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The warlock is a very fun and rewarding class to play, but it takes a lot of skill and finesse to play a warlock to its full potential. As a warlock, you will need to learn to use your pets, manage your threat, and collect Soul Shards. As you grow in levels, your strategies will change slightly, you will have to learn to adapt to new situations and new spells. But however your strategy adjusts, it can usually be boiled down into a few basic concepts.
- Use your minions
- Use your curses
- Use your DOT spells
- Use your DD spells
- Manage your and your pet's health and mana
- Plan ahead, and steal a soul
The different approaches to combat really depend on the pet you are using. So let's look at the pets that a warlock can have, and in what situations we would use them. Before we do however, we should first explain a key concept of the warlock: the Soul Shard.
Soul Shards are a unique Warlock resource displayed in the user interface beneath the player's health and mana bars similar to Death Knight Runes. The resource works in tandem with the Soulburn spell, to empower the next spell the player casts, granting it a special effect, such as increasing its damage or making it an instant cast. Warlocks have 3 Soul Shards that can be used during a fight and will not be able to gain additional shards during combat. Soul Shards are not required outside of combat, with the intent that warlocks make full use of the resource in every fight, though Blizzard may add a mechanic to regen shards in combat if it's found it's needed in order to handle variable combat length.
Soulburn has no mana or health costs and is off the global cooldown, but has a 45-second cooldown. Secondary effects are outlined here.
- Summon Demon + Soulburn = summon the demon instantly.
- + Soulburn = Reduces cast time by 50%.
- + Soulburn = Increases movement speed by 50% for 8 seconds after teleporting.
- + Soulburn = Instantly deals damage equal to 30% of its effect.
- + Soulburn = Instant cast.
- Healthstone + Soulburn = Increases total health by 20% for 8 seconds.
- + Soulburn = Increases the crit chance of Searing Pain by 100%, and subsequent Searing Pain spells by 50% for 6 seconds.
- + Soulburn = If the Seed of Corruption detonates, all targets will be afflicted by and the Soul Shard will be returned. If the Seed of Corruption fails to detonate, the Soul Shard is not returned. This effect is enabled through a talent in the Affliction tree.
Before level 10, a warlock will only be able to summon the Imp, which is a pet that casts fireballs at enemies. It can gain access to a stamina buff called Blood Pact, as well as a damage shield called Fire Shield. The Imp is the only pet that requires no reagents to summon. (edit: since the release of cataclysm, many changes have been made to warlocks, including removing the requirement of a reagent to summon any pet)
In general, the Imp represents the mage type of pet. Lots of damage output, but not a lot of hitpoints. They are best NOT taking damage alone (if you can take some for the pet he'll live longer), and they are best suited for cases when you are in a group where someone else can tank. If you use the Imp alone, you are best suited using the pet to deliver the most amount of damage as it can, while you do the same. The key with the Imp is to kill the monster before it can do too much damage to either you or the Imp.
Warlocks that have specced into Dark Pact use Imps often because of their high Spirit and Intellect. They can leave an Imp Phase Shifted and steal its mana, and the Imp will never take damage or draw aggro while it regenerates mana during the whole fight. The Imp is essentially a mana battery in these cases. The Blood Pact stamina bonus, when improved by talents, can be as effective as a Power Word: Fortitude in some cases. This also allows for quicker regeneration of mana since you have more health to fuel Life Tap.
After level 10, the Imp is generally not used for solo playing unless the warlock has run out of soul shards, since his utility for leveling is outstripped by the voidwalker and succubus. Though, some warlocks choose to "AoE" grind mobs like some mages do by casting all DoTs on one target, choose new target, DoT that one, and so on. For this the imp is useful as both a mana battery and for the stamina buff.
In end-game raids the Imp is useful primarily for Blood Pact. The fact that phase shift prevents him from dying as long as he doesn't use firebolt is also a plus. The Blood Pact ability is regarded so high that there are guilds that require warlocks to always use the Imp. However, many players that request the presence of an Imp don't have a full understanding of Blood Pact (which is limited to a 20 yard range). As warlocks are a ranged class, they will usually try to stay at a maximum range, which will be around 30 yards. That means that the melee class in the party may not get the benefits of the Blood Pact. In boss fights, a good warlock will step forward and request the Imp to stay at a position where most players are inside the 20 yard range, and then step back again to a safer distance.
At level 10, after completing a quest, you will be able to summon the Voidwalker. This pet is a tank, meaning he can absorb a lot of damage, but is not very useful at dealing it. The key ability of the Voidwalker is Torment, an ability which acts as a taunt. What that means is that he can cause monsters to find him more threatening than you. That is a good thing, as letting the Voidwalker absorb damage will keep you from having to, and he has much better armor. And if it comes down to one of you being killed...well, better him than you.
Later abilities of the Voidwalker include Sacrifice, which hurts the Voidwalker by a percentage of health to give you a stronger version of the priest spell Power Word: Shield, Suffering, which is an AoE taunt, and Consume Shadows, an out of combat pet self heal. Sacrifice can be particularly useful if your Voidwalker's health is low and he's about to die regardless.
To summon a Voidwalker, you will need to use a Soul Shard. If you don't have any, you're stuck with the Imp until you get one. For this reason, it is best to always have a few Soul Shards handy in case your pet dies, and you need to replace him. Beginning with patch 1.12, a soul shard is refunded to the caster any time a summoned pet despawns rather than dies (for example, if you move too far from your pet).
The tactics used with the Voidwalker are usually centered around letting him take the damage, while you hurt the monster in a controlled manner. After ordering the Voidwalker to attack your selected target, most experienced Warlocks start out with Curse of Agony. Using Curse of Weakness is not normally effective when soloing because while it decreases the amount of damage the target does per hit, the lack of damage from not using a Curse of Agony means the battle will take longer and the monster will get in more of those hits. The net result is a longer battle with the same or more total damage done to your Voidwalker. Curse of Agony is applied before the other DoTs because it takes the longest to complete its full duration (24 seconds). After Curse of Agony comes Corruption (18 second duration at most ranks), and then Immolate (15 seconds for full damage).
This DoT order has several advantages. First, it ensures that full damage from all the DoTs is done in the shortest amount of time. Second, it does the least amount of damage in the beginning. Neither Curse of Agony nor Corruption do any damage for 3 seconds after you cast them, and Curse of Agony starts off slow. This allows your Voidwalker to get a taunt in before you start really pissing off the monster. Third, it allows you the most flexibility. It's not uncommon for your Voidwalker to have his taunt resisted, but since the damage you've done is so low in the beginning, the monster might not turn to attack you. Even if it does, it won't be hard for the Voidwalker to get aggro back. If you see your Voidwalker being resisted, you can always hold off on Immolate until after he's built up more threat.
The strategy of finishing off the monster after this depends on the talent spec of the Warlock. Affliction Warlocks will use a combination of Life Tap and Drain Life to do additional damage while restoring health and mana. Destruction Warlocks will use a combination of Shadow Bolt, Conflagrate, and Immolate to finish the monster off a good deal faster, but without the replenishment.
In longer fights, you may need to use Health Funnel to give your pet some needed life, but be aware that those heals will raise your threat level a good amount, and may result in the monster going after you.
At level 20, you will get the rogue pet, the Succubus. Besides having a 'distinct' look, the Succubus is capable of dealing out damage. While it is contended by users, the Succubus is intended to deal out more damage faster than the Imp, but be less able to absorb damage than the Voidwalker. Basically the succubus is a middle ground pet. It is important to remember that she will also need to be summoned with a Soul Shard, so you need one ready to call her.
The Succubus starts with an ability called Lash of Pain. This is basically an instant-cast direct damage ability that deals about 30 damage (rank 1) to the target. Later the Succubus will gain Seduction which is a charming ability. This is useful against humanoid encounters, and can help you deal with multiple monsters at once.
The tactics around the Succubus are similar to the Imp: deal damage fast and share the pain between you. Approach the combat in the same way as the Voidwalker: open with a curse, DoT, follow up with DD, but in this case, do not hold back on the damage being dealt, even if it puts the monster on you. The damage absorption of the Succubus will only help slightly, so you'd rather just dish out the pain.
The Succubus is the best pet with which to practice a soloing technique called "drain tanking." Attack with the pet and apply DoTs of your choice. Eventually the aggro generated by your spells will pull the mob onto you, at which point begin spamming Drain Life to offset the damage you're taking from the mob, as well as Life Tapping to replenish your mana. Meanwhile, your Succubus should be ideally positioned to apply Lash of Pain to the mob's back. Drain tanking is only feasible as a play style if you take some key talents in the Affliction tree, but if done well you can take down mobs surprisingly fast and come out with only a small net loss of health/mana.
Succubi also seem to be very useful in a group where a tank is already present. Having the ability to dish out more damage, and even the occasional charm is definitely worth using. She also tends to create some oohs and ahhs because of her scantily clad appearance. The distinctive look of the Succubus will also make it clear what to target, and her reduced size compared to the Voidwalker makes fighting at close quarters easier.
Despite her lack of taunting, the Succubus can generate some hate on herself with her damage output (mainly when you have talents that increase her DPS: Unholy Power, Improved Succubus, Improved Lash of Pain). To keep your somewhat fragile pretty alive, Soothing Kiss will reduce the aggro toward her (similar to the rogue's Feint ability) and keep her dealing out damage without risk of dying. Always have Soothing Kiss on autocast when in a group, and never when playing solo.
An alternative strategy for using the Succubus is this:
- Stay as far away from the mob as possible
- Use Curse of Elements on the mob (will also increase the Succubus' damage)
- Let the Succubus attack at the same time
- Wait a few seconds, so that it builds some aggro and does some damage
- Cast 1 or 2 Shadow Bolts
- Finish off with wand or Shadowburn, if needed
If timed perfectly, the mob will start running towards you in the end but spend some time running. If you share the damage with the Succubus, you minimize recovery time as you both regain lost hp at the same time. This strategy takes into account that the Succubus can't take much damage, and so using DoTs is too slow. Using the talents Improved Succubus and Improved Lash of Pain really makes this strategy shine.
At level 30 you get the Felhunter. The Felhunter is very useful against other casters, using spell lock, which interrupts an enemy caster's spell, and--for six seconds--prevents the caster from casting any spell from the same class of magic. The felhunter's "Devour Magic" ability removes negative magic on you (or positive magic on an enemy) and heals the felhunter every time he performs it.
Careful threat management can make fighting with the Felhunter smooth and painless. Send the Felhunter in to attack, and watch the mob's health bar. As soon as the Felhunter hits the enemy for the first time, cast Curse of Weakness -- this will not cause enough threat to draw the mob away. Wait until the mob's health bar has decreased visibly by a tick, then cast Corruption (and Siphon Life if you have it). You may want to use Life Tap at this point to recoup the mana you have used.
Wait until the mob's health has decreased a significant fraction -- experiment with different enemies and see how this varies. Then use further attacks, such as Immolate, Shadow Bolt, your wand if you have one, or perhaps even a direct melee weapon attack. You can also use Drain Life to restore the health you lost by using Life Tap. If the mob does turn away from your Felhunter to attack you, don't panic; just cool it for a moment, stop attacking, and it'll go back. At this point some of your DoTs may be wearing off; you can judge whether and when to put them back based on how easy it is to draw the threat back onto you. It takes finesse, but you can usually dispatch enemies your level and come out with almost full health and mana. Your Felhunter may be a little worse for the wear, but pets recover very quickly.
At level 50 you can get the Infernal. The infernal is not a pet you will be using frequently, seeing as it can only be summoned once per 10 minutes, it requires a reagent, and it disappears after 1 minute.
The spell to summon the infernal has a 2 second cast time, and when the infernal lands it will deal a small amount of shadow damage to all enemies around it as well as stunning them for 2 seconds. The Reagent needed to summon one is called an "Infernal Stone"
The infernal comes with a good chunk of health, fire immunity, fear immunity, and a permanent immolation aura that deals fire damage to every enemy around it every 3 seconds. It also hits pretty hard, and tanks well in PvE if you ever decide to use it for that.
Its fear immunity makes it a useful tool against enemy priests.
The infernal is useful for attracting attention in group PvP. If you send your infernal in to attack an enemy group, chances are they will focus their firepower on the infernal, giving your group members an easier time.
The information in the paragraph below is obsolete post patch 3.0.3.:
Prior to a certain patch, the summoned Infernal would roam free. Now, he comes enslaved after summoning and will die after one minute. Before patching, the only way to get the ability to summon an Infernal was to find a Book in Lower Blackrock Spire (LBRS). While the book is still available in LBRS, the spell can also be learned through a quest chain in Bloodvenom Falls, given by Niby The Almighty. After defeating Kroshius (55 non Elite Infernal) and El Pollo Grande (Niby's summoning, non Elite) you will get the spell.
At level 60, you obtain the Curse of Doom spell, and can quest for the Ritual of Doom. Curse of Doom, when dealing the killing damage to any mob, has an estimated 100% chance of summoning a Doomguard if the mob grants experience, but it must be enslaved in order to command him. Ritual of Doom, however, will always summon one, at the cost of the health of a party member (no longer kills anyone), and come enslaved for 15 minutes then will despawn. The Doomguard is more frail than the Infernal, but has far more abilities. He attacks in melee, and has a devastating crippling attack (a spell called "Cripple") which slows opponent's attacks and movement, and he can stun with War Stomp. The tactics for using Doomguard are similar to the Voidwalker, except that Doomguard does tremendous amounts of damage and may require some healing. In PvP, Doomguard will wreak havoc on the enemy with his stuns and cripples, unless one of those enemies is another warlock, in which case he can be banished immediately.
Warlocks can get this pet from investing 41 points in the Demonology tree. The Felguard's aggro-holding ability is significantly better than the voidwalker's. This goes for his melee damage as well, comparable to the succubus, and for this reason makes them both obsolete except for sacrifice, seduce, and the versatile Master Demonologist's buffs that these demons grant. His abilities include a Demonic Frenzy, taunt, cleave, and intercept (which charges an enemy and stuns them for 3 seconds). He is great for PvP and soloing, and can even hold his own in a raid if kept healed. When facing an enemy warlock who has one, it is advisable to banish it, hence removing the buffs this demon gives him.
An effective method of grinding mobs with a Felguard: Attack the first mob, DoT it two or three times while the Felguard builds some aggro, and then let the Felguard continue with the next mob before the first is dead. That way, the Demonic Frenzy will stay at +50% attack power.
A warlock is allowed one curse per monster. Multiple warlocks can cast the same or different curses on a monster. However, most do not stack (i.e. two Curse of Tongues will not delay casting time any more than one). Curse of Agony and Curse of Doom are the only curses that stack on a monster. The choice of curses to use depends on the situation. Get a feel for the duration of each curse or an addon that tracks spell duration on targets so you can recast a curse when one wears off (namely Curse of Agony and Curse of Exhaustion). The following is a list of curses and their effects:
- Curse of Agony - Damage over time curse. The damage dealt increases as with the duration so it is ideal for longer fights. 24 second duration.
- Curse of Doom - Deals 3200 damage to its target after 60 seconds. Note that the damage dealt from this spell IS affected by Damage Gear. If this damage kills the target a doomguard will appear.
- Curse of the Elements - Reduces the target's fire, frost, arcane, and shadow resistance and increase damage from those types. 5 minute duration.
- Curse of Exhaustion - Slows the target's movement speed. 12 second duration. Tier 5 affliction talent.
Curse of Recklessness- Lowers the target's armor and slightly increases its attack power. Makes the target immune to fear as well, both all fear-spells and the automatic running off with 15% health, very useful in dungeons. 2 minute duration. (Removed in patch 3.1)
- Curse of Tongues - Increases the casting time of the target's spells. 30 second duration.
- Curse of Weakness - Decreases the amount of damage the target deals in combat, and decreases armor by 5% (Armor decrease as of patch 3.1). 2 minute duration.
When you do not want to aggro a monster too much it is best to use Curse of Weakness. Since you can't use Curse of Recklessness as of Patch 3.1, you'll want to make sure you kill the mob you're fighting faster before it flees too far and brings more trouble.
When you want to dish out damage, it is best to use Curse of Agony. The damage applied will start slow, and increase over the life of the curse. This means you may pull aggro onto yourself, so use with caution.
Curse of the Elements is obviously useful to reduce a mob's ability to resist a particular class of spells. This is very useful when grouped with Mages, Shadow Priests, other Warlocks, and in Wrath of The Lich King, maybe Elemental Shamans and Death knights. Also, Curse of Elements is frequently used when a warlock is low on health. This curse will increase the amount of damage done, and thus health gained by spells like Siphon Life and Drain Life.
All in all, it is best to suit the curse to your immediate needs and be ready to shift them as your needs shift. Changing curses in mid-fight, especially in PvP, is quite handy.
Health and Mana Management
Warlocks are unique among mana-dependent classes in their ability to fuel their spells with their health, which they do by using Life Tap. They are also one of the two classes that can heal themselves by stealing health from enemies, via Drain Life, as well as Death Coil once every 2 minutes. (Priests can also drain health from enemies, with Devouring Plague.) Furthermore, they can heal their pets like Hunters do, but unlike Hunters, Warlocks heal their pets by sending them their own health (with Health Funnel). Because of these facts, Warlocks have a different relationship with their health and mana bars than other classes do -- health and mana are both resources that you can use, and there's even a conversion between the two, though it is one-way.
For one thing, Warlocks don't need to carry drinks around -- a Warlock can just Life Tap until his/her health is low, then sit down and eat some food. A Warlock with Cooking can get along quite well. Also, a Warlock with First Aid can effectively turn found cloth into mana by Life Tapping and applying a bandage. Undead Warlocks can Cannibalize humanoid corpses nearby, which is very useful for soloing in areas where you're killing humanoids (for instance, farming cloth). There's always the Healthstone, too. It is often a good idea to carry around a stack of drinks, though. For example, you've just been in a rather long fight, you have used your Dark Pact ability to steal all of your pets mana, and you don't want to life tap any longer because the danger having a low life percentage presents. In this situation a bandage and then life tapping to about even health and mana, then sitting down to eat and drink, will save you a lot of time and effort.
If you're playing a Warlock, you need to get used to going around with your health bar less than full. Your Demon Skin/Demon Armor no longer restores health (only healing by 20% (26% with talents), so don't depend on it to refill your health. Of course, you'll ideally want both health/mana bars to be full, but when that's not possible, it's a good general rule to have approximately equal-length health and mana bars so you'll have as much as possible of both resources. If a helpful healer comes along and heals you, thank him/her, and then use Life Tap to even out your bars again, if needed. If they're confused, explain this. Naturally, if the situation demands more health or more mana, adjust your balancing act accordingly.
Melee classes are known for doing sustainable damage -- that is, the damage they do doesn't directly deplete a limited resource. Spellcasters' damage is usually limited by their mana, but Warlocks have ways around this. If a pet or some allies are keeping a mob from attacking the Warlock directly, the Warlock can do quite sustainable damage by alternately using Life Tap and casting Drain Life on an enemy, and you might even end up with more health and mana than you started with. The Improved Drain Life talent helps with this. If you have curses and/or DoTs on the mob at the same time, it can add up to a sizable contribution to the total damage done.
You will typically have much more health than your pet, even the Voidwalker, so don't be afraid to heal it with Health Funnel if it gets low. The one thing to watch out for is that healing, even health donation like Health Funnel, can attract aggro. You can always Drain Life to recover the health that you gave your pet.
The effectiveness of Drain Mana has long been debated. However, it is plain to see that a Warlock can, in fact, gain fairly significant amounts of mana using the spell. For example, the highest rank of the spell, Rank 4, costs 310 mana and drains 136 mana every second for five seconds, resulting in a total gain of 370 mana (136 mana gained per second * 5 seconds - 310 mana cost). (Lower ranks of the spell have a virtually identical cost/result ratio, although the overall mana gained is, of course, lower.) Unlike Life Tap, which always costs life, this mana comes at no cost to you whatsoever, except that you will be dealing no direct damage to the mob for five seconds. However, since a significant percentage of a warlock's DPS comes from DoTs or his pet, especially for Affliction-based warlocks, this brief lapse in DPS should not prove too detrimental.
There are two major difficulties that prevent the effective use of Drain Mana. The first is that many mobs in the World of Warcraft simply have no mana whatsoever, and others may not have enough mana to be efficient "reservoirs" from which you can replenish your own stores. The second difficulty is that Drain Mana is channeled, meaning that it is very easily disrupted by damaging the warlock. Of course, Drain Life also faces this exact same problem. Thus, while a Drain Life/Life Tap combo may be useful for dealing sustained damage to a mob with no or little overall change to your health and mana, Drain Mana can very quickly increase your mana, allowing you to jump back into the fray with whatever ability you choose.
If you have Dark Pact, you can steal mana from your pet, which regenerates it quickly, and what's more, you can do this while you're running. This makes up for the fact that Life Tap is one-way, but you have to go pretty deep into the Affliction tree to get to Dark Pact (tier 7).
The Improved Drain Soul is an ideal ability for regaining mana. If you don't often rely on it other than for soul shards, it is a good strategy to cast Drain Soul on a mob right as it is about to die for a quick restoration of 15% of total mana, which can take a considerable amount away from downtime after a fight. The downsides to this is that it needs to be channeled while the mob dies, meaning you need to rely on your pet or party members or a DoT to kill it (something that must be considered if you are Destruction specced or dislike relying on DOTs), and that the spell takes up a considerable amount of mana to cast, which can be resolved by casting Drain Soul (rank 1) which is a cost of a mere 55 points. Remember that you need to keep track of soul shards so as you do not get overwhelmed by extras.
Beware of "playing your Warlock like a Mage". This means casting spells until you run out of mana, sitting down to drink water, repeat. Mages can conjure water and mana stones to help themselves get mana back, and there are even Mage talents to help with mana recovery and conservation, but Warlocks can't do these things, because they're not meant to work this way.
For information about what spells to use, see Warlock mana efficiency
Gear preferences, by Morzath of Area 52
(Edited by Docato of Thunderhorn)
Warlocks need different amounts of stats depending on what they do. Leveling warlocks should have plenty of Stamina and Intellect gear. Eagle gear has both, and should be gotten until level 60ish, where you can get sorcerer gear, which gives both that, and +spell damage. PvP warlocks should get heavy Stamina, Intellect, and Resilience gear. spell damage isn't as important here, as you need to be able to survive. Raiding warlocks need spell hit, spell crit, spell damage, and to a lesser extent, stamina and intellect. For some boss fights, switching to a more PvP-esque gear set (primarily stamina) will be very important, such as the shade of aran fight.
Thinking of different speccings, Demonology Warlocks should get high stamina, as they can use it more efficiently, Destruction Warlocks should get spell damage and such, and Affliction Warlocks should be a fair mix.
Spirit used to be a no-no in general, for we Warlocks can Life Tap to regenerate mana, and use healthstones to heal ourselves, but with the release of Patch 3.0.3 Spirit now improves your + spell power and is therefore now considered a secondary (optional) stat. Any melee-suited stat is no good for us. do not, I repeat, do NOT get gear that is fit for a different class, just because it has spell damage or stamina. (I knew a warlock who had a tanking necklace, just because it had stamina, and a mage with a ret pally necklace, due to it having spell damage... embarrassing to raid with them actually...) (With the release of 4.0.3a, spirit is now useless, as we lifetap to regain mana, and it no longer adds to our spell power.)
When coming to the choice of weapons, always choose the one with the best stats for whatever type of Warlock you are. Staves and sword or dagger/offhand combinations are what most warlocks use. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, a good sword/dagger and offhand will often give you an increase to spell power that you would not be able to get from just a two handed staff alone.
The DPS of the weapon is completely irrelevant, as the Warlock will only be able to do very little melee damage. A warlock may use his wand in farming situations, however, with proper preparation, life tap will get rid of the need to use a wand. My own wand, The Black Stalk, has yet to be used, as I use Life Tap and bandages or healthstones to get rid of the damage to my health... Plus, I'm 0/21/40, and I blast enemies for around 6x what they can do to me. (hehe)
Gear with +Healing doesn't benefit spells that heal by draining life (Drain Life, Siphon Life, etc.), but gear that has +shadow damage does. Of the gear that adds to damage for a specific school of magic, only Shadow and Fire are of any use to a Warlock. I suggest getting the Frozen Shadoweave set if you have tailoring as a profession, and if you are a demonologist, affliction, or shadow destruction warlock.
- Note: +Healing does affect the health given by Health Funnel, but since it's usually only a minor grinding tool, don't stack plus healing for it.
Rank 1 spells
- Banish Rank 1 becomes useful when you don't want to keep the mob Banished for long. In addition Banish Rank 1 can be used together with Banish Rank 2 to time Curse of Doom. In group situations, use Rank 2 however, since it isn't nice to let that mob outta your CC until its time has come.
- It is useful to use Life Tap rank one, if you are using Glyph of Life Tap, to keep the buff active without sacrificing much health in an AoE damage intensive fight.
- Other tactics revolving around rank 1 spells became outdated with patch 3.0.2 as rank 1 spells consume as much mana as higher ranks of the same spells,
How to Solo in PvE Against...
The general rule is that it is better to fight one mob at a time. Some classes can optimize by grouping several mobs at the same time, and then AoE, but that is generally not the case for a solo Warlock.
Two Even Level Mobs
Send in your Voidwalker. Begin fighting mob #1 as if mob #2 wasn't even there. As long as you do nothing to aggro mob #2, he will beat on your Voidwalker for the simple reason that's who he saw first and he has no other aggro triggers. Having your Voidwalker taunt mob #2 is not required until you finish with mob #1. Once mob #1 is dead, proceed with killing mob #2 like you normally would solo a single mob. Somewhere in this, you may need to use Health Funnel on your pet. Be aware that this will cause a high level of threat, which will bring the second mob to you if you have not yet turned your Voidwalker's attention to him.
If you have both Amplify Curse and Siphon Life, you can implement another strategy which will kill them both more quickly. Send in your Voidwalker as with Strategy 1. Hit mob #1 with Siphon Life, an Amplified Curse of Agony, Corruption, and Immolate. These DoTs should be sufficient to kill the mob on their own. Turn your Voidwalker to attack mob #2, DoTing him with the same DoTs (you will not be able to Amplify Curse again for 3 minutes). Add a Shadow Bolt or two to ensure his death. Sometime during this process, the damage from the DoTs on mob #1 will do enough to make him attack you. Don't let this divert your attention from mob #2, mob #1 will drop dead on his own like he had a heart attack soon enough.
This strategy is similar to Strategy 1 (admittedly I've only used it at low levels - pre suffering - and it works well). You first send your pet in to tank the two mobs, put all your dots on the one that your VW is primarily tanking, and then put all your dots on the mob that your VW isn't tanking. This will cause it to aggro you, so you fear it. While it's feared the dots are ticking off and the first mob is probably close to dead, so shadowbolt or whatever to finish it off. Now you can turn to the feared mob and finish it off however you like. Once you hit level 24 and your VW learns suffering, you can probably extend this strategy to 2 or 3 or even 4 mobs, depending on how long your VW will last against the unfeared mobs.
Three Even Level Mobs
Fear the highest-level (or elite) mob. Send your Voidwalker in to taunt the other two mobs, and then focus all of your and your Voidwalker's attention on the lowest-level (or caster), taking it down as fast as possible. Meanwhile, be scanning around for the highest-level mob coming back at you, and re-Fear it. Now focus on taking down the mid-level mob. If your Voidwalker is low on health, cast Health Funnel--or, if you have Fel Domination, cast Sacrifice and summon a new one. Keep that pesky highest-level mob Feared. Once the mid-level mob is down, turn your Voidwalker's attention to the highest-level mob and taunt until it gains aggro (should be little trouble since you haven't done any damage to that mob). You may want to use First Aid or a Healthstone at this point if you've taken a few hits. Take down the last mob at your leisure.
If you are feeling daring, you can play around with DoTting the first two mobs before controlling them. If anything goes awry and they gain too much aggro on you, you can always Sacrifice your Voidwalker and cast Howl of Terror.
Four Even Level Mobs
Pull with a low cost curse (preferably Curse of Elements) Fear that mob (1) while sending your Voidwalker at (2). Use Howl of Terror to fear the remaining mobs (3) and (4). DoT up (3) and (2) (in that order) with everything you got: CoA, Corruption and Immolate and switch back to (3). Shadow Bolt 'till it drops. If (3) breaks fear early, tank it while killing it as fast as possible. Send the Voidwalker to (4) when it breaks fear. Mob (1) should break fear now too, due to longer duration on single target fear. Re-cast Fear on it. Take (2)'s remaining health with a Shadow Bolt or two. If you cant take its health away like that, tank it for a while (you should have aggro from it) and reapply DoTs. Now we only got (1) and (4) left, both effectively take out of the fight. Heal the pet (or Sacrifice it and summon a new), and keep (1) Feared until you feel comfortable with taking it out. Take your time on the last two, its a breeze comparing to what you just managed. Micro-management at its finest.
Five Even Level Mobs
Soloing 5 mobs is very difficult, and should only be attempted at the higher levels when more crowd and aggro control techniques are unlocked (such as Howl of Terror). An affliction or demonology warlock will have an easier time due to stronger and more mana-efficient DoTs and/or an Improved Voidwalker for better aggro control and sacrifice.
Send in your voidwalker and begin stacking DoTs; Improved Corruption is a must, and Curse of Agony is probably the best curse to use. As the mobs begin to attack you, have your Voidwalker use his AoE taunt (Suffering) and lure them back to him. He will probably lose health rapidly, so quickly fear a high health or high DPS mob (preferably a mage) while re-applying DoTs. At this point, you should consider letting you voidwalker drop aggro on one mob as he will be starting to get to near-fatal HP levels by now, he'll be unable to match the aggro from your DoTs, and you're still on high HP yourself. Try and focus on DoTing the 3 mobs which the Voidwalker is tanking, and forget about the other 2 - the feared one won't cause any trouble and you can cope with being attacked by a single mob. Use some Destruction moves on 1 of the 3 mobs the voidwalker is tanking until it dies, and then move on to the second. Fear the last one on your Voidwalker before he dies and DoT/death coil the one that's attacking you. Get ready for the one that was feared first, because he'll be back at full health, but hopefully he's far away by now and has a long run to go. Get your Voidwalker to attack the returning mob, as you'll have a chance to heal him a little before the mob returns and your Voidwalker needs to start building aggro immediately. By now, the mob attacking you ought to be weak, so unleash a quick and devastating combo on it - e.g. immolate, conflagrate and shadowburn. A destruction warlock has an advantage here. DoT the remaining 2 mobs and prepare for the final struggle.
At this point, you won't be on high health and your Voidwalker won't be either, assuming you haven't sacrificed him already. If he is still alive, then as soon as he aggroes one, get ready to sacrifice him because he'll die quickly and you can't afford to heal him. Once he's gone, chain fear the remaining mobs and let your DoTs kill them slowly. Using high DPS moves is risky here as they can break fear more easily and they're less mana efficient. Use your healthstone to heal a little, and finish them off with Shadowburn or Shadow Bolt. If one of the mobs starts to run, let him go because he'll run back by himself or when you apply Curse of Recklessness and will be easy to kill, assuming your DoTs have not done so already. Finish the last 1 off by whatever means necessary. Sit, eat, drink, and re-summon the pet of your choice. This is a very hard tactic that requires good aggro management and a decent amount of experience.
Note: This has been written for a destruction warlock because Destruction is commonly considered the hardest talent specialization for solo PvE. Affliction warlocks have improved DoTs and demonology warlocks can re-summon the voidwalker and thusly their shield. Therefore, if you are not a destruction warlock, you should adapt the above to your style.
Using the above with 2 or more mobs, if you can stay alive long enough to kill one, then you have made progress. If you are forced to run for your life, then wait until you are back to full mana and health, and there will be one less mob to kill. That should make it a lot easier.
Elites at the same level
This is usually only possible if you can take them one at a time and avoid aggroing any nearby adds, even non-elite adds, and is also made progressively easier at lvls 60+ and with better +dmg, +stam, +int gear. There are several strategies you can use, depending on your build and the situation, but they all depend on the lock avoiding the heavy damage elites dish out.
Heavy Affliction locks can dot and kite using Fear and/or Curse of Exhaustion, the idea being to use Fear effects and CoEx to keep the mob off you while your DoTs tick away its life. If you use CoEx, it helps to have passive and active Speed buffs and effects. Since you can cast DoTs and CoEx while running away from the mob, you're pretty much running all the time in this scenario with the mob following you (hence the term 'kiting') except when you need to stop to cast Fear or turn around to cast Death Coil.
For an example of a lock dot kiting an elite, see this video of a 60 lock solo'ing Scholomance instance bosses.
Felguard Demo locks let their FG tank the elite, while they keep its health up with Health Funnel and Bandage, and mana up with Mana Feed. Certain curses like Weakness and Exhaustion help as well, though Recklessness will most likely do more harm than good since it buffs the elite's already high attack power and it has enough hp and armor to withstand the armor debuff. Also, Curse of Elements on the elite let you nuke it with Destro spells while your FG holds its aggro, just be careful not to pull its aggro from your FG though. A threat meter add-on is invaluable for maximizing your dps without pulling aggro from your FG.
Destro locks use Fear nuking, basically Curse of Elements/Agony -> Fear -> chain nuke -> repeat as necessary. What destro locks lack in CC and buffed minions they make up for in the ability dish damage quickly, so they depend on keeping the mob away with Fear while nuking it down as quick as possible, then re-Fearing before it can get back into melee range. Curse of Elements can serve two purposes here - help your Fear stick longer and buff your Shadowbolts, Shadowburn, and Shadowfury. Bring along plenty of mana pots and anything that provides or buffs mana regen.
The major caveat is if you use Fear, make sure there are no potential adds nearby. Even single non-elite adds can disrupt your strategy enough to cause you to die. Also, no matter what spec you are, keeping the mob's attention with a tanking minion (Voidwalker or Felguard) and keeping it alive with Health Funnel is your major priority should Fear not be an option.
- Stay as far away as possible.
- Start with casting a Shadow Bolt to get some initial damage. This will aggro the mob.
- Cast Fear. It is advantageous to stay close to a wall, as the mob has less chance to run away too far from you.
- Depending on build and situation, cast DoTs or more Shadow Bolt.
The strategy is dangerous if there is a risk that the mob will attract other of the same type. A Warlock using Demonic Sacrifice of the Voidwalker will regenerate health continuously, making the fight easier. (Unfortunately, Demonic Sacrifice was removed in patch 3.1) It can be a good strategy to use Curse of Doom in this type of fights, as it will lessen the chance for damage to the mob, interrupting the Fear. If possible, stay close to a wall or cave to eliminate the risk of the mob running too far away.
If a Voidwalker is available, it can be used get aggro in the beginning, giving enough time to apply some DoTs. However, it is important to take the aggro away quickly, as the Voidwalker usually can't survive elites more than a short time. When the Voidwalker lose aggro, set it on passive following. Sacrifice it if needed. You don't want it to run around, following the mob and maybe aggro other types of mobs.
There is a variation of this strategy:
- Stay as far away as possible.
- Use Voidwalker to get aggro.
- Apply DoTs carefully, you should not get aggro yet.
- Send a Shadow Bolt.
- You will now get the aggro. Sacrifice the Voidwalker to get the protection buff.
- Cast another Shadow Bolt. You will be able to do this uninterrupted because of the shield.
- Use Death Coil.
- You will now have time for 1 or 2 more Shadow Bolts and possibly a Shadowburn.
This strategy will cost a Soul Shard. The strategy is fine if enough damage can be produced. If not, you will have an elite hitting on you and interrupting further spellcasting. As Fear isn't used, the risk of aggroing adds is much less, and the risk of the elite despawning because of running too far away is eliminated.
- Enslave an elite demon
- Run (quickly to avoid breakage) to the elite mob.
This tactic works well in Outland where there are many demons wandering around, and is fun to boot!
This strategy is for Demonology specced warlocks who have the Felguard working for them. I suppose it could also be applied with the Voidwalker, but is much less effective because of it's weaker ability to hold aggro. A great addon for locks using this strategy is Omen3 because it tells you when you are about to pull aggro from your pet (or tank in other scenarios).
- Set up a macro with /petattack and /cast Immolate
- Cast Curse of Agony
- Cast Corruption
- Cast a few Shadow Bolts if needed to drop target to below 25% health. If at any point in this part of the sequence your DoTs run out, renew them. Use your best judgment in weather or not to renew Immolate.
- If your mana drops below 50%, consider casting life tap in order to keep your attacks constantly running.
- If you pull aggro, stop casting immediately and just wait for the Felhunter to pull again.
- Once target is below 25% health,renew CoA and Corruption if needed. Once again, Immolate takes a while to cast, but if it is a good mob you may want to renew it as well.
- Cast Drain Soul or if you used Life Tap before, cast Drain Life
With enough +damage gear, it is possible to kill several green or yellow mobs at a time, with Curse of Agony, Corruption, and Siphon Life.
- Send the Voidwalker to one target, apply the 3 DoTs to the target.
- Run to the next target, DoT.
- By now you should be able to have the Voidwalker aggro a new target. DoT this one after the Voidwalker hits it.
- Continue DoT-ing mobs till you feel you have enough, then Howl of Terror.
Once you've spent 41 points into the Affliction tree and acquired Improved Howl of Terror, Dark Pact and Unstable Affliction, the method changes quite a bit. You no longer need, or want to run a Voidwalker. Instead, you will run an Imp, with all auto-casts besides Blood Pact and Phase Shift disabled. You want him to do nothing but provide free mana and a health buff. You will be taking the damage:
- Open up on your first target with Unstable Affliction.
- Begin running towards a second mob while casting all instant-cast DoTs (Siphon Life, Corruption, Curse of Agony) on your first.
- Switch to your second target and repeat the instant-cast DoTs only, while running towards a third. Never stop moving.
- Repeat to gather up 4-5 mobs, all mass-DoTed.
- Allow them to gather onto you, within melee range, and use the instant Howl of Terror to remove them from you.
- Life Tap once or twice to regenerate mana.
- Keep Drain Life on the highest health enemy (the last one that was DoTed) until he's dead.
- When he dies, target the enemy with the next highest health and Drain Life him to death. Repeat until all tagged mobs are dead.
- Dark Pact to full mana. If done properly, you should be at 80% health or more, and full mana.
This method is known as "Drain-tanking" and is largely considered the most efficient, and sometimes even the most fun farming strategy. With practice and some +spell damage, this becomes very easy.
Raiding with a 0/21/40 Demonic Sacrifice/Shadow and Flame build by Vodkaboy
Raiding with this build is very easy, and despite information in the article below me, a well-geared 0/21/40 shadow warlock WILL be the highest damage dealer in nearly all instances and raids. When choosing talents, you need maximum points in anything that can boost Shadow Bolt damage (Demonic Aegis, Improved Shadow Bolt, Bane, Cataclysm, Devastation, Destructive Reach, Intensity, Ruin, Backlash, Soul Leech (This build only allows 2/3 in Soul Leech), and Shadow and Flame). Nether Protection is also popular for fights such as Terestian Illhoof in Karazhan.
Before fights, summon a Succubus and sacrifice it (the +15% shadow damage buff will last 30 minutes). Once the tank obtains aggro, place Curse of the Elements on the mob and just fire away with shadow bolts until it's dead, watching your aggro. If another warlock is doing Curse of the Elements, use Curse of Doom on bosses and Curse of Agony on trash mobs. No damage over time spells are necessary. With this build, there have been some reports of 10,000 shadow bolt crits, so DoTs that can't crit are virtually useless.
Raiding As An Affliction/Destruction Warlock (level 70) by Nezthulra - Anvilmar Server
NOTE: This speccing is now obsolete to being the best DPS Warlock Speccing, due to the 0/21/40 specc, and due to Blizzard nerfing the affliction talent tree.
The following advice/information is based upon a 41/0/19 setup. With this setup you gain The Unstable Affliction talent from the Affliction tree, but you sacrifice the Ruin talent from the Destruction tree.
Before we get started, I recommend that all Warlocks obtain the following Addons to help you maximize your damage while using this specc.
- Omen - Threat Meter.
- Quartz - Spellcasting addon that compensates for bandwidth latency allowing you to cast spells faster.
In addition to the above addons, you should keep in mind the following:
- Curse of Doom is not better than Curse of Agony in the long run, unless you are fighting Curator!
- Maximize your spell hit rating with gems. Veiled Flaming Spessarite is excellent as it provides spell hit and damage.
- The Soulshatter, Shadow Ward, and Death Coil spells are your best friends and are widely underused by raiding Warlocks.
- Purchase Health and Mana pots from the Blade's Edge Quartermaster using 30 silver and 50 Apexis Shards - Cheap if you are doing dailies!
- It is a must to have at least 20 soul shards before raiding, and try to get more while running the instance.
- Obtain the Talisman of Ascendance by reaching Revered With Argent Dawn. Follow the Argent Dawn reputation guide to maximize your playing time while doing this. Note that the spellcaster trinket from the Shattrath Badge of Justice guy has a better trinket.
Lets get started by getting your buttons setup:
- Build your first macro
- Type /m and hit enter in chat - this brings up the "Create Macros" window
- Click "New"
- Type a Name and click on an Icon
- In the "Macro Commands" area type the information below
- Note: There is no save or anything, you just drag the icon from the Macros window to Slot #2 on your castbar (slot #1 is probably your "Shoot" icon
- Here is the macro content:
#show tooltip Pain (where Pain is whatever you want the tooltip to say when you mouse over it). /cast Amplify Curse /stopcasting /castsequence Siphon Life
Now lets take a look at your talents/spells and how to use them (of course this is my setup, some talents require points to make casting times shorter)
- I have my buttons setup as:
- Button 1 - "Pain"
- Button 2 - Curse of Agony
- Button 3 - Shadow Ward
- Button 4 - Corruption
- Button 5 - Unstable Affliction
- Button 6 - Immolate
Aside from demons, the Warlock also has another spell effective for Solo play: Fear.
If put to good use, Fear can actually neglect the need of demons up to level 20. A good Fear/PvP target works like this;
- Put Corruption on the target. This should aggro the target to you. (Corruption, and not CoA, is because the Corruption rids your pull of Global Cooldown.)
- Now, with the mob running towards you, cast Fear. This will cause the mob to run off.
- Now pop Immolate/CoA.
- When the mob comes running back, Re-fear.
- If the mob has low health) Now cast Drain Soul for a successive Soul, OR
- If the mob has 40% or more health left) Cast a Shadowbolt, and cast Drain soul.
What are the upsides of this tactic? Well, it can allow a lot of Soul saving for grouping. Also, when using this you technically don't have to worry about losing health, if timed right the mob won't be able to reach you.
Downsides? Well, you risk pulling more mobs, but that's cheap for a great PvE tactic, don't ya think?
Crowd Control Tactics
At the release of The Burning Crusade, Warlocks also began being a prime Crowd Control choice for 5 man instances. There are several tactics to effectively render an enemy out of combat until the DPS (and you) take it down.
Fear causes one enemy to run around aimlessly for the duration of the spell, and has a chance to break on damage (most commonly direct damage). Because of this the old tactic of Fear-Dotting in instances has some what lost it's value. Even with this slight detriment, fear is still a powerful means of removing an Enemy from combat in a mob free environment.
The best way to Fear is to Searing Pain(Max rank, more damage is more threat generated) your target and immediately start casting Fear on it. Searing pain insures that when fear breaks, it comes back to you instead of taking out a healer. Once it is feared, maintain DPS on the main target until you see Fear break. When it breaks, recast fear unless it is that mobs time to be DPSed down.
- Tank pulls.
- Cast Searing Pain on your Fear Target
- Instantly cast Fear right after
- In the case of resistant mobs, or if your +spell hit rating is low, cast Curse of Elements after fear.
- DPS the main target down
- Re-Fear if needed.
Fearing in Tight Areas
Sometimes it is required to fear in an area where mobs are still present. This is accomplished through use of Curse of Recklessness. Once the mobs are pulled, again Searing Pain your Fear Target, and immediately cast fear. This is where it begins to get difficult, you need to let the mob run a certain distance away, and cast Curse of Recklessness on it. Let it come back and just before it enters Melee range(5yrds) you need to replace CoRecklessness with another curse(generally Curse of Weakness(rank1}.
- Tank pulls the pack.
- Cast Searing Pain on Fear Target
- Immediately cast Fear.
- Wait for the mob to run at least 20 yards then cast Curse of Recklessness.
- When the mob is about to enter melee range. Cast another curse (generally Curse of Weakness)
- Re-Fear when needed.
Seducing with the Succubus
Using your Succubus pet is also a means of controlling an add, and is generally preferred because it limits the mob to one spot. Crowd controlling with a Succubus is a little less idiot-friendly than fearing, but powerful all the same. Seduce is broken by damage, so make sure you keep the mob further away to keep abilities like Thunder Clap, Cleave, and Swipe from breaking it.
Obviously, to use this tactic, you need to have your succubus out. This works much like fearing in how you personally control it. The tank pulls, cast Searing Pain(Max Rank) on the seduce target and get your Succubus casting Seduce, this has a double sided effect. First, it keeps the mob off your Healer. Second, it keeps the mob off your Succubus, who is indeed rather squishy. After Seduce is cast, keep tabs on it while you DPS the first target. Seduce has a cast time, so it's prudent to hit Pet Follow and then Seduce again to make sure the mob is kept "entertained."
- Tank Pulls
- Cast Searing Pain on the Seduce Target and get your Succubus casting Seduce(1.5 Cast time).
- For Resistant mobs, cast Curse of Elements to ensure full duration of Seduce.
- DPS the first target down.
- Re-Seduce as required.
An additional (yet more time consuming) tactic is to Searing Pain, Seduce, and fear the mob while it's seduced. Seduce's duration (15seconds) is shorter than Fear's 18 seconds, and can open up some distance to recast Seduce. This tactic should be used in an Add free environment to prevent getting more mobs and possibly wiping the group.
Banishing Elementals or Demons
Banishing, for the most part, requires no special tricks or advanced control tactics. Depending on the kill order, use either Banish (Rank 1) for mobs being killed soon after the primary target, or Banish (Rank 2) for ones further along, or for higher health primary targets.
- Tank pulls
- Banish the Banish target.
- If it is second on the kill list, use Banish (rank 1).
- If it is further along, or the primary target is high health, use Banish (rank 2)
- Re-Banish if required.
General Crowd Control Tips
- Searing pain any target you need to control first. This will keep it on you and off your healer. Losing a DPS is far less damaging than losing the healer.
- It's generally better to try and overwrite your Fear than waiting for the mob to come back.
- When seducing, keep some distance with the seduced mob and your tank, to prevent breakages.
- Recast Banish when there is 1 sec-.5 sec before it breaks.
Tricks with Ritual of Summoning
- There are many tricks with this very fun spell...
- Ever needed to repair your gear or stock up on food/drinks during an instance? Target yourself, cast Ritual of Summoning, Hearth out, repair / stock up, and accept the summon.
- EVIL!!! Take two people, buff all of you with Underwater Breathing, summon a third person into the ocean and watch them drown. Useful for people who ask for a summon in a unpolite way.