Blood Pact: The chaotic influence of haste

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Blood Pact: The chaotic influence of haste
Blood Pact The chaotic influence of haste MON
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology, and destruction warlocks. This week, Megan O'Neill may play affliction in-game, but really she's a destro 'lock IRL.

I'm starting to dislike hit rating again. Previously, with reforging, it was totally possible to sit there with 14.96%, 14.97%, 14.98%, 14.99%, or the occasional rare times I nearly hit fifteen-even, just off by a mere handful of rating points. Now, with the huge amounts of stats on our gear, I feel like we're approaching Wrath-era hit rating juggling, where a new piece means you're way under hit cap or way over hit cap.

This is not a fun stat balancing. Hit is coming back around to the pre-reforge era where it it's actually irritating to balance, not just annoying.

But I don't want to talk about spell hit this time. I want to talk about the very-coolness of haste.

Haste as affliction

I primarily play affliction, so I gear for affliction, obviously. I go for the haste/mastery gear, as SimulationCraft had been telling me before to keep haste and mastery about equal. Now, haste is pulling ahead, and I know that the tier 15 default profiles for affliction that SimC develops have stacked haste on their gear. Everything is haste: gems, reforges, enchants. Currently my haste rating is literally over 9000.

Sure, the heroic tier 15 scale factors for affliction say mastery is probably greater than haste (I say probably because the error range on the graph is pretty large), even putting hit above haste, but if you look at the gear that is being simmed, there's 14k haste and 6k mastery.

But to be honest, just stacking the crap out of haste is boring. At least with DoT breakpoints where extra ticks are added, it was a bit of a fun balancing game for me. Have enough haste, but not too much! DoT breakpoints are still there, but they don't seem to affect the gearing as much as they did before. I unfortunately haven't made the time to figure this out myself (I hear Pandemic makes everything a little weirder), but I have been adjusting my gear long enough to see a bit of a trend.

I don't see the direct math yet, but Zagam at Icy Veins points out that the pure haste profile doesn't beat the haste equivalent with mastery profile by much. As I get closer to a DoT breakpoint, I see my scale factors in SimC point more toward haste, and as I reach and pass the breakpoint, haste lowers and mastery comes back up to almost equivalency. So far, haste continues to stay technically ahead, but it definitely weaves up and down with mastery synergistically.

Haste comes out superior because haste will affect everything, including filler like Malefic Grasp and Drain Soul, but mastery for affliction only affects the technical DoT damage (not channeled damage). For channeled filler spells, haste doesn't really add more ticks, but it still shortens the time between ticks, so you end up with more ticks because you have more casting to do.

The synergy between haste and mastery comes in off the Malefic Grasp effect since mastery will increase the damage done by the Grasp ticks as well as the main DoTs, and haste will give you more DoT ticks overall, but also more Grasp ticks.

Blood Pact The chaotic influence of haste MON
Destruction in affliction gear

Warlocks all know that affliction's fire, Fel Flame, is already green, so there's not much point to getting green fire if you're not going to show it off at some point as destruction or demonology. Even now, I play a better destro offspec than I do demo, even if demo is the better option to share stats with affliction (haste and mastery) than destro (crit and mastery).

But I can still decently do destruction in my hasty affliction gear. I don't have as big crits as proper destruction gear, so Chaos Bolt is maybe not as exciting as it could be. But in general, playing as destruction in affliction's gear is a good exercise in mashing buttons is mostly the right order. There isn't much elegant play for destruction in super hasty gear.

My guild mastered the Durumu maze just before the visual enhancements went out, we were looking ahead at Primordius and Dark Animus. From the preview on the LFR, my guild's other warlock and I saw quite clearly that destruction with Mannoroth's Fury would completely rock on Primordius.
Destruction in less hasty gear

As it was progression, we decided to bring more competitive destruction DPS by reforging out affliction sets to fit destro better. We didn't change up gems or enchants -- just reforge out of all the haste and into crit or mastery. He has more haste/mastery pieces while I had some extra crit pieces in my bags, so he ended up with a little more mastery than crit while I ended up with a little more crit than mastery. Since I did my reforging the day of raiding, I wanted to practice with the drastic change in casting speed with my new, lower haste levels.

I got my first taste of real destruction in a heroic dungeon run by popping off a 1M Chaos Bolt under Dark Soul. One million. I was cackling with glee. Sure, as an aff'lock used to 1.25-second or less casts, it seemed to take forever to get a Chaos Bolt off, but when you did... oh Gul'DAN. Delicious.

Blood Pact The chaotic influence of haste MON
In the end, my guild one-shot Primordius, so the reforging to destruction probably wasn't even necessary. We later killed Dark Animus as well, switching back to affliction while on our guild's raid break. Even if we could have done Primordius with affliction, after that I wanted to build a proper offset for the spec. It wasn't just the super awesome damage that came from consuming burning embers. The flow of play shifted from mashing buttons in a general order to actual management of what I was casting.

Under less hasty gear, mana management actually matters. This is because of Chaotic Energy, which replaces Life Tap for destruction. (I think that's weird; Ember Tap ought to replace Life Tap, even though I get it that the current swap is a swap between mana regeneration methods, not between taps.) Haste increases mana regeneration. Super-high haste means super-high mana regeneration, and low haste will result in something closer to the base 625%.
So it doesn't really matter when you cast Chaos Bolt as a high haste build, because plain Incinerate won't really dent your mana pool. You actually have to spam your AoE spell in order to hear a "low mana!" ping from an addon. In lower haste, however, the importance of Backdraft comes into play. I fell into the old expansion mechanic trap with Backdraft -- I thought the important part was the cast time part. So I sat there thinking, well of course Chaos Bolt has a super long cast, you just wait for Backdraft to cast it. Destruction used to be a proccy spec anyway.
Wrong. So wrong. Don't cast Chaos Bolt under Backdraft (unless you unfortunately capped your embers and need to burn a whole ember off).

Blood Pact The chaotic influence of haste MON
The point of Backdraft is the lower mana cost. Incinerate is a fast enough spell already, but Chaos Bolt doesn't take mana. The only way you'll lower your Chaos Bolt ember cost is by equipping two pieces of tier 15. Blindly spamming Incinerate, on the other hand, is going to spend your mana pool pretty easily. So you want to hit Conflagrate regularly so you can weave Incinerate into as many Backdraft procs as you can, and then the long Chaos Bolt cast actually serves the dual purpose of awesome damage and refilling your mana pool.

When I played destruction in my affliction gear, I tended to the fill-up, spend-down strategy. I'd gain embers all the way up to four and then spend my embers all the way down again. In the reforged for destro gear, I started to step-up, step-down my embers, where I'd actually try to balance around 2-3 embers rather than aiming for a full four. I'd make two full embers than spend one. It wasn't really possible for me to fill all the way up at once like before; that amount of Incinerating without a break was more than my mana regeneration could handle.

So in the end, even though I ended up going back to my old affliction setup, stepping into destruction with semi-proper gear showed me how cool the balancing of a stat can be, if the stat affects a DPS spec in an interesting way (or, in the case of affliction, mixes with another stat's effects). Now, if only we can figure out a way to extend this to hit, and maybe the hit cap wouldn't be so much of a pain.

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 tier 13 set bonuses.
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