Oh God it's a new expansion what do I do!
Time for a thread restart. Someone make a decent new OP and I'll lock this one.
"lock" this one, hehe.
There is good news and bad news. The good news is that each of the trees has been taken in interesting new directions, and that warlock are among the best damage dealers in Wrath PVE. The bad news is that playing a warlock in PVE has gotten significantly more difficult since level 70, with every tree requiring pet micromanagement and/or a complicated, dynamic dot/nuke rotation. Let's have a quick looksee at the three trees.
Affliction got a solid look by a balance team tired of warlocks that didn't use their damage over time spells. The most interesting change is the new 51 point talent, Haunt. Haunt's a direct damage spell that temporarily buffs your DoT damage and provides a small self-heal. In addition, affliction's picked up a bunch of new talents that will help it scale along with the other trees. The reasoning behind this is complicated and mathematical, but it's enough to say that affliction should be a viable pve spec for a long time. Played well, affliction will easily top the meters in T7 raiding, and still affords decent survivability and mobility in that environment.
is the build I run. There is a certain amount of dispute among people who study these things about the opportunity cost of the two +hit talents (suppression and cataclysm.) Molten core and demonic power are decent places to put points instead, as is imp. CoA (if CoE isn't needed in your raid.) You should only put one point in eradication; again, the math is complicated, but the way the internal cooldown and the proc rate work make the second and third points almost worthless.
Destruction also got some lovin', and is now pretty much exclusively "the fire tree." For the first time since seducenuking at 60, conflagrate is useful, providing a nifty haste buff. Chaos bolt also provides the green fire you've always wanted. Unfortunately destro's damage lags a bit behind affliction, but patch 3.1 will add some nice utility (including replenishment!) to the tree.
Here's a pve build
. Because of how topheavy the destro tree is, most of those points are non-negotiable. Yes, it doesn't have shadowfury. Sorry. Builds that go a little farther down the demo tree to unholy power do comparable damage, but increase your reliance on a potentially fragile imp.
Finally, demonology. Demo's basically what it always was: survivability and pet buffs. Still, there are some nice new toys high in the tree, and a lot of the silly things low in the tree can be used productively now (improved voidwalker, I'm looking at you.) The easiest pve builds to play currently are also demonology/destruction hybrids that take advantage of the scaling talents in the middle of the demo tree.
is the most popular, although some people also like 41/30
Oh god how do I play this?
Basically, warlock dps revolves around refreshing your DoTs on time, and firing off as many nukes (shadowbolt or incinerate) as you can when you aren't doing that. The demonology hybrid builds have this the easiest; they keep immolate, CoA and corruption up, and spam incinerate. Deeper destro builds put up the same dots and also spam incinerate, but must weave in conflag and chaosbolt. Affliction has to watch a menagerie of timers, squeeze in enough shadow bolts to keep shadow embrace up, then switch to the even more cumbersome drain soul as a primary nuke once a mob is below 25% health.
Basically, warlock PvP is fucked until at least patch 3.1. Prepare to get bent over by melee, ranged, and casters (even mages! Ever think you'd hear that?) Your survivability will be low, and the only added mobility is the questionably useful demonic circle. If you're determined to step into the arena, the dominant build right now seems to be deep demonology; metamorphisis is a decent panic button that will keep melee off you for at least a little while. If you want to pvp as affliction or destruction, you're still putting 11ish points into demonology to get soul link, and dumping the rest into your tree of choice. Good luck, you're going to need it.
Bonus content: upcoming 3.1 class changes:
Blue posters have seen fit to reveal some of what will change about warlocks in patch 3.1. To wit:
# Improved Shadow Bolt – this talent now provides a 5% spell critical strike buff (similar to Improved Scorch).
# Improved Soul Leech – this talent now provides Replenishment (similar to shadow priests)
# Drain Soul now has a chance to produce Soul Shards even if the target doesn’t die.
# Siphon Life no longer as an active ability but the talent grants the old Siphon Life effect to Corruption.
# Curse of Recklessness and Curse of Weakness have been combined into one spell
# Consume Shadows – this Voidwalker ability is no longer channeled but has a cooldown.
# Several other warlock talents have had their ranks reduced, their effects changed or removed. This list includes but is not limited to Demonic Empathy, Shadow Embrace, Eradication, Suppression, and Pandemic.
# Additional new talents have been added.
Is that vague as fuck? Yes it is! But 3.1 will hit the PTR soon, so hopefully we'll know more then.
If you're interested in the reasoning behind most of the braindump I've just tossed up here, the warlock class forum at ElitistJerks
is a good place to start. This page
has a broad breakout of how various specs stack up, as well as some fun destruction-related graphs.