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Blood Pact: Why people hate warlocks


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. He's recently started to plumb the depths of SSC with his 0/21/40 build and bragging about 8k shadow bolts.

This progressive patch is a roller coaster ride; is Blizzard toying with our emotions? I can imagine the folks at Irvine playing WoW as a grand social experiment: "Let's put in this class-changing nerf and see how they respond, muahahahaha!" The Warlock community certainly responded, and the mood is somewhat settled, now that the Life Tap change has been rolled back and Kalgan has confirmed that "No other Warlock nerfs are planned for 2.4."

I do not see this as a "victory" for warlocks, as the change was uncalled for to start off with. A PvP-driven change to a class-defining mechanic that affects PvE more than PvP simply defies logic - although some insisted that it was a storm in a teacup. Without arguing (again) how BIG this Life Tap change was really going to be, this episode brought one aspect of the WoW community into clear relief for me.

We are very passionate about the classes we play, and react strongly to all changes - good AND bad. While many non-warlock players saw the implications of the Life Tap change, others simply gloated and cheered that their most hated PvP opponents were nerfed. Understandably, players engage in different aspects of the game, and even PvE players have varying degrees of experience playing with warlocks. However, there's been a plethora of rational discussion, from warlocks and non-warlocks alike, on why the LT nerf was uncalled for. There shouldn't really any grounds for hating (the class, hopefully not the players) out of sheer ignorance.

So why does the class trigger such a negative emotional response with some players?

PvP dominance?

The problem here might not be warlocks winning in PvP, but how they win. Fear is one of the most hated mechanics in game, because players simply do not like control taken away from them. Fear removes control, AND can possibly place the victim in a bad place: out of healing range and LoS, for example. Mind Control has the same effect, and would probably be the most hated mechanic if it wasn't channeled.

Without a cooldown, fear can be constantly re-applied and this becomes a deadly combination with DoTs. The victim - other than breaking out of fear or relying on his or her teammates - has no means of retaliation. This seemingly absolute control from a Warlock is a significant source of frustration for classes that have no reliable way of breaking fear.

To quote Yoda, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate ..." It's amazing how accurate the little green guy is, considering that it was 1999 when he first uttered this line on the silver screen, five years before WoW and warlocks.

If Arena representation has any bearing on the perceived "OP-ness" of warlocks, that perception should be well into decline.

Back in November last year, the class representation looked like this:



My most recent chart:



While warlocks are still strongly represented in the Arenas, our numbers have settled to a "competitive" level relative to the other classes. For the long-term success of WoW - specifically the Arena PvP aspect - I believe that no single class or combination of classes should dominate.

I took the liberty to graphically represent Kalgan's numbers for the top teams:



In Kalgan's numbers, a value of 100% means that the class is represented as Blizzard expects. While the metrics are different, my recent chart shows the same general distribution as Kalgan's, except for Warrior representation which seems to be less significant than what anecdotal evidence would suggest. Daniel noted this lower-than-expected numbers for warriors as well.

Blizzard is obviously looking at Arena representation as closely as we are. If their aim is to tweak the classes based on Arena performance, Blizzard should really respond with quicker changes to classes that are grossly under-represented in the 3v3 bracket: paladins, hunters and shamans. If perfect balance is impossible, perhaps a constantly shifting balance is not too much to ask.

Easy-mode?


The concept of an "easy" class is hard to nail down. For the longest time, hunters were deemed the "easy-mode" class - it appears that warlocks are included in the same breath now. Notice anything similar about these two classes? Pets! (here's a cookie)

The popular myth that players can let their pets do all the work is a difficult one to debunk, unless you have played these pet classes in various aspects of the game. I consider leveling as just one aspect of WoW, and as far as this aspect is concerned, I will not deny that hunters and warlocks DO have an easier time soloing.

It is really a different story when you delve deeper into PvP or raids, and I cringe when people state the number of 70s they have as if it's "proof" of their knowledge or skill. How many "bad" hunters or warlocks, who don't know the full range of their abilities, have you encountered at level 70?

From a business perspective, Blizzard has shrewdly made the 1-70 game accessible to everyone. Even instances, where players can learn their roles in a group, are entirely optional. That said, forming strong opinions on classes based on just the leveling aspect of the game is hasty, to say the least.

Warlocks don't provide goodies?


In terms of utility, warlocks don't have many obvious ones to offer. It's true that we provide healthstones, soulstones and the occasional summon, but these are really "good-to-haves" that aren't really important to a group's survival and success. (Yes, there will be "healthstone saved my life!" moments, but warlocks are generally not seen as benevolent, heals or otherwise.)

Ask a mana-using class what's most important in terms of utility, the answer will generally be food and drinks from the Mage. Ask a tank what's most important and he or she will probably mention the Fortitude buff, HoTs and DPSers who don't pull aggro. In other words, other than raw DPS, the utility and buffs that warlocks bring to a group is dispensable, unless it's a specific Warlock ability that is required in an encounter, like Banish.

In this respect, rogues are similar to warlocks. It is no surprise that we're perceived as "selfish" or "evil" classes that are generally tolerated, instead of welcomed - especially if you don't know the player behind the toon. Could this have contributed to the Warlock hate? Human perception is a funny thing, and Blizzard has certainly done well to typecast warlocks as dangerous allies.

Warlocks are evil?

We may launch into bouts of maniacal laughter, but I'd like to say for the record here that "We're not evil, we're just designed that way." Looking through the unsavory names of our talents and abilities, one can't help but feel that warlocks are really bad: Curses! Agony! Corruption! Devastation! Ruin!

Contrast this with the Priest, generally regarded to be a "good" class: Inspiration, Blessed Recovery, Renew. Even their offensive abilities sound less, um, offensive - Shadow Word: Pain (just pain, not agony!), Mind Blast, Darkness.

Has Blizzard done so well in terms of flavor to influence the emotional responses of players towards certain classes? Or is it just the Warlock's abilities and mechanics that annoy players? I'd be curious to see if the new death and decay class - Death Knight - will be as despised as the warlocks.

Filed under: Warlock, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Classes, (Warlock) Blood Pact, Arena

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