Blood Pact: What is a Warlock?, part 1

Elizabeth Harper
E. Harper|06.20.07

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Blood Pact: What is a Warlock?, part 1

Every week Elizabeth Harper contributes Blood Pact, where she tries to share the joy of the Warlock class with her fellow players, Warlock or not.

When I first started playing World of Warcraft, I rolled the ubiquitous Night Elf Hunter. The pet angle appealed to me, and in all the games I'd played previously, I preferred to stay away from close combat and pelt my victims with spells or arrows from a safe distance. However, with so many classes available to me, I couldn't stick with just one -- my second character was a Mage. I spent my first weeks in Azeroth cheerfully hopping between these two characters, but I must admit that neither of the characters made it past level 20. Why? I found out that a friend of mine played on another realm, so I rerolled to join them -- this time as a Warlock.

I didn't know what I was getting in to at the time, I only knew that Warlocks had pets like Hunters and cast spells like Mages. But I've got to tell you, despite the first-glance similarities between the classes, they're not at all alike -- which I learned while leveling mine to 60. (And before you ask -- I played this Warlock prior to the class changes that turned them into tiny gods. Yes, I was a Warlock back when Warlocks were the underdogs.) Perhaps you're not quite sure what to expect from Warlocks -- whether you play with them, are trying to kill them, or are thinking about rolling one yourself. If so, read on as I attempt to explain the essence of the Warlock class.

: If you aren't a Warlock, you might not even know what a DoT is, so I'll enlighten you. The term "DoT" refers to a "damage over time" spell which does its damage over a period of time. Unlike the more typical direct damage spells, a DoT stays on the target for a period of seconds and does small amounts of damage -- that usually add up in the end. Warlocks are the masters of the DoT -- so don't be surprised if you see them kill things without casting a single Shadowbolt.

Understanding DoTs is the first step to understanding Warlocks. Having these (usually) quick-cast spells that do damage over a period of time allows them to fight multiple mobs with ease! When grinding mobs a level or two below you, DoT up your first target and then move on to your next -- using your pet or Fear to keep things away from you if there's trouble. Once you get a feel for this sort of grinding, you'll only have to stop occasionally to loot. In PvP, a similar concept applies -- DoT your target as they run by, and you could rack up an honorable kill while your target is half a zone away, cursing the fact that he can't remove magic effects.

The Warlock's damage over time spells include:
  • Corruption: Instant-cast with talents, shadow damage.
  • Immolate: Short cast (2s, 1.5s with talents), fire damage. Does some direct damage when the DoT is initially applied.
  • Curse of Agony (CoA): Instant cast, shadow damage. However, a Warlock can only have one curse on a target at a time.
  • Siphon Life: Instant cast, shadow damage. 21-point Affliction talent.
  • Unstable Affliction: Short cast (1.5s), shadow damage. 41-point Affliction talent.
  • Seed of Corruption: 2s cast, shadow damage -- and does a shadow AoE around the target once it's dealt its damage.
And, trust me, with all of those running, nothing lasts long.

However, while DoTs are quite powerful, they also have their downsides:
  • They do their damage slowly, giving the target time to respond. (Either dispelling the effects or doing damage to the Warlock.)
  • They break most crowd control and prevent most crowd control from being reapplied until they've run their duration.
  • DoTs can't crit.
Fear: If you're not familiar with Fear, you must be living under some sort of virtual rock. Fear is perhaps the most revialed crowd control ability in the game, as it sends the Warlock's target running (for up to 20 seconds) and allows damage (both DoTs and direct damage) to continue being done. Blizzard has tweaked the mechanics of Fear to cause it to break more often on damage, especially direct damage, but a Warlock can still dish out some good damage in PvE or PvP to a feared target.

One of my favorite hobbies at level 60 was to farm the elite demons in Darkwhisper Gorge in Winterspring. They were designed for a small group of players to take on, but a well-geared Warlock could spend a few minutes DoTing and fearing them and possibly walk away with a valuable (at the time) Eye of Shadow. (And, of course, this was a place you could get felcloth, and the difficulty of the demons involved meant you'd never be competing with farmers.) It's fun doing things no other class could do -- and all thanks to Fear!

Warlocks have access to three different Fear abilities:
  • Fear: A 1.5s cast, single-target fear that can last up to 20 seconds.
  • Howl of Terror: A 1.5s cast (can be made instant-cast with talents), up to 5 target fear that can last up to 8 seconds.
  • Death Coil: An instant-cast, single-target fear that lasts 3 seconds, on a 2 minute cooldown, as well as draining health from the target.
While fear is a powerful tool that any Warlock needs to learn to use, it has its downsides, too:
  • A feared player or monster runs randomly -- and it could run straight into a bunch of other monsters, which will then run straight to you. And using fear in an instance? If you're not careful, it can lead to your untimely death. (Remember, Warlocks -- Curse of Recklessness causes its target to ignore Fear! Pair it with Fear to make mobs go just as far as you want to and no farther. And you can always bump CoR off with another curse if the mob gets too close for comfort. Be sure to use rank 1 to keep mobs from running without buffing them much!)
  • Fear and Howl of Terror both have cast times -- so if you're being hit, you may not be able to get them off in time. (Of course, that's what Death Coil is for, right?)
  • Fear is on diminishing returns on players -- meaning you can't cast it forever. (Though you can usually keep casting it for long enough.)
But despite its potential problems, Fear is a powerful tool in any Warlock's arsenal. If you're a Warlock -- use it! And if you're not a Warlock -- be prepared for it.

Now... I hope you know that there's more to a Warlock than their DoTs and their ability to Fear -- but they're the only ones we're going to talk about today. Next week we'll consider pets, the many things to be done with soul shards, and how a Warlock can make a viable addition to any party.
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