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re: Warlock Megathread v3.2

Table of Contents

Part 1: What's new in 3.2? - The tweaks and changes from the latest content patch.
Part 2: General Warlockery - General hints and tips for people new to warlocks, leveling specs, etc.
Part 3: Level 80 Specs - This section will concentrate on PvE specs for people interested in maximizing DPS, because that's what I do. If someone mades a sufficiently useful PvP spec guide, I'll put that in here as well.
Part 4: Under the Hood - Spell mechanics, including hit rating, spell damage coefficients, and obscure spell errata.

I. What's new in 3.2? (Thanks Waterfowl Democracy)

Banish: Effect will now be cancelled if Banish is recast on a banished target. Yes, warlocks can inadvertently cancel each others' banishes with hilarious results.
Dreadsteed: Can now be learned at level 40.
Felsteed: Can now be learned at level 20.
Shadowflame: The angle of the cone effect on this ability was inadvertently very small, making it difficult to use. Its cone is now the same size as similar spells, such as Cone of Cold.
Soulshatter cooldown reduced to 3 minutes, down from 5 minutes

Pandemic: Now also increases the critical damage bonus of Haunt by 100%.
Fel Domination cooldown reduced to 3 minutes, down from 15 minutes.
Empowered Imp: The warlock's critical hit chance is increased to 100%, up from 20% for the next spell cast after the Imp critically hits a target.
Fire and Brimstone: Reduced to 2/4/6/8/10% increased damage from Incinerate and Chaos Bolt on targets afflicted with Immolate, down from 3/6/9/12/15%.

Glyph of Lifetap: Duration of the buff from this glyph increased to 40 seconds.

Bug Fixes
Demonic Circle: The visual for this spell should now despawn when the warlock dies or when the warlock otherwise loses the aura that allows transport to the circle.
Immolate and Unstable Affliction: All ranks of these two spells will now overwrite each other.
Improved Imp: Each time an Imp is summoned it will recast Blood Pact (if autocast is on), forcing it to benefit from this talent, even if the Imp was not summoned at the time the talent was learned.
Improved Shadow Bolt: Redesigned slightly. Instead of a 100% chance to apply a 1/2/3/4/5% critical strike increase on the target, it now has a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to apply a 5% critical strike increase.

Tier 9
3 sets are available at different ilevels. 232 is bought with Emblems of Triumph (...of Conquest), 245 is bought with Emblems and a Trophy (drops from 10man heroic and 25man Coliseum) (...of Triumph) and 258 which is bought with tokens from the 25man heroic Coliseum (also ...of Triumph).
It is named Kel'Thuzad's Regalia for Alliance and Gul'dan's Regalia for Horde
(2) Set: Increases your pet's critical strike chance with its abilities by 10%.
(4) Set: Increases the damage done by your Immolate, Corruption, and Unstable Affliction spells by 10%.

II. General Warlockery

Hints and Tips

1. Drain Tanking - This method of killing mobs assumes that you do enough damage to pull aggro from your pet - generally a good assumption, especially in levels ending in 5-9. It requires at least 15 points in Affliction for Fel Concentration, and Soul Siphon is helpful in maximizing its efficiency. Precise technique varies, but here's an approximate sequence:
Send your pet (anything works for this except the imp, really)
Once your pet has aggroed the mob, start casting Affliction stuff. Curse of (Agony/Shadows), Corruption, Siphon Life if you have it. Don't go hog-wild on the DoTs as the mob probably won't last too long.
Life Tap to refill your mana.
Drain Life to refill your health.
At some point, your damage will probably gain the ire of your target. This is not a problem. Let it hit you. Fel Concentration's 70% disruption resistance is enough to keep you turning an overall profit even if your pet doesn't hold aggro at all.
Drain Tanking doesn't really work on Elite mobs very well, as they tend to have more hit points and hit harder than your average critter. For them, you'll probably want to resort to Fear.

2. Fear Juggling - The ability to keep mobs feared in order to reduce damage done to you. Always be careful when using Fear, especially in instances. Mobs can run a long way, and many of them will bring friends back with them.

Method 1: Single-Mob Fearing.
Apply Fear to mob. When Fear fades, reapply it. That's all there is to it.

Method 2: Two-Mob Juggling.
This is handy if you have two things angry with you and don't want either one to be hitting you. Fear the first mob. Once it is a suitable distance away, Fear the second one. Since Fear can only affect one mob at a time, the first will head toward you (or whatever its aggro target is). Simply re-cast Fear on the first mob once number two is at a suitable distance. Repeat as necessary to keep both mobs (mostly) at bay. I've personally kept healers alive using this technique for 30+ seconds while tanks reconnected or got their pubbie heads out of their asses. Note that in emergencies Howl of Terror can be used to keep the second target feared, as its targets do not count toward Fear's.

Leveling Specs
What to use while leveing from 1 to 80? Waterfowl Democracy has your answer:
Waterfowl Democracy posted:
While you can level a warlock as any spec by far the fastest way to solo level is as Affliction. The idea is that you will use Corruption and CoA to DoT a number of things at once while health returns keep your health up. Instead of killing one thing quickly you kill lots of things at once slowly. CoA+Corr should be enough to kill equal level mobs if your gear isn't far behind your level.

Level 30:
Siphon Life means you can run around dotting stuff and the health return will keep you alive.

After 30 I'd keep going down the Affliction tree picking up anything that buffs Corruption or Curse of Agony as well as Dark Pact and Improved Fel Hunter. Those last two turn your pet into a self-recharging mana battery. You can also start into Destro to get Bane and Ruin which won't help your soloing but will improve your instance DPS.
Level 51:

At 71 you have a choice, you can continue to level to 80 as previously or as you've reached a level where you can get both Siphon Life and a Felguard you can do that.

Level 71:

Same as previously with putting CoA+Corr on everything in sight, except now you have a kickass demon buddy who will help (and you can solo group quests with him or a Voidwalker).

III. Level 80 Talent Specs

The theoretical max DPS for any particular spec changes with each minor patch and sometimes between. I strongly recommend reading the EJ Simulationcraft thread to get the most up-to-date information.

As of the time of this writing, Affliction and 0/13/58 builds are approximately tied for top theoretical DPS. Demonology has lagged behind considerably in raw DPS but features significant survivability improvements for PvP. It's not seen much in PvE.

Quick-and-dirty explanation of prominent PvE specs:

53/0/18 - Glyphs of Haunt, CoA, Life Tap. Doomguard for pet when cooldown is up, otherwise Succubus. This is your typical Affliction DoT spec, which depends on 100% Haunt uptime and a solid DoT rotation to do maximum damage. Somewhat simplified by the UA/Immolate changes, this is still challenging to maintain.

0/13/58 - Glyphs of Conflagrate, <Two of: Immolate, Life Tap, Incinerate>. Use Curse of Doom instead of CoA if time to mob death <60 seconds. This is the highest-DPS Destruction spec due to Replenishment significantly reducing Life Tap time.

Recent simulation testing (by our own Rurutia) indicates replacing the Immolate glyph with Life Tap results in a DPS increase of around 50, or ~.7%, if you Life Tap every 40 seconds to keep the buff up. If you're like me and you tend to go long stretches forgetting to tap because of how awesome Replenishment is, you might be better served to keep the Immolate glyph slotted. You could also swap out the Incinerate glyph for Life Tap, giving a DPS increase of around 20. This is obviously a much smaller gain, and if you can keep the Tap buff active you'd be much better off replacing Immolate.

3/13/55 - Glyphs of Conflagrate, <Two of: Immolate, Life Tap, Incinerate>. Use Curse of Doom instead of CoA if time to mob death >60 seconds. This is a Fire Destro build that gives you a bit more gearing choice thanks to having the spell hit talent. Slightly lower theoretical DPS when you can reach hit cap without Suppression, but this is a very strong build. Cast Chaos Bolt whenever cooldown finishes, unless you first need to renew Immolate or cast Conflag. See the notes above on Immolate vs. Life Tap. Note that this build lacks Replenishment and is likely to need to Life Tap more, making glyph buff upkeep easier.

0/56/15 - Glyphs of Life Tap, Felguard, Immmolate. Use Curse of Doom if time to mob death >60 seconds. Use Corruption and Immolate if mob health >35%, and Shadow Bolt for your nuke. Use Soul Fire Weaving (see below) below 35% mob health to the exclusion of re-applying DoTs unless the DoTs are guaranteed to last their full duration. As I said, Demonology builds do not push the same DPS as other trees. They do, however, have one thing to recommend them: Demonic Pact. If your group lacks an Elemental shaman, DP is the only way to replicate their spell power buffs. You'll also get a fully-upgraded Felguard and a host of neat abilities like Metamorphosis that are a hell of a lot of fun to play with.

What is Soul Fire Weaving? It's the use of the Decimation talent to maximize DPS when a mob is under 35% health. In order to pull this off, you'll need sufficient haste (if you're in full Naxx gear and didn't intentionally avoid haste, you probably have enough) and sufficient range. Always try to stand 30 yards from the mob if possible. The idea is to cast a Shadow Bolt (or, for Destruction specs (none listed here because they aren't competitive raid DPS nor offer anything in the way of raid buffs), Incinerate), then cast a Soul Fire before the first spell lands, thereby keeping up your Decimation buff indefinitely by alternating spells. Ideally it looks something like this:

Start casting Shadow Bolt 1
Finish casting Shadow Bolt 1
Start casting Shadow Bolt 2
Shadow Bolt 1 lands, procs Decimation
Finish casting Shadow Bolt 2
Start casting Soul Fire 1
Finish casting Soul Fire 1, consume Decimation
Start casting Shadow Bolt 3
Shadow Bolt 2 lands, procs Decimation
Soul Fire 1 lands
Finish casting Shadow Bolt 3
Start casting Soul Fire 2
Finish casting Soul Fire 2, consume Decimation
Start casting Shadow Bolt 4
Shadow Bolt 3 lands, procs Decimation
Soul Fire 2 lands

The listed Demonology spec should not break this sequence to re-apply DoTs unless you're sure the mob will live for the spell's full duration. Destruction specs should break this sequence whenever you need to renew Immolate, and cast Conflagrate whenever its cooldown finishes. If you do break sequence, be sure you finish on an Incinerate so you'll have a fresh instance of Decimation to play with, and start the sequence with another Incinerate to prepare for the next Decimation you'll need. Note that a cast sequence of SB/SB/Soul Fire or Incin/Incin/Soul Fire (known as a 2:1 sequence) may be necessary due to some fight conditions. While this will reduce your DPS somewhat, the inclusion of Soul Fire will still represent a DPS gain.

IV. Under the Hood

Spell Hit Rate
At 80, 0% spell miss rate (which became attainable in 3.0) requires 446 hit rating.
With +3% from talents you need 368 Hit for cap
With +3% from talents and a shadow priest in your raid for Misery, the hit cap is 290.
If you are a filthy Alliance with a filthy Dranei in your group, you can take another 26 points off those numbers to account for their filthy hit aura.

Being hit capped is the single biggest boost to your DPS that you can manage, and you should make that your priority at all costs. Hit is of course useless once you hit cap, however, so don't go too overboard.

General Gearing Preferences
The most recent scaling factors I could find are several months old, so I won't post any strict ones here. In general, prioritize along the following lines:

1. Hit Rating until you reach cap (see above)
2. Spell Power
3. Haste Rating
4. Crit Rating
5. Spirit
6. Intellect

If you're running the Life Tap glyph, you can potentially gain more from Spirit than Crit (especially if you have 3/3 Demonic Aegis). Since the two use entirely different gem colors, it's not generally a difficult choice.

General Spell Mechanics, Errata, and Clarifications (reprinted again from Warlock Thread 15 since not much has changed, really)
How does all this math work, anyhow? How do we deal damage, and what impact does gear have on our overall damage potential? Well, warlock spells are generally governed by two simple rules and about fifty addenda and clarifications:

1. %Spell Power Applied to Nukes = (Casting Time of Spell)/3.5

For ease of reference, here's the table from wowwiki:
7.0+ sec = 200.0%
6.5 sec = 185.7%
6.0 sec = 171.4% [Soul Fire]
5.5 sec = 157.1%
5.0 sec = 142.9%
4.5 sec = 128.6%
4.0 sec = 114.3%
3.5 sec = 100.0%
3.0 sec = 85.71% [Shadow Bolt]
2.5 sec = 71.43% [Incinerate]
2.0 sec = 57.14%
1.5- sec = 42.86% [Searing Pain]
Instant = 42.86% [Shadowburn, Conflagrate]
Spells always use their untalented, unhasted cast time to determine how much benefit they gain from +damage, except for mages for some reason that I don't quite understand. This means a Shadow Bolt with Bane casts in 2.5 seconds and gains 85.71% of the caster's spell power.

2. %Spell Power Applied to DoTs = (Duration of Spell)/15

Again, here's the table from wowwiki:
3 sec = 20%
6 sec = 40%
9 sec = 60%
12 sec = 80%
15 sec = 100%
18 sec = 120%
21 sec = 140%
Addendum 1: The DoT rules don't apply to Corruption and CoA because they were too good and everybody bitched. In fact, they've been nerfed beyond the point they were before DoT scaling was put in in the first place. According to wowwiki (further addenda-related {code} is all from there as well):

Corruption receives 93% of your spell power/+shadow
Curse of Agony receives 120% of your spell power/+shadow

In addition, Curse of Doom was considered too much awesomeness when it gained 400% of +damage, so it has been reduced to only 200%.

Addendum 2: Combination spells (for us, Immolate) use a modified formula based on how much of the damage comes from the nuke and how much comes from the DoT component:

The over time portion receives the following bonus:
(Duration / 15) / ((Duration / 15) + (Cast Time of Spell / 3.5)) = Portion to Over Time

The standard portion receives the rest:
1 - Portion to Over Time = Portion to Standard

The duration and cast time limits are then applied:
(Cast Time of Spell / 3.5) * Portion to Standard = Total bonus to Standard Portion
(Duration / 15) * Portion to Over Time = Total Bonus to Over Time Portion
Addendum 3: Channeled spells are standardized around a 3.5 second duration.

Cast Time of Spell / 3.5 = Benefit
This benefit is spread evenly across the duration of the spell (divide by number of ticks).

Addendum 4: Area of Effect spells (AOEs) gain one third benefit from +damage, standardized to a 3.5-second cast.

(Cast Time of Spell / 3.5) / 3 = Benefit

10 sec = 95.24%
3.5 sec = 33.33%
3.0 sec = 28.57%
2.5 sec = 23.81%
2.0 sec = 19.05%
1.5 sec = 14.29%
Instant = 14.29%
Addendum 5: AoE spells have a hard cap on total damage. If there are too many targets in the spell's AoE, it will deal reduced damage to all targets. The exact number of targets has not been confirmed, but appears to be around ten.

Addendum 6: Spells that Damage and Heal (Drain Life, Siphon Life) only receive 50% normal benefit from +damage gear - this is because the bonus is applied to both damage and healing. +Healing gear has no effect on these spells. To save you a bunch of math, Drain Life gains 71% benefit from +damage.

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