Friday, July 29, 2011

WoW: Back to my Warlock

It's been a long time since I played my warlock in World of Warcraft. She's currently 82, and and going into a dungeon or two, I realized just how little I knew about the 4.x warlock class, now. World of Warcraft's single biggest problem is that it's a moving target. You need to re-learn your class over and over and over again, every time an expansion or major patch comes out. There are some great addons that help, though, and if you know the right Web sites to look at, you can come up to speed fairly quickly.

Let's start with my UI. Here's my combat UI:
Warlock combat UI against a training dummy.
Some things to cover in terms of addons I'm using. The pile of buttons at the button is Dominos. I have to choose what goes were in each bar, and they're arranged in 3-button-wide columns to match my G15 keyboard.

Next up, there are the buttons along the left side. Those are autobar, and I don't configure them. They contain my potions, food, trade skills, mounts, etc.

The button bar above the center of the screen with bar-graph type indicators hanging down from it is ButtonTimers, a great mod I'm going to get into below. Notice that I keep my target's unit frame near the center of the screen with big debuff markers that show my debuffs. This is crucial for boss fights.

OK, so the first thing I needed to do was find out what my rotations were. "Rotation" is a word that's now misleading. It used to be that all WoW classes with rare exception had a simple rotation of abilities, where you would cast X, Y, Y, Z, X, Y, Y, Z, and repeat (or some other sequence). Usually you had some big cooldowns that you threw in whenever, but the core rotation was what mattered.

Now, everyone has a priority list. For destruction warlocks like myself, this looks like:

  • Improved Soul Fire (Keep this buff up!)
  • Demon Soul
  • Immolate
  • Conflagrate
  • Bane of Doom
  • Corruption
  • Shadowflame
  • Soul Fire (Empowered Imp)
  • Chaos Bolt
  • Shadowburn (Sub 20% HP)
  • Incinerate
The above quoted from Elitist Jerks, a crucial resource for any class. There are some interesting problems, here. Note that Improved Soul Fire is a self-buff, Immolate puts a debuff on the mob, and Chaos Bolt is just a cooldown-based nuke. So, how do I juggle all these different inputs all the time? This is where ButtonTimers comes into play. Once you install the addon, you get some funky looking free-floating bars. Go to the Interface menu, select the addons tab at the top and then ButtonTimers. You have several options, but start with selecting bars 2, 3 and 4, each in turn and clicking off the "Enable" option for each bar. You just need the one.

OK, now go back to bar 1 and make sure the "lock bar" option is not selected (also unlock your action bars in the normal interfaces/action bars section of the default WoW UI if you have your action bars locked). Click OK and exit the interface menu. Move the bar to a convenient spot on your UI (I suggest targeting yourself while you do this so that you don't overlap your target frame) and then open your spellbook. You want to put the abilities that correspond to each of the items in the priority list into this new bar. I suggest putting long cooldowns on the right and your "bread and butter" abilities on the left. Some, like Improved Soul Fire correspond to a buff, but just put the Soul Fire spell on the bar for now.

Once you have the bar set up, go back to the ButtonTimers menu and select each button from bar 1 in turn. If what you need to track is a long cooldown nuke-type ability (e.g. Chaos Bolt), select "Player" and "Cooldown". If it's a debuff or dot, selelect "Target" and "Aura". If it's a self-buff you need to track, select "Player" and "Aura". For Improved Soul Fire, you want to type the full name of the buff into the "other auras" box, click the "Okay" button below the box and then select the checkbox next to it to show the buff's icon.

Once you 've done this, lock the ButtonTimers bar again and go back to the UI. Go to a training dummy and test it out. You should see bars like the screenshot above has, that will tick down the time until you have to deal with that ability again. With some practice, you'll just have to glace at those bars from time to time, and your situational awareness will be much improved! You can also auto-hide the bar when out of combat.

The other UI elements you'll see are MikScrollingBattleText for the floating damage numbers and alerts. The top damage meter and the one at the bottom are both Skada. However, the one at the top is set to track only the last fight, and during the fight it tracks threat instead of damage. The bottom meter always shows the overall damage meters since the last reset. Skada is probably the best damage meter out there, though I do like recount's graphing.

XPerl is what I use for the unit frames.

Now that I have all of that, I went back to reading the Elitist Jerks forum. There's tons of useful info, there, including glyphs, pet info and so on. Speaking of my pet, make sure you have a macro that can call your pet back. I use one of my basic attack keys. I include a "/petattack [nomodifier]" and then "/petpassive [modifier]" and then "/petassist [modifier]". So, when I control-press, it calls my pet off, but leaves it in "assist" mode so I don't accidentally end up leaving my pet on passive all the time (passive pets used to be a good thing, but assist with active control is a much better model for hunters, warlocks and mages now).