Staring at you from the darkest corner of the dank tavern is a shadowy figure, garbed in deep purples with scarlet trim. As you step closer, you realize that before you stands the dreaded Blood Pact. Behind it, drowning in his own cliches, sits Nick Whelan.
For my second foray into non-Affliction specs, I decided it was time to go deep Destruction with 7 / 7 / 57. There aren't a lot of people who champion this spec, or any spec that includes Chaos Bolt really. But I tried the more popular 0 / 31 / 40 earlier in the week and found it far too similar to the spec I covered last week to justify posting about it so soon. So I did some research into what deep Destruction Warlocks are doing these days, and this is what I came up with.
I was somewhat surprised that this spec decides to put points in Affliction rather than spend the full 13 points in Demonology required to get Demonic Aegis, but part of the experiment is that I don't tweak the specs in any way that might affect DPS. Still, I'm tempted to switch some points into Demonic Aegis over the weekend to see if there's any improvement -- but I digress. Lets get down to business.
Health: 16,854 (Improved by stat food)
Spell Power: 1887
Spell Haste: 262 (7.99%)
Spell Crit: 21.29% (Improved by both Firestone and Stat food)
For my Glyphs, I picked up the soon-to-be-improved Glyph of Imp to boost my pet's damage. I also grabbed Glyph of Conflagrate because getting more than one Conflagrate out of each Immolate seems like a good thing to me -- particularly because I was always really bad about casting Conflagrate during the very last Immolate tick. I also stuck with Glyph of Immolate, because it actually turns out to be a pretty decent damage increase for Immolate, which I'm casting as Destruction anyway. I promise it has absolutely nothing to do with the glyph costing 40 gold, and me being too cheap to buy it again when I spec back to Affliction. Honestly, each of these glyphs seems so important to the spec that I really don't know what will be the glyphs of choice once Glyph of Incinerate and Glyph of Chaos Bolt are released in patch 3.1.
The tactic of this spec shares the basic philosophy of last week's 0 / 41 / 30. The casting sequences begins with shadow dots to proc Molten Core, then the bulk of the damage is done by keeping Immolate up and hammering the target with Incinerate. The difference with this spec is that Chaos Bolt and Conflagrate are both thrown into the mix. The latter of which is particularly essential to the success of this spec, because every time it's cast it causes the Backdraft effect, which is like a miniature version of Bloodlust / Heroism with a 10 second cooldown instead of a 5 minute one.
I decided that instead of casting both Curse of Agony and Corruption, as I did during last week's test, I'd cast only the former, to see what the difference was in Molten Core uptime. After doing some fiddling, I must agree that Corruption is a largely unnecessary addition to the rotation, as CoA is enough to keep Molten Core active almost constantly. And the global cooldown I saved myself every 18 seconds was put to much better use I think.
With that in mind, my rotation began with Curse of Agony, followed by Immolate. I usually got a little lag between casting Immolate and Conflagrate becoming available to me. So, I'd follow Immolate up with Chaos Bolt, then hit Conflagrate, which of course procs Backdraft. The massive haste increase allowed me to blast the target with 3 quick incinerates before losing the effect. One or two slower Incinerates was usually enough to finish up the Conflagrate cooldown. If I was quick, I could pop Conflagrate just before immolate ran out, then use the haste bonus to re-apply Immolate before continuing my Incinerate and Chaos Bolt spam. Of course, Life Tap and Curse of Agony need to be cast now and again, but if you time them to coincide with when you'd usually be casting slow Incinerates, it doesn't break up the rotation too much.
Deep Destruction is a peculiar kind of spec to play. I commented to a friend on vent that it half like playing Affliction, and half like playing some weird sort of bizzaro-Affliction. Playing this spec you've got 2 dots that you want to keep up, and avoid clipping, as well as 2 cooldowns that you want to keep on top of. Personally, I found this to be more difficult and complex than the simple whack-a-mole of refreshing Affliction dots. Focus on two different kinds of count-downs rather than just one resulted in a sort of split-brain thing. It made this spec an interesting challenge to play.
After spending a bit of time on a training dummy to get a feel for the rotation, I headed to Heroic Culling of Stratholme (which was the heroic and normal daily on my server that day) to do some field tests. It didn't go well. To be fair, my group had 2 pugs, and 3 people who were playing outside of their usual spec, but that didn't stop my cheeks from turning red when we didn't manage to complete the timed event. Worse yet was my personal performance in there. Rain of Fire doesn't seem to pack the same punch that it does when you've got all those sexy Demonology buffs, like you do as Fel / Emberstorm; and my dps on the bosses was so abysmal I'd be ashamed to talk about it.
At first I chalked this up to the spec, and was starting to pen some disappointed, yet biting, comments in my mind. But one instance is hardly a sufficient sample, particularly one where almost every single boss has the ability to interrupt your casting in some way; and they all took advantage of that ability against me. The way Mal'Ganis was putting me to sleep, I started to wonder if my character had suddenly developed narcolepsy.
Next our group headed to Violet Hold, where my performance improved considerably. I regularly pulled 2.2k DPS on the single target trash pulls, which swelled to 2.3 or 2.4 on bosses. If I actually had the crit rating this spec is designed for, it would certainly be even higher. Once Dalaran was safe from the invading dragonflight, my group and I set off for Halls of Lightning to try and get some pants for our Mage. There, my performance continued to hover steadily around 2.2k -- 2.4k -- save for that one huge trash pull where I managed to break 9k before stealing aggro from the tank and getting my butt franchised.
After Halls of Lightning, the tank decided to call it a night and the rest of the group agreed. I would have liked to get some more testing done in the name of scientific rigor. But, I think three instances was enough to get a reasonable idea for how the spec plays. I was rather disappointed the group didn't have it in them to tackle Azjol-Nerub, though. Affliction does terrible DPS against Anub'arak, and I would have loved to see how Destruction fared.
My astounding improvement between the the first and second instances can, I think, be attributed to several factors. The two most relevant being firstly my own ineptitude with the spec. Once I got the hang of things the rotation was easy enough, but it certainly took a bit more getting used to than I thought it would, and I'm glad I gave it several instances before making any final judgments. Secondly, I think it has a lot to do with a weakness of the spec. As Affliction, getting put to sleep or stunned is obviously a DPS loss, but the DoTs that were already on the boss will keep ticking away. While as Destruction, being temporarily taken out of the fight is much more damning, since you're doing almost no damage at all during that period.
All in all, I didn't do as much damage with this spec as I do when I'm Affliction; but there are a lot of other factors to consider here. Any respectable deep Destruction Warlock would have at least 25% crit unbuffed -- 5% more than I had. And while I haven't been on the PTR to gather any hard data on this, it looks like Affliction's damage output will be at least slightly reduced come 3.1. On the other hand, 7 / 7 / 57 looks like it's going to get some buffs, with Glyph of Imp having its affects raised from 10% to 20%, and replenishment being added to Improved Soul Leech. Furthermore, considering the interesting complexity of the rotation, I wouldn't be surprised if some Affliction locks switched to deep Destro after Affliction is 'simplified' in 3.1. On the other hand of course, Molten Core is being moved deep into the Demonology tree, so at this point, who can really say?
For now, though, 7 / 7 / 57 is overshadowed by 0 / 41 / 30. They have similar play styles and, for me, had almost equivalent damage output. But the buffs offered by the Demonology tree makes 0 / 41 / 30 much less demanding in terms of gear, and the rotation is far more bang for the buck. Still, 7 / 7 / 57 is by no means a bad spec, and I await trying it post-3.1 with great anticipation.