The Decline and Fall of Warlocks in Cataclysm

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


Popularity data from the previous two posts in this series shows the following trends:

  1. Warlock popularity at max level is down 12% between Wrath and Cataclysm.
  2. Warlocks are the least popular class to level with, ending at 41% less popular than the average class. The class popularity declines as characters level.
  3. Warlocks have done well in hardmode raiding, with two or three specs as viable DPS options within each tier. No other class can boast this.
  4. Warlocks are overrepresented in high end PvP, especially in high-ranked 3v3 Arena.

The picture that emerges is of a class which is balanced at the highest levels of the game, but flawed everywhere else.

The overwhelming feedback I’ve received from Warlock players who abandoned their class is that playing the class isn’t fun. It might be that it’s not fun anymore for veteran players, or that it wasn’t fun to level one for a player new to the class – but fun is the underlying reason behind it all.

Fun, for as basic a concept it might be, is a difficult concept to define and capture. What makes something fun versus unfun? Why do some activities give us enjoyment while others do not? How can we take pleasure in certain tasks and not others, even if they are similar in nature? How is it that some people can enjoy activities (e.g. Archeology, raiding, PvP) that others find boring or frustrating?

Bringing it back down to Warcraft, why are some classes and specs fun to play and others not?

The Problem of Fun is the central problem of game design. It’s the whole point of making a game! It’s not that a game must fulfill all of the player’s stated desires, but rather that the game satisfies their unspoken ones – desire for challenge and reward, for mental stimulation, for stirring our imagination, for telling a good story, for immersing the player in a world which transports them elsewhere. Game designers struggle with this, constantly – how do you make something that a lot of people find fun, enjoy enough to come back to over and over again?

Some people might not like calling it fun. Call it overcoming challenges and obstacles, putting in a hard day’s work and getting amply rewarded for it both materially and personally, call it whatever you need to to make this idea work for you. I call it fun, because that’s what we have when we play. We’re playing a game, we’re either having fun – or we’re not.

If I could summarize the problem of the Warlock class, it is that the class suffers from inelegant complexity without reward. The class has long had a tradition of being one of the more complicated classes in Warcraft, with lots of buttons and demanding rotations that require players to juggle multiple variables to achieve maximum performance. The cycle of damage and healing between a warlock, their target, and their demon is not a simple one – but it was an elegant one.

It just required a lot of buttons.

What appears to have changed in Cataclysm is that the complexity of playing a Warlock increased, while the rewards for doing so decreased. Furthermore, numerous changes were made to the class which made the mechanics clumsy and awkward. This is manifest in the two chief complaints about Warlocks:

  1. Combat on a Warlock is more complicated than other classes, yet yields lower returns. Be it in battlegrounds, dungeons, or even questing, you do more to get less done with a Warlock than on other classes.
  2. Outside of combat, playing a Warlock is harder than other classes due to quality of life issues. Leveling lacks flow, talents are poorly planned out, acquisition of new spells while leveling is confusing, and utility is lackluster.

These are two sides of the same coin.

Cataclysm ushered in a number of failures in class design, talents and abilities, rotation, balance, and quality of  life issues for Warlocks, all of which contributed to the class’s decline in popularity. Part of this was due to the major redesign the class underwent at the beginning of the expansion; part of it was due to changes made to keep the class balanced at the high-end endgame with the other nine classes as the expansion progressed.

Other classes were less complicated, more elegant, and performed better in many common situations than Warlocks. They were more fun, so players gravitated to them.

In hindsight, we should have seen a lot of this coming.


The reason we should have seen these failures coming is because Cataclysm was, in most ways, a triumph of the Bring the Player, Not the Class school of class design. Buffs were redesigned so that they were distributed more equally between specs. Gone was the idea of the Hybrid Tax, where classes who could fill multiple roles would not do as well as those who could only be damage dealers. All classes could reasonably expect to have a competitive DPS spec. Select Hybrid DPS performed extremely well at many points throughout the expansion.

The implementation of this philosophy in Cataclysm is up for debate, but its presence is not. At no point did any developer say that Shadow Priests should do worse DPS than Mages, for instance. Blizzard’s design mantra has been Bring the Player since 2009. The goal was to create relative parity between the classes, and by in large Blizzard achieved it. Not perfectly – there are some notable omissions – but the attempts were made to keep classes in line.

What does Bring the Player, Not the Class have to do with the decline of Warlocks? Quite a bit.

The goal of Bring the Player is to equalize performance and utility across classes, in effect to remove the impact of class choice on common endgame activities. Raids shouldn’t be canceled or fail because you don’t have a certain class. DPS, tanks, and healers should all be relatively interchangeable.

So if all DPS classes are equal, what is the reward for mastering a complex class like the Warlock?

In many ways, this is the same question we ask when discussing pure and hybrid DPS classes, isn’t it? If all DPS specs are equal, what’s the advantage of rolling a pure over a hybrid? It’s the same concept at work, only dealing with spec complexity instead of role flexibility.

I think we need a new name for this idea that Warlocks are wrestling with. We already have the Hybrid Tax, the idea that hybrid DPS should do less damage than pure DPS because they have role flexibility. Perhaps we need a Simplicity Tax to capture this question: should complex rotations outperform simple ones?.

Quick quiz! Name the simplest high end raiding ranged DPS rotation?

If you said “Arcane Mages,” go sit in the corner for a minute. They have two buttons to push, sometimes three. 🙂

No, the simplest build goes to BC-era Warlocks with the 0/21/40 Shadow Destruction build, which was based entirely around sacrificing your Succubus and spamming Shadow Bolt. Remember that one, Warlocks? The rotation was a single button. One. 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.

So, is it fair that simple rotations do high damage? Leaving aside the question of fun and game design – I think there’s an argument that you can make a rotation too simple to be fun anymore, and the Shadow Destruction build probably got there – the idea behind the Simplicity Tax says that if you keep 6 debuffs rolling with 2 nukes, 3 CDs and still manage to use a melee cone effect, you should do more damage than someone spamming Shadow Bolt.

Think about how often we see people talking about this in Warcraft. You have players mocking faceroll rotations, outrage over 1-button Death Knight macros, countless jokes about how easy Arcane Mages have it. It doesn’t matter if it’s bubble spam or rejuv spam or moonfare spam, simple rotations have a bad rap.

Rightly or wrongly, we have the idea in life that effectiveness should scale with effort or skill. This is the foundation of the Warlock’s complaint in the Bring the Player model. Should a DPS class which requires more complicated maneuvers than other classes do equivalent damage? If you have to track 6-9 variables and use 12-16 abilities, shouldn’t that be worth more output than someone who tracks 3 things and presses 5 keys?

In the Bring the Player model, the answer is a resounding no. The model rejects the Hybrid Tax, and it rejects the Simplicity Tax, because they are about bringing the class, not the player. Play your class because you enjoy it, not because it’s going to do more damage.

Because it’s not, in the Bring the Player model.

There’s an argument you can make against the Simplicity Tax in real life – work smarter, not harder. While it seems fair to say that effectiveness should scale with effort, real life doesn’t usually bear this out. You see it with employment, where you can work for 60 hours a week at a minimum wage job and just barely get by, or you can work 20 hours a week at a bank and live quite well. You see it working on repairing a car or maintaining your home, where having the right tool can make a backbreaking job trivial. You can go get an automatic screwdriver or good drill to put together that flat-packed Swedish furniture in no time, or you can use the screwdriver on your Swiss Army knife and have it take five times as long.

But the idea persists, and it’s a powerful one.

I know that I supported the Simplicity Tax for the longest time. My own statement on the Warlock feedback forum thread from last November:

How do you feel about your rotation?

Other classes seem to be easier. I enjoy the rotation because it gives me a lot of buttons to push, and think it’s fine, but it’s complicated. I seem to have to do more to be excellent than other classes.

I feel like I’m a stick driver, defending myself against the influx of automatic transmissions. I want to feel like the extra effort I put into driving makes a difference in performance and economy. But whether it does or not depends entirely upon the car and how I drive it, and those automatic transmissions keep getting better year after year.

Let’s look at it from the other side of the fence for a bit. Much like the Hybrid Tax, you can argue that the Simplicity Tax isn’t fair to players of other classes. Just because the class is simpler to play than another, why should it be penalized? Not to pick on Arcane Mages for my example, but I think they’re a great example of a simple but elegant spec, where the mana management minigame adds the necessary complexity to keep the rotation just interesting enough to still be fun without being totally boring. Sure, there are only a few tools that you use – but when you use them is paramount. It’s not a Shadow Destruction spec, no matter how I might tease Mages about it. Is it right that an elegantly simple spec be penalized just because other classes have more complex rotations?

This is the bind Warlocks find themselves in under Bring the Player. All three Warlock rotations in Cataclysm are defined by complexity; there is no simple spec, they’re all complicated now. But the prevailing design direction is that the Simplicity Tax, much like the Hybrid Tax, is gone.

Yet, the complaint remains: it is no fun to do more work for equal performance and rewards than someone else.

You have to enjoy the complexity on its own merits for this class to appeal to you. Warlock players have to be able to say, I’m okay with doing more work for my DPS because the work is so much fun on its own.

Or else Warlock is not the class for you.

The ascendancy of Bring the Player Not the Class put players who enjoy playing Warlocks in a terrible position in Cataclysm. Either they embraced the complexity of the class and had fun with it, and were satisfied with average results, or they discovered that it was the combination of effort and effectiveness which they really enjoyed, in which case they were now playing the wrong class for this expansion.

We should have seen the decline of Warlocks coming. Bring the Player forces the Warlock class into a niche for players who like complex mechanics for their own sake, not for the sake of improved performance.

We should have seen it coming.


This has been a discussion on class design theory up to this point; whenever you hear the phrase “assume equal DPS across classes” you can be sure you’re in theoryland.

It was important to start in theoryland, because it puts assertions of actual performance by Warlock players into a framework which lets us understand their rational flight away from the class. Playing a Warlock is hard, and has been made even harder in Cataclysm, but if their damage was exceptional – or brought other fun things to the player’s experience – then we’d see people stick to the class. We aren’t seeing that.

I do more work for less damage. I can’t keep up with other classes. All three specs have low damage output compared to other classes everywhere except for the top tier of raiding, and even at that level DPS isn’t stellar. It’s not bad, it’s just not overwhelmingly great.

I think a lot of this is because the rotations are unforgiving – if the Warlock player makes a single mistake, they’ll lose a substantial portion of their DPS. Players in the top raid tier are excellent players – they don’t make those small mistakes the majority of the playerbase makes. They time their refreshes to procs, they can juggle 13 debuffs across 3 mobs. That’s pretty damn impressive! But it means that if the class is balanced around those players, the small mistakes the majority of players make will add up. And if the class is competing against classes who can AoE or multidot with 2 buttons and no debuff tracking … well, then we have a real problem.

I think that Warlocks’ three viable raiding specs work against them here, too. Individual specs might be better or worse on a given fight, so really skilled Warlocks learn multiple specs and swap between them as needed for an advantage. That’s tough to do; not only are you now trying to excel at one challenging rotation, you have to pick up a second (or even a third) complex spec and master it, too. Then you have to gear differently for it, too, because that’s the way DPS specs work.

And it’s not like Warlocks have a simple spec anymore, either. In Wrath, Affliction was the king of complexity, with Demo a close second and Destro coming in as “the simple spec.” That’s no longer true in Cataclysm – all three specs are now about equally complicated, about on par with Affliction’s Golden Age of 3.0.8/3.1 (a time, coincidentally, where Affliction rewarded great skill with great output.) This is a big weakness when considering the appeal of a class – classes which have varied specs can appeal to a wider range of players than ones which do not. Warlocks, quite frankly, don’t have a simple spec anymore.

Consider what each spec has to deal with at level 85:

There isn’t much difference in complexity between the specs anymore. If you play a Warlock, you are going to have a complicated rotation at level 85, period. You get to choose your flavor of complexity (debuffs vs cooldowns vs nukes) but not if you want it complex or not.

Compare this to other casters (and forgive me if I get this wrong:)

There’s a real difference in complexity within the specs here – something that Warlocks lack. Arcane versus Fire is a very real playstyle difference, and I think that flexibility is a good thing for Mages.

I think we’re seeing Warlocks becoming the class for those who love complex caster rotations. This might not be popular, but it fills a necessary niche within WoW.

Niche classes aren’t something we talk about much in Warcraft. It doesn’t really fit in with the idea that you can roll whatever you like and enjoy the game about as well as with any other similar class. But the niche classes are there – Hunters, for example, are promoted on the character creation screen as “excellent for solo play,” and they are. Hunters are excellent for leveling and playing without a group. Rogues are great in PvP at pretty much all levels, even as their utility in PvE continues to shrink.

Niche isn’t bad. It’s hard to accept, because class is the one thing our WoW characters are locked into, and if we come to love a character but not that niche there can be dissonance and friction. Not every class is going to be niche, and some will genuinely be flexible enough to handle pretty much any role. (Druids, looking at you.)  There’s a strange dichotomy here in that Bring the Player forces classes who lack flexibility into niche roles at the same time it promotes the idea that classes shouldn’t have niches.

Isn’t that odd, when you step back and look at it? Why do you choose classes under Bring the Player? It’s not for the buffs, it’s not for the performance, it’s for the intangibles, the side benefits, the utility, the flavor. It’s for the mobility and simplicity of a Mage or complexity of a Warlock; the cool pets a Hunter gets to collect or the sneakiness of a Rogue. Flavor matters, but so does niche.

Warlocks are filling an interesting niche right now. They’re a support class, exceptionally good at small scale PvP, wonderful if you have a healer behind you and a burst DPS working alongside you. They’re a great support class for Arena and Rated Battlegrounds, but weak on their own. They need other players to thrive, which is odd considering their flavor as evil, somewhat solitary crazy spellcasters. In a way, Warlocks are the anti-Hunters: hard to level, require other players to be really effective, lack burst but bring steady pressure. Both classes received major resource system revamps in Cataclysm – yet one class is thriving and the other is not.

The only time niche classes are bad is when you discover that you’ve rolled a niche class, and want to do something that they’re not good at.

Or, worse, when your class’s niche switches on you without warning.


What happens when you have been playing a character for some time and you realize that they’re just not the right character for you?

Perhaps it’s part of the leveling process – you look up one day and go, I really don’t like playing a Rogue, why am I struggling to get to level 60? Hopefully that happens early enough that you can abandon the character and start over again. Different people will have different tolerances for this – I remember my first week of WoW, I’d rolled on a different server from some friends and they told me to reroll. I protested, but I’m level 12! They laughed at me and told me I could make that up easily.

They were right, but at the time it was a big deal.

Perhaps it’s an endgame character. Maybe it’s your first, so it’s hard to let go of the only way to experience endgame content. Or maybe it’s one of many, but it’s the one you spend all your time on. What happens when you realize one day that you’re not having fun with that class anymore?

I think this is a real problem for Blizzard. Players who get frustrated with their classes might reroll, but they also might quit the game entirely. Classes are the lens through which players experience the game, and a bad fit between class/player can put players off the game permanently. Correctly advertising a class before a player makes an investment becomes paramount to avoid those times of customer uncertainty.

Niche classes like Warlocks and Rogues present a business challenge to Blizzard. They help broaden the appeal of the game by presenting classes which are good at specific things or for specific playstyles. Even under Bring the Player these kinds of classes fill a distinct role. It’s okay for a class to be unpopular if it fills a niche.

But when a class is unpopular and shedding subscribers because of that unpopularity, that’s when it gets to be a problem for Blizzard. Can a class be allowed to continue like that during a period when subscriber churn is a very real problem?

Identification with a single character can be a boon – players are less likely to leave a game if they feel they have a personal investment in their avatar, and the more time they spend on one character, the more investment they have. But that identification can also be a problem when it ties players too much to a limited view of the entire game. It can also cause people to stay with a class they no longer enjoy, breeding resentment and anger which finally results in them quitting the game entirely.

Several of the changes announced for Mists seem aimed at making the transition between characters easier. Account-wide mounts and pets, for example, help assuage our collector instinct and free us to try a different class without worrying that today will be the day the Baron’s mount drops. Shared achievements serve the same purpose, freeing up players to move between characters.

I think we will see more changes like these coming from Blizzard as they try to address this problem. We will probably see more Scroll of Resurrection-style offers to lessen the impact of a single decision made at character creation 90 levels before.


Is unpopular bad?

I don’t know if many people picked up on this, but in the first two posts of this series I tried to avoid making any value judgements about the unpopularity of Warlocks. Their unpopularity was a fact, nothing more, nothing less.

But the responses to that fact show that it is a problem. There are a lot of unhappy Warlocks and ex-Warlocks out there. There are a lot of people who left the game because their class changed underneath them – and not just Warlocks.

It’s not that I think classes should be equally popular; that’s a bad goal to work towards. You don’t want to try to make popular classes less popular. Every time you put a player in a position where they consider changing their character, you have also put them in a position where they consider leaving the game. That’s not good.

Every class should be fun for somebody. I think that’s the guiding principle here – classes should be different enough so that they have the broadest possible appeal, but still be fun.

Warlocks got changed over the course of Cataclysm to become inelegantly complex, and the rewards for their complexity vanished. This is a topic which I’ll touch on in a lot more depth in a future post. But for a lot of their players, this caused Warlocks to become less fun, and therefore less popular. Warlock players had to struggle with a basic, fundamental question – do I still enjoy the complexity of the class enough to stick with it when it’s only average?

This is the challenge presented by the Bring the Player school of design – find a class you love playing, that you have fun playing, because a lot of external validation for that choice will be removed. There won’t be a Hybrid Tax or a Simplicity Tax to drive you to one class or another – so you have to figure out what you love.

If the complexity of the Warlock rotation floats your boat, stick with it. If not, it’s not the class for you anymore.

That’s a hard thing for someone like me to accept.

It’s hard for me, personally, to stand up and say: I don’t love this class anymore. I loved it once, but not what it has become, and that’s okay. It’s hard for me to watch it become unpopular, to see hundreds, thousands of other players reach the same conclusion as me.

It’s been really hard for me to set aside my main, to say that you’re not the character I loved playing before. I still like you as a character, but I haven’t liked playing a Warlock this expansion except in one place – Arena. It took me a long time to accept that my class had become a niche class, that the class design philosophy had left me behind.

I’ve talked solely about the philosophical shifts which caused problems for Warlocks in Cataclysm in this post. The deck was stacked against the class from the start, and even if all the changes had been executed flawlessly we’d still be looking at an unpopular class.

However, there were flaws – lots of them. Cataclysm changed the class from something which allowed us to enforce our will upon the game to something which left us, a class founded on control and domination, feeling powerless, at the mercy of others.

For our dots were easily expelled, and we had no mana drain.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, Warlock Complexity and the Magic Number, where I’ll go into more detail about the issues Warlocks experienced in Cataclysm, and how those items need to be fixed in Mists to reverse the class’s fortunes.



Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Warlockery

58 responses to “The Decline and Fall of Warlocks in Cataclysm

  1. Cathy Rock

    Thank you for writing about warlocks. It was comforting to find that I was not alone. I didn’t start playing until Cata but have been completely frustrated by my destro lock. I’ve read, tweaked, practiced, swore, cried, watched YouTube videos, and generally have made a pest of myself hunting down other locks and asking them questions. I haven’t abandoned her because I have so much time and effort invested, but I am exploring other classes simply because of the level of frustration I am experiencing with her. Slowly, she is turning into my gold maker because I am tired of hearing from other players that my dps is too low.

  2. I really hope Blizzard reads your blog, Cynwise. This is the sort of feedback they really need to hear: articulate, fact-based and well-reasoned.

  3. I played my lock during Shadow Bolt spam. I tanked Leotheris and Illidan. I played her through Naxx all the way until ICC. I reigned the meters in every raid.

    Yes, my class was complex. In Naxx we were tracking SIX dots and 2 debuffs, but we *knew* if we even got close, we would be sitting on the top of the pile. Our complexity lead to our success, thus the king of the mountain feeling was our reward. Our high mobility (due to dots ticking while we ran) gave us a slight edge over stand and nuke mages. Soul Swap was a godsend and made us more efficient and deadly.

    But even from the very beginning of Cata, I have been confused and appalled by the performance of Locks. In t12, I was specifically told by a raid leader to hush, I was there for lock rocks and soul stones, not because I was a “raider”. Later I was told the only reason I had a raid spot was because I *always* showed up. I did research. I tweaked my spec. I got a new dot timer. I even check my computer settings to see if I could cut down lag. I did everything I could to increase my dps. And yet in every raid, every time loot dropped, it was mentioned or hinted that any loot I won would be better on any one of our 3 mages or 3 shadow priests.

    This went on for *months*. Firelands led to our guild becoming 10 man, and once more, I was brought because I always showed up and I always knew the fights, not because I was a DPS. Other players switched their mains at this point and then I had the worst night ever.

    One of our member switched from his boomkin to a hunter. He brought his hunter, wearing 346 blues mostly, with a few 333 items. I was solidly 359+. I was perfectly gemed, reforged, and enchanted. I had all the best enchants too. Someone laughed after Shannox about the fact that the hunter had pulled ahead of me in dps. Sure enough, he had. Then the raid leader started yelling, because he inspected the hunter and discovered not a single piece of the hunter’s gear was gemmed and enchanted. Not a piece. Not even a green gem.

    I said nothing, knowing I was doing what Elitist Jerks had suggested. Knowing I was playing to the best of my ability. Knowing that I had spent months in the middle or middle bottom of the pack. Knowing I was holding my raid back because my class was broken. I had a mage alt. I had a priest alt. I could have switched. But Joyia is my main. My first raider. She has all the mounts, pets, achievements, and such I have collected. I have 7 85s, but she is the most important. She is first among toons.

    I went to bed that night *never* wanting to log in to WoW again. I felt like it was back in elementary school and I was being bullied because I had redhair again. (The “redhead step child” comments about the Warlock class certainly didn’t help.) I only showed up the next night to raid because I had signed the schedule and I hate people who don’t show up. That night went well, no one said a thing to me, but at the end, I told the RL I wasn’t going to raid anymore. My spot could go to someone who could pull the DPS needed. Someone who wasn’t a waste of gear. He told me no. He wanted me to stay and he would stop people commenting on it, since it bothered me and he understood it wasn’t my fault. He told me to delete Recount and he would see me on Tuesday.

    I have 7 lvl 85s and multiple other alts across 2 accounts. I have a Spectral Tiger and every pet offered from the TCG. I have been to two BlizzCons. My main account has been subbed since August 2005. And I almost walked away from the whole thing because of one night knowing I was doing my best and I couldn’t even begin to compete with people doing their worst.

    • I am so, so very sorry. You deserve better than what you’ve gotten from Blizzard this expansion. Stories like yours are why I’m doing this. It breaks my heart to pick up my warlock these days.

      • Paul

        Greg Street has a lot to answer for.

        • jayeshm

          Why would he need to singularly answer for anything? I doubt he is the only designer there? A balancing act in a complex game like WoW, is a collective decision among dozens of people. He is a small cog in a very large wheel comprising of hundreds of spokes. It’s the concept of collective responsibility.

          The warlock design was not taken by one designer. It’s the culmination of the planning, layout and many other factors not easily visible, to the common person. While it’s easy to shoot the messenger let’s remember there is more factors of load balancing, game tweaks, design and other things to be factored in.

          Trivializing the complexity of design, by blaming one person is just at best an act of Catharsis. It ultimately adds nothing to addressing the larger issues at hand, which Cyn has already detailed.

        • Paul

          Greg Street is not the only designer there, but he IS the person personally in charge of class design.

          This is his fault.

      • I originally rolled my lock years ago towards the end of Vanilla because a friend told me that it was the class for me. I was told that a warlock was a spellcaster that sold its soul for power, that it “felt” evil and that it “felt” powerful. Well seeing as I sold my soul for mediocre results for an exceptional amount of work when the classes that had made no sacrifice had proven that they needed to make none and that evidently I had chosen foolishly to walk the path of darkness.

        It would be one thing if despite my efforts I still felt terrifying, despite the reality of it all, but instead I feel like the picked on goth kid that only gets left alone out of pity. My wrath feels more like teenage angst made fun of for being childish.

    • Frat

      Well said.
      I rolled a lock with only enough spare time to do that.
      My guild wonder why i dont talk a lot and its because othe experiences you describe. Frankly I raided twice and was fully gemmed, enchanted etc but both times got a bollocking. As a lock I have to do too many things at once something no one seems to appreciate. I dont want it to be too easy but at least achievable for a casual gamer like myself.

      If I has the time I would have rolled something else but that is too hard. I am resigned to never seeing raiding content.

    • Nick

      Cyn, you’ve hit the fucking nail right on the bloody head. This is an incredibly well articulated and wonderfully well thought out series. I only hope that the take away from this is not that locks are qq’ing but a realization that the evidence points to a systemic problem plaguing the class relative to other options. An anecdotal story (sample size n=1):

      For quite some time I’ve laughed off that my performance in raids was due to a lack of gear. I was pretty damn good but rarely would i beat our resident rogue (stage 2 daggers) or ret pally (397 gurth) both with similar gear to me in other slots (i had a lightning rod). 2 weeks ago I completed my dragonwrath, and I got the last 2 pieces to put my lock in EJ’s BiS gear for affliction/ and demo (reforged for haste for afflic).

      I went into my raid the first week, post staff, thinking I had achieved parity only to be beaten by a mage who was subbing in (mage was roughly 394 ilevel with the 403 Ti’tahk). The worst part about it was looking at my parses and realizing that with nearly 95 to 98% up time, managing my multi dotting etc I was struggling to keep up. Now I felt bad, but I also know that the folks in my raid are a bloody competent group of individuals.

      Angry at myself I thought I needed to just go demo full time. I spent 6 hours reforging, playing demo and comparing my parses and rotation to locks who were hitting world records. I memorized the fights in terms of knowing when to save my meta cool downs, and got my rotation / pet swapping down cold by testing for 6 bloody hours in LFR raids. Went into DS the next week. I did better, but I still got beat.

      To be fair on a few fights, heroic blackthorn and yor’sahj I did really fucking well and I was topping the meters. However, my play was bloody impeccable and if it wasn’t – it was easy to tell.

      My mage hit 85 last tuesday, I was geared in full 378 gear, 2 384 tier pieces and the BoE Boots Bracers by thursday. I found I was pulling about 10-20% less damage than my lock in affliction with dragon wrath. Granted normal DS is not heroic, added movement/ complexity may impinge up those numbers, but I was shocked at how much easier the fire mage is. The feeling left me pissed off that I had acquired my legendary on my lock and I’m seriously considering leaving my lock for anything but pvp till mists.

      Wrath was hard, but as you’ve noted above there was a reward for your time and effort. I’m going to say it again I don’t think we should be satisfied with our status as a middle of the road dps given the complexity of our class. If this is how our class remains in mists, it’ll be the first time since vanilla that my lock will no longer be my main.

      • Carnosis

        This is all to fammiliar, as a lock we have to spend ours on dummies to get rotations right, balancing stats etc. just to keep up with a mage that just rolled out of HC’s and joined the raid….
        I was 1 step away from deleting my account when i whent on the quest for the legendary, and find that the last bit in nexus is bugged so the felhunter dosent remove the buff, and when i adressed the problem to Blizz they basically said to bad, we dont care, guess that says how blizz really feel about locks

    • Teru

      Thank you, emberdione. A true and heartfelt ‘thank you.’
      If I wasn’t at work, I’m certain I would break down and cry over your post.

      This is the feeling I struggle with every raid night – that I’m doing the best I can, the absolute best – and getting next to nothing for it.

      I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but it is the absolute worse feeling in existence to know that you’re holding your raid – your friends – back.

      Warlock is my main character. I hate my main character.

    • Richard K

      I level’d a warlock again this xpac (Cata) with the nostalgia of TBC. I farmed and I farmed for days to make sure I had everything perfect and could buy as many epics to get geared for Firelands. I app’d to all the top guilds on my server and actually got in one(mostly riding on my record of top tier raiding throughout my wow career) but non the less I got in.

      I get brought into heroic firelands, ok no problem this is what I do I can handle this. 12.5k dps on heroic shannox…really? ok I was nervous getting iceblocked the first night in raid with a new guild capable of top 25 US kills is not the message I want to set. But 12.5k is not the message I want to set either. Little fast forward action I bounced between 12k and 17k but so did the other lock that was new.

      Both of us getting removed about 4 fights in killed both of our egos big time. I didn’t log back in for 3 weeks and according to the email I got from the GM neither did the other lock.

      The e-mail basically was a attempt to try and mend our broken egos and get us back in to raid again. The GM knew we didn’t have a full set of tier or even much reg FL gear so he asked us to pick our selves up and show up to raid. I decided to pick my broken ego out of the garbage, few drops of glue and went back in to try again.

      Heroic Rag!!!!!!! pre nerf I get dropped into this fight haven’t even killed reg rag at this point but again its what I do. I couldn’t even get above 15k dps that was pretty much the end of that. They gave me a nice tier helm after a few wipes when they converted back to reg and kicked me when I went off line after raid. Any other class I would have hung in there and atleast did 20-22k to atleast show then I have potential. I was always the last to die but that didn’t matter.

      I couldn’t pump out the dps on shannox, alysrazor and totally failed to pull anything even decent for my gear level on Rag.

      I guess what I am really trying to say is I researched and spent hours and hours on the dummies perfecting my spell priorities and timers.
      But the fact I was just lacking a bit of gear was enough to destroy my dps.

      I have not raided since then on any character and have shut down all of my accounts.

    • 100% commitment, effort and determination to be the best player you can be, only to be shocked every time someone posts Skada/Recount.

      Unfortunately, nothing in what I’ve seen to date regarding warlock development for Mists of Pandaria indicates that it’s going to get any better. I’m looking for a new main (warrior main at the moment) and have a warlock at 85. It won’t be him.

      The worst feeling in WoW is when a raid leader asks why your damage is so low, and you honestly don’t know what you can change.

  4. My main has been a warlock since vanilla, and she is now retired. I nearly left the game at the end of Wrath because of the multitude of class changes and the deterioration of my dps.

    I watched my damage spiral downward with every patch and decided leveling alts was a lot more fun.

    So now I play alts, and I have another warlock as well, but she is pretty fail at playing with others. If I go in a group, I will take my spriest or my druid or my mage, but the warlock quests alone. And when she reaches 85, or 90, no doubt she will also retire.

    Unless Blizz changes the direction of the spiral.

    Thanks Cyn, for this awesome series.

  5. dangdangfool

    There are general guidelines and then there are priorities between guidelines. It is possible for Blizzard to decide there can and should be more exceptions where niche considerations exceed “Bring the Player, Not the Class”, right?

    • Dejara Thoris

      In theory, I imagine they could have exceptions. From the outside, looking in, their current general philosophy seems to be that role output is to be levelled (at all costs) and all the differentiation is in utility or playstyle (though they appear a bit schizophrenic about utility). The extrinsic rewards for playing well are generally gear and achievements and the ability to play deeper into the content (the pinball reward). To see all the content or do really well you have to have a guild or team and tie yourself to other people (which should increase retention).

      The MoP system is designed to implement this philosophy far better than the old system. Most role output functions are baked into the class and spec with the talents and glyphs mostly only offering minor variations on a theme. In some ways this is the “make ghostcrawler’s job easier” system at the expense of some of what made the old approach fun.

      Say what you will about problems with the old talents approach (like shadow destruction) it had the virtue of supporting very diverse playstyles. They seemed to give up on that when they decided that the DK trees were to be specialized instead of being able to do anything a DK could do in any tree.

  6. Albatross

    Nicely presented, Cyn. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    One thing about popularity though. You tried to give the facts in the first two posts but talking in terms of “popularity” can’t be neutral from the start. Unpopular=bad is an equation many of us learn in elementary school. You don’t have to say it for people to think it so I’m not surprised that you got all kinds of responses echoing the idea that it is a problem.

    I don’t know if you’re including it in a later post, but I’d be interested to hear what you make of the design issue where the first experience of a warlock differs a lot from the endgame experience. All classes start with one attack and get more complex from there. Pointing to your complexity chart above, arcane mages go from 1-9 while warlocks go from 1-16+. If you’re not expecting that complexity, I can see that being a reason for people to stop leveling.

    • Setting player expectations up front with class choice is pretty key. There are other issues, of course, like what happens when the class changes radically from expansion to expansion, and knowing what the core of the class really is, but anything up front would help.

  7. Jacob

    One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is levelling with friends. My wife and I play together, and one of our pairs of characters is a warlock (hers) and a hunter (mine). These toons are currently around level 20, and they are not our first pair of levelling toons. We have a 2 druid set, and a mage (her) and pally (me), which we have taken up to almost max level together.

    She has commented that she basically feels like a “loot collector” when questing with me on her warlock. This feeling derives from the fact that the warlock damage is so slow at low levels. My hunter can typically burst things down almost before she gets a spell off, as the only instant or even short cast spell at that level is corruption, which will not normally even tick (or at most 1x) on quest mobs before my hunter can kill them.

    Now, one of the 2 characters I have at 85 is a warlock, so I know that they can be fun. However, I can see where frustration can build here. And, it really won’t be much better in dungeons as mobs just do not live long with all the burst damage dealers (warriors, hunters etc…) running around.

    In fact, the problem is actually made much worse with all the BoA gear running around out there (admittedly, I use it too, so its not really a complaint). However warlock performance in groups gets better as mobs live longer, and BoAs contribute to mobs dying very, very quickly. So in a sense the over-itemization of low level toons is really a negative for locks (as opposed to the burst classes).

    • Eve

      When duoing with my hunter sister, I always take the destro spec. It’s QUITE bursty, even at level 10, and your wife might find she’s contributing a lot more to mob killing than she is now. In fact, if she can’t take out 1/2 of a mob’s health in 2 seconds, she’s doing it wrong (or you need higher level mobs!). 🙂

  8. Pai

    “It’s hard for me, personally, to stand up and say: I don’t love this class anymore. I loved it once, but not what it has become, and that’s okay. It’s hard for me to watch it become unpopular, to see hundreds, thousands of other players reach the same conclusion as me.”

    I think that feeling of ‘the game changed under me and I just can’t get into this new status quo’ holds true for a lot more than just classes. This is what eventually lead me to quit WoW after WoTLK. Things had changed too much, into something that for multiple reasons I didn’t want to have to adapt to because it wasn’t something I liked as much.

    I don’t know if this is a fate of all old MMOs over time, or if Blizzard just can’t stop constantly remaking basic class mechanics to the point where it’s becoming detrimental.

  9. Im new to the field. I only dabbled with a warlock in BC (couldnt of been much past 40’s) and at 80 I stopped playing my lock in order to heal. Im the Altaholic though so I dabbled with and thought about restarting her but I just couldnt get into it so I ended up making my lock my 14th level 85. I have a chance to raid now on her and I really feel like I struggle to be average at best. I ran my Shadow Priest through some LFG to relieve frustration one night and I was incredibly sad I could pull as good of DPS as my lock in weaker gear. I love pet classes and the flavor of the Lock bu the feel when I play isnt of a quick to power spellcaster its slow and laborious to build up to a pet swap burst and then fall down into the valley to try and work my way up to decent dps again.

  10. jayeshm

    My warlock story is similar to so many other locks, that have already posted here. Having lived through the ‘portable summoning’ stone era, where you need to carry extra soulshards to summon people and could not raid affliction due to the then ‘dot limit on bosses’, through the infamous SM/Ruin days in PVP/PVE ( that cultivated in the classic 0/21/40 spec in BC) and everything else in between.

    I pinpoint the beginning of the loss of the classes success, starting from the ‘pruning of affliction’ that started just going into Ulduar. After that every patch Warlocks were either losing an iconic spell or getting more complexity/restraints added in. Destro saw a glorious resurgence for a brief period… until it too got bogged down. Cata’s woes are already documented. Despite it all, i stuck with the class kept leveling countless warlock alts and in a singular flash of inspiration that perhaps only Cyn would remember, got a warlock from 1-80 and into Heroic ICC in under 2.5 weeks. This around the time, the ICC buff was around 5-10 percent and my guild 3 bosses in.

    However once Cata rolled around, i felt like the earth underneath me had shifted. Not only had warlocks gotten needlessly complex, the once smooth leveling experience the class was famous for, had been turned into one big chore. Demonology provided me a brief flash of fun… but just briefly. In the end i ended up finally switching my mains, to a mage and then leaving the game, when i totally could not connect to the game anymore.

    Ever since Blizzard announced the warlock refresh, i have been on cloud 9 and bouncing around like a kid in a candy store. Imaging scenarios, recreating RP elements of my various toons in my head and planning all sorts of leveling craziness with the class. However in doing so, it hit me.. what if the reboot while being great, may not bring back the excitement, that the class has held for me in the past. What if i am getting my hopes up for nothing. It utterly bled the joy out of me earlier today.

    It lead me to the sobering realization that perhaps, its time to move on from this class. Sure it will remain a favored alt but it’s time to accept and move onto either becoming a druid or a mage. Both classes are relatively safe, offer great utility and are now what i look for in the fun factor. Shadow priests offer me a good fun alternative to my dot need.

    I thank Cyn for his great and tremendous work for the community. He has gone above and beyond and given seasoned, reasonable and frankly amazing and calm feedback. The kind Blizzard values. Hope they are able to use this feedback to good effort.

    For me.. it’s time to just move on. Despite having said this a 100 times before, this time i can feel it resonating with me. I can’t live through another period of ‘Warlock disappointment’. My nerves and my patience has been worn away, like the rocky shores near the sea.

  11. Dejara Thoris

    I’ve started a new thread on the Blizz warlock forums for this post:

  12. Wulfstan

    Loving your series here.

    Would like to hear more on your thoughts on “elegant” or “fun” complexity.

    For me, too much of the Lock complexity is clunky or not beneficial. e.g. a Chaos Bolt nuke that does barely more DPS than the filler. A clunky buff like Improved Soul Fire. The pain that is pet-twisting. Being in melee range for Shadowflame. Even things like Haunt and Shadow Embrace feel like penalties for errors rather than rewards for sucess.

    I’ve played a Lock since Vanilla, and it is my spiritual main, even if I’ve raided mostly as a Pally Tank. But now I’ve stopped playing my Lock: no LFD, LFR, Firelands dailies. Now I no longer look forward to alt runs.

    When I think back, there were several areas that felt like “fun” complexity:

    Difficult leveling: Vanilla leveling had some really tough quests. The use of fear dotting, planned deaths/rezes with Soulstone, imaginative uses of pets. These made me feel “clever” as a Lock, and rewarded forward planning when faced with a tough challenge.

    Difficult dungeons: I had my most fun in tough dungeons: BC HCs and early Cata HCs. These rewarded clever use of CC, smart use of debuffs, and things lived long enough to reward multi-dotting. e.g. on Delrissa, cc-ing 2 mobs, while applying CoT to her heals, having a Demon enslaved, and using Death Coil to save the healer, despite doing almost zero DPS personally. I understand the reason for nerfing 5-mans for casual LFD, but Locks feel weak and boring when everything is AOEed and burnt down.

    Strategic / smart use of skills: I liked the ability to plan in advance the use of wide ranges of debuffs, special skills, and pet abilities to help a raid. With class homogenization this has been lost. Also, how many more times can Soul Swap be nerfed – that was the one really cool feature of Cata. NEW: Soul Swap – can be used once per expansion.

    Playing my Lock use to make me feel clever, even if that was shown in clutch situations, rather than sustained DPS. Now my Lock feels bland and clunky. Complexity now is just pressing more buttons in a DPS rotation.

    I’m hoping this series and MoP can bring back the love to my spiritual main.

  13. Awesome post. Realty liked this one a lot as I am currently leveling a affliction lock just hit 82

  14. elkagorasa

    Thanks Cyn, loving the series. Putting the “Manual” in CWM to good use. 😀

    Now, I hadn’t really thought about the decline of locks that much until recently. I love playing my lock and have tried to adjust to what my guild needed for the raiding (even swapped to Demo to kill off adds faster in Magmaw).. Of course, they sort of all dropped off the face of the earth when 4.3 dropped so I haven’t seen anything since the first 3. Sure, my DPS only really peeks when I have the right pet, doomguard AND proc a few of the fiery imps (T12 gear, etc). When the fight is over, I have a little zoo hopping around with me.

    Lately, I have been favoring healing, but personally, that’s because I hate sitting in Orgrimmar, waiting 20-30 minutes for LFR or Heroics DPS queues. Of course, healing has a completely different set of demands, and I hadn’t felt such a rush as keeping a group of people alive when they’re all standing in the fire.

  15. dakotarick

    Just wanted to thank you for your efforts in putting this series together. It is some great reading.

    Although my Warlock playing has had it’s ups and downs during Cata, when someone asks me what class I play the answer is always Warlock. Game mechanics and leveling experience aside there is something about a Warlock that just fits.

    Thanks again.

  16. Goronwy

    As already mentioned, great post. I actually like the fact that the warlock is unpopular and complicated. I see it as more of a challenge and unique (aka niche). I also really like the lore behind a warlock. Where others see fear, warlock see opportunity. I think being a warlock, when most people aren’t warlocks, is exactly why you should be a warlock 🙂 if that makes any sense! I’m also the least popular race in wow, a Dwarf. But that’s mainly because I can relate to them the most, i.e., I like to eat, drink and sleep a lot.

  17. Paul

    I have a choice of leveling two 80ish alts right now, a warlock and a mage.

    I’m leveling the mage. Arcane spec is just so simple.

  18. twohorizonsart

    Thank you so much for writing all of this out. Thank you for putting into words how frustrating it’s been.I love my warlock, and I work very hard on her gear, but so in many raids I feel like I can’t keep up with the other DPS. I am hoping for so much more in MoP.

  19. Cyn,

    Great discussion on warlocks and I should always remember to read your blogs when I first get up in the AM and not just before I log for the night. Now, I’ve lost another hour of sleep 😛 But it was well worth it.

    My ‘lock will always be my favorite but alas, due to several reasons I can now usually be found on my healer when it comes to clearing content. *Sighs* Don’t get me wrong I still play my lock quite a bit but just to the extent I have in the past.

    Reading over your article it’s easy to see why people have left their locks. Affliction lost the coolness of it’s smooth casting rhythm and drain tanking. Destro feels clunky like an uncoordinated “Wack-A-Mole” as compared to a being a calculated burst build-up with a bang. Demo feels like they just had no idea what to do with it for this expansion IMHO other than to just make it look and feel different than Afflic and Destro.

    One of the signature things I find missing with the playstyles of all three warlock specs was you could always count on a slow start to some degree but like a good symphony there was always a strong buildup of power and then a grand, flourishing end. Now, for any of the three specs I feel like it’s just consistent “Meh”.

    However, despite the current state of warlocks I am excited following the news of what’s in store for us in MoP. OMG the new demons look great and some of the talents, spell changes and glyphs are giving me hope that things have a chance to turn around.

    Cyn, like a good PvP warlock you are keeping up constant pressure for our team, this time it’s on Blizzard. Keep it up!

    My Best…

  20. Forgive the following wall of text, i’m sleepy and probably will ramble:

    This is an interesting series and one I rather take to heart. I have played an affliction warlock since July 2009. I love this character, I loved lvl’ing her, raiding with her, etc. However, I rarely log on anymore and when I am do log in, I am continually frustrated with my warlock’s performance. I do my rotation correctly, am moderately geared (since I haven’t been playing as much, my gear isn’t uber high) Where in pugs I used to be in the top 5 people in a 25 man…I am now 12-16. This has frustrated me immensely.

    I also have a lvl 85 Resto Shaman (lvl’d enhance/resto), and a lvl 85 Pally that I despise playing.

    I quit WOW mostly..i log in occasionally, but its few and far between. However, when I do log on, I am on my affliction warlock. I will not abandon my class or my spec. I refuse even when people were yelling at me to change to destro at one point. I play this character because it’s a fun thing to do…however…I am not happy.

    I stopped playing WOW mostly due to the fact that I hate the dungeons and the raids. They aren’t fun to run through and as a toon that does need to dot, I can’t get my dots out before everything dies from other people’s damage.

    I also feel like my affliction rotation has become “clunky” and ineffective. It isn’t fun anymore. I want my felpuppy to eat harmful spells automatically again. I want my life drain filler back, my crits don’t feel “right” compared to other characters crits, and I don’t like the spell (name is leaving me atm) that increases my damage for a few moments. It’s out of place and doesn’t feel….right.

    I’m not much of a pvp’er, but when I do, I hate casting my full rotation on another player to find that they can heal right out of it or just take it. It depresses me.

    I’m waiting on the beta invite to see how the warlock feels and from there I will judge if i decide to just bail.

    I don’t want to play this game if I don’t like playing my main. I will not change my main to another just because the developers heads are up their asses.

    Warlocks are DPS’ers and SHOULD be given more dps ability on the basis of their rotation. The “bring the player” style is typical of today’s society’s beliefs of “everyone should have the ability to be great, no matter their choices, it doesn’t matter if they lost an arm to drinking too much, or dropped out of school in 7th grade, or lost a leg to chlamydia..they should still get to have all the choices”

  21. Ben

    In Cataclysm, my warlock was not a warlock, but an enchanter.
    The main reason for leveling her was to get to the enchanting recipies initially only available in that orc level 84/85 area.
    And I hardly played her at all once firelands came out, other than as an enchanter and auctioneer.

  22. GDI cyn, why did I say I’d wait for your posts before I started? x_x this could take a while.

    But to get started, I think you hit the nail on the head with “inelegant complexity”. Inelegant. I think that describes it brilliantly.

  23. gameldar

    The complex versus simple rotation and the rewards is really interesting. I can’t speak from a warlock perspective but from a boomkin one – which incidentally doesn’t really show up on your charts (apart from missing a buff, Nature’s grace, in the count) but that is largely because the eclipse mechanic. I enjoyed the complexity of it, but even if I ended a (single target) fight doing the best I’ve ever done my dps was not giving me rewarding values. I really like the frivolity of being a lazer chicken, but particularly since it was my offspec the frustrations from that lead me to drop it. I started another druid with the idea that I have that as my caster druid – but I came back to play it and after doing just one instances remembered the frustrations I found – and so that was the character I deleted when I needed to make some space for my mage (not arcane!!)

    The difference being I could just switch to another spec that was completely different and play. However I did have to choose to go to a melee spec. There were other influences to the change (i.e. I needed the spec for pvp). I’m actually glad I switched because I really enjoy feral dps – it has a good amount of complexity. It has its dps problems too (largely fight dependent) but it is the play style (of being an energy based dot class) really does suit – and as blizzard themselves have said energy as a resource is a lot more forgiving.

    But in general I really like the move to make those things that are individual to the character account wide. I know I’ve played my paladin more than I would have this expansion for that reason.

    Great post again – I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

  24. I am currently leveling an Affliction lock, and am surprised to be loving it. (surprised because my least favorite specs are shadow and balance which are super dotty) I rolled it because the only other classes I didn’t have 85s in were druid and paladin, and I knew I didn’t like them.

    At level 57 this is the longest I have leveled one class/spec in a row EVER, but I can see where disatifaction can crop up:

    1. DoT scrolling battle damage is defaulted to off. (this is a change from Wrath, and something I didn’t immediately notice. I felt so underpowered and couldn’t put my finger on it until I health funneled. when there were no pretty green numbers I tracked down the options screen and saw that DoT damage was off as well as healing. I ticked it on and suddenly felt like I was actually doing something. The big yellow numbers are more buoyant than people can imagine, and it’s a mystery why anyone would have them default to off)

    2. Talents are Awkward. (in Affliction 5 talents out of 37 modify only spells you won’t have access to for up to 30 more levels after the talent becomes available. and there aren’t really other options than to spend talent points on things you can’t use)

    there are more, but my shift’s ending so I have to log off soon.
    anyway, I really like these articles so far, and hope to continue to read the even while bringing little caimito through Outlands

  25. keldion

    Great work, Cyn. You have flawlessly articulated my gut feelings about warlocks in Cataclysm.

  26. Evanthia

    Cyn, thank you. Just… thank you. I started raiding as a lock in TOC, and I enjoyed the fact that when I put my all into my character, I could see the results on the dps meter. I’ve always enjoyed spending time theorycrafting and improving my performance.

    With Cata, the reward part of the equation is just not there anymore. I did fine in my raid group in the beginning, but I’ve gotten more and more demoralized as I’ve seen my spot on the meter fall consistently lower and lower until I’m now generally at the bottom. It’s not even just the dps loss, it’s the clunkiness of playing that makes it frustrating and not fun. I’ve been feeling helpless because I just don’t know what to do to fix it anymore. Pre Cata, I felt like my fate was in my own hands – if I put in that extra effort, I could effect a change. I was an empowered player. Now, there’s seemingly nothing I can do.

    I’m teetering on the brink of abandoning my well-loved main for a different raiding character (my SV hunter has gear that is about 15 ilevels below my lock, and does equivalent damage with less work and more fun). I’m desperately hoping that Mists brings about some changes that make playing fun again.

    But again, thank you so much for writing this series. It makes me think that maybe I’m not going crazy, and that I’m not as alone as I thought I was.

  27. Shirrin

    Greetings from an ex-lock, and thank you. This post has brilliantly articulated what I have been feeling for some time, but was unable to pin down in my thoughts.

    I have played a lock as my main since tbc, but finally retired her after one terrible heroic 5-man dungeon lfg run in early cata after a humiliating performance showing sub-par dps despite religiously reading elitist-jerks and pulling every trick I knew. I have not touched my lock since.

    Some hurts just don’t heal.

  28. Kyrellion

    Love the series, great work. I think you have hit the nail on the head with “inelegant complexity”. The issue is, it is a lot (A LOT) or work to get your DPS tuned on a ‘lock (my main is an Afflic ‘lock, since before BC).

    I USED to get a reward for all that effort – top, or near the top of the DPS charts.

    Now, I’m middle of the pack, and people notice, and complain.

    In less gear, I can top my ‘lock on my mage, by spamming Arcance Blast. No timing, no need to keep up DOTs, no fear of clipping, just “2 2 2 2 2”.

    Disappointing… I guess no one on the Dev team plays a ‘lock.

  29. Eve

    The most fun I’ve ever had leveling a class was my first Affliction lock in Wrath. In those days, (before Affliction’s self-heals were nerfed so severely) you could just flit around dotting up everything while getting incredible self-heals, and never stop or even slow down until you wanted to loot. It was insane, glorious fun, running in ever-widening circles, tossing two or three dots on each mob before grabbing the next one, and the next one, giggling like mad while they chased after you in packs. You felt downright wicked, drunk with evil power, in league with terrible forces of destruction. In short, everything a warlock should feel!

    I was crushed when the nerf to Affliction came down, when our self-heals became pretty much feasible for restoring life tap only, and our run-while-dotting niche was exchanged for longer cast times. I tell my husband now my Affliction spec is the spec that requires me to stand in place the *most*, and while baffling and frustrating, it’s mostly true. Personally, I blame the changes to Affliction for a lot of the warlock’s downfall in Cataclysm.

    Destruction *has* gotten more complicated, but at least while leveling (let’s face it, this is where most people drop their warlocks) it’s quite simple still, and wonderfully bursty. Cataclysm made the Destructions spec viable at a lower level (10, even) than it’s ever been before. And even at max level, you can maintain respectable DPS while using only 6 or 7 of those 18 abilities.

    I’m not going to quit my warlocks (all 6 of them), because it’s are still the class I love to play the most. But I agree 100% that we would see a resurgence of our old popularity if made the class a little simpler, or improved our DPS, or just reversed some of those terrible Affliction changes.

  30. The main gyst of it from a more casual perspective.

    I started casual, I became a hardcore raider in late bc and through to tier 12, and have now become casual again.

    my main was a warlock because I enjoyed the symmetry and devious nature of draining your foes of life force to sustain yourself.

    This was “the defining facet” of the class, in the same way ranged physical attacks are the defining facet of a hunter.

    GC declared war on drain tanking, and has utterly destroyed it, despite the fact that even in the s2 and s3 days when warlocks were “overpowered”, they would still die fast to any melee train.

    Tell me how many hunters would still remain a hunter if they suddenly removed all ranged attacks because “instant crits for x at 40 yards are just not fair”.

  31. Very well written and well reasoned post – it explains my decision to park my warlock in Org and make it a bank/professions character a couple months into Cataclysm a lot better than I could have.

    My main was a feral cat druid back in the John Madden days, and I never minded the complexity of the “rotation” because I knew if I did it well I’d be rewarded by sitting a lot higher on the charts than other classes that did have that complexity. With my ‘lock I was working just as hard and sitting at the bottom with the subtlety rogue. That was one reason (admittedly one of many) that I quit in February 2011 and didn’t come back until my son Resurrection Scrolled me. Not sure that I’ll stay, but I’d be a lot more likely to if my oldest character becomes fun again.

  32. Nivrax

    Excellent series.

    Adding my thoughts – I think Warlocks specs currently lack solid direction. It is true that all of our spec do similar damage, and all can be used in high end raiding. However, none of them excel at the role they suppose to fill.

    Destruction is supposed to be burst spec. It is only “bursty” compared to other Warlock spec. Any other dps class in game can provide better.

    Demo is supposed to be aoe spec. That works only if you line your cds perfectly, and even then can lose to many specs (*cough* mages *cough*).

    Affliction is supposed to be multidot spec. SPriests and Boomkins blow it out of water (both by damage and execution difficulty), and if mobs are withing cleave distance, you can’t compete with fire mage/combat rogue.

    Literally none of our specialization make us best at any dps niche. They only move us from “terrible” to “acceptable” status.

    It is even more infuriating, that each of our supposed spec-roles is outdone by a single Shadow Priest (and Boomkin to certain degree), They multi dot better, aoe better, and burst better (hi there 160k Mind Blast), all in single spec. To top that, they have access to Dispersion, Leaps, 2 Hymns and provide raid-wide healing.

    What Warlocks bring to table? Cupcakes, DI and Battle Rez. And with lack of healing scaling, only Soul Stone is worth mentioning. DI causing more trouble than it’s worth was mentioned already (I think?).

    And then Priest go Disc/Holy when fights require more healers. Why bring Warlock when you can take Priest?

    Warlocks speccing specifically to take advantage of fight mechanics don’t make them better, it barely allow them to stay in the middle.

    We don’t only not get ‘bonus’ from having complicated rotations. We aren’t rewarded for mastering multiple spec, we only avoid severe punishment for unfavorable mechanics.

  33. I’ve enjoyed your Cataclysm retrospective on warlocks and look forward to the future installments, but I was wondering if (unless I had already missed mention of it) you had considered warlock races as a reason for their lack of popularity, particularly with people who are new to WoW.

    Dwarves, gnomes, orcs, and trolls are the least popular races in WoW (according to sites like – all of them are warlock races. Of course, warlocks can also be the two most popular races – humans and blood elves, but I wonder if race might be a factor, anyway. Most warlocks I encounter Alliance-side are gnomes or worgen, the former being the least popular Alliance race … part of me thinks warlocks would be a more appealing class if they could be night elves, draenei, or – most importantly – pandas. Whether or not the class mechanics could continue from the appeal of the race is another story, though.

  34. Pingback: Warlock Complexity and the Magic Number « Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

  35. Khreas

    I’m joining in on the people glad to see this article. I LOVED my lock, I levelled 2 of them. Both were raiding mains. I was around in vanilla, tbc, cata, etc. but the lack of joy in my class from the highs of tbc to now killed the game for me. I am a solid mid-level raider. I gem, enchant, use target dummies, I watch my rotation, I go to forums seeking help. In short, I work my fanny off, and to be mid to bottom on the meters is just awful. Warlocks are penalized SO harshly for errors in rotation or letting dots fall off, but we receive very little on the meters for being perfect. Perfection is middle to high on the meters. I don’t mind difficulty, at all. But I hated how many “fun” things were taken away (soloing group quests with enslave demon for one) and nothing was given back. I got tired of massive amounts of time put in, only to be outdone on meters by the kid hitting a bong on vent who doesn’t even know what elitist jerks IS. I miss having fun in game, and I miss my lock. But when the game wasn’t fun and my only option was the time sink to level, gear, chant, and learn rotations for a new class? I quit.

  36. Frinkles

    This is such a beautiful article 🙂 Thanks, I am was a Warlock (It was the first class that I really enjoyed back in BC and I have remained a Lock up to december last year) You hit right on the spot,

    I quitted WoW, because quite honestly part the beauty of DPSing in this game is competing with other players getting that Top damage recount. As a Destro Lock (I have been a destro lock since BC, I WAS A FIRE DESTRO so no spamming here!) I found myself doing ALOT and I mean a seriously complex rotation that didn’t award me any special place in recount while my arcane mage buddy consistently hit top DPS. I am ok, with complexity if the added work is actually rewarded but it wasn’t!

    I rolled a mage and started been consistently Top dps everywhere I went. I tried Fire spec to see if I could relive my destro lock in new shoes, and I couldn’t. I quitted at that point..

    Anyways I might be coming back to check everything out with MoP, the changes to lock got me both scared and ansious 🙂

  37. The “no more fun aspect” of a class let me change from shaman to warlock in wotlk. I played my warlock in classic a bit, in bc and started loving it in wotlk. As I had to decide (I have too many alts on max level) which chars will make it to cataclysm my first thoughts were mage, rogue and priest – but I changed my mind with the cataclysm beta and first char on 85 was my lock, 2nd on my resto druid and finally my dk…
    No fun at all. And I still say: Warlock is not funny on battle grounds, not even in rated bg, when your “niche” is putting ua on targets and getting fears out (I had to play shaman as a healer because we already had a lock for rbg – who didn’t have any other chars). I never was someone who liked arena. But with no more open pvp in cataclysm (we had much fun in ironforge in wotlk) and even worst random bg I stopped playing in nov 2011.

    It was fun while it lasted.

  38. Tobekk

    Great read and I as many others that have replied here hope blizzard sees this. I started playing wow a few weeks after it came out, and after reading what the classes was about in the logging screen I chose lock for the fact that it felt like it would be a fun class to play with new demons to controll and help.

    I had some fun in vanilla, lock where totaly broken in the begining but they came along and where great fun to play in both raids and pvp at the end of vanilla.

    We had our glory days in BC with sl/sl specc in pvp wich for me was acctualy a challenge to play having been destro from day one.

    I have always liked my lock, some of the challenges with keeping high dps have been fun, but i droped my lock so fast in Cata after seeing thew amount of rotations needed to even be able to medium dps, in fact 1 miss and dps was so low it was a joke.

    I left wow for a while due to it, feeling “MY” class had become to complicated to play, especially since I’m a noob clicker and are not to good with keybindings. I even gave away my account to my little brother.

    I’m back in wow now, as rogue and Spriest and they rewards me so much more in both pve and pvp for a hell of a lot less effort.

    I have acctually lvl’ed up a lock to 85, but thats about it, Did it in hope that mist of pandaria might bring some changes that will make my lock fun and interesting to play again, and i do hope it will. I feel a special love for the class, I just can’t be asked to have this insanely complicated rotations to keep track of to do any decent dps.

  39. Another1

    first of all I want to say that your articles are really good, you should try to send them to Blizzard (which you probably already have 🙂 ).
    I’m 21 and started WoW with a friend only 2 months ago out of interest and boredom I guess 😀
    When I made my first Char I straight went for Warlock as it seemed to be the class playing would make the most fun about (I think you all know what I’m talking about).
    So, about 3 weeks ago I finally got 85 and during the first Cata HC instances was the first time I started to wonder about my DPS. My friend, who played a Warrior with about the same ilvl made significantly more DPS than me although he told me that his rotation was a lot easier.
    Nonetheless I still loved my lock and it still made fun to play, and there were other things than DPS at that stage. It was this time though that I started to look for more and more guides, started to theorycraft, reforged everything, enchanted everything and farmed the instances for better gear and points.
    Starting in the twilight instances people were commenting on my bad DPS, telling me I had to do more with my ilvl. So I read more guides and articles and watched more youtube videos.
    Last week we went to Dragonsoul (non-hc) with the guild for the first time (besides LFR) and we had to stop at the Spine, and the RL specifically addressed me telling me I had to make more damage with my lock.
    These are the things that are really frustrating to me, especially as a new player.

    Long story short, I really hope Blizzard is somehow reading this. Because I started to play WoW only 2 months ago and I actually really love the game and my lock but I’m really close to cancel everything already because sadly there’s almost no fun left.

    PS: Please excuse my English, it’s not my native language.

  40. Martin

    Very nice reading. I recently posted on the EU wow-forum that I felt warlocks are caught in no-mans land and your articles here back up that sentiment.

    I started playing wow right around the time TBC was released and my first two chars were a hunter and a warlock. Eventually I settled for the warlock. He’s still my “main” although I have 8 level 85s now and I have to admit having lost much of my desire to play him anymore.

    While I see the “account-wide achievements/mounts” as a solution, I’m pretty much dead-set against it as I think it will kill many people’s reason to play. I have a lot of characters and one of the reasons I still play is to get some of those rare mounts that I have on my lock on my other chars. The way to solve this problem is not by making all rewards gained by any character immediately obtained on all chars, but instead by making the warlock class a more viable choice for players.

  41. TwiceStruck

    This article underlines and bolds what has gone wrong with other classes in the past and is going wrong now when blizzard tries to make everyone equal. I whole-heartedly agree with everything you are saying. I have seen my main class be treated like a rag doll, on top of the charts one patch and then unwanted in every raid the next.

    It has happened to many classes over the duration of this game, and it will happen again. Uniqueness is disappearing from most DPS classes, allowing Mages to Bloodlust and DKs, Locks to battle rez… Why? So that that raiding can be even more easy-modes?

    If this is how blizzard deals with things, why not just get rid of tanking and healing roles and just make the game a giant cluster pluck of DPSism.

    Thanks for the article!

  42. Kate

    A warlock was the second character I rolled and the only character I ever managed to get to the end with. I started playing right after BC was released and only saw minimal end game content in BC, but saw up to sandrigosa regular mode ICC in wrath. She was great to solo quest with when spec’d demo and was considered a competetive spec for end game with enough complexity to hold my interest.

    I always loved the complexity of my lock. That is what made her so much fun to play. The downside to the complexity as a casual player was that I didn’t get to play as much as I wanted to because I needed to practice and theorycraft to really be competitive, but all the hard work paid off when I started breaking into the top 5 on dmg meters. My guild fell apart right before Cataclysm and without the prospect of end game there was no need to level up so the account got put on the shelf.

    A year and a half later I have started to play again and remembering how great of a solo artist my lock was for leveling, created another lock. So much has changed now that it feels like I have never played a lock before. I’ll probably stick with her because I do love the complex rotations and appreciate the mental exercise of balancing so much at once. The caveat to this being that I have resigned that I will never be involved in end game content again, raids were mostly fun because of the people I played with, and without them I don’t think it is worth the investment. If my intent was on endgame content I wouldn’t stand a chance as a lock. I just hope when the release the new expansion I don’t have to completely relearn my class again, because as much fun as the game is and can be feeling completely lost in my class after every expansion kinda stinks.