Thursday, December 16, 2010

Warlock Max Level: Organizing The Spells and FAQ

When I wrote about my experiences leveling on Monday, I got several comments wondering about the spells I hadn't gotten to as well. Now that Fuu and I have hit 85, I wanted to revisit the topic briefly in order to get us on the same page as we head for heroics.  For my part, I probably won't step foot in a heroic for several weeks yet.  Next week I'll be gone, preparing for the holidays, though I may queue a few posts.  Otherwise, I'd like to finish Loremaster of the new areas first.  I only have half of the Highlands and Hyjal to go.  It's not a bad way to level Tailoring and Enchanting either, or to get my gear up to that magic ilvl 329 (when the random will let you do heroics, I hear).  So for anyone who's reading this and also thinking heroics are a ways off, don't worry, I feel ya.

Still, I know there are a lot of people anxious to jump right in, and even if you're not it doesn't hurt to start getting used to the rotation now.  In fact, I suggest it.  I popped into my Demonology spec yesterday just to give it a go and pop in my last talent points.  I'm not sure I like it any more.  Don't get me wrong, the AoE is great.  Demon Leap is fun.  But I don't think I could ever raid in that spec again.  The rotation is extremely clunky, and to put out the DPS, I feel like there really is a lack of control.  Demonology has become the "wild kid" spec, in my opinion.  I'm still going to keep it as my off spec for more perusal later, but I suppose I was just surprised at how much more powerful I feel as Affliction.  More in control.  More dangerous.

I don't want to update my guide just yet, since I'd like to get perhaps a month of heroic running under my belt before I publish what I think is "the" rotation.  Right now, I think there's a lot to experiment with, and a lot of experimentation going on.  So the goal here isn't necessarily to define what's best, but to have a good understanding of our expanded tool box and to be able to began practicing and looking out for what's best for us.

Nibuca has a great (if short), post in which she summarizes her spell list.  It's definitely worth a quick click over there to just look at, because those are exactly the same spells I'm trying to find buttons for.  I mean, it makes sense since we're both Affliction.  It's just always reassuring to hear someone else you know to be a solid player come to the very same conclusions.  So I'm going to take it a step further.  Instead of writing paragraphs about select spells, I'm going to give you the list of how things look on my action bar first.  Then I may touch on a spell or two quickly, but I want this to be more of a "cheat sheet" than anything else.  Feel free to ask for something more in depth about each one, and I can make a future post about it (like macros or something).

First, the numbered buttons.  I use the alt button (it's easy for me to press on my keyboard set up) to basically make each button have two spells.  I'll try to make that obvious:
  1. Corruption with Trinket activation; Alt - Bane of Agony
  2. Shadowbolt; Alt - Soul Fire
  3. Fel Flame; Alt - Soulburn
  4. Haunt; Alt - Curse of the Elements
  5. Drain Soul; Alt - Drain Life; Cntrl - Drain Mana
  6. Unstable Affliction; Alt - Soulburn
  7. Soul Swap
  8. Rain of Fire
  9. Seed of Corruption
  10. Life Tap; Alt - Demon Soul; Shift - Armor Buff
  11. (or the "-" key) Shadowflame 
  12. (or the "+" key) Dark Intent
These are all what I would call "Active" abilities (except for perhaps Demon Armor).  I'm using a SteelSeries MercStealth keyboard, which means 1-10 are all accessible to my left hand.  There is a thumb button that is perfect for holding in Alt.  So basically, I have all that I don't want to click at my fingertips.  You may notice that 3 and 6 both have Soulburn on them.  This is because I may flip flop those two, depending on if I end up using FF to keep UA up, or use a full UA refresh.  I am also contemplating putting RoF and SoC on one button now in order to put my banish macro on a button.  Currently it's clickable.

Which brings me to the clickable buttons.  I use the default pet stuff to control my pet.  I believe you can still use control to trigger these, but I am not a micromanager.  Clicking suffices.  Otherwise, I have four vertical buttons to the left of my step, and one additional 1-10 (not numerically bound, of course) bar across the top.  If anyone is wondering, I use Dominos, but really any bar addon can do most of what I use it for.  These buttons are not necessarily in order, and I'll move them around depending on what makes sense for me.

Up the left:
  • Banish/Focus Macro
  • Fear/Focus Macro
  • Teleport Drop
  • Teleport To
Across the Top:
  • Summon Demon
  • Summon Infernal
  • Summon Doomguard
  • Soul Link
  • Demon Soul - (Sub Button)
  • Hellfire - For suicide or just to freak healers out
  • Soulshatter - Also bound to a number on my numpad so I can bash it if need be.
  • Shadow Ward
  • Summoning Stone
  • Apply Soulstone
  • Use Healthstone
  • Any fight specific ability here
Will sub in or out depending on fight:
  • Unending Breath
  • Health Funnel
Across the top of my screen I have a dimmed bar that contains all my professions and the create soulstone/healthstone spells.

It's a lot to juggle, being an Affliction Warlock.  Our toolbox keeps expanding, and it's good to try to get as many of those near your fingers as possible.  Obviously, I'm not a clicker.  I use my right hand for mousing, movement, and keying in to speak.  Basically, I have two mouse buttons.  One is my vent key and the other is for a mount.  You can hold down both buttons to run, and obviously you can work the camera.  Basic stuff, but worth mentioning.  All the magic happens with my left hand.  

What to Watch For
So what are these research opportunities we have?  I'm going to try to summarize them to kick of a discussion in comments.  There are several debatable issues right now that, while we may have a general idea of what is "best", I don't think they've necessarily been set in stone.  At the very least, you can think of this part as your Affliction Warlock FAQ:
  • Do we keep up the ISF buff, or simply pop it when we can Soulburn? - I think the answer is leaning towards keeping it up.  That means weaving a full SF cast in roughly every 15s.  Unless you get to use one of your instants, that is.  Or you're in heroism (because it doesn't stack).  I would suggest burning and instant right away to get set up.  Finally, I don't think we should worry about this under 25% when we're draining.
  • Do we refresh UA with UA or FF when over 25%? - I want to use FF.  I've heard a lot of contrary arguments in comments here.  See Monday's post.  Right now I think this boils down to personal opinion.
  • Do we use a Succubus of Felhunter at 85? - Unless your group makes extensive use of Seduction, Felpup is the way to go.  Demon Soul is more effective with a Felhunter, though the Succy isn't terrible.  Of course, you have to be sure to use Demon Soul too, whenever it's off cooldown.  I may end up macro'ing the spell with my trinkets or something.
  • When to AoE? - We used to say 3 or more (when not using CC).  I'm curious if this might have changed with Soul Swap.  I find better numbers using SS on most packs unless it's a huge group (like when little packs swarm you or whatever).  Don't be afraid to "not" AoE.  It really has seemed to decrease in effectiveness and is a mana hog.  
  • But how do I Soul Swap effectively? - There's no easy rule for this.  For fights where I know the skull is going down quick, I'll throw up my three DoTs on it and then swap to x and go full bore on x.  You have to be careful with aggro though since the tank isn't likely to look for that.  In a raid, it's not as bad since you usually have a dedicated tank for x.  It's almost like I stay one target ahead for faster stuff.  For slower stuff, you don't really want to give up your Drain Soul ticks, but you want to make sure you don't forget to "inhale" too.  I generally cast my inhale of SS right before entering the 25% phase on trash and then exhale as soon as the bugger drops.  Also, keep an eye out for situations with two primary targets when you can use SS every time as soon as it's off CD to effectively DPS two targets.  Good stuff, love this spell
Any other questions you can think of?  Where do you stand on the FAQs?  Did I miss a key spell on my buttons?  Is this helpful enough to link on the left side (at least until I clean it up and put it in guide form)?


  1. I actually heard on EJ that they took off the Soulburn bonus for UA. Have you been able to use it? I haven't had a chance to test it since I haven't been running dungeons for the past week or so.

    I hear ya on the Demonology thing though - I was maining it for a while and now I'm finding that I'm more comfortable going back to Affliction for dungeons again. It's great for soloing but I'm really an Affliction lock at heart. Soul Swap is too sexy to resist.

    I think the UA vs FF thing is largely dependent on your haste rating and personal comfort level. It's a matter of which one is easier for you, more GCDs to juggle or more cast times to juggle? Higher haste makes that less of a concern and with Blizzard's new focus on HASTE EVERYWHERE I'd say it really just boils down to which one you're more comfortable with. Leaning toward FF for places like Throne of Tides though. Kind of wish we had it for Nexus.

    I... don't know what to think about the whole Soul Fire thing. I mean, I'm moving away from Demonology for a reason. I don't like burst. Demo is bursty. Soul Fire is bursty. Bursty (outside of Shadow Bolt) in Afflic feels.. wrong. Bursty with ridiculously long cast time that hasn't really been reduced through talents feels even more wrong. I might be able to put up with it through Soul Burn but then that limits my usage in longer boss pulls. But I'm not raiding so maybe it doesn't matter. I'unno.

    I might steal your general keybind setup. Right now I have way too many keys and it would probably be more effective. Any excuse to cut down on the number of action bars. I've been avoiding mod macros because all of my action bars are keybound with those mod buttons but maybe I should change that habit.

  2. There was a burn bonus for UA? Or were you talking about the bonus from Demon Soul with a Felhunter? I haven't trolled EJ lately...

    /agree with you about Soul Fire. I really don't want to have to weave in the long cast time. I wouldn't mind if it was used like a trinket whenever soulburn was off cooldown (and you had shards), but I like to flow through buttons, and SF totally disrupts the flow.

    I realized I did make one minor goof on my keybinds. I actually have Soul Harvest bound to Alt on the "0" key, and Demon Soul just on a bar to be clickable. I may actually swap that around since SH is purely out of combat.

  3. Burn bonus originally for UA, yeah. That was back when it was first released though, they took it out a while back and now I don't even remember what it did. I don't know why they took it out either. Other than the whole "HEY LET'S NERF LOCKS NOW" deal.

    I'm considering macroing SF and SB together for a trinket-like button, which might convince me to use it. Then throw SS onto NeedToKnow or something. But then I'd actually have to set up NeedToKnow. Lazy. >_>

    I'm curious about your UI all of a sudden. Care to share through a screenshot or is it a secret? :P

  4. Ah, yeah I don't even remember that. Probably missed the news in the first place.

    I'm also thinking about macro'ing Demon Soul in to something too. I'm not sure how I want to use that yet.

    I did a UI pic/post way back in May. ( Depending on how much time this weekend I may try to get a more current screenie and make a short post about it. I'm afk for the week next week until after Christmas, so we'll see, but it hasn't changed a whole lot apart from shuffling things around to make use of the new spells.

  5. I've macro'd Soul Burn to Soul Fire. Boss fights in heroics last for longer than 1.5 minutes, so I just hit the macro when it's off cooldown and I know I'll be able to get a few hasted Shadow Bolts in. I also find the idea of maintaining the ISF buff full time repulsive, so I don't bother.

    I tend to roll with my Succubus in heroics (glyping Lash of Pain). It's great having another CC option for times when things go to hell, or, if you're the only one in the party with reliable CC. Plus, she's got way more personality than the felpup!

  6. Yeah, I'm leaning toward using the ISF buff more as a trinket than trying to keep it up... at least for now. I'm not nearly comfortable enough with the rotation to add the long cast time. It's a hassle juggling all the different spells, plus a couple new cooldowns to watch. Perhaps eventually I will pay more attention, but for now I think it is better for me to focus on other aspects of the rotation.

    I actually brought my Felpup out for some instance runs this weekend. I like the utility of the Succy when Soloing, but it's hard to plan Demon Soul effectively in a group setting. It seemed like every time I'd pop it, something would make me move so that I couldn't get in more than one or two s-bolt nukes before the buff faded. With the Felpup, your DoT damage is increased, and those should be rolling anyways, so it seemed pretty sweet. It's hard to go back to the Succy after that.

  7. I'll take the dog for a walk this weekend and see how he fares, I just think it's great that we actually have a choice to make regarding pet usage!

    That's a good point regarding demon soul, some boss fights are quite static but there are many that require a good deal of movement.

    I stepped into the Arena for the first time in Cata last night. DoTs are ridiculously powerful on people that don't have any/much resilience yet. These first few weeks before people are really geared are a great time to try it out if you've ever considered it. I discovered much to my delight that I can command my Succy to seduce someone while I am CCed myself. There's nothing quite like seducing a dirty destro lock while he has me currently locked down with his Succubus.