A lot of the changes are a little hard to noggin out -- are they meant to be buffs? Nerfs? Inexplicably different, but not really better or worse? Demonology is certainly getting a thorough shuffle, but it's hard to say whether it's good or bad. We'll chat more about it after the cut. Let's start with what the first beta patch notes obviously say, and consider what each item means. Then, in Part II, we'll start looking at each tree individually, with each of its new spells.
Warlock Patch Notes from Beta, as of 07/18/2008
- Aftermath (Destruction) - Now a 2-point talent, down from 5.
Not bad -- you get the same bang for fewer bucks. Buff! I can see a lot of solo and PvP applications here, since a 2 point investment isn't quite as fully committed as a 5 pointer.. Probably not a make-or-break for raiding in WotLK, but better is better.
- All demon abilities and spells will automatically be learned as pets gain levels. Demon Master trainers will be removed.
Thank you, so much. There have always been mods, tips, and tricks to help you manage the demon-training process. But the whole shebang has never been exactly pleasant. One of my favorite things about hitting 70 as my 'lock was...not having to worry about this any longer. Now, I will know I don't have to worry about from 70 until 80.
And, really, this isn't a huge deal. It's not like having to hit up a Demon Master every level was some great setback to Warlocks. Annoying, sure. Frustrating to have to take the time out, maybe. This is a Nice-to-Have buff, I guess, though, and I won't look a gift horse in the mouth.
- Blood Pact now works raid-wide (not just in party).
I wonder if this was backhanded Shaman love, or just part of the fact that everyone's aura-like buffs seem to be going raid-wide. Still, this is a good buff for Warlocks. It also means that if you have more than one imp-toting lock in a raid, only one of you will have to have it out at a time.
- Cataclysm (Destruction) - Now also increases your chance to hit with Destruction spells by 1% per point.
Sure, nice. But it's also one tier higher in the tree now. I guess that's worth it for a little extra spell hit. If you consider that to-hit rating is usually one of the "must have" stats to start the Big Boy Content, tucking a few extra points into a talent is pretty nice.
- Curse of Recklessness will no longer prevent Fear effects, only prevent NPCs from fleeing (e.g. at low health).
You can now drop this on your kill-target, and still fear it. Neat, but I'm not sure I was feeling the lack of that ability before now. I'm not sure I'm going to find myself willing to put Recklessness on a Rogue or Warrior I'm trying to kill, Fear or no Fear.
- Dark Pact: Tooltip updated to be more consistent with other similar effects.
Tooltip update! HUGE buff! Okay, I keed. Still, I respect Blizzard's attention to administrivia, as consistency can be important in getting new players into our beloved class.
- Demon Armor - Now increases healing done by spells and effects by 20%, but no longer has in-combat health regeneration.
Not ... sure. I tend to run around with Fel Armor. Let's talk about this a bit more a dot or two down.
- Demon Skin, Demon Armor and Fel Armor are no longer Magic effects and cannot be dispelled.
Thank goodness. (Thank badness?) Being in a Battleground, where Hunters are as plentiful as candy on Halloween, I felt like I was rebuffing every time my GCD was available. In light of Arcane Shot's ability to pop a buff off me without second thought, this is a welcome upgrade. (Though, I guess, it's arguable if it's one we should even need in the first place.)
- Fel Armor - Now increases your spell damage equal to 30% of your total Spirit, but no longer increases healing done by spells and effects by 20%.
Okay, so -- the changes to Demon and Fel Armor are a little strange. I'm not quite sure what to make of it -- Fel Armor now increases spell damage based on your Spirit. Some of the reasoning for this change probably comes from the spellpower change.
To sum up, you won't have "healing" gear and "damage" gear for casting any longer. It's all just spellpower now. Your spell type and talents will determine what kind of bonus, and how much bonus, you get. This means all casters are going to be using the same pieces of gear, basically.
As a result, many talents are getting retooled to try and make use of this new dynamic. Since Warlocks will have Spirit on their gear, they need to get some benefit out of it. The Fel Armor change makes that happen.
However, it's hard to put a lot of context on this change. We don't know how much Spirit is going to be common on this spellpower gear, so the jury has to wait before deciding whether the new Fel Armor is a buff or relative nerf.
- Fel Stamina (Demonology) has been merged with Fel Intellect into Fel Vitality.
Combining two talents into a single talent is generally good news. Can't complain here. Definitely a buff.
- Howl of Terror now costs 15% of base mana.
I guess, considering how hated Fear spells are, I'm glad it still exists. I dunno. It's a mana-cost change. This could have hurt a lot more when Life Tap was getting nerfed, but nowadays. . .
- Improved Curse of Weakness (Affliction) is now "Frailty" - Increases the amount of attack power reduced by your Curse of Weakness spell by 10/20%, and increases the amount of armor reduced by your Curse of Recklessness by 10/20%.
Okay -- it's easy to miss the point of this change if you're not familiar with Curse of Weakness. The armor reduction is totally a buff, and a new part of the effect. Additionally, when you consider the importance of armor in mitigating Rogues and Warriors in the Arena, this seems to foretell a future of Warlock/Warrior and Warlock/Rogue twofers in a 3v3 team. A little more armor penetration makes pairing up with a physical damager pretty keen.
The attack power reduction, however, is the same as it always has been. You're getting a new effect tacked onto the same old one. Buff!
- Improved Enslave Demon (Demonology) is now a Tier 5 talent, up from Tier 4.
Riiiiiiight. Are Enslave-worthy demons going to be more common in Wrath of the Lich King? If not, was it really necessary to move it deeper in the tree? This is just a confusing change, but will probably make more sense in context as WotLK develops.
- Improved Lash of Pain (Destruction) and Improved Firebolt (Destruction) have been merged into one talent, Demonic Power.
Again, can't complain about compressing two talents into one. This change specifically consolidates the abilities of two pets (Succubus and Imp) into one talent.
- Improved Shadow Bolt (Destruction) - Now increases damage by your next Shadow damage spells by 3/6/9/12/15%, down from 4/8/12/16/20%.
Nerf! Nerf! There's no way to make light of a 5% drop in Shadow Bolt damage. Yeah, Warlock-haters will tell me this isn't a make or break kind of change. And the reasonable chap in me is forced to agree. However, I don't have to like it!
- Mana Feed: Tooltip updated to be more consistent with other similar effects.
- Master Demonologist – Felguard (Demonology) - Now increases all damage by 1/2/3/4/5%, and reduces all damage done to you by 1/2/3/4/5%.
- Master Demonologist – Imp (Demonology) - Now increases Fire damage by 1/2/3/4/5%, and critical hit chance with Fire spells by 1/2/3/4/5%.
- Master Demonologist – Succubus (Demonology) - Now increases Shadow damage by 1/2/3/4/5%, and critical hit chance with Shadow spells by 1/2/3/4/5%.
- Master Demonologist (Demonology) - Most effects have been altered.
In case non-Warlocks are reading this, Master Demonologist is a mid-tree talent in the Demonology tree. The exact function of the talent depends on which pet you have out. That said, the changes to this talent obviously depend on which pet you have out at the time:
The Imp currently reduces your aggro; in WotLK, it's going to buff Fire damage and crit chance.
The Felguard currently buffs damage and your spell resistance; in WotLK, it will still buff damage by the same amount. However, instead of giving you spell resistance, the Felguard will give you an overall damage reduction.
The Felhound is unchanged.
The Succubus raw damage bonus will be halved in WotLK, but will now also grant you crit chance (similar to the Imp's new function.)
I think these changes are just different, and not really good or bad. (Well, the Imp change is good if you have no aggro trouble -- and bad, if you do have aggro challenges.) But since Blood Pact now applies to the entire raid, it's pretty reasonable to think the aggro change removes the last, gauranteed reason everyone would use the Imp in groups.
Cumulatively, these changes allow a little more customization of playstyle across PvE Warlocks. I do expect that once we theorycraft the "best" pet for Demonology, we'll all be back to some carbon copying.
- New Talent: Demonic Empowerment (Demonology) - Grants your Summoned Demon power for a short time.
Okay, this is cool. You use the talented skill to grant an Empowered effect to your demon. When your demon has it, it can do nifty tricks. The succubus can vanish -- removing all movement impairing effects and stuns, only to return at 100% health. The Voidwalker borrows a page from PC tanks -- it temporarily buffs its own damage and threat by 20%. Our Imps are a little more generic -- 20% spell damage and crit chance for the duration. The Felguard Hulks out, and gains 20% haste, breaks all stuns and movement impairing effects, and becomes immune to them. The Felhound just resets all of his cooldowns, sighs a bit, and feels ignored. I don't yet see the duration for the Empowered effect, but the talent's cooldown is only 1 minute.
- New Talent: Eradication (Affliction) - Your Corruption, Siphon Life and Curse of Agony ticks have a 5/10/15% chance to increase your spell haste by 20% for 8 sec. This effect has a 10 second cooldown.
This is going to be one of those technical skills that require a Warlock's player to be on the ball, pay attention, and be ready to take advantage of procs. For that reason, we'll probably see a lot of people ignore Eradication, and a lot of other folks use it to almost Overpowered proportions.
- New Talent: Molten Core (Destruction) - Your Shadow spells and damage over time effects have a 5/10/15% chance to increase the damage of your Fire spells by 10% for 6 sec.
The first talent named after a raid! Another technical skill -- sit up, pay attention, watch for the proc. You'll also note the interplay here -- it's your Shadow spells buffing your Fire spells.
- Pyroclasm (Destruction) - Now also includes Conflagrate.
Cool, buff. Pretty straight forward, throws a little more toolbox into the Destruction kit.
- Shadowfury (Destruction) - Can now be cast while moving. Stun duration increased to 3 seconds, up from 2.
"Can now be cast while moving." We've not covered it yet, but Soul Link's effect has been significantly reduced. When Soul Link is no longer part of the mandatory Arena build, will Shadowfury provide additional utility in the Arena and Battlegrounds? I don't see it becoming any stronger a PvE tool, admittedly. But a stun available every 20 seconds. . . that doesn't suck, guys.
A well timed AE stun on a large group (Battlegrounds or 5v5, for example) can give you some extra time to spit out AE damage. This doesn't read as the next I-WIN button . . but, as the WotLK toolbox develops, it isn't horrible. And again - you can cast it while moving.
- Soul Link (Demonology) is now an 11-point talent (used to be a 31-point talent), but the 5% bonus damage from this talent has been removed. In addition, the damage absorbed by Soul Link is now 15%, down from 20%.
I admit -- I'm an SL/SL faceroller. But I make it up by 2v2ing with a Hunter, so get off my back. This change hurts me a little. 5% mitigation loss is hardly the end of the world, but when it's coupled with the loss of bonus damage -- I can feel that. However, the talent is now 3rd Tier, which means it could simply be a stop on my way, before I go deeper in Destruction or Affliction to pick up Shadowfury or Haunt.
- Soul Siphon (Affliction): Now also increases the damage of your Drain Soul.
Woo! This is definitely a welcome buff. Don't see the application? This now means that we're able to do a little more damage while refilling our bag o' souls. Now, the change isn't going to throw us to the tip top of the damage meters...but it's not really meant to. The improved Soul Siphon may mean brief moments of the blue-line-o'-shards isn't quite so painful.
- Suppression (Affliction) is now a 3-point talent, down from 5. Now increases your chance to hit with Affliction spells by 1/2/3%, down from 1/2/3/4/5%.
The patch note is weird. In today's world, Suppression reduces your target's chance to resist. In WotLK, it instead increases your chance to hit. Additionally, Suppression will reduce the mana cost of your Affliction spells. Since these are patch notes over the Alpha build, not the live build, the language is a little more clear in that light.
Between Suppression and Cataclysm packing bonuses to-hit, the path to raiding/grouping may be a little easier for locks. It'll certainly open up more gear choices for us, since we can lean our itemization toward raw damage.
- Unstable Affliction (Affliction): Silence effect reduced to 3 seconds, down from 5.
Feh! Feh, I say! Two seconds, not the end of the world. But I do seem to be saying that a whole lot.