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Blood Pact: The hidden power of demonology

Each week Dominic Hobbs brings you Blood Pact, the sacred text of summoners, the mantra on the malicious, the effusion of evil and sometimes the diatribe of the diabolical. Sit back in your skull-carved chairs, pop your feet up on the imp, and settle in for this week's installment.
"Drawing deep on the power delivered by my demon slave, I hold it in until it fills me completely. I can feel the power wanting to sear my flesh to ash, fire like a thousand suns. More power than I could possibly wield alone, yet too sweet to let go. Before it consumes me I let it flow to those I fight with, torn as if it were my flesh. I know well it will push them further towards achieving my goals."
As a pure DPS class we warlocks have one main measure of performance; the damage meter. If we can't perform well there then our place in a group comes into question. Sure, there are times when our big health pools and bigger incoming heals earn us the job of spell-catcher but those jobs are few and far between. Generally with each patch we're looking for the build that maximises our DPS. In Karazhan it was affliction. Somewhere in tier five it became destruction. Wrath made it all a lot more even but flipped it back to affliction and tier eight flopped it to destruction once more. Poor old demonology doesn't seem to get much of a look-in for PvE... or does it?

Demonology has a bit of a dark horse lurking just before its Illidan-a-like 51 point talent, Demonic Pact. When this first hit the talent trees raiders were running around at level 70 thinking 80+ spell power on a robe was impressive. However the buff from Demonic Pact would barely register with your casters and be completely wiped out by a totem. However, we're now using our imps to warm our hands in the frozen north, filling our bags with tier nine which has almost twice as much SP! This boost in the amount of spell power we can hoard means we can really crank up this buff. If you are fully kitted out in tier eight level epics you can already turn out enough power to overwhelm the Elemental shaman's Totem of Wrath.

The up side

Obviously the biggest benefit from having a Demonic Pact warlock in the raid is the spell power buff, but just how much good is it? This is going to depend heavily on your raid composition; the more spell power users there are then the more use the build is.

First off, how big is the buff? Well, it's 10% of the lock's spell power including all buffs other than Demonic Pact itself. If you total up all the spell power from good tier 8 gear, gems, enchants and 25 man raid buffs (including an average of buffs and procs that are not up 100% of the time) you will have around 4500. This figure will fluctuate, and outside of a raid situation it won't get this high, but you can already see that this will give around 450 spell power, 170 more than the Totem of Wrath.

To get a feel for how much of a raid DPS boost it offers I went to SimulationCraft for some sample numbers. It seems that casters get about an average boost of 1.5 DPS per point of spell power. So, using the figure above, that equates to 675 (450 x 1.5) more DPS per caster, or 255 more than the Totem of Wrath (assuming your raid has an elemental shaman). Multiply this value by the number of DPS casters in the raid group to see how much this buff is providing.

Not all casters are DPS though; this gain also helps the healers. How much help is very hard to quantify and I would have to look to the healers reading this to provide any numbers on how much they would value a 450 spell power bump. Whatever the figures, it's not insignificant and is only going to help your raid get that kill.

Another utility point of the build is that it relies on Shadow Bolt as its main nuke. Coupled with Improved Shadow Bolt this means you are keeping the 5% crit debuff up on the target. This is otherwise provided by the mages applying stacks of Scorch. It is far easier for a lock with ISB to maintain this debuff than it is for the mages, so their DPS should increase. Be sure that they thank you every time you refresh the debuff.

The down side

It's not all gravy. As is the warlock way, there is no power without a price. By going deep into demonology you are essentially sacrificing the higher personal DPS of the other specs; this could be anywhere from 5 to 15 percent. Again I'll use SimulationCraft numbers as a standard. If you aren't familiar with the tool it essentially calculates the maximum potential DPS given a set of parameters, such as class, spec, rotation, gear etc. If I compare a deep destruction build and a Demonic Pact build I find that destro has around 450 more DPS.

That figure is under ideal conditions and they are hard to attain for a demonology lock. You need to be able to make best use of your Metamorphosis and the Immolation Aura that comes with it. To get the most out of Decimation you need to properly balance your haste and distance to target. You need to manage your pet somewhat more than pointing and shooting. There's a lot that can go wrong and while I don't believe that the build is a fragile as affliction was in tier 7 it's hard work to get the most out of it. The real comparison is how much DPS you can do with it as opposed to how much you can do with other builds.

How it's done

So you want to try out Demonic Pact -- how do you do that? The standard build is 0/56/15 though there are some loose points within demonology and personally I move some points away from Master Summoner to get Improved Healthstone, not finding pet survivability too much of an issue.

There are two things at work in this build. Not only is it trying to maximise the warlocks' DPS while reaching for Demonic Pact itself but also making sure the buff is as effective as it can be. Talents like Metamorphosis, Decimation and Bane bump your DPS, Demonic Knowledge and Demonic Aegis improve the power of the buff and Demonic Tactics, Demonic Empowerment and Ruin all improve the amount of time the buff is up for.

Supplementing the talents, you would want to use glyphs of Felguard, Metamorphosis and Life Tap. The Felguard is marginally better than the other pets at maintaining the buff because of his fast hit rate (more chances to crit) but this is marginal. The reason you want the Felguard is simply because of the pure DPS he does -- it makes sense to glyph him. The extra duration on Meta not only lets you hit harder for longer but can also let you get up to an extra 6 seconds of Immolation Aura as it will now cool down before Meta expires. Glyph of Life Tap is not only a decent DPS boost to you, but being a gain in spell power means it's a DPS gain for the raid. Feel free to tap every 40 seconds to maintain the buff until you get into the last 35% of boss life and you work Soulfire into your rotation or when in demon form. You can also activate the GoLT buff before the fight starts, preferably with a rank 1 Life Tap.

As with all lock builds it's more about priority of spell than an actual rotation. Keep Curse of Doom up at all times until the boss isn't going to last long enough for it to hit, otherwise use Curse of Agony. Maintain Immolate throughout the fight. Apply Corruption if the boss is over 35% or if you have to move and have no other better instant to cast. Use Life Tap to maintain the Glyph buff as I said. Fill this with Shadow Bolts when nothing needs refreshing.

I bind Metamorphosis, Demonic Empowerment and my trinkets to my Shadow Bolt button with the following macro.

#showtooltip Shadow Bolt
/run SetCVar("Sound_EnableSFX","0")
/cast Metamorphosis
/use 13
/use 14
/cast Demonic Empowerment
/run SetCVar("Sound_EnableSFX","1")
/cast Shadow Bolt

This makes it a bit easier for me as a raid leader but you might want to manage these more closely -- to time them with other events such as Heroism and Bloodlust for example. Even with the macro, I keep a plain Shadow Bolt keybound so I can delay the activation of these things should I want to. The /run lines of that macro simply stop the game giving me the sound alert that the various cool-downs are not ready.

Another line that can be useful to add to your macro is this:

/cancelAura Demonic Pact

If you remember, I said that Demonic Pact works from the total of the lock's spell power including all buffs other than Demonic Pact itself. This means that if you have a Totem of Wrath present then you will have its buff the first time your pet crits, but it will then be over written by Demonic Pact. Since DP doesn't get included in the calculations for the strength of the DP buff, the next refresh will not include DP or the totem (as it was overwritten); essentially the buff will be 28 spell power weaker. This is tricky to understand but if your raid has an elemental shaman putting down a Totem of Wrath, and a lot of casters, you can further boost the raid DPS by adding this line to your main nuke. It will remove Demonic Pact from yourself and you will then pick up the Totem of Wrath buff once more.

Some quick points about Demonic Pact
  • There is no use in having more than one Demonic Pact lock in your raid, and 5 & 10 man instances have limited use for a DP lock. If you would like to try it then I advise having another spec to swap into.
  • Looking through combat logs for first kills, a number of top guilds run with a Demonic pact lock but also many do not. It's a personal choice and group balance consideration rather than pure out-and-out DPS necessity. Talk to your raid leaders about it.
  • There is currently a recognised but unresolved bug where Prayer of Spirit seems to prevent the Demonic Pact buff from being triggered. This can be avoided by removing Prayer of Spirit and asking for a single Divine Spirit instead.
  • The two piece tier nine set bonus improves the crit rating of both the Felguard's Cleave and melee swings -- not just Cleave which could be considered the Felguard's 'ability'.
  • Now that ISB will always provide the maximum strength debuff you may be able to drop some points from it and still maintain the debuff.
  • The Elitist Jerks forum is maintaining a thread about the benefits of Demonic Pact in raids.
It may feel wrong to help others do more DPS, but remember, you're just using them to get what you want.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons, and all the dastardly deeds done by Warlocks. If you're curious about what's new with Locks since the last patch, check out the Patch 3.2 Warlock Guide or find out what's upcoming in Cataclysm from the BlizzCon 2009: Class Discussion Panel.

Filed under: Warlock, Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Talents, Buffs, (Warlock) Blood Pact

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