Friday, March 4, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Patch 4.1 for Warlocks: Still with no Battle Rez!

     A second class is getting a long awaited in-combat resurrection! But much to everyone's surprise, it's not warlocks. That's right ladies and gentlemen: the Death Knight's ability Raise Ally will now function similar to the Druid's Rebirth ability. But where is the Soulstone's redesign? Nowhere in the 4.1 Patch Notes, that's where.
     The Soulstone remains the most useless form of in-combat resurrection. True, shaman resurrection is limited to themselves. But the shaman Ankh functions more as a personal cooldown anyway. Druid Rebirth -- and now Death Knight Raise Ally-- are intended to allow the group to save themselves from a wipe by resurrecting a fallen comrade. Soulstone ostensibly fills the same role, but its use is checked because you must predict beforehand who is most likely to die. This is counter intuitive in almost any encounter. In any scenario, preventing the death from happening in the first place is far better management of resources (read: damage mitigation is better than healing cooldowns), which thus renders the soulstone useless.
     I can't believe I have to reach to find arguments that "Not dying is better than dying."
     My raid group seldom calls for a soulstone: if one person is stupid enough that we suspect they will die more than once to the same mechanic, we aren't wasting a battle rez on them anyway. Even in situations where a soulstone is correctly used, it is seen less as a wipe-saver, and more as a mechanic that allows a player to get away with sloppiness. When you further punish its use by precluding the possibility of resurrecting a player who didn't win the "Who is most likely to mess up?" contest, well...
     Blizzard seemed to recognize this weakness, and stated that they were exploring the possibility of redesigning the Soulstone to be used on a player after their death, and not before. 
     And yet another patch is underway, and Death Knights (what?!) are stealing our Soulstone!

     Aside from this oversight, Patch 4.1 is looking pretty good for us. Warlocks are in a pretty good place at the moment: our damage is strong, without being truly overpowered, all three of our specs are more or less viable, and we aren't playing with any more clunky mechanics like the old Improved Soulfire.
     Warlocks were missing from the first round of patch notes altogether (aside from the hug!) and the few tweaks that have been added since are universally palatable.

Warlock 4.1 Changes
  • Haunt damage has been increased 30%
  • Shadow Mastery (passive) has been increased to 30%, up from 25%
  • Mana Feed now returns four times more mana when the warlock is using a Felguard or a Felhunter
  • Doomguard's Damage has been increased by 50%. The doomguard is intended to be the best guardian for single-target damage, and the infernal the best when there are multiple targets. 
  • Shadow Bite (Felhunter) damage has been doubled.

     None of these changes significantly alter the playstyle or priority of warlocks. The majority of these changes are designed to beef up Affliction damage, which is perfectly appropriate since it is currently lagging behind. I personally could stand to let Affliction languish for another content patch, (I've had enough of shadow bolts) but it is the signature warlock spec. These are quality of life changes.
     I am excited about the changes to our pets! It will be a relief to put the Succubus away when playing Affliction: she is easily my least favorite demon companion. The Felhunter also aligns much more closely with the Affliction flavor: it was unnatural to eschew a pet that increases your shadow damage-over-time effects in favor of a...dominatrix. With any luck the Felguard will be similarly buffed to bring Demonology back in line as well. Eff Succubi.
     Mana Feed gets me much more pumped this week than it might have last week: I started playing Demonology to work on Heroic Maloriak, and Holy Mana Eater, Hellfire. Breaking the cast to refresh DoTs doesn't help, I know, but that's grapefruit. I hope to have the fight (and many others) on farm by the time of 4.1, but my healer will thank me not to Life Tap all the same.

     If I have any reservations about these changes, it is that they are coming far too late. We won't see these changes until new raiding content is available, when they could make a significant difference now. Particularly in regards to Felhunter viability and Demonology's mana regeneration, we could make good use of these abilities in our current raiding tier. Being able to use the Felhunter's Devour Magic without suffering a DPS loss would give us much better utility -- especially given the number of interrupts demanded by early Cataclysm raiding. I only hope the next tier gives us the same opportunity to be useful: or the change will be written off as too little, too late.
     The lack of early implementation is especially disappointing given the amount of hotfixing for similar situations. The shaman mastery was recently increased, and it drastically changed the perception of their raid healing capabilities. Why should Affliction not benefit from the same urgency? True, healing output has a greater effect on raid success than warlock pet choice or a single under-performing damage spec. Still, these changes will have such a small effect and likely require little testing -- why not include them in a hotfix? We are months away from Patch 4.1. Am I really stuck with the Succubus until then?

 PS. Also included in 4.1: Non-Sucky Non-Demo AoE!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Warlock Power Auras in Cataclysm

     I've ranted in the past about my love for Power Auras, and it's an affair that has only deepened since the expansion.
     Power Auras can be configured to give you the information you want in two different ways: in can give you information about what you are already doing, or it can remind you of what you should be doing. You can ask it to tell you if you are wearing a fishing pole, or if you are not wearing a weapon.
     As much as I love the glowing effects of Power Auras, I think that using Power Auras as an uptime tracker gets cluttered far too easily. It becomes too difficult to digest all of the information it is throwing at you and discern what is missing. Instead, I use Power Auras to keep track of my priorities: a clean screen means that I am doing everything right.

Spell Cooldowns for Destruction

     Many of the Power Auras I use today have not changed much since Patch 4.0. I think using Power Auras to track Chaos Bolt, Conflagrate, and Shadowflame are great training wheels when you are just starting out with Destruction. The constant reminders can become a little overwhelming, however, and as you get more comfortable with the spec you might choose to turn these alerts off, or at least turn the opacity down. You are going to have a lot more important things clamoring for space!

     I also created brand new alert for Shadowburn, because not only does this spell have a higher damage per cast time than Incinerate (at least during the brief window it can be used, of course), it can also help remind you to use the ability on adds to regenerate soul shards, which will in turn give you more opportunities for instant Soul Fires, which you need to proc your 8% increase in spell damage. The aura for Shadowburn is set to activate only when the spell is usable - that is, when the target is below 20% health, and the spell is not on cooldown. You do this by combining the Shadowburn aura with a conditional aura tied to your target's health.

Improved Soulfire Tracking

     Prior to Cataclysm, I was happy with the auras I used to track Improved Soulfire. However, once the ability was no longer dependent on the health of the target, I decided to set the aura to alert me when it was not active, instead of solely tracking its uptime. Equally important was tracking the amount of time left on the buff.
     To do this, I separated the alert into two seperate auras: one very large aura to notify me when the buff was not active, and another to track the amount of time left on the buff. Using two auras gives me the information that I want without compromising optimal visibility.
     One of the reasons it is important to track the amount of time left on the buff is to ensure the best use of Empowered Imp procs. The in-game auras are excellent at letting you know when the proc is available, however I added an additional timer to keep track of how long the proc would last. When the Improved Soulfire Buff is fresh, using an Empowered Imp proc to refresh it immediately does not give you much additional uptime on the buff. By using the proc at the last moment, you can maximize the amount of time it refreshes, and reduce the number of hardcasted Soulfires you will need.  

Soul Swap

     This may not seem like a necessity to many, and indeed if you don't enjoy using glyphed Soul Swap to roll DoTs on two targets simultaneously, it isn't all that helpful. I generally use it when I play Affliction on the twin dragons, as it is one less thing to keep track of. You already have your hands full keeping track of the unforgiving, rubber-band like movement on this fight and punsihing debuffs, in addition to your regular DoT uptimes; when you add-in watching those timers tick on two targets, including the all-important Shadow Embrace, well, guessing when Soul Swap is available is just too much. It's an arbitrary line, but hey, that's where I'm putting it.
     This aura is set to activate only when you have a focus target set, which I will do when I intend to use this spell heavily. While I'll still use the spell occasionally in other situations, I can generally assume it is available, and the loss of visibility is more trouble than it's worth.

Hand of Gul'dan

     If you have played Demonology at all since 4.0, you are familiar with the pain in the ass that is Hand of Gul'dan. This is a really cool spell that has not recieved a lot of love from Blizzard. In the early hours of 4.06, the successful modification to the duration of Immolate, meant to make refreshing with this spell easier, was in fact broken when you used Hand of Gul'dan to refresh Immolate. What a headache.
    The effect is working as intended now, however, and gone are the days when you needed to hover over the Hand of Gul'dan button to make sure Immolate never fell off. Even so, it's almost always a good idea to keep track of the cooldown on any spell you use regularly.


      I wanted to keep track of Decimation in two ways: I wanted to know the very moment it could be procced, and I wanted to know when the buff was up, and how long it was going to last.
     To do this, I first created a standard aura to track the buff. Then, I created another set of auras to monitor the boss's health, and alert me when we were in Decimation range, but the buff was not active.

Damage Cooldowns

     An aura I did ultimately decide to change since 4.0 was the graphic for Soulburn, which I didn't find was large enough. The purple also tended to blend in too well with the atmosphere in the Bastion of Twilight. I've changed the color to a brighter pink, and made the effect more striking.
     In the same vein, I added a new alert to let me know when Demon Soul was available. Like the Shadowflame graphic, you don't want this one to be too vivid because you will often be saving it for specific burst phases, and you don't want it to get in your way when you are biding your time.
     Finally, any warlocks using the four piece set bonus will want to know when the bonus damage to Fel Flame procs. Remember that this proc will disappear on hit, and not on cast. What this means is that because there is often a travel time involved, and personal damage modifiers are applied on cast, you can squeeze in two and sometimes even three casts that will benefit from the proc.

Other Useful Trackers
     The final aura I'll share is one to keep track of your self buffs. This is to remind you to activate Fel Armor, Soul Link, and our new damage-sharing buff Dark Intent. These three auras are color coded and will be visible when you are not self buffed.

 You can find the coding for these auras behind the cut.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Succiu's Guide for Warlocks in the Bastion of Twilight

     Anyone who steps into the Bastion of Twilight, Cataclysm's starter raid, is going to be at least a little bit nervous. We have all been inundated with Blizzard propaganda - raiding is hard again!
     Rest easy my friends. Raiding is hard again - hard, shiny, and fun as hell. Over the course of three expansions, we have all learned at least a few tricks, and those basic skills will stand you in good stead in this new tier. Bastion in particular is a really great instance. I can't get over how gorgeous it is inside, which is refreshing after spending a year in the skull-laden Icecrown Citadel. We get it, you like bones. Get a new decorator, Arthas.
     Bastion's four bosses all have unique mechanics, and you won't spend more than a few seconds here standing still and pew-pewing. Get ready to use every spell in your book, don't be afraid to think outside the box.
     This guide is going to cover special shortcuts and tips for warlocks. I'm going to assume that anyone reading this guide is familiar with the mechanics of each fight, and this is merely going to outline some of the ways that us warlocks can be most effective at doing damage and supporting our raid.

Halfus Wyrmbreaker

     The multi-target nature of this fight is a real opportunity for warlocks to shine. No matter what spec you play, you can help your raid out enormously.

  • DoT Halfus. While killing the mind controlled drakes will be your priority, spending a few seconds putting your damage-over-time spells on Halfus will pay off in the long run. Halfus takes 100% more damage for every dragon you kill, so you are getting a lot of bang for your buck. 
  • Make sure you put Curse of Elements on everything. Even if someone else in your raid usually covers this buff (Boomkins, Rogues, Death Knights) it is worth your time to cover any gaps, especially if you play Destruction.
  • Use your Demonic Teleport to avoid Fireballs once the Time Warden is released. You'll be pretty spread out throughout the fight, and your portal can help you jump around the room when you need to as well. 
     Affliction really gets lucky on this fight; between keeping full DoTs on two major targets and Halfus's debuff, the numbers are skewed in Affliction's favor. Perhaps the only weakness for the spec on this fight is the slightly clunky execute phase, when the Furious Roar makes it more difficult to keep up Shadow Embrace and Drain Soul.
  • Spec into Jinx and Soulburn: Seed of Corruption. This will be invaluable on the Whelps. You will likely only have the time to Souburn: SoC once, but it will definitely be worth it. Jinx will also aid the other casters in your group to get the whelps down quickly. 
  • Glyph for Soul Swap. Start the fight by DoTting up Halfus, and then as soon as the first drake comes out, Soul Swap your DoTs onto him. Every time Soul Swap is off cooldown, Exhale onto Halfus, and throw a Shadow Bolt to keep as many stacks of Shadow Embrace on him as you can. The drake is your primary target, but you will be doing more and more damage to Halfus as the fight goes on -- up to 300%. This is absolutely a good investment of your time, since it costs you so little. 
  • Refresh all of your DoTs before every Furious Roar. This ability is going to put you out of commission for six or seven seconds, and you want to do your best to make sure your DoTs keep rolling while you aren't able to cast. Don't neglect Shadow Embrace! That debuff takes a long time to build back up to full strength, and is all too often overlooked. The exception to this rule is Bane of Agony, which you should allow to take full damage ticks if you can. Use Fel Flame to add duration Unstable Affliction if you are pressed for time.
     Demonology has two valuable traits that make it fairly powerful for this fight: it has absurd burst AoE, and it has an execute ability that does not require a long time to ramp up. You won't have the dual-target capability as Affliction, but you are more valuable to your raid in other places anyway.
  • Kill the Whelps. If the Whelps are up, pop Meta, and jump in and blow everything you have. Between Immolation Aura, Shadowflame, Felstorm, and Hellfire, the whelps are going to die faster than you've ever seen them die before. Be careful about aggro (warn your raid what you are about to do!) and be ready to teleport out if you start taking too many hits. You can also use Hand of Gul'dan to hold the mobs in place, but usually your tank will have them well in hand and you won't need to waste your time.
  • Exploit Decimation. Any time something is getting close to dying, use it to proc Decimation, and blow your Soul Fires on Halfus since he takes so much more damage. If you can find a lingering whelp to use, great, otherwise the second drake will do just fine. As soon as he hits execute range, switch to Halfus, and keep the buff going as long as you possibly can.
     Destruction has exactly one thing going for it in this fight: Bane of Havoc. The spec has terrible AoE and the DoTs aren't as powerful as Affliction, so this effortless extra damage is really all you've got. Destruction does have some fairly nice burst which will help to get the drakes out of your hair more quickly, and it isn't as inconvenienced by DoTs falling off during Furious Roar as say, Affliction would be; but really, Destro is only good for this fight because it has such great overall damage.
  • Bane of Havoc goes on Halfus, especially before the first drake dies. If your raid gets to the point where they decide they don't need as much damage on the drakes, you can feel free to put your Bane on the second drake and benefit from the extra damage to Halfus, but this probably won't be the case for several months, as your healers will generally need the dragons to die as quickly as possible. Whichever you target, however, make sure you put Curse of Elements on both targets, as Bane of Havoc will double dip from the increased spell damage. WoW reads "Bane of Havoc" as one lump of damage, just like any other DoT, and it will apply the appropriate damage modifier to that spell. It doesn't read it as "15% of Immolate + 8% Curse of Elements" it understands it as "Here is some spell damage, it's going to hit 8% harder because Curse of Elements is up!" 
  • Tab target Immolate on the whelps. Rain of Fire really sucks. It sucks a lot, and it absolutely destroys your mana when the drakes run around, leading you to spend too much time Life Tapping. The drakes are going to be alive long enough that you may as well let them take the full DoT duration from Immolate, and the damage will give Bane of Havoc quite a bite. Don't be scared to throw a Shadowfury to help out too.
  • Use Demon Soul: Imp on Halfus. As of 4.06, this ability increases your crit chance, and you should put those critical strikes where they do extra damage. 
Valiona and Theralion

     These dragons are probably the only dragons I actually like fighting, for two very simple reasons: they don't have a tail swipe, and they don't cleave me. In this kind of fight, where you are running back and forth like a rubber band half the time, it's a relief not to have to worry about getting knocked down by an over-sized lizard feeling feisty.  This fight was also made for warlocks: two targets (one of whom is only in range of casters), mechanics that force you to group up and then spread out very quickly, and, well, shadow and fire damage galore. Need I say more? Oh right, that's why you're here.

  • Put your DoTs on both targets. 
  • Use your Teleporter to GTFO. In Phase 1, you will want to use Teleport to help you deal with Blackout. You have two choices: you can either put your portal on Valiona's tail, to jump in and share the damage and then immediately run back to your place, or you can put your portal away from the group, run in to share Blackout damage, and then portal to get out immediately afterwords and avoid Twilight Blast. While it is important to avoid hitting your raid with Twilight Blast, I personally prefer to keep my portal on the boss for this reason: you can use it to get close to and then run through the boss when Valiona casts Twilight Flames. Using your portal this way means that no matter which direction Valiona faces -- even directly towards you-- you can get out of the line of fire without breaking a sweat.
  • In Phase 2, when Theralion is on the ground, you won't be able to use your portal in the same way for the Twilight Meteor Valiona throws at you, because Theralion will be moving around to avoid Fabulous Flames. What you can do is use your portal to get out of Deep Breath. Deep Breath will be applied to one third of the room, and you have no way of predicting where it will fall, so the portal is not a guarantee of safety. If you place your portal in the middle of the room, you are most likely to be in range of it, and you have the shortest possible travel time to either side of the room should the fire be headed down the center. You are going to have to be aware of whether or not Theralion dropped Fabulous Flames on your portal when you weren't looking, and pay attention to whoever in your raid is watching Valiona. 
  • Use your cooldowns -- such as Demon Soul -- when Valiona is on the ground. You are much more likely to be stationary during Valiona's ground phases, so you will get more benefit out of the time they are available to you. You may choose to save them for extra damage in Phase 2, if you are lucky enough to be targeted with Engulfing Magic, however since this is not a guarantee you must use them as you think best.
     Playing Affliction on this fight can yield amazing results, but it is tricky to execute well. The potential for Affliction here comes from Glyph of Soul Swap, which will allow you to keep almost a full set of DoTs rolling on both dragons simultaneously. With everything else going on, however, it can be very difficult to keep track of what is going on and will take some practice to perfect the technique.
  • Set a focus target. If you are quick, you can change your focus target between the two dragons depending on which boss is in the air. Macros are your friend here. What you want to do is treat the dragon on the ground as your primary target, since that is where the rest of your raid will be using their complimentary debuffs. Use Haunt on this dragon, Soul Swap to copy those DoTs to the second dragon, and then cast Shadow Bolt to stack Shadow Embrace. The better you keep track of the DoTs on your secondary target, the easier it will be to keep Shadow Embrace at max stacks. I use shift-modifying macros-- holding down shift automatically casts my spell on my focus target instead of my current target. Mouseover macros can also work. It also helps to keep track of the cooldown on Soul Swap -- I use Power Auras to let me know when it is available. Executing this strategy well can take some practice, I recommend spending time on a couple target dummies if you are going to attempt it.
  • Be very, very aware of Engulfing Magic. You are rolling double DoTs, and if you get this debuff in the raid you are going to blow up like a shiny purple mud pie. Hopefully your raid will be using the strategy that positions casters and healers ten yards away from each other. The upside of Engulfing Magic in this situation is that your damage is going to go up exponentially. If you can, get your mage or shaman to lust at this point, and refresh both sets of DoTs just before the buff expires.
     There isn't much benefit to playing Demonology on this fight, truth be told. The 10% spell damage is always nice, but in most cases it's not worth the 4% over a mage or shaman, nevermind an elemental shaman.
  • Save Metamorphosis for when (if) you are targeted with Engulfing Magic. There is no guarantee you will get this buff, but if you do, you will be happy to have a cooldown up. Use Meta early in Phase 1 so that it will be up again in Phase 2.
     You get the easiest job here. Destruction has great damage and effortless "splash" damage.
  • Bane &CoE the dragon in the air. Don't neglect to throw your Immolate and Corruption up here too. 
  • Use your Soulburn: Soulfire during Theralion's ground phase, rather than on Valiona. There is a lot of movement in this phase, and this is a great time to save yourself from getting interrupted when hardcasting Soulfire to keep your buff up.
Twilight Ascendant Council

     This fight is going to be hit or miss for warlocks. Normally we make fights with two primary targets our bitch, but this particular council is made trickier due to the need to balance damage equally, and your raid may not appreciate you tipping the scales too far in either direction.
      What can be great about this fight for warlocks is the execute phase -- you will need to decide whether your raid needs your damage high throughout, or if you should re-spec to be burst-y when it counts.

  • Switch to Ignacious's a few seconds before his Aegis of Flame to give yourself time to build up your DoTs and break his shield as fast as possible. 
  • Keep your portal in the middle of the room in Phase 2. This will mean that you can quickly jump to whatever buff you need to pick up next. You can also use it to avoid fall damage in Phase 3, should you be picked up by the Elementium Monstrosity.
  • When you are marked as the Lightning Rod, don't chase your assigned target, but DoT up whatever is in range (assuming you aren't supposed to be holding back DPS on that target).
  • While this is not warlock specific, be aware that the Elementium Monstrosity comes out of phase very quickly, make sure you are quick on the trigger with Curse of Elements, and find yourself a good place to stand that will require minimal movement to stay in range of the boss.
         Affliction is fairly well suited for this fight. Your dual-target capability means that you can help balance damage between the two bosses if you need to, but you also have moderately strong single target damage, and excellent survivability in Phase 3. Execute abilities (like Drain Soul) are also quite valuable on this fight, especially as your group is still learning. Phase 3 can be brutal on your healers. 
    • You can continue to use Soul Swap on the two mini bosses on this fight, but this is really going to depend on your particular group. The goal is to balance DPS exactly between the two bosses, and you can upset that balance if your raid is not aware that you plan on doing this. Hell, even if they know ahead of time, there is enough flux from week to week based on who got more upgrades, and one group might end up outperforming the other unexpectedly. This is okay, to an extent -- you are expected to monitor the health percentage of both bosses and adjust accordingly, so just remember that you are carrying heavy bricks. 
    • Save your Soulburns for Phase 2, when you are running around and can better appreciate instant damage. You won't want to use even an instant cast Soul Fire in Phase 3, as you'll want to be using Drail Soul. 
    • If you are using the Succubus, use Demon Soul as early and often as possible for more Shadow Bolt damage. If you are using either the Succubus or the Imp, Soulburn and summon yourself a Fel Puppy in Phase 3, as the buff to your shadow DoTs will help you get through the burn phase.
         Demonology doesn't get to have a lot of playtime on this fight, but it nonetheless remains extremely viable. High DPS is not important in Phases 1 and 2, what matters is keeping the two bosses' health in line. Phase 3 however, is an all out burn phase. Not only does Demonology have an absurd execute ability, if your group doesn't already have a 10% spellpower buff, this is one place where it can make a big difference.
    • This should go without saying, but save a Metamorphosis for the burn phase. If you have enough ranged to avoid chain lightning in melee range, go ahead leap into melee for Shadowflame and Immolation Aura. 
         Destruction doesn't have the highest execute phase damage, so if your group is having difficulty killing the boss in Phase 3 before your healers hit a wall, you should offer to respec. In most cases though, Destruction is great to play on this fight because it is easy to control your DoTs when you need to hold back on a target, and you can maintain your rotation even when running around looking for tornados to bang into.
    • Bane of Havoc can be a perfect modifier for you to leave on your secondary target to balance out a group that is always just a bit behind. If it turns out to be too much, Bane of Havoc your primary target and then override it with Bane of Doom. There is also an uncofirmed bug that you can leave Bane on Feludius or Ignacious and they will continue to take damage in Phase 2, which will lower the health of the Elementium Monstrosity just a little bit more. 
    • Save at least one (probably two) of your Soulburns for Phase 3, so that you don't have to hardcast Soulfire when Bloodlust is up. 
    • Pop your Nether Ward to mitigate damage from Fire Seeds and Chain Lightning. 
         Oh man do I love this fight. What spec you choose to play will depend entirely on the needs of your group, as each and every one brings awesome utility.
         A note about Corrupted Blood: at 100% Corruption, all of your damaging spells will be instant casts. This can be enormously powerful for all damage dealers, particularly Destruction, where your fire mastery and access to instant nuke Soul Fire make for a lethal combination. The catch of course is that you are unable to be healed, and generally when that happens, you die. I have yet to come across many groups who would advocate gaining 100% Corruption, as it is much safer to simply carry on as normal. I'm sure going to have fun trying to convince my raid leader to let me give it a shot though!

    • Keep your Fear/Death Coil/Howl of Terror button handy. Casting Fear on a Conversion target will keep them from casting Twisted Devotion, but since they cast this very quickly, your longer cast time is less than ideal. You may still need to use it however if someone near you gets targeted say, while you are killing adds in a different area of the room than the boss.
    • Keep your Portal on Cho'Gall's butt. You can get away from Blood of the Old God more quickly. 
    • Unless you are lucky enough to have a Boomkin in the raid, you will probably need to CoE the Adherent. Other classes who provide the +8% spell damage (Rogues, DKs) likely won't be switching to the add.

         This is your all-around solid spec, but  it's not terrific. As of 4.06, you won't see as much damage coming from Affliction, but that can be okay depending on your group composition. Cho'Gall needs lots of AoE with very short intervals, and he needs big numbers in Phase 3. Affliction will be a little weak on the adds in Phase 3, so make sure your raid can handle them without much support from you.
    • Once again, you are going to want to make sure you pick up Jinx and Soulburn: Seed of Corruption. The blood that spawns throughout this fight is going to require frequent bursts of AoE, which Affliction can do very respectable damage with. It's not as great as Demonology, but Demonology's AoE is on a minute and a half cooldown, and you need to deal with the blood more frequently than that. If your raid has low AoE damage, and it is depending on you to kill the blood each and every time, you will need to have good AoE damage without Metamorphosis. What is great about this fight for Affliction is that you can Drain Soul an add to get your Soul Shards back, so you will always have a Soulburn: SoC available. 
    • In Phase 3, use Soul Swap on one of the Darkened Creations, and then put Corruption and UA on the other three before swapping back to the boss. You can help to DPS them down if your raid is really struggling, but in this case you will probably want to re-spec anyway. The adds need to die more quickly than the time it would take for you to have much effect on them.
         Any fight with adds is going to inflate the numbers for Demonology, and Cho'Gall is no exception.
    • Your Metamorphosis will be most effective on the last add phase before the transition. For most groups, this will be the fourth add phase, which will be about four minutes into the fight. This means that you can probably get two Meta's off before the one that really counts. You must be extremely careful -- if the adds hit you, you will gain stacks of Corrupted Blood, and you will die far too early Phase 3. Be extra aware of Corruption Crashes during add phases, so you at least have a little leeway with your corruption level. 
    • Use Hand of Gul'Dan on one of the bloods towards the front of the pack, for maximum effect on it's second stun.
    • And of course..don't forget about Decimation! Proc it off the Blood of the Old Gods and use early Soulfires on Cho'Gall. During Phase 3, keep the buff rolling by proccing it off the boss himself, and using the damage to burn the adds faster. 
    • Your Felguard's Axe Toss can interrupt a Converted target!
    • Shadowfury has multiple uses during this fight. Your AoE on the adds isn't great, but Shadowfury helps control them which leads to more effective damage from...other people. Shadowfury can also interrupt one of the Converted. Too bad the cooldown is so long, you'll likely only get one Shadowfury per add phase, so spend it wisely. 
    • Keep your Bane of Havoc on a convenient keybind, as you'll use it frequently. Pop it on Cho'Gall when the Corrupted Adherent Spawns, and switch back after the blood is dead. You'll also put it on Cho'Gall to help DPS the Darkened Creations in Phase 3, which you should be extra aware of since your damage will be crucial. 
    • Use Soulburn: Soulfire on Corrupted Adherents for maximum efficiency when killing them, and Shadowburn to get shards back.
         As I was finishing this post, I casually linked my raid leader a parse of a Destruction warlock who picked up Corruption: Absolute halfway through the fight with Cho'Gall.
         "Don't get any ideas."
         I am limited in my attempts to be awesome.

        Friday, February 4, 2011

        Guild of Your Dreams

             Just before the launch of Cataclysm, I was honored to become a founder of Shenanigans Inc. Like most of us, over the years I have played in several different types of guilds, all of them special to me. I have played with social guilds, with raiding guilds, with brand new guilds looking to make a name for themselves, and with guilds with a great deal of history. In each one, I have learned something new about what a "guild" means.
             Shenanigans Inc is different. It is different for me because I was one of the founders, yes, but it is a good deal more than that. Shenanigans Inc represents what I believe a guild should be, and all too often isn't. It is more than a group of friends, more than a raid team, more than a shared bank full of stuff. We share the same approach to gaming, a philosophy that guides our behavior and makes us capable of doing what we want to do. The guild is a resource, and a tool, and a mechanism for growth.

        How Shenanigans Came to Be

             The end of Wrath was bittersweet for me. I was member of a floundering guild that didn't believe in me, but at the same time, I was working to become a better player than ever before, and I had met with some truly extraordinary people. I spent months in an otherwise poisonous environment. Raiding had stagnated -- the idea of progression was laughable, but what was worse was the shift in attitude. Long time guild members peeled off one by one, and the replacements -- when we could find them -- never quite fit right. Either they did not have the skill, or they did not mesh with the rest of the team. Cliques arose. Older members resented that the new recruits weren't up to scratch. New officers never found the gravitas they needed to command respect. It was a bitter atmosphere, and more and more people became angry with the situation.
             But no one ever addressed that anger. We were silent raiders. The turmoil was always there, boiling just under the surface. The tension was palpable, laughter was foreign, and there was hardly any effort at communication for fear of unintentionally piercing the bubble. It made playing well difficult, but it made improvement impossible. How could we change what we were doing if we couldn't talk about it? How could we talk about it if we feared it would make it worse?
             It was a relief to be free of it. For too long, the idea of leaving the guild was out of the question, because it meant abandoning the friends we had made there, but it also meant agreeing to quit. I do not like admitting defeat. I have always believed that good intentions can overcome the worst of situations. I still believe that. But now I know that in order to do overcome these trials, everyone has to be willing to work on the problem.

        Starting Fresh

              I was lucky to find four other people who shared my beliefs. Cataclysm was an opportunity for us -- to start fresh, to ride a narrative of success.

             But creating a guild was not enough. A guild tag is not enough to create a community. I knew -- we all knew -- that to stay together we had to stand for something. We wanted to make sure that all of the past drama never affected our success. We wanted to be able to react when something did go wrong, and make sure that we never made any new guildies as unhappy as we had been.
             It started with an e-mail. A note between the five of us, and idea of the kind of guild we wanted to be a part of. Everyone had ideas. We created a shared document that we could all edit, and the idea took on a life of its own. We spent a month writing what would become our guild charter.
             We started by talking about the kind of community we wanted. We debated how we would ensure that our members adhered to our vision, how we could institutionalize community. We decided that too many problems traced back to a lack of understanding, of communication. We didn't want to wait for things to fix themselves, we wanted actively seek out answers. For us, participation would be mandatory.
             We had stars in our eyes, but we were not naive. We know that people are imperfect, and that they mess up. No guild is without its drama. But we believe that a heartfelt apology can bridge that gap, that we can choose to work together, and not allow pettiness to rule us.

             It was a remarkable document. It grew from abstract ramblings to a binding code. We worked on it in spurts, both alone and together. We made notes in the margins, and talked about why we wanted something to be the way it was. We learned how to argue with civility, how to disagree with an idea and not a person, how to demonstrate our logic and concede to a better argument. In writing our charter, we proved that the kind of guild we wanted to be a part of was possible.
               I was very proud of the final draft, which I really should call the "current" draft, as I know we could easily amend and add to it as our guild matures. You can read it here, on our website. We want our guild to be the best that it can be, and we won't allow pride to stand in the way of a better idea. 

        Living the Dream

             Idealism is too exhausting to maintain every day. Nothing is ever perfect and shiny forever. But as I reflect on the past two months, I am incredibly proud to report that the system works.

             We raid three nights a week, and I am always excited to sign on and raid. We write strategies on our forums before we tackle a boss, and the next day we debate how we should change the strategy that didn't work. I write about how terrible I am at keeping up Improved Soul Fire, and coordinate when I need to change specs to cover different raid buffs. I read funny comics and beg people to help me with fishing achievements.
             Best of all, our evaluations were not a pipe dream. All ten raiders have their own threads, and there is not a single person who has failed to be honest about their own shortcomings. I have seen support and improvement come from these threads. I have been criticized and praised, and I have tried to do the same for other raiders, trying to make sure people know they are appreciated, and figure out what I can do to help someone become a better player, just like I am trying to be.
             Every morning, one of our raiders posts the logs from the previous night. It is a jumping off point for the discussion. It is exhilarating to see when our members rank top paress on World of Logs, and puts a microscope over every mistake and gap. We talk about our ideas while they are still fresh in our mind, and research what else we can do. It saves time when we next show up to raid. We never fail to discuss something we did wrong. We always do it better the next time.
             There are many days when I am unhappy with my raid or with parts of my guild. I spend hours thinking about what things make me mad, that I would change if I could -- with our raid strategy, with the way I interact with another person. But what makes this situation different is that this reflection is never self serving. I am expected to talk about my concerns -- not for some arbitrary purpose of the naive, but so that we can fix the problem. 

        Why It Works

             A few days ago, I had a bad raid night. Someone said something that I thought was offensive, and I got so angry that I signed off. My raid team was incredibly upset with me, and I was upset with them. It was a bad night for everyone involved.
             It made me re-examine why I wanted to be a member of Shenanigans Inc. I want to be a member of a guild where I am happy. Where I have fun. Where we kill bosses. It sounds so easy, but we all know that it absolutely is not. The perfect guild does not exist. If I joined another guild, sooner or later they would disappoint me too.
             But if I stayed with Shenanigans, I could talk about what made me unhappy. My guildmates could try to make me feel better. We could change....together. I got angry because I thought they weren't practicing the kind of atmosphere we wanted to play in. But by signing off, I had violated the far more serious tenet that the only way to make a situation better was to talk about the solution.
             I was overcome with shame at the way I had behaved, and later with guilt for ruining an opportunity for progression. I took the time and apologized to each member of the team individually. My friends accepted me back with open arms. It was much, much more than I deserved for behaving so badly, and I commend their compassion. In doing so, they proved that they were more committed to the ideals of our guild than I had been. I am humbled that this episode has not shaken their faith in our capacity to stay true.
             Our next raid night, we killed Nefarian for the first time. It was incredibly satisfying to reap the reward after all of the work that went into it. All twelve kills were accomplished with the same ten people. No one person had given less than any other. Everyone had contributed something. It was a victory that was shared in a very profound way -- personal, and poignant.

             I don't think that this will be the end of all guild drama. I don't think that the ten of us will raid together forever, or that we will be empowered by this to blaze through heroic modes, or even that this next raid week will be very different. I am going to have to work hard to regain that lost trust. But I believe more strongly than ever that everyone is capable of working together. That you can choose to make it right, to have fun.
             There are a lot of reasons you love your guild. You love it for those indescribable moments of joy when someone makes a really great joke in vent. You love it for the pride you have when you kill a dragon. Invisible links binding you to people you haven't really met, but nonetheless have your back. I think that everyone secretly believes that their guild is the best, and they want everyone to know how special they are. They just can't find the words.
             I don't have the words either, but this much I know is true: Shenanigans Inc is the best guild for me.