When it comes to endgame raiding with a warlock, many questions arise. This guide will try to summarize all the important aspects of the class when it comes to 25 man dungeons as well as give suggestions for new players in this environment and try to clear up some misunderstandings that are quite common. The guide is be divided down into 3 main categories: choosing your spec and knowing how to play it, gearing up your warlock, and finally it will discuss macros, addons and various aspects of the class. All questions, suggestions and comments are welcome.
1.0 Talent specs
1.1 Deep Affliction
2.0 Gearing up
2.1 Tier 4 level gear
2.2 Tier 5 level gear
2.3 Tier 6 level gear
3.3 Threat management
3.4 Additional tasks in a raid
3.5 Multi vs single target dps on trash
3.6 Aggro reset fights
3.7 Fighting a boss
In essence, there are only two viable end game raiding specs. One could discuss other specs as well, but it all comes down to maximizing our performance in raids, and only deep affliction and deep destruction specs offer maximum damage output which is clearly our primary job. Felguard, sm/whatever specs, UA/demo embrace/bane specs are all worthless in end game and the earlier one faces those facts the earlier he can become a valuable part of his raid. There are encounters when one of the unusual raiding specs might prove
somewhat viable, but it's an exception more than a rule. That is why I chose to skip those and focus on the two most used and generally useful builds.
Choosing your spec comes down to your gear level and to some extent personal preference. The general rule of thumb is that going too deep in destro without capped hit and good crit rating is worse than going deep affliction. Affliction is less gear dependent and offers survivability that destro can only provide if wearing T5-6. There are no specific numbers. Although, I wouldn't suggest having less than 200 spell hit, 25% spell crit, and 1200 damage self-buffed when choosing a deep destro type of spec. Only with numbers like that (generalization) can destro start dealing more damage output than deep affliction.
1.1 Deep affliction (41+/0+/18)
Affliction offers good survivability and mana management , while not being nearly as gear dependent as destro. The spec does very well when wearing a gear set in the range of T4-craftables and still performs decent until one collects a full set of T5. Powerful dots and potent drains make it very useful in entry level raiding since a player can focus more on survival and other designations while still doing good amounts of damage. Dark Pact offers mana regeneration like nothing else, Suppression diminishes the impact of low hit on gear and Malediction adds a significant buff to the raid. There are many support and utility talents in the affliction tree, so everyone can make his own version of the spec serving whatever purpose he might use it for. In basis, if one solo farms a lot he can take Fel Concentration and players that like Shadow Embrace can freely take it all without impacting vital DPS talents. Destruction tree in this build isn't nearly as flexible as Affliction as you need all the listed talents for maximizing performance. In the demo tree, you can put a point in imp HS to give your raid more healthstones, if other warlocks are specced differently, or you can take imp imp for tank support.
The rotation in Affliction commonly used is as follows: CoS/E/A-> UA-> Corruption-> Immolate-> Shadow Bolt until first dots fade and then reapply and continue nuking SB. Don't bother using Siphon Life unless damage input is large and you need healing from it. For pure dps, it's not that good and you're better off dropping it from your rotation. Also, always cast Immolate regardless of the fact you probably have more shadow than fire damage bonus on gear. It's still a very powerful spell and should always be a part of your rotation. Also, there is a misconception that Drain Life is a viable part of an Affliction rotation. It couldn't be further from truth, DL should be cast only in situations when you desperately need health and HS/pots are on a CD. If you did everything right, Shadow Bolt should be 50-60% of your total damage. It's vital to squeeze out as many casts as possible rather have a second or two without a dot tick than 1 SB less.
Clearly spell damage and +spell hit are your most important stats, thus you shouldn't sacrifice those two stats for anything else. Remember that if you think you have your +spell hit capped because of Suppression, the talent only affects your affliction tree and most of your damage is still Shadow Bolt, which is not an Affliction spell. Do not forget about reaching the goal of 202 +spell hit ever, it should be your priority as a raiding Warlock. After +spell hit, it is spell crit and stats, prioritize them equally, but it shouldn't be too difficult considering both come with T5 level gear in abundance.
Enchants and gem selection:
When it comes to enchants it's clear which are the best enchants available for each slot as there are not many options out there. On a weapon, Soulfrost is clearly the best. Although, the cost of it is significant. When it comes to gems, pure +dmg gems are the way to go combined with +spell hit/+dmg gems. Warlocks don't have many options for metagems and since the 2.2 patch the half cast metagem has become more powerful. The Mystical Skyfire Diamond, in combination with 1 blue gem and the rest red gems, is very good for affliction specs. If you would rather stack on +hit/+dmg gems go for the +12dmg runspeed meta, since its not worth putting in blue gems to fill requirements.
1.2 DS/Destro (0/21/40)
A destruction spec is a lot less flexible than an affliction one. There are few possible compromises since the spec, like its rotation, is very straightforward and non forgiving. It's not meant to be a support spec. It is very heavy on mana usage and pretty low on survival, thus the gear dependency. There is no free mana through DP or strong drains, so not being in a shadowpriest group although not impossible, makes it much harder to deliver. Also, you will be petless 99% of the time, so there is 0 support value to the group. This is why you need to make sure you will not be forced to have an imp out sometimes because that will render you useless in terms of dps on those fights.
A very common misconception when it comes to a DS destro build is when people use fire. Shadow is superior to fire in every possible aspect and there is absolutely no argument for using Incinerate over SB. That is the first and most important thing one should realize. SB not only that offers more pure dps, but it also boosts raid dps by a significant amount through the Improved SB talent. Incinerate, on that account, does nothing. It is dependent on imp scorch specced mages, which are not always present in end game raids. Plus, there is a slim chance of 5 debuffs being on every trash mob or boss add immediately, which is not the case with shadow vulnerability.
The rotation for DS/Destro spec is simply spam nuking Shadowbolts while having Immolate ticking in the background. Again, same as in affliction specs, Immolate is good enough to use regardless of the fact you probably have more shadow than fire damage.
A problem that arises in destro specs is the consumption of mana and inability to regain it or to effectively regain health. That's why CD management is important. Try not to find yourself without mana and needing to tap right before something environmental in the fight is likely to hit you. With a shadowpriest in the group, these problems diminish. In most cases, you shouldn't find yourself in such survival problems anyway.
Since most people that spec destro already have capped hit and decent stats, damage and spell crit is the way to go. Haste is also a very good stat after 2.2, obtaining good haste items listed below
Enchants and gem selection:
Enchants are basically the same as in affliction, although one might fix +40 spelldamage over soulfrost because of Immolate. In any case, the difference will not be noticed, it's up to personal preference. For gems, you want anything to maintain 202 spell hit. My personal favorites are BT epic +12 damage gems and orange crit/dmg ones.
Gear is broken down into 3 categories according to tier level.
2.1 Tier4 level gear
This consists naturally of T4 pieces, craftables and random drops of approximately same level such as badge rewards, heroic epics, Gruul and Magtheridon drops and certain good Karazhan items. There are exceptions. Some items stand out of the mass and are useful far into the next tier of dungeons such as Ritssyn's Lost Pendant, Eye of Magtheridon, Orb of soul eater and Icon of Silver Crescent just to name the few. You naturally should focus on obtaining these items first, since those are the ones you will replace last and will benefit you the most.
Warlock doing instances of T4 level has two gear options. Should you go for the craftable gear, you take the easy road. This will be quite light on stats, but stacked on damage. Making you a glass cannon. The other option is going for the T4 set, which on first sight doesn't look as impressive when it comes to damage but can put out similar output while making you much tougher.
It's a matter of personal preference. If you are in a guild that progresses relatively fast, spending money on craftables that you will replace fairly soon isn't beneficial. On the other hand, if you plan on doing this content for a while, then craftables are way to go. Also, the best and possibly easiest weapon to get is arena dagger. You wont need to change that baby until deep in T6 content. Combined with the badge offhand it's a really awesome set and should be used over the arena staff.
2.2 Tier5 level gear
This is mostly gear that drops in SSC and TK. The Tier5 set, which regardless of less than awesome set bonuses the way to go until one ventures deep into Black temple and Hyjal. Items worthy of mentioning are Boots of Shifting Nightmares, Cord of Screaming Terrors, and Mindstorm Wristbands. These are all items you can use until very deep into the next level of content. Things one should be looking for here is definitely finish off boosting +hit rating or at least coming very near 200. Getting higher stats that will help you tackle end T5 and start of T6 content.
Some prefer taking random pieces instead of set gear items. I'd advise against it, because all the stats you gain with T5 set will prove very crucial when you end up on Vashj and Kael. General rule of thumb here is to get as many set items as soon as possible because the aspect of survival becomes more and more important as you finish off T5 content. You certainly don't want to find yourself fighting Kael or Najentus with 10k buffed hp since its not most pleasant thing around.
2.3 Tier6 level gear
Not much to be said here. Every item level 141 and over is so full of awesomeness and it barely any downsides. 4/5 tier 6 set is a priority. Not only that both bonuses are really good, but the sheer amount of stats that this set gives makes a warlock a juggernaut. What caster wouldn't want to have 15k hp in raids with the best dps potential out there. Since until now you surely have +hit capped and more than a decent amount of crit and damage, you can afford to sacrifice some of it for haste(clearly only for those who decided to go destro). Of course, not all pieces are good or "worth it", but some certainly are. Crafted Bracer's of Nimble Thought are a cheap way to get a really good item. So is having at least one Ring of Ancient Knowledge and the Supremus belt is a good haste alternative to Anatheron's noose. It's up to ones stats and personal preference which one he will use. On T6 level, the arena dagger doesn't really cut it anymore, so you are left with two options. Tempest of Chaos + Rage's offhand vs Illidan staff. There is alot of theorycraft about which is better. I personally stand by sword+ offhand combo. Again, it's personal choice.
Since I'm far from good at making guides like these, this final category will just be a random mix of whatever I didn't have the inventive brain to find a good category for and write stuff about.
Dotimer: tracks dots and cooldowns
Recount: damage meter that very usefull to break down a fight using graphs.
SWStats: most common damage meter addon, no need to have both with Recount.
Necronomicon, Necrosis and similar addons are usually used by warlocks to save screen space
Instabolt: notifies backlash/nightfall procs
BigWigs bossmods: very usefull mod for a beginner raider
NaturEnemy castbar: misc castbars, cds and timers of most abilities in game
KTM or Omen: addons used for monitoring threat
Quartz: extremely adaptable castbar with good stop casting macro support
Most of these addons can be obtained on WoWAce.com and other mod sites. Details about addons and more can be read in our UI section of the forums.
The only macros useful in 25 man raids are focus banish/cot macros and stone management macros, not much science here.
/cast [target=focus] Curse of Tongues(Rank 2)
/cast [target=focus] Banish(Rank 2)
Use all ranks of healthstone, this one is science
/Use Master Healthstone
/cast Shadow Bolt
3.3 Threat management
Affliction spec has it relatively easy when it comes to threat. You can easily just use a lighter rotation while still doing dps. Just follow your TPS output on KTM and drop dots from the sequence as needed. Destro is more difficult, since you have to almost completely stop DPSing while very high on threat. That's why smart utilization of Soulshatter is crucial. Start off easier. Watch for crits. At 70-80% shatter and go all out on dps. I personally use Fetish of the Sandreaver on some fights where it proves to be of much worth. If you are constantly high on threat with destro because your tanks aren't the best around, you can always sacrifice felhunter or voidwalker for additional mana/hp management while doing less threat.
3.4 Additional tasks warlocks sometimes do in raids (never me!)
Sometimes we will be required to do some things apart from the obvious dps and soulwell duty. I will list those tasks and a description on how to handle them.
- Banishing: On some trash fights and on Hydross the Unstable , warlocks are needed to banish the adds. To do this with the least pain, always mark yours with a raid mark. Focus the target and banish it using focus banish macro. Switching targets is not recommended, since you might lose it in potential chaos and lose valuable dps time or even worse, cause a death.
- Tanking: Warlock tanking is a concept usually used on three fights in TBC; Leotharas, Kael'thas and Illidan. It's simply done by positioning yourself correctly, then spamming Searing Pain and surviving. For Leotharas, one needs near to 300 fire resistance gear. This is easily obtained through badge reward system. For Kael'thas, you don't need any resistance in theory. Although using 100ish won't make you sacrifice much damage and will help healers. Illidan tanking requires 365+ shadow resistance and healthy 14k+ hp to be on the safe side. Since that fight can turn hectic , it's good to be fast on healthstones and healing potions. A warlock tank dying will certainly cause a wipe. Help your healers as much as possible with draining when low and smart timer use. Also. while tanking any of the above don't forget removing Blessing of Salvation and in any case don't have Nether protection talent.
- CoEX kiting: This is usually used on Lady Vashj for controlling and disposal of Striders. At all time have CoEX on the mob, chain Shadow Ward when ready and kite it around on the edges of inner circle. Be wary of not pulling it through cloth camps or near any tanks, because their pulsing fear can cause problems. Best method for keeping aggro on them is getting ahead of them. SP, dot , and run while staying alive.
3.5 Multi vs. single target dps on trash
As destruction the only thing you have to worry about is threat. Spread fire accordingly and if possible on targets debuffed with damage modifiers. Affliction locks should always use one or two instant dots on all trash tanked(and as many sheeps as possible naturally) while fully doting dps focused target and nuking it silly with SB's.
3.6 Aggro reset fights
Clearly a downer for all of us who are used to spamming buttons senselessly. Destruction warlocks have it easy, since they can stop damage immediately, but be wary of those loose SB's criting seconds before or after reset. Stop 2 seconds before rather than risk a death. Affliction warlocks should time their dots carefully so the mob doesn't reset while getting 1k dps from dots before tanks get to hit it. It's an overall loss of dps, but better to lose some dps than all of it when dying. It's not such a problem if you have a dot or two up when reset hits, but certainly pay attention to it.
3.7 Fighting a boss
In current end game content, there is a lot of factors and events in a fight that one must be cautious about. In theory, our job is dealing good damage, but most important thing is staying alive. That's why you should always know whats happening around you. A lot of people are clueless about the fight apart from their job and thats what separates a good player from bad. When things turn chaotic, we all have to improvise sometimes. Always be ready to do something outside of your frame of usual duties on a fight. Above all, do everything to stay alive. Don't save a pot/HS cooldown for the next time. Use it as soon as possible and help healers a bit. When you see healing is scarce and other raiders need it more, drain life and screw dps rotation. If another warlock dies and his curse is higher on the priority list than yours switch and improvise.
All these things might seem like lesser things "everyone knows", but every bit counts. Sometimes the difference between a wipe and a kill is so small. Always know what the boss is doing and what environmental damage you might be expecting. Always be ready for the worst. Nothing says noob more than you dying without everything on cooldown. It will be those with better observational skills and ability to improvise that will do best in the fight, so try foreseeing stuff before it happens. Boss mods help a bit when a fight is overwhelming. If you the fight without those, you will find yourself much more aware of stuff and will be able to improvise much more than when everything is on a bar ticking for you.
Consumables warlocks usually use are flasks, adepts elixirs, elixirs of shadow power, damage food, and damage oils. As for guardian elixirs, none are game breaking for us. The ones usually used are fortitude ones or mana regen ones. None of those are crucial, but that doesn't mean you should be cheap on the offensive ones. Be it a new fight or an easily farmed boss, it's always easier when potted up. Since 2.1, consumables are extraordinary cheap compared to before so there is no reason not to use them. When fighting a new boss though, keep in mind that a flask is usually much cheaper than using a whole set of elixirs on every wipe.
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