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Blood Pact: Some advice for newbie affliction warlocks

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology, and destruction warlocks. Today, Megan O'Neill is taking a break from beta, instead offering some Pointilism 102 advice.

My friends, Blizzard is trying to torture me. The large number of drastic changes to the warlock class makes for cool columns. I have no beta access yet (c'mon, late Burning Crusade wave!). The greater likelihood of people playing through beta on weekends rather than on weekdays means those with beta access update information threads on the weekends. I write most of my columns before the weekends. The timing of new information contrary to my writings has had me wanting to drain my own soul out for a couple of weeks here.

... OK, you got me. The real reason I don't want to talk about Mists this week is because Wryxian broke my heart with the no green fire trickery. Don't worry, though! I got my evil groove back by proving my preparedness and fast reactions to my guild. I gloriously dropped a QQ train during a heroic Ultraxion attempt when my raid leader jokingly called for it.

Sadly, the next night, many guildmates brought train-wreckers to raid. What are you saying? A Heroism filled with choo-choo yells and fist pumps isn't the best DPS buff ever? Blasphemy!

If I'm breaking from Mists for a bit, what to talk about? The excitement around the new warlocks in Mists means other players are rolling new toons or dusting off old toons in the flavor of ...warlocks. This means new players to educate on how to warlock.

I'll admit, I usually don't judge other warlocks' DPS, whether through looking at the spell usage in Skada or a full gear inspection, unless it's unusually low. Low warlock DPS is the exception, in my experience; most warlocks appear to wear the right glyphs, have an EJ-approved talent spec, and look pretty in gemmed and enchanted cloth. Even a few icky spirit pieces in those hard-to-fill slots (shoulders, I'm looking at you) are OK while you grind for RNG to give you a proper piece.

It's the spell selections that get most people. Trying to do a proper raid priority rotation on dungeon mobs doesn't always work out to the greatest dungeon DPS. But that's what makes dungeons great practice -- they're great for practicing pieces of the raid spell-flinging.

So here's some more advice on various affliction spells in practice.

On trash DPS as affliction

My first question when a new warlock comes to me with low DPS is: Trash or boss? "Trash" earns you a heartfelt "Join the club!" from me. Affliction trash DPS has traditionally sucked, and it will continue to suck because we are the DoT people, even when it comes to our AoE. You should still shine on bosses, but kissing the meter's floor on trash isn't uncommon for affliction.

Many factors can worsen this effect. I've found that melee-heavy groups especially kill your trash DPS when it comes to AoE. Some casters with particularly potent or friendly-targetable AoE spells can also kill the mobs more quickly than you can get off a few Seeds. Affliction trash DPS also dies as the tier swings on and people overgear the dungeons, since things die more quickly, allowing less time for DoTs from lesser-hasted new afflic 'locks.

Just relax. Don't worry about your trash DPS. If anyone gives you crap for it, just laugh and excel on the boss.

What can I do on trash as an affliction warlock?

Our trash DPS buttons depend on two things: the number of mobs and how long each mob is going to live. If there are a lot of mobs (6+) and they don't last very long (less than one Seed cast), I often don't DPS at all, or I'll use something entirely silly like Rain of Fire for laughs.

If the mobs are going to last a little longer than a couple GCDs, then you have some fodder for Corruption. You'll want to put up Curse of the Elements on a central mob, and the talent Jinx will spread the effect to the other mobs. For fun times, you can mingle with the melee and Shadowflame on cooldown. Just watch out for mobs that cleave.

If you need two hands to count all the mobs, spam Seed of Corruption (a radially expansive AoE) on a central mob. Preferably, soulburn a Seed to apply our favorite DoT everywhere. For greater effect, pop a soulburned seed while under the puppy's Demon Soul buff. Alternatively, if the central mob dies quickly, Seed the mob with the most health, so you don't have to waste precious spam time switching targets.

If you can still count the mobs on one hand, try to multi-DoT. Start with a Corruption up on every target, wind around with Unstable Affliction, and finally finish off stragglers with Bane of Agony. If you have the Glyph of Soul Swap, start on one mob with the full three DoTs, then swap to another mob.

What's the difference between Banes?

This is one of the questions that comes out when someone reads EJ for the raiding priority and then doesn't understand why multi-DoTing isn't working well for them.

Bane of Doom has the high damage per execute time (DPET) -- that is, it does far more damage for the one GCD it takes to put up Doom than Agony will do. The trick is, Bane of Doom doesn't scale with haste. The ticks don't get closer together, and you don't get an extra one. Every Doom tick is 15 seconds from the last. So if the mob will die within 15 seconds, you won't get anything out of the spell. Doom is also limited to one mob anywhere.

If the mob will die within 15 seconds or if you are multi-DoTing, use Bane of Agony. Bane of Agony scales with haste and has a ramp-up throughout its duration. Agony can be put on multiple targets, though it replaces Doom if you try to put both on one target (only one Bane per warlock per target).

Both Banes are best left until they fall off, contrary to the refreshing most DoTs get. This is because Doom ticks at the end, but it's more important for Agony, since Agony's hardest-hitting tick is at the end.

Do I have to use the optimal opener?

If you want to be absolutely, simulatorily optimal, yes. The optimal opener gets up Shadow and Flame, which is a debuff that gives you greater spell crit on that target. It also gets up two stacks of the very cool and important Shadow Embrace first.

In Wrath of the Lich King, the optimal opener was very important, because your DoTs didn't update according to the proper debuffs unless you recast the DoT entirely after the debuff appeared. In Cataclysm, DoT mechanics changed to update per tick based on the debuffs that were present on the target. So now, you can actually put your DoTs up first and then apply stacks of Shadow Embrace (via Shadow Bolt and Haunt), and your DoTs will update accordingly.

But the exception to this rule is Shadow and Flame, which still appears to operate as if it were a player buff instead of a target debuff. DoTs do not update to player buffs, so a haste proc is wasted on Shadow Bolt spam if you don't ever refresh your extra tickable DoTs before the proc ends.

Speaking of procs, what buffs my Doomguard?

Most people pop the Doomguard during Heroism, because Heroism is when everybody is popping everything else like trinkets and potions. But Heroism itself doesn't actually buff the Doomguard.

Your pets scale from your stats, but the Doomguard actually scales from only some of those. The Doomguard benefits from hit, crit, and most importantly, spellpower. The Doomguard benefits neither from haste nor affliction's mastery, unlike demonology.

The best time actually occurs a few seconds after the fight starts, since all the internal on-equip procs you have will be almost guaranteed to be in sync with each other (all the internal cooldowns are off). Power Torrent plus Lightweave plus pre-pot plus Soulburn four-piece T13 plus Bottled Wishes means a really awesome Doomguard.

Next week?

Hopefully, the beta will calm down over a few weeks and start to work out some kinks in the demon tanking. I've weave in some steadied beta talk with Cataclysm destruction and demonology advice. I know Haunt has made a reappearance in affliction and is draining soul shards as a resource, which is interesting. The demon tanking flurry has covered over some destruction information that I still need to read fully.

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 tier 13 set bonuses.

Filed under: Warlock, (Warlock) Blood Pact

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