Site Meter Curse of Senility: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009


RAWR! I'm blogging about my blog!

So, I'm currently in the middle of two posts with are both personally interesting to me, as well as being very challenging to write! Which is good, I like to stretch myself whenever possible, but it does mean I need to take breaks. During my break today, I decided to make a new bit of art for the site.

Because you didn't notice the one 3 inches above this one.

It's not fantastic. It's pretty horrid actually. Been several months since I worked on a serious image editing project, and this is the first time I've tried to create art from scratch for such a project. All in all I'd give it a 3 out of 10 on my personal quality scale. Particularly due to how poorly the word bubble turned out, but also due to how awkward it makes the page look in general. It's better than the supremely generic design I've had to deal with thusfar (though the dots make for a fun pun) but I will probably be replacing it by a (hopefully) better image very soon.

While I'm Meta-Blogging, I'd like to mention that I don't think I'll be doing a post about the changes made to warlocks in the most recent patch. There's simply not enough to say--if only because several of the changes only affected warlocks who are spec'd differently than I, or use different tactics. I will say that the new summoning spell is AWESOME, and Blizz' artists deserve massive grats for this one. I'd also like to say 'thanks' for giving our pets a bit more health. That's pretty much all there is to say on that topic.

And one last note, since I prefer not to clutter up my other posts with off-topicness. I'd like to thank the 4 or 5 people who have actually been following this blog. Yes, I see you! It's good to know that people are reading, keeps me motivated to improve. I'd also like to thank all the people who linked to me, I don't know WHY you did it, but it has been very helpful both to my traffic and to my self esteem.

In closing; I'd like to invite anybody who has been reading to leave a comment telling me what they'd like to see more or less of from me, and I will do my best to oblige if I can!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This is McJiggins!

After my preposterously prolix post just past, I propose a respite from my persistent warlock posting, perhaps instead I'll pen some prot-poganda. To that end, I'd like to introduce you, my readers, to a friend of mine. This is McJiggins. Or, perhaps more properly, Samuel McJiggins III. He is my gnome prot warrior, and one of the very first characters that I ever rolled.

Allow me to begin more properly, at the start of it all with McJiggins the First;

When I began playing World of Warcraft, I went through a frustrating phase that all new players must go through. You see, just about every friend I'd ever had came out of the woodwork, after ages of ignoring me in favor of their polygonal peers. And of course, each and every one of them insisted that I make a character on their server so that I could play with them. Not a single one of them was on the same server as any others, either. I'm still convinced they did that to annoy me.

And so, at the behest of one of my oldest and dearest friends, I rolled a hordie on the Burning Legion PVP server. I really fell in love with this character rather quickly. I enjoyed the mechanics of the class, and the little RP that I began making up in my head. I don't remember what any of that was, though, because just as I was starting to get to level four or five or so, my friend informed me that his priest, Melmagil, was a NIGHT ELF.

This, understandably, made me a bit sad. I was forced to delete my now forgotten hordie, and roll something that wouldn't be obligated to stab my friend in his priestly face. I scrolled through my options, not finding any of them terribly compelling at that moment. But when I got to gnome, and the default class of 'warrior' was selected, I got an idea!

Someday, I imagined, I would get whatever character I rolled here to level seventy! And, furthermore, my friend Melmagil was a healer in a raiding guild--so whatever character I rolled would likely be joining them in their raids--at least this is what I imagined in those tender days of my WoW-youth. And in these imaginings, a plot began forming in my mind. A plot for revenge against those who had forced me to delete my beloved hordie! I would roll a gnome, a silly little creature with a mocking grin and green comb over. That character would be a protection warrior, and it would be oh-so-emasculating for them to cower behind my diminutive form whilst I bravely stepped forward and tanked the creatures that would one shot their squishy asses.

Not exactly a master stroke of vengeful brilliance, but it made me giggle, so I went with it.

At least, I went with it until about level 10, when I got my own account and had to delete him.

I quickly started McJiggins Jr, but by then I had been playing long enough to realize that I would never get that character to max level, and the poor guy is still sitting over on Burning Legion, at a level no larger than his placement in the order of McJigginses.

I don't recall exactly how it happened, but at some point I decided that I loved McJiggins far too much to leave him on a server that I would never play on. Not only did I have fond memories of those ten-or-so levels that I put into the original, but the RP I had constructed for him made me giggle even more than the vengeful plan that had led to his creation. You see, McJiggins is alleged to be a Psychopathic Murderer, but nobody was ever able to press charges against him due to all the evidence being lost when Gnomeregan was irradiated--so McJiggins went free, but was shunned by gnomish society.

Seriously! >.>

Anyway, the end result is that at some point, I re-rolled him a third and final time on my home server, Silver Hand. I really didn't play him very often at all; occasionally popping on to RP or quest with him, but it took several months to get him up even as high as level 11. By this time, you see, I was busy doing Shadow Labs and Mechenar on my Warlock, and couldn't be bothered with lowbies.

Some months after that, however, I got BORED with the instances available to me. All but a few heroics were a breeze, Kara was on a week-long cooldown, and my favorite aspect of the game--instancing--was quickly losing its luster in my eyes. That's when McJiggins stopped being an alt, and became a project that continues to hold a great deal of interest for me.

'Hey,' I thought, 'what about the instances that I got run through? Like Deadmines! And what about the instances I only cleared after I became overleveled? Such as Blackrock Depths! And hell, I've still never seen the inside of Maradon! Surely those instances have as much to offer to a character in the appropriate level range as heroics have to offer me at level seventy!'

Driven by this mode of thinking, I quickly turned to my forgotten prot warrior. McJiggins was low enough level that he would still have to do a few quests before he was ready to take on even the lowest-level instances in the game--meaning that as he leveled up, I would have a chance to do all of them at the proper level! What's more, it would give me an opportunity to learn a completely different aspect of the game from DPSing, and perhaps allow me to someday heal the crippling tank-shortage my guild was feeling at the time.

In preparation for this venture, I mentally drafted the rules of McJiggins:

1) From Deadmines onward, quest only when necessary to attune or key for an instance. Some necessary quests--such as the quest to become unfriendly with the timbermaw--are also valid exceptions to this rule.

2) Run every instance in the game in the order that their queue becomes available in LFG.

3) Don't run any instance twice if there is an instance you haven't done available to you.

4) An instance isn't done until you've killed all the bosses--exceptions may be made if summoning a boss requires you to break rule 3.

5) An instance isn't done unless you tanked it.

6) RFC, raids, and Heroics are excepted--though if possible they are desirable.

7) Never accept a player into your group who is outside the upward bound of the instances level range.

8) Seek out advice from any credible source available to you.

9) Be awesome.

Rule 9 goes into pretty much every list of directives I've ever written for myself.

Here we see the prot warrior outside his native habitat. As you can see, he's confused and disoriented away from the mechanics which define him.

I've stuck to these rules well thusfar, which is a point both of pride and of frustration to me. Three Deadmines runs which ended due to various reasons while we were in the middle of clearing the boat left me so discouraged that I abandoned the project until only a month or so ago. The buffs given to warriors in 3.0 (yeah, I'm kind of a carebear I guess ;_;) have made it much easier for me to force my groups to maintain a rapid pace--which in turn has reduced the number of people who drop group significantly.

Unfortunately it has been remarkably slow going despite that. Even as a tank, it tends to take quite a long time to find groups until I've got a healer. And my rules mean that any healer I meet is either played very rarely, or will be a great deal higher level than I am in a very short time. (For those of you who read my girlfriend's blog, Tamaryn, was originally rolled so she could heal for McJiggins. Something I still occasionally guilt trip her for, cuz I'm a horrible guy.) Despite that, however, I've managed to clear Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep, Wailing Caverns, and Stockades so far. And let me tell you--it's fucking fun.

I'll leave the story of McJiggins here for now. Now that I've said who he is, and what he does. In the future, I think I'll post tales of some of the misadventures of McJiggins, the minuscule marauder. The tale of the DPSing healer should be good for a giggle or two...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Time To Talk Talents (Totally Titanic Tirade!)

I don't think I can rightly have a blog about a class in World of Warcraft without taking a moment, at some point, to talk about my spec. To talk about why I think it's the best spec for me, why I made some of the controversial decisions that I did, and some alternative ways to spend points that I'm looking at using in the future. So rather than wait for later, how about I go over it now!

This is a broad topic, so I'm going to try to narrow it down as much as I can. I've talked about why I spec the way I do in a more general sense, so I'll not do that again here. I've also dedicated two posts already to the tactics that I use with this spec, so I'll not waste my reader's valuable time with recitations of that either. What I am going to do is list every single talent in the affliction tree, and why I did or why I did not put points into it. I'll also briefly mention at the end of this post why I decided to put my extra points into destruction rather than demonology, and why I decided to place them in the places that I put them. Hopefully by the end, I'll have a comprehensive guide for locks looking to spec affliction for the first time--even if they don't make the same choices I made.

I'll warn you right now that this post is going to be rather long, though I'll do my best to keep it from becoming dry. So, without further arbitrary addition to the already sizable length of this post, here's my spec:

54 / 0 / 17

I call it 'Affliction Mach 3' (seriously, it's my third major variation on affliction since 3.0

Affliction Tree

Tier 1

Improved Curse of Agony (0/2): Right off the bat is perhaps my most controversial decision. Almost all affliction warlocks these days--and even many demonology and destruction warlocks as well--put two points in here for the improved damage. I, too, would join them, save for the unfortunate fact that I don't have any boomkin or deathknights to run with reliably. This means I'm still casting Curse of Elements frequently enough that it doesn't seem worth it to spend two points on something I would only get to use very occasionally.
Suppression(3/3): Three points here makes getting myself up to the all-important hit cap much easier. However, if I ever reach the point where my gear easily gets me all the way up to the spell hit cap of 446 (which it almost has by now) then these three points will very likely start going elsewhere, since the mana-cost reduction to my affliction spells is insignificant. Two of them will probably go into Imp'd CoA, if I haven't already moved points into there by then.
Improved Corruption(5/5): This is an absolute, and obvious, must for all affliction warlocks. Corruption one of the most important spells to any affliction rotation--and in fact as of late I've noticed that it has become my single highest damaging spell, beating out shadow bolt by 1% of my damage dealing pie. As such, improving it whenever possible is crucial. Any affliction lock who doesn't r lyke ttly skrub. Also ghey, lawl.

Tier 2

Frailty(0/2): Despite being improved since Burning Crusade, this talent is still absolutely terrible, and should never be taken. Evers. Double ever.
Improved Drain Soul(0/2): This talent is something of a tossup. It's a soloing/PVP talent, so in a raid or instancing environment it helps only a very little bit. However, the rather lackluster talents of tier 2 make this an acceptable choice, if only to give you enough total points in the tree to make your way to the next tier. It's certainly a fine alternative to putting any points in Frailty.
Improved Life Tap(2/2): Life tap is fundamental to a warlock's ability to do damage. Our spells are mana inefficient, we can't regen mana the way priests or magi do, and the only way we're going to be able to keep casting is if we're able to life tap or dark pact to keep our mana up. I would go so far as to say that this is a must-have talent (though more due to the poor choices on this tier than to how awesome an extra 20% mana is I think.)
Soul Siphon(2/2): Much to my embarrassment, I only recently noticed that this talent was changed in the Echoes of Doom patch. You can tell I'm smart because it only takes me three months to notice a fundamental change in a talent that I've put points into after several respecs. Having now noticed it, I am tempted to move these points either to Improved Curse of Agony, or to Improved Drain Soul. However, Drain Life is very helpful when soloing Onyxia--which is fun even though they recently halved the gold you get from doing it. So I may keep it here. Regardless, I don't view it as important enough an error to deal with immediately. After all, it's not like I put the points in frailty. (Which you should never do. Ever.)

Tier 3

Improved Fear (0/2): I imagine that this is a kickass PVP talent. It's probably also sexcellent for soloing. However, I do not PVP, nor do I use fear much when I'm soloing things. I'm weird that way. As such, I've never put points here, and doubt I ever will. Cool talent though.
Fel Concentration (3/3): Another great soloing talent that ends up being completely useless in a raiding or instancing scenario; provided the healer is doing his or her job. However, since there really isn't much else to put points into at this tier, I think it's a good choice, since without this talent, drain-tanking is effectively impossible.
Amplify Curse (0/1): I'm bouncing back and forth on this talent. It was initially very appealing to me, so I took it to try it out. After leveling up with it, and using it in my first raid or so, I concluded that it was a bad talent for me. My conclusion was based on the fact that I always used Curse of Elements, and my typical tactic for using that spell was to cast it while the tank was gaining aggro. As such, a faster cooldown didn't mean I got to start DPSing faster, because I was waiting for the tank to build aggro anyway. I even went so far as to sugguest on the warlock forums that this talent be changed so that it reduced the global cooldown of lifetap and dark pact--spells that often need to be cast in the heat of casting rotations, which has a tendency to throw off a person's sense of timing. However, due to how much easier threat generation has become, and due to the increased use of Curse of Agony in modern raids, I am beginning to reconsider whether or not this talent would be useful. My personal jury is still out on this decision.

Tier 4

Grim Reach (0/2): The equation with this talent seems very simple in my mind. Any affliction casting rotation I've ever seen contains shadow bolt. Most good ones also contain Immolate. Immolate and Shadow Bolt are destruction spells, and will not get the increased range from this talent. So, unless you're willing--and able--to put points into the destruction talent which also increases range, Grim Reach is silly, because you'll still have to stand just as close as you would have without it in order to cast your destro spells. Furthermore, I've noticed a distinct lack of fights in Wrath of the Lich King which really require you to stay as far away from the boss as you can. In fact, there are a surprising number of fights where you actually have to stand on top of the boss in order to be successful. Perhaps things will change in Ulduar. If so, I shall reconsider.
Nightfall (2/2): I'm a bit dubious about the amount that this talent actually helps, but again, poor alternatives leave me with only a few equally dubious alternatives. I've heard that the benefits of this talent are much better now than they were in BC, which is good, because I have points here. It should be noted that Glyph of Corruption DOES stack with this talent, so it's probably a decently good idea to get both--given the lackluster quality of warlock glyphs. (A subject I should probably write on sometime soon as well.)
Empowered Corruption (3/3): Woot, another chance to improve my corruption. If I didn't take this, I'd be a moron!

Tier 5

Shadow Embrace (5/5): This talent is an absolute requirement for any affliction spec. In general, things that make ALL your dots do extra damage are a very, very good thing. This is also the reason why, in my boss rotation, I open up with a shadow bolt before I cast haunt, followed by all my dots. That way, this effect is stacked to the maximum of height of two before my first dot ticks.
Siphon Life (1/1): Siphon Life, even after being Glyphed, will probably end up being your lowest damage-dealing DoT. However, without it your overall damage would still be significantly lower. What's more, the healing effect (combined with your Fel Armor's heal, combined with the healing effect of Haunt, combined with a Death Coil now and again) help you keep yourself healed through all that life-tapping you'll be doing during boss fights. The healing effects mentioned are enough, in fact, that it allows affliction warlocks to solo some rather tough elites with ease. Not only is this talent useful enough that you should get it for instances and raids, but it's also an utterly fantastic talent for both soloing and PVP.
Curse of Exhaustion (0/1): A dubiously useful talent, that requires you to take another dubiously useful talent. Curse of Exhaustion is great for PVP, and a very useful tool when soloing, but for a spec geared toward group-content, you really can't allow yourself to waste the point most of the time. (Not to self: find a thesaurus that has terms such as 'PVP' and 'soloing.')

That's a lot of text...Random screenshot time!

Tier 6

Improved Fel Hunter (0/2): This is a decision I may have to seriously reconsider. The primary benefit of this talent is that it allows your fel hunter's main attack to return mana to it--which in turn allows you to dark-pact mana from your pet more frequently. (it also improves the Fel Intellect buff, but I did the math on it once, the improvement is utterly negligible. Not even worth considering the the decision making process.) Now previously, I rejected this talent because on 98% of bosses in the game, if I sent my fel hunter in to attack them they would one-shot him with some kind of AoE or whatever. However, due to the recent change (which raised my fel hunter's health from 7k to something like 17k unbuffed) the fel hunter may be significantly more capable of surviving, making this talent much more viable. I will do testing on this over the next few weeks--though my initial concern is that the fel hunter will only last slightly longer than he did before with this new HP buff, since I refuse to waste valuable casting time using a channeled heal on my pet. We will see, however.
Shadow Mastery (5/5): RAWR, Shadow Damage! Even if Siphon Life were the most useless spell in the game, it would be worth getting it just to get your hands on this talent. The only spell in my rotation that this talent doesn't improve by 15% is Immolate.

Tier 7

Eradication (1/3): Eradication is an interesting little talent. I, like many other affliction warlocks, once had it topped out at 3/3, until I saw the math. See, the way the internal cooldown for this proc works (it's unusually long) means that if you increase the probability of it happening, as you would by putting two or three talents into it instead of just one, all you really do is cause the ability to proc during the cooldown--meaning essentially that one point in here has almost exactly the same benefit as having three! Do yourself a favor and put those two points somewhere more useful. (I put them in Cataclysm, which made me hit-capped.)
Contagion (5/5): 5% isn't all that impressive for a 5-point talent, and the dispelling effect is really just for PVP, so it's not really a viable reason for taking this talent in a PVE spec. However, a buff to corruption is a buff to corruption. I've never seen a good affliction warlock without this talent, and I doubt I ever will.
Dark Pact (1/1): Dark Pact has gotten a lot of heat lately. Many warlocks feel that it scales poorly compared to lifetap, and has been rendered useless. Now, one or two people complaining about that and I would disregard it as poppycock spouted by morons who can't play their class. However, it is a complaint that is gaining a great deal of purchase in the warlock community, so I decided to do some tests myself. I won't bore you with all my numbers, but what it comes down to is that Life Tap returns roughly 2800 mana, and Dark Pact returns about 2800 mana. There are variances as my stats change, but all in all they usually return within 200 mana of one another. Pet mana and personal health regen are such that I'll likely only be able to get 2 Dark Pacts off before the pet is empty, but if I'm wise enough to dark pact early on in my rotation, rather than when I'm out of mana, I should be able to get away with going 50/50 between life tap and dark pact, which will be a great help to the healers. Now, it should be noted that these numbers may be vastly different for different people, because Dark Pact scales depending on a warlock's spell power, and Life Tap scales--as of 3.0--depending on how much spirit a warlock has. However, I don't see any reason why my spirit / spellpower ratio wouldn't be at least roughly representative of most level 80 warlocks. Perhaps I am wrong in thinking this, I don't know. That said, pets COULD use a larger mana pool. This is something I'd really like to see from blizz in the near future. (They do seem to be reconsidering the dark pact mechanics, given the various PTR changelogs I've seen over the last 6 months.)

Here you can see my Spell Power, Spirit, and an example of both a Life Tap and a Dark Pact, with the mana returns scrolling to the right of my character. Don't ask why Life Tap has such a random icon.

Tier 8

Improved Howl of Terror (0/2): I wish this talent was viable for PvE ;_; It's just so bloody awesome. An instant cast fear? Holy crap is that cool! Unfortunately, a warlock should only rarely use fear in an instance, and this deep into the tree you have to start being very frugal with your points, because almost everything is necessary to take.
Malediction (3/3): While the 3% bonus to spell damage that they added makes these three points worth it all by itself; I largely took this talent for the improvement to Curse of Elements. By this point in reading this post / my blog you should be more than familiar with why.

Tier 9

Death's Embrace (3/3): While the bonus to draining is a boon for soloing and PVP, the improved crit chance is really what makes this talent worth taking. Warlocks have a notable lack of 'cooldowns' to 'bust out' when the raid leader starts shouting "ALRIGHT, SHE ENRAGED, BUST ALL YOUR COOLDOWNS!" So this talent is really very helpful in giving affliction damage a little extra 'umf' in the home stretch. (I actually covered exactly what that umf amounts to very recently.)
Unstable Affliction (1/1): Must have. Period. Second best warlock DoT there is.
Pandemic (3/3): This is an astoundingly interesting and innovative mechanic, and it's one of the biggest reasons that affliction is able to remain competitive in Wrath of the Lich King. See, in Burning Crusade, warlock raiding went like this: first, you spec affliction. You get to about SSC / TK level, you get the magical stats (202 hit, 20% crit, 1200 spell damage if I recall correctly) and then you respec 0/21/40. Why? Because affliction didn't get much of a benefit from all that crit, and since your gear ended up having crit rating on it anyway, destruction was indisputably more powerful than affliction at this level of gear, by several orders of magnitude. The size of a destruction warlock's crits in BT gear are seriously something I didn't start to see on Sentai until he was Naxx-geared at level 80. So anyway, in response to this, blizz created Pandemic, which (essentially) allows dots to crit, allowing affliction to scale with gear in a way that it was unable to do previously. It's really quite ingenious. That said, I'd like to see the effect altered somewhat to include all periodic effects, rather than just corruption and unstable affliction, because based on what I've seen on my damage meter's pie charts, pandemic isn't doing quite enough damage to really keep affliction competitive with destruction in T9. However, we will see as time goes on! (I should also note that blizz recently said that they had managed to re-code the way dots work in such a way that they could--if they wanted to--allow dots to crit on their own. They also said that they have no plans to do that at this time; but it could be an interesting mechanic in the future.)

Tier 10

Everlasting Affliction (5/5): As if the additional spell damage wasn't enough to make this talent worth taking, the fact that it allows Haunt to re-apply corruption is a beautiful thing. You see, with Haunt re-applying corruption, a whole spell--and its 1.5 second global cooldown--are removed from the extremely complicated affliction rotation. As much as I love the depth of affliction DPSing, I welcome this bit of simplification with open arms. I would like to see the talent modified in the future, however, so that Drain Life does NOT renew corruption. Drain life has a rather short duration--particularly if the warlock is getting hit. And most of the time when you're casting Drain Life, you're casting it over and over again--meaning that your corruption spell often doesn't even last long enough to get a single tick off before drain life re-applies it. [EDIT: I stand corrected on this! Apparently the re-application of corruption caused by this talent does not break the flow of damage ticks. My bad!]

Tier 11

Haunt (1/1): Haunt is living proof that blizz is full of smart people. This is exactly the kind of innovative mechanic that I love to see. All at once, it both plays to the already established strengths of this spec, while also bringing something completely new and unfamiliar to the table. Bravo, warlock dev team. Bravo.

Poor Sentugrehsk is so hungry! But what does he have to do with affliction specs?

Destruction Tree

With 54 points spent in affliction, that leaves me with 17 points. There are a multitude of interesting things that could be done with those points. For example, 13 points in the demonology tree to grab Demonic Aegis would not only increase the amount of healing Fel Armor does by 30%, as well as turning the 180 base spell power from that spell into 234, but it would also convert 40% of my spirit into spell power, instead of the default 30%! However, as you can see I haven't done that in this spec, as tempting as it is. Instead I've put those 17 points into the destruction tree, due to the fact that the low-tier talents in that tree are more useful for straight DPS than the low tier talents in demonology. At least, that is, on average. As stated above, I'll only go over the talents I actually took in the destruction tree, for brevity's sake.

Improved Shadow Bolt (5/5) This is an astoundingly good talent, particularly for affliction warlocks, and particularly since the recent change made to it in 3.0. With five points here, every single time your shadow bolt crits against a target ALL OF YOUR DOTS (except immolate) do 15% more damage for the next 12 seconds. And let me tell you, even as an affliction warlock, I crit quite frequently. What's more, as of 3.0 the effect is now a buff for the warlock, rather than a debuff for the target--meaning the bonus damage will hurt all of your targets, rather than just the one which you crit against. I can't imagine going without this talent.

Bane (5/5) Back in Burning Crusade, when I was hanging out on the warlock forums trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing, I heard a warlock say 'there's no such thing as a raiding spec without bane.' And as far as I can determine, this has only become more true for affliction warlocks since Immolate is part of our rotation now.

Cataclysm (2/3) This is a recent addition to the Mach 3 version of my affliction spec, and wasn't here in Mach 2. Much like suppression, I have this talent to shore-up my hit rating numbers. With the combination of those 5 talent points spread throughout the 2 trees, I am far above the hit cap for all my offensive spells. When my gear eventually reaches the point where I'm easily maintaining the 446 hit, I may decide to move these talents into something more useful, since the mana-cost reduction is (as mentioned) negligible.

Ruin (5/5) Sexy, sexy ruin. There isn't a warlock in the world who doesn't want to have the five talent points to spare so they can put them here, thanks to the way Blizzard rearranged the destruction tree in 3.0, I now do. This makes my shadow bolt crits very big. They're like..."BOOM!" and seeing numbers like "9538" on my screen causes some of the bloodflow in my body to be diverted elsewhere, if you know what I mean. *wink wink*

So there you have it, the grand spec post. Kind of daunting, now that I look back on it. I hope I didn't get anything massively wrong, since this post is likely to be one that a lot of people find my blog from. But hey, couldn't put it off forever right?

Anyway, despite the fact that I can't quite think of a way to end this post, anybody who read this far is doubtless hoping that this post is going to end soon, so I'll grant their wish without any further delay.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Server First! (?) Heroic Training Dummy...

So, I was running around Stormwind on a lowbie earlier, looking for a stockades group. And I happened upon something peculiar: the Heroic Training Dummy, usually at about 11 million hit points, was down to a paltry 2.5 million. This was a job for a hit-capped level 80 affliction warlock, who had never quite been able to get a decent reading on how much the 3 points he put in Death's Embrace (Improved crit chance when the mob is below 35%) really helped him.

Quite a bit as it turns out. That's an increase of about 250 damage per second over my normal peak of 2.5. I usually only hit 2.2 on the training dummy, so this improvement seems to indicate why I tend to do better on real bosses.

It was a long battle. Recount clocked it at about 20 minutes I think.I don't know for sure though, for I was far too intent on the zen of casting rotations to take a look at the clock, or even screencap during most of the fight (screenshot lag causes lack of rhythm which causes slight drops in DPS!) However, I can tell you that after long minutes of furious battlecasting...

I emerged victorious.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Curses! Cursed again!

The mainstay WoW's 'debuffer class,' which curse to use is often the source of some contention among warlocks (since only one can be used at a time.) While not all curses are created anywhere near equal I thought it might be fun to run them down, and give my thoughts on them.

Curse of Weakness easily makes my list of the top five most useless warlock spells, (I actually made that list once.) The pittance of attack power (478 at level 80) that this spell removes from the target is so insignificant that it's not even really viable as a PVP talent. And while it can be improved by talents, it can't be improved nearly enough to avoid much more useful talent points, such as the improvements to drain soul, life tap, and drain life. In complete honesty, the only time I can think of that I might use this spell, is in-between levels six and eight, when it's the only curse that I have. (Or, I suppose, if you're in a raid with an inordinate amount of warlocks--but even then Curse of Agony or Doom is probably a better choice.)

Curse of Recklessness is one of the most under-rated curses in the game. Not so much for the armor reduction, which is really just incidental, but rather for the fact that it causes mobs not to flee. This can be extremely handy in instances filled with humanoids, where a mob with low health is often likely to run off and pull a second group of enemies, causing the wholesale slaughter of a warlock and his or her compatriots. Back in the days, before all these whippersnappers started playing the game, some warlocks used to practice a tactic called 'yo-yoing,' where they would fear a mob, CoR it, then throw another curse on it and fear it again--effectively causing the mob to run away from, and towards them over and over again. Unfortunately as of patch 3.0.2 CoR no longer causes creatures to ignore fear effects, but it still prevents them from fleeing.

Curse of Tongues I like this curse. I actually like it a whole lot. I just don't know what to do with it. I imagine it'd be rather handy in PVP, but I don't really PVP all that much. Never was able to get into it. As such it spends a lot of time next to curse of weakness on my action bar, gathering dust. However, it DOES make the stuff you say sound funny. And that's just cool.

And now, a random screenshot to break up the wall of text!

Curse of Exhaustion Much like Curse of Tongues, I love this curse, yet I never get to use it. Though, much unlike its counterpart, the reason I never get to use it is because I never get to *have* it. Curse of Exhaustion is great for kiting, which is something warlocks could certainly use help with. If I was to create some kind of soloing spec, or a PVP spec even, Curse of Exhaustion would be a must. However, in the instancing/raiding specs that I use to optimize my performance in what I consider the best part of the game, the two talent points required to get this little gem are much better spent elsewhere.

Curse of Elements is my curse of choice. Not only does it give a huge buff to all of my damage, but it gives buffs to the damage of my buddies who play magi as well! What's more, now that 3.0.8 has gone live and endgame BM hunters start using arcane shot, it'll help them too! By far this is the best curse to use for warlocks in an instance, unless there is some other warlock there casting it (since the effect does not stack,) or some other class casting a debuff that CoE doesn't stack with. (Boomkin and Death Knights do this.)

Curse of Agony is, according to every single source (reliable and unreliable) the curse you should be using in Wrath of the Lich King. You can distinguish (roughly) between the reliable and unreliable sources, because the reliable ones will add "unless nobody is already casting Curse of Elements or something that supersedes it" under their breath. Honestly, I'm still having a bit of a hard time with this. I believe I may have mentioned in the past that when I was being raised, a warlock could get quite a talking to for using Curse of Agony in a raid. I remember one raid leader once saying "Could all the warlocks putting Curse of Agony on the boss try doing something USEFUL instead?" As such, I've been conditioned against using it, A Clockwork Orange style. That said, I've begrudgingly accepted that it's useful these days, and as soon as I find a boomkin to hang out with, I'll start using it.

Curse of Doom was once called "Curse of Takes-forever-to-proc" by my guild's main tank. Back in Burning Crusade (damn, I say that alot,) this was the spell you were supposed to use if somebody else had Curse of Elements up. And at level 80, if you don't have points in Improved Curse of Agony, the 11k damage of this spell still ends up being slightly superior to CoA according to my damage tests. Though whether there's actually time for it to proc depends on whether or the mob will stay alive forever I suppose. That said, if you're using damaging curses rather than CoE, you should probably have points in Improved Curse of Agony.

Really, the layout of curses right now is pretty dismal. You'd think that a core class mechanic would be less cast aside than curses have been. Healers get more and better ways of healing, DPS gets more and better ways of DPSing. Why doesn't the debuffing class get more and better ways of debuffing? This is something I plan to address in more detail in a future post.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How all my WoW dreams came true.

(As a quick prefix to this post, I'd like to note that I am aware that a new patch came out yesterday, and I'd love to comment on it, but every single change for warlocks that I am in a position to comment intelligently on...didn't work. My pet still has the same amount of HP, I can't seem to summon anyone, etc. So, I'll save that post for (hopefully) a few days from now when they fix these issues.)

I am a dark person. I'm not a sad person, or a depressed person, nor am I a fan of bad poetry, and hackneyed vampire books; but I am dark. I love old gothic churches, I love dark rooms, I love the color black, and if you play D&D with me you'll note that I almost never run a campaign without undead of some kind in it. For awhile I kinda wondered if I would grow out of it, but honestly I don't want to. Gothic aesthetics appeal to me on a very fundamental level, and I embrace that.

So, as you can imagine, my first instinct when I started playing WoW was to roll an undead. However, the server I was rolling on was my friend's alliance server, so after a bit of deliberation I settled on human. I like dwarfs a bit better, but I was really in the mood for trying out this 'warlock' thing, so human it was.

At some point while I was leveling away on my warlock, some 40+ hordie rode past me, on the most glorious mount I had ever seen. The horns seemed a bit much, but the skeletal frame, the wicked grin, the tasteful cloak draped over the bones--I had to have it. I resolved that no matter what, this mount would be mine when I was high enough level to attain a steed of my own. You can imagine that I was crushed when I learned that this glorious mode of transportation was available only to the horde.

Sometime after that, I had become content with the fact that I was in possession of the second coolest mount in the game. I mean, come on, my horse is on fire. Beat that, non-warlocks! (Warlock mount > Deathknight mount by the way.)

Then I got a little higher in level, and I--predictably--became absolutely engrossed both in the Plaguelands, and in the three instances that inhabited them. Each of the three was magical to me. Scholomance is still, in my opinion, the single greatest five man instance in the game. Naxx was this grand unattainable, something I always hoped I'd be able to venture into, and something I always regretted never being able to conquer in its level 60 fourty-man incarnation. And stratholme...

...Stratholme renewed my hopes that I would someday get my hands on the reigns of that most glorious of mounts.

That was nearly two years ago now. For almost that long I've farmed, and I've farmed. First in five man groups, then later, in groups of two. I was one of the few clothies I knew who could easily solo the place at 70--more due to memorization of the rout than any skill. And by level 80 I had my runs down to roughly 16 minutes.

And then, just the other day...

...all my dreams came true.

Oh...uh, hey Mor'zul. Sooo...I've got a better mount now. But man, thanks for all that help back in the day, that was really cool of you!

...awkwaaaard... >.>

I won't deny that every time I see another person with it, I cringe a little, thinking of how hard I worked for it, and how easy the recent patch made it. But honestly, I'm just happy to finally have an undead steed to call my own.

I think I'll name him 'Checkers.'

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Affliction DPS on Trash Mobs

NOTE: A lot of people are getting to this post after searching 'affliction dps 80' or something of that sort. And while I think this post is helpful, it's probable that you're looking for something a little more like this.

"Woe to you, affliction warlock! For your dualistic lot in life is one both of glory and of shame; for while you may top the meters on Patchwerk, never will your name be seen above rank the tenth when there is trash to clear. And so will you remain in obscurity, your true skill remaining hidden due to the lies told by 'overall damage' reports."

~Anonymous Raid Leader

I'm not one to complain about the weaknesses of my class, or the strengths of other classes. I may have suggestions for improving things, but I really do hate to bitch. That said, affliction warlocks have it bad right now as far as trash DPS goes, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing. Trash mobs are just what their name proclaims them to be--trash. If a group can't manage to tear through trash mobs with relative ease, then they really have no business attempting the bosses that come after said trash.

The problem with affliction's low trash-mob-damage comes not from any actual problems with the in-game situation, but rather, from the damage meter, and the perception it creates in peoples minds. Now don't get me wrong--damage meters are wonderful, amazing tools. If not for damage meters, I never would have found out that I was consistently one of the worst damage dealers in any group, which means I never would have sought help and never would have become the symbol of mediocrity that I have become today. Furthermore, without damage meters I would have no way to test my new rotations and specs. And hell, without damage meters, I wouldn't be able to playfully compete with my fellow DPSers for the top DPS spot.

The problem with the damage meter is that most people don't know how to use it properly. Almost everyone keeps the thing stuck on 'overall damage,' which in my experience both as a DPSer and a raid leader, doesn't do anybody any good. Far too often this method of looking at the numbers allows a small group of people to climb to the top of the meter doing trivial things such as slaughtering the trash mobs or spamming AoE on nonelites, while their actual contribution in difficult situations is frighteningly lackluster.

Furthermore, as a motivating factor, damage meters become meaningless when only overall data is used. Invariably, in any instance, a small group of people quickly establish themselves as the 'top' DPS, while other players are left in the dust. Given a boss or two, the damage meters will settle into a rather stable arrangement, that won't be changed even if the people at the top stop trying, and the people at the bottom use every trick they've got in an attempt to pull ahead.

Damn hunters! >.>

Personally, I find the most accurate way to view the data is to set your damage meter to only show the numbers for the current fight. This way, everybody has a clean state at the start of every single pull. When I've been doing well throughout the instance thus far, this forces me to 'keep it up,' in order to maintain my lead. Similarly, when I've been doing poorly, I am less likely to get discouraged, and more likely to try harder to improve my standing on the next pull.

All of that aside, I am most firmly of the opinion that even though affliction warlocks can't be expected to do good DPS on trash, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try. To that end, I've begun to play with a variety of alternate tactics for trash mobs, and while I've yet to achieve any truly great level of success, I have managed to put forth a decidedly respectable showing on individual trash pulls now and again. Once or twice even managing to get the top spot! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Before you really begin to think about how to do good damage on trash mobs, you must try to understand why it is that affliction has so much trouble with them in the first place. Affliction Warlocks are sometimes called "DOT locks," after their primary form of attack. DOT, as everyone knows, is the acronym for Damage Over Time. And that, there, is the root of the problem. Time. Affliction warlocks require some measure of time before they can really begin to do damage.

I've done extensive testing of affliction damage using things like real time graphs, as well as friends who agreed to serve as a control group of sorts. What I've noticed is that even several seconds into my rotation, my damage output is altogether pitiful when I'm using my full casting sequence. Then, about 25-35 seconds into combat, my numbers suddenly shoot up at an astronomical speed, as all my dot ticks start going off in force. Before this, however, my numbers would shame a level 65 elemental shaman.

At this point, the issue should be clear. When fighting trash mobs, each target is only going to be alive for a scant few seconds, meaning that the 'shooting up' part of my damage never happens. Ergo, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the only way to really do damage against such mobs is to either significantly alter my rotation, or respec--something I'm not willing to do when my damage output in more important situations is phenomenal.

Altering the rotation, however, is a tricky business, because it either requires memorizing every trash mob in every instance, or it requires tactical senses good enough to analyse a target mob's life expectancy after a glance at it's HP, and formulate a viable tactic based on that. Given the near impossibility of the former, I fear I am stuck with attempting the latter, even given my lackluster tactical skills.

To make things simpler, I've devised a hand full of rotations for different situations. And, whenever I find myself faced with trash pulls, I try and approximate which one of these rotations might work best for that particular pull.

Boom Theory: Seed of Corruption, Rain of Fire, and a Shadowflame now and again for good measure. If you've got a good tank, then this is by far the easiest way to go about things in larger pulls. Not just pally tanks anymore either! I've used this tactic to great success with both warrior and death knight tanks*. Be careful though, if you pull aggro you're very likely to end up dead, and if you piss the tank off, you're very likely to end up looking at a window that says "You are not in the instance group, you will be ported to [Insert Hearth Location here] in X amount of seconds."

(*No offense is intended to my feral druid buddies--I just haven't run with one since Karazhan, so I can't speak from experience.)

The Resilient Trash Mob: Some trash pulls are almost like mini-bosses in terms of how much HP they have, but that still doesn't mean you're going to be able to get your full rotation off. So I abbreviate it: Curse of Elements, Haunt, Corruption, Followed by Shadow Bolt spam, and a re-cast of Haunt whenever it's up. After the first 7 seconds of combat or so, all your casting time will be spent on direct damage casting, so you won't be losing any global cooldowns on dots that won't finish. I sometimes modify this to include Unstable Affliction as well, if the mobs are particularly hearty.

Humanoids Got No HP Humanoid trash mobs last only barely longer than nonelites do in most instances. For these, the AoE approach is by far the preferable one, but if there's only one humanoid left, or if your tank isn't comfortable with the threat created by your AoE, then your best bet is to just sit there spamming the Shadow Bolt button. These mobs will likely go down so fast that even Curse of Elements will be a waste of valuable shadow bolting time. I've considered trying to use Searing Pain on these mobs, given its shorter cast time, but the significantly lower amount of damage it does, and the significantly higher amount of threat that it pulls, makes me dubious that it will be more successful than straight up SB spam.

An example of the 'Resilient Trash Mob' tactic

I've found that, in a general sense anyway, one of these three approaches will almost always serve well enough to get the job done, and keeping available tactics down to three also helps avoid confusion. I think it was Bruce Lee who said that a person shouldn't try and learn too many ways to react to a single situation, because if they do, then when they're in that situation they'll find themselves paralyzed with indecision about which way to react. Something to that affect anyway.

So that's how I deal with trash DPS as a level 80 affliction warlock. It's not great, it's not even 'very good' if I'm trying to out DPS a hunter, rogue, or kitty druid. However, the results I've got from it are certainly respectable enough that I can rest assured my performance on the boss will be noticed, and my actual skill--good, bad, or mediocre--can be judged at least somewhat accurately by the rest of the group.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How One Relates to Three

Affliction, Demonology, Destruction. Warlocks would seem uniquly suited to me, given that ADD diagnosis I was handed as a kid. Puns aside, I thought it might be intersting to write a post about why it is that I chose affliction as my tree, rather than one of the two Ds. It doesn't have much to do with my playstyle preference, or with how easy it is to play. Honestly, I don't like to think of myself so much as 'an affliction warlock.' Rather, I view myself simply as a warlock. All the skills in all the trees are part of me--even if they're not active at the moment.

When I first started my warlock, (who, by the way, was also my very first character,) shadow bolt seemed to be the thing. It was solid burst damage that took people out pretty fast. It was also the attack with the least confusing application. As such, when I recieved my first precious talent point at level ten, the choice seemed obvious. Why improve my hit chance with affliction spells, or lower the casting time of corruption? Why improve my imp, or my healthstone, or my stamina, when I could shorten the casting time of my shadow bolt? It is, after all, the mainstay of how I play!

Alls I need is my Shadow Bolts, my wand, and my hunter!

As levels went on, destruction continued to draw my points. Double crit damage? heck yeah. An instant cast direct damage spell that gives me a soul shard? who could say no! It was right around the time that I was greatly enjoying the benefits of 'Backlash' in Un'Goro crater, shortly after I started , that I started to get annoyed with how much I was dying. Looking back on it, it probably was far more due to my skill, and my tactics than it was due to my spec. These were back in the days before I'd ever done an instance with a group of my peers, and still had no frame of reference from which I could determine just how terrible I was.

At the same time, a friend of mine with a level 70 warlock was continuing to insist that I should spec affliction. I don't like to give in to the insistance of friends for no reason, but this particular friend has the uncanny ability to be completely unreasonable, yet still be right about things. And, since I was dying constantly, I decided to take his advice and spec affliction. I wouldn't say that I absolutely loved it, there are many things that I missed--and still miss--about destruction. However, with a whole new set of skills and abilities unlocked for me, I gained a new appreciation for the depth of the class, and the pleasure I could have playing it. Save for a few brief stints respeccing to destruction or demonology just for the fun of it, I've been affliction ever since.

There's still a part of me, though, that really thinks of myself as a destruction warlock. A part of me who holds on to shadow bolt as the core of my damage-dealing ability. And while I have much less of a connection to demonology--I don't actually know my fel guard's name--I do have fond memories of the amazing things I've been able to do back when I had points in Improved Voidwalker. You might say that, in spirit, I'm a 72/73/73 warlock.

However, in body, I'm spec'd 56/0/15, because I'm good at it. I started spec'ing this way because I was told it did the best damage and I wanted to do the best damage. I stayed spec'd this way because I've since become very familiar with the proceses involved in optimizing this spec for good DPS. If, someday, some other tree, either demonology or destruction, is the clear leader in DPS. Then I'll switch. It would have to be a rather large gap, I think, for me to so readily give up the expertise I have with affliction, but I would relish the chance to play with a different aspect of my whole. As you might imagine--I can't wait for dual specs to open still more of the class up to me.

And there it is. I spec affliction because it does good damage, and because I'm good at it. I have no compulsion to cast dots, no passionate love for this particular placement of talent points. Not because I don't love the intricacies of playing affliction--but rather because I love the intricacies to be found in each of the three specs.

P.S. (First person to notice the pun in the post title gets a cookie.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Adventures in Scarlet Monostary

I'm often considered weird in my circle of friends for playing as many locks as I do. Not that I've got anywhere near the reputation that my girlfriend's Hunterington's Disease has, but still, I get more than a few strange stares over vent. I could go into some detail about why it is that I enjoy leveling a class that I already have a max level of, and I intend to do so in a later post. That's not what this post is about though, I just wanted to establish that I have a low level warlock in addition to my max level one.

And so, out of my interest in leveling a second warlock, Arnoux was born. She was named for the object of Frederich's passion in Flaubert's Sentimental Education which I was engrossed in at the time that I rolled her. That's not what this post is about though, I just wanted to establish that Arnoux is the character in question, and explain her unusual name.

What this post is about is an instance run. I like to run instances, it's my favorite thing to do in this game as a matter of fact. Grouping together with other people who all have vastly different abilities and specializations to surmount obstacles that they could not individually conquer is very appealing to me. Unfortunately, instance groups are hard to find when you're low enough level that even a level 50 could give you a run-through without breaking a sweat. As such, I'm left to take what I can find--though I did draw the line with the group who invited a hunter when we needed a tank for gnomer.

So on this particular day I was, as I often am, running around doing nothing of great importance while sitting in LFG with the note "Experienced Warlock LF any instance group." I figure that given the one hundred and thirty-three levels of warlock that I've gone through between my three highest level locks, I'm allowed to call myself experienced compared to the large majority of other players looking for a Scarlet Monostary group.

Anyway, I get a tell from a priest interested in doing Library. Apparently on the earlier run some warrior ninja'd the Robes of Doan and he was rather intent on reacquiring the misappropriated garment. Since I was already wearing the thing myself, I didn't have a problem agreeing to pass on it. So I get my summon, and we head in there.

Now, not to say these players weren't fine gents, but it quickly became apparent to me that at the very least, they were somewhat new to the game. Not really a bad thing though--Library could be three manned by a decently competent group at level 30, so a five man group of level 30+ players shouldn't have a problem. And it's not like they were stupid or anything; the tank tanked, the healer healed, and the DPS made sure things died. And, as a nice little bonus for me, I had to put Curse of Recklessness on all the humanoid mobs to prevent them from fleeing and pulling extra groups. It was nice to be in an instance where I was able to bring some utility to the table aside from just summons and healthstones. I don't get to do much of that kind of stuff in instances these days.

The instance started out well. We were clearing groups at a reasonable pace--save for when the tank and healer stopped to have a discussion about whether or not we should put the instance on heroic for better loot. After roughly ten or fifteen minutes of clearing, we got to the houndsmaster. The healer and group leader initially didn't want to do the fight, due to the apparently very high level of difficulty, but all three DPS insisted, and he rather easily assented to our request.

It's a good thing that we insisted too, because upon entering his tiny chambers we discovered that he was already dead! Apparently, the leader had forgotten to reset the instance since last time (an understandable mistake really) and we had just been clearing respawns. Thank goodness we discovered this before wasting 40 or 50 minutes clearing our way to Doan! So we all popped out, reset the instance, lost our feral kitty druid to a never-ending AFK, and started clearing again.


It is at this point--with only two DPS--that I shouold perhaps point out that the other guy was a resto-spec'd druid in cat form. I know it's silly of me to be all hardcore raider about Scarlet Monestary, but the guy was barely out-DPSing the healer, and half the time he seemed to just be AFKing while on follow. That honestly wouldn't have been such a problem, except for the fact that I *could not* get the healer to heal me during pulls. Being the only DPS in the group is terribly mana-intensive; particularly for a warlock at around my level, when mana efficiency is at its worst. As such I found myself furiously life tapping just to try and scrape together enough mana to batter down the zealous humans without resorting to going meleelock on them. Apparently DPS doesn't need heals, even when they're at about 15% health and the healer is spending 50% of his time idle. Remind me to make more bandaids next time I log in.

About the time we reach the courtyard, kaloo kalay, another DPS is found! A fellow warlock! A destruction warlock. What's more, he seems to be a rather experienced and capable player, which really helps to speed things along. Something I find really quite interesting about low-level instancing is that it is, in general, easy enough that the players don't need to do everything "the right way." And hell, even if the content was hard, most players just don't want to take the time to look up cookie cutter specs or casting rotations for their lowbies.

A Devious Scheme!

Anyway, what I'm driving at is that this lock was really interesting to me. I mean, first of all, he's level 32 and destruction. I'M the only other warlock I know who ever did something as stupid as leveling destruction, and I loved every minute of it. What's more, this fellow had his succubus out, of all things--and managed to do an excellent job picking up a stray mob with a seduce now and again throughout the instance. Not the easiest of feats, effectively CCing with your succubus.

The rest of the instance was relatively uneventful, save for the resto druid switching from cat form to bear form on the last boss. I assume it's some kickass strat that I've never read.

Good Group. Friendlist adds all around. (Seriously, it was fun.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

That's how I raid, whippersnappers!

Today I'd like to take a moment to talk about level 80 affliction instancing; be it in heroics or raids. In particular, I'd like to touch on what my rotation is, how I settled on it, and compare it against some of the stuff I've heard from other people. First though, I'd like to clarify that I am not talking about the way I do DPS on trash pulls here. Affliction warlocks are, very possibly, the worst DPSers when it comes to doing trash pulls. I do have methods I use on trash pulls to attempt to maximize my damage output on them, but that's a post for another day.

In Burning Crusade, affliction instancing wasn't actually very dot heavy. It was pretty funny actually, I was throwing up two dots--Unstable Affliction and Corruption--on any boss, and only had to worry about keeping them refreshed while I spammed the shadow bolt button. It's no surprise really that once you had decent enough gear, the poor scaling of dots made destruction absolutely mandatory.

In WotLK, things have changed significantly for affliction. Not only have the previously lackluster dots had their damage significantly buffed in comparison to Corruption and UA--but a multitude of new buffs in the affliction tree which affect 'all your periodic effects' has made dot-locks far more dot-heavy than they were in the BC days. Not to mention about three hundred times more confusing! What's more, the introduction of Pandemic means that your dots scale not only with your spell damage, but with your crit rating as well, making it far less likely that destruction will prove to be the definitive best spec in higher tier content.

When I was first coming in to LK, I took my knowledge of BC raiding, and modified my rotation to fit my new best friend: Haunt. First, I'd open with Curse of Elements, and probably hit one of my spell damage trinkets. Then I'd begin my rotation with Haunt, follow it with UA, followed by corruption, and finally shadow bolt until either UA or Haunt needed to be refreshed. This actually worked exceedingly well, and I don't believe I actually felt the need to improve it until I had been doing heroics for awhile.

On the suggestion of a friend, I decided to try out some of the dots which I once scorned other warlocks for using. Siphon Life was the first addition to my rotation, after I noticed that I could get upwards of 500 damage per tick on a dot that didn't need to be refreshed very frequently at all. This gave me a nice little chunk of bonus damage. My rotation was modified again only recently, after I read the excellent post by fallenman on the warlock class forum. After reading it, I did some DPS tests on my own, played around with the numbers, tried to guess what I could expect to see in actual instances, and finally added immolate back into my primary rotation--a position it hasn't enjoyed since shortly after I made it through the dark portal I think.

At present, my casting rotation goes something like this:

[IMPORTANT NOTE: This rotation has been updated.]

0) If at any time, either of my two spell damage trinkets are up, I use them. They don't even have a global cooldown, so it shouldn't interrupt the rotation.

1) Get Curse of Elements on the target while you give the tank a moment to build a bit of threat.

2) Cast one Shadow Bolt, causing the Shadow Embrace effect.

3) Cast Haunt, causing both that debuff, and a second stack of the Shadow Embrace effect.

4) Corruption

5) Siphon Life

6) Unstable Affliction

7) Immolate

8) Re-apply dots as necessary, avoiding clipping (re-casting the dot before it has 100% completed.) Cast haunt whenever it's up--don't worry about clipping it (or corruption, the dot which it re-applies.) If not otherwise occupied, be casting Shadow Bolt.

Bad warlock! Lrn2lifetap!

The logic behind my casting order is thus: First, I get the Shadow Embrace and Haunt debuffs on the boss first thing, so that *each and every tick* of my dots gains the benefits of those effects. Corruption comes next because it is by far the most powerful dot in an affliction lock's arsenal, with UA being the closest second. Unstable Affliction and Immolate go together because they have very similar durations (thus allowing them to be re-cast together) and they go at the end of my initial rotation because their durations are very short, giving me the maximum amount of time to shadow bolt before I need to re-apply my dots.

Now in general, this is relatively close to what a lot of endgame raiders who play affliction do--which kinda surprises me, given that only recently did I read anything approaching an authoritative 'how to.' And that only led me to make one major change to the way I was doing things. However, there are some differences between what I do and 'what is best,' that I feel can be reasonably justified. Furthermore, there are a few things I've heard a large number of people insist upon which are frankly just dumb.

Perhaps the biggest divergence from the norm is the fact that I don't use Curse of Agony. It's not even easily accessable on my casting bar. At first I didn't use it because back in BC, using CoA was enough to get you booted from the raid if the leader knew even a little bit about warlocks. Then I started seeing everybody insist that in LK, it should be in your affliction rotation. I was skeptical, so I did tests. Curse of Elements came out on top for pure damage--which is something that all of the better affliction locks seem to agree upon. The reason that none of THEM use CoE is because--apparently--both boomkins and death knights have some kind of debuff that doesn't stack wich Curse of Elements, and is perhaps even better. I say apparently because I haven't grouped with any boomkin that I remember since level 70, and while I do know a DK who I group with often, I've yet to recieve a message saying 'a more powerful spell is already active' or something like that. Perhaps this is something I'll have to look into soon.

Another thing I've heard a great deal of is warlocks demanding that haunt be the LAST spell cast during the first rotation, rather than the first. The logic of this positively baffles me. Supposedly the idea is that you start with corruption, cast all your other dots, then cast haunt, refreshing the corruption that you started with, and giving you some time to shadow bolt before you have to recast haunt. I can't understand, however, how this minor benefit is supposed to make up for the roughly 1-2k damage more that your dots would have done if haunt had been active earlier. Not to mention shadow embrace! No no, I really don't see it.

Well, this old man has rambled long enough I suppose. So there you have it. My method, my results, and my defense of my results. All of this is of course, liable to change, because like anybody I am always trying to learn and improve. Sometimes my stubborn pride has a tendancy to stunt my ability to learn, (like hell will you ever see me cast Curse of Agony on a boss! >.>) but eventually I do.

I should perhaps note that there are a variety of topics which I touched on briefly here that require a bit more justification than I gave them. Said justification was excluded in favor of doing an entire future post on those topics, rather than cluttering up this one any further.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Brief Introduction

Welcome one and all, the the dreary drafts that I, your most humble and decrepit dot-lock, throw up here on the intrawab. Despite my usual long-winded ways (a side effect of getting old you know,) I'm going to attempt to keep this introductory post brief, since I doubt anyone will ever actually read it even if by some miracle this blog becomes both regularly updated and popular.

A little over a year ago, I started a blog called Wearing Black in the Back. The intent of the blog was to give me some place where I could write things, and post them, and show them to people. I wanted to keep myself motivated to write on a somewhat regular basis, without the social net that places like livejournal snare you with. In this regard, Black in the Back has been a moderate success.

I ran into something of an issue, however. I frequently found myself wanting to write about World of Warcraft. Either by putting up entries devoted to my adventures, or by writing about my experiments with my most beloved warlock class. And, given the popularity of WoW as a search term, and the popularity of my girlfriend's WoW blog, those entries invariably became somewhat popular. While it was nice to see people reading what I was writing, I didn't like the image I was accidentally giving myself. People have linked to that blog as 'a warlock blog,' which is manifestly untrue. However, a great deal of the entries on the blog WERE about warlocks. And what's more, there are a great deal of entries I didn't write, because I didn't feel they reached the standard of quality I was trying to hold the blog to, and wanted to avoid giving the blog more of a gaming connection than it already had.

Ergo, after some prodding from my girlfriend, I decided to make this place. If I ever want to write about World of Warcraft, my adventures in it, or the class that I play, they will go here, safely away from the rest of my writings.

And with that said, I'll end this introductory post. Yes--that was short.