Tag Archives: Warlockery

Drain Tanking

Drain tanking is a technique used by Affliction warlocks that allows them to dispatch mobs without taking very much damage at all. When done properly, drain tanking allows affliction warlocks to enter a Kali-state, or God(dess) of Death Mode, where they slaughter mobs without ever stopping.

Remember my post on Destruction Warlock AoE Grinding? Well, if you play an Affliction warlock, you probably looked at that with a bit of amusement and, quite probably, inter-class derision. So much movement! So much jumping and flying and BAM BAM BAMing! So much damage taken! So much like a mage! Wait until you see how an Afflock handles that situation!

Well, you’ll get no argument from me. While Destro AoE grinding is a fun, quick way to kill a lot of mobs and leave them in convenient loot piles, it does suffer from several flaws. It’s mana-intensive, it doesn’t replenish any of your resources, and it requires a lot of movement before damage is inflicted and the mobs die.

(That said, when the mobs die, they die in very, very convenient heaps.)

Drain tanking is different.

The core idea of drain tanking is that the warlock will heal themselves faster than the mob can damage them. As long as this is true, warlocks do not need their demons to tank for them. Using a combination of high Stamina, Spellpower, and Life Tap, skilled drain tankers can run through a pack of mobs and emerge with full health and full mana, resulting in zero downtime. As you level, you’ll get better at this so that the only time you have to stop is to loot.


At level 14 Warlocks gain the spell Drain Life, the first core ability of drain tanking. Drain Life takes health away from the target and gives it to you via a bright green channelled spell. After you apply your DoTs (Corruption, Curse of Agony, maybe Immolate) to the target, use Drain Life to keep healing yourself while doing damage. When dealing with multiple mobs, dot them all up before using Drain Life, and don’t hesitate to Fear them away if they are causing too much damage.

Up to this point, warlocks have been squishy casters without any way to heal themselves (aside from First Aid), and their demons serve as tanks who should take and hold aggro. Drain-tanking warlocks do not worry when their demon loses aggro, because they can take the damage when it comes their way. They’ll just heal it up.

Here’s a macro you may find useful for low-level drain tanking:

/castsequence reset=target/combat,4 Curse of Agony, Corruption, Drain Life

This will allow you to quickly apply your instant dots and then move on to healing yourself. Don’t forget that Demon Skin / Demon Armor will increase healing by 20%, so make sure you have it up at all times.


At level 30 things get more interesting with Siphon Life. Siphon Life changes your Corruption spell to return 40% of damage done as healing to you, allowing you to heal on every single pull. Corruption/Siphon Life becomes your single most important DoT to place on a mob because of this healing. Curse of Agony becomes your next standard DoT, and Immolate is a third option if you need additional DPS. The addition of Siphon Life lessens your reliance on Drain Life, and consequently, makes you more mobile. You can still Drain Life when necessary, but you will often find it more effective to keep moving from mob to mob.

Siphon Life really accelerates your leveling because it lets you damage and heal with the same spell. You cast both a DoT and a HoT at the same time, which is cool, but Life Tap transforms this into a mana-regeneration spell, too. By siphoning the mob’s health and tapping it into mana, you can cast further Corruptions. The more mobs you pull the stronger you get.

It’s a beautiful cycle.

Siphon Life is affected by anything that increases Corruption’s damage, so Spellpower on gear and any Corruption-enhancing talents also enhance your drain tanking.


Siphon Life opens up a lot of options to the leveling warlock, but while grinding and questing you’re still going to be dipping into your deep bag of Warlock tricks. But at some point you’ll stack enough Spellpower and pick up enough Corruption-enhancing talents to enter Goddess of Death Mode, where you spread death and destruction wherever you go without ever stopping.

You literally never stop.

Goddess of Death Mode is when you use only instant-cast spells to kill and heal youtself while constantly moving and pulling new mobs. Your only weapons are Corruption and Curse of Agony; you chaincast them while running from pack to pack, tab-targeting as you go. Tab, dot, dot, tab, dot, dot. As the healing from Siphon Life starts rolling in, Life Tap liberally to keep your mana up.

As long as these two spells are enough to kill the mobs you’re facing – and trust me, they will be, eventually – you never have to stop. GoDM warlocks leave a trail of corpses while emerging with full health and full mama.

At very high levels, with advanced talents and the ability to take talents from other trees, Goddess of Death Mode can be an awesomely terrifying playstyle. The addition of Soul Link and Fel Synergy from the Demonology tree allows your pet to take part in this flow of damage and healing, reducing the damage you take while providing healing to your demon. Fel Synergy heals based on damage you inflict, so the more dots you have ticking, the more healing your demon receives. Even with all the damage coming over the Soul Link, your demon should not need any additional healing.  (And if they do?  Too bad, you’re busy killing things, they’re a Demon, you can always resummon them later.)

There a few other instant spells that you can cast in Goddess of Death Mode – Nightfall-procced Shadowbolts are always fun, talented Howl of Terror can relieve pressure if too many mobs pile on you, and Death Coil provides a nice quick heal on the go. But these are fun little extras. Icing on the cake, if you will.

One tip I have is that it’s useful to know approximately how much damage your Corruption and Corruption/Curse of Agony combos will do when playing Goddess of Death Mode — you can quickly compare it to the mob’s health and know if you need to stop and give them a little extra something later on. Generally this is only really a problem while leveling and tackling higher-level mobs.


Drain tanking has a few key Affliction talents that you must take, and then quite a few more that help considerably.

These talents improve your Drain Life and give you the ability to drain using Corruption:

  • Soul Siphon increases the effectiveness of Drain Life based on the number of DoTs on the target.
  • Fel Concentration keeps your Drain Life from getting interrupted.
  • Siphon Life returns health when Corruption deals damage.

The following talents buff your Corruption or shadow damage, which in turn buffs your Drain Life and Siphon Life.

I don’t encourage splitting trees until after you’ve gotten the 51 point talent in it, but there are several Demonology talents which really help with drain tanking.

  • Soul Link shunts 20% of your damage over to your demon.
  • Fel Synergy heals your demon when you deal damage.
  • Demonic Aegis increases the effectiveness of your Armor.

These talents are fairly standard parts of most Affliction or Demonology builds, but if you’re building one on your own you’ll want to make sure these are part of it.


When I first started playing my warlock, I had a lot of trouble figuring out how drain tanking worked. It didn’t make sense because it was so very different from the early levels, where you send in your VW, avoid aggro, keep the mobs away from you at all cost. I had to experience it myself to see how it could work.

Well, I might not be able to let you experience it yourself without your own warlock, but I can at least provide you a video of how I do it on mine.

Happy drain tanking!


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Destro Warlock AoE Grinding

I still remember the first time I saw a Frost Mage AoE grind. It was in northern Dragonblight, up at the Scarlet Crusade base. This little gnome would round up the Crusaders into a tight herd on his mechanostrider, slow them, freeze them, blink to a safe distance, and then annihilate them with a Blizzard. This crazy little man would pull entire camps, kill them all, and ride away without a scratch.

I was stunned by not just the carnage, but the sytle and élan by which it was achieved. I admit: I was really quite jealous of Mages in that moment.

What I didn’t know at the time is that Warlocks are equally capable at AoE grinding, but with a fundamentally different style. The Warlock Way isn’t to avoid the enemy, it’s to frustrate their attempts to stop us, to turn their own life force against them, and when all else fails — to nuke them down while we laugh at their feeble attempts to stop us.

There are at least four styles that I know the different specs can use to kill many mobs in a single blow.

  1. Destro Locks are uniquely suited to AoE grinding because of both the buffs we have on Rain of Fire and Shadowfury.
  2. Affliction Locks excel at a completely different style of taking out lots of mobs, a style I’ve dubbed the Kali style, which involves casting instant DoTs on the run and then spamming Seeds of Corruption and Drain Life. This style leaves a trail of dead as Affliction locks NEVER need to stop.
  3. Demo Locks can use their Felguard, Metamorphosis’s Immolation Aura, and Hellfire to gather mobs and turn the mob’s aggro against them.
  4. And all warlocks can send a pet to gather up mobs and return them to the master, killing them however the warlock chooses.

Today I’m just going to talk about Destro’s AoE grinding. The core idea is to gather up the mobs with you (and your pet), hit them with Shadowfury, Shadowflame (especially Glyphed Shadowflame), and Rain of Fire, all while absorbing damage with your Voidwalker’s Sacrifice, Soul Link, and your own high Stamina. The more defensive talents you have, the better you will fare.

The process is relatively straightforward:

  1. Round up the mobs while mounted into a tight area.  If you get knocked off, don’t panic, just move on to step 2.  Try to get just to one side of the pack.
  2. Shadowfury the mobs to stun them in place.  You’ll dismount at this point and your Voidwalker will spawn.
  3. Turn and face the mobs and hit them with Shadowflame.  This will put a DoT on them and do great damage for little mana; however, you have to practice to make sure you can aim your cone well.
  4. Trigger your Voidwalker’s Sacrifice spell as you get a little distance on the pack of mobs.  If you’re facing Shadow spells, you can also toss Shadow Ward on for good measure.
  5. Rain of Fire the pack until they die.  This usually takes 1-2 RoFs for most PvE mobs.

Sometimes it helps to actually see a technique in action.  So, I made a little video to show how this works in practice.  (Go easy on me, this is my first video post.)

So there you have it.  Obviously Warlock AoE grinding takes some practice and a good health pool.  Soul Link will really help you out here, but it’s by no means essential.  What is essential is keeping a good tab on your cooldowns, health, and mana, and the willingness to adapt when things go wrong.

Happy grinding!


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

The Warlock Way

I read a pre-release version of Jazz’s post The Worthless Warlock over at Arrens’s site this weekend, and I have to admit: I get the frustration of playing a Warlock, of feeling like you are possibly the crappiest class in the entire field.  You aren’t nimble like a Mage, you aren’t unstoppable like a Warrior or Death Knight, you aren’t invulnerable like a Paladin, you can’t heal, you can’t tank, you can’t even name your pets.  You are particularly weak against Rogues, who gank you at every single opportunity, and the only people you get to pick on in a battlegrounds are Druids, but then they go turn into a Tree and all you can do is stare at them evily.

Yet, while you’re feeling completely ineffectual, you’re one of the most feared and hated classes in all of Warcraft.  People will spit on you, gank you, teabag you, single you out for extermination above the healers.  If you ride your Felsteed or Dreadsteed into battle you absolutely will get killed first.

Despite all of this, I love playing my Warlock.  This complicated, crazy class is completely unique within Warcraft.  It takes patience, research and practice to master.  You have to embrace your limitations and use them against your opponents. And you have to adapt or die.

(Aw, who am I kidding?  You’re a Warlock.  You’re going to die.  A LOT.  It’s the first rule of Warlocking.)


I’ve finally started playing enough alts of different classes that I can articulate the philosophy behind Warlocks and the role they play in the game.  Each class has a certain general role they fill — damage dealing, tanking, healing — but within those roles, there are specific concepts that make each class unique.

The core concept of a Warlock is that we will kill you from a distance while you are helpless to stop us. This is why Warlocks are hated: no matter what spec they are, the Warlock way is to take control of the opponent and kill them, be it quickly or slowly or through a pet, but to also dominate the target so they cannot stop their own death.

Warlocks can do this in many, many ways.

  1. DoT, DoT, Fear, Run Away. This classic early tactic and core Affliction idea loads the target up with potential damage, then takes control of them to render them impotent to stop it.  If you can’t break the Fear, you can’t do anything to stop the damage or catch the Warlock from doing it again.
  2. You Have To Catch Me To Kill Me. Warlocks are a ranged damage class, with many, many tools to keep you from doing anything while we kill you from afar.  Fear, Howl of Terror, and Death Coil send opponents away from the Warlock.  The Felguard’s Intercept keeps you at a distance.  Shadowfury and Seduction freezes you in place.  And Curse of Exhaustion, Nightmare, and glyphed Shadowflame slow you down while we run away.
  3. My Death Will Not Save You. By loading up the Damage over Time spells, even killing the Warlock will not stop your own death.  You might be able to catch us, you might be able to kill us, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to get you too.
  4. DoT Stacking.  Leaving a DoT that a Warlock places on you is a very bad idea.  Leaving Immolate, Corruption or Haunt up allows a Warlock to build up devastating combinations.

You’ll notice what these all share in common; establish control at a distance and inflict damage.  Every single tree has these tools.

The closest class that approaches the Warlock Way is a Rogue.  They too establish control over an opponent, but they do so close-up and personal, not at a distance.  Sneak attacks are vital to closing the distance for a Rogue, which is why stealth is so important to them.  Rogues and Warlocks are, in many ways, completely opposite expressions of the same core idea; one inflicts physical melee damage, the other ranged magical, but both take control of an opponent to prevent them from fighting back.

Mages are an interesting counterpoint to Warlocks.  Both classes are relatively rare due to their fragility, both deal ranged magical damage.  But Mages avoid damage by rooting, snaring, slowing their opponent, rendering them unable to move.  Warlocks take over completely, stealing their victim’s volition.  Compare Frost Nova to Howl of Terror, or Frostbolt to Death Coil to see the difference.  Between Blink and all the tools the Frost tree gives them, Mages are slippery, elusive targets.  Warlocks are not.  With one exception, we can run only as fast as our feet carry us.  Warlocks would rather you did the running.

The final pure DPS class is the other pet class, Hunters.  The difference in the two pet classes is remarkable in how they treat their pets.  Hunter pets are unique, named companions with their own talent trees.  They are excellent tanks that help keep opponents at bay.  Demons are tools to be used for their DPS and special abilities, to buff a certain tree or take advantage of the buffs of those trees.  Hunter pets are one of their ways to keep opponents at a distance, where they excel at dealing damage.   But they never take control of you to do so.

Shadow Priests bear mentioning here, even as a hybrid DPS, because of their similarity to Affliction Warlocks.  Shadow Priests are really the only other class that has tools that work like the Warlock, namely Psychic Scream and Mind Control.  Psychic Scream is like Howl of Terror, which means it’s full of win.  Mind Control certainly matches the Warlock ethos of rendering the opponent powerless, but unless you are near a cliff it does not help you kill them.  Fear lets you attack and stack DoTs while the victim is running in terror.

See the theme here?

One of my biggest frustrations with playing Cynwise is when I don’t play her like a Warlock, but like something else instead.  When I forget that my job in a battlefield is to be an agent of chaos and destruction, of making other players go GIVE ME BACK MY TOON, of making enemy healers curse me out because I am single-handedly taking them out of the action while everyone around them is slaughtered by my teammates — when I forget that, then I die, and die a lot.  When I do any of the following:

  1. Think that my job is to lead the Honorable Kill, Killing Blow, or Damage Done columns,
  2. Charge into a pack of melee instead of running away,
  3. Forget that my job is to take control of you before you have a chance to stop me,

… then I am not doing what my class is best at doing.

Yes, I want to stride across the battlegrounds of Azeroth like a titan, chopping and hewing and cutting down my foes before me.  But when I want to do that, I should get on my Warrior, Death Knight, or Paladin, because that’s what they’re good at.

When I want to enforce my will upon a battlefield — that is when I bring out my Warlock.


One of Jazz’s chief complaints is how fragile Warlocks are.  This is a valid complaint.  We wear magical toilet paper for protection.  Even if you follow all my gearing advice, you are still going to have trouble when facing melee.

Take the following, put it on a sticky note, and place it on your monitor.


Yes, Fel Armor is the shit in raids; self healing and spellpower are wonderful.  But Demon Armor is like throwing on a coat of mail armor in the middle of combat, plus increasing all your incoming healing by 20%.  Put Demon Armor right next to Fel Armor and learn to stance dance between the two.

Got that up?  Great, now take the following, put it on a second sticky note, and put it right next to the other one.


There is one single spell that goes against the Warlock Way, and is your only escape when your opponent nullifies all your Warlock tools: Demonic Circle: Teleport.

It is also completely useless if you do not have a circle dropped within range.  Drop it every time you dismount, as you’re running around.  Every time you stop, you should drop a circle.

I hope you have space for a third sticky note on your monitor, because you need one more to make you less squishy.


Taking 11 points in Demonology to get Soul Link, and keeping it up all the time, is the best thing you can do to increase your survivability in PvP.  No matter your warlock PvP build, Soul Link gives you a massive 20% damage reduction.  Your demon is not your friend, not your loyal companion.  It is a tool that you can use to shunt pain to, and heal if you like.

For talents, you may find my Warlock Battleground Talents post from 3.1 useful.  It’s still accurate, though deep Demonology has gotten some buffs of late.


I have long considered writing a guide to playing a Warlock in PvP.  However, I don’t think I can do a better job than Dusk from Uldum did on the official forums.  Even though some of the class-specific information is a little outdated, it remains the best guide to Warlock PvP I’ve seen on the internet.

Read it.  If you’re a Warlock, read all of it.


One piece of advice that I gave Jazz over email, and I’ll reiterate here, is that you should try other characters.  I find that taking time to learn other classes pays off on my main.  But also it’s good to get a break from the same old grind, the dotting and the fearing and the causing other players to howl in frustration, as rewarding as that sounds.  Tanking makes you a better DPS; healing makes you a better tank.  Playing a Hunter teaches you the value of a good jump shot, which you can then use for a Backdraft-induced Incinerate.

I started off saying that I understood Jazz’s perspective, and I do sympathize with him.  When I really look at my warlock, though, I don’t see a weakling, a waste of time, or a class that needs to be buffed or nerfed to compete.

I see someone that, in the right situation, played the right way, can become a goddess of death, destruction, and chaos, an instrument of power to enforce my will upon my enemies — and leaving nothing in her scorched wake.

That is The Warlock Way.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Faster, Imp! Kill! Kill!

So, here’s an interesting warlock bug that I didn’t know about.

Seems if you leave your Imp on autocast, its Firebolt is affected by an old client-server casting bug that used to bedevil warlocks, especially with Immolate. So there’s a pause between each Firebolt as the WoW client communicates with the server. While small, this delay adds up over the course of a fight. Details are on the EU Forums.

There’s thankfully a workaround. See, the bug only affects autocasted Firebolts, not manual ones. If you spam the spell on the pet bar, the Firebolts fire every 2.0 seconds. If you don’t, they autocast every 2.14 seconds or so.

Obviously, considering how many of your buffs are tied into the Imp, this can’t stand. And you can’t micromanage your pets’ firing rate. You’re going to have to solve this with macros. If you’re not comfortable with macros, you may want to look at my Introduction to Macros and Warlock Macros posts. This is a relatively simple fix if you are comfortable with macros, so it’s a good time to try them out if you’ve never done so before.

At a bare minimum, your 4 primary offensive spells (Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate, Chaos Bolt) need to be supplemented with a macro that queues your Imp’s Firebolt for casting. You may want to include Curse of Doom in this list, too.

Here’s a sample macro.

/cast Immolate
/cast Firebolt

Pretty simple, right? Do this for every one of your offensive spells, replacing Immolate with the appropriate spell name.

If you run with multiple pets (say for PvP), you may want to make your attack macros pet-sensitive. It is not known at this time if other pets are affected by this bug, but it’s easy enough to code around it if it is. Just use the slightly more advanced:

/cast Immolate
/cast [pet:imp] Firebolt, [pet:succubus] Lash of Pain

This should avoid error messages when the Imp is not available, and force cast each minion’s preferred attack.

An excellent suggestion from the forums is to also modify the macro so it doesn’t switch targets to your current one, instead keeping the original pet target.

/cast Immolate
/cast [@pettarget]Firebolt

There’s more testing to be done, both on different stances, demon minions, and special abilities. But one thing’s clear — if you’re a Destro warlock who cares about raid performance, you should macro your Imp’s Firebolts until this is fixed.

UPDATE: I don’t know how I missed this last night, but OutDPS had an article up earlier about how a similar bug is affecting Hunter pets. It’s probably safe to assume all warlock demons are affected, too. :-(

SECOND UPDATE: Krizzlybear at Frost is the New Black goes into more details on the cast time mechanic, and how this affects Mages.

(Thanks to @Nibuca for pointing me to this thread.)


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Warlock Twink Introduction: Cynwine

It’s not really a secret that I don’t like WSG on my level 80 Warlock main. I started playing it a few months into Wrath, when it was dominated by pre-nerf Death Knights. While I found I could do tremendous amounts of damage, I died so often that felt like I really wasn’t contributing much, and we tended to lose. I got very frustrated by the whole battleground, and pretty much spent my time in Alterac Valley instead.

It was actually surprising to me when I took my Death Knight into the Gulch. Yes, you could totally own the battlefield as a DK. I got achievements on Cynwulf that I never thought I’d see on Cynwise, sometimes with ridiculous ease. And I won. A lot.

This kind of lopsided experience led me to consider two possibilities; either Warlocks just sucked in Warsong Gulch, or I sucked at playing one there. I mostly believed the latter.

(You may ask why I didn’t consider that DKs were so overpowered that using them as a comparison was foolish. I did consider it, but since they were dominating PvP I thought it a moot point. Either you were able to handle the hordes of DKs running around, or you couldn’t. I’ve mellowed since then.)

So when I started making twinks, I thought a lot about my past experiences and said, here’s a bugaboo that I can’t seem to get past on my main. Maybe if I can roll back to a simpler time I can learn to master this battleground.

I don’t know how to play other classes nearly as well as I play a Warlock. But this is the one place where I just don’t play well. The challenge is not learning a new class, it’s learning an old class a different way to avoid mistakes you made the first time.

So that challenge to myself is why I rolled Cynwine.

Her name uses another Anglo-Saxon suffix (-wine), one comfortably close in spelling and sound to Cynwise, so as to make the class apparent. Oddly, it is really more similar in meaning to -wyn, but I figured that worked, too.  I considered a joking, fun name — yes, I do do that, as you’ll see — but it just didn’t seem right. Warlocking is serious business. I have a score to settle with Warsong Gulch, and this is my instrument.

(She also has the same face and hairstyle of my main, just in case someone missed what I’m doing here.)

The first ten levels breezed by, and not just because of the heirlooms. While there are plenty of low-level spells that I haven’t used in months, they’re familiar old friends. (Hello, Curse of Agony! I haven’t seen you in a while. How’s the wife and kids?)

While the spells are familiar, the playstyle is decidedly NOT. Deep Destruction plays at range, with huge combos that destroy the opponent before they get close. Deep Affliction plays very nimbly, drain-tanking, constantly moving while the DoTs take life from others and give it to you.

At level 10-19 you aren’t really anything but a Warlock. You have some dots, some weak nukes, some drains.  You do a lot of pet tanking, some fearing, and lots and lots of dotting.  You’re not quite yet strong enough for serious drain-tanking, you can’t chain nuke for very long, and your pets lack the punch they’ll develop later.  But all the elements are there, in a strange mishmash of the later styles.

PvE is easy: send in the Voidwalker, dot ‘em up (CoA, Corruption, Immolate if you like), and wand ‘em down, drain ‘em if you’re low.  PvP is a bit more interesting because Fear is more potent due to your opponents lacking the defenses of later levels, but it’s still a similar strategy.  You probably should flip your CoA/Corruption cast rotation and put Corruption on first in PvP to start front-loading damage. (You’re not worried about threat, after all.)

All of this sounds good, doesn’t it?

Yeah.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m struggling with it, a bit.

It’s not the execution, or that I’m fumbling around trying to figure out what I should do.  Each spell I learn gets placed into a familiar spot on my keyboard, each ability gets macroed in the appropriate sequence.  It’s not that leveling is hard: multiple mobs are a breeze.  DPSing instances with the new LFG is great — I handle it much better than I ever did on Cynwise.  PvP in the leveling bracket is predictable, though some nights are better than others.

No, instead I struggle with motivation and enjoyment.  There are times that I’ve had a lot of fun on Cynwine, but they’re few and far between compared to any of the other twinks I’m leveling now.  The grim efficiency with which I play her lacks the delight I’ve had freezing things in place with my mage, or charging with my warrior, or sneaking about on my rogue.

In some ways this reflects my recent attitude towards my main.  After months of playing her almost exclusively, it’s just not as much fun as it was before.  It’s now a matter of execution, of doing the right things at the right time.  And to be honest?  Ruthless efficiency can get kinda boring.

I debated whether I should talk about my motivation behind rolling each twink. I think in this case it’s definitely the right thing to do, because it will explain a lot of my future behavior towards this toon.  I am conflicted about this warlock, this grim girl with the green goggles who exists solely to settle a score with a battleground.

I play to have fun.  And I think I can have fun playing her.

But we also have a job to do together.


Filed under Green Tinted Goggles

The Lady Is Not For Burning

Outrunning the Frostbolts.png

Oh no, I’ve been tagged!

I have been watching Death Goddess’s DPS Survey spread through many of the blogs I read with some interest, but as an infrequent raider didn’t feel like I had much to contribute.  It’s a very raid-heavy questionnaire.

However, Cassandri made an interesting request in her entry, asking that I balance out the raiding discussion with my PvP perspective.  So who am I to decline such a nice request?

I will substitute “battlegrounds” for “raids” whenever necessary, of course.

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary dps?

Cynwise is my Destruction Warlock. I am currently experimenting with three different PvP builds: a 0/20/51 Demonic Brutality build (for anti-melee big battleground fighting), a 0/20/51 Improved Succubus build (for smaller engagements) and a 0/17/54 Soul Leech build (for self-healing).

I’m considering dropping my secondary raid spec and giving Affliction PvP (54/17/0 Haunt/SL) another try when 3.3 hits.

What is your primary dpsing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)

Wintergrasp, followed by Alterac Valley, Strand of the Ancient, Eye of the Storm, and Arathi Basin. I’ve found I like those 5 battlegrounds the best but don’t run them in any particular preference aside from whatever holiday weekend is up.

I sometimes run Warsong Gulch and Isle of Conquest for the daily, but they’re just not my favorites on my warlock.

What is your favorite dps spell/ability for your class and why?

I considered several non-DPS spells for this question — Demonic Circle: Teleport and Fear, especially — but in terms of my damaging spells, my favorite is Shadowfury. It’s not my highest damage spell, nor is it part of my damage rotation, but it is so incredibly useful in battlegrounds that I consider it the defining talent of a Destruction PvP warlock.

Death Coil came in a very close second, because it is so full of awesome.  Instant Horror, damage, and healing?  More of that please!

What dps spell do you use least for your class and why?

Shadowburn. The Soul Shard requirements on it make it worthless in longer fights. It is good surprise DPS, but I can never justify the shard.

It’s pretty sad that I can find a use for almost every other spell in my arsenal, but not this one.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your dps class and why?

While I’m tempted to say damage — horrifying burst damage, terrifying DoT damage, maddening demon damage — I think it’s the wide variety of crowd control options available to Warlocks that makes us so strong.  That change of attitude has made me a more effective combatant.

(Yes, I know Fear has been nerfed, repeatedly. It’s still incredibly potent when used in combination with all the other abilities a Warlock has.)

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your dps class and why?

Warlocks are extremely vulnerable to melee who can close the gap. We are lacking in escape abilities, especially if your Demonic Circle isn’t down.  The ability to maintain range is vital to surviving as a Warlock.

(You do drop your Demonic Circle whenever you dismount, right?)

In a 25-man raiding environment 40-man battleground, what do you feel, in general, is the best dps assignment for you?

Setting aside that there aren’t formal assignments in the PuG battlegrounds we have today, I should ideally be out on the front lines, maintaining range and providing a combination of damage and fear-induced chaos. I should not be driving a vehicle or operating a cannon, because that is a bad use of my abilities. I do it when necessary, but it shouldn’t be my primary assignment.

Riding shotgun on a Wintergrasp Demolisher is okay, because I can still cast as we move.

What dps class do you enjoy dpsing with most and why?

I pretty much like them all, as long as the players are good. Battlegrounds teach you to not be picky.

What dps class do you enjoy dpsing with least and why?

Honestly? I get a little irked when we are short on healers and I see hybrids who could heal the battleground, but aren’t. Healers are absolutely the most critical resource in a battleground.   I will lay down my life repeatedly on a battleground for you if you are a healer.

This is situational ire. If the healing is good, I don’t even look twice at Retribution Paladins running amok. Running the flag in Warsong Gulch as a feral Druid doesn’t make me blink. I know you can’t switch specs on the fly in an instanced battleground, and that you come as you are.  I also know that hybrids bring awesome utility to PvP and that they’re hugely fun to play that way.

But DPS doesn’t win battles. Healers win battles.

What is your worst habit as a dps?

Tab-targeting as Destruction. For Affliction it was great, but I should be more focused in my targeting now that I have to stand and cast.

Old habits die hard.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while dpsing?

Players who attack my Seduced targets. Talented Seduction is a great way to escape from opponents, but not when it’s getting broken every GCD. Having someone attack my seduced target while trying to escape made me switch my talent build to Demonic Brutality and run with the voidwalker instead.

Let me take a break from this questionnaire to bring you the scene that caused me to switch my talent build. It is set, as all good dramas are, in Alterac Valley, right outside Stonehearth Bunker.

Ret Pally: Casts Judgement of Justice, closes to range, hits Cynwise.
Cynwise: Ow. *pvp trinket*
Ret Pally: *hits again*
Helola (Succubus): Hi, sailor! *Seduces*
Ret Pally: I love you. *drools*
Cynwise: Audi 5000, g! *flees*
Random Hunter: *shoots Ret Pally*
Ret Pally: *runs after Cynwise, hits her again*
Cynwise: Uh, stop it?
Helola: Hello, sailor! *Seduces*
Ret Pally: I like you, but you scare me a little. *drools*
Random Hunter: *shoots Ret Pally*
Random Mage: *frostfire bolts Ret Pally*
Ret Pally: *runs after Cynwise, hits her again*
Cynwise: Dude, stop it. Seriously!  *Shadowfury, runs.*
Ret Pally: *Hand of Freedom, hits her again*
Helola: Hello, sailor! *Seduces*
Ret Pally: Okay, but this is the last time. People are starting to talk. *drools*
Cynwise: *runs, stops, starts casting Fear*
Random Hunter: *shoots Ret Pally*
Ret Pally: *bubbles, heals, chases the Warlock*
Helola: Hello, sailor! *Seduces*
Ret Pally: No. You messed up my hair last time.
Cynwise: Fear’s not going to work on you, is it?
Ret Pally: Probably not. *Casts Hammer of Wrath on Cynwise*
Cynwise: *dies, glaring at Random Hunter*

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other dps?

Yes. As a class, Warlocks are viable threats in battlegrounds without being overpowered There are some classes that do better against us than others, but the reverse applies, too. Protection Warriors, Rogues, or a well-played Death Knight should have little trouble with a solo Warlock.

Destro and Affliction are both stronger than Demonology in PvP right now. 3.3 is going to change the balance between the specs, so we will have to see if that equalizes the three trees.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a dps’er?

Did I win?

No, seriously.  Battlegrounds are not about Recount, or DPS.  DPS is a totally worthless metric in PvP.  Total damage done on the scoreboard can be useful as a personal metric, but once you realize you have additional abilities you should be using to help win (*cough Crowd Control cough*) topping the leaderboard isn’t a good goal either.

Instead, I focus on winning individual matchups.  When I lose a matchup I try to review my combat log to see what my opponents did to win.

I should note that evaluating my individual performance is very different from evaluating my team’s performance.  When we win well I try to figure out what the team did right, and when we lose I try to figure out what went wrong.  Sometimes I find myself staring at the scoreboard for the full 2 minutes trying to figure out who did what where.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your class?

That we’re not fond of kittens.  That’s not true.  I love kittens.  Especially braised with a light cherry sauce.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new dpsers of your class to learn?

The number of abilities you gain as a Warlock can be quite overwhelming, especially when trying to use them all in PvP.  You have a lot of tools at your disposal as a Warlock; learning to pick the right one for the situation takes time and work.  You have to balance your pet, your curses, your nukes, and your fears all in the right combination on a battlefield.  This is not helped by having such dramatically different playstyles between the three talent trees.

What DPS class do you feel you understand least?

Rogues, followed by Enhancement Shamans.  I literally have no idea what the different talent trees mean for Rogues, and I flail about on my Enhancement Shaman to the point where it’s embarrassing.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in dps?

Ha!  This question I can answer quickly!  I have done fairly comprehensive reviews of my addons and macros, so go there for more answers.  The quick list of addons is: DoTimer, MikScrollingBattleText, Quartz, and SaySapped.

SaySapped is an awesome, lightweight addon that you really should have.  It announces via /s that you have been Sapped, which is absolutely fantastic when defending a node with others.

What stat to stack, and why?

Oh boy!  Another one I’ve already posted on!

Hit (6%) > Resilience (700+) > Stamina > Spell Penetration (50-120) > Spellpower > Haste > Crit

Since I wrote that post I have revised my thinking on gear priority, and that Resilience doesn’t always trump Stamina.  I swapped out my Platinum Disks (with +190 Resilience) for the Brewfest Stamina trinkets (+340 Stamina) and found the extra 4k life instead really helped my survival better than 900+ Resilience.  I’ve further augmented this in the Demonic Brutality build so that, with Sacrifice and Soul Link active, I have an effective health of 38k, which means I can afford to wait for the Rogue to finish stunlocking me before returning fire.

But other than those minor changes, I still what I wrote holds true.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Warlock Macros

If you are new to macros, you may find my introduction to macros helpful before reading this post.

Within this blog, I’ve tried to balance class-specific examples with general principles. Yes, I pretty much speak only Warlock (and to a lesser extent Death Knight), but I try to make sure the basic underlying points are the same no matter what class you play.

This post is not like that.

See, when you start getting into specific class mechanics you find how each class, each spec even, has nuances and specifics that just don’t apply universally. And a discussion about scripting those nuances should be taken like code samples from a textbook; they might show how to do a task a specific way, but you’ll have to adapt them to suit your needs.

Enough with the self-justification. I love playing a Warlock and am proud of it. Here’s how I use macros to help me do it.


Warlocks have a variety of buffs that range from simple to apply (Fel Armor, Demon Armor) to complex (Spellstones and Firestones). Let’s start with the Armors.

For simplicity, I map the same logical concept to a key across characters, so Z is offensive buffs while X is defensive. On a DK this translates to Blood and Frost presences, but on a lock it’s Fel Armor and Demon Armor. These are the lead spells in front of macros that I can spam while rezzing from a graveyard to get back into the fight.

/castsequence reset=target/player,4 Fel Armor, Soul Link, Unending Breath, Detect Invisibility, Create Healthstone, Shadow Ward


/castsequence reset=target/player,4 Demon Armor, Soul Link, Create Healthstone, Shadow Ward

As soon as I rez I start running and spam Z. This applies buffs in order of importance, with Fel Armor and Soul Link being the only essential ones. The other instant cast spells are there for dispel protection, not for real utility. Create Healthstone is last so that if I need to replace a used one I can stop moving at the end of the sequence and create it; otherwise I stop to mount. These macros make use of a reset parameter to allow me to use them in combat to Stance Dance, swapping my armor out as the situation demands. The spellpower buff from Fel Armor is SO good that it’s hard to remember that Demon Armor is often a better option when melée closes the gap. It is equivalent to wearing mail, which is nothing to sneeze at. Resetting allows me to flip between the two as needed.

Next up is Shadow Ward.

/cast [mod:alt] Unending Breath; [mod:ctrl] Unending Breath; [mod:shift] Detect Invisibility; Shadow Ward

Shadow Ward is an easily overlooked spell that should be keybound for all warlocks, and not just PvPers. There is no excuse for not popping it as soon as you see a shadowform priest, affliction warlock, or unholy DK. Since it’s on my bar anyway, it makes a convenient place to store those other buffs for individual application with modifier keys.

Soulstones are a non-combat cast, so I don’t have this one keybound. It creates a Soulstone if you don’t have one already, and applies it to the target if one exists.

#showtooltip Create Soulstone
/cast Create Soulstone
/use [nocombat,help,nomodifier:alt] Demonic Soulstone; [nocombat,target=player] Demonic Soulstone

Related to the Soulstone macro are the Spellstone/Firestone macros. The Spellstone is an essential buff that is a real hassle to use; you have to apply it directly to your main hand weapon via the character pane and each stone has charges. These macros automate that. They will create the stone if it doesn’t exist and apply it to your weapon if it does, so you may need to fire it twice to get the buff.


#showtooltip Create Spellstone
/cast Create Spellstone
/use Grand Spellstone
/use 16
/click StaticPopup1Button1

And for the Firestone:

#showtooltip Create Firestone
/cast Create Firestone
/use Grand Firestone
/use 16
/click StaticPopup1Button1

I keep two copies because the Spellstone is superior for nearly every single Warlock build EXCEPT for deep Destruction, which is what I play right now. Since there is always a right choice as to which stone to use, I don’t try to save space by combining them — just use the appropriate one for your spec.

I don’t macro creating Healthstones or Ritual of Souls, though I do include using Healthstones in my healing macros.

Finally, before I started using an Abyssal Bag to hold my Soul Shards, I kept them in my normal bags and used a macro to clean them out when I needed more space.

#showtooltip Soul Shard
/run i="Soul Shard"d=GetItemCount(i)-10 for x=0,4 do for y=1,GetContainerNumSlots(x) do if (d>0) then l=GetContainerItemLink(x,y) if l and GetItemInfo(l)==i then PickupContainerItem(x,y) DeleteCursorItem() d=d-1 end end end end


Let’s start with the basic grinding macro most Warlocks should level with.

/castsequence reset=target/combat,4 Curse of Agony, Corruption, Immolate, Life Tap, Drain Life

This should be your primary weapon, stacking DoTs in order of least aggro and damage (and longest duration) first. Because the instant-cast spells are first, you can cast it while moving, tabbing your way through mobs with the first two spells until you settle on one to drain tank.

That’s actually a key point to go over – just because a combo is mapped in a macro doesn’t mean you should finish it. Sometimes the first few spells, or the first spell, is the only one you need. This macro can just be used to apply your two major Affliction DoTs, or it can be used to focus fire on a single one. Many of the macros I use are chosen so I can flip between a sequence, like setting up Affliction DoTs, and priority refreshes, where you rotate through CDs. For example:

/castsequence reset=target/combat,5 Shadow Bolt, Haunt, Corruption, Unstable Affliction, Curse of Agony

I use this to set up a mob with all the DoTs required for deep Affliction. But once that setup is done, it serves one purpose – Shadow Bolt filler. The rest of the time I’m using two buttons, one for instants and the other for spells I have to stop to use:

/castsequence reset=target/combat,4 Curse of Agony, Corruption, Death Coil


/castsequence reset=target/combat Haunt, Unstable Affliction

These two macros allow me a lot of flexibility in how I dot up a target, without requiring 4 buttons. On the run? 1,1. Have more time for setup? 2,1,1,2. Or 2,2,1,1. Refreshing dots on a boss? Haunt and UA cycle nicely (notice no timed reset there) while CoA is always ready to go after reset (Haunt refreshes Corruption).

I group the spells into instants and stationary casts for two reasons — how much moving I do on the battlefield, and how I map my keys. Keymapping is a whole post to itself, but suffice to say that there are only 7 keys I consider to be in the primary zone, and only 4 of them are for single-target damage spells. So I want to be able to go through my primary and secondary attack sequences with those 4 keys. For affliction, there are 6 spells you must use: Shadow Bolt, Haunt, Unstable Affliction, Corruption, Curse of Agony, and Drain Soul. These macros let me fit all those spells into 4 buttons.

Destruction spells are organized with the same goal in mind, though I don’t draw a distinction between instants and casting time spells; Destro pretty much requires to to stand and cast. There is a slight difference in playstyle worth noting. They both are priority-based systems when determining what to cast next, but unlike Affliction, which is about DoT refreshing, Destro is a cooldown-based spec. It’s a subtle difference, but worth noting as it affects macro decisions.

There are 4 spells that make up your primary rotation, with 2 optional curses, Elements and Doom, which I’ll talk about later. The rotation varies based on situation and cooldowns.

My first rotation starts with Immolate to get that DoT ticking immediately. There is then a brief pause while Chaos Bolt is cast and travels to the target, but then Conflag, CB, and the second Immo tick hit all at the same time for massive burst. Then Backdraft-enhanced Incinerates go to work.

/castsequence reset=target/combat,3 Immolate, Chaos Bolt, Conflagrate, Incinerate, Incinerate, Incinerate, Incinerate, Incinerate
/petattack [target=Fire Resistance Totem]

I like this for several reasons: it does a huge amount of burst on players while maximizing DoT uptime, it puts Immo right where I want it for later casts, and it’s mostly spammable, with the CDs refreshing at about the right point in the sequence. The CDs don’t line up exactly, but it’s good enough for trash mobs.

The second rotation is used when I have a lot of range on my target and need to drop them quickly, but they don’t have that much health. Sometimes called the CICD rotation (Chaos Bolt – Immolate – Conflag – Dead), it doubles as my default Chaos Bolt button.

/castsequence reset=target/combat,4 Chaos Bolt, Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate, Incinerate, Incinerate

This sacrifices DoT uptime for one massive burst of damage. Follow it up with Shadowburn or Shadowfury for extra punch!

The third rotation doesn’t use a new macro at all; it uses the reset features of the previous ones. For boss fights where I want to pump out damage I cast manually, based on cooldown priority. After the first sequence I’m spamming Incinerate while waiting for Conflag and CB to come off CD and keeping my eye on Immolate. Paying attention can yield very good DPS gains on longer fights, so the macros are used only for initial setup.

Now, Curses in Destro. Long fights where you’re the only spellcaster? Curse of Doom. In a raid and someone else has Curse of the Elements duty? Curse of Doom. All other times? Curse of the Elements.

Because of CoE’s wonderful 5-minute duration, you generally can cast it once and be done with it. I use the following to apply it and then optionally put Corruption on the target. I don’t reset it while on the same target so I can keep spamming Corruption if necessary.

/castsequence reset=target/combat Curse of the Elements, Corruption, Corruption, Corruption, Corruption, Corruption, Corruption, Corruption, Corruption

If I have to reapply CoE on the target I’ll just click off of them and retarget to reset the sequence.

This macro is actually very useful for Destro locks in movement-heavy fights or on Wintergrasp siege engines. You may not be able to cast your normal spells through the WG lag, but at least you can help other people take them down.


Playing a Warlock means you play with a demon out. Some builds specialize in specific pets, while others can use a variety of pets. It’s easy enough to leave them on autoattack, but you really miss out on a lot of their special abilities. I use a macro to access their primary ability from a single button:

/cast [pet: felhunter, target=player] Devour Magic; [pet:felhunter,mod] Spell Lock; [pet: Succubus, target=focus] Seduction; [pet: Voidwalker] Sacrifice; [pet: Voidwalker,mod] Consume Shadows; Drain Mana

You can also combine your different summoning spells into a single button.

/cast [mod:shift] Summon Imp; [mod:ctrl] Summon Felhunter; [mod:alt] Summon Voidwalker; Summon Succubus

This is useful when you don’t have a particular pet buffed. If you have the Fel Domination talent, though, you may want to get a particular pet out in a hurry. The following makes use of the /stopcasting command to let you cast two spells in sequence:

#showtooltip Summon Succubus
/cast Fel Domination
/cast Summon Succubus

This “whistle” summons my Succubus nearly instantly — I do have to stop moving to cast the Summon spell.

If you find yourself specializing in a single pet, you may find some focus macros to be very useful. This is a macro I use to do focused Seduction:

#show Seduction
/clearfocus [modifier:alt]
/focus [target=focus,noexists]; [target=focus,dead]
/clearfocus [target=focus,help]
/cast [pet:succubus,target=focus,exists,harm] Seduction; Seduction

Setting focus via macros is a whole separate post, but it’s worth experimenting to see what works for you.


Many of the macros here were originally from the WoWWiki page on Warlock Macros. I really recommend you spend some time over there looking at what other people have done and adapting them for your use.

And, despite what I said at the beginning of this post, I hope that even non-Warlocks can take some of the macro ideas presented here and find ways to make playing their own classes more enjoyable.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Warlock Battlemasters

When I first started PvPing, I eyed the achievement lists and found one at the bottom that gave me pause: Battlemaster.  A title well beyond even Justicar, one that shows complete mastery of the battlegrounds through the Burning Crusade.  Okay, there’s a goal to work towards, I thought.

Then I started working towards it, and holy moly, is that one hard achievement.  Alterac Valley was the easiest of the lot for me to get started on, what with being in my 50s and the Alliance owning that bracket.  Warsong Gulch was much worse for me as a Warlock, being a squishy cloth wearer.  As I started grinding out the reputation and trying to run the flag, I realized how long of a haul I was in for to get the Battlemaster title.

When I started playing a Death Knight, the situation in Warsong Gulch improved dramatically.  Achievements which formerly seemed impossible (Iron Man) were trivial, and I could romp through the field with impunity.  The experience really opened my eyes as to how some things that are easy with one class can be seemingly  impossible for another.

But “seemingly impossible,” much like the “mathematically impossible” Yogg+0 kill, doesn’t mean “impossible.”  It just means “really fucking hard.”

So it’s with some awe that I congratulate Jagoex on reaching the pinnacle of battlegrounds with his Warlock.  Serious, heartfelt congratulations!

Someday I hope to join you.  It’s just a matter of time.  :-)

1 Comment

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Links, Warlockery

More Realistic Training Dummies

What’s up with the training dummies?

I visit training dummies a lot, usually to try out new rotations or check gear upgrades to make sure they’re doing what I expect. But recently, the training dummies have been more… realistic.  Almost lifelike, in fact.

For example, Cynwulf discovered he could skill up his newly acquired Polearm on a dummy.

Training Dummy Skillup

I’m pretty sure that dummies didn’t allow you to skill weapons before.

If that wasn’t weird enough, training dummies now apparently have souls, and can be farmed for Soul Shards:
Training Dummy Soul Shards

I’m a little hesitant to post this. If this new behavior is intentional by Blizzard, it’s awesome. I love it. Farming shards is now a trivial matter, just like it should have been all along.

But if this is a bug I expect it to be hotfixed pretty darn quick. Which is a pity, because the improved training dummies are really cool.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Battleground Talents 2: Warlock Talent Builds

Destruction Talent Banner.png

When I talked about evaluating talents for battlegrounds, I spoke in very broad terms, applicable to all classes in World of Warcraft.

As a quick refresher, the three criteria I evaluate my talents on are:

  1. Survival
  2. Control
  3. Output

Broad principles are good, but often they need concrete examples behind them to show how they should and shouldn’t be used. So I’m going to talk about the talent trees I know the most about, and that means we’re talking Warlock talents.

Keep in mind that talent builds are usually described by either the number of talents in each tree (e.g. 53/0/18) or by the highest level talents in each (e.g. Fel/Emberstorm). Both of these can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the class in question, but either the official talent calculator or the Wowhead talent calculator can provide some guidance.


Battleground warlocks are a fearsome lot. You can inflict massive amounts of damage coupled with excellent control spells, all while managing a pet. The only question is; are you going to kill fast, or kill slow?

There are three Warlock talent trees: Affliction, Demonology, and Destruction. Broadly, Affliction covers your DoTs and drains, Demonology buffs you and your pet, and Destruction improves your direct damage. There’s a lot of synergy between the trees to use to your advantage. For example, end-game raiding Affliction locks spend talent points in Destruction to speed up and buff their filler spell, Shadow Bolt, while raiding Destruction locks dive into Demonology to buff their Imps to increase their DPS.

Battleground locks, though, build not to maximize damage, but for survival and control. Only once they have those elements do they maximize their damage.

There are some talents which really shine in the battlegrounds. Let’s take a look.


Demonology 17-point Core.png

The core of a warlock’s battleground talent build are the early Demonology talents. These talents give your warlock the survivability that they need to excel in PvP.

The first 10 points in Demonology increase the health and mana of you and your pet, which is useful in and of itself. But it’s the 11-point talent Soul Link that is the one you really must get. Soul Link redirects 20% of all incoming damage to your demon, no matter what. By itself this is good, but in concert with many of the warlock healing talents (Fel Synergy, Siphon Life, Soul Leech) it should be on the top of your list of warlock talents.

Now, that said, you don’t see a lot of pure Demo warlocks in battlegrounds, or anywhere, really. Most Demo locks are hybrids, which have a definite role in PvE. But for PvP, you do tend to see warlocks going after a few talents in the tree, and then focusing on their main tree. Most will spend 17 points in the tree to get Fel Domination and Master Summoner, both used to quickly bring your demon back once killed. Soul Link won’t help you if your demon is AWOL.

The 17-point Demonology core looks something like this:

  • 3/3 Demonic Embrace
  • 2/2 Improved Healthstone
  • 2/2 Fel Synergy
  • 3/3 Fel Vitality
  • 1/1 Soul Link
  • 3/3 Demonic Aegis
  • 1/1 Fel Domination
  • 2/2 Master Summoner

A common Arena variant is to take 3 points from another tree and place them in Improved Succubus to improve her crowd control ability.

You’ll notice that every single talent in the core 17-point build improves either your or your pet’s survival. It skips talents like Improved Imp — a great talent for raiding Destro locks — because you have to survive to do the damage, and some of these talents are just too good to skip. Even if you only take 11 points in Demonology, your warlock will be at least 25% more durable than without those points.


As awesome as the early Demo talents are, the deeper in you go, the less useful they are for PvP.

Once you have the 17 (or 20) points for the core, the only reason to keep going into the Demo tree is for the 41-point talent, Summon Felguard. The Felguard hits like a truck and is arguably the best demon minion not on a cooldown. He’s like an undergeared warrior under your control, and he absolutely shines in PvE. He’s not bad in PvP, either.

But keep in mind that if you want him, you’ll only have 30 points to spend in buffing your own abilities, and once your Felguard goes down, you are at a serious disadvantage. Many players will ignore (or banish) the Felguard and concentrate on you, so be ready for it.

In its current state, the 51-point Demo talent Metamorphosis is not worth it for battlegrounds. It’s also not worth it for raiding, instance grinding, leveling, Arenas…

Okay, it’s good for roleplaying. I’ll grant that.

Until the 51-point talent is reworked (perhaps by eliminating the CD and allowing it to be a more-or-less permanent form), there’s no reason to go deep into the Demonology tree. If you like playing the Felguard, by all means get him. But don’t go any further.

TL;DR version: don’t spec deep Demo for PvP.


Now we start having some fun. The Affliction tree has great talents for leveling, end-game raiding, and PvP. It’s a great talent tree to work with because of this flexibility, and the damage you can churn out is phenomenal. But you have to be careful to match your talents with your playstyle, or you’ll find yourself watching a lot of that damage happen from the graveyard.

With 17 points invested in the Demonology core, you’ll have 54 points to spend in Affliction. And if you’re going to play Affliction, it’s worth spending each and every one of them in this tree.

The keys to an Affliction playstyle are to focus on DoTs, drains and fears. You kill slowly, sucking the life and mana out of your opponents, preferably while cackling evilly.

(A good cackle is really important to your battleground performance. Don’t discount it until you’ve perfected it.)

The key to Affliction in a battleground is to establish control over your opponent while setting them up to die. You have to maintain control and distance so that your spells have time to work.

Affliction 54-point Build.png

Again, we look at the talents with an eye towards survival, control, and then output. There are a few real gems in this tree, a good set of solid PvP talents, and then it’s damage optimization. Let’s start with the gems.

Siphon Life makes your primary damage-dealing spell Corruption into a healing spell, too, healing you 40% of each tick you inflict. Given the buffs Corruption gets in the Affliction tree, especially with Pandemic letting it crit, Siphon Life is one of the keys to an Affliction lock’s performace in a battleground.

The 51-point talent Haunt provides similar benefits to Siphon Life, dealing damage and healing in the same spell. It also increases all Shadow DoT damage by 20%, which means that it improves Siphon Life, too. Coupled with Shadow Embrace, Haunt turns your DoT stack into something to fear.

The 41-point talent Unstable Affliction adds much-needed dispel protection to PvP. It is a threat to any healer who tries to remove DoTs; dispel me and get silenced for 5 seconds, as well as take damage. In Arenas this is particularly powerful, because each healer is under scrutiny and this silence can be immediately taken advantage of. Battlegrounds are messier, so sometimes healers just take the damage and debuff while purging DoTs.

(Oddly, for PvE, this really is ‘just another DoT,’ albeit one that can now crit. It’s a flexible spell — if you need the control offered by the dispel protection, it’s there, and if not, hey, it’s more damage.)

It may go without saying, but Grim Reach is an essential PvP talent. Distance is key to control and survival.

Improved Howl of Terror is another must-have talent for the battlegrounds. It turns Howl of Terror into an instant-cast AoE Fear bomb, and is essential for clearing melee away from you. Yes, fear has been nerfed in Wrath and breaks really easily, but you need every tool you can get when melee gets too close (or you get Death Gripped.) Between Howl of Terror, Fear, and Death Coil, you should be able to get away from a determined melee.

Once you’ve got distance, it’s time to make use of the last critical talent, Curse of Exhaustion. CoEx is the only real snare in the Warlock’s bag of tricks, slowing an opponent by 30%. I’m of two minds about CoEx; it keeps melee at a distance, which is essential, but it takes the place of Curse of Agony, and I like that sweet, sweet CoA damage. But the control (and implied survivability) that CoEx offers shouldn’t be discounted.

There are several other PvP talents you should take on your way through the Affliction tree, but as a general rule, you can now optimize your damage output. An Affliction battleground build would include most, if not all, of the following talents:

  • 5/5 Improved Corruption
  • 2/2 Soul Siphon
  • 3/3 Fel Concentration
  • 1/1 Amplify Curse
  • 2/2 Grim Reach
  • 3/3 Empowered Corruption
  • 5/5 Shadow Embrace
  • 1/1 Siphon Life
  • 1/1 Curse of Exhaustion
  • 5/5 Shadow Mastery
  • 5/5 Contagion
  • 2/2 Improved Howl of Terror
  • 3/3 Malediction
  • 1/1 Unstable Affliction
  • 1/1 Pandemic
  • 5/5 Everlasting Affliction
  • 1/1 Haunt

That’s 46 points. The remaining 8 points should go in the following, based on playstyle, gear, and pet preference:

  • Suppression
  • Improved Curse of Agony
  • Improved Life Tap
  • Improved Fear
  • Nightfall
  • Eradication
  • Dark Pact
  • Improved Felhunter
  • Improved Succubus

Each of these can be useful in a battleground, but they are really a matter of personal choice. (Yes, even Nightfall is optional. It adds much needed burst to the build, but the proc rate is low.)

I’ve put together a sample 54/17/0 build if you want to see how this works.


I remain amazed how talents can completely change the feeling of a class. (Warlocks are by no means unique in this.) Instead of the slow, unstoppable trickle of Affliction damage, Destruction shoves it all in your face with massive crits and devastating direct damage combos. Yes, they use some of the same spells, in a completely different way.  Destruction has fewer control abilities than Affliction, and is particularly weaker against melee opponents. But Destro excels at ranged burst damage and can burn down opponents before they have a chance to respond.

Destruction 54-point Build.png

The key talents in any Destruction build are Conflagrate and Chaos Bolt. These are great damage-dealing spells, especially the power of Chaos Bolt to ignore armor and resistances. However, the key talents in a battleground Destruction Build build on those two spells to add more control and damage mitigation. It’s not all about the damage meters, after all.

Let’s start with Shadowfury, an AoE stun grenade. Shadowfury is awesome in battlegrounds. Want to stop several people from capturing a node? Shadowfury. Multiple healers giving you problems? Shadowfury the lot, CC one, kill the other. Need an instant 2-4k damage boost? Finish off with Shadowfury. The stun+damage combo is an extremely versatile control tool; spend some time learning how to use it.

The early talent Aftermath also applies a stun affect, this one dazing your opponent for 5 seconds after Conflagrate hits. Five seconds is enough time to get off 2-3 Incinerates when Backdraft procs, which can be another 15-20k damage.

Range is always good in a battlefield, so Destructive Reach is another key talent.

Destruction doesn’t offer the same variety of healing and damage mitigation talents that Affliction does, but it does have Molten Skin to absorb some damage, Nether Protection to provide some spell resistance, and Soul Leech to get some self-healing into the tree. Molten Skin is a great talent. Nether Protection was a great talent who recently got nerfed — again — so it’s now only a good talent, but still worth taking. And Soul Leech…

Soul Leech is a talent that perfectly illustrates the difference between a battleground build and an Arena build. In the Arena, you have a partner to watch your health bars and keep you healed, so this talent becomes a mana efficiency talent for your healer. It is therefore frequently swapped out for Improved Succubus. In a battleground, though, you simply cannot rely upon a healer being present all the time. So I’m going to say that it’s a key battleground talent, even though it’s not a key Arena talent. It’s situationally useful.  These three points becomes the defining feature between the two PvP builds, and you’ll see a lot of both. All I can say is: try it out and see which works for you!

The remaining talents are really all to improve your output, leaving you with a build that looks something like this:

  • 5/5 Bane
  • 2/2 Aftermath
  • 3/3 Molten Skin
  • 5/5 Ruin
  • 2/2 Intensity
  • 2/2 Destructive Reach
  • 3/3 Backlash
  • 3/3 Improved Immolate
  • 1/1 Devastation
  • 3/3 Nether Protection
  • 5/5 Emberstorm
  • 1/1 Conflagrate
  • 3/3 Soul Leech
  • 5/5 Shadow and Flame
  • 3/3 Backdraft
  • 1/1 Shadowfury
  • 5/5 Fire and Brimstone
  • 1/1 Chaos Bolt

This leaves 1 point floating in the early part of the tree to go into either Destructive Power or Shadowburn. Some warlocks swear by Shadowburn; I am not yet one of them. I’m still working it into my rotation. It’s a bit like Dark Pact in the Affliction tree; some swear by it, others swear it’s a waste of a talent point. The only way you’ll know is to try it and find out.

I’ve rambled long enough. Here’s a sample 0/17/54 talent build if you like to look at how this all lays out.


Affliction Talent Banner.png

There is no such thing as the best spec for a battleground. There are good talents, and good talent builds, but the builds above are just two examples. The process of getting to them — evaluating your talent trees, thinking about your role in a battleground, of taking a generalist’s view at your abilities — is more important than the final build. Every patch brings with it new changes and new challenges, so you have to be fluid and adapt. Even if you don’t play in the battlegrounds, at least now you have a framework to evaluate your talents and say, “that would be great for Alterac Valley, but not for a raid. I’ll pass.”

Also, don’t let this post make you think for a moment that you have to respec to enter a battleground. You don’t. If you’re leveling and want to do some PvP to blow off steam, totally do it! Maybe you’ll be encouraged to put a few points into Howl of Terror or Shadowfury now, but they’re hardly essential to having fun in a battleground. Plus they come in handy out in the rest of Azeroth, too.

Happy talent building!


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery