With patch 3.3 looking evermore imminent and the changes to warlock talents and spells seeming to have settled down, it's a good time to take a look at what we can expect from the next expansion. This isn't going to be a review of the fights and encounters in Icecrown -- though I'm sure we'll get to that at some point -- this is a look at how our various raiding builds have changed.
I've already reported on most of them as they hit the PTR in previous articles, so I'm not going to dwell on the changes themselves. You can read up on this detail here, here, here and here. I wouldn't say that lock talents are broken at the moment but it certainly seems as if we're left little option when it comes to raiding. You have destruction for damage and a demonology bi... err... buff spec. The overriding impression I have looking at the patch 3.3 changes is that there will be more choice to play the spec you like. Something we've not had for a very long time.
After the break I'll list the changes from the patch notes for reference and then we'll get down to how that shakes out.
- Create Soulstone: The cooldown on this spell and duration of its buff have been lowered from 30 minutes down to 15 minutes. Cannot be used in Arenas.
- Improved Felhunter: This talent now also reduces the cooldown on the felhunter's Shadow Bite ability by 2/4 seconds.
- Pandemic: This talent now also increases the critical strike damage bonus of the felhunter's Shadow Bite spell by 100%.
- Shadow Mastery: This talent now also increases the damage done by the felhunter's Shadow Bite ability by 3/6/9/12/15%.
- Decimation: Redesigned. When Shadow Bolt, Incinerate or Soul Fire hit a target that is at or below 35% health, the cast time of Soul Fire is reduced by 20/40% for 8 seconds. Soul Fires cast under the effect of Decimation cost no shards.
- Demonic Pact: This talent now also increases the warlock's spell damage by 1/2/3/4/5%.
- Molten Core: Redesigned. This talent now increases the duration of Immolate by 3/6/9 seconds and provides a 4/8/12% chance to gain the Molten Core effect when Corruption deals damage. The Molten Core effect empowers the next 3 Incinerate or Soul Fire spells cast within 15 seconds (Incinerate: increases damage done by 6/12/18% and reduces cast time by 10/20/30%; Soul Fire: increases damage done by 6/12/18% and increases critical strike chance by 5/10/15%). Molten Core now has a new spell effect.
- Conflagrate: Redesigned. This talent now consumes an Immolate or Shadowflame effect on the enemy target to instantly deal damage equal to 9 seconds of Immolate or 8 seconds of Shadowflame, and causes additional damage over 3 seconds equal to 3 seconds of Immolate or 2 seconds of Shadowflame. In addition, the periodic damage of Conflagrate is capable of critically striking the afflicted target.
- Ruin: This talent now also increases the critical strike damage bonus of the imp's Firebolt spell by 100%.
- Avoidance (passive): Now reduces the damage your pet takes from area-of-effect damage by 90%, but no longer applies to area-of-effect damage caused by other players.
- Doomguard/Infernal: These pets now innately have Avoidance like all other warlock pets.
- Inferno: The cooldown on this summoning spell has been reduced from 20 minutes to 10 minutes. Cannot be used in Arenas.
- Shadow Bite: This pet ability now provides 15% increased damage for each of the warlock's damage-over-time effects on the target.
- Summon Imp: This ability is now available from the trainer for level 1 warlocks and no longer requires a quest to learn.
- Bug Fixes
- Curse of the Elements: Rank 4 has been increased to 11%, up from 10%.
- Drain Soul: This spell now deals 4 times the normal damage for all ranks. Previously it was only ranks 6 and above.
- Glyph of Conflagrate: Now updates the tooltip of Conflagrate to remove reference to Conflagrate removing an Immolate or Shadowflame effect on the target.
- Glyph of Siphon Life: This glyph will now modify the tooltip on Siphon Life correctly.
- Glyph of Unending Breath: Now updates the tooltip on Unending Breath to indicate it increases swim speed.
- Hellfire: Dealing damage to another player with this ability will now put the Warlock in combat.
- Improved Shadow Bolt: This talent no longer causes a bug that removes all resilience from pets.
- Suffering (Voidwalker): Ranks 5-8 had the incorrect taunt radius of 5 yards and have all been adjusted to a 10-yard radius.
So, I've grabbed the figures from the SimulationCraft output and put them all into a handy chart. This includes the ten builds simulated which accounts for the main ones used today as well as those that deliver more DPS under the patch 3.3 changes. The builds in the chart are:
A2: 53/00/18 using a Doomguard
A3: 53/00/18 without the Doomguard
d1: 00/56/15 with 3 points in Molten Core
d2: 00/56/15 with Demonic Empowerment
Each bar on the chart has two shades -- the darker being the DPS simulation result under current live mechanics and the total bar height representing the DPS with the changes for patch 3.3.
I'm sure one of the first things people will notice is that an affliction build now has the highest DPS once again. This will bring a smile to many as I believe this is a spec dear to a lot of locks. Specifically in that you will notice that using a Doomguard is no longer worthwhile. This is primarily due to that buffs that the Felhunter has received. I know a lot of people liked to have a reason to bring the big-fella along but for me the retirement of the Doomguard is great news. Builds A2 and A3 are the old style with points in Demonic Power to buff the Succubus. Both of these can be scrapped for the new (A1) build which drops these two points into Improved Felhunter instead. Obviously to go along with all that it's the Felpuppy that should be raiding along side you. The rotation remains exactly the same but the Glyph of Curse of Agony has been swapped out for the new Glyph of Quick Decay.
Fans of Destruction builds should not be downheartened by losing the top spot, frankly the difference is negligible. If you enjoy Destro more and can play it better you will perform better with it in raids. I'm not predicting a huge migration of all end-game raiders over to Affliction as we saw with Destro. The changes to Conflag were the big news for the Destro build and it seemed that all told the spec was getting both a buff and a nerf. This seems to ring true in the simulation with just a slight increase in DPS for both builds.
Demonology has seen some significant tweaking and buffing through the patch testing. This has resulted in (to my mind) some very nice changes -- if somewhat complicated mechanics. You need an instruction manual more than a tooltip to understand how Molten Core is going to work. The upshot is primarily more damage when you cast Soul Fire. It does not make Incinerate worth casting over Shadow Bolt except for the three buffed casts when MC procs. Decimation now triggers from Soul Fire and lasts for a set time. This removes the fiddly Shadow Bolt weaving now employed during the execute phase (target below 35% health).
Demonology is still looking low on personal DPS but this is to be expected. Demonic Pact is still by far the best spell power buff out there and while it has been stated that the devs want demo locks to be taken for their own DPS and not just a buff I can't see that happening until Demonic pact is reigned in somewhat. It is nice to see that the personal damage has been increased though; it did feel like it was slipping too far behind. One thing that might prove me wrong here is the spell damage bonus Demonic Pact will receive -- if this scales well through tier ten, Demo could rise up through the charts.
We see another nail being driven into the coffin lid of warlock hybrid builds in patch 3.3. Currently in live they produce DPS figures a bit below average, the changes incoming see them slip to the bottom of the table. This coupled with the almost complete lack of raid utility (in comparison) makes them pretty useless. I don't know how to feel about that. Hybrid builds are odd beasts and while I like their oddity (and certainly enjoyed playing 00/41/30 in Naxx) it always feels a shame not to be using the juicy talents lurking at the bottom of a talent tree.
On a final note:
I don't usually read Arcane Brilliance (I hear it talks about mages a lot), but I know some people that look at it from time to time. I've been told that in the last installment, Mr Belt requested pictures of mages. It seems he is having somewhat of a hard time coming up with ideas for the title image. It occurred to me that Blood Pact readers might well have quite a collection of pictures of mages and that he might appreciate seeing them. Remember, keep UI and nameplates off and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, you can also copy in email@example.com and I'll see if we can showcase some of them.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons, and all the dastardly deeds done by Warlocks. If you're curious about what's new with Locks since the last patch, check out the Patch 3.2 Warlock Guide or find out what's upcoming in Cataclysm from the BlizzCon 2009: Class Discussion Panel.