MoP Beta – The Fuss Over Affliction (Updated)

Posted: April 28, 2012 in Beta Testing Warlocks, Of WoW and Warlocks

Howdy Minions of Mayhem,

As I posted last week, the great Affliction Debate continues. Actually, you can pick any of the three new MoP specs for warlocks and I’m sure you will find heated discussion concerning the changes and the play style for all of them. For now I’ll stick with Affliction otherwise it could get confusing and ugly especially if you’re not in the Beta and can’t feel or visualize what is happening with Warlocks firsthand. I’m still following the forums as much as possible but at the moment, I don’t see much change in how people feel. I have no actual numbers to go by but it appears that about 75% of the warlock players posting see dramatic and many inherent problems with Affliction. About 10% like the new changes and another 15% or so like only a few of the changes. The outliers who like the new spells seem to focus on more of the visual aspects or “coolness / newness” of using certain spells. The more vocal folks who do not like the current Affliction direction are upset more with the play style/rotation and utilities because they are looking more towards how the spec will play (based on their experiences) in end game situations such as in PvP, Heroics and Raiding.

While addons are still not a viable option in Beta for testing hard numbers there are still plenty of bugs to make it difficult and confusing because you are not really sure if the results you are seeing is a bug or if it is the intended purpose. There has been no direction from Blizzard Designers on how any type of rotation or priority list should work. To be honest, I think they just aren’t sure themselves. However, for Affliction the spells and talents that are currently available most of the community will agree there is a basic setup and the rest is just a matter of balancing your resources between damage and utilities based on your current situation.

Here is the rundown of how most see Affliction rotation as it stands. Yes, there might be a few small changes but I’ll walk you through the entire setup and execution afterwards so you can have a better understanding of what’s going on in the discussion. This is from a PvE Heroic Dungeon and Raiding point of view.

  • Cast – Curse of Elements (CoE)
  • Cast – Bane of Agony (BoA) – Now called “Agony” in MoP
  • Cast – Corruption (Corr)
  • Cast – Unstable Affliction (UA)
  • Cast – Haunt (Ha) Burns a Soulshard
  • Cast – FF – Fel Flame (1 or 2x’s)
  • Channel – Malefic Grasp (MG) 2x’s channel spamming MG stacks your BoA to a max dps strength of up to 10 stacks

It all seems simple enough until we toss in the choices for our priority list:

  • Haunt (Ha) Burning a Soulshard
  • Haunt (Ha) if Nightfall procs
  • MG spamming for filler
  • Drain Soul – DS if target is below <;;25%
  • Drain Soul – if you need to regen soulshards
  • Soulburn – Burn a shard for any Utility or Quality of Life (QoL) management
  • Fel-Flame – FF – to refresh the time duration of UA and Corruption
  • DoT refreshing CoE/UA/Corr or Haunt if they fall off the target

Please keep in mind the following discussion is a walk through for doing straight up hardcasting for each spell and theories behind it. Soulburn: Soulswap as an alternative opener from hardcasting is and can be extremely useful which I will talk about at the end of the post for further clarification. Here is the basics:

AFFLICTION ROTATION STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE (HARDCASTING)

Curse of Elements is first as an instant cast and one of our reliable “set-it and forget-it” curses. This is our flat 5 mins debuff that increases the Magic Damage taken by our target by 5%. Easy peasy right? With CoE as a good base foundation our big three will come next: BoA, Corr and UA. Currently, part of the controversy is how very weak the damage of our big three (BoA, Corr and UA) are by themselves as stand alone DoT spells. BoA and Corr are instant and UA has a cast time of 1.33 seconds. So let’s start to diagram this out like I did at the beginning of this post. So we have:

CoE

BANE OF AGONY is instant cast next and is now renamed as just a simply “Agony” in MoP but I’ll keep the BoA reference so no one gets confused. BoA is now a stacking DoT spell and our goal with it will be to reach and maintain the BoA DoT at it’s maximum amount of 10 stacks. So when BoA lands on the target it starts off as having 1 stack. The DoT icon underneath the target’s unit frame will show a small letter “1” letting you know how many stacks of BoA you currently have up. If you tossed only BoA up on a target it would slowly tick up to 10 stacks offering it’s highest power unless it drops off. However, if you reapply BoA at ANYTIME before it drops off it will remain on the target and keep it’s 10 stacks and it won’t reduce it’s damage. Not bad. DoT clipping doesn’t appear to hurt us anymore which, over the years as a DoT-timing-hound, I have to admit I like. It even makes me wonder if I’ll need Dotimer anymore.

Now, there is an important trick to getting your BoA stacked to 10 really fast so that it can achieve its highest DPS potential. Each time we use our MG channel filler it will add another stack to BoA each time the MG channel ticks. As it currently plays out, it takes about 2 MG channel casts to get a 10xBoA stack. But we won’t be using MG in the rotation yet. I just want you to be aware of that concept so when we get to discussing MG you’ll grasp it’s use and no that wasn’t an intential pun on my part either. So we’re now at:

CoE + BoA

CORRUPTION follows our BoA because it too is an instant cast and as it begins ticking damage it also has a % chance to proc our old NIGHTFALL ability. Our Nightfall proc is much different now in MoP. Instead of giving us a free Shadowbolt for higher dps as it does in Cataclysm, for MoP Affliction it just gives us a free Soulshard to use for Haunt. So the quicker we get Corr up the more chances we have for free shards and trust me when I say that in MoP Beta right now, shards are a premium.

CoE + BoA + Corr

UNSTABLE AFFLICTION goes up next and has a quick cast time of 1.33 seconds which feels longer to me in testing but that is what the tooltip says. UA is still a decent stream of steady DoT damage for us and if we want we can use the UA glyph to enhance it. Un-glyphed it will do it’s steady DoT and if it’s dispelled it will silence the dispeller for 4 seconds as well. With the UA glyph, it loses it’s silencing ability but instead will give a guarantee CRIT against the dispeller AND the target. Yummy for PvP. My question is if you have it on another caster and they dispell it off themselves do they get a double-crit? Woot that would be nice! If that is true, I’ sure they and I would both crit-our-pants! Yes, that’s an old joke but it fits there so forgive me. This puts us at:

CoE + BoA + Corr + UA

Now, we’re getting to the good stuff because nothing so far isn’t too terribly different. I’m talking about the new shiny stuff with all the buzz and excitement and teeth gnashing that come with it. So let’s discuss one of Affliction’s key signature spells that’s getting an overhaul and get ready to hang-on because it’s a very hot topic of the forums. But first, let me give you a quick analogy. I know right now your asking yourself, “What? An analogy? WTF Amijade, I want the new shiny!” Yes, I’m going to pause a moment and move towards another subject so that I can build some tension and suspense. Plus, hopefully it will help paint a picture for you to understand why our fellow forum peeps are upset. Trust me on this one, okay?

Imagine your going to make a campfire. You gather some leaves and kindling to put at the bottom (CoE), next you add some damp wood, then you light the kindling so things start to heat up (BoA + Corr + UA). Your fire is burning softly because the wood is very damp so it needs something to give it that “oomf”, something to take it to the next level so it burns really hot. I’m sure we’ve all played Destro and like the feeling of pyromania so what if you we had a can of gasoline to use on our fire for 8 seconds? Heck, what if you had three cans of that gasoline? Well, the gas cans are our soulshards and the gasoline is…(wait for it)…(wait for it)…the gasoline is HAUNT. *Sighs* There I said it.

HAUNT launches on our target after a 1.22 second cast time doing some initial damage when it lands but more importantly, it increases all of our spell damage by a whopping 40% for 8 seconds! So, using the anology above our fire with gasoline on it burns like the flames of hell for 8 seconds after we toss our gas can on it. When the gasoline is gone the wet wood goes back to it’s smaller, low-level flame but continues to smolder. Each time we douse our small campfire (target) with a can of gasoline (Haunt) it’s a gianormous DPS increase. (giant + enormous = gianormous) And by gianormous we’re talking 40%! Yes, you would be correct in your thinking if you thought “fortyomgwtfalmosthalfmydpspercent!”

Saying HAUNT is huge for us in MoP is an understatement and the reason Haunt is so controversial and has people considering rolling a spriest or a mage is because of two things. First, we are completely dependent on Haunt to sustain any decent DPS. Secondly, Haunt’s power is tied directly into our secondary resource mechanic of managing soulshards. When your out of shards, you can’t cast Haunt and you lose 40% of your damage and to add more difficulty and complexity in this playstyle you have to remember there is only two ways to regain a soulshard and both of them require you to be in combat. Our great spell SOUL HARVEST is currently gone in MoP Beta and has become instead a very weak passive ability so don’t expect to regen Shards out of combat or to heal yourself up quickly while questing. The only way to currently regen Soul Shards is you can either get a lucky tick from Corr that might proc your Nightfall (remember Nightfall procs give us a free shard for Haunt) or you can use our old execution range spell known as Drain Soul (DS) on a target. So here is where we are now with our setup:

CoE + BoA + Corr + UA + Ha

Now this next step isn’t competely necessary but I am going to recommend it in the rotation and I’ll exlain why I like to throw it in besides the fact that it’s cool and looks like green fire. We’re warlocks and getting us all to agree is like herding cats so, feel free to let me know your opinions on it as well. Further testing or changes may make this reasoning incorrect so dont get upset if it changes…

FEL FLAME is still green, it’s still an instant cast but luckily it has been beefed up slightly in it’s damage output. Fel Flame is great to use on the move and because it also refreshes both Corr and UA by an additional 6 seconds when it lands. I didn’t mention it before because I didn’t want to confuse anyone. Corr starts off with an 18 second countdown timer and UA has 17 seconds. Hitting them with Fel Flame extends them by 6 seconds so with one cast we get Corr at 24 seconds and UA at 23 seconds. Pop Fel Flame a second time and we get Corr up to it’s max cooldown time of 30 seconds and UA easily reaches it’s max countdown timer of 24 seconds. Putting Fel Flame in the rotation is purely guesswork at this point and is another topic of heated discussion. I put it in there because it’s green and because it currently plays out as a much “smoother” rotation IMHO. You can cast it either one or two times but I’m finding that one cast does just fine for questing. So placed in the rotation we would get:

CoE + BoA + Corr + UA + Ha + FF

Looking at the what I just listed above you have to stop and think about how much time this has taken. Doing some rough napkin math we get – CoE (Instant) + BoA (Instant) + Corr (Instant) + UA (1.33 secs) + Haunt (1.22 secs) + FF (Instant) = 2.55 seconds. When you consider spell times, button presses with reaction times and lag then 3 seconds is probably a good estimate. Hrm, but something is missing…something doesn’t feel right…what could it be? Remember how I said BoA now stacks and it needs to reach it’s max level of 10 stacks to do it’s highest level of damage? Well if you looked at the timer BoA usually at 3 seconds into our setup has only reached 2 or 3 stacks at this point. Well that’s a problem because we want it to be at 10 stacks! So now let’s bring in our dps throttle MG to get BoA build up to 10 stacks quickly and to speed along our yummy dots so we can torture our victims :) Horrible sounding to use the word tortue I know, but you know you like that way that sounds, admit it!

MALEFIC GRASP – To be honest, MG is a tricky spell to understand until you get used to casting it because besides speeding up the stacking of BoA to it’s max of 10x, MG channels also speed up how fast ALL of our DoTs tick. Here is how it works. MG starts off as a 2.65 second channel. If you refresh it after it stops it resets to it’s starting timer again of 2.65 seconds. However, if you refresh MG anytime during it’s channel just before it ends it will double the time duration of the spell. So there are two ways you can play around with MG. You can do the initial cast of 2.65 seconds, recast before it ends doubling it’s channel time so it will now continue channeling for another 5.3 seconds. You can keep letting it channel and then rinse and repeat this process until it has 5x stacks of MG and gives you one helluva long channel time. The other way to play with MG is that you can cast it everytime it’s comes off it’s gcd, spamming it up quickly to 5x in a row for your max duration increase and again one helluva long channel cast. However, due to GCD’s of other spells, Nightfall procs or any utility spells you will probably never hold still for 18+ seconds of channeling. Sadly, when MG’s channel is stopped either directly by casting another spell, interrupts, stuns, shocks or movement, then MG will reset back down to the 2.65 to start the spamming build up all over again. So here is where we stand now:

CoE + BoA + Corr + UA + Ha + FF (1 or 2x) + MG until 10xBoA.

That’s it. That’s our stable point. We have all of our dots up and ramped up for max damage. This is the point where now you have to start considering all of your priorities, utilities and needs. It’s the point where you really begin to think and react. But, I digress…and I need to explain some more about Soulshards.

SOULSHARDS are a major sore point right now and no one seems to agree on their usage. Soulshards is our secondary resource mechanic that is tied to both our DPS with Haunt and to our utilities with SOULBURN. It wouldn’t be a problem if we had an unlimited supply, but we don’t. So which do we pick? Haunt to keep our dps humming along or drop the huge 40% damage increase to go for utility? Trust me, NIGHTFALL procs are a problem because they are sporadic and you can’t rely on them. There is also some other strange things happening with Nightfall as well.

Let’s say that you’re at your max Soul Shards of 3. As your spamming MG, you get lucky and NIGHTFALL procs (giving you a free soulshard for Haunt) so you decide to burn the Shard and toss Haunt out again. Common sense would lead you to believe, you started with 3 shards, you gain a free one, then you burn your free one … leaving you with your beginning three right? Nope, you would be wrong. You would only have two shards now.

The way it’s designed right now you would be penalized for being at your max shards. You lose your free soulshard. Huh?! WTF?! Yep, you got it. If you’re at your max shard count and you get a Nightfall proc then it’s wasted because Haunt is setup to replenish only. We just don’t know if that’s a bug or by design so that’s another wait and see subject. But wait, there’s more! I also forgot to mention that when Nightfall does proc it doesn’t turn Haunt into an instant cast like it did to Shadow Bolt. When Nightfall procs for Haunt you will still have the 1.22 second cast time tied to it..Bah! It would be very nice Nightfall made Haunt an instant cast as well but alas, it’s not that way right now. There is also a Soulshard glyph you can take that will give you 4 shards instead of three and I’m sure most Afflocks will use it but with all of Blizzards focus on “choice” I hate being forced to choose something in order to get a more forgiving playstyle. I think that kind of manuevering room should be built into the spec from the beginning. So getting back to our stable point:

CoE + BoA + Corr + UA + Ha + FF (1 or 2x) + MG until 10xBoA

Look at that setup again if your not sure in your understanding of our stable point then when your ready lets move on because here is where more of the Great Affliction Debate continues concerning the Drain Soul Mechanic and “Drain Twisting”, “Spell Twisting” or “Channel Twisting” as it has been come to be called.

DRAIN SOUL – is it a resource generator or execute spell? DS is a very hot topic in the Affliction testing forums right now and here is why. After casting the Drain Soul channel spell you will gain 1 soulshard per tick. There are three ticks that are spread out over the 12 seconds of channeling that spell. Each tick hits at 4 seconds. So in essence, if you need to regen 1 shard you could channel DS for just 4 seconds, stop the channel after you replenish the shard and then move on to something else. So it only makes sense that if you needed 2 shards you would cast DS for 8 seconds and if you needed all three shards you would have to stand still channeling DS for a full 12 seconds.

Luckily, we still have the DS mechanic where if you channel DS as the target dies, then all of your shards are returned. For questing, this mechanic really helps however, you can easily understand why people are angry, gnashing teeth and screaming on the forums. Can we blame them? To be in a boss fight shardless only to stop and channel Drain Soul for 4, 8 or 12 seconds while not moving, not doing anything else only to regen is painful. Really, the annoyance of of the long SF cast to get the ISF buff doesn’t hold a candle to the painful DS channeling to regen shards. It makes me wonder if they shouldnt have renamed DS to “Agony” instead of our old BoA. OMG and people thought ISF 3 second cast was horrible. Stop and think about how we’d be prone to AoE, interrupts, shocks, silences, stuns, movement and anything else that can disrupt a channel cast all the while we have no Dps and no utility.

I wish I could say that NIGHTFALL procs consistently so that we can keep a 100% uptime for HAUNT so we can have good DPS but it doesn’t. I wish I could say that NIGHTFALL procs consistently so that we have Soulshards to do anything else that might be of utility but it doesn’t. I wish I could say that NIGHTFALL procs consistently so that we could count on its use into our rotation but it doesn’t. Therein lies the problem. Affliction warlocks become shard-starved very, very quickly and the only way to regain them is to find places to weave our DS spell when we can, even if the target isnt in the execute range.

Keep in mind that you will be doing a lot of channeling with MG only to switch to DS for another painfully long channel to regain shards. This is why people call it “Drain Twisting”, “Spell Twisting” or “Channel Twisting”. You are constantly popping back and forth between two channeling spells. IMHO, it feel very long and painful to be channeling all the time but that could because I’m still not used to the idea of being a channeling turret. For grinding, it’s not bad. 10-12 seconds on a mob and it’s over. For a straight up Tank and Spank with no movement then no worries. It can be done. But OMG doing something like Ultraxion would suck! Warmaster Blackhorn would suck! In PvP we’d be dead and it might be best just hang out at the GY in spirit form and rez just before the game ends.

To make matters more difficult we have a lot of utility built around SOULBURN which burns a shard for enhanced spells. SOULBURN is tied to: Instant Demon Summon, Drain Life, Soul Fire, Health Funnel, All 3 of our Curses, Seed of Corruption, Demonic Circle Teleport. Oh and I forgot something else to mention. Drain Soul is still our execute spell but instead of casting on a mob <;;25% they have moved it to <;;20%. I'm sure they changed it because channel twisting already feels very, very long. Some have suggested they changed the execute range of Drain Soul to match other execute spells and keep it in line such as SW:D and Kill Shot. Again all of this could change. But for now we are left with:

CoE + BoA + Corr + UA + Haunt + FF (1x or 2x) + MG spam until 10xBoA; then any of the following choices to be based on your highest need, priority or choice

  • [DoT refreshing hardcast of UA, Corr, BoA, Haunt or Curses]
  • [DS for Shards]
  • [FF for movement and Dot Refreshing of UA & Corr]
  • [Nightfall Procs – free Haunt Cast]
  • [Lifetap when low on mana]
  • [Soulburn a Shard for utility of choice – remember there are 7 Soulburn abilities]
  • [Anything else for Quality of Life]
  • [MG for Filler]
  • [DS <;;20% Execute Phase]

Keeping your DoTs up is always priority #1 and this list is simplified and doesn’t include popping trinkets, Demon Soul, GCD Demons, potions or anything else for a boost in our DPS. This is also not including any type of self-healing abilities as well. I’m sure they have a long way to go with tweaking health and mana and believe me when I say it can’t happen soon enough because right now everyone is running out of Shards, Mana and Life rather quickly.

Since Blizzard hasn’t said anything about the direction of Affliction or what their intentions for its playstyle should be, it has have left many players pondering:

  1. Should we always strive for 100% uptime of HAUNT for highest dps or just rely on Nighfall procs
  2. Why are we having 40% of our dmg tied to Haunt – when Haunt falls off so does our dps…dramatically
  3. Why are we having Haunt and our more powerful utility spells both tied to the Soulshards resource
  4. Why do we have 2 very long “drains” or “channel” spells that are twisted or mashed together in one very long channel including our Execute phase?
  5. Why is warlock self healing at a premium?
  6. Why do we not have any way to regenerate Soulshards out of combat
  7. Why isn’t Nightfall Procs a free Haunt especially when you’re at your max shard count

Right now, all of this remains debatable and a lot of things can change in Beta. But for now…The Great Affliction Debate continues… and I’ll keep you posted as to where it leads.

One last note because I’m sure someone will ask. Without proper testing, it is probably safe for me to say that you could setup your DoTs in any order and I’m sure it would have little to no effect on your dps. So essentially you could toss-up CoE, UA, Corr, BoA or Ha in any order and then your priority need. Since addons have been shut down for the time being we really don’t have anyway to measure or track the differences or nuances in their order but only by guessing going on past experiences and gut feelings.

SOULBURN: SOUL SWAP (SB:SS) – Another Opener Choice

As it stand right now if you are facting a target and cast SB:SS it will directly apply BoA, Corr and UA on your target and you will also burn a shard in the process. By default we have 3 Soulshards at the start of each fight and we can glyph for a 4th which is I’m sure what most Afflictionists will take without hesitation.

So we can change our opener around from the harcasting of individual spells listed in the discussions above to include the SB:SS effect and get your DoTs applied to the target in this order:

SB:SS applies ~ [BoA + Corr + UA]

So our next step would be to add what’s missing. We’d toss up CoE + Ha + MG to 10xBoA + FF for refresh to reach our stable point, then move to our needs and priorities from there. So if we use SB:SS for our opener here is what we get…

SB:SS [BoA+Corr+UA] + CoE + Ha + MG to 10xBoA + FF then move to on to any priorities as needed

Now your probably asking, “Is SB:SS that great as an opener and does it save time?” So, let’s have a look a what hardcasting would entail shall we?

  • 1 button – CoE – Instant
  • 1 button – UA – 1.33 second cast
  • 1 button – BoA – Instant
  • 1 button – Corr – Instant

So to get CoE + UA + Corr + BoA up hardcasting it would be 4 buttons and a 1.33 sec cast time on UA

Now let’s have a look at SB:SS as see if it fairs better

  • 1 button SB – Instant
  • 1 button SS – Instant
  • 1 button CoE – Instant

So what do we get? Casting SB:SS [BoA + UA + Corr] + CoE it would be a 3 button push and no cast time for UA saving 1.33 seconds. Is that a game changer? Is that a huge QoL? I’m assuming based on lag and reaction times it is probably shaving off 2 seconds in the opening along with 1 button push. So yes, SB:SS can be a great alternative opener if those two seconds you saved will be worth burning a shard to you. I’m sure we all suspect the true design of SB:SS is used for mutlidotting during solo questing, AoE and PvP and the real intention probably isn’t for a boss opener but it does offer a good choice.

If any other Afflocks feel differently I would love to hear about your experiences in Beta. Please feel free to leave your comments or find me on the Lost Isles Beta Server. I’m under my own name … Amijade so it should be easy to find me.

Have a great week everyone and until next time…

My Best

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