I started out as “Problems with Warlock Tier 13” and as I wrote it soon became “Ohhhhh, I see what they did there now.” So I suppose this is just one giant discussion of the 4pc bonus. So, um, what started out as something structured and feeling like awesome writing, ended up pooting out and…well, just have some rambling.
It feels a bit unpolished to me, but it will also sit in my Drafts folder for ages if I don’t get it out now.
A Burning Hatred of Soul Fire
Among the mandatory talents you take as destro, there’s one called Improved Soul Fire. Every time you hit a target with Soul Fire, you get an 8% buff to your spell damage for 15 seconds. So you cast Soul Fire every 10-12 seconds or so.
Why not every 15 or even 14 seconds? Soul Fire (SF) is a travel-time spell — that is, the damage effect is not instant (such as Immolate), but is a missile-like effect that shoots from your character to the mob. It also has a ginormous cast time.
You can instant-cast it — by using a soul shard — but you only have 3 shards to play with, so this tends to be left to oh-shit moments when you need to both move and start casting SF.
The base cast time of SF is 4 seconds. As Destro, you already get 1 second off due to Emberstorm. So, unhasted, it’s 3 seconds. I do destro on Ragnaros (for the add phase) in my haste-heavy affliction gear. I have 2306 haste rating. My SF cast time is 2.17 seconds. For a visual comparison, I hardcast SF as the tank starts to pull Ragnaros. Our bear tank starts to run from mid-platform, and I start casting before she starts the countdown.
She’s already pulled and hit Ragnaros before my cast time finishes. Meanwhile other DPS have spent a few GCDs already. My spell’s still in the air, even.
It’s a stupid long-cast, and combined with the travel time of the spell, I have to start casting SF again at about 5 seconds to go (of my 15s buff) just to get it to hit almost on time. Of course, destro gets a tiny bit of a reprieve through Empowered Imp which allows your imp’s firebolt hits to proc an instant SF for you. Unfortunately, I think my imp hates me because he procs it at times when I’ve either just refreshed the buff or there’s time for hardcasting, but almost never when I actually need to move.
But in order to keep that buff, and because you have a limited number of shards, Blizzard wants and forces the warlock to hardcast it.
The Soul Shard Mechanic
In ages of yore, warlocks used to carry around Soul Shards that were actual bag items that took up actual bag slots, and we required these for some of our spells. Pet summoning, cookie summoning, people summoning, etc. We could get more shards by draining the soul out of something that gave us experience or honor (-8 levels is the lowest you can go). I remember asking for a break in Naxx 2.0 to go down below to drain some level 72 mobs because I was out of Soul Shards.
I even had a special bag for them; WTB 10 slots back.
Late in Wrath, they had a change about how you could get shards off draining a training dummy, and, oh boy, you don’t know how cool that was unless you played a warlock.
Come Cataclysm, they scrapped the bag-item soul shard system (Operation Bag Space Freedom), and gave us a resource system of 3 soul shards.
It’s not quite a combo point system; combo points imply that the more you have, the bigger and better your next spell’s effect is, and that isn’t the case here. It is a resource system that never grows with gear, starts at full, and empties, like energy.
Now, you spend them by using the Soulburn ability, which gives you a 15s buff, that makes your next spell do something cooler than normal if you cast it while you still have the buff. You can get them back with Drain Soul, Shadowburn if you’re Destro, or Soul Harvest out of combat. Both Drain Soul and Shadowburn require the target to die in order to regain all three shards, and Soul Harvest requires you to be out of combat.
So on any given fight, you have exactly three chances to do something cool. (More, if you can fudge it with an add’s death.)
- Summon Demon = Instant pet summon.
- Drain Life = Faster Drain Life.
- Demonic Circle = Movement speed boost after port.
- Soul Fire = Instant cast.
- Healthstone = Personal 1/2 Frenzied Regen
- Searing Pain = InstaCrit + MostLikelyCrit for next 6s.
- Seed of Corruption = Corruption everywhere. (Esp. delicious with Demon Soul: Felhunter)
The Problem of Soulburn as a DPS Cooldown
Old 4P — Soulburn grants a 10% increase to your spell power for 10 sec.
Blizzard has said that they don’t want to make the Soulburn a mandatory DPS cooldown, but just something cool to use. Soulburn already has a cooldown (45s) so you can’t spam it, and it has a limited number of uses (normally 3).
It makes sense for PvP, actually. (Guess how often people die in PvP? Despite a Drain Soul channel being a large “Spell Lock Me” sign.) Creating a large nuke or powerful DPS buff using Soulburn would most probably unbalance PvP in favor of warlocks.
So, for the most part, only Demo really uses Soulburn regularly in raid boss fights. Demo uses it because the 45s cooldown lines up perfectly with Felstorm’s CD (thanks, Naarind, for schooling me). Destro uses it for instant Soul Fires when movement demands it. Affliction* will use it for Seed of Corruption if there’s a chance for it (Rhyolith’s Fragment adds), but often we don’t actually use it. (I use it for Healthstone half the time.)
* Yes, technically I should use it for Soul Fire for just a tad more deeps, but Soul Fire hits like a wet noodle even when you’re destro.
Perhaps a clever someone could use it with a teleport, but I tend to find that my teleport gets covered up by random floor fire half the time I want to use it.
Since raid fights (exception: adds) limit raiding warlocks to 3 shards, raiding warlocks won’t use Soulburn unless one of two things are happening: it’s life-saving (Healthstone or Teleport — and sometimes not even then) or it’s a considerable DPS advantage to do so (Demo’s summons, Destro’s SF, Aff’s Seed). If it’s not worth it to spend a couple GCDs to waste a resource, then it’s not worth it to use Soulburn often.
If Soulburn provides a considerable DPS increase (but balls-amazing, like Demon Soul), but not the ability we are using for Soulburn, then warlocks feel cheated out of a potentially cool use of Soulburn, and we feel like we’re being force-fed Soulburn, because Blizzard was too lazy to make anything exciting for us to use.
Surprisingly, Blizzard fixed it. (For tier 13, at least.)
Soulburn: Free as in Beer
4P — Soulburn grants a 10% increase to your spell power for 10 sec, and Soul Fire cast with Soulburn active now grants a Soul Shard.
There’s an Affliction talent that’s pretty cool. We cast Soulburn which spends a shard, cast Seed of Corruption, and then as the Seed detonates, it applies Corruption to every enemy target within 15yds of the Seeded target. (I’m not going to mention proccing Eradicat–shit.)
I often use it on large parties of mobs, that aren’t quite large enough to spam Seed on efficiently, to spread Corruption as a precursor to multi-dotting. Or, I’ll pop it at the top of Rhyolith’s ramp with the fifty-six-bazillion elementals and Demon Soul: Felhunter up, just to have some numbers fun.
Oh, and we get the shard back if that Soulburned Seed successfully detonates.
So, given a target to explode a Seed on — either it dies with Seed on it or it takes enough damage to detonate the Seed — I can grow a garden of Corruption every 45s if I so wished. Unfortunately, in raid boss fights, typically the adds that are numerous enough to warrant a Seed (versus multidoting) do not live long enough under raid DPS for my DoTs to really make the extra GCD useful.
But what if…I got a buff to my damage, instead? For a free soul shard?
That might be intriguing enough to use.
t12 4pc = Casting your Shadow Bolt, Incinerate, Soul Fire, and Drain Soul spells has a 5% chance to increase all Shadow and Fire damage you deal by 20% for 8 sec.
t13 4pc = Soulburn grants a 10% increase to your spell power for 10 sec, and Soul Fire cast with Soulburn active now grants a Soul Shard.
Emphasis is mine.
While I might be more willing to use Soulburn now, I’m still not happy as an Affliction warlock with this tier 13 set bonus. I wield the forces of shadow, not fire. The closest I get to fire is either Fel Flame or Shadowflame, both of which are at least half shadow damage anyway.
Yet, with t13 4pc, I’m going to be forced into using a pure fire spell. Just for a buff. It barely hits harder than my nuke as well.
The cool thing about t12 4pc is that whichever spec you are, whenever in the fight you are, you can get the proc with your normal DPS rotation.
Unfortunately, I see why it is the way it is. You cannot currently Soulburn Shadow Bolt or Drain Soul (my two fillers) for any special effect. Casting either after a Soulburn does nothing; you just lose time on your Soulburn buff is all.
Then again, it’ll give me something extra to do during Drain Soul’s exec-snooze phase. I’d still rather see it in shadow than in fire.