Thursday, December 13, 2012

Slinging Shadow in Mists

Okay. So here is my attempt at organizing my somewhat disparate thoughts about the current method of Affliction Warlock Spellslinging. Eventually, I'm going to organize this information into a primer to replace the outdated articles that I have on the left. At that point, I'm sure it'll be too late to be of help to anyone. Still, I'm doing this as much for myself as any of the rest of you. Now that I'm level 90 and starting to gear up, I need to know how to play proper-like, if only so as not to embarrass myself in group settings.

Let me set one expectation straight here: My goal with this is not to become a top raider or anything like that. The idea is to capture a basic foundation of what I believe to be a respectable way to play the class I love. There are always things one could do better, but let's agree to discuss what we believe every "core" Aff'lock should do. With that being said, here we go...

A lot has changed in MoP. The Warlock class has been redesigned. I think they did a great job of keeping the old flavor that I loved about the class, and mixing it with some new niceties that fix long-endured issues.

Buffing was simplified. Dark Intent has become a buff that should always be up, and much simpler than the days where we used to need to choose which class to link with. When you've got an active pet, you should keep your Soul Link up as well. Outside of that, you have your normal choices of food and flask that generally aim to buff our major stats, and that will be important when raiding, but outside of competitive group environments, these are optional. A good Warlock will always keep goodies on hand that buff one of our top three stats. (I'll do a dive into stats later. For now, Int, Haste, and Mastery are all good choices.)

Once we're buffed, we should look to the spells we're going to keep up during a fight. There are two major phases of any combat situation for Affliction Warlocks. One is above 25% health, the second is under 25% health. There's a third option, and that is AoE fights. I'll cover all three.

Above 25% Health, Single Target
Haunt > Curse of the Elements > Soulburn+Soul Swap > Maelific Grasp Filler > Fel Fire Refresh

We want to lead off with our "buff" spells that improve DoT damage. I don't always do this (because of laziness), but this makes sure that every tick benefits from their application. I would advocate leading off with Haunt since it has a "fly time," applying only after it has traveled from your hand and hit the target. Thus, after the Global Cool Down, CotE and H can hit almost simultaneously.

I like to use SB+SS to pop all my DoTs once, but if you're shard starved, you can put them up manually. And when I say "DoTs," I'm talking about what I like to call the Big Three: Corruption, Unstable Affliction, and Agony. The primary goal of Affliction DPS is going to be to keep those Big Three rolling as much as possible. Our DoT up time on any given fight should exceed 90%. If you're learning Affliction, focus your efforts here first.

I will use Fel Fire to refresh Corr and UA. It adds a direct damage component, and the GCD's wash out when you consider you only get half of the time you would get with a manual refresh (but would have to manually refresh two spells, so you get two for the price of one). The only caveat to FF usage is if there is a fight where we're mana starved, as it is not the most mana-efficient path. Manual refreshing would be better then. Agony is a manual refresh all the way, and try to keep it at 10 stacks (by not letting it fall off).

Goal number 1 is maximizing Big Three up time. Goal number 2, then, would be to maximize the up time of our filler and thus minimize "non-damaging" down time. We will want to try to keep Haunt up as much as possible, but will likely be shard-limited to some extent, so we should simply do our best. More important, maybe, is weaving in as much MG as possible. MG is the spell that replaced our old Shadowbolt filler. MG is tied much more strongly to DoTs, increasing its importance as filler. The more we can keep MG rolling (without letting other things drop off), the better our DPS numbers are going to look.

And that's pretty much it for >25%. It's a lot simpler than in years past. If you feel like you are doing sub-par DPS, my first advice would be to check your up times. I've had a few discussions about that here, and I think we're looking at average up times of >90% on the Big Three, ~50% for Haunt (generally less), and ~40% for MG (fight/situation dependent, and 40 is probably a lofty goal). These are just rules of thumb, and your mileage may vary, but can provide you with a frame of reference and basis for improvement.

Below 25% Health, Single Target
We're pretty much doing the same stuff here. Keeping the Big Three rolling. Keeping Haunt up. The big switch is that instead of MG filler, we'll switch to using Drain Soul. DrS can have some pretty massive ticks under 25%, so it is totally worth using. Simply replace MG with DrS. Since DrS ticks a lot slower, this is where an addon that shows ticks (like Quartz) can be helpful. Try to weave your various refreshers right after ticks have occurred. (You could do the same with MG, but it does not have as much of an impact since the ticks are faster and the overall spell is shorter).

I try to make use of our Dark Soul buff just prior to entering this phase. I do not believe that DaS stacks with effects like Heroism, so you may want to use the buff differently depending on when the group buffs come out. For most fights, I could use DaS at the beginning, and probably somewhere in the middle as well. I believe it has a 2 min cooldown, so a studious 'lock would be able to get ~3 uses out of it per fight. I am not a studious 'lock. I routinely forget about it, so I just try to make sure I use it at least once per fight, and I want to make sure that when I want to use it, it is ready to go. This is a personal preference. No doubt many of you do much better than me.

Finally, I have my Doomguard macro'ed to my DaS key, so whenever I pop the buff, I also bring out my bonus pet. Make sure you use this guy once per fight. It has a longer cooldown, so you're not going to be able to generally weave him in any more. I save my punches for the end, but there may be circumstance where you want to blow this stuff earlier. Maybe a tricky part where some bonus DPS is needed. Your call.

Area of Effect, Multiple Targets
Previously, we've always tried to define a certain number of units where utilizing AoE spells becomes preferable to simply trying to keep up DoTs on multiple targets. I think it may fall between 3 and 4 mobs. With 3 or fewer, you want to do single target stuff (perhaps using SS to run your Big Three on multiple targets). With 4 or more, you'll want to switch to AoE spells. For the Affliction Warlock, this means a SB+CotE (so that Elements gets put on all of the enemies), then following with a SS+Seed of Corruption (this will apply Corruption to all targets hit by the exploding seed). Plant your seed on the target with the most health, and push it toward explosion (it has a damage done trigger). I like to throw out a Drain Life here (with the AoE talent). It's probably better (when health is of no concern), to channel RoF or just do direct damage to the target to get your seed to explode. An alternate method would be to spread more seeds around while waiting for the explosion to get a chain of explosions. While this is great fun, I don't think you should do it if you've spread Corruption out, as SoC and Corr don't mix. That is, one replaces the other (still, right?).

One of the major reason I like to use the Drain Life approach is that spamming your AoE abilities will drain your mana ridiculously fast. Drain Life is a lot more mana efficient, though it doesn't pack the wallop of the others. Just something to consider. This is how I like to AoE and I think it is a solid approach. I wouldn't worry too much about being the master of AoE. Aff'locks are kings of sustained, single target damage. Let the mages deal with pesky groups.

So this summarizes my approach to Affliction Warlockery. See any major goofs? How do you do things differently and why? Consider this my first draft, so I'd love to fix any errors you notice. Like I said, this is more for me than all of you, since you're all pros already, right?


  1. The ability is called Dark Soul. Honestly I would use it on cool down. The fights in raids are long enough that you should be able to get at least 2-3 sometimes even 4 applications of the spell off per fight.

    I believe that as of now you only want enough haste to make break points then you go straight for mastery.

    Other than that it is a pretty solid guide. :D

  2. As far as I can tell (from looking at the debuffs on the target) Seed of Corruption and Corruption can be on a target at the same time - which is a change from Cata and prior.

  3. Fixed. Thanks. Derp.

    Haste has always worked like a stair step. I generally rely on a gear site (Mr. Robot) for that. I'll dig more into that when I discuss stats.

    I may upgrade to more DaS uses. It's mostly a function of laziness and forgetfulness. I can remember it's there at 25%, but I always forget otherwise. Perhaps I should macro it like I do with my trinkets? Then, I would lose some control over when to apply it, but it would be used whenever it was off CD. Hmm...

    I'm going to play around with that before the final draft and amend accordingly.

  4. @Jacob - If that's so, then seeding around is better than using RoF probably. It would definitely represent a change. Still, both RoF and SoC drain mana, so I might still use DL as "filler" in an AoE rotation. Maybe just intersperse it more...

  5. Looking nice! There are a few mistakes.

    First off, soul link as it is now is a death trap. The only time warlocks will take soul link is when they are talenting into Grimore of Sacrifice. They summon the Voidwalker and then sacrifice him. This then gives you a 20% health buff and your MG, DS, Haunt, and FF hit 25% harder. Sacrificing the Voidwalker also gives you access to his Shadow Bulwark ability - a 30% health buff for 20secs every 2 mins...similar to Last Stand for warriors. It can be a lifesaver while raiding.

    Affliction locks will always take the soulshard glyph and Dark Soul glyph. 3rd is an option.

    There is no sticky on the warlock forums but I have read numerous times the following stat priorites and haste thresholds from reputable locks.


    This means go for 4198 haste and then reforge everything for Mastery. But if you are close to 4717, reforge to meet that haste threshhold.

    The interesting thing is that Hit doesn't need to be capped at 15% anymore for affliction locks. Our dots are so weak by themselves that its okay to miss one. But some locks are uncomfortable with missing a Haunt and are still ingrained to be hit-capped (like me :)). And considering that you have to be hit-capped for Destruction, it seems better to be capped. But currently I am only running with just above 14% hit, and most locks tend to stay between 13-15% hit. Gear will cap me soon though...yeah!

    Drain Soul is no longer from 25%. It is from 20%. Also Doomguard supposedly hits harder from 20%.

    Fel Flame is a mana drain. And until patch 5.1, we still used it on the move. But as of 5.1, the 6th tier talent - Kil'Jaedon Cunning had its spell casting slow taken out. You still get a movement debuff, but you can channel MG or DS while moving now. Leave it on passive always..and go test it at a dummy. It's amazing!

    The hard thing I find for KJC is that my mind is still set to move while casting Corruption and Agony and plant my feet while channeling.

    Cheers :)

    1. It appears that using Dark Soul glyph is a dps loss. So I have learned something new. So the only /required glyph for a raiding affliction warlock is the Soul Shard glyph. My apologies for the mistake.

    2. Thanks for following up. Is there a tipping point for the glyph? Like is the "DPS loss" assuming we are diligent in using DaS every time it is off CD?

      (i.e. - What if you're a derp like me and only really use it once per fight? I wonder if the glyph would be worth it then...)

    3. lol. really should be using Dark Soul on cooldown...with an intellect proc if possible. I don't recommend it, but you can aways macro Dark Soul to Haunt or some other spell. Better to use it than not :)

      p.s. for fun, there is an item called Wind Chimes..makes a nice sound. you can macro those to Haunt, too. Kind of nifty to be playing music mid-fight.

    4. Yeah. I just need to be more diligent. In a more organized raid environment, I'd probably be better. In LFR (especially running it for the first time), I'm generally too busy finding my butt with both hands. :-)

    5. We all play to enjoy. And with that, it means playing at our own pace. Nothing wrong with that.

    6. Right on :-)

  6. Dang. Fine print!

    Obviously I didn't really research all the changes, so some of the sneakier ones surprise me. I guess the Soul Link thing is okay, though seems dumb to use, like you said. I need to fix my glyphs for sure. Haste plateaus are nothing new, so that's "meh." The hit thing I've read about and bugs me (like you) just because of like... tradition. The DS at 20% totally caught me by surprise though. That sucks! I definitely have the same problem with KJC, but I've not really had mana problems with using FF. Admittedly, I'm not in very long fights, so that may change with experience.

    That's all for now, but definitely still have some work to do! Thanks!

    1. It's nice to see someone putting together a guide for warlocks. There is no friendly guide out there as of now. The information is there, but it's spread all over. It's like searching through page after page of EJ just to find one bit of information.

      So cheers to you for making something for aspiring warlocks.

    2. Thanks! I'm glad it'll be helpful for others, too. :-)

  7. I tend to follow your AoE rotation but I continue to throw seeds around whilst a SS seed is ticking to put Corruption on everything. It may mean I finish the pack on low mana but that's where Soul Tap comes in. And then a friendly healer can top me off or I munch on a stone.
    For Dark Soul, I bind this to my Haunt so that I automatically use it as much as possible. I also have a big icon pop up in my face when it is off CD to remind me to use it. So you could try that.
    Oh, and try the AffDots addon. It's awesome for timing DOT refreshing.

    1. Yeah. Spreading seeds is probably the best way. I don't put a whole lot of importance on maximizing my AoE DPS, since they artificially limit it based on number of targets anyway. (There's a max damage that gets evenly distributed, right? I think that's how they did it in the past.)

      Have you (or anyone) seen any math that attempts to explain if (when using the glyph) retaining the passive bonus from Dark Soul is worth it when compared to popping it every time it is off CD (I would assume you wouldn't use the glyph in your case).

      A big icon is always useful :-).

      Thanks for the feedback!