The right tools for the job
Soloing has slightly different priorities than raiding or PvP. Maximizing your damage output is something to avoid, because max damage means max threat and you're a squishy cloth wearer. No, your two priorities are keeping the aggro on your pet and keeping that pet alive. Just a few DoTs are enough to kill most bosses you'll face, if you have a little patience.
This means the first step is to spec demonology. The demonologist is the pet specialist and brings several indispensable tools for soloing. A good spec would look something like (0/31/5) right now. In the new Cataclysm era, you'll find more flexibility in picking your talents than we used to have, but there are still some key talents that can't be passed up.
Two that are essential to keeping your pet alive are Fel Synergy and Improved Health Funnel. The first provides a steady stream of passive healing. The second turns your regular pet healing spell into a more powerful heal and a tanking cooldown at the same time. With good gear, it's possible to keep your demon alive through serious punishment as long as you keep Health Funnel active. That the spell is channeled can sometimes be a hindrance, but warlocks have several good tools for getting a lot of damage from a small cast window. Remember, as long as your pet is alive, it's keeping you alive.
Minions, front and center
The two pets used for soloing are the Felguard and the Voidwalker, and knowing when to use which one is an important skill.
Of the two, the more durable is the voidwalker. It has more health, takes less damage and has a genuine taunt. Against a single, powerful foe, the Voidwalker is the demon you want starting in front of you. However, it has some limitations that you have to remain aware of. It does less of its threat as damage, which means you're responsible for doing more of the total damage needed. Since you still have to stay under its threat level, this makes the fight take longer. It's a trade-off to remain aware of.
The voidwalker also lacks any good multi-target threat output. Well, you think, you'll just shoot one target at a time. My friend, let me introduce you to something called healer aggro. Every point of healing you do racks up threat with every enemy in the fight. Thanks to those healing talents we talked about, you'll be on the hate list for everyone, and if the voidwalker hasn't done more than invade their personal space, those mobs are going to come running for you. That's why we turn to another friend for clearing all those trash pulls out of the way.
The felguard deals damage, lots of it, to everyone around. He has a cleave that covers that annoying healer aggro for you. He's also just been upgraded with Felstorm, which puts out impressive amounts of damage and threat on both single targets and large trash pulls. A single Felstorm can often kill a trash pack without your assistance, though be aware that if you don't contribute some damage yourself, you won't get any loot or rep.
Of course, there is a downside, and it's that the felguard is more fragile than the voidwalker. His health can plummet quickly if you're not standing ready with Health Funnel on a moment's notice. While it's fun to play games of "kill them before they kill you," it does take some care. If your pet dies first, then you've won a quick trip to the graveyard and a ghost run back. Practice will teach you how to ride the threat limit when you need to jump in with a heal, so don't let a few deaths discourage you.Putting it all together
At this point, we have all the pieces for the basic strategy. You'll head in with your felguard and start tackling trash. On small pulls, you can just DoT his target, let it die, then switch to the next. With large pulls, it's better to send him in and Felstorm right away. Felstorm puts out enough threat that you can contribute your own Shadowflame
AoE to the attack, and the fight should be over quickly. When you reach a boss, you can either stick with the felguard or switch to the voidwalker, depending on your judgment of the encounter. Consider both the fight mechanics and how hard the boss hits.
Now let's talk advanced study. As I said before, your DPS is capped by how much threat your pet is putting out. That means the best damage boost you can get is one that raises that cap. If you've got the voidwalker out, the most obvious is Demonic Empowerment
. On any boss fight, this should be used every cooldown. Your other direct threat management tool is Soulshatter
, now improved to a 90 percent threat drop. Because it works as a percentage, the longer you wait, the more threat it drops. If you can save it till the mid-point of a boss encounter, you'll buy yourself a window where you can burn at full DPS.
Another way around the threat cap is to do what warlocks do best: Get someone else to do the dirty work for us. Any damage done by summoned Guardians doesn't count against our own threat level. Fortuitously, the Infernal
have just been upgraded to Guardians, who no longer replace our demon minion. If there's a particularly dangerous boss or large pull you want to burn down quickly, it's a good idea to summon one of these. Less reliable but still useful are the ebon imps summoned by Bane of Doom
and the val'kyr summoned by Nibelung
. Both are threat-free, but you're depending on a random proc chance.
Finally, a word about Metamorphosis
. In most respects, this is a DPS cooldown -- and as we've been over, more DPS is a dangerous thing. But it's important to remember that it also multiplies your armor and makes you uncritable. If the pull goes bad or if your demon dies, then popping Metamorph will keep you alive. Not for very long, of course, but it might be long enough to Soulburn
for a new demon or for Immolation Aura
to finish off the mobs.
Now you should be ready to head out and lay waste with no one tagging along to slow you down. A good first stop is Zul'Gurub. It's easy and will soon be disappearing forever, so don't wait. Pay a visit to High Priest Thekal
and Bloodlord Mandokir
to see if you can win a mount from them, and try to help conservation efforts
for the future while you're there. After that, the heroic dungeons from The Burning Crusade
should all be in your grasp. Those will win you reputation towards pets
, with more mounts available from Kael'Thas
in MgT and Anzu
in Sethekk Halls (who now spawns without the aid of a druid). Once you're comfortable with soloing those, you can move up to Karazhan and Attumen the Huntsman
-- because as every warlock knows, the only thing better than a horse on fire is a horse on green fire
. Good hunting!
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