Since Zach did a write up of Affliction shortly before I started writing Blood Pact, I decided to pass over it as part of Project Respec. And anyway, it's my primary spec, so it wouldn't exactly be a 'respec' were I to write about it. Gotta stay true to the name of the project, yo.
Playing Affliction right now is a little bit like healing. Except instead of playing whack-a-mole with health bars, you do it with DoT timers. And there are a lot of DoTs to keep track of! An Aff-'lock needs to keep track of Corruption, Siphon Life, Curse of Agony, Unstable Affliction, and Immolate; not to mention keeping Haunt, and two stacks of Shadow Embrace active. Most players find this balancing act unreasonably difficult, and nobody can deny that it's only really effective during single-target encounters. (Well, that's not true, I'm sure somebody somewhere insists that they managed to pull 10k DPS on Gothik using Seed of Corruption) But at the same time, Affliction is pretty much the spec with the highest damage output for most boss fights right now.
Really, though, talking about the 'best spec' only matters if you've also got the 'best situation,' the 'best buffs,' the 'best gear,' the 'best group composition,' and the 'best skills' to go along with it. And while there are those who enjoy trying to get every single point of damage they can out of their class, so long as a player is staying competitive with the other DPSers in his or her group, nobody should really be complaining. Unless all the DPS sucks I guess...that would be bad.
3.1 is going to see a marked decline in the difficulty of Affliction, however. With Siphon Life being removed as an active spell, as well as Unstable Affliction and Immolate becoming mutually exclusive, the number of DoTs cast is going to be greatly reduced. Those of us who enjoyed the complexity will lament its loss, but there are several small damage increases spread throughout the tree to at least compensate for the lost damage. Overall damage output will probably be a bit lower for Affliction after 3.1, but not by a terrible amount.
I never liked demonology much. Pet management was never one of my strengths as a Warlock, and to this day I've only met two or three Demonology Warlocks who were capable of pulling their weight in a group, out of the dozens upon dozens I've run into. But I've always done my best to approach new things with an open mind, and curse it if Demonology didn't grow on me during Project Respec.
I had two opportunities to put a nice little pile of points into this tree, but since I talk about hybrids later on in the post, I'd like to focus specifically on full blown 51-point Demonology. Namely, Meta / Ruin.
This spec has by far my favorite aesthetic outside of Affliction. Shadow spells and demon form made me feel like a Warlock, rather than a fire Mage. The rotation was simple, and hard-hitting. Seeing 14k crits without any kind of ridiculous, situational buffs was a huge thrill. And I learned after my initial tests that there are a lot of ins and outs to the spec, demon form specifically, that I missed out on.
During this past week I went back to test out some of the tricks mentioned in the comments to my original article. There really is a depth to this spec that a person can gradually learn as they go along, as opposed to the somewhat daunting nature of Affliction. A player can stick with the simpler style of play to begin with; using shadow bolt and a couple dots to put up some very decent numbers. One they're more comfortable they can mix in a few of demon form's more exotic abilities to really boost their DPS output.
I would be bluffing if I tried to sound confident about what I think Meta / Ruin is going to be like after 3.1. Moving Molten Core deep into the demonology tree, as well as sticking a new talent in there that boosts the damage of Soul Fire when the target is below 35 health makes me think they want Demonologists using more fire spells, which would make me even grumpier than a Warlock is supposed to be. Still, none of the changes in the tree seem to be attached to talents which will skew Meta / Ruin's DPS very far one way or another. There are going to be changes, to be sure, but I the spec will remain roughly the same I think.
Demonology / Destruction Hybrid
Fel / Emberstorm was the spec I tested out, though, it's not the only Hybrid spec. I simply chose not to write a column on the others due to their relative similarity to one another. The playstyles are slightly different, but 10 or 11 points of difference can only account for so much. Perhaps in my post 3.1 writeup, I'll do multiple hybrid specs in a single post.
Fel / Emberstorm is a fire-heavy spec, which relies on hard hitting Incinerates, Molten Core procs, and the mighty felguard for its damage. It's also probably the absolute best spec out of all the ones I tested for AoE damage using Rain of Fire, which puts it head and shoulders above other specs on trash pulls, or during fights with a lot of trash mobs in them, such as Gothik.
My primary concern for Fel / Emberstorm, and other specs like it, is the future. With 3.1 around the corner, and Molten Core being changed from an early destruction talent, into an deep-demonology talent, Fel / Emberstorm will lose a lot of damage. My honest inclination is to say such hybrids will become extinct, in favor of pure specs. Then again, I never expected a hybrid spec to be worthwhile in the first place, so perhaps I'm wrong.
Putting most of your points in Destruction sorta went out of style after Burning Crusade, but then again, so did Warlocks. In my look at Destro, I apparently selected a rather unpopular build -- teaching me that in the future I need to cross reference the builds I test between multiple sources, rather than only a single one, regardless of how reputable that source may be. Still, the issues with my point allocation really only hurt the spec's damage output, which was high despite my blunder.
I think Backdraft is possibly one of the coolest spec mechanics I've ever been exposed to. Heroism / Bloodlust is often a critical component in a raid's boss strategy, so having a personal version of that effect which you can use several times every minute is more fun than getting the kids in Elwynn Forest to help you summon your doomguard used to be.
I really don't know what to expect from the Destruction tree in 3.1 -- there are many factors still to be considered. On the one hand, Molten Core is being moved to Demonology, so Destro 'lock damage will be nerfed a bit by that. On the other hand, Chaos Bolt is having its damage increased by 15%; which will hopefully make it a bit more useful. Glyph of Imp is also getting a significant upgrade, and since the Imp is an essential part of a Destruction Warlock's play style due to Empowered Imp. Not to mention that Destruction is getting Replenishment! It's a precarious balance, but I think Destruction is going to be better than ever after the changes. I've always hated Molten Core anyway. Casting spells for the sole purpose of the proc they cause seems awkward to me.
And that's it for Project Respec until after 3.1. Next week, I'll actually have to use my brain to think of something interesting to write about!