Unmixy things: Castsequence Macros and Affliction

April 10, 2009 at 11:00 am 9 comments

Like Buffy and cars, /castsequence macros and Affliction are unmixy things.

This is because Affliction doesn’t have a set rotation.  What it has is an opening sequence, which (in the 3.0.8 world) looks something like this:

  1. Shadowbolt
  2. Haunt
  3. Unstable Affliction
  4. Immolate
  5. Corruption
  6. Curse of Agony
  7. Siphon Life

Some Affliction warlocks pair Unstable Affliction with Immolate because these spells have the same DoT duration.  Others alternate their instant casts with non-instants to minimize the impact of global cooldowns, or cast Corruption sooner rather than later to maximize Molten Core uptime or Nightfall procs.  (I frequently do this if I’m still moving into position as the tank pulls, and can’t necessarily stop to cast a Shadowbolt or Haunt but can throw a few instants at a boss.)

As far as I can tell, this is largely a matter of personal preference.  Beyond casting Shadowbolt first (to proc Shadow’s Embrace) and Haunt second (for the +20% to DoT damage), there is no significant DPS gain or loss from casting Unstable Affliction ahead of Immolate or vice versa.

For this reason, most Affliction locks will choose an opening sequence that’s comfortable to them or amenable to the situation and simply memorize the keybindings.  For me, it’s 2-1-D-3-4-5-S.  Intuitive?  No.  But after several months of raiding as Affliction, my fingers know the cast sequence better than my brain does — so much so that if I respec Metamorphosis/Ruin or Felguard/Emberstorm, I literally have to trade keybindings.  Otherwise, I’ll find myself casting Shadowbolts instead of Incinerates because my fingers want to spam 2.

The (Sort Of) Exception

If your little black heart is absolutely set on macroing your initial sequence for simplicity or convenience — okay, fine.  I personally don’t see the point (you’ll have to memorize those binds sooner or later, because a /castsequence macro is ineffective for anything beyond your opening salvo!), but there’s no real harm in it.

In this case, a simple macro like

/castsequence reset=12/combat/target Shadowbolt, Haunt, Unstable Affliction, Immolate, Corruption, Curse of Agony, Siphon Life

will allow you to cast all seven spells by spamming the same keybind seven times.  It will also reset after 12 seconds, or every time you exit combat or change targets.

However, once you’ve cycled through your opening sequence, and have six DoTs of various durations rolling on a target — or multiple targets, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious! — then Affliction becomes a priority system rather than a rotation.  Some spells are more important than others (Hint: Haunt > *).  Some DoT’s can be clipped without a significant DPS loss; others can’t, or least shouldn’t be.

If you rely upon your /castsequence macro at this point, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Juggling DoTs

Managing a DoT rotation requires two things: (1) attention and (2) conscious thought.  A /castsequence macro isn’t capable of either — so maximizing DoT uptime is entirely up to you.

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Haunt is your #1 priority.  Not only does it increase your periodic damage by 20%, but it also refreshes Corruption via talents.  It’s okay to clip Haunt; in fact, there will be times that you have no choice.  Because Haunt has both a cast time and a travel time, it has to be refreshed early.  If one of your DoT’s is expiring at about the same time, refresh Haunt even earlier so you can refresh the DoT as well.
  2. The final ticks of Curse of Agony and Immolate do more damage than any of the ticks that precede them.  Try to avoid clipping these DoTs.  Your goal is to refresh them immediately after their last ticks.  If you can’t — because Haunt needs to be refreshed or you know you won’t be able to stand still or stay in range long enough to cast — then it’s better to clip the last tick than to allow the DoT to fall off for more than three seconds at a time
  3. You can’t refresh a DoT early if the previous cast was modified by a talent or trinket proc, unless the same or an equivalent proc is also active at the time that you attempt to refresh it.  In other words: if your last Immolate was buffed by Molten Core, attempting to refresh Immolate early while not under the effect of Molten Core will result in “a more powerful spell is already in use” error and a wasted cast time.
  4. Use Shadowbolt as your primary filler when a mob is above 25% health, and Drain Soul when a mob is below 25% health.  You will still need to refresh your shadow DoTs (i.e., everything except Immolate) at 25% and below, but to maximize DPS, cast them after Drain Soul ticks (which come every three seconds) whenever possible.

Timing! is! Everything!

When it comes to Affliction DPS, timing is everything.  That’s why the spec is so hard to play right; it requires active thought rather than simple memorization, which absolutely cannot be replicated with a /castsequence macro. Do yourself and the rest of your party or raid a favor, and don’t use one beyond your opening sequence.  (I would even go so far as to suggest not using one, period, because of the bad habits it can easily engender.)

In lieu of a /castsequence macro, I strongly recommend downloading DoTimers and Quartz.  DoTimers is a wonderful little add-on that creates countdown timers — and, for the more visually inclined, bars — for each mob that you have DoTed.  It tracks the duration of each active DoT in descending order, and even changes colors when a DoT or spell effect is about to expire.  Meanwhile, Quartz is a modular cast bar that accounts for latency; I use it primarily to chain Haunt-Unstable Affliction-Immolate and time Shadowbolt casts.

The advantage to these add-ons over a /castsequence macro is that they will help you manage your DoTs and maximize uptime, not attempt to do it for you — and fail utterly in the process.

The moral of this post?  If you wouldn’t let your cat tailroll across the keyboard (and believe me, mine tries!), don’t use a /castsequence macro for Affliction DPS!

On the Other Hoof: Totems

That said,

/castsequence reset=8 Totem of Wrath, Flametongue Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Mana Spring Totem

is all kinds of awesome. 😉


Entry filed under: WoW. Tags: , .

I had the oddest dream last night … No one is truly anonymous

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Syrana  |  April 10, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Great post. See, you are gettin’ your warlock back on with no problem. 😉

    I like Quartz for the cast bar w/latency and the dot timers it has. That cast bar is really nice for spamming SB’s in quick succession. Xperl gives me a little visual of each dot too, but I’m usually watching the Quartz timers.

    Heh, yeah it’s fun to play but takes some practice. You have your “ideal” spell rotation but that’s mostly, like you said, for the starting sequence. From there, it’s not as easy as rinse and repeat.

  • 2. Aleathea  |  April 10, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Great post, Elleiras. I’ll pass the info along to my warlock friends.

  • 3. Tara  |  April 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Shaman comment – I use TotemTimers. Rather than having macros for “with enh shaman”, “with ele shaman” you just have one button per totem type and set them once per instance pretty much. Then just click on each and you’re golden. Not a huge macro fan (except when there’s no other way to do something important like pick a random mount, lol).

  • 4. nibuca  |  April 10, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Great post! I totally agree. I recently changed from DoTimer to ButtonTimers.. but other than that, spot on.


  • 5. Tigerfeet  |  April 13, 2009 at 8:41 am

    If you’re rocking DoTs on Shadron during Sarth 3D and Twilight Torment pops up, are your DoTs going to kill you?

    I know un-targeted AoE (like hurrican for our chicken-flavored friends) won’t trigger Twilight Torment, but what about DoTs?

  • 6. Elleiras  |  April 13, 2009 at 10:23 am

    @Syrana – Once a ‘lock, always a ‘lock! ❤

    @Aleathea – Thanks! 🙂

    @Tara – I just downloaded YATA last night, and I love it! It saves soo much space on my screen. Now I just have to tinker with my UI so everything is symmetrical again. /OCD

    @Nibuca – I saw your response to Arrens after Aleathea linked my post in a comment, and I couldn’t agree more! For some reason, warlocks are the flavor of the month alt in my guild right now. Everytime someone asks for help on their /castsequence macro, I cringe a little.

    @Tigerfeet – I don’t think so. Our shadow priest did some experimenting, and found that periodic damage from DoTs cast before Twilight Torment went up definitely did not trigger reflective damage. I’m not sure about DoTs cast after, tbh; I’ll do some checking when I get home.

  • 7. Tigerfeet  |  April 14, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Thank you for checking for me, but now it doesn’t much matter 😦 /emo bear

  • 8. Elleiras  |  April 14, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Aww, I’m sorry Tigerfeet. I know how you feel; we were pretty crushed when 3.0 hit before we had managed to down Illidan for the first time. Everyone else was begging for the patch, and we were praying that it would stall for just another week … 😦

    I hope you guys aren’t too disappointed. New challenges await! And from what I’ve read, you couldn’t have a better group of people to tackle them with.

    To borrow Aurik’s line –


  • […] Fel Fire explains the fun of Affliction sans macros. […]


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