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Cataclysm Beta: Warlock evilness (goodness) in build 12984

If you follow the WoW Insider team on Twitter (and you should, if you haven't already), you were treated to some sweet hilarity early this morning when information of an upcoming beta build woke us up with a swift fist to the face. And let me tell you -- it has left an impression. Of all the builds that have come and gone, this one screams the loudest, telling the tale of just how close Cataclysm is to breaking the horizon. Instead of another huge list of major overhauls, this patch brings a good amount of substance to smaller but still important elements of the game. We're seeing new achievements, feats of strength, non-combat pets and spell refinements. And for the warlock class, there are changes that look dead sexy and are definitely worth a stare or two.

But before we dive into this fresh cesspool of puppy love, do keep in mind that there are spoilers ahead. If you lay awake at night anxious that the day ahead may shatter your dreams of a virgin expansion experience, you may want to skip this post. However, if you are craving Cataclysm goodness or just can't control the temptation any longer, come on in -- the water is warm and there is plenty of Unending Breath to go around.


Let's have a quickie with the changes, shall we?

Affliction
  • Life Tap now costs 15% of your total health, down from 20%, and converts 120% of that into mana, up from 75%.
  • Soul Harvest now regenerates 15% of your health every 3 seconds for 9 seconds, up from 5%.
  • Create Healthstone now restores health equal to 45% of the creator's base health, down from 60%.
  • Death's Embrace now heals you for an additional 1% of your health while at or below 25% health, instead of increasing the amount drained by 10/20/30%.
  • Siphon Life now has a chance to heal you for 2% of your total health, up from 1%.
Life Tap I cannot be happier that the developers are buffing the severely crippled version of Life Tap that is plaguing the current beta build. Our mana pools are massive compared to their size in Wrath of the Lich King, but so is the mana cost of each individual spell. I constantly burn through all 68,000 of my mana within a few DPS cycles and tapping my health far more often than I remember doing in previous expansions. As a result, Drain Life is seeing far more use, embedded somewhere in my DPS rotations and making them feel clunky and broken -- and worse yet, that may continue, since healers need to be careful with their mana and may not throw heals our way like we're used to. But even if Blizzard wants to see warlocks casting Life Tap and Drain Life more often, I am okay with that, so long as the system is workable. So, yes, I am thrilled that the developers see the need for some change, because the current equation simply isn't working. And regarding Life Tap, converting less health into a lot more mana is definitely a step in the right direction.

Soul Harvest The incoming change to Soul Harvest is a quality of life and survival thing, which may be the direct result of how often we are tapping in the beta. Having a quick 9 second refresh of 45% of our health is always nice while farming, questing, raiding, PvPing, etc. Undead warlocks will especially enjoy it when coupled with the new Cannibalize (which now restores health and mana) for an additional 35% health regeneration. Thinking about it, 80% active health regeneration sounds almost too incredible, especially in a PvP environment. But considering that both abilities are on cooldown and channeled, I'm thinking that if the warlock can escape combat and cast those abilities uninhibited, he deserves whatever health he can get and the opposing players deserve the punishment, too.

Create Healthstone Healthstones returning 15 percent less base health is a nerf, yes, but not one to cry too much about unless you are a PvPer (and even then, considering the relative amount of health loss this change equates to, it would be a stretch). I am actually trying to figure out exactly what the motivation for this minor change is and why it was deemed necessary. My only guess is that the tweak brings it more inline with percentages of Healthstone heals in Wrath of the Lich King, but of course, I can't be sure. If anyone else has a thought, you know where the comments section is. Do tell.

Death's Embrace and Siphon Life An interesting change to Death's Embrace will see it working just a bit differently than it does now. At level 85, Drain Life regenerates health equal to 5 percent of the warlock's maximum health. At 86,000 health points (the stamina of a premade level 85 warlock with full points in Demonic Embrace and Blood Pact), each tick would restore 4,300 (86,000 x 0.05) health to the caster. Under the old, fully talented Death's Embrace, that number would jump to 5,590 (4,300 x 1.3) when the warlock is at or below 25 percent health. The new version of the spell drops that last number to 5,160 (86,000 x 0.06), which isn't a huge change, but a nerf to the ability nonetheless and one that scales less effectively with increasing stamina. Like the Healthstone nerf, I'm not quite sure why the change was made -- perhaps it is offset by the slight buff to Siphon Life. Once the changes are active in the beta, I'll be checking the numbers and have more on this later.

Demonology
  • Mana Feed now causes you to instantly gain 2/4% total mana, up from 1%. Your summoned demon now gains 30/60% of the mana you gain from Drain Mana and Life Tap, down from 60/120%.
Mana Feed In beta blues and greens, a premade level 85 warlock has roughly 64,000 mana, meaning that for every critical strike produced by a minion's basic attack, his master will gain 2,560 (64,000 x 0.04) mana -- a decent chunk of caster goodness. One thing to keep in mind, however, is the relatively low frequency of critical strikes that we'll be seeing in the expansion. So, as nice as this tweak is, it may not proc all that often. The unbuffed critical strike percentage of that premade warlock is depressingly low at just over 10 percent. Thankfully, with time and improved gear, that number should increase nicely and so will the resulting performance of this talent. Also, being in the second tier of the demonology tree, this talent is available to all specializations if mana needs continue to be an issue.

Also noteworthy about the Mana Feed change is the demon component of the talent and its reduced percentages. Considering the buff to Life Tap, the numbers actually balance out nicely. In fact, had the percentages been left alone, I think they would have treaded an incredibly awkward imbalance that wouldn't make much sense. Just think -- a warlock with 86,000 health would have generated 15,480 ((86,000 x 0.15) x 1.20) mana via a single Life Tap, and 18,576 (15,480 x 1.2) mana for his minion. Sexy, but not quite the balance warlocks are looking for (our minions shouldn't be rewarded more than we are, etc).

Destruction
  • Soul Fire now has a 4-second cast time, down from 6 seconds.
  • Conflagrate now deals damage equal to 100% of your Immolate's periodic damage on the target, and its range has been increased to 40 yards, up from 30 yards.
  • Empowered Imp no longer increases the damage done by your imp by 10/20%.
  • Nether Protection now lasts 12 seconds, up from 8 seconds.
  • Soul Leech now instantly restores 5/10% of your health and mana, up from 1/2%. Replenishment effect now grants 1% of mana every 10 seconds, up from 5 seconds.
Soul Fire Soul Fire is getting some much-needed love in Cataclysm but has been on quite the ride from build to build. First the cast time was reduced, then it was increased, and now it has been reduced again. With the Emberstorm talent, Soul Fire will have a 3-second cast time and see much greater use. The spell has been boiled into the destruction tree's damage rotation via the Empowered Imp talent; it will see a good amount of use with the Soulburn mechanic; and it is still the succulent meat of the demonology rotation's execute phase, thanks to Decimation, which when paired with Emberstorm, drops Soul Fire's cast time to 2.4 seconds. Delicious -- and even more so when you factor in haste. But with a little bit of give also comes a little bit of take, or in this case, a good amount of each. Currently in the beta, Soul Fire's spell power coefficient is about 71.41 percent, down from a 115 percent cap and reducing its overall damage a great deal. However, with a much faster cast time, its average damage per cast time (aDPCT) is actually increased a sliver -- so the gives and the takes end up balancing out in the end.

Conflagrate In yet another reversal of a spell's fortune, Conflagrate is reverting back to its original form. Instead of being split into direct damage and DoT components, the spell will explode the target for all of Immolate's periodic damage at once. This is how Conflagrate was originally designed to operate, and it was only changed when its instant direct damage was deemed overpowered in PvP. But now that stamina has gone through the roof and been normalized across every class, the burst of Conflagrate will be less of a reason for PvPers to whine and cry (but that probably won't stop them, anyway).

Empowered Imp In what is probably an adjustment for the huge amount of damage that the Burning Embers effect produces, the imp's damage is no longer buffed by the Empowered Imp talent. I have to admit, I'm scratching my head about this change. I think the adjustment is a legitimate one if it really is in response to the very powerful Burning Embers DoT. However, because of the dramatically reduced proc rate of the instant Soul Fire effect in Cataclysm (now a flat 4% instead of based on the player's critical strike percentage), the grandeur of this talent is nerfed a great deal as is. So while a damage adjustment was probably necessary, completely removing the imp's damage buff may be overkill. I hope I'm wrong.

Nether Protection The change to Nether Protection is nice from the perspective that it results in an extra few seconds of protection from specific schools of magic, but thinking of it in terms of global cooldowns makes it even better. Adding 4 seconds means that two to three GCDs are impacted by the damage reduction effect, making things just that much more difficult for a magic-based PvP opponent. Of course, the ability itself has its weaknesses (it's magic-based), but a buff is a buff, and I'll take it with little complaint.

Soul Leech
And finally, just as some previous changes looked to deal with the mana problems that warlocks are facing in the beta, the buff to Soul Leech aims to do the same. At this point, any ability or effect that increases mana pools or regeneration or reduces the mana cost of spells would be welcomed, so long as they do not redefine the warlock as a class (in terms of itemization, mechanics, etc). The mana problems are just that severe. But with Chaos Bolt's being cast every 12 seconds (ideally) and therefore restoring 10 percent of total health and mana (on the order of 8,000 health and 6,000-7,000 mana with premade level 85 warlocks) every 12 seconds; Soul Fire's being cast periodically (and constantly as a demonology warlock in the execute phase); and Shadowburn taking down dying enemies in both PvP and PvE, this tweak to Soul Leech will help a great deal. Combined with the tweak to Life Tap, it definitely is a step towards the endgame answer to our mana problems in the beta.

Overall, the changes are all about bringing more fluid play to every tree. As we get closer and closer to go time, I'll run you through the constantly changing numbers as we aim to hammer down rotations for each specialization. For now, though, bask in the buffs that we've been given, and to improving mana efficiency. They are a rare and beautiful thing, indeed.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it; nothing will be the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from brand new races to revamped quests and zones. Visit our Cataclysm news category for the most recent posts having to do with the Cataclysm expansion.

Filed under: Warlock, Analysis / Opinion, News items, (Warlock) Blood Pact, Cataclysm

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