Since Cataclysm falls on our heads next week, I thought it'd be a perfect time to give some leveling ideas to folks who want to roll a new warlock in the expansion. Why would anyone roll a new warlock, you ask? Well, four good reasons: trolls, dwarves, goblins, and worgen. If you aren't inclined to spring for the $25 character recustomization that includes a racial change, you might want to consider rolling a new warlock from scratch. For some people who have never played a warlock before, the new races might be push they need to finally dabble in the demonic arts (with the succubus around, I honestly don't know why you'd need the extra push ... but hey, whatever works!).
As of Patch 4.0.3, you can now choose to play a troll or dwarf warlock. If you activate Cataclysm next week, you'll be able to play either a worgen or a goblin, too. If you haven't rolled a new warlock but plan to, it only makes sense to try out the new races. There isn't a lot of lore to explain why dwarves can suddenly become warlocks, but with the Dark Iron matriarch Moira Thaurissan née Bronzebeard sitting in Ironforge, it isn't too much of a stretch to imagine the dwarves trying out all sort of dark and devious things. Trolls, on the other hand, aren't hard to imagine getting involved in the fel arts. Besides, a whole bunch of warlock-like troll NPCs have been running around Azeroth under the guise of witch doctors, anyway.
The new races
First off, let's get this out of the way -- you'll lose out on a couple of racials when you roll a dwarf warlock. Because we all know dwarves are uncouth, brawling ruffians, their racial abilities include Gun Specialization and Mace Specialization, neither of which will be of any use to you. I mean, you can't even use guns nor maces. That leaves you with Frost Resistance, which probably won't be as cool (pun unintended), considering you're leaving Northrend; Stoneform, which will be pretty awesome for PvP because it removes debuffs warlocks can't handle; and finally, Explorer, which will make up for the suck of not being able to benefit from 40 percent of your racial abilities. With archaeology being one of the new things in the expansion giving out some nifty rewards, Explorer will come in a lot more handy than Find Treasure, which became useless over time as treasure chests became conspicuously absent in Northrend. It'd have been nice if you could make a dark iron dwarf just to fit the apparent lore, but you'll have to make do with looking somewhat ashen. Slap on an angry dwarf face to complete the effect.
On the other hand, those trolls are uncivilized savages who get bonuses off bows and thrown weapons, which is just as useless to you as bonuses to guns and maces. The rest of the racial abilities work pretty well, though, such as Da Voodoo Shuffle, which is great for PvP, especially to help you kite your opponents better. There's also Beast Slaying, which should help you while leveling; Regeneration, which is fantastic for warlocks because your health is essentially your mana; and finally, Berserking, which is your personal, mini-Bloodlust. All things considered, trolls are probably a better choice over dwarves in terms of racial bonuses.
Of course, one of the perks of getting Cataclysm would be being able to roll one of the two new races, and both get funky when it comes to racial abilities. Let's start with the worgen, who are considered Aberrations and have higher resistance against nature and shadow spells. Nothing fancy there. Then there's Running Wild, which is just wicked in terms of gameplay -- you get down on all fours and run as fast as a mount. I'm not sure how it works for flying, but still ... you save yourself a little gold by not having to purchase mounts. It doesn't seem quite becoming of a warlock to get down on all fours, but what can you do? You're a dog. There's the cosmetic Two Forms, which is purely for the cool factor of calling yourself a werewolf, and the natural extension Flayer for better skinning. There's also Darkflight, a long-cooldown speed burst which will help you loads in PvP, and finally Viciousness, which raises your critical strike chance by 1 percent. It sounds nice until you realize that crit is actually pretty low on your priority of stats. In fact, you'll want to reforge all that crit out of your gear and move it elsewhere, such as haste or mastery. If you're rolling a worgen, understand that you're not in it for the min-max.
If you roll a goblin, you'll get the wonderful Rocket Barrage, which you should be launching every time it's available because it is -- as of this writing -- off the global cooldown. That translates to a pleasant DPS boost or at least some helpful burst in some situations. It shares a cooldown with Rocket Jump, however, so you'll need to make the choice between DPS or mobility, which should come more into play in PvP. There's also Time is Money, which is basically a 1 percent bonus to your casting speed ... and guess what? You want haste. It's right up there with mastery in terms of stat weight, depending on your spec. Other racial abilities include Best Deals Anywhere, which saves you more gold than any other ability in the game; Better Living Through Chemistry, which grants a bonus to your alchemy skill; and finally, a Pack Hobgoblin, which is a portable bank on a 30-minute cooldown. All of these combine to deliver a compelling package -- in my opinion, the best race to roll if you want to play a new warlock in Cataclysm is a goblin.
Your leveling spec
I'm a firm believer in playing the game your way, which means I don't believe in the most optimal spec to level. In my opinion, you should level as the spec you plan to play in the endgame. That said, let's go through the different specs and figure out how you'll benefit from the specializations as you level up.
First up is affliction, which receives Unstable Affliction as its specialization ability. If there's one way to describe the gameplay experience at lower levels for affliction, it's that it is slow compared to the other two specs. If your signature ability is a DoT that contains the phrase "slowly destroys the target," you can rest assured it's the slowest spec of the three. But slow isn't necessarily bad; it just starts out that way. In fact, being able to cast instant-cast DoTs on multiple mobs and run around until they all die can be a whole lot of fun.
Speaking of fun, though, just how fun is it to get a bodyguard at level 10? The way demonology levels is completely different after 4.0.1 implemented the talent tree changes and warlocks gained access to a felguard as early as level 10. This means all players rolling a warlock for the first time and speccing demonology will rarely experience sending big blue out to tank for them. While the felguard doesn't have a taunt or the tanking ability of a voidwalker, it's hardy enough and hits hard enough that young warlocks won't find a need to break out a tanking pet. As the official other pet class of the game, being able to field a bruiser demon at early levels is just incredible. Speccing demonology should teach players how to micromanage their pets early on. Later, players will learn to take advantage of Felstorm, which should be micromanaged for optimal DPS. As any player who has played a pet class can attest, leveling with a good pet is easy and fun.
On the other hand, blowing things up can also be fun, too. If anything, speccing destruction will teach you the fine art of standing still. Or more accurately, the fine art of standing still, moving, then standing still, then moving again. You'll be tempted to stand still while casting Conflagrate after casting Immolate, but use it as practice for mobility. Playing destruction can be pretty straightforward in the early going, but things heat up after a while. This is the same for all specs as you pick up talents that you'll include in your rotations and as your pets grow in power.
Micromanagement is an important skill that all warlocks need to learn in order to become even better, especially since demons get incredibly useful abilities later in the game such as the imp's Singe Magic or the felhunter's Spell Lock and Devour Magic, which perform best when taken off auto-cast. You'll learn little tricks like sneaking up on idle opponents with a succubus and blowing Whiplash.
I mentioned "fun" several times in the past few paragraphs, didn't I? That's because it's the whole point of playing a new warlock. The whole point of playing the game, actually. With new options available for warlocks such as new races and a completely different game experience courtesy of Patch 3.0.1, there's a whole lot of opportunity for fun. Now get out there and send opponents into the void!
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll steer you toward tip-top trinkets and Soulburning your way through Cataclysm.