Category Archives: Warlockery

Basic Destruction Warlock Guide for 5.4

1) Holy shit, these dailies go on forever. 2) No wonder so many of you were in such a fucking grumpy mood over the past year. 3) This is SO not worth my left wrist going out too. 4) I have never been happier with my decision to lock at 85 for this expansion as I was doing Glotus for the first and only time.

A friend of mine asked me for some help with her Destro warlock alt. Even though all I do these days is tend my farm and tinker in my workshop, I threw together the following guide to the basics of Destruction Warlocks at the end of Mists of Pandaria.

Let me stress: these are the basics. I’m not kidding when I say all I do is putter about on my farm these days.

CYNTHIA BLOCK’S GUIDE TO DESTRO

Okay, nugget! Listen up! Sgt. Block here to talk to you about warlocks.

Facing a warlock is like, holy fucking shit everything is on fire and then there are fucking green dragons flying at you. There’s fire out of the sky and you’re on fire and then fucking green dragons. Did I mention those fucking green dragons hurt? Hit the fucking warlock in the fucking face with your fucking shield, nugget, and don’t let her get back up. Ever.

By the fucking Light, green dragons? REALLY? Who plays around with shit like that?

Fuck that.

… wait, you mean you want to learn how to play Destro? Fuck, I’m the wrong soldier for that. I thought you wanted to know how to take OUT a Destro lock. Let me go get the wordy lady. She’ll talk your ear off.

(Nobody in their right mind lets a warlock finish casting, though. Hit them with your fucking shield until they stop moving.)

Right. Here’s the big lady. Don’t forget to salute, nugget.

Cynwise - Setting Things On Fire Is What I Do

CYNWISE’S INTRODUCTION TO DESTRUCTION

Thank you for that introduction, Sgt. Block. I think.

Destruction requires you to become awesome while on fire. This is both a joke and a literal truth; the primary way to succeed at very high DPS is to manage your Burning Embers resource (setting you on fire) while alternating between different kinds of nukes and CDs. There’s some dot management (Destro is a Warlock spec, after all) but it is only a component of your damage, not the whole thing.

Ready to be awesome while on fire? Let’s begin.

You’ll use the following spells to inflict pain.

  • Immolate
  • Incinerate
  • Conflagrate
  • Chaos Bolt
  • Rain of Fire
  • Shadowburn

Very optionally, you can add Fel Fire on to this list once you are comfortable with those six spells and you have room on your bars.

You have two resources: Mana and Burning Embers. Playing Destro means you ignore your mana. Seriously. Mana is a limiter for you casting too many of one kind of spell in a row; the only way you should be running out of mana is spamming Fel Flame or Rain of Fire or Incinerate, maybe.

Ignore mana. Look at your Burning Embers instead.

You gain Burning Embers by having things be on fire. You always have one, and it will regenerate pretty quickly out of combat. Incinerate, Rain of Fire, Immolate, Conflag, Fel Flame all generate Embers. You spend Embers on the following:

  1. Chaos Bolt (big nuke)
  2. Shadowburn (execute)
  3. Fire and Brimstone (AoE)
  4. Ember Tap (self-heal)
  5. Flames of Xoroth (pet regen)

We’ll talk about all these uses later, but only the first three will matter in a dungeon.

SINGLE TARGET

For something that is going to live for a minute or so, like a dungeon boss, you do the following.

  1. Set them on fire with Immolate. Refresh Immolate when you get a strong proc or when it’s about to fall off.
  2. Blow them up with Conflagrate. There are two charges; just hit them both to start out with.
  3. Spam Incinerate to build up Embers.
  4. When you have some Embers and/or get a good proc, let fly with some Chaos Bolts. (When your Embers are at 3.5 or so, you should start spending them to avoid capping them out.)
  5. When the boss hits < 20% health, Shadowburn is INSANE DPS. It takes the place of Chaos Bolt. Always SB, never CB when SB is available.

Right. So. Immolate, Conflag when it’s up, Incinerate as you generate Embers; Chaos Bolt and Shadowburn when you have Embers to spend.

TRASH PACKS

For a trash pack (3+ mobs), your strategy revolves around Fire and Brimstone instead of Chaos Bolt/Shadowburn. F&B turns your three primary spells (Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate) into AoE spells (hit all mobs around the target) at the cost of a Burning Ember and reduced damage. It acts like a toggle as long as you have Embers available; hit it once and it stays on until you are drained, or until you turn it off.

Multi-dotting is an extremely strong DPS strategy, but it does require mobs to live a *little* while. If they’re going to last more than a second or two:

  1. Start Rain of Fire over the area.
  2. Hit Fire and Brimstone.
  3. Cast Immolate to spread dots everywhere.
  4. F&B a Conflag when you have another Ember (should be very fast)
  5. If you run out of Conflag charges to F&B, Immolate and RoF are both up, but still have Embers, F&B Incinerates.
  6. As mobs start dropping in health, SHADOWBURN them. Steal those killing blows.

If trash packs are blowing up quickly, I usually drop step 3 (F&B Immolate) and do AOE Conflags instead. This has two advantages: it almost always returns a full Burning Ember, so I’m able to Shadowburn once stuff drops, and it gets some damage out on the mobs FAST.

Shadowburn returns 2 Burning Embers for the cost of 1 if the mob dies within 6 seconds of you casting it, so you should walk out of a trash pack with a full Ember Bar if you do it right. Shadowburn is the key to good trash DPS.

Cynwise - Mists Beta - Double Chaos Bolt - Dancing With Dragons

WREAKING HAVOC ON THE WINGMAN

For 2 mobs, or a boss and add, you’ll want to use Havoc. Havoc is a curse that says, “the next three things I do, do to this target too.” (Chaos Bolt counts as three things.) Here’s how you use it.

  • You are facing Mob A and Mob B.
  • Cast Havoc on Mob B.
  • Target Mob A.
  • Cast Immolate on Mob A. Both Mob A and B are now on fire.
  • Cast Conflagrate on Mob A. Both Mob A and B blow up.
  • Cast Incinerate on Mob A. Flames shoot out at both A and B.
  • Cast Conflagrate on Mob A again. You’re out of Havoc charges, so only Mob A blows up.

Unlike F&B, the spells aren’t reduced AOE versions of the spells, and they’re not limited to your top three damage spells. You can Spell Lock or Curse two mobs at once (which is fun when you’re fighting a lot of casters.) But the real fun comes from using your Burning Ember spells on two mobs at once.

  • You are facing A and B. Havoc B, target A.
  • Cast Chaos Bolt on A.
  • DOUBLE DRAGON

or, better yet:

  • You are facing A, B, and C. They’re big adds or mobs, think of the ones in Vortex Pinnacle at level.
  • Immolate everything like a good multi-dotter, then DPS focus on A.
  • When A is at about 1/3rd health, Havoc C.
  • A drops to 20% health. Shadowburn A, which hits both A and C.
  • Switch to B (which your friends have probably AoEd down to 20%. Shadowburn B, which hits C as well.
  • A, B, and C are now all dead and you have a full Burning Ember bar.

Chaos Bolt costs 3 charges, but Shadowburn only costs 1. Remember that.

I use a mouseover macro to manage Havoc. This lets me target A and mouse over B. Alternately, if I’ve set my focus (on a healer, usually) it will cast Havoc there.

/use [@focus,harm][@mouseover,harm][harm] Havoc

Practice this a lot on dummies until it becomes habit.

MANAGING PROCS AND BURST

You must have a burst macro. I fought against this for a long time as Affliction (what’s a burst?) but, no. You want to maximize your periods of burst when you get procs off your gear or enchants and when you are fully charged with Burning Embers.

Warlocks have burst now, it’s called Dark Soul. There are three different versions (one for each spec) and the Destruction one greatly increases your Critical Strike chance, which in turn makes your Chaos Bolt and Shadowburn damage AMAZING.

Here’s my pump macro.

#showtooltip
/use [spec:1] Dark Soul: Instability; [spec:2] Dark Soul: Knowledge
/use Unending Resolve
/use Volcanic Potion
/use Potion of the Jade Serpent
/use 14
/use 10

Some of this is specific to Cynwise; by specifying the [spec:1] and [spec:2] I can use the same macro for Destruction and Demonology. You can just use /use Dark Soul, I suppose. I use an Intellect potion at the same time, and trigger either my DPS trinket or Synapse Springs, whichever is off CD.

Unending Resolve has both a 40% damage reduction (which is neat) but ALSO has an 8 second immunity to Silence and Interrupts, which is … well, I’m using this in PVP. When I pop my CDs I don’t want to get Kicked into losing massive damage.

The important part is hitting this when you’ve got procs going – Lightweave, Jade Spirit, Heroism, whatever – because Dark Soul on top of those procs is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

If you use Grimoire of Service, you can add in /use Grimoire: Felhunter to this macro. GrimSac can add in /use Grimoire of Sacrifice to get more DPS if you aren’t running petless all the time (like in PvP, where you want to alternate pet/petless for double Spell Lock.)

You’ve also got Demonic Guardians (Doomguard, Infernal) on a 10 minute CD. Use them on the tough bosses. Doomguard is single target. Infernal is AoE and an AoE stun. They don’t need a keybind if you don’t have space.

Cynwise - November Bars

ABILITIES THAT SHOULD BE ON YOUR BARS

You’ll want the following:

  • Immolate
  • Incinerate
  • Conflagrate
  • Chaos Bolt
  • Shadow Burn
  • Rain of Fire
  • Fire and Brimstone
  • Havoc
  • Curse of the Elements
  • Dark Soul / Pump Macro
  • Doomguard or Infernal (These don’t need a keybind, it’s a 10 minute CD.)

These are useful and should be there, too, but have no impact on your DPS.

  • Demonic Command
  • Fear
  • Ember Tap
  • Twilight Ward
  • Flames of Xoroth (Another one that doesn’t need a keybind, but is really handy to have when you need your pet back in a hurry.)

OTHER MACROS

Shadowburn is one of those spells you want to cast IMMEDIATELY, no matter what else is going on. Use a stopcasting macro to interrupt whatever else you are casting.

/stopcasting
/cast Shadowburn

I have long had a OH SHIT macro for massive healing.

/use Dark Regeneration
/use Healthstone
/use Alliance Battle Standard
/use Ember Tap
/use Master Healing Potion

That can bring me to full from 10% in about 5 seconds. A simpler version is just using a Healthstone in conjunction with Ember Tap:

/show Healthstone
/use Healthstone
/use Ember Tap

I have a buff macro so I don’t have to worry about getting all my buffs back up when rezzing at a Spirit Healer. Adjust to suit your particular Grimoire.

/castsequence reset=5 Dark Intent, Grimoire of Sacrifice, Create Soulwell, Unending Breath, Crystal of Insanity

I like tossing out guild battle standards when they are off CD, but I only want them on bosses. So I tied them in to my Chaos Bolts.

/cast [mod:shift, @focus, harm] Chaos Bolt; Chaos Bolt
/use 10
/use Battle Standard of Coordination
/use Standard of Unity
/use Banner of Cooperation

Since Fel Flame doesn’t refresh dots anymore, and you can cast Incinerate while moving in PvE, I don’t use it as much as I used to. I do still use it for juking / fake casting in PvP though. Quick way to interrupt a cast while still doing SOMETHING.

/stopcasting
/use Fel Flame

WEAK AURAS

Here are some Weak Auras I use to help call out when to use different spells.

Cynwise - Weak Auras - November 2013

Spinning Circles: I have three circles which go around my character, center of field of vision. The inner one is “is Immolate on the target?” The next orange one is “is Conflagrate available?” and the third, big purple one is “is Shadowburn castable if so OH GOD CAST IT”. These only appear in combat.

Immolate

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Conflagrate

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Shadowburn

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Auras to be aware of: these show icons of things that you need to know about.

Dark Intent: I have been going through every alt and putting an aura of this type up whenever I can. It says: there is an essential self-buff you need to cast (almost always on my Z key.) In this case, it’s Dark Intent.

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Dark Soul: Shows your Dark Soul countdown in BIG ASS LETTERS to make sure you don’t waste it.

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Burning Rush: When Burning Rush is ON and your health drops below 50%, this reminds you that you have a speed boost on which can POTENTIALLY KILL YOU.

dyZcdaWsquTlbPTbsAFerntsPMlry2KCtqQUTGANeL9sTBG9lq9tIQ)IOFlXqbLgSaz4sQdkiogO6CGGwOOAPIslMiTCLEirKNQ6XKQNJ0ufzYiy6OUiisxg66c9nqGplLnljBhHoSIVcIyAcW8aPmsqiNxumAPA8cOtckonHRbIY9iLmmsXYaH67GeB4o5l8HbW4wn6OeWOxaujgPcLGZqsahUdfbOrsXrnB4YkDXrVZTXN6dp0acfccfUg)W(e8j4KFg5vvuKTSa0OXpq5vvuKTmieQ(dqVxwylca7NlpLKdD)fBIciLPg9f6fGpVIwdxN8btyK6KLb3ppUabOfCqzJ0UzZ(Gy40kAnCPwge7hPyQuuSO25(uuvbBray)C5PKCO7peiiyrbmksEfTgUuNSm4o5ZRO1W1jFotn6t5HJu)ifj74O4UL6hbireW(tKl(14QJaUJJI7(qMgFKicyFichf39PrPireWWUyLiq)dlKQT2(0OuKic4hRQeb6tkPqEI8PqYM8JuKmceSZ974O4ozPg3HlRp00YpsrYAC1ra3XrXDN7xJRoc4ookUtwQXD4Y6dnT8Jab7xRMm4A2pc4v0A46KzZM9fe8ZJlqaAbhu2iT7RkdbN8JuKuHerLZ95rHa2YGd3xHerfzPg3HlRVK1YpsrsEuiGDUFKIK6QHsDU)wuOt(HJkw4KzZ(kKiQ8HQgFD1qPo5tfGMc9HKqYQTCjb5MnB2FCYppUabOfCqzJ0Upmag3QrhLag9cGkXivOeCgsc4WDOianskoQzdxwPlo6DUnM9jAzWdqJgZ2a

Fire and Brimstone: Big Icon showing that, hey, you’ve got F&B on.

duJncaWsrjTlfvVwuX(ejAMIeMReA2iUPOu3MkTtfSxYUvz)a6NsQ)sf)MIHkQ0GbXWbPdcqhtsoNiPwiOwQOqlgalxvpuKKNc9yGEUstLQMmsMUWLrDDfAJiLdtPnRiBxI6BII8vfLPjrggs15fvDAPgTivnErkoPeClrkDnrjUNOGplINjsLTjkQvL8cBHfUG)jlixSaO52Iacqt6iVZm7tmG54qRF2EuWF7UH5yHRWQ5LMNP5v0f6kKsiL8ctt900YHgsBQZSqIXsjVWXLDiCzMiyHHLWxOHQkHluguEHBFjewdPtHWXLDclHVqaiCCzhqIDxbl8newEHUJKOLxHcHJl7SqzqblKWLzIJbk)2W8ctzges4YmrywkjeKy3vEHBFjew4maZykQtvwvOqy(6PPLdnuIoDHpN0MZNhklSbnNq7bMEZNRPVqiCT3xNTW47Ke(Lx4zD5vEnujKw)mqi2Jcie4VD3WCScfcxMmLRPVqiCT3xNTWXL9gdjAOcwytjKw)mqi2Jcie4VD3WCSqlfvhT5SeN47Ke(x5vi8gD9FNKW)QHkfcTYlKw)mqi2Jcie4VD3WCSWcxW)KfKlwa0CBrabOjDK3zM9jgWCCO1pBpk4VD3WCScHL1qvj60vib

That’s it. Enjoy being awesome while on fire.

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Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Warlockery

On Disastrous Stargate Pulls

Cynwise - Ulduar - Yogg Saron's Prison - Accidental Stargate Pull

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Five of us were in Ulduar, helping our guildmate and friend Rezznul finish up his Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings. Val’anyr – dubbed the Science Mace, for reasons – is created by gathering up 30 fragments that drop from bosses in the instance. We usually get 2-3 fragments a week, so it’s about a 30-40 week grind.

So we run Ulduar a lot. That’s fine, it’s a chance to hang out and do stuff together, collect nerd points, get transmog gear, have fun. Ulduar is a beautiful raid, like Karazhan before it.

But it’s become kinda routine. Not boring – we change it up, bring different alts, try different specs out, I Demo tank a lot of the first bosses and trash packs, until we get to the ones where two tanks is redundant – but it’s routine. But last night’s pulls on Yogg-Saron were anything but routine, all because Cynwise has a new toy but hasn’t quite learned how to use it right.

After the BG scaling changes of 5.2 there wasn’t any advantage to staying at level 85 in the 85-89 bracket, so I’ve been slowly leveling Cynwise up to 89. This decision proved to be shortsighted, as it looks like the scaling changes are getting fixed in 5.3 – but I was already level 86 and lost 25% of my secondary stats. So I decided to stop at 87 so I could get some of the cool epic gear (engineering goggles, BoE pants, trinkets) and two new abilities, Demonic Gateway and Symbiosis: Rejuvenation. The Demonic Gateway creates Stargate-like portals with a wormhole in-between, allowing rapid transport across distances. It’s really neat, I’m looking forward to using it in PvP, and it’s a token prize for having given away about 33% of my secondary stats.

So we’re at the Prison of Yogg-Saron, final boss of the run. It’s been a usual run with small, unremarkable hijinks. A little slower because there are only 5 of us, but, whatever, we’ve gotten 3 shards for Rezz so it’s a pretty good night. I decide while the other folks are talking about who goes into the portals (I’m always on the portal team, so I wasn’t really paying attention) that I would set up my Stargates to allow us to do a really cool pull of Yoggy. Instead of running in, we’d teleport over to the boss. All of us at once, zip zip zip zip zip, incoming adventurers! It’ll be cool, right? I lay the gates as you see above – one just inside the door, one down by where Sara lurks to start the encounter.

Up the gates go! Charges start building. This is going to be SO COOL.

Two charges, three charges, four charges. Five. Okay, we’re ready to go. The other guys are still chatting about strats (this was the second pull, we’d wiped the first time because I went crazy, then Snacks went mad, then hilarity ensued) and I look over to raid chat. I shift myself, getting into a more comfortable position.

Oops.

See, I should mention that I’m playing on a laptop which is perched on my lap as I’m lying on a floor chair in my son’s room. It’s an old Macbook which has a wiiiide mouse bar below the trackpad at the bottom. Sometimes I click it accidentally while moving it around.

This happens to be one of those times. And my mouse was right over the Stargate.

So I shift to get more comfortable, and suddenly I’m flying straight at the boss. No warning to my friends or anything – just a completely random Warlock Fastball Special at the boss. What was supposed to be a cool thing has turned into a disaster.

There’s a little bit of role play at the start of the boss, so I have enough time to yell “RUN OUT” in /raid before hitting my rocket boots and Burning Rush to try to get out before the door closes. There’s a brief panic at the door (see: Warlock just ported herself at the boss) but everyone backs out as I come rocketing back to them. The doors are closing, closing, crap, I’m … going to make it. I shoot the gap of the closing doors into the antechamber and stop as they slam shut behind me. Inside the locked chamber, Sara continues her dialog as the Faceless Ones begin to spawn.

“I’m really sorry guys!” I type out. There’s some good natured ribbing amidst the chaos. Rezznul on his druid and Lech on his monk tank had gotten the farthest away, so they head back.

That’s when the first two Faceless Ones come through the locked door.

“You have GOT to be kidding me!” I yell, hitting Rain of Fire. Rezz and Lech turn and book, Hal on his hunter gets distance, Snack on his warlock joins me in setting fire to these adds. We start retreating as another wave comes through the door.

“Oh crap, I just got ported inside!” says Rezznul.

What? WHAT? Are you kidding me?

So now our healer is on the inside of Yogg-Saron’s chamber, the tank is trying to get distance to save us from the wipe, and two warlocks and a hunter are DPSing down waves of adds that they can’t stop.

My understanding is that Rezz did the natural druid thing at this point – he hotted himself up, went bear form, and proceeded to valiantly tank the waves of Faceless Ones. This worked for a time as Hal, Snack and I cleaned up the ones who had gotten through the door – but then Rezz died, and all those mobs came charging after us.

By this point we’re up to add 15 or so. Not satisfied with his druid snack, Yogg-Saron ports Lech into his prison. The DPS are hurting but had kept ourselves up with self-heals and Snack riding his Rejuvenation Symbiosis button, which has now vanished, but we handle the wave of about 10 or so. Lech tanks the adds which are spawning in the room.  Because I’ve got Rain of Fire and Immolate ticking on all these adds, I had plenty of Burning Embers. We don’t have a way to solve the problem of stopping the adds from spawning, but at least we’re not dead yet.

Suddenly, an unexpected achievement pops up – [They're Coming Out of the Walls (25 Player)] – and we all start laughing. I mean, I’ve been known to pull ungodly amounts of mobs, because OMFG I LOVE MOBS, but I’ve never gotten an achievement for my antics before. And they really WERE coming out of the walls! Most of us didn’t even know we should be trying for that achievement (it’s not part of the meta). Normally my raiding victories are pyrrhic, but last night they resulted in nerd points. YES.

Anyhow, Lech goes down somewhere around add 29 or 30, and a pack of 15 comes roaring through the door. (So hax, those doors.) Hal feigns death. I take most of the aggro while Snack wails on the pack, I die, they transfer their attention to Snack. Since I am more brave than smart, I have a Soulstone on me and use it to come back and try to … save Snack? I dunno. I rez, generate a bunch of embers, heal up, buy myself a few more Faceless One scalps, but let’s face it – there’s no victory to be had here. We’re all dead because I shifted my laptop and clicked a button at the wrong time.

So we’re lying on the ground, dead, laughing. What the hell just happened? Hal hops up, mass resurrects us, and I carefully put the Stargate down on each side of the door – JUST IN CASE. We down Yoggy on the next pull. No fragment but there’s always another week for that.

This might be a weird game, but it can be a heck of a lot of fun, too.

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Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes, Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Warlockery

Simple Destruction Warlock Weak Auras

Cynwise - Weak Aura Configuration - Feb 2013

Feb 2013 UI with Weak Aura Configuration – click to embiggen!

Possibly the biggest change I made when warlocks were revamped in Mists of Pandaria was to throw out my keybinds. That one decision to jettison what I knew about the class and start over allowed me to dramatically change my UI, because it had been built up to support a very specific keybind structure. It allowed me to move away from the Cast Keyboard / Move Mouse style I’d gotten trained into (I now use a more traditional ESDF layout with the Naga) and simplify things considerably. It also made me look at what the default UI could and couldn’t do, and that in turn led me to try out Weak Auras, a really powerful addon and the replacement for Power Auras.

Auras are already part of the default UI – different classes will have event procs display as a graphic that shows up on the screen to let the player know that an ability is usable, or the mana cost is free, or some benefit is available. Weak Auras allows you to customize auras beyond the default. It’s a little tricky to set up at first, but if you take your time and are clear about your requirements then it’s no harder than Need to Know.

My own setup is relatively simple in concept – use a series of spinning concentric circles to alert me to certain powerful spells becoming available. I didn’t want to track every buff or action, but I did want to give myself some kind of visual prompt to take immediate action. Shadowburn, for instance, is an extremely powerful execute spell that Destro locks should use whenever it’s available, which is when the target is below 20% health and you have a Burning Ember to spend. The problem with the default UI is that the button doesn’t light up when you can cast it (unlike Execute or other similar spells) – it just becomes quietly castable. Adding an Aura to let me know that it’s up allows me to cast it more often.

The big circles in my UI shot above are for my target, while the smaller ones above my character’s head are for my focus target. They circle around.

  • The big purple circles are Shadowburn. I wanted something really big and visible since effectively using Shadowburn in PvP allows you to get your opponents down much much faster. Most people don’t get up from a Shadowburn.
  • Moving in, the yellow circle is Conflagrate. In PvE you might cast Conflag on CD, but I do like to save it for the snare effect in PvP. I found that I wouldn’t always look and see if Conflag was up before trying to cast it (instead of Fel Flame), so this aura provides a reliable way for me to know which instant to spam.
  • The inner orange circle is Immolate. This aura just tells me if Immolate is on the target or not. Immolate is not a must-have DoT anymore, but this is a convenient way for me to know if I am applying pressure at a moment’s glance or not. If I were to trim anything, it would be this one.
  • The upper purple circle is Shadowburn again, but on my focus. Visual consistency is important, but so is knowing if my focus target is able to be shadowburned or not.
  • The evil looking eyes are letting me know that Havoc is available to cast on my focus. I use a simple macro which sends Havoc to my focus if one is selected, or to my target if I have no focus. This aura helps me know that I’m all set and ready to wreak havoc.

This provides a relatively simple alerting system for Destruction Warlocks that covers my bases. If I were playing more PvE, I might add in a Backdraft Proc tracker to let me know that I should cast Incinerate instead of Chaos Bolt. I’m also experimenting with a Dark Bargain/Unending Resolve series of auras to let me know to when DB is about to fall off so I can cast Unending Resolve to lessen incoming damage, but I’m not sure that I really want that one right now. There are also some buff reminders I should put up (make sure Dark Intent is on, remind when pet is dead and no corresponding buff available, etc.) but that’s a project for another day.

One of the nice elements of Weak Auras is that it allows you to export settings to share with others, which I’ve done below. These strings – and they’re messy and long – can be copy and pasted into Weak Auras so you can get the exact aura someone uses, either to use out of the box or customize to your desired effect. I’ve included these strings below.

Enjoy!

Shadowburn Target

d0dReaGAjH6LsHAxiu2MKKzIqAUivnBj(nQ6MsHCBP03eXPfStQYEj7Mk7xsq)usi)vughs58uvzOivAWuvvgUuDqkQxtr6yiQJtvv1cPQSueKflfTCv9qeupfSmH0ZvzIsIAQOYKfvth6IscCvQQsxw56uAJiv8yHAZskBxs13Lc(QKitJIyEiu9zkCyugnsgVKuNKQQ4wiqxtKUhc4ziYWeIZHqSilobTcYfKlobX8f(xCYJSOdTQsjrKK0KutsttJKqw1iykj5fv0XeArirJerQks00O0sJst1iyAQ8ij6qlkPiKJKKMAcjsKjsvPQgbtjjuG1HFWWyV4eyVLD9vkES2jFcSUakazVXqbxFLIhRDYJCcTKeHc(ze4DC(1NaCvJ2FcAwMlVr85tG5kxzb5HRITUymuFQPaCvJ2Fc8hhUVglE0BopN3D0xPXm1S9zh90LVH9MTp7A0Ydm6nBF2rVz7ZIstalppGbEhRKHFWWy)jo5rwCcWpyySxCcq)6tWHm0EcS3YOgRGuQPa7TmK9gdj08FB4xU8j4Snx95qWwRwOAbze2mWLbCMjeNG((45qQXkiLGOreS6ZHcmhJbExf6F(7XAwMGZ2C1NdP7VAHQfa0TcikrfyDbuaYEJHcS3YU(kfpw7Kpbw3QphkGzrEb2BzwxaLpbuJvqQm((EgY)ciobeyVL13hphsnwbPKpb99XZHuJvqQm((EgY)ciobeC9vkES2jpYj0ssekW6WpyySxCcU(kfpw7Kh5eAjjcSUakazVXqHcfkiKlaOy58n00(obmxOLHbEN4eCi7rXjO)7gk4O(GZuHcAzbN4eG(1NG(VBOG(VBOGNhz4iCHp20gc3ekOwWfokXjO)7gk4O(GZuHcfGFWWyV4eKBFgg4DcQsa6xFcoKH2tqS9q(2m0V(eCidTNGRVsXJ1o5roHwsIG((45qQXkiLGOreyDbuaYEJHcSUvFouagAxUa7TSRVsXJ1o5tG9wM1fq5tqm1InvWQphkWElRVpEoKAScsjFc67JNdPgRGuz899mK)fqCciuqdHCKsEKstf4STCFWWy)jVOcOwWGcLhPKubfEwU4eyVLfxy3jFcE(YeNGwBbdItOqb2BzxFXYNGRVyXj4coJYKhjHcIlS7eNGl4mktqLmtiIwreUXcfkuWjGmXmHyjeJMG6YJSjrIiuc

Conflagrate Target

da00gaqlrsTlG0WqvoMuSmqXZiuMgHCnH02aQ(gighQQoNij3JqvDquXcbvpeOmrrv5IsvSruvgjOKoPuv9srvvZui6MIQ0ov4NsvzOaHJceXsfcpfzQaUQOk2kqK(kquZvQ0EP(RqnyqPomklgKESuAYIYLvTzf5ZemAPItl41IeZws3gvA3e9BjgUiooOelxPNd10jDDiBxr9DcvgVOY5fPwpHQmFrvL9lvPDJbmfm1Vu)oXAF3(BlsCxk51AmFH9X8f2dLvRMWMAaveOqaLFtCnLzkZaMq4VXP9GNje(BCop4zcj1nii81aMWjVwhmU3JgiPcCySAk7yMIwME4S2ue2csMzOMWmUh45u0Ed3u2XmfTm98v2lSfKmZqnPBqq4RbmPPtUjSYue2eo516GX9E0ajvGdJPI4K9jRPnCtF(s1eNwnuK9c78GzqR3esgutkBfUAcHFSYwHRrCybf2Nz4Mq4hJtEToyCVHBkiN)IVHBcHFmsgud3es(5lvtmKwmjzCp2aE0yQFUClvMERMYou00eq6KBcw5erE5lprA10urQM4BdIxVWgKGyzltz9cBaatDEqOJA(ebPHNiiqebUiW5XlkeW9uQfjYuTWYmGje(XTvggB4M2s9gWexuvdgWQvti8JXjV1WnHWpUTWfktnCt4K3Aat4GuOEpeZQP2kdJnGjCqkuVjqMter2hy5VvRMGYAtrylizgWZPO9MaEofTh3LsETYPvdZmnuK9n)TYsJ72tBnKGFmHKMMk7f2csMb8CkAVjGNtr7XDPKxRCA1WmtdfzFZFRS04U90wdj4htiPP9cHIeiDYnPpNI2BcA9YS8wYUjo5lFMyYaxMgksdyIllinGjnDYnLShF1uYE8vtBrz6bRGK6xWQL2uexaFRwn1ULK40EWdurnM0Ntr7n1Vu)oXAFxozzfjUliFwkCqld3fefX9LdAz48(SaRlh0YWD5Gwgm8BsI4cSbbHVypeZewdTPKoFOLPHI0qn1wQL1aE0y(4h8OILkirHevu0Or5bPXtPoQyEiMh8SAQTWnzpgBOMczMaRiNQmHLP3eRM0H5rJjXfY0oMpr8dtu(fdc48A4Vb8Oqa3tPwKittfPsbX7E0aJjwwwqdfjRgRBqq4l2aE0yat6gee(AatA6KBcRmfHnHKF(s1edPfti8JdY5V4B4M(8LQjoTAOi7f25bZGwVjmc6NVubX(Pqotei6jYinHWpgN8ADW4Ed3ec)yLTcxJ4WckSpZWnHrq)8LkHMMc5mfdghciMa4ebGje(XizqnCtizqnLuzP)AcN8ADW4EpAGWpeiwnHK6gee(Aat4KxRdg37rde(HaXQvpGXaM0nii81aM00j3ewzkcBcHFCNZQAhd3egb9ZxQeAAkKZumyCiGycGteaM(8LQjy9SQ2Xegb9ZxQGy)uiNjce9ezKM6Cwv7yINjK8ZxQMyiTycHFmsgud3ec)ywnmFd3esgutkBfUAQZzvTtCj5ltlRPEZpX3QjKu3GGWxdycjdQjLTcxTA1QPGC(l(gQPPYEHTGKzGvQL1aE04rJhW4rJhI5rJhI8OXQPYgUuzAOinbs7jcG(bJtKMA3ssCop4bQOgtqzTPiSfKmdSsTSgWJgp4bAupGXdEGg1dX8GhOr9qKh8anQvtqzTPiSfKmRVPj8vpGXQPzpAeXJNvBa

Immolate Target

d8JagaqBvy9sr1lfs0UucBteACqIzcjnxrPzlvZxkkDtHKESq9nvuDEHyNqSxQDtY(vr5NsKgMi1VfCAsnuPidwivdxkDqIYrLIIJPuoNkcluuSujklwPA5kEOs0tbltK8CctuiLPkPjlQMoQlkr1vvrYZuP66qTrrWwLiYMvsBhsnnvsFvfrFMiFxIWifs41QugTiA8evNuL4wQi11Kc3tIOUmYHv1FLWEZvdVRgUCCe6ptgUOyAw)yk7L4GsKfAPEVib9qfxooc9N1bLzdcdBlUU48fOy4WqUHCxnGf0ueXiPnGf0ui3iPneh6HXvJKYjCnXuNNk15O0i117nAKikE90nUBK7oHephLnuoXwQ03BK4jsefu86PBKOzdRHHKMawLVm0dJRgzZiBgjLr2mYDJSzKRgzZSHCs8mEEMY8X3KMawL7DdI)GQKCgpKZyiNepJNNPecdjnbSk37gEL(4zDq5QHJxRC1ahPLm0oKGydTdji2We4NPLbSIPzzpeFReAbz2SbE0ss04QHqjuLQ6rCgdyLMnW)irSbTcnncYzmO(ds4Qr2mC54i0FMmBiN2XRR1iTKHOqwzrnHtHQzdRbfBiHr38ZIEZG)855)SOxRg6Hp3vdybve3FHWzmmHo5QHdCN1UA2SbSGkeTuSZyalOI4WX(ZoJbrlf7QbHwj1jJC3SH4(leUAqOvsDYWjLvgQLUmknB2WAqXGU5Kr2szynmK0eWQ8kjNXdzOsYz8qISql17YIzn6N1bvPOPP)rezlpURBfubGvggsshu1iTKbMKZ4HmS3jvEud5KbzrlAgINqBreJKEX1ndcwhFls0WZZ6GY7g2)4BstaRYxg6HXvJSzK0lAyKugj9Igg5UrsVOHrUAK0lAy2atYz8qgUOyAw)ykRS88GsK9K0FtgEEr2McLGgz45frLY1Fwz45fzLHNpfkg0k00iiVBy)JVjnbSkVsYz8qgQKCgpKil0s9USywJ(zDqvkAA6Fer2YJ76wbvayLbDUHlhhH(ZKH4Wr7qcH3n855AwhuFVGhTKencxnYMRg4rljrJRg4iTKbb)mwyalOIKbbR7AoI3niW7eAsXaEDvl3qXszqTaQYkRAGqtk2WPuA(SOVm5pFmtJwW6yHbbENqtkUPHw1YnanvoQOAaRi0KIn8yoyizqW6UMJyizqW6ozalOcSsZoJbSGkEM)4B)ENCgdyLMnW)irSzdyfpAjjAC1awPzd8pseB2Srs5QbE0ss04QboslzqWpJfgWcQij9DoPZyqG3j0KIb86QwUHILYGAbuLvw1aHMuSHOG(oN0GaVtOjf30qRA5gGMkhvunKK(oN0qAdjPVZjlcT08CymCwZwYgWcQaR0SZyaRi0KIn8yoyaR0Sb(hjInBaR4rljrJRgWknBG)rIyZMnB47TjFJSzqHpQJwsIgHrUBimAsXpRdkdLu5LvVSugQgINqBHCJKEX1nd7F8nPjGv5LUUki2iPmBaTr2UMoTzBa

Havoc Focus

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Shadowburn Focus

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On The Sublime Joy of Destruction Warlockery

Holy crap, I’m on fire! Abelard, I’m on fire!

Oh, wait. I’m a Warlock. A Destruction Warlock.

Setting things on fire is what I do.

(Previously. Previously.)

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Decline and Fall, Now Available in HTML and eBook Formats

I appear to have written a small book about Warlocks in the past two months. It’s not quite NaNoWriMo volume, but there are graphs, and that evens things out, right?

Well, after some cursing at ebook format converters, I’m happy to announce that The Decline and Fall of Warlocks in Cataclysm is now available as a single electronic book for your reading convenience. Two files are available:

  • HTML – single web page, with original links and graphics
  • eReader Archive – a .zip file with HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and TXT versions of the series. Kindle users should try the MOBI, others the EPUB or HTML.

There’s some formatting challenges when moving from one medium to another – images go missing for no reason is my big problem. I’ve tried to smooth it out as best I could – the HTML file should be the best one to use.

Enjoy! Thanks again for reading!

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Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Warlockery

Out of the Mists: Reclaiming Warlocks in Pandaria

This is the seventh, and final, post in the Decline and Fall of Warlocks in Cataclysm.

The first few weeks of the beta release of Mists of Pandaria was filled with all sorts of amazing news about changes to Warlocks. Every class received some changes, but it really seemed like Warlocks were getting a complete overhaul. Demo and Destro got new resource systems, Affliction’s Soul Shards were revamped. New demon models were added alongside the old stalwarts. Spells were simplified or redesigned, cruft was removed. Many spells were limited to specific specs.

Then came unexpected news: Demonology as a tanking tree. Green fire through a quest. Massive changes to the class were coming. The Cataclysm Warlock was going away, and in its place was going to be a something … very different. Even as things changed and the dual bombshells of Demon Form Tanking and Green Fire were retracted, the reports from the beta showed a class getting completely gutted and rebuilt.

The changes are pretty staggering.

I remember starting this series right around the time the beta came out and feeling a huge sense of urgency to get it done. I needed to get my findings online so people could see the reason for the attention. It’s not that Warlocks can’t DPS or PvP, it’s that the class is shedding players. It’s not that other classes don’t need help too, it’s that Warlocks were vanishing. More than a quarter of them quit. The trends were all going in the wrong direction.

But I also remember glancing at the changes and wondering: will these changes really fix the problems which caused the decline of the Warlock population, or are they just bandaids? New demon forms can get people excited, but if the demons weren’t the original problem then it’s wasted effort. Cosmetic changes can help sell a spec and class, but they can’t solve underlying mechanical issues. Cosmetic changes aren’t bad, at all! But there need to be major mechanical changes, too, or players won’t stick with the class.

I’m done with Cataclysm. Let’s move on to Mists.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Holy shit. Warlocks are going to be so much fun in the next expansion.

I can’t bring myself to level my baby Forsaken Warlock on the live servers anymore. Why? Because the leveling process is so much better on beta. If you are wondering if you should level a Warlock now or in Mists, wait for Mists. Gone are the awkward talents and abilities; in their place are simple, logical spells which fit the theme of the spec. Leveling Destro, for instance, I no longer shoot Shadow Bolts and dot on the run. Instead, I:

  1. Set people on fire.
  2. Explode people and stun them.
  3. Throw fire at people.
  4. Drop fire on groups of people.

And that’s pretty much it. It’s wonderful.

Simple for leveling? Yes, and that’s great for new players and new Warlocks alike. Affliction DoTs. Demo gets demon form early and gets to use it often. Destro slings fire at everything. By the mid-40s all the new resource systems are in place and you’re starting to learn the basics of how things work at endgame.

The class is very different at endgame. If you are going from 85 to 90, mentally start preparing to learn a new class. Affliction still feels familiar, but the changes have made it faster, more frantic at times. Demonology and Destruction are completely different; not only do they have new resource systems, they have jettisoned much of the shared Warlock abilities used in Cataclysm and are focused on the fantasy of the spec again.

The biggest problem, I think, will be the transition for current endgame Warlock players. I went in not knowing any of the new systems or having read any guides and was overwhelmed by how different things were. I had to start over from scratch to get used to the new way of doing things, nuking both my UI/keybinds and my preconceived notions of how the specs should work. The transition from Wrath to Cata was easier because it was just more stuff on top of stuff I already knew; Cata to Mists is new stuff. Jettisoning old concepts is hard but vital to the changeover.

I can already see that the developers recognize this is a problem by the appearance of clear, concise in-game directions on the Core Abilities tab. It’s relatively easy to put together a clear out-of-game guide, but a bit harder to teach people in-game. The Core Abilities tab wasn’t there when I started but it’s a really useful guide. The What Has Changed tab is another recent addition which I think will be helpful in-game advice for returning Warlocks.

CORE ABILITIES

I think the Core Abilities tab is a great addition to not only the Warlock class, but to every class in the game. Each spec gets a tab in the spell book summarizing their key abilities for use so that players understand the intended way to play, like this:

I love this tab. It provides a good overview of the endgame rotation of a spec. It lets you drag the abilities down to your action bars and go, okay, I’m playing Demo, here’s what I’m supposed to do: keep Corruption and HoG on the target, cast Soul Fire when MC procs, turn into a Demon when my Demonic Fury bar is full, otherwise cast Shadow Bolt. Got it.

It seems so logical in retrospect, but if there is a way a spec is supposed to be played, it makes sense that the game should teach it. This allows new and old players alike to pick up a class and get the basics quickly, while still allowing a lot of room for player growth. Mastery of the nuances of a class won’t be taught through the Core Abilities tab, that’s not what it’s there for. You won’t see things like “time your DoT refreshes with trinket procs with Demon Soul for max damage” or “use Fel Fire while moving” in these tabs, and that’s okay.

Core Abilities are the basics. Great addition. Love it.

LIMITED SPELL SELECTION CREATES FOCUS

You’ll notice that the number of spells on the Core Abilities tab is pretty low – the page supports six, which is a good number to try to get your head around when learning any spec.

One of the things I like best about the changes to Warlock in Mists is how the Core Abilities are not just the suggested abilities for the spec, they’re usually the only abilities. Competing abilities are just not available. Looking at Demo above, you might ask what happened to Immolate? It’s not available anymore to Demo! You can’t cast it, don’t even try!

This focus is created either by only granting abilities to certain specs, or transforming basic spells when the spec is chosen. Corruption turns into Immolate for Destro, so now there’s not a choice between the two, or a possibility that Corruption will enter the rotation. It can’t.

Locking many abilities to individual specs not only reduces player confusion, it eliminates the possibility of unintended crossover and the complexity that goes with it. The number of shared Core Abilities between specs is very low – Corruption is the only one, and it’s only shared between Affliction and Demonology. Everything else is different.

While this means we will likely see the three Warlock specs drift further apart in Mists, I think this is a very good thing for the flavor of each class and reducing overall class complexity.

The Destro Core Abilities (above) are a good illustration of how much more focused each class is on a few central, thematic abilities in Mists, and not presented with the dozens of choices you have in Cataclysm. I’m reminded of Bruce Lee’s quote on expertise:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

This was drilled into me when I was learning martial arts: most black belts only really use 5-10 moves, but they know how to use them in dozens of configurations and combinations, and adapt them to any situation or environment. I feel like that’s what we’re seeing here. The cruft is being cleared away, leaving us players to focus on using those abilities we have.

MORE USEFUL SPELLS

Spells which weren’t useful in Cataclysm have either been jettisoned or made useful in Mists.

Searing Pain is gone. This was mostly a PvP spell, but Fel Flame can replace it nicely.

Shadowflame is gone. I love this spell, but it was both awkward to use and very, very mage-like. It’s been rolled into Hand of Gul’dan now.

Fel Flame generates Burning Embers and Demonic Fury now, making it an easy choice for whenever a Warlock moves. You move, you cast Fel Flame for damage or Life Tap for mana, period.

Curse of Enfeeblement takes the place of Curse of Tongues and Curse of Weakness and is actually attractive now, especially while leveling!

Demon Soul now has spec-specific iterations, decoupling it from the deployed demon and eliminating Demon Twisting.

Demons appear (and this is, of course, subject to change) to be chosen based on utility, not on spec association or DPS. Any given spec doesn’t have a specific demon that benefits it through talents or abilities, which I think is a great change.

Spells transform into new versions when Warlocks do things. Demon Form doesn’t give you new abilities, it changes the ones you have into new, related abilities. Curses become Auras. That’s clever. If you use Burning Embers to do AoE, your spells change to reflect that.

All of these things are pretty damn cool.

SIMPLER CLASS BASELINE DOES NOT MEAN A SIMPLE CLASS

That said, there’s a set of other abilities that are shared across Warlock specs that are also needed – things like Life Tap, Demon Soul, Guardian Demons – that still need to be cast. There are also talents which are independent of spec.

The division of abilities into Core/Non-Core is great for playing multiple Warlock specs because it allows players another way to chunk up their abilities. I can look at my UI and go, Core (DPS) abilities go in one place, baseline Warlock abilities (defensive, movement, utility) go in another, and maintain a great deal of consistency in layout between specs.

Compare my Affliction and Demo setups in Beta:

This is Affliction, arguably the spec with the most buttons right now. You can see that most of the Core Abilities are grouped in the lower bars and the primary 1-10 keys, while utility spells are on keys around the QWES keys, like ADFGT.

This is Demo. The utility keys are almost identical between specs, withthe only variation being different talents or glyphs I’m testing out. The Core Ability section is different, but not overwhelmingly so – there’s still a relatively uniform layout there.

I’m amazed at how much space I have with my keybindings, to be honest. I know some people have been able to play Warlocks in Cataclysm without using all their keybinds, but I have had fully loaded binds from the start. I’m a bit in shock that I won’t need 60 binds and can use WASD without feeling like I’m sacrificing valuable keybinds space to do it!

The Talent system revamp is excellent. Instead of trying to shape your character by taking certain necessary abilities, you’re choosing utility and options instead of possibly making mistakes which affect your core abilities. What I like best about the Warlock talents is that you can often tailor the complexity of the spec based on your choices – often you are selecting between another button to push, replacing an existing button, or adding a passive ability to a button. This allows Warlock players to take 3 or 4 different damage absorption CDs if they like, or just have two.

I saw this with the Glyphs, as well. The Glyph of Demon Soul is fantastic, because it gives a passive bonus when DS is not on CD, effectively allowing players who don’t want to have a burst CD to ignore it – yet still get some benefit from it. The Glyph of Wild Imps is working like this too, only in reverse! It takes a passive and adds a button with CD, which is awesome!

The abilities are simpler, but I wouldn’t call them simple. Not by a longshot. The interactions with each new resource spec are still up in the air, but there is still a lot of mental juggling going on. Affliction feels much faster now with changes to Malefic Grasp and Haunt. Destro feels very rhythmic, where you build up to this absolutely massive discharge of damage (oh god, 6 Chaos Bolts on 2 targets with Havoc and Demon Soul, be still my beating heart) and then start over again. Demonology is in the strangest place right now, with a hybrid melee-caster rotation that’s unlike anything Warlocks have seen before. Meta form is no longer just a CD you use to increase your damage, instead it’s an entirely different way of playing.

VISUALLY EXCITING ABILITIES = SPEC WISH FULFILLMENT

Near the beginning of the beta there was a report that Warlocks would get a quest which would allow them to change the color of their fire to green.

There are times that I feel like I’m in the minority because I don’t really care one way or another about green fire for Warlocks. I mean, would it be cool? Sure? But I’d rather see mechanics fixed than spell graphics updated?

Well, that’s really a crumudgeon’s attitude, and it took me playing in the Mists Beta to realize it.

I chose the screenshots above deliberately because they show off some of the very cool new spell effects that are available for Warlocks. Chaos Bolt is now a HUGE green energy dragon with a swarm of smaller dragons launched at the target. Shadow Bolt can be made to swarm in a pack of three instead of a bolt, and it’s AWESOME. Soul Fire is huge, like, HUGE. Harvest Life is wild when you can get 3-6 targets in range. These spells are great.

I was leveling my baby Warlock when I realized how much happier I was that she was slinging sheets of fire instead of shadow bolts at her targets. This is how Destro is SUPPOSED to feel! I yelled more than once at the screen.

And that’s really what the new graphics are all about; fulfilling the fantasy of a spec. The abilities have to do it, the mechanics have to do it, but the graphics have to do it, too. And the new graphics are delivering on that fantasy. They are making each spec different from each other – you will not have to wonder for long what kind of Warlock you are facing. They’re also making the class visually distinct from other classes very early on – you won’t wonder if you’ve got a Fire Mage or a Destro Lock in your group anymore. You’ll know.

I know Blizzard came out and said that green fire wasn’t happening, but given the scope of graphical changes I’ve seen in the Beta – I wouldn’t rule it out just yet.

WARLOCK TANKS

I have not seen a class community polarize faster than Warlocks did over the discovery of the Glyph of Demon Hunting, which allowed for Demon Form to work… well, to work like a tank. A real tank, not an off tank. Huge amounts of armor. Taunts. Melee attacks. Defensive cooldowns. All the basic abilities were there, they just had to be fleshed out.

Then there was lore that appeared, later – about how the Demonologists on the Council of Six Daggers went to the Demon Hunters of Outland to learn their secrets.  The reason for the name of the glyph became clear, at least.

But, after all that excitement, it was not to be.

Greg Street wrote:

Just to make our intent clear, the Glyph of Demon Hunting isn’t intended to turn Demonology warlocks into a tanking spec. You won’t be able to queue as a tank for Dungeon Finder for instance and won’t have the survivability or tools of say a Protection paladin.

Thus the dream of Warlock tanks ended.

If there was anything that indicated to me that Warlocks were really in trouble in Cataclysm, and that no idea was too wild to save them in Mists, it was this one. Tanking Warlocks represented the most outrageous thinking I’d seen yet on the class. Oh, sure, bloggers had talked about it before, but nothing had ever come out of Blizzard indicating it was a possibility. Taking a pure DPS spec and turning them into a hybrid? This is madness!

No, this is amazing.

Let’s assume for a moment that the intent really was to make Demo a tanking spec. Humor me.

Let’s consider the benefits:

  • Turns the class into a hybrid, resolving issues with the Simplicity Tax and Bring the Player, Not the Class model. This also invites players to try Warlocks who might otherwise be hesitant to roll a pure DPS character due to the needs of their raid composition.
  • Increases the number of potential tanks in the game. This both helps the general tank shortage, as well as offset the main quality of life disadvantage of a pure DPS – queue times for PvE dungeons and raids – by letting them jump in as a tank.
  • It is new and unusual, which can be quite a draw for players looking for something different. It also gives long-term Warlock players an opportunity to experience a different role in the game without rerolling.
  • Sets up the possibility of a fourth spec for other classes. Demo tanks would be an experiment in making one spec fill multiple roles (DPS/Tanking), much like Feral Druids did. If both roles are successful, spinning off a separate 4th spec becomes a logical extension of the tanking experiment, which opens up possibilities for other classes extending their specs.
  • Fits the theme and fantasy of the spec. Instead of transforming into a demon to make your spells hit harder, you turn into one to rip and tear into your enemies, using demonic magic to augment your physical prowess to be the equivalent of a giant dire bear or warrior in armor.

There are some challenges to overcome with this idea, though.

  • Automatic role determination by spec. Splitting apart Feral into two specs allows Blizzard to code LFD/LFR to only allow characters who have learned a tanking spec to queue as a tank. If this restriction comes to pass, Demo either needs to become a full-time tank spec or have the tank spec be split off from the DPS spec entirely.
  • Automatic quest reward determination by spec. If quest rewards are going to be chosen by your current spec, should Demo get DPS or tanking gear?
  • Attachment of Demo DPS players to their spec. Given the massive changes made to Demo in Mists, it doesn’t really resemble the Demo DPS spec we’ve enjoyed since Wrath, but current Demo players may not want to give up their DPS play style of choice. There is a related argument that Warlock players don’t want to be a hybrid and be pressured into tanking.
  • Balance with other classes. Demo tanks brings the number of tank classes up to 6, which can be a challenge for balancing under the Bring the Player model. There are also PvP concerns to consider, though to be frank those concerns exist with the glyphed version anyways.
  • Tank Cloth itemization. Honestly, I think this is the biggest obstacle for Warlock tanks. How will they gear for avoidance? A conversion of Intellect, Haste, Crit, Mastery into Dodge, Parry, or Expertise might be possible, but how will that work? New gear would be an easier answer, but adding in an entire new class of Tanking Cloth gear is a monumental undertaking, and fraught with the same perils as Intellect Plate.

The problem of making a cloth-wearing tank viable is an interesting one. Do you follow a Bear/Guardian model and convert Intellect into Dodge? Well, that probably needs to be coded, and only for Warlock tanks (since Agility gives Dodge already as a default).

What about health pools, do you make it so their damaging attacks suck life out of the bosses and give them a large effective health pool (but then how do they survive the big hits?) What about Parry, Expertise, melee Hit – how do you make it work, exactly, when there’s no available gear with tanking stats?

There’s also a question of theme. Demonology, as it stands today in Cataclysm, provides both the conjuror and  metamorph archetypes in one package. In some ways those concepts are at odds with each other – a conjuror summons other beings to do their dirty work for them, while a metamorph transforms to do the job themselves. Tanking stresses the latter philosophy, of internalizing the demons and becoming them, more than the former, which is more of a ranged DPS idea. Spinning off the transformation of Demonology into a separate tanking tree would allow both themes to flourish, but if only one can be chosen – I’d rather have some flexibility in my theme.

The Glyph of Demon Hunting is an interesting experiment. Because it’s a Glyph you can’t enable it in the middle of a fight, but perhaps it could be changed into an ability which allows Demo to activate tank mode for 5 minutes? That at least makes it an attractive option for tank death or tank swap fights. As it stands now, the best use will be for soloing or – as gear gets better – tanking 5-mans with a friendly guild group who likes pushing the limits.

That’s pretty cool, but I know that if there was more time in the development cycle this could be even cooler.

I would not count Warlock tanks out of the picture just yet. If not now, look for them in the expansion after Mists.

THE REBIRTH OF WARLOCKS IN MISTS OF PANDARIA

I find it ironic that I named this series after Gibbon’s masterpiece, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman EmpireGibbon assembled a wealth of material around the collapse of Roman governance in Western Europe in the third through sixth centuries, but he used it to formulate a monocausal theory – that the Roman Empire’s fall was inevitable because of the influence of Christianity. This theory overlooks much in pursuit of forwarding an Enlightenment viewpoint of the Medieval period and Christianity as bad, and the Greco-Roman classical tradition as good.

As a historian, I have always preferred the works of J. B. Bury, who did not dispute the evidence Gibbon presented, but rather interpreted them differently. Bury posits that Rome’s fall was not inevitable, but rather the result of a series of incidents which lead to a catastrophe. Internal political pressures, external migratory pressures on the Germanic tribes, inflation, increased taxes to deal with the Sassanid Empire’s threat, a series of terrible decisions by Imperial and Provincial leaders alike – all these contributed to the calamity of the fourth and fifth centuries. I recommend reading Gibbon so you’ve read him, but I recommend Bury if you want to see the vast scope of problems in Late Antiquity, and how monocausal theories need to take them all into account.

To quote Bury:

The gradual collapse of the Roman power … was the consequence of a series of contingent events. No general causes can be assigned that made it inevitable.

It’s my hope that this series has been more like Bury than Gibbon. While there has been a central theme to this work –  inelegant complexity without reward led to the decline of Warlock populations in Cataclysm – it is my firm belief that it was a series of design decisions and balance changes during the expansion which contributed to the decline of this class. Attributing it to any one specific change misses the big picture. Our personal reasons and agendas need to take a back seat to the data.

The Warlock class declined in Cataclysm. Based on what I’ve seen so far in the Mists of Pandaria Beta, it is too early to write its epitaph, but its recovery is by no means a certain thing. It is transforming into something very different what came before, and it is my sincere hope that it flourishes and thrives in its new incarnation.

Let’s see what the future holds for this great class.

THANKS

I honestly thought this would be a two-post series at the beginning. More than thirty thousand words later, I realize that I had a lot more to say about Warlocks than I thought I did, so, first and foremost, thanks to the hundreds of people who commented and shared your thoughts and opinions in comments, forums and emails, for promoting this work in the Warlock community. Thank you.

I’d like to thank Xelnath for his for his insights and convincing me to give the Mists beta a try. It’s been a delight discussing this work with you, and I can’t wait to see what you have up your sleeve next.

I have to also give many thanks to my undercover editors, Catulla and Narci of Flavor Text, for their unflagging support in the face of a mountain of text regarding a class they didn’t play. Narci deserves special mention as the one who convinced me this needed to be a series, and then stayed with the idea by reviewing every single draft, even the ones I threw away. Thank you both for your ocular fortitude.

Finally, thank you for reading. This has been a long journey, and I’m humbled and thankful that you chose to go on it with me. Thanks!

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Appendix C: Haste and the Butterfly Effect

Why did all Warlock specs become so DoT heavy in Cataclysm?

I’ve been wondering this as I’ve gone though the changes in Mists, because the difference is so startling; why did every spec start using all DoTs, all the time? Why did Destro end up getting damage from 5 DoTs and lose the nuking feel? Why did everyone end up using Corruption and Shadowflame?

Was it a deliberate design decision, or was it an accident?

I can’t answer designer intent, but I think the root of this was an innocuous quality of life change made to DoTs at the start of Cataclysm. Ironically, a small change to make DoTs easier to use ended up making the Warlock class harder to play overall.

I covered this early after Cataclysm’s release in How Warlock DoTs Work in Cataclysm, which looked at the different ways Haste affected DoTs in Wrath and Cataclysm. There were two changes:

  • You could now clip most DoTs without losing the final tick, and
  • DoTs would gain ticks of damage at certain Haste values.

The clipping was the quality of life issue, but to make it happen, the mechanics of DoTs had to be modified.

In Wrath, Haste meant that your 18 second Corruption with 6 ticks could be done in, say, 12 seconds, at which point you’d recast it. In Cataclysm this was changed so that DoT spells would remain roughly the same duration, but add additional ticks of damage when they got fast enough. Your 15 second/6 tick Corruption could potentially become a 13.64/6 tick or 16.25 second/8 tick spell.

This was, in retrospect, a really big deal.

Haste increased DoT DPS by making ticks faster, that’s easy. But in Cataclysm, Haste also dramatically increased the DPCT (damage per cast time) of DoTs like Corruption because each cast generated more overall damage. If a Warlock with no Haste cast Corruption, that’s a GCD to cause 6 ticks of a set amount of damage. If that Warlock has enough Haste to get an additional tick or two of damage, that GCD spent casting the DoT now does 16%, 33%, 50% more damage, depending on how many additional ticks were on the spell.

With Cata’s new Haste/DoT model, Warlocks of all specs had to cast every DoT available to them. They were too good not to cast. Corruption and Shadowflame became defaults for every spec. Destro was caught in a vice because Conflagrate was based upon Immolate’s total damage, so every additional tick Haste granted increased not only their primary DoT’s DPCT, it also made their primary nuke hit much harder, giving an additional DPS boost. So they’d stack Haste to get those Immolate ticks, which would in turn improve Corruption’s DPCT, making it even more important to cast.

Sweet delicious Haste, combined with shared spells across all specs, became a trap.
I think the changes weren’t intentionally designed to make Warlocks more complicated; changes were made to DoTs/HoTs for all casters, not just Warlocks, and in general the new model really is better. It’s certainly easier to be able to clip with the 2 second rule! And the extra ticks and associated Haste Breakpoints/Plateaus make Haste a more interesting secondary stat.

I think this points towards Warlocks getting hit by Lorenz’s butterfly effect – a small initial change in one part of the game had unforeseen major consequences in another.

  • DoT/Haste interaction changes with 4.0.1 release.
  • Corruption/Shadowflame DPCT rises.
  • All Warlock specs have Corruption and Shadowflame in their priority.

Plenty of other small quality of life changes were made that had an effect upon the class’s overall complexity. Banes being separated out from Curses, for example, seemed good at first (Banes caused damage, Curses were debuffs) because you no longer needed to do advanced math to figure out if you should take the 12% damage increase from Curse of the Elements or the damage caused by Curse of Doom or Agony. But then every Warlock ended up casting a Bane – and maybe a Curse too.

The DPCT of Shadowflame has always been surprisingly good, mostly due to its short cast time, so it was interesting to see it get used so prominently in Cataclysm. I haven’t really taled about Shadowflame much before, but it’s a spell that I adore – damage, dot, and a glyphed slow. It’s also a tremendous pain in the ass to use in PvE, and takes skill to use in PvP. It has short range so you either have to run in to use it or forgo it entirely. It’s not just a DoT or an AoE, it’s a spell that requires very good placement to use. Movement matters, which adds a layer of complexity far beyond just another spell.

Corruption presents an interesting problem because it was baseline damage for all three specs. Blizzard couldn’t change how it worked without considerable effort, so all that was left was tweaking the damage. If the damage was made too low, Affliction would be neutered, but if it was kept high, Destruction would benefit too much. So talents, Mastery bonuses, general damage all got modified – but Corruption’s DPCT was too good to pass up for Destro. (Demo always wanted it for Molten Core procs, but the damage was similarly good.)

I think the fact that Haste changed all DoTs and not just Warlock DoTs points towards this being an accident. I can’t prove it, and it’s not like it was the source of all Warlock problems in Cataclysm.

It was just a little butterfly, flapping its wings.

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