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Cataclysm Class Changes: Warlock analysis

Well, the warlock change teaser post has landed, and we start to move more from pure speculation into analysis of what will be. Sure, everything is still subject to change -- but we're really starting to get details, some meat on the bones. Let's break down the post and see what we've got.

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview - Warlock
New Warlock Spells

Fel Flame (level 81): Quick-hitting spell dealing Shadowfire damage. This is similar to the mage ability Frostfire Bolt, in that the lower of the two resistances (in this case shadow and fire) on your target will be used for calculating its damage. Additionally, Fel Flame refreshes the duration of Immolate and Unstable Affliction. Our goal for Fel Flame is to provide a spell that's good for mobility and for use by Destruction and Demonology specs. Also, did we mention it uses green fire? Yep. Instant cast.

Dark Intent (level 83): Increases the target's chance for a critical effect with periodic damage or healing spells by 3%. When the target lands a crit, you get a buff to your damage for 10 seconds. This effect stacks up to three times.

Demon Soul (level 85): Fuses the warlock's soul with his or her demon. This provides warlocks with a self-burst cooldown to use. The specific effects granted by Demon Soul depend on the demon chosen. Demon Soul lasts for a certain number of charges or until it expires (around 20 seconds), depending on the demon used. 2-minute cooldown.

Well, I must say that my first thoughts were of the reader poll from this magazine cover; I was wondering if I would be seeing Demonic Strudel further down the post. I then got somewhat distracted by the mention of green fire before I settled down to the actual details of what was said.

Fel Flame certainly sounds quite nice, even if it does smell somewhat of mage. No cooldown is mentioned but I'm assuming it will be there to prevent spamming, though it might just not do much native damage and so only be worth casting for the DoT extension. This is the interesting part for me, as they mention destruction and demonology specs. I can see how destro 'locks might weave this in to keep up Immolate for Conflagrate, though I wonder about the loss of the instant part of Immolate. Demo 'locks might get more out of Immolate with this, but given that it refreshes Unstable Affliction (an affliction-only spell), it seems odd to highlight demo and destro. I also can't help but feel that adding a green fire (shadowfire) spell indicates that there is no intention to have a means of changing all warlock fire spells to a green skin. Rarely is there a cosmetic change that is so desired; I don't understand why this isn't a minor glyph. Maybe it is yet to be revealed.

Dark Magic ... sorry, Focus Intent ... sorry, Dark Intent adds some group synergy. I expect this will typically be shared amongst warlocks but could well be going to shadow priests or even applied to trees. The stacking buff is a little worrisome, as I expect it will be scaled for full stacks, meaning the buff is weaker in fights with forced gaps in the action. Either way, it's another buff to manage and some more RNG to accommodate. I can't get too excited about it, I'm afraid.

Demon Soul, on the other hand, is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for. Essentially, it strikes me as being very much like a trinket effect, one that varies with the summoned minion. The devil will be in the detail, though. Is this just another thing to pop at the right time, or will it actually be the basis for demon selection? I'm not a fan of the one-demon-per-tree model, as I have always thought of my demons as tools and I like to use the right tool for the right job -- the job being what you are doing, not the spec you choose to do it in. However it shakes out, it adds some nice situational burst that will be welcome.

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
Soul Shard Overhaul

This major change regarding Soul Shards was previously announced at BlizzCon 2009. Soul Shards will no longer be inventory items, but instead a new UI resource mechanic. Warlocks will have 3 Soul Shards that can be used during a fight and will not be able to gain additional shards during combat. Soul Shards will not be required outside of combat.

More bag space and no more shard farming; we won't even need them for demons and stones. Great news. This isn't anything we weren't expecting after BlizzCon, except that they now state that we won't be able to recover them mid-fight. This is of course a worry and was raised many times on the forums. These concerns did receive a response:

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
  • On regenerating shards in combat, we will add a mechanic to regen shards if we find that we need to in order to handle variable combat length. We haven't added one yet because we really want to emphasize locks using shards at the right time and not as fast as they can with then an Evocation-like spell to bring them back again. These are supposed to be special moments in a fight -- think Bloodlust perhaps -- and not used every 20 seconds on cooldown (or whatever the cooldown ends up being).

I'm not buying this at all. If there is no means of shard recovery then shorter fights will favor 'locks more than long fights, with regard to shard use. I can't see how they can escape this. For solo play and 5-man instances, this is going to make little difference, and three shards per combat when you are farming boar will probably be too many. In raids, it will be a different matter. Ultimately these things are there to increase our DPS. There may be situations where this isn't the case, but generally it will be. Without a means of recovery, shards will add to our damage, not our DPS, so the more seconds the fight lasts, the less this damage increase will be worth. All that is somewhat moot without looking at how we will use them, though.

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
Soul Burn will consume a Soul Shard resource, thereby allowing you to use the secondary effects of some spells. Soul Burn has no mana or health costs and is off the global cooldown. Planned secondary effects are outlined here.
  • Summon Demon + Soul Burn = summon the demon instantly.
  • Drain Life + Soul Burn = Reduces cast speed by 60%.
  • Demonic Circle + Soul Burn = Increases movement speed by 50% for 8 seconds after teleporting.
  • Unstable Affliction + Soul Burn = Instantly deals damage equal to 30% of its effect.
  • Soul Fire + Soul Burn = Instant cast.
  • Healthstone + Soul Burn = Increases total health by 20% for 8 seconds.
  • Searing Pain + Soul Burn = Increases the crit chance of Searing Pain by 100%, and subsequent Searing Pain spells by 50% for 6 seconds.

As it stands, I can see the PvP warlocks being pretty excited about this. It looks interesting, with some cool little tricks. Also, when soloing, some of these could be pretty handy. From a raid point of view, I can only see Soul Fire being a real DPS gain. UA to some degree -- but it seems UA should be a one-cast spell anyway (with Drain Soul and Fel Flame refreshing it). This isn't a big departure from what we're doing now in that we don't look to shards for DPS, but I was expecting more pure DPS options. With luck, they have just yet to be mentioned to us, and we'll see chain-gun Shadow Bolts and flame-thrower Incinerates.

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
Changes to Abilities and Mechanics
  • All warlock damage-over-time (DoT) spells will benefit from crit and haste innately. Haste will no longer act to reduce the DoT's duration, but rather to add additional ticks. When reapplying a DoT, you can no longer "clip" the final tick. Instead, this will just add duration to the spell, similar to how Everlasting Affliction currently works.
  • Curse of Agony and Curse of Doom will be converted into Bane of Agony and Bane of Doom. Bane spells are considered magic instead of curses. This means you will be able to cast one Bane (e.g. Bane of Agony) and one Curse (e.g. Curse of Elements) on a single target.
  • Hellfire will no longer deal damage to the warlock.
  • Imps will lose Fire Shield, but will gain a new ability, Burning Ember, which is a stacking DoT.
  • The succubus melee range will be increased. The succubus will no longer have Soothing Kiss, but will instead have Whiplash, which knocks back all enemies within 8 yards.
  • Voidwalker Torment will do increased damage and generate a lot of area-of-effect (AoE) threat. Suffering will become a single-target taunt.

Crit and haste being native to DoTs is very welcome, though until we have lived with the way haste works with a DoT for a while, I can see it continuing to cause confusion. I think the comment about no longer "clipping" a DoT is a little misleading. Currently, if you recast too early, you lose the whole last tick and reset your tick counter. What we'll be moving to will stop the loss of an entire tick, but recasting early will still lose you the overlap time. Essentially, the DPS value of the time remaining on the DoT will be lost. This is a huge improvement, without doubt, but it doesn't mean that you can just recast whenever is convenient and not lose DPS. I think it will just mean that rather than trying to recast just after the DoT expires, we will be looking to recast just before. This could seriously impact rotations (a DoT gap isn't always terrible), but now we are getting into the realms of pure speculation without knowing a lot more than we do about the mechanics.

The Bane spells sound nice, though moving them to an area where all healers will be able to remove them must make the PvP guys a tad concerned. It would be nice to see some more utility thrown into the remaining curses. CoE is about the only one that is called for these days, and I miss being the Swiss-army knife of boss debuffing.

Hellfire not self-harming seems wrong. It was to me the embodiment of the "power at a price" mantra of the warlock. The problem is that it lost its power. In fact, it's the damaging part of the spell that has been used the most (though only to save repair bills). To my mind, what this spell needed was a damage gain to make it worth the risk, not the removal of the risk. There was some clarification here, though:

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
  • The intent for Hellfire is for it to be a specialty of Demonology warlocks. Affliction would use Seed of Corruption and Destruction would use Rain of Fire.

I'm not sure how they will make this distinction. SoC is obviously shadow-based and so easy to ascribe to affliction, but RoF and Hellfire are both channeled, tick-based fire damage spells (the only real difference being the range). Now, I can imagine a demo lock in meta, charging into a pack of mobs and popping Immolation Aura and Hellfire as being pretty awesome, but how does this differ from using Rain of Fire? Maybe there is a talent distinction in the pipeline, or perhaps they will make it instant-cast and give it an exploding, bubble-like graphic ... /shudder

Imps gaining a DoT sounds nice enough, but really it's just losing a spell that had little use and getting a bit more damage to be scaled in with all the rest. The warlock in me likes the change; the raider is uninspired. Much the same can be said for the succubus. The new ability certainly sounds like it could be a lot of fun at times, but on the whole, it's not going to make her more summonable unless a freak situation calls for it. As for voidwalkers, I can see this change being a huge boost to their utility. Ok, sure, we're not about to be tanking raid bosses with our blueberries because of this, but a real taunt is what these guys have been crying out for. Combine this with Soul Burn for an insta-voidy and you have a potential wipe-saver. Add the sheer utility of a proper taunt to the improved AoE tanking abilities, and the void is really going to make leveling and solo play much more comfortable.

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
New Talents and Talent Changes
  • Pandemic will now cause Drain Soul to refresh Unstable Affliction and Bane of Agony on targets below 25% health.
  • The ability Fel Domination will be removed (because Soul Burn accomplishes the same effect).
  • Demonology will gain a new direct-damage spell, Demon Bolt. Demon Bolt will add a debuff that improves the damage done by the demon to the target.
  • We plan to add a new talent, Impending Doom, which will give certain spells a chance to reduce the cooldown on Metamorphosis and Curse of Doom.
  • Metamorphosis will no longer be subject to demonic crowd control. Furthermore, abilities available only while under the effects of Metamorphosis will be altered to put more emphasis on the warlock's own spells.
  • Shadowburn will now do additional damage to targets below 25% health.

Half of Pandemic is made redundant by the changed nature of DoTs, so the talent becomes a rather nice quality-of-life bonus for the affliction execute phase. I wonder if the Haunt crit effect will make its way into some other talent or if it will be lost. I'm also glad to see the back of FelDom. I have felt for a while that it is a waste of talent points, and I can stop arguing the point now. Yay for Soul Burn.

Demon Bolt is an interesting addition. Presumably, it's going to be a talent-based spell, but if it's low enough in the demo tree then I can well see it not being exclusive to demo locks. There isn't enough info yet to get all excited, but I'm certainly intrigued. There were questions about whether the debuff would mean all demons gained the damage improvement, but this was later answered:

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
  • The Demon Bolt debuff will only affect the warlock's demon, not other demons. We wanted a Demo-themed nuke that made it feel like the pet was part of the damage.

I'm am all for demons being a part of the damage and for us feeling that way -- but dear lord, they need to not be a drag on fights like Blood-Queen Lana'thel. Splitting the damage sources between minion and owner shouldn't result in buffs landing on only half of that pairing.

Impending Doom has a nice ring to it but is a little fraught with niggling concerns. First off, the cooldown reduction is another RNG worry in that having a CD shortened just as it's about to expire is no real use. This is going to need more detail around the spells, proc rates and the like before a proper determination can be made. As for Bane of Doom, I guess this will be subject to the same DoT mechanics as all the others, so reducing the cooldown will be huge. I'm assuming the CD on BoD will still be 60 seconds here, but if so, then you will not be able to refresh it before it drops off the target. (As I said above, I think we will want to.) So BoD stays on the target for 60 seconds, but haste makes it tick after 50. Unless you reduce your CD, you will not be able to refresh it, meaning you start again and are still only getting one tick per cast. With a reduced CD, you can get one tick every 50 seconds. A lot of assumptions and guesswork there, but it's interesting and I look forward to how it plays out.

The meta changes are welcome (again, especially for PvP players). I never liked the melee angle that it seemed to have. The Shadowburn change is interesting. It needed to be tweaked because of its shard element -- but is it just going to be a soloing and PvP finisher, or will it actually form a part of an execute rotation? I guess we'll have to see.

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses

Spell Damage
Spell Crit
Shadow DoTs

Spell Damage
Spell Haste
Demon Damage


Spell Damage
Spell Critical Damage
Fire Direct Damage

Shadow DoTs
: The damage caused by Shadow damage-over-time spells is increased.

Demon Damage
: The damage caused by pets and Metamorphosis is increased.

Fire Direct Damage: The damage caused by Fire direct damage spells is increased.

I'm guessing this is the death of talents like Shadow Mastery, Unholy Power and Ruin. They seem a little bland at the moment when you look at the shaman Elemental Overload or Deep Healing or even the shadow priest spinning orbs of "No, I'm not a healer!".

That was about it for the original post, but I can't end there without mentioning the extra comments regarding demons. There were a staggering number of comments about there being no new demon. Here are some blue comments in response:

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
  • Demon lovers, we haven't ruled out adding a new demon, but we want to be very careful here. We've had a hard enough time finding niches for some of the current ones. So we first want to make sure existing demons are cool before we're faced with Q&A several months from now asking why the new demon either isn't cool enough, or why warlocks no longer use, say, their felhunter because of the new demon.

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
  • We did mean to cover doomguards and infernals, but they didn't make it into our preview. Our plan is that you can summon a doomguard or infernal as a cooldown-based pet, much like the shaman elementals, without having to give up your current, permanent demon. If we add a new demon it will likely be one of these cooldown-based ones, and not a permanent pet like the imp, voidwalker, succubus, felguard or felhunter. We're just not convinced there is a niche for a new permanent demon (and perhaps not even a temporary one).
  • Flying mounts and female Metamorphosis forms are great ideas and something we've had on the wish list for a long time. We can only create so many new creatures during a single expansion, and getting one of these might mean fewer new creatures in outdoor worlds or dungeons. It's just a trade-off and sometimes you have to make hard calls. We'll keep them on the list though.

Zarhym - Cataclysm Class Preview: Warlock
  • We do like the idea of allowing warlocks to re-skin their demons and have been talking about possible ways to implement this. I have no concrete information for you at this time beyond that.
  • When it comes to naming demons, this has always been one of those sacred cows, where the hunter gets to name their pet because he loves his pet bear, but the warlock considers the demon to be something disposable -- a tool.

So, no new perma-demon. Doomguard and Infernal (and maybe one more) become cooldown-based in a similar way to shaman elementals. I really like this; it's something that the community has been crying out to have for a long time now. Re-skinning has also been a hot topic for a while, and it would be a shame to not have it implemented. I think a system similar to the hunter renaming process would be ideal. I'm right behind them on renaming though, at least for the choosing a name for the tool. Maybe the re-skinning could be based on sending back your demon and getting another one with a different name and look. You don't get to choose what it is, but you get to ditch what you have now for a new random selection.

While I agree on the female meta argument (not one I hear a lot of requests for), I feel the addition of a flying mount would be a huge boon. Paladins and warlocks identified themselves with their mounts in vanilla, but as soon as they were flying, then this identity was lost -- all the was more so for 'locks, as their mounts are so evocative. When demons are so often capable of flying, I really feel that the game is crying out for flying demon mounts for 'locks (or simply demon wings, of the druid flight form ilk). I do understand the time constraint argument, though, so how about popping the Headless Horseman's Mount mechanics onto the Dreadsteed? I would probably prefer to be piggy-backing on a Doomguard -- but hey, if I can fly a lock mount in Azeroth, I'll be happy.

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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