- Author: Zephan
- Date: June 28, 2022
- Updated: November 18, 2022
- Expansion: WotLK Classic
Affliction has a complex rotation centered around keeping up your DoTs (Corruption, Unstable Affliction, Curse of Agony) and Haunt on your target, while trying to use Drain Soul as much as possible during the execute (25% and below) phase.
This guide will help you become a master of damage-over-time, and unlock your true potential as an Affliction Warlock, rightfully claiming your spot at the top of the damage meters!
Spells, Cooldowns and Procs
Affliction Warlocks specialize in withering down their enemies with powerful curses and “damage-over-time” abilities, wreaking havoc upon their targets while steadily ramping up their damage.
Affliction Warlock is top of its class (and other classes) when it comes to single target DPS and cleave DPS (thanks to multi-dotting). In order to perform at the highest rate there possible, there are a lot of things to keep track of and anticipate on.
The specialization revolves around Corruption and its interaction with Everlasting Affliction. Certain stats, buffs, and debuffs roll over with refreshes and keep affecting your Corruption damage from the moment that it is placed upon the target. Knowing what keeps rolling and what doesn’t is essential to figuring out how you can get the most out of the spell, more on this in a short bit.
It is incredibly noticeable that once the enemies’ health starts dropping that the Affliction Warlocks tend to get an even greater lead on the DPS meters. In big part, this is due to Drain Soul which gains 4 times the damage when the target reaches 25% health. The fact that Drain Soul is a channeled spell also means it has some unique mechanics that Shadow Priests aren’t unfamiliar with but might be new to some of us Warlocks. More about this in a short bit.
Our rotation is mostly a priority system rather than a strict combination order of spells. But the good news is that we will be doing more overall than during previous iterations of the game and there is a bunch of things to keep track of that will influence our performance. Making for more engaging and rewarding gameplay. Especially if you can pull it off masterfully and get rewarded with a high nicely colored parse.
To prevent confusion in the following section I would like to clear up a couple of used terms:
Rollover refers to damage modifiers (% damage buffs, crit chance) that snapshot on application and stays after refreshes from Everlasting Affliction.
Back in The Burning Crusade Warlocks couldn’t reliably use their pet to shed out damage except for Demonology Warlocks. This time around it is different. Avoidance reduces the AOE damage received from our pets is reduced by 90% making them much more likely to survive boss fights. The pet of choice for Affliction Warlocks is the Felhunter, the combination of Shadow Bite (gains 15% damage per dot) and the plethora of Damage over Time abilities we pump out make them the best source for pet DPS. On top of that, they have the additional benefit of gaining from Ruin, Shadow MAstery, and Improved Felhunter. The Felhunter also provides the Affliction Warlock with slightly weaker versions of Spirit and Intellect buffs through Fel Intellect, this is mainly beneficial in dungeon content. Another benefit is additional spell interrupt through Spell Lock and cleansing / purging through Devour Magic.
Using potions in combat applies Potion Sickness in WotLK, which prevents using another potion as long as you are in combat. You can technically use two potions by consuming your first right before entering combat, this still puts your potions on a normal 1-minute cooldown but allows for the use of a second once it wears off. There are two potions of interest to us:
- Potion of Speed +500 Haste, best in combat DPS
- Potion of Wild Magic +200 Crit +200 Spell power, best for Corruption (~4% crit)
Another thing in the same vein we can do to increase the crit chance of our initial Corruption is something called weapon swapping, which is exactly like what it sounds like. The idea behind this is to have as high as possible crit chance for your first Corruption. Whilst we can not swap our gear in combat we can swap our weapons slots (which includes your wand). You might think you want to use Grand Firestone on this weapon for that extra free +49 crit rating however, Grand Spellstone rolls. This means that if you did not have it on the weapon of your initial application you won’t benefit from it either, it is recommended atm to use Grand Spellstone on both weapons. See the BIS guide for a selection of items worth considering for swapping.
- Corruption should be applied as soon as possible once a crit debuff is up!
Most often this is Shadow Mastery from our precast Shadow Bolt, if cast at max range we can expect the situation to line up as such that Shadow Mastery will be up after our Unstable Affliction cast. However a crit debuff can be up more quickly for example when we stand closer before combat, others precasting or a mage providing scorch, etc… in which case we want to already apply it before our other damage over time abilities in the rotation.
- Shadow Bolt – Cast before combat for Shadow Mastery
- Unstable Affliction
- Curse of Agony
- 4x Shadow Bolt combined with Hyperspeed
There are a couple of benefits to this opener, the biggest one being consistency. It gives the Shadow Bolt time to travel and apply Shadow Mastery. Another is that our first two casts increase the odds of proccing a buff which can be beneficial for our Unstable Affliction and Curse of Agony.
Tier 10 four-piece bonus opener
The reason you use Unstable Affliction first after your Shadow Bolt is that we hope to proc Devious Minds before our Corruption application, in order to maximize our odds we want to have Unstable Affliction rolling for as long as possible.
Unstable Affliction has a 47.8% (15% per tick for 4 ticks = 1 – (0.85^4)) chance to proc Devious Minds in other words, this means we have an almost fifty-fifty (like the lottery) chance we will get our strongest Corruption during our pre-pot Potion of Wild Magic.
Corruption takes on a life of its own due to Everlasting Affliction. Certain modifiers, buffs, debuffs, or stats “roll over” with the new refresh and keep acting as when the DoT was initially applied. Others update dynamically based on what is currently the case at the time of the refresh. This makes it possible to have a really strong Corruption, and ultimately our aim is to do so for as long as possible.
Dynamic (Doesn’t Roll)
When to Manually Reapply Corruption
In ideal circumstances we want to manually reapply Corruption as minimal as possible. The only times this is a great idea and a must is when it would result in a stronger version of Corruption with a “rolling” component that will carry over.
There are three main situations when this happens. The first of which is when the target reaches 35 % health. This will trigger Death’s Embrace which gains you +12 % damage. However, there is an exception to this.
The second situation (and exception Death’s Embrace) occurs once we get four-piece Tier 10, this namely procs Devious Minds which gains you +10 % damage. This is procced by the tick from Unstable Affliction, we chance our opener rotation slightly to increase our odds of getting the buff sooner. It should be noted that going from Devious Minds to Death’s Embrace (+2 % damage) for the remainder of the fight most likely is not worth reapplying your corruption unless, of course, both are active seeing as they stack.
Third but definitely not least is the occurrence of encounter-specific buffs. Certain ones of these role over as well and most often these are incredibly strong making it always worthwhile to reapply.
Whilst Corruption is our biggest play mechanic for optimization, Drain soul is a close second that comes into play at 25% health. Former Shadow Priests will recognize a lot of the following, due to the similar nature of Drain Soul and Mind Flay. Both are channeled spells and both need to be clipped for optimal play.
Clipping of Drain Soul is the following, Drain Soul does a tick of damage every 3 seconds with a full cast length of 15 seconds. Clipping means you want to break your channel before it finishes the full 15-second duration, and the optimal moment to do is right after a tick has happened (minimize time not dealing damage between ticks). There are addons that indicate when channeled spells tick on the cast bar, these are highly recommended, see the addons section for recommendations.
Now you might wonder why and when you got to clip your drain soul? There are two big reasons for this.
Firstly due to the nature of Drain soul being a channeled spell the calculations for spell power and cast speed happen at application and do not get updated during the channel. Meaning if you get a new proc or buff you will want to clip to get a stronger drain soul up. This also means if strong buffs are about to run out you can refresh at the last second and get the benefit for the full duration of your new channel.
Whilst Life Tap does give us a gateway to infinite mana (as long as the healers’ mana pool lasts), it does come at a cost. It costs health obviously which can be risky sometimes but often isn’t an issue. However, Life Tap also triggers the Global Cooldown. This downtime reduces your damage throughput.
To reduce the amount that Life Tap affects our performance there are a couple of things that we can do. We can use Runes that do not incur a Global Cooldown? However, that is a relatively small gain in WotLK compared to previous expansions. The biggest and best thing we can do is not Life Tap when it isn’t needed. In an ideal world we end a fight with as little mana left as possible, yet being able to always cast what we have to. Another thing we can do is use Life Tap when we got to move, as this will be less impactful to our DPS as the Global Cooldown is less likely to be wasted. It’s really important to plan your mana accordingly and prevent having to Life Tap during cooldowns or buffs.
When to Life Tap
- Before combat apply your initial spell power buff (Glyph of Life Tap)
- During forced movement
- If buff ever runs out (can use rank 1 if the mana isn’t required)
- Before cooldown/mana intense sections (Multi-dotting and SoC)
When to Prevent or Life Tap as Least as Possible
- Deaths Embrace (35 % health) and Drain Soul phase (25% health)
- Trinket Procs
- Right before you got to move
- When the fight is about to end and you won’t be able to make use of the additional mana
Area of Effect and Multi-Dotting
There are certain situations where you would rather deal DPS to multiple targets but there either aren’t enough targets or they are spread too far to warrant using Seed of Corruption. Fights like Jormungars of Northered Beasts in ToC and Mimiron phase 4.
You want to use your highest Damage per Cast Time (DPCT) spells first on all potential cleave targets, this comes to no surprise but in our case that is Corruption. If these targets are a tanky bunch that lives long enough (and already has Corruption!) you should apply Unstable Affliction as well but only if it can endure full duration. Curse of Agony could be another option, but again only if it will last for its full duration and previous DoTs are up. Next up if all targets are fully Dotted up and you got spare time before needing to refresh things you can start casting your normal rotation on any focus target there might be.
Keeping track of all your different DoTs and Targets can be quite a challenge. You can find Macros and Addons in this section to help with this.
Plenty of Targets closely stacked together? Seed of Corruption does the trick! Roughly around 4 to 5 targets is the tipping point where you want to use Seed of Corruption instead of dotting everything up. Something you could do on targets that live long enough is cast a couple of regular corruptions on them in hopes of getting an Eradication proc, this would boost the amount of SoC applications you can get off . Haunt should be considered in that case to refresh some of those corruptions as it will refresh plus increase the damage of the corruption itself. Additionally, consider using Inferno on stacked packs for the extra AOE damage.
What to do During Forced Movement?
Sometimes we just got to get out of the way, and of course we can’t cast a precious Shadow Bolt whilst moving, but we still want to maximize our DPS. We already talked about casting Life Tap during movement, but there is more available in our toolbelt. The first obvious things would be our instant casts DoTs; Curse of Doom/Curse of Agony and Corruption. Death Coil can be used instead of Life Tap in case we are already high on mana. Demonic Circle often also can be used to minimize the amount of downtime we have if we know about the mechanic in advance. A case can be made for taking up Shadowburn specifically for these situations. The same goes for Rocketboots to get us going. Another engineering item that should be considered is grenades and sappers. These can be used during movement or even during GCD (trigger for example by a Life Tap).