky and get in a group where they might criticize, but the majority of the pugs I got in with my DK never checked my gear (it was awful) and I was able to get some good experience out of it while pulling my weight (to the tune of 1.5-2k DPS range).

    Lastly, some of the reputation reward PvP gear is pretty decent. I'm not a huge PvP fan, but I did try to do some PvP gearing when I brought my DK up too (I had done the heroic route once already on my 'lock). It can be frustrating and drag at times, but its another way to slowly work towards better gear.

    With all that being said... Destro seems to be the chart topper 'lock spec right now. I'm not the expert on that and haven't had a chance to play around with the spec (I want to get dual spec and try both that build and a meta demo build when i get the gold), but it does seem like it has good potential. Affliction is and continues to be my love though. I was affliction before affliction was cool, and plan to stay that way. :-)

    Don't give up on your 'lock. Getting over that Naxx gear hump can be rough, but once you do, we scale very well with gear.

  11. 2/2 Improved Howl? 1/2 Improved Fear? 2/2 Improved Felhunter when you should have been using a succubus for months? No Amp Curse to double your dot DPCT? No Ruin? For a raiding spec? Is this a joke? If not, I would HIGHLY recommend not listening to this guy for affliction spec advice. Please guys, I'm not just flaming or trolling. If you spec 61/0/10 in 3.1 you will NOT be taken seriously. At least he got the rotation and trinket stuff right... =/

  12. @Benjamin - If you were to read the section where I discuss why I took the talents I did, you might have noticed that I made a point to say that those particular talents you spoke of are places where other warlocks would probably want to spec into other things. I called them my "optional" points because they are spells I like to have around for utility, but I agree are not all that useful in raiding. I have never claimed to be a hardcore raider, only a guy who wants to enjoy his spec while putting up some decent numbers.

    My spec certainly allows one to put up decent numbers too, but of course isn't the "end all" raiding spec. I figure if people are looking for that, they'll go to places like EJ or the Warlock's Den where people do that sort of thing.

    With that being said, I planned to update this on Monday since I rearranged some talents. For instance, what good does Grim Reach do for us now that we are more reliant on shadow bolt spam? Also, ruin IS too good of a talent to pass up, so I rearranged to get that, dropping my felhunter points since I've been pulling out my Succy more. I want to write a full post up on that though for the people who actually read what I write.

    Thanks for the input, but I'd like it if in the future (if you still would like to read around here) you tried to phrase your criticism in a more constructive manner. I've never claimed to be the best raider in the world, but I do think I get it generally right without being overly elitist. A lot of this depends on the kind of people you run with too. As a purely casual raider, I've seen some FAR worse specs in my day (and yet still never "laughed" at them).

    In any case, I've always wanted to encourage feedback and corrections, since I know I'm not perfect. Also, give me some time and credit for my work as I've been known to go back and revise my own stuff as things are brought to my attention.

    For everyone else - Benj is right. If you're running in a strict raiding environment, you'll probably want to pick up ruin and Amp'd curse, dropping the things he questioned. Those are talents I took because I enjoy having the spells at my disposal in the non-raiding world (and maybe very rarely in a raid, when the shit hits the fan). Look for a post on Monday where I address this stuff more.

  13. In fact, Benj got me thinking... I have seen such a spec before and here it is:

    Nibs did it... of course! :-).

    I still question about Amp'd Curse tho... reducing the GCD on just your Curse? How much does that really help? How much is just eaten up if you have any lag? It's like when I took the glyph of UA to shorten the cast time there... It was okay, but I'm personally rarely that precise as to make it mean an overall DPS boost. I'm assuming the new tooltip for Amp'd Curse is indicating that it just reduces your GCD right after you cast the curse by .5s? So, if you're using CoA, you get an extra .5s once every 21s or so? Am I thinking of this right?

  14. My post-3.1 points are 56/0/15 (Haunt/Ruin). I still put a point in Dark Pact and in for insta Howl of Terror. And that has come in handy when someone is not taking care of pesky little adds. And Dark Pact.. I've had that for so long and even though I utilize Life Tap more now, it's there as a safety net.

    Regarding the exclamation about needing to use succy instead... still depends on group make up, I think.

    To SS about DPS... I say no worries.. and stay affliction if you like it. (I really need to post about this too xD)

    Pre-3.1 I never broke 2k DPS and in 10man Naxx was around 1550ish. Post 3.1 (with upgrades in gear though too) I was top DPS with over 2k. One fight was 2300ish. My shadow bolts were critting for 7-8k.

  15. Yeah, I did some juggling around of stuff over the weekend looking at "what do I really need", because upon Abi's advice, I rethought about ruin (having never taken it before), and it makes so much more sense to pick it up in the post 3.1 world than it did in the pre. I think I can no longer avoid the destro tree :-).

  16. I've settled on 53/1/17 with the Succubus talent (2 points) in the Destro tree. Spec here:

    I've never set foot in Naxx, but I run VOA (10 & 25) every week and heroics are on farm waiting for my guild to get enough people together to do a Naxx run.

    Rotation: life tap pre-fight, then open with a SB, then Haunt to have 2 stacks of Shadow Embrace up and the 20% boost to dots. CoA, Corruption and UA, then there's just enough time for 2 SBs before Haunt is up again, and keep going from there.

    DPS? Given a couple of minutes to get rolling, 2500 is easy on the target dummy. I ran OS10 for the first time and managed 2650 on Sarth thanks to the usual mix of buffs and debuffs.

    Gear can be seen on the Armory here:

  17. @anon - Cool, I'm too scared of the destro tree to go much deeper :-).

    @all - for the record, the spell Drain Soul's bonus kicks in at 25% health while the talent Death's Embrace kicks in at 35%. Death's embrace gives a bonus to all shadow damage, so you will only want to switch over to drain soul at the 25% mark. That's been what's popularly believed anyways, I just wanted to make sure we weren't missing another 10% health of 10k drain soul ticks... and we're not. I had posed that question in this article and maybe talk about it more in another post, but wanted to slip this in...

  18. @Fulguralis

    Sorry for this kinda useless comment, but man, I just dropped here randomly looking for 3.1 specs after 3 months out of the game (playing DK since WotLK came out; my lock is still 78) and you've made me recall how MUCH I LOVED playing as affliction with my lock: 3 years in a row as affliction, even when 99.9% of the locks out there played the mindnumbing succy-sacrifice-shadow-bolt-spamming spec.

    Thanks for this, mate! Going lock again right now!