Anyway, so Beta. Warlocks have gotten a fair amount of changes but have yet to see a major second pass which means that a lot of what's already in can still change a lot, or even completely. Michael Gray covered basic changes in the patch notes some time back while Vims giggled over the new Level 80 ability Demonic Circle (I'll giggle about that some other time...). For today we're going to take a look at the new, juicy, and ridiculously bloated Affliction tree.
The Affliction tree is the red-headed stepchild of Warlockdom, with Destruction being the spec du jour for raids even if it was merely a mind-numbing spam of Shadow Bolts. I love Affliction -- despite fact that the other Warlock in the raid out-DPSes me with only one button. Spell Haste, a popular stat, doesn't benefit Affliction other than to reduce the Global Cooldown by a fraction. Did I say a fraction? I meant a hair. A flea's hair.
In an environment where raids stack Haste effects for DPS increases (i.e., Bloodlust / Heroism, Drums of Battle), Affliction gets left behind because our DoTs don't scale as well with it as, say, a fire Mage. It still helps, of course, as reduced GCDs allow more space to cast filler spells like *gasp* Shadow Bolt. But that's an entirely different argument altogether. The important question is, does Affliction get better in Wrath of the Lich King? Well, kind of. Not yet. We're almost there.
First of all, why is Improved Corruption still around? Isn't the fact that all Warlocks outside of 0/21/40 pick up 5/5 of this talent enough to indicate that this needed to be an instant cast spell from the get-go? One of the things that bloat the Affliction tree is the number of 5-point talents that seem almost mandatory. That means the Affliction tree is getting good, but it also means it's just too much to handle. Anyway, on with the show. Here are the new talents in Wrath...
Requires 5 points in Affliction
Increases the amount of attack power reduced by your Curse of Weakness by 20%, and reduces the amount of attack power granted by your Curse of Recklessness by 100%.
A talent to replace the weak Improved Curse of Weakness, this is good for utility Warlocks and the Curse of Weakness significantly reduces physical *cough* Rogue *cough* DPS. The added feature for Curse of Recklessness, which greatly helps those raids with a lot of melee, is a mere bonus.
Requires 10 points in Affliction
When your Fear spell is resisted, your next Fear spell has a 100% chance of being instant cast. Lasts 10 sec.
Unfortunately, while this really is a PvP talent, targets become 'immune' to the fourth Fear once Diminishing Returns have been applied. This means that pretty much the only time you'll see this proc is against a Rogue with Cloak of Shadows. Not a terrible talent by any means, but not spectacularly useful, either. This might work better if it were an activated ability or procced off periodic damage similar to Nightfall.
Requires 25 points in Affliction
Your Felhunter gains mana equal to 200% of the damage done by its Shadow Bite ability, and increases the effect of your Felhunter's Fel Intelligence by 2%.
I absolutely love the concept of certain pets being more specific to one tree, something Blizzard is pushing in Wrath. Felhunters, with the new Shadow Bite, is the Affliction Warlock's pet, while Imps, with Empowered Imp way deep into Destruction, is the Destro lock's pet. I love that. It's cool. On the other hand, even with this talent, it doesn't raise the new raid buff provided by the Felhunter, Fel Intelligence, anywhere near the level of Arcane Brilliance or Divine Spirit... a 10 / 20% increase would have been great. Although I've never quite ran my Felhunter out of mana, the mana gain works extremely well with the buffed Dark Pact.
Requires 30 points in Affliction
Your Corruption ticks have a 10% chance to increase your spell casting speed by 20% for 12 sec.
Corruption is an Affliction lock's bread and butter. I know I said spell haste doesn't scale as well for Affliction, but because this buff applies spell haste and reduces the GCD, Affliction's greatest nemesis, it's almost a no-brainer. Add to that the fact that you can cast faster Fears, Shadow Bolts, etc., and you've got a winning talent right there. The more targets with Corruption, the better the chances of proccing and keeping the buff up, too.
Requires 40 points in Affliction
Each time you deal damage with Corruption or Unstable Affliction, you have a chance equal to your spell critical strike chance to deal 100% additional damage.
Boom. With this one talent, DoTs suddenly scale with crit, and it's beautiful. Sure, it only affects Corruption and Unstable Affliction, but those two are Affliction's staple spells anyway. The great thing about this talent is that its crit coefficient is 100%, unlike most spells, which is 50%. The only problem is that the addition of Pandemic bloats Tier 9 of the tree like crazy.
Requires 40 points in Affliction
Increases the amount drained by your Drain Life by 30% while your health is at or below 20% health, and increases the critical strike chance of your Shadowbolt and Haunt spells by 15% when your target is at or below 20% health.
This talent was made slightly more useful by the arrival of Pandemic, but it seriously needs to work at 35% health, just like Dirty Deeds or the new Hammer of Wrath. 20% might be good for bosses, but is pretty useless for most mobs and enemy players. Conceptually, the talent is great but the numbers need to be tweaked somewhat. But hey, that's what Beta is for!
Requires 45 points in Affliction
Your Corruption, Siphon Life and Unstable Affliction spells gain an additional 5% of your bonus spell damage effects each time they inflict damage, and your Drain Life and Shadow Bolt spells have a 100% chance to reset the duration of your Corruption spell on the target.
Conceptually, it's great. A DoT that grows and grows and grows until your target is nothing but a bubbling pile of mush. In practice, it's not so great because it doesn't seem to be working as intended in Beta right now. If Blizzard actually gets it to work, this can be a phenomenally sick talent. I'm not too clear on how it works with the refresh, which should theoretically keep the stack (if it stacks, that is) growing, but the idea should be a permanent DoT that keeps on getting nastier.
Requires 50 points in Affliction
You send a ghostly soul into the target, dealing 645 to 754 Shadow damage and increasing all damage done by your damage-over-time effects on the target by 20% for 12 sec. When the Haunt spell ends or is dispelled, the soul returns to you, healing you for 20% of the damage it did to the target.
This spell was broken for the longest time in Beta, and when Blizzard finally got it to work, they nerfed it. It's an amazing spell, making DoTs extremely competitive and the initial damage can crit, which again gives more reason for Affliction Warlocks to pursue critical strike rating. If the healing coefficient stays at 20%, it should work off all the damage done to the target by the Warlock, and not just Haunt. Otherwise, it heals for a piddly what, 400 life? Either that or have the healing work off maybe 50% of the damage caused by Haunt.
Other changes and final thoughts
Affliction is shaping up to be a truly competitive tree for DPS, with a lot of synergy among the talents and a clearer focus on health regeneration and stacking effects. My biggest problem with Affliction right now, to be honest, is Unstable Affliction. Nerfed to a 15 second duration in the last build for no reason, it still boggles my mind why this 41-point talent has a casting time. Unstable Affliction seriously needs to be instant cast. The duration reduction was an unnecessary nerf, but if they're keeping it at 15 seconds, the spell needs to be revised as an instant.
Shadow Embrace was reworked (although the tooltip is bugged), with the max rank of the spell applying a buff that increases the Warlock's DoTs by 10% and gimping Heal-over-Time effects by 15%. The buff stacks twice for a total of 20% periodic damage increase and a 30% sort-of-Mortal Strike effect. It's so awesome now that it bloats the tree horribly. Whereas builds like SL/SL used to only take a mere point in this talent for the additional debuff, it's almost mandatory to get 5/5 to increase DPS and deal some PvP pain.
Affliction has always worked slowly and steadily, which gimped DPS for small, single target mobs like raid or instance trash, but the addition of a burst spell like Haunt works wonders. The spell haste from Eradication expands an Affliction lock's repertoire, too -- so much that one of my biggest problems right now is that there are just so many buttons to press. But that, my dear infernal friends, is a happy problem.