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Blood Pact: Leveling a warlock from 1 to 60

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.

More so than anything else, I am an altaholic. I am addicted to alt-ahol. It's a terrible disease, I know, and I make sure that I go to my support group in the basement of a local comic book shop every Saturday night, but those meetings usually end up in a StarCraft LAN party, so I'm thinking that I might skip it this time around.

In all honesty, though, I really do have an alt problem. I've got three different severs that have reached their character limit -- and yes, a vast majority of those toons are actually 85, or at least in the 80s. It's a tough gig, but it's what happens when you quit your job to work exclusively on WoW. Suffice to say, leveling is a concept I know pretty darn well. Taking a break from my newest project -- reaching the Classy guild achievement in a guild with only my alts -- I figured I might share a few of the things that I have learned in my time.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Levels 1 to 10

I've never actually read any of the "big" leveling guides out there, but I've often wondered what they might say for the first few levels where everyone is pretty much the same, stuck in a starting zone and pretty much told exactly what to do and how to do it. I mean, seriously, how to guide a player through the first 10 levels? Since I'm pretty sure that none of them tell you how to traverse the epically difficult starting areas, I'll break it down for you.

  • Click on the guys, or gals, standing there with giant yellow marks over their heads.
  • Click "Accept."
  • Follow the giant yellow map dots.
  • ???????
  • Profit!
Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. The first 10 levels for a warlock can be summed up rather nicely in a few simple "words:" 11 ... 11 ... 11 ... 111 ... 11 ... 11 ... 111. Ahh, the glorious sound of Shadow Bolt spam. For the first few levels, it's all you've got, and even once you get Corruption, everything in the starting areas dies with two or three casts anyway, so you really don't even have to use it. Of course, once you get Immolate, you can change it up a little tiny bit and run around using Immolate and Corruption on everything, which will kill it pretty quickly, but I hate having to run back for corpses and stuff, so I honestly stick to the Shadow Bolt spam until I at least get out of the small little starter zone.

If you haven't leveled up a new alt yet in Cataclysm, I strongly suggest that you do so. Blizzard made the most amazing changes to the leveling system ever. No, I don't mean the completely revamped zones with sweet quests. All starting zones where your character wakes up for the first time now have flippin' mailboxes. It's brilliant. You do know how positively awful it was to have to run to, like, Brill just to get my BoA gear? Screw that.

Anyway, once you finally reach level 10, it's time for the Big Choice. Yep, I'm talking talents.

Choosing a specialization

Now, as people all know by now, I'm a huge affliction fan. Not only that, but affliction has traditionally been the leveling spec for warlocks. Running around, multi-DOTing everything, farming mass amounts of mobs faster than any other character out there. Unlimited health, unlimited mana -- affliction warlocks just have it made.

Oddly enough, I have to utterly disagree with the common practice of affliction leveling, at least for the lowest levels. Affliction does have great self-healing, but multi-DOTing just isn't what it used to be, and comparatively, Unstable Affliction is just the weakest of the three specialized spells that you can pick up at level 10. Don't get me wrong -- I still think affliction is great, but once you've run your first dungeon or even just tried out either of other two specs for just a little bit, you'll see what I mean.

Personally, I strongly suggest going destruction for lower-level leveling. Destruction? Crazy, right? Wrong. A lot of people don't like the idea of destruction leveling, primarily because its main nuke is Incinerate, and you won't be getting that for a very long time. What they don't realize is how wrong they are about destruction's reliance on Incinerate.

At the lower levels, Shadow Bolt is a really strong nuke; unfortunately, it is very, very slow and all three specs will have to use it. Affliction can get by with multi-DOTing things and running around like a crazy, but for a lot of quests and in dungeons, that simply isn't all that effective. You'll still have to cast Shadow Bolt. Having a 3-second nuke is downright terrible.

Destruction, however, avoids all of that. First, it has Bane, which shaves off 0.5 seconds from the cast time, and then it gets Backdraft fairly early on as well. Not to mention most things die from a simple Immolate, Conflag, Shadow Bolt combination, which ends up taking less time than to kill mobs that you experience with the other two specs.

Until you hit at least level 75, I really do support using destruction over affliction. Demonology is always a great choice as well, no matter your level range, but for the lower levels, affliction really cannot compare to affliction in terms of speed. The survivability of affliction is great, but nothing will be hitting you as destruction anyway, so what does it matter?

No matter what, play the spec that you enjoy the most; that's just my opinion on what's best in terms of speed.

Levels 11 to 25

Pet choice Although you get the Voildwalker back at level 8, you will still want to keep using the Imp, unless you happen to be demonology, in which case you want to use the Felguard. Once you reach level 20, you'll finally gain access to the Succubus. At this point, destruction and affliction both switch to using their sexy female. Although destruction will eventually favor the Imp, at lower levels they don't have the talents to support it.

You get Soulburn at level 10, along with Drain Soul. At this point, there isn't much that you can use Soulburn for. In a pinch, you can use it on a Healthstone or to quickly summon back a demon, but that's about all you really have. There's Drain Life, but Healthstone is better if you're going to survivability. Once you get Searing Pain at level 18, you can start using Soulburn on that, especially if you're destruction. Do keep in mind that is does deal additional threat still, which is silly, so be careful about pulling from low-level tanks, especially ferals.

Soul Harvest comes in at level 12, which finally makes Life Tap really awesome. Soul Harvest can quickly regenerate your soul shards and your health. While mana at this level is never really an issue for anyone and you shouldn't have to Life Tap too much anyway, it can come up a bit in dungeons. Soul Harvest is just boss for reducing your downtime. Love it, use it.

Speccing is fairly easy as a warlock, no matter which path you choose to take. If it reduces a cast time or increases your damage, that's the talent you want to take. Destruction should start with Bane, and then pick up Shadow and Flame. You may want to favor Aftermath over Improved Immolate first just because the slow is fantastic when soloing and will ensure that nothing touches you at all on single pulls.

Affliction is basic: Go with Improved Corruption, then Doom and Gloom, followed up with Soul Siphon and Siphon Life. Your spare point should probably go into Improved Life Tap, although it won't really do anything for you. Your only other choice, however, is Jinx, and you don't get Curse of the Elements until 52 and the additional effect is only useful in PvP -- and even there, it's rather bleh.

Demonology should focus on talents that both buff and heal their demon first. After fleshing out the first tier of talents, there really isn't anything spectacular to pick up. Mana Feed is a great talent but really won't help much until much later into leveling. Demonic Rebirth is great for those oh-snap moments when your pet bites the dust; that's really all you got to choose from, though.

Your first glyph can be something of a tough choice since there are a lot of good ones out there, but you can only take one of them. Destruction has the easiest choice, in my opinion. Go with the Glyph of Conflagrate. Conflag hits really hard for a low-level spell, and once you pick up Backdraft in the next few levels, you'll really want to have it up as often as you can. Everything about it is win-win.

Affliction is a bit trickier. Previously, you would go with the Glyph of Lash of Pain, and still it is the best Glyph for level 25. However, once you get the Felhunter at level 30, you won't be using the Succubus anymore, so the glyph rather goes to waste. Really, the only good one for this level is Unstable Affliction, which you'll be casting very frequently as you move from mob to mob anyway.

Demonology is also in an awkward position of glyphs. Like affliction, technically Glyph of Lash of Pain is the best option; however much, much later, it isn't the glyph of choice. Changing glyphs at lower levels is fairly inexpensive; at 85 it's a bit more costly -- not very pricey, but a good deal just for glyph swapping. Immolate is probably your best choice and the one that I go with, but go with which you want.

It really goes without saying that your first major glyph should be Fear. Dungeon runs really won't ever use CC, but you never know when you might end up needing to cast Fear on something, and it is horrible when doing so sends it screaming into a pack of angry friends. Solo, in groups, or out picking flowers, this is a terrible situation that can so easily be avoided. Do so.

Where to go? At this level range, I really just stick to where quest gives send me. Despite being revamped, I will say that Horde players should avoid Northern Barrens. Perhaps it was just me, but I utterly hated that location; it still contains far too much running around. Worse, if you are planning on leveling herbalism or mining, it is the absolute worst location, as you'll find virtually nothing in the zone -- at least not where you go for quests. Guess the zone is true to its name.

Otherwise, the quest flow is pretty good for just about every race that I've played with. You should honestly just about always end up being sent to great quest hubs, and questing is one of the best methods for leveling now. I also suggest running random dungeons as soon as they become unlocked for you. Each dungeon you enter (with the exception of Stockades, which is just an evil, evil dungeon) will have a quest giver inside that rewards massive amounts of XP.

I will say this much for Horde players who are either undead or blood elf: Go to Org. The quest progression from the undead side of things is rather smooth, but it can get really, really choppy if you do a lot of dungeons -- more so if you happen to be in BoA gear, as you'll often find yourself vastly outleveling a zone before you are even halfway done, and getting from zone to zone on that side of the world can be a bit of a hassle for non-Alliance.

Haven't really noticed this issue with any of the other races, though, but it probably has to do with the race split. Goblins, trolls, orcs, and tauren all end up in Org naturally, so there are more Horde quests and transportation in that area while there's only blood elves and Forsaken in the Eastern Kingdoms. Alliance, though, is split really evenly. Night elves, draenei and worgen all end up in Ashenvale and flow from there, while humans, dwarves, and gnomes all eventually converge rather well.

Trying to hit dungeon once is the perfect method of getting the most experience possible; the downside is that the Dungeon Finder seems to, like, break itself if you go anything that isn't random at low levels. Even as a tank, I sat waiting in a queue for over an hour to get a specific dungeon, while randoms are always quick even as a DPSer.

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