Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology and destruction warlocks. In a dark and hidden place, the true masters of the arcane arts share secrets and swap stories. For those who disdain the watered-down arts that other cling to like a safety blanket, for those willing to test their wills against the nether and claim the power that is their right, Blood Pact welcomes you and invites you to take a seat.
The first rumblings of the Cataclysm are upon us, and the sage wisdom that carried us through our adventures in Northrend is now as useful as that protective talisman a smooth-talking troll sold me. (Note to self: Find that troll again and communicate my feelings about his product quality. Remember to share my feelings with his friends, family and nearby flammable objects, while I'm at it.)
But business before revenge. What you want to hear about is gear, or more specifically, what you want out of it now. Some stats are changed, others are gone forever, and we've got an entirely new one to deal with. On top of that, our gear is now more customizable than ever before with the newly added Reforging option to take advantage of.
So join me after the jump as we go over stat weight, gemming, reforging and everything else you need to know to maximize your eldritch might in the twilight before the end of the world.
Out with last year's styles, in with the new line
Let's start with a big one. Spirit is now worthless for warlocks -- Fel Armor doesn't convert it to spellpower anymore. A few DPS specs are meant to share gear with healers and get a talent that converts spirit to hit. The rest of us want to avoid spirit gear unless it's a massive upgrade over what you have. Reforging can salvage some of the points, but you're still losing a lot of the item's power. So do your best to swap out any gear with spirit on it, and see about switching out those old Purified gems. They're even less useful now than the used to be.
Speaking of hit, if you're raiding, you may notice you need a bit more of it than you used to. The talent that gave +3 percent hit is gone, and if you're Alliance, the draenei racial is no longer a group buff. So you may find you need to supplement your hit rating a bit. Remember, the goal for raid bosses is 17 percent or 446 hit rating. The improved character sheet display should tell you what percentage you're at if you mouse over it.
You're also going to be finding spellpower as a stat in a lot fewer places. The straight damage stat for casters is now intellect. Weapons still come with spellpower and the enchantments that gave it still do. But gear and gems are all intellect now, and the new enchantments coming in Cataclysm will be, too. So don't turn your nose up at it as something only holy paladins stack.
Finally, we've got an all new stat: mastery. We'll get to its relative value later, but the short of it is that for warlocks, mastery is a simple damage buff. You won't find any gear or gems with it just yet, so reforging is the only way to get it.
Decking out the bling
Gems have seen a bit of a restructuring. Don't panic; the changes are fairly small. Let's go over it quickly.
The hit gem is now blue instead of yellow. Finally, we have something more useful to fulfill those annoying Metagem requirements. This makes the new Veiled Dreadstone our go-to for replacing those Purified gems you want to be getting rid of, which conveniently also helps with that extra hit you'll probably want.
For red, the Runed spellpower rubies are now a thing of the past. Our new keyword is Brilliant, as in the Brilliant Cardinal Ruby. Don't worry, all your Runed gems will have converted over. Yellow is unchanged, with haste and crit still both residing there. In a couple of months, they'll be joined by mastery, making yellow the major secondary stat color.
In other words, all you really need to replace is a few Dreadstones. Just remember that the old wisdom of ignoring socket bonuses and going straight red is old. On ICC-level gear, the socket bonuses are usually enough that it's worth popping in an orange gem in your yellow sockets for that bonus.
Custom tailored just for you
Now for the big one: reforging. First, let's establish what it can and can't do. Reforging lets you take a secondary stat on an item and turn 40 percent of the value into a different secondary stat that isn't already on an item. That means you can't get any extra intellect this way. It also means you can't reforge your tier 10 chest to have extra haste or crit because it already has both on it. But you can reforge the gloves for haste because they don't have it already, and since nothing we have at 80 has mastery on it, everything can be reforged for more of that.
The most obvious use for reforging is to gain or lose hit so you're closer to the cap without being short or wasting points over. However, there's also a way to increase your DPS with it. Once you know the relative value of haste, crit and mastery to your spec, you can reforge the lower value stat for the higher ones. The difference in value is often quite small, but it does add up. And if you didn't want to fight for even a small gain, why are you here? Blood Pact's mission is to teach you how to wring every last delicious green drop of envy from the mages who jealously glare at us over their dusty books.
The stat priority for affliction is the simple one of the three. Haste in the lead by a good margin, and mastery beats crit by a small one. Affliction is all about the DoTs, and now all DoTs tick more often with haste. So all your gear without haste on it should reforge crit for haste -- and if you really want to maximize your effect, then every piece with haste already on it should reforge crit for mastery.
Destruction and Demonology get a little more complicated. They both have specific mechanics that shift the value of the three unexpectedly. In the abstract, destruction's values are mastery beating crit and haste far beneath them both. Demonology's values would be first crit, then haste, and mastery third, with only a small difference between them.
What complicates things is the new mechanic I mentioned before in which haste speeds up the time between DoT ticks. If you speed it up enough, it will actually add new ticks to the duration of the DoT. Besides the straight DPS upgrade of extra ticks, the two specs both have important interactions with other talents.
The reason this is important for destruction is a little spell called Conflagrate. Because Conflagrate does damage based on the total periodic damage of Immolate, adding extra ticks to Immolate is a significant boost to Conflagrate's damage. This means that if a destro warlock can stack enough haste to add a new tick, it makes haste leap up to the best of the three stats. The target numbers for new ticks are 50 percent and 70 percent haste, which right now convert to ratings of 1,406 and 2,030. So calculate how much haste you can get from gemming and reforging, and aim for those soft caps. Anything over the cap should instead go toward mastery.
Demonology is a little less direct, as it revolves around the new Hand of Gul'dan spell. At the moment, it's a lot harder for demo warlocks to keep Immolate refreshed with Hand of Gul'dan than it is for afflic warlocks to keep Corruption up with Haunt. Immolate's duration is shorter and Hand's cooldown is longer, leaving a small window before Immolate falls off. Here again, additional ticks in Immolate are the goal because they make it much easier to hit that window. If you can reliably hit the free refresh and not have to recast Immolate yourself, it comes out as a big DPS increase. The soft cap targets are the same as destruction's, but this time, points over the cap should go towards crit instead of mastery.
Now you should be ready to go out there and make the mages cry for buffs. Just remember that this information is all time-sensitive. The beta servers are still seeing weekly build tweaks that up-end matters, and once we actually level to 85, it's a whole new game. So be sure to keep your attendance card punched and Blood Pact will keep you up to date on what you need to know.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll steer you toward tip-top trinkets and Soulburning your way through Cataclysm.