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Blood Pact: The fine art of staying alive, part 1

Tyler Caraway

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology and destruction warlocks. For those who disdain the watered-down arts that other cling to like a safety blanket ... For those willing to test their wills against the nether and claim the power that is their right ... Blood Pact welcomes you.

It's another week, warlocks -- and, yes, it's another week that you will have to spend with me. Well, in a figurative sense at least; I mean, some of you could spend the week with me literally if you'd want, but I caution you that I do steal souls outside of WoW. For those of you who are merely interested in our cyber-relationship, I'm glad that you came back. I just don't know how to quit you.

Ahem, that out of the way -- have you ever noticed that the dungeon finder is nearly as deadly as it can be awesome? Perhaps it's just me, but I have a knack for a queue popping up right in the middle of a quest; I come back, and suddenly there are four or more giant fury/scaly/slimy critters that want to eat my face off. Not cool. I also have the strange talent of finding tanks that love to just randomly drop group right after they've pulled a pack of mobs, or a healer -- they love doing that, too.

Needless to say, my adventures have been rather harrowing from time to time, but one of the fantastic things about warlocks is the uncanny ability to stay alive. Thus, I come with gifts this week, the gift of my experience in the art of not dying in fires ... or from large, nasty things beating me senseless.

Step 1: Wear a dress and make it look good

That's right, get your muumuus and hair curlers out, because the first things to know about staying 6 feet above ground is all about choosing the right armor. Warlocks are fairly squishy targets, and by that I mean a butter knife would cut them down, so you really need to avoid the whole situation of things whomping on your face. Sometimes it happens, though.

First and foremost, know your armors! Up until you reach level 62, your only option is going to be Demon Armor, which is far better than it sounds. In all PvE situations, you really want to be running Fel Armor; it directly increases your damage, after all, and that's what you're there to do ... but don't ever forget about Demon Armor.

Whenever you find yourself in a tight spot -- whether it's via pulling aggro, randomly getting 50 billion mobs on you at once, or just in an intensive healing phase -- always remember that lovely little ability that you've had since level 8. Demon Armor is amazing. The armor increase that it gives is rather meh -- useful, but not life or death; however, the healing increase is out of this world.

One thing that you should always, always have is a Healthstone macro that switches you to Demon Armor and then uses your precious. This will significantly increasing the healing that you get from each use and can really be a lifesaver. You don't have to use this method every time you want to munch on some fel energy, but keeping for those real "OH NOES!" moments is handy.

Finally, know when the healing increase is going to offset the damage you'd normally gain from Fel Armor. It may seem silly to lower your damage at any point -- but dead DPS is 0 DPS, and sometimes you have to do what it takes to survive. The healing provided by Fel Armor isn't meant to keep you alive; it more offsets the damage of Life Tap.

If you hit a high-damage phase on an encounter that isn't also coupled with a DPS check -- I'm looking at you, Ascendant Council -- then consider switching armors to help out your healers. Chimaeron's grouping phase is a perfect example of this. While grouped, you'll frequently be hit with a debuff that drastically reduces your chance to hit, which destroys your DPS and kills the healing from Fel Armor. In that situation, Demon Armor actually shines; just don't forget to switch back after the phase ends.

In talking about armors, it is always worth noting Shadow Ward -- and Nether Ward/Protection, if you have it (and you should, as destruction!) -- can significantly reduce the damage that you take, so use it any chance that you get. If you are taking shadow damage and not using Shadow Ward, then your mother will cry ... loudly ... in public ... in front of all your friends ... and you'll be in a bunny suit.

Step 2: Make the most of your own CC

This one should be rather obvious to people, yet I cannot even begin to count the number of times that I've seen players of all classes simply ignore the fact that they could do something to stop themselves from being squished and yet don't. Once, a long time ago, Fear used to be a terrible CC option because mobs would just run around all willy-nilly like they were, I don't know, scared or something. Now, however, you can prevent that by using the Glyph of Fear.

If you aren't running with this glyph, especially at low levels or while dungeoning, then someone seriously needs to check in on you. The Glyph of Fear is the greatest thing since sliced bread, actually allowing for warlocks to have a decent CC option. Even if it requires naked mailbox dancing in Stormwind, get this glyph.

Don't just get the glyph -- use Fear! If you pull too many mobs by accident or a tank or healer dies and the group is being overrun, Fear something! Preferably something beating on you or the healer, but even Fearing a mob off someone else gives them a better chance to survive, which increases your chances of living.

Now, there is the little detail of Seduction. This option can be really hit or miss; you might not be using a Succubus, and it can break from anything, so it's a lot less reliable than Fear is. Seduce is an nice option, should it be around and you get the chance, but generally in all the times that you'll need to use it on the fly, thing will be far too chaotic for it to matter.

If you're solo and have the Succy out, then by all means, send it off to make dirty talk with a mob, but don't expect for it to be a group saver if things start going to hell in a handbasket. Again, when things start going wrong, people tend to freak, and freaked people will start mashing buttons that cause bad things to happen ... like breaking Seduce.

Speaking of freaking out and causing bad things to happen, be wary of using Howl of Terror. It's a great spell if you have multiple things around that you need to go away for a little bit, but it carries with it that risk of getting additional mobs that'll eat you. Watch your surroundings and think before using Howl of Terror.

Step 3: Deploy your blueberry

Warlock pets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tiny and annoying; others are winged and rather hot in their tight leather outfits; and others are giant, blue blobs of tanky goo. Under normal circumstances, you probably won't have a Voidwalker out. In fact, I don't know of any time when I thought, "Oh hey, I should be running around with my giant, fruit-looking buddy!" -- but he still does have a few useful tricks up his sleeve.

As any pet owner will tell you, pets have puck-all for threat, and the Voidwalker is no different. Waiting for it to get sufficient aggro is like watching a mage trying to be useful; not only is it slow and painful to watch, but you just kind of end up feeling bad for them in the end and want to put them out of their misery.

Still, the blueberry has a one up on the magelings: It can jump in at any given moment and save the day! The Voidwaler may not actually be a useful tank, but it can do two things really well.

First, there's Sacrifice, which is actually not that bad when you find things attempting to fingerpaint with your blood. The damage absorb is pretty pro, plus the lack of spell pushback is king for getting off a clutch Fear or even a Drain Life or two. It won't "save" you on its own, but it will give you time to save yourself.

Second is Suffering, a Taunt on a 10-second cooldown. Suffering won't force the target to stick to the Voidwalker for more than a few seconds, but it will pull them off temporarily, and usually Torment can hold threat for a few DoTs ticks, giving you enough time to put some distance between you and the nasty and get some health back.

Using the Voidwalker is never about having it act as a true tank, because it just can't do that; it can, however, be an amazing distraction. The number of times that Soulburning a Voidwalker in so that I can pop Sacrifice and Suffering has saved my hide is quite a few more than I would like to mention. For all the hate that it takes, our little blueberry can be a real lifesaver in a pinch if you use him properly.

Step 4: Know your talents

One great thing about warlocks is that they have several methods for regaining health in the heat of battle. There are healthstones, Drain Life, Fel Armor, and finally talents. Each talent tree has one talent in it geared toward allowing the warlock to generate additional health.

Demonology has Demonic Aegis, which was previously kind of bleh and is still kind of bleh. Do not get me wrong, the talent is a great survivability tool -- it's just weaker than the options from the other two trees out there. That being said, DA is still really useful, increasing both the healing increase from Demon Armor and increasing the passive health return of Fel Armor.

Destruction has the fantastic Soul Leech. Although it only works with a few select spells and none of them are really that user-friendly, it does provide a rather significant health return, and it allows for some great combinations. Since it is based off maximum health, you can chain abilities for greater effect. A quick Demon Armor, Soulburn: Healthstone, Chaos Bolt/Shadowburn can refund a tremendous amount of health really quickly. Similarly, you can pop Demon Armor -- or even remain in Fel Armor -- and use Chaos Bolt followed up with a Soulburn: Soul Fire for some wicked healing as well.

Last, there's affliction with the ever-loved Siphon Life. Multi-DoTing Corruption onto mobs will refund ridiculous amounts of health, plus a single Corruption won't break Fear too quickly; it will break it early, but generally not right away -- and that can be a real lifesaver. Again, couple this with some Demon Armor goodness or a nice Soulburn: Healthstone, and you can go from nearly dead to close to full really quickly if there are plenty of targets to roll Corruption on.

Step 5: Know your outs

Last but certainly not least, the best part of surviving is knowing when you cannot survive ... and running from your impending doom. Let's face it, we've all had times where we know we've gotten in over our heads, and the best strategy is knowing how to get out of those situations. You might not kill the mob, but it certainly won't kill you.

Along with healing, each spec also has an option to slow a target down. Destruction has Aftermath, affliction has Curse of Exhaustion and Improved Fear, while demonology has Aura of Foreboding (okay, that one's a root, but it works in this picture.) There's also the Glyph of Shadowflame ... but that one is a little bit on the iffy side.

When you're in over your head, it's often best to run, and running is a key element to living. As destruction, pop out a Shadowfury to buy initial time and start booking it. If you can Soulburn a Void to Suffering one off you, do it, and use any of the other tricks listed too. If there's only a single mob getting close and you know you can slow it, Immolate and Conflag it, then keep running off. Don't bother re-casting Immolate to slow down one mob if there are multiples of them ripping at your heels. You could also Howl of Terror, then run and use Shadowfury when things start to get close again, but keep in mind that the damage from Shadowfury will mean you have to kite them longer, so it may not be worth it.

As affliction, you'll want to Howl of Terror, then stop spreading around CoEx as you run your lilly legs off. It's a rather simple method, but effective.

For demonology, it just as simple. Hand of Gul'dan them all into place, then start to book. If they can't be rooted, then Howl of Terror instead. Again, simple, yet effective.

When running, usually you want to make sure that your pet is put onto passive as well; however, there are times when you don't. If you think your pet can take aggro off of you from a mob, leave them on it to be quite the literal sacrifice. Really, they won't mind taking one for the team. As mentioned, the Voidy is great for this. If you can quickly -- as in instantly -- get one out while running, then do so and have him use Suffering to get one off of you. He'll either die or despawn, but by that time you'll be safe.

Have fun not dying! Tune in next week when we look into the PvP aspects of trying not to bite the big one.

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.

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