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Warlocks can be an extremely flexible and useful addition to almost any party. However, because the warlock doesn't fit neatly into any single stereotype, they require a bit of practice to use well.
A Warlock's Responsibilities
- Soulstones - A soulstone can save a group that has just wiped from a long run back to the instance, and in some cases, can prevent a wipe altogether. Warlocks should keep a soulstone on the party's healer at all times. In groups with multiple warlocks, it is preferable to use only one soulstone at a time.
- Healthstones - Healing items can be the deciding factor between winning a fight and losing it. Healthstones use a separate cooldown timer from potions, making them especially handy.
- Crowd control - Spells like Banish and Enslave Demon are excellent ways for a warlock to help lessen the difficulty of some pulls. The Succubus's Seduce ability is not as effective as Polymorph or Sap, but it can be very helpful in humanoid-heavy circumstances. Some instances, such as The Botanica and Karazhan, have pulls that virtually require a warlock's services. In extremis, a warlock's Fear, Death Coil, or Howl of Terror can give a party time to heal or escape. Using fear spells and abilities can be extremely dangerous, and should only be used in particularly dire circumstances.
The Warlock in Instances
Okay lets be frank; the main job for the warlock in an instance is to do damage, and a well-played warlock can be impressive, giving mages and hunters a very hard time keeping up on on the dps charts. On the other side of the coin, a poorly played warlock is practically a waste of time to have around. Warlocks are unique in the sense that they have access to a comprehensive arsenal of nastiness to throw at the enemies as well as several different pets. To maximize damage require skillful use of both.
This tree has two primary, instant cast DoTs: Curse of Agony and Corruption. At level 50, Unstable Affliction can be acquired via a talent, adding a 1.5 second cast curse to the mix (below level 50, Immolate makes a suitable stand-in). Most of the affliction warlock's damage revolve around these three spells, and the main goal, especially in low and mid-level instances, is to get them on as many mobs as possible, as aggro permits. Be sure to pick the talent Nightfall as well as the Glyph of Corruption to get some instant cast shadow-bolts into the fray as well.
At level 60, affliction warlocks gain the mighty Haunt spell, which greatly increases their single target damage; Haunt deals an initial burst and applies a debuff to the target that increases shadow-damage-over-time. An Affliction warlock will always want to open the battle with this spell and quickly follow up with Curse of Agony, Corruption and Unstable affliction. Pick a new mob, then rinse and repeat as soon as the Haunt's cooldown ticks off.
For high-level AoE, the affliction Warlock will mostly rely on Seed of Corruption which becomes a true hard-hitter with the talents of the tree. It works somewhat similarly to the mage spell Living Bomb but the subtle difference that the "fuse" on SoC is based on damage taken, not time. In high-level instances, the DPS to a single mob is usually so high that SoC will explode almost instantly, allowing the affliction warlock to spam the spell with very high damage output, compared to a non-talented Rain of Fire or Hellfire. Further, if one can manage to cast SoC on several mobs that are close together before a lot of DPS adds up, a domino effect will ensue after one mob dies. Threat and mana must be watched when using this strategy. Do not use SoC in boss fights or on single mobs with a lot of health. It is meant for close-quarters battle with several targets.
To be frank, Destruction is not a very efficient instance spec below level 50, and shadow bolt spamming, mixed with Immolate, Corruption and Curse of Agony are just about the only tools of the trade available. You will find yourself running out of mana constantly.
But for high-level, Destruction is a challenging, but terribly efficient single-target and downright fun spec to use in instances.
The damage of this tree revolves almost exclusively around Immolate. In addition to dealing a fair amount of fire damage-over-time, many of the destruction warlock's nukes are greatly enhanced when Immolate is active on the target. Open the battle with Curse of the Elements and Immolate. From here enter the main nukes of the Destruction warlock; Incinerate, Chaos Bolt and Conflagrate. There are several different rotations to use, depending on the exact spec and choice of glyphs, and the individual warlock should experiment and find what works best for them.
For AoE, the destruction warlock will use Rain of Fire, which deals a fair amount of damage when properly talented in the tree. If circumstances permit, Hellfire can deal, impressive damage, but remember to ask the healer first.
Demonology is perhaps the most difficult spec to use for instancing and rading, both in terms of building a working spec and putting it to good use.
On the spell-side, the damage of the demonology warlock is centered around clever use of the talent Decimation. Whenever decimation is proceed, Soul Fire goes from being nearly completely useless, to the most efficient spell in the warlock arsenal (With talent Bane, the base cast-time of a Decimation Soulfire is 1.6 seconds). For the last 35% of a boss health, alternating Incinerate/Decimation Soulfire, produce whooping DPS. The downside is that demonology warlocks find it difficult to maintain a high DPS during the 65% boss health where decimation cannot proc. The result is that Decimation works best in fights with multiple mobs where the Soulfire can be used on a new mob to bring it's health down to 35% quickly
The real trick of the raiding demonology warlock, is to make up for the less efficient spell damage, with clever use of the pet.
Make sure your minion is on defensive or passive. Passive is preferable, just in case you break a sheep, shackle, trap, etc.
- The Imp is generally the preferred pet in parties and raids. They deal high DPS with fire bolt and fire shield, provide an hp buff with Blood Pact, and are ranged so will avoid damage more easily. Phase Shift can also keep the imp from accidentally pulling an enemy. The Imp works well with a destruction warlock and is also favoured by some affliction locks as it's high mana regen rate makes it perfect as a mana battery for use with Dark Pact.
- The Voidwalker is useful in a party with lower level or poorly-geared tanks. The Torment ability can keep large numbers of monsters controlled, and the Sacrifice shield can help the warlock avoid Hellfire damage. Otherwise, voidwalkers are not very useful in instance situations, and another pet should usually be used.
- The Succubus is useful for DPS if another imp is already out, against fire immune or fire resistant enemies, and/or if extra crowd control from its Seduce ability is useful.
- The Felhunter can be useful against dangerous casters in instances, and since patch 3.0 provides the party/raid with an intellect and spirit buff.
- The Felguard is also a useful pet for DPS for a demonology warlock in groups. In addition to its damage, it functions very similarly to a Voidwalker.
- In an emergency, Searing Pain can be used to pull monsters away from healers and other casters.
- When the healer isn't being mercilessly pounded, heals are easier to cast.
- Warlocks generally have higher Stamina bonuses, meaning they can take more punishment than other casters.
- When using the Voidwalker, using the Sacrifice ability can give the tank more time to pick up the offending monster, as well as allowing the healer a chance to keep you alive.
- Any target which is attacking a Mage has normally suffered fairly heinous damage (or else the mage wouldn't have pulled aggro), and pulling the mob off the mage can allow the two of you to finish the job. With stronger elite monsters, the two of you can continuously exchange aggro and watch it run back and forth until dead. Combine with Curse of the Elements for extra fun.
- In very high level instances, your chances of gaining aggro before the caster dies are reduced, so you may well find it necessary to use Fear, but given the risks involved (see below), it is probably only worth doing so in order to save a healer.
- AoE belongs at the end of the fight, not at the beginning. Leave some time for DOTs to do their dirty work, and for Tanks to build threat. If you are Destruction specced, and have a Paladin in the party, the combination of Intensity and Concentration Aura can make your AoE options much, much more mana efficient.
- At level 66, warlocks gain the Soulshatter ability which reduces threat to all mobs in a 50 yard radius.
The following are a warlock's crowd control abilities: Fear, Enslave Demon, Howl of Terror, Seduce(succubus), Banish. Sometimes Death Coil is lumped in here as well, especially in PvP. In PvE, the Voidwalker's AoE taunt Suffering can sometimes be used to engage/distract several mobs if you consider off-tanking to be crowd control.
- Be extremely careful with fear, lest you risk a fear-pull, which is sure to make you unpopular! Use fear-based abilities if:
- the healer is low on health and is getting pounded on. If your tank isn't getting aggro and you can't kill in time, go ahead and fear but try and nuke it while it's feared so it will come to you and not him.
- there is no chance to aggro any adds. The more thorough the group is being clearing the instance, the more opportunities you will have to use Fear.
- it's your only chance of surviving. If you are 100% going to die if you don't fear, do it. A small chance is better than none.
- If your healer is getting hammered by lots of little mobs, which can happen in places like the Great Ossuary in Scholomance, throw yourself in the way by using Hellfire. It may kill you, but it can also get rid of all the small mobs and save the healer. It is a better option than using Howl of Terror, as a fear spell will give you a few seconds to run, whereas dealing damage will kill off the mobs. Obviously, use this only as a last resort.
- Learn to look for Demons and Elementals to banish. You may be very surprised what sometimes constitutes a demon in WoW. Check out Sunken Temple for example. One tell-tale sign is that they tend to be immune to curses.
- Though not as reliable as the mages' Polymorph, your pet Succubus' ability seduction can help occupy a humanoid mob.
- Just about all of a warlock's crowd control abilities are shadow based. On mobs and players with high amounts of shadow resist, Curse of Elements may aid in helping the spell hit and stick for the entire duration of the spell. Curse of Elements can also help mages' Polymorph stick better on mobs and players resistant to almost any magic.
- Create a Soulstone for the healer. That way, should she die and be the only one capable of rezzing, you can bring her back. The Warlock should pay close attention to the timer, and ensure a new Soulstone is placed as soon as the previous one runs out. It is better to Soulstone a Paladin than a Priest if you have one in your party as they usually live longer than the priests.
- When you have more than one warlock in the party, it's not advisable to have all Soulstones active at the same time. It's enough to have one Soulstone "in action" (cast on a healer) and all others "in reserve". This way, after a wipe and a rez, someone can immediately cast a new Soulstone.
- Create Healthstones for your party members. In instances it is easy to use Drain Soul fairly often, so it shouldn't be a problem to keep everyone around supplied with healthstones all the time. Don't forget to tell everyone to ask for a new one, if they used theirs.
Whenever you have multiple warlocks, mages, or a shadow priest in your party/raid, Curse of Elements becomes a very useful spell that contributes to damage of every shadow/arcane/fire/frost spell caster, which is everything except shamans. It is also notable because it does not interfere with crowd control - when cast on frozen or polymorphed target, it does not break freeze/polymorph. If for some reason you find yourself targeting a sheep, consider quickly putting Curse of Elements on it before you move on, as this saves you the trouble of applying a curse later when you do get round to killing the target, and it reduces the chances that the mob will resist a refreshing of the Polymorph. Curse of Elements is also appreciated by Shadow-specced Priests (see Priest talents for more information on the Shadow tree), and any group/raid that has spell casters.
On high levels the warlock gains the Curse of Doom. This curse apply a single burst shadow-damage after 60 seconds. It has higher dps that an untalented Curse of agony, but if the target dies from the damage and yield experience or honor, a hostile Doomguard is summoned. Needless to say this limits it's applications but if you are confident the target will not die and you can't find a better curse to use, this curse is great for boosting your overall dps.
- The meeting stone has largely replaced the need for a warlock to summon party/raid members to the major instances. However, occasionally, summons are used inside instances to bring latecomers to the party, or outside instances if there are a lot of monsters between the meeting stone and instance entrance. NOTE: As of patch 2.4, warlocks can now summon persons outside of instances INTO the instance. This makes the spell invaluable should you lose a party member mid-instance and need a replacement. You no longer need to send a group to the meeting stone if you have a warlock in the group. Zul'Aman is the only exception to this rule.
Working with a Warlock
- Though a smart Warlock can balance Lifetap with Drain Life so as to avoid excessive health loss, in extended fighting you will often see a Warlock's health rapidly drop. Don't be alarmed, this does not necessarily mean that they are being attacked and in immediate need of healing. It is quite common for Warlocks to use Life Tap spell to convert health to mana if they run out of mana. It is usually not necessary to heal a Warlock unless he/she draws aggro or his health falls below 50%. On the other hand, during long encounters ( more than 2 minutes without resting ), actively spellcasting Warlocks may run out of both health and mana and will depend on healing for continued DPS. If you are a healer with excess mana, realize that by healing the warlock, you are essentially converting your mana into his mana, and thus into additional damage dealt. Insisting that a Warlock heal themself and/or not use Lifetap essentially limits the warlock to their own resources, reducing the total damage they are able to do, as well as possibly rendering them easier prey to incidental damage due to the lifetaps.
- If you are a mage, shaman, druid, or hunter and feel that you can produce a significant amount of elemental damage, consider asking the Warlock to use Curse of the Elements. Do note, however, that you will need to be able to cover the damage gap it will cause from not using Curse of Agony or Curse of Doom.
- If no one has been buffed with a soulstone before combat, politely remind the Warlock that it is needed. Also, before starting an instance, ask the Warlock to create healthstones for the party or cast Ritual of Souls.
- If a Warlock is scouting using the Eye of Kilrogg (a little floating green ball), watch their body--they can't see or hear what is happening to them because they're off elsewhere. Don't forget that they use it to help you too. Nothing worse than scouting for the group to come back to see they've left you behind and now you're being attacked. This spell doesn't stop once under attack, and the Warlock doesn't hear anything. In essence, the Warlock is only there physically, similar to Hunters using Eyes of the Beast.