Affliction Warlock Primer

I think I'm going to start fresh here. I've been updating my old guides for ages, but my in-game goals have simplified, and so should my advice. So I'm going to downgrade "guides" to the realm of "primers." I've always liked calling them primers, as the point is to get you started, not tell you how you should finish. I'm going to try to explain what I'm doing and why, in the hopes that you can make your own informed choices. This also leaves plenty of room for me to be wrong, so feel free to point those areas out. I like to improve as well!

Any good primer should elaborate on both setup and execution. For my primer, this means focusing on the following areas: Stats, Spec, Glyphs, Rotation, and ??? (Anything else you can think of? Profit?).

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

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 Obviously, if you never use DaS, it would no longer represent a loss.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?

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. 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 20% health, the second is under 20% health. There's a third option, and that is AoE fights. I'll cover all three.

Above 20% 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 >20%. 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 20% 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 20%, 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. (I'm actually running with the glyph right now so that I get some passive benefit for my laziness. I may alter this approach at some point, as it is probably sub-optimal, but simpler.)

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 spread more seeds around while waiting for the explosion. The chain reaction you end up with is pretty fun, though I still prefer using Drain Life.

Perhaps, the main 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?

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