Improved Soul Fire

By the time we’re 85 we’ll have seen a major change to our rotation – the introduction of the Improved Soul Fire talent.

You increase your spell haste by 15% for 15 sec after you deal damage with Soul Fire. This effect has a 15 sec cooldown.

This is, of course, causing vast amounts of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in Warlock forums the world over (I’ve come to the belief that the sun rising in the morning would do the same these days), with many folks demanding it be raised in the Destro tree so Demo and Affliction can’t spec it, and the more extreme threatening to /nerdquit over it’s existence.

Me, I like it. Quite a lot.

Once we hit 85, the changes to combat ratings are going to be extremely severe. It will take just over 128 haste rating for 1% of haste. For Demo, that’s significant as we need our haste to be within certain ranges if we’re to refresh Immolate with Hand of Gul’dan successfully and consistently (the addition of Fel Flame does give us more options, but in terms of hitting peak dps, we will still be chasing the HoG refresh mechanic). For some time initially we will be chasing hit on our gear as well as gemming for it. In pre-raid gear it’s not possible to get hit capped from ratings on gear alone, so getting to the 1742 hit cap will be top priority. As gear has 2 secondary stats, and we can reforge from crit and mastery to haste (on gear that doesn’t already have it) my expectation is that we should be able to start raiding with the 1742 hit cap met, and around 1200-1500 haste rating after gemming, enchanting and reforging (with minimal amounts of crit and mastery).

This much haste will put us quite tightly around 15 seconds for 6 Immolate ticks (c. 15.2 seconds @ 1200, 14.9 @ 1500) if we just factor in the 3% haste from Dark Intent and the 5% raid buff. That makes me nervous about my ability to refresh consistently, as I much prefer a more relaxed window for casting HoG (I particularly don’t like pausing, ever, and would rather cast another nuke and then cast HoG than wait for a moment if HoG is ‘nearly’ off GCD – gaps in casting can never be optimal dps). Even worst, the more we stack haste, the worse our casting window becomes. To get to the 30% haste threshold at which the casting window expands (and Immolate gets it’s 7th tick) needs 2588 haste rating and we won’t have a chance of hitting those levels until much later tiers. We’d have a poor choice of stacking haste (a good stat for us) and losing the ability to HoG refresh Immolate (a bad thing for our dps) or increasing other (less effective) stats in preference to haste in order to remain able to use the HoG refresh mechanic.

A 15% haste buff makes things look very different. At 1200 haste our Immolate duration is 15.44, and at 1500 it’s 15.11 and both of these are over a much reduced 30% cap (so have 7 ticks) of just 580 haste rating (interestingly the threshold for 50% with Improved Soul Fire and raid buffs is 2639 rating – not far off that needed for 30% with no ISF). Those are much more comfortable numbers to start raiding with, and as we gain better gear the tightening timings before the 50% threshold are less severe than those before the 30% one, and the ‘external’ multiplier acts to lower the relative value of haste to the other secondary stats making it have less impact if we avoid the problem area before the threshold and balance our crit and mastery ratings instead.

Now, all I’ve done so far is give an argument why Demo is in need of a haste multiplier, and demonstrated why 15% suits us very nicely. I don’t think many of those folks arguing against ISF are arguing against getting the buff – they just want it provided by a different mechanism.

Should it be active or passive? The easiest-to-play option would be to make it a passive buff attached to something in the Demo tree. I can understand why some players would prefer this, as it removes any skill requirement and acts to reduce the difference between good players and bad ones. Everyone would like to top the meters and baking massive, passive dps boosts into out-of-combat choices favours those who struggle with their in-combat ones. As an option, making the buff passive removes the ability to screw it up.

This can’t be a simple right or wrong answer then. Some folks are always going to want everything to be made easier, while others look forward to the opportunity to be challenged and given the tools to be able to differentiate themselves as good players. What I am sensing, however, is a move on Blizzard’s part to push things towards the second of these options, maybe as a response to the complaints of WotLK being ‘faceroll’ or the rise of Gearscore as the prime method of differentiating between players. By allowing the difference between the dps of the highest and lowest percentiles to increase, the relative importance of player skill is raised. Maybe they’ve just remembered that the “G” in MMORPG stands for Game and not Grind.

I prefer that the buff should be active, that it becomes another mechanism that rewards me for playing well, even if that means I look obviously mediocre when I screw it up. Given that I want to be doing something active to address our haste issues, the idea of tying the buff to Soul Fire is a solution I like.

Firstly, it’s an ability that’s already well used, and therefore (if you’re a binder) keybound. We have a lot of buttons already and don’t need another.

Secondly it’s an ability that used to be crucial and has seen it’s usefulness decline – with Decimation now just 25% instead of 35%, and the increased effectiveness of Incinerate to the point where MC procs make Incin take priority over SF during Decimate, it sees far fewer casts than before, and I’m a sucker for the idea of rehabilitation. I guess I don’t see the point of keeping a once-critical ability on our keybinds for old time’s sake and the role of 2nd priority, last 25% nuke is like some kind of doddering senescence for a once-great spell – either put it out of it’s misery or give it something else worth doing! The Soul Burn effect has done a small measure of renewal, which Improved Soul Fire should complete.

Thirdly, that very same Soul Burn ability to make it an instant cast gives some nice synergy and strategy to the casting. Trying to sneak the 4th Soul Burn effect is a fun activity for starting fights, which will get the buff up nice and quickly. We’d also be using the rest of the shards on Soul Fires through a fight, and now have the consideration of when best to use them to maintain the buff rather than just cast on cooldown/during Meta. Demo is the spec for folks who like to think about when to use certain abilities – it’s the strategy of the spec that’s got me hooked, and more strategy is absolutely a good thing.

Fourth, and lastly, I think there’s room for something new to be brought in to our rotation between 80 and 85. While both Affliction and Destruction will be gaining a powerful CD in Demon Soul that they’ll have to consider, the best use for Demo is chaining it to Meta owing to the greater benefits of stacking multipliers (to the extent where I’ll probably macro them together as a castsequence). Dark Intent is entirely passive and Fel Flame, while greatly changing what we cast while moving, doesn’t have a role in our ‘optimal’ (i.e. static/tank+spank) rotation. The big difference between Demo at 80 and Demo at 85 will be… Soul Fire (the return).

Well, that’s why I think Improved Soul Fire is a good talent for Demo, and why I’m looking forward to getting and using it. Not that I care about the other specs much, but from what I can see it’s a pretty interesting change to Destro, which is probably a bad thing as in my view Destro should be the spec for those who don’t want much in the way of interesting – the natural destro players have never been happier than when they’ve got a simple and straightforward rotation (whether that’s SB spam or 5 button whack-a-cooldown). As for Affliction, it seems sadly clunky, but will also decline in importance with increasing gear values, as base haste ratings from gear rise and GCD capping becomes a possibility, though even this won’t address PvP issues. I think affli players have a legitimate grievance but the problems may be temporary, certainly fixable with a Glyph of Eradication (either by extending the current Eradication mechanics to be comparable while making Imp SF incompatible, or simply adding a similar effect to Haunt – I’m sure there are other ways too).

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