Last Update: April 2010 (3.3.3)
As I'm tired to see the same questions popping up on a daily basis, I'll compose a solid raiding compendium for affliction warlocks. If you spot errors or are missing something crucial, feel free to post it or PM me. Please note that this is not aimed at high end raiders (If you are defeating hard modes all day, you hopefully don't need this guide). I will neither give thousands of simcraft results nor mention stuff that gives 0.1 dps increase but forces you to invest 20k gold or whatever. Here we go:
The only important stats for affliction warlocks are hit rating, spell power, haste Rating, spirit (via fel armor & Glyph of Life Tap), crit rating and intellect (via crit rating). The general rule of thumb is hit > sp > haste > spirit > crit > int, however in most cases the only real gear choices are between haste and crit (always take haste). When it comes to gemming, however, this ranking is crucial. We'll cover that soon.
The spell hit cap (meaning additional hit rating will do nothing because you already hit with 100% of your casts) is 17% against bosses. In a normal raid setup, there is a debuff on the boss reducing this to 14% for you, supplied by Moonkins and Shadow Priests. You can (and should) use the talent Suppression to get 1-3% hit if you are below that cap. A Draenai in your group provides another 1%. This leads to the following table:
Points in suppression: Alliance: Horde:
0 342 368
1 316 342
2 289 316
3 263 289
Reaching the hit cap is absolutely crucial to good raid dps. Any point of hit above the hit cap is completely worthless.
No hit build
Full hit build
These are the two alternatives, one giving +3% hit by sacrificing the aggro reduce and Amplify Curse. There are small alternatives, e.g. the points in spell pushback might be moved to other talents, however spell pushback is a serious dps loss when it happens (and it happens quite a lot in ICC fights), so I'd rather keep it. If you really don't need the aggro reduce, the points might be spend better in Improved Life Tap (although you rarely life tap at all because of Dark Pact) - in that case, even the mana reduction from Suppression might be the better choice.
The biggest possible change is to loose Dark Pact completely. This does not really free up a point because you are more or less forced to take Improved Life Tap 2/2. On the plus side, the puppy's mana pool is quite small and Dark Pact fizzles if it hasn't enough mana, so using Life Tap is more convenient. On the DPS side, both variants are virtually the same. I personally recommend the non-DP-version, but it is up to you. The common argument against it is "you need more healing", but the self-healing in this spec and raids in general is so huge that this never occurred as critical to me (it isn't to the other specs as well, is it?).
The three glyphs of choice are Glyph of Quick decay, Glyph of Life Tap and Glyph of Haunt. Sadly, there are no minor glyphs with any impact on PvE, nor are there any other major glyphs that can compete with the glyphs above, the closest runner-up being Glyph of Curse of Agony.
Head: Arcanum of Burning Mysteries
Shoulders: Greater Inscription of the Storm
Cloak: Greater Speed
Chest: Major Spirit or Powerful Stats
Wrist: Superior Spell power
Hands: Exceptional Spell power
Waist: Eternal Belt Buckle
Legs: Brilliant Spellthread
Feet: Icewalker or
Tuskarr's Vitality *
Weapons: Greater Spellpower or
Mighty Spellpower or Black Magic**
*Being faster does not improve dps directly, but is, in my opinion, the best choice. Remember, movement = time not casting, so why not move faster? If you want to be the top dog no matter what, have two pairs of shoes :-)
**Black Magic gives now enough haste (~65 on the average) to be a decent one-hand weapon enchant on high gear levels.
Use a fel hunter. You can experiment with Doomguard / Inferno if you wish, anything else is completely useless.
Mining and Herbalism are useless, Skinning is bad, the rest is fine. Tailoring and Engineering currently provide the best gain by a small margin.
Alchemy gives +47 SP by "Mixology" when you use Flask of the Frostwyrm.
Jewelcrafting enables you to use three higher-quality gems, giving 3x16 = +48 SP.
Blacksmithing gives two more sockets, resulting in 2x23 SP = +46 SP.
Leatherworking gives a special bracer enchant which is +48 SP higher than the normal one.
Enchanting gives two ring enchants, resulting in 2x23 SP = +46 SP.
Inscription gives a high quality shoulder enchant, +46 SP compared to the normal one.
As you can see, these are (nearly) identical, choose whatever you like. Now for the special ones:
Herbalism gives a useless, weak selfheal on a high CD. Forget about it.
Mining gives Stamina. Forget about it.
Skinning gives 40 crit rating, which will always be worse than the "normal" 46-48 SP.
Engineering gives a special back enchant (+27 SP), which will of course cost you the normal enchant (+23 haste) as well as a hand enchant (340 haste for 12s every 60s, resulting in ~68 haste). If you sum this up, you reach +27 SP and +45 haste rating. Furthermore, you get a special boot (+crit and movement speed cd). This should be slightly superior to other professions.
Tailoring enables you to use a special back enchant, again costing you the normal enchant (-23 haste) but giving you a proc chance of 295 sp for 15s. With an internal cooldown of 45s it should proc roughly once a minute, giving ~76 SP. With haste reaching the importance of SP, this is not a huge improvement over the other professions.
So as a final statement, don't be a gatherer, the rest is up to you.
Red socket: Spell Power (Runed)
Yellow socket: Spell Power + Haste (Reckless) or Spell Power + Hit (Veiled)
Blue socket: Spell Power + Spirit (Purified) if matching makes sense, see below
Meta: Chaotic Skyflare Diamond.
Red (spell power) and Orange (spell power and haste) Gems are nearly identical dps-wise, so red and yellow slots should ALWAYS be filled with the appropiate gems. While haste is slightly superior stat-wise, SP gems give 23 points of SP while haste gems give only 20. This is why Runed/Reckless are the first choice and pure haste gems are never a viable option.
The only time you want to match a Blue Socket is when the socket bonus is +6 Spell Power or more, per socket or you have less than 2 blue gems. In these cases you use Purple: Spell Power + Spirit (Purified).
To be exact: a Purified Gem is worth 12 spell power and 10 spirit. 10 Spirit is 11 Spirit in a Raid (Blessing of Kings), 11 spirit are converted into exactly 3,3 spell power via Fel Armor and 2,2 spell power via Glyph of Life Tap. thus, the Gem is worth 12 + 3,3 + 2,2 = 17,5 Spell Power. The difference to a Runed Gem is 5,5 Spell Power, so the socket bonus must be 6 Spell Power or more to justify a Purified Gem. Note that this is spec-dependant, Demonology and Destruction scale differently with spirit.
Example: Nibelung has a Red and Blue socket for +7 Spell Power. Matching here is a good thing.
Example: Maghari Chieftain's Staff has two Blue sockets for +7 Spell Power. That's 3.5 Spell Power per socket, so matching here is a bad thing.
Example: Merlin's Robe has a Red, Blue, and Yellow Socket for +9 Spell Power. Since we only care about breaking one of the sockets, that's 9 Spell Power per socket broken, so use Purple in the blue slot.
Use this loot rank link to find upgrades for your equip. Keep in mind that it completely ignores hit rating, so if you want to find good hit items, just change the value of hit rating to 1.0. This will make all the good hit items pop up in the lists.
Note: SimCraft will suggest that under-cap Hit Rating is valued at 2.8 or more. While this is the correct value, using any number higher than 1.0 will overvalue it on your gear and lead you to make sub-optimal choices. For example, when choosing between +50 Hit/ +80 Haste and +80 Hit/ +50 Crit, it will end up choosing Hit/Crit (which is the poor choice) because it has higher hit on it.
I'm adding this here because it's an extremely good video made by one of the best hunters in the world. The advice he gives applies to all dps classes.
Everything in this video applies to you. Move smarter. Know what you are going to do before you do it. Stack your cooldowns with procs. Never stop casting.
In short: Keep all your dots up, keep Haunt debuff up, fill the rest of the time with Shadow Bolts. When the boss reaches 25%, replace Shadow Bolt by Drain Soul. Never clip a DoT - this means refreshing a DoT before it's last tick has gone off. This means that you not only lost that damage, but the amount of time that passed between the last tick and when you clipped it is also gone (upwards of 2.99 seconds!). Don't do it.
From a priority list point of view this means:
4.Curse of Agony
5.Drain Soul @ <25% Boss-HP
For sake of completion, the optimal start is (activate Life Tap glyph before combat starts and chug a pot) -> Shadow Bolt->Haunt->Corruption->Unstable Affliction->Curse of Agony and then stick to the priority list. Note that you should keep up the Glyph of Life Tap buff all the time, just consider it as another dot.
This stays true with 3.32: Even with Shadow Embrace stacking to three it is more important to get your dots upon the target than applying the last stack of SE. Reason: The dot's damage updates immediately with the third stack, so you have to compare three dots being applied ~2s later (when you start with SB->SB->Haunt->dots) to 5% less dot damage within the first ~6s (when you start SB->Haunt->dots->SB). Applying all dots 2s later will cost you roughly at least one tick from CoA and Corruption and almost one tick from UA. For all of these spells, one tick does a lot more than 5% of their total damage, so even if SE would NOT update immediately, this would be the better choice. However keep in mind that this is highly theoretical. You won't really notice the difference in a 6-minute-fight.
Some more advanced tricks:
Currently (3.3), Corruption will NOT readjust for crit debuffs, crit buffs or percentual damage increase buffs (read: Tricks of the Trade, Totem of Wrath, Potion of Wild Magic, Trinkets, Death's Embrace as well as "Shadow Mastery" from the talent "Improved Shadow Bolt") when being refreshed by Haunt/SB/DS. This means that you can increase its crit rate for the whole fight duration by artificially increasing your crit rate /percentual damage increase upon the first appliance (Nevermelting Ice Crystal, Wild Magic Potion, Tricks of the Trade). Note that this also means that you have to recast Corruption when the boss hits 35% to gain the benefit from the "Death's Embrace" talent.
So even if you don't like to abuse this mechanic, make sure that your first shadow bolt hits BEFORE you apply corruption. This is exactly why the starting sequence is SB->Haunt->UA->Corr->CoA and not Corr->the rest.
An in-depth discussion of this matter can be found in Warlocomotif's Affliction: Learning to corrupt.
Keep that Corruption alive:
Set the boss as your focus and use the following macro:
This macro will always cast Haunt at your focus target, if one exists. Otherwise it casts it at your current target. You can use this for bosses like Saurfang to keep your corruption rolling on him while you dot and bolt all the adds. This also applies to Jaraxxus, Twins, Anub'arak, and Deathwhisper if you can get your positioning right.
/cast [@focus, exists] Haunt; Haunt
If you use a potion before you engage in combat, you can still use one during combat. Two potions per fight is very good.
As UA has at least 1s casting time, you can start to cast it when the last second of UA is still ticking on the boss, increasing your uptime.
Precasting Life Tap:
Cast Rank 1 Life Tap before the fight starts - Fel Armor will heal you through the damage in two ticks as to not annoy your healers, and you get the full Glyph buff right away.
Clipcasting Drain Soul:
As Drain Soul has a very long casting time, you get the best results when you just stop casting it when it ticks and a dot has to be refreshed. I highly recommend an addon to help you here (ForteXorcist w/ Ticks on Bars turned on, or DrainSoulTimer). The tactic is:
Cast drain soul
When a DoT needs refreshing, interrupt Drain Soul as soon as it's next tick goes off
Refresh the DoT
Refresh Haunt if necessary (usually true!)
Repeat until boss is dead
First of all, what does "haste cap" mean? Haste makes your spells faster. However, there is a hard cap for every spell, which is the time of your global cooldown (the time you can't use another spell when using an instant like Corruption). This global cooldown itself is affected by haste, and has a hard cap on its own, which is 1s. With zero haste, it is 1.5s, so 50% speed up is enough to cap your GCD and thus cap you instants and 1.5s-casts. 50% haste is not reachable with reasonable gear, but it is easily reachable with buffs like heroism or the talent Eradication. Many articles use the term "soft cap" for this situation: your haste is suffient to cap your gcd with heroism or your own talent procs.
However, Affliction locks are nearly unaffected by this because it only affects three of our spells: Life Tap/Dark Pact, Unstable Affliction and Haunt. Haunt's damage has no significant influence on our DPS, and UA is just one of our three dots, and the haste effect on a dot is small in itself. Dark Pact/Life Tap won't be used more than once during Heroism anyway. CoA is talented to 1s anyway, so it already IS at the cap when you are naked and unbuffed. Corruption will happily take any haste you can get and always improve in dps. SB can't be capped except for very high haste amounts, and Drain Soul will never ever be capped. When simulating around the haste cap, I found a decrease of about 15% in the value of haste when you reach the cap. This does by no means change the importance of haste and can safely be ignored - you won't have heroism up for the whole fight anyway, will you?
So, as a final result, do not worry about the haste cap because it doesn't really exist at all.
Chosing the right trinkets:
In these dark times of addons like Gearscore, people tend to choose the highest item level no matter what. While this is a good decision in many cases, it is NOT a good way to measure the quality of trinkets. Most of the existing trinkets have a somewhat special effect, and many of them are bad for (affliction) warlocks.
First rule of thumb: Use-Trinkets suck. The reason for this is that use-effects have a higher CD (in most cases 2 Minutes) than proc-trinkets (roughly 1 minute) while their effects are nearly the same. As you do not have ANY useful cooldowns, you cannot combine use-trinkets with them, and timing the trinket with heroism just does not cut it. In most cases, your proc-trinket will trigger during heroism anyway. There is one already mentioned exception, the Nevermelting Ice Crystal, due to its effect on rolling corruption.
So, this is the list of trinkets that are actually good, in order of dps provided (highest to lowest)
- Dislodged Foreign Object
- Muradin's Spyglass
- Phylactery of the Nameless Lich
- Reign of the Unliving/Dead
- Flare of the Heavens
- Illustration of the Dragon Soul
- Abyssal Rune
- Scale of Fates
- Eye of the Broodmother
- Dying Curse*
- Embrace of the Spider
- Elemental Focus Stone*
- Living Flame*
- Sundial the Exiled
*This is only if the hit is being used. If it puts you over cap, the trinket starts dropping down the rankings.
Do NOT get caught with something like Talisman of Volatile Power. It just sucks, trust me. And forget about the Frost emblem trinket as well. If this list means you have to run around with your Illustration of the Dragon Soul while fighting Arthas, so be it. Blizzard already admitted that the number of useful trinkets has been quite small for some classes and specs. They meant you.
Are set bonuses worth it?
Yes, they are. Get the highest 4p-bonus you can get (T9 or T10 that is) and never look back.
TellMeWhen: Configurable timer buttons. I use these to watch my dots on the current target as well as the Improved Shadow Bolt Debuff. Unless you are some kind of mind genius, you definitely need some timers for your dots.
PowerAuras: A powerful addon that basically does the same as TellMeWhen for you, but many more ways in how it tells you (icons, reactive timers, etc)
Need To Know: Same thing as Power Auras, but less memory and in bar form only.
DrainSoulTimer: Plays a sound when the target reaches 25%.
Necrosis LdC: A little old school, but has some nice features like announcing Shadow Trance.
Forte Xorcist: Zillions of Warlock modules for almost all purposes.
Forte is the most complete addon package you can get, with lots of amazingly useless features but also some features no one else has done better. Use this if you are new to Affliction as your training kit, and if you think you can live without the specific features it brings, migrate to PowerAuras or Need To Know.
This does not only apply to affliction but to playing WoW in general. Just read this and never look back. Stop being a keyboard turner today. Of course there are other ways of doing the same thing (like using 1-5, ctrl 1-5 and alt 1-5 as some do).
Same as Keybindings: Keep it simple, keep it clean, let it help you in what you want to achieve. You don't need to know how much gold you have while fighting Arthas - he simply does not care! As a lot of it is personal taste, I simply recommend watching videos or screenshots of good players and figuring out for yourself what their interfaces have in common. If you want to take this serious, the EJ Forum might help as well.