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Blood Pact: Return to the depths of the third tree!

Nick Whelan

Warlocks had best beware! Blood Pact preys on people who wander too deeply into the dark depths of the internet! Author Nick Whelan apologizes for being a tad late this week -- sometimes final projects just don't go smoothly, ya know?

It's no secret that I haven't exactly been in a PvE mood lately. I don't know what it is, but every year around this time I just...lose all motivation to progress. I've come to accept it as the natural cycle of my WoW-life, but lately I've been thinking I want to get back into it. I'm not ravenously trolling Dalaran looking for a raid, but I've been doing some heroic pugs to dust the rust off of my shadowbolting finger.

Frustratingly, though, I've been having an exceptionally difficult time getting back into Affliction. Not only does the rotation and casting style fail to engage me, but it feels like far too much of a struggle to dish out DPS. Back during that golden age between patch 3.0 and patch 3.1, Affliction was a zen thing for me. My rotation was so deeply ingrained that typical spell casting was handled by my subconscious mind. My fingers seemed to move on their own! Post 3.1, Affliction seems to have been made so user friendly that I keep stumbling whenever I try to do something. Like switching from Windows 3.1 to Vista overnight.

The most reasonable course of action, I concluded, was to revisit the first instructions given to me by my Jedi teacher. I needed to unlearn what I had learned, by switching to a completely different spec. So without further ado, welcome to Project Respec: Post 3.1. As clever readers probably divined from the title of this post, the subject this week is Destruction!

I've always felt a special kinship with the Destruction tree. My very first talent point went into the it, as did all my subsequent talent points until about level 56 or so when I decided to respec Affliction on the advice of a friend. Obviously I enjoyed Affliction enough to stick with it, but I always missed the raw power I felt when I was a Destro 'lock. If Affliction is the "face melting" spec, then I'd say Destruction is the spec where you grab your enemies face, tear it off, and feed it to him. There's very little eloquence to it--only brutality.

For this project, I decided to go 100% by the book, essentially copy-pasting everything from Elitist Jerks. The spec was pretty much the way I would have spent my points, though it did leave me far enough below the hit-cap that raids were out of the question for my tests. For glyphs, I used Incinerate, Conflagrate, and Immolate, which somewhat surprised me. I had been under the impression that Life Tap was all the rage for Destro 'locks. In fact, I have a skilled, Destro specced pal who corroborates that it's a DPS boost over Incinerate. Still, my intent was to spec cookie cutter, not try to improve cookie cutter. (Though of course I ran a few tests for my own benefit. I can't honestly say I noticed a difference between the two that was big enough to stress over.)

Once I had my spec and my glyphs all ready, my stats came out to:
HP: 18,574
Mana: 15,951
Spell Power: 1990
Haste: 489 (14.91%) (Improved by both statfood, and Spellstone.)
Crit: 21.10%
Hit: Capped for heroics.

Not wanting to pull a muscle on my first day back 'into it,' I headed off to a training dummy to do some stretching, which in this metaphor means 'practicing the rotation.' Curse of Doom > Immolate > Conflagrate (proccing Backlash) > Chaos Bolt > Incinerate > Incinerate. Simple enough!

This rotation felt a lot smoother, and generally more enjoyable for me than Destruction did before 3.1 I do miss the way Destro used to feel like a balancing act between refreshing spells, and using cooldowns when they were up. At the same time, though, I always thought Molten Core forced a play style that just felt wrong for a Destro 'lock. Using dots to proc the debuff lacked the brutality of drowning your foes in an orange river of eldritch fire.

I also got frustrated enough with Conflagrate lag that I decided to start casting an Incinerate or a Life Tap between Immolate and Conflagrate. It seems to take a full two seconds or so for Conflagrate to become available after I cast Immolate, and I'm just not willing to stand inert for that long.Overall, though, the rotation is an improvement over pre-3.1. It's more true to the spirit of Destruction.

Training dummies don't drop any loot though, so once I was able to reliably pull 2.8k damage on the dummies, I set out to find a heroic group. Not that the gear found in heroics is a step up from no gear at all, but at least the encounters are a tad more engaging. Unfortunately, LFG has had slim pickings every time I've managed to pull myself away from my coursework in the last week, but I did manage to get into a few groups. Albeit they were bad groups, populated by people who still retain the necessary skill that it takes to wipe in a Lich King heroic, but that just means I would have more time to DPS bosses, right?

Not so much. First piece of advice I've got for Destro locks is that if you're in anything short of a raid, don't bother with Curse of Doom. Cast Curse of Agony, or cast nothing at all. Either one would would be a DPS boost. I've yet to do a single boss since speccing Destro that has actually survived long enough for Curse of Doom to proc. Closest I got was when it got down to 1 second remaining on Mal'Ganis--but he had already been "dead" for a few seconds by that point.

The damage is nice though. Like, really nice. 3k or higher on almost any boss fight I attempted--even when I experienced atrocious luck. The first boss in Utgarde Keep must have played a hunter before Wrath came out, because he was chain trapping me like I was Dorothea Millstipe. But I still managed to Chaos Bolt him into oblivion.

And of course, as with any spec that has Emberstorm AoE pulls are a breeze. I remember when I was leveling up, complaining about how terrible Warlock AoE was, and once I got to 70, Seed of Corruption was more like "Puller of Aggro" unless you had a Paladin tanking for you. Now, though, I can just absent mindedly lay down Rain of Fire every few seconds and perform excellently on the damage meters without breaking a sweat. Every time I do it, I have to double check my DPS, because it just doesn't seem possible that something so easy could be so successful! It's like I'm playing a Death Knight all of the sudden.

Once I had all the instancing data I needed, it struck me that less group-minded Warlocks might appreciate information on soloing. So I headed off to Icecrown, found some high level non-elites, and started farming them for cloth.

After a few minutes of scrambling around on the floor, I managed to find my jaw and return my attention to effortlessly slaughtering everything in my path. I realize I've made an unusual amount of references to Burning Crusade already in this post, but I honestly felt like I was on the Isle of Quel'Danas, playing the one-button Destruction that made Warlocks so infamous, that Mages still hate us. Back then all you had to do was stand at max distance from a mob, and spam the shadow bolt button. If anything managed to run into melee range with you, they'd be lucky to hit you once before they dropped dead.

Well, using 3.1 Destro, my foes never once managed to get into melee range with me. If I started at max range, opened with Immolate, followed that with Conflagerate (which dazes targets thanks to Aftermath), and finished up with a Chaos Bolt, my targets almost never made it further than half-way to me!

In closing, there's really only one thing that needs to be said: I'm not going back to Affliction. At least, not right now. I love my home tree, but after the perfection of 3.0's Affliction, I just can't seem to enjoy the Affliction of 3.1. Destruction offers high damage output, good utility via replenishment, and a rotation that has managed to engage and entertain me despite being relatively simple.

Plus it makes this old man feel like he's level 22 again!

Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing dots, demons, and all the dastardly deeds done by Warlocks. If you like what you see, and you'd like to take Destro for a spin yourself, why don't you check out our Warlock-specific tips for Naxx parts one and two! They're chock full of info that'll boost your 'lock's performance TO 'DA MAX!

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