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

23 responses to “The Warlock Way

  1. So very much ❤ for this post. And also wondering where the hell this was when I dinged 70 during BC and found myself trying BGs for the very first time. I felt Jazz's frustration. I knew /exactly/ where he was coming from. And THAT'S why I wanted to post his feelings on the class. That was me 10 levels and a few years (?) ago when I first started playing the game.

  2. My Death Will Not Save You.
    That right there is the reason why I will kill a Warlock every time I see them if my presence isn’t immediately required elsewhere.

    DoT, DoT, Fear, Run Away.
    And that is why I hate to fight you. Out of all the CC spells in the game, Fear is by far the worst. Not only did I lose control of my character, I also go sent running off in some random direction. And nothing sucks more that getting fear into a wall and getting stuck there until someone comes along with the heart to send you to your spirit healer.

    I hate fighting Warlocks in PvP other than the 19 bracket. If you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time I go level up my own Warlock so I can kill people long after I’m dead as well.

    • I was fighting WSG on my 59 DK one night when there was this really awesome undead Warlock on the Horde side – I don’t remember the name – but he was totally owning us, and me, especially. I would cut through the opposition like butter and then suddenly get totally wiped out by this lock.

      At the time, I said:

      “I say this as someone with a warlock main, and with all due respect to the warlocks on our side: but I really hate warlocks right now.”

      It got a lot of laughs while we got ourselves pwned.

  3. DoT, DoT, Fear, Run Away.
    You forgot the giggling. Mustn’t forget the giggling.


    • I wasn’t sure if I should go with giggling or cackling. You can tell a lot about a warlock by the type of laughter chosen while running away.

  4. I think both Rogues and Warlocks have the ability to make you feel totally powerless. And nobody likes that – which is why I think those two classes are hated so much.

    But you’re quite right in your comparison of Mages and Warlocks – the Warlock stands still and makes their enemy run, the Mage leaves you to stand still and dances around you at 30 yards.

  5. A very interesting – and extremely helpful! – post. Thank you for taking the time to write this (and to for directing me here!); I will be sure to send our Guild’s Warlocks here to learn The Way.

    My main’s a Paladin, but I surprisingly found myself loving my ‘Lock, Laineia, and she’s my main alt now.

    You said it best: control of the battlefield. It isn’t JUST the damage – and as a Destro, I think my lady knows what damage IS – its the ability to keep them away from you and going all around the place, or just simply unable to do anything, that makes Warlocks such a… fun class to use. Yes, I have oodles of fun with my ‘Lock.

    Also, despite the fact that ‘Locks are clothies, I find my Lock, alongside my Voidwalker buddy (yes, I use my VW more since I don’t Instance/Raid with my Lock much), can handle up to four or five yellow-level mobbing quite well. There’s so many spells to use to control the mob, and when the HP’s low you have so many means to regain it or give you space. And it gets worse if I have time to set up a multi-mob pull, because, imo, Seed of Corruption is just… evil. And then you Shadowfury them after implanting the Seeds and… damned evil. Very, very evil.

    I’ll try to learn Armor Dancing, thank you for that reminder. I keep forgetting to switch out of Fel Armor when it gets up close and personal XD

    Once my ‘Lock dings 80, I’ll dual her to make my PvP build. I’ll see to dropping by here more often then ^_^

    • Thanks for stopping by! There’s no longer any shame associated with running with your Blueberry — the Voidwalker is a great pet now, one that allows you maximum survivability against rogues and melee. I have run dailies with mine for some time. (Sacrifice really helps with Warlock AoE grinding.)

  6. awww…now you make me feel guilty for working on a post about how to kill warlocks!

    Course you also maybe shed light on why my SO is levelling a second lock to 80 when she already HAS one there…

    • Nonsense: everyone wants to kill Warlocks. Guides on how to do so will have a wide audience. 🙂

      It really is this much fun. You should give it a try!

  7. “Tanking makes you a better DPS; healing makes you a better tank.”

    This. Though without personal experience on the healing bit. I have yet to cut my teeth on that one. Working on it, my priest is level 75, but still.

    Trying other classes will also give you firsthand knowledge of their weaknesses, especially in PvP. You can play something else, and then the warlock tears you up, and you go, ok, how did that happen?

    Suddenly I wonder something. I know of World of Logs and all that for raid logs, is there something similar for PvP? Would it even work the same? Perhaps it would be useful. I know a lot of PvP is reacting to what’s happening, but maybe if you could actually SEE what happened it would be easier to learn from it?

    • I’ve only had two tools to evaluate my PvP performance — manually reading my combat log afterwards, and making a video capture of my fights. The combat log is perhaps the best one, because you can then look up what the other class was really doing to you and not have to guess.

      But I would LOVE an automated too that broke it down like WoL does. I second this question, anyone have a good tool to recommend?

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  9. I found your blog a week ago scrolling through a blogroll, and I wanted to let you know I love the premise and I have enjoyed catching up with your posts to date – this is just my kind of site.

    I think I learned more about the mindset of a warlock in this post than in anything else I’ve read. It seems that every warlock I take notice of would be the really tough ones that I can’t seem to kill ever in BG’s, and then the Horde ones who manage 1M+ damage in them without any deaths – I never took into consideration the vast majority (or at least anything else other than the rare, epic performance).

    Anyway, great site, looking forward to more.

  10. skinnemuva

    I agree with everyone else on the great post.

    I have tried every class in the game with the last one to try being a warlock. I just started leveling my first last Friday (with a couple of BoAs to speed things up) and I love playing/leveling one. I got him to lvl 10 quickly and I can’t wait to try him out in the battlegrounds. I can’t wait to start using fear on others for a change!

  11. Not only did your post make me giggly about MY class (Elusive mage? Why yes, yes that’s me… never mind that I joined a PvP-centric battlegroup and am very, very terrible now by comparison to the people regularly kicking my ass)… it also makes me want to play a warlock. Maybe. At some point.

    Whether or not I give in to the urge, I wanted to say great post! I agree wholeheartedly that playing other characters is a good thing for your main, even if it’s just to break up the routine.

  12. Pingback: Destro Warlock AoE Grinding « Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

  13. David

    How Jazz’s felt then is how I feel *NOW* 😀
    I must be honest and say that I am dabbling a little in the frost mage class…

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