Greetings, my fellow masters of minions! Warlocks continue the trend of small talent calculator changes followed by intriguing snatches of development clarified by community managers. Set your pets to passive for now as I go over what's changed. In the coming weeks, we can delve into more specific topics and theories.
Spells get streamlined for leveling
A level 1 ability called Demonic Tactics allows the Imp, Voidwalker, and Succubus to act more intelligently. I'm tempted to say it's a name for the guardian-like actions of the newly rolled warlock's pet, only to be replaced later by the pet bar with Control Demon. But traditionally, the pet bar comes at level 10 along with group features like Battlegrounds, while the Succubus isn't introduced until level 20. If, instead, Demonic Tactics is meant as a better artificial intelligence for pets overall, why isn't the other baseline pet, the Felhunter, included?
I'll wait for clarification. After Malefic Grasp was first revealed in the November Class Q&A to be not demonology as we all expected but affliction, I've learned to not assume anything anymore.
Another spell that was added to the very early levels is Malady, which is a Shadow DoT obtained at level 3. Malady doesn't stay for long, however; at level 12, it transforms into either Corruption or Immolate, a blue post confirms, depending on your chosen spec. Sadly, Demonic Portal got renamed to Demonic Gateway. I expect the Portal jokes and references to continue, regardless.
The same post confirms that Wild Imps and Demon Soul are not completely gone; fear not, they are just not coded into the calculator. Demon Soul is being changed into Dark Soul, which buffs a particular stat depending on the warlock's spec. Affliction gains a haste buff, demonology receives a mastery buff, and destruction gets a critical strike chance buff.
Talents shift around
The original ideas of the talents are still hanging about, but the wordings and some positions have shifted. If the level 30 talent tier is the offensive PvP spells tier, the level 60 talent tier is very well shaping up to be the defensive PvP spells tier.
At first, Grimoire of Sacrifice continued to puzzle me by having a cooldown (2 minutes) that is shorter than its duration (now 15 minutes). Thankfully, a blue post clarified this: "Grimoire of Sacrifice grants a 30% boost for 15 seconds, which drops to 15% for the remaining duration." The drawback to using this ability as a 2-minute DPS cooldown will be how much DPS a 'lock will lose to resummoning a pet to immediately sacrifice again.
Archimonde's Vengeance had a numbers adjustment for its ability and gained a passive that is nonexistent if the ability is on cooldown, which was clarified as a 1-minute cooldown in the same blue post as Grimoire. Meanwhile, Mannoroth's Fury lost its active-plus-passive dynamic and is now just a flat passive increase to the size of AoE spells, excluding Harvest Life, Howl of Terror, and Shadowfury. At first I was disappointed, for I thought splash damage would really help destro's AoE problems. But then I backed off my fury at the change when I saw the changes to Rain of Fire via the baked-in Aftermath and the remixed Fire and Brimstone.
Speaking of fire spells, destruction blossomed in multiple blue post clarifications this time around the updates. The main popularity problem with destro right now is that it is very clunky to pick up, most especially at the lower gear levels where lower levels of haste don't allow the smoother priority rotation flow that the spec has once a 'lock has full Dragon Soul gear.
The new secondary resources for each warlock spec will give each spec its own flavor. Finally the destruction warlock can break free of the fire mage parallel, becoming a madwoman on the brink of immolating herself to death in exchange for phenomenal cosmic power.
While the devs decide which adjective they want to use for the secondary resource for destruction -- we've had Unstable, Infernal, and Burning so far -- we do know that the embers are generated in tenths, a full ember will start to burn away the warlock's health, and the spell that spends an ember gets a damage boost. To counter this health drain, destro 'locks will gain an ability called Ember Tap that spends a full ember for an almost 20% heal. Soul Fire also got upgraded so that it always crits, spends an ember, and its damage is increased by critical strike chance. After you let that sink in, think about destro's Dark Soul: Instability, which is 30% increased crit for 20 seconds.
Malady becomes Immolate like expected, but destruction got another odd addition to its spellbook, Auto Wand, which sounds very much like auto-attack. This adds to the feeling that destro is becoming a blue-bar caster-rogue in playstyle. Not everyone is keen to get on board this train, but I'll explore the pros and cons in a later column.
Demonology suits up in plate
Malady becomes Corruption at level 12, which is super weird. I thought Malady would turn into Shadowflame, since Shadowflame is not only now restricted to demo, but it's a melee-range DoT! Demonology is clearly all about flying the melee-range caster flag in Mists. In Metamorphosis, Hellfire becomes Immolation Aura, Shadow Bolt becomes the new Demonic Slash, and curses are transformed into auras emanating from the warlock à la Jinx Rank 1. So ... why pick Corruption?
Finally, if there will ever be a time when a warlock can queue as a tank, it'll be with the demonology spec. Warlocks throughout Azeroth were excited to see Metamorphosis's armor increase and crit immunity return in the new Metamorphosis: Nether Plating passive. With the removal of Metamorphosis's cooldown, exploration of the active mitigation concept that is happening with tanks may help out our understanding of how the Mists demo 'lock will play out.
Affliction remains steady, as always
I started my affliction warlock when our DoTs also included Immolate and Siphon Life, and I loved that "many DoTs -- handle them" style of affliction. I got excited at the prospect of a new DoT to keep track of, but alas, Malady becomes Corruption at level 12 for aff 'locks. It's OK -- I always thought of maladies being Disease spells anyway.
Nothing else changed for affliction, which is further disappointment. Demonology and destruction have the pleasure of integrating well with their secondary resources, demonic fury and embers, respectively. Affliction doesn't feel a strong connection with its secondary resource, soul shards, since most of the uses are at best utilities we'll only use once every five minutes. I'll explore a little later about why the current soul shard system doesn't work well with affliction and what can be done to fix it.
Lots of potential abounds
That's a little bit under 1,500 words of what's new on the 'lock block. While not much on the surface changed, the implications of each change introduces another effect on the malleable future of warlocks in Mists of Pandaria. It'll be an exciting ride, and I hope you'll join me in the coming weeks for deeper exploration on specific points.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through tier 13 set bonuses.