State of warlocks 4.2

Today I’m going to try and go over some of the issues facing warlocks today in pve, in a “state of …” type post, they seem to be rather popular to be written about now. I’m going to try and stay away from listing “fixes”, blizzard has a ridiculous number of tuning nobs these days, they can fix things without to much hassle.

I also think that while all of our specs pull “respectable” DPS numbers, that doesn’t mean we aren’t “broken” and don’t have issues pertaining to the class. To quote a blue from some time ago (I believe it was GC at last years blizzcon, but I could be wrong), if the best rogue spec was to sit at range and spam knife throws/fan of knifes to do competitive DPS, that would be broken and in need of being fixed. While I don’t think we are in quiet as a extreme case as that, I believe we do have issues that could be looked at.

Also, in advance, I’m sorry, this sorta ended up being a bit of a wall of text, possibly the biggest I’ve ever written on here.

General

Each rotation is very similar, they all focus around

  • Bane of doom
  • A 15 second fire or shadow dot (immolate or UA)
  • Corruption

With various nukes in between. Granted this issue is slightly better now that demonology’s immolate is longer than 15 seconds, but this is little more than a band aid fix. The rotations all focus around this, so they almost can’t help but feel similar (as opposed to say mages who have 3 very different rotations).

Shadowflame is a odd spell, its in all of our rotations in some form or another, and seemingly pushes warlocks to almost be the melee caster DPS. This forces us, if we want to make use of this spell, to suffer some of the downsides of being melee. While at the same time, we can step out and take a minor hit to DPS. It gives warlocks a choice, a “interesting” choice I guess. In a world where free (mostly melee) cleave damage (eg doing the same rotation, but getting extra damage from cleaves) is meant to be at a end, but this spell has taken a jump up to being one of the few left.

Soul Shards

Soul shards are our new mechanic we got in 4.0. The generic idea is you have 3 soul shards and burning a shard does something cool. But so far we have had limited uses for this, and even fewer than we actually want to use in pve.

  • Instant soul fires, primarily used by destruction to keep ISF rolling, but also the highest DPS use of a shard for all classes
  • A miniature last stand, for moments in pve where you wouldn’t live other wise
  • Instant pet resummons, if our pet happens to take a hit for whatever reason
  • A sprint when combined with teleport. Has limited uses in all of one encounter in pve.

Most of the time you end up saving your shards in case your pet dies to something silly (a common example, standing in bad on nef, phase). This ends up with soul shards feeling more like a band aid fix to our pets being stupid, rather than something cool.

Utility spells

There has been some concerns raised about the number of utility spells that warlocks have. While I don’t think this is a issue personally, its still worth covering. On a average fight a warlock will use a numerous set of utility spells, that don’t fit into the DPS rotation directly.

  • Teleport
  • Shadowfury/soul swap
  • Soul shatter
  • Pet summons as needed
  • fear as needed
  • Banish as needed
  • Howl of Terror as needed
  • Soul stone as needed
  • Drain life
  • Deathcoil
  • Shadow ward
  • Soul burn + other spell

Personally I think a great selection of utility spells, or situational spells are a good thing. They allow players to differentiate themselves from someone else who just does good DPS. When people say know your class they are typically referring to these utility spells, and knowing when/how to use them.

Cool downs

Our cool downs are in a good place, no longer are we stuck with a 30 minute cool down Doomguard and not much else for increasing our DPS. We have our new Doomguard and infernal that we can use when we want without replacing our current pets. Meanwhile demon soul not only gives us a shorter CD (2 minutes) but also serves to help make our pet choice more interesting. No longer do we just have to look at which pet does the most raw DPS, but also which cool down is best.

On this topic, there has been discussion of making demon soul spec specific instead of pet specific. I dislike this idea, not only would it diminish the void walkers usefulness even further, but would greatly reduce the amount of thought that goes into pet choice. As it stands now pet choice in a combination of both the raw DPS of the pet, and how much DPS the cool down gives us.

Pets

Over all I believe our pets are in a good place. While each spec has a pet to use, its not a horrible DPS loss to switch pets if you require a specific buff or utility spell. More on fel guard in the demonology section.These abilitys being on our pets give us a somewhat unique ability in wow shared only by frost mages and hunters, though nether class approaches our level. We can do things while incapacitated. Dispel that important frost mage debuff, dispell the innervate on the enemy resto druid who’s LoS, or seduce the rogue that’s stun locking you. But I’m trying to look at pve here, not pvp.

Void walker

What is his purpose these days? With demon soul:VW we can now use him effectively for soloing bosses, however without a true taunt (for bosses) this can make things somewhat tricky. Also when soloing, his threat isn’t brilliant by any definition, his best use seems to be holding a mob(s) while you kill another as opposed to actually tanking a mob your beating on.

Succubus

The succubus makes a nice appearance as a optional pvp pet with both whiplash and seduction having some obvious pvp benefits. Though these days her pve uses are fairly limited, usually being brought to CC an additional target on difficult trash pulls, or as a “ghetto” interrupt on cho’gall now that 4.1 has allowed her whiplash to break the MCs.

Imp

The imp takes its place as destructions pet. He brings with him both a friendly dispel and the raid stamina buff. This pet has been the constant companion of destruction for a while now, and is often refered to as a little “machine gun turret” or some equivalent there of.

Fel hunter

The fel hunter takes its place as both demonology’s single target pet pet, and as afflictions pet. He brings with him both a tasty intellect buff, a MP5 buff, and a spell interrupt tied to a offensive dispel. While he faced a sad start to the expansion, being discarded for the succubus (and who would want to run with her? >.< The sounds bytes are annoying.Very.Annoying.). With 4.1 this pet has been pushed to the top, and hasn’t yet been challenged for his dominance.

Fel guard

The fel guard is our AE pet, who’s felstorm can easily keep pace with other class AE ability’s. This pet not only serves to reinforce demonology’s AE dominance but also serves another important function, it allows demonology to do AE dps where hellfire/immolation aura may not be viable. This allows demonology to a respectable level of AE DPS in both magmaw and cho’gall (essentially half the AE DPS encounters of this tier) even if the player can’t manage to pull of helfire.

Spec Overviews

Destruction

Destruction’s problems stem from the fact that after the dots and ISF, it is essentially a FCFS (first come first served) in the same way ret was for most of 3.x. You smack which ever of 3/4 buttons is of CD without much thought. If none are on CD you smack incinerate. This leads to a overly simplistic, but long and annoying, rotation, instead of a interesting and engaging rotation. Granted this is what destruction has always been known for, a simplistic CD based rotation.

ISF while much better in this iteration than the original, still has its issues. Are these issues a matter of taste (not everyone has to like every spec), or rather a result of a convoluted mechanic? At this stage I’m fairly certain that any mechanic that requires you to judge how long a missile takes to get to a boss is relatively convoluted, this becomes even more obvious on a fight like Al’akir where the boss is a long way away. But at least its not as bad as the old ISF where your DPS would take a huge plunge if you didn’t account for ony being turned and had your SF hit the boss early (and then ISF drop). While I think adding extra mechanics to destruction to make it more interesting (and giving it more gradient between good and bad players) is a good idea, I’m still not sure if this is the way to go.

Affliction

Affliction’s problems stem from there just not being much to do. During execute phase affliction warlocks have 4 rotational buttons,

  • one you once a minute.
  • One low proc chance button
  • Haunt every 8-10 seconds
  • Drain soul, your filler
    • Important note, with drain souls 15 second length, you only need to cast it once to fill any amount of time, haunt will always be of CD before drain soul ends

This can, and does often end up with affliction warlocks sitting around for up to 8 seconds (some times more) doing nothing while drain soul ticks away. While its nice that the rotation gets somewhat simpler once you reach 25% HP, this is at a absurd level. On the flip side of this, multi doting as affliction is at times silly. The timing required to maintain 2 sets of shadow embrace is horrendus, and suffers from some of the same problems as ISF does. You have to judge how long a shadow bolt will take to get from you to each boss, and who’s shadow embrace needs refreshing when. If you get it wrong you suffer a horrible DPS, as so much of our DoT damage is tied to SE.

Movement as affliction, for any significant amount of time, appears to be a issue. As affliction you have no way to reliably keep SE/haunt rolling on the boss while moving, without praying for a nightfall proc. While this is a issue on only 2 encounters at most in T1, we shall have to see what T2 brings us.

Our DoT damage is low when compared to both balance druids and shadow priests. With both balance druid and shadow priest dot damage being seemingly nerfed, rather than our dot damage being brought up, this should seemingly balance it out.

The affliction rotation itself seems somewhat counter intuitive. Its main filler is shadow bolt, which in itself is fine, there is a massive precedence for this. Destruction has to sub spec to demo to make it mana efficient (and hence viable), affliction has to sub spec destro to make its filler viable, there are numerous cases like this in other talent trees. However the tree has a huge number of talents that boost drain life, and the spec description itself doesn’t mention shadow bolt, but rather drain spells. It seems intuitive that drain life would be the filler spell of choice. The tree works in a counter intuitive way, you take talents to boost one filler (because you have to) but use another filler, this is something blizzard wanted to get rid of in cataclysm but has seemingly failed here.

Demonology

Demonology’s issues are more so along the lines of it not having as much pure oomf as the other 2 specs. It can’t keep up in single target DPS, 2 target DPS or mobility. It is, for all intents and purposes, a one trick pony when compared to affliction and destruction.

A important question that should be asked for demonology (and potentially combat rogues) is if its ok for a signature ability to only be used for AE/multi target situations? As far as I can see combat is the only spec in even close to a similar position as demonology regarding its signature ability. The majority of the community tends to err on the side of this not being ok. Personally I have to agree, its counter intuitive. “Hey look, have this awesome pet! But you can’t use him all the time, sorry”, but it could go either way.

A lot of demonology’s damage is tied to hard casted spells, and as such suffers badly during movement heavy encounters. Similar to affliction this is only a issue during 2 encounters in T1, and we will have to see what T2 brings us.

Demonology also features metamorphosis, a extremely strong cool down, and the main focus of demonology’s mastery. This cool down also has a interesting interaction between mastery and haste through the talent “impending doom”. As we get more haste, we get more nukes of and more changes for impending doom to proc and lower the cool down of metamorphosis, which increases its uptime and thus mastery’s value. Although the random element of impending doom both work for the spec and against the spec. It helps makes the spec more dynamic. At the same time with so much of our damage tied to this cool down the random element of this talent is sometimes resented.

Conclusion

In conclusion I feel pve warlocks are in a good place numbers wise, mechanics wise there a lot left to desire. Each spec has its flaws and ussues, some more than others, some of these may be intended, some may not. Could improvements be made? Yes. We are not perfect, and I doubt we ever will be. 4.2 isn’t bringing us any fixes, perhaps 4.3 or 4.4 (and so on) will? Or will we have to wait until the next expansion for any major over haul?

I would also like to mention that I think there are a lot of “perceived” issues with warlocks. An example would be ISF, it was very convoluted in its previous form. However since being fixed its somewhat palatable now, however people still reiterate the same arguments from 6 months ago about it. This tends to happen for every class though (see holy priest mana from cataclysm release to now, and people still quoting people like aliena saying holy priest mana isn’t fine), which is part of the reason I’m doing this post. To help lay out what I feel “are” issues now.

Lastly, I think that sites such as stateofdps and raidbots (which collate WoL’s reports to provide statistical averages) don’t help the situation, in that they are heavily effected by popular opinion, showing nerfs were there are none, and buffs that come from the community simply thinking one spec is better than the other. They give valuable information, but theres many forces that effect the outcome that we have to take into account before we can make use of the numbers.

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  1. Nastiest
    June 28, 2011 at 10:25 am

    I’ve been leveling a Lock for a week or so. She’s at 62 atm. I like reading this type of stuff on classes I’m leveling. I main a resto Shaman and Primary alt on a Protadin. Good write up!

    • June 28, 2011 at 11:24 am

      Don’t let this all throw you of, I’m being very (if not overly so) critical of the class. >.>

  2. June 28, 2011 at 10:38 am

    In regards to using Shadowflame.. If you are a Destro Lock, it’s a good idea to hit Shadowfury on the mob(s) while approaching for Shadowflame. That way, the are stunned when you are up close, thus allowing you to dot all of them up and get back out of melee range. The downside to this technice (as I use it often) is that the time you took moving around, could have been used for more dps possibly. Then again, there’s always your Demonic Teleport. 🙂

    • June 28, 2011 at 11:24 am

      For AE I typically try to sit in melee and stay there, unless there’s some reason not to. (which is most AE encounters…). But its still good to use shadowfury, it does (last I checked) more damage than RoF for the GCD you use to cast it.

  3. octatch-wyrmrest accord
    August 17, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Good post man, haven’t touched my Warlock since 4.1 hit as i was rather sad at how the class played in all specs. Be interesting to start that toon up again and see what has changed since i left the game. Once again nice article, if you could id like to see another post by you on your thoughts of the tier 12 benefits and what this new tier has done to change warlocks usefulness/uselessness in more encounters.

  4. Jen
    September 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Destro not complicated enough?..I’d say it’s quite satisfying if I do say so myself. It would appear it’s not overly complicated for me and not too easy.. I hit 85 very recently and found the rotation to be exactly what it should be for the most part. Comparatively to other classes Destruction has more complexity in many cases (my point, they’re not all that easy, esp during boss fights when you’ve got to pay more attention to what the boss does and less to vital dots). Those who do not play Warlocks play Shadow Priests if I’m not mistaken to get away from this difficult (to them) rotation. Destruction out of the three Warlock specs is the easyiest, but.. I tend to have more fun this way and apparently the Warlock next to me fighting a training dummy agrees with me. This player had an immense amount of exp as a destro lock and being a warlock in general, and found Destro to be his fav aswell. He chose it not for the dps, but rather the rotation, you either like the rotation or you don’t, and if you don’t then you’ll want something to be wrong with it so blizz will fix it and satisfy your want. In other words, this is your opinion. You say there is something wrong with Destro but.. it’s just that you don’t enjoy the rotation, and not everyone does… I come acrossed little to no problems during fights, idk what you’re talking about honestly the problems don’t exist for me..

    • September 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      I didn’t say it wasn’t complicated enough. I mentioned it was a overly simplistic and long rotation. This is to say that there are a lot of steps, and in my opinion (and that of many others) there are simply to many steps. Its adding things into the rotation for the sake of it.

      Granted this is still just my opinion, but you could make a 1 button rotation and people would find that “fun”.

      While you may now be at the stage of there being enough in the rotation to overwhelm you during a boss fight, or at least keep you entertained, I feel (again, along with others) that the rotation simply doesn’t keep you interested and engaged after the 300th boss.

      I guess what I’m saying is that destro feels like a rotation thats designed for the first few boss kills not the 300th (hey thats a cool way to put it).

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