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 Eventually, I'm going to organize this information into a primer to replace the outdated articles that I have on the left.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?
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