Warlock StrategyWell, if you found your way to this guide then you must be one of the lucky souls hell bent on stealing the souls from others. I /salute you. The purpose of this guide is to give a run through of leveling the finest, most evil, greatest class in WoW – the Warlock or lock. This guide will generally be most useful to those with WoW experience but newer players should be able to keep up. I mostly want to show the PvE and stop at some basic raid tips. This guide is meant for lower level locks primarily.
So you want to play a lock? What is a lock anyway? A warlock uses shadows, fire, and demons to get through the day and deal with the squishiness of cloth. Warlocks are simply the masters of soloing and yet are a treasured utility class for groups and raids (don’t leave IF without one, IMO (in my opinion)). Soulstones give a group the ability to wipe every 30m without any real penalty (except gear damage…but that’s a plate wearer’s problem anyway ;p). Healthstones are on a different cool down from normal health/mana pots and they are essentially free.
Starting a lock
The first choice an aspiring warlock must make is what faction to choose (or what race). Often, this is already decided by other chars of yours or by friends being on a faction but remember that playing the other faction yields a great deal of lore to explore, different quests, and generally just a change of pace and way to start over. Either way each race has a bit of a special plus but the most important:
Alliance – Gnome: Highest INT and gets escape artist. Escape artist is very handy way to…escape…which is rather important for a cloth wearing class. After all, you don’t want to be beat on if you don’t have to.
Alliance – Human:Increased reputation gains. Although basically useless at low levels, the faction grind is what you end up spending much time doing and getting a 10% discount on that grind is nice (think of it like only having to level to 54 for max level…that’s 10% off 60).
Horde – Orc:+5% to pet melee damage. You end up using pets pretty often so this racial adds up quite a bit over time. However, your pets aren’t your primary damage so don’t give this racial ability trump status.
Horde – Undead: Cannibalize the dead for free health (which on a lock is as good as mana via life tap) this ends up being 35% health over 10seconds every 2minutes. Also, undead get Will of the Forsaken to break out of and become immune to fear and sleep effects (known as WoTF).
Horde – Blood Elf (Burning crusade): <Not out at time of guide, don’t want to speculate>
I don’t want to give any area specific information for that would ignore other races. I don’t want to cover all the races starting points because it’d take too long and they are all so similar anyway.
The first thing you’ll notice is that your damage spells tend to take some time (damage over time…dot…cute eh?), don’t worry this is normal and part of the fun. You’ll also notice that corruption is extremely mana efficient dealing more damage than any other spell of comparable level for far less mana. You’re now beginning to see the warlock (but the true warlock takes a great many levels to emerge).
You will quickly make level 4 and after a short fairly easy class quest you now have the ability to summon your very first pet.
Imp rundown: The imp is sort of like your caster friend (although he/she is far from friendly). Get used to him; he is a favorite for groups and raids. His blood pact gives you and any group mates a stamina buff that is roughly equal to priests fortitude buff and stacks with it. He will later gain the ability to phase shift and be immune to attack (literally immune so ignore any “sac imp” requests while phase shifted. He also casts a fireball that always does fairly decent damage for a pet and it’s at range which is very helpful (You find it being used in PvP fairly often).
You also now have your very first curse, curse of weakness. This is a very underrated spell by many but I assure you, it’s extremely worthwhile. Against hunter pets it shines even at 60 (the high rank of course). For the next couple of levels it will make a warlock, for all practical purposes, invincible. If you want you can go into the thick of the newbie area cast CoW and corruption on every mob you see and watch as they hit for only one damage a swing. It doesn’t stay this amazing, but its fun now ;). Kill, quest, and whatever…you’ll make 10. Let me take some time to discuss the spells thus far.
Corruption: This is your bread and butter shadow dot that can be turned into an instant cast spell. As a rule of thumb if a mob will be living for 10 seconds with corruption…cast corruption on it.
Curse of Agony: This is a very powerful, but slow dot. Wholly half the damage comes in the last third of its duration. In many group fights mobs die too quickly to consider using this – but just as many of the times it is worth using.
Demon skin later Demon Armor grants armor, hp/tick, and shadow protection later. There is no reason to not have this spell up at all times even if only for the Hp/tick buff.
Drain Soul: Soul shards, love them or hate them you need them for all the summoning type spells so just get used to them. Drain soul will keep the shards coming. The spell does minimal damage for the mana expended so just use rank one drain soul for essentially forever. Don’t cast until a mob is ready to die.
Fear: Sometimes you’ll wish you didn’t have fear. It makes players and mobs run…straight to the WoW forums to complain. If you rerolled for this spell you’re going to be disappointed. The cast time is a hindrance while in melee range and it does get resisted. Also, it’s unreliable in that its length of effect varies quite a bit. Shadow bolts and other direct damage spells are more likely to break fear than is dots ticking away. For most fights, immo+corr+CoA+sb (shadowbolt) will kill a non elite of equal level. Pull with Shadow bolt, immo, fear, coa, and corruption casting will yield a kill most of the time. Beware of diminishing returns here. After 3 casts on a pvp target they will become immune to the spell.
Health stone: These ARE on a different cooldown from health potions from alchemists. Always keep one handy in case you are in a hairy situation (hotkey 8 is where mine has been since rank 1…8 has saved my life many times). Groups don’t ask for these often enough so just offer a trade if you insist yourself on them using. Personally, I make it known that I don’t mind making and let them open trade (much as you should open the trade with mages for their water…it’s just manners ;P).
Immolate: You can figure out what this does. Do know, however, that its flame and some builds and itemization tend to not give a great amount of fire damage so immolate tends to be less powerful under those circumstances. Other builds can make it very powerful (and necessary).
Shadow bolt: Bread and butter. Not that many things have specifically shadow resistances but priests/pally can increase their resistance and other warlocks can give themselves a small shield against shadow dmg.
As always do your pet quest as soon as you can. You can get the voidwalker as soon as you get the quest, it’s fairly easy.
Voidwalker rundown: This is your very own meat shield. He can absorb damage very well (about same mitigation as a warrior in greens using battle stance). Eventually, the vw/blueberry can sacrifice to give a very good shield to warlock, can taunt, area effect taunt, and heal himself.
As you go through these levels you’ll be able to experience instance running on a warlock. My stance on instance running is to do them at least as many times as to finish any quests. Then, if you have time available, continue running while your making experience and some items remain you would like. This ensures you’ll stay well geared and it gives valuable experience grouping. See the section below for grouping knowledge.
When you start getting talent points to spend it’s a good idea to have a plan for them already in motion. Go to some place that has a talent calculator and figure out what you want to make a build like. It’s generally best to “dump” and not spread your talent points out as you level since the ending talents of one tree tend to surpass the first talent levels of another. It’s up to you though. One of the most fun aspects of a warlock is the depth of our bag of tricks. No other class has as many spells at their disposal (except perhaps druids). Also, these skills are slowly acquired and you get a new type of spell all the way to 60 (about 1 new one per 4 levels!). Here are the new ones not already discussed.
Curse of recklessness (CoR): Very undervalued. The armor reduction stacks with sunders or expose armor and the attack power buff is negligible. Rank 1 is probably the most important for most occasions. You can make fleeing monsters stop fleeing in groups (that’ll stop a wipe). In a raid setting the melee boost here adds up for 40man raids. For soloing reasons for this spell see Killing Strategies below.
Drain life: The damage from this spell is not to be understood as the primary purpose. With life tap + drain life you get free damage though. Don’t use this with full health. For soloing reasons for this spell see Killing Strategies below.
Fire shield: This imp spell does not stack with druid damage shields (which are better). Still if you insist on using it when a druid isn’t present or casting thorns it’ll be fun (and a display of the warlocks superior utility).
Rain of fire: We have two area effect damage spells. This is one of them. It is very mana heavy so be careful here.
Ritual of Summoning: Self explanatory. This spell can make a warlock a small fortune over time though with requests for summoning (only accept tips from strangers though, it is after all just mana+shard)
Searing pain: Not very high damage for the mana costs but causes high threat so can be used to pull a mob off of a pet and it’s quick enough for pvp. With
Soulstone: WoW equivalent to save/load on single player games…situation gets hairy and you wipe? Have no fear warlock is here. Keep SS up on the local friendly pally before on the priest (pallys don’t die as often as priest)
Unending breath: Sometimes you simply end up underwater and sometimes you simply want to be obnoxious and buff the whole raid with unending breath. Either way is fun.
Starting to get up in the levels and starting to become more of a warlock. Get your succubus pet at 20-22 and get a feel for her. Different pets are better for different circumstances and different play styles.
Succubus rundown: She is going to be your melee damage friend and a terrible fright she is. Her dps is high enough to help but her low hitpoints and armor make her easily destroyed in pvp and by aoe damage. Make her attacks all hotkeyed for the sake of convenience. Lash of pain is fairly weak damage for mana cost but if you are not dark pact that doesn’t matter. She can crowd control (cc) a bit with seduction against humanoids (including players) and that can also be used as a way to immobilize for a nuke. Damage to the target interrupts the effect but damage to succubus doesn’t (so long as she isn’t killed). For soloing in pve turn off all her abilities except soothing kiss (if you want but things focus on warlock not her anyway) and lash of pain (again, unless you are dark pact). Invisibility is good to keep her from aggroing or in pvp for surprise…otherwise don’t bother.
For leveling through these things are going to slow down quite a bit from the levels before but still be quick. The key with a lock is, in my opinion, to quest. Quests are all pretty easy for a warlock to do compared to other classes (they are designed to be excellent at soloing). Grinding is just that…a grind. Often the grind can be aided by a quest that tells one to kill those same mobs but at the end get a burst of experience.
Banish: Takes demons and elementals out of the plane of existence (visiting imps perhaps). Crowd control utility spell that becomes essential for some raids/groups.
Create firestone: This stone adds some fire damage to your attacks and to spells. Mostly though it isn’t used unless you are seriously gear impaired.
Curse of Tongues (CoT): This spell has a great many uses that one can figure out. Be warned that pvp casters tend to rely on instant cast spells whenever possible and this curse does not affect them.
Detect Invisibility: Mages get invisibility in expansion so the spell might be more used for battle then. This does not do anything to detect stealth. Not many mobs are invisible but some are (including other faction’s warlock’s succubus).
Drain mana: This is obvious, don’t use it in pvp because it is too slow. Also gear doesn’t make the spell any better.
Enslave demon: No, you can’t take over another lock’s pet. You can however enslave elite’s just as easily as non elites.
Eye of Killrogg: This spell is very overpowered but that’s blizzard’s fault. It used to be very stealthy…now its very visible by comparison. You can look around corners and dangerous places that would be easier to scout than kill through and you can also use the eye to pull a mob out of a path by making them attack eye of killrogg and running with the eye…running far.
Hellfire: No amount of FR will negate the damage from this spell. However, it does simply amazing damage.
Sense Demons: If your hunting demons this comes in handy or if your trying to track down another lock that has a pet out.
By this point you should be getting the hang of the class. Keep up the good work and continue progressing. Do whatever quests you can find (don’t grind) and itemize as much as you can to gain both items and grouping experience. By now you should be familiar with the class enough to realize that all of our spells have a use and can at times be essential. Continue to learn these uses and invent whatever you can. I leave you with Killing strategies, a group/raid role discussion, and a brief talent discussion.
Of course no cookie cutter kill method is always right (or even possible) but a great deal of time you will likely find yourself solo questing so let me suggest a few of the common methods:
Voidwalker Tanking: This is probably one of the more common strategies across talent specs. The VW is meant to absorb damage and hold agro while you stand back and do the killing. I suggest that this method, although viable, tends to be either slow or meaningless. In order for the VW to hold aggro you must send him in (or pull with very little threat) and wait until he gets his second main taunt off (don’t leave the AE taunt on auto cast – it takes too much mana if its not needed) then you can do as you like, but a couple of shadow bolt crits will pull aggro very quickly so be careful.
Drain tanking: This is used in conjunction with 5/5 fel concentration. The basic idea here is the warlock tanks while using a succubus. These fights tend to go pretty quick and end with full health (ie mana). This is standard leveling strategy and is further enchanced with Dark pact. If you get dark pact be sure to turn off all of the succubus’s abilities for the sake of retaining her mana…for you to take.
Fear kiting: Fear kiting is something that scares, heh, many warlocks. The idea of fear kiting is to dot up your target and send them running around aimlessly and harmlessly dieing. It’s easy rinse repeat type killing. When they run somewhere you don’t approve of cast rank 1 curse of recklessness and rank 1 CoA/CoX(exhaustion) to bounce them around. CoR does not remove fear effects it just makes them be ignored, so when you cast another curse (and thus overright the CoR) the mob realizes he is terrified and begins running. Typically, a succy for her free melee hits or an imp for dark pacting (or shooting at the mob which can outrun the succy) are used.
Felhunter leaching: You will find that the felhunter is an exceptionally talented pet when fighting casters. You will also find that he can solo mobs that give xp (but you must “tag” the mob to get xp/loot). This strategy only works against mobs that do magic damage (air/water elementals are ideal) and preferably mobs that cast some sort of buff or debuff that he can eat for free hp. Send him on a mob, find a mob for yourself and after he has done some damage to his cast a dot or two and go back to finishing yours. The lock will kill a couple before the felhunter kills one if you don’t aid much but it ends up being essentially free kills. You’ll find yourself using this strategy for farming fairly often especially for a demonology specced lock ;).
Class role: The warlock has a double role. They are dps and they are utility. Curse of Elements/Shadow is to be applied in raid situations under coordinated warlock effort (class leaders often simply tell what curse to use). These will greatly increase the damage of the raid as a whole. Also the warlock is expected to be dps. Spamming dots and shadowbolts are usually what this ends up being. Life tap for mana and keep going on a long fight. Have fun! In 5 man grouping situations you’ll be using CoA/CoR unless you want otherwise.
Cookie cutter talent builds (and brief description):
Affliction dump: a dump usually simply means the talent tree is full down to get last talent available but not necessarily ALL the talent points are in the tree. People dump down affliction for dark pact which results in basically infinite mana with an imp (very high spirit and stays out of combat). Dark pact is known as the leveling spec because it permits constant killing. This tree will also get you Siphon life and Curse of Exhaustion (CoX). Siphon life if it gets its l o n g duration to complete will reward slightly more life than the mana it cost to cast. It is most fun to use in pvp and tag as many players as you can see. CoX can be used to kite around targets that cannot be feared (or simply you don’t want to fear). This spell is especially fun for punishing a warrior that mistook you for something he should be fighting. This build should stack damage gear and shadow damage.
Demonology dump: Soul link makes a warlock one of the most difficult things to kill in the game. It basically gives you plate ;). The tree is very good at enhancing your pets but don’t let that fool you its usefulness is the bonuses it gives the warlock. Stamina itemization emphasizes this build.
Destruction dump: A video description of a high end lock that was destruction was “this video is not about skill it’s about blowing stuff up” seems accurate here. Not that conflag doesn’t take skill, it does, but the point is this tree is good for blowing stuff away (including mana – which you can get back pretty easily). Conflagration and soulfire crit for very big numbers here (especially with ruin) which is the beauty. Go for crit gear, int gear, and general damage gear.
SM/Ruin: One very popular affliction build is 5/5 Shadow mastery coupled with the destruction tree talent ruin. The build claims that ruin > dark pact (that is the trade off that must be made). The idea behind this build is to get the most out of shadow bolts including the double damage crit. Shadow damage and crit gear are the desired items. This is sort of the standard pre-aq40 build (since MC/BWL mobs have fire immunity).
MD/Ruin: Master demonologist + Ruin is similar to SM/Ruin (having a succy out or sacked gives either 10% or 15% extra damage for shadow bolts. The difference here is the preference for demonology points. It adds survivability and is arguably more pvp oriented than SM/Ruin (while still being primarily a raiding build). This is also very good for having the imp out and getting threat reduction (which is often the case!) for a lock that has become a bit well geared and is generating too much aggro for his raid group. Itemization is similar to SM/Ruin.
NF/Conflag: Nightfall+conflag. This destr dump that then jumps down for affliction for nightfall. This build ends up with two extra points (often in either imp healthstone or pyroclasm) and is a heavy fire dps build. Again, the fire aspect makes it best for after MC/BWL. Go for general +dmg gear and crit gear.