Blood Pact: What's up with everybody?

Nick Whelan
N. Whelan|04.28.09

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Blood Pact: What's up with everybody?

Another week, another Blood Pact! Bringing you all the wacky Warlockery that nine out of ten healers recommend for a healthy diet. And it's not because Nick paid them off or anything.

Hello again, my reprehensible cabal of spell casters I call a readership! How's it hangin?

Not a great deal has actually changed for me since last week. I was forced to disband my raiding group due to unfortunate scheduling problems, so I still haven't set foot in Ulduar. And since heroics stopped offering an interesting challenge months ago, I haven't had much of a reason to log in as of late. With Noblegarden upon us though, I suppose I'd better get to it--a proto-drake in my class color doesn't come along every day, yo!

Lacking any escapades of my own to pen for your amusement, I thought it would be nice if I did some research on how the various specs are being played these days, for the benefit of players (like me) who wish their spec' s play style would settle down longer than a handful of months. It's hard enough to be a DPS class beset by near-constant nerfs -- radically changing our play style all the time isn't helping. But enough QQ, lets talk about how Warlocks are doing their pew pew these days.
I already covered Affliction in relative detail last week, but I've made a few changes and seen some improvement so I figure I ought to mention that at least. I finally gave in to popular demand and removed Dark Pact from my spec. As much as I love that ability, the spell power buff that Glyph of Life Tap gives us has officially pushed that particular use of a talent point over the "not worth it" line for me. I could handle the fact that it returned a few hundred less mana -- it wasn't that much, and it helped me survive in healing intensive situations -- but I also lost a lot of damage output in the last patch. That point was required for talents that do a bit more for my DPS. Fel Synergy for instance. I've never been a huge fan of using the pet for DPS. It was never really all that worth it for an Afflock in the past, and adding pet management into the mix just ended up being more of an annoyance than anything else. But With Fel Synergy the need to keep an eye on my pet's health is essentially reduced to null, so I feel more confident that he won't be run over by a truck if I let him off the leash every now and again.

Speaking of pets, I'm still fiddling with that a bit. Everybody says the succubus is the highest DPS pet right now, and I believe them. When so many people who are obviously adequately competent agree, they're usually right. Still though, I have no real plans to stop using my felhunter. I don't know what any new raid group I find myself in will look like, but as it stands, I still don't know any Mages or Priests that I'm very good friends with. So I'm willing to take a relatively minor DPS loss to help the raid as a whole out. Hell, I'd be willing to take a major DPS loss if it meant I didn't have to listen to that damn succy slap herself and grunt every 30 seconds. Who would have thought that would get old? Besides, in terms of utility, the succubus only brings a convoluted and rarely requested form of crowd control to the table--and CC isn't in very high demand these days. While the felpuppy, on the other hand, has Spell Lock, which I'm getting pretty good at using to save the healers a little grief now and again.

I've also modified my rotation a bit thanks to last week's comments, to great effect. I've removed Life Tap from my active rotation, and only use it when I need some mana. I suppose I was just so desperate for some depth to the rotation that I deluded myself into thinking the extra life tappage was a good idea. The numbers I got after I removed it were rather impressive. 3k+ on most of the bosses I've done since the change. Some of it needs to be blamed on group composition, since I had some pretty sweet buffs in all those groups, but still. Better than I was expecting I would get out of post-3.1 Affliction.

Moving away from Affliction, though, there's Destruction! I haven't actually played it at all yet, but a friend of mine who recently ding'd 80 switched after finding Affliction was no longer to his taste. In greens, blues, and a handful of crafted epics, he's pulling 2.4K or more. Can you guess what I'm planning to do once I can afford dual spec?

All those talent points the Destruction tree has for improving the imp should make it pretty obvious what the best choice of pet is. The basic strat is to keep Curse of Doom (or Elements) and Immolate up, cast Conflagrate or Chaos Bolt whenever they're available, and otherwise just throw down as many Incinerates as you can, all the while allowing the imp to tag along, acting like a manic fireball machine. A lot of Warlocks like to use Soul Fire when Backdraft procs, and many like to save Chaos Bolt for when Empowered Imp procs. It's actually a pretty tricky spec to play. Managing cooldowns and procs and a dot while spamming nukes certainly isn't the easiest thing in the game, but it's crazy amounts of fun if it's anything like it was pre-3.1.

What gets me is glyph choice. Glyph of Imp, Glyph of Incinerate, Glyph of Life Tap, Glyph of Immolate, Glyph of Conflagrate, and Glyph of Chaos Bolt all sound insanely awesome for this spec. Unfortunately, we have to narrow it down to three. Glyph of Chaos Bolt is pretty easy to toss aside -- it's great, but it's rather easily overshadowed by the other glyphs. The other five have me stumped though. Supposedly the best of the best possible combination of glyphs is Life Tap / Conflagrate / Immolate, and that makes sense. I doubt I could handle playing this spec without Glyph of Conflagrate, so I'll certainly be picking that up. But the other two spots...I'm actually not sure. I'm sure the people who run simcrafts and make spreadsheets have worked all of this out exactly, but I'm far less concerned with what they say, than I am with my results. "The internet said it would be best this way" is a pretty lousy excuse for doing poorly in a raid.

Meta / Ruin isn't terribly different from where it was before. Use the felguard to DPS, keep Curse of Agony / Doom, Corruption, and Immolate up, pop Meta when you have it available (don't forget Immolation Aura!), then just spam Shadow Bolt. Glyphs, according to the experts, are predictably Felguard / Life Tap / Immolate. If I was more familiar with Demonology, I might contest that a bit, but I'm not so I won't. What's really interesting --to me anyway--is the new Decimation talent. Much like Affliction Warlocks and Drain Soul, Demonology Warlocks now have an extra powerful spell to cast once the target is getting low on health.

This is where having points in Molten Core is going to come in handy, because the more punch you can pack into Soul Fire the better. First you use Shadow Bolt, as per usual. But once it hits the target, Decimation procs, and you pound the target with a hard-hitting Soul Fire. There's going to be a delay between casting Shadow Bolt and Decimation's proc though, due to the time it takes Shadow Bolt to travel from you to the target. So the intervening time would be best spent casting another spell. Life Tap, or a dot refresh, or even another Shadow Bolt. Personally, I think I would save the 3 minute meta cooldown for this.

Lastly of course are the hugely popular hybrids specs. 0 / 40 / 31 seems to have gained in popularity since 3.1 went live. At least from what I can tell. The play style, like the talent points, is a mix between Demonology and Destruction. From the Destruction tree, you have the imp as the pet of choice, as well as the expert recommended glyph choices of Immolate / Conflagrate / Life Tap. The rotation is a bit of a mix; keep Curse of Agony, Corruption, and Immolate up while spamming Incinerate. The real gem of this spec is Conflagrate, which does absolutely massive damage even after the recent nerf, so be sure to hit it every opportunity you get. Below 35% the Decimation talent causes this spec to show off its points in Demonology. At that point it's essentially the same as the Meta / Ruin spec, except you're using Incinerate to proc Devestation, rather than Shadow Bolt.

That one point actually makes a pretty big difference in play style, surprisingly enough. 0 / 41 / 30 is obviously similar to the other prevalent hybrid spec, but not as much as one might think. The most obvious change is that you lose Conflagrate, and gain a felguard. That swapping of abilities, of course, means a swapping of glyphs. Trade Glyph of Conflagrate for Glyph of Felguard. Other than that though, the play style is essentially the same as 0 / 40 / 31. Still, that's a lot of change for one talent point.

And that's it. A quick rundown of the specs people are playing with in 3.1, how they size up, and how their rotations work. I very probably made an error or two, and I'm certain I missed some nuances that a more complete post would cover. But hopefully this post will help give some direction to people who are feeling a little left in the dust by the torrent of changes that were thrust on us two weeks ago.

As a closing note, thanks to Phantasos over at the MMO Champion forums for his superb post on post-3.1 Warlock specs. It was a huge help to me in understanding the changes made to the specs which I am less familiar with.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing dots, demons, and all the dastardly deeds done by Warlocks. Enjoy this column and interested in reading more? Then perhaps you would find our Warlock's guide to Naxx-10 part 1 and part 2 to be of interest!
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