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Blood Pact: Meet the minions, part 1

Each week Dominic Hobbs brings you Blood Pact. "Much like your life as a warlock, it is important to learn from what we find in the world... before twisting it to our will." ~ Summoner Teli'Larien
We're not hunters. We don't wander about shopping for a pet that catches our eye, like some fashion accessory. We reach through into the nether and wrest demons into this world, binding them to our will. We maintain our bond to this demonic denizen of the shadow, summoning them to our side at need. They are not pets, some companion for the terminally lonely and friendless, they are minions. They are our servants and slaves, powerful beings controlled through dominion, not feeble minded animals cooing for snacks.

This week I will start a review of our minions -- what they can do for us and how best we can use them. My aim is for this to be of use to anyone new to the class and these minions as well as more experienced players looking for tips and tricks. After the break we start right off with our pocket-mage.

The imp is the first demon you learn to summon. It's possible to get this little guy from level one, but until it's a trainable skill in patch 3.3, the quest may well require a few levels to be manageable (more about this in last week's Blood Pact). The Imp is kinda like a little mage, but don't worry, you won't have to read any of Mr Belt's articles to learn to control him. Here's a list of his abilities:
  • Firebolt - This is your imp's only attack, a little ball of fire that does damage from range. Your imp will know this from level 1.
  • Blood Pact - This is a buff that your imp can apply to you and your group increasing everyone's stamina. You'll have this from level 4.
  • Phase Shift - The tricky imp casts this and makes himself unattackable to enemies, though it dissipates if he attacks. He'll start doing this at level 12.
  • Fire Shield - A buff for friendly targets that does a little fire damage to anyone that hits them. The last of his spells, available from level 14.

When you first start out, your imp is both your tank and your fellow DPS. As soon as you learn to summon the little guy, cast that spell and find out what he's called. This name (as for all your minions) is not chosen by you, can't be changed by you, and will be the same every time you summon them. So hope for something that you like, or at least something you can pronounce. Controversially, I quite like this naming system. There have been many forum threads devoted to people asking for the ability to name their own demons but you only have to read some of them (and probably some of the comments on this article) to find out how bad an idea that would be. People are generally terrible at naming things, and demons should not be afflicted with a name like "MrFluffykins" or "RogueKillerXXX", they have a reputation to maintain. That said; I almost spilled my drink when I first saw a felguard called Thuthan (say it with a lisp).

On summoning the little-green-monster-with-too-many-hard-consonants-in-his-name you may have noticed a new addition to your user interface -- the "pet bar". This little bar is made up of ten button slots for all your pet's controls.

Three will be dedicated to directly controlling your minions. In the example above, these are the first three icons -- they make your pet attack, follow you around or stand in one place. The last three in that image are your demon's stances; the first icon of a shouty-guy on fire is Aggressive, which means your minion will attack the first enemy target it sees and keep attacking until all targets are dead or he is. The second image, a shield, is for Defensive stance; your demon will calmly follow you about but if you attack anything or anything attacks you then they will attack them. The last one of an "ikkle babby seal" is Passive; your demon will blithely ignore anything that happens around them no matter what.

The other slots on the pet bar are for the demon's abilities, these can be set to either be automatically cast or not. If not, they have solid yellow triangles in the corners of the icon and this ability will not be used unless you say so (by clicking it, for example). If set to auto-cast then a golden marching-ant border will let you know it's active and the pet will cast the spell whenever it can. Since the imp's Firebolt takes him time to cast it you might want to start combat by telling him to cast it first. If you don't then he won't start his cast until you finish yours. It is prudent to become familiar with your pet bar but as with most abilities, it's better to key-bind those you will use rather than click them from the bar.

When leveling, the imp doesn't often get that much of a look-in beyond the first ten levels. Personally I liked having him about but many people prefer to use a tanking pet (Voidwalker or Felguard) for PvE and in PvP the Sucubus and Felhunter offer more use. The two big advantages to using the imp is that it costs no shards to summon him and he can attack from range. Where he does come in very handy is when you already have a player to do the tanking. So if you are leveling with a meat-shield or going into an instance you might want to bring this little fella along with you. Your party will also thank you for the Blood Pact buff. Remember to keep your pet out of the aggressive stance in PvE though, especially in an instance.

For solo work the imp is a good companion of the affliction lock. If you set your imp to not cast Firebolt and turn on Phase Shift then you end up with an arrogant little snotball who can be used as a mana-battery. He can't die, he buffs your health and he constantly regenerates mana that you can steal for yourself with Dark Pact. You do need to be level 40 for that ability but it certainly can reduce down-time when farming and grinding; should you choose to use it.

When you start doing level 80 dungeons and raids then your choice of pet is far more dictated by what talents you choose. I went through the most popular raiding builds in the article about glyphs, while these are liable to change as spell mechanics alter, it seems that Blizzard are keen for deep destruction warlocks to be accompanied by an imp. Spells like Demonic Power and Empowered Imp really bring out the best in the belligerent trip-hazard.

In a raid situation your imp is pretty much a simple point-and-shoot weapon. I would suggest having a keybind for Pet Attack as mentioned before as well as one for Pet Follow -- this can be handy to stop them going after the wrong target (for whatever reason they decide to) and also for moving them out of sh... stuff on the ground. In a stationary fight with player-targeted AoE damage (such as Northrend Beasts phase one) it's a good idea to tell your imp to stand somewhere others (including yourself) are not. This way he won't get toasted when whoever they are stood next to has a fire bomb thrown at them. All minions have Avoidance but they can still get fried if left in fire for too long.

Dark Pact is simply not worth using in a raid situation these days (or any situation where you have a load of healing available). Life tap returns more mana and doesn't deplete the mana of your pet. Don't bother having Fire Shield switched on, I can't remember if it uses an imp's GCD but it will use it's mana and offers next to no gain.

One final imp raiding tip from me (feel free to add your own) -- your imp can make tricky boss pulls easier. Most of the time this won't be needed but he's able to move away from the raid, shoot from range and is fairly expendable which makes him ideal in some circumstances. I've used the imp to pull on Auriaya and back in Black temple we used him on Council. Remember to call him back as soon as he casts the first Firebolt and wait for the boss (hopefully a tank will step in). This is a very situational use of an imp but by Balgaras' beard, it's the way imps are supposed to be (ab)used!

Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons, and all the dastardly deeds done by Warlocks. If you're curious about what's new with Locks since the last patch, check out the Patch 3.2 Warlock Guide or find out what's upcoming in Cataclysm from the BlizzCon 2009: Class Discussion Panel.

Filed under: Warlock, Analysis / Opinion, How-tos, Leveling, Guides, (Warlock) Blood Pact

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