I've never had a rote answer, preferring instead to feel out the individual and try to see where they might be struggling. Then, I can usually offer some tailored tips. Not always, but sometimes. This approach has served me well, and--let's face it--I'm not exactly the hub of all things warlockerly. That is to say, my inbox isn't exactly overflowing with these sorts of requests, they just sometimes happen.
Now that I'm 90, I've turned my thoughts toward group performance. While you're leveling, I don't much see the need to min/max. Gear will be replaced a lot, and quests don't generally provide you a long DPS burn period with which to accurately gauge performance. Sure, you could point to your numbers in dungeons, but even then I do not think all classes level up equally, so the balance at 89 is likely different than 90.
An alternative way of saying the same thing is that we know Blizz balances at max level. Those are the numbers they're likely most concerned with. Thus, everything below that can be viewed with a level of healthy skepticism.
So, I'm now 90, I have no more excuses (manufactured or not) for disregarding my performance. But how to gauge? Whereas in Cataclysm we had about -5 changes (yes, that's a negative), MoP has revamped the class in almost all areas. The essentials like "using DoTs" are still there, but everything from the method of application to the method of refreshment has changed greatly.
The problem I've always had with simple looking at a meter and saying "well, I came in third so I have work to do" is that such an approach doesn't explain very well where you might be failing. Affliction Warlocks have always been a bastion of spell slinging complexity. Our spells are designed to weave together and provide a very level state of sustained damage. This is both blessing and curse (HA! CURSE!).
The blessing is that even when I don't have the highest DPS, I generally put out the most overall damage. The curse is that if you aren't weaving quite right, your damage can plummet pretty quickly. I always envision Warlock damage as sort of a ski-slope with damage on the "y" and execution ability on the "x." Good Warlock execution has always been rewarded by solid numbers. (Unlike, say, my old Frost DK where I felt sometimes that I could faceroll my way to solid numbers.)
Typically, my current rotation functions something like this:
- SB+SS to get the Big Three up.
- MG filler
- Maintain DoTs
- Maintain Haunt
I realize folks would suggest putting CotE and Haunt up first. If you're using SB+SS to initiate, by the time that both CotE and Haunt get up, everything has ticked maybe once. Over the course of a >30s fight, one missed tick is a total wash. Do the napkin math if you don't believe me. Let me be clear: the order you initiate is NOT your biggest area of concern if you're playing at my level (read: not super hardcore, but just want to do well).
What is then? Well, quite simply: Up time. This has always been the case with Aff'locks. The closer you can get to 100% up time on your various buffs/debuffs is going to be the biggest and clearest marker of DPS performance. Feel like your DPS is low? The very first place I would check is my up time.
To facilitate discussion, Evil Accomplice and I viewed one of her logs from a very early raid where she'd just started running Affliction. Immediately, two things came to mind to look out for:
- She was probably not super comfortable with the rotation.
- She was probably not super comfortable with the fight mechanics.
In my opinion, those are the two biggest things that commonly cause a problem with up time. Impressively, her Big Three were all over 90% up time. I think (because I've not done extensive play testing yet) that this is pretty good. It used to be where I could only reliably keep Corr up over the 90% mark, and the others were generally close. On good days, keeping all the DoTs over 90% was generally a good indication of stellar performance.
With the new rotation, I think the Big Three should be easier to keep up, even when uncomfortable (it's a little easier to focus on them now, I think). The lack of comfort is going to shake it's way down to inefficient shard management and interrupted channeling. Or, more specifically, look for poor up time on MG and Haunt.
Evil Accomplice's Haunt was sub 50% and MG was something like 15%. I'm not sure what to bench mark for those. What would "good" up time look like for them? After all, they're not going to be 90%, no way. Haunt maybe, but we're definitely not going to be constantly channeling. And there's the whole sub 25% health DS thing to consider.
This has already gotten a bit long-winded, so I'm going to wrap it up with some generic advice. Should Evil Accomplice want to improve her DPS performance, I'd tell her to try to find ways to increase Haunt and MG up time. Especially Haunt.
This is where weaving comes in. If Haunt is not being kept up and you say "yeah, well, I just don't have enough shards." We have the chance to get shards refunded from MG, right? In a way, Haunt and MG are inextricably tied together as filler. Do poorly with one and you'll likely hurt the other. And Haunt has been buffed so that it's damage is pretty significant I think.
When we're uncomfortable, we can probably keep our Big Three up, but our filler is going to suffer. Back in the day, we used to pay attention to how many shadowbolts we squeezed in. This was a fairly decent approximation of Aff'lock performance (at least when you live somewhere between "newb" and "hardcore"). Now, I would advise aspiring 'locks to check out their MG/Haunt statistics. Improve those and see if your DPS doesn't respond accordingly.
This is all just conjecture. I'd really like to put my shadow where my mouth is (or something) and test the theory. Unfortunately, I've got quite a bit of gearing to do before I'll be invited to raids (even the LFR!). Some of you raiding 'locks out there... check this out. Let me know what you think. I may be completely wrong here, but it seems logical, right?