Leveling Data on Warlocks is Worse than I Thought

This is the second post in The Decline and Fall of Warlocks in Cataclysm series.

This is an addendum to Where Did All The Warlocks Go in Cataclysm?. It’s not the followup I promised, that is still in progress.

In that post, I wrote:

Unlike most classes, Warlocks decline as they level. There’s a slight decline from 80-84 to 85, which might represent people leveling to endgame and then dropping the character, but it’s not huge. They decline a bit (3%) through the leveling process, but that’s nothing like what happens to Rogues (5%). I think you have a stronger case for saying people have started a lot of Rogues but not gotten them to endgame than you do with Warlocks – 3% could be just noise in the system from the DK bump, plus, there’s the Rogue Legendary Carrot – but there is still something going on there.

I would like to retract those statements about Warlocks, and the conclusions that follow from it.

I was wrong and underestimated how bad things looked for warlocks through the leveling process. They decline 20% in popularity from levels 20 to 85, and are substantially underrepresented at all levels. Few players are rolling them, fewer take them to endgame, and even fewer still play them at endgame.

Jason left a great comment on the post. In it, he said:

Your chart showing the trend of toon popularity would look better if you indexed them to the average (for pre-DK the avg is 11.11, and 10 after). This really drives home the trends.

For hunters that would make their trend: 159,151,143,134,109,120,131,120,109.

For Warlocks: 79,71,71,63,50,60,61,70,59.

For those that don’t understand indexes, that mean that hunters were 59% more popular than the average 10-19, but only 9% above average at 85. Warlocks were only 21% below average at the start, and a whopping 41% below average at 85!

I took Jason’s suggestion and indexed the leveling data, a stats term for assigning the average value to 100 and then comparing each value to it in succession.

So we start with our original leveling data from the WarcraftRealms Census:

Leveling characters as percentage of total census population

We then turn it into an index so we can more clearly see how each value deviates from the average value for that bracket. What’s better, we can now track the changes accurately over the leveling process – no longer do we have to wave our hands and ignore the effect of DKs changing the average value midway through the process.

Where’s what the index values look like.

Indexed values of character populations through levels 10-85

The average value of this index is 100, so values over 100 represent classes which are more represented at that level.

Here is the same data, this time presented as percent deviation from the average:

Percent deviation from average character population per class, 10-85

The Class Distribution Spreadsheet has been updated with a new tab for this information.

This data shows how under or over represented a class really is, compared to what the average should be. At level 10-19, Mages and Warriors are about where the average is, while Hunters are a whopping 59% more!

Using the index helps explain and quantify one of the things I was trying to articulate with the Mage numbers: even though they start at 11% of the population at level 10-19, and end at 11% at 85, they experienced growth as measured by the average.

The index also allows us to measure the relative deviation from the norm for each class as they level. We can clearly see things like:

  • If you get through the first 40 levels on a Pally, chances are you’re going to stick with them through endgame.
  • Hunters are even more prevalent at lower levels than your average WSG twink game would have you believe. They remain popular all the way up through endgame, when they get put aside for other toons.
  • Warriors are oddly struggling at higher levels. Is this due to the sudden difficulty increase of Cata dungeons at level 80? Gear dependency with rapidly inflating item level curves? Or is it an endgame effect? I honestly don’t know.
  • There are a lot of Death Knights just out of the starter zone.

But what the data shows regarding Warlocks is disturbing.

Warlocks drop in popularity by 20% between level 19 and level 85. There is no level that they are a popular class. None.

People don’t want to try them, and when they do, they don’t stick with the class to endgame. They barely make it to level 40, for crying out loud!

I thought that the 6.7% figure of total endgame population was pretty bad. I think the -37% at 40-49 and -41% at 85 is worse, because it shows that the class is in trouble through the majority of the game.

Keep this in mind as you hear about Warlock developments in Mists.

(Thank you, Jason, for suggesting this way of looking at the data.)


Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Warlockery

86 responses to “Leveling Data on Warlocks is Worse than I Thought

  1. Pingback: Where Did All The Warlocks Go in Cataclysm? « Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

  2. jay

    Damn it.. At some point with my battery of locks, i may have been propping up this percentage, myself 😐

    Jokes aside this is disturbing and upsetting 😦

  3. What I find interesting is that you could think about these trends in general.

    Characters have both a selection appeal and a playing appeal. The selection appeal is about how fun a class looks like it will play and the playing appeal is how fun the class is to play.

    You could say that any class that has larger index at 85 than 1 has a larger playing appeal than selection appeal and that any class that has a larger index at 1 than 85 has a larger selection appeal than playing appeal.

    Those that have less playing appeal than selection appeal
    DK 41%
    Hunter 69%
    Rogue 69%
    Warlock 75%
    Warrior 92%

    Those that have greater playing appeal than selection appeal
    Druid 103%
    Mage 112%
    Priest 125%
    Shaman 125%
    Paladin 158%

    Now, as of what to make of that, I don’t know. Our more…brutal?…classes are in the top section: DK, Warrior, Rogue, and Warlock. All the healers are in the bottom section. The bottom section is more hybridized than the top section.

    Perhaps people who roll those characters and get tired of them can find new fun in a different role, whereas with DKs, Hunters, Rogues, Warlocks, and Warriors you aren’t afforded that opportunity as much

    My two cents of insight. So maybe part of the question is, “How does the warlocks playstyle vary from spec to spec as compared to other classes?” Is the warlock more homogeneous? And even thinking of that, what accounts for it’s low selection appeal?

    • I love your insight. It’s a great point, and is leaving me so hungry for additional data it’s probably not seemly. I’d love actual population numbers, so that we’re not just looking at popularity across the spectrum but also ebb and flow of people. Account keyed data, where we could tell if someone switched mains or terminated their account or just started leveling a bunch of alts.

      The brutal observation is a good one. I think there’s legitimate investigation to be done on protector archetypes (druid, paladin) versus destroyer (DK, warlock), environmentalist (druid, shaman, hunter) versus holy (pally and priest) versus secular (mage, warrior) versus profane (DK, warlock).

      Give us Adobe Omniture and Blizzard’s data and I would be very, very happy. 🙂

      • Tesh

        I’d say that it’s worth noting that Paladins and Druids, and to a lesser degree, Shamans, are multitaskers. Paladins and Druids can spec into any trinity role, and Shamans have two DPS roles (and can kinda sorta melee tank in midlevels). These are the most flexible characters, and to my mind, it’s no surprise that players stick with them. They can do almost anything the player wants or needs to do.

        • Tesh

          *bleh* Which is really just restating the point, but I think it’s worth emphasizing. More options mean more play.

          …and yes, I think each class should have a tanking spec, a DPS spec and a healing spec.

      • I would personally hesitate to list Hunters with Druids and Shaman as environmentalist, except maybe Beastmasters/Enhancement/Feral(both). As a non-magical* DPS class, I’ve always felt Hunters more properly grouped with Warriors and Rogues. This may be a bit of Marksman bias in my part.

        *SV’s appx. 85% damage being “magic” is sort of explained away as “It’s just fire and poisons, not real magic.”

        • Dejara Thoris

          I’m not sure I would list all shamans as environmentalist for that matter…look at how goblin shamans are supposed to interact with the elements…

        • Reklisc

          A weird thing that should be pointed out (“weird” in that this is a coloumn about Warlocks) is that in the character-creation screen, Hunters are pointed out very clearly that if you intend to play solo, Hunter is a good class for you. That’s why I picked it to start 4 years ago.

    • I think it may be as simple as this: Warlocks are mages’ evil twin (both pure caster DPS that wear cloth), and there’s more selection appeal to mages than warlocks, and there isn’t enough end-game advantage to warlocks to make them switch so the relative numbers stay the same.

      I see mages being over represented among the hybrids, albeit being a single-role class. I think it says something about mages being special – they are the archetype of caster DPS, thus people tend to choose it over warlocks when they decide to roll a caster DPS.

      What if mages and warlocks were equally represented, relative to each other? I think that would put both in the “brutal” category, which makes sense considering they’re both pure DPS. So I’m thinking, perhaps there are few warlocks because of the abundance of mages.

      It may be interesting to see the data on what alts a players plays, and compare the data for each “main class.”
      – Would a mage-main player also have a warlock? What about the other way around?
      – Would a non-caster DPS main player have at least a mage or a warlock? How many of them have both? Are there more mage alts than warlock alt?
      – What’s the average number of alt characters for a players that owns a mage? What’s the number for a player that owns a warlock?

      Such and such.

      • Chris

        I wonder if the mage portal vs lock summon is a factor? I know I tend to use my mages for general activity (buying vendor recipes, holiday quests, farming, etc.) and let my lock main gather dust when he’s not in LFR. This is especially true since Blizz removed the portals.

      • I am a Lock, rolled a Mage alt, and playing it as almost Main now – cause it is damn easy and FUN.

    • Tohu

      I just think that trying to level a warlock is extremely boring, I did get mine to 85, but I tried all three specs, finally settling on destruction. Affliction (dot, dot, dot, drain life) was mind numbingly boring, demo would have been more fun if the felguard could withstand more damage, destruction just seemed the easiest to level with quickly.

  4. I find this series absolutely fascinating, and (while of course being entirely sympathetic to the plight of Warlocks!) am terribly interested in Jason’s methodology, since it really highlights the levels at which a class is largely abandoned.

    So much fodder in these numbers for all sorts of thought experiments! Mages coming into their own after level 70; the unexpected dearth of Druids from 50-80; the relative unpopularity of Priests despite their current solid endgame DPS (using the data from your earlier post)- it’s just a fascinating look at Groupthink.

    Someone has to be the least popular class, but I really had no idea there was such a major gap between Warlocks and everyone else. Surely this is known to Blizzard, with much more sophisticated tracking data; it should be very interesting to see Mists’ Warlock Solution!

    • Paul

      I just leveled a druid to max level. Perhaps the reason you don’t see druids in level 50-80 is that they’re just too fun to play, so they level out of that range faster than other classes.

      • Generally, if a class is absent at lower levels but present at higher ones, this is exactly what I assume.

        But the data between 50-69 is still heavily skewed by Death Knights; even the 70s bracket is tainted by sheer numbers. I read those brackets with a grain of salt.

    • One of the reasons I’m posting the full data sets (and not “warlocking them up” too much) is so that folks can use them how they see fit. I think there are interesting comments to be made on the states of Warriors and Hunters with this data, to be very honest.

      I think some of the asides are even more interesting than the main thesis. 🙂

  5. *hugs her ‘lock tight*

    I admit, I’m only just getting the hang of playing a semi-competent warlock now. I’ve finally made the jump with her in LFR and figured out how to work an Affliction spec after years of Demo. I’m just so self-conscious about DPS numbers. Even in LFR, the jerks are still in the forefront about how every little thing must be PERFECT NOW NOW NOW!

    I got her to 85. I’m not giving up on her now.

    • Keep in mind this is popularity data. As someone who enthusiastically embraces alternate playstyles, do what you find fun. If you’re enjoying playing your warlock, DO IT. Don’t look back. Who cares if it’s popular?

      There are a lot of good changes in the pipeline coming for warlocks. Hang on to that lock tight – it’s going to be a heck of a ride!

  6. mattticus

    It’s alarming especially for us GMs who _want_ Warlocks. They’re getting rarer all the time. I suspect this is one of the primary motivators behind Blizzard’s drastic retooling of the class. I do think Taufmonster nailed it though. Classes with multiple roles are (understandably) going to get a much higher representation compared to one trick ponies like Warlocks.

    Reading some of the new Warlock changes (and the tankability) makes me wonder if Blizzard’s giving you guys a ranged tank spec. SWTOR has managed to make them viable for their end game raids. They might be taking a page from the Bioware book here.

    Make sure you keep writing about your thoughts on Locks and deliver that feedback though. You’ve got the chance here to shape your class going into the expansion ^^.

    • jay

      Got to agree with Matticus on this. So few warlocks left, that have any kind of specific influence or the ‘brand-name’, that Cyn does. This kind of feedback is necessary to mobilize the lock population, galvanize old posters to offer valuable feedback, that can shape things in the beta. lizzard if anything will be receptive.

      A classic e.g. of this are mages. The creation of ring of frost and Lb cap, was on some valuable feedback by Lhiv, during the Cata beta. I am really eagerly awaiting the 2nd part of your post. The reasons need to be examined, discussed and keeping that in mind, we need to move forward. If I am not in the beta, there are the damage dealing/warlock forums. There are avenues.

      We have been a functional class for the last two expansions. It’s time to get our groove back on the stylistic feel, the beauty of a synchronous rotation with interactivity and not needlessly complexity. Fortunately Blizzard seems to obliging us warlocks. They are separating each spec out. The way they are doing it, is very subtle and perhaps the way a person, like me sees it. Be it the complex and symbiotic relationship of a summoner with his minions, as he blurs the line between into becoming a being of the nether realm and his own well of power. Depending on the variables involved, he may be able to become a living force of destruction melding chaotic flame, with powerful demons and massive area of effect attacks.

      Be it a former mage, that has switched to an even more unpredictable source of magic. They have forsaken the control of the element of fire. Instead they are now able to tap into the hellacious energy, that defines the fabric of creation of the nether-realms aka chaotic fire. This is a living sentient flame. Unlike a mage’s control over the element of fire, this is a malicious writhing force, that seeks to consume everything in its path. A user/practitioner of this flame, at the cost of his own life-blood, mental and soul energy, will use this magic school with the alacrity and desperation, that it needs to be treated with. Experienced practitioners will be able to vary their output, to either using it like a precision tool to burn a target inside out aka implode them… or they will be able to rain down destruction on their foes, bringing chaos wherever
      they go.

      We finally come to the trademark spec of the warlock. The experienced master of souls. Having plumbed the depths of the shadow arts, this counter balance of an arcane mage, is probably the most dangerous of the 3 variants. He has mastered the patience required to tap into the very essence that empowers the overlords of the nether realms. Souls. He can use his extensive study of the shadow energies to leech out life, implode entire armies, corrupt the very essence of life and what not…

      In guessing that’s the way Blizzard intends for this class to play, I say it again… ‘Feedback is the coin of the realm. Don’t abuse it. Don’t hoard it. Spread it around. Treat it with the love of a warrior, who depends on his blades on for his life. Use it with the precision of a modern day surgeon, wielding a scalpel and saving someone’s life. ‘

      • jay

        TLDR; if you got bored of reading

        1) Make our specs distinct with feel and lore behind them
        2) Keep the rotations involved but award interactivity.
        3) Green fire
        4) Flying dreadsteeds.

      • I am either tossing a match into a primed powderkeg, or shouting into the wind. I don’t know which it will be, Jay. I just have to go where the data leads me.

        It’s good to hear you excited about the Warlock class again, Jay. It’s been a long time. I know you personally struggled with the class changes in Cata, and I’ve valued your feedback throughout.

    • “Reading some of the new Warlock changes (and the tankability) makes me wonder if Blizzard’s giving you guys a ranged tank spec.”

      Considering the glyph makes Demonic Slash (the Meta filler) have a *shorter* range, no, I don’t think it’s supposed to be a ranged tank. 🙂

    • This is an excellent point about how the guild leader’s perspective. If all classes are necessary – and they are, realistically – then this does really does matter.

      I’ve been struggling with trying to figure this out for, what, 9 months? It was hard quitting my lock. Even though I know that most warlocks didn’t quit for the same reasons I did, it’s cathartic to see the data unfold.

      Stay tuned for the real feedback. Thanks for the comment, Matt. Good to see you around these parts. 🙂

  7. Dejara Thoris

    One thing I’d love to know is, of the level 85 warlocks now playing, how many are new and how many were rolled back in TBC or early Wrath? My suspicion is that a large percentage are old farts like myself who stick with their ‘locks because we are used to them and we went through the intense learning curve when the rewards were bigger.

    • Oh man, I’d love to know this too.

    • Sith

      My first character was a TBC Pally and it was curious that many of the other pallys also had a lock.
      The forum warriors are correct that locks are not broken and can parse as well in raids as the other classes.

      My guess is that the problem is competition: If you want to play a pet class, many don’t, you may prefer a hunter. And at 85, I just found the PVE mages superior: iceblock/invis > reduce threat, blink > portal (extemporaneously anyway), no pet management, and a simpler rotation. Unholy DKs provide a lot of the flavor, ghoul, gargoyle, D&D in plate with a tank offset. Soulstones are no longer a reason to keep a lock. In fact, from the original 3.0.0 affliction rotation, locks have had some rotations that caused a few to love them and an increasingly overwhelming majority to avoid them.

      And how many people who did not do BT on level want to shift in and out of being a melee clothie in an encounter?

    • My warlock began his career in April 2008.

    • Tormentt

      I began playing in December of 2007, a Human Warlock as my character.

      I got to level 60 before making my first alt, a Human Warrior that made it to level 14 and was my banker.

      At the end of BC, I had three characters… A Level 70 Warlock, a level 30 Priest, and a level 14 Warrior/Banker.

      In Wrath, I played my Warlock. I took a Death Knight to level 58, then ditched it. Toward the end of Wrath, I started a Druid and got him to 68.

      I stopped playing then, and came back right before Cata. After the long break, I ended up playing with friends. I started a Shaman and a Death Knight on a new server. Shaman got to 42 before my group disbanded. Death Knight got to 65 before I got bored with him.

      I started a Mage as a bank alt on the new server, but had enough fun with him to get him to 63. I pulled my Druid and Warlock over from my old server, and started a new Priest. I got all three of them to 85 around the same time.

      I dabbled with a Goblin Rogue and Got a Worgen Hunter up into the 60s. Even a Forsaken Warlock up to 30, to experience that zone.

      It took a while, at level 85, to get back into my Warlock. I got booted out of dungeon runs for my DPS, and it’s not fun to be that guy. I pushed through, and now am solidly middle-of-the-pack when I see recounts get posted, but I personally stay away from DPS meters.

    • donovitch

      In the past it was expected to have some difficulty leveling a character, but as the years went on alot of classes have experienced quality of life changes that made leveling easier and leveling seem less dangerous as a whole. In Cataclysm 80-85 was meant to be increasingly more painful which to a cloth class where having a mob beating on it is more common than some is frightening to new players.

      Destro has been historically seen as the more “magelike” of the lock specs, as in it was a simpler priority system than the other specs, and it had significant burst. Since Cata the ramp up time for optimum burst has dropped which makes it seem like you are too slow to dish out the damage and when you have something beating on you and you are still ramping up your damage it is often just less fun.

      As a whole demonology has been the only spec where the pet has a chance of reliably holding threat off the warlock, and to do so you had to very much slow down your output, whereas hunters often kill a mob before their pets have a chance to lose threat on a mob. BTW imps are unfun to start off with as “tanking pets” to a new player.

      Incentive- why would you bear with painful to level class if the other classes that are at least as fun if not more fun (to level) and easy to level are more overpowered at least at some point of the expansion, or can play a healing or tanking role?

  8. You know, the revisited data doesn’t shock me in the least. The two most popular classes are the ones that can perform all three roles. Both of those classes are competent from the get-go as well, and can often tackle PvE content a couple of levels higher without much issue. Both are also decent in BGs at low levels, which means that they don’t get ganked by the BG low level high rollers either.

    Now, look at a Warlock by comparison. While they get a pet to help tank, their DPS is such that they have to be very careful lest they pull aggro from the Voidwalker on an extended fight. If you’re L15 and you pull aggro from an L17-L18 PvE enemy, you’re in trouble. If you’re a lock and you don’t have your CC available, you’re a sitting duck. (The same could be said of Frost Mages too, because they don’t have the low level DPS that Arcane or even Fire has.)

    In a lot of PvE instances, what I’ve discovered is that by the time you get your DoTs set up and running, the mob is dropped by the higher DPS groups. The same thing goes for boss fights, but the greater length of the boss fights enables those DoTs to pull up your DPS. I guess I could argue the same thing with Holy Power and Ret Paladins, but at least Ret gets a basic melee attack that boosts DPS –you don’t really want a Lock in there in melee, do you?– and Ret gets less DoT-ty type effects and more instant results.

    When you combine all this with the natural aversion that some people have to playing Locks –weren’t these people the same baddies that used to rule the Horde and/or helped out the Burning Legion?– it’s no surprise that Locks are bringing up the rear in the game. Based on my experience playing a Lock in BGs, I’ve been tempted to try out a Rogue just to visit the same hell I’ve taken on other people.

    • If anything, I was just overly optimistic. I couldn’t remain so in the face of the indexed data.

      That’s okay – I’d rather look at it and say, yep, Houston, we have a problem.

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  9. Fletcher

    I recently leveled a lock to 60 and then stopped – continuing would have meant going back and farming cloth to get my tailoring up to level, which didn’t appeal. A possible source of the lock problem is that they’re a DOT class – to do competitive damage in dungeons requires truly abysmal DPS from your compatriots. Usually everything dies before you can dot it up. Sometimes before you can finish casting.

    Also, they’re squishy.

    • Absolutely. The quicker the instance run, the worse DPS a lock will do. And there’s a side effect of all those DoTs: if you’re not careful, your threat will escalate over the course of those DoTs to pull aggro from a tank. So while you may want to blast as quickly as you can while you’ve got DoTs served up, you may end up signing your own death warrant instead.

      • I haven’t found threat to be a problem on my baby lock right now in dungeons. Perhaps that’s due to the 500% threat increase?

        • You know, you could be right about that, Cyn. I haven’t run an instance since the threat increase, and it might be more facerolling than before. I just remember trying my damnedest to space out my DoTs in SFK so that I didn’t accidentally pull any of the bosses. Even then, I still managed to pull aggro on the last boss because of the gap when everyone is running around trying to hide from the scatter shot. Amazing how those little DoT ticks will add up in threat.

          (Hey, I needed gear, so I’m allowed to go into one now and then.)

  10. Thanks for the analyses on warlocks, Cyn; they’ve been a very interesting read. I’m currently levelling a lock and this has been on my mind a lot. One theory that I have, which a lot of other commenters have touched on, is that locks are just seriously underpowered at lower levels. The level 10 skills that locks get compared to the level 10 skills that other classes get are just very lackluster, and we’re missing some of our really important skills until an absurdly high level. Aff, for example, gets Unstable Affliction at level 10, but it’s hardly worth using while levelling because of how fast things die. Aff also isn’t really competitive until it gets Haunt at level 69, which gives a whopping 20% boost to all dot damage. Same story with Demo — its later talents are just too strong. Destro is in a much better place (its level 10 skill, Conflagrate, is actually worth using while levelling), but still doesn’t get its main filler spell, Incinerate, until level 64.

    Contrast this to SV hunters, who get Explosive Shot at level 10; Ret pallies, who get Templar’s Verdict. Prot warrs get Shield Bash, mut rogues get Mutilate. A disc priest using Penance offensively and Holy Fire on CD can easily outdamage a lock in the earlier levels.

    My warlock is at 71 right now. I was levelling as destro because it was the least painful of the three at earlier levels, but just specced back into Affliction, which has always been the lock tree I was most drawn to. I’m hanging in the 70s PVP bracket right now, enjoying finally not feeling underpowered anymore. But I remember nearly quitting in the 40s, all those runs of Stratholme where the unBOAed warrior tank was doing more than twice as much dps as my fully BOAed and enchanted destro lock.

    • You’re very welcome. 70s is when Warlocks start getting decent in PvP, though they’re still really weak in the 70 twink bracket.

      Great points about the leveling curve. Thanks!

  11. sarevok

    I guess I’d be counted among those who dropped their lock like a hot potato before level cap. While lock was one of pair of toons I started WoW with only pala got there (not counting that I like to change chars each 20-30 levels as I’m usually getting back to them if not deleted).

    For me, reasons I don’t plan on touching them anymore is simple – Cata. It changed things beyond any recognition. While many welcomed arrival of new shard system, for me it was only loosing old, good shards. Removal of class quests hit locks the most (in my opinion, althought druids are strong 2nd place). Having to work for each and every demon might have felt tedious and even boring sometimes but for me it was great fun.

    In the end all that little things were what kept me playing locks, and without them no good dps or easy to find raid/guild spot were worth it.

  12. Dejara Thoris

    Just looking through thw warlock forums at blizz:

    Doesn’t this read similarly to the justificaitons of victims in a relationship gone bad?

    • I laughed more than I probably should have at this comment, Dejara. Thanks. 🙂

      • Dejara Thoris

        Interestingly enough, you have donea similar thing in your post to the thread I started.

        “He needs me”
        “I can leave anytime” (to be fair, you actually did leave)
        “It’s not him, it’s me”

        Replace pronouns as appropriate.

  13. Jason

    *Blush* A whole post based off of my comment? I am a stat geek by hobby and a number cruncher by profession, so I love looking at the details. I would seriously love Blizzard if they released some hardcore playing time data. I know it would be too big of a can worms for them to ever do it, but I can always hope!

    Keep up the good work. I hope this kind of analysis makes it’s way to Blizzard. My message to them would be that true lock lovers don’t want an easier class, but a class that rewards them for the effort they put it. And they wouldn’t mind some good old fashioned nerfs to the other dot classes/specs so that warlocks are THE de facto dot class.

    In fact, I don’t mind that locks are the least popular class, I like that it makes me feel more unique, but it is starting to feel like we need to be put on the endangered species list…

    • It was a great comment, and the idea deserved its own followup.

      I have a feeling that if you stick with warlock, you are in for a really interesting ride in Mists. Blizzard’s reaction might swing the pole the other way. 🙂

  14. gameldar

    Very interesting read – thanks Cyn!

    My anecdotal evidence – just talking to guild members who used to have their mains as warlocks and now don’t is that the rotation is just too difficult to produce good numbers – and they struggle in dungeons to do competitive dps. Perhaps this is equivalent to feral in wrath?

    My lock is still at level 37 I think – and has done since vanilla. I loved PvP at that level (too old to see anything on the armory) – but particularly with the (partial) demise of drain tanking for levelling I only occasionally felt inclined to return. With my focus on tanking that put it on the backburner. But largely my interest in levelling new characters has been based around their relationship with my main however (druid) – so I’ve been a) interested in rogues because of their similarity to feral and b) mages because they need to die (and I need to learn how to better counter them). Not that I hate coming up against a good lock in 2s… but I think I’ve only actually encountered them a couple of times in my 120 odd games this season.

  15. This was interesting reading.

    I didn’t read all the comments because your posts are long already, but here are my impressions about Warlock leveling.
    First thing you need to know is that I’m an altoholic, and I created many warlocks, I think it’s the one of the 4 most represented class in my toons army. But my most advanced warlock is only in his 50s. One of the reasons for that is that warlock talent specs doesn’t fit leveling very well.

    My favorite spec, in that it’s the spec that fits the warlock image the best, is affliction. But a dot-based spec is not optimal for the short fights you’ll encounter during leveling. Of course you can dot-all-the-things, but it’s a lot of running around and can be dangerous and cause a lot of downtime if the mobs are too strong.

    Then comes destruction, but it feels too much like a mage in my opinion to be really appealing.

    Many warlocks level as demonology, but I don’t like pet-based spec, I find it boring and you character doesn’t feel powerful as your pet is doing most of the job.

    And finally, talent spec are designed for a level 85 character. When you’re leveling, you have to take talents for spell you won’t have before a very long time (the worst being destruction, were you don’t even have fire spells for 20 levels or so)

    Warlocks, like rogues, better fits long fights and thus may seem less interesting during the leveling phase. But whereas rogues are appealing for low level PVP, it’s not the same for warlocks.

    The funny thing is, I was thinking about getting a resurrection scroll to get a warlock to 80…

  16. Pingback: Rogues: A study in frustration « Armaggedon's coming!

  17. eki

    Well I recently deleted my lvl 57 lock, and that’s just because he wasn’t fun to level…

    You see, I play my lowies kind of a lot, and all the classes are like; target sighted, targeted, 2 buttons pressed, loot. Examples?
    Warrior: Charge, MS, Execute
    Rogue: Ambush, Eviscerate
    Mage: Arcane Blast, repeat

    Well with the Lock it was more like this:
    – All buffs up? check
    – Healthstone? check
    – Allright, send pet in to produce aggro
    – wait a moment, I don’t want to get hit
    – UA
    – that other instant dot I forgot the name of
    – Immolate
    – 2.5 sec shadowbolt cast… meeeeeeh
    – shadow bolt hits
    – loot

    notice the difference?

    That’s just… well… not fun? It’s not that I need to be overpowered and safe from death all the time.. but that’s just… completely underpowered..

    And yes, locks are getting the wrong spells at lvl 10. At lvl 10 I want spells that I’ve seen locks flinging around in raids, like a priests mindflay or penance, a paladins shieldthrow or something like that. That’s making me FEEL like a priest/paladin. Throwing a dot? I didn’t even know or care what the locks dots are named before playing mine.

    I want that green thing that increases the dot damage, or this massive flame thing that’s snaking up on the boss, or that cool orb that returns to me with another color, and I want it to hit hard! not a silly dot… that’s not fun…

    funny thing: I still don’t know how those significant lock spells are named… even though I played one to almost 60, which was once the max lvl… think about it..

    • eki

      as I’m rereading my own comment, I think I can bring it down to this:
      I can’t identify with a lock while leveling. I’m not feeling like a lock, I don’t really feel like anything, It’s just some DOTer with a pet…

  18. Pingback: Warlocks and Sanity « Tome of the Ancient

  19. Gregory

    I do not feel shocked at all considering the state of warlocks now. Although the “cool factor” is still very high, in my opinion, people want more from their class if they are not like us, aka in love with locks.

    PvP wise while we are so good at teams, we have problems when we have to pvp alone. Pet and teleport placement dependency. No teleport, no win. I talked about PvE in previous article.

    I have 3 locks at 85. But I have 3 paladins as well. Why? Because I love warlocks but paladins are so versatile. TBH I really hope for a demo tanking spec even if it is not suitable for raids. Since there is no “hybrid tax” any more, pure DPS is at a disadvantage. And of all pures, rogues had the legendary and mages do more damage. Well, are you REALLY shocked?

  20. Interesting start! I’ll wait for the conclusion before featuring it on the Pot, but I think I’ll probably be featuring the entire series when you do put the second part out. This is some great, interesting data analysis.

    Suggestion – if you combine all this data into an infographic of some kind, I think that might get a *lot* of interest and traffic, if you care about such things.

  21. tomaj84

    This is interesting stuff. Admittedly, I’d be curious to see how different things would be if 20-24 was separate from 25-29 purely due to the trial account and twink character skews that are present in that particular bracket of battlegrounds/dungeons.

    As an aside, I find it interesting that the only cloth class that seems to do well on the whole is mage (priests never get into the positive side at all, and frequently sub 20% negative).

  22. Jack

    Having stuck with a lock since November of 2004, none of this surprises me. Anyone who level a lock pre-BC and stuck with it has had their nerves burned down to steel and more than likely are the player base who enjoys the class conceptually far more than the mechanics.

    I have chafed under warlock mechanics since their inception, from the horrorless Deathcoil/free HK days to the “join a 3v3 2200 arena team or be pvp bait forever” we see now. Honestly at no point has our spell system not been critically hampered by terrible mechanics, or simply take longer/more complexity to execute than a similar class. For the longest time Corruption had a cast time, pets didn’t scale, dots didn’t scale, none of our spells save shadowbolt increased in damage as we geared. In PVP we have been chronically without defenses for 7 years, to the point that the class can only succeed in PVP when there’s another class to hold it up. No other class has this problem and can survive equal geared run ins with the opposing faction while leveling without a hitch.

    The point to take home from this is “Warlocks are not a solo class”, they do not have the ability to sustain themselves in PvP alone, nor do they have the abilities to have decent sustained dps in the world of random dungeons and LFR. For the solitary player who just picked the game up or lost all his friends to Guildwars/Warhammer/Conan/Rift/SWTOR and sits alone in his guild, Warcraft according to warlocks is a frustrating carnival of mediocrity,

    What you should look into next is of those remaining warlocks, how many of them are in competitive or well maintained guilds? When the class does so well in rated high-bracket PVP or holds its own on high end raiding but falls flat on it’s face in the casual-accessible areas of Warcraft for the average player, what do you expect will happen?

    Leveling a warlock has never been an awe-inspiring joyride and arguably with the leveling zones devoid of opposing players it’s never been easier to level one. The issue is, it’s not fun and if you stick with it to the end game and don’t have a competitive guild or decent arena team to greet you at 85, the end game falls short as well.

    For me, I adore the class conceptually and that is the only thing that holds me to the faulty mechanics more than my equally powerful but far more enjoyable mage. Especially when all of my playing time uses a finder and has the word ‘random’ in it.

  23. elkagorasa

    I know from my personal experience, several altaholics who roll druids simply to have multiple gatherers. Mining, herbalism and fishing all while in bird-form FTW. Now that you can get XP by simply picking posies, it’s not hard to go that final 80-85 without doing a single quest, dungeon or battleground. If I dare suggest (because this NEVER happens), enter heroic/LFR as tank/healer for instant-queue. then drop to DPS spec for low stress epics.

    Now, looking over at ArenaJunkies. Warlocks make up membership in 9 out of top 10 of the US 3’s bracket. Combine with a Druid or Shaman (or daresay a mage) for multiple CCs and you got an unstoppable force. (6 of 10 Internationally).

    Now, I don’t think it’s necessarily the decline of lock’s, but the over-utilization of other classes. I know personally, I’ve been playing my priest more, simply because I don’t like sitting 30 minutes in the LFR or heroic queue, when my healer can get in almost instantly.

  24. Homeschool

    Have you thought about looking for connections between relative dropout rate and events in those tiers?

    With the overall data (but disregarding DKs), you should be able to draw general assumptions about what levels people tend to drop out (10% stop in 10-19, 15% in 20-29, etc.) You could then compare this with the Warlock dropout trends, and see where Warlocks tend to drop at higher than average rates.

    My guess would be – in looking at the relative popularity info you provided – that between 40 and 60, Warlocks get more fun to play, while between 81 and 84 something goes wrong. But that’s difficult to confirm without the isolated numbers.

  25. Simon Jones who is blogless

    The warlock thing isn’t really that complicated.

    Warlocks and Rogues both have their populations gutted at the start of WotLK on account of both being late BC FotM classes who, unlike the the hunter and mage, happened to be really crap at the start of the expansion when the Death Knight came out and never eally recovered.

    Thanks to the removal of the hybrid tax, they never reallly regain their king of the deeps crown and remain technically complex to play compared to other DPS, with heavy positional requirements or multiple timers to watch without the reward of topping the charts (Yes, Cat Druids. No one cares).

    Rogues got a bit of boost from the legendary but Warlocks didn’t get one and therefore there aren’t many.

    Thusly, people tend to start Warlocks, because they notice there aren’t man and the raid could maybe use a warlock and dump them because, well, they’re complicated and the raid probably couldn’t use a Warlock because what can a Warlock do that a Mage can’t?

    Predicition: There will be a metric sex-ton of monks and warlocks in Pandaria. Also, endless legions of Paladins as always.

  26. Nutella

    SOR lock here nearly dinged to 85.

    I have pretty much every class at 85 now and have had melee mains the whole time. I’ve noticed that there are a distinct lack of locks in most groups I’ve been in this xpac and i always wondered why.

    I personally find playing my lock one of the most enjoyable things about the game atm, but if I had to level it from scratch would I have given up? Most probably.

    The issue is something I can’t quite put my finger on. I feel the same way about priests and I’ve never made it past level 50 with one.

    I’ve often found some of the best players I’ve played with have been locks, the class seems to have a fairly high skill cap to be played to its best.

    I love to PvP while levelling, now I know the lower brackets are just ridiculous anyway but there was never really a point in my last levelling attempts where I felt it was fun. Its more stick all dots up and then run and hope no one catches you.

    At least with other classes I could at some point stand toe to toe and have a good chance of victory, I don’t feel I could do that while learning the lock play-style, and to be frank there’s only so many dungeons and quests I can handle any more before thinking screw this it isn’t worth it.

    I played a shaman before they were ‘cool’ so I sort of understand how it is to be the red headed step child of the WoW world and I kind of like it. My rogue is a similar level to that of my lock and it was fun one shotting people in BGs for a while but I find the playstyle to be so dull. The constant building of combo points to do things is just >.Cheapshot>SnD>Eviscerate>Recuperate rinse repeat kill me now)

    Whereas the lock for me feels more dynamic, especially in dungeons with soul swap and soulburned SoCs, the explosion of numbers makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but even though its more of a swell of damage, watching those timer bars countdown and then doing something to refill them I find really enjoyable (maybe that’s the healer in me talking).

    I’ve not read the changes for locks yet but i’ll see where it goes and decide whether or not its finally worth a change of main, but If shamans get a 2h or tank spec (Please for the love of god YES!), its back to the shelf the lock goes.

  27. Ha

    I believe the cause is the playstyle. I consider dot timers as ‘meh’ in PvE. It is not for everyone.

    Now, looking over at ArenaJunkies. Warlocks make up membership in 9 out of top 10 of the US 3′s bracket.

    However, this is 0.01% of the playerbase. I agree with Jack. They do not ‘pwn’. It takes time to set up kills. This requires fake casting, kiting and using a lot of different damage spells. Most people lack the knowledge to even begin imagining doing it, let alone actually executing this. They do ‘need’ a healer and a teammate with peels. Its not ‘use deep freeze/aimed shot’ and create tons of burst.
    Burst classes that dont require a lot of set up will be more popular for pvp than classes that require more work in low rated and unrated pvp.

    • Jack

      I’m not sure it’s that they don’t ‘pwn’ so much as they’re too interdependent.

      If your a casual player you have to not only grasp the complex and faulty mechanics, but underperform while you’re doing so through 95% of the game.

      No one is going to stay on a class that doesn’t shine at all until high-end arena/raids. Like Jem says below, they’ll see how little they’re contributing despite the effort and throw up their hands to play a paladin.

      I’ve been playing a lock for 7 years, I doubt I could walk into a dungeon at 15-65 without enchanted heirloom gear and hold my weight against other classes, even with complete knowledge of when to use what abilities.

      The mechanics just aren’t there. You can’t just turn on blade flurry and auto cleave to top dps, nor can you do anything close to damage in less than 5 seconds, the time frame which most everything dies.

      The locks disappear because how complex and backwards the class is.

  28. Jem

    A guildie of mine has a lock in the early 20s and was chatting to me about how she ‘sucks’ at playing a warlock. She was doing a quarter of the dmg the other toons managed in her LFDs. She’s just come off levelling up a mage as well, which I think probably made it more noticable.

    I believe the combination of dots and fast dying mobs in instances is an issue. I don’t think there’s an aoe spell until the 40s (but I haven’t looked). Bane of Agony’s design may not be intiutively obvious to new locks, ie don’t cast it on things that die fast. I told her that she didn’t ‘suck’, the leveling design was just aimed at making her look crappy. She was playing affliction at the time.

    She basically felt like she wasn’t really contributing, and there was no sense of fun, just incompetence. It is possible that people think they are bad at playing the class due to the leveling design, and they drop it for something they are ‘good’ at.

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  30. The problem is that Blizzard have developed a tendency to equate “popular” with “well-designed” and I think that’s a gross oversimplification with regard to warlocks. Yes, I think the representation of them in endgame really needs looked at, but making a class easier or simpler just to get more people playing is a bad way of doing it.

    Zell’s Building recently spoke about how great Affliction as a DPS spec is, particularly the unforgiving nature of it, and worries that the spec as we know it could bite the dust due to the unpopularity of warlocks in general.

    Obviously, that would be a great shame.

  31. lancore

    You wondered why there are so few locks? My reason: it isn’t fun to get nerfed all the fucking time, mostly thanks to pvp. I’ll do decent dps on a target dummy, yes. Too bad the pve endgame isn’t about target dummies.
    It’s about burst, fast target switching, utility. Over time those points got nerfed so bad thanks to pvp that I don’t see a lock viable for raids anymore, at least for more then a buff bitch.

    And then blizzard has a history in teasing warlocks with awesome stuff just to take it away. Soulshards anyone? Got praised as a huge new ressource, something you care about. Turns out to be “meh, instant soul fire”. And now the MoP beta. They made a glyph that turned you into a fully fledged tank, gave you every tool the other tanks also have. Just to throw the idea away and get suprised that warlocks actually liked it.
    Green fire? Not that I care personally, but many other do obviously. Blizzard gave hope just to turn warlocks down a day later. As usual.
    Promised female demons which will never get implemented. All those tiny slaps in the face adds up, and sooner or later you just have enough of that bullshit and reroll (or rather quit for good)

    I wait for the 5.0 lock redesign. If that turnes out as bad as my skeptical lock inside of me thinks it will, I’ll be gone too

  32. Beryo

    My warlock has been my “main” since I started playing. When I started, I didn’t know anything about how they would level or what raiding was. I just liked the idea of a little demon-wielding gnome spreading death and destruction and it turned out to be fun. The rollercoaster of changes haven’t changed my enthusiasm for the class.

    And yet, in both Wrath and Cata, I’ve started the expansion on my warlock and ended on my druid. I went through T11 as destro/affliction but haven’t played much this tier, mostly because we needed a tank. If warlocks can tank properly in MoP, my druid might not see much action.

    Anyway, raid composition is why my warlock hasn’t had as much play time lately.

    • Beryo

      About the rotation complexity, the default UI doesn’t make it easy to play a warlock well. I imagine that’s a big problem for people not inclined to find the add-ons which would give you the feedback you need to improve.

      But there’s also a flow in that complexity when everything is hitting just right and it all becomes very simple and feels right. It doesn’t happen all the time of course, but I haven’t found that at all in most other classes. If someone hasn’t had that experience with warlocks (or doesn’t find it worth much), I can see how playing a warlock would seem like a lot of work for “nothing”.

  33. Verbrennen

    I already talked about it in another blog of yours but the biggest problem with warlocks is a lack of tools early on.

    We have 2 leveling specs for most of the game because destro lacks Incinerate until level 64 which is pretty much its bread and butter spell.

    All 3 specs lack general lack control and escape/oh shit spells. Our first real oh shit spell is death coil at 42 then howl of terror at 44. We don’t get our first aoe snare (or really any real snare) till 75 (shadowflame) and that requires a glyph. Our only real escape spell is at 78(fel port)

    Now compare this to a mage which gets all these plus a aoe root and complete immunity spell before level 30.

    Green fire is a joke warlocks have been asking for it since forever and they said they would try and get it in for cata bzzzt nope now its maybe in mop you will have green fire but don’t worry we already redesigning every other class’s spells and effects & animations.

  34. cateranllama

    I love my baby warlock, but I play her maybe once every other month. She’s just so hard! I keep thinking “When I get to 30 and have my felpuppy I’ll do better.” When I get to 42 and get Death Coil I’ll do better. To me, the game isn’t about endgame. It’s about having fun whatever you’re doing. I’ve played warlocks before, I KNOW at some point pvp-locks get fun … I just can’t find that point since Cata.

    I can’t stand to group-pve with her. Stuff dies WAY too fast for her dots to tick. I wind up spamming drain life just to get SOMETHING to show up on recount. And the point of this game is really the multiplayer content: if I wanted solo I’d be playing something on a console.

    So … really right now her role is solo questing. That she can do. Multidots as aff with the dots-heal talents and a couple heirlooms and I can aoe almost as effectively as a prot warrior. It’s just not much fun to do so. So I keep picking away … a couple bgs and a couple quests a month … eventually either Mists will hit or she’ll get SOMETHING that makes her playable.

  35. Pingback: Interlude: New Series on Warlocks in Cataclysm « Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

  36. Pingback: The Decline and Fall of Warlocks in Cataclysm « Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

  37. David

    Warlock was the very first class I rolled when I started at BC launch, I experienced my first 3 years of play and discovery almost exclusively through the lens of warlock playstyle. All the way through the end of Wrath it was my preferred toon. Then Cata hit. My warlock took back seat to my mage and priest, I didn’t even level him to 85 until 2 months ago. The reason why has been glaringly obvious from leveling, heroics and finally LFR.

    I can no longer stand to play any spec but Destro. While I never was overly fond of Aff, it used to be OK. The endless yoyo-ing haunts and boring,sub-par dps I’m able to manage make it a no-go now.
    I was demo lock back when it was gimp and I would squeeze every last drop of dps out of it. While the current (clunky) dps is now OK for me, the persistant Hand of Gul’dan animation irritates me and the purple Illidan metamorph model has always been somewhat goofy for my taste.
    Which leaves Destro, the main attraction of which is the challenge actually rewarding me with competitive if not stellar dps.

    On my mage/priest, I would go 1-2 weeks without seeing a lock in LFR and when I did see them they were almost always dead last. The only time I saw a lock break top 5 dps other than myself was a partially heroic-geared one who was just there for the valor.
    I was in an LFR and with 2 other locks(which shocked me) who were 13-14th in dps(which didn’t shock me), I came in third at ~26k. One of the locks wsped me in awe gushing over how he had never seen a lock pull that much dps in LFR…

    I got a little angry. Not at the lock wanting to know my “secrets” but at the state of my class. I’m a freaking Destro lock, I’m supposed to blow s*** out of the water and maybe get carried away and blow up a friendly, fuzzy hunter pet or three. I’m supposed to be a liability. Instead, I’m an anomaly if I don’t suck. I’m hard-casting to keep ISF up, praying for an add that I can snag shards off of(my worthless imp hardly gives me proc when I need it), and worrying about my BoH/BoD/dot up-time on all available targets.

    It really hit home dismal the situation was when I was reading through the massive MoP changes for locks and how it read like a giant evil Wishlist being fulfilled after waiting 4 Christmases. They actually briefly dangled tanking and eventually green fire in front of our noses. Maybe, just maybe, my evil demon diddler will become my main again in MoP, but there is No denying that blizzard royally screwed up. The numbers simply support what I’ve seen in-game.

    /indulgent rant end

  38. nuggettygoodness

    All I can tell you is when I went back for one month of 1-85 for cata, they broke warlocks so badly *in the levelling process* that I felt like crying. (Loved the class in TBC.)

    So I levelled a priest instead. Again.

    P.S. I remember being *particularly* irked by being forced to put talent points into a talent I *would not see for 20+ levels*. ._.

    I missed the old skilltrees so much.

  39. Pingback: Appendix B: The Problem of Evil « Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

  40. Brennan

    Can I just add a belated ‘ditto’ to the comments about levelling. If you care about your recount figures and do dungeons then you will drop a warlock like it’s a radioactive stick of dynamite. Did a couple of Blood furnace’s today: when I got fed up with my dots not ticking I tried casting Shadowbolts. Too slow, finished a couple of pulls with zero damage done. I need a minute long boss fight for my figures to look any good. Either that or a dazen mobs to rain fire on…