Patch 5.2 spell changes and tier 15 for warlocks

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Patch 5.2 spell changes and tier 15 for warlocks
Blood Pact Patch 52 spell changes and tier 15 for warlocks MON
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology, and destruction warlocks. This week, Megan O'Neill thought the druid T15 was the warlock tier originally, and she thinks that the Season 13 warlock gear looks like a cross between Shannox and a Faceless mob.

My apologies, fel-slingers and fiendish friends. I stepped through the Dark Portal to visit family and when I returned, my hard drive had dead clusters, almost as if someone came by and Frost Nova'd the lot of it. Maybe dropped a few Nether Tempests while he was at it.

I blame the mages. I've already had my flu shot, so they must've realized they had to get at the latest Defender of the Dark Arts electronically. Silly mages -- I'm a warlock, so of course I backed up my stuff.

But Patch 5.2 wasn't going to wait for my new hard drive, so let's look at the changes so far.

Trimming the obvious

The aim of the new Mists of Pandaria talents and glyphs were to get away from cookie-cutter arrangements and to provide more personal choice and meaning. Everyone it seems was taking Glyph of Soul Shards or Glyph of Burning Embers, so those glyphs are becoming baseline and familiar glyphs that went away are taking their places.

I don't think the new glyphs are particularly exciting. Glyph of Soul Shards is becoming Glyph of Drain Life, which increases the healing gained from Drain Life. It might make a difference in Harvest Life use when I try out demonology, but I'm not particularly excited about the glyph.

Glyph of Burning Embers is becoming Glyph of Ember Tap, which significantly increases the healing from Ember Tap. That one would make a difference in PvP, possibly introducing the choice of letting your destro lock opponent fire off a Chaos Bolt or forcing him to heal himself to near-full. The datamined glyph, however, is not increased healing, but converting Ember Tap to a long HoT, much like the Glyph of Healthstone does to a healthstone.

Finally, everyone and their dog uses Kil'jaeden's Cunning passively, it appears. I really only kept the ability on my bars for Garalon, since triggering the movement penalty makes it difficult to move between legs in that DPS race. Every once in a while, I would fatfinger the ability and then later not understand when I couldn't cast while moving. So, Kil'jaeden's Cunning will be only a passive talent in patch 5.2.

Tier 15's resourceful bonuses

The tier 15 bonuses are different, but I'm not bouncing off the walls excited about them. Typically our set bonuses have been either buffing the filler spell or buffing the primary DoT (Corruption, etc.), and then maybe we get a burning imp posse or a cooldown reduction. This time, it's a little odd.

Tier 15 2-piece is Black Friday for warlocks. (Get it? It's Dark Soul + a decreased resource requirement?) Both demonology and destruction get a shopping markdown on their resources while affliction just gets a chance to gain more shards. I'd be more excited about Haunt not consuming a soul shard, since when I pop Dark Soul and do my normal malefic thing, I get more shards anyway due to the nature of haste on Corruption ticks. I don't want to end up in Dark Soul with more shards than I can burn.

Tier 15 4-piece is Pay Day for warlocks. The filler spells (including crits for Incinerate) for both demonology and destruction grant more of the secondary resource, but affliction just gets more damage done (both by Grasp and by the DoTs). I can't even think of what I would do in the place of more damage for affliction -- what would it be, Nightfall procs two shards instead of one? Nightfall has a slightly higher chance to proc?

Tier 15 just highlights the problem of Cataclysm warlocks, I think: soul shards are just a really awkward mechanic to do cool & different things with.

Blood Pact Patch 52 spell changes and tier 15 for warlocks MON
Balancing into tier 15

Of course, there's the usual nerfs and buffs to individual spells, as well as some quality of life changes. They wouldn't be patch notes without some, right?

We've had our honeymoon of the redesigned warlock, and now it's time to nerf Grimoire of Sacrifice by 5%. The devs have also finally realized that no one would want to sacrifice a succubus just so they can stand around all day seducing someone, so sacrificing a succubus will grant the small AoE knockback Whiplash, instead.

Sacrificial Pact has been adjusted. It appears like a double buff, but it's really just math magic. The datamined shield goes for 400% of the sacrificed health (up from 200%), but the pet's health sacrificed is 25%, down from 50%. You're still shielded for just your pet's health pool.

During Burning Rush, you won't run slower than 100%. I find it a bit of a relief considering the time continuum problem that is Burning Rush while slowed by Kil'jaeden's Cunning. I tested on the PTR that Burning Rush won't break a root, but if you are slowed, turning on Burning Rush will negate the slow enough so you run at 100% movement speed.

The question of why mages get crit in their 10% spellpower buff but warlocks do not came up and was answered with that stamina buff we can have. Now, the devs are realizing that the stamina buff doesn't happen if you aren't using an imp, so it's not really a second buff. Thus, Dark Intent with Fortitude packed into it may or may not be happening later.

Lastly, the minor spell changes are Fel Armor and the felhunter's Spell Lock. Fel Armor reduces damage taken by 10% instead of an armor increase, which makes more sense since the danger of melee isn't the fact that we're wearing cloth, it's more the interrupts and stuns that get us in the end. Speaking of interrupts, Spell Lock is the latest victim in the silencing of blanket silences, so it's just an interrupt now.

That's a pity. I guess I'll just have to kill those pesky healers now.

Mechanical changes

Fine, so Unstable Affliction isn't changing much, but the dispel damage is not only buffed but it will always critically strike. Sounds like the glyph, right? The most popular PvP spec choice by far is destruction, so I don't know if there was really a trend in PvP with the Unstable Affliction glyph. In patch 5.2, Unstable Affliction's dispel keeps its 4-second silence AND will always critically strike.

The glyph then changes back to the old fast cast Unstable Affliction, which left me puzzled. In my PvE raiding gear of average ilvl 490, I already have an Unstable Affliction cast time of ~1.2 sec when standing around with the 5% haste buff in raid. I had a clear WTF face on at reading the glyph change -- why would I even want that glyph? I'm not going to go into whether you would be hardcasting versus simply soulburning a Soul Swap. However, Ghostcrawler clarified that the glyph will not affect the GCD, just allowing the cast time to be faster against interrupts.

Blood Fear is the other PvP point being redesigned. Ghostcrawler mentioned that Blood Fear was meant to be a defensive ability, but was instead being used offensively too much. So the spell has been redesigned to a more passive shielding ability, keeping in line with the defensive intent. Now, melee striking the warlock while the Blood Fear shield is up will send the attacker running off in fear.

Blood Fear mentions 1 charge when cast, but when I tested a two-fold Blood Fear, the buff disappeared after one hit (disappointing!). So I imagine the change to 5% health was to compensate since stacking charges isn't going to be a deal.

The other shield ability we're getting is from Soul Leech. I first made a wonderfully confused face at this, because thematically Soul Leech providing a shield ability is weird. Soul Leech has always been a trickle heal, and typically the only things providing shields were through sacrificing. Of course, I realize that now we have things like Dark Apotheosis's Fury Ward and Dark Bargain. Cynwise queried Ghostcrawler about it, but I've yet to see a reply.

Typically the argument is that a lot of Soul Leech's trickle healing is overhealing. Turning Soul Leech into a shield would turn that previously wasted healing into possibly useful healing. Over a 6-minute fight like Garalon, I amassed about 1.1M healing through Soul Leech. That means it took me approximately a minute of constant PvE-style damage dealing to obtain 200k of Soul Leech healing. I doubt I could amass as big a shield in PvP with the many distractions like CC going on.

My other counterargument is the same as Cynwise's in the above linked tweet: Life Taps typically ignore absorbs or healing shields. In turn, I'd be curious to see how this Soul Leech shield interacts or possibly screws with the Life Tap glyph, which absorbs heals done instead of taking life away. The final question regarding "Shield Leech" is the obivous one: what's the cap on the shield, and is it fairly reachable?

Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DOTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through tier 13 set bonuses.
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