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Cataclysm: Stat and system changes for warlocks

No doubt you've seen various articles about the changes to stats in Cataclysm. I'm sure everyone has been wondering what this will mean for warlocks. It doesn't matter whether you play a warlock right now or not, you know full well that you're going to level a worgen warlock sooner or later.

With that in mind you will want to know what gear to aim for, what stats give the best for each talent build and who else is going to try to deny you the items you know to rightfully be yours -- "The name is in purple - everybody knows that means the warlock gets first choice!". Well, I'm certainly not about to tell you, I have no idea. Frankly Cataclysm is still too far off to know. That said, we are starting to get some real good clues, so we'd better start investigating.

So, what have we heard that we care about? There have been a lot of changes to the melee stuff but from what I can see we're still not going to be able to stack up on melee gear, fit it to a demon and get them to do all the work while we sit back and sip drinks with little umbrellas. So what are the changes we're interested in? Here's a breakdown from Adam's post yesterday:
  • Stamina -- Non-plate wearers will have a lot more.
  • Spirit -- Only found on healing gear.
  • Intellect -- Grants spell power.
  • Spell power -- Only on weapons, and just to make them clearly a caster item.
  • Gem Color -- Few stats changing. Hit will likely become a blue gem (it's yellow now).
  • Reforging -- You'll be able to reforge gear to customize your stats -- 50% of stat X can become stat Y. Restrictions apply (no Stamina->Strength, for instance).
Stamina - More stamina is all good, and with our resource management methods (not expecting Life Tap to go anywhere) more is better. That said, health pool size hasn't been a limiting factor for locks for quite a while. Stamina is an incredibly boring stat that you want a lot of if you're getting hit but other than that it comes on everything, so you never need to think about it. Yawnsville.

Spirit - The lock's love affair with spirit has been somewhat torrid and is already getting boring. Life Tap is about to spurn her with patch 3.3.3, in favor of a more fulfilling stat and we know that Fel Armor is only using her to get even with other classes. Spirit becoming a healer-only stat should have little direct impact on us.

That said though, it opens up the whole debate about regeneration. This is something we simply don't worry too much about. Other DPS casters look to get 20-25% of their mana returns (during a boss fight) from regeneration, whereas we get none. No change for us then but does this mean that other classes are going to be getting similar resource mechanics to locks? I certainly hope not. I'm not big on jealously guarding abilities, but when something as class-defining as the Life Tap mechanic gets shared, I think that's a step too far. No reason for that to happen though, more abilities like Master of Elements might be the way to go.

Intellect - Ok, well, this is the biggie. Again, with the way locks are able to make use of health (and therefore healers) to keep casting, despite hugely expensive spell costs, we haven't needed big mana pools and so never needed to get gear with intellect. Come Cata we're looking at having our bread-and-butter stat (spell power) sourced from INT. So we're going to end up with bigger mana pools as a direct result. Sure, more mana equals less tapping, equals more casting, equals more DPS. But this is the mage model and honestly, anything that makes me more like a mage is a bad thing. I'm not saying the dropping of spell power in favour of INT is all bad, I just have some concerns.

Spell Power - This being the tool to prevent fights over weapons seems odd, sure, if that dagger has Mp5 on it I'm not interested but healers use spell power too, so I don't see the distinction yet. When a healer is gearing for throughput, they'll be after the weapons we need but with no fear of DPS sniffing around their spirit laden goodies. Hit versus regeneration is still a better distinction between DPS and healers but hit is notoriously bad for weapons because of their high stat value.

Gem Color - Nothing too exciting here, moving a primary stat (something people want more than anything else) to blue is going to be a good thing for attaining socket bonuses, hit makes sense. I wonder if spell power will remain as a gem or will we be throwing out all those red gems for some yellow INT ones?

Reforging - I can't get excited about this, I'm sorry. Yes, it will mean that there is a bit more gear uncertainty and it will allow greater specialization of stats but stat-X is still going to be better than stat-Y and website-Z will tell you which item gets you the most of stat-X. I think it's an interesting system and can see it's benefits in leveling (where you grab what gear you can), but for end-game gearing I think it's just making a stat simplification process that bit more complicated again. The only result will be that some people won't know that this item is better than that one, it's not going to change the fact that one is better. Though this is just a grumpy old lock bemoaning new-fangled gear mechanics, nothing specific about locks here.

So that's the basics, there are a couple of other things to check out.
Mastery - This is a new stat that will allow players to become better at whatever makes their chosen talent tree cool or unique. It's directly tied to talents, so what you gain from improving this stat is entirely dependent upon your class and the talent specialization you choose. We'll talk more about specific Mastery benefits in the future.
Again, I see this as a complicating element in a simplification process, not sure why it's there. That said, it could lead to some cool effects. Who knows what will be boosted for each lock tree, maybe more or bigger crits for destro, faster or more powerful DoTs for affliction, and demonology locks get to summon Kil'jaeden himself to make them a cup of tea. Whatever it is, it will have to be something that scales. If demo get tougher pets, then every boss mechanic that buffs players had better buff the pets as well or they're getting another bum deal.
Combat ratings - All ratings will be much harder to "cap out" at maximum gear levels. Ratings will be steeper in Cataclysm, and creatures in later tiers of content will be harder to hit or crit, similar to how level-83 mobs are harder to hit or crit than level-80 mobs.
This is interesting, the only one we look to 'cap' at the moment is hit but to need a higher cap for higher tier bosses is a big change. Often gearing for lower tiers requires hit gems and talents but these fall away as gear gets better. It seems this will continue to be a balancing act throughout the expansion.

A final note goes to existing gear. This may not be a big issue as, with luck, new gear will be gained pretty quickly. However, it may be that if you have good gear now (and with the emblem system, who doesn't?) then you'll keep a lot of it through the leveling process and into dungeons. Be careful that the items you have now don't become obvious healer items in the big change. Since you have no Mp5 stuff (I hope) you'll probably be ok, but that thing you have, with all that spirit... you never know!

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

Filed under: Warlock, Cataclysm

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