I’ve had a post in my head for about half a month now.
It started as a PvP post against another Blood Pact. Then it was a post about Blood Fear. Then it was a post about how Blood Fear fits in with the flavor of affliction. Then it was about how Blood Fear fits in with the fluidity of the health bar of an affliction warlock. Then it was about how Soul Leech maybe won’t be as bad as people are saying. Then it was how and why the passive healing of an affliction warlock switched from the Corruption spread to the Malefic Grasp focus and how that was all related to multidotting.
I came back again and again, trying to beat some logic into this tangled mess of “OH MY GAWD” thoughts, and kept, I think failing.
I paused before I wrote this draft, just staring at my closest attempt at logic, which was an outline covering Soul Leech, Blood Fear, and Malefic Grasp and how they’re all related.
And then I just wrote. And later I added some screenshots that should have no connection to this post, but I fudged it through metaphor anyway.
It turns out that all along, I just wanted to talk about the impact of multidotting.
The Glory and Problem of Multidotting
There’s a glory to being a DoT damage spec, and it’s called multidotting. It’s glorious because when done correctly, multidotting results in an AoE application of high single-target damage, which ends up dominating the meters.
One problem with multidotting is that it’s hard to balance damage specs and multiple target encounters around it. Plus, PvP is a multitarget festival. Too strong multidotting results in an overpowered PvP spec; too little multidotting results in a boring and less effective PvE spec than others.
Another problem with multidotting in a raiding situation is it’s still possible, even expected, to have two targets running with single-target strength of damage dealing. Affliction warlocks (& moonkin & shadow priests) dominate DPS meters in dual-target encounters like Valiona & Theralion or Nefarion & Onyxia.
There are two viable ways to control multidotting. Nerfing the spells’ damage isn’t a viable choice, because then those specs become inferior on normal single-target encounters. There have to be factors outside the actual damage spells to control multidotting’s reach on the meters.
One is through how strong the DoTs on each target are. This can done through a debuff applied to the target by the warlock (usually through the nuke or filler) that increases the effectiveness of the DoTs. This control method is dependent on how the filler spell is cast and how its cast works with the debuff’s duration. That is, can you stack it quickly?, do you have to stay focused on one?, can you switch targets quickly with continued strong pressure?, etc.
Another control is through movement. This depends on frequency of movement and range. Close dual-target encounters are possible for the raiding warlock because she is practically unimpeded in her casting and can therefore optimize her target debuffing. High frequency of movement will certainly decrease the effectiveness of her multidotting, but not being able to be in range of both targets simultaneously has a higher drop off in overall damage than having to stagger-cast.
“Nuke & Buff” Filler
In Cataclysm warlockery, the balancing problem of multidotting is because there are actually two debuffs at work. There’s Shadow Embrace and there’s Haunt.
The pros for Haunt are it’s greater than a 3-stack of SE and it’s applied in one cast. The con is it has a cooldown with a comparable duration that prevents it from being reliably spread across more than one target simulatenously.
The pro for Shadow Embrace is that you can spread it across any targets you want since you can apply it with your filler Shadow Bolt and also your Haunt spell. The cons for Shadow’s Embrace are that it stacks slowly and it’s dependent on how fast & well you can keep up with casting all your DoTs and multiple Shadow Bolts for every target.
The thing with Cataclysm debuffs to control multidotting means that it’s hard for an affliction warlock to switch quickly with hard pressure. Our debuffs are meant keep us busy in building up the strength of a pre-application of DoTs while those who are just getting to the other target are moving to the target and starting up their own damage patterns.
As affliction, I can crest the meters on Ultraxion or hit every mob on Blackhorn’s boat, but I still struggle on bringing a significant portion of DPS to the Tendon on Spine. I have to prepare and pop my cooldowns just before the Tendon appears to even feel like I’m being adequate on damage.
So this control on multidotting results in my affliction warlockery being generally awesome or pretty good on most single-target encounters, still pretty cool on multi-target encounters, but pretty crappy on quick-switch burst target encounters.
It also makes it hard in PvP to switch pressures abruptly. I almost have to blanket my DoTs everywhere (i.e., not actually focusing on a needed focus target) or telegraph my moves with preparatory cooldown usage in order to burst something on someone.
“Nuke is the Buff” Filler
In Mists warlockery, Haunt doesn’t exist and neither does Shadow Embrace. We will have one debuff application in Malefic Grasp (MG). Malefic Grasp is a channeled single-target spell and so long as we channel it, our DoTs on that target will tick 100% faster.
Our nuke is the buff, in Mists. This changes a lot. It changes our focus from everywhere to a particular target. As MG isn’t an AoE spell and the debuff disappears as soon as we stop channeling, you can’t multidot the debuff. We can still multidot our two main DoTs, UA & Corr (Bane of Agony is becoming limited to 1 target), but now our heavy pressure is focused to one target and one target alone.
On the flip side, switching targets with heavy pressure now becomes as simple as choosing the other target and pressing a button. Our initial spread of DoTs isn’t as strong as a Cataclysm spread could be, but we can switch up the pressure more easily, becoming a deadlier threat as a damage dealer. A blanket of DoTs won’t mean that you specifically are about to be focused, it just means you could be focused at any time.
But multidotting isn’t totally dead in Mists. It’s still an important strength for the affliction warlock: it just provides a different strength. In Cataclysm, multidotting serves to effectively pad the meters for us. It’s not that you’re doing extra damage on Theralion, it’s that you’re doing the damage you’d eventually do now instead of later, making the fight last shorter. In Mists, multidotting will serve to make our purposes — damage dealing and self-healing — stronger.
In Mists, Nightfall (aka the Shadow Trance proc) becomes a passive for affliction. I originally passed over Nightfall in my initial squeeing over what’s new in Mists warlock spells and talents, because it reads the same as the talent does now, just add Malefic Grasp. Yeah, yeah, yeah, chance of free filler damage every time Corruption ticks, woohoo.
It wasn’t until I realized that Malefic Grasp has our powerful debuff in its application that I had that oh-shit epiphany. I had to read it again, that second part about how it applies MG’s effect for 9 sec.
So wait, every time Corruption ticks, I have a change to apply MG’s effect without having to spend time channeling MG? So, let’s say I multidot UA & Corr around, and I get a Nightfall proc, I can apply MG to a secondary target? I can switch targets on the fly briefly without feeling like I’m wasting half a DoT?
*mild squee* & 😀 face.
So for a precious 9 seconds, you can have old-school Shadow Embrace powerful multidotting. If you have Corruption everywhere — through Seed maybe — and you get Nightfall rains? Delicious.
Or you can choose to smack your Nightfall proc on your primary target to keep the MG love going so you can set up something else. Fearing, maybe, or setting your DoTs up elsewhere. Fantastic.
It’s transforming multidotting from just “more damage elsewhere” to power in my hands to do other things, and that makes me so excited. It changes the game from being skilled at being at the best DoTimer addon you can mentally be to knowing how to manipulate a fight to your advantage. It takes the skill of being an affliction warlock out of the pure spread of skills and more into the hands of the person on the keys.
It’s less how many targets can I do damage on and more how I can use these adds to do more damage on the boss. It’s less I need to give the opposing team a choice between their flag carrier and their healer. It’s more, oh screw the choice of who to heal, I will just use the healers to damage the flag carrier harder or to put instant pressure on a target for diverting attention.
Multidotting isn’t just an end in Mists like it is in Cataclysm and has been. Multidotting becomes a means to a focused end.
That Old Affliction Flavor
That’s just so warlocky, that means to an end way of thinking.
Kil’jaeden didn’t introduce shadow magics to the orc shaman so that maybe he could be Best Friends Forever with the orcs. Kil’jaeden introduced the orcs to warlockery so he could use them as a weapon of the Burning Legion.
Sure, the demonology warlock is an Effing Demon For Fel’s Sake, and the destruction warlock is just drunk with the power of fel fire, but the affliction warlock works with the twisted corruption of her foes into actually helping her. Multidotting is a delicious, game-mechanical part of that warlock flavor, and it makes me cackle with glee.