Every warlock has at least one damage over time effect to take care of. Destruction has Immolate. Demonologists flip between Corruption and Doom (Metamorphosis), though I suppose you could count Shadowflame off Hand of Gul'dan as one. Affliction is the "DoT spec," starring Agony, Corruption, Unstable Affliction, with appearances of Haunt.
While the DoTs in the destruction or demonology are important, the basic concept is just to keep the DoTs rolling, to recast the DoT before it falls off the target. For destruction, Immolate is the launch pad for ember generation. For demonology, while Doom will rank high in how your damage gets done, the minute-long duration makes it rather easy to keep up. Advanced DoT management for demonology involves Hand of Gul'dan, where casting the spell at just the right moment can refresh the Shadowflame DoT on the target to two stacks, temporarily.
To maintain the DoTs, the player has to keep track of the DoTs on his target or focus. This can easily be accomplished by the default interface, or by any number of addons. You can use a buff mod like Raven (what I use), or an aura mod like Weak Auras, or a timer mod like Ellipsis or NeedToKnow or ForteXorcist. Use what makes you happy; they all work.
For affliction, however, the DoTs are the point. Having stronger DoTs makes all the difference in DPS. The stats that really matter are intellect (and spellpower), haste, and mastery. Crit is somewhat important, but as affliction's current weakest stat, it's not likely you'll have a trinket proc that is crit.
The other effect on affliction's DoTs is the passive Pandemic. Pandemic allows a DoT refresh to tack the old one's ticks onto the new one, increasing the duration up to half the base DoT. The base -- or unaffected by haste -- durations for the DoTs are: 14 seconds for Unstable Affliction, 18 seconds for Corruption, and 24 seconds for Agony. Thus, there's really no point in refreshing a DoT that has more time left than the base durations (7, 9, 12, respectively); you'll just lose those other ticks.
- Your weapon enchant, likely Jade Spirit.
- Your "equip:" trinket procs, such as the intellect proc off Relic of Yu'lon and the haste proc of Essence of Terror.
- Your on-use trinket effects, such as the intellect on-use from Shock-Charger Medallion (A) / Static-Caster's Medallion (H).
- Professional bonuses such as Lightweave Embroidery (Tailoring) or Synapse Springs (Engineering).
- Personal cooldowns that buff you, like Dark Soul or the intellect potion.
- Short-term raid buffs like Herolust Warp, Skull Banner, and Stormlash Totem.
It's pretty obvious that Light of the Cosmos is a great trinket for affliction since it says "each time you deal periodic damage." On the other hand, Essence of Terror has the qualifier "each time your harmful spells hit," while favorable trinkets like Relic of Yu'lon say "When you deal spell damage." The hit roll for your DoTs occurs on the cast or application, while dealing damage happens on the ticks. Add in Essence's lengthy internal cooldown (105 seconds, compared to Light's at 45 seconds) to possibly hitting a haste ceiling* with the proc, and the trinket quickly falls from favor for affliction.
*Don't believe me on hitting the haste cap? Reducing your global cooldown (GCD) to its cap, 1 second, requires 50% haste. By the time my raid got to Sha of Fear (who drops Essence of Terror), the 6637 haste breakpoint (Unstable Affliction +2) was comfortably reachable in my gear. The trinket procs 6908 haste rating, which ends up at approximately 40% haste -- unbuffed. I'd be likely to trip over myself for the 20 seconds with those GCDs, since my normal raid-buffed haste is around half that.
Often fight videos that I've watched with a warlock perspective have multiple ways of tracking the DoTs and awesome combat buffs going at once. One addon I keep seeing and have recently started trying in my own effort to boost my DPS is AffDots. My main flaw in my affliction DPS is refreshing DoTs too soon or major clipping. AffDots has helped me lay off my DoT keys and let the DoTs go down until I need to refresh them.
AffDots: a calculating DoT tracker
AffDots (get it at Curse) is a DoT tracker, but only for warlocks at the moment. The extra thing it does beyond showing DoTs on your target is it will calculate for you if your current stats plus Pandemic equal a better DoT than what's currently on the mob.
The addon simply shows each DoT in a colored, translucent box. The number above by default is the relative damage percent that recasting with your current stats will have on your target's DoT. Here's what each color means:
- Black or no background means the DoT isn't present.
- Red means your stats are the same or worse and Pandemic won't be in effect.
- Yellow means your stats are the same or worse, but Pandemic will tack on the last part of the present DoT.
- Blue means your stats are better, but Pandemic won't be in effect.
- Green means your stats are better AND Pandemic will add the ticks on if you recast.
Astute players will notice that the color changes from red to yellow or from blue to green when the DoT's remaining time dips below half the base duration (7 seconds for Unstable Affliction, 9 for Corruption, 12 for Agony). This is the Pandemic difference between the colors. Red and yellow both indicate either the same stats (nothing has procced) or worse stats (your procs have faded), so preferably don't cast unless the DoT is about to fall off or if you have to switch to a new target. Blue and green both indicated better stats -- by default, 20% better -- so you should refresh the DoT, unless you expect to get a proc or cooldown buff soon.
The rest of the addon is very configurable: you can have bars instead of the default icons, change the size of the icons and text, change up the colors, change what the text signifies, change the layout, and even add the addon's color-changing effect onto Tidy Plates' debuff widget.
Affliction is no longer the spec that has to wait until execute phase to find its jump-up in damage done. While affliction rides high on the meters this tier anyway, there's no reason now that you can't start out the fight that way.
Sparkuggz goes over the spell order in the video. I typically launch my Doomguard and combat potion pop whenever Heroism blows, just out of habit, rather than always at the start. While the video is a couple months old at this point -- Pandemic should work properly by now and Stormlash/Skull Banner's ranges have been increased to 40 yards each -- the theory remains the same. Get the DoTs up initially and channel some filler in order to proc all your hopefully ready-to-go procs, then refresh everything with the ridiculous stat combination of all the procs.
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 tier 13 set bonuses.