‘Locking It Up, Feeling The Burn

My head is still filled with little starbursts of amazement from last night.

I played my ‘Lock, and the experience was completely different. AGAIN!

The Warlock is proving to be the class that is teaching me how many different ways you can do the same thing.

It’s one class, and the foundation is a Warlock channeling fel powers and communing/summoning demons.

Just how different can it be?

Completely different, one Warlock is three different character playstyles all sharing one overall theme.

It’s tripping me out. I mean, Hunters, we got three DPS specs, but still a pet, bang bang, same core shots and shared Focus mechanic, just a little variation in some spells between ’em.

Not Warlocks though, oh no. No, Warlocks have three different DPS specs, each are viable, and each are way different from the others, right down to the core mechanic.

The resources each uses, Burning Embers versus Demonic Fury versus Soul Shards, it’s as different as Mana versus Rage.

But they all do DPS, damnit!

It’s freaking cool. Still blows my mind.

Here’s where I’m at.

I leveled and loved Demonology. The spec uses Demonic Fury, it’s very much like having a Rage mechanic, except unlike the screwed over tanks, Demonology Warlocks have a base minimum Demonic Fury that they get to start with, it refills when they’re out of combat. It would be similar to if Bear Druids always started a fight with 30 Rage in the bar, ready to go.

I know. I KNOW! How bullshit is that? How many years did we ask for something to let Bear tanks get some burst aggro off the bounce on groups, begging for maybe a minimum Rage when out of combat or get some Rage generated by our Feral Charge. Oh, hell no, but Warlocks? Nothing is too good for Warlocks. Troubled by a lack of burst out of the gate? Awww, poor little guy, let’s give you a minimum Demonic Fury level so you don’t get Fury starved. All better? And here’s a lollipop for being such a good boy! Oh yes you were! ‘rubs spiky jaws’.

Still, lovin’ Demonology. Tons of fun, great for questing, lots of toys and survivability and easy to use AoE. At level 90 with the Mannoroth talent that extends the range of your AoE abilities by 500%, it’s ridiculous for blowing through old raids.

I had that talent on for last weeks run through Karazhan, and the ball room right before Moroes was hilarious! Shit, the AoE of my Hellfire, channeled while running around, was damn near as big as the room.

Note to self from questing in the cave for Operation: Shieldwall the next day – bring Tomes of the Clear Mind and take that shit off of there before going into cramped places filled with level 90 mobs next time, dumbass. That goes double for the upgraded Life Drain talent from Tier 1. Holy crap. Talk about a mistake that’ll wake your ass up, light off Hellfire and watch as the entire cave complex fills with flames. SHIT! Try to get a Life Drain going to top off and watch as two different groups of slaves come from both sides.

At which point, your only recourse is to bear down and Deeps Harder. Oh, and wonder why you’re given a Soulstone ability you never freaking use. Is it so you can die and feel like an idiot, both at the same time?

Okay, that’s great. But I did some instance and scenario work, and while I like the Demonology for Scenarios, the DPS output is a little low when in tanking form the whole time, and in instances or raiding I didn’t really LIKE having the Metamorphosis form and Demonic Fury as my resource.

Demonology was doable certainly, and had good points, but at the heart of it it felt like I was playing a Cat Form Druid style that only let me use my cool form in between bouts of normal form casting.

It’s not bad, it’s a feel thing. When I’m kitty Druid DPS, I’m a kitty. Switching in and out of forms is something I stopped liking to do as a kitty a long time ago. I wouldn’t want to have to stand in Night Elf caster form to cast spells to build up Energy, then switch to the fun Kitty part and tear up the boss until I ran out of Energy, and then flip back to caster to build up some more. Not when you’re in caster form more than kitty. And that’s what you do as a Demonology/Metamorphosis Warlock.

So, I asked you folks for suggestions, and was told to try Affliction. “It’s got the best DPS of the three in raids right now.”

A word about that.

I play a Beastmaster Hunter as my main… and it’s supposed to be the best single target Hunter DPS right now.

But I was BM before Pandaria. And before Cataclysm. And before Wrath.

I haven’t changed specs to go with the higher numbers because that’s not why I play a spec or class. I play what I feel to be fun. Right now my chosen playstyle happens to be in phase with the moon, and shining amongst the stars ascendant. Supposedly. The times will change, things will swing, and I’ll still be BM regardless.

Now, I know that there will always be specs that theorycrafting show to have the potential to have higher output than the others.

The question I think we should ask ourselves if we’re going for DPS isn’t “which spec has the highest theorycrafted DPS”, the question should be, “Which spec do *I* perform the best on?”

The answer to that comes not from theorycrafting number-crunching spreadsheets but from actual testing, you on your character on training dummies and on actual bosses, trying to do your best.

If you find the flow of one spec fits your abilities or interests or comfort level better than another, you WILL see a difference in the results. The thing you should look at is not potential, it’s the reality of your results.

Also, maybe when you try to play the ‘flavor’ spec, you’re not doing it quite right, and your actual results won’t match what you’ve been told to expect. You have to try it yourself.

Coming back to Affliction.

I did some reading, set up a second spec, got it all gemmed and reforged and did LFR.

Not just once, but twice.

The results weren’t bad, and I thought there was quite a bit of fun involved. It was interesting to see the effects of quickly putting a passel o’ dots on multiple targets, getting Seeds going all over and generally trying to manage DoT timers when on adds, then switching up the management on single targets.

But it didn’t gel with me. And I didn’t even know it at first. My feelings were clouded with that new class smell.

How I figured it out was when I sat in front of my monitor, knowing I needed lots of gear from Scenarios and Heroics, and I didn’t want to queue. I dreaded queuing. I didn’t want to do it.

I found myself wondering if I could just stay Demonology and get enough valor and drops from Scenarios in tank mode to make up for not queuing in Heroics.

That made me take a mental step back. Why am I dreading Heroics? If I don’t want to run in a Heroic, why run in a raid? It’s the same group thing, just with more peeps and better loots. If Heroics sound sucky and unfun, then what does that mean for raiding?

I evaluated my feelings about this. I’ve done LFR MSV twice now, both halves, and I did a few heroics, and what it comes down to is,  I don’t like the management of adds. Single targets were fine, but not FUN. The DoT management isn’t something that was blowing my skirt up. So, Heroics felt like a chore as Affliction, and I didn’t want to go.

Last night, after reading some more comments left by you fine folks, I decided to try Destruction, see what the other spec looked like. Yes, it’s supposed to be less DPS potential, but how does it feel? What’s it like to play?

Turns out, Destruction lights my fire, baby.

In fact, it lit a fire under my butt so I was having way too much fun, and when Alex saw what I was doing over my shoulder, he insisted I dual spec HIS 82 Warlock and trick it out the same way, with the spells on the bars and stuff, and I left him happily blowing up Training Dummies with flaming green dragon heads from Chaos Bolt.

Last thing he was doing before going to bed, he was in Deepholm questing as Destruction, and all buzzing with glee over blowing stuffs up with fire and showing me the latest neat Destruction thing.

Me, I had a similar experience.

I ran a Scenario as Destruction while queued for a Heroic.

Then I ran a Scenario/Heroic duo again. And again.

I had trouble pulling myself away. I kept doing the same thing, queue for a Heroic then queue for a Scenario to fill the time waiting, and shit, that was the most fun I’ve had playing in months.

I didn’t want to stop running heroics in PuGs. ME. *I* am saying that I didn’t want to stop chain running in Pug Heroics.

I only stopped because it was late, my eyes were pits of burning pain, and I had to get up early to go to the gym before work, we were expecting a snow storm so I had to budget enough time to snowblow the driveway first so we could escape.

What am I looking forward to tonight?

More damn Heroics, hopefully squeezed in before I have to stop and do a boring old raid. What once I looked forward to on my Hunter, now is something standing between me and Destruction Warlock Pug goodness.

I love it. I can’t express quite why, though. Have I gone insane?

There is something about being able to use a Burning Ember to activate a ‘your next attack with be shared among all enemies within 15 yards for x% of the damage’, then drop a Rain of Fire on them, then start lighting something up with instant cast or super-fast cast attacks, and just keep on rolling, rolling on.

It feels fast right out of the gate, no waiting, no warning, I’m blowing shit up off the pull. And after I get cooking, CHAOS BOLT!

Now, sure I know it is supposed to have worse DPS than Affliction, and I’m sure that’s true.

But here are my results, based on my comfort level.

Same exact gear, reforged appropriately for the weighting for each spec, and as Affliction I was sometimes hitting 34k on a single target, more often around 24k – 28k sustained.

As Destruction, I was pulling down 41k reliably, and cackling like a witch one step from the gingerbread house and the oven with the lockable door.

The stress involved in trying to do my best as Affliction was replaced with my delight at blowing shit up, and then seeing good results afterwards.

There is the key difference.

As Affliction, I felt stressed to manage everything properly in order to do my best, but I was doing it to be rewarded with strong performance. I wasn’t doing it for the fun of it. The abilities did not naturally lend themselves to the way I flow, or some shit.

As Destruction, I felt delighted and gleeful at roasting poor fools in heroics, and then I was handed good performance just for showing up and having fun.

So, um. Yeah.

For those who love Affliction, I appreciate your skills, I acknowledge your awesomeness, but you lost me at glowing green dragon heads of doom.

I’ve said it before, and clearly I hold the lesson close to my heart.

There are few problems so large that they can’t be solved by the use of more explosive.

15 thoughts on “‘Locking It Up, Feeling The Burn

  1. So much fun reading about your adventures with destro! For me, WoW means World of Warlocks, and always will.

    My approach is similar to yours — fun and playstyle matter most to me. But some of the issues you had with affliction may be gear related, as affliction reportedly shines at higher gear levels, and while affliction can feel clunky in heroics due to its nature as a “slow killer” you may enjoy it in raids where targets live longer. My affliction friend took one look at destro in 5-mans and respecced, it’s just so much more fun in that context. But check out Evrelia’s videos — he’s a brilliant Affliction soloist and raider.

    One problem I have had with MoP is determining stat weights at pre-496 gear levels for our specs — I use Simcraft to work out mastery/haste/crit, but sometimes doubt that my reforges make much difference. However, as long as stuff keeps dieing in huge balls of fire I’m happy :).

    Strange for me to hear people say that destro was not fun to play in Cata. I played it then and always felt it was smooth and fun. But back then I never went past heroics, so perhaps the problems were at Raid level. Destro is still my favorite spec, so glad others are enjoying it too! Funny to hear about you pulling too many mobs — that’s what soulstones are for — to see how crazy we can be and save us the run back! My friend and I ride on his elephant, see how many we can pull and after the smoke clears see if we are still standing and count up the dead :).


  2. You know how Destruction underperforms currently?

    Well, it’s supposed to be the top dps spec for warlocks in 5.2, due to all the buffs. Just saying.


  3. Hey BB;

    Thanks for posting these updates about your adventures as a lock. I’ve been an altoholic since the 1st week I played in Vanilla, and have always had a soft spot in my heart for my affliction warlocks. Was always under the impression of ‘yeah, neat stuff, but I’ve got a mage if I want to cast stuff that goes boom as soon as it hits’. In MoP, it’s been Affliction with a Blueberry for my horde and alliance locks, unfortunately I levelled them before you started posting about your Demon fun.

    The other night my guild needed a fill in dps for MSV, so I took my lock. Been running heroics and scenarios, doing my affliction thing, being satisfied at putting out numbers that are decent enough. Unfotunately, with the movement and helping make raid calls I was losing track of my dots in MSV. I use classtimers as well as weak auras, so it keeps me on track, but I was still futzing around and just not feeling comfy like I have in years past.

    Now, thanks to you I’m going to give Destro a shot and see if that’ll be the hand-in-glove experience that you had. I’m hoping so, because I always enjoyed the lock as it’s one of my go-to toons whenever I need a break from tanking, healing or huntering.

    Keep up the great blogging, been following it for some time now. Thanks!


  4. My little, female gnome Warlock was the first toon I ever created…and it’s precisely for the reason you described above…but with added “goodi-ness” (yes, I just said that). Picture in your mind the cackling, madness fun you are having coming from a little, female gnome, sans pigtails, who’s laugh is all, “tee hee hee”. I doesn’t get much more epic than that in my eyes. And her purple wings, from Dark Apothesis, are the cutest things ever…I tend to stay in that form probably more often than I should.

    I hadn’t played my Warlock for some time. But, when you started talking about how much fun you were having, I decided to see what the hub-bub about the Pandaria changes were all about. Let me tell you, I have been having a blast!!

    My chosen specs have been Demo & Dest pretty much her entire existence. I did give Aff a go back in Cata and enjoyed it some.

    Leveling as Demo was a breeze. I will admit that I got a little cocky after a while and ended up killing myself a few times by pulling too many mobs. But, after seeing that I could handle 7-8 vermin, at level, in Valley of the Four Winds can you blame me? I barely survived pulls like that on my Prot Pally and Blood DK when I was leveling them there.

    I’ve been chain running scenarios, for gear upgrades, as Dest and have been having as much fun as I did leveling in Demo. Both specs fit me well and I doubt I’ll be changing that any time soon.


  5. Outlined in this post you have pointed out the exact reason I hate the question, “which spec is the best for my class?”
    a seemingly innocent enough question that depends almost completely on your own play style (for normal folks, which if you ask the question you automatically become)


  6. There is very little that compares to the delight of generating that “FWOOMF!” sound when 10 incinerates arc out in a fiery cone in front of you.

    I spend most of my time imagining my ‘lock just cackling non-stop while setting more things on fire.


  7. I’m an affliction lock, always have been, most likely always will be, and I find it amusing it is the current flavour of the month spec (PvE wise) after soon long. But it is definitely not for everyone. It’s a lot of fiddling around, and conceptually it is more about the slow death. I was worried about the MoP changes because I hate channelled spells, and the other two specs have gone too far from the kind of caster I enjoy. I’m not a melee fan and destro has never been my cup of tea. If I want that play style I have a mage. MoP destro is a pretty good rework for a spec that ended up having more things to watch than affliction in Cata. I can deal with the channelling if there is plenty of movement, so I’m now someone who loves heavy movement fights.

    However, I’m really pleased that the class has enough diversity in playstyle that it can suit entirely different people. I don’t tend to recommend affliction to someone who just wants to have fun, because quite often the whole “omg I’m on fire and have you seen chaos bolt?!?” thing is just what people are looking for.

    Oh, always have a SS up and a healthstone in your bags. Always. You never know when you’re going to come across something big, tough and nasty and you feel like finding out what loot it drops.

    Hubby returning from being afk in BC: Why is there the corpse of an elite spider on my toon?
    Me: I was bored, you were gone for a while.


    • Heh. I never pvp’d much, but wanted the white wolf. So I got into it on my druid and hated it. Then a friend dragged me into Arathi Basin on my affliction warlock, back in BC. I ended up holding the farm by myself against eventually six of the other team, with siphon life and drain life. I wasn’t doing enough damage to kill any one of them, despite keeping them all dotted up, but I was such a pain in the ass that it eventually took seven of them to kill me and in that process my team captured everything else. About the only time I’ve ever actually enjoyed pvp.


  8. Not to go completely OT here, but could I ask a question. “It’s tripping me out. I mean, Hunters, we got three DPS specs, but still a pet, bang bang, same core shots and shared Focus mechanic, just a little variation in some spells between ‘em.”

    I hit 90 on my hunter last night. I’m BM right now. I was SV in Cataclysm, MM in Wrath.

    Is there one spec that is less OHMAGAWD all the buttons. Serpent Sting, Kill Command, Blink Strike, Dire Beast, Beastial Wrath, Arcane Shot, Cobra Shot, Focus Fire, Rapid Fire, Stampede….


    • Hey Ted, I’d suggest for a solid answer to that one you drop a comment with Frostheim over at the Warcraft Hunters Union blog. He’s been on top of everything to do with Hunters and an advocate of less buttons, more integrated DPS for a qhile now.

      I am positive if anyone can guide you on which spec is the least of the button watchers, it’s him.

      I admit, there are times a boss fight will go by without having used the ‘reset all less than 5 minute cooldowns’ cooldown. Somehow, I always intend to save that one for the burn phase of a boss, and sometimes I get so into managing every OTHER resource and cooldown that I let that one slip past the optimal moment.

      Sigh. Just one more thing to try and get better on.


  9. I am SO happy you are having a blast with Destro! I run all my dailies/heroics/scenarios as Destro and raid as Aff. I pull about 30k more dps as Aff than destro so I stick with it to raid but do everything else as Destro. I even have almost a full set of gear for it. Yes you will want different sets if you ever get serious about it because each spec likes different things.

    I too cackle constantly when I get to do a lot of AoE damage as Destro. It seriously is one of the funnest things for me in game.

    Yay for more warlocks!! 😀


  10. /Clap!

    I’m so happy you found a spec that works for you 🙂 I’ve wanted to play Destruction since I started my warlock (it all goes back to that first WoW video of the undead warlock lighting everything on fire!) but Burning Embers appear much later than the abilities you get from the other specs – it’s almost like Demo is made for leveling, and Affliction and Destruction are made for end game.

    Anyway, I don’t remember what level you get Burning Embers, but if I can get them now, I think I’ll switch over and try it out.

    I felt the same way switching from Shadow (which I thought I was pretty good at) to Disc – which is just like “We made this spec for you, Theo. Please, enjoy!” Thanks Blizz!

    Burn all the things!


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