The second choice is where things can get a little bit tricky. Fire mages and balance druids have been the prime choices for this slot, although which has been a little up in the air. Even though fire mages gain more DoT damage as they gain in gear through their mastery, they have multiple non-DoT-based effects that don't benefit. There's also a matter that fire can be a bit unpredictable at times, which can make the warlock's benefit a little bit more spotty, even with the increase we've seen in crit chances.
Balance druids, however, offer more. The way in which they interact with haste and their rotation pushes Dark Intent high on their list of importance, particularly with how their DoTs play off their mastery. In matters of your personal gain, you can't get better than a balance druid. Unlike other DoTs, both Moonfire and Insect Swarm have 2-second base tick times. Even though shadow priests have Mind Flay and an extra DoT, balance druid DoTs just tick so rapidly that it more than compensates. You'll never drop your stacks, ever.
In the end, shadow is the best and balance is still second, with fire being a close third. As always, though, keep in mind the players you play with. A phenomenal balance druid will benefit more from Dark Intent than an average shadow priest, and so it goes for every choice.
Weapons from Madness of Deathwing
For a change, weapons are actually an interesting choice in this raiding tier. Often it's all rather simple -- the highest ilevel weapon with the best secondary stats wins. But in Dragon Soul, Blizzard threw in something of a twist. Madness of Deathwing offers the highest level of weapons, but they are both proc-based. Procs have always been very hit or miss when it comes gearing, and this is no different. The procs compeltely replace any secondary stats, which is rather risky and only marginally pays off.
Rathrak is the one-handed option and it does have its niche uses. The proc on it is great in multi-target situations to an alarming degree, but it simply fails to hold up in single-target damage. Damage from it just isn't high enough, nor does it proc frequently enough overall. Pick it up for the AoE factor that can be great in several encounters, but beyond that it's not worth the investment.
Ti'tahk is the other proc-based option that you could pick up, and it has a lot of viability. The haste proc is very impressive, and the fact that it can benefit other raiders is astronomical. There's a strong downside on the internal cooldown for the proc's being slightly long and that you cannot control who gains the benefit, but it holds a lot of weight -- so much so that it does outweigh the combined secondary stats of other options.
Looking outside of Deathwing options
As with everything, there are some downsides. Again, you cannot control which raid members get the benefit of Ti'tahk, so it can go to someone who doesn't benefit highly from haste or potentially a healer or (in some situations) even a tank. That can lead to the proc's performing less than optimally. It can also proc at times that aren't quite as beneficial as they could be; having it shoot off while running into the boss and losing precious seconds off the buff can be a killer.
For this reason, it is rather difficult to justify either of the weapons that drop from Deathwing as they currently stand. There's great potential there, and they're worth getting on the off chance that Blizzard adjusts the procs (which is possible, given Blizzard's history with such things), but really they just aren't worth the risk right now. Instead, the weapon you want to shoot for is the Lightning Rod from Hagara.
The other problem that further pushes you toward using a staff is that there is no one-handed option for warlocks. Compounded onto that, getting your hands on a proper off-hand is another matter entirely. Dragonfire Orb is an amazing off-hand, but the catastrophic downside it holds is that it's a trash drop from a raid with virtually no trash. Were the item BoE, you might make a case for shelling out loads of coin for it on the AH, but that is not an option either. Such a downright shame.
Dragon Soul trinkets
Trinkets, too, are similarly interesting this raiding tier. Will of the Unbinding is pretty much the solid choice for every caster this raiding tier. While it only has intellect on it, it has boatloads of it -- far, far more than you get from anything else. Nearly double, in fact. With how strong intellect is for every caster out there, that just pushes the trinket above and beyond other options.
Normally, that would be the end of it; however, Blizzard tossed another wrench into this grand design. Insignia of the Corrupted Mind would be the more traditional second trinket, even though not all of our specs rely as much on haste. Cunning of the Cruel, though, is another one of those situational gems. Another proc-based attack item, this one too shines in AoE encounters. While the trinket isn't as weak as the dagger is for single-target damage -- indeed, it is better than most Firelands trinkets -- it isn't quite as good as your other Dragon Soul choices ... But oh, that glorious AoE damage. It's beautiful. Snag it on the cheaper side, if you can.
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.