Unchained Magic made Easy

It took me a while to get to grips with this mechanic, and I hated it for a good long time. Luckily Warlocks have a strategy that makes handling it easy.

You’ll need to make sure that you can clearly see your current stack of the Instability debuff and it’s timer. Either make sure that you keep an eye on your stadard debuff frame, or set up a notification in Power Auras or TellMeWhen.

It helps to have an idea of how many stacks you and your healers can manage. 5 stacks is very conservative and will do little damage, while more than 8 gets risky. I usually get to around 6 before I plan to start dropping them.

The key to making the debuff easy is recognising that the Instability stack increments whenever a spellcast affects your mana. This means that a spell with a casting time, like Shadow Bolt, will not cause Instability to increment until the moment it’s completed casting, and a channeled spell increments the stack at the start of the channel.

So once you get Unchained Magic, keep casting as normal until you reach about 6 stacks of Instability, then cast a channelled spell and watch the instability timer tick down towards 0. When you see it get past 1 second left, start casting a nuke. Instability should drop off before the cast completes, and you can continue with your standard rotation.

So, which channel to cast? The following is Demo oriented. The numbers will change for Affliction because of talents.

Drain Life ticks for 133 per second over 5 seconds with a 14.3% SP coefficient per tick

Drain Soul ticks for 710 per 3 seconds over 15 seconds with a 42.9% coefficient per tick

First lets take a look at a reasonably high-end gear level, assuming 5k spellpower and 45% spell haste.

Drain Life does 4240 damage over 2.75 seconds.
Drain Soul does 2855 damage every 1.65 seconds, 5710 in 3.3s
Shadow Bolt has a cast time of 1.3 seconds.

If you are low on health, Drain Life has an obvious advantage, but otherwise Drain Soul does more damage, and combined with a Shadow Bolt cast takes up 4.6 of the 5 second debuff timer (use the DrainSoulTimer addon for an audio bell notification for each Drain Soul tick).

For a more moderate gear level, assuming 4k spellpower and 35% haste.

Drain Life does 3525 damage over 3.25 seconds.
Drain Soul does 2426 damage over 1.95 seconds, 4852 in 3.9s
Shadow Bolt has a cast time of 1.63 seconds.

This would make Drain Life the better choice, as waiting for 2 ticks of Drain Soul would waste half a second of normal rotation and is likely to end up as a dps loss.

Neither Drain tops the DPCT charts, so there will still be a DPS loss to getting the Unchained Magic debuff, but being able to fill the 5 seconds when Instability ticks down with easy to time casts gives Warlocks a neat way of dealing with an awkward debuff. And every bit of DPS helps.

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