Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shake That Shadow Maker

I received a rather interesting comment for consideration yesterday. It was on my "No Beta" post, asking a pretty specific question. Namely: As an Affliction Warlock, how do you manage heavy-movement fights? The commenter, Sibylle, pointed out that there didn't seem to be many guides or help-articles around the blogosphere covering this topic. Thus, I decided I'd give it the old college try.

I guess I should start out with the caveats. Any too-good-to-be-true offer has fine print, right? Why should this potentially helpful article be different?

In my best legal radio announcer's voice: /deep breath. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author who, though having played an Affliction Warlock for many years is no longer raiding. His raid group dissolved and he has yet to finish the DS fights, which is probably really sad. Still, he's making the most of it by, well, waiting for the next expansion. The point here is that he may not be on the up-and-up about the newer fights. /deep breath

Sibylle asks specifically about Morchok, which I've actually done a decent amount, so I should be able to help there. Also, I think a lot of what I'll say is generally applicable. Still, I know I have a couple more-shadowy-than-I Warlocks lurking out there that may know things I've missed. (Poneria of the Blood Pact, I'm looking at you. I'll beta-read for you any time, just shoot me an email. You're a rock star in my grimoire. Also, you're blocked at work, hence why you're getting the comment here, in the middle of an article. Convenient, no?) Feel free to help our fellow 'lock out in the comments with some specific tips on DS fights.

If memory serves, on Morchok the basic idea is that you have a small bunch of ranged that are on "shard duty." They have to close with a randomly spawning shard to decrease damage, and do it quickly. Also, there's the whole run-behind-a-rock phase as well. Those are pretty much the two "problem zones," right? (I'm going to assume that most of the folks reading this know what to do if you're just standing there, not chasing anything. If not, check out my guides and feel free to ask questions to that effect.)

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot you can do running to the shard. It spawns randomly, making it hard to anticipate. Your raid leader can help by positioning folks to minimize the running. That is, we used to just spread out as ranged, and the three nearest did the running. Sometimes, they assign runners though, and if you're one of them and a shard doesn't spawn nearby, it's going to suck.

Even in the worst case, we can do a few things. You have Fel Fire to keep UA up. Corr and BoA/D are instant, so you can keep those up. That alone should keep you from bottoming out. If you get a lucky nightfall proc, that's a bonus. The general idea when running is to keep an eye on all of your instants. Don't let them fall off. Sometimes it goes against the stand-and-sling rotation, I know. For instance, you may want to clip your DoTs (*gasp*), but look at it this way: anything you take care of while running is something you don't have to take care of while standing. It may not be mana-ideal, but you can keep DPS flowing and that's your #1 job.

While running to the shard sucks, running back should be the easy part. I mean, you did drop your demonic portal, right? Right?! If not, it's okay, that's one of my fails, too. After the first run of shame back to your starting point, you'll be like: oh yeah, I should drop that. The portal lets you get back to point A in a green flash, and back to casting right away. Proper portal use is key to minimizing problem zones in a fight. Clever use can almost always boost your deeps.

Bonus, the portal can help you in the hide-behind-a-rock phase, too. He'll yank you in, you port back out. Generally, this lets me find a rock earlier and, in some case, find a space that lets me still DPS the boss. This trick is dependent on lucky rock placement. You have to get it where the safe, non-ink zone allows you to stand and not be LOS'ed from the boss. Porting out, giving yourself more time to look for a spot, only improves your odds.

So, the crux (horcrux?) of performing on the run seems to be possible to distill to two main points:
  1. Pay attention to your instants. Refresh on the run what you can, freeing up more standing time for cast-time only spells.
  2. Figure out the best use of your Demonic Portal. This will vary between fights and mechanics, but can usually go a long ways to smoothing out the dead zones in your DPS. It is almost always worth dropping, even if you forget before the fight.
By focusing and improving in those two areas, I've generally been able to out-perform my companions. Affliction 'locks have a bit of a perk when it comes to movement fights, as we can keep up a full contingent of DoTs even on the move. We only miss out on the filler spam, really, and generally I'll spam Fel Fire if all my instants are in good shape. Again, you have to be careful about mana consumption, as you'll probably need to tap after Fel Fire spam, but if your health is not in jeopardy, it shouldn't be a problem (plus it's another thing we can do on the run).

I'll touch on one more trick before I wrap this up. Soul Swap is a great spell to remember to use. A lot of fights combine movement with refocusing on a second target. Sometimes this is adds, sometimes the head, or leg, or whatever. Affliction Warlocks are going to suck on anything short lived (fair warning), but if you just need to bump over sustained DPS (think of the dogs in the Shannox fight), proper use of SS can be a solid bump to the deeps. The inhale lasts for longer than you think, so it's often possible to suck in the dots, let the new thingy spawn, and then exhale on the run (both are instants).

Hopefully this helps. It's not so much a guide as a springboard for specific ideas. The keys can vary widely from fight to fight (especially with portal placement and SS usage), but the basic ideas are the same. Sibylle (and others), if there are other specific fights that are hamstringing you (I think I covered Morchok well enough?), feel encouraged to mention them in comments. Me, or other more shadowy readers will likely have a few tips and tricks. This is a great topic, and a place where I feel like Aff'locks can shine, but definitely requires clever play.


  1. This is brilliant and spot-on, thanks a million! I can't believe how many creative uses of the Demon Portal I DIDN'T think of so far. But then, my raiding main is a holy priest...

    I'm looking forward to putting it all into practice over the next week or so. My 'lock girl is really growing on me :-)

  2. Great. I'm glad it helped!

    Basically, anytime you find yourself running back to a previous spot, "demonic portal" should probably ring in your mind. Some placements are more clever than others. Also, another little tip: when you return to the portal, you will be facing the same direction you were facing WHEN YOU DROPPED IT. Ideally, you want that facing the boss. For whatever reason, I sometimes end up backward because I was looking at the group or something when I set stuff up.

  3. Good to know, thanks!
    Oh, another thing: Would you believe I hadn't even keybound Fel Flame so far *blush*. I guess I'm really a noob at this class.

    Btw: I think Soul Shards should be called Horcruxes, after all they're created in exactly the same way xD

  4. They block freebie Wordpress where you work? Well, mageballs. You still know how to mingle with the felguard, right? It's mostly demo I end up with an article going, "bbbuuhhhhhh, talking outta my ass here."

  5. I also stagger-cast as an affliction warlock, especially for the shorter casts like Haunt and UA. Stagger cast = cast, run ~5yds, cast, run ~5yds, etc. It's more useful in long runs where you outrun an effect or don't have to get to a spot right away (like the crystal) rather than when you need solid running (running from the black crap Morchok throws out).

    But yeah, the Portal. :3 Use your portal to cheat various running things -- returning to ranged after Zon'ozz's black phase = I get to set off a Shadowflame as people are leaving AND beat them back to the ranged spot.

    1. I've been practising stagger-casting on Mannoroth, during Fel Firestorm. Very useful, especially since UA and Haunt tend to fall off first during movement. Glad to see I'm doing something right!

  6. @Syb - I've always liked Fel Flame, maybe because it's green, but it doesn't always get mentioned in warlocky articles. Hardcasting UA is generally better--FF is a mana-suck, but it has its uses.

    @Pone - Yeah, I may not be the best beta reader in the world. I generally don't deal with the new stuff until it's 100%... which usually means it's gone live. Sort of a personal policy since getting excited about proposed changes left me disappointed more often than not. Still, I'd like to think I could catch major goofs (and the more eyes the shadowy-er, right?). Feel free to shoot it to my email.

    Stagger-cast is a great tip, too. I didn't really touch on that, but is key for some of the fights where you may have a lot more leeway.

  7. Oh, and our work filter is one of those content-based ones. Basically, new blogs are okay until it does a caching of things... then it targets words like "gaming" or "World of Warcraft." It ends up seeming sort of arbitrary (some blogs get it, some don't, regardless of platform).

    I hate it. It represents all that is soulless and wrong in my corporate world. And that says something, because usually I'm a fan of "soulless."

  8. I use a 5 button mouse and have mapped button 4 to fel-fire for that very reason. I can run, mouse-steer and cast FF all without moving my hands. Button 5 is soulburn, which I typically combine with soul fire (middle button, aka click mouse wheel) for yet dps cast; was great when playing Destro, not so much in Demo or Affliction.

  9. Which brings up another good point: sometimes the setup has as much to do with it as anything else.

    For my part, I'm using a SteelSeries MercStealth gaming keyboard. All of my number buttons are easily accessible above the movement buttons. I use a combination of the forward ("W") key and double-mouse button running. I don't have much bound to my mouse, but the spells are all right there for my left hand.

  10. Thanks all for the great advice. I'm taking notes here!

  11. I'm probably late to this but make sure when you are behind the rocks you get to where you can keep casting. There are spots to where the black bad doesn't hit and you will still be in range of the boss.

    The easiest way to handle the crystal is to have the 3 people stack up, the crystal spawns on people at range. So if everyone is stacked in one spot it will spawn closer and you won't have to run so far.

    In heroic you want to make use of your soul swap and get both bosses dotted up. We move the 2nd boss over to the side and I am kept too far away from it to keep my dots up on him. Make sure you get your curse of the elements up for the other raid members and hit your soulburn once both are dotted.

    If you need help with other fights I can give tips on those too.

  12. Probably, but we'll take the freely offered advice. :-)

    Although, in my experience, even if you stack 3 ranged people, it can spawn randomly near the melee group too. Maybe we just weren't tight enough on the boss or something, but the 3 stacked at range strat just didn't seem to play out for us.

    Soulburn! Did I mention that as an instant? I don't think so. Yeah, that's a good one to throw in on the run. I routinely forget it.

    1. Soulburn is good to use when you don't have your 4 piece. If you have your 4 piece you should be using it on every cooldown.

      As for the crystal, your melee need to remain at max melee range and then you only have the 3 soakers out at range, if not, then you get a crystal in melee.

    2. Yep... I do not have the 4 piece. I just got my, um, 1-piece last night. And promptly transmogged my tentacle-face. :-)