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Blood Pact: Quashing misleading rumors about warlocks

Tyler Caraway

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology and destruction warlocks. For those who disdain the watered-down arts that other cling to like a safety blanket ... For those willing to test their wills against the nether and claim the power that is their right ... Blood Pact welcomes you.

Rumor has it, dearest warlocks, that we're pretty much the best pure caster class in this raiding tier. Now I'm not one to give in to such hearsay, but there's a pretty reliable source to support it. That said, I think it is safe to say that this is one thing that we all pretty much knew. Despite that, there are still other whisperings going around the DPS water cooler that need to be put out of their misery. This week, we're going to talk about some of those things that you may have heard in passing by, possibly even from a pretty reliably source, that simply aren't true (or aren't quite as true as those supporting them would have you believe).

If you recall, as few weeks ago, I went into a few tips and tricks for warlocks to adhere to during their adventures into the Firelands. Predominantly, the focus there was on staying alive. Those suggestions should always be taken to heart. Staying alive is always the best policy -- but there are times when it's killing things that you're really interested in. Let's get started on those tactics.

Haste and tick break points

Oh haste, the fickle mistress that we are all slaves to. Warlocks are interesting in that they're one of the few specs still around that have rather fluid stat variables. There aren't exactly any hard and fast rules over which secondary stat is "the best"; depending on what spec you are, it can change depending on the relative values of your other stats. That's the type of gearing I love. All of that aside, one of the biggest buzzwords around the market is "additional tick."

I might seriously slap the next person who suggests the importance of getting additional ticks on DOTs. This is patently false. Gaining additional ticks on your DOTs does not have some magical impact on your DPS, making any single value of haste drastically more important than another. Haste counteracts itself when it comes to DOTs and their timers. You see, the belief that haste doesn't affect your DOT times is a lie; it very much does.

Each DOT has a base duration that varies depending on which spell it is that we're talking about -- and which spec you're in. As you gain haste, this duration is going to decrease because your DOT is still ticking faster; however, since you don't gain an additional tick out of the deal, the game cuts the DOT short. Once you reach that point where you get a new tick, the duration of the DOT shoots back up. In this manner, the DPS gain of any value of haste is rather static.

As always, there are some catches. For destruction, gaining additional ticks on Immolate does matter due to the way in which Conflag operates. The other tie-in to this is how DOT timers work inside of the rotation itself. A second off of Immolate's duration can be the difference between getting off another Incinerate or Conflag cast before you need to recast. Despite this, the DPS value isn't vastly huge. It's worth hitting these marks, but it's not going to be some magical number that's suddenly going to push you into top-tier DPS.

The other caveat is how DOTs operate with short-term buffs. Demonology will always get two Corruption casts per Metamorphosis, three if you clip the last one. Given that no amount of haste will change that, scoring an additional tick out of the deal is better than not having it. Even in this situation, though, we're speaking in tens of DPS, maybe pushing a bit over 100 depending on your mastery levels. It's not huge.

Getting more DOT ticks when you can is always a good thing and generally worth it, but don't get fooled into believing that it's the end all, be all of gearing to the point that you sacrifice other stats in order to reach it. That isn't always going to be worth it.

Multi-DOTing: Just padding numbers!

Multi-DOTing has become the newest craze in damage dealing. DOTs are now super-powerful in comparison to how they used to be, due to the fact that they have vastly better scaling than they have ever seen in the past. Many players and specs abuse this mechanic in order to eke out that little bit of extra DPS on multiple encounters, even in this tier. Yet there are detractors from this style of play, those who claim this damage is superfluous and that it is your DPS against the primary target that matters.

In many ways, these people are correct. Your effective DPS against the primary target is vastly more important than the damage that you deal to secondary targets. If an add gets off an ability that it should because it didn't die fast enough, then your damage against the boss really wasn't worth anything. That being said, this simply isn't how any raid encounter works, nor is it how multi-DOTing operates.

Adds are an important function of any boss encounter. Not killing the adds on Staghelm fast enough can easily leave your raid overrun; not killing the small adds fast enough on Rhyolith can lead to their exploding all over people in a very bad way. These are things that need to die. Yet in all of these cases, the adds are still secondary targets, not the primary target.

Spending the time to refresh a DOT or two on Staghelm instead of casting a Shadow Bolt at the add is not going to be responsible for any wipe, period. Further, killing Staghelm faster is vastly more important. Every one of those DOTs, from every player who does this, adds up over the course of the encounter and can easily make the difference between having to go through another transition or not -- and when each transition significantly increases Staghelm's damage, that's rather important.

Burst DPS doesn't matter in a raid

There is another side of the effective DPS issue that does have to be addressed. It is highly common to believe that overall damage done over the course of an encounter is far more important than damage done during any particular phase. While partially true in terms of getting through the overall encounter faster, this isn't a golden rule. Regardless of what people tell you, burst DPS matters.

How much damage you can unload during a particular phase or portion of an encounter may or may not matter depending on the mechanics of the fight itself, but more often than not, a boss is going to have some form of a soft enrage (as opposed to a hard enrage). In this raiding tier, your overall damage contribution really only matters on Baleroc and Staghelm -- a mere two out of seven encounters. For the other five, when you can deal your damage matters far more.

Your ability to burst Alysrazor when she's grounded and taking 50% more damage matters far more than doing slightly less damage overall during the add phase. Taking her down in two ground phases instead of having to push through to three matters. The damage that you can deal to Shannox post-30% once both his dogs are dead matters more than the damage that you deal while killing the dogs. At that point, his increasing damage is eventually going to wipe the raid.

This same philosophy carries over and over again in a wide number of encounters. Burst DPS matters. Provided that your "standard" DPS is suitable enough that you aren't holding the raid back, then it matters far less than what you are capable of doing in the small burn time window.

Read the sticky and fix your gear, noob!

Players asking for help isn't a new thing. We see it all the time in our guilds and on the forums, and I constantly get emails from players of a variety of specs asking for advice. Often, these people (and those replying to them) tend to focus on those things which matter the least. What gems should I be using? What's the best enchant? What piece of loot should I get first? Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter.

Yes, there is a best enchant, there is a best gem, there is a best piece of gear -- yet these things matter so little in the grand scheme of things that they might as well not even be there. If you have any questions about your DPS, never look at your gems, your reforges, or your gear. Even your talents are likely not a fault. Instead, look at your rotation. Look at what you do during a boss encounter.

Did you spend a faction of a second not casting a spell? How many times did that happen? 10? 20? More? Failing to cast a spell at any given time even a few times during an encounter will cost you far more DPS than every single gem in your gear. All of it. A person who is completely gemless will outDPS you if he performs the rotation flawlessly while you only make a few minor mistakes here or there.

Allow me to share a story. In our most recent romp through Firelands, our restoration druid wore T2. Why? Because he could. It irked us, it pissed the other healers off, and it was probably the worst thing he could have done -- but in the end, it didn't matter. He still held his own in terms of effective healing, he wasn't complaining over mana or constantly OOM, and no one died. Should he have done this? Probably not. Did it create additional stress for the other healers? You bet. It still proves the point: Gear didn't matter; enchants didn't matter.

If you are having any DPS issues, look at your rotation first. That's going to be what holds you back far more than anything else.

Warlocks can't do that

I hate people telling me I can't. It's cheesy, it's excessively motivational speaker of me, but I won't accept that I can't do something; you shouldn't listen to it, either. There is always a way. There is always some mechanic that you can tweak. There is always that little something that you are missing that you can use in order to conquer anything.

Okay, sure, let's be realists. You probably can't solo the Lich King, and you probably won't be able to farm heroics on your own, but there is so much within the game that you can do. Want to top DPS on a particular encounter? You can do it. Certain arena or RBG ranking that you want to reach? You can do it. Screw people saying that warlocks aren't good enough to reach that or compete at this level; the best players can do whatever it is that they want to do. Never let someone say different.

Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DOTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through encounters such as Blackwing Descent and The Bastion of Twilight.

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