As a warlock, I can name no fewer than six methods that the amateur demonologist can use in order to up his worth to a raid. Oh, while I could easily write out an entire Homer-esque adventure exclusively on what fledgling casters can do for their damage, brevity is oft the soul of wit -- so I will merely keep to the upped ante of six, to demonstrate that warlocks shall not have themselves outdone by trite magelings. After all, a mage really is useful for nothing more than a light snack and easy travel.
1. Know your spec. Unlike those wretched creatures that shall not be named, warlocks are blessed with multiple viable specs that they can use for raiding. I know that this is a topic I have blathered on about time and time again, but for a pure DPS class, it's rather important. Unlike my counterpart balance druid, there is no rigidity in spec choice. A balance druid will always be a balance druid, regardless of how strong their spec is in relation to feral or other DPS classes in the game. Warlocks and other pures are given that luxury.
Want to play affliction or destruction? Too bad -- if demonology is the reigning champion of damage, then that is the spec you will be expected to play. It's a sad situation and one I really wish we could gravitate away from, but such as it is. This, however, is a topic for another time. No matter which spec is the leading contender, there is currently always a proper way of setting it up (and despite what Blizzard has currently stated, I'm quite certain the same will hold true for many of MoP's talent choices as well).
Right now, though, your best resources to be had for finding the best spec rightly on hand is usually the WoW warlock forums. While you can jump into the discussion or see the detailed explanations over on Elitist Jerks (which is great about putting information right at the top of the post), I find the WoW forum stickies to be slightly more better organized. No offense to our EJ counterparts -- I love what they do, but such as it is.
For the moment, here are the currently accepted setups for each spec:
Remember, there usually is some slight variation in how you spec some of your points, and no one is saying that this is absolutely how you must spec. These are merely the most commonly accepted (because of accuracy) specs for the highest DPS.
2. Perfect practice makes perfect. There is nothing more important than learning your rotation. For all of the gearing, all of the fretting over talents or glyphs that we do, none it matters quite as much as the actual doing. Missed spells or slightly mistimed priority steps are generally your largest loss of DPS on any given encounter, and you must strive to mitigate that as much as you feasibly can. Nothing does this better than going over and over and over your rotation again and again.
Practice makes perfect, or as I used to be told, perfect practice makes perfect. Nothing does that better than sitting out at a training dummy to see what you're capable of. No, it may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but committing every action to memory goes a long way in not only increasing DPS but also your effectiveness as a raider overall. The less time you have to spend staring at your actions bars or keys is more time you can spend watching the environment around you. That's what being a solid raider is all about.
3. Reforge for optimal performance. While reforging usually only lends a minor increase in effectiveness, every little bit counts. This is why we splurge a little more to spring for the higher-end enchants or gems instead of always settling for the lesser, cheaper alternatives. While Blizzard somehow thought that the introduction of reforging would make the concept of hit juggling easier, nothing could really be farther from the truth. Managing hit now is worse than it has ever been and frankly is a headache I wish we could get rid of.
Or is it? While the concept of reforging is excessively annoying to the degree that no sane human could possibly keep up with the best way to go about it all, this is why we have computers. Addons such as Reforgelite are a godsend that will do all of the work for you, quite literally. Reforgelite will automatically select the proper stat priority for your spec, formulate the best combinations, and then do all of the reforging for you.
If you are looking for the more speculative side as to which items you should be picking up, I suggest popping over to Ask Mr. Robot for a spell. You can also use Rawr, which is a great little application as well, but AMR is my option of choice. Up to you.
4. Spruce up your UI. Speaking of addons, there are a plethora of useful additions that you can use for WoW. The ability to customize your UI or plug in certain capabilities really sells the game. It's about far more than making things easier for you to manage -- it's about assisting you in making the most out of what you have. Pushing your limits, that's what it's all about!
TidyPlates is an amazing choice to assist with multiple target selecting and DoT tracking across them all. Power Auras is another, although it requires a decent amount of setup. Despite the effort, it well pays off with the ability to use easier to notice, large icons for DoTs, procs, and cooldowns, while also allowing for sound notification, which is amazing. You can react super-quickly to sounds, plus they don't eat away at your already strained eye time.
The #1 rule with addons is to keep it simple. Too much clutter is an easy pit to fall into, and it's hell to climb out of.
5. Learn the encounters. There is a saying that goes that the best defense is the ability to know what your opponent is going to do before they do it -- at least I think that's a saying, and if it isn't, then I'm saying it now, which makes it one. Anyway, knowing what to expect is the best method of improving not only your combat performance, but also your ability to stay alive throughout an encounter.
Every fight is different, or at least slightly so, and each one requires its own amount of planning and forward thinking in order to accurately predict what is coming. I know, I know, it all sounds a lot like work, but reading up on encounters before going into them is the best method of reaching toward your top performance. You can catch strategies here on Ready Check, or swing on over to Lrn2Raid.
Putting in a little extra effort for a raid really isn't as bad as it seems, and watching videos is perhaps one of the perfect ways to prepare yourself. They generally take 10 minutes tops, and show you not only the encounter but how players actively deal with everything that's thrown at them. Watch a video, please; it will help you far more than you realize.
6. Relearn your ABCs. The last bit of advice that I want to give you is a basic one that so many casters forget. You learned in once in grade school, and now it's time to review it once again -- "it" being your ABCs. A better way of putting it might be: Always Be Casting. Always, always, always, always, always. It doesn't matter what you're doing -- unless you are directly prevented from damaging something, anything, you should always be casting something.
Refresh a DoT, use Fel Flames -- something, anything, it doesn't matter. Getting your rotation down flawlessly is the perfect solution, but barring that, always casting something is good enough. It's even more true when moving, which is often when people lose their focus. They put too much of their attention on the moving itself and forget that they could be doing damage during that time. Don't forget! Remember your ABCs!
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through encounters such as Blackwing Descent and The Bastion of Twilight.