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Blood Pact: What makes a 'lock a 'lock?


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology, and destruction warlocks. This week, Megan O'Neill discusses class identity.

One of our editors, Adam Holisky, forgot what class he was playing last week, and it made me a little sad. It's great that he wanted to be a warlock again, but we are not hunters. We're not mages either, despite how convinced Matt Rossi is by shared armor. We're not shadow priests, we have demons not totems, and having purple wings is the only similarity between a demo 'lock and a night elf moonkin.

I'm not out to make Adam eat his hat, but warlocks certainly distinguish themselves from other classes, I think.

That old Gul'dan quote again

We're not shaman anymore, seeking to ask permission and exaltation from the elemental lords. We're not weakling mages, with their books in their high towers, watching over careful pipelines of power. The druids have their circles and their expeditions, their guardians and their avengers. "All druids must help each other," that mantra they have.

We're warlocks. We take what power we want. We've been studying in secret over the years. We need to stick together and share what we know with each other. But we're careful, careful not to share too much. After all, sharing is for druids. Personal gain is for warlocks.

7 May 2012, Blood Pact: Those who are not afraid to wield power

I wrote that over a year ago, and it's still true. But Adam wants to talk mechanics, not roleplay.


Personal gain is for warlocks

Warlocks have a unique power resource generation game, I think. We can generate our secondary resource, which is really what drives us, while doing other things. We're constantly generating or spending this resource, but we can more creatively generate it than other classes generate theirs, I think. Part of this is due to our DoTs, but really, warlocks exist by using other beings as pawns, both in roleplay and in mechanics.

Because we were generating resources rather passively with DoTs and AoEs on other targets, we could spend it all on that single target of priority in a seemingly neverending resource pool. Warlocks play selfishly to win the meters. Other classes may see a fight as being multitarget, but we'll see it as a single target with lots of resource to go around.

I think this is the best abstract difference between warlocks and other classes. Outside of dual target, other classes switch to AoE spells, where warlocks see it as simply another opportunity to do more of our single target awesomeness to a target.

Magnificent, resilient bastards

I want to say it was Cynwise who came up with this phrase, but I don't remember the exact source. I do remember it came up when discussing PvP and warlock survivability, when warlocks were fantastically hard to take down because of our ridiculous self-healing pre-MoP. And that's really all there is to say about a warlock in raid.

Where other classes may have to spend a cooldown to soak a big hit, warlocks may not necessarily need to blow a cooldown, because we have the health to soak it. Oh, sure, we might almost die in the process, but almost-dead is not the same all-dead. We also have healing abilities, whether in active healthstones or passively through our damage. This means we also survive fairly awesomely on our own in healing-based fights like Chimaeron from Blackwing Descent or heroic Malkorok in Siege of Orgrimmar.

So what's it mean in actual play to be a magnificent, resilient bastard? You can be a little lax with where you're standing as the average raider, unless it's a complete one-shot ability. You can saunter over to the healing pile while casually flinging fire and shadow from your fingertips instead of running for your life.


Pets are tools, not companions

We do get names for our minions, unlike the mage or shaman elementals. Unlike hunters, we can't choose the name, though we can reset it. It's this odd pairing of a name to a minion for warlocks. We can get attached to our demons -- we all saw the outcry that happened when Blizzard killed our dogs -- but it's not like we choose to be attached in the first place.

You start the game with an imp, an imp with an ego the size of a voidlord but who is no less obedient that other pets. Hunters also start the game with a minion, but it's a Cat or a a Dog or a Dragonhawk without a name. Hunters later name their pets, and will go after rare pets, and death knights can have any zombie they want, but all warlocks have the same 4 or 5 minion types (8 or 10, if you want to be a supremist about it).

For warlocks, your minion is something (someone?) you get stuck with, and they eventually grow on you. It's not true love in the end -- we sacrifice them all the time and don't care if they leash into despawning -- but you get the feeling that something is missing mid-fight when you lose a minion. The demon may have been on assist and follow the whole time, but as a warlock, you get used to the idea of not being completely alone.

But in a mechanical sense, warlock pets used to be tied to spec; now, warlock pets are utility-based. We bring the correct pet to the fight based on what we need in the fight, not which pet we favor most. It can be argued that hunters do the same thing, basing the pet choice on what raid buff needs filling, but in the ideal 25-man raid where all buffs are likely to be accounted for, hunters can choose just about any pet they feel like. The pet becomes a personality accessory.

Warlocks, on the other hand, will discuss whether sacrificing the voidwalker by default is better than having the fel imp's Cauterize, or whether we should opt for the interrupt pet and Shadowfury over the succubus knockback. Our pets are there for ultimately our needs, though we may serve the raid in the process. I can dispel on heroic Sha of Pride if I get Gift of the Titans, but does it mean I must? I've been known to skip a few dispels in favor of getting another Chaos Bolt off before the damage buff fades.


Spec versatility

Sparkuggz brought it up in the FinalBoss warlock episode: warlocks are versatile between our specs. There's always going to be one spec that tops a fight, but warlocks tend to have two or all three specs doing well in a tier. Compare this to hunters or mages or rogues, classes where there seems to be that one spec that is crap no matter what that no one plays. My guild was joking about one of our hunters ranking on every single fight on raid that night, and it was all because he was playing marksmanship, which apparently "no one" plays.

My guild has a total of four warlocks, and we chat in our warlock channel all the time during raid, especially during progression. There's even a bit of a skill diversity with each spec between the four of us. While three of us may be rocking affliction on Nazgrim, our diehard destruction was still keeping up simply because he could play destruction better than he could play affliction, gear and skill combined.

With sharing gear, even suboptimally between specs, warlocks can bring distinguished different styles of play in the same character investment, something other the pure DPS classes can struggle with. Rogues and hunters are particularly feeling like they don't have enough identity between the specs. I think warlocks have hit that good spot where a destruction warlock feels distinct from a demonology warlock, but they both feel like warlocks.

Just remember, Adam: you can't Feign Death against Lumber Mill knockbacks, but you can Soulstone against them.

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.