Appendix B: The Problem of Evil

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the responses on the Decline and Fall of Warlocks in Cataclysm series. There are a lot of questions and points raised which modify my original outline to the point where it the topics need to adjust to suit. “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” and all that.

As such, I have found myself writing posts which I think are related to the main thesis, but where the data doesn’t strongly support the central theme. Or, like in the following piece, I think the data is far more interesting for analyzing other classes than it is for Warlocks. I had hoped that analyzing the initial lack of appeal for Warlocks would yield some new insight into the class, but ultimately there are limitations on the publicly available data which outright prevent it.

This is a data-heavy post, which is pretty much the only reason I’m releasing it into the wild. All of the charts can be found in the 4.3.3 class distribution spreadsheet. If nothing else, this will hopefully prove a solid snapshot of class popularity at the end of an expansion.

APPENDIX B: THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

One common theory I’ve heard about the scarcity of Warlocks is that it’s because they’re the evil class of Warcraft. They personify the ends justifying the means. They rationalize using the tools of the Burning Legion against everyone, without worrying that perhaps this really isn’t a very good idea.

There are NO noble or virtuous Warlocks in lore, and Warlock characters aren’t portrayed as good or nice in the World of Warcraft. At best, no one trusts them, and at worst, they’re feared and reviled – and rightfully so! They consort with demons for fun and profit. They take delight in pain and torment. They are corruptors of the highest order.

And yet, they can also be the saviors of Azeroth.

Reconciling these two positions can, frankly, require some mental gymnastics.

Anti-heroes are a tough sell in a fantasy setting. Yes, there’s some appeal for those who don’t want to play a noble paragon or protector of the natural order, but it’s a limited appeal. A class based on the worst villains of WoW isn’t going to feed into people’s desire to be a hero.

I think there’s something to this idea that Warlocks are naturally an unpopular class at the character selection screen because they’re the bad guys. Even Rogues – the other anti-hero class – are a bit easier to recast in a heroic light. Sure, they’re ruthless and efficient, but you can picture them as secret government operatives, swashbuckling pirates, street urchins turned heroes. The noble Rogue is part of fantasy archetypes like The Gray Mouser or Bilbo Baggins; it’s part and parcel of the AD&D-inspired syncretic fantasy legacy Warcraft is heir to.

Warlocks are either necromancers, crazy conjurers, or wizards who crossed the line with the Dark Arts. They have their own place in a fantasy setting, but not as heroes. So it’s difficult, at character creation, to see how this character would appeal to a broad base of players.

The central questions of the previous posts in this series were concerned with the decline of the Warlock class over the course of Cataclysm. The revocation of the Simplicity Tax and additional complexity beyond the magic number introduced in Cataclysm created a situation of inelegant complexity without reward, which in turn led to a decline in Warlock popularity. These are based upon the significant changes to the class during this expansion.

The reason which I haven’t considered that the class’s character unduly affected it in Cataclysm is because I didn’t see any real change in the portrayal of the class to account for its decline. In other words – Warlocks didn’t get any worse in Cataclysm’s story. Warlocks still don’t have any sympathetic characters in Warcraft lore. All major Warlocks characters are unrepentant villains (Ner’zhul, Gul’dan) or they reform and renounce their fel ways (Drek’thar). None of this changed in Cataclysm.

That said, while I don’t think that the idea of the class caused the Warlock to decline, I absolutely agree that it doesn’t help its case to become popular.

Sadly, the data we have publicly available is limited and doesn’t let us look at things like: out of every character rolled, how many people choose a Warlock? How much time do players spend considering the class on the creation screen versus other classes?

The majority of the data we’ve considered so far has focused upon the Warlock class at endgame, level 85. It’s tempting to use popularity data from the leveling brackets (c.f. the second post in this series) to try to prove this point that players don’t choose Warlocks at the creation screen. Looking at the leveling graph again:

The important data point is in the 10-19 bracket, where players have gotten over the level 10 hurdle and are showing enough interest in the game to commit to more than an hour or two.1 Warlocks show up with a resounding 21% deficit, and it gets worse from there. It’s safe to say that they’re not popular at creation, and that points to the class not having immediate appeal. They’re the house in the nice neighborhood which lacks curb appeal.

But what’s interesting is that they’re about as (un)popular as Priests, and more popular than Shaman from 10-19! Heck, even Paladins – the most popular class in the game – are unpopular at that level, though they quickly make up ground. If it’s the Warlock’s evilness which dooms them to unpopularity, why are traditionally heroic classes also unpopular?

That doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Well, no, it doesn’t really.

The data in the 10-19 bracket represents the current number of characters in that bracket, not the sum of all characters who have passed through that bracket. It’s correct to say that Shaman are not very popular in 10-19, but that might be because they’re all moving on quickly to other levels.2 The shape of the line, and relative position, and how it ends up is more important for analysis than any specific intrabracket comparison.

Let’s look at this by directly comparing Warlocks to another popular class as they level.

Both classes experience a decline between their 30s-60s, but Paladins gain in popularity as they level. They’re almost twice as populous as Warlocks in Northrend.

When you hit Cataclysm:

Man, look at that hockey stick with the Paladin line! People love playing their Pallys at endgame.

Here are the numbers, which have also been added to the class distribution spreadsheet:

It’s tough to say, definitively, that people aren’t rolling Warlocks only because they’re the evil class with this data. It’s really tempting to say that because there’s such a small difference between Pallys and Warlocks in the lower levels, it must be because they like them equally. This is probably false.

The key isn’t in the 10-19 bracket and where they start – it’s with the overall population of each class. Character creation encompasses all characters, not just a subset of those leveling. What we see with the above graphs is that players enjoy leveling Paladins to the endgame and playing them there. They’re not rolling other alts, they level up and they play them. This is true to a much lesser degree with Warlocks, too – but the overall population of people who rolled a Paladin is much greater than the population of people who’ve rolled a Warlock.

In previous posts, I focused on endgame statistics – how many Warlocks were being brought to Heroic Raids, how many were getting 2200+ Arena ratings – which required focus on endgame, level 85 data. Determining if a class is over or underrepresented in Heroics/2200+ required a comparison between characters who could compete in an activity (because they were the correct level) and those who actually did. If we’d compared the total raiding population of a class to the entire class population, we’d draw the wrong conclusion. That’s not right.

So, let’s at total population data.3

Going back to the same source as the leveling data (Warcraft Realms), we get the following:

And let’s look at that as a graph:

There are some surprising results when you compare this data to the level 85 data for other classes – Hunters, Rogues and Shaman especially – but it’s not quite so revealing for Warlocks.

They’re still at the bottom of the barrel. This shouldn’t be surprising – leveling data puts them at low popularity, raiding data puts them scarce – but it’s good to see the data match up from different sources.

Let’s go ahead and compare the total population to the endgame populations.

This data is really interesting for other classes, but not really for Warlocks.

There are a few items to note:

  • Hunters make up 12.3% of the overall population, #2 behind Paladins. Their leveling popularity translates into a sizable active character pool, but a comparably scarce population at endgame.
  • Like Hunters, Rogues are more likely to be leveling than found at 85. This is probably due to the Legendary Carrot Effect. I think we’ll need to see Rogue data at different times to see if this really held true for Cataclysm.
  • Shaman are more likely to be 85 than leveling.
  • The massive DK population in the 50s and 60s is statistically a blip due to low populations at those levels.4

This, sadly, doesn’t really shed a lot of light on the question we’re trying to answer – is the reason for the class’s unpopularity because of their reputation as evil spellcasters, or because of other reasons?

We don’t really know. All we can say with confidence is that Warlocks are unpopular from start to finish.

There are a few ways we could test the theory of evil:

  • Add a major sympathetic Warlock character to lore in the middle of an expansion (to isolate it from expansion-basedclass changes) and see if popularity rises.
  • Conversely, add more negative Warlocks to lore and see if class popularity falls. Or rises! It all depends on the character. (…I do not really recommend this.)
  • Change the introductory class text and reskin the class to be a Friendship Wizard. See if people reroll to play with Rainbow Bolts.5
  • Survey Warcraft players to determine why they did, or did not, roll a Warlock.

Aside from those suggestions, I think this specific theory of evil driving players away is unprovable with existing data. It’s suggestive, and there’s an argument to be made for it.

But we need more evidence.

—-

(1) This data set is limited in a lot of ways – unfortunately we can’t see how many Warlocks really get rolled at the character screen. We’ll have to extrapolate initial character creation choice from the lowest level bracket, which isn’t perfect – but we’ll make due.

(2) Scroll of Resurrection toons went through it REALLY FAST.

(3) This doesn’t represent characters from all active subscribers, but a representative subset. When you look at the population of active characters across tracked realms, the sample size is statistically significant, so we can make due with it. This is one reason why I tend to deal with percentages instead of absolute character counts in this series.

(4) This shouldn’t really be a surprise. Death Knights are well represented in the endgame, but their status as a “Hero Class” makes them ideal bankers on new servers. At least a life of service to Auctioneer Jaxon is a far better fate than serving the Lich King?

(5) Mark my words, Friendship Wizards are going to dominate the DPS charts in the expansion after Mists.

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39 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Warlockery

39 responses to “Appendix B: The Problem of Evil

  1. They don’t necessarily need a really sympathetic character, they just need a visible character working towards an admirable goal. Death Knights haven’t really had a sympathetic character, outside of Trag Highmountain, who is nothing more than a nameless NPC to 99% of the player base. Every other Death Knight does distasteful things in the name of defeating the Lich King.

    However, warlocks don’t really have a major presence on the player’s side of things. The most telling indication was the T9 warlock sets. Gul’dan’s Armor, and Kel’Thuzad’s Armor. Gul’dan’s appearance in WoW barely qualifies as a cameo, and he’s also the primary antagonist of the first two warcraft games. Nearly all of his references in WoW are disparaging to an extreme level.

    Kel’thuzad is another major antagonist who’s never viewed as a character in league with the players. In fact, he’s never actually been a warlock in the WoW definition of the class, he was a mage.

    The Warlock has fallen through the cracks, because it doesn’t fit into the fairly black and white world of warcraft. They’re akin to the Forsaken, where they exist in thier present state because they were shoehorned into the game, rather than emplaced in a more natural position. While blizzard doesn’t really need to show a nice warlock, it does need to introduce warlocks of action, warlocks who do more than just sit in the basement of the Slaughtered Lamb and moan about how no one understands them.

    And in all honesty, Wilfred Fizzlebang set Warlocks back 20 years in their struggle for equal representation.

    • corey

      Thank you! I hated that gnome! They finally give a mortal warlock enough power to summon something dangerous and then he turns into a punch line. That whole tier I wanted to switch sides and help the demon win.

    • My hate for Wilfred Fizzlebang knows no bounds – which was probably the point of the character. :)

    • This. I don’t think it’s the alignment of the character on the good/evil axis. It’s more we haven’t had a major warlock NPC to look up to and interact with.

      Putress is as close as it gets for me, even though he’s not even really a warlock. He’s just an evil apothecary. Gul’dan’s one if you do a bunch of Shadowmoon Valley, or the previous Warcrafts.

      I pushed for Cho’gall as a warlock when the new 90 talents came out with namesakes for everybody. But he’s not strictly with demonic magic; he’s just shadow.

      Then again, we have Illhoof & Gorezeeki to help us out, right?

      http://www.wowpedia.org/List_of_warlocks

  2. Dejara Thoris

    Forums thread: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4662238181

    Please comment here , tg\here and everywhere!

  3. corey

    a warlock was my first character in WoW years ago and he’s still considered my main. I picked a warlock for 2 reasons. First of all, I enjoy playing summoning classes. I like being able to summon magical entities to fight for/with me. The second reason was that I liked the idea of being an evil character. The character creation screen appealed to me because I thought it would be fun to use the dark arts.

    That being said, my first 85 alt was a druid. I had a bro-crush on Malfurion so I was drawn to the druids. Warlocks don’t have anyone like that. You never see a ‘lock in the story so there’s nothing to entice players to make ‘lock alts. Jaina-mage, Arthas- DK/paladin, Varion-warrior, Thrall- Shaman, Sylvanas-hunter, Anduin/Velen-priest, Malfurion- druid. Rogues and Locks are the only ones that don’t have a major and current character to emulate.

    Gul’dan and Ner’zhul were pre-wow. Kil’jaedon could be considerred current, but his powers are so god-like that it’s hard to relate to him. You’ve proven that Warlock dps is viable in pvp and pve, but it’s not impressive enough to draw players to the class, especially once they realize how complicated the rotations are.

  4. Eve

    Cynwise, I’ve read all your articles in this series, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work you’ve done here, and the voice you are striving to give to warlocks. However, I must admit I was sorry to see the direction this article was going.

    The “evilness” of the warlock is the main reason why I find the character so compelling, so fascinating. I know my character is technically on the “right” side – fighting for the good of her faction, loyal to friends and guildies. But she still gets to play on both sides of the fence, still gets to dabble in demonic forces and harness black magic to do her bidding. This isn’t just a side bonus for me, it’s WHY I love the warlock, why I find this class more interesting than any other, why I just finished getting my 6th one to end-level. I’ve tried to level a mage, and sure, she does great dps. I just can’t be bothered. Mages feel so boringly noble, so plain and tame and predictable. For me, playing a mage is like winning a lottery, but then being told you have to give all the money to charity. I’ll take a warlock instead, thank you, any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    Mind you, I’m aware that this is only one person’s experience, and the plural of “anecdote” isn’t “data.” Maybe you are right, and the “evilness” of the class really is a root cause of their unpopularity. I find that hard to fathom, but I’ll keep an open mind and read the comments that follow with some interest.

    • When I started this post, I was pretty firmly convinced that the evilness of the Warlock class wasn’t a problem. It’s a theory I’ve heard a lot as an alternative explanation to the class’s decline, and while my gut disagreed I wanted to see if the data would prove or disprove my gut.

      As I dug into it, I think I refined my position to be that I don’t think the class flavor influenced their popularity in Cataclysm, which is different from overall popularity. Like, I honestly think there needs to be an evil class to counterbalance the goodness and light of the Paladins and Priests, to offer players a more conflicted anti-hero; but that’s as true now as it was in Wrath, BC, and Vanilla.

      My main is a ruthless, ambitious young woman who is convinced the ends justify the means, which is why she became a warlock. I enjoy that internal tension of someone striving to do good things but doing evil to accomplish them, which – while possible with other classes – is embodied by the warlock class. As a character, I think it’s interesting. You find it interesting too, that’s why you play six! :)

      I stand by the main point of this article, which is that while being the evil class might (or might not) make Warlocks generally less popular, it didn’t have much to do with their decline in Cataclysm.

      • Eve

        Do we need a counter-balance to all the good and light of Paladins and Priests – yes! I’m glad you phrased it that way, because that really resonated with me. And I truly hope Blizzard never dilutes the class by making it just another mage with some shadowly purple overtones. If anything, I think we need *more* emphasis on our demonic side. I get plenty of church and do-gooding in my real life. :-)

  5. LockinNYC

    I don’t believe the negative image of Warlocks has much to do with their popularity, but it is hard to quantify. Maybe I’m just a sick bastard? :-)

    What also could contribute to the decline/unpopularity of Warlocks is the rise in popularity of the 10-man raid. 10-man raids are often challenged by the needs for covering all buffs, bringing time warp/blood lust/heroism, and varying number of tanks/healers per encounter. Hybrid classes became highly favored over pure classes due to the need on certain bosses for 1 vs 2 tanks or 2 vs 3 heals. This *could* explain the relative popularity of classes that can heal, tank and dps.
    Mages seem to have a fairly consistent representation in your level 85 pop table. Mage’s are probably preferred over locks (all else being equal) due to their ability to bring SP buff, time warp, and lot’s of burst.

    • I don’t think it’s possible to break out 10 man and 25 man heroic representation anymore because of the shared achievements, is it? All of the datasets I looked at had combined the raiding sizes.

      It’s plausible that the relative unpopularity of Hunters and Rogues (and Warlocks) at endgame is due to this, and that Mages represent an anomaly (their stable numbers are actually indicating that they’re doing very well as a pure DPS at endgame).

      Mages have done well this expansion. They seem to be in a great spot in terms of class design and output, and I hope it continues for them. I don’t know a lot of Mage players who are unhappy with their class.

    • Eve

      Of course hybrid characters are the most popular. I think people generally expect that. This goes a long way to explain the huge representation of paladins and druids, who can perform all three roles. However, the “hybrid rule” doesn’t at all explain why warlock popularity falls so far below other non-hybrid classes like mages and hunters. And it can’t be all about raid buffs, since warlocks bring more buffs than rogues (who bring none, actually), yet are *less* popular.

  6. Pingback: Warlocks: the evil that we do. « RimeCat's Realm

  7. My question is whether alts leveled to 85 but then more-or-less abandoned have any impact on the data. For example, I have a Paladin at 85 but I simply cannot stand playing her this expansion. I use her for her professions and as my bank alt. I would hate to be contributing to the “everyone loves playing a Paladin at max level” vibe when that is definitely not true in my case.

    • The data is generally counting active characters collected either by /who scans (Realm Census) or Armory achievement mining (for the raiding / pvp data).

      If you’re on your Paladin banking/crafting a lot, you are probably counting as an active character in the census but not as a raider.

      If it’s any consolation, I have 32 days /played on my level 60 Rogue… who is my primary bank alt. I am such a terrible Rogue it’s not even funny, but there she is, my second highest /played alt. :(

  8. corey

    Could mage utilities account for their popularity? Mage food, portals and arcane intellect are all very desireable in party situations.
    Health stones are very useful but I honestly don’t think anyone uses them in a part or raid unless you have leveled a lock or group with one frequently.
    Summoning stones used to be useful but “have party will travel’ made that obsolete–along with the fact that you can’t summon in an instance anymore.
    Buffs from warlock demons are nice, but vary depending on which demon the warlock uses so raids can’t plan for them. (I would like to see the conversation when someone tried to tell me which demon to use).
    It’s nice to feel useful… I like being asked for mark of the wild or a mage table on my alts. on my warlock, no one asks for my help :(
    This fits in with the warlocks self-interested character, but doesn’t fit in with playing an MMO. It’s nice to feel needed.

    • Eve

      Warlock utilities are definitely less well-known, but I would argue every bit as important as mage utilities. Outside of an opposite-faction city raid, I can’t imagine asking a mage to a raid for their portals. Mage food might be nice, but it’s a pretty minor extra (a good player will bring their own food anyway). I would place those about equal in importance to a warlock’s summoning portal and healthstones. A mage brings Arcane Intellect, while a warlock brings a substantial demon buff. A warlock has Dark Intent, and a mage has…something similar (the name escapes me). Mages have Sheep, while warlocks have glyphed Fear. And yes, mages bring Timewarp, but warlocks have Soulstone, which can save the raid from a wipe as often as once every 15 minutes. In all, I just think there is no reason (other than the mage’s more reliable personal dps) to favor bringing a mage over a warlock. It’s not about utility, because the warlock has plenty.

      • corey

        you’re right. Dark Intent is better than the mages Focus magic, in my opinion. Health stones are more useful than mage food, if they are actually used. The demon buffs are as useful as arcane intellect, but I still feel that they are in less demand. Polymorph’s duration is longer and doesn’t pull adds, but fear can affect more types of targets than polymorph i think. Soulstone is a lifesaver (literally ha) and is as useful as time warp. You’re right, it’s not about utility (especially since rogues and hunters have none that I know of).

        • emberdione

          As someone in a guild that often brings in an undergeared shaman to pop hero on harder fights, I have to say that your comparison of soulstone to hero is way off.

          Having a shaman who does 25% less dps total, but can pop hero and the net dps gain is enough to win at the boss, as opposed to having a solid lock is just sad. And for that matter, bringing a mage, who does consistently high dps even at sucky gear levels means that locks can and will get bumped for them. If it comes to me not raiding versus raiding on my mage, I will be raiding on my mage.

        • Eve

          Rogues bring no buffs. Hunters do – an aspect, pet buff, and hunter’s mark (not exactly a buff, but functions like one), to my knowledge.

        • Eve

          @Emberdine, regarding your reply above. This goes back to the mage’s personal dps, not his utility. Yes, mages are taking raid spaces from warlocks! But this is (*imo*) due to their dps being much higher and more reliable, not because their utility is better. If warlock dps was sky-high and on par with mage dps, I don’t believe we would be losing our raid spots to mages because we can’t port everyone home once the raid is over… Do we need higher dps? Absolutely! Do we need more utility? I don’t think so. (Though I wouldn’t complain if Blizzard polished up what we already have – for example allowing summoning in lfd again, or letting us Fear without pulling, etc.)

  9. Beryo

    Evil has weak explanatory power for me. The flavor of warlocks hasn’t changed compared to what it was in Wrath. Warlocks didn’t become more or less evil this expansion. If evil affects how many people play the class, it has been a consistent vector for years.

    The one possibility is that people have become more sensitive over the last year and a half. Given a consistent level of evil in the class, maybe tolerance was higher for it during Wrath (or, to put it in a positive light: it held more appeal). Perhaps there has been a broad change in public psychology making players on the whole more adverse to evil and therefore avoiding logging in on our warlocks.

    I don’t buy it, but it seems that’s the sort of argument one would need to adopt in order for evil to explain the decline of warlocks this expansion.

    • Yes, exactly. If evil is to be a reason, either there needs to be a change in the evilness of the class or a change in the player base’s mores over Cataclysm.

      That’s last one needs a lot of sociology to prove.

  10. emberdione

    Better yet, look at SWTOR. What is the balance of Sith compared to other classes?

    From my experience, when I started playing a Lock, I chose them because they were mages, but with pets. When I hit that quest in SW where you go and poison the noble getting in our warlocky business, I was stunned at the sheer evilness of warlocks. And almost instantly feel head over heels in love with her.

    So in all honesty, it was the evil that made my warlock my main over my hunter, who was higher level, had a mount, and was a pretty night elf. I hate the human models, I still do. But I chose to be not pretty over pretty just to be evil.

    Now, at end game, 6 years later, I still play my lock, but her evil isn’t enough to make up for her suck-itude when it comes to raiding. I miss one cd and my dps tanks. I miscast one dot and there we go back down the chart. Even our current tier bonuses are so sucky they are not even worth the trouble.

    It’s not the lore it’s the complexity and lack of reward for the complexity.

    • I think Sith are slightly more dominant in the SWTOR player base, aren’t they? Though that could be more analogous to Horde versus Alliance – maybe Dark Side versus Light Side?

      • Definitely Dark vs. Light characters and not political affiliation. From my sample of 1, I know that Dark side objects sold faster and for more than Light side. Which means absolutely nothing without much more data. And that is in a game that tries to emphasize RP, an accusation that will never be hurled at WoW.

        One thing that occurred to me while leveling my Rogue is how brutal the dungeon experience is for classes that do not have fast and effective AoE. I wonder how much of the Warlock decline was the decision in WotLK to make AoE a major tool? My Rogue is normally fourth on DPS and will remain there until I get Fan of Knives. I expect that a leveling Warlock who isn’t Destruction for Rain of Fire is probably in the same situation.

      • Wulfstan

        For more info on SWTOR numbers (Empire vs Republic, Light vs Dark, Jedi vs Sith) see: http://www.darthhater.com/articles/feature/20192-crowd-control-whos-ganking-whom

  11. khalton, troll druid, staghelm

    I levelled a warlock to 45 and stopped, it was too slow. I felt I couldn’t compete with the other party members, when running LFD. I ended up erasing him and started a new one three weeks ago. He hasn’t made it past level 20.
    My raid group asked why I chose to play a druid as my main, I complain constantly about the DPS he brings (balance), and why not roll a mage? I did.
    I hit level 50 yesterday. In less than a week of casual playing. It was very quick to level my mage-alt.

  12. Hamut

    I am among the warlock playerbase who will never leave them. I like the playstyle, I like the pets, I like the complexity, and I love being evil (I have an internal RP monologue in which I justify any good deed I do as having a greater evil purpose).

    I personally think a warlock doing good would be sort of off but I do agree that a dynamic “relavent to the world” warlock would be nice to see. Maybe something more along the lines of a “badass antihero” archetype which might still fit in the warlock style. Hell, I’d even take a prominent villain who stuck around for more than one fight (then again, people HATE Garrosh so maybe we don’t need any more dislikeable warlocks).

    As a side note, depending on what you count as a warlock, the best warlocks in the game are Illidan (who gave warlocks a real presence in BC, even though he wasn’t exactly one of us) and Teron Gorefiend (who is also a stretch, but seemed pretty warlocky to me during his quest line in Shadowmoon valley), both because of the quality of their characters and the rather involved plotlines surrounding them.

    Also, I would like to voice my support for Gul’Dan, he may not have been all that present in WoW, but he was pretty damn impressive in the earlier games and deserves to sit in the warlock hall of fame (even if most of WoW doesn’t know who he is)

    • corey

      Gul’dan was an awesome warlock, but he seems like one of the few characters in the lore that are just totally detestable. Most of the expansion bosses have fallen from grace or been corrupted or turned evil trying to do good. I can even cut Sargeras some slack– he was driven mad at the impossible task of fighting chaos in the universe. Gul’dan has zero redeeming qualities. He wasn’t tricked and never tried to make amends like Ner’Zhul. He never thought of anyone or anything but himself. Maybe he’s the epitome of warlockery and we’re just in denial with all of this righteous talk :)

  13. Aowyn

    I disagree that the evil component of the warlock class has any significant impact on its popularity. Blood elves had a very similar cultural approach to that adopted by warlocks (consuption of fel energies, belief that power can be conquered, their paladins violated the sensibility of their class because they channeling a naaru for Holy energies, their society had a more friendly view of warlocks and they see many races as inferior because of their repulse of many sources of unconquered power, both arcane and fel), yet they were the most popular race in the game when BC hit. That even when factoring out paladins, which were exclusive to blood elves for Horde players. Even now there are players who consider the sin’dorei evil, despite the restoration of the Sunwell, and it still retains its high popularity. Of course, good looks count, but even then it is astounishing that it can overwhelm their old practices.

    The Forsaken also shed light to the issue, they were extremely popular in pvp due to how strong their racial was at that moment (immunity to fear for 5s) and saw a decline in popularity when it was nerfed. They too are often seen as evil and definetively adpot practices that violates many sensibilities.

    Trolls as well, despite having a feeling between neutral and honorable (due to Vol’jin), they were the least played race of the Horde before their Berserk racial was buffed. Humans had the same before the buff to Every Man for Himself.

    In the warlock vs mage comparison, it’s worth to remember that mages have more playstyle flexibility in their viable specs. For PvE, you already showed how different Arcane and Fire are with nunbers about dots, cooldowns and buttons on their rotation, and compared to the three warlock specs. In that, the mage class can embrace a greater variety of player playstyle and, with that, a larger portion of the player base, than the warlock class. Same for PvP, fire offers a viable alternative to frost; warlocks hardly pvp as demo or destro nowadays. When a mage player feels unsatisfacted with her spec, the mage class has a chance to hold her in the class that the warlock class doesn’t.

  14. I would have thought that being evil would have pushed people towards the class rather than away from it. I know that when I came to make my very first character I picked Warlock because I wanted demons and hellfire.

    Then I got to lv 60, got beaten up by lots of Undead Rogues and promptly found the Light (and have been healing ever since).

    So major Warlock lore figure, how about the Destruction of Theramore pushes Jaina a bit too far. Her desire for a revenge as a dish best eaten cold leads her to certain demonic books. After all, the other major players seem to swap class when it suits them. I could just see her raining shadowy destruction down on Orgrimmar. Plus I’m sure her conversion would annoy Mages no end, so it’s a win win really :p

    • corey

      I would LOVE to see Jaina transform into a warlock! Maybe not to become evil, but have an ‘ends justify the means’ attitude. She’s been through enough hardship to justify an attitude shift. It would also be interesting because the warlock background describes it as mages who delved to deeply into fire and demon magic, but really we’ve only seen mages turn into necromancers (Kel’Thuzad). Illidan gained powers from Sargeras and the Skull of Guldan, but did it really turn him into a warlock? I guess he went permanent demon form (an ability I would love btw, Blizzard)

  15. Wulfstan

    I don’t think “evil” is a major factor here, looking at behaviour in SWTOR.

    Empire population is greater than Republic on almost all servers (with good data to confirm this). The two sides are not morally equivalent like they are in WoW…. in SWTOR Empire is definitely the more “evil” side.

    Also, from personal experience (no hard data) many more players seem to go Dark Side than Light Side in SWTOR.

    Finally, the most popular classes are the Sith Inquisitor and Sith Warrior, with strong evil architypes. The SI description describes someone who can range from “clever political operator” through to “batsh*t crazy”, and clearly many people enjoy RPing this through the SWTOR leveling system.

    In WoW vanilla/BC, “evil” Warlocks were represented as “cunning” in their gameplay with strong utility capabilities: fear-dotting, curse-juggling, enslaving demons, etc. Unfortunately, these utility capabilties were OP for PvP and were nerfed or harmonised. Also, the easy leveling and dungeoning means these skills aren’t needed or used anymore.

    Hence the strong “evil” / “cunning” flavour of the character has been lost from the gameplay, resulting in a blander experience.

    I’m convinced that a strong “cunning” flavour can be compelling to many people, but that the current Lock doesn’t deliver this. I believe this can be recaptured through creative utility, rather than an over-complex core DPS rotation (as you’ve proved).

  16. Eve

    In my opinion, many signature warlock-y abilities are sadly inconsistent with Blizzard’s “bring the player not the class” motto. Powerful debuffing curses, fear-dotting, drain-tanking, etc would be all fine and good *if* those were core mechanics of the class. But they aren’t – we’re a pure dps class, don’t you know, and so anything we have on TOP of our raw dps abilities must provide at most a little “flavor,” nothing more. Homogenization ftw.

  17. Cyn—
    I have really enjoyed reading your articles good data and excellent sentence structure ta boot! Your premise of “Why are Warlock’s on the decline”, I can see a couple answers to that. I would like to add, that based on all of your excellent data, I don’t see it addressing.

    Honestly Warlocks as a whole are not an easy class to play, starting at level 1. We are squishy, die a lot, do relative if not mediocre damage so why roll a ‘Lock and put up with that when you can roll an over powered DK or Hunter? Blizzard made a huge game shift, not only in play, but in the overall game theory, with the introduction of the Death Knight. In addition, Blizzard went after Console game players and there we went down the slide. With the addition of the ‘Xbox’rs” World of Warcraft no longer was a ‘thinking game’, a simple one button mash and your top of the charts. Think Arcane Mage vs. Affliction Warlock. Warlocks are the most complex character to play, you need to think. Console gamers want to switch into /god mode and get to the end game…then slap in another game, rinse and repeat. Anyone remember when you “Earned” your Warlock mount? How it felt? Once Blizzard took that away, and just gave the class mount to the Warlock, there was no ownership, same thing with the Paladin. I have both @ 85, I prefer my Warlock.

    Warlocks are a state of mind; you have to watch out for us, because you just don’t know what we are going to do. You have to think, plan, and see what lies ahead. If you don’t have what it takes to play a Warlock, then play something simple, we are complicated and that is the way we want it. Your evidence proves that there are a good number of people that don’t have what it takes.

    I believe that Gul’dan best surmises my philosophy:
    “Behold those who have power, and who are not afraid to wield it. Behold… the warlocks

  18. Cyn—
    I have really enjoyed reading your articles good data and excellent sentence structure ta boot! Your premise of “Why are Warlock’s on the decline”, I can see a couple answers to that. I would like to add, that based on all of your excellent data, I don’t see it addressing.

    Honestly Warlocks as a whole are not an easy class to play, starting at level 1. We are squishy, die a lot, do relative if not mediocre damage so why roll a ‘Lock and put up with that when you can roll an over powered DK or Hunter? Blizzard made a huge game shift, not only in play, but in the overall game theory, with the introduction of the Death Knight. In addition, Blizzard went after Console game players and there we went down the slide. With the addition of the ‘Xbox’rs” World of Warcraft no longer was a ‘thinking game’, a simple one button mash and your top of the charts. Think Arcane Mage vs. Affliction Warlock. Warlocks are the most complex character to play, you need to think. Console gamers want to switch into /god mode and get to the end game…then slap in another game, rinse and repeat.

    Anyone remember when you “Earned” your Warlock mount? How it felt? Once Blizzard took that away, and just gave the class mount to the Warlock, there was no ownership, same thing with the Paladin. I have both @ 85, I prefer my Warlock.

    Warlocks are a state of mind; you have to watch out for us, because you just don’t know what we are going to do. You have to think, plan, and see what lies ahead. If you don’t have what it takes to play a Warlock, then play something simple, we are complicated and that is the way we want it. Your evidence proves that there are a good number of people that don’t have what it takes.

    I believe that Gul’dan best surmises my philosophy:
    “Behold those who have power, and who are not afraid to wield it. Behold… the warlocks

  19. Dejara Thoris

    Warlocks aren’t necessarily evil…but they are ruthless in pursuing their goals:

    “Or I could tell you the truth: that I want to be the kind of man who helps the people he loves with all his strength, and in order to be able to do as much for them as possible, I intend to gather to myself as much strength as I can.”

    Is as good a summary of Dejara’s attitude as I can find.

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