After the comedy-a-thon was over though, I spent maybe twenty or thirty minutes talking about my thoughts on the future of affliction warlocks to my buddy Kolrawn, who has been too busy tanking for me on his prot pally to really keep up with all the warlock rigmarole. After working through all my thoughts on the matter, I realized it might be something you, my imaginary groupies, might be interested in hearing about.
As a disclaimer, I should note that I haven't been on the PTR, so I haven't actually been able to get any testing done. Any opinions I hold at this point are largely speculative, and based on the latest warlock changes that I'm aware of.
Blizzard's aforementioned intention to simplify the affliction rotation has, unfortunately, come to pass. Not only is Siphon Life being removed as a damaging spell, but now Immolate and Unstable Affliction occupy the same 'slot' on a target, meaning only one of them can be active per warlock at any given time. These changes effectively remove two spells from my active rotation.
What's left is Shadow Bolt > Haunt > Corruption > Curse of Agony > Unstable Affliction > Shadowbolt Spam. Corruption is obviously removed from the rotation after the first cast, meaning that affliction will become roughly a 4 button spec. This is starting to feel a lot like the 3-button days of Burning Crusade.
Particularly annoying is the sudden lack of timer synergy between dots. Right now Siphon Life and Curse of Agony are cast together, because they have similar timers. Same thing with Unstable Affliction and Immolate. The way this caused the rotation to work out was something like two shadow bolts, then haunt, then two dots, then two shadow bolts, then haunt, then two dots, and so on. Very comfortable and easy to work with. Now that the timers of each dot are so astoundingly disparate, it seems likely that switching between shadow bolts, haunt, and dot refreshment may become a bit hectic. But it's far too early to actually say.
Supposedly the upside of this simplification is that it will allow affliction warlocks to do better damage on bosses that require a lot of moving. The oft-heard complaint about affliction is that it is the 'Patchwerk-spec,' and that it doesn't really excel in any other fight. Speaking from my own experience however, I've found this to be absolutely untrue. I certainly do my best damage on Patchwerk -- find me a class that doesn't -- but I frequently top the meters on a variety of other bosses. Sometimes I don't, but that's just the way the game works. Different classes and specs excel in different situations. It would be terrible game design if one class was able to top DPS 100% of the time.
Frankly, since this change will cause a larger percentage of our overall damage output to rely on Shadow Bolt, I think we're going to see a DROP in DPS for fights which require a lot of moving. At least dots kept on ticking away when we were too busy to cast. But again, such speculation is perhaps getting a little ahead of myself; particularly considering some of the other buffs the tree is getting.
I might say that I look forward to figuring out the best rhythm for the new affliction once patch 3.1 hits the live realms, but that would be a lie. The longer I get to play with my belovedly complex affliction spec, the happier I'll be. I mean, I'm a crotchety old man; you expect me to welcome change?