Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
State of the warlock?

In yesterday's thread on dual spec and class balance somebody was claiming that warlocks still topped the dps meters, and were the best damage dealing class around. That isn't what I see. A census (CensusPlus) I made last weekend on my server revealed warlocks to be the least popular class now. In our guild there is not a single raiding warlock any more, and in the few cases where I did raid with a warlock, his dps was less than that of the tanks.

So, am I on a server where all good warlocks got kidnapped by aliens? Or are warlocks really a bit weak in their current state? That would explain why patch 3.1 boosts them. If you play a warlock, or group regularly with one, I would like to hear about it. Where do warlocks currently rank damage-wise, top, middle, or bottom of the heap? Why has warlock become so unpopular? (WarcraftRealms shows them overall being second least popular after shamans over all levels, and least popular among level 80.)
I think we are bizarro guild/raid because we have lots and lots of warlocks. I'd say they're about mid-pack on damage, although if it's the right kind of fight and spec they can post good numbers. We certainly don't have any issues stacking our raids with lots of them (ie. 5, if they're the only ranged dps who sign up which happens sometimes).

It's mages I don't see that many of at the moment.
A good arcane mage can just spray dps everywhere. Although I do have one well geared competent warlock in my guild and he is top 5 dps. He definitely works a lot harder for his dps than say a ret pally or a fury warrior would with good gear. Many of our runs though we are without summons / health candy.
Nibuca over at Mystic Chicanery has a good post on this very topic. Warlocks going the way of the dodo has popped up on various people's radar since patch 3.0.8, although the decline might have set in before that.
I'm not sure if warlocks are normally Top DPS or if I just play with good locks. We have at least 2 that are in the top 5 usually 1st and 3rd.

I'm not sure where you got the idea 3.1 is a boost to locks, it could be a bit for PvP but their (current) primary dps tree (affliction) looks like it may be getting slightly nerfed.
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I heard a lot of crying that warlocks weren't very good at the start of WotLK. But my understanding is the Conflagrate glyph fixed a lot of those problems. Warlocks have always been a relatively under-represented class historically, even when overpowered. I wouldn't use one guild roster or an isolated /who snapshot to make conclusions about millions of players.
Affliction warlock is *really* strong. Quite possibly the best raid DPS spec at the moment. The problem is that it is *really* hard to play well.

You have to juggle 6 DoTs of varying durations, squeeze in Shadow Bolts and Life Taps while maximing DoT uptime, yet not refreshing DoTs early. Then at sub-25%, you switch out Shadow Bolts for Drain Soul. Only you don't finish channeling Drain Soul, but you have to cancel the spell at the right moment when you need to recast a DoT.

As well, you don't see maximum effectiveness unless there are a couple of warlocks in the raid, due to the Soul Siphon talent. In any case, Blizzard is simplifying the rotation a bit, and also bringing the damage more in-line with the rest of the DPS.
Warlocks got a lot of love regarding the eternal soul shard issues, also in regards of utility spells.

But the issue is that the stupid shadowbolt spam got replaced by more complex and complicated rotations, that are more susceptible to failure, sometimes you have to move in raid encounters and so on. But the problem is they do not do nearly as much damage a mage's 1-button-spam.

Yeah, Warlocks are now what Mages were in TBC. Just not as good.

Ben is right, Warlocks were always a bit underrepresented. But many Warlock playing bloggers quit by now, the guy from only 1-2 weeks ago. Does not mean anything either, and I did not quit my Warlock because I felt underpowered either.

I felt some "hybrid envy" but my main reason was that the rain of fire spam gameplay up to raid level was utterly disappointing to me. Also, the game somehow got old, despite the wonderful zone design of WOTLK.

Another issue is the lack of defense. Warlocks are no longer as viable for arenas. The eternal rogue problem of Warlocks never seemed to concern the devs too much, me neither, and funnily the least defensive spec (destruction) does very well for dueling.

I think Warlocks get in 3.1 a lot of the candy that they did not get on release of WOTLK, while other classes got new shiny toys.

IMO: Warlock, Mage, Rogue, Hunter ... forget it. Become a Paladin, Death Knight or Druid. Probably not a DK, cannot heal and there are already too many of them....^^. You can even create a Shaman, just be a HYBRID, this is the age of the hybrid classes at the moment.
Some random top10 fights from patchwerk 25man where locks have representation:

3 locks behind 2 mages, ahead of everyone else
1 lock behind 2 mages,
lock highest dps,

And according to theoretical maximum dps (simulationcraft) affliction warlocks have the highest dps.

So, uh, if you don't see that in your guild/server, it just means your warlocks need to learn to play. It is of course a lot more difficult than just the 1-button-wonder-frostbolt, but then again, some like it that way. Affliction warlocks are getting a slight nerf in 3.1 as well, which I don't much care for. Then again, the patch is still some ways off and may be changed.

That's raids covered then, warlocks are ~second best after mages. Heroics are a different thing - it's somewhat more difficult to get the trash dps up with a lock, when it's very easy with a mage/hunter/rogue(?). That may end up looking like the lock did average dps of 1700, when others did 2000...but looking at bosses, the lock would've done 2700 and others 2300. Does it matter? I don't irks me in any case :P. It may give locks a bad name. I'm just learning it myself though, so maybe it just seems difficult to me...
Give me stackable soul shards and some better party buffs and I'm happy.

My main problem with the dual spec is not that the hybrids can change (people have already explained how this wont really effect pure dps's raid spots in 10 and 25 man partys), but that not only do the hybrids now bring infinitely more utility, they also bring all the great buffs.
One problem is that affliction warlocks are significantly more difficult to get right than other classes. Execution is a huge problem for many. In a setting where, a few seconds into the fight, everything that's not the primary target should have significant threat on it, any DoT that would likely last until the death of the target is best applied elsewhere.

Another problem is that a great many players raised their warlocks on TBC, where they trounced pretty much everyone else. They expected their domination to continue. These players forget the time when warlocks were the least-played class, and one of the toughest to play well. If I remember the buff cycle correctly- :P -, warlocks are after shamans, so hold tight for now. It'll be worth it.
Actually if you limit the class display at WarcraftRealms to 71-80, you see the class with the fewest players is Rogue, followed by Shaman and then Warlock. So I'd actually ask what is going on with the Rogue class.
Rogues are really rare on my real (Doomhammer EU). They were so poor in beginning of wotlk before the recent buffs that I think no-one just wanted to play a lackluster melee-dps. And now they have their other alts/mains at 80 and don't bother picking up rogues again.

Shamans, well, I play alliance so there has never been that many. Even our 25man raids usually haven't got a shaman, which is a real hinderance - bloodlust is too good a buff to not have.
What about the other talent branches for Warlocks, lets say Destruction? If dual spec is going to bring something for warlocks, Affliction can't be the only good way to go.
I can only speak from my guild's perspective. Our top 4 dps are me (Rogue), a mage, a DK, and a warlock. We have no fury warriors, but I have seen them lead dps in PuG raids.

The fact that there are such varied responses about who does high dps speaks to the fact that skill trumps spec in dps numbers. While theorycrafters can calculate the maximum possible dps, that's largely irrelevant because no one does that maximum value. It just allows players to make excuses - blame their spec for their low dps when they could do better with more practice and a better understanding of their abilities.

What is relevant is the ease in doing that dps. Fury warriors and ret paladins have easy attack rotations. Rogues and warlocks have very complicated juggling acts. That's more important than raw theorycrafting.
My guild is down to one raiding lock (and he's the only 80 lock in the guild). His DPS tends to be top 10, but only occasionally top 5. Our top slots are usually rogues and dks (we're drowning in fricking dks).

I am leveling my lock alt again and have made it through about half of Borean Tundra. They're still fun to play, but I'm not sure I'll be able to make her raid-viable in the near future.
I play a Warlock and raid with my guild and have spoken to a lot of other locks and kept apace with the general impressions of Warlocks on many web-sites.

IMO Warlocks were initially broken come WOTLK, particularly in PVP and to a lesser extent in PVE. I think we suffered a lot from the impression that we were still overpowered at the end of Burning Crusade and the devs were very anxious to make sure we didn't continue to appear that way. Consequently Warlocks capabilities largely remained static and were even nerfed in WOTLK compared to almost every other class that was significantly buffed. We possibly also suffered from the Death Knight being a bit close in many ways to the Warlock and they seem to have grabbed some abilities that might otherwise have sat well with us.

Now at patch 3.0.8 Warlocks are largely regarded as having the best DPS in raids after arcane Mages. Unfortunately I believe this is largely untrue. Almost all the people promoting this view use Patchwerk fights as the example where affliction Warlocks often top the DPS, except maybe to Arcane Mages still. Unfortunately to get these high scores it almost universally relies on affliction specced Warlocks using the Doomguard pet which is a 1 shot per hour ability. It lasts a maximum of 15 minutes and if you wipe that's it gone for another hour.

If you want a more realistic view of Warlocks you need to look at non Patchwerk fights and particularly those not using the Doomguard. All in all, in ideal situations the Warlock is well up there in raid DPS. Unfortunately across the board we are pretty average which I don't think cuts it for a non-hybrid class.

It's a shame that the Doomguard / affliction figures seem to be what the devs are using to asses our power and patch 3.1 looks to be a significant nerf to affliction DPS. Metamorphosis/ruin to me is looking to be possibly the most promising spec now although possible heavy destruction as well could be interesting but it is early days yet to see where this ends up.

We still have serious problems in PVP as well (Although that's not the object of the discussion here). We are starting to do better with the Haunt / Ruin spec with some decent representation at the top levels now, but again 3.1 seems to be significantly nerfing that spec. It's also a spec that only shines with top PVP gear which is difficult to get when you have to fight your way through other class combos that actually perform better using PVE gear.
Personally, I think the reasons are much complicated than simply not being the highest raid dps. Since early beta we screamed and whined at a great number of changes to our class, as well as the lack of some: Shadowflame sucks, pet scaling is still poor, soul shard mechanic is annoying even with the recent 3.1 changes, our survivability is possibly worse than in TBC, poor crit/haste scaling with our gear, lots of outdated and nearly useless spells (many dating from vanilla), the list goes on. While most other classes got significant improvements, warlocks got nearly nothing except a mind-boggling spell rotation.

To get one thing clear, warlocks may not deal the highest raid damage, but we're far from being useless imo. Another thing is, we get completely smashed in PvP, especially by melee classes. Many players don't PvP and don't care, but many do including myself. Why bother with a warlock when there's 9 other classes perfectly capable of defeating us?

Then there's the reroll factor: death knights are in a way similar to warlocks, and as you all probably know they're strong as hell right now and it's a monumental moment if you don't have at least one in your instance group. Many of us temporarily play other classes waiting for a few fixes to get us back on track; I for one think I'm done with warlocking for good. Perhaps not so much because we're arguably weak in certain areas, but rather because I'm horrified with the lack of attention and response from the developers when it comes to fixing even the basics of our class. Unless you're really in love with this class, for the past few months and for many months ahead, there's no reason to play one.

I'll plug in the link to my humble site: If anyone's interested you're welcome to see the number of suggestions we posted since Wrath beta, many issues we discussed and tried to cope with, and see why sooner or later most of us did or will quit.
I've spent some time in all three specs to get an impression of playstyle and capability.

It seems to me that Destro took a big hit, though if you go pure fire spec it's a little better. Since my lock is only 76 at the moment it's hard to compare apples to apples but there you go. At the end of BC, shadow destro spec was top damage dealer in most of the raids I participated in. Now ... meh.

Demon spec is marginally better than it was at the end of BC, but it's about to undergo some dramatic changes in 3.1 so it's hard to say whether it's even relevant where it's at at this time.

Affliction seems to be the new hawtness, but you have to be good at playing it to get the performance. Face rolling is not going to do anything. Someone mentioned a couple of fine examples of blogging warlocks that have lived in that spec for years and know how to milk it. They appear to be quite happy with that build and are in demand for raiding.

So yah, the warlock isn't the belle of the ball at this point in time. I don't see Destro or Demon achieving preeminence in 3.1, either, unless they make some more changes. The destro tree is a huge mess, has no idea what it wants to be. Demon is a mess but less so, but now they're throwing an excess Destro talent over into Demon? Eh? I don't getz it. I don't think they know what they want to do with Demon, either.

Giving deep Destro a few more days to get used to the playstyle, but I strongly suspect I'll be going over to Affliction for the long run.
I have never understood the vitriol of some people over perceived class balance. I play an affliction warlock fairly casually and am having just as much fun with the mechanics now at 80 that I did while leveling. Even as a freshly minted 80 with relatively subpar gear, I can hold my own in PUG raids and heroics (and if it matters that means top 10/top 2 dps respectively). It is difficult to optimize and maintain the dps rotation but I love it for the challenge. Perhaps the blowback has more to do with the fact that most raiding warlocks pre-Wrath were specced destro and did little more than spam Shadowbolt. Affliction is quite a different type of experience, one that I hope Blizzard preserves in 3.1 whatever they do with our dps.
my 80 t7 lock is full destruction (well, garbage 'solo onyxia' spec at this instant, but full destro when I play it) and I really never had a problem putting out numbers. consistently number 2 on patchwerk behind the DK, which I just won't bother to comment on.

bosses are where we shine, wether affliction or not. We have mana on tap, literally. 4/5 t7 even gives you a nice damage boost for lifetapping, so yeah. maybe everyone cried when we were as OP as we used to be (before I played one /sigh), and all rolled DKs to go FOTM.

shock! right?
It really depends. As fresh 80s, they usually get outperformed by the tanks. As their gear get better, they get ALOT better. I have seen Warlocks lead the meters, and I have seen Warlocks make fools of themselves. I think Warlocks and Rogues are the two most gear dependent classes at the moment. Our guild only has like 1 or maybe two raiding Warlocks. My Warlock is stillsitting at 70, though I think he may get some love soon.
someone is on crack, warlocks have not been regularly top dps in a long time. If a lock is in your group, that's more a statement about everyone else than it is about that lock. Never judge your performance based on the people you are grouped with, judge it based on others of your same class and spec with similar gear, by reading online and practicing on target dummies. it doesn't matter if you pump out more dps than the person of a different class next to you, if you can increase your own dps by 5-8% by making a few changes then go ahead and do it.
duh I meant "if a lock is top dps in your group" not just being there :)
(80 afflock, played since late BC). In general, I think the problems with locks boil down to two issues.

1) DPS. Challenge != Reward. There are (essentially) two builds for raid DPS (not taking patch changes into account): deep affliction and deep destro, with hybrid demo/destro not far behind. Both builds are very challenging in terms of DPS rotations. Aff is all about maximizing dot uptime, which requires foresight and a good timer mod (we're talking 2 debuffs and 5 dots...that's quite a few). Even then, their dps is not competitive unless they're able to weave in Drain Soul sub-25% for the execute effect (while still keeping dots up). Trash DPS is pretty poor as well except for AOE situations. True, they have a gimmick pet (the doomguard) for 15 min per hour that substantially increases DPS, but that just makes them seem OP, not actually OP. Destro has its own issues which I will not address here. I enjoy the complexity of the class, but it's very frustrating to be out-dpsed by classes with less complex rotations and higher survivability (retpallies, DK's, warriors). I think this is driving the shift away from warlocks. (and rogues on the melee side of the house) Too early to get a read on post-patch #'s...looks like a nerf for Affliction (but only a nerf for those who were able to consistently keep all DOT's up, probably a buff for less skilled players), a huge buff to Demo, and a minor buff to Destro.

2) Consistent perception of designer indifference to locks. Hunter ammo taking up too much bag space? Allow ammo stacking. Warlock shards taking up too much space? Eh, we'll fix it later. How hard would it be to simply allow shards to stack? Buffs? Sure, we have several, but they're all less powerful versions of buffs provided by other classes. Debuffs? Our only notable one, Curse of the Elements, requires not using one of our DPS curses...the other two classes that have that debuff (Unholy DK's/Moonkin) proc it automatically. Summoning is nice but not really needed in raiding currently. Oh, and we get destroyed in PVP atm, though I'll give the devs the benefit of the doubt on that one.
I would like to throw in that I was talking about "Drain Soul" creating a soul shard every time it ticks on a foe as I said Warlocks got a lot of love.

This is a very helpful feature of the upcoming 3.1 patch.
" I would like to throw in that I was talking about "Drain Soul" creating a soul shard every time it ticks on a foe as I said Warlocks got a lot of love."

Please god no, not as long as soul shards dont stack. I already end up having them take up 20-30 bag spaces. If anything, I wish I could drain soul without it producing a shard.
You can only have 32 soul shards now, after that it will delete the shards you receive.

I started WoW as a lock when they where unpopular and saw them become ok in raids and still good in pvp to gods in both. Now they are terrible in pvp but ok in pve. But that isn't really why I stopped playing my lock. I just got into playing new characters and found that tanking (on my pally) and healing (on my shamen)or a lot more fun than dps. At least for me, but I can see why a lot of locks rolled DK's there are some similarities.
I've seen good Warlocks and bad Warlocks. The highest DPS locks I see are affliction and I think theirn lies the problem. The GOOD Affliction locks are on their A game they know exactly when to place their DoT's and they get great numbers. Well when other locks see this they all go "hey I can do that" Then they respec and suddenly find that its a bit more complicated than they are used to and pretty much requires addons (which a lot of them probably never worried much about) to get the most out of it. They being human, and humans being the stubborn bastards we are, refuse to admit that maybe, just maybe, this might be a little too complicated for them refuse to change back and insist the whole class is broken.

I see a parralell between Affliction locks and Feral Druids. Those two classes have arguably the two most "complicated" (well complicated in WoW terms) rotations in the game for DPS (Ferals have to keep up Savage Roar, Mangle, Rip, Rake, FF, plus shred to keep up the combo points and throw in the Ferocious Bite when possible as well as keep all this up while moving around and staying behind the boss). If either of them are off by a little bit the DPS goes down by a big margin. For example I have another Feral in my guild who actually has better gear than I do but I ALWAYS beat in DPS by a large margin (anywhere between 700-1k DPS) because she's just not good at keeping all of that up. Both of these classes are getting buffs in 3.1 which since I'm Feral and I am pretty consistently top 3 DPS in our 25 man runs makes me giddy.
(Forgive me if this is a double posted comment, the last one errored out >.<)

I have always, always played affliction. I have seen a decline in the amount of warlocks that surround me and I'm the only 80 'lock in my guild. There are a smattering of warlock alts and a few warlock mains that were abandoned shortly after the release of Wrath.

The dps numbers can be a bit deceiving, depending on how they are examined (like anything, really). Affliction warlocks are really strong in longer fights, so boss dps is high, but trash dps is low. Trash dies way to fast for our damage to finish ticking, even if it was all applied right away. Also, the affliction rotation is more complex (apparently, I dunno, I love it!) and requires you to pay attention to your rotation, upkeep/refresh and filler dps. However, warlocks can do well on the damage charts, but it's also more gear dependent, it seems. My 'lock is still pretty fresh at 80, but I know others that are raiding on their locks and their numbers have increased nicely to be competitive for the top 3 as they are getting Naxx gear.

I had done a post on the decline of warlocks a few months back and plan to revisit it again now that I have reached 80. We'll see, I suppose. ;)

I dumped my warlock for WotlK. Was tired of pressing shadowbolt x 100000 to maximize DPS (did really enjoy affliction though). We still have two excellent warlocks in the guild, one affliction and one with a felguard. They do top the meters on some boss fights.

Taking a look at your own guild doesn't really give objective results. I could say that mages & hunters do terrible damage because they do in my guild. However, I think our mages and hunters just aren't very good players... Wowmeteronline does give more objective data. And taking a look at the patchwork DPS fight, 75% of the top DPS on that fight are warlocks. So yes, they can DPS!
Warlocks seem to find themselves at the end of the nerf stick frequently. I play a raiding warlock in a casual raiding guild that is starting to progress through Ulduar, and find myself among the top dps in my guild. I have a holy priest alt, but generally am not asked to play him because I fill my role as dps so well. I have tried a wide variety of specs in all three trees and currently am playing 0/40/31.

It seems to me that warlocks are able to do reasonably well, but it requires more work than other classes. We have a complicated rotation and, while that may not be a problem on Patchwerk, in Ulduar fights, you can quickly tell who hasn't mastered the class. The problem is exacerbated by the frequent nerfs and changes to the class. It seems that with every major patch release, I find myself having to learn a completely new rotation. It took me about a week and a half to get a handle on weaving Soul Fires and Incinerates with Decimation procs in 3.1. Keeping up with a dot rotation and spell weaving while being situationally aware is a real challenge.

In my experience, however, this is just what makes warlocks so much fun to play. The warlock class is for those who live for the challenge. It's frustrating that we keep getting nerfed, but remember Blizzard hasn't sold us out permanently. They did scale back the class-killing percentage-based Life Tap nerf. At some point, things will come around and we'll get some love from the developers. If you learn to play your warlock well, you can still keep up with any content available, though you won't be guaranteed top billing - even if you are the hardest working player in your group. Then when we actually get buffed somewhere, you can exploit it in a way that only a warlock can.

As for PvP, ... I just don't.
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