Out of the Mists: Reclaiming Warlocks in Pandaria

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

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

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

The changes are pretty staggering.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of these things are pretty damn cool.


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

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

Compare my Affliction and Demo setups in Beta:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Greg Street wrote:

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

Thus the dream of Warlock tanks ended.

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

No, this is amazing.

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

Let’s consider the benefits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

To quote Bury:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Warlockery

60 responses to “Out of the Mists: Reclaiming Warlocks in Pandaria

  1. Is been a long road, with lotta words an’ insights an’ useful analyfications, but these ones:

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

    done made Ellspeth (still hopins fer ta make the level cap fer the first time in over five years) a happier li’l belflock than all the rest combined.

    • It is so much fun. SO MUCH. I don’t care if it’s simple, I’m like: YOU I BLOW UP YOU I SET ON FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE.




      This is how it was supposed to be.

      • Eve

        Say more stuff about the FIRE, please. 🙂

        • The next series will be 31k words, all of them FIRE. FIRE FIRE FIRE.

          I’m a simple warlock who likes to blow things up and set them on fire and then shoot fire at them. Simple.:)

      • Eve

        Is the fire pretty, oh so pretty? Does incinerate still zig-zag through the air before reaching its target? Is conflag still an instant bombshell and gloriously critty? Is that really chaos bolt in your picture, and if it is, can MISTS come out now, please?

        I am so excited right now.

  2. Jen

    Great series of posts. I still run my warlock main, and I actually kind of enjoyed the complexity of demo in early Cata, but they lost me when demon twisting came into the picture to get the best dps out of the spec. I still love the concept of demo, but I *hate* demon twisting with a fiery passion. So now it’s my soloing spec and I raid as affliction, but after reading this I’m really looking forward to trying out demo in the beta.

  3. Eve

    After getting six warlocks to max level, I didn’t think I had another one in me. Then I read Cynwise’s MISTS preview.

    I have a few more in me.

  4. Great post, Cyn. I haven’t been excited to play Mists until now. Hell, I’ve had beta access for almost a month and haven’t given a thought about installing.

    Curious, have they revamped the pet system in Mists? I stopped playing my warlock a while back when Demo started having to swap out pets constantly (single/multi target). Is this simplified also now?

    • There doesn’t appear to be any reason to Demon Twist in the new model. I don’t know if DPS is exactly equal between the demons, but there aren’t abilities which make you say “use the felpup with Affliction and imp with Destro.” There’s more player choice now.

      • Eve

        What *would* influence pet choice, then? Whichever the theorycrafters tell us has the highest dps?

        I’d dearly love to be able to run around as destro with a felpup, but I fear getting locked into whichever demon increases my dps the most. Again.

        • It’s either going to be DPS or utility. I hope DPS is equal and it’s solely ability/buff selection, because then it means actual flexibility in a group environment. But it might be DPS.

        • Scathbais

          Felguard is best for Demo and Felhunter for both Affiiction and Destro.
          This according to Simulationcraft.org

          Unfortunately, the way things stand, Grimoire of Service is the highest dps tier 6 talent. This is unfortunate given the cool new demonic minions available via Grimoire of Supremacy. 125% damage increase vs 110% damage increase over baseline damage (no tier 6 talents).

          I am sure raid boss fight mechanics will dictate use of other demons and Grimoires but for top damage their are no choices. I don’t know how much lower other demons are (MoP beta simcraft just released a few days ago) at this point.

          Things that still need to be worked out in beta:

          Affliction: resource starved. Mana inefficeint spells mean that your go from full health to dead in 103 seconds without using lifetaps, talents and glyphs. Soul Leech talent and Glyph of Siphon Life are required to maintain almost mana neutrality (22 hps loss overall based on simcraft)
          Channeled spells use mana per tick and the return on health/mana used from Drain Life and harvest life are problematic. Thankfully Soul Harvest was just changed to restore shards. Also, are shards for added dps viia haunt or for utility? I don’t agree that we should have to choose.

          Demo: Meta form is pretty underwhelming as the highest dps comes from simply spamming demon slash, casting Doom and responding to Molten Core procs.

          Destro: Ember generation is painfully slow and required Rain of Fire to be cast as part of the single target rotation. Cynwise, how do you feel about a 4 second Chaos Bolt cast? Terrible for pvp and hard to cast on high movement raid encounters..

          Other than those easily solved issues (hopefully), I love that the specs are now unique.

          • I noticed that about Tier 6, I think that actually developed when I was playing? This is one reason I have shied away from balance details – I’m honestly confused at this point about what is in and what is out, and while I’m very excited about the changes and structure of the class, the execution of it, in fully-balanced play, will be where the class will live or die.

            It seems to be consistent that resources should be used for either DPS or utility. I know Shards and Embers work like that, I think Fury did. Does. Dagnabit. I think it makes for interesting gameplay to have that as an option, even if DPS gets chosen while raiding more often than not. Having options is important, not everyone is maximizing DPS all the time. The current model of only using resources for utility is terrible; I would like to see how it turns out.

            Affliction is totally resource starved. I attributed that to tuning and needing self-heals as part of the default. A spec should be self-sufficient without regard to talent or glyph choice.

            Demo should be a tank and needs work as a DPS. I think then the transition to the really simple melee fighter is fine, the new Chaos Buffet … blast… whatever it is helps but it still needs work. It’s better now than it was before.

            Destro is not burst but is rhythm. I think if Chaos Bolt hits hard enough the 4 second cast is okay, but because it’s a very different kind of spell than warlocks have have before. In PvP I would like to be able to have a spec that says, if you let me generate my Embers and then leave me free casting for 10 seconds, I want to be able to kill your entire team with Chaos Bolt and Havoc. In PvE timing these monsters will be part of the challenge of playing well – knowing when you can get them off, knowing when you can chain them with Havoc on adds, things like that. The one problem I really do see is Ember decay during a cast – if you start the cast, you should be able to finish it. This doesn’t always happen now.

            Would I like it as a 3 second cast? Sure. But if the damage is high enough, then a 4 second cast is totally workable. It’s just very, very different.

            In PvP I think Destro suffers not from CB but from a different problem – susceptibility to dispels and interrupts. The dearth of instant-cast spells (Conflag and Fel Flame are it) means you’re going to get kicked a lot. Immolate will likely still be a problem, but FAR less of one than in the current incarnation. What’s strange is that I think Affliction will fall prey to some of this too – I see the spec as less mobile now than in Wrath/Cata due to the reliance on MG.

            Most of these things are fixable and tunable. I think the framework is improved and the direction is correct – now we have to see how things pan out with the final execution of things.

        • Scathbais

          edit: On affliction, we go from full health to dead in 103 seconds due to life tap without any talents, glyphs or dps-reducing self heals.

        • Eve

          Destro doesn’t have that bursty feel to it anymore? That’s sad-making news.

          • It feels more like a crescendo than an initial burst. Leveling you have burst, but at endgame you build up to a massive explosion.

      • I feel a comment on Hunter pets is relevant here.

        When we had various DPS abilities assigned to different pets, there was always a best pet, like cats, then later wolves.

        In Cata, all pets did the same base DPS, though there was a best pet spec (usually Ferocity, sometimes Cunning, never Tenacity), but that took second seat to bringing a missing buff. This is a fantastic pet system. Mists is making it even better by having pets able to respec.

        My point is, Hunter pets took a concept from Warlocks (pets bringing buffs) and ramped it up. Perhaps Demon design could reclaim that concept more fully.

  5. If you are wondering if you should level a Warlock now or in Mists, wait for Mists.

    NOW he tells me.

    I’m at the point now where I’ll be damned if I’m not going to see my way to L85 as a Affliction Lock via BGs.

    As much as I’m not so thrilled about the changes to Mages, this does look interesting. The real question is whether this is too little too late, as people may have given up on Locks entirely.

    • I’m sorry! Many words had to be written to get to that point!

      If there’s any spec I would level with right now, it’s Affliction. Keep on keeping on and you’ll do just fine. You can always level another one in Mists. 🙂

      • Eh, Adelwulf has been in the 50s for months, so I might as well finish the job. He predates your series by several months anyway. 😉

        Yeah, but I’ve been debating about what spec to be my primary in Mists. I think I’ll put my current mains in semi-retirement, like I did with Q for Cata, and start a new story. I’m not sure whether Adelwulf will become my new main or will share responsibilities, but we’ll see. We’ll see.

  6. Tesh

    I still say *every* class should have a tanking spec. I’d give ’em all healing specs, too, so anyone could play any role, if they are up to the task. I’d actually try out a Warlock if I could tank as one, just because I like the flavor of a spellcaster who “hulks out” to tank.

    …then again, I’d also let players respec their *class*, so I’m sort of out there.

    • That you can change your appearance, race, gender, even faction – but not your class – baffles me so much in WoW. I get it from a game perspective, but not from an RPG one.

      I too would like to see every class with a healing and tanking spec. I enjoy healing BGs, but I also enjoy working towards Battlemaster on my Warlock. These are incompatible activities. 😦

      • Eve

        If Blizzard ever gave warlocks a dps-to-heal spec (ala Rift’s Chloromancer), I would shoot rainbows out of my naval.

      • Narci

        On the upside, they will be more compatible in Mists. You can’t combine, say, 14 and 36 flag returns, but you can get Wrecking Ball on a warlock and Iron Man on a resto druid and both count toward getting your account Battlemaster. (… and yes, I know those aren’t actually requirements for Battlemaster but it’s a nice easy example okay.)

  7. This has me both excited and nervous for the expansion.

    I’m excited that so many changes (mostly positive) are happening to the class I love, but I am also terrified that I will hate playing it because of the many changes.

    On a positive note, it sounds like you have found your place with your warlock again. 🙂

  8. This was an amazing series of posts that solidified my desire to try out the class. I’ve got a Dwarf Warlock rolled, on pause for AH and Banking duties, and I will be eagerly awaiting the release of Mists, as you suggest. In the meantime, I’ll be trying out a pre-made on the beta to get a taste of whats to come.

  9. I’m glad to see that you were able, at last, to end on an up note.

    I wish you much more Warlock joy in the future.

    • Thank you, Lara.

      I don’t know what the future holds for me and playing Warlocks. But at least I know I’ve said what I felt needed saying about them.

      • Who knows? But if you’re enjoying it again, that’s a good start. 🙂 After all, that’s what this whole exercise was supposed to be about, right?

  10. edie

    After her birth as a Warlock in the later half of LK xpack, Nimaya of Windrunner has traveled many lands in her 2.5 yrs as my main toon.

    Cynwise, I did have doubts continuing my game play as a warlock while in this portion of Cataclysm but your time and efforts paid off renewing my love for a class and role. Thank you for taking the time to help us keep the faith while waiting to see where Warlocks will be in MoP.

  11. Proph

    “In PvP I would like to be able to have a spec that says, if you let me generate my Embers and then leave me free casting for 10 seconds, I want to be able to kill your entire team with Chaos Bolt and Havoc.”

    I’ve been saying that destro needs a, well, a “destruction” button (pve or pvp) for years lol. While demo has had that turn into demon thing that went with the soul of the class forever, destruction, while my favorite spec, has kinda fallen short on its namesake. I’ll miss the pride points of pulling top dps on a ridiculously complicated class, but if the new system gives that feel of barely being in control (do the embers still hurt you like they said they were gonna?), and then releasing it in some sort of hell spawned super nuke(s)…. well that seems VERY destro-like. I’ll be sad to see the complexity for complexities sake leave (who doesn’t like to feel like the better player because they just destroyed (pun intended) their 10m fire mage or spriest or combat rogue on fights like staghelm in 4.2, or ultra in the current tier?). IF this spec generates that feeling of its namesake, then i for one will let go of my ego, and be happy with a different kind of complexity. I would gladly trade my pride for taking a class/spec that on average performs in the middle of the pack and making it shine for a spec that actually has some feeling to it, that feeling that “a live warlock = a dead everyone else” (the evil warlock guide).

    Because our dots were easily expelled, and we had no mana drain… but it didn’t matter because CONFLAGRATE CHAOS BOLT FIRE TO THE FACE!

    Also, just wanted to say thanks for making these posts cyn. I’ve been reading them as they’ve been posted since you started this saga, and it has changed my perspective of all things warlocky in MoP from gut-churning trepidation to a more positive outlook.

  12. Lheim

    I find it difficult to square the optimism in this post with the terror that seems to permeate the beta forums from locks. I’m not in beta, though – what’s the source of the complaining, really?

    • I’d phrase it as structure versus implementation. The direction of locks is going away from Cataclysm and there have been lessons learned. The structure of Affliction and Destro is sound. (Demo is coming along.) The implementation is giving testers heart attacks, because of tuning on mana usage, bugs with MG and DL ticks consuming way more mana than needed, CB cast times (though I disagree on the CB cast time if the damage is high enough. Again, a matter of tuning.)

      The class needs to be better tuned from where it is now, and beta testers haven’t seen any changes there at endgame. Leveling as Destro is so much fun, though. I don’t know if enough people have tested that part of Beta out yet.

      The changes in Beta have, to a large extent, addressed the flaws of Cataclysm. Whether they address the challenges of Mists is an entirely different matter.

  13. Nimaya

    Lheim, there are those in life who see the glass as half empty, (afraid of change). Beta is a work in progress and the MoP release date being uncertain, the current status of warlocks in Beta, has yet to evolve into the WARLOCK. Preferring to remain optimistic and realistic seems best for the moment. Continue to watch…

  14. Hamut

    Thank you Cynwise for such an intelligent and well thought out series.

  15. gameldar

    Thanks for this series Cyn. I’ve enjoyed reading it despite not being a warlock player.

    And yes I’ll take your advice and wait on levelling my ‘lock. I tried a little and just found affliction painful to play (the cast time on shadowbolt is perhaps the main offender – it is horrible for a primary nuke!)

  16. Serragwin

    I haven’t read all of the comments, so this may have been mentioned. However, I feel that the gear issue could be solved by making spirit for demo tanks be the equivalent to agi for bear tanks. Currently locks don’t want the spirit gear so it wouldn’t be the same gear for dps and tank specs. Which, I believe, is a problem GC discussed in his shooting down of the idea of a demo tank. Currently, you have all priest specs interested in spirit gear, and the non spirit gear is shared between locks, mages and S-priests. Therefor, moving 1 lock spec to spirit gear shouldn’t create too many issues with the fighting over gear.
    Obviously, there are still other issues, but I would love if blizz made the demo tank move.

  17. Werst

    I do wish demo tanking was in the cards. The gear itemization is actually quite easy….spirit = tanking stat. I’ve tossed that out on the forums to general lack of response for some time. As it stands now spirit cloth is the exclusive sandbox of priests which is somewhat smacks of favoritism since they get 2x the loot table of any other caster for all their specs. At the very least its a waste on par with spirit plate for only holy paladins. If spirit were 1 tanking stat, mastery is mastery (for all tank classes), then int did a avoidance conversion like agi (which already exists for ferals) you have all the same stats other tanks have. That is to say mastery + 2 avoidance stats.

    With spirit = tank stat for glyph’d demo you would have at least 2 classes using it and it would very clearly separate warlock tanking gear from dps gear. Sure you could crossover gear somewhat but plate dps and ferals all do that already with the same losses going the opposite direction so its hardly an outlier. That arguement of separate gear isn’t even valid since monks are tanking with their dps gear presently.

    What is most frustrating is that all the raw tools were there for a tanking spec, they just needed to tune numbers. LFR/LFG coding is also pretty simple…does the subject have glyph of demon hunting? Did they que as a tank? Pretty simple coding at least in theory.

    GC said something about the commitment to a tanking spec should be similar but with the publicly proposed changes its actually more of a commitment than monks make. Its damn sure more commitment than a priest makes going between specs. I find it hard to believe that a few numbers passes is out of the question for beta. Especially given the decline of the class.

    Then again, GC isn’t known for responding to warlock issues constructively. He ususally picks on minutae and goes ostrich on the issues at hand. I wonder how much of our decline as a class is due to his handiwork or opinion in meetings? Look at locks since he joined blizzard. At the very least I wish he’d listen more to the members of the class who have hundreds of hours/days on their toons. Many of us have played our lock longer than he has been with blizzard. Ignoring that depth of player experience based on his rockstar attitude never goes well in a customer:business situation.

  18. omgomgomgomgomgomg




    THANK YOU for sharing all the Mists goodies for Warlocks and showcasing all the shiny, and especially for sneaking in little historical tidbits near the end that made my history geek self squeal despite not reading the mentioned source materials. Thank YOU for sticking out this series and for giving us hope for the Warlock class.

    *squeaks* eeee

  19. Pingback: the very model of a Warlock dark and terrible « Kamalia et alia

  20. Mathusela

    I’ve read all of your “Decline and Fall” articles Cynwise and found them all interesting and enjoyable to read.

    As a long time Warlock main, I’ve purposely skipped the beta so all the changes will be new to me at launch, even if that leads to a steeper learning curve. I’m far more excited about playing my class for Mists than Cata.

  21. Regel

    I have player Destruction PvP and I have hoped that the dispel problem would be solved in MoP, but that seames not to be the case? If I don’t have much time to play all specs and need to focus on one PvP spec, which one would you recommend as the “best” PvP spec?

    • Destro’s PvP dispel problem right now is threefold: 1) Immo is required for Conflag, 2) Immo is required for Incinerate damage, 3) Immo offers no dispel protection but is a major source of damage. #1 and #2 are not problems in the Beta anymore – those dependencies are removed – but #3 still is. That said, Rain of Fire is now instant cast (no channel) which could be potent.

      I don’t know that I’d want to make a prediction about which spec is going to be best yet. A lot of it will depend upon tuning, and even more will depend on how other classes shake out. (There’s also the question of “best for what?” that any evaluation needs to take into account. Demo tanks might be good FC/turtle cleave partners but weak without healer support, Destro could do well in 2s but not 3s, etc.)

  22. Gloomie

    I’ve always had a soft spot for warlocks in WoW but Cataclysm (after raiding a bit during 4.0 and 4.1) made me practically abandon the class after having spent years playing them at least as primary alts. After 4.0 I made my gnome warlock my new main because I simply hated my holy paladin’s new combo points (I still ended up playing it for protection). Boy did that turn out well. But at least it couldn’t get worse, or so I thought.

    While they mostly had the right basic ideas for change I absoutely don’t share the optimism of some people about MoP warlocks. Every implementation and change shows that whoever’s in charge of the redesign has absolutely zero understanding of the class and its current (live and beta) issues. At least, I have no other explanation for a team that actually designs a “mobility” talent with a massive cast time penalty AND a movement speed penalty.

    They may change a lot of stuff, and some for the better but overall warlocks lost a lot and gained very little. The current package looks like we’re just going back to the same concept that plagues warlocks right now, with different flavour. To a class that may put out the right numbers, but that’s not fun enough to play, and doesn’t compensate for its disadvantages compared to everyone else – ie., a class very few people will want to play because you can do everything it can with a different class, without the constant uphill battle.

    It doesn’t really matter that destruction finally gets to mostly cast direct damage spells if it’s sacrificing all flexibility and mobility to do so, with a resource system that robs the spec of practically all on-demand burst every other direct damage class has available.

    Just like there’s no advantage to finally getting a “non-nuke” filler for affliction if that turns the rather mobile, self-healing oriented warlock of olde into a turret with terrible mobility whose resource system depends on life tap while their self-healing got lost somewhere in the Maelstrom. A “DoT spec” warlock that throws up DoTs to enhance its main “nuke” – like a DK – isn’t necessarily more fun than one that throws up powerful DoTs and has to use a DD nuke while they tick.

    Don’t get me wrong though, I seriously hope things will pick up and the designers finally get a grip, but after Cataclysm and the beta experience so far I’m not holding my breath. I’d hate another expansion of shadow priests being the better affliction warlocks and mages being the better destruction warlocks in every conceivable way. Fortunately I do have alts for all classes but it would be really sad to have to abandon warlocks after 7 years.

  23. james

    cynwise, i loved this read! you captures my feelings exactly about the class, i remember when i first played wow, with my warlock and my small imp. it was so awesome and badass (just when bc came out)now hopefully with mop that can be taken back any chance you could post cata demo macro’s you have? im changing from afflic to destro, its terribly easier(without trying i survived way better against this dk then when i was trying hardout affliction, (and im pretty good at aff, i think? ) but i feel like i could be doing more ( when i attack someone all i can think of to do is immolate, incinerate, soul fire (and coe) and hand of guldan. anway, super excited about mop, hope it hurries up and comes out! i might not being playing wow then.

    • I was going to redirect you to my Warlock Macros page… then I realized I hadn’t put any of my Demo macros up there.

      Fixed! I only have a few, but I hope you find them useful!

  24. Dejara Thoris

    Unfortunately I have to disagree with you on this. If all you’ve done is play destro to level 20 you missed most of the game along with 2 specs. There are still plenty of discussion in the beta forums and it’s not just about numbers tuning…there are questions about general design (to which we aren’t getting any answers..not a big surprise, but). In general, I would say it’s too early to tell if ‘locks are going to work well in MoP. Don’t get me wrong, I like the graphics changes, but those fade into the background after awhile while the play issues will move to the forefront.

    These are signs that I would interpret as the devs running out of design ideas and relying on forum suggestions in an attempt to make some progress. This does not give me hope…I’ve been on software projects like that and that method of operation destroys design unity and usually leads to something no one is happy with. Affliction is particularly a problem here…the soul shard system is still as lame as ever, self healing is awkward (particularly for a class that directly burns health for some spells) and the idiotic initial design of MoP lifetap took way too long to be fixed (negative scaling! why did they think that was a good idea?). At the moment it doesn’t feel particularly tanky….I mean 2-way Soul Link!? really? Another spell I’ll almost never use!

    Maybe some of this is just numbers incredibly out of alignment (in which case we need a preliminary numbers pass right now if we are going to get anywhere) but this looks more like confused design to me.

    BTW, there is an obvious solution to the spec to role mapping issue. Recreate the prime glyphs but with 1 slot. The glyph that is in that slot determines the role. Don’t allow the player to change the prime glyph any place where they can’t change their spec. If you want, give the player a default glyph at level 10 or just leave it blank to assume a default. Let them change the glyph around level 60.The major advantage of this is you can incrementally roll out new prime glyphs and play with them in the PTR including multiple approaches to the same thing (ranged warlock tanking? Mage healing? Hunter tanking!)

    • Glad to hear from you, Dejara! I was hoping you’d comment!

      I realize it sounds like all I did was play Destro, but that’s not the case. I leveled Destro 24-35, Warlock 1-10, Destro 10-15, Demo 10-17, Affliction 10-13 (it was boring, sorry), and played all three specs at endgame. I spent the most time with Demo, actually, because it was the strangest spec. I wanted to go back and try some Demo leveling in the 20s and 30s but ran out of time.

      I thought the Beta was really buggy when I tested it (now almost 2 months ago, wow, time is flying) and there was a lot of work to be done, but that – in terms of addressing the flaws of Cataclysm – there has been progress. I had to assume things like Life Tap taking 1/3rd of my health but returning like 1/6th of my mana was wrong, and that Drain Life was bugged. My lowbie Destro leveling lacked Immolate. My 85 Affliction lock kept getting Shadow Bolt instead of Malefic Grasp, 85 Destro lacked Chaos Bolt, 85 Demo was crazy with all the changes.

      But the ideas behind them are distinctive, unlike the current class design. Affliction is dot heavy and frantic, which I think actually will appeal to some people. Destro is rhythmic, with this buildup of Embers to unlock abilities, and of learning to time Conflags to proc Backdraft at critical times. Demo is half melee now, which – while the implementation of it is weird and unfamiliar – there’s a real distinction between it and the other specs now. And none of them feel Mage-like.

      The loss of self-healing in Affliction is strange. Some of it I still think is due to bugs. Some of it is numbers, and some of it is due to a design difference. Destro – I liked the 4 second CB cast time, I thought it required a lot of skill to use well, and of planning your Conflags to proc Backdraft to bring it down – but the damage had to be commensurate with the cast time and difficulty. When it was hitting for 150k at 85, it was fine. When it was hitting for 60k, it wasn’t. Demo changes every week, I don’t even think it’s the same spec I tested.

      I don’t know if Warlocks are going to play well in Mists. I think they have the potential to do so, but they’re very different, and implementation absolutely matters. A good design with poor execution is just as bad as a bad design with great execution.

      It remains to be seen what we’ll get.

      Thanks again for your comment, and for reading!

      • Dejara Thoris

        There is a quote that I think summarizes the situation with Warlocks in the MoP beta:

        But in our enthusiasm, we could not resist a radical overhaul of the
        system, in which all of its major weaknesses have been exposed,
        analyzed, and replaced with new weaknesses.
        — Bruce Leverett, “Register Allocation in Optimizing

        Except i’m not so sure about how thoroughly analyzed the old weaknesses were. And I think they may have confused strengths with weaknesses.

        Affliction is dot heavy and frantic, which I think actually will appeal to some people.
        end quote

        Not the most confident statement…I not sure that will appeal to the loyal players who have been running afflocks for the last 4 years. Since wrath, locks in general and aff in particular has had an introspective play style that required a lot of forward planning and a taste for delayed gratification. I liked that and it seems odd that the spec GC declared was in the best place of the 3 specs (at the last blizzcon) would be changed so much. It not like there aren’t other classes/specs to go to if you want frantic. If their intent is to flush the current afflock player base and replace it with a wider base with different tastes, then the spec looks to be on track.

        It all makes me wonder if they really understand what their player base is like…I remember the comments on how they didn’t expect the achievement system to become the competitive thing it often is…which is just wacky. As a friend put it: Have they met us?

        Ultimately my concerns stem from the issue that if it wasn’t for the Wrath era affliction spec I wouldn’t be playing WoW at all as none other of the classes have been able to hold my interest. The beginning of Cata almost had me quit completely because of the awkwardness of the changes…I ended up doing nothing but archaeology for 6 months until various social events occurred that got me involved again. If they mess up warlocks in MoP I’m probably gone once the annual pass runs out. As my guild is now multi-game it seems unlikely that social stuff will drag me back. I don’t want to be gone, when this game is fun it’s really fun.

  25. SpiritusRex

    This has been a great read, Cyn.

    Now I don’t know whether to continue leveling my baby ‘lock through Outlands or wait for Mists!

  26. Jack

    Your optimism surprises me.
    For someone who in a previous post said they didn’t want warlocks to return to Shadow Bolt/BC days, that’s exactly what we have with Mists Destruction spec.

    Look at those six abilities, one is passive, one is just a means to cast faster incinerates and one is an execute. You’re left with one dot, one nuke and the occasional chaos bolt as your entire rotation.

    Give it some more time and you’ll see the flaws in the new system too. The class is better in Mists than Cataclysm yes, but now there’s a whole host of issues to deal with and the community will get kicked back to reality after the initial shine of new wears off.

    • I guess I’m surprised that my cautious optimism surprises you. 🙂

      I disagree that Mists Destruction is a return Shadow Destruction. I mean, I just flat out disagree with that statement. Destruction is simpler but it’s not a 2 button spec. Knowing when to use Conflag is essential; you can’t just cast it on CD and call it good enough. Rain of Fire is needed for efficient ember generation. Fel Flame is needed for movement. You have a variety of CDs you have to time to maximize DPS (Demon Soul, Doomguard). Proper casting of Chaos Bolt (with Havoc) is going to be challenging due to the cast time.

      The way I see it playing right now in Beta, you have 1 dot, 1 debuff, 2 nukes (CB/Incin), 3 CDs (Conflag, DS, Doomguard), 1 AoE, and a new resource system that has to be juggled. Shadow destruction was sac the pet, maybe corr, and then Shadow Bolt. While it’s true that you will be able to sacrifice your succubus again in Mists, I don’t see that they’re equivalent.

      I don’t disagree that there aren’t issues with the class right now in Beta. I do disagree that excessive simplicity is one of them.

  27. Valcoris

    That’s me tanking Shadow Labs in whatever expansion that was. Warlocks have tried tanking and done it with varying success in the past. The idea of them bringing it as an intentional thing sounds great to me.

    • Meehayi

      During TBC we used warlock as tank in certain encounters in Kara, SSC and MH so the idea was already there, now its only small effort from Blizz required to make it a valid thing that it wouldn’t ruin class “balance”. But i guess they would have to make small change in the glyph that it increases stamina value and decreses dmg done so there wouldnt be any crying in PvP community.

  28. Meehayi

    Thank You for this! It was a truly great lecture. Shame i found this place so late but at least it made yet another sleepless night more pleasant.
    I’ve started playing my ‘lock at end of vanilla and i try to keep it on top since then. Over that time i’ve observed warlocks being step by step striped out of thier utilites and everyday i hope that we will come back to our glory again – as it was during TBC ( well lets scratch the succy SB fiasco since it was just temporary ).
    Perosnaly i think that the main reason that people drop warlock during the leveling process was brought by introduction of hierlooms – as they had major impact on entire game and completly break balance in class on low levels. This situation generated the issue, that when warlock enters dungeon she or he feel completly useless – your dps is very low and mobs are dead long time before you can even apply your dots. Of course changes that where made to warlocks over time caused it as well, but lets be fair – it only applies to those, who played warlock earlier.
    Another thing is that warlocks where completly gone from lore during both WotLK and Cata…they had no part in the storyline and felt a little abandoned by dev team. I don’t think it will be any different in MoP ( lore wise, because it looks like this will be – apart of monk, a druid expansion ), but i’m happy that we where finaly noticed.
    However changes, that are made bring small fear into me. I like the idea in general – the diversity of play styles, but deep inside i feel like they gonna make a big mess out of warlocks – and we will see some major “upgrade” again in first MoP patch and that might bring another purge in warlocks ranks (being “buged” all the way for a single tier is never a good situation). In some point both demo and destro dont look balanced atm as – specialy in PvP situation, will you be even able to make some use out of embers/d.fury before you drop dead? will you have time to charge you bars during encouter, when expansion looks heavy on movemet (each class with root/snare/stun talent tier)? Maybe im sceptical, or maybe its just the past exapnsions expirience…
    I realy hope thay Blizz will come back to warlock (off)tank idea soon. In my mind it looks very simple – adding Vengeance mechanics that inceased LD power ( since it doesnt apply into PvP there shouldnt be any issue of class balance ).
    Looking forward for next entries!