If you remember last week, I did a little Twitter Q&A. There were a lot of fantastic questions, some of which I wasn't able to fit into the article; this week, I want to address one of those questions. Technically, the question was in regards to the last change to Soul Swap and the impact that it holds on multi-DOTing -- but the truth is that multi-DOTing is a concept that impacts all warlock specs.
This raiding tier has really attempted to tone done the impact that multi-DOTing has on encounters, a vast difference from what we saw at the onset of Cataclysm. While I applaud Blizzard on its efforts to spot a growing problem and correct it, players are still better off knowing how to best spread their damage around.
We'll begin with destruction, which has one of the easier multi-DOTing rotations out there. Your normal DOT rotation should include Corruption, Immolate, and Bane of Doom. Against a secondary target, you actually end up having a few choices on what you can use. For very short-lasting mobs such as the Sparks of Rhyolith, you may only want to go with Corruption and Immolate. Doom can only be used on a single target, so your second choice would be Agony. Agony is great -- it is a DPS increase to use -- but it lasts quite a long time, and you need it to reach close to the full duration to be worth using. If an add isn't going to last that long, then there isn't a point in using it.
Which brings up the second set of DOTs that you can use. If we're talking about an add that's going to be up for a long time, then you do want to use Agony. Examples of this would be the dogs on Shannox or the birds on Alysrazor. In this situation, Agony should be reaching close to its full duration if not completely timing out, so using it is worth the effort of a single keystroke.
Now comes the trickier part. Destruction has the unique advantage of having Bane of Havoc, which is a spectacular dual-damage ability, but it only works in certain situations. Bane of Havoc is great for times when there are going to be persistent adds that need to be focused (again, think Shannox or Alysrazor). In this case, you want to use Bane of Havoc on the target that you are not focusing that will live for the longest amount of time. Given how long BOH lasts, you want to make sure you cast it as infrequently as possible. Always place it on the target that should die last.
Finally, there is one other time that you'll spread DOTs around. On an encounter such as Staghelm where you get a single, low-health add, only use Immolate. Corruption is a DPS increase on a second target, but it's still a DOT, and it still needs time in order to deal any significant amount of damage. On targets that are going to die within 10 seconds or so, don't bother with a second DOT; just use the one and move on.
Next up is demonology, which is highly similar to destruction. Just as with destruction, Immolate is the priority DOT for all targets, and the same rule sets apply. Against short-lasting mobs, only use Immolate; on medium-duration targets, use both Immolate and Corruption; on targets that will last a while, use Bane of Agony as well. Overall, demonology doesn't have much of a trick to it when it comes to multi-DOTing, sadly. There are a few advantages that you can watch out for, but overall, there's just nothing there that fills the gaps.
Instead, demonology has something of a different priority when it comes to adds. While they too want to multi-DOT as listed above, they do not want to DOT it and forget it, as it were. Demonology gains a huge benefit from attacking low-health targets directly, so you want to make sure that you cast a Shadow Bolt or Incinerate any mob that you see hit below 25% health. This will allow you at least one proc of Decimation, which is fantastic for a nice, mid-fight Soul Fire against another target.
In many places, this can get tricky. Some adds die way too fast; others, however, are downright perfect for the job. Either of the adds on Rhyolith should do. The druids on Alysrazor are perfect. Drones on Beth'tilac and potentially Spiderlings work, but they are a bit trickier. The add off of Staghelm works as well, but that one can be tough since it tends to melt away like butter, leaving little time to cast anything, let alone to time it for below 25% health. Pretty much the only encounter it won't help you on is Baleroc.
Now we're on to the main event, affliction, the big bad that started it all, the one with the most DOTs, the one -- actually, none of that is true. Affliction may seem as though it should be far more complicated than either of the other specs when it comes to multi-DOTing, and it is, but not because of DOTs by any means. Affliction has just as many DOTs as the other guys; the difference is that affliction uses Unstable Affliction, while destruction and demonology use Immolate. Beyond that, Corruption and Bane of Doom/Agony priorities are totally the same. For affliction multi-DOTing, do exactly the same as you would for either other spec; just change out Immolate for UA. It really is that simple.
Well, perhaps it isn't quite that simple. Affliction wouldn't be fun if it wasn't for some ability to be an utter, convoluted mess. Blizzard seemingly had this fear going into Cataclysm that affliction's DOTs were simply going to be far too strong, that something had to be done in order to keep them in check, otherwise affliction would just run rampant. So what did the developers do? They required DOT damage to be based off of two primary debuffs, Haunt and Shadow Embrace. Respectively, these debuffs increase DOT damage by 20% and 15%, which is a major contribution to your DOTs' being worth anything, yet affliction oddly doesn't have a much higher contribution of damage coming from DOTs.
At the baseline, affliction multi-DOTing is actually weaker than destruction multi-DOTing. Affliction's Corruption hits harder than destruction's, but without Shadow Embrace and Haunt to back it up, Unstable Affliction is a touch weaker than Immolate. The sad thing for affliction is that Haunt can't really be spread around to other targets. For a time, you can have Haunt cycling on two targets, but it will never be smoothly running on both of them. You can, however, have Shadow Embrace on two targets, and in some situations you should.
For mobs that aren't going to last a long time at all, you wouldn't really waste your time with stacking Shadow Embrace. For the shortest-lasting mobs, Corruption should be enough. Although UA deals more damage, it has a cast time making it less mobile, and because of that cast time, Corruption can actually get a half-tick or so ahead of the game. For medium-lasting mobs, use both, but use Corruption first (again, because of the cast time on Unstable Affliction). Lastly, use Bane of Agony for the longest-lasting mobs.
Now, on any target that is going to up for a significant amount of time, you want to also ensure that you stack Shadow Embrace on them, which is going to set you back three Shadow Bolts -- not a huge price to pay, but it can get a little cumbersome to keep up on multiple targets at times. Ideally, you don't want to have to split your focus on keeping SE up at all. Instead, you should try and focus on one target, meaning that it will constantly have Shadow Bolts flying at it anyway, while utilizing Haunt on the second target to keep SE up. That way, you don't actually have to worry about any SE timing; you merely switch over whenever you need to Haunt, and that should catch the debuff.
Last but certainly not least we come to the once-glorious Soul Swap. Blizzard introduced Soul Swap as a method for affliction warlocks to deal with the factor that trash mobs generally die before our DOTs can end up being that effective. The idea was that we'd get out DOTs rolling and, as the target neared death, we'd steal those DOTs away and place them up on the next target. Brilliant plan, and Soul Swap works perfectly in that situation. Sadly, Blizzard also thought that it would get creative and add an additional method of using Soul Swap.
The Glyph of Soul Swap was once great; you could keep two sets of DOTs rolling nearly without fault on two targets, and it was spectacular. Sadly, we're no longer in that situation. GoSS adds a 30-second cooldown to Soul Swap, which is rather problematic. You see, Corruption doesn't need Soul Swap to be refreshed; it shouldn't be falling off anyway in circumstances where Soul Swap matters, because you'll be keeping Shadow Embrace rolling anyway. Unstable Affliction lasts for 15 seconds, which is practically perfect. With a 30-second cooldown, it means that you're getting to use Soul Swap every other time. The downside is that Agony is a 24-second DOT.
Bane of Doom cannot be transferred over using Soul Swap -- well, it can, but it gets removed from the previous target because you cannot have more than one Doom active at a time. You have to utilize Bane of Agony. Although the timer of UA works out great with SS, Agony doesn't. Further, using Soul Swap to transfer DOTs over means you're either overwriting a Doom with an Agony or you're overwriting an Agony with a Doom. In the end, it saves you nothing, since either way you need to use two GCDs.
Glyphing Soul Swap is great for the times when there are longer-lasting adds that come out infrequently that you could use all of your DOTs on, but on persistent adds that are going to be hanging around for a while, there just isn't a reason to make use of it any more. The glyph is great to use in some cases, but overall it just doesn't cut it any more. In the PVE sense, Blizzard really gutted using it.
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, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through encounters such as Blackwing Descent and The Bastion of Twilight.