Going from the left as usual, the build skips Affliction entirely (shedding a tear for Improved Corruption), and dives right in to Demonology. 5/5 Demonic Embrace (or Dembrace, as I like to call it) is a typical choice, but still a strong one, netting essentially free Stamina, since Spirit is more or less meaningless for Warlocks. I'd like to take a quick diversion here to commend WoW's class designers for making Stam a core stat for Warlocks; being able to increase HP and, essentially, MP with one stat is very nice.
Unfortunately, the rest of the first two tiers of Demonology is pretty worthless. Rixnor takes 3/3 Imp. Imp, 1/2 Imp. Healthstone, and 2/3 Fel Intellect. I'm assuming the 1/2 Imp. HS is a raid thing -- a player can have one healthstone of each size, so if a raid has more than one Warlock along, each player gets two healthstones as long as the two locks have different numbers of points in the Imp HS talent. Imp. Imp is a bit of a silly talent; it ends up improving Blood Pact by about 20 Stam, or 200 health. Then again, the rest of the first two tiers is equally silly, so this talent is as good as any.
Having spent some filler points, we get access to Fel Domination, which I see, along with its sequel Master Summoner, as a "luxury" talent -- not necessarily too useful from a min/maxing perspective, but nice to have, and there's still little competition at this stage in the Demo tree. So we pick up that, Demonic Aegis for a smallish but still pleasant buff to our buffs (30 spellpower and a 6% boost to incoming heals, for Fel Armor), and Fel Stamina for some more pet survivability and interaction with Soul Link later.
I said Fel Domination and Master Summoner were "luxury" talents, and I think that's true, but it is extremely nice to have a 0.5s, 10% mana pet every 15 minutes. I'd certainly take it if I were going this far in Demo. Unholy Power would be another story, except it's a prerequisite for Master Demonologist, which is, in some ways, the talent this build revolves around. Well, that and Demonic Sacrifice. MD and DS conspire to make a Demo lock a very flexible character: you can keep the Imp out for reduced threat, sac the Sucubus for a sweet buff to Shadow damage, sac a Voidwalker for those endurance fights, and so forth.
Soul Link used to be a purely PvP talent, since it was pretty lackluster in raids. It has since been changed to add the following effect: "In addition, both the demon and the master will inflict 5% more damage." This for one talent point: yowza. That makes this talent almost as strong as Ruin, which I've heard described as "the best talent in the game" -- but we'll get to that. Anyway, let me say that halved a 20% reduction to damage in, plus 5% more damage out, is a kick-ass combo.
Demonic Knowledge is a very odd talent: "Increases your spell damage by an amount equal to 5/10/15% of the total of your active demon's Stamina plus Intellect." I suppose this makes Fel Int and Fel Stam a little stronger, too. How does the math work out? At level 70, the Imp has 231 Stam and 439 Int, without any points in Fel Int or Fel Stam This comes out to a total of 670, or 737 with 2/3 Fel Int and 2/3 Fel Stam. That yields a bonus of 36.85 spellpower per talent point. Pretty solid: on Shadowbolt, for instance, which gets 86% of spellpower, this is a bonus of around 31 damage per talent point, somewhere in the 2% increase range.
That leaves one talent point needed to push to the next tier. Rixnor puts it in Mana Feed, which makes your pet gain mana whenever you do (from Drain Mana or Life Tap). This seems like a weak choice to me, since pet mana doesn't do much for a build like this (as opposed to a Dark Pact build); I'd be more likely to put the point in Fel Stamina to help Soul Link and Demonic Knowledge. Finally, this build polishes off Demonology with Demonic Tactics, which when combined with Ruin is a straight 1% per talent point DPS boost -- a little more, actually, due to Improved Shadow Bolt, so let's move on to Destruction.
Improved Shadow Bolt, or ISB, is a great, innovative talent. I won't go too much into the math here, since that's covered extremely well in the "Warlock's Guide to Raiding" sticky post on the official forums. With a 20% crit rate, which seems about right for the average lock with Demonic Tactics, ISB increases average Shadow Bolt damage by 11.8%, or just under over 2% per point, which is a great boost for a first-tier talent. These days it increases DoT damage as well, but its charges are not consumed by DoT ticks, which is nice.
The next Destro talent, Bane, is similarly solid: 0.5 seconds off SB's casting time makes any build without it feel sluggish, and is a 20% increase to SB's DPS. In fact, with the exception of Intenisty, all the Destro talents in this build are stars: Devastation, Destructive Reach (which would be worth taking even without the threat reduction), and a strong contender for my favorite talent in the game, Ruin. Ruin brings your spell crits from 150% damage to 200% damage; in other words, your damage (for nukes, anyway) is boosted by half your crit rate -- 10% more damage, given our hypothetical 20% crit. For one talent point, requiring only 20 in its tree. Excuse me while I drool and wish other classes' talent trees were designed as well as (most of ) the Warlock talents.
So that's the blow-by-blow. Rixnor does a great job of comparing this to the 0/21/40 fire nuking build:
If your shadow nuking everything is the same as above except that you are now using Improved shadow bolt instead of emberstorm and no longer using conflag and the 25% burst dmg bonus to immolate. Many consider shadow to still be Superior dmg with 0/21/40 and that is where you can see the damage modifiers of 0/40/21 really shine.
- Everything 21 points and below in the two trees is basically the same (being able to have a 3 point improved imp is pretty amazing though)
- Lose 10% modifier from Emberstorm but gain 13.7% modifier for Improved Shadow Bolt @25% crit rate (For calculation specifics see: Stickied Warlock Raiding Guide)
- Lose 15% damage from demonic sacrifice but gain 5% form soul link and 20% from master demonology (imp) which is multiplicative to 26%!! (If you don't believe my threat=damage assumption then bring out your succi which is still multiplicative to 15.5%)
- Lose 3% crit modifier but gain 5% crit from Demonic Tactics (btw that means 2% damage modifier with Ruin)
- Lose about 200 bonus damage (with about 1000 bonus damage) from your main nuke from shadow and flame but gain about 130 bonus damage to all spells from demonic knowledge
- Lose Conflag (which is not needed for sustained dps btw as an additional incinerate is more worth your time)
- Lose a 25% bonus to your initial burst from your immolate (meh only serious loss imo but I find that it is not improving my dps to horribly like my flat % modifiers)
Here's my question, and where I will reveal my true noob nature, probably: Does anyone still use SM/Ruin type builds? I guess it would be DP/Ruin or some such these days...Anyway, what do you guys think of Rixnor's build? He's almost got me convinced; if I ever get my lock up to 70, I'll probably try something like this at least once. As an aside, what would you recommend for Warlock leveling? I was Afflic for drain tanking, but I hear the Felguard is pretty nifty.
And don't forget to email your builds in to firstname.lastname@example.org! I got a few emails without builds this week; double check to make sure there's a link in there. In the interest of fairness, I'll probably go through all the classes once before I do any classes I've done already; that leaves Shaman, Paladin, Druid, and Hunter left. Get on it, Hunters and people who heal that aren't Priests!