Now that we have Demon Spikes covered, let’s talk about the centerpiece of Vengeance gameplay.
(Boy, if you think this class is 2edgy4me, just wait for this…)
So, pain. Pain is the resource of choice for all Vengeance-specialization Demon Hunters. Pain is a strange hybrid of sorts between traditional builder-spender gameplay, and Rage-styled generation based on damage taken.
Before taking any talents into account, Pain is generated for you in two ways. One, via Shear, which gives you a flat 10 Pain per swing. Two, via damage taken, at a rate of 1 Pain per 2% of max health in damage intake. What this means, relative to Rage tanks (where it slowly builds via damage intake primarily, and abilities that generate it are relatively slow to generate it) is that you generate the majority of your Pain income via ability usage, and the Pain via damage taken is icing on the cake, serving to layer complexity onto your rotation. What this also means, which is important to keep in mind, is that as you gear up and gain more Stamina and higher max health, your Pain generation actually negatively scales. It will be harder to generate Pain at higher gear levels because 2% of your max health is an ever-larger number. Of course, this scaling isn’t severe, because in theory, you’ll be pushing harder content as you go along, getting hit harder at the same time, but also because Pain acquired via damage intake only represents roughly 30% of your total Pain income during an average encounter.
Pain pools to a maximum of 100, at which point any further Pain income is wasted.
Pain can be spent a number of ways. The primary mechanisms are via Soul Cleave (which consumes 30-60 Pain, and will always use as much as it can) and Demon Spikes (a flat 20 Pain cost). Without adding talents into the mix, these are your only Pain spenders. A default Pain intake cycle would see you generating Pain up until 80, at which point you want to spend it to avoid capping. 80 Pain allows for a full-effectiveness Soul Cleave and a Demon Spikes, healing you up quite a bit and reducing your damage intake going forward.
Most guides recommend holding off on spending any Pain until you near 70, and then using Soul Cleave to spend it. In my gameplay experiences, this holds up very well. The easy temptation is to panic, tapping Soul Cleave in a frenzy because of the health ping-pong, but this does a disservice to you, denying you the peak healing of a full-Pain Soul Cleave, while also denying you more Pain for Demon Spikes. The biggest part of the learning curve of Vengeance can be described in two words: don’t panic. You will want to, particularly if you have played any other tank, especially if you have played one at peak damage reduction (since I played Brewmaster during HFC, peak Stagger plus 2 million Guards against 600k health, yeah, I had to learn this lesson the hard way :)).
Now, if you find your Pain income lacking, there is one other default ability that can help: Metamorphosis. In addition to being your “oh shit!” button, it also provides ridiculous Pain generation – 7 free Pain every second for its duration. This also applies to the free Metamorphosis provided by Fueled By Pain, so you will occasionally see benefit from this without having to trigger that large cooldown. While this is not nearly the best part of Metamorphosis, it does provide a substantial boost to your gameplay, allowing significantly more utilization of maximum Soul Cleaves and Demon Spike rolling.
In addition, via talents, you can take Felblade to improve your Pain generation, should you find it lacking. This is a strong talent in its tier, as it improves your already-excellent mobility, giving you a pseudo-charge, but also, the 20 Pain provided by using it smooths out your rotation. It also has a chance to reset on Shear usage, further upping your DPS and your Pain income. This reset happens fairly often, and will give you the large glowing button so you know to use it!
Once your Pain income becomes easy to manage, you can add additional spenders to your rotation via talents. Fel Eruption is a heavy-hitting damage/control ability that applies a stun – or, if the target cannot be stunned, just does double-damage instead. Fel Devastation is the best burst heal in our toolkit – a massive frontal-cone that hits for heavy fire damage, healing for twice the damage dealt. It also, as fire damage, heals again via the artifact trait Charred Warblades. Fracture allows you to convert 20 Pain into damage and 2 lesser soul fragments, the other resource that defines Vengeance gameplay. Soul Barrier is the last talent with Pain spending ability, albeit small (10 Pain). It gives you a powerful absorb shield based on the soul fragments it is allowed to consume.
Managing Pain and its pace of acquisition is probably the single biggest key to mastery of the Vengeance Demon Hunter. Knowing when to spend it to avoid capping the bar matters quite a bit, and separates a great Vengeance Demon Hunter from an average one. What I enjoy about this resource gameplay is that it never feels limiting – you will almost always have some Pain, and often quite a lot – but rather, the abundance of it influences your choices in a lot of interesting ways. Should you find that you want more layers of depth, you can add talents that generate Pain, or additional spenders to make its management more complicated.
Tomorrow, we’ll get into the second resource mechanic available to us – Soul Fragments.