Warlock Raiding Guide
Welcome to TenTonHammer's New Warlock Section -- The Warlock Raiding Guide! This guide will differ from the normal instance guide some, since you can pretty much contribute to any instance group with any build and gameplay you bring, but raiding or heroic dungeons require a lot more dedication and tweaks in order to make yourself be a worthy addition to a group or raid!
First off, make sure you have a good talent specialization. "Support" builds like Demonology are a no-go for a raid instance, since your spot will be required for effective DPS and utility in several fights. You have to prove you earned your spot instead of another mage or hunter!
Builds recommended for raiding all rely on affliction DoT's, like going deep into Affliction for Unstable Affliction, and then either demonology just for healthstones and improved imp (if you're in the main tank party), or Destruction, for Shadowburn and Improved Shadowbolt (a must for maximizing DPS!)
You may be wondering if your pyromaniac warlock would be a good asset to an endgame group. The answer is, yes, but not as good as an affliction warlock. Using fire nets you a lot more threat, and as such, you will be prone to passing your tank in threat often. Fire Warlocks dish out a lot of damage quickly, but they can't sustain it, and they will need to lifetap often, or lay off for awhile while tanks build threat, hence being overrun in damage by most of all other classes. As such, high spikes in damage are welcome in PvP or small group play, but have no real place in TBC's high-end PvE for the most part.
As a warlock ready to go raiding, you should be collecting either your blue instance set, or +shadow damage equipment, as well as crafted sets (the author's choice), like Frozen Shadoweave that nets you a heapton of +shadow damage, and Spellstrike Set (for the proc, and massive +damage). Once you have your gear, make sure you enchant it with the proper damage and healing enchants, as well as gemstones to maximize your effectivity DPS wise.
As for weaponry, go for Mainhand and Offhand, instead of a staff. Staves are good for PvP thanks to their massive stamina and intelligence bonuses, but fall horribly short of a good mainhand and offhand combination! Good Mainhand and offhand combinations are as follows:
Best pre-raid: Stormcaller (Thrallmar Exalted) + Orb of the Soul-Eater (Heroic Badge Turn-in)
Best pre-heroics: Greatsword of Horrid Dreams (Murmur, Shadow Labyrinth) + Manual of the Nethermancer (Nethermancer Sepethrea, Mechanar) or Star-Heart Lamp (Temporus, The Black Morass).
Orb of the Soul-Eater should be your primary goal as a PvE Warlock, it is currently the best offhand you can attain for purely PvE purposes!
While stamina is a great statistic to have and stack as a warlock, remember that the monsters you will be facing are not "tankable" nor "endurable" with enough stamina. It will be the same to have 10,000 HP or 7,000 HP unbuffed, since you will be fighting monsters that will hit you for over 5000 should you grab their attention. Raids and Heroics do not forgive as much as normal instances do.
As usual, you can't go to a raid or heroic dungeon just like that, make sure you have enough soulshards to last you for a few hours (do remember you can make more during the raid or dungeon, though), around 20 should do initially, but more are always welcome. If you're going to a raid, bring Wizard Oil to pad off your DPS to start. Once you're doing learning encounters, you could invest on a Flask of Supreme Power since they last through death, and once you have a fight on "farm" status, use Elixirs of Shadow Power.
So you're ready to kill some monsters inside the raid instance with your group, great! let's go over some basics for warlock raiding.
1. Always assist your main assist (or tank!) so you do not catch other monster's attention and die a quick death - you can't usually go DoTing everything in sight now, since monsters usually have secondary threat meters to do alternative skills.
2. Set your DoTs up first, cast time ones first then instant ones, and keep an eye out for when they need to refresh, shadowbolt in the meanwhile. Watch your threat, should the monster ever target you, don't hesitate to use soul shatter to drop back down in the threat meters.
3. Make a habit of using Soul Shatter at 50% of a boss fight, or when you get a few lucky shadowbolt crits off. Remember, 30% more damage from improved shadowbolt for all your ticking DoTs will earn you a lot more threat in no time.
4. Always buff yourself with Fel Armor, and keep a soulstone up on a healer if needed. Nothing's worse than having to run back if you don't have to.
5. Before each boss fight, always create a soulwell, people forget to ask, but they usually need a new healthstone!
6. If you're fighting a boss or monster that does a lot of shadow damage, remember your skill Shadow Protection to absorb some of it.
7. Use your trinket wisely. It's not good to use it right off the bat as your DoTs and nukes will accumulate you enough threat to pull the monster to you, so wait 2-3 rounds before firing it up the first time. Then repeat as necessary.
8. If you need to be on banish or fear duty, make sure you ensure those are up first, and then focus back on the boss for a little while they break and you need to do so again. This is where DoT-based damage is preferred, you can have more time to adjust yourself to a fight if you have DoTs ticking for you.
9. Never underestimate Drain Life, especially if you took the author's suggestion and went heavy affliction. You can heal yourself very quickly to full with 1 cast should you need!
10. Even though you collected shadow damage items for the most part (preferably!), use immolate. Number crunching indicates that keeping immolate up does more damage than channeling Drain Life. Also, avoid just using Drain Life as your main spell - use shadowbolt.
Heroic dungeons vary some from raid instances since monsters must be controlled or you will lose fast. Even though they were nerfed some with 2.1, they still provide a good challenge to any group. As a warlock, you may need to seduce and/or fear monsters regularly, or banish/enslave demons as the group (or you!) see fit. Remember though, this is not normal difficulty, should you mess up, you will probably end up dead, or someone in your party will.
Basics you should remember:
Level 70 Humanoids may be seduced, but 71+ will not
You can fear small demons and humanoids, but be careful!
Use 2 or 3 DoTs and your shadowbolts for trash monsters, and for bosses, just tag them with all your DoTs and nuke at will.
Dark Pact. Highly valued ability in a raid. When monsters and bosses are doing periodic or spiking damage to the raid, Dark Pact will help you regain your mana quickly without lifetapping, saving yourself and possibly letting healers focus on someone else since you didn't lose health!
Succubus. Once you have a succubus out and your seduce target is dead, use her Soothing Kiss on the remaining monsters so they have a 10% attack speed reduction! it works just like thunderclap, so use it as much as you can.
Heavy Affliction. If you went heavy affliction, you will be topping damage meters, but be wary of your threat. It will escalate very quickly and should you overpower most of your raid you will need to soul shatter every time it is available. Focus on upkeeping your 5 DoTs then tossing 1 or 2 shadowbolts in, then Dark Pact to get your mana back. This will work wonders in long encounters!
Curses. For a 25-man raid, coordinate with warlocks and keep Elements and Shadows up, then the rest should use Agony, unless you're really needing Weakness (it does not make a difference for most bosses). Use Curse of Doom sporadically- if it crits, your threat will spike and you will be in trouble. Use it only if you're losing people and the raid boss is almost dead.
For a 10-man raid, or a heroic dungeon, Curse of Agony should be your best bet to benefit the group.
Playing a warlock is a good challenge for those who want to feel useful during a raid, if you're up for maximizing your potential. The difference between bottom of the damage dealers and a good contender for the top spots is how dedicated you are!