Tag Archives: Warlock

A Pre-Cataclysm Warlock Guide

In case you were worried, Warlocks are going to be awesome in Cataclysm.

No, really.  While the changes 4.0.1 introduced might have everyone off-balance right now, and let’s face it, things are really screwy in terms of balance – the changes to Warlocks haven’t altered the fundamental awesomeness of the class.

The end of Wrath left Warlocks in a good, balanced state.  My primary concern with the changes was: is this going to make us unbalanced again?  And more importantly, will this fundamentally change the enjoyment we have in certain playstyles?

4.0.1 introduced a lot of changes, but it didn’t fundamentally change the way you play a warlock.  Yes, there is some increased complexity in some areas and rotations.  Yes, there is a lot of simplicity in other areas.

But overall, now is a great time to either roll a new warlock, or play your favorite one.

Let’s look at the changes.


The Warlock’s Den has a great compilation of the changes in 4.0.1, but it’s all the changes.  If you’re just diving into the new patch, the changes can seem overwhelming.

The biggest news is that Soul Shards are completely revamped.  Gone is your old Soul Shard bag; in its place are three shards that you can use to empower certain spells through the new spell, Soulburn. This spell empowers other spells to either make them faster, hit harder, or give different effects.  Another new spell, Soul Harvest, regenerates both Soul Shards and your health.  Using Soul Shards creatively in combat is one of the new great challenges of playing warlocks.  It’s actually quite fun watching the bars light up when you burn a shard now!

As far as gear and stats go, you can Reforge your existing gear at a Highborne trainer near the Enchanting trainer in major cities.  Reforging allows you to swap one stat on gear, like Spirit, for another stat that isn’t on that gear, like Hit.  It costs 10g a pop and only works on ilvl 200+ gear.

You should consider reforging your gear for three reasons.  The first is that you need to get up to 17% hit to get raid bosses – not 13-14%, like before.  Why? Because all of the Hit-enhancing talents other people brought to you in raids are gone. If you’re still raiding, you’re going to need that Hit.

The second reason is that Spirit is officially useless to Warlocks again.  Life Tap’s spell and glyph have both changed, and Fel Armor has been modified, so that Spirit does nothing for you.  Reforge it or swap it out.

The third reason is a new stat: Mastery.  Mastery increases your damage according to your spec, and you can only get it via Reforging in 4.0.1. The value of Mastery depends on both your spec, your Hit, and your Haste, but in general it is a desirable stat.

Stats have been completely redone.  Intellect now gives you Spellpower, and Spellpower has been removed from most items in the game.  Intellect is now a desirable stat. How desirable?  Well, current thinking is that:

  • Leveling: Hit (until cap, 4%) > Int >  Haste > Spellpower > Stamina > Crit
  • Affliction raiding at 80: Hit (to cap, 17%) > Int >> Haste > Spellpower >> Mastery >> Crit
  • Demonology raiding at 80: Hit (to cap), Haste > Int >> Mastery = Spellpower > Crit
  • Destruction raiding at 80: Hit (to cap) >> Int >> Mastery = Haste = Spellpower >>> Crit

So take a look at your gear and consider stacking that Intellect.

Another major change is that DoTs now refresh duration instead of clipping them.  One of the major annoyances of DoTs was that you would drop your DPS if you cut them off before the final tick of damage, so you needed to let it fall off and immediately refresh.  Now, you can refresh them and just extend their duration without overwriting the last tick.  The best time to refresh a DoT is just after the second-to-last tick – this gives you the biggest time extension without reducing the overall number of DoTs. The only exception to this is Bane of Agony, which hits harder on the final ticks.

This is kinda an important change, so I’m planning a followup post to cover just how DoTs work in the new system.

You’ll notice that it’s not Curse of Agony anymore; some Curses (Agony, Doom) have been retitled Banes. Banes and Curses can both be applied to a target.  This gives you both a Bane (which causes damage) and a Curse (which applies an effect) that can be stacked onto a target, no longer forcing you to chose between damaging an opponent or cursing them.  The new names take some getting used to, but eventually they’ll stop squeaking every time we say them.

Your Infernal and Doomguard no longer displace your summoned demon, allowing you to use them as a massive DPS boost on a 10 minute cooldown. Use them every chance you can – Infernal for AoE, Doomguard for direct target.  They no longer require reagents or help in summoning.  This is a very cool change, and get used to seeing them all the time.

Soul Shatter now works. It’s now a 90% threat reduction, which is good, because aggro in the pre-Cataclysm world is a harsh mistress. Soulshatter actually working makes my head hurt to think about.  Also, your Spellstones and Firestones are gone.  Sorry about that.

So, yes. There are a lot of changes to mechanics.  But tackle them one at a time, and you’ll do fine.


All of the advice that people had on the best spec to level a Warlock with in Wrath?  Worthless.  Throw out any guide that isn’t updated for 4.0.1, because the leveling experience is completely different.

At level 10, you get to choose your specialization: Affliction, Demonology, Destruction.  Each one of them introduces a cornerstone spell immediately at level 10, allowing you to start playing that style early on, instead of waiting for those key spells in the 40s and 50s.

This change makes each spec immediately viable for leveling.

If you’re having trouble deciding which way you want to go:

  • Affliction is the route for the slow, steady, unstoppable kills.  You gain an extra DoT spell, Unstable Affliction, which combined with your improved Corruption and Bane of Agony will be enough to kill most any mob you come across.  Drain tanking is alive and well!  You’ll want to use many of your demons with Affliction, depending on situation and playstyle.
  • Demonology is if you like having something else take the damage for you.  You get a Felguard at level 10, and he is a brute.  Use him for most pulls, switch to the Voidwalker for pulls that require AoE tanking.
  • Destruction is for those who like the quick, bursty kills.  You get Conflagrate, a instant-cast explosion, which combined with Searing Pain and Incinerate will let you kill most mobs before they ever reach you.  You’ll probably favor the Imp, but your other demons will be situationally useful.

The simplified talent trees actually make leveling advice quite easy.  Take talents that make the spells you use hit harder, cast faster, or heal you.  If your using your demon for a lot of your DPS, buff it instead.

If you don’t have a Warlock, or have one you haven’t played in a while, consider rolling one.  They are huge amounts of fun at the low levels.  They’re an absolute blast.

If you’ve already leveled one, though, the next section might interest you a bit more.


Raiding at level 80, when the trees are designed for an endgame at 85, is a little strange.  But there’s still loot to be gotten and achievements to achieve, so people are figuring out how to raid at 80.

Below are some pages I’ve found extremely helpful in navigating the waters with this new raiding environment.  Especially helpful is the first link, at Elitist Jerks.  If you go no where else for raiding advice, go there.

General PVE:




I would love to find some more articles to help with raiding, but we’re well past the expiration date of the current content, and new content – with new abilities – is going to be coming up very soon.  There will be a lot more focus on raiding articles when Cataclysm drops and folks start leveling up to 85.


PvP is totally unbalanced right now, and I wouldn’t hold out much hope that it’s going to get radically better before Cataclysm strikes.  That means that casters are going to remain overpowered, Resilience values are going to go up and down as the developers try to introduce some kind of sanity to the battlegrounds, and you’ll get to experiment a lot with your ‘locks.

I don’t have any great links to share with you for PvP.  High-end PvP doesn’t tend to invite the kind of analysis that raiding does, and while there are some builds that are popular right now, folks are figuring out new and creative ways to kill each other and nothing’s set in stone.

As far as the specs:

  • Demonology seems to have made an incredible comeback in the battlegrounds.  The Felguard’s new abilities at level 80 are awesome, hitting very hard with a number of stuns and interrupts that can’t be beat. I am seeing a lot of Demo locks out there right now.
  • Destruction is having an excellent time out there, as well.  High burst damage is ruling the day, and the Imp has made an unlikely appearance on the battlefield as the Destro pet of choice.
  • The reports of Affliction’s death in PvP are wildly exaggerated.  While some of the Drain Tanking talents have been nerfed, Soul Swap and Empowered Seed are making up for it.  Sending an Empowered Seed of Corruption out into a surging mass of defenders in Wintergrasp means you are going to see a LOT of numbers come rolling through your combat text meters.  Petwise, the Succy is a little more useful than the Felhunter right now, but both have their place.

Much of this will change in the next six weeks.

But in the meanwhile, there’s a lot of fun to be had with your warlock.  (Or warlocks, if you’re crazy like I am.)

Now go out there and be awesome!



Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Gaming Worlds Collide Blogcast

If you’re not getting enough Warlock news here, I’m appearing tonight at 6:30 EDT on the Gaming Worlds Collide blogcast to talk about the state of Warlocks in 4.0.1 with Esh and Kat.  There will be PvP talk, for sure, but I’ll also talk a bit about how ‘locks are doing in PvE.  (Short version: Warlocks are doing very well.)

You can listen via your browser at the above link, or dial in to (917) 932-1937 to listen on your phone.  (Analog technology? What is this madness?)

Sorry for the short notice on this one; I’m looking forward to talking about ‘locks – because I’m crazy, I’m leveling 3 of them, one of each spec – and hope you have a chance to listen in.  The recording will be available later if you can’t make the session tonight.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Destruction Warlock Raiding in 4.0.1

Time to spend some time with your favorite dummies!

Patch 4.0.1 introduced major changes to every class. The talent system was redesigned, every spec altered, combat stats altered… it’s the patch before Cataclysm where our classes change in anticipation of the new expansion, without having any new content available, so we can learn to play again in a familiar environment, and not have to worry about new quests and new lands and new bosses while we’re also struggling with new rotations and new mechanics and new spells.  A lot of the focus of the next two months really should be on relearning our classes, of experimenting with new things, of challenging old assumptions.

It’s a smart move by Blizzard, really.

My patch install was not smooth, so I ended up reinstalling and have been rebuilding my UI from the ground up.  With all of this external change around me, I decided to go ahead and switch specs as well, going from Affliction PvP/Demonology PvE to Destruction PvP/PvE.  Destruction is a familiar spec to me, having played this dual-Destro setup for most of 3.2 (ToC) when it was the dominant spec. I enjoyed Destro a lot during this time, and it looked like there wasn’t too much that had changed.

Well, I was pretty much wrong about that.

I’ve been having trouble getting into endgame Battlegrounds since the patch – haven’t managed to get past the preparation phase without disconnecting – so my look at Destro PvP is going to have to wait.  However, I’ve already raided some with Destruction in ICC, and it is awesome.  The changes have made it more complex without being overwhelming, there are several subtle things you can do to enhance your DPS, while missing them is not the end of the world.  It feels like Destro has grown up and joined the other specs in having a lot of things going on, without becoming totally overwhelming.

So I hopped over to Elitist Jerks, looked through their 4.0 Pre-Cataclysm Raiding guide for Warlocks, and gave it a try.

Let’s take a look.


If you played Destro in Wrath, before 4.0.1, you’re familiar with the 4 spells that made up your main rotation – Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate, and Chaos Bolt.  Immolate was your primary dot, with perhaps Curse of Doom or Curse of the Elements used as the situation called for it.

You can still play Destro like this in 4.0.1, which is good for a transition, but the spec has a few more things going on now.  You’ll have a bit more to juggle to get the most out of your DPS.

The core spell of Destruction remains Immolate.  Immolate is both your most potent DoT spell, as well as a spell that allows other spells to hit harder.  You should keep Immolate up at all times.

Immolate’s presence allows you to use Conflagrate, a huge instant nuke which takes your Immolate or Shadowfury DoT and blows it up.  (The DoT remains intact now, which is a nice change from Wrath.) Conflagrate is your biggest nuke and should be used whenever it’s off CD.  Conflagrate also procs Backdraft, which hastens your next 3 Incinerates, Chaos Bolts, and Shadow Bolts.  This proc is a nice bonus but is no longer the focus of your rotation.

You have two other DoTs to manage as Destruction, now: Bane of Doom and Corruption.  Yes, Corruption.  Depending on your raid composition, you may also need to cast Curse of the Elements, but these are your main DPS dots. Bane of Doom is like the old Curse of Doom, except that instead of delivering its damage every 60 seconds, it does so every 15, making it preferable even in short fights to Bane of Agony.  Corruption is an interesting addition to the Destro toolkit, but with a few talent points in Affliction it becomes a potent DPS increase, and a nice change from solely nuking something down.

There is a final DoT that your Imp’s Firebolts or your Soul Fires will place on the target: Burning Embers.  Your Imp should be able to keep this one refreshed automatically.  It’s an important DPS increase, but not something you have to worry about once the firebolts start flying.

You have three nukes in your rotation: Chaos Bolt, Soul Fire, and Incinerate.  Chaos Bolt is a hard-hitting direct damage spell on a long CD.  Soul Fire is a new addition to your routine – a long cast time nuke with great damage.  The removal of the Soul Shard mechanic means that we’ll want to cast Soul Fires either at the beginning of the fight, when Empowered Imp procs and makes them instant cast, or deliberately made instant by Soulburn.  Incinerate is an old friend, but relies upon the presence of Immolate to deal increased damage.  Never cast Incinerate if Immolate is not present on the target.

A really interesting addition to the rotation is our frontal AoE attack, Shadowflame.  Shadowflame has been buffed and is now a viable spell for use in your rotation.  Using it requires situational awareness, though, since you don’t want to stand next to every boss all the time if you can help it.  Demonic Circle can help a lot here.

On top of all this, you have one proc you need to track: Improved Soul Fire.  This was formerly a reverse execute, applying only to the first phase of the fight (> 80% boss health) but has now been changed to apply throughout the fight.  The haste it grants is a huge boost to your DPS, and should be kept up at all times.  Because it has been modified recently, I don’t know if it’s going to stay as an all-the-time buff you have to maintain, or will go back to being > 80%, or be turned into an execute (< 25% boss health) – but it’s a proc you’ll have to track for at least part of the fight.

So, to sum up, Destro has:

  • 3 DoTs you need to worry about
  • (1 DoT you don’t)
  • 2 CD-limited nukes
  • 2 standard nukes
  • 1 frontal AoE spell
  • and 1 buff that needs to be maintained.

It can actually be a lot of fun keeping all this going.  Let’s look at how you can do that.

Chojub STILL LOVES Chaos Bolts!


Like most specs at this point, Destro is on a priority system, not a rotation per se.  You cast the most important spell on your list, then move down until you find the next one that needs to be cast.  If you get to the bottom, you cast your filler, Incinerate.

Your priority:

  1. Improved Soul Fire.
  2. Immolate.
  3. Conflagrate.
  4. Bane of Doom.
  5. Shadowflame.
  6. Corruption.
  7. Chaos Bolt.
  8. Hasted Soul Fire (from either Empowered Imp procs or Soulburn)
  9. Incinerate.

Generally speaking, the Improved Soul Fire buff will take a bit of work to keep up, so learning when to cast slow Soul Fires vs. waiting for Soulburn to come off CD (and gambling on a Empowered Imp proc) takes some practice. Don’t worry at first if it falls off; just get it back up when you can.

Shadowflame may only be practical in certain fights, and you should skip it if it’s too risky.  You can’t DPS if you’re dead because you got to close to a boss.

If all of this seems overwhelming to try to manage, let me let you in on a little secret: Need To Know.


Need To Know: Keep the bars up!

Above is how I make sense of the priority rotation in my UI.  Instead of trying to track CD timers in one addon, procs in my buff area, and DoTs in another, I use the Need To Know (NTK) addon.

NTK allows you to group buffs, debuffs, and cooldowns in a customizable interface.  By ordering the items I’m tracking by priority, I’m able to look and quickly determine what I need to do next.  In the above example, I am casting Incinerate, Conflagrate is about to come off CD, and Improved Soul Fire is about to drop off.  I can hope for a lucky Empowered Imp crit and start spamming Conflag, or start casting Soul Fire to keep the buff alive.

I color code the bars so I can see at a glance what is going to drop off, and which bar needs to be filled up.

If you’ve never used NTK before, the setup is relatively straightforward.

  • First, open your Interface menu and go to the NTK options.
  • Enable group 1 of the bars, and increase it to 6 bars.
  • Enable group 2 of the bars, and decrease it to 1 bar.
  • Arrange them around your cast bar as desired.  I placed the ISF buff above my cast bar because it’s a proc that (formerly) wasn’t up all the time; you may want to group it with the others.
  • Right click the single bar, and set the effect to monitor to Improved Soul Fire.
  • Next, set the type of effect to Buff.  (This is the default)
  • Set the Unit to Monitor to Player, since you are monitoring this buff on yourself.
  • Select “Display Icon” under effects, and choose a color that resembles the buff.  You’re done with ISF.
  • Right click the first bar in the set of six, set the effect to Immolate, and the type to Debuff.  Set the Unit to Monitor to Target, set the icon to display, and set the color.
  • For the second bar, right click, set the effect to Conflagrate, and set the type to Spell Cooldown.  Repeat the same process as above to fill out the bar.
  • Go down the list, choosing Debuff/Target for Bane of Doom & Corruption, and Spell CD for Shadowflame and Chaos Bolt.

A few notes about this setup.

  1. You can set a single bar to monitor different types of effects, with the first effect in the list taking priority of all are listed.  Just enter the names of the effects separated by commas.  Some helpful examples would be “Bane of Doom, Bane of Agony”, “Fear, Corruption” (for when you need to start CCing in Cataclysm), and “Curse of the Elements, Curse of Weakness” for your curses.  You can get quite fancy with this (checking all debuffs instead of just your own to see if CoE needs to be cast, for example), but that’s really for when you’re comfortable with NTK.
  2. You want to track the Shadowflame CD instead of the debuff because you’re using the timer to regulate your actions, not to actually monitor the debuffs on the target. (That is what unit frames are for.)  The Shadowflame CD is substantially longer than the effect itself, so if you looked only at the debuff you’ll try to cast it before it’s ready.  Tracking the CD, however, means that you might miss and not know it.  That’s fine, but be aware that just because you see the purple bar doesn’t mean you’re actually hitting the target.
  3. Backdraft doesn’t require monitoring anymore.  Backdraft used to be a vital part of the rotation but is now relegated to a nice-to-have – if you can cast your Chaos Bolt or Incinerate under its effects, do so, but not at the expense of a higher priority item.
  4. Soulburn might require monitoring.  I’m using OmniCC and watching my bars to see when this comes up, but in general I’m saving the Soulburn -> Soulfire combos to keep the ISL buff up.  I would rather leave Soulburn off CD for when I need to keep that buff up but am not getting lucky with the Empowered Imp procs.
  5. Your big companion demon CDs – Doomguard and Infernals – might also be a good inclusion here.  They are a significant DPS increase, don’t cause your existing demons to despawn, and can be cast every 10 minutes.  I tend to want to save these for Heroism/Bloodlust, though.  I’m on the fence about monitoring them as part of my standard procedure, since I don’t need to know when the CD is up – I need to pick the right time to use them, instead.

I’m a big fan of NTK over other buff/dot trackers, because it allows me to parse out the data I don’t need, and focus instead on only what I need to know instead.


For my talents, I’m using the 2/3/31 build from Elitist Jerks right now.  There has been some good discussion about how far you should go into Dark Arts given your current Haste levels, but in general that build will serve you well.  Yes, there are some “wasted” talents – Searing Pain is no longer part of the rotation, for instance, after a recent round of nerfs – but those talents are needed to get to the next level, and you do what you gotta do.

The recommended glyphs of Immolate, Conflagrate, Imp and Life Tap are all relatively straightforward – improve damage directly (Immo, Imp) or indirectly through lower cooldowns (Conflag, LT.)  Other Prime glyphs that do similar things can be used in a pinch (Chaos Bolt, Incinerate) but in general you’ll want to buff your best spells first.  The two remaining major glyphs are at your discretion – I went with Shadowflame (to give me a slow for the Valks in the LK encounter) and Soul Link, to help out the healers.  Fear is likely going to be another good option for your Major glyph selection.


With the new installation, not only did I throw out my UI, but I’ve started throwing out all my old macros and starting over. There are a few things I’m still macroing – my Imp’s Firebolt, for one – but I’m trying to use fewer macros than I did during Wrath in PvE.

(PvP is still macro city, though!)

The biggest challenge to reducing macro use is the need to manually trigger your Imp’s Firebolt because of the spell queuing delays.  Pretty much every spell you cast should have this in there, like so:

/cast Soul Fire
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt

This simple macro can have a substantial impact on your DPS, so, do it.  Bind it to Immolate, Soul Fire, Chaos Bolt, Incinerate at a minimum.

Next is making sure that your Soulburn-empowered Soul Fires are as fast as possible.  In PvE you will never need to use Soulburn to hasten another spell, so just make a castsequence macro you can tap to fire off a big ball of flame like an instant-cast spell.

/castsequence reset=2 Soulburn, Soul Fire
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt

Finally, I do use a setup macro to get everything rolling.  This doubles as my Immolate button during the normal rotation (due to the reset timer) but can be used to place everything on the target during a pull.

/castsequence reset=target/combat,2 Immolate, Conflagrate, Bane of Doom, Shadowflame, Corruption, Chaos Bolt,  Incinerate, Incinerate
/use 10
/use 13
/use 14
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt

I’ll keep experimenting with macros to see if there are other combos I’m always hitting, but for now I’m trying to keep it simple.


Area of Effect spells aren’t as effective now as they were in Wrath, as the stated design goals are to move away from AoE fests and focus instead on single-target burndowns and CC.  That’s great, but we’ve still got big trash packs in ICC that sometimes need to get burned down.

Ideally, each Warlock tree would have its own AoE spell – Seed of Corruption for Affliction, Hellfire for Demo, and Rain of Fire for Destro.  This model makes sense, and I can’t wait for us to get there.

Unfortunately, it still looks like Seed outperforms Rain on Destro by a bit.  Test it out on some dummies yourself, since this could vary by Mastery and Haste, but… yeah.  I’m still going to be spamming Seeds into trash packs for the near future.

Update: Rain of Fire got buffed this morning.  Back to the training dummies!


There’s been some major changes to how gear is itemized in this patch, and you can also reforge unused stats (like Spirit) into other stats.

The current itemization priority is:

Hit (to 17%) > Intellect > Mastery = Haste = Spellpower >>> Crit

Basically, get rid of Sprit first, then Crit.  Get hit capped, then look at Int, Mastery, and Haste.


I’ve put together a video of how this works so you can see it for yourself.  Sometimes, seeing someone else do it (no matter how expertly or not) makes all the pieces click.  Hopefully this will help put it all together if you still have questions.


I am really enjoying the challenge of relearning the warlock class.  There are a lot of interesting changes that make me think about how things work.  None of this is set in stone right now.  Changes happen every rolling restart.  There will be a lot of discovery over the next few weeks, both in the endgame and in leveling, in PvE and PvP.

I’m enjoying Destruction now, but I can’t wait to see how some of the other specs do, too!


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Blizzard Killed My Dog

Shaggy always did have a sweet tooth.

I was looking forward to Patch 4.0.1.  There’s something exciting about having things change; new things to learn, new ways to do things, new stories to tell.  Sure, there was apprehension, because changes that you don’t know about can be scary, but in general I think change is necessary.  It forces you to adapt.

My enthusiasm even kept me going through problems with the patch download, the first time I’ve ever had problems there.  Even though the servers have been up for about 12 hours, I still haven’t gotten to log in because my installer can’t handle baby murloc noises.  Maybe they’re too cute?  I don’t know for sure, but I’m reinstalling from scratch to see if maybe a fresh installation will do it.

But my enthusiasm vanished when I heard that warlock minions had been renamed in 4.0.1.  Last night it was temporary; today it is permanent.  When you summon your demons, you may have one of them keep the same name, but the rest… are all new.

Helola HATED that I put her in this shot. Heh. I called her Penguin-Girl for weeks!

Warlocks don’t get to choose their demon’s names.  We find out their names as part of the summoning rituals, of enslaving them to our will.  And while they’re our slaves, servants, and minions, they are also our constant companions.  They adventure with us, they fight for us, they die for us, they come back for us; we didn’t choose them, they didn’t choose us, but together, we’re a team.

Cynwise’s demons are part of her, part of her character.  Her relationship with each one of them is complicated and unique.  Part of the story that I’ve spun as I’ve played this crazy game has been around those demons; lesser characters, but characters in their own rights.  They make each warlock unique; no matter how you try to replicate them, the demons distinguish us from each other.

The names may not be unique, but they make the warlock unique.

But now, without warning, that part of my character is gone.  The sinister, sexy Helola who graced the pages of Arren’s site, the one who provides the dark reflection of Cynwise’s personality? Gone. Thoglos, the voidwalker who always stands on my questgivers, the one who shields ‘wise when she hurls herself into melee?  Gone.  Chojub, her imp with a sense of humor who randomly pulls bosses? See ya.  Skelzeras, the grumpy Felguard who was really quite a pushover?  Thanks for the help in ICC, buddy.

And Shaagrym, dear Shaggy, Cynwise’s felpuppy, the rage magnet, the reason Affliction is so feared in battlegrounds… my companion in so many of these fights that you’ve read about on this site. Shaggy is gone, too.

From the blue post:

We apologise for any inconvenience these name changes might cause and thank you for your patience and understanding.

Patience? Understanding?

You killed my dog and replaced him with a lookalike, and you want my understanding?

I’m a Wrathbaby; started playing in November 2008.  In two years, I’ve grown really attached to my demons.  I can only imagine what it’s like for warlocks who started playing in 2004.

This is changing my character, without my consent.  In RP terms it would be godmodding. Even though I don’t RP with others, I do experience the story of Warcraft through the view of my character; and now a fundamental part of that character is gone.

Chojub LOVES Chaos Bolts!

I shouldn’t be this angry.  I shouldn’t let myself get so upset over something that I do for fun, for something that I do to amuse myself in my idle time.

But I am.

I’ve been an IT professional for 15 years with experience in large enterprises. Professionally, I understand that there are likely technical reasons behind this, and that the mistake, once made, is irrecoverable.  The names were probably not permanently stored, but randomly assigned and it’s that random assignment that was lost.  There were significant changes to the way in which demons were handled, and summoned… I get that.

Yet, as a player, I can’t get past that my dog is dead.  I might have a new dog, just as good as my old one.

But I don’t want a new dog.  I want my old one.

See, Shaggy wasn’t just a mobile DoT with special abilities I could keybind.  From a development perspective I can see treating him as such, but from that perspective, my warlock is just a mob that accepts player instructions with a defined set of abilities that can be executed in specific sequences with specific results.  This perspective, while absolutely factual and correct, ignores the elements of imagination that make us want to participate in this game.

I could play a little floating box that casts a damage over time spell that inflicts 40-80 points of Shadow Damage every 3 seconds for 18 seconds.  Or, I could play Cynwise the warlock, the ambitious girl from Northshire who was jealous of her sisters and forged her own dark path to power.  And who mastered a series of increasingly powerful demons, bending them to her will.

Which one is more interesting to you?

The first time I met Skelzeras, he helped me kill Ony-60. Thanks, you big lug!

Each and every warlock has a story to tell about their demons.  Cynwise didn’t meet Skelzeras, the Felguard, until she needed to spec Demonology to take on Onyxia at level 60.  Now, a year later, I’ve been raiding ICC as Demonology for 9 months and depend on the big lug to do major damage and provide the buffs our raid needs.  He is the one who pulls Lady Deathwhisper, who charges ahead of the tank on Marrowgar, who is the sign to every tank in the raid that Cyn is pulling, get ready to fight to hold threat.

Skelzeras is impressed by the decor, not the boss. Don't let his expression fool you.

For someone who I didn’t expect to like very much, Skezel has grown on me.  He and I have seen a lot of things together I’d never thought I’d see in the game.

Thoglos is my Voidwalker, first my leveling companion, later my best friend against rogues and other melee classes.  Thog has tanked entire instances for me, rounding up all the mobs for me to then Shadowfury and Hellfire down. He shares every Voidwalker’s tendency to stand on quest givers, but he was always apologetic.

Thog, COME DOWN FROM THERE! I can't take you ANYWHERE!

He just never moved unless I told him to.


Chojub is my imp.  He pulls bosses and then pretends he had nothing to do with it.

You know no one in the guild believes you, Chojub?  You do know that, right?

Oh, whatever.  He doesn’t care if they know or not, he’ll keep on causing trouble no matter what.

"Mistress, surely I can find you a date somewhere else?"

Helola was the most evil of all of Cynwise’s demons.  Malicious, ruthless, manipulative, always willing to do whatever was necessary, Helola is the dark side of Cynwise, always tempting her to do what is effective versus what is right.

She’s also really good at Seduce-nuking people to death.  Damn, she was good at that.

Shaggy likes the Underbelly. He's got a bed there and everything.

This is my dog, Shaggy.

There are many felhunters like him, but this one is mine.

Remember when we pulled Deathspeaker’s Camp together, Shaggy?  Good times.

Chojub likes to practice his skateboarding when I'm not looking.

I know that there are probably technical reasons why it’s impossible to go back, why when I log in I’ll be faced with at least 4 strange new demons.  With Cataclysm on the horizon there may be no resources available for this kind of a bug fix, and even the simple fix – giving warlocks the ability to rename their demons – might be too much to handle with a major deadline approaching.

I don’t care. My practical, professional side can go shove it.  I don’t care.

Blizzard killed my warlock’s dog.  And her blueberry, and her sexy whip-cracker, and her big guy with the axe, and the little dude who throws fire.  If I’m lucky, I get to keep one of them, but the rest are all gone.

There was a story there, a story I was looking forward to continuing to tell, of seeing the new lands of Cataclysm.  My demons were a part of that story… or they were, until now.

Warlocks are the single least played class in Warcraft.  They’re tough to master, hated by opponents in PvP, hated by tanks and healers in PvE.  They are complex, confusing, squishy.  Players who not only play them, but love playing them, are a minority.

And Blizzard just killed our dogs.

I don’t know if I’m going to play Cynwise at this point.  I feel that strongly about this, that I just don’t know.  I may as well race and faction change her, since she’s not the character I was playing this weekend.  In game, and in the pages of this weblog, I tried to create a strong female character who represents a way of looking at battlegrounds – and her demons are part of that.

It’s odd for me to write that.  Cynwise is my main, and I really had no intentions of changing that.  But Cynwise without Chojub, Shaagrym, Helola, Thoglos, and even that big lug Skelzeras?

She’s just as strange to me as these replacements are now.


I can’t believe they killed my dog.


UPDATE: Blizzard is at least looking into this now.  Blue post:

The Warlock naming issues is still under investigation but thus far it appears that the change was not intended but an after effect.

Under investigation, at this time, is if the name change can be reversed. Though that may not be possible, we await more information.

Let’s hope it can be reversed.
BIG HUGE UPDATE: Blizzard found our minions!  From Bornakk, who I could hug right now:
Since the release of 4.0.1, more than a few warlocks have noticed that their pets are in fact no longer their familiar demonic servants, and instead appear to be new entities with different names. We’ve been able to pinpoint the cause of the issue, which should be resolved by tomorrow for any warlocks that log in for the first time from then on. We’ve also been able to determine that we will be able to restore any renamed warlock pets to their original pre-4.0.1 names during next week’s scheduled maintenance.
For those of you who like your new pet names, we’re working on a feature for a future patch that will allow you to refresh your summons and essentially generate a random pet name without having to level a new warlock.
I’ve left the original post as-is, because it’s basically a love letter to my demon minions and is worth keeping.  I ❤ you guys!


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Looking Ahead to Cataclysm’s PvP Talents

Southshore slowly comes into view, much like Cataclysm’s talent builds.

I’m idly following along with Cataclysm news.  I’m not in the Beta.  I’d like to experience the story without knowing what’s going to happen.  And while I’m not actively avoiding Cataclysm news, I’m not actively seeking it out, either.  (Well, except for news on the BGs.  I’m actively looking for news on Twin Peaks et al..)

One thing I have seen, though, has been a big shift in the philosophy behind talents, particularly the split between PvP and PvE talents.  The trees are smaller (41 points at level 85, as opposed to 71 points at level 80), talents that just flatly increase damage have been (mostly) removed, and there’s an emphasis on ‘fun’ talents.

Ghostcrawler’s post on the matter, “A Few Words On Talent Tree Design,”  covers it better than I can.

… We don’t consider “bloat” a bad word. Players typically say that when there are more talents than they can possibly get. That’s the whole idea. When you run out of interesting talents, then that’s when we think we have a problem.

Related, if we do our jobs right, you are going to run out of dps talents (or healing talents if you’re a healer, or mitigation talents if you’re a tank). We don’t want every talent to feel mandatory since you are prohibited from getting them all. We want you to have choices. …

…We don’t consider every talent that doesn’t directly lead to higher dps to be a “PvP talent.” Survivability is a big deal in Cataclysm. In that vein, talents that keep you alive (or help healers conserve mana) are indirectly dps talents. 🙂 We aren’t designing PvP vs. PvE trees. Ultimately, we consider a talent specialization to be a stylistic choice. However, given the challenges of nailing both PvP and PvE balance, as a consolation prize it’s nice when at least there are no dead trees.  …

I’m a little wary about quoting just part of his post.  It’s good to read things in their context whenever possible, and this is no exception.


I was intrigued by what Ghostcrawler said, so I headed over to Wowhead’s Cataclysm Talent Calculator and fiddled around with it, trying to see how I would build Cynwise’s talents through the Warlock trees.

The results are probably not surprising.

The trees are smaller, but the philosophy I articulated for warlock talents in Wrath remains the same: take a core of Demonology for survival, then dive into your chosen tree.  Focus on talents that give you control and survivability, and then pick up DPS talents.

There are some new things in there that look very interesting – Bane of Havok, Jinx, Soul Swap – but there are also a lot of things that are missing.  Some PvP staples, like the anti-pushback talents Fel Concentration and Intensity, are now defaults.  Range extension talents like Grim Reach and Destructive Reach are gone, which, if applied uniformly across all classes, don’t present a problem.

That last part is important, don’t skip it.  Removing talents from one class while leaving them in for a different class is unfair, and could easily be considered a nerf.  Removing that talent type from all classes, however, is just rebalancing the game.  Extended range talents were inconsistent at best — mage talents extended by a certain number of yards (6, if I remember correctly) while warlocks got a percent increase (10%).  You couldn’t afford to skip these talents in PvP because the other person would probably have them, leaving you at a disadvantage, leading to an arms race.

Ghostcrawler talks a bit about this:

Related, many trees lost a lot of true PvP talents, such as dispel resistance or mechanic duration reductions. These are the kind of talents I describe as “arms races,” where you need a counter to the ability someone else is using to try to counter you. We’d rather reel the whole thing in a little and make things like crowd control or dispels as powerful or as weak as they need to be baseline rather than assuming you have talents that make them less powerful.

I approve of this kind of change.  One of the joys of low-level PvP in Wrath is that there aren’t a lot of counters available to different abilities, so those abilities actually work.  As you level this changes into moves and countermoves and counter-countermoves, all trying to get something to stick.

Don’t get me wrong – some of these changes are going to suck.  Crowd control is going to become more powerful.  Dispels are going to become more necessary.  Things are going to be different.

But different doesn’t mean worse.


One of the ideas that filtered through my Cataclysm news defenses was that there were no longer going to be PvP-only trees, that this was never a deliberate design decision and that any tree should be viable in nearly all situations. Personally, I like that goal and hope they get there, though balancing the different trees against each other in PvE is certainly a challenge I don’t think they’ll get correct out of the gate.

My hope is that the converse is true, that there will no longer be PvE-only trees.  I’d like to see more Demonology warlocks in battlegrounds.  I’d like to see more Fire mages and Arms warriors.  The fun talents that are getting added in to the trees could help with the viability of PvP specs within them… but only time will tell that.

One of the complaints that Ghostcrawler is addressing in his response is specific to PvE – namely, that in order to get to the more advanced talents in their spec, they have to take talents that would have been previously considered PvP talents, or talents that don’t directly contribute to the main specialization of the class.  DPS raiding builds are taking survival talents just to get to the next level of DPS talents, which is very much not the model used in Wrath.  The trees are big enough that you can — and probably should — spend every last talent point on maximizing your DPS.  Those few places where you don’t have any DPS options in your build (like level 3-4 of Deep Destro) forces you to take a talent that enhances survivability or control — felt like a waste.

But in Cataclysm, raiding builds will have survival talents.  There’s no way around that with the ways the trees are structured — you can pick up all the DPS talents without a problem, but you have to get some others along the way.  This feels weird to us now because it’s so antithetical to the current raiding mentality.

Consider the difference between PvP and PvE priorities here.  In PvP, you pick up survival talents, defensive talents, control talents — and then throughput talents.  A PvP Warlock goes and gets Improved Howl of Fury and skips Death’s Embrace.  The DPS talents are not an afterthought, but they’re also not a priority.  You don’t sacrifice everything else to get to them.   A Warlock should not give up Soul Link for PvP to pick up Improved Shadow Bolt, for instance.  But in raiding?  If you’re a Destruction Warlock who takes Soul Link instead of buffing your Imp’s damage, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

So while PvE’s talent builds will require a shift in thinking, not much has really changed in PvP.  A lot of talents are gone, but they’re either rolled into other abilities or no longer necessary, but the philosophy is basically the same.  The new abilities look fun, but they need to be tested in combat to see how well they’ll work.

Cataclysm won’t bring us some kind of nirvana where the same spec will perform well in both PvE and PvP.  You’ll still need to make choices to focus your talents in one direction or another, and those choices are going to be challenging ones for PvE builds.

But for PvP builds, the changes look like they’re all for the better.

Let’s see what they look like when Cataclysm launches.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

A Belated Introduction to Warlock PvP in Wrath of the Lich King

As the Wrath expansion winds down, I find more and more friends are spending time in the battlegrounds.  There’s not a lot of PvE content to keep people raiding, and the impending gear reset in Cataclysm is discouraging folks from grinding out gear on their alts.  So players go to where things are interesting, and battlegrounds are always interesting.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve fought 300 battles on that map, the next one is always going to be unique.

So a lot of folks are leveling new characters and getting them ready for Cataclysm, and that includes playing BGs.  If that character happens to be a warlock, then this post is for you.

I know that with each expansion, classes change, sometimes dramatically.  But — unlike the Emblem grind, which I think is honestly futile at this point if you’re not actively raiding — I think learning how to PvP on a class gives you a solid foundation upon which to build in the next expansion.  Generally speaking, the focus and playstyle of a class won’t change so radically that the time spent learning how to PvP in one patch is lost in another.  Yes, there are some major changes coming to Warlocks.  But Affliction locks are still going to dot dot fear run away and Destruction locks are still going to seduce nuke their way out of trouble.  Demo locks… well, they’re actually going to change a lot.  But I don’t know how to play a Demo lock in PvP yet, therefore I’m not worrying about it now.

So, while it might seem a little late in the expansion to start, here’s an introduction to Warlock PvP in Wrath of the Lich King.  Why?

Because it’s never too late to start being awesome.


Most of what I wrote early on in the expansion about Warlock PvP talents still holds true.

If you have chosen the path of AFFLICTION, then go 54/17/0 to start with.  There is a little wiggleroom in this spec, basically between how much you put in Shadow’s Embrace versus Eradication vs Improved Felpup, but it has all the bases covered.

If you have chosen the path of DESTRUCTION, you have choices:

  • 0/20/51 (Improved Succubus) gives you a very fast Seduction.  This is good for 1v1 or Arena.
  • 0/17/54 (Soul Leech) gives you self-healing, good for BGs, but no Seduce nukes.
  • 3/17/51 (Suppression) gives you hit, freeing up your gear to hit a bit harder.

If you have chosen the path of DEMONOLOGY, well, I’m not sure if I’m the right person to advise you.  I love playing Demo in PvE, but in PvP?  Haven’t been able to make it work.  I’d go with a 0/58/13 deep Demo build to start off with and see how that works.


There’s some flexibility in your glyph selection.  Here are some good ones.

The only Minor glyph you should take is Unending Breath.  This gives people with your Unending Breath buff a 20% swim speed increase, which can help in AB and Twin Peaks.

If you want to know what I specifically use, I use:

  • Quick Decay, Life Tap, and Soul Link for Affliction, and
  • Incinerate, Chaos Bolt, and Soul Link for Destruction.

I used to run Incinerate, Conflagrate, and Shadowflame back in 3.2.  You may find Conflagrate better to start with instead of Chaos Bolt until you’re used to the spec.


As a Warlock:

  • Keep at range.  You’re probably the sturdiest of all the cloth classes (with Soul Link active) but you’ll still go down to a Bladestorm.
  • Keep moving.  ALWAYS KEEP MOVING.  Cast, move.  Cast while moving.  You can stop when you’re dead.
  • Fear.  Fear.  Fear.  Howl of Terror.  Fear.  Death Coil.  Guess what kind of spell you should be casting all the time?
  • You have Shadow Ward.  Use it.
  • You have Demonic Circle.  It will save your life many many times, but only if you drop the circle first.  Get in the habit of dropping one all the time.

For Affliction:

  • Your mantra:  Dot ’em up, Fear ’em away, Drain ’em down.
  • Your tools of choice: Corruption, Unstable Affliction, Haunt, a lot of Curses, Drains, and Searing Pain.  Yes, Searing Pain.
  • Your demon of choice: the Felhunter.  Get a good pet macro and use your Felpup’s abilities.  Spell Lock will save your life, or kill a healer.  Lock healers down so dots can tick.  Devour Magic is awesome.  Learn to use both abilities.
  • Your voidwalker — remember him? — is AWESOME against rogues and good against other melee.  Sacrifice gives you an absorption shield you can trigger while stunlocked.
  • Corruption is your main source of damage.  With Siphon Life, you’ll get healing back too, so spread Corruption around to as many targets as you can in a BG.
  • Haunt and Unstable Affliction should be cast in rapid succession whenever you stop moving.  Keep in mind UA is no longer just a dot – it’s a dot that hurts enemy healers.  That makes it an AWESOME dot.
  • Improved Howl of Terror is for when melee gets too close.  Get them moving away from you and then RUN AWAY.
  • Curses should be chosen according to situation — Exhaustion for melee, Tongues for casters, Agony for general damage, Elements for getting through resistances.
  • The only time you cast Shadowbolt is when Nightfall procs.  Otherwise, Drain Life / Drain Soul / Searing Pain to fill in the time.
  • As soon as you get locked out of the Shadow school, switch over to Searing Pain.  Spam it – hard.

For Destruction:

  • Your mantra: Stand still, this won’t hurt a bit.  Oh wait, yes, it did.
  • Your tools: Immolate, then Chaos Bolt / Conflagrate / Shadowfury all at once.  Incinerate as secondary nuke.  Shadowfury, Seduction and Fear to hold them in place.
  • Your pet:  Succubus or Felhunter.  Use the Succubus’s Soothing Kiss on melee classes.  Seduce and Fear share diminishing returns, so think before you use it.
  • Destro excels at stacking burst damage and suddenly knocking 75% of someone’s health off in a GCD.  Timing combos to hit all at once puts tremendous pressure on enemy healers.
  • The most basic combo is CICD: Chaos Bolt, Immolate, Conflagrate, Dead.  Chaos Bolt has travel time, so after casting it you immediately put Immolate on the target.  Depending on range and Haste, Immo will land just before or just after the Chaos Bolt hits.  Follow up with a Conflagrate, and, for extra damage, a Shadowfury.  If they’re still alive, take advantage of Backdraft and hit them with hasted Immolate/Incinerates.  (If you have the Glyph of Conflagrate, Immolate is still on the target, so you can just Incinerate away.)
  • Keep Immolate on the target as much as you can.  Never cast Incinerate if Immolate is not present.  Use Shadowburn instead (or better yet, cast Immolate!)
  • Learn to weave your Seductions and Fears in with your nukes.  If you put Curse of the Elements and Immolate on a target, then Seduce, then CICD, then Fear, then Immolate and Incinerate, then Shadowfury, then Shadowburn… well, your opponent hasn’t had much of a chance to harm you, have they?
  • Curses: Elements gives you 12% damage bonus and lowers resistances.  Tongues can be okay against casters.
  • Use Corruption as a trash debuff to protect your Immolate.
  • When fighting pet classes, try to get the pet in with your Shadowfury.
  • Chaos Bolt cuts through all bubbles.  Bubbles hate Chaos Bolt.

For Demonology:

  • I… got nothing.  I have no idea how to play Demo in PvP.  Let’s revisit them in Cataclysm, because things are looking much better there.


You’re going to want macros.  Lots and lots of macros.

I have a very popular post on warlock macros that is unfortunately starting to age a bit. Macro syntax has improved since I wrote that, and I’d like to revisit it in a lot more depth – but I’m holding off for Cataclysm.  So here are some quick updates, in no particular order.

Totem stomping macros no longer work. You used to be able to send pets after specific totems, in order… but no more.  Sad warlock.  Use this mouseover petattack macro instead:

/petattack [target=mouseover]

As Destro, I modified my Chaos Bolt to shoot rockets if CB is on cooldown:

/cast Chaos Bolt
/use 10

And changed my Immolate macro to include Soothing Kiss:

/castsequence reset=target/combat,2 Immolate, Incinerate, Incinerate
/use 13
/use 14
/cast [@pettarget] Soothing Kiss

While playing Affliction, I used the following extensively:


/castsequence reset=target/combat,3 Corruption, Curse of Agony,  Fear, Frostweave Net, Drain Life
/cast [@target] Devour Magic
/use 13
/use 14

That lets me go dot dot fear, with an optional snare at the end.  I was of two minds about having the Felhunter’s Devour Magic in there; sometimes it worked great, other times it left DM on cooldown when I needed it.  The last two lines were to fire pump trinkets (I”m still using the Platinum Disks from WG, is that sad?)

Here’s the other mainstay of my rotation in Affliction:

/castsequence [mod] Unstable Affliction; reset=target/combat,4 Haunt, Unstable Affliction, Searing Pain, Searing Pain, Searing Pain
/use 10

This is my “stand-and-cast” macro, applying the two important shadow spells and then spamming Searing Pain on the target.  It also fires rockets at the target.

As always, the official macro page and WowWiki Warlock Macro page are great places to go for inspiration.


Here are some add-ons I find helpful with my warlock.

  • NeedToKnow – lets you track buffs and debuffs in highly visible bars.  I use this to make sure that Immolate is on the target, check to see if Backdraft or Backlash have procced, and track my Shadowfury / Chaos Bolt cooldowns with it.
  • SaySapped – lets people around you know that you’ve been sapped.  Rogues, we hates them, we hates them forever!
  • OmniCC – adds a countdown to any ability that’s on cooldown.  Great for tracking mutiple CDs at once.
  • DRTracker – tracks diminishing returns on your Fear and Seduce.  Very important!

I’m a big fan of NeedToKnow.  Here’s what my setup looks like:

I put the buff/debuff timers below the casting bar, and cooldowns above it.


Ready for more?

  • My Warlockery page is a summary of the posts I’ve done on Warlocks, and there are a lot of them.
  • I must link Dusk’s Guide to Warlocks in Battlegrounds every other week on Twitter.  It’s awesome.  It’s the reason I never wrote a post like this before — he covers a lot of ground and gives great advice.
  • The Warlock Resources section of Murloc Parliament is a great collection of how-to posts for the various specs and styles.  Good collection there.
  • I’m still in love with the Destruction Duel video, and wish more videos like this got made.

All set?  Great!  Good luck, and happy warlocking!


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Destruction Dueling

Kordwar from WTF Are You Survival pointed me to the Destruction Duel Guide 2, a seriously great introduction to playing a Destruction Warlock in PvP, with a rundown of how to beat a dozen classes or so.  It’s a long video, but very good — not only is it a great, clear instructional video, it’s bookended with a storyline that makes it stand out.

If you PvP on your warlock, or against warlocks, this is definitely worth watching.  The 1v1 class breakdown section is awesome.

Anyhow, as I’m watching this video I found myself becoming nostalgic for Destruction PvP.  I haven’t played Destro PvP since 3.3 came out and I switched from Destro/Destro to Affliction PvP/Demonology PvE.  There was a brief period when I rocked the dual Aff/Destro PvP specs, but I found it hard being proficient in both at the same time.  It’s like learning Spanish and Portuguese and trying to be fluent in both — you pick the wrong word because everything is so similar.

I love videos like this because they show you the potential for fun a class/spec has.  Watching people who are good at a class — any class — is a joy as a Warcraft player.

There’s a lot of excitement about Cataclysm going around right now.  (Notice I didn’t use words like “panic,” “consternation,” or “distress.”)  And with all that excitement, it’s easy to lose sight of that there are still fun aspects of the game to explore right now.  Maybe it’s an alt you haven’t played in a while, or a spec you’ve never tried.  Maybe it’s playing the auction house (*ahem*) or trying a different role.

For me?  I’m having a blast with my current Aff PvP/Demo PvE build, but maybe I should let myself go back to the bursty side while giving Aff PvE  spin in raids.

Sometimes, all it takes is a video of how much fun a spec can be to reawaken the joy in your play.

(Yes, I miss Shadowfury.  Like, duh!)


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Links, Warlockery