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Blood Pact: Witching around with demonology

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology and destruction warlocks. 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.

Oloth plynn dos, brother and sisters. Last week I started an informal mission of sorts to go about "correcting" the various minor irks within our specs. The first of these was affliction, which may be seen as an odd choice to many since once 4.1 comes out, it should be our highest DPS spec. Before heading into the world of demons, which I am excited about, I want to take a little side trip.

Warlocks are excessively lucky at this point in the game. Out of all the pure classes, most generally only have two of their three specs considered "viable" (though I use the term loosely) for raiding. Warlocks are different in that regard. You do still see all three warlock specs raiding, and all three specs actually don't have that large of a DPS difference between them. Affliction in 4.1 may simulate as being the highest, but a better-played destruction or even demonology warlock will still out-DPS affliction. I like to think that this versatility is simply because warlocks are better people, but who knows the real reason why warlocks have hit that sweet spot Blizzard has been looking for?

Boss movement issues

There is one gripe that I have about actually playing as demonology, and it is this: Hand of Gul'dan is a fantastic spell. I love it, I really do. It's neat, it's interesting, and it's unique -- the perfect spell for demonology to have. HoG feels like the spell that warlocks have been looking for all this time in WoW, because it's a way for us to directly influence the damage of our demons in a way that isn't a simple, click, and put them on auto-attack. For all of the glory that is HoG, it is also a highly problematic spell.

HoG isn't your standard debuff ability, like many other abilities -- you do simply cast it at a target and keep the effect rolling, but there are some differences. Since the spell also leaves a persistent ground effect aura, you have to be more aware of which target you are casting it on. This adds more "skill" and "flavor" to the abilities. I really like that, and I think it's one of the best things about HoG.

For example, warlocks have to make a choice when using HoG. Do they toss it out on the primary target's location and keep their pet on the boss? Or would it better to toss it out on an AoE pack and send the Felguard over to deal some nasty group damage? Using HoG for AoE -- and you gotta love all the acronyms -- seems the most obvious choice, but it isn't always the correct one. Some times you have to choose, and sometimes making the right choice matters a great deal. That's why HoG is awesome.

Why HoG is not awesome is that things don't stay put. Targets move, and in some encounters they move rather frequently, which poses as something of an issue for demonology, where our DPS is rather balanced around this effect. The good side of this is that the increased critical strike chance isn't a huge fraction of DPS, but any small amount is meaningful to a certain degree.

For the purposes of AoE, where there are several encounters that have AoE targets that either aren't tanked or are frequently moved while tanked, this isn't too much of a problem. It matters because the Felguard does have a meaningful contribution to our AoE abilities, but overall, it doesn't make a tremendous difference.

The more worrisome aspect is on single-target fights, where the debuff matters most. Boss movement has been rather important in this game and has stayed that way in Cataclysm. While there are numerous encounters in which a boss is kept in one location, there are just as many in which the boss moves frequently and erratically, which causes issues with keeping them inside the HoG effect.

During some encounters, you might be able to predict boss movement to a certain degree to help with avoiding this issues. If that were always the case, then I would have less of a problem with this spell, but there are simply too many times when boss movement either can't be predicted or the predictions can't be relied upon. Arion, for example, teleports at random. Terestra is pulled out of a ground AoE that he casts. There are many similar bosses.

While I like the skill of keeping a target inside of the HoG effect to increase your DPS, the issue is that this skill isn't dependent upon the warlock's abilities -- it depends on the tank's. Now, there are two ways to this could be changed. The first is to have increased crit effect linger for a little bit outside of the aura. While not a perfect solution, it does retain some amount of skill in timing it according to boss movement, probably for the best. Given HoG's rather short cooldown, having the debuff linger for 4 or 5 seconds would be more than enough.

Alternatively, you could change it so that the primary target of the spell always has the critical strike increase effect, regardless whether or not they move out of the effect. This reduces the "skill" portion of HoG but makes the damage more consistent. I should also note that the lingering effect would slightly help with AoE as well, while this one would really impact AoE at all.

The felguard

I know that this came up inside the article dedicated to pets, but there's a minor point that I want to rehash. Demonology does and doesn't have much choice when it comes to pets. Currently, the Succubus with the Lash of Pain glyph is the best single-target pet for demonology, while the Felguard with the Felguard glyph is better for AoE.

In many respects, this is a good thing. Demonology is the only warlock spec that can choose between two demons that increase DPS in different ways in different situations, which is how it should be for the master of demons. On the other hand, it seems poor that demonology doesn't always make use of its specialization.

It's a sticky situation, really, and there are supporters from both sides. There are demonology players who want to have choices when it comes to demons, and there are those who believe they should use their specialized demon because it's unique to them. I would rather not choose a side, because I see the merits in both.

Metamorphosis

Oh Metamorphosis, what is there to say about you? A lot of things, really.

You get a few cool new abilities while changed into the giant, evil demon form, but for the most part, it's really just used as a damage-increasing buff. The issue is the issue that it has always had: Immolation Aura. Immolation Aura is still a pretty significant increase in damage when it is used, the downside being that you have to be within 8 yards of the target for it to be hit by it. For a ranged caster, that is usually 30 something yards away during the encounter; this creates something of an issue.

It isn't so bad, as you can Demonic Leap to the target and then merely teleport back out once the effect ends, but there are some encounters for which this isn't always a possibility. Furthermore, it is rather annoying to raid leaders as well to have to account for the warlock changing melee/ranged positioning during an encounter.

There are lots of encounters in which positioning between ranged and melee matters a great deal. Sometimes you need to have a specific number of players out at ranged; sometimes you can only have a specific number of players in melee. You may have to run outside of melee during an encounter for any larger number of reasons as well. It's annoying.

This aspect of demonology has bothered people for a very long time, and there have been some attempts as fixing it, but sadly, as long as Immolation Aura exists, there is no means of fixing the problem.

What's worse is the AoE aspect of the ability. Being able to use Immolation Aura is a large groups of mobs is a rather huge increase in AoE damage, but there are numerous AoE encounters in which doing so is problematic. While this doesn't "hurt" demonology in the sense that it tanks its AoE capabilities, it is frustrating when you have this awesome ability that you simply can't use due to encounter mechanics. Again, there's no fixing that. As much as it pains me to say, you can't make warlocks special little butterflies that can ignore encounter mechanics just so they can use an additional AoE abilities. It sucks.

Demon Soul and Impending Doom

Demon Soul is a fantastic ability that we gained in Cataclysm. Honestly, it's like Demonic Sacrifice, only 1,000% better in every single way. Impending Doom is another great talent that demonology has gained that allows for us to show our bad side that much more often. Downside? Always.

Due to the way that damage-increasing effects such as Demon Soul and Metamorphosis stack, it's a pretty significant difference in damage to use these abilities in conjunction with each other. In many ways, this works out great! Metamorphosis has a 3-minute cooldown innately, but with Impending Doom procs, it usually gets knocked down to about 2 minutes. Demon Soul has a 2-minute cooldown ... Everyone is happy!

No, everyone is not actually happy. Impending Doom can actually work to make Metamorphosis have less than a 2-minute cooldown, depending on RNG favoring you and haste factors. In some ways, this is a good thing; more frequent use of Metamorphosis is a DPS increase, after all, but the sad truth is that it just doesn't end up being that clean-cut.

Simply due to stacking Demon Soul and Meta being that powerful, you have to hold out on either cooldown for up to 20 seconds before using them exclusively. That's not a terrible thing, really; it creates smart gameplay in a sense. Warlocks who know when it is best to use their cooldowns are smart warlocks and need to be rewarded.

The problem that this poses is that it creates gaps within Impending Doom due to cooldown conflict. It is a fairly awkward system in the most technical of senses, when there are various points of RNG that are far better than other points of RNG that the player has little influence over. Haste has some factors involved in the system, because the more casts that you can do in any given time frame increases the number of possible procs.

Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, advise you on tip-top trinkets and steer you through encounters such as Blackwing Descent and The Bastion of Twilight.

Filed under: Warlock, (Warlock) Blood Pact

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