Cataclysm Class Previews: Warlock Changes

As I’m sure you’ve heard, starting a couple of days ago we’ve had a deluge of Cataclysm information, most noticeably the class previews, and of course one of these was all about Warlocks (MMO-Champion post). I’m not going to do my own in-depth review of the information because I don’t really feel qualified, since I haven’t actually played WoW in months, but you can go here for Dominic Hobbs’ analysis on WoW.com, which I found to be pretty comprehensive. You may also like to refer to my Blizzcon post about Warlock changes from August of last year.

With that said, I will make a few comments, so let’s have a look!

Spells

The new spells are actually a little disappointing in my opinion:

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.

Aside from the fact we don’t want Mage spells, I do like that Blizzard have acknowledged that we want green fire (although it seems less and less likely that we’ll be able to turn all of our fire spells green) but the implications of this spell confuse me – for one thing it’s no good if the resistances mean it starts dealing fire damage for Demonology or shadow damage for Destruction since the talents work the other way around, but it also refreshes Affliction DoTs: why? Perhaps it’ll be more of a quick and dirty PvP spell.

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.

More Mage spells; yippee.

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.

Assuming this doesn’t cause you to lose your demon, it could be interesting to see where this goes. We don’t really know enough at the moment to have any idea how this will be used or even what it can really do.

Soul Shards

We haven’t really heard anything new about the changes to shard mechanics since Blizzcon 2009 (we won’t have to farm them, we’ll get three per fight which can be used to empower other abilities, they will regenerate quickly outside of combat) but we do have more information about the spells they’ll be empowering:

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.

Some of these are interesting. Using Soul Burn with Summon Demon is obviously going to replace Fel Domination (they state this later), and I can see a substantial DPS increase coming from the instant cast Soul Fires, although this will be less useful for Demonology since we have our sub-35% Decimate stage instead. Otherwise, these Soul Burn enhancements really strike me as either purely PvP or almost gimmicky changes.

One thing does bother me – if we have a hard and fast rule about three shards per fight, we’re going to run into problems. When farming, three shards will be far too many because fights are so short, while in raids the fights can last up to ten minutes against bosses and three shards simply won’t be enough. I’ll be waiting expectantly for Blizzard to work out what to do about this.

Abilities and Mechanics

Here are the usual miscellaneous changes:

  • 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.

Interesting but misleading – what you need to realise is that, should you recast early, you won’t lose damage from missed ticks but you will still lose the DPS value of the time lost in the overlap. This change will probably be less significant than people are making out.

  • 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.

This is nice in that we’ll be able to double-up some of our debuffs, but it also makes them more susceptible to being removed (I think most healers can dispel magic effects) and will probably not increase our utility hugely unless we see an overhaul of our curses in general.

  • Hellfire will no longer deal damage to the warlock.

This change makes me sad. Isn’t the whole point of the spell, and indeed our class, that we hurt ourselves to increase our power?

  • Imps will lose Fire Shield, but will gain a new ability, Burning Ember, which is a stacking DoT.

A minor DPS increase for Destruction, possibly.

  • 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.

I can see this being more annoying than anything else in PvE, but when PvPing there could be a use for it against melee classes.

  • Voidwalker Torment will do increased damage and generate a lot of area-of-effect (AoE) threat. Suffering will become a single-target taunt.

Makes our little blue friend more useful for soloing I suppose, though we won’t be tanking with him in raids any time soon.

Talents

I don’t have much to say here; they’re all fairly standard alterations. The changes to Metamorphosis are nice, however, and should increase Demonology’s potential a bit.

  • 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.

Just to interject: This only affects our demon, not anybody else’s. Again, a help to Demonology.

  • 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.

We also have the passive abilities and masteries, which are exactly what everyone expected:

Affliction
Spell Damage
Spell Crit
Shadow DoTs

Demonology
Spell Damage
Spell Haste
Demon Damage

Destruction

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.

Demons and Mounts

Unfortunately it seems Blizzard is against giving us a new demon right now – in fairness, they have a point in that they’re already finding it hard to give the current ones their own niche, without adding a new one into the mix. If we do get a new minion the chances are it will be like the Doomguard or Infernal: not permanent and designed to give a quick boost to damage. Either way, I stand by my suggestion.

As for renaming / re-skinning, it seems that they’re looking into it but it’s unlikely to happen without implementing a mechanic whereby you actually swap out your demon for a different one. Again, the reasons are fair – a minion is supposed to be a tool, held against its will to do your bidding, and you shouldn’t be lovingly renaming it.

On mounts, apparently they’ve had a Warlock flying mount on the wish list for a long time but they probably won’t be able to spare the development time to work one into Cataclysm. So long as we don’t go with the Pegasus idea (letting the Dreadsteed fly like the Headless Horseman mount) I’ll be happy.

So, you’ve heard my thoughts. Overall? There are some good points, and some bad points, but generally I think these changes are going to be for the better. What are your opinions on the changes?

Vel.

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