Friday, August 10, 2007

Anatomy of a Cast Sequence

If you visit the Warlock forums, Warlock's Den, or any Warlock resource for that matter, you will likely come across a conversation involving DoT cast sequences. Indeed, visiting the Warlock forums earlier today, there were 3 threads involving cast sequence on the first page alone! So why is the order in which DoTS are applied such a hawt topic? Why is it such a big deal?

Cause Warlocks are DPS whores! That's why. And cast sequences are directly related to DPS, via the juggling of global cooldowns, DoT refreshes, and everything in-between. Right?

Being a DPS whore myself, I've fiddled with the numbers many times in the past. I would put together a little chart outlining new cast sequences and potential DPS of a set of spells. Yeah, I am a total math nerd like that, but it has worked out well enough... kinda. =P

Unfortunately, the charts are very specific to the point in time when they were created, taking into account the spell damage, talent points, spec, etc, that I had at the time. In order for me, or anyone for that matter, to best understand what cast sequence would work best for them, updated stats would have to be considered. Of course, there are some universal truths, mostly involving global cooldowns, but hey, better to know for sure, right?

Here's an example of the charts, using my own, up-to-date stats.

Based on +1001 global spell dmg, 40/0/21 spec, 60 secs, and excluding all potential crits and no mana issues whatsoever.

Sequence #1:

1 - Immolate - 15 secs
2 - Corruption - 18 secs
3 - Agony - 24 secs
4 - Siphon Life - 30 secs
5 - Shadow Bolt spam (2.5 sec cast)

Rinse and refresh DoTS as needed.

0.0 s - cast Immolate (532 dmg + 1266 DoT)
1.5 s - cast Corruption (after 1.5 s Immol cast) (2500 DoT)
3.0 s - cast Agony (3197 DoT)
4.5 s - cast Siphon Life (1794 DoT)
6.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt (1577 avg dmg)
8.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
11.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
13.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
16.0 s - cast Immolate
17.5 s - cast Corruption (previous Corruption will miss it's last tick)
19.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
21.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
24.0 s - cast Agony (previous Agony will miss it's last tick)
25.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
28.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
30.5 s - cast Immolate (previous Immolate will miss it's last tick)
32.0 s - cast Siphon Life (partial)
33.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
36.0 s - cast Corruption
37.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
40.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
42.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
45.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
47.5 s - cast Immolate (partial)
49.0 s - cast Agony (partial)
50.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
53.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
55.5 s - cast Corruption (partial)
57.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
59.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt

Total Dmg: 51463
DPS: 880 (again, excluding crits; otherwise it'd be around 1250 or so with Ruin)

The chart offers a pretty decent accounting of where the Warlock would be at any given time, if that cast sequence was to be followed, and DoTS refreshed near their the end of their cycles. Sure, it's pretty scripted, but that's PvE for ya, and it makes it fairly easy to compare different cast sequences to one another visually and mathematically, even if this isn't exactly how it would play out in the field. And, given the length and randomness of events, Improved Shadow Bolt procs, and even gear-based buffs, you can probably imagine how quickly one should deviate from the given "order" as soon as benefits are laid down elsewhere (spamming Shadow Bolts when an Improved SB procs, for example).

Sequence #2:

1 - Agony - 24 secs
2 - Siphon Life - 30 secs
3 - Immolate - 15 secs
4 - Corruption - 18 secs
5 - Shadow Bolt spam

0.0 s - cast Agony (3197 DoT)
1.5 s - cast Siphon Life (1794 DoT)
3.0 s - cast Immolate (532 dmg + 1266 DoT)
4.5 s - cast Corruption (2500 DoT)
6.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt (1577 dmg)
8.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
11.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
13.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
16.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
18.5 s - cast Immolate
20.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
22.5 s - cast Corruption
24.0 s - cast Agony
25.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
28.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
30.5 s - cast Siphon Life
32.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
34.5 s - cast Immolate
36.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
38.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
41.0 s - cast Corruption
42.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
45.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
47.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
50.0 s - cast Immolate (partial)
51.5 s - cast Agony (partial)
53.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt
56.0 s - cast Shadow Bolt
58.5 s - cast Shadow Bolt

Total Dmg: 51360
DPS: 878

Egad?! Almost identical numbers? How can that be?

If you're an astute Warlock and/or player, you probably already know how to explain the numbers you just saw. I realized very quickly after making these charts that the cast sequence of a set grouping of spells doesn't matter in many if not most situations. In other words, no matter how you begin your casting, you will end up casting the same number of specific spells in a given period of time. The charts are useful in expressing just that, but really, that's about all they were good for (and why "in the past" was italicized before =P).

So if cast sequence truly doesn't matter nearly as much as some make it out to, why does it receive so much attention?

Well, misinformation, for one. In a popular thread on the Warlock forums, a Lvl 70 'lock says:

The order of the initial dot outlay for a boss fight only seems important to me in terms of setting up the NEXT round of dots.

Many people will read this and hold it to be true, even though it is 100% false, as we've already shown.

Confusion is another reason cast sequence gets so much attention. For different mobs of unequal health and in different situations (5-man vs. raid, etc.), cast sequence DOES matter. Why? Well think about it. If a mob has 20k health, and there are 4 other Lvl 70's hammering away on it, a Warlock wouldn't even be able to cast all of his DoTS before the mob would flop down on the floor infront of him. You're gonna have to remove and add spells from your sequence to make the most of your DPS (remove a DoT and add a Shadowburn, for example), and start with heavy-hitting DoTS to get the most damage out of your spells (Corruption, for example). Some may transfer this into a raid, assuming cast sequences still matter there when in reality, they're not as important in that environment.

So really, when it comes down to it, what should we take away from this nonsense?

Cliff's Notes FTW: Cast sequence only matters when the duration of an encounter (be it trash, or what have you) is relatively short, which limits the effectiveness of DoTS as a whole. At such an occasion, one should consider the TYPE of spell used (DoT vs. Direct Damage), not just their ORDER of application in an effort to maximize effective DPS.

Heh, glad we got that settled.


Jay said...

You should ideally never refresh CoA before the last dot ticks off considering that last tick is the most damage.

Also, pending specc... if you are ISB and have tons of crit - you're better off focusing on keeping the ISB debuff up, but that depends on raid composition as well.

Recently in the ally guild it's come up that no one is specced Malediction. Problem is, it's a guild that rides your ass about your dps or lack thereof. So.. bringing up that no one is specced the beneficial raid utility specc is amusing... because if you do so and lose damage, you get yelled at for that too.

But yeah, your rotations make sense and all that and the idea that rotation isn't 100% all it's cracked up to be... but there's so much more to raiding on a warlock than just spamspamspam. Depends on your job in the raid and how much you can benefit the raid as a whole when it comes down to it.

We aren't all damage whores ;)

JAGOeX said...

Very true. I think I touched on the situational-ness a bit and that while the ideal is to keep DoTS up and refreshed soon after their cycle is complete, it doesn't always happen that way.

I'm really just shocked that so many Warlocks make it to 70 and still think DoT cast sequence is a major issue. Perhaps that's an indication they don't raid much? Who knows. But it's over-emphasis is definitely something worth noting.

P.S. - You and Blawle so ignored me on vent last night! Psh!!!

Timothy said...

The reason locks are trained to consider cast sequence is while levelling, it actaully does matter, as it is unlikely that any of your dots will complete their full duration, so dps of each one must be considered and the higher dps ones applied first so that they get more ticks in faster and the mob dies (albeit marginally) faster.
oh and realistically for affliction lock its 1, 2, 3, 4 (not caring about what dot is on each button) then 5 for shadow bolt untill the dottimer mod tells you to refresh a dot :P Who pre-plans a rotation?

smart001 said...

Again, I know this is an old post and the "cast sequence" has likely changed, but you just made me realize a very pertinent point.

The same cast order is not always going to work. When I am pulling as many mobs as I possibly can over and over, Corruption, CoA is fine, but in instances (where I was complaining about DoTs not having enough time to cook) immolation, corruption, shadowbolt would probably be better.

I will have to experiment more.