Friday, December 21, 2012

Affliction Warlock Glyphs

5 comments
I promised a quick break down of my glyphs this week, so here we go. There's not nearly as much to say about this section as there was about the rotation, but feel free to chime in with any tips/corrections. I'll plop this draft into my on-going primer (with links!) sometime over the holiday break.

For major glyphs, I'm going with:
Soul Shard is the only "required" glyph on that list. Having the extra shard makes a huge difference. Siphon Life is perhaps the second most common choice, as the extra health is good juju. Dark Soul, however, is probably pretty questionable. Currently, I'm taking it because I don't do a good job of using my DaS buff whenever it is off cooldown. At some point in the future, if I improve, I will likely replace this with Soul Swap. Rumor has it that the DaS glyph results in a DPS loss, but I need to look into the conditions of that statement. Obviously, if you never use DaS, it would no longer represent a loss. I imagine there must be some tipping point between "constantly" and "never" where the DPS loss kicks in. 

I'm pretty ambivalent about Soul Swap. I wish we had another good major glyph. With SB+SS, I just generally don't see the need for the glyph. As long as you judiciously throw in your Drain Soul prior to the death of things, shards don't seem to be a problem. And when you're not dealing with quick dying adds, you're not swapping a whole lot. Still, there is some use for allowing you to essentially DPS more than one sustained target, when such a situation arises.

Down in the minors, we have:
The first two are simple cosmetic effects. If I were doing a lot of underwater stuff, I'd plop Unending Breath in Soulwell's place. It seems as if every underwater questing area gives you a convenient buff these days, though, so I never ended up using it. The spheres are just because I wanted to look like a sparkly vampire.

The Eye glyph is pretty useful, especially prior to obtaining my MoP flight license. It can allow you to teleport to places where you wouldn't otherwise have been able to reach. It's not really an in-combat thing, but fun and useful when exploring which is more than I can say for those other glyphs. 

Does anyone else feel like Warlocks always get the most boring glyphs?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

MoP Affliction Warlock Primer Started

5 comments
I published the rough draft of my rotation post last week and got some great feedback. I've taken that, updated things as needed, and plugged it into what will become my MoP Affliction Warlock Primer Page. It is linked up there on the top left of the page where my old guides used to be.

The eventual goal is to have everything in there I need to be a competent Affliction Warlock. Right now, we just have the rotational discussion. I'm planning to publish a rough draft about glyphs before this week ends. Stats and spec will be covered eventually as well. If there are any other key topics I've missed, I'm definitely open to adding a section.

Again, the goal of these articles is not to be a hardcore raider, but simply to get Affliction Warlocks started. You may want to do things differently, and I encourage anyone and everyone to share these alternate methods along with the rationale behind them. As my old gaffer used to say: "There's more than one way to afflict an orc." He might have been a bit hordist.

In any case, thanks to everyone that commented. Hopefully the primer helps some of the other Warlocks out there that are looking for a simple discussion of (what I consider) the basics. If nothing else, it has helped me hone my own playing. I slapped on the shard glyph last night and, hoo boy, what a difference an extra shard makes. I ran a quick scenario and felt like I was slinging shadow errrrverywhere. It was glorious.

I have to say, I really enjoy where they've taken the class in MoP. Traditionally, I've always viewed changes from Blizz with a healthy skepticism, but I really feel they nailed it in this expansion. They updated and removed a lot of the unpleasant sides of Affliction Warlockery without sacrificing (what I feel to be) the identity of the class. Bravo!

Now I just need to work on those "Coming Soon" areas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Slinging Shadow in Mists

16 comments
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?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Up Time Follow Up

13 comments
A little follow-up from yesterday's post. There was some great discussion in the comments section, but K-bear followed up with some more information for me. She slid a pair of logs across my metaphorical desk. One from her again, and one from another Aff'lock raider in a group she really respects as being "good."

She's been holding down the 3/4 slot on the meters in her raids with ~38k DPS. Solid middle-of-the-pack performance, but because we like to conjecture about all things warlockery, we're going to analyze things.

The other Warlock was also in the 3 spot in his/her raid. In both raids, the top two characters perform over 60k DPS. In Warlock 2's (W2) raid, though, our Warlock is giving chase with ~62k DPS.

Now, first things first. This is not a scientific study we're talking about here. For instance, I'm totally ignoring the gear component here. From our conversations, I'm pretty sure W2 out gears dear K-bear. I'm also ignoring important things like group composition, fight mechanics, etc, etc. There are plenty of important things that I'm just blissfully ignoring, so take this with a grain of fel salt.

The reason this is worth mentioning is because I believe we're comparing two pretty competent Warlock players. One is still sort of getting the feel of Affliction (because she bounces around specs), and the other is probably more comfortable. Here's what I saw.

The Big Three up time was pretty much the same. This is as expected. If we were handing out a "ready to raid" badge for Warlocks, mastery of the Big Three would probably be the primary criteria. As I scrolled down, though, I found some tentative proof of my suspicions. MG up time for W2 was around 40%. K-bear was only hitting around 20% up time for MG. That's a huge difference. Does it account for 24k DPS? Probably not, but I would bet as K-bear gains comfort and increases that MG up time, her DPS shoots up accordingly.

It was interesting that the Haunt up time for both was around 50%. No change, despite the increased MG up time. K admitted that she was a little Haunt happy during the fight, so her 50% may not have been efficiently obtained. Perhaps she would have been served better letting that drop a bit and focusing more on MG.

Like I said, this is just conjecture, but I think it's interesting if you're a raiding Warlock. Hopefully, you can consult your own logs and try to identify places where you can improve. I'd love to get more numbers so that maybe some day we could make a statement like: "Yeah, in typical fights you should have around 40% up time for MG." Or something like that. I don't have enough info yet, and there are a ton of variables that I'm not considering, but I think it provides a good place to focus.

MG is new and integrated even more into our DoTs than Shadowbolts ever were, and figuring out ways to squeeze in more s-bolts used to be a valuable pursuit as far as DPS increase was concerned. The way MG supports our DoTs, it's not simply a matter of added damage from the spell itself, but of the buff to all of our DoTs as well. It's all tied together. Doubling your MG up time should definitely provide a significant DPS increase.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Aff'lock Performance Indicators

20 comments
I was gchatting with a fellow 'lock blogger yesterday (I'll let her identify herself in the comments, should she desire to be known as my Evil Accomplice), and we were primarily conjecturing on the nature of Affliction Warlock DPS. One of the common questions you'll get as a long time class blogger (and I'm sure I'm not alone in this) is from folks wondering "what am I doing wrong?" Generally, this question is centered around raid performance.

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:
  1. SB+SS to get the Big Three up.
  2. CotE
  3. Haunt
  4. MG filler
  5. Maintain DoTs
  6. 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:
  1. She was probably not super comfortable with the rotation.
  2. 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?

Monday, December 3, 2012

90!

13 comments
Okay, so Ful is getting his groove back. At least a little. I put in a pretty solid session Saturday that I think lasted about twelve hours. I've not done one of those in a long time (read: since last expansion probably). It wasn't really planned, just sort of worked out that way. Basically did all of level 90 in one sitting.

It was one of those things where you start playing, knock out some quests, and then go clean something. Then sit back down, knock out some more quests, go get some food. Then more questing and... maybe I should do something else. But wait! 50%! At this point I can totally get to 60%, just to be over halfway. Two hours later... 80%! Might as well finish it off now. So I did. Dinged for the final time this expansion sometime around 1AM Saturday night, server time.

Here's a list of my initial post-ding thoughts (keep in mind I was pretty tired):
  • I have never been so glad to fly in my life. The zones seem to get progressively rockier (?), encouraging flying over riding. I suppose that makes sense.
  • I finally got to turn in a lot of quests that had been cluttering my bags, waiting for me to have access to places like the Seat of Knowledge. That felt wonderful.
  • The stream of refugees into the Vale was pretty neat. It nearly coincided with my final ding (I was two quest turn-ins away), so I almost felt a be emotional. Not that a Warlock would cop to having anything resembling emotions.
  • I'm still going to finish the quests to get Pandarian Loremaster. It's nice that these give you the same rep you're going to need from dailies.
  • Moving without interrupting casting is pretty neat. There are a whole bunch of habits I need to overcome now to make the most of things. Having grown used to being a damage turret for the last five-ish years, it's amazing now my thought I hadn't realized I give to where I stand when I pull. Now I can readjust without ruining my rotation. Totally an odd feeling, but not in a bad way. It's sort of like, oh yeah, I wasn't just interrupted by the stupid yank... the spell went off!
  • I'm doing a few dailies, but I've not developed a cohesive plan yet. I'd like to cap out my profs first, I think, and focus on raid gearing last. With my current status as "last sub off the bench," I'm not too worried about it. I should probably try to get LFR ilevel just to preclude any complaints should I be brought in.
Anyway, that's all for today. I'm excited about being at the level needed to help out. I missed some of the more social aspects of MMO gaming. Hopefully I can derp my way to some adequate gear and help out somewhere. I wouldn't consider myself back on the horse completely, but I'm partially in the saddle.