Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Welcome to the new Warlock!

With the arrival of patch 5.0.4, everyone logged on to see their classes' new toys and shiny abilities with grins and squeals of excitement, but when our covens of Warlocks open our presents, we looked with perplexed curiosity at our entirely new class. “What do these embers do? Why does Haunt use a Soul Shard? Why am I growing purple horns?” For the past few weeks we've all been answering these questions, but there's one nagging question that even constant forum posters are having trouble answering—“Why am I generating everything so slowly?”

After some beta-testing, as well as a week of live raiding and heroics, I believe I've stumbled upon a new way to look at rotations to explain why our secondary resources generate relatively slowly. From all my play testing, I've seen a fundamental shift of focus in the Warlock's rotation. A Mage's rotation is about spamming one little spell until something more interesting pops up. A Balance Druid can shift between Eclipses in less than 15 seconds. But not Warlocks. Our class no longer is narrowly concerned with what spell to cast after the other. No, the length of our rotations are so long, they encompass entire boss fights. What Warlocks are receiving in Pandaria isn't a new rotation; it's an entirely new take on the rotation model.

What we have is a Meta-rotation. Just like we have the Meta-game—all the theory crafting, the databases, the guilds, etc, that makes the game more than finishing quests and downing bosses—Warlocks have a rotation that encompasses more than simply pushing buttons in the right order. The time between generating resources and spending them is so long that the Meta-rotation encompasses whole portions of fights, instead of seconds of it. In Heroics, I've found that the Meta-rotation can even encompass all the mobs between bosses, where I have to consider how to spend my secondary resources per pull, instead of per enemy.

That unfulfilled promise of utility that Soul Shards gave during Cataclysm can finally be realized. Because Soul Shards were fixed and permanent throughout the fight, spells that had a Soul Burn effect had to be balanced around being powerful enough to use throughout a long fight, while at the same time being not quite powerful enough to trivialize short fights. Obviously this just couldn't be done, so this long term, damage or utility resource system evolved into an entire rotation above the normal rotation. The current Meta-rotation allows generation of resources inside combat, but also scales that generation to require so much input, so much time, that the spells using the secondary resources can actually be of substantial power, make a real difference, at the same time not being overpowered. The Meta-rotation can accommodate any length fight, because it is based on actually generating secondary resources, as opposed to spending a preset number. The Meta-rotation still maintains though the advantage of having the player specifically decides when and where those powerful damage or utility spells are needed.

The other major outcome of this is that Warlocks now possess a rather unique form of burst. All three specs have a way to essentially kick their damage into high gear for a sustainable amount of time without the need for cooldowns by building up a secondary resource that can be used for higher damage later. In every case, the Warlock decides how and when that extra damage is used. In Patchwerk-style fights, you can simply spread out the damage evenly throughout the encounter, but if there are certain critical phases of a fight, such as a burn phase, or an AoE phase, those damage boosts can be saved up and unleashed. A Warlock's damage throughout any boss will have rather huge peaks and valleys, but they will add to respectable overall DPS.

Each spec, of course, has very different takes on this basic premise, but I've seen this concept imbedded in all three specs. Each one takes the concept into different directions and applies them differently, but the effect is always the same. Your rotation is designed to change based on the conditions of the fight, and shifts over a long period of time, rather than shifting in the short term.


Destruction's Meta-rotation is the simplest of all three of the new specs. It's based on a very simple input/output system. By casting Incinerate, the Destruction Warlock builds up Burning Embers, which then can be cast for powerful Chaos Bolts. The ratio is around ten Incinerates for one Chaos Bolt, but can be lower because an Incinerate that crits generates double the amount of Burning Embers. These can be saved with no penalty, giving the Destruction Meta-rotation a commutative property. That means that no matter what the order of Burning Ember generation and spending, the overall DPS at the end of an encounter will always be the same.

For example, let's suppose you have a boss fight of one and a half minutes in length. Not accounting for haste and crit, you'll be able to cast forty Incinerates, generating four Burning Embers, and spend those Burning Embers on five Chaos Bolts, including a Burning Ember that you start the fight with. So, suppose you cast ten Incinerates, generating one Burning Ember. At this point, you can cast a Chaos Bolt, and then repeat casting Incinerates, doing this cycle until the fight is over. You can also continue to generate Burning Embers, waiting until you've reached the cap. Then, you'll have three Burning Embers to spend any way you wish. You can spend them all in a row or you can just spend one, and sit on the other two for later. But, no matter what you do, your overall DPS will always remain the same. The number of Burning Embers usable is constant, no matter what order they are consumed in. This is the essence of Destruction's Meta-rotation.

What all this means is that the major consideration in spending Burning Embers isn't getting the most out as quickly as possible. The Meta-rotation is far too long term for that kind of thinking. Instead, a Destruction Warlock considers which parts of the fight needs the Burning Embers. Take Warlord Zon'ozz. The basic strategy in the normal Dragon Soul is to bounce the void orb until you unleash it on Zon'ozz, giving him a debuff where he takes more damage. This small burn window is when the DPS really matters. So a Destruction Warlock may generate all the Burning Embers possible, and sit on them until this burn phase begins, unleashing all three Chaos Bolts at once. Then, once the burn phase is over, and the void orb is bouncing again, that Warlock returns to a low Burning Ember consumption rotation, building up as many Burning Embers as needed, spending only one Burning Ember when the cap is reached, until the burn phase comes up again. This on-demand damage can also be used for AoE, using an ability called Fire and Brimstone. Using it consumes an Ember, just as Chaos Bolt does, but makes the next Incinerate, Immolate, or Conflagration hit all targets in an area. This lets a Destruction Warlock not just have huge burst potential with Chaos Bolts, but AoE burst by shooting out Incinerates and Immolates everywhere.

"Flames! More flames!"

The key to using these burst abilities, though, is knowing when the fight requires Burning Ember use, and changing the rotation around these requirements.


The basic premise of Demonology's Meta-rotation is very similar to Destruction's. The Demonologist Warlock builds up a secondary resource, Demonic Fury, by casting the entire repertoire of spells: Corruption, Shadow Bolt, Hand of Gul'dan. Instead of spending Demonic Fury on a specific high damage ability, like Destruction, Demonology spends Demonic Fury on time in Metamorphosis. Metamorphosis grants the Warlock not just increase damage and better AoE, but it allows all those things with far more flexibility. The biggest flexibility is mobility, that almost every spell available in Metamorphosis is an instant cast.

The exchange for this rather powerful boost for multiple situations is that the Demonologist is building up Demonic Fury for time spent in Metamorphosis, as opposed to a direct spike of damage. That makes the Meta-rotation more active, where using Metamorphosis requires not just the right opportunity, but the right amount of time to get the full use of Metamorphosis. Moreover, because Metamorphosis can be manually deactivated, a Demonologist can change the momentum of spending Demonic Fury, stopping at any point in Metamorphosis to save the resource for later. Time itself is the prime consideration with Metamorphosis. It's not a matter of being in Metamorphosis or not, it's also a matter of how much time you're willing to spend in Metamorphosis.

Armies of Imps. What else could a Warlock desire?

On your standard Patchwerk, tank-and-spank fight, Demonology's optimal Meta-rotation is to simply build up Demonic Fury to max, then spend all of it in one sitting of Metamorphosis. This is actually an advantage for Demonology, that it has a simple base Meta-rotation, while the others are based on the idea that the Warlock is choosing where to put the damage increasing spells, even if it is a Patchwerk-style fight. But in fights where there are burn phases or AoE phases, the momentum of Demonic Fury generation has to be cut short for the immediate benefit, but at the expense of less time using the benefit. For example, on Warlord Zon'ozz, you may reach full Demonic Fury before he finishes his void sphere phase. To keep all the Demonic Fury for the burn phase, the Demonologist will spend only some time in Metamorphosis, depleting whatever amount of Demonic Fury that can be built up before the burn phase begins. You have to stop the momentum from Metamorphosis, to allow for that Demonic Fury to be used later. The converse is also true though. During the Yor'sahj fight, a Demonologist may have only built up half the maximum Demonic Fury when a black glob is summoned. That Warlock will only have half the time in Metamorphosis, but will have all the same damage increasing abilities.

While Destruction and Affliction have very specific abilities to cast at specific instances, the key to Demonology's Meta-rotation is time. Knowing not just when in the sequence of a fight Metamorphosis is required, but for how long. The key to using Metamorphosis is the ability to shift between it expertly throughout a whole encounter.


Affliction's Meta-rotation is perhaps the most complicated to explain, as it deviates substantially from the former two specs. Firstly, it is generated randomly instead of directly. Secondly, the secondary resource gained, Soul Shards, is actually much closer to a conventional resource than Demonic Fury or Burning Embers. It's easy the most short term of the three Meta-rotations. The goal for an Affliction Warlock is to attempt to keep Haunt—now a boosting spell that increases damage taken and costs a Soul Shard—up at the best times, either spread out throughout a fight or concentrated on certain crucial phases. If that phase calls for multi-DoTing or massive AoE, Soul Burn can be used on either Soul Swap, for the former, and Seed of Corruption, for the latter.

"So much suffering, trapped in one little shard."

The best metaphor I can offer for just how to manage Affliction's Meta-rotation is that it is like a budget game. An Affliction Warlock essentially has a 25% chance to generate a Soul Shard every time Corruption deals damage, but starts with the maximum Soul Shards possible at the beginning of a fight. So, on the one hand, Affliction Warlocks can't spend more shards than they take in, otherwise they will be starved of their secondary resource, and reliant on that 25% chance to use their abilities. But, at the same time, if Affliction Warlocks only cast a Haunt, or use Soul Burn, when a Soul Shard is generated, their DPS will be subject to the random number generator. Thus, the Affliction Meta-rotation is designed to juggle their resources, spending just as much as can be replenished while spreading out the usage to do the maximum DPS as possible. So, when a boss has a burning phase, an AoE phase, or a situation where multi-DoTing is needed, Affliction can spend into the saved Soul Shards.

An Affliction Warlock has to actively spend Soul Shards throughout any fight, to make sure there's an empty space for a Soul Shard that may generated. So, in your standard Patchwerk-style fight, an Affliction Warlock can actually cheat the random number generator a little to keep Haunt up consistently throughout the fight. Suppose it's been far too long since a Soul Shard has been generated. A clever Warlock can simply deficit spend a Soul Shard, knowing that one will be generated later. On fights with a burn phase or some other critical phase, those saved shards are going to be necessary to use immediately at the critical point. On a fight like Warlord Zon'ozz, an Affliction Warlock need only chain Haunts, keeping the debuff on the Warlord for as long as there are surplus Soul Shards to burn, and then saving any Soul Shards generated afterwards for the next burn phase. On an AoE fight, such as Yor'sahj, Soul Burn can be used combined with Seed of Corruption, which will leave a single Corruption DoT on all targets hit by the explosion, but Haunt can also be kept up on the main boss to keep doing damage. The same principle is also true for Multi-DoTing, using Soul Burn with Soul Swap to put all three DoTs on the other target.

The core of Affliction's Meta-rotation is this kind of income, saving, and spending system. Maximizing DPS comes from balancing all three during a fight, so that you're always generating more Soul Shards, throttling damage up, while saving just enough for those key phases. Affliction seems to be built around this constant budgeting of Shards, and while big critical moments in a fight are key parts of playing the other two specs, it's just another variable in the soul budget for the Affliction Warlock.

"I don't care which Warlock is on your resume, you're working for me now!"

So, welcome to the Meta-rotation, and the new Warlock class. I personally think there's been an identity crisis for Warlocks for a long time. For so long the class was defined by having pets, or having DoTs or debuffs, or having a giant toolbox of spells, but these a class does not make. For far too long, Warlocks and Mages were pretty much synonymous, nothing but a thematic difference. But, finally there's a niche that no other class has ever delved into. Having a rotation that spans such a long breadth of time, that every aspect of a fight had to be considered, is a quality that is rather unique, and, I feel, fresh. I predict that long-term planning will become a central part of the class, and players who can manage a little long-term planning will be drawn to Warlock. The new Warlock will reward players who can plan far ahead, who can see a whole fight, instead of just small phases. It will not be about a simple rotation of this spell, that spell, other spell, and cooldown when needed. Our spells will be of a far grander scope, their reach spanning across entire encounters, with power befitting the amount of effort put into keeping that kind of perspective. A Warlock with just enough wit will be able to unleash a torrent of demonic powers, hellfire, or withering darkness just when a raid is pushed to its limits. This kind of Meta-rotation will mark Warlocks as being the devious, conniving, plotting masterminds of Azeroth, always three steps ahead of any opponent. And I love it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cataclysm Warlock Wish List

It seems to be an amazingly exciting time in the Cataclysm beta, with classes everywhere being improved and redesigned. Paladins now have Holy Power, Shaman can duel wield at level 10, Priests can make shadowy apparitions of themselves, Hunters have focus, and so on. Pity I'm not part of it. Yet, I see Warlock lagging far behind. There has been very little change to the Warlock trees, and the Soul Shard system in particular seems to be in a ludicrously low level of development. There are only six uses for Soul Shards right now, and gathering them is just as much a hassle as it is today. I believe there are still many changes to come, but in this early stage of development, I've decided to post my wish list for the Cataclysm Warlock.

1. Soul Shards. I hope so deeply that this mechanic comes from the muck of development as a shining and brilliant mechanic, the envy of Spellcasters everywhere. As of right now, the theory is that Soul Shards should be used as a resource, consumed by the spell Soulburn, to alter spells. Yet, right now, the only spells that are affected are the summon Demon spells, making them instant cast, Drain Life, which reduces casting speed on its target, Teleporting to the Demonic Circle, which increases your movement speed once you've teleported, making Soul fire an instant cast and Searing Pain guaranteed to be a critical strike. Very minor changes. The issue right now really is how to balance situational use with rotational use. Some Warlocks hold that anything less than a damage increase makes this new mechanic pointless. I, in fact, believe the opposite. Right now the theory goes that a Warlock should "Consume 3 Soul Shards" every boss encounter, while I think the philosophy should instead be that a Warlock, in a pure DPS fight or a, pardon the crude vernacular, "Tank-and-spank" boss, should not have to use any Soul Shards. It should be a mechanic used when under pressure, when rotations break down and a Warlock needs to make a snap choice what to do. Yes, a Warlock won't use their Soul Shards every fight, but when they do it should be a rather impressive show of skill and ability to use it right.
Moreover, I'm personally bothered by the current way to regain Soul Shards, which is to either use Drain Soul when a creature is about to die, or Soul Harvest to regain life and Soul Shards. Both feel very clumsy, and were the hallmarks of the problems of the old Soul Shard system. A crucial part of a class's resource system shouldn't be replenished by spells, it should be an innate mechanic that regenerates on its own. I believe the current issue on this revolves around the fear that Warlocks will simply break combat to regenerate Soul Shards, then return to battle with a fresh set of abilities, and while having to manually gain Soul Shards helps this problem, I still think it needs much more polish and design change, so that it will be an automatic process.

2. Curses. Warlocks have always had a difficult decision to make, both in PVE and PVP, over whether to use a utility Curse or a damaging Curse. In PVE, there is always arguments about which Warlock has "Curse of the Elements Duty." With the introduction of the "Bane" magical effect, now Curses can now be entirely in the realm of utility. Now, however, Curses are amazingly narrow. There is only Curse of Weakness, Curse of Tongues, and Curse of the Elements. I think Curses need a larger range of choices and abilities, rather than simply using Curse of the Elements for it's DPS increase. The biggest one that comes to mind is Curse of Exhaustion. It is such a useful Curse, I think it deserves to be made baseline. Though I think two or so more curses could be added, though all I can think of are the rather interesting curses used in Molten Core.

3. Demonology. Demonology is currently my Warlock's preferred Spec, both for PVE and PVP, and it was the spec I leveled in. It's a very familiar and fun spec for me, and I'm sure I'll continue to use the old Felguard in Cataclysm. I do think there's some significant room to expand, though. The first is the Hand of Gul'dan ability, which seems like a decent ability, but it seems to dominate so much of the currently sparse Demonology tree. It may seem a strange thing to get upset by, but it does. Moreover, currently the level 10 ability granted by becoming a Demonologist is the ability to summon a Felguard, his old place in the talent tree taken up by the talent Inferno, letting a Demonologist cast Hellfire while moving. I don't think any simple level 10 Warlock is capable of handling the great powers of the Felguard, nor should he be allowed such a privilege. A Warlock should be able to experience the joys of earning and using multiple Demons. At the very least, the old Blueberry, the Void walker, should be the leveling pet for a decent time. Again, this may seem odd to be upset at, but I am.
Besides these, though, the Demonology tree looks strong and healthy. Molten Core keeps a Warlock switching between casting Shadowbolt and Incinerate, but now quick Incinerate blasts are more valuable because of Impending Doom, which reduces the cooldown on Metamorphosis. Demonic Pact still keeps our Spellpower high, and with the, hopeful, addition of Demon Bolt into our rotation, Demonology will be a powerful yet skillful Warlock to play. Yet, I think two abilities still need considerable tweaking.
The first is Demonic Empowerment, which is a crucial ability, really is just a button to push on cooldown with no real visible effect. Its biggest issue is that while it has an effect for each Demon, the only Warlock able to get this ability is a Demonologist, and he will only use a Felguard. Its effect for the Felguard is to simply make him big, red and scary, and increases attack speed, and makes him immune to crowd control. It is essentially a copy of the Beast Master's Bestial Wrath, but at least the Hunter's version improves their own attack power as well. Although Demonic Empowerment works, it touches me as too boring. This isn't a critically broken spell, but it could stand to be improved somehow.
The other issue, however, I think does require more consideration, and that is the Felguard himself. He is currently one of the most boring and simplistic pets in the entire game. He can simply charge, taunt, cleave, and build up a passive attack power bonus. While I love the big lug, he doesn't do anything but smash an enemy. With the improvements made to all the other minions, giving the Voidwalker a specific taunt and a damaging ability, the Succubus a push back effect, and the Imp a new DoT, the Felguard deserves to have at least have a full set of abilities he may use. Perhaps he could be kept within the Warrior theme, allow him to give a debuff of some kind, like a Hamstring or Disarm ability, or perhaps make Demonic Frenzy more powerful, but at the cost of it being a cooldown the Warlock has to initiate.
The last part of Demonology that certainly needs alot of attention and change is Metamorphosis. This signature ability is what separates a Demonologist from all other Warlocks. It's powerful, it grants us amazing abilities, and it of course makes one look like one of the greatest villains of all time. Yet, despite it's obvious greatness, many Warlocks criticize Metamorphosis for being simply a cosmetic change, only really increasing damage done, because the abilities granted to a Metamorphosed Warlock are all but worthless. A taunt, a melee attack, a charge and an immolation aura really are only useful for a tank in melee combat, exactly what a Warlock doesn't want to find himself in. So this ability needs to change what it gives, but more over affect the abilities a Warlock already uses. Recently, Tree of Life was changed to work like Metamorphosis, but instead of adding more abilities it changed the ones they currently use. This approach should be taken to Metamorphosis, perhaps going so far as to make the entire rotation change. I'd like to see some significant changes; Curroptions that work more like instant blasts of shadow magic, dealing the same damage but in a much smaller time, Shadowbolts that fire three in one shot, to hit multiple or the same target, Immolates that burst and make new Immolate ticks, Soul Fires becoming spammable, and so forth. I would love that Metamorphosis isn't just a visual or damage dealing change, but a complete and total change to the Warlock, that Metamorphosis should be an amazing thing to use.

4. Affliction. Early in my raiding career, I switched to Affliction because Demonology was simply not a raiding spec. I did both Naxxramas and Ulduar as an Affliction Warlock, and I must admit it is a very fun spec. It's the oldest viable DPS spec for Warlocks, back when Demonology was only for leveling and Destruction was for the odd Warlock who wanted to be like a Mage and endlessly fire Shadowbolt. Ironic, as now Affliction's worst criticism is that it is the new Shadowbolt spammer. Yet, it is still a very solid spec, keeping four DoTs, Haunt, Unstable Affliction, Curroption and Curse of Agony, up at any one time, filling in the duration of those with Shadowbolt volleys. Long ago, the pet of choice was ambiguous for Affliction Warlocks, where some would say the optimal Demon was, in fact, the Doomguard. Now, an Affliction Warlock has his lovable and loyal Felhunter at his side. With the inclusion Soul Swap, nearly all the broken aspects of Affliction are rested. I think the only means of improvement for Affliction really are to add new procs, ways to keep an Affliction Warlock from becoming too locked into a routine. The only real such thing Affliction has is Nightfall, a small chance from a Curroption tick to have an instant cast Shadowbolt, and it both procs far too little to make any meaningful impact on Affliction's rotation, and only makes what you were doing anyway an instant cast. Almost every Nightfall proc I received while playing Affliction was instantly used because I was in the middle of casting Shadowbolt anyway.
A few new interesting talents could really make Affliction a fun yet stable spec to play as a Warlock. I can't help but look at the new Shadow Priest talents for inspiration, as the two are nearly identical; setting up DoTs then filling in the time between them with a powerful Shadow attack. Currently, Shadow Priests have some pretty interesting talents, particularly Shadowy Apparition, which randomly will make a ghost of yourself to attack an enemy. Affliction could make some great use out of abilities like this, or perhaps even non-DPS abilities, like the Shadow Priest's Dispersion, which can add some utility without necessarily increasing damage. All in all, Affliction simply needs some stirring up, a few abilities to add some interesting mechanics, and Affliction will be nigh perfect.

5. Destruction. Between the time I switched from Demonology, and settled on Affliction for raiding, I went with the standard Warlock spec: Destruction. Unfortunately, what I found was not pleasing. I found a spec that played more like a castrated Mage than any Warlock. I would dare to guess that 2/3 of all my casts were Incineration. The rotation is astoundingly simple; Start with Immolate, then with the Glyph of Conflagrate, instantly cast Conflagrate, which won't consume the Immolate, then gain the Backdraft effect, making your first Chaos Bolt quickly, along with two quick Incinerates, then...you simply keep casting Incinerates until Immolate is nearly gone, then Conflagrate, backdrafting everything over again. No cooldowns, no random procs, no real strategy. My favorite looking ability, Chaos Bolt, is relegated to just a green Incinerate. It's such a shame. I think what is required to make Destruction simply a decent spec is to give Destruction some depth, a way to keep a Destruction Warlock having to know what is going on, to separate a skillful player from one who simply pushes the buttons. I can't help but feel that Searing Pain could have a place in a new Destruction, an ability to fit between Chaos Bolt and Incinerate. Perhaps there could be a way to give Searing Pain a value above Incinerate, maybe even have Searing Pain have a high Critical Strike damage, so any proc dealing with Critical Strike would favor Searing Pain as opposed to just continuing to cast Incinerate. I also need to express my disappointment with Glyph of Conflagrate, a Glyph that makes so much difference, yet none at all. On the one hand, it makes it so that Conflagrate doesn't consume the DoT of Immolate, so you can use it both before and after casting Immolate. It essentially makes Conflagrate into a fancy Fireblast. Yet, while this is a significant change, in practicality, it is almost no difference. The cooldown of Conflagrate is the same as the duration of Immolate, meaning that the fact that it can be cast both before and after casting Immolate, this only affects your rotation once. Essentially, with the glyph, you get one free Conflagrate at the beginning of a rotation. Then, you'd only be able to Conflagrate at the end of each Immolate rotation, which is how the original spell was designed. The original spell was designed to, I believe, add a level of skill to when a Warlock should cast it, waiting till the very last second of Immolate's DoT. Many Warlocks now ask for the Glyph to be baseline for the Conflagrate spell, but I think it should be the opposite; the Glyph should simply go away completely. Conflagrate should be used skillfully, watching the last bit of Immolate, thinking about how many more Incinerates you can cast before you Conflagrate. I think with those two major changes, Destruction will change from the beginner's easy spec to a decent spec that can be used skillfully.

That's it. My thoughts and feelings, my hopes and dreams for my favorite class in the game. I hope my thoughts at least coincide with those of the developers, and the things I hope to see will come to pass. I do hope it was at least something interesting for you, the reader, to read, despite how long it may of been.

Until next the stars align, and the portals can be opened,

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lower Circles of Hell

Amongst the Warlocks of Azeroth, there are many Demons commonly used. From the weak Imp to the strong Felguard, Demons are easily summoned routinely, as if they were their personal pets. These Demons are but the easiest and most willing Demonic minions there are. Few have learned, even fewer summoned, the Great Demons, those that take strong magic and will to control. I speak of course, of the fabled Infernal and Doomguard Minions.

A History Lost in Time

Long ago, these Demons were rather powerful creatures that could not be controlled easily. In the darker days, to maintain control of these Demons one had to cast the spell Enslave Demon, using a Soul Shard, to maintain control. Otherwise, the Demon would break free, first taking its anger out on its previous master, then terrorizing whoever was in its way. The Infernal would be summoned under your control, but after a duration, it would break free, requiring it to be re-enslaved. The Doomguard is obviously a more powerful Demon, and so even after summoning it, it would be free to attack you, testing your will to enslave it on the spot. Moreover, while the Infernal simply could be spawned through a fireball in the sky, a spell taught to you by Niby the Almighty, the Doomguard could only be summoned through a complex ritual, involving five foolish souls, and the sacrifice of one of their lives to bring forth the Demon, a ritual taught by Daio the Decrepit. While these Demons have fallen out of use, I still highly recommend completing these quests, as the knowledge to summon such Demons may come in handy one day.

Truth be told, these Demons have often never truly had any real purpose for any Warlock. They were more novelties; small side shows to inspire the awes of companions, and perhaps to be unleashed on some unsuspecting village. As time went on, the penalties were lowered, the secrets explored and the techniques perfected. No longer did the Infernal break free from his chains when summoned, no longer did the Ritual of Doom need the life of a member to summon forth the Demon, and in the end even the need to Enslave the Demon was unnecessary. Today, the Infernal and the Doomguard can be summoned, under the Warlock's control, and will serve him dutifully until his time on the mortal planes is done, and will return to the Twisted Neither, without so much as a grunt. The only contrast to this is the use of Curse of Doom. This curse, when used on an enemy that is a threat to you, will summon the Doomguard, free and furious at you, provided the damage caused by the curse is what kills the enemy. But this curse is rather clumsy, and no Warlock truly uses it to summon a Doomguard in his time of need.

Possible Futures

If you permit me to set aside the roleplaying voice for a moment, we Warlocks found out during the slow reveal of the Warlock rebuild for Cataclysm, a few things that pertain to our higher Demons. The first thing was that the creators wished to see the Demons used more, that they would have some purpose. So, in their wisdom, decided that the Infernal and Doomguard would be summoned as "Guardians" as opposed to "Minions," meaning that they will not replace the current Demonic Minion you have out. Also, though less obvious, is the fact that they will no longer have a pet bar, and will not be able to be controlled, similar to a Ghoul of the Blood and Frost Death Knight. This will matter much more further into the article. The other interesting note was about the fate of Curse of Doom. In the Cataclysm class changes preview, it was revealed that Demonologist Warlocks would get a new talent called "Impending Doom," which would lower the cooldown of the Curse when certain spells are used. Currently, some Demonologist and Destruction Warlocks will use Curse of Doom as opposed to Curse of Agony on their targets, if they last long enough for the 1 minute duration to expire, as Curse of Doom's damage is actually larger than the collective damage of a minute's worth of Curse of Agony. This means, at least to me, that the Blizzard Designers are hoping to expand this use, at least with Demonologists, but could also spell the end of Curse of Doom's purpose of summoning a Doomguard.

So then, let us take a potential look into the future, and see just what could be in store for the two great denizens of the lower circle.


The Infernal right now will make a very decent decent into Guardianship will be a relatively easy one. Right now, he simply flies in, does some damage, stuns a few victims, runs about burning enemies then falls apart. His pet bar, as a matter of fact, simply doesn't have anything in it. The only issue now is that he replaces your Demon. So, when he becomes a Guardian, there should be no problem. But, perhaps it will be possible for him to be worth more than he is now. It's possible to specialize the Infernal a little, to give him a niche for when you would want to summon him over, say, a Doomguard. Remembering back to the Lord Jaraxxus fight in the Trial of the Crusader raid, which seems so long ago now, I remember his summoning of several Infernals, which caused havoc amongst his enemies. Perhaps the new Infernal could function somewhat like his? Now, while many Warlocks have been begging for multiple Infernals, I think that may be too much, though I certainly won't be complaining if I'm Reigning Chaos amongst my enemies. Maybe while the Infernal runs, he will leave a trail of Felfire behind him, damaging anything that comes across it? Perhaps he could even have a random aggro table, jumping from enemy to enemy, leaving a trail of destruction behind him. I can see the Infernal being the Warlock's choice for heavy AOE situations, where monsters are rushing at you left and right and you need just a little more oomph to deal with them. I know I would love to see a tightly held Alterac Valley chock hold near Dun Baldar broken by an Infernal smashing about all my Alliance foes.


The Doomguard is a much more complicated story than the loyal Infernal. Firstly, his method of summoning, if we accept that Curse of Doom will no longer be able to summon him, is left with the Ritual of Doom, which was a channeling ritual that needed four more players to click on his portal. The process could be rather long, and to have this to simply summon a Guardian, especially a guardian intended to be a cooldown for a certain need or fight. But then again, I would hate to lose the iconography of setting up a ritual and summoning such a powerful Demon. Perhaps it could become a ritual that could be performed by the Warlock on his own, channeled for some length of time, but that if others participated they would speed up the channeling. Just a thought. The second, and more important issue, is just how the Doomguard will perform. If you play as a Death Knight, you will know that when taking the talent "Master of Ghouls," your Ghoul will become a permanent, controllable pet, and will gain access to numerous abilities that won't be used when simply summoning a Guardian Ghoul. The main advantage the Doomguard served wasn't necessarily his DPS, but rather his impressive list of abilities; which include Cripple, Reign of Fire, Warstomp and even Dispel. So then, how would the Doomguard work, if he were an uncontrollable guardian? Would he simply use all these abilities randomly? Another problem for any Warlock who has used the Doomguard is that his abilities tend to leave him Mana less. So then could you get rid of his Mana? Then he becomes too powerful. Then if you take away his abilities, he becomes useless. I think the potential really sits there with the Doomguard, his terrifying appearance should be seen by any Warlock's enemy. I think the best niche for the Doomlord to fill should be single-target DPSing. Maybe he could be summoned during an enrage, when time is an issue for DPS, or even when you are fighting a single boss that requires alot of movement. I think then some abilities could certainly stay, particularly Cripple. Then he could be balanced around his niche, as opposed to keeping this or that ability.

And so I leave you to ponder at just what powers might be at your fingertips in the future. There is, after all, an entire Neither that we have yet to pierce into. Suffer well, brothers and sisters.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Pride and Joy

For my first post, I am simply going to lay claim to my only slice of Internet. On April 16, Blizzard hosted their Developer chat via Twitter, and your's truly posted a question that was answered.

My original question was "Q. Will there be as much effort put into making tanking specs viable in PvP? Will Vengeance be useful in PvP?"

And the fine Zarhym answered with "Our goal is to make all specs as viable as we can in as many aspects of the game as possible. Currently, some tank specs are not so much viable as they are overpowered (because their damage is competitive and survivability is off the charts), so that issue will have to be addressed when we start to flesh them out as more attractive and mainstream PvP spec options." ( Post number 11 )

I still am proud. I don't even care if they gave an ambiguous answer.

So this concludes my first posting. Enjoy it. Devour it. Taste its tender information as a piece of lamb. I know I do.