Warlock Complexity and the Magic Number

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Cynwise continues his thoughtful series on Warlocks with an objective look at complexity:


Previous posts:

Battle.net comment threads for previous posts: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4253897941

Please comment! The only way this is going to get to Blizz is if it and it's concepts are shared and discussed widely and rationally. Be Polite. Be Professional and have a plan to ki….no, no, no…wrong game.
Still, be polite and professional.
Excellent read first of all. You're a very gifted writer.
Obviously, as you outlined, our rotations and priority systems became much more complex this expansion. The only time raiding on a warlock in Wrath was somewhat challenging was Tier 7 Affliction, juggling Siphon Life, Corr, BoA, Immolate and UA, along with nukes and debuffs to manage.

You do take it a little far though to further try to prove your point.
First, you can't count Curse of Elements in your rotation for Cataclysm and then omit it for Wrath (see Demo/Aff Wrath lists).

Second, there are things that you simply don't manage more than once a fight - I'll call them "fire-and-forget" abilities. Dark Intent isn't managed. It's put on someone out of combat and you have no control of it whatsoever. You don't manage your pet's attacks. You keybind or macro them in. Lash of Pain, Firebolt, Shadow Bite, etc. all have auto-cast options. The only exception I believe is Felstorm. These things don't affect your normal rotation. Casting Curse of Elements in the beginning of a fight doesn't limit your capacity for performing your normal rotation. You can even go as far as saying you don't even manage things like keeping up Immolate on a boss because Hand of Gul'dan accomplishes refreshing Immolate AND using HoG, but I do understand there are target switches and things like that. Also, there's no way using Doomguard or Infernal on CD changes your rotation (I guess you could argue this with 2pc T13), but I'll let that slide. Final little thing but still related to this topic - counting Burning Embers as something to manage as Destruction? It's an auto-applied DoT. If your pet is attacking something, it's going to be applied. Never has anyone ever thought, "Damn, gotta improve my Burning Embers uptime."

My final little qualm is that you need to grasp everything in a single timeframe - one timeframe for Wrath, one timeframe for Cata. It's not fair to count Affliction and Demo having to keep up ISF and managing the 4pc T11 when that was not the norm for the majority of the expansion. That's like saying WoTLK Affliction was one of the hardest specs to play perfectly, ever, when it was only challenging when you had to keep up Siphon Life and you could Immolate and UA the same target. Mechanics and rotations tend to be more static anyway towards the end of the expansion, so that seems like the best time to compare them.
Here's how I would group it.
WoTLK Affliction
1. Life Tap buff
2. Shadow Embrace
3. UA
4. CoA
5. Haunt
6. DS execute.
7. Shadow Bolt

Cata Affliction
1. Demon Soul
2. Shadow Embrace
3. UA
4. Haunt
5. Shadowflame
6. BoD/BoA
7. DS Execute
8. Shadow Bolt

WoTLK Destro
1. Life Tap buff
2. Immolate
3. Chaos Bolt
4. Conflag
5. Incinerate
6. CoD

Cata Destro

1. Demon Soul
2. Immolate
3. Corruption
4. Shadowflame
5. Conflag
6. Chaos Bolt
7. Incinerate
8. ISF
9. Soul Burn SF's or Empowered Imp procs
10. Shadowburn
11. BoD/BoH

WoTLK Demo
1. Life Tap buff
2. CoD
3. Immolate
4. Corruption
5. Meta/Immo Aura
6. Shadow Bolt
7. Incinerate
8. Soul Fire (Decimation)

Cata Demo
1. Demon Soul
2. Corruption
3. Shadowflame
4. Hand of Gul'dan
5. BoD
6. Meta/Immo Aura
7. Soul Fire
8. Incinerate
9. Shadow Bolt
10. Pet Swapping

Obviously there was a skill increase and your overall point is right, but it's not like we went to unplayable by the average player.
The changes introduced in Cataclysm increased the difficulty of playing Warlocks to the point where players who previously were proficient were no longer able to keep up when performing under duress. Raising the bar of competence doesn’t suddenly make someone a “baddie” if they fail to keep up.

Honestly, if they could play Destro WELL in Wrath, but can't play Affliction, that's a l2play issue, not a class issue. Affliction has its own problems, but complexity is not one of them (outside of min/maxing multi-dotting, which is absolutely unnecessary in any context in which complexity is an issue).

Don't compare Wrath Destro to Cata Destro, one was THE easy spec and the other is, IMO, THE "hard" spec. Compare Wrath Destro to Cata Affliction:

Immolate: that you must time to end the cast as the dot ticks off. If you clip it, you get punished, HARD.
1 buff
2 short CD's
Spam nuke
Movement spells: Life Tap > Corruption

Corruption (easier to maintain than Elements in Wrath)
1-2 Curse(s)
UA: you have about a 2 second window to time the cast perfectly, or you can cast it late and lose some uptime. The latter issue was the same in Wrath, but if you cast it "too early" you're not going to lose 3 seconds worth of uptime for your mistake.
2 short CD's
1 two-minute DPS CD (I wouldn't suggest it, but casuals could macro this to Doom or UA)
Spam nuke
T13 bonus

The only thing that makes Cata Affliction any more difficult to learn than Wrath Destro is the number of buttons. Otherwise, I'd actually say it's easier to play, you don't need to deal with clipping LT uptime, you don't have to deal with clipping dots, you have far more room for refreshing your dots without "error". The execute is laughably simple.
You can't literally roll your face on the keyboard, like you could Destro, and still put up numbers. But, anyone that bothers to even look at their game screens should be able to play Cata Affliction, albeit some people may resort to clicking CD's or whatnot that they wouldn't need to do with 6 button Destro.

The depiction of Cata Affliction in the article is entirely off base. For the most part, you don't need to watch Shadow Embrace, even in heroic content there's only a few encounters where it's an issue. For the most part, DI is just static noise. Drain Life? WHAT?! Fel Flame has the same significance as Wrath Destro's Corruption, you use it when you have LITERALLY nothing else to do while moving.

“I have 3 adds don’t let Shadow Embrace fall off of any of them.”

This might be tougher to tackle than "Keep up Immo, Corr, and Doom on one target, Immo, Corr, and Agony on another, Conflag on CD, Shadowflame on CD for the cleave, and make sure ISF is always up when applying dots", but neither of those are necessary in the context in which they're presented.

Also, this is 4.3 already. This isn't 4.0.3 anymore. A lot of what was discussed was fixed pretty shortly after Cata's release and I don't think it's really relevant to the problem. I certainly do think Warlocks have many issues, some of which it seems they're working on, but, as much as I appreciate the thought that went into those articles, I just don't agree witht them as much as I did the others.

Edit: Simplexity addressed a lot of the points I was aiming to address while I was typing.
I have nothing to add to these articles, except vehement agreement.
Spot on as always

Still wonder if the devs come and read this stuff in the class sections
04/11/2012 02:47 PMPosted by Simplexity
First, you can't count Curse of Elements in your rotation for Cataclysm and then omit it for Wrath (see Demo/Aff Wrath lists).

Except in Wrath CoE was mutually exclusive with CoD/CoA unlike Cata where they were made in Banes to allow both CoE and BoD/BoA on the same target.

Though I agree with your other points.
Its not the complexity that bothers me, its how punishing things can get when something goes wrong and some of the mechanics.

A badly timed movement phase or a kill it now add and if your not careful or lag and that supped up corruption falls off. Its like having NMIC again only its permanent and does not give us insane dps compared to everyone else.

Similarly long ramp up times and mechanics like ISF are more annoying than they are fun. Oh ISF fell off? Well ill SB another....CRAP out of soul shards!!!! Though the set piece does fix that issue.
I theorycrafted myself so much during this expansion, only to end up doing totally mediocre in the final tier of raiding.

Lots of effort shouldn't result in mediocre DPS. It's really that simple.
I theorycrafted myself so much during this expansion, only to end up doing totally mediocre in the final tier of raiding.

Lots of effort shouldn't result in mediocre DPS. It's really that simple.
For the standard, non-elite, super reflexed, nimble fingered players this is our problem but those type of players are content with their game play and suggest we either do better, or play an easier class rather than have their game play changed.

Since Blizzard HAS already changed my game play over the years by making this far more required than it was in TBC time, Blizz should make it easier for the average player to be able to perform as if they were playing a mage.
Have any of you ACTUALLY played a Mage? It's pretty easy to be a mediocre Mage, it's even easier to be a bad Mage - and there's PLENTY of them out there. They don't have many buttons, they don't have many choices, so it's hard for a Mage to do terribly. Yet, the majority of Arcane Mages that I see are ABSOLUTELY terrible, just as bad as the Warlocks that I see in 5-mans. When 40% of your damage is Arcane Missiles, I'd rather you play a Demo Lock and just let the Felguard beat on a mob.

But, in terms of optimization, I find Arcane to be MUCH harder than both Fire and Affliction. Tracking your mana percentage, clear casting procs, Int procs, and AM procs, and AB stacks is much less clear cut that "keep dots up, use CD's, and watch buffs for refreshes".

So, while the difference between a decent Arcane Mage and a subpar Arcane Mage isn't that large, I think it actually takes more understanding of your spec to be a great Arcane Mage than a great Affliction Lock.

Warlocks are not Mages. We don't have a spec where you can press random buttons and get numbers. We also have different mechanics and dynamics. But, with only a minimal understanding of how the class works, there's no reason the "average" player shouldn't be able to play Affliction or Demonology and put out acceptable DPS. If you've gone 85 levels without learning "keep dots up", you're not going to be able to move out of the fire, press the button on Hour of Twilight, or switch to the add that spawned.
I would argue that a lot of the complaints (at least, from high level raiders) comes down to balance vs difficulty.

The fact remains that this is a game with clear metrics of success, especially for DPS. There's a reason people post DPS meters and not "How well you played your spec / How hard your spec is" meters.

I know there are probably Warlocks out there who do their spec perfectly and don't really care that the result is maybe 3rd or 4th (or lower in 25 mans) on the DPS meters for most hard mode DS encounters. The rest of us though have to take a step back and wonder what we're working so hard for. It's not really that our specs are more difficult than some others, it's that they give less reward for that difficulty.
The article on Complexity was dead-on, however Blizz already seems to be working towards making rotations simpler.

Not out of any love for warlocks, oh no, but because they're targeting a younger player base with MoP and don't want to lose money on frustrated tweens.

I suspect the simpler rotations are targeted at older players. Reaction times slow down, the momentary dead time ("PRP") after a decision increases.

Assuming they actually ARE simplifying rotations (which, I think would be a very good idea).
Spot on as always

Still wonder if the devs come and read this stuff in the class sections

of course they don't!

To Op thanks for the interesting discussion. I like 7 (+/- 2) spells, it works for me.
I suspect the simpler rotations are targeted at older players. Reaction times slow down, the momentary dead time ("PRP") after a decision increases.

I know i need this, 55 years old and not in good health but i have played a lock from Classic. Was the terror of Karazhan before i had to leave in mid TBC... and came back at end of Wrath and had to level this toon with all of the new changes (to me).

Been rough and im still not as good as i should be.
I do agree that complexity needs to be rewarded with ... well REWARD.

It's easily twice as hard to play a Destrolock than a fire mage (probably much much more so than that) and at best we're dead even in DPS. For whatever reason, the devs see a high top end for very good players playing a difficult and complicated spec as imbalanced and nerfed them down to the point that the mediocre players are getting results so poor that they're irrelevant and turn to better pastures. ... all in the name of keeping that top end in line.

I don't want destro dumbed down to five buttons, I want it's damage upped to justify it's difficulty. Affliction and demo are there for those less able to juggle the complex mess that is Destro and the buff will keep the 'aspiring' within bounds of reasonable dps.
There are 8 viable raiding caster dps specs to choose from, and they range from arcane mage (completely resource driven, practically no complexity, set rotation) to destruction warlock (no worries about resources, highly complex, dynamic and reactive rotation). Why do we need to homogenize them? Oh is destro too hard for you? Pick one of the 7 other caster dps specs.


Also, I agree that all the complexity (and the skill it requires) should be rewarded with slightly higher dps, but even without that higher dps I still like playing my lock. I HATE playing my mage. Now the more I read, the more 5.0 destro sounds like 4.3 fire. The class I've loved for years now is going away forever and getting replaced by a near-clone of a class I can't stand.
While i understand his point about chunking I can not agree with the solution of "dummying" it down. I'm not trying to be elitist and I'm certainly not saying I'm Mr. Uber dps by any stretch. But simplifying the class is what caused me to park my druid who WAS my first and most beloved toon. The reason I moved to the warlock is that it retained alot of the support/utility that I enjoyed from the druid once upon a time. Really, aren't there enough classes that fit into the holy trinity formula? Making one of the warlock specs "user friendly" ... ok maybe, but I cringe at the thought of the nerf bat turning a fun class into something that a bot program could play.

Furthermore, the article begins by laying out the ideals of accepting and in turn pandering to the views of all involved. Yet as it continues it begins to lean toward the view, even presenting examples as evidence, that Locks are just too complex and need to be brought within bounds that the average bloke can handle. Given his/her limited data processing capacity. .... it sounds good at the start but by the end of the article he adopts a view that does indeed invalidate the opinion put forth by those of us who like it chaotic and complex.

Elegant solutions I'm all for. However, in my opinion elegance is found in synergy, not always simplicity.

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