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The Attack Power Debuff

Author’s Note: This is the middle half or so of a much longer post, which I originally released as one gargantuan wall of text. You may want to start with part 1.

The Attack Power Debuff

The attack power debuff reduces an enemy’s attack power by a static amount. The exact benefit of this debuff is hard to ascertain – damage from AP is calculated very differently for NPCs. Players’ autoattacks scale at a rate of 1 DPS per 14 AP, but testing – and investigation of Beast type enemies through the hunter ability Beast Lore – has shown that enemies have significantly less AP than a player, and that their autoattacks and especially their special abilities scale steeply with the stat.

Unfortunately Beast Lore is the only way we have of peeking into the actual mechanics behind each boss, and its limitations are high: it can only detect the autoattack damage range, not the damage range of specials; and worse, it only functions on Beast type mobs. For specials and for non-beast mobs, we can’t see the numbers, so the best we can do is experiment and analyze parses for each boss individually.

The only thing we really know about the AP debuff in PvE is that Maexxna, the spider boss in Naxxramas, has 573 AP; and that therefore, against her anyway, it is not a waste to fully improve the debuff. (The thread presenting evidence for this is here.) Given that Maexxna is in the lowest tier of raiding for this expansion, it is likely that no boss in a later tier has less AP than she; so we can guess that the full debuff is not wasted on any boss in current content.

So how good is the Attack Power debuff? Well, I’ve seen estimates of the boss damage reduction (from the fully improved AP debuff) ranging from 4% to 30%. Ghostcrawler ballparks the damage reduction from a fully-improved AP debuff at 20% for autoattacks and up to 50% for specials, though given the casual context of his remarks, and the fact that I haven’t noticed such a dramatic difference myself, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual values were half that. The most trustworthy estimate I’ve seen, on this AP debuff thread on TankSpot, puts the autoattack damage reduction at 16.75% for trash and 14.8% for Maexxna, with a fully-improved debuff. With the baseline warrior or druid debuff, it’s a 12% reduction on trash and a 10.55% reduction on Maexxna. As bosses’ physical specials scale more steeply with AP than their autoattacks, we can expect these numbers to be significantly lower than the effective reduction of any boss who uses physical specials – the higher the proportion of total damage the specials make up, the higher the percent reduction from the AP debuff.

Remember, attack power only affects physical attacks, so the total damage reduction applied by the AP debuff on bosses who use magic is significantly lower than that applied on bosses with purely physical attacks.

Attack Power Debuffs in Wrath

The AP debuff is more of a pain to improve and apply than the attack speed debuff. Unlike those for the attack speed debuff, all talents to improve the AP debuff come with no extra benefits – no one can be assumed to be bringing the fully improved debuff on the basis of their build. In fact, since most example builds are constructed as a selfish min-max exercise, most players will not spec into an AP debuff at all. Therefore, when pugging or running normal mode content, you’re probably going to be stuck using either an unimproved AP debuff or no AP debuff at all. However, when you get a nice regular group together and are min-maxing content, here are the AP debuffs you have to choose from:

  • Demoralizing Shout (Warriors): 410-574 AP redux (5 points), 30-45 second duration (2 points), AoE, 10-15 yd range (2 points).
    • A fully-improved Demoralizing Shout is the most powerful AP debuff, tying with Vindication and Demoralizing Screech for potency, but eclipsing all other AP debuffs in range and duration. However, the talent is on the second tier of the fury tree, effectively raising its cost to 7 points for protection warriors: most protection builds will normally invest only 3 points in fury. It is therefore unusual to see protection warriors specced into Improved Demoralizing Shout unless they’re doing very high-level ten-man content. Incite spec arms warriors also can’t afford to fully improve Imp Demo, but they can respec into the more conventional arms-sub-fury spec at a small DPS loss. However, the arms rotation is GCD locked, so any spec of arms warriors will lose some DPS from applying demo shout.
    • Fury warriors, on the other hand, have an open GCD roughly every 8-16 seconds for the first 80% of a fight; and they have 7 points of filler to invest in the first 3 tiers of the fury tree, which lines up perfectly with Improved Demoralizing Shout and Booming Voice. This means that they can keep the debuff up with a minimal DPS loss, though if they are also responsible for keeping sunder armor or battle/commanding shout up as well they may lose more DPS.
  • Demoralizing Roar (Bears): 408-571 AP redux (5 points), 30 second duration, AoE, 10 yd range.
    • Feral Aggression, the AP debuff improvement talent, is on the first tier of the feral tree with only one other talent, Ferocity. Generally a bear will talent one or the other, but not both; and the best part about this is that in content you need the one for, you shouldn’t need the other. Ferocity increases the rage efficiency of your rotation, and if you’re getting hit softly enough to worry about rage efficiency, you don’t need to worry about reducing your damage taken further with the AP debuff. Demoralizing Roar decreases the damage you take, and if you’re taking enough damage to need an AP debuff, you’re getting hit hard enough that you don’t need to worry about rage efficiency.
  • Vindication (Retribution and Protection Paladins): 0-574 AP redux (2 points), 10 second duration, single-target/multi-target.
    • Vindication is a passive chance-on-hit effect from most of a paladin’s damaging abilities (exception: Consecration). Because it is a chance on hit effect, Vindication is impossible to guarantee 100% uptime on – but the chance to proc is high enough that it will be up 99% of the time on the paladin’s main target, with lower uptime on any additional targets hit by seals, Divine Storm, Hammer of the Righteous, etc. Generally, retribution paladins must choose between Vindication and Improved Blessing of Might, so if anyone else in the raid has Improved BoM (or is providing Battle Shout and specced into Commanding Presence), Vindication is effectively a free talent for them. Protection paladins may prefer to spec those two points into a DPS ability on their way up the ret tree, but given that they rarely have difficulties with threat, Vindication is a natural choice for them as well.
  • Curse of Weakness (Warlocks): 478-573 AP redux (2 points), 2 minute duration, single-target/multi-target.
    • Curses are a family of warlock debuffs, of which each warlock can only have one up on each mob at a time. A warlock’s major curses are Curse of the Elements, which significantly increases magic damage taken, and their DPS curses – Curse of Agony for affliction, and Curse of Doom for demonology and destruction. Curse of Weakness, of course, is the AP debuff. Improved Curse of Weakness requires 7 points in the affliction tree; and as neither demonology nor destruction locks subspec into affliction at all in accepted builds, only affliction locks are likely to be able to provide this debuff. This is unfortunate, as, if I understand correctly, affliction locks are the spec most dependent on their DPS curse.
  • Demoralizing Screech (Hunters): 574 AP redux, 10 second duration, 10 second cooldown, AoE, melee range.
    • Demoralizing Screech is a single-target damage ability with a non-capped, melee range AP debuff attached. It is provided by carrion birds, a Ferocity (raid DPS) pet family. It is the only AP debuff which is at full strength without talents, and though the debuff is not passive, pet abilities are auto-cast on the server side, which gives it effectively a 99% uptime. Most hunters raid with wolves, which have identical abilities to carrion birds except that, instead of Demoralizing Screech, they have an ability called Furious Howl, which provides a 320 AP buff to the hunter and his pet with a 50% uptime.

Determining who’s best to bring the AP debuff is much more complicated than the attack speed debuff. If you’re working on content which is not particularly hard, you may as well go with the unimproved Demoralizing Shout from a warrior or Demoralizing Roar from a bear. If you’re pushing content which is difficult for you, however, you’ll probably want to bring an improved debuff.

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when deciding who should bring the improved AP debuff. First you want to think about build breaking. If providing the improved AP debuff will require someone to spec a tier deeper into a sub-spec tree than they normally would go, it would likely break their build – that is, cause them significant hardship in performing their raid role. Both protection warriors and non-affliction locks have their builds broken by speccing for the improved AP debuff, so this should be avoided unless there’s no one else to bring it.

Let’s use my prot warrior as an example. If I were to spec into Improved Demoralizing Shout, I’d have to spec out of Impale and Deep Wounds. Impale and Deep Wounds together accounted for more than 7% of my damage over the course of all attempts on the Lich King 10-man last Friday; and since the benefits of both are based on crit chance, the threat they provide would scale significantly higher with 25-man raid buffs (e.g. Rampage/LotP, as we have no fury warriors or feral druids). My top DPSer already rides at 95% of my threat, and is probably holding back a little to stay there; a 7% loss in my damage would therefore mean a 7% loss in his as well.

Another concern in deciding who to bring is the layout of the fight, and the number of targets that require debuffing. Vindication is fine on a simple tank-and-spank fight, but if you need to debuff multiple targets, one paladin specced into it isn’t going to cut it. Demoralizing Screech is great for a pack of adds, but if you’re tanking the boss separately, it’s not going to cover everything.

A third concern is the loss of raid buffs. If you only have one warlock and no boomkin or unholy DKs, Curse of the Elements is probably a better use of his talents. Both paladins and warriors have a choice between speccing into the improved AP debuff and speccing into their major raid buffs.

Yet another concern is the provider’s personal DPS. An affliction lock who isn’t providing CoE can talent and apply the AP debuff, but it will cost him a significant chunk of his personal DPS; while a fury warrior will lose almost no single-target DPS by applying Demoralizing Shout.

In my opinion, the best possible person to provide the improved AP debuff is a fury warrior who is not responsible for the Battle Shout/Blessing of Might AP buff or the Commanding Shout health buff. This is an unusual situation in 10-man raids, requiring at least 2 DPS warriors, but fairly common in 25-mans. Because this warrior is not responsible for applying a buff, he is free to talent into Improved Demoralizing Shout instead of Commanding Presence with no buff loss and negligible DPS loss. An arms warrior in the same situation is almost as good, except that arms warriors are GCD locked, and so will lose slightly more DPS keeping Demo Shout up. A fully improved demoralizing shout is AoE, has a long duration, and has the largest radius (15 yds) of any AP debuff in the game.

The second best choice, in my opinion, is a bear druid. A bear’s AP debuff has almost as long of a range and duration as a warrior’s, and improving the debuff comes at the cost of rage efficiency, which as we discussed isn’t a big deal in ICC.

My third choice would be a hunter using a carrion bird. Though the hunter gives up 160 personal and pet AP, this is a very small percentage of the hunter’s total AP: my 10-man’s hunter has over 5800 AP without Furious Howl. Unlike the other choices, the hunter does not have to give up any talent points to provide the improved debuff, and the group loses no raid buffs either. The main limitation to Demoralizing Screech is its short range – if two or more hard-hitting mobs need to be pulled away from each other, a single carrion bird won’t be able to cover them all.

My fourth choice is a DPS warrior who is responsible for providing Battle Shout or Commanding Shout. In this case, the raid leader will have to decide whether he would rather have an improved Demoralizing Shout, an improved buff shout, or split points between the two. A fury warrior could also talent both by speccing out of DPS talents, but this would be a significant loss in his personal DPS.

My next choice would be a protection or retribution paladin. The cost of talenting the debuff is roughly the same, here – a protadin would make slightly more sense, as he would likely have higher uptime on the boss. The main problem with relying on a paladin for the AP debuff is that it cannot be counted upon in multi-target. If the paladin is attacking one prince, the other princes remain un-debuffed; and phase 1 of the Lich King fight, with two groups one of which is multi-target, would be much more brutal on the off tank than it has to be.

Second to last comes protection warriors. We’ve already discussed what prot warriors lose to talent Improved Demoralizing Shout, so this should come as no surprise.

The worst possible person to provide the AP debuff, in my opinion, is a warlock. Locks lose more than just a GCD and 2-7 talent points to apply CoW: they lose the use of one of their major damaging abilities (depending on the spec, Curse of Agony or Curse of Doom). They also lose the ability to apply Curse of the Elements, a significant buff to the raid’s magic dps.

Tl;dr: Fury warrior not responsible for Battle Shout/Commanding Shout > Arms warrior not responsible for Battle Shout/Commanding Shout > Bear druid > Carrion Bird > Fury warrior responsible for Battle Shout/Commanding Shout > Arms warrior responsible for Battle Shout/Commanding Shout > Protection paladin > Retribution paladin > Protection warrior > Affliction warlock > Other warlock.

Attack Power Debuffs in Cataclysm

Thankfully, this has been simplified a lot for Cataclysm. Blizzard has replaced the AP debuff, the benefit of which is hard to determine, with a -10% physical damage debuff – which is significantly weaker than what we currently have, but a lot easier to measure the benefit of. Like the attack speed reduction debuff, classes which have the physical damage reduction debuff baseline will have them fully improved without any need for talents.

For the most part the sources of the physical damage debuff are staying the same as in Wrath: warriors, bears, warlocks, and paladins. Vindication is moving into the deep prot tree, as is appropriate for a tanking debuff.

For some reason, the carrion bird special ability hasn’t been updated yet, so it’s impossible to tell at this time if they will continue to provide this raid benefit, or if it will be replaced with something else; however, it is known that bear hunter pets are receiving Demoralizing Roar as their new raid benefit. Also, blood death knights, the new dedicated tanking tree, are receiving a new disease to apply the physical damage debuff: Scarlet Fever. I’m not aware of any other new instances of the physical damage debuff.

Click here to read part 3.

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