Wednesday, October 27, 2010

HAOW: 4.0.3a Aff'lock Pet Choice And Stat Priority

At this point we've covered speccing, and will soon cover glyphing and rotating. That leaves us really with two remaining fundamentals to cover what I would call the basics: Pet Choice and Stat Priority. With so many minions at our disposal, it's important we know how to use them in the correct situation to maximize our effectiveness.  Also, it's imperative that we understand what changed with stats in 4.0 if we have any hope of gearing correctly come Cataclysm.

Pet Choice Guide
As usual when creating guides, I find myself wading through the EJ forums to see what they've mathified.  And, also as usual, the choice is hardly as clear cut as some might have you believe.  In fact, there seems to be little in the way of new information.  DPS-wise, minions appear to have been left relatively in tact by the 4.0 patch.  Before we get into that, let me start with a baseline explanation on how I approach pets.  Copied from posts 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 (as affliction) 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 the Affliction 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: Succubus, Felhunter, Imp, and Voidwalker.  The Infernal and Doomguard are still with us, but they don't replace a pet, come our for 45 seconds, and share a 10 minute cooldown.  Thus, they're almost more of a trinket pop than anything else right now.

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 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 - First for AoE situations.
  • Doomguard - First for Single Target situations.
  • Succubus - Especially if you pick up the low hanging fruit (talent) in the Demo tree.
  • Felhunter -However, remember what he may lack in pure DPS... he does provide a buff.
  • Imp - Untalented for me.  When this guy is talented as in a Destro build, he gets a lot better, but I'm inclined the let the Destro's have him. 
I mentioned about the Infernal and Doomguard, but I continued to list them above just to give an idea of where they stand.  For their short duration, they will provide a significant DPS boost, and they won't replace our regular minions.  It's really a win-win.  Thus, we must know when to call them forth. I find it helps to think of them like poppin' a healthstone. You're generally only going to get to do it once a fight, 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.  Using it during a Heroism: perfect.  Makes the decision simple.  If you don't have a Heroism, just use your big warlocky brain.  Try to make sure you bring them out so that they get the full 45 seconds of fight time, but otherwise, it's always going to be a boost. The cast is instant now, so you don't really have to worry too much about mucking up your rotation.

Trick of the trade: When the first AoE hits for the Infernal, 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.

For the regular minions, I generally run with the Felhunter. With the addition of Demon Soul to our arsenal, I've found that this pet synergizes the best with my Affliction playstyle.  I believe the Succubus may still take top honors in a pure math contest, but in my comparisons, the Felpup is better.  Since the Demon Soul benefit for your pup is a straight bonus to DoTs (as opposed to a bonus to shadowbolts), I think it makes sense.  I'm probably not the best S-bolt weaver, but, by the Shadow, my DoTs shall run uninterrupted!  Thus, you can consider me a Felhunter guy.  The Succy can be useful for solo'ing with her CC utility, which I've made extensive use of, but if I'm in a dungeon or raid, the Felpup is coming out. 

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 air phase), 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'm not sure he overtakes a talent Succubus, but I haven't gotten at any concrete numbers yet.

Also, recall that all pets are "free" now.  No longer do we need to watch our shards when having "learning" nights, still only to be left at the whims of our Imp.  Hoorah!

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

Pet Choice Hierarchy
  1. Infernal - When you want a quick AoE boost.
  2. Doomguard - When you want a quick single target boost.
  3. Felhunter - When you aren't running with a Mage and a Priest, and if you find it works best with you Affliction playstyle.
  4. Succubus - When your raid doesn't need your buffs, especially if you talent/glyph 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 along 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 that got me started down the road to simplicity. Nibuca, who has long been my favorite affliction warlock did the gruntwork for us many moons ago. You can find that particular article here. It's one of my faves (still and still).

She does a wonderful job of explaining things, and I have found using a similar method to be very effective. The simplest way to get started, in my opinion, is to get the addon Pawn, use "good" 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 understanding of what's going on, even if we use an addon to make life easier.

In that spirit, lets look at what the 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 weigh in differently for how they effect our DPS. Ignoring the weights for everything except for major stats, we get the follow weight relationships.

Warlock_Affliction_PreRaid   Sta=0.0262  Int=2.9937  SP=2.4187  Hit=1.5690  Crit=0.9617  Haste=1.2767  Mastery=0.9037

I pulled the numbers from the EJ simulation thread found here for 4.0.3a.  The author indicates it's from a "pre-raid" geared Affliction Warlock*, and this was the simulation run that most closely mimics what I believe to be my spec.  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) > Intellect > Spellpower > Haste > Crit > Mastery >> Stamina.

Recall that spell hit cap is 17% raw.  Mousing over the stat in your character screen now not only gives you percent, but also lets you know what your misses will look like at the next three levels (important for raiding).  For Affliction Warlocks, we want 17% straight up.  That'll let us hit everything we need to hit.  For non-warlocks, melee hit cap is 8%, 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, or reforge to supplement your gear and "overstack" as little hit as possible.

It's interesting to note how far Spellpower has fallen.  It used to be our best stat.  Now, you want to hit up Int (and all the stats in between) first.  Also note that Int is nearly double Crit for Aff'locks.   Thus, if you're looking at two pieces and one bumps you up by 1 Int but the other bumps you up by 2 Crit, you would get nearly the same DPS gain out of each piece.  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.

Haste is a neat case too.  DoTs have changed how they use haste so that now you have certain "plateaus" of increased damage.  The scaling goes up in a stair-step look rather than a smooth line.  Check out this great post from Cynwise for a lot more (wonderful) information on this phenomenon.  The short version, though, is we'll probably shoot for a certain amount and tweak other stats once we get just over that stair step.  I'll try to follow up with that number when it solidifies.  For now, you're not going to having anything bad happen by stacking haste as usual.

Finally, it's important to note that Spirit does not show up on that list.  It is now, officially, worthless to us Warlocks.  Dump it.  Regem it.  Reforge it.  Do whatever you need to do to get rid of it.  Sure it might help with mana regen, but due to stacking Int we should have a huge pool, and we always have Life Tap.  Spirit stacking is to Warlocks what melee attacking is to Hunters.  Just don't do it.

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 (Pawn does this for you based on what's in-game): 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.

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 this sort of breakdown.  Thus, we should always be able to find our way in the dark.

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. 

*Note: Better gear changes stat weights because of diminishing returns and other miscellanea. You'd really have to download, install, and run your own Simulationcraft to get your personal, perfect 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 or BiS lists: to some extent gear choices will not always work the same for everyone, though we can pretty much all end up in the same place.

5 comments:

  1. Don't forget that the succubus has a spiffy glyph (25% dmg to her Lash of Pain), whereas the felhunter no longer has his glyph. I haven't talented her, and yet she does noticeably more dmg than he does with just a glyph.

    You won't see Spell Power except on weapons and things like socket bonuses, that's why it's low on the list. One point of Intellect will give us one point of Spell Power (thus, so far, there is no Spell Power socket bonus that's more valuable than a straight Brilliant Cardinal Ruby gemming).

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  2. You picked Warlock_401_Affliction_Drain for your stat prio. That implies you use Drain Life as your filler? When using SB as filler the same thread shows that Haste > Mastery by quite some margin.

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  3. @Poneria - Great points, thanks.

    @Roy - I'm actually still playing with my rotation to see what works best for me. Likely I will not be filling with Drain Life, so I should probably revisit the numbers. I'll look at it more this weekend. Are the two entries the same spec? I picked the Drain one because I believe the spec was the closest to mine. Either way, I should revisit the thread. Thanks.

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  4. Okay, I updated with the regular Affliction stats because I'm not advocating the use of Drain Life as a filler. In practice, I can't seem to make DL preform better than SB filler. Perhaps I'm fail, or perhaps there's just something off about the sim (they're certainly not infallible).

    I also suspect that Mastery will end up being somewhat higher as far as priority goes. I just can't see them letting "minor" stats such as Haste and SP be better than the new hotness. I'm going to keep my eye out for patch fixes and stuff, but I guess for now that's how it shakes out.

    In any case, the post has been updated to better reflect what I'm doing.

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  5. Also fixed the spell hit thingy since it was a bit ambiguous.

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