What is affliction?
The affliction talent spec is considered by many to be the consummate warlock build. We are known as a DoT class and no one embodies that more than an affliction lock. Through a combination of attacks that each slowly eat away at the target's health, many passing that vitality back to the warlock, we can wrack a single target with many attacks or spread our abilities across many.
Affliction is very strong on DoT damage and as a lot of these spells are instant it affords greater mobility in combat. Casting many DoTs also means that affliction locks can be flexible between single or multiple target damage even without the constraints of AoE abilities. The relatively slow ramp-up time of affliction allows us to start on building maximum damage straight away, with little fear of causing the tank threat issues.
Affliction locks are absolute masters of resource management. With plenty of ways to get health back they can keep their health and mana bars full most of the time. This makes for very efficient farming and questing as well as being useful in group fights.
Where there's a blessing there's often a curse, especially when warlocks are involved. DoT casting does allow mobility but only to a point. With the need to juggle a lot of DoTs and a complex rotation, fights that become too mobile can have a devastating effect on the damage done by affliction locks. Likewise, while a slow ramp-up time is great for threat management and damage over long fights, it is terrible for short, 'burst' fights.
Stats to look for
If attacking targets of a higher level than you then hit rating is always key up to the cap. During leveling this can be hard to find but at endgame it is essential to have.
Spell power and haste are an affliction lock's best friend with crit and spirit being good but not worth targeting over the other two. None of these stats have a minimum or a cap so simply get as much as you can of those that do you the best good. You might want to check out last week's Blood Pact to find out which stats you need most at the moment.
Intellect and stamina will find their way onto your gear in endgame as much as you will need so never seek out or gem for them. When leveling they can be of good use though as both increase your ability to continue wading through mobs.
Stats to avoid
Melee stats and weapon damage are all irrelevant to warlocks so simply don't bother with them. Likewise Mp5 does nothing for us as we regenerate mana mostly through Life Tap.
Leveling as affliction
If you have been reading the leveling guides that BloodPact has been going through recently you will know that we have been covering the 'standard form' approach of affliction until 50 then demonology. I, like many who have left comments on those articles, leveled as affliction the whole way. Nothing drastically changes through the later levels except the amount of AoE damage you can do (and fun you can have) when you get hold of Seed of Corruption at level 70.
Blood pact: The birth of a warlock
Blood Pact: leveling a warlock, 10 to 40
Blood Pact: Leveling a warlock, 40 to 60
Your basic affliction rotation
Affliction doesn't have so much a rotation as a set of spells to keep juggling. The flow chart on the right is a basic run through of the priority of refreshing spells when fighting raid bosses. The number of DoTs and priority of maintenance is going to change depending on what you're fighting and who you fight with. You might want to get the Improved Shadow Bolt debuff on the target as a priority for example. Certainly while leveling you are going to have to adjust your 'rotation' based on how long the mob is likely to live, how many you are taking on at once and what spells/talents are available to you.
While this makes it very hard to give advice on what spell order you should be using it is also the very thing that makes affliction such an interesting spec to play.
I would strongly recommend addons to monitor your DoTs and cooldowns. Personally I use DoTimer and ForteXorcist to manage these but there are many options.
Typical PvE talent setup
There are example builds for leveling in the recent warlock leveling guides. A typical affliction raiding build would look something like this:
We'll take a closer look at these talents, and more, on page 2.