Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Affliction Warlocky Pet Choice Guide

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

With the application of patch 3.1, Blizz finally succeeding in a long promised goal of theirs: to entice warlocks to bring out more of their pets. Since the patch, it has certainly been a bit confusing at times on which pet is the "best" to use in what situation. As such, I did a bit of research on the subject and wanted to pass along what I found, and the rules of thumb I will be using to make my pet choice.

Do I always have the "best" pet out? No. Some nights I just run with what's simple so I don't have to think about it. At most, warlock pets are only going to give you a couple hundred extra DPS over the course of a raid night. It's nothing to scoff at, but it's not absolutely vital either. I like to think of it along the same lines as bringing the right elixirs or buff foods. They are things that some would call a "must" to every raid, and they certainly help, but you really have to know your class, spec, and rotation first before getting the most out of those littler bonuses. It just depends a lot on the seriousness of your raiding/playstyle.

This guide is going to focus on the pet choices from the standpoint of a deep affliction specced warlock. If you are thinking demo/destro, you'll have to look elsewhere (though some of this may help you as well). What this means, is that we're looking at the following choices of pets: Infernal, Doomguard, Succubus, Felhunter, Imp, and Voidwalker.

We can immediately eliminate one of those choices right off the bad: the Voidwalker. While this pet can be quite useful solo'ing, it is basically a tanking pet, not a DPS pet. It really has no place being out in a raid unless in extreme/strange situations. (I personally have seen a warlock take it upon himself to VW pull every mob in a VoA run, but I wouldn't recommend it).

So what are we left with? One of the first things I always do when researching is head over to places like Elitist Jerks and The Warlock's Den to see what other warlocks are doing. Theorycrafting in this game is a community based activity, and often the maths have already been done for me. My theory is, why redo what's already been done? The caveat to this, though, is that I'm trusting in other's intelligence.

For the most part, I trust both of those resources, but I encourage anyone who finds evidence to the contrary of what I present to always leave a comment and point out your source. The more numbers the better, I say. Keep in mind though, that there may be subtle differences between "tests" such as buffs used or talents chosen. Therefore, I'm basing my research off of what I do/spec/cast. (Check out my rotation and spec posts if you want to know how I'm rolling these days.)

In this case, I found some great numbers over in an EJ discussion thread (thanks to Finwe for the link). Basically, the individual ran these tests on a dummy with no pet talents, CotE up, and common solo buffs. He/she/it classifies itself as a "well-geared, full affliction" warlock, which can mean any number of things, but which you should understand means "has good numbers" and "is specced for affliction". Bottom line is that while exact numbers may vary based on gear and specific talent choices, we're looking at the relationships between the numbers for general guidance, in order to understand how we want to tweak and use our own builds.

So here's the raw data:
  • Infernal - 520 DPS
  • Doomguard - 470
  • Succubus - 196
  • Felhunter (with full DoT set up) - 180
  • Imp - 165 DPS
As you can see, some good stuff there, but what does it mean for me?

First of all, the Infernal is obviously king. Recall, however, that he will only stay out for a short (one minute) period of time. Thus, since we can't choose him all of the time, we must know when to choose him. I find it helps to think of him like poppin' a pot. You're only going to get to do it once a fight (at most), so you want to save it for those critical times when you're trying to beat an enrage timer or could really use the extra boost. The cast is an AoE, so you don't really lose out DPS while you're summoning this guy if you do a good job of working it in when you would be shadow bolting.

Trick of the trade: When the AoE hits, it can stun non-immune mobs. This can be quite useful in situations. Think Gluth... the last wave of zombies are incoming and your tank has eaten quite a few stacks. Maybe you have a couple people dead and you're trying really hard to snap a victory from the jaws of defeat. You drop this big guy right on the group, freezing them, damaging them, and giving the little boost your group needed to victory.

The Doomguard is ranked number two on that list, quite a ways ahead of the rest of the pack. He'll hang around for a solid 10 minutes before running away, so he's a bit more useful. Basically, you'll get him for one whole boss fight. Pull him out before you start and let him do his thang. You'll want to try to use him on fights where there isn't a lot of movement to maximize his DPS. Patchwerk is the textbook usage of the DG. Grobbulus is not. It's pretty simple, but hardly set in stone.

Remember that summoning a DG takes a bit of time and four others to click (one of which will randomly take some damage) if you've done the quest chain to get the Ritual of Doom (I'm assuming you have. If not, perhaps a helpful commenter can remember the quest name so's you can look it up and get 'er done). Thus, you don't just want to surprise people with this right before a particularly nasty boss. It's probably best to try and do the ritual about a minute or so before your tank starts the pull. It's good to communicate for this guy. Surprise death is never good unless you're administering it personally and purposefully (you heard it here first).

Third on the list is the Succubus. She got a bit of a buff in 3.1, passing over all of the other normal pets. She won't buff you, but she will put out the best raw numbers. More on the buffs in a moment, but if your raid doesn't need your pet's buffs, Succy is the way to go. Because of the people I'm running with, I find myself using the Succubus most of the time. She also has some minor utility as a CC'er, but I've never found much use for this myself, and it doesn't really factor into my debate for use.

Fourth is the Felhunter. Your felpup is respectable even untalented. The talent won't help his DPS a whole lot, but will make his buff better. Remember, the Felhunter buffs spirit and intellect, and can be quite useful at times. However, if you have a mage and a priest, their buffs will mostly likely overwrite yours. Thus, check your group make up... if you have them both, pick the Succy. If not, pull out the pup. The buff IS worth it, especially if you talent for it (Which I'm not atm), but mages and priests both buff better. Besides, warlocks are about killing shit, not helping others, amirite? Guys? Gals? Its? (Yes, I often chafe at my CotE duties)

Bringing up the rear is the Imp. This guy does two things that may make you consider using him. First, he'll give everyone some bonus health. This does not seem to stack with the Warrior buff, but sometimes is worth having when you're sans Warriors. Secondly, he's ranged. Sometimes, your melee pets just aren't going to cut it (aka Heigan fight), so you need a ranged buddy. That's when you should think Imp.

It's important to note that the Improved Imp talents do quite a bit to help the little guy's DPS. I am not personally specced that way, so if you are or want to be, you will probably have to modify my advice a bit. I think he becomes competitive with the Succubus with the talents to the point where it depends a lot on raid composition. Also, remember we can always just use him as a phased out mana battery like we did back in the old days. I can't say I'm ever having mana problems, but when we're learning new fights, I'll often pull him out since he doesn't cost a shard and we don't usually live long. That's a whole 'nother story though.

And that's that. Quick recap for those of you in the cheap seats:

Pet Choice Heirarchy
  1. Infernal - When you need a "DPS Pot".
  2. Doomguard - On stationary, DPS intense bosses.
  3. Succubus - When your raid doesn't need your buffs
  4. Felhunter - When you aren't running with a Mage and a Priest
  5. Imp - If you need ranged or you decide to talent for it
You may notice that I didn't write a whole lot on "how" to use these pets. If you're curious, T-Sonn over at Melted Faces has been doing a wonderful series on how to manage your pets, the latest of which covers the Felpup. I would recommend checking those out for some guidance, tips, and tricks if you're dusting some of these off for the first time and feel a bit lost.

As always, feel free to hit me up with questions/comments and let me know your own experiences.


  1. Very nice write up. It pretty much substantiates what my suspicions have been. Infernal and Doomguard way ahead of the rest, then succy next.

    I was surprised to see the felhunter above the imp, but I'm thinking these numbers are provided for the un-talented pets too. Which makes me wonder, have you (or anyone) seen some DPS for the different talented pet's DPS?

    I've only heard that the imp, with both the demon and destro talents (in t1 and t3 respectively), would top the succy at that point, but never seen any numbers produced.

    Things that make you go "hmmmmmmmmm."


  2. ** "seen some DPS numbers for..."

    WTB edit function

  3. Yeah, actually if you follow the link to the EJ discussion thread, they have all kinds of that stuff in there. The Imp talented is like 10 DPS above the Succy I believe. I didn't include that because I don't plan to talent for it right now and wanted to keep my scope narrowed.

    Recall that post 3.0, the felhunter was made highly synergistic with the affliction spec, multiplying his DPS off of our DoTs (Shadow Bite or w/e). That's why it's important to note that the number was achieved with full DoTs up. With the other cats it doesn't matter so much.

    The imp is great on certain fights too... they each have a place it seems, even untalented, which is what I think Blizz wanted to do. I personally like having the choices.

  4. I have a great strategy for CC with Succy. I'll have to post it tomorrow perhaps. If I can pull it off, I can keep a mob Seduced as long as her mana lasts.

  5. Cool, definitely let me know and I'll link ya :-).

  6. Here it be:


  7. I did heroic OS last week on my Lock in a PuG and wanted to try out the infamous Haunt/Ruin + Doomguard build.. My poor Doomguard at a firewall (and ate shit 10 seconds later) so I didn't even get to see what all the fuss was about T_T.

  8. Hey there! Sorry I'm months behind, but I just noticed traffic from your site and traced it to your mentioning of MF on this post. Thanks a bunch, and I really love the extra info you have here.

  9. Ha, no problem. I liked your write-ups as well :-).