Many moons back, I looked at some wishes that warlocks had to improve our lot (but didn't break the game). We're now here in this pre-expansion funk, where players are generally more interested in things to come than things that are. So let us see if any of our wishes will be granted with the Wrath beta changes.
Michael did an excellent analysis of the first beta patch notes for warlocks, and he'll be following that up with a look at the new talent trees and spells. At this stage of development, it's still too early to characterize the changes as an overall class buff or nerf, but one thing's for certain: Blizzard is shaking up our game.
The changes will break some cookie-cutter specs, namely those that relied on Demonic Sacrifice and Soul Link. Shaking up the so-called "best" builds that players have become dependent on, is always a good thing to keep things fresh and interesting.
No go for a trainable instant Corruption - warlocks will still need to invest five points in Improved Corruption to get this staple DoT to cast instantly. With Everlasting Affliction, however, deep affliction locks should get to enjoy never having to recast Corruption in a long fight. This is perhaps as close as we'll get to getting this wish granted.
Pet durability issues are addressed by Fel Synergy and Demonic Empowerment. Fel Synergy, in its current form, is obviously an attempt to scale our pets based on our Armor, Intellect and Stamina. The jury is still out on this, but with the instant "reset" effect of Demonic Empowerment, the succubus may have her day yet in both PvE and PvP.
The Demonology tree seems currently more skewed towards PvP and Arenas as a whole, with top-end talents like Demonic Empathy, Love Struck and Metamorphosis. Soul Link has been toned down, but as Michael has pointed out in his article, its new position at the third tier may open up more interesting PvP builds.
The huge change to Demonic Sacrifice, from a 30-minute to a 20-second buff, will mean that the days of the 0/21/40 "shadow mage" build are numbered. This also means that more warlocks will be running with pets and using them situationally, rather than just sacrificing them for no-brainer buffs.
It's also interesting to note that Hunter pets are getting more customizability through talent trees. The pet "minigame" (feeding, training and keeping pets happy) for hunters has always differentiated them from warlocks, but the addition of talents for pets truly marks the divergence of these two pet classes. In game mechanic terms, the pet minigame has become more interesting and potentially more rewarding for hunters, while warlock pets are merely flavorful extensions of their masters' abilities.
Nothing seems to be planned for the Infernal or Doomguard, although deep demonology locks get to become a super pet for 45 seconds every five minutes.
Epic flying mount and Green Fire!
Green Fire, on the other hand, could be easily implemented as an Inscription. As far as we know now, inscriptions change the "default" behavior of our spells. What is more easy to change than the color of our fire spells? I'll gladly sacrifice some crit chance to get a green version of Searing Pain!
In Wrath, our pets will magically gain new abilities when we level, without the need to do the great grimoire shuffle with the demon trainers.
Demon-training is currently a shard-consuming exercise to figure out what each of our four or five pets already knows, so that we don't end up buying useless grimoires. It's such a hassle that entire addons have been developed to address this very specific portion of the Warlock game.
Dropping demon-training is a clear example of Blizzard streamlining the game. Unfortunately, the soul shard system is getting little or no such love at the moment. Other classes have their own resource management woes, but the key complaint from warlocks is the difficulty of replenishing this resource in trash-less encounters like Archimonde.
The new Soul Siphon will now buff Drain Soul damage, in addition to Drain Life. Some of my fellow writers believe that this is Blizzard's way of making it easier for warlocks to generate soul shards without sacrificing too much DPS. However, we need to consider the fact that Drain Soul is only used when a target is near death, and it only ticks every third second, like Corruption. Assuming that the base spells don't change, let's compare the eventual highest ranks of Drain Soul and Corruption:
Drain Soul (Rank 6): 600 mana, 142 damage every 3 seconds (or about 0.079 DPS per mana)
Corruption (Rank 10): 650 mana, 180 damage every 3 seconds (or about 0.092 DPS per mana)
As you can see, Drain Soul is inefficient as far as its DoT effect goes, exacerbated by the fact that it rarely runs its full course of 15 seconds. Warlocks currently use Drain Soul for its single, most important purpose: reaping soul shards, not for DPS.
To allow for even a single tick of Drain Soul damage to land, the Warlock needs to channel the spell at least three seconds before the mob dies. In those three seconds, it is far more effective - DPS-wise - to squeeze in another Incinerate or even a Shadow Bolt.
Buffing the damage of an essentially utility spell, in my opinion, is pointless and will not change the way soul shards are harvested currently. A more effective change will be to give Drain Soul a per-second tick, like Drain Life.
Firestone and Demon Armor
Firestone is still, well, useless. The new Demon Armor will hopefully see a lease of life again, after the 20% healing transplant from Fel Armor. Fel Armor will also scale with Spirit now. Yes, warlocks will need Spirit in Wrath, in case you missed one of my previous articles.
We will see Demon Armor used a lot more in PvP, especially if your team has a healer, while Fel Armor will be more PvE-centric. Of course, the shrewd Warlock can probably juggle these two buffs depending on the tide of battle: "Raise shields! No, wait ... maximum firepower, NOW!". More choice is always good, and adds to the fun.
There's still time and more changes are surely coming. Like you, I'll be watching how our class develops with ... diabolic glee.
V'Ming is knocking on BT's door with 24 of his closest friends.