Between Arenas, V'Ming spends his time as a lock laughing ominously in AV, tanking Olm with his own minions and pondering troll fashion from Zul'Aman.
There's been a chorus from my dark brethren calling for the return of Blood Pact. As a career Warlock player - with a /played of 105
hours days (oops!) since May '05, you can say that I've been afflicted by the demonic embrace of this fascinating class. Observant readers will notice that I'm also the Blood Sport columnist - bloody coincidence? There may be more sinister forces at work here ...
With quicker 20-60 leveling in patch 2.3, this is the best opportunity for you to start on brand new alts, and what better class to invest in than the solo powerhouse class of magic-users gone all dark and emo (no other class takes large chunks out of their own health bar all the time ...).
This 1-20 leveling guide assumes you're not new to WoW. I will focus on abilities that become available as you level, and how to maximize their effectiveness, rather than a zone-by-zone laundry list of quests.
To sum up the Warlock in a sentence: ranged DPS class with high survivability and deep pet, control and utility options. To sum up the class in one word? Overpowered.
Haha, just kidding.
From levels 1-20, you will gain access via small quest chains to three pets: Imp, Voidwalker and Succubus. Like Hunter pets, you'll need to train them. Always check with the demon trainer for new grimoires when you train your lock. Unlike Hunter pets, Warlock pets do not need to be kept happy or leveled independently. Unfortunately you can't name them; all your pets will come with their own demonic names.
The Imp is your personal DPSer available at level 1, and provides an important group buff, Blood Pact (yes, the namesake of this column). At level 10, the Voidwalker becomes your personal tank with access to some basic taunt abilities and sturdy enough to off-tank some lower instances. Also known affectionately as the "Blueberry", it gets an "ohnoes" button at level 16, which Sacrifices the poor pet for a temporary bubble.
The sultry Succubus, sashaying in at level 20, may be the real reason why Gul'dan ditched his totems. She packs good melee dps in her whip and gives you the power of crowd control over puny humanoids: Seduction. While many pet abilities can be set to autocast, Seduction is one spell you'll want FULL control over. With the help of a /focus macro, you can keep someone seduced in a battle without re-targeting:
/focus [target=focus,noexists]; [target=focus,dead]
/cast [pet:succubus,target=focus,exists,harm] Seduction; Seduction
This macro will cast seduction, and break seduction to recast it when used again. Use the Alt key to change your focus. For best results, keep your pet in passive mode and get a timer like ClassTimer to monitor seduce duration. A well-controlled succubus can be as effective as a mage in humanoid crowd control, so fledging locks, go out there and give our arcane friends a run for their money!
DoTs and nukes
As a DPS class, you get a variety of ways to essentially do the same thing: kill. As a general rule, the spells you choose to use will depend on the length of the fight. Load up on instant DoTs and nukes when fights are brief. For longer fights, apply an entire set of DoTs, spam nukes and reapply DoTs as soon as they run out.
Shadowbolt - basic nuke, learn to spam this as efficiently as possible from range.
Immolate - combo nuke/DoT, good as an opener for short fights. Learn this at level 1 immediately after meeting your trainer.
Corruption - with no talents, this 2-second cast DoT is inefficient for fights shorter than 12 seconds. Deals constant shadow damage over time.
Curse of Agony (CoA) - instant DoT with incremental shadow damage over 24 seconds. Good in group situations, dealing damage while not creating too much threat upfront. Also good for pulling mobs at range when soloing; your VW should not have trouble pulling early CoA aggro away from you.
Drain Soul - channeled spell primarily meant for harvesting soul shards. This spell hardly does any damage. For all intents and purposes, you can use rank 1 of this spell for the entire game.
Drain Life - channeled self-healing dps spell learnt at level 14. This is one of the spells critical to the lock's soloability, and the key spell for 'drain-tanking': apply a full set of DoTs on target and drain away! You will be whittling the target's health away, while keeping yourself alive at the same time. At higher levels, this spell scales very nicely with talents and gear, and is one of the triggers for Nightfall.
Searing Pain - high-threat nuke. It's quicker to cast than shadowbolt, but does less absolute damage. Generally used in low level groups to pull aggro off healers or other squishies.
Rain of Fire - channeled AoE spell at level 20. Haha, rain fiery death upon your enemies! Well, use this with care as mobs will be quite angry with you if you don't kill them with this. This spell is probably meant to support mages in their AoE glory, and add life to parties.
Debuffs and fear
Besides CoA, you will get two other curses: Curse of Weakness (CoW) at level 12 and Curse of Recklessness (CoR) at level 14. CoW is probably more useful in long, multi-mob fights to reduce the load on healers. Its effect is not significant in short battles.
The control element of CoR is often more useful than its armor reduction effect. Because of this, most warlocks often only use rank 1 of this spell. CoR can be used to prevent mobs from running away near death.
When CoR is used in tandem with another curse, a Feared mob can be made to run around within a controlled area. CoR overrides Fear, so the mob will try to re-acquire its target. If the mob gets too close, apply a different curse, say CoW, and the mob will start running around randomly again, if Fear is still in effect. This technique works best with melee mobs.
Stones and summons
You get to create your first lime-colored healthstone at level 10. Always offer healthstones to party members; the stones can be consumed in quick succession with healing potions due to different cooldowns. With healing potions unavailable in the Arenas, the healthstone is an important source of instant healing!
At level 18, you get the soulstone. You can apply it to yourself to save yourself a corpse run in the unlikely event that you die while soloing. In a group, the soulstone is most useful for recovering from wipes when applied to a rezzing class like Priest, Paladin and Shaman. The beauty of the soulstone is that it can also function as a battle rez.
Ritual of Summoning, learnt at level 20, gives you the power to manipulate space and time! Well, maybe not. Summoning is a group time saver, allowing you and two others to summon other party members to your location, at the cost of a soul shard per toon. Much of the pre-run summoning has been thankfully taken over by the summoning stones outside instances, but there are still many situations where a party or raid will be thankful that they brought a Warlock along. Don't disappoint them, always bring soul shards!
Attributes and talents
For leveling, you want to focus on these attributes, in decreasing order of importance: Stamina, Spell Damage, Intellect. Stamina will add to your drain-tanking effectiveness and sustain your mana through Life Tap.
It is widely agreed that Affliction is the best tree for a leveling Warlock. Starting from level 10, your talents should look something like this by level 20. This build is meant to minimize downtime, making you more effective at restoring both health and mana, without relying on food or drinks. Less downtime means faster leveling!
For fast kills, your cast order at level 20 should be: pet attack (usually Succubus), Immolate, Corruption, Shadowbolt till dead.
If you want to go at a slower but more constant and efficient pace with your blueberry tank: CoA, pet attack, Corruption, Immolate, Shadowbolt or Drain Life or Wand. Finish off with Drain Soul to yield a soul shard and some mana.
The idea here is to let your voidwalker take all the damage from the mob(s), so watch out for aggro, especially with Immolate and Shadowbolt. You can also pull with your pet, instead of CoA, for better pet tanking (thanks myalternateaccount for highlighting this).
After combat, Life Tap as you run to position yourself for the next pull. You'll want to wrap up each fight with little to no net loss in your health and mana. If you focus on draining, you can potentially end combat with more health and mana than what you started out with!
Tailoring and Enchanting are ideal for a Warlock at endgame. Leveling tailoring will be slow in these low levels as you will use most of your cloth for First Aid; bandages are an excellent way of replenishing your health after Life Tap.
If you have a high-level main supporting this toon with mats and gold, go ahead and work Tailoring and Enchanting up. If you do not have that option, consider the gathering professions: Mining, Herbalism and Skinning.
That wraps up my guide for freshly minted warlocks. Do you have more leveling tips to share?