Warlocks aren’t broken …

March 31, 2009 at 2:42 pm 19 comments

… we just need to l2play.

Now, where have we heard that before? >.>

After raiding with the superhuman (superforsaken?) Azargoth for a few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that warlocks aren’t broken after all.  They’re just ridiculously hard to play — not because the Affliction rotation is overly complicated, as Ghostcrawler claims, but because it’s very, very unforgiving.

If you clip a DoT, fail to refresh a DoT, switch from Shadowbolt to Drain Soul at 26% or 24%, or (nether forbid!) allow Haunt to fall off for even a second or two, then your DPS absolutely tanks.

I might be exaggerating. 

But not by much.

For obvious reasons, things completely beyond our control — like lag or high latency — can make a cookie-cutter UA/Ruin build nearly unplayable.  (So does sucking, but I’m going to give my fellow locks the benefit of the doubt and blame the elephant in the other room.  /wink)  If you have chronically high latency, then it doesn’t matter how tight your rotation is: the server isn’t going to recognize it, and you will lose Recount to everyone and everything — from the /afk hunter to the enhancement shaman’s Searing Totem to your raid leader’s noncombat moth.

Needless to say, this was a huge shock to most raiding warlocks, who were accustomed to topping the meters with one-button spam.  The old Demonic Sacrifice build that T6 warlocks took almost as a matter of course was (1) ridiculously easy, and (2) supremely forgiving, especially if you happened to stack haste.

When I specced out of UA/Ruin and into Felguard/Emberstorm, my post-Wrath DPS improved by almost 1,000!  On paper, this shouldn’t happen.  On paper, UA/Ruin is the superior spec.

But between paperless factors such as latency, lag (if I turn spell details all the way down, I can count on 20-25 fps in the middle of nowhere, half that in 10-man raids and half that again in 25’s) and my own chronic inability to multitask (“Oh, someone’s asking if we’re recruiting!  Let’s just ignore the DoTimers for a second here and click-spam Shadowbolt while I type out a quick response…”), I was failing spectacularly at UA/Ruin.

Then I switched to Felguard/Emberstorm.

Problem solved.

Anyway, this is just a quick, ranty post with absolutely no math to back it up.  It’s just that watching Azargoth has been enlightening (not to mention ever-so-slightly — okay, more than slightly! — jealousy-inducing).  The man is a beast.  When warlock DPS gets buffed in 3.1, he won’t just top the damage meters (he does that already).  He’ll own them.

*   *   *

Nibuca of Mystic Chicanery has an excellent post on using WWS to troubleshoot an Affliction rotation, based on Canadian Pimp’s guide at the Warlock’s Den.  I’m not raiding on my warlock these days, but if I was, I’d be using it.  It’s awesome.


Entry filed under: WoW. Tags: , , .

A Birthday Present for Amber … kind of. Female Human Paladin

19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. *vlad*  |  April 1, 2009 at 5:20 am

    I play a UA/Ruin Warlock. People keep telling me how imba that build is, and how in ‘the best raids’ the Warlocks are ahead of everyone else in terms of damage and dps.


    Now back to reality. Keeping 6 dots of different lengths running is not easy. Yes, sometime I can get the rhythm really smooth; yes, I have it!
    Then other times it is horrible, with Haunt expiring, Corruption dropping off, getting silenced or webbed (start again from scratch time), having to run out of aoe effects or avoid flame waves, and so on. All these things can kill your rhythm, and it can take some time to get it back again.

    Then you focus on the Hunters with their seeming one-button-spam that puts them a 1000 dps above you on the meters, and you start to think ‘Is it worth it?’

  • 2. Fulguralis  |  April 1, 2009 at 6:22 am

    I think some of it is gearing too. I was really struggling at the moment I hit 80, but as I’ve geared up, I’ve steadily clawed my way back to the top of charts where I’m now mostly topping them easily.

    With that said, it is a lot to handle (especially being a full affliction build), but I like that they are translating that difficulty to the other trees. Part of the downside as a warlock before was that affliction was still challenging when s-bolt destro spam lock was not. It kinda sucked to top a chart as an affliction lock and have people scoff because “hey you’re just one buttom spamming”. At least now you know if a warlock is up there, they are probably very good at what they do.

    I look forward to some of the changes coming our way that will make it more forgiving I think, but I fear losing our identity again as well. I hope a good balance is found between uber hard and super easy…

  • 3. Tigerfeet  |  April 1, 2009 at 7:34 am

    I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds fantastic.

    In the same manner that pure dps classes should do slightly more dps than hybrid classes, I think to eke out the very BEST dps should require a more complicated spec and rotation.

    I think we’re seeing the same thing for Druids right now. I’m specced as a bear but I often find myself DPSing. Now, I also raid with a boomkin and I’ve got a hazy idea that the cat dps rotation is more complicated than moonkin rotations (don’t quote me on this).

    Thing is, on the wws parses sometimes I’m beating out the moonkin on damage, sometimes she’s beating me out, but on average, when we’re both DPSing (me still in bear spec, cat form) we’re pulling up about even.

    So… if cat is the more complicated rotation and I am able to pull even with a moonkin when I’m not even pure cat specced, supposedly were I specced for pure cat dps I would do more damage than the moonkin.

    Meaning that since the cat rotation is less forgiving if I pull it off perfectly I will do more dps than a moonkin could do with the more forgiving balance rotation if executed perfectly.

    Kind of similar for your thoughts on these two different warlock builds?

    Of course, as I know nothing about moonkin dps rotations beyond the fact that the new moonfire graphic makes me giggle like mad I may just be talking out my rear.

  • 4. Elleiras  |  April 1, 2009 at 8:00 am

    @Vlad – That’s a really good point; I’m ashamed of myself for missing it.

    There aren’t a lot of fights in Naxxramas in which an Affliction ‘lock can truly shine. Our DPS ramps up over time and is contingent on keeping all six DoT’s rolling, so forced stops and starts can wreak some serious havoc on our rotation — and that rhythm that you so aptly describe.

    When I was raiding Affliction, I would routinely top damage on fights like Sapphiron and Malygos, but come significantly under everyone else (including paladin tanks >.<) on Gothik.

    But to answer your (rhetorical) question: no, I don’t think PvE DPS is “balanced” when the easiest class to play can out DPS the hardest without any effort at all … but I do think that the harder class should have the potential to win out over the easier class, with effort.

  • 5. Elleiras  |  April 1, 2009 at 8:13 am

    @Fulguralis – I’m not much of a theorycrafter (I trend more towards the emotional than the factual >.>), so I’m not sure how we scale with gear compared to other “pure” DPS classes. I know I struggled to reach hit cap as a new level 80, and had to hang on to a couple of ilevel 200 blues until I had several ilevel 213 pieces with which to replace them. I’m sure that hurt my output in the beginning, especially to classes with easier-to-obtain caps than 446!

    As frustrating as it is and was, I actually like that the first tier of gear is so oddly itemized. It forces us to make choices, and gives us something to look forward to in Ulduar and beyond.

    I fully agree with respect to this:

    “Part of the downside as a warlock before was that affliction was still challenging when s-bolt destro spam lock was not. It kinda sucked to top a chart as an affliction lock and have people scoff because “hey you’re just one button spamming.” At least now you know if a warlock is up there, they are probably very good at what they do.”

    It never seemed fair that the hardest warlock spec to play was relegated to utility. Personally, I never understood why Malediction was a deep Affliction talent. It seemed to me it should be something that Destro ‘locks cast, since their (old) rotation shunned a curse entirely.

    I like the new Destro, but I find it harder to play than Affliction.

  • 6. Elleiras  |  April 1, 2009 at 8:24 am

    @Tigerfeet – I believe Flyv when he tells me (and by me, I mean us — the Blogosphere!) that the kitty rotation is the hardest in the game. I thought Affliction was a challenge … and then I saw the decision tree that is cat DPS.


    I don’t know the Moonkin rotation at all, but I think it’s become more complicated as well. Something about Eclipse procs? I remember reading about it in a druid blog, and thinking “Oh, that’s kind of like deciding on the fly if you want to spend your Backdraft charges on Soulfire or not…”

    (Yes, I routinely reinterpret everything I read into Warlock. It’s a language all it’s own.)

    I agree wholeheartedly with this: “In the same manner that pure dps classes should do slightly more dps than hybrid classes, I think to eke out the very BEST dps should require a more complicated spec and rotation.”

    As Fulguralis was saying, this definitely was NOT the case in TBC, so (as someone who has always loved the Affliction playstyle!), I am very glad to see class mechanics trending in that general direction.

  • 7. Veneretio  |  April 1, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I’m glad you realize this… so many of our Warlocks did not. When I suggested the Felguard/Emberstorm build, I had many complaining that even having to use a pet is ridiculous. To which I have no sympathy, the highest DPS class in the game shouldn’t be just spamming 1 button.

    It bothers me to no end that there’s so much Warlock complaining about DPS when they’re still the best boss dps in the game. I agree it’s silly that the UA spec is so complex, but then that’s how it should be in order to play a spec that’s grossly higher dps than anyone else. High Risk. High Reward.

  • 8. Elleiras  |  April 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    @Veneretio – I suspect that for some warlocks, switching from UA/Ruin to Felguard/Emberstorm feels dangerously close to admitting defeat. No one likes to acknowledge that they’re merely average, and abandoning the highest potential DPS spec for one that is often described as “forgiving of mistakes” and “for beginners” can be a humbling experience.

    As you might have noticed, warlocks don’t do humble very well. 😉

  • 9. Fear.Win  |  April 1, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Warlocks these days don’t seem to be in the middle of the DPS charts. They’re either way at the bottom or they’re at the top. I’m still raiding as Meta/Ruin and I’ve heard the specs DPS is better in 3.1. I don’t want to go to Felguard/Emberstorm just like I didn’t want to go to 0-21-40 in TBC.. but also like in TBC, I probably will respec eventually just to test the waters >.>

  • 10. Elleiras  |  April 1, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    @Fear.Win – Metamorphosis is fun for blowing up trash with a seriously over-powered Immolation Aura, but other than that … it doesn’t strike me as a particularly viable raid spec. To be fair, I’m not as familiar with it as I am UA/Ruin or FG/Emberstorm, so I could be missing something. How is it working out for you?

  • 11. *vlad*  |  April 2, 2009 at 5:10 am

    Lets see how the supposed changes in 3.1 affect Affliction.
    I believe we are losing Siphon Life, and Immolate is getting a nerf, while at the same time malediciton is moving into the Destro tree.

    I’m not sure if these changes are going to be a benefit, beyond reducing the number of dots.

  • 12. Uaha  |  April 3, 2009 at 8:40 am

    @*vlad* – Siphon life is getting rolled up into some stuff, IIRC.

    My ‘lock recently dinged 71, and I respecced to deep destruction to get a feel for it. I went all the way to chaos bolt… and I have to say it’s simple. I mean, so I guess I understand (in theory) how Fel/Emberstorm can be a lot more forgiving than UA/Ruin. I tried out the Siphon Life/Fel Guard thing for a bit, too… so that’s my only basis for comparison.

    I feel like I’ll have a better grasp of things at 80, but Affliction seems like a lot of work and to do it right requires perfect conditions (something that hardly ever happens). Demonology and Destruction seems to simplify things and allow for a little wiggle room (the typing you talked about 😉 ).

  • 13. Elleiras  |  April 3, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Uaha – Siphon Life/Felguard is a leveling build; I wouldn’t recommend it for raiding or even for instances at level 80, but if you’re questing, it’s a solid choice.

    What’s your rotation for destruction? I found deep Destro much more complicated than Affliction — but then, I’ve never played a cooldown-based class before, so watching cooldowns in addition to DoTimers was a completely new experience for me.

  • 14. Uaha  |  April 3, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Since I’m leveling, Corruption -> CoA -> Immolate -> Chaos Bolt -> conflag (usually it’s dead by about this time, if it’s not I pop a shadowburn)

    When I’m doing the single target boss thing, Trinket -> Seed of Corruption -> CoE -> Immolate -> Incinerate until I have to refresh something or Immolate is about to expire (at which point I insert a Conflag) and Chaos Bolt when I can. Its pretty straightforward.

    Play a Frost DK to get used to watching Cooldowns. Stupid Howling Blast cooldown.

  • 15. Fear.Win  |  April 7, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Looking at my WWS parse for Naxx-10 this passed weekend, I ended in second overall and have been doing over 3k DPS in heroic raids but I’m sure I could be doing more as Felguard/Emberstorm.

    It’s knowing when the best time to use Meta for 20% more damage but if you use it at the wrong time (on Maly right before a Vortex) or get unlucky (on Kel’thuzad and get Ice Tombed), your DPS is shot. If all goes well, the DPS is quite good.

  • 16. Fear.Win  |  April 8, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Yay for mass comments. *cuogh*

    I sold out and went to Felguard/Emberstorm and I like the DPS improvement. I also like not having to rely fully on Metamorphosis to spike my DPS, as FG/ES is much more consistant.

    So yeah.. Felguard/Emberstorm.. problem solved. w00t.

  • 17. Elleiras  |  April 8, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Glad it’s working out for you. 🙂

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s “selling out” to admit that something isn’t working, and make a change.

  • 18. Answers for Abigore « Fel Fire  |  April 9, 2009 at 11:19 am

    […] much prefer the playstyle of Haunt/Ruin to Felguard/Emberstorm, but (as I’ve observed before) the former tends to be much less forgiving than the latter — and after raiding primarily as a […]

  • […] and the how on paper it doesn’t look as good as the UA/Ruin builds.  That was over here on Fel Fire.  I have to say that while I lack the experience of doing either of those… my experience […]


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