So, you want to level a warlock, huh? Well, I'm not going to tell you how to do it. No sir! If you've come here thinking that Blood Pact is going to give you a step-by-step plan of what you should do to get your warlock from level 10 to 40 -- some kind of list of quests, zones, instances and mobs -- then you're deluded mister; we don't do that here. What you need is a generic leveling guide of the sort you can find all over the internet. Seriously, don't pay for one though; you can get plenty of decent guides for free. Personally I use Tour Guide and Carbonite. They work really well together and make the whole process much faster. There are other tools, but I know these are good.
What Blood Pact is going to do is talk about what warlocks going through these levels are all about. It's not going to be hugely detailed at any one level because, frankly, you won't be at any level for long. We'll look at the new spells you will gain and how you can apply them, we'll have a gander at these talent things you can now play with, and we'll talk about the gear you will be wearing and wielding on the way. So send the imp off to make a fresh brew and settle in for some lock leveling.
So, I'm assuming you have created your warlock and progressed through the starting zone. If not then you're reading the wrong guide, you want the birth of a warlock article we did last month. We ended that one with your shadow-caster bumbling about near their home city and probably getting told that it's about time they learned to summon a voidwalker. Again, I'm not going to talk too much about that as I have already covered it in articles for the control of minions and also voidwalkers and threat. If you didn't read these articles before then now is a good time to do so as you'll probably be using your blueberry for a while.
The stock answer for what talent tree to use when leveling a lock is "Affliction till 50 then demonology till 80". This is a fair guide and you'll not go far wrong with it. It's quite possibly the fastest and/or easiest way to go. The problem I have with it is that there is so much variety in the warlock talents that being this formulaic is missing out on a lot. Also, leveling through the early stages is so quick and easy these days that it's a perfect opportunity to experiment. So if you want to dump points into anything that takes your fancy then go for it, I say. You can always pay to change them later.
That said, some of you are sat there shouting "To hell with fun, I want my lock to be 80 NOW! Tell me the quick way." So I shall. Destruction can get some very quick kills but leaves you kinda drained after each one. Demonology gives some solid minions but doesn't pack that much of a punch. Affliction has decent damage output with excellent resource regeneration; this makes it highly efficient over the long haul.
You'll probably be using your voidwalker (certainly at the start) so while he tanks you want to DoT the mob up with CoA, Corruption and Immolate. Use CoA first as it lasts the longest and lets him build up some threat. The idea with the void is to let him take the pain, so slow and steady damage on the target keeps them on him. If you Life Tap before you engage (to full mana) and then place DoTs you can then recover the health with Drain Life. If you find that mobs are dying before all your DoTs have run their course, then consider not casting one of them or taking on two mobs at once. Mobs dying before DoTs run out is not the worst thing in the world but it is a waste of mana; this can slow you down.
Given that you'll be DoTting a load, Improved Corruption is a handy talent to pour points into and Improved Life Tap and Soul Siphon also works well with this strategy (Immolate is a destruction spell so doesn't count for Soul Siphon). Improved Drain Soul can help your voidwalker hold threat and also give you a nice mana boost if you time it right -- some people swear by this talent, but I'm less of a fan, it's not bad but if you don't need it then look elsewhere.
Suppression is great for attacking mobs of a higher level, but if you prefer to level through 'green' quests then you might not need this. I prefer to be killing stuff as hard as I can manage and so Suppression is great. You should be looking to get Siphon Life as soon as you can, this used to be just another DoT with some healing but it was re-worked a while back and is simply awesome now. After that you want to stack points into Shadow mastery, also a very powerful talent. How you fill in the gaps is up to you but by level 40 you will probably end up with something like this.
You can play about with many of the filler talents as you like and feel your play style dictates. I prefer Grim Reach to Improved Fear as I like to keep plenty of distance and it's all very well slowing a previously feared mob but the friends he ran into are coming at you at full pelt. ICoW is ok if you want to drop CoA (only one curse per target) and it will mean your tank can take more of a beating.
Once you get your succubus (you read about her last week, right?) you are in the realms of drain-tanking. Basically you are the one taking the damage so throw an Immolate at the target, then your instant DoTs and finally Drain Life till they die. It helps to run away from them while you cast those instant spells. The succubus can be either whipping them for extra damage or seducing their friend. This is a fun and fast way to play but not ideal for every situation, don't forget your voidwalker if this is proving tricky.
- Level 12 - Health Funnel - keep your pet alive while your DoTs kill the mob.
- Level 14 - Drain Life - Great for resource (health/mana) regeneration and drain tanking.
- Level 16 - Unending Breath - Used to be useful before everyone got lungs like pearl divers. The speed boost is quite nice if you have the glyph.
- Level 18 - Create Soulstone - Fantastic spell that I typically forget to keep active on myself.
- Level 18 - Searing Pain - Not particularly great spell for most situations.
- Level 20 - Demon Armor - Replacement for Demon Skin, don't forget to update your action bars.
- Level 20 - Rain of Fire - AoE fireballs from the sky. Nice.
- Level 20 - Ritual of Summoning - Is that a summoning stone in your pocket?
- Level 20 - Summon Succubus - Read all about it!
- Level 20 - Felsteed - Wheee! Giddy Up!
- Level 22 - Eye of Kilrogg - I once killed Illidan with only Eye of Kilrogg and Ritual of Souls; true story.
- Level 24 - Drain Mana - I have used this is AQ once and to solo the Tiger boss in ZG, that's it.
- Level 24 - Sense Demons - If the smell isn't enough...
- Level 24 - Curse of Tongues - Great spell for reducing the damage output of casters, in the same way CoW is for meat-heads.
- Level 26 - Detect Invisibility - By the time you realize you need this buff it's probably too late. Remember, it does not detect stealth.
- Level 28 - Create Firestone - Very nice boost to damage, keep it active all the time.
- Level 28 - Banish - Crowd control for demons.
- Level 30 - Enslave demon - More CC for demons, though I forgot it last week. Handy if somewhat troublesome.
- Level 30 - Hellfire - More AoE, unfortunately not as good as rain of Fire. I like this spell and wish it were worth using more.
- Level 30 - Summon Felhunter - Our own puppy and subject of the next 'Meet the minions'.
- Level 32 - Curse of Elements - This can be very handy if you are with other casters, though oom-chickens and unholy death knights can apply it easier.
- Level 32 - Shadow Ward - Actually very handy if you remember to use it when about to take shadow damage.
- Level 36 - Create Spellstone - If you're not leveling as destruction then swap to using this weapon buff.
- Level 40 - Howl of Terror - AoE fear; fun and danger in one spell.
- Level 40 - Dreadsteed - Epic mount, oooh yes! Fast and Furious
Historically any cloth gear with stamina and intellect was considered warlock loot. This is still true to some degree as we do get more out of stamina than other casters (bigger health pool means bigger mana pool). With the introduction of the Glyph of Life Tap and the changes to make Life Tap work off spirit, this is now also a stat worth having. More on warlock glyphs in this previous article.
Spell power is highly desirable as a green stat. Look out for those randomly enchanted items: ...of the Eagle, ...of Spell Power and even ...of Healing are all good (healing bonus was converted to spell power a while back). There are a few items that stand out during leveling but they are too many to mention here. I do remember the robe from the final boss in RFD being one I didn't replace for quite a while. It might be worth reading the comments for further suggestions.
If you have a character at level 80 and want to shower your new lock with gifts, then the heirloom items are well worth going for. Primarily I would suggest the ones that give an experience boost (Tattered Dreadmist Mantle and Tattered Dreadmist Robe). After that the Dignified Headmaster's Charge is fabulous and very warlocky (I couldn't bring myself to ever throw away my original Headmaster's Charge). Finally the trinkets are fabulous, especially at low levels where you don't see them dropping from mobs. I would suggest the Discerning Eye of the Beast before the Swift Hand of Justice.
If you really want to get through the levels as fast as possible then you could try and persuade a level 80 character to boost you through Deadmines, Wailing Caverns or Shadowfang Keep till 20 then the various wings of Scarlet Monastery until 40. This is quick leveling but you'll learn nothing about playing a warlock that way. Warlocks are hugely fun to play at all levels with loads of options and variety, so get out there and bring terror to the populous.
Somebody mentioned something about being able to gain experience in battlegrounds. I guess you could do that if you like that kind of thing.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons, and all the dastardly deeds done by Warlocks. If you're curious about what's new with Locks since the last patch, check out the Patch 3.2 Warlock Guide or find out what's upcoming in Cataclysm from the BlizzCon 2009: Class Discussion Panel.