Howdy my Disciples of Dread and Dismay,
It has been a while since I get back into Beta and played around with the new specs and new play styles. I forget what build we’re at now, and frankly, I’m not following the changes as hard I had been a few months ago. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s because keeping a constant vigil on a moving target such as with the many changes going on in Beta is daunting. However, I spent close to six hours in Pandaria last night playing around with the new talents and demons, questing in the new zones, and trying out the re-worked specializations. I’m sure there will still be many more changes in the next few months, and as it stand now I feel that warlocks have a pretty good chance at redemption. Before I dive into my current thoughts on each spec we should come to a quick agreement on the precarious precipice the warlock class reconstruction will be.
Walking a Thin Line With Experienced Locks
To be honest, I wouldn’t want to trade places with any Blizzard developers now. They are walking a delicate line between keeping the more experienced and die-hard warlocks happy while still making the class appealing to draw in a new player base. A lot of hard-core warlocks, like myself, fell in love with the class for several reasons. When we look at play styles, warlocks haven’t been the easiest class to learn and many experienced players love the fact that these casters bring a higher difficulty level to master. If you hadn’t played a warlock in BC or Wrath then trust me when I say any DoT clipping was bad for Dps. Your timing needed to be exact in order to keep up any sustainable damage and if you were off even a second or two before or after your DoT refresh time was detrimental. Besides keeping our DoTs perfect in their execution add in the correct timing of Lifetap with your Haunt’s return time to keep your health and mana levels up, then juggle your CCs, and your cooldowns, and your pets. It was never easy being a better than average ‘lock.
Many players chose the warlock class because of their stamina and tricks for survivability. Yes, we wear cloth, but we’re not like squishy mages. Quick fights with high burst was never our forte even when running in Destruction. Destruction was the biggest “burst” for the buck, but even in Destro the long cast times and timing of cooldowns for short fights were not favorable and any opponents we faced had an advantage. However, the one thing we could count on no matter what spec we were running we always knew that the longer we could sustain the fight the great the chance we’d walk away “Winning” (as Charlie Sheen, a mage-wannabe-warlock would say) or still standing. With our crowd controls, demonic portals, and other fun Dark Art tricks warlocks are able to sustain and keep going like the Energizer Bunny, we’ve been the Rocky Balboa’s of the caster world and that’s the main reason I know that I fell in love with Affliction.
A caster pet class is another reason people rolled their warlocks. We aren’t able to pick or even abandon our pets for another model based on our whims like hunters, but the fact remains these faithful and sometimes resistant minions are truly an extension of ourselves bringing Dps and utility. Yes, they are tools and pawns to command, but they become much more. Our minion’s buffs, dps, CC, interrupt and AoE abilities bring an added flair to our play style along with their assortment of personalities. Right here and now, I know I for one would like to take the time to thank the Twisting Nether for all of my personal servants I have been fortunate to summon over my entire warlock career. My demons turn solo questing into playing with a friend, and they have saved my warlock rear-end on more occasions that I can count. Whenever my imp, Dagrin, acts up with his snarky remarks I always say aloud to the screen, “The beatings will start my friend until your morale improves!” It sounds dumb I know, but it’s fun even if I imagine it in my mind.
Another reason many people rolled a warlock was due to the iconic idea of a Dark Caster. The mysterious brooding personality, the loner, the person you don’t want to upset and often difficult to understand. I hate to bring up Charlie Sheen the actor again, but why do you think this mage impersonating a warlock claims to be a warlock? Hrm? Well, if he said he was a wizard of light or even the famous Dumbledore his chances at getting girls or having a higher ranking with popularity would be nill, zero…nada! So as not to offend our female warlocks I’ll give a female perspective as well. Here’s two famous female names: Angelina and Jennifer. Which provokes more of a warlock image? Get my point? Sometimes, it’s just more fun to player the darker personality. We may have a villainous image but that is only to our enemies and to mages who stand in the road between control points. Being mean and evil to our enemies is all good fun. Trust me! Roll a warlock and you’ll see what I mean.
So if we break-down what experienced ‘locks expect out of our their warlocks we get:
- Some difficulty to learn, play and master
- Stamina with many tricks
- Caster pet class
- Iconic dark caster image
Drawing New Players & The Fun Factor
Stop and think about what made you roll your first toon. You were at the character screen and like the rest of us you had a large selection of races and classes to choose from. So why did you pick one race and class over the others? I’m sure you know you based your on what you “thought” would be a fun character to play based on your personality. I know when I rolled my Alt Shaman it was because I ran with a good Shammy once and everything he did looked like fun. From tossing out totems to lighting up enemies with lightning bolts. It looked like fun. Bringing new players on board is as simple as that…make it look and play like it’s a fun class with cool animations and abilities that make it appealing. Personally, don’t know anyone who has said, “What’s the hardest class to play with the least reward…because I think I’ll roll me one of those!”
When people decide to roll a new toon or an alt it’s almost like an interviewing process. I’m sure you see it unfold too in chat channels or hearing the conversations in vent as they start with small probing questions. “So do you have fun playing a Paladin?” “What do you like about it?” “Which spec do you like?” “Which race is best?” “What don’t you like about it?” The first question is always asking if the other player is having fun with their toon. The person probing with these questions are simply looking for reasons and validation as to why they should invest their time and energy into that class too. If a class is fun, players will follow.
So at what point can Blizzard simplify the warlock class without upsetting the experienced player base while still making it appealing for new players? That my friends is a question no one can answer at this point. I’m sure it’s safe to say that they aren’t going to make everyone happy. Read the forums and you will quickly understand that no matter what they do they will never make every player happy or content. As much as I love WoW, it’s still a video game and it’s still a business. In order to keep their income and to keep people playing they will need to entertain and bring the “fun factor” in everything they design.
So from a new players perspective the reason we would roll a warlock would be:
- Cool animations
- Unique abilities
The Way Warlock Play Styles “Feel” in Beta Right Now
Without too many details to bore you I’ll try to explain where our wonderous warlock class stands now in Beta between keeping experienced players satisfied, drawing new members, and where I feel Blizzard is hitting the mark on where it’s taking the class or where it needs work.
Out of the three specs, Affliction retains the most similarities like the current version in live, but “feels” a little more faster and hectic. Well, sort of…kinda. If that last sentence was hard to read it’s because that’s how affliction feels atm in Beta. I could ramble on with some details, but that would only bore most and like I’ve learned once again it will all change just as we begin discussing. However, I think Affliction is very close to being viable and there is just a few changes they need to make and almost all revolved around the new mechanics of Haunt. The new version of Haunt needs to either be taken off the soul shard resource system or the dynamics of shards, Haunt and Nightfall procs needs changing to where it’s not taxing on the player. If they fix the problems with Haunt then I think they will make some older Affliction players quite happy, yet they will have made it easier to learn for newer ‘locks. I’m going to suggest ideas of things I’d like to see addressed with Affliction (I can’t wait to compare my thoughts when the finished version of MoP goes live):
- Haunt needs to be off the shard system entirely or a complete reworking of the dynamics of Haunt, Nightfall procs and soul shard Regeneration
- Affliction needs a few more new spell animations – Malefic Grasp (MG) even though it’s channeled looks cool. Nothing else makes me excited.
- Floating shards / balls above your character’s head needs to be turned off at a players discretion permanently – Asthetics I know
- Another CC should be added since we can only choose one from Shadowfury, Death Coil and Howl of Terror through talents
- The Demon Gate / Demon Portal needs a faster setup time after casting.
The big “IF” in Affliction will be getting Haunt into something useable and fun. If Blizzard get’s Haunt wrong then experienced Affliction players will quickly move to other specs, or to other classes, or it will make them flee the game in disappointment. Everything else I suggested they could ignore and it wouldn’t be too bad. Haunt is the real question. Here’s the newest change I’ve seen – Haunt. It no longer speeds up your DoTs, it just increases it’s DD when it lands and increases all of your damage spells on the target by 20% for 8 seconds. We shall see.
Out of the three specs in Beta, I have to admit it…I’m really liking demonology. If you have been following some of my previous posts I played Demo the least over my ‘lock career. In fact, only lately did I seriously jump into trying it out. Why am I enjoying it? Who knows? Maybe because it’s a new shiny to learn? Maybe because you have a flood of demons? Maybe because it’s fun to play around with it? Maybe it’s the new spell animations? I think I like it because it’s a mix of all those reasons. Yes, I know some people are gnashing their teeth because there is no “Demo Tanking”. I was on the fence either way about being able to tank or not, but I feel that Dark Apotheosis still needs a clearer vision as to how it fills a niche.
Even being the die-hard ranged caster that I am, I’m having fun at smacking things around at Melee range. However, despite all the cool new animations and demons you will have surrounding you, there are still some things I’d like to see improved upon. Here are my predictions:
- Demonic Fury regen isn’t bad, but the cast times for both Shadowbolt and even Soulfire on proc feel long and painful
- Meta Form needs more to do – Right now it’s very basic down to almost two or three buttons
- Dark Apotheosis – Needs a clear vision and more to do like the Meta Form (Scenarios Maybe?)
- Demo needs a good Execute finisher – I’m sure this is what they meant Meta Form to do, but people will always try highest dps possible and won’t hold off
- Demonic Leap needs a simple fix of landing on or in front of your target. Right now I jump past my targets by about 5 – 10 yards and have to turn around
- Carrion Swarm needs an animation revamp – all the cool stuff they have done and CS gets a large yellow and slowly moving bubble? Bleh! Boring!
- Void Ray mechanic needs fixing – there is no rhyme or reason as to what direction it’s pointing even when you are targeting something and facing it
The two main fixes that needs addressing IMHO to make this play style viable is giving the locks more to do in both Meta Form and Dark Apotheosis and having a clear direction for DA. As it stands, I truly believe that Demonology has the biggest chance at making new players want to level a warlock. From growing horns & wings, to having three Shadowbolts, to proccing four extra imps fighting next to you and then eventually turning into a demon yourself through Meta – all of these changes are making other players whisper me asking questions when I’m at the target dummies. I’ve only gotten one whisper on Affliction when someone asked me about the ugly-pink shards on my head and I have yet to have anyone ask me about Destruction. Go to the target dummies and run through some Demonology and trust me you’ll get at least a whisper or two from people asking what certain spells you are casting.
Destruction is still fun and viable and people will find it extremely easy to learn. Right now I only have two complaints about it. First, the ember system needs to generate faster. If feels like forever to generate even one! Trust me! It’s P-A-I-N-F-U-L ! Also, Destro could really benefit to add another spell or two for something to do. If you’ve played an Elemental Shaman, take your “basic” rotation and remove two buttons. That’s how simplistic it “feels” to play with only a four button push. If they went down to two buttons we’d be at the level of mage rotations and who would want that? So my only two biggest recommends for Destro are:
- Let embers generate faster
- Add one or two more base spells or maybe a proc
That’s it for Destro IMHO. I’m keeping this one simple because I’m hoping they don’t add another Improved Soul Fire fiasco where to get your buff you had to endure a unneccessary long cast time tax with Soulfire.
Waiting and Watching
I think warlocks still need some tweaks and small changes, but overall I think they are on the right track. There are enough new mechanics and cool animations to draw a newer player’s curiosity while still retaining many of the experienced fans and players if they can get the few problems I mentioned ironed out. Do I think warlocks have a great shot at redemptions? Yes, I do. The real question is…will Blizzard heed many of the veteran player suggestions and complaints? I know players will find the updated versions exciting to try, but my only hope is that the developers make the new play style sustainable.