Friday, March 12, 2010

On Lock Down

Alright today I want to take a closer look at Warlocks in WoW (that would make a hell of a blog name too by the way). The last couple weeks I have been spending a lot of time playing Emprius and I forgot how much fun a Warlock can be in both PVE and PVP. I know most folks tend to think of my blog as being a Paladin blog, but in reality I have a few level capped toons and quite a bit of experience with other classes. To be honest, the only other class that has ever apealed to me as much as the Paladin is the Warlock, and so I am going to share with you some of what I have learned along the way.

When I first started playing my Lock, it was back in the day of the dot, dot, dot, fear, rinse and repeat style of play. I pretty much was focused on just leveling and doing some PVP with Emprius. I never really took him serious as far as raiding content was concerned. So when Wrath launched and they switched a lot of the mechanics around I was somewhat at a loss and unsure if I liked the changes. Those changes though allowed me to take a closer look at both the demonology and destruction trees. Having leveled on a PVP server in a guild that was more PVP than PVE, I pretty much stuck with an affliction build through all of BC (Burning Crusade).

When I finally decided to level Emprius, I played with a few different variations but finally settled on a build that went deep enough into destruction to pick up the Fel Guard and then focused the rest of the talents into the destruction tree to give me some utility such as harder hitting spells and what not. This actually worked out really well for leveling. It did not matter if I was questing, running an instance, or chasing Alliance around in battlegrounds; the build provided just enough fire power to keep me competitive and not sitting at the bottom of the charts. I did however realize that once I hit 80 I would need to respec my builds. I posted a while back the build I finally settled on and if you really want to know just go ahead and click right here and it will take you to the armory for Emprius and more specifically to the destruction build that I am currently using.

A couple things to point out about this build, it is definitely not meant for someone who is a fresh leveled character. The thing to remember about Warlocks (and most casters for that matter) is that they have a very high hit rating that they must hit and this build does not take advantage of the free +hit rating available to you in the affliction tree. I also want to point out that this build does not have the Soul Leach or Improved Soul Leach talent built in. If you by chance are not familiar with those abilities, they are basically a replenishment utility ability that can benefit an entire raid. The other large downside to this particular build is the constant changing of gear and the effects that this has on the hit rating.

A couple things that I have come to love about this build is the soul link ability. At first I was concerned that this ability would kill my Imp, but because the build incorportates Fel Synergy, your increased spell power is going to come in handy for healing your pets. The other thing is that this build is all about big spell power. The 30% increased spell power from Demonic Aegis is a huge stat boost to you. As is the case with any build there are a couple talent points that you could consider moving, but in all honesty this build has been a good build to use so far. Now I cannot attest to its output in upper tiered raids, but it has performed perfectly fine in ToCr 10.

As is the case with any caster class, spell power is going to be your bread and butter. The more spell power you can get from sources other than gear, the better off you will be. With the talent build itself, you gain quite a bit of spell power off of spirt, but do not forget to take a look at the Glyph of Lifetap. It is another 20% spell power based off of spirit. That is a huge gain of spell power for a few points in a talent tree and one glyph. It does place a little more importance on using Lifetap as a part of your priority/rotation, but the benefit is well worth it and there are plenty of add-ons that are out there to help you keep track of when it is up. Since I brought up the concept of priority let's talk a little bit about what a proper (at least for me) spell cast sequence should look like

I will typically start off a fight by casting Curse of Elements on the targeted mob. I follow this up with Lifetap to increase my spell power. I then cast Corruption (if on a boss or target with a lot of health or required movement). The next thing you want to hit up is going to be Immolate. I then will hit Conflagrate. Next up is going to be Chaos Bolt and then Incinerate. At this point, your rotation mentality is going to be over and you are going to need to make sure to be watching to hit Conflagrate, Immolate, Chaos Bolt, and Corruption (if being used) as soon as they are available. Very few trash mobs will have you move past your rotation so it does not get too confusing until you hit bosses or a mob that has a higher health pool than usual. One thing I would highly recommend is spending some time on the target dummies to get your timing down. I wanted to go into more detail about my cast order, but as my haste is going to be different than yours, it would be rather pointless. By utilizing the target dummy you will be able to see when your priority spells will be off cool down and then you will be able to learn to expect to cast certain spells in what may resemble a rotation to you again.

I have left one spell completely out of conversation just simply because we all know what our AoE spell is and I hope we all know how to control ourselves when using it. I have to admit that from time to time, I get a little overzealous and go nuts with raining fire down from the heavens and when I do, often times I pay the price for it. So be very, very, very careful when lighting up mobs. If your tank is not a Paladin, perhaps test the waters and see if they can hold agro, but if it makes their job a lot harder (or they just seem to be struggling) then just back off of the pyro show and go to single target melt down. Trust me, those big numbers are a lot of fun, but those big repair bills are just plain down right stupid and easy to avoid.

I want to take a moment and talk a little bit about the stats that we want as a Warlock. I am not going to go into a lot of depth since there are a lot of great sites out there who can crunch numbers and give you the mathematical reasons for selecting certain stats above others. I am however going to give you what I think are important stats to keep in mind as you begin gearing up your Warlock. The number one stat that you are going to want, scratch that, need is hit rating. I do not care if you had 7,000,000 spell power. If you are under hit cap, you are going to be losing precious DPS. So number one stat on my mind (especially when in direct relation to this build) is hit. I would dare to say that it is going to be the number one stat regardless of build. Once you make it to the hit cap, the next important stat to look for is going to be haste. The concept here is simple, quicker cast time will equal extra casts which should translate into some DPS improvement. Once you feel you have enough haste, then you may want to consider looking into crit rating. I did not mention spell power or spirit as you should be able to acquire enough of that on your gear itself.

When looking at your gems you are going to only want to use spell power, spell power and hit, or spell power and spirit. I would recommend staying away from the others unless you have no other choice. I have read where some people prefer to stack straight spell power and I suppose that would make since at top tier gear, but at lower levels I think we can still benefit from using a mixture of stats. On the subject of stats, let's talk about enchants for a breif moment. Enchants are going to be much like your gem selection in that this is where you can make up for some missing stats, but don't waste your enchants. I try to stick with spell power enchants on all of my gear. At times I may select something else if I feel I am low on a certain stat, but overall my focus has been, and always will be on spell power enchants.

I think we have done a pretty good job talking about some basic ideas for playing a Warlock here and now I want to turn my attention to PVP. I have not done serious PVP with Emprius since a couple months before the end of BC. I did level through the battlegrounds some with Emprius, but I did not make a focus of studying Warlock PVP. I just targeted someone and sicked my Fel Guard on them and tried to hide while my dots and demon burned them down. A couple weeks back my current arena partner for my Paladin was talking about not wanting to do arena with his Death Knight for some reason or another. He did however, want to run arena on his Druid. So we hooked up his Druid with my Warlock and formed the team Dark Growth (clever name huh?). His Druid was better geared than my Lock, but we were both way undergeared in regards to actually competing in arena. I also only had one spec at the time and my destruction spec while high in power is horrible in PVP because everything requires planting and casting (which does not happen in arena).

I decided I would either respec or pay for duel spec since we wanted to do some arena on a more serious note this season. I finally decided on paying for duel spec because I loved being able to run PVE content with my Lock and gathered a ton of gear in a short period of time. So I scraped together the last bits of gold and purchased the duel spec and settled on an affliction talent build. I am only going to touch briefly on this build since I have not had it very long, but when I set it up I wanted to focus on increasing the damage from dots and the survivability of myself in relation to going into an arena. I may make changes over time on the build, but from running in a few battlegrounds and Wintergrasp it has so far done quite well.

The next issue beside getting a PVP build, was actually getting some gear. I had the complete Frostsavage gear set that I created to use while leveling in the battlegrounds, but it was severely lacking some punch. I did have some honor points saved up that I used to upgrade my neck and cloak when I hit 80 and therefore had two pieces of Furious gear. I had my old Brutal wand as well. Pretty pathetic, but it did supply a little resilience. I decided that in order to get the better gear I would need to start hitting up some battlegrounds and doing Wintergrasp as often as I could. Which I have been doing the last couple weeks on a regular basis. At this point and time I have managed to upgrade some of my gear. I am not nearly done and expect it to take quite some time to get my gear to where I want it to be, but the game plan is set now and slowly I am switching pieces of gear out.

I did manage to hit a milestone for Emprius while collecting his gear. I had been running Wintergrasp to get the tokens because I wanted the cloak being offered there from the vendor and I also wanted to test out my Affliction build to determine its level of survivability. What better way to see how long you can live than running into a mob of tenacity wielding Alliance players right? Well, the results were positive, the dots managed to provide enough damage when spread out to a group of Allaince toons that the health replenishment was keeping me up along with some great healers and the Soul Link ability being used on my Fel Hunter.

I am pleased overall with the progress of gathering gear and the utilization of the talent build. I felt pretty good about the build and while the gear is lacking, I wanted to test out how well it worked in an arena setting. So we queued up and the first team we ran into was tough. I would imagine they were geared similar to where we were and they played very well together. They were running a Frost Mage/Survival Hunter comp, and the Mage was vicious. He definitely knew what he was doing. He locked my school up and they proceeded to go after my Druid partner. I did manage to get the Mage before he dropped my partner, but the Hunter tore me up as I ran out of mana. A huge lesson learned there was that I needed to conserve mana and hit Lifetap where I could during the match while my partner was up and able to replenish my health. It was a good lesson learned. The next match we were ROFLSTMPD! It was a Warrior and Death Knight and they destroyed me before I could flinch. I was mad, but I knew when I saw them charging in that it was going to be a five second match. After these two teams we did not see any teams that were better than us. We did get taken out by a Rogue/Rogue team, which was embarasing considering I saw them approaching and missed my fear on one of them (/facepalm).

At the end of the night we had won five and lost five, but walked away with a whole lot of knowledge on where we needed to improve in order to get some victories. A couple of things in particular I discovered/remembered were as follows:
  1. Warlocks have mana drain for a reason! We ran into a retribution Paladin/discipline Priest team and we were having a hell of a time trying to take them down. If we got the Priest down, the Paladin would pop a couple heals to the point where it was just enough. The Paladin also was using cleanse (which I give him credit for that) which was making my dots no where near as effective as they could have been. That is when I remembered I had mana drain! I tapped that Paladin out and then tapped out the Priest's mana and then me and my partner had a chuckle as we took them out.
  2. Spell Penetration is going to be something I need for arena! Yeah, talk about feeling like a nub. Try taking down a well geared resto Shaman when you keep having everything resisted (which is why we want resilience and hate resilience all at the same time). In order to compensate for the lack of punch, we instituted the mana drain and proceeded to beat her down that way.
  3. Fear Bomb in the Orgrimmar arena is priceless! We drew a ret Paladin and an unholy Death Knight for our one match there. On the way up, I asked my partner to hot me up and I started jumping against the wall facing our oponents. I jumped over into their elevator before it was fully up, dropped my instant Howel of Terror and then hit Death Coil on the Death Knight (I love doing that to them) and then feared the Paladin since he was nice enough to use his bubble to break the Howel of Terror. With the Paladin running around like a sissy and apparantly not remembering to get the PVP trinket, we proceeded to kill the confused Death Knight who was disoriented from being feared twice and then rooted.
  4. Communication is the key! We beat some teams we should not have beaten, but that is because after each match we talk through the best strategy to use. Sometimes we will use vent and other times we just simply type out what we are thinking. Either way, coming up with strategies on the fly is the key to success in any PVP situation.
  5. Switching your fears! In one of the first matches I completely forgot that your fears and crowd control (CC) abilities deminish and after three uses of the same spell on the same individual, that same individual will then be immuned to said spell until you switch the spells.
Well, that is about all that I have for today. I apologize if this was a little bit larger of a post. I had debated on making a couple of posts in a row, but felt that would drag it out and may lose the focus of what I really wanted to cover. Also, if you go running and look at my Lock save the your gems are all wrong comments as I am aware of this, but quite frankly I went from all blues to the current gear in about two days and have not had the gold or time to really go and regem my PVE gear. I would however love to hear from others about your thoughts on Warlocks in PVP or PVE. Love them, hate them, want to throw them out of the game, think they are weak, think they dream of being a Mage? Then drop a comment or create a post and link it under my comments section. I love reading other people's thoughts on stuff.

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