Monday, December 14, 2009

HAOW: 3.3 Aff'lock Pet Choice And Stat Priority

At this point we've covered speccing, glyphing and rotating. That leaves us really with two remaining fundamentals to cover what I would call the basics: Pet Choice and Stat Priority.  Then we'll know what spells to use, what gear to wear, and what minion to call.  What else does a warlock need in life? 

Pet Choice Guide
As with last time when I attempted to create this guide, I meandered over to the EJ forums (I don't have the link, but plan to go back and see if there are updates tonight... then I'll pop the link in here) to see what they'd mathified.  And again as last time, the choice is hardly clear cut.  Before we get into that, let me start with a baseline explanation on how I approach pets.  Copied from my post before, here's my mantra:

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 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 bat: 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).

I'd like to find some concrete numbers that compare the pets, but everything I've seen so far is highly dependent on what talents you're taking and other details.  As such, here is what I believe the hierarchy of pure DPS to be, highest listed first:
  • Infernal -Clear First
  • Doomguard - Close second
  • Felhunter (with full DoT set up) - There is some debate here.  I'm talented to support my hunter a bit, but there also have been rumors that a glitch in how the Shadow Bite works really makes this guy's DPS tank.  I think, for affliction locks, this guy's going to eventually come out on top, because it seems that Blizz is really pushing it as our choice with the love they gave it in 3.3.  If there is a glitch, I'm sure they'll hotfix it at some point, but I'm going to try and keep my eyes open to the numbers.
  • Succubus - Untalented for me, better the FH pre-3.3.  I'm not so sure now.
  • Imp -Untalented for me.  When this guy is talented as in a Destro build, he'll beat both the FH and the Succy.  If you like this guy, talent him up and use him if you have points to spare.
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 last wave of the Halls of Reflection.  The Lich King is breathing down your backs and you're, literally, up against a wall.  You've got adds all over the place and your tank is probably crapping themselves. You drop this big guy right on the group, stunning them, damaging them, and giving the little boost your group needed to victory, escaping the LK's clutches one more.

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. 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.

Third on the list is the Felhunter. He clearly got buffed in 3.3, but as I mentioned there is some debate about just how good he is now.  I really think Blizz is pushing Affliction warlocks towards this guy and he's long been my favorite pet, so he'll probably be what I run with the majority of the time until I'm able to find some math that shows otherwise. 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. The buff IS worth it, especially if you talent for it, but mages and priests both buff better. Besides, warlocks are about killing shit, not helping others, right?

Fourth is the Succubus. She won't buff you, but she will put out a solid amount of DPS. She has some good talents hidden in the Demo and Destro trees that can buff her into the prime spot.  If this seductress floats your boat, then by all means bring her out, talent her, and use her.  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.

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 Onyxia), 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 (it's a Destro lock thing), so if you are or want to be, you will probably have to modify my advice a bit. I think he may just take the top spot when talented. Also, remember that he's "free". Sometimes if you're low on shards, that can be a factor.

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

Pet Choice Hierarchy
  1. Infernal - When you need a "DPS Pot".
  2. Doomguard - On stationary, DPS intense bosses.
  3. Felhunter - When you aren't running with a Mage and a Priest, or if you're me.
  4. Succubus - When your raid doesn't need your buffs, and if you talent it.
  5. Imp - If you need ranged or you decide to talent for it.
Stat Priority
The second part of today's article is going to focus on Affliction Warlock stat priorities.  This is meant to guide your gear selection criteria.  I'm not big on gear lists, as I usually just make the best of what comes to me (though I will sometimes pass long my emblem purchase wish-list).  If you're the type that likes to farm an instance to get that Best In Slot item, then by all means, have at it.  Where I'm playing, I can get by with smart choices on not so best in slot gear, and preform admirably.  A simple understanding of stats is really all you need to decide on just about anything.

I maintain that the easiest way to keep gearing simple is to be sure you understand the weights of each stat as it goes towards our DPS. You don't have to do tons of research to break this one down. In fact, I'll give you the link where it's already been done. Nibuca, who has long been my favorite affliction warlock did the maths for us several moons ago. You can find that particular article here. It's one of my faves (still).

She does a wonderful job explaining things and I've found that my playstyle and gear levels usually end up being very similar to hers, so I'm choosing to take most of her calculations at face value*. The simplest way to do things is to get the addon Pawn, use a good warlock's values, and, for the most part, trust the numbers that it kicks out. The addon even lets you compare two pieces. However, I never want to advocate blind usage of an addon, and we should strive to at least have a basic understand of what's going on, even if we use an addon to make life easier.

In that spirit, lets look at what Nib's stats are really telling us. Pawn basically allows the user to add a weight to each stat, so it can calculate how they go together and give you a simple value for comparison. Obviously, different stats will weight differently in how they effect our DPS. Ignoring the weights for everything except for major stats, we get the follow weight relationships.

Warlock_T9_55_00_16 Int=0.2949 Spi=0.9831 SP=1.7729 Hit=1.9071 Crit=1.2081 Haste=1.8701 (Edit: Numbers Updated from EJ thread found here.  The notation indicates it's from a Tier 9 geared Affliction Warlock.  This is the top DPS for the simulation run.)

These numbers are mostly arbitrary, in that it's not so important what they are, but whats vital is how they relate to each other. Therefore, we can set a simple priority ranking of stats that looks like this:

Hit (until capped)>SP>Haste>Crit>Spirit>>Int.

Recall that spell hit cap is 14% (368) with three talent points in Suppression, or 17% (4--something, I need my notes, but they're at home).  For non-warlocks, melee hit cap is 263, fwiw.  Everything after spell hit cap is completely wasted.  Not like defense or other "capped" stats where it's still kinda useful just marginally less.  Wasted.  As in, you get no more benefit.  Therefore, a good thing to do is try and swap in gems and enchants to supplement your gear and "overstack" as little hit as possible.

It's interesting to note that Haste is really our second best stat after we're hit capped and is nearly equal the DPS gain that SP is. Thus, if you're looking at two pieces and one bumps you up by 1 SP but the other bumps you up by 2 Haste, pick the haste piece ftw. That's a very cut down example, but it illustrates what we're looking at I think. An addon like Pawn makes this very simple, but we can also keep in mind the relative weights and make an informed decision on our own. It make take a little more work, but at least we know what's going on.

I mention haste specifically, because I think it is an often overlooked stat for us. It really is that good. Yes, better than spirit, better than crit (though crit is increasing it's role as well). Even with the 1/3 to SP conversion. That is taken into account with these weightings.

You can apply the same principles to talents and gem slots. If they increase a certain stat, you can check out the ratings and compare your trade-offs. I don't have specific numbers for talents, but gems are a bit easier to compare (Nibs actually gives pawn values for these, which is nice): you just need to figure out what gem you'd like to put in, and then you'll know the stats you're looking at, and it's back to a basic stat comparison. If you, for instance, always put in +19 SP gems, you can just tack that on to the other stats when you're doing your comparison.

I would certainly recommend proper usage of the Pawn addon as well as a perusal of Nibuca's wonderful article, but the point here is that we obtain a basic understanding of what is really going on with these things. Thus, if, say, Cataclysm hits and stuff gets changed, you can adapt your thinking, find some new numbers on the intrawebs, and get on with (fantasy) life.

There are looming changes with Blizz talking about revamping and simplifying the stat system in Cataclysm, but for now, this strategy still holds true.  Personally, I really need to update my Pawn with some new values since I've geared up a lot since I last entered numbers.  I'll need to do some more searching around (*pokes Nibs*) to find some newer, higher gear level numbers.

The good part about the newer Tier Trend is that Blizz is making all of the pieces available and then just allowing you to upgrade them through raiding.  I really don't like the T9 pieces as they seem to be using a lot of their item points on Crit stats, which just aren't that good for Affliction 'locks and more friendly to our Destro brethren.  The T10 stuff looks better, so my goal is going to be 4 pieces of T10 gear ASAP.  With emblems dropping like candy and the new random daily LFG being a smash hit, it shouldn't be too hard to get there.  I'll use the Triumph emblems gained in the process to update my other pieces of gear (trinkets, rings, back.

If you understand the stat weights, it's simple enough to come up with your own "shopping list" for the emblem gear.  I can often be found at the vendors, comparing the boosts from different pieces.  It's not uncommon to find that higher ilvl gear isn't as great as what you already have because of how you're doing your stats.  That's pretty much how I felt about the entire T9 set.  Where'd the haste love go?

Got any questions or comments about these two topics?  Hit me up in comments and I'll do my best to respond, even if it's quite lengthy (see yesterday's comments, ugh).  What else would you like to see as part of my How to Afflict Others with Warlockery series?

*Note: Better gear changes these weights because of diminishing returns and other miscellanea. You'd have to download, install, and run your own Simulationcraft to get your personal numbers. I don't do this, but rather "ballpark" it to try and make an intelligent decision. This is also why I don't blindly rely on pawn. Nibs gives several gear level examples in her article, and the important thing to note here is that the relationships mostly stay the same. In fact, haste seems to get more weight as you gear up. I'd be somewhere around the T8 set curve now. If you're going to use her numbers, keep in mind the gear level she's advertising.


  1. The stat priorities used to be correct. But the Glyph of Quick Decay has bumped Haste almost to the weight of SP, although still slightly lower.

  2. So the order is still correct, just haste is better than mentioned. That makes sense, though the Glyph only affects your Corruption spell. I find I'm actually running through mine sometimes before Haunt is even refreshable.

    Do you know of any place where the actual weights are? I want to update the numbers but couldn't find them yet and am not the Simulationcraft pro that others are.

  3. Okay, found them and updated accordingly. At least the ones they used in Simulationcraft. I'll probably start using these for my Pawn values since I'm aiming to be T9+ equivalent.

  4. Ty for guide- my lock is my fav alt to play I luv affliction spec, main is a rogue. Was wondering, for raiding should you turn off specific felhunter abilities so to save his mana?

  5. If you're specced into the improved talent, every time the FH uses shadow bite it should return a percentage of his mana (8% for one point)... thus, I've never noticed him being low on mana in a typical fight. So I would say, no, leave 'em all on!

  6. Well I have
    3k SP
    16.6% Hit
    800 spirit
    22.0% crit
    620 Haste or 19%
    And i cant break 4.3k DPS
    What am i doing wrong i need to be at 6.5-7k!!!

  7. Oh lol forgot to add im in Full T9 and have all my items above 232 Item lvl.

  8. Hmm, your stats look good. The only advice I can give is to tighten up your rotation, make sure you're hitting your trinkets and such at the best times and make sure you're executing in the Drain Soul phase.

    TBH, though, you're slightly better geared than I am and I'm averaging around the 4k mark. It totally depends on the fight though. Say, on Hodir, if you're standing near the campfire and you get a haste light... then I'm at like 8k. It also depends on group make up. When I have a mage with scorch or a crit chicken, I tend to have a lot better DPS too. The raw number doesn't mean everything.

    I guess the question is, if you're seeing this on a dummy, you're probably more than fine. If you're in all the "good" in Hodir, and you're still seeing this number, you're probably not executing. If you're just doing this on an average fight, you're also probably just fine.

    Nibs points out in her latest article that she'll run a simulationcraft of her toon and it'll tell her she "should" be doing like 3k more than she is. So if you're getting your number from a simulationcraft... you're probably just, you know, human. Not a perfect computer :-).

    If you really want to troubleshoot you rotation, start logging your fights with an out of game service like "World of Logs" (google it if you're unsure of what I'm saying). It will break down your DoT uptime, percentages, etc... and you can see where you're having problems. I'm over 90% uptime on all my spells, with corruption at 98%. That's decent, but Corr should be 100%. I mean Haunt and SB both refresh it! How can I let it slip?! It gives me something to shoot for and focus on.

    I think once you get the hang of "average" DPS, meaning you can do a respectable number... it gets REALLY hard to become one of those "all stars" that run in the top end raiding groups. They put in a lot more work and practice than I do, so I'm not sure there's an easy fix.

    Sorry for this being winded and probably not what you want to hear. Just at a glance though, that number doesn't seem awful.

  9. Great blog...just found this today from a link at Keep it up!

  10. Hi, never tried end game, with a warlock, and figured now that i've reached 76 why not continue, when grouping has been made oh so easy. Anyway found this block, and i gotta say it helped me alot! Ive been lvling most of my way as Affliction, but as i said, never done any end game with it, so i was pretty concerned as how to go about rotations and stats.. What im trying to say is, that this "Guide" really helped alot and that id recoment it to any other Affliction warlock i come across that needs some guidance... Thx! :)

  11. TY and GL with the end game :-).

  12. char. name Mitigate - on stonemaul

    Just specced afflic yesterday after months of refusing to do so as I find 14k crits to be beautiful. The fact that my dps was shit had something to do with this change. I did one heroic (pos) and I pulled about 4k. I hope this improves as I become more familiar with the rotation.

    Just want to thank you for this blog. You are my official afflic mentor (whether you like it or not) this position holds little reward except my everlasting affection and gratefulness, but it's all yours.

    Thanks again and take're easy, and if she's easy, take'er twice.

  13. Question for you as I have nothing better to do at work then to clutter up your blog.

    When I cast haunt the second time in my cycle (after GC is up) haunt is STILL up on my target. By casting the second one do I A) cancel the first one so it comes back and gives me the amount of life it has accumulated over that time period or B) continues to collect life so when I finally do let it drop all the way off I get healed for the equivalent of 2 cycles (or 8, or however many cycles I do not allow it to drop off for)?

    In non elaborate terms - when does haunt heal me? Every time I cast it over the pre-existing haunt, or only when it drops off the mob entirely?

  14. Every time you refresh haunt it will give you the heal. 1 for 1.

  15. So i have been out of the lock game since BC. Lvled a DK to help the guild with tanks. Now Im back to my lock and enjoying the lvling again as affliction. My question is why the hound over the imp. I love using my imp hes funny. So will putting the points in improving him make him as good as putting the points into the hound or am I wasting my time?

  16. Oh heres my armory so you can see my spec. Its a little different than yours since im still lvling I went with some survivability talents.

  17. @Resko - They fixed a lot of the bugs with the felpup rather recently (I think in 3.2?), which was rumored to have pushed him above other pets in terms of additional DPS (with the exception of the "temp" pets: doomguard and infernal). I haven't seen any concrete numbers, but before the fixes the running was pretty close. It used to be where the Succy was a 50DPS winner over the Imp who was ahead of the felpup by about the same amount... so very close. Then they buffed the pup and so I went with that.

    Destro locks will use the imp because of the fire spell synergy. He ends up being better for them. If you spec into improved imp as an affliction 'lock, I still think he'll be pretty good so if you want to do this definitely go for it. I think the maths would show the felpup in the lead, but I have nothing concrete to back this up other than rumor and feel. I certainly would not laugh if you specced into the improved imp in favor of using him, he's pretty good in his own right. I'll still pull the guy out when a melee pet is in trouble too, though that's less often since they buff pet's damage resistances.

    The simpler explanation is that a felhunter's shadow bite ability scales well with affliction Dots, so the synergy is there. Because that's how the pet was designed leads me to believe that the maths would support my hunch.

    If anyone happens to find the break down, shoot me a link. EJ sometimes has it, I just haven't been able to properly search for it.

  18. Here's a little more on it and some maths by Nibuca at Mystic Chicanery:

    She did the sumulationcraft and I'm pretty similar to her in spec and gear. Succy used to be the old boss so she just tested against Succy. It's still an "open question" I believe, but here is some support anyways.

  19. Why would you go crit>spirit when the fel armor takes 30% of your spirit and uses it toward SP and you said yourself in the priority list that SP>crit? the weight ratio that you gave for crit was 1.2081 while for spirit it was 0.9831 if this is so, you would gain more dps by stacking spirit over crit due to the benefits from the Fel armor buff! If im wrong please explain!

  20. Fulguralis said...

    The ratio was developed by a simulation that takes the Fel Armor conversion into account. So that 0.9831 number is assuming you're converting 30% of it toward SP, not on top of it.

  21. great help thk u my lock is slacking in dps for his gs i think u have helped me a lot ..lockbomb on korgath ..thk u

  22. You are the very first person after some time searching google that gave me a straight stat weight answer. Not even elitest jerks gave me a straight answer. Thank you very much. :)

  23. NP - Note that the numbers I grabbed were T9 numbers. They change very slightly as you gear up since not all the stats scale the same way. I don't think the weightings are all that different for T10 (definitely in the same order), but I will definitely be updating this when we all get to 85.