Tag Archives: Warlock

Warlock (and other) Class Feedback

Blizzard has opened up threads on their forums asking for player feedback on how specific classes are playing.

We’re looking for feedback on your class as we work on changes and adjustments for a future game update. While we may be making some specific class changes in 4.3, what we’re looking for in this thread is overall feeling on the class as a whole for more long term changes in the future.

Here’s the Warlock Feedback thread. Each class has their own sticky thread right now.

Here’s my response. If you agree with it, I’d appreciate if you’d hit the Like button. If you just like the instant cast flying demon form idea for warlocks – and who doesn’t? – be sure to mention it in your own response.

I think it’s important that if you have an opinion on a class, any class, you take a few minutes to put down your thoughts. It’s rare that a company openly solicits feedback like this, and while it’s being presented in a format which makes me think it’s effectively going to be treated like a survey, it’s a survey which is going to be read.

If you’re playing a few hours a night, it’s worth taking 5 minutes to let Blizzard know how you feel about the class you’re playing.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

The Lost Puppy and the Girl Everyone Hates: Choosing the Right Demon for your Warlock in 4.0.6

Demons are one of the defining features of the Warlock class. They are not your warlock’s friends.  They are not her companions. They are tools, instruments of your character’s will, to be used and discarded when no longer needed.

And most of all, they are not to be trusted.

But as a player, you will come to trust in your warlock’s demons. Knowing which demon to use, and how to use them effectively, is the mark of a good warlock. Each demon brings with it a different set of abilities, bonuses, and damage that interact with both your spec and your own personal playstyle. Knowing which demon is right for the task at hand is often challenging, but is essential to success in both PvP and PvE.

KNOW YOUR TOOLBOX

You have 5 demons and 2 demon guardians you’ll use at various points in your career as a warlock.

  • Imp: An obnoxious little guy, the Imp’s primary attack is ranged (Firebolt). Abilities include a defensive dispel (Singe Magic), a passive Stamina buff (Blood Pact), and an escape mechanism (Flee). The first demon warlocks learn, Imps are primarily favored by Destruction warlocks in PvE encounters.
  • Voidwalker: Sometimes called a Blueberry or VW, the Voidwalker is the warlock’s tank, dealing damage through melee attacks with high threat (Torment). As a tank, the Voidwalker has a viable taunt (Suffering), a high health pool, and decent armor. He also can surround the warlock in a shield (Sacrifice) and can increase stealth detection while healing outside of combat (Consume Shadows), making him an ideal defensive demon. Great for leveling warlocks.
  • Succubus: Beguiling, seductive, sure to get the wrong kind of attention in Goldshire, the Succubus combines high melee DPS (Lash of Pain) with two great control abilities – a channeled fear you can use when your warlock is incapacitated or busy (Seduction), and a knockback (Whiplash) for interrupting, repositioning, and knocking people off cliffs. She can attack out of nowhere (Lesser Invisibility), and has, arguably, the most irritating pet noises in the game. Great for PvP and general DPS.
  • Felhunter: The demon puppy, the Felhunter is the ultimate anti-caster demon, combining good melee DPS (Shadow Bite) with an offensive Dispel (Devour Magic) and combined Silence/spell lockout (Spell Lock). These abilities are on long cooldowns, but can be combined with other crowd control to really shut down enemy spellcasters. Felpups also bring a passive Mana buff (Fel Intelligence) to the raid, and have traditionally been favored by Affliction warlocks due to talents (now removed) in that tree which buffed his damage. (n.b. Shadow Bite scales for all DoTs, not just affliction.)
  • Felguard: The Felguard, a giant, axe-wielding demon, is only available to Demonology warlocks. If the Voidwalker is the warlock’s Protection Warrior, the Felguard is the Arms warrior, with a devastating cleave attack (Legion Strike), ranged stun (Axe Toss), charge (Pursuit), and nasty whirlwind attack (Felstorm). This adds up into a brutal demon capable of DPSing, tanking, and providing crowd control, and is the signature demon of the Demonologist.

Every single one of these demons provides damage mitigation to the warlock via Soul Link, which should be up at all times.

The demon guardians are a bit different from your demon minions – they are both on a 10 minute CD, no longer displace your normal minion, and are situationally useful. They don’t have individual names, but they are both 1) really big and 2) really cool.

  • Doomguard: The Doomguard has a single ranged attack (Doom Bolt), which it will cast on whichever target you’ve Baned (Doom, Agony, Havoc). Lasts for 45 seconds, theoretically the guardian you’d want to use in a single target situation. Unfortunately, his damage is low right now, but in 4.1 this should be corrected.
  • Infernal: The Infernal is summoned from a fel meteor that crashes into your enemies, stunning them for 2 seconds and then unleashing a large monster made of flaming rock who deals AoE damage to everyone around it. Like the Doomguard, the Infernal will be drawn towards Baned targets, though mostly he runs around and spreads chaos. Awesome for PvP, especially battlegrounds, and currently best for single-target DPS in PvE, too.

Want the short version?

  • Imp: Shoots fireballs, gives stamina buff, defensive dispel on 6-second CD. Destro PvE, some PvP utility.
  • Voidwalker: Blueberry tank, taunt, shield on 30-second CD, anti-stealth. Leveling, soloing, anti-melee and flag defense in PvP.
  • Succubus: Additional CC, knockback on 25-second CD. Generically great for PvP, situationally good for PvE.
  • Felhunter: Anti-caster, offensive dispel on 15-second CD, spell lockout on 24-second CD, damage scales with number of DoTs. Traditionally an Affliction PvE pet, great for PvP when facing casters.
  • Felguard: Demonology only, hits like a truck, ranged stun on 30-second CD, whirlwind attack. Useful in both PvE and PvP.
  • Doomguard: 10-minute CD, shoots shadowbolts, use on single targets after 4.1 buffs his damage.
  • Infernal: 10-minute CD, immolation aura, 2-second stun on deployment, use all the time until 4.1, AoE/PvP thereafter.

That’s it. Five demon minions – four, if you’re not Demonology – and two guardians. That’s what you have to work with.

Now let’s look at when to use them.

THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE RIGHT JOB

What’s better, a screwdriver, a hammer, or a wrench?

Well, it all depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’re having a discussion about the relative merits of tools, you have to put the discussion in the context of a task, or the discussion is meaningless. In the words of engineers everywhere, you gotta pick the right tool for the job. And demons are your tools.

In many ways, PvE endgame raiding is the easiest context to analyze. As a damage dealer, warlocks are trying to output as much damage as possible. Damage trumps survivability and utility in nearly all cases. In 25-man raids, you can be sure that there’s both a Mage (for the Mana buff) and a Warrior or Priest (for the Stamina buff). In 10-mans, your composition might not include one of these classes, but 10-man raiding often needs to compromise on buffs, or supplement them with Runescrolls if they’re deemed essential buffs.

So, for endgame raiding, pet selection comes down to which one offers the highest DPS for your spec, period, full stop. And that comes down to a per-spec simulation, which is highly dependent upon both the talents and glyphs chosen.

Right now, that means:

These are from the latest (4.0.6) threads on Elitist Jerks (Aff, Demo, Destro). In all cases, you should use macros to force-cast your demon’s basic attack.

In 5-man Cataclysm dungeons, the same philosophy should hold true, but there is an argument to be made for increased need of crowd control, which the Succubus still provides. So there’s no real conflict between DPS and utility in these situations for Affliction and Demonology, and Destruction still gets more benefit out of the Imp to warrant staying with the little guy.

What about PvE, but not at the endgame? This is where the situation becomes less clear. How do you play? What do you play? Are you leveling cautiously, rarely taking any damage or pulling aggro? Voidwalker or Felguard are the demons for you. Do you drain tank and pull recklessly? Voidwalker, Felhunter, and Succubus are all viable demons. Are you playing Destro and nuking everything down before it matters? Keep the Imp out, switch to the VW if you need the shield.

There isn’t really a “right” answer for leveling. Unlike dungeons or heroics, DPS is not the only measure of success in a fight. Survivability, sustainability, utility – all factor into demon selection when leveling.

PvP uses different measures for choosing demons. DPS is, at best, a secondary consideration to the utility each demon brings. Good PvPers will often leave their pets on Passive, attacking specific targets only when necessary, saving their special abilities for when they’re needed, not risking the loss of a demon in return for extra damage.

In general:

  • Voidwalker is for node defense (to sniff out stealthers) and anti-melee. Sacrifice’s shield takes the bite out of a stunlock. VWs can also taunt hunter pets away from healers.
  • Succubus is for crowd control, seduce nuking, DPS, and interrupts. (Also: Lumber Mill.) The ability to CC while your warlock is doing something else – either casting or incapacitated – is key to understanding the succy’s utility.
  • Felhunter is for shutting down enemy casters. You probably can’t kill a Holy Pally as Affliction without smart use of Spell Lock.
  • Imp is for Destruction, with defensive dispels thrown in. Improved Imp procs don’t happen like they do in PvE, but they can provide nice burst. Singe Magic should be used every CD, either on yourself or your healer(s).
  • Felguard is for Demonology, with a combination of cleaves, burst DPS, and stuns, he can be a potent adversary in both Arenas and Battlegrounds.

In PvP, you absolutely need to switch demons to suit your current situation. I cannot stress this point highly enough. You must switch demons to counter your opponents. Every warlock has Soul Burn to allow instant summons in combat; use it. Do not be predictable. Facing a caster? Open with the Succubus, seduce them while DoTting them up, then switch to the Felhunter and lock them down. Getting savaged by a rogue or DK? Switch to the VW, pop a shield, then run away.

You want to know what I don’t want to face as a caster? Surprise Spell Locks!

#showtooltip Summon Felhunter
/use Soulburn
/castsequence reset=1 Summon Felhunter, Spell Lock, Soul Link, Demon Soul

This kind of macro works for all the demons – bring them out instantly, trigger their special ability, then Soul Link them for your own sake. Seduction? Sacrifice? Axe Toss? Singe Magic? All of them are available, almost instantly, on a 30-second CD.

In PvP, the job changes constantly. Sometimes, you’re trying to take out a healer. Sometimes, you’re trying to pull a rogue off of your healer. Sometimes, you’re able to nuke from a distance. Know your tools so you can select the right demon for the job.

Adaptability is key.

SEDUCE-NUKING AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF DEMON DESIGN

I was running some regular battlegrounds with my guildmates last weekend, helping to gear them up with Bloodthirsty gear, when we ran into a Forsaken Destro warlock with a succubus.

“God damn, I hate that succubus!”
“I know, that seduction shit comes out of nowhere!”
“They are the worst demons, period!”

“Except for yours, Cyn. We like yours. Really.”

I cackled at that exchange. Not just because they were lying to me – they totally were, they hate Helola when I duel them – but because it captures the frustration of facing someone who is using a Succubus to seduce-nuke you to death.

Seduce-nuking is a tried and true strategy for Destruction warlocks that was first popularized by the legendary Drakedog in Vanilla WoW. The basic idea is to hold your target immobile with Seduction while lining up a burst combo that they can’t avoid, then repeating until the Fear DR kicks in, at which point you run away until the DR wears off. It goes something like this.

  • Warlock casts CoEl, Succubus comes out of Invisibility and starts channeling Seduction.
  • Warlock casts a long cast nuke, like Chaos Bolt or Soul Fire, while target is immobilized.
  • Nuke leaves Warlock en route to Seduced target. Warlock casts Immolate during travel time.
  • Immediately after Immolate finishes, Warlock casts Shadowfury on the target.
  • Chaos Bolt, Immolate, and Shadowfury all hit at the same time. Target is no longer Seduced, but is stunned.
  • Warlock casts Conflag and Incinerates during Shadowfury stun.
  • During the third Backdraft-enhanced Incinerate, Succubus starts Seducing again, timed to hit after the Incinerate.
  • DoTs get applied while waiting for CDs (Chaos Bolt, Conflagrate, etc.) to reset. Target is Feared as necessary.

There are plenty of different variations on this strategy, and while Destro does seduce-nuking very well, Demo and Affliction can do it too. It’s a devastatingly effective tactic when you learn how to do it.

(Practical challenge for the warlock readers out there: practice getting three spells – Chaos Bolt, Immolate, and Shadowfury – to land at the same time. It will improve your burst immensely. Once you have this down, add in CC.)

Seduce-nuking is not an obvious tactic. You don’t sit there and think, hey, a CC spell that breaks on any damage, I can use that to nuke people to death! It goes against the cardinal rule: Never follow Fear with a nuke, wtf is wrong with you? But once you get it, you see how useful having a separate CC is. It allows you to CC while you are casting other spells.

The key to understanding and using Demon abilities is that, even when they duplicate your own abilities, they are separate from your warlock. They are available when you are not. Sacrifice is a great anti-stunlock spell because you can trigger it while incapacitated, not just because it’s a shield that absorbs damage. Having a shield you can’t use doesn’t help you one bit. Seduction and Whiplash are effective defense mechanisms because they will save you from a lockdown.

I bring up seduce-nuking and the general dislike of the Succubus, in part, because of Tyler Caraway’s recent post on WoW Insider where he asks Do warlock pets need to be redesigned?, which is worth a read – even if I don’t agree with a lot of his assumptions about warlock demons. It’s worth a read because it presents a very common way warlock players look at their demons, and posits that because the Succubus doesn’t have a purpose, a role to fill, she should be removed.

The way in which demons function now, in 4.0.6., is at variance with the ways a lot of warlock players feel that demons should work, because it’s not elegant. It doesn’t fit into a neat, classical model, where each demon neatly fills a role:

  • Leveling: Voidwalker
  • Affliction: Felhunter
  • Demonology: Felguard
  • Destruction: Imp
  • PvP: Succubus
  • AoE CD: Infernal
  • Single-target CD: Doomguard

I mean, that’s a pretty simple model, right? It’s something that is easy to understand and communicate to players. It provides a single niche for each demon, and a role for every one of them. It also provides each tree with an iconic demon, which appeals to the flavor of the class, the feeling of them.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like this model. I do like it. I like to think of the Felhunter as the Affliction demon, the Felguard as the Demonology demon, the Imp as the Destruction one. Back in 3.1. I was Affliction, but I ran with the Doomguard/Succubus in PvE because that DPS was so much better than the Felhunter, and it felt… weird.

For PvP, at least, I cannot say there should be ever a single pet for that niche. I ran with the VW in Wintergrasp because Seduction was always getting broken (too much damage flying around). I ran with the Felpup for ages in normal battlegrounds just to have the pre-nerf Devour Magic constantly eating magic effects off of me. I ran with the Succy as Destro in 10- and 15-man BGs, and only brought out the Imp when I wanted to raid.

Grouping all of PvP into a single activity is sloppy thinking.

While the idea one demon for each role is a nice one, it fails to take into account the complexities of each PvP situation, of appropriateness. Use the right tool for the right job. If you’re Affliction and you need extra CC, run the Succubus. If you need a tank and a bubble shield, run the VW. If you’re Demo and you need to lock down a caster, run with the Felpup instead of the Felguard.

For PvE, however, perhaps it makes sense as a design direction. Each spec could have its own demon, which is then buffed by talents within that tree.

The problem with this philosophy is that the choice of demon becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, regardless of the utility of each pet – you run with whatever gives you the highest DPS, no matter what, and the talents are in place to achieve that result, so that’s the one you use.

Regardless of talents, glyphs, or other modifiers, regardless of whether the baseline DPS is normalized across demons or not, if the DPS of demons varies, raiders will choose the one that offers the best DPS. PvP selection will remain based on utility (as long as DPS is relatively equal, remember, a lot of times demons are on Passive), but PvE will always, always, recommend one as the best DPS option for each spec. Why can I say that? Because that’s how optimization works. Its goal is simple: find the best option.

The problem that I see happening is that players become unhappy when the results of the DPS analysis don’t match their expectations of what the correct pet should be. Perhaps it’s the model up above, perhaps it’s a different one. But when the player’s expectations don’t match the actual modeled behavior, something fascinating happens – warlock players get emotional about their demons.

Consider a different way of talking about this whole discussion. We have 5 mutually exclusive stances we warlocks can choose from, each capable of inflicting a single damage over time effect on a single target. The damage of that DoT varies according to some interactions with your spec and glyphs, so they’re not equal in the end (though they’re roughly equal before modifications). Each stance also opens up several subordinate abilities, but they are generally not DPS-affecting. The stances are called: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon.

Let’s be honest. You don’t care which stance you adopt. You take the one that gives you the highest DPS as a default, and switch stances as necessary to make use of subordinate abilities. If all of the DoTs inflicted the same damage, you’ll take the one with the abilities you want, and switch as necessary.

If you remove all the skins, all the imagery, all the attachment and history to these demons, you’re left with this: DoTs that can move and grant extra abilities.

Blizzard deliberately doesn’t refer to pets and demons like this. From a game design standpoint, they are moving DoTs – but they know that appearance and identity of NPCs is important. Players are not playing a neutral mathematical game of cold logic, they are playing a game where they want to forget themselves for a while and kill internet dragons.

The conflict that we’re seeing now is not just about maximizing DPS, or balancing DPS and utility. No, this is something deeper.

This is about a dog, and a girl.

THE LOST PUPPY AND THE GIRL EVERYONE HATES

The Felhunter was the king of the PvP demons in Wrath of the Lich King. Devour Magic was both an offensive and defensive dispel, giving a Warlock incredible flexibility in combat. It was on a 6-second CD, so it wasn’t quite as good as a healer’s dispel, but it was an excellent ability. Your felpup would eat and eat and eat buffs off your target, and then you could turn around and eat that critical spell off yourself or your healer that prevented a devastating combo.

And he still had Spell Lock and great DPS on top of all this. Everyone hated the Felhunter in battlegrounds. He was a rage magnet and was sure to get killed, because people knew he was going to be huge amounts of trouble until he was dead.

God damn, I loved my felpup in Wrath.

The Succubus, on the other hand, was a bit weaker in Wrath. She lacked the knockback which makes her so much fun to run with now, and instead had a melee debuff – Soothing Kiss – which reduced melee attack speed by 10%, in addition to reducing threat. She was positioned as a DPS demon – good for leveling if you didn’t want the VW, good for running dungeons because she was low-threat and had additional CC to help on tricky pulls. She was fragile in PvP and died a lot. There were some talents you could take in the Demo tree which would make her Seduce effectively instant-cast, but really only Destro PvP warlocks used her, and even then, she was more useful in Arenas and small combat than larger battlegrounds.

Because you had to talent her to make her truly useful in PvP, using the Succubus was a deliberate choice you had to make while setting up your spec, so you saw a lot of Destro locks running with her – the Imp was useless in PvP – while Affliction warlocks swarmed to the Felhunter. That’s okay, people gravitate to what works well.

If one demon is clearly superior to the others for one spec in both PvP and PvE, it becomes identified with that spec. And that’s what happened – Demonology had the Felguard, Affliction had the Felpup.

Destruction, though… Destruction got to switch between the Imp and the Succy/Felhunter, with the Voidwalker tossed in once Sacrifice didn’t actually kill the demon. The Imp is strongly identified with Destro in most people’s minds, but that’s because it became the strongest PvE spec in 3.2, and Imps swarmed all over ToC and Ulduar.

And then came Cataclysm.

Cataclysm was not kind to the Felhunter. First, Devour Magic became solely an offensive dispel, and the defensive component was moved to the Imp. Good for the Imp! He could actually be brought into PvP and not run away in terror! But very bad for the Felpup.

Then, he lost the talents in the Affliction tree which made him desirable in the first place. Other trees gained DoTs, which meant he could fit in well as a general pet, but Affliction lost its special hold on him. And his glyph was changed from a DPS increase to a healing glyph.

As the last insult, the cooldown on the nerfed Devour Magic was more than doubled in the last patch. Holy fuck, way to neuter the poor guy!

So, in two patches, the Felhunter:

  1. Lost his defensive dispel
  2. Lost his Affliction talents
  3. Lost his glyph to increase damage
  4. Had his offensive dispel cut in half (due to increased CD)

(Oh yeah; the change to the Devour Magic CD halved the effectiveness of his glyph, too.)

During the same period of time, the Succubus got a makeover. She lost Soothing Kiss (which only die-hard PvPers actually used) and gained Whiplash, which is an awesome tool for PvP. No one expects the warlock to knock them off the lumber mill! Drop a circle near the edge, park the succy by the flag, and wait for the rogue to gank you. If you get knocked off, teleport back and do it to them instead. It is awesome.

And while she lost her specific talents in Demonology, she got a brand new glyph with a dramatic DPS increase, causing everyone to stand up and take a look at her again. This was a DPS demon, after all, with an extra CC to boot! Both her PvE and PvP viability took off.

But… she’s still not the best demon for Destruction warlocks to use, because the Imp got buffed, too. The people who likely worked with her during Wrath didn’t need her anymore, while warlocks who were quite comfortable with their Felhunters and Felguards suddenly were realizing that they could get better DPS if they switched to this … evil personification of sex.

And there lies the rub.

If we were talking about switching between Alpha and Epsilon, this wouldn’t be a problem. Epsilon this month, Gamma the next month, whatever, it’s all greek to me, just keep my DoTs rollin’.

But we’re talking about a beloved dog who’s fallen on hard times, whom people have genuine affection for, who symbolized a spec.

And we’re talking about that dog getting replaced by a hypersexualized stranger, a demon who is almost … embarrassing to watch. Yes, that’s the point, I know that. She is supposed to be over the top. She is supposed to be an evil personification of sex. That’s all well and good.

What I think people are reacting to is that the Succubus is the single most obnoxious combat pet in the entire World of Warcraft. Oh god, the noises! The grunting, the moaning, the constant ass-slapping and whip cracking! And it’s not just during raids, when our fellow players have to put up with it and it’s vaguely amusing for the first 30 minutes. No, it’s constant when you play a warlock. Hours of these antics. Days.

You know, even good porn gets boring after a few hours.

Don’t get me wrong; her character model is also irritating. It looks terrible set against the newer textures of the later expansions, which detracts mightily from even the idea that she’s supposed to be seductive. But then she opens her mouth, slaps her ass, the noises start again, and a low-polygon model is the least of my concerns.

I can pinpoint the moment I made peace with my Succubus – it’s when I found the “Turn Pet Sounds Off” setting.

This is the girl that everyone hates. Even those of us who love her hate her. She came in and kicked out both down-on-his-luck demon puppy and a big lug of a demon from their respective jobs. She’s loud, she’s brash, she’s obnoxious, she isn’t wearing much in the way of clothing, and she doesn’t care.

(Actually, when it’s put that way, she sounds like the perfect warlock minion.)

I honestly don’t know why the succubus is so hated. I really don’t. Yes, she’s obnoxious. Yes, she’s poorly drawn. I think it’s something deeper, a combination of both difficult mechanics to master  (seduce-nuking is not intuitive), awkward placement in the leveling process, and a sense that she’s not the right representation for a given spec.

Or, maybe she’s too aggressively sexual, and that just plain makes people uncomfortable.

I’d like to think that’s not it. I really do.

But ask yourself this; if Blizzard introduced a new demon – say a half-dragon, or one of those demon engineers from Outland, or, shit, I don’t know, a sparkly unicorn-Ragnaros hybrid with legs – and made it really good at both PvP and PvE, would we be having the same discussion?

Is this really about utility and DPS?

Or is it about a lost dog that people miss, and a girl that everyone hates?

The gender issues in this discussion are both really interesting and, to be honest, somewhat disturbing.

I’ll leave it at that.

CHOOSE YOUR DEMON WISELY

Do demons need to fill roles? That’s what this really comes down to, doesn’t it? Does it matter what role a specific demon fills? Why does it matter?

I started off Cataclysm firmly in a traditionalist camp; each spec should have a signature demon that has synergy with that tree’s abilities for endgame play, with the voidwalker being primarily useful for early leveling, and the succubus getting used for crowd control and PvP. It’s a nice, easy to learn model, one that makes sense to new players and could – perhaps – make this crazy class easier, and therefore more appealing, to play.

But now, I’m not so sure. I swap demons in and out of fights every night. I open with one, interrupt with another, finish with a third. I’m not tied to any one demon. Perhaps it’s the Soul Burn mechanic which has changed my playstyle, which in turn changed my perspective. Perhaps it’s just that I’m not doing a lot of PvE anymore, where your pets are more static. I don’t recall switching demons mid-fight in ICC, ever. But the mechanics were different, and it wasn’t practical. Now it is.

For PvP, choosing your demon is about utility and making your tools work for you. Yes, the Felhunter has been nerfed a lot, but the old dog has a lot of fight left in him, and he’s the demon I want when I need to take down a healer. If he works for you, use him. If the succy works for you, use her. Voidwalker? Use him, he’s actually decent in PvP now. Heck, even the Imp has utility!

If you don’t know which one is best for you, try them all. Look at each one of their special abilities and figure out how you can use it. Every ability has a use in PvP, you just have to find it.

(Yes, even Flee has a use.)

Experiment with macros to keybind these abilities. You can embed them in your normal spells, or create context-specific macros like the following:

/cast [pet: felhunter] Devour Magic; [pet: Succubus] Seduction; [pet: Voidwalker] Sacrifice; [pet:Imp,@player] Singe Magic; Curse of the Elements

Or for their alternate abilities,

/cast [pet: felhunter] Spell Lock; [pet: Succubus] Whiplash; [pet: Voidwalker] Consume Shadows; [pet: Imp] Flee; Curse of the Elements

… and see how they work. This isn’t rocket science. This is finding creative and clever ways to use abilities you might not know you had.

For PvE, I think a question remains – do you go with what gives the highest theoretical DPS, the most utility, or a compromise between the two positions? Should Blizzard redesign demons to make your choice a cosmetic one, one based upon the buffs and abilities the demons grant? Should they slot them into a defined role-based system, so that each spec runs with one demon and one demon only?

Or do they change things up periodically with each patch, making “which demon should I run with now?” a valid question? Is it interesting that the Succubus is top DPS demon for two specs? Is it different? Is it making players try things that they haven’t tried before?

Our class is constantly changing, for good and for ill.

I think it makes sense that our demons change with us.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Warlock Macros in Cataclysm

I am a strong believer in using macros to help automate tasks.  They allow you to react quickly in game, switch targets, juggle multiple actions at once…

Yeah. I <3 macros.

If you have never used macros before, you may find my Introduction to Macros post helpful. If you’re just getting started with macros for your warlock, you may find my first post on Warlock Macros useful, though it is becoming rapidly out of date, as both the macro syntax and warlock class have changed.

Let’s get down to some new macros.

THE NEW HAWTNESS

Your Imp is now pretty damn good at PvP. It’s not just that he packs a wallop and can kill people on his own (because he can, daaaaamn) – no, it’s that he inherited the Felhunter’s friendly Dispel Magic.

If you run Destruction, you must have this macro:

/cast [@player] Singe Magic

and use it whenever possible. That Imp is going to burn the hostile magic off of you.  Affliction?

/cast [@mouseover] Devour Magic; [harm] Devour Magic

This will eat the buffs off of your mouseover target, or your target if your mouse isn’t pointing at something.

You know what else is pretty good? Fel Fire. You know why it’s good?

If you answered “green fire,” I will cut you. Yes, we know it’s green. Get past that.

No, it’s good because it’s an instant cast nuke with no cooldown. And that means you are, once again, a Shaman’s worst fucking nightmare.

To nuke those totems:

/cast [@mouseover,harm] Fel Flame; [harm] Fel Flame

Warlocks haven’t been able to use pet stomping totems for about a year, but with Fel Flame and a mouseover macro, we’re back in a big way. This macro will cast Fel Flame at your mouseover target (if you have one) or your target (if you don’t). When you see a totem forest, mouse over the totems and start spamming FF at them. If you don’t have a mouseover target, it will hit your target instead.

This type of macro is also really useful if you want to try using more mouseover targeting in general. You can put any spell in there and swap between your target and your mouseover target with impunity.

You know what else is kinda cool? Soul Swap and a focus macro.

/console Sound_EnableSFX 0
/focus [@mouseover]
/cast [@target] soul swap
/cast [@focus] soul swap
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear()
/console Sound_EnableSFX 1
/clearfocus [@focus,dead]

Much like the Fear Focus macro (which you’re using, because you CC like a Pro, right?), this one:

  • Makes your mouseover your focus.
  • Sucks the DoTs off the target on the first press.
  • Shoots the DoTs onto the focus on the second press.
  • Clears your focus when the mob dies.

Awesome for handling adds on a boss, putting pressure on people in PvP, being popular at cocktail parties, whatever. Awesome.

Update 1/5/2011: There’s only one … itty bitty problem. Sometime in the past week, this macro became bugged, and now responds with the error message, “Spell Not Learned.” The answers I’ve seen on the forums is that you need to drop your current spec and respec to fix it, which is crazy, but there you have it. It *does* work, just… not right now. :-(

Moving on.

I tend to spam keys, which can be great for DPS but bad for channeled spells or targeting circles. Something about hitting a key repeatedly tells the UI “this person is a hyperactive moron who can’t make up his or her mind about Shadowfury…”

But I digress. Drain Life is definitely something you want to let tick through the whole way. So:

/cast [nochannelling] Drain Life

or, a slightly more complicated version (which I use):

/cast [mod] Drain Soul; [nochanneling] Drain Life

will prevent my spammy fingers from stopping DL before the healing ticks come through, and:

/cast !Shadowfury

keeps the circle from going in and out while I pound on the keyboard.

(I do not want to talk about the removal of Drain Mana.)

Improved Soul Fire is a totally hax buff, but keeping it up in PvP can be a pain. You’ll want to take advantage of burning a shard and making it instant cast, like so:

/castsequence reset=2,combat Soulburn, Soul Fire

If you’re Affliction, you can use this as well:

/castsequence reset=2,combat Soulburn, Seed of Corruption

Bang this key twice to empower your Soul Fire and Seeds, or just once if you want to do something else.

If you want to be extra special, add Curse of the Elements to the end. Since Soul Fire and Seed of Corruption has a travel time, you can sometimes get Curse of the Elements on before SF hits, giving you an additional 12% damage and lowering the target’s resistances. I usually don’t spam it, just tap it twice… but having the additional curse at the end is always nice if I’m on the run.

Speaking of being on the run, you need to be able to cast on the run, no matter what your spec. Make a macro solely for you instant cast spells so you can be dishing out the pain when on the move:

/castsequence reset=2,combat Corruption, Bane of Agony, Curse of the Elements, Immolate

I end with Immolate because I want something to let me know that I’m out of DoTs to cast without stopping. You can use Unstable Affliction or Fear here too, just give yourself something with a cast time so that you don’t cycle continuously through three DoTs and waste your mana.

At the same time, you should have a fairly standard setup for questing. This is less about doing the most DPS, and more about killing things in the most efficient manner possible.  For Destro I use:

/castsequence reset=2,combat Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate, Incinerate, Chaos Bolt, Fel Fire, Drain Life

This is pretty straightforward; just have a macro you can pound on that delivers the spells you need onto a mob as quickly as you can. I usually pop a Soul Fire before starting that one, but it’s not something I always have time to stand around for.

OLD STANDARDS

Here are some modified versions of macros I published in my first Warlock Macros post.

Buffs! Everyone likes them, and they’re a bit easier to manage now. I prefer a post-GY rez macro for when I’m coming back from the dead; I just hit it until all my buffs are back.

/castsequence reset=@player,2 Fel Armor, Soul Link, Unending Breath, Create Healthstone, Create Soulstone

Now that stones don’t cost shards, there’s zero reason not to buff yourself with them. Combine the above with:

/cast  Create Soulstone
/use [nocombat,help,nomodifier:alt] Soulstone; [nocombat,@player] Soulstone

which will apply a Soulstone to a player if one is targeted, or to yourself of not.

THE MISSING PARTS

I’m obviously missing some abilities here – I’m not playing Demonology right now, and it shows, as I’m not really up to speed on the Felguard’s abilities or Hand of Gul’dan. I’m also somewhat focused on PvP right now, so haven’t dived into a lot of PvE-specific macros yet.

So, I’d love to see what you’re using – post your macros below in the comments!

(Don’t forget to look at Wowwiki for more Warlock Macros, too.)

Enjoy!

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Warlock CC and You: How to Crowd Control Like a Pro in Cataclysm

I love Fear.

Let’s get that out of the way right now. There are a lot of things about playing a warlock that I like, and near the top of my list is Fear. That spell is bound to the 4 button in every spec I play.

I am going to quote from the great “How To Battleground” thread by Dusk:

These people want to kill you. You are a warlock. They all hate you.

They are going to go out of their way to harm you as deeply and as earnestly as they can, and then they are going to /spit and /lol at your corpse, because everybody hates warlocks.

They hate fear, they despise dots, your felhunter is a rage magnet and deathcoil once made the entire wow population cry floods of bitter tears for over a year.

You want to know why I quote from that thread so much? Not because it’s about Warlock PvP – though it is – but because it’s about what it is to be a great Warlock, a complete Warlock, a master of this crazy class.

And in PvP, that means you are a master of Fear. You rip control of other characters away from their characters, and then you kill them. And they can’t do anything about it.

But in PvE, Fear didn’t have the best reputation. It tended to send mobs scurrying hither and yon, sending them screaming into packs of their friends that the tank wasn’t quite ready to pull just yet.

That changed dramatically in Cataclysm.

CROWD CONTROL IS A REQUIREMENT IN CATACLYSM

I have been told that the new dungeons of Cataclysm are hard. That they are punishing. That they are not facerolls, where you can press your AoE spell of choice and go check Twitter!

I have also been told that there are damage dealers out there who have forgotten that when the going gets tough on the tank and healers, their job is to make it easier on those tanks and healers! That these people, playing DPS classes, are refusing to use crowd control! That they don’t even know what that is!

I have even been told that there are WARLOCKS out there who are refusing to use crowd control!

This cannot stand. Do you hear me? THE LINE MUST BE DRAWN HERE.

THIS FAR! NO FURTHER.

You bring shame upon this great class if you refuse to CC.

If you are a warlock, you have the best PvP CC in the game. Do you hear me? IN THE ENTIRE GAME. You have the biggest damn CC toolbox of any class. You have Fear, which when glyphed freezes the mob in place instead of running to bring their friends. You have Banish and are fighting an invasion of Elementals. You have slows, and stuns, and an instant terror that damages your opponent while healing you.

You have no excuses left, Warlocks. You are going to CC like a fucking pro, because Fearing things while killing them is what you do.

DO ONE THING WELL, NOT TWO THINGS POORLY

You want to know why CC looks hard in PvE? It’s not because people can’t open up their spellbook and drag Fear to their damn action bar. No, it’s because it involves multitasking. Instead of tracking one target, you have to track two. You have to watch your normal rotation as well as make sure CC doesn’t fall off.

The key is to not treat them as two targets.

Wait, what?

You heard me.

Don’t multitask – integrate your CC with your normal priority rotation instead. Monitor the CC just as you would any other DoT or CD. Do it in the same place on the screen, in the same mental space.

To do this you’ll need two things – a decent macro and a decent debuff tracker. Let’s start with the macro.

CC FOCUS MACRO

The Warcraft UI has a handy feature in it that allows you to track two targets at once – a Focus. Focus are an advanced kind of Target and is only available via macros and slash commands. Your Focus persists until you change it and is independent of your active Target.

If that’s confusing, think of it this way.

  • Your Target is set by tabbing or clicking on things. It shows up next to your character portrait.
  • Your Focus is set by macros, doesn’t care what you click on, and is separate from your Target. It shows up near the middle of the screen.

So what we’re going to do is use a macro to set your CC target as your Focus, while the thing you’re supposed to kill remains your Target.

Let’s take a look at a Fear Focus macro.

#showtooltip
/focus [target=focus, noexists][target=focus, dead] mouseover
/cast [target=focus, exists] Fear; Fear
/stopmacro [nomodifier]
/clearfocus [modifier:ctrl]

This macro is straight off of WowWiki. It’s simple and does the job. (If you haven’t used macros before, here’s a brief tutorial.) Make one for Fear and one for Banish.

Here’s what it does when you press the button.

  • Sets your mouseover target – whatever your mouse is pointing at – to be your Focus, if you don’t have one. Then it casts Fear at it.
  • If you aren’t pointing your mouse at anything, it will cast Fear at your normal target.
  • If you press Ctrl while clicking the button it will clear your Focus.
  • It also clears your Focus when your Focus dies.

Here’s how you use it.

You’re in a dungeon, and the tank has marked the mobs Skull, X, and Moon.

  • You target Skull.
  • Put your mouse over Moon.
  • Press your CC button. Moon will become your Focus. You’ll cast Fear at it.
  • Cast your normal DPS spells against Skull.
  • When Fear is about to fade from Moon, refresh it by pressing the CC button again. Do not retarget.  CC will go to Moon, everything else goes to Skull.
  • When it is time to kill Moon, just shift your target to it. Don’t bother with your CC button or clearing the Focus.

The reason to use a Focus macro is so that you do not have to shift your targets back and forth. Your CC goes to one mob, everything else goes to the other mob.

If you’re having trouble understanding this, go to the nearest set of target dummies and try this macro out on two separate targets.

NEVER DROP A BEAT

The Focus macro is only the first part of becoming an awesome Crowd Controller. The next step is making sure that your CC is always up, and that the mob you’re assigned to tank stays tanked. That mob is going nowhere while you are on duty. If it gets hit by an AoE attack, or someone tab-targets a DoT on to them, it does not matter.

They are going to stay put until you are damn well ready to kill them!

Remember that crazy thing I said about not multitasking? Well, the one thing you don’t want to do is have to track DoTs on two different mobs in two different places on your screen. Don’t focus solely on your target, because then you won’t see that your CC victim got hit with an AoE attack and is running loose. Don’t focus solely on your CC, or your DPS will suffer.

No, what you need is to unify your interface. Track your Focus CC alongside all of your other important DoTs and CD tracking.

I recommend the addon Need To Know for this.

I’ve covered my personal setup of Need To Know in more detail elsewhere, but the basic idea is to take only those the buffs, debuffs, and cooldowns you need to track and put them all into one central location, like so:

Here I’ve called out the essential things I need to track as a Destruction Warlock for DPS – Improved Soul Fire buff, Immolate duration on my target, Conflagrate CD – but I’ve added in a line for my CC, above my cast bar space.

But it’s important to note something – NTK isn’t monitoring CC on my target, it’s monitoring CC on my Focus. Once I start CCing that mob with the macro above, all I have to do is make sure that that bar stays up. If it breaks, the bar disappears and I recast. If it’s about to run out, I hit my CC button and recast Fear or Banish.

I don’t have to multitask to keep a mob under control. And neither do you. It is awesome when you don’t have to split your attention – just watch the NTK bars.

You set up your CC bar like other NTK bars, but with one key difference:

Instead of monitoring your Target, you monitor your Focus instead.

Also, since you will probably need to switch between Fear and Banish on different mobs, you can make NTK look for both in the same bar. I put all my CC into a single line – just separate them with commas.

These two things in combination make CC a breeze in dungeons. Do them, and Crowd Control becomes trivial. You will make it look easy, which is as it should be.

You’re a Warlock. You are the best damn CC class in the game.

WARLOCK TIPS AND TRICKS

The Glyph of Fear is what makes this all work, of course. It’s one thing to have a great CC toolkit for PvP, but the biggest problem with Fear before Cataclysm was how it sent mobs running all over tarnation, where they’d pull packs of their friends and make you less than popular among your PvE group. But you’re not limited to Fear.

Choose the right tool for the job. Fear is your default, but Banish is useful against Demons and Elementals. There are subtle differences between the two – Fear breaks on damage, Banish does not, but Banish is harder to chain – but they also give you the option of CCing two mobs at once (though you shouldn’t try DPSing the third.) Your Succubus’s Seduction ability is yet another CC option against Humanoid opponents, if you already have her out for her knockback.

You are the tank for your target and responsible for positioning; move them as necessary. You are not helpless in the face of AoE damage to your CC target. Many melee DPS classes rely upon area of effect spells as part of an effective rotation, and they sometimes errantly hit the CC target. Or, the tank might start AoE tanking and nick your mob – perhaps they didn’t pull the main pack far enough away, or things just aren’t going right. If this happens, you are not helpless.

  • Death Coil will break Fear and send the mob fleeing for a short burst of time, letting you reposition them away from the main fight. Reapply Fear when you get them where you want.
  • Searing Pain can be used to break Fear and draw the mob towards you. Position yourself in the direction you need the mob to go and use Demonic Circle to get out of harm’s way while you reapply CC.
  • Your Succubus has a knockback effect – Whiplash – and you can get your controlled mob out of the way of AoE with it. Blow a shard, summon the Succy instantly, then move the mob.
  • If your mob is Banished, casting Banish will break the banishment and move them towards you again. You can apply DoTs to make sure you have the mob’s attention, then reposition them as they come after you.

Howl of Terror and Death Coil are in case of emergency. These two spells are both very powerful when used correctly. If the tank totally loses aggro on a pack of mobs and they are all going towards the healer, Howl at them. Tanks don’t like gathering up fleeing mobs, but at least they’re not eating the healer. Death Coil is a similar tool; it can be used to peel a mob off a healer, but you aren’t in control with it. Use it as a way to seize control, since it’s an instant cast on a CD.

I personally also recommend that you glyph Shadowflame, as that will give you an awesome slow for PvP and PvE alike. It is a huge, huge slow – 70%! – but not everyone will want to spare the glyph slot. Consider it, at least.

THROWING DOWN THE GAUNTLET

I know that I can be… uh… enthusiastic? about Warlocks. But if you’re another DPS class with CC, you can absolutely take this approach and use it to become awesome Crowd Controllers, too.

Mages, if you can’t see that this works perfectly with Polymorph, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s bad enough you have Frost Nova, but there is no reason you can’t be sheeping and pigging and lord knows what else to mobs! Seriously, you have a rep to protect here! Are you going to let Warlocks show you up? Again?

(Also, buy my Tomes of Polymorph: Turtle off the AH. I have alts to support.)

And all the rest of you! Every DPS class with CC, no matter how good or how poor, can use focus macros and a good debuff tracker to ensure that they are controlling their assigned mob. Rogues have Sap. Ele Shammies have Hex. Druids have Hibernate and Entangling Roots. Hunters can trap and kite like no one’s business.

Every DPS needs to look at their bag of tricks and figure out what they can do. If you can’t CC, you can interrupt. Everyone has something. If you aren’t CCing, you should be on Interrupt duty. Period. End of story.

But this is what Cataclysm PvE is like; DPS needs to look at CC as something they have to do, and take pride in doing well.

And to my fellow Warlocks: I expect you to be among the best in the game. Show those Mages what we’ve got.

When everyone competes to be the best CCers, we ALL win.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Calculating DoT & HoT Haste Sweet Spots

One of the biggest challenges with the new way DoTs (and HoTs) work in Cataclysm is knowing when you’re at enough Haste to make it worth your while to add more and get extra ticks on your spells, or when it would be better to switch over to a different stat like Mastery or Crit. This is further complicated because each spell has a different breakpoint or plateau due to their duration and intervals, so you can’t just say there’s a set Haste level for your class – it all depends on what you’re casting.

The formula for computing the number of ticks is relatively straightforward:

Round ( Base Spell Duration / ( Base Tick Time / (1 + Haste %)))

In other words, take the base tick time, modify it with haste, then see if the base duration would round it up to an additional tick.

Straightforward doesn’t always mean simple, though. In order to make decisions about how much Haste to stack, you’ll want to look at all of your DoTs and see where the sweet spot is for you.

Recognizing that some people are more comfortable with math than others, I went ahead and built a spreadsheet so that you could see how your spells would work with Haste. Cyn’s DoT/HoT Haste Calculator:

  • Lets you configure four spells with different durations and tick times.
  • Gives you a place to enter your current Haste percentage and see its effect on each spell and the GCD.
  • Lets you see how much Haste rating you will need to reach specific Haste percentages at level 70, 80, and 85.
  • Provides a table of Haste values from 0%-50% with related values for each.

To use it, download the file and open it with the spreadsheet program of your choice. If you don’t have one, I recommend the free OpenOffice suite. Change the DoT1-4 values to match the values for the spells of your choice, then put your current Haste value in the big yellow cell that says YOUR HASTE % HERE. The values should fill in.

Here’s what it looks like, if you don’t want to fire up Excel or OO:

I debated putting in a duration calculator, but it cluttered things up too much for a 1.0 release. I’d appreciate any feedback you might have on this spreadsheet. Corrections, comments, whatever, let me know!

(And for the Warlocks out there, I’m sure you see that the default DoTs are: Immo/UA, Corruption, BoD, BoA. Just as it should be.)

Update 12/31/10: I’ve updated the spreadsheet to version 1.1 to include Hamlet’s breakpoint math, below. (Thanks, Hamlet!) There is a new section that shows you where the first 4 ticks are added to your DoT/HoT, as well as the next Haste value you will need to reach to gain an additional tick.

Update 1/2/11: Updated to version 1.11. Fixed a bug in the table, thanks Hylix!

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Filed under Cyn's Guides To Almost Anything, Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Rename Your Demon Minions

Wow. There’s a lot of new stuff in the Shattering patch. Take, for instance, the appearance of Demon Trainers near all the Warlock Trainers.

I didn’t think much about them until @bringing_chaos on twitter let me in on what they actually do. Remember when patch 4.0.1 hit and our demon minions had been replaced? And how that, as that unfortunate mess got straightened out, the developers hinted that warlocks who didn’t like their demon’s names could change them in a future patch?

Well, the future is now. Don’t like your demon’s name? Visit a Demon Trainer near you and for the low low price of 50g, you can generate a new name for 1 minion.

Above is my baby warlock Cynixie. I’ve rolled a few warlocks with the intention of seeing how the leveling experience is for each spec. ‘nixie was to be my Demonology test.

But, the problem was her Felguard’s name: Chinilashak.

Chinilashak? Vanilla shack? Chinchilla shack? You can’t expect me to take Demonology seriously if I’m having to summon my fearsome Felguard Chin-man, do you?

As you can see in the picture above, I visited a guy named Torian. He said he could help. I gave him 50 gold, selected the minion I wanted to rename, and…

My felguard is now named Vazeelvazul.

Huh.

(Well, I suppose if I make vuvuzela sounds when I summon him, maybe it will work out.)

So. If you’re unhappy with your demon name? Go change it! Lousy service from your VW? Change him out! Caught your succubus with the upstairs maid? Swap her in for a better one!

Go forth and resummon your demons!

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How Warlock DoTs Work in Cataclysm

Cynwise, mounted on the Headless Horseman's Mount, stands in front of one of the Ironforge Training dummies.

Look out, Cynwise! The Training Dummy is sneaking up on you!

As part of the massive mechanics revamp that came in patch 4.0.1, substantial changes have been made to the way damage over time spells are handled in Warcraft.  The way you thought about DoTs in Wrath is now wrong; it’s time to start thinking of them the Cataclysm way.

Let’s take a look at the bread and butter DoT of Affliction: Corruption.

Setting aside abilities that refresh DoTs for a moment, in Wrath, the right way to refresh a DoT was to let it tick the last tick, then immediately refresh it, like so.

This gave you 12 ticks for 2 GCDs of work.  Warlocks need to evaluate the DPCT (Damage Per Cast Time) of a spell, and in this case we see that those 2 GCDs gives us the full value of each Corruption spell (6 ticks) in the most amount of time.

What you wanted to avoid, at all costs, was clipping the DoT.  Clipping your DoTs meant refreshing it before the last tick, like so:

Clipping the DoT overwrites the first cast entirely, so the final tick of the first one is cancelled out by the delay preceeding the first tick.  In the time it took you to cast two Corruption spells, you got 11 ticks instead of 12.  The DPCT of each Corruption has been lowered by 8% just because the DoT was clipped. That’s a huge DPS loss.

I like to think of it as a single unit, the pause first and then the tick.  Casting the DoT starts with the pause, ignoring the previous spell.

This has been changed for the better in Cataclysm.

If you cast in between the penultimate and final ticks, your first Corruption spell gets its last tick in, and then the duration is extended beyond that as you’d expect.  You don’t want to let it fall off, because then you’re introducing the lag we used to have, and you have about a 2 second window between ticks to refresh Corruption.

Why after the penultimate tick?  Why not refresh it all the time?

Well, let’s see what happens then.

This example shows refreshing the DoT after the third tick.  The fourth tick still happens – it doesn’t get clipped – but the duration doesn’t stack up to a full 36 seconds.  You get 10 ticks for 2 GCDs of work, or a 17% DPCT loss for doing this early.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should NEVER do this. In a real fight, your instant casts should be refreshed whenever you’re moving, especially now that they don’t clip a tick in the middle of the rotation.  If you’re moving, you should be casting your Curse, Bane, Corruption, and then Life Tap to keep up your mana. Never stop casting!

But standing still, yeah.  Wait until the second to last tick, then refresh the DoT.

THE ONE DOT YOU STILL DON’T CLIP

The new refresh mechanics are fantastic, but there’s still one DoT you let fall off.  Can you guess what it is?

That’s right: Bane of Agony.  Take a look at its ticks:

Bane of Agony hits REALLY HARD at the end. (Not quite to scale.)

Bane of Agony has quick (2 second) ticks that ramp up over the course of the DoT: 4 weak, 4 middle, 4 strong.  This makes it ideal for use while pet tanking, as the aggro starts off very slow and ramps up with the damage.

But it also means that if you refresh the DoT before the final tick, you’ll overwrite a strong tick with a weak one.

This is somewhat counterintuitive, given how Corruption works above.  You’d think that you’d get your strong tick off, and then 4 weak ticks.  But no, you get 5 weak ticks.  Strip off your gear and hit a training dummy, you’ll see it in the logs.  Everything goes smoothly, you get 24 ticks total, but during the refresh you’ll get 5 weak ticks.

So. Let your Bane of Agony fall off, and refresh it once it does.  Everything else? Hit before the last tick.

THE EFFECTS OF HASTE & HASTE PLATEAUS

Haste has changed so that it tries to fit more ticks in to a static spell duration, instead of reducing the duration with the same number of ticks.  Each cast can give you more ticks of a spell than before.  In Wrath, Haste could make an 18 second/6 tick Corruption spell a 13.5 second/6 tick spell, giving you a DPS increase without actually changing the DPCT of the DoT.

In Cataclysm, Haste adds more ticks into the existing duration, which maintains the same DPS, but increases the DPCT of each DoT.  Let’s look at the two models.

Haste reduces the amount of time between ticks equally in both models, so the ticks are coming at the same frequency.  Assuming spell damage has not been altered, then the DPS is exactly the same between each model.

What’s different is the DPCT of the DoT goes up dramatically in the Cataclysm model.  Over a boss fight, you will spend less time refreshing the DoT if it adds ticks within the existing duration instead of shortening the duration.  In a 5 minute fight, you’d spend 23 GCDs casting Corruption in Wrath, but only 17 GCDs in Cataclysm, for the exact same DPS.  That’s a 35% increase in DPCT.

This means you have gained 6 GCDs to cast other spells during that fight, just by changing the way Haste is calculated.  That’s pretty cool!

However, this new mechanic has created some interesting problems when stacking Haste.

See, the game now has to decide when it’s going to add another tick.  There’s a specific amount of Haste which will give you a new tick, and when you hit that level of Haste, your DPS goes up by a large amount. But Haste only really benefits your DoTs when it gets you over the threshold. This rounding off leads to a phenomenon called the Haste Plateau.

Here’s the difference between 24% Haste and 25% Haste:

A very small amount of Haste in the first scenario would add a big DPS boost.  Haste in the second situation doesn’t help very much (until you get near adding a 9th tick, of course.)

This is different from the Wrath method of simply compressing the DoT down – Haste scaled linearly with that model, with the more Haste added, the faster each DoT burned.  In the Cataclysm model, Haste scales in a quantum fashion – you hit a threshold where the game rounds off, you get another tick.  Then you plateau out until you reach the next threshold.

Here’s a graph, definitely not to scale, about how the different models worked.

This graph shouldn’t be taken as a DPS comparison between the two systems – it’s just a way to show the different kinds of scaling going on here.  (Besides, DPS should be static between the two models.)  But the idea is straightforward: there are Haste values where your DoT DPCT will take a big jump.

Now, you’re probably asking, what are those Haste values?  When do I need to start looking to prioritize Haste over Mastery or Spellpower?

Well, for a Destruction Warlock using Immolate in a raid environment, Elitist Jerks has the Haste Plateau values as: 157, 781, 1406, 2030.  My own testing shows that I don’t gain an extra Immolate tick until around 10% Haste, which I think was around 500 Haste.  Not having raid buffs is probably the reason for the discrepancy in our two tests, so I’ll just put both out there and encourage you to hit the dummies with your own gear.  Swap pieces in and out, reforge them, and then count the ticks on the dummy.

The most important thing to take away from this is that while Haste is, in general, very good for Warlocks (and other DoT-based caster classes), there are times that Haste will be better for you than others.  Also, different spells will scale differently with different amounts of Haste due to duration and intervals between ticks.  Bane of Doom (4 ticks every 60 seconds) scales poorly, while Bane of Agony (12 ticks every 24 seconds) scales really, really well.  Immolate, Unstable Affliction (5 ticks over 15 seconds) and Corruption (6 ticks every 18 seconds) are all on the same 3-second scale.

There's a lot of math in this part, so Cynwise is going to reenact some of her favorite parts of The Return of the Jedi for you. You're welcome.

AUTOMATIC REFRESHES AND HASTE

All of the above is important theory for warlocks to know, but in practice, Affliction Warlocks never worry about refreshing Corruption manually.  They keep it going with the Everlasting Affliction talent, which gives Haunt, Drain Life, and Drain Soul the ability to refresh it for them.  This DoT-refreshing ability simplifies the Affliction priority list considerably, because all you have to worry about is keeping Haunt on the target, as it will take care of Corruption.

But, Affliction still needs to keep Unstable Affliction and Bane of Agony rolling on a target, and those now have two different methods they’ll need to consider.

Demonology has joined Affliction in the DoT-refreshing camp, as the new talent Cremation refreshes Immolate when Hand of Gul’dan is cast.  This is cool, and helps reduce the complexity in an already complicated priority list.  But the Cataclysm Haste model can do wonky things to this refresh.

Take a look at the 24% Haste example up above.  See the dangling blue line at the end of it?  That’s a good conceptual representation of what’s going on – you’ve got almost, but not quite, enough Haste to make it to that last tick.  And the duration between the ticks is still really close.

But the DoT ends on the last tick.  So while it’s convenient to say that Haste doesn’t reduce the duration of DoTs in the Cataclysm model, it’s not entirely accurate.  But only Demonology warlocks refreshing Immolate with Hand of Gul’dan actually do need to worry about it right now.  Pay attention, Demo locks!

I mentioned earlier that the game has a way to determine when you get another tick on your DoT.  It takes the time between ticks – reduced by Haste – and divides the total duration of the DoT by that number.  It then rounds off the result to figure out how many ticks you’ll have.

In other words:

  • Take the time between each tick – for Immolate, it’s 3 seconds.
  • Apply Haste to it by dividing it by 1 + the Haste percentage.  For 9% Haste, it would be (3/1.09).  10% Haste would be (3/1.1).
  • Divide the total duration of the DoT by the hasted tick speed to find out how many ticks the DoT will have.  Immolate is 15 seconds, so 10% Haste would be 15/(3/1.1) = 5.5 ticks.  9% Haste is 15/(3/1.09) = 5.45 ticks.
  • Round that number to the nearest integer, so 10% rounds to 6 ticks, while 9% rounds to 5.

So while you get 5 ticks at 9% Haste, and 6 ticks at 10% Haste, keep one important fact in mind: the tick speed is not rounded off.  The spell ends when the last tick ticks.

DoT duration equals tick speed times number of ticks.  So the following Haste values give you the following values:

  • At 9% Haste, each Immolate tick will take 2.7523 seconds.  You’ll get 5 ticks, for a duration of 13.76 seconds.
  • At 10% Haste, each tick is 2.7273 seconds long.  You get 6 ticks, for a duration of 16.3636 seconds.
  • At 15% Haste, ticks are 2.6087 seconds, you get 6 of them, and Immo lasts 15.65 seconds.
  • At 20% Haste, ticks are 2.5 seconds long, you get 6 of them, and Immo is exactly 15 seconds long again.
  • At 29% Haste, ticks are 2.32 seconds each, you have 6 of them, and Immo is 13.95 seconds long.
  • At 30% Haste, ticks are 2.3077 seconds long.  This is the breakpoint for 7 ticks on Immo, and the DoT is 16.15 seconds long.

While this has interesting implications for Destruction (who should strive for 10% Haste no matter what), it is even more interesting implications for Demo.

Consider: Hand of Gul’dan is on a 12 second cooldown, with a 2 second cast time, before Haste.  That’s 14 seconds between each refresh of a spell that, unhasted, has a 15 second duration.  Okay, no problem, right?

Only, Haste can both shorten or lengthen the duration of Immolate, depending on the specific value.  It never goes outside a certain range (13.64-16.36 seconds), but the lower end of that range drops below the CD and hasted cast time of Hand of Gul’dan.

Take 9% Haste again.  9% Haste brings HoG’s cast time down to (2/1.09) = 1.8349.  With a 12 second CD, that means HoG can be cast once every 13.8349 seconds.  Awesome!

Except you’re refreshing a spell that has a Hasted duration of 13.76 seconds.  Oops.

There isn’t really a great solution for this, aside from Demonology locks knowing where their Haste is and making sure that they can effectively refresh Immolate.  The area between 7-9.5% Haste seems to be the really dangerous area; the next such place where this happens is around 29% haste, and the HoG cast time is only 1.55 seconds then.  So it’s not a big deal then, just at low Haste levels.

I don’t think the Cataclysm Haste mechanic is broken because of this issue.  I think, if any technical solution is really needed, dropping the CD of HoG to 10 seconds through a Glyph would suffice.

This is just one of those places where the math gets really interesting, and where a little bit of Haste stacking can go a long way towards improving your DPS.

Did you have any idea DoTs could be so fascinating?

A FINAL WORD FOR HUNTERS (AND ROGUES AND FERAL DRUIDS AND…)

A final note about this article.  While I’m writing this for Warlocks, these new rules should apply across the board to all magic DoTs.  If you’re a caster  with DoTs – Mage, Shadow Priest, Boomkin, Elemental Shaman, Warlock, and maybe even Death Knights, though I’m not positive – these rules should now apply to you.  If you’re a class with physical damage DoTs, I’m 99% sure that Haste doesn’t affect your tick speed.  You can also still clip your DoTs (if they don’t automatically refresh).  The reasons behind it aren’t really clear to me, but I’ve been assured that this is how it works.

Basically, if your Haste is tied into your energy regeneration, you’re probably not getting any benefit to your DoTs from Haste.  And that sucks.

Because this new way of handling DoTs?  Sure, it requires some math to understand.  But the changes are awesome.

I hope all DoTs start working like this soon.

Questions?  Corrections?  Leave ‘em in the comments.

Update (January 11th, 2011): Somehow, I forgot to mention that I put together a calculator for Haste Sweet Spots. If you want to toy around with your own values, give it a try!

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery