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Blood Pact: A look at the Q&A

Nick Whelan

Crimson broth slides from pricked fingers. Droplets falling listlessly to a blank page below, leaving trails of vital ink in their wake. The sanguine blemishes blot, and shift. They twist and writhe on the page as though in agony, contorting into shapes, which become letters, which form words. The Warlock has sealed his legacy. A Blood Pact is forged.

After an arduously long wait, Blizzard finally rolled around to Warlocks in their series of Class Question and Answer sessions, and we got some questions answered. Or did we? In the past I've often been told that I'm far too forgiving of Blizzard, that I tend to support their position too easily. But even I couldn't help but feel dejected after this Q&A session. It would be hyperbole to say that we didn't get any answers, but it certainly seems like you could replace most of the answers we got with "maybe we'll address this someday, possibly," without losing too much in translation.

The questions themselves weren't bad. I often find Q&As and Interviews disappointing, because the things I care about are never asked, but that wasn't the case with this. Some people have complained to me that several of the questions were frivolous, but I honestly think it's about damn time Warlocks got some kind of official acknowledgment on the green fire issue. That said, many of the answers were, at best, vague and unhelpful, and evasive at worst.

Whatever the overall merit, however, the Q&A was long enough that I wont waste any more of my word count introducing it. So lets jump right into analyzing individual answers shall we?

The first two exchanges don't produce a whole lot worth discussing. Almost any Warlock who has spent much time with the class already knows we have dots and demons and use the same gear Mages do. Everything said here that isn't irrelevant is immaterial, because it's just a vague comment regarding something discussed in more detail later on (such as Soul Shards.) It is good to hear that the dev team is concerned about how poorly Warlocks are currently performing in PVP--though I think they're overplaying the effect that 3.2's changes will have on that imbalance. None the less, it's progress of a sort.

The Soul Shard discussion is the one which seems to be generating the most excitement in the Warlock community. Everybody is trembling in fear of the coming day when Warlocks will be required to use Soul Shards for every spell they cast, or some such nonsense. Negative excitement is still excitement. I think the Warlock community is overreacting a bit, but then again, I've never hated Soul Shards quite as passionately as most Warlocks seem to. All the same, those bewailing the awful fate of our class before there's been any announcement regarding any specifics for this upcoming change are getting a bit ahead of themselves.

Quite honestly, I feel that the new Soul Shard mechanic has the potential to be the coolest thing to happen to Warlocks since Haunt. Blizzard's answer to the question of Soul Shards seems to indicate that they sympathize with those Warlocks who are enraged over the minor inconveniences Soul Shards currently represent--a sentiment I can't say I share. I doubt they would acknowledge that a part of the class is annoying as a precursor to making it more annoying. Blizz doesn't actually have it in for Warlocks, regardless of the paranoia complexes we players tend to develop after being nerfed into the ground.

I probably shouldn't speculate, because I'm almost never right. All the same, I can't help but imagine that Soul Shards are going to become some kind of temporary self-buff for Warlocks. Maybe we'll be able to throw them at our minions like we're Rita Repulsa, to give them some kind of boost to size and strength. Or maybe we'll be able to burn them in exchange for a brief spell damage buff. Perhaps such a drastic and interesting change is a little too much to hope for, but idyllic visions of the future make for a more entertaining life than ringing bells and shouting that the world is coming to an end...or does it?

Next up is a pair of questions about threat: why Warlocks can't lower the amount they generate, and whether we can look forward to anything better than Soulshatter in the future. This issue is particularly relevant to me, as lately it seems as though the primary struggle of DPSing as a Warlock centers around controlling threat, rather than maximizing damage. The answer to these threat concerns seems to be a rather lackluster "Trust me man, it would be crazy complicated to do without making 'locks overpowered. Don't expect it resolved anytime soon." I find this rather hard to swallow. The explanation seems to be rooted in a fear that giving Warlocks a talent to reduce threat across the board would allow them to use spells from all of their trees with impunity. However, I can't think of a single build or rotation where "pulls too much aggro" is a cause for not using a given spell. The reality of the matter, in my experience, is simply that Warlocks are forced into a position where they put up about as much damage as anybody else, yet are forced to worry a great deal more about their threat gen.

Truthfully, threat is hardly the most pressing issue I have with the Warlock class right now. I'm more concerned about the way we're performing in PVP, the degradation of our utility, and the fact that Affliction has been boring ever since 3.1 was released. However, I would like to see the answer to a question actually be an answer to the question. At least they're lowering the cooldown on Soulshatter, that should help quite a bit.

The next three questions deal with PVP. Namely, the weakness Warlocks have against melee classes, whether Demonic Circle can be used to combat this, minion survivability, and minion scaling. The first question is completely ignored, which left me feeling just a little taken aback. This Q&A was an anticipated release of information, so I can't help but think that asking a compound question, and answering only the second part of that question, is an attempt to make the community feel as though they're getting some answers on this issue when they really aren't. Of course, it could also be a simple oversight, but that's certainly not what it looks like. Something which, I'm sure, has occurred to many of my fellow Warlocks as well.

The news that Blizzard is taking a very serious look at improving minion survivability in PVP by improving the ways in which minions scale with their master's gear is certainly exciting. And it sounds, from the assertive tone of the text, as though this is an issue which Blizzard is addressing more aggressively than some of the other improvements they indicated they might someday make. It's not coming in 3.2, but I think any reasonable person can appreciate that a change like this is going to take a bit of time to work out, and I'm ecstatic to know my imp might eventually benefit as much from my haste as he does from my spellpower.

The next few exchanges in the Q&A detail less far-reaching changes, neither of which give us much more information than the patch notes. The concern that Warlocks in general are frustrated by how long it takes to switch pets is answered by pointing to the cooldown reduction on Fel Domination, which will do wonders for all the Affliction and Destruction Warlocks. And my buddies in the Affliction tree can look forward to some more burst in the future, which is good, though I must admit I'm not too concerned about Affliction's burst. In PVP, perhaps, burst is more of an asset, but the charm of Affliction is damage over time, so I'm content with using Shadow Bolt when I need burst as Affliction.

The suggestion that Hellfire may be removed from the game because it's too useless has been met with mixed reactions. I'm on the con side of this particular debate. Back when they were talking about changing the Infernal and Doomguard pets to be less troublesome and more useful, I was rather adamantly against it. Spells like that, I argued, are like flavor text for the class. Now that those changes have actually been made, and I've lived with the result for awhile, I'm quite happy Blizzard's decision. Now, rather than being largely discarded fluff spells that I rarely play with, I get to see these awesome spells quite frequently. Completely removing a spell for being useless, however, is another story. The spell hasn't gotten any more useless over time, so I really don't see the harm in letting it remain. It's a cool idea, and despite its limited application, it doesn't need to be removed.

Last of the mechanic related questions regards minor glyphs, and why we only have a scant few--all of which are mediocre. Now personally, I'm quite happy with my Glyphs of Kilrogg, Drain Soul, and Unending Breath. I approve of Blizz' choice to include glyph slots which can't be used to actually improve your DPS. Far too many "options" exist in the game which I never get to take advantage of because choosing to enchant my boots for a minor speed increase mean I couldn't enchant them to increase my damage output. All the same, I think Warlocks should have a few more of these, and the response seemed to indicate that seeing more minor glyphs is only a vague possibility at this point. Disheartening, but there are worse things.

The last three exchanges deal with one of my favorite class issues: aesthetics. Which class is the "best" DPS changes from patch to patch, rotations and talents and useful spells come and go--but a significant change to the way a class looks and feels is one that can fundamentally change the entertainment value of playing a Warlock for as long as the servers remain live.

First up is green fire--a topic familiar to every Warlock. All I can really say is it's about time this issue was acknowledged. And while I'm happy to hear that Blizzard may actually give us green fire, I think I can speak for the majority of Warlocks when I say that I would really rather all--or most--of our fire spells turn green, rather than restricting green fire to some new spell. Way back at the start of the Q&A, it was mentioned that making Mages and Warlocks feel different is a challenge. I can only think that turning our fire green would help with that problem.

Less frequently, but no less passionately, discussed is the issue of a Warlock specific flying mount. I've often said, while speaking to friends, that I don't care how hard such a mount would be to obtain, so long as I can finally have a mount that makes me feel like a Warlock again. In fact, I would prefer such a mount to be difficult to obtain. One of the most memorable things I've ever done in World of Warcraft was braving the heat of the Burning Steppes and ascending a cliff face to submit myself to Mor'zul Bloodbringer for training. I slaughtered dozens, collected rare components, and bartered with demons, all culminating in one of the fiercest battles me and my green-behind-the-ears cadre had ever faced. Even if it meant spending 10 times as much money and thrice the amount of time acquiring a normal flier does, I would love to experience something like that again.

Finally, they bring up something I've honestly never heard discussed: customizing the appearance of demons. I can't tell you how cool I find this idea--whether it's something we get to choose, or whether it's randomly generated like demon names. Either one would be fantastic. I've often commented that, at the very least, there should be a different succubus model for each race capable of being a Warlock. I want to see sexy gnome succubi dangit!

In the end, I really was disappointed in what we got out of this exercise. I wasn't expecting a lot of concrete answers, but what we ended up getting seems excessively vague. I was honestly rather miffed for awhile after I first read it. That said, the blue posters are right when they say that Blizzard wasn't always so forthcoming with information. Ever since WotLK, the community has been kept up to date on a lot of things we would not have been privy to in the past, and I appreciate that. I certainly think there's a lot of room for improvement in the way the community and the company communicate, but things could be worse.

And who knows? Maybe giant demon bat mounts will be introduced in patch 3.3, along with those new dances we were promised in the WotLK trailer!

Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing dots, demons, and all the dastardly deeds done by Warlocks. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the previous episodes of Blood Pact! Last time, we took an in-depth look at the nature of Soul Stones, and prior to that, we explored infrequently used Warlock spells.

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