About the Author
|Hi there! My name is Kalamazi and I have been playing Warlock since the start of Burning Crusade. I had always been interested in become more involved within the Warlock theorycrafting community and decided to take the plunge at the start of Battle for Azeroth.|
Out of all three Warlock specs in Shadowlands, Affliction is certainly the one that has received the most changes at this point. Plagued by a glacially slow ramp-up time in BFA, this improved version of Affliction is certainly looking strong due to a handful of new abilities, talents and the return of a few iconic legendary effects from Legion.
What has changed
Class and Spec Changes
Malefic Rapture is our new Soul Shards spender now that Unstable Affliction has had its cost removed and I feel it is a large step in the right direction for Affliction’s toolkit. This effect costs 1 Soul Shards and deals damage to every target that has at least 1 active DOT on them which increases in value for each additional DOT active on the target. This is a very powerful effect in AOE based scenarios after you apply your initial DOTs and really helps make up for the lack of on demand burst damage that Affliction has. It is also a very effective single target shard spender, dealing a large portion of our overall damage in those settings.
Shadow Embrace has become a passive effect (which is learned at level 52) that is applied by Shadow Bolt and Haunt, offering a similar effect to the 10% bonus damage that Unstable Affliction has lost. Drain Soul also applies Shadow Embrace if chosen as a talent.
Corruption now deals a small amount of damage upon application once rank 3 is learned at level 54. It is important to note that the initial application damage is only from the player casting Corruption, not Seed of Corruption exploding.
Nightfall now has an increased proc rate based off how many different instances of Corruption are active. This is a welcome change as in its current form (BFA) you have the same proc rate with 1 Corruption active as you do 50.
Deathbolt is now a PVP talent and has been replaced with the BFA Azerite effect Inevitable Demise. This trait is exceptionally powerful due to the large amount of burst damage and self-healing it can bring at max stacks (50) and gains a tremendous amount of value in multi-target settings.
Writhe in Agony has had it max stack count increased to 18 (was 15) and now also starts at 4 stacks in an attempt to assist the player in reaching its full potential faster. This effect is reminiscent of the “Sudden Onset” Azerite trait in BFA.
Dark Caller is a new talent that has taken the place of Shadow Embrace (baseline) which reduces the cooldown of our Summon Darkglare ability by one minute. This ability is deceptively powerful as it syncs our Dark Soul: Misery talent (if chosen) with our Summon Darkglare.
The PVP talent Soulshatter has been altered to now remove all active Corruptions on your nearest 5 enemies and deal 10% of their maximum health as Shadow damage. It also grants one Soul Shards per enemy hit.
Over the course of your leveling experience in Shadowlands you will encounter a different covenant in each zone you progress through. The Kyrian of Bastion, Venthyr of Revendreth, Night Fae of Ardenweald and Necrolords of Maldraxxus all offer a unique class-based ability as well as a universal trait that is shared across every member of said covenant. Making the choice to join a covenant is easy, leaving one is not hard, but rejoining a covenant will be the true grind.
Scouring Tithe: It is important to note that this effect currently DOES count as a DOT towards Malefic Rapture and is also extended by our Summon Darkglare ability. While those two interactions are undeniably powerful, the shard generation that it brings I feel is not. With Unstable Affliction generating a Soul Shards upon death and not having an actual casting cost, it makes shard generation better in Mythic + or similar settings. If you also select the Drain Soul talent you have multiple ways to transition from one pack to another in the 4-5 Soul Shards range with ease.
Summon Steward: While the healing effect this ability brings is nice, it is grossly overshadowed by other covenants abilities and their usefulness.
Impending Catastrophe: This ability is very unique as it both applies a DOT as well as either Curse of Tongues or Curse of Weakness. The unfortunate part though is that it does not “smart curse” meaning it will often apply Tongues to a melee based mob and Weakness to casters. The DOT that is applied however is AOE based and does indeed count towards Malefic Rapture’s DOT count. Although, this effect (unlike Scouring Tithe) is currently NOT extended by our Summon Darkglare ability.
Door of Shadows: This is one of the most exciting universal covenant abilities out there, allowing you to skip certain packs or obstacles in Mythic + as well as potentially entire boss abilities, like Uu’nat beams.
Soul Rot: This effect is certainly more powerful for Affliction than it is Demonology or Destruction as the AOE Drain Life it casts is indeed affected by our new talent Inevitable Demise. This can lead to a very large AOE burst window every minute or so with a high stack count and multiple targets being present. This effect also counts towards Malefic Rapture’s DOT count and is also currently being extended by Summon Darkglare.
Soulshape: This effect is similar to the Venthyr Door of Shadows effect, but also very different. Door of Shadows has a 35 yard range while Soulshape is limited to 10. You also are not able to select the area you wish to “blink” to, it is simply 10 yards in front of where you currently are standing. The speed boost is nice but also shares a similar effect to Burning Rush.
Decimating Bolt: This ability provides an “execute” style damage amp while being on a 45 second cooldown. It increases the damage of your next three Shadow Bolt or Drain Soul casts by 200% baseline which increases based on your target’s missing health. The first interesting part of Decimating Bolt is that it essentially “Snapshots” the damage amplification bonus. If I cast Decimating Bolt on a mob at 10% health and get a 380% bonus effect to my next three Shadow Bolts and then turn to a mob at 100% health, it will still hit that mob for the full 380% bonus damage. The second interesting thing is that Decimating Bolt affects three full Drain Soul channels, not just 3 ticks. Drain Soul already has a 100% increased damage effect once the target is below 20% health, so stacking these two effects makes it hit extremely hard.
Fleshcraft: Not as useful as Door of Shadows in certain settings but the shield it provides is large and can be used mostly on CD in Mythic + settings if need be. Consuming corpses of surrounding enemies also does not currently appear to “tag” them, meaning your entire group can share the same corpses for a larger effect.
I think at this point the front runners for Affliction are certainly Necrolord and Venthyr. Having an AOE based DOT effect with Impending Catastrophe every minute that counts towards Malefic Rapture damage is very strong in stacked multi-target settings. Decimating Bolt‘s damage amplification when paired with Drain Soul is an extremely powerful effect as well and should not be overlooked by any means.
Legendary items are making their triumphant return in Shadowlands! A handful of the effects we have seen before (Legion Legendary effects, Tier bonuses) while some are unique to Shadowlands themselves. Each class has four “generic” Legendary options that affect each spec in a similar fashion and then four “spec based” legendaries that enhance how a specific spec functions.
Claw of Endereth – This effect does not have any kind of interaction with Inevitable Demise or granting you any additional ticks of Drain Life. It simply does what it says it does, which is make your Drain Life channel twice as fast. It can lead to some very quick burst/self-healing in PVP potentially with a high stack of Inevitable Demise, but I don’t see it making much of an impact in PVE.
Mark of Borrowed Power – This legendary grants Malefic Rapture a 10% chance to refund all Soul Shards spent, which will always be 1. It is basically a weaker version of Soul Conduit and feels a bit underwhelming. If the refund rate was increased to say 20% or so it might be a bit more impactful but currently feels lackluster.
Pillars of the Dark Portal aka “Portal Pants” – Making your Demonic Gateway instant cast and also giving it two charges is more impactful than it may seem. It can certainly be of use in PVP/arenas or similar settings but the real question is why play this over a damage based effect? It did see a good bit of play in Legion Mythic + when it came to traversing a large area quickly, but that was only due to gear swapping being a thing.
Perpetual Agony of Azj’Aqir – Giving Agony a 20% increased chance to generate a Soul Shards might seem like a powerful effect but when compared to the other legendaries that Affliction has and the RNG of an effect like this, I think we can do a bit better.
Malefic Wrath – This effect causes your Malefic Rapture to increase the damage of your Shadow Bolt and Drain Soul spells by 25%, stacking up to three times. If you pair this effect with Decimating Bolt and the Drain Soul talent, it truly becomes a powerhouse. Initial testing has shown Drain Soul to be nearly 60% of our damage output in execute when paired with said effects thus making Affliction Warlock execute damage extremely potent. Even outside of execute it causes you to alter your play style around 45 second Drain Soul (if selected) burst windows; which revolve around casting Decimating Bolt and maintaining a 3 stack of Malefic Wrath.
Sacrolash’s Dark Strike – Another returning effect from Legion, Sacrolash’s Dark Strike was one of the reasons Warlock was so strong in Mythic +. It has the same Corruption damage increase from Legion but the slow effect has been reduced from 60% (Legion) to 15% in Shadowlands. I will say that the effect still currently applies the full 60% slow on Beta realms right now but I believe that will be changing soon. A 45% difference in the slow effect will certainly be noticeable but the question is, is just how noticeable?
Wrath of Consumption – This effect is another iconic ability from Legion but with a slight difference; In Legion the effect stated that whenever you “kill a target” you received a bonus effect to your damage over time spells. In Shadowlands that target has to die with Agony applied to it but the effect also has a much larger bonus, 5% per stack and stacking up to 5 times. Affliction’s toolkit has certainly changed a bit from Legion but you simply cannot deny the power level of Wrath of Consumption in certain settings.
Feedback and Potential Changes
There was a brief period in time where Unstable Affliction was able to be applied to multiple targets at the one stack limit. It was then changed to its current form where it is limited to one application total. I feel that being able to apply one Unstable Affliction to multiple mobs was superior as it greatly improved Affliction’s Soul Shards generation in Mythic + when multiple targets died (thus making us less dependent on Drain Soul) as well as improved the overall usefulness of Malefic Rapture. Choosing how many targets to apply Unstable Affliction to while also juggling the Soul Shards refunds you received from mobs dying/Drain Soul refunds made proper game play feel incredibly rewarding. I feel that a portion of that was lost when it was reverted to its “Limit: 1” version and would like to see it return to being applicable to multiple mobs at the same time.
The first talent row has the Nightfall , Inevitable Demise and Drain Soul talents as potential choices. While we don’t know the actual tuning on them just yet I personally feel that there it a bit too much “overlap” of areas where you want each talent. With the changes to Nightfall and its scaling proc rate, it gains value in Mythic + and multi-target scenarios. The same can be said for Inevitable Demise and the value that it gets from having numerous targets present. Drain Soul is also an extremely strong choice in Mythic + and certain raid fights as shard sniping is a huge part of our toolkit. I feel obligated to take Drain Soul due to all the value that it provides Shard wise (it also stacks Shadow Embrace fully in 1 cast vs Shadow Bolt‘s 3 casts) but I also would love the Inevitable Demise effect when multi-dotting is possible. The issue is that with Nightfall being a talent you simply cannot make Drain Soul our baseline filler as is replaces Shadow Bolt thus making Nightfall useless. You can however safely move Inevitable Demise to another row thus giving us the option of running both Nightfall and Inevitable Demise or Drain Soul and Inevitable Demise.
Another potential way of addressing the issue would be to make Drain Soul our baseline filler spell and in its place bring back the Malefic Grasp talent from Legion. You could leave Nightfall where it is and instead have it transform Drain Soul into Shadow Bolt if selected. This gives you a scaling proc based talent for multi-target settings as well as a single target oriented ability in Malefic Grasp which fits our toolkit well, helps our single target damage and also fits the “returning abilities” part of Shadowlands.
I feel that the Sow the Seeds talent needs to be re-evaluated with the introduction of Malefic Rapture to Affliction’s toolkit. They both do very similar things (AOE damage) in Mythic + while both costing a Soul Shards. Selecting Sow the Seeds however causes you to lose out on the Vile Taint talent which applies a DOT on each mob it hits (fueling Malefic Rapture) as well as dealing damage itself and slowing every mob hit. A potential change could be that Sow the Seeds now also applies Agony as well as Corruption to all the targets it hits. This would give the player a choice between spreading our two main DOTs faster (thus being able cast Malefic Rapture sooner) or play Vile Taint for more Malefic Rapture damage and utility, but have to apply their Agony manually.
Overall Affliction feels similar to BFA but also very different. The addition of Malefic Rapture to its toolkit goes a long way in Mythic + damage wise and is also a very impactful spell in raid. Being able to pair our Summon Darkglare with Dark Soul: Misery without having to run subpar effects (like Dreadful Calling) via Dark Caller is another welcome change and will go a long way for Affliction in almost every scenario. I do feel that a few things could still be changed to further improve the toolkit but as a whole I feel it is in a much better state than it is currently in BFA. With Castle Nathria Raid testing and Mythic + already underway, I am extremely excited to see what Affliction’s rework can bring to the table.