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, 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,


  1. I hope Greatfather Guldan comes in his sleigh of flying terrorguards and makes all your diabolical dreams come true. :3

    But seriously, I think you're very thoughtful and have some great ideas. I always draw what I know about warlock from you. Maybe Tiffie will get some more love in Cataclysm; I think she HAS to be a Demonologist now. xD I'm also contemplating making a goblin warlock for Horde-side, but I still can't decide...

    Too bad you're not a developer. :) I think you'd have a lot of great ideas to throw out to the team at Blizzard.