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Blood Pact: A Warlock's descent into Destruction

V'Ming Chew

Between Arenas, V'Ming spends his time as a lock laughing ominously in AV, tanking Olm with his own minions and pondering troll fashion from Zul'Aman. He's recently started to plumb the depths of SSC with his 0/21/40 build and bragging about 8k shadow bolts.

I have been an Affliction lock for much of my 70 career (45 days to be exact). I enjoyed wiping out fauna in Nagrand or Shadowmoon Valley by taking on multiple mobs with hardly any downtime. Between the Frozen Shadoweave set bonus, Essence Infused Mushroom, Siphon Life, Drain Life and the occasional skillcoil, my life hardly drops below the half-way point.

In raids, it was fun watching an amplified Curse of Doom pop for close to 9k damage and trying to keep a full set of DoTs on the boss between Ruin-powered shadow bolt carnage. I liked the instant fire-and-forget DoTs in PvP and Arenas, and Curse of Exhaustion and instant Howls of Terror gave me a chance against rogues and warriors. You could say that I'm a happy Warlock.

Until I got bored.

While I was also leveling alts (Paladin, Priest and other less "evil" classes for some good karma) on the side, I needed a change to my beloved main's play style. I enjoyed the versatility of Demonology for a large part of 60, and leveled to 70 with a Destruction build. The burst damage was great on Destruction, but I really found having to eat and drink a bother. I felt like a fire Mage for the most part, with less ways of regaining mana. Sure there was Life Tap, but bandaging was getting expensive, especially since I was leveling my tailoring at that time. So I found my Affliction build highly liberating. Low mana? Dark Pact my pet dry and carry on - MUAHAHAHAHA!

To get off out of my Affliction rut, I shopped for a new build. Demonology seemed fun but the tree felt at odds with itself: handing out some of the best goodies like Soul Link with a pet, while giving a great buff sacrificing the pet, all in the same tree! Some of the worst warlocks I've encounter in-game were also those running around with Felguards, so yes, I am also irrationally biased against Demonology. So a revisit of Destruction it was.

Keeping in mind that much of my gear has been um, geared towards shadow damage for Affliction, I knew I'll have to continue to rely on my shadow bolts as my main weapon. I decided on a 0/21/40 build, and it looks like this:

Working down the Destruction tree first, I'll explain my choices:

Improved Shadow Bolt (5/5) - Slaps a Shadow Vulnerability debuff with four charges on your target that increases shadow damage by 20% when you crit with a shadow bolt. The debuff increases overall shadow bolt damage by about 12%, based on a crit rate of 20%. As long as the debuff is on, It also improves the damage of shadow-based DoTs, without consuming the four charges. Compared to the lackluster Cataclysm, this is an obvious first tier choice for any Warlock investing in this tree.

Bane (5/5) - Reduces casting time of shadow bolts - my weapon of choice - from 3 seconds to 2.5 seconds, improving shadow bolt DPS by 20%. Sign me up!

Devastation (5/5) - Simple talent that increases your crit rate by 5% and a pre-requisite to the class-defining Ruin. This additional crit doesn't show up on your character sheet however, since it only applies to Destruction spells.

Shadowburn (1/1) - Nice one-point talent that gives you an instant nuke at the cost of a shard. Useful for PvP and dealing that last chunk of damage in a hurry.

Intensity (2/2) - A situational talent that helps with getting nukes and our fire AoEs out while being beat on. As clothies, we certainly don't want to be caught in a close combat situation, but this talent might save us some grief from pesky warriors and rogues.

Destruction Reach (2/2) - Ranged classes need as much range as they can get, simple. The 10% threat reduction helps to keep you alive in raids and your MT happy with you.

Improved Immolate (5/5) - I took this talent mainly to move on to the next tier, since I'm focusing on shadow bolt goodness. However, a 25% boost to the initial nuke component of Immolate is nothing to be sniffed at, and gives me more options. Immolate also becomes an important source of DoT damage while farming, since I've lost my insta-corruption. *sniff*

Ruin (1/1) - The uber talent responsible for crazy Warlock crits. Turns your crit from a 150% bomb to a 200% monster. I've been dishing out 8k shadow bolts on my current gear sometimes, when the shadowy stars are aligned (Shadow Vulnerability, Shadow Weaving from a shadow priest and Curse of Shadows). Ruin boosts your overall DPS by about half your crit rate. So if you've got a crit rate of 20%, you'll get a DPS boost of 10%.

Nether Protection (3/3) & Emberstorm (1/5) - This tier was a tough call for me personally. The choice is between a situational and chancy proc (Nether Protection) versus an always-good boost to fire damage (Emberstorm). I picked the former for its awesome utility in the Arenas: four seconds of immunity to shadow priests, fire mages and warlocks is invaluable. Emberstorm has relatively less value to me since I'm using shadow bolts mostly in raids.

Backlash (3/3) - A sweet talent against stuff that beat on you. This is akin to the Nightfall effect, giving you an instant shadow bolt (or incinerate) when you most need it. Better yet, the talent sweetens the deal further by giving you an additional 3% crit. Eat shadow bolt, warriors and rogues!

Conflagrate (1/1) - Another one-point talent that gives you an instant souce of damage. Nice for PvP and trash mobs, but shadow bolt spam still gives better sustained DPS against longer boss fights.

Soul Leech (1/3) - This is really my throwaway point. Between investing one more point into Emberstorm and this, I opted for this 10% chance health refund for (hopefully) less downtime. I'm pretty sure it doesn't help much, but I don't use fire spells enough either to justify an investment in Emberstorm for 2% more damage.

Shadow and Flame (5/5)
- Besides loving the name of this talent, this improves +damage from my gear to make shadow bolt even more ridiculous.

The objective of 21 points in Demonology is simply to get Demonic Sacrifice. Yes, sacrifice the succubus to get a Touch of Shadow buff that increases shadow damage by another 15%. Can anyone say BIG shadow bolts? DS also adds versatility of sacrificing different pets for different situations. I usually sacrifice my voidwalker for the health regen buff when I'm farming, or don't have a healer on my back.

Along the way to DS in the Demonlogy tree, Demonic Aegis improves the effect of Fel Armor by 30%. That's another +30 spell damage! I also picked up Fel Stamina and Intellect, not so much to improve my pets, but to get a 3% increase in my health and mana respectively. Improved Imp (1/3) is again my throwaway point, to add something to the Blood Pact buff when I do have to be on imp duty.

There we have it, the 0/21/40 insane shadow bolt spammer build. This build is primarily geared towards raids and it probably works best for warlocks who have accumulated about +1000 spell damage, 20% spell crit and a healthy amount of spell haste and spell hit. For warlocks with less spell damage, consider using fire-based nukes (Immolate and Incinerate) to deliver more DPS due to better mana efficiency and faster cast times.

In terms of PvE play style, instead of managing a whole bunch of DoTs, I am primarily just spamming shadow bolts. This might hopefully add to situational awareness and greater survivability in raids by making the DPS game 'easier'. After all, Warlock in wrong place at wrong time = dead lock = no DPS.

I picked some talents (Backlash and Nether Protection) for Arena viability, but I'm missing instant Howl of Terror and Curse of Exhaustion already. In terms of downtime, I'm finding that I need more attention from healers to top me up, as opposed to the more independent DoT 'n' Drain powerhouse with the previous Affliction build.

What are your experiences as a Destruction Warlock? What can you suggest to make this build better?

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