Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Warlock - Part II

My irregular posting habits nonwithstanding finally a new installment of the warlock.

Today we look at the affliction talent tree and the choices I made therein. With a little luck I'll find the time to summarize in a later post and show how you could potentially progress through the various talents.


Let's make a few base assumptions about what the affliction warlock is and what it isn't:

First and foremost an affliction warlock is focused on doing damage with damage over time spells. This means affliction warlocks do damage very, very slowly.

Incoming damage is not mitigated but absorbed and health is reclaimed through drain spells. The affliction lock is not a pet-based class.

Pets are there to provide utility in specific situations where you need some more tanking power (voidwalker), some extra damage or CC (succubus) or an infinite pool of mana (imp).
An affliction lock that relies heavily on his/her pet is gimped and is failing to see the true power of affliction.

An affliction lock _can_ effectively tank single targets and should not be afraid to do so (in fact it is often needed).

Affliction locks are excellent solo players and can really pile on the damage with boss mobs but are generally less useful in larger groups due to the fact that the dots don't have the time to finish ticking.

Affliction locks have 0 downtime.


Before we dive into talets a quick mention of stats. So far I've seen very little use for any stat except stamina and spell damage.
(shadow) Spell damage increases the power of all your dots and more importantly your drain effects. More spell damage means your siphon life and your drain life tick harder which in turn means you recover health faster.
Health can be converted to mana via life tap meaning that as long as you have a big enough pool of health and high enough spell damage you will never have to worry about int, spirit, mp5 and other such silliness.
Ignoring everything except spell damage first and stamina second gives you the advantage that your gear picks are very straight forward and by not spending any item budget on other stats you practically guarantee that you get the maximum possible amount of stamina and spell damage for your warlock.


Before we dive into the all important affliction talents lets take a look at demonology and destruction first and see what we can use from their in the lower tiers:

Demonology has very little to offer at the lower tiers but one talent stands out like a sore thumb namely demonic embrace.

Boosting your stamina at the expense of spirit is a good thing a very good thing since you will be investing heavily in stamina and an x% increase to it is exactly what we want. The tradeoff of losing some spirit is completely irrelevant because the stat means nothing to an affliction warlock (regen mana... ah yes that's why the gods gave us drain mana and drain soul).
5/5 here

Destruction on the other hand will provide us with the necessary improvements to our one solid direct damage spell namely shadow bolt and also gives us a shot at another instant damage spell shadowburn.

On tier 1:

Improved shadow bolt is favored over cataclysm here. Cheaper shadowbolts mean nothing since we will never run into 'real' mana issues and the extra damage resulting from shadow spells (i.e. all your dots) through shadow bolt crits is better even when your shadowbolt rarely crits.

On tier 2:

Bane is a clear winner. Shadow bolts are a slow cast as is, taking off a good .5 seconds doesn't sound like much but can make all the difference when trying to fire as many shadow bolts before having to re-apply dots (which is always more important).

Aftermath really means nothing. A chance to daze the target would be interesting if daze meant stun but it doesnt. It just slows the enemy down for 5 seconds which really doesn't help since you can still get hit casting shadowbolt and all your other spells are instants anyway.

On tier 3:

Plenty of choices here, shadowburn is too good to turn down.
Sure it eats soulshards but it is one of the few instant damage spells we have available and as a result makes an excellent filler for those times that you know your Shadow bolt won't finish casting in time. 1/1

Beyond shadowburn there is really only Devastation that is an interesting choice. More shadow bolt crits means your shadow spells do more damage to the target which is never bad. Still you could ask yourself if you really need this extra crit chance but if you have points to spare this will be a good place to dump them.

On to affliction

We will be putting a lot of points in affliction so as to avoid confusion I will simply give my comments on each and every affliction talent in the tree and the amount of points I dropped into it.

On tier 1:

Suppression helps your spells stick to the target. If you get a lot of resists you can either stack a whole bunch of spell-hit on your gear or drop points into suppression. Spell-hit items really don't come up with good combinations of stamina and spell damage very often so this talent can be very useful. There's no reason to max it, simply look at your situation and see how often your spells get resisted and apply 1,2 or maybe even 3 points to the talent.
2/5 and moving on.

Improved Corruption can turn your slow casting corruption spell into an instant cast killer DoT. Since corruption isn't overwritten by any other dot except seed of corruption this is too good to not have on an instant cast. 5/5 no regrets here.

on tier 2:

Improved curse of weakness can boost your curse of weakness by up to 20% for 2 points resulting in something like 30 less DPS a target does to you at 70 without this skill it's about 25 less.
Well whoopdidoo, as an affliction lock you will have enough problems picking between curse of shadows, curse of doom, curse of agony, curse of tongues and other curses making this curse situational at best. Not worth improving in my opinion. 0/2 no love for you.

Improved drain soul returns up to 15% of your mana to you when you whack someone while drain soul is active. The threat reduction is gravy. Unfortunately drain soul by itself is horrible, the fact that it's the only way to get soulshards makes it a necessary evil. And since we're stuck using it anyway it may as well return 15% of your mana when you kill something.
2/2 for this skill, downrank your drain soul to level 1 and use it every time an enemy is down to 1 or 2% health to get a nice chunk of 'free' mana.

Improved life tap returns up to 20% more mana when life tapping. Affliction warlocks tap often, no wait... all the time. In fact you life tap so often that it is bound to be right smack dab in the middle of all your important spells which means you get to click on it even when you don't want to on a regular basis. 2/2 unless you can live off of dark pact alone (I know I can't).

Soul siphon is your friend. Soul siphon makes your drain life work better the more shadow spell effects are on the target (4% per effect). Considering all your dots and curses are shadow school spells you can easily end up draining targets that have 4 shadow effects on them resulting in a nice 16% more drain. Mutiply this by the amount of other people in your group that use shadow spells and you know why there's a 60% cap on this. 2/2 without a doubt.

On tier 3:

Improved Curse of Agony makes your curse of agony do more damage. More damage you say? That's wonderful... but wait... it's a curse. As a curse curse of agony has to contest with other curses like curse of tongues, weakness, exhausion, curse of doom and a whole bunch of others. So it really depends on how you use your curses. Additionally all the damage in curse of agony is backloaded. I.e. all the damage happens at the end, so the extra damage from this talent only really kicks in towards the end of the curse which doesn't always see completion. Situational at best, since I like all my other curses 0/2 points in this.

Fel Concentration prevents you from being interrupted during spell cast up to 70% of the time. You can't drain - tank anything without this spell. Even with this spell your drain life gets interrupted regularly and playing without it is like trying to get something from the trunk of your car while driving down the highway at 180km/h. 5/5 don't leave home without it.

Amplify Curse boost your curse of doom or curse of agony damage by 50% and also improve your next curse of exhaustion by 20%. While this talent is very much situational and on a long cooldown you'll never want to go without it again after you see an amplified curse of doom hit. For all the math impaired people like me that's about 4200 damage + 50% damage from your amplify curse plus something like 200% of your spell damage. For my poorly geared lock that comes down to 4200 + 2100 + (2*550) = 7400 damage for a curse of doom. Not too shabby for something that you can fire and forget. 1/1 No argument.

On Tier 4:

Grim Reach gives your affliction spells up to 20% more range. More range is nice but it doesn't affect your shadow bolt so you will be in range with your dots before you are in range with your shadowbolt. This is one of those skills you either love or hate. It does however make life easier when re-dotting feared enemies so for me it's clear: 2/2

Nightfall sweet nightfall. Procs every now and then when you damage your enemy and makes your next shadowbolt an instant cast. In lucky streaks you can have it trigger a whole bunch of times turning your shadowbolt into a true killer. The main drawback is that when the nightfall procs you have about 10 secs to pump out that additional shadowbolt which isn't always as easy as it sounds. If you're fast enough on the buttons then don't skip this skill, if you're not then don't skip this either but learn to be faster. 2/2 because warlocks really do work better during nightfall.

Empowered Corruption A lovely 36% extra damage on your corruption. If you invested the points to make it instant cast then strapping on another 36% worth of damage on it is definitely not a bad idea. With this 36% extra damage your corruption will almost be level playing field with unstable affliction meaning that this is now a serious DoT to consider. 3/3 for me

On tier 5:

Shadow Embrace causes some of your spells to trigger the shadow embrace 'debuff' on the enemy reducing the physical damage they do by up to 5%. Woot you'd say, 5% less physical damage doesn't really tickle my fancy especially when you can easily outdrain that damage. But wait... there's something we need to consider. Shadow embrace counts as a shadow effect on the target because it's a debuff and as such it adds another 4% to the power of our drain life via soul siphon. If you really love your tank make it 5/5 so you can save them some damage on instance bosses... but that means you really really have to love your tank. So 1/5 for me because 1 point is plenty and I only have so much love to spare.

Curse of exhaustion reduces the enemy speed by 30% or 50% with an amplify curse. A highly situational spell at best and more often than not overwritten with one of the more important curses. I'd recommend not taking it, but since I can't not pick up a shiny new spell for one point I invested 1/1 shame on me.

Shadow Mastery is a nice and straight forward skill that'll add up to 10% damage to your shadow spells. It's not necessary a lot, but since pretty much every spell in your arsenal is shadow based you can't really argue with this skill. 10% extra for your unstable affliction, corruption and curse of agony whilst draining life adds up quickly and shouldn't be ignored. 5/5

On tier 6:

Dark Pact takes some of your pet's mana and adds it to your own. Depending on your preferred pet dark pact is more or less effective. Voidwalkers will run out of mana quickly but dark pact and an imp on passive will pretty much ensure that you never run out of mana. Dark pact is a good alternative to constantly life tapping as it doesn't take your life away and with me being the imp lover I am that means I'll definitely put in the 1 point it needs. 1/1

Contagion increases the damage of corruption, seed of corruption and curse of agony by up to 5% and reduces the change that your spells are dispelled. Well this is a PVE build and I haven't seen all that many mobs actively dispelling my spells. The 5% damage increase doesn't sound too great for a 5 point investment and on top of that doesn't apply to all shadow spells but only to a few of which 2 can't be cast at the same time and the last is often replaced by other curses. Of course we have to look on the bright side and celebrate the damage increase somehow because without it... you don't get unstable afflction your final talent. 5/5

On tier 7:

Improved howl of Terror to reduce the casting time of your howl of terror right down to making it an instant cast spell. If you can get into the concept of dotting up a whole bunch of mobs and letting them gather around you before using this then you will find that howl of terror dot grinding is one of the most efficient ways for a lock to take down mobs. Completely unbeatable for solo grinding where there's a lot of space, completely useless in groups.
2/2 here for I am a soloing machine

Malediction improves the effect of your curse of shadows and your curse of elements by up to 3%. 3 points for 3% extra damage from curses that are highly situational? Sure curse of shadows is nice but euhm not 3 points worth of nice unless you're glued to a shadow priest friend and like to run with other locks. 0/3 for me.

On tier 8:

Unstable affliction is another dot worth adding to your arsenal. Get it and use it frequently. A good opener due to the fact that it is one of your spells that actually has casting time and if you're in groups won't draw aggro meaning you can get started sooner. At full capacity slightly better than curse of corruption in terms of damage. Returns a nice chunk of damage to the person crazy enough to try and dispel this. 1/1

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