Blood Pact: Shattering souls
Blood Pact is your weekly warlock digest, brought to you by Dominic Hobbs. "I sense that you have the potential to become one of the most powerful warlocks of this era." -- Strahad Farsan
Before Wrath of the Lich King, one of the biggest DPS-boosting buffs around was Blessing of Salvation. This buff made you less interesting to mobs and essentially allowed you to do up to 30 percent more damage. It didn't help you do the damage, but it stopped you being so limited by the threat generated by the tank. Warlocks who didn't have a paladin to grant this buff were wise to be very cautious with their Shadow Bolts of massive critability.
These days, the tanks innately generate more threat. As such, the fear of having your damage capped by their threat generation abilities is much reduced. However, it is still possible to be threat-capped and if this happens, then anything that reduces your threat is suddenly your best ally. At level 66, you can learn Soulshatter, an unassuming little ability that sits quietly in your spell book until you really need it.
What does it do?
So what exactly does shattering this soul do for you? The tooltip says:
This is wholly correct but assumes you know how threat works. I did cover the basics back in November when Blood Pact was talking about voidwalkers, but here's a boiled-down version. Threat is the amount a mob wants to hit you. Mobs focus on only one player at a time; this player is said to have aggro from that mob. If your threat level exceeds that of the player with aggro by enough, then the mob will target you -- you will gain its aggro."Reduces threat by 50% for all enemies within 50 yards."
There are various methods of measuring threat. You could use the in-game threat display that gives you a percentage value until you take aggro (at 100%, the mob turns to you). Alternatively you might choose to use an addon such as Omen or Skada to track absolute threat values. I prefer to use Skada so I can see the threat of all the group and then, once combat ends, it tells me how much damage we did (or healing, etc.). These addons show your threat level as a percentage of the person with aggro; this value can go to 130% before you actually take the aggro from them (110% if you are within melee range).
You gain threat on a mob by doing damage. There are various things that affect how much threat you do with each damaging ability, but if you consider every point of damage as a point of threat, you won't be far wrong. Soulshatter halves the amount of threat points a mob remembers you have generated with it. This means that the more threat points you have generated (the more damage you have already done to the mob), the more effective Soulshatter will be.
This is important when deciding when best to use Soulshatter.
When to use it
With a three-minute cooldown, Soulshatter isn't an ability you can work into your rotation. You need to pick your moment. This isn't as obvious as you may think. It would be easy to just say, "Use it just before you pull aggro." That's pretty good advice, but there is more to it than that. If you start nuking on a mob and get a crazy run of crits right away, you might very well find yourself pushing the tank's threat levels. However, using Soulshatter within the opening moments of a fight won't dump very much threat overall (as you haven't done much damage yet). You would be better off either easing off on your DPS for a few seconds (reposition, Life Tap, /dance) to let the tank establish a decent lead.
Waiting until the last moment might also mean that you are forced to use Soulshatter just when you need to maximize your damage. Soulshatter activates the global cooldown (GCD) so is actually a damage loss to cast; this can be important when you enter a burn phase or the like. If you are going to become threat-capped (having to stop damage because otherwise you would pull aggro), then it may be better to pop Soulshatter a little earlier and be able to fully open up when needed. Times you want to try and avoid having to shatter could be:
- boss burn phase (such as the last 30% of Saurfang)
- execute phases such as when you can use Decimation or Drain Soul
- during Bloodlust or Heroism
- during trinket procs or just after taking a potion
Similarly, don't cast Soulshatter just after taking the aggro. Yes, this will probably mean that the target will most likely go after someone else, but there's a good chance that won't be the tank. So unless there is a mage next on the threat table, always shatter before you break the 130% threat barrier.
You also want to be aware of any environmental impacts on people's threat. Several boss encounters include a mechanism that either reduces the threat a tank has or resets all threat back to zero. Using Soulshatter before the tank's threat is reduced may be vital, but using it just before a reset is pointless.
So when is the best time to Soulshatter? Nobody can tell you. It will depend on your DPS, your tank, the fight you are in and many other factors. This spell is a massive DPS boost when you need it, none at all when you don't. As with "when to pop Metamorphosis," I'm not about to say that it's an art form, but it can be very complicated. Making the most of Soulshatter can be the difference between being good and being great.
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 WoW.com's guide to patch 3.3 or find out what's upcoming in Cataclysm from the BlizzCon 2009: Class Discussion Panel.
Filed under: Warlock, (Warlock) Blood Pact
Reader Comments (Page 1 of 3)
Rob May 24th 2010 3:12PM
Not trolling, are locks still having threat issues late into boss fights? When I tank we (tanks) are pretty far ahead of people, at least on the boss fights. But I don't tank all that much, I heal a bunch, and well, no aggro worries there.
crschmidt May 24th 2010 3:37PM
If you overgear your tank, and are limited on threat redirection (Hunters, Rogues), it is possible to become threat capped. Generally, if I'm a tier or so above my tank, I have to manage my threat a lot. It depends on the quality of tank as well, but if I'm sporting 251s, and my tank is in 232/245 gear, there is definitely an issue of threat, especially on Paladin tanks.
As a Paladin tank, I have consistently found that DPS could beat me until I picked up my two-piece tier 10. Now my Hammer of the Righteous crits for 6k, making my threat generation significantly higher than when it was hitting for 3k. In a guild where you're all similarly geared, this kind of thing doesn't happen as much, but with PUGs (where gear levels can vary wildly) or new alts, this can be a serious issue.
Other cases where I have to manage threat:
2. Battle rezes, or other situations where a tank gets knocked out of the running for a bit.
Rob May 24th 2010 3:48PM
I guess i was thinking of raid bosses, i can totally understand those two situations (deathwhisper and tank brez).
know in BC we could really pull aggro off a tank well into a fight, like phase 3 prince, so i was wondering if this still happens (in normal situations ie the dps not outgearing the tank by two tiers)
Derrek May 24th 2010 4:19PM
As stated above, it depends, but I find myself high on threat a lot of the time.
It's not as bad in ICC as it was in ToC, but it's still worse than it should be. Even with 2/2 Destructive Reach ( which got buffed while ToC was progression iirc ), I need to shatter at least once on most fights.
I love the damage that Kings gives me but now that I remember what Blessing of Salvation is called I may start asking for Salv again.
crschmidt May 24th 2010 4:59PM
Blessing of Salvation is gone. There is still Hand of Salvation (http://www.wowhead.com/spell=1038/hand-of-salvation), which can help, but good luck having a Paladin who knows how to use it. (When Festergut was still Hard Shit, we wanted a DPS to use it to cool off threat from the recently-switched tank, and it took him 3 minutes and 4 people helping on vent to even find it.)
crschmidt May 24th 2010 5:09PM
As a hunter pushing 8k-9k, on any non-movement oriented fight, I need to make use of all of my threat reduction techniques to not pull. That means two sets of misdirected shots at the start of the fight (via Readiness), constantly watching threat, especially around target swaps, etc.
Different tanks have different levels of success in keeping aggro, and good tanks will do better than poor tanks, but on raid bosses -- from Deathwhisper to Saurfang to Sindragosa -- watching threat, especially when working with less-geared tanks, is a huge part of my DPS role.
Of course, sometimes, you can't help the situation any. On one Deathwhisper 10 run, I poured out Misdirect onto the tank, flopped onto the floor, waited 10 seconds, and the tank still didn't have a solid lead. :/ Bad PUG tank iz bad.
But this is all hunter-specific. In short: Yes, DPS can pull, especially good DPS with bad tanks. Equal-geared equal-skilled tanks and DPS, the tank will almost always be quite a ways ahead.
Kira May 24th 2010 5:51PM
Knowing how to use hand of salvation is one of the things that make good paladins great. I'm happy to be in the great category, mostly due to necessity when our resident thunder chicken is around, but still.
Terethall May 24th 2010 9:01PM
I run into threat issues pretty frequently. Maybe I run with crappy tanks, but Soulshatter gets hit once or twice any given fight.
Burnaphatone May 24th 2010 3:13PM
So unless there is a mage next on the threat table, always shatter before you break the 130% threat barrier.
sulli.seven Jul 27th 2010 5:59PM
We mages are crafty, we iceblock and survive, then you get in trouble for not watching threat.
Fr0styz May 24th 2010 5:21PM
Warlock threat 100%
Mage threat 99%
Warlock threat 50%
Mage threat 0% (dead)
end of story
thegatherer May 24th 2010 7:22PM
Greg May 24th 2010 3:16PM
But that would kill the mage! Oh....
Duts May 25th 2010 1:18PM
Step 4. ???
Step 5. Profit!
feniks9174 May 24th 2010 3:20PM
I rarely find the need to Shatter in a raid environment anymore, and typically only on fights like Deathwhisper where there is a specific mechanic involving it. VoA pugs can be a different story. However, unless the fight requires it (ie. Deathwisper again) the biggest cause of pulling threat for me is if I just plain started too early or the tank just sucks (PuGs exclusively there). For that reason I've long had my Skada/Omen set to warn me at 80% of the Aggro target's level. If I reach that point, I'm usually climbing fast and may not have enough time to react before an already cast Shadow Bolt crit's and pushes me over the edge or something like that.
It's a personal preference, really. I say better safe than sorry.
And BTW . . .
"So unless there is a mage next on the threat table, always shatter before you break the 130% threat barrier."
feniks9174 May 24th 2010 3:27PM
It largely depends on your raid composition these days. When you have a 15K DPS hunter MDing the Pally tank on CD, you can usually go nuts without worrying about pulling. Especially with the recent boosts to DK threat, I don't really ever have a problem anymore.
feniks9174 May 24th 2010 3:29PM
/sigh @ Fail reply system
That was supposed to be a reply to Rob above.
Roland May 24th 2010 3:33PM
Three words: Seed of Corruption.
Eyhk May 24th 2010 3:59PM
Massive chain of seeds going off all at once littering your screen with crits..
Toliman Jul 9th 2010 5:43PM
having onyxia or maygos turn towards you in phase 3 is often genuinely amusing when there's 2 tanks and they still can't keep threat against a destro lock. i would say it's a problem in the class,
apparently shatter, is the answer ?
switching to SoC as an opener and for playing a bit of threat-roulette gives a nice burst of damage for those that watch meters, but it's akward threat bursts which can be hazardous at lower levels, and sometimes leads to the warlock tanking after about those 10 seconds of the initial pull. and also in most heroic runs if you don't give the tank about a 10 second head start to pull threat on a mob. it can be ridiculous.
strangely enough, the SoC shotgun can actually be useful in halls of reflection, the lower threat burst on the main target helps the tank and healers switch more often to pull individual mobs off aggressive DPS. though, its still ridiculous that conflag hits should out-pace a tank in threat. frequently.
in general, shatter is useless because of the fact that modern bosses don't favour a stand up fight, they favour elemental group tactics, current DPS gear has ridiculous crit and threat levels designed for nuking elites under 20 seconds. when a standard fight happens, people are really surprised when a rogue, lock, mage or especially a hunter in raid gear starts to pull right off the tank in one cast. other classes have threat mitigation, most locks cant afford the cost of shatter, or stand close enough for it to work, or wait the several minutes in which it can be used again
however, when i hit 101% threat in a PUG and get that warning note, the mental break of watching the casting bar for SoC to finish, allows me to partially relax, walk around the room a bit, do some laundry, make a small sandwich, dust bookshelves, check the mailbox, pay some bills, etc. but mostly lets me check omen's threat table, and that cooldowns aren't expiring before finishing up.