When we all first heard of the demonology attributes like Glyph of Demon Hunting and Metamorphosis: Nether Plating, we all thought the same evil thought: Warlock tanks are finally happening. We got all excited -- and then the CMs broke our cold, black hearts with news that demonology warlocks aren't meant to really tank. Those attributes, like Demonic Leap, were just for fun.
The warlock tank isn't supposed to be an option, but I still wanted to try it out. When stars aligned for beta bugs, computer problems, and healer availability, I stepped into Stormstout Brewery with only Matt Low to help me test things out.
Expectations of squishiness
I don't know exactly what I was expecting for Dark Apotheosis, the demonology warlock "tanking" form, to really do. I knew I had a taunt. I knew I had an absorb ability. I knew I had passives to increase my armor and reduce damage taken. But what did all that mean?
The truly evil part of me that cackles when I drop trains on Ultraxion didn't care about logistics, as long as it worked. But I was skeptical of how many hits my Fury Ward would take and then how many hits I myself could take before I was just another blood smear on the Brewery floor. I didn't even have the dodging given to bears, so I imagined my damage taken would be even spikier. How long before Matt would cry OOM from spam healing me?
I imagined the most that would happen is that I'd switch roles with my demonic minion. I'd be the one taking the hits like a voidwalker, and my demon would be standing around pew-pewing as normal.
It didn't quite work like that.
Anger Management: Problems getting furious
If you look closely at the demonic fury bar when you've totally drained it, there's a notch at 20%. Demonologists get a bit of a head start now on their fury bars, which reset to 20% or 200 fury when Soul Harvest kicks in out of combat. That 200 fury is enough to do one thing, for all the fury-costing abilities range from 160 fury to 200. The only thing you can't do right off a cold pull is Immolation Aura, which costs 250 fury.
As far as fury generation goes, you have a few options.
Hand of Gul'dan generates 2 fury per tick of Shadowflame (12 fury for one Hand's worth). Corruption generates 6 fury per tick, which ends up with about 36 fury per Corruption, before you start to add more ticks via haste. Demonic Slash generates 60 fury per hit, but the three maximum charges you get aren't enough to spam it all day long.
Demonic Synergy gives you fury via the attacks of all your demons, including the Wild Imps you get off Doom and Demonic Slash. Wild Imps generate 5 fury per fel firebolt, and they cast 10 of those, resulting in 50 fury per imp. The main pet generates a little more fury, and the amount depends on how often the pet uses their basic attack. Larger costs of fel energy (the pet's new mana bar) give you more demonic fury per ability. The imps give 8 fury per firebolt; the blueberries give 10 fury per Torment; and the rest give 12 fury per basic attack. Guardians like the doomguard weren't giving me fury, but Service pets were.
The problem? You spend fury in giant chunks of about 20%, but your fury merely trickles in. Demonic Slash is the main fury generator, but it's just barely enough to keep up with Fury Ward (200 fury) on cooldown.
I tried to start pulls cold -- that is, starting from 200 fury. It was hard. I died several times to the two hozen in the very first pull of Stormstout Brewery, despite slightly outleveling the instance at 87. I didn't kill either of them without priestly heals at my back, but I found a little progress by using an old method to help me out.
The old and current way of warlock "tanking" is to pet tank. Typically, the pet of choice is the beefy but loyal voidwalker or the Supremacy version's voidlord. In Wrath of the Lich King, our blueberry minion saw some serious nerfs to his ability to maintain threat after clever raiders used him to tank various Sartharion modes in The Obsidian Sanctum.
In Cataclysm, the voidwalker's lack of threat-holding is such that I don't even use the voidwalker for leveling anymore, because my other DPS-oriented minions out-threat me better. My voidwalker Ormmon only makes an appearance if I'm specifically using him as bait with Demon Soul, such as againt Problim in Tol Barad.
The good news is that in Mists of Pandaria the voidwalker is back to holding good threat against his master, especially as the Supremacied voidlord. He's also smarter now; the auto-cast abilities trigger at certain points rather than on cooldown.
Suffering (the taunt) is used whenever anything is attacking the player, and it switches targets automatically without micromanaging! He gains the ability to Disarm things. The voidwalker no longer has an out-of-combat self-heal but instead has a Last Stand-like ability. Shadow Shield (physical damage only) becomes Void Shield (all damage) as a voidlord, and auto-cast uses it when the voidwalker is being attacked. Lastly, the voidlord gets a special boost to threat generation.
Specifically, let's compare the mitigation abilities of my voidlord (Negaton) and myself in Dark Apotheosis form. We both have damage reduction via an ability or a passive and higher armor than usual. Negaton has 54k armor; I have 36k. My Fury Ward scales with spellpower, but the standing-still absorb is 27k damage of any type. Negaton doesn't have an absorb, but his health is 2:3 with mine, at least. Negaton gets a Last Stand; I can only pop a healthstone or take Dark Regeneration as a talent.
The real kicker: The mastery in my demo warlock's leveling gear at 87 reduces the damage I take by only 7.68%, maybe 10% if I get a nice mastery proc. Negaton's Void Shield ability reduces the damage he takes by 60/40/20%, and he can do it every 10 seconds.
Conclusion: Blueberry is best
The voidlord still beats the pants off you for tanking ability, even when you have the "tanking glyph." It doesn't help that you're doing inferior damage taking as well as the crappiest DPS ever. It appears your DPS doesn't get buffed as if you were in Metamorphosis form, despite having meta things like Nether Plating.
Negaton's damage taken appeared smoother for Matt's healing than mine. I found it easier to let the blueberry tank while I just regular caster and Metamorphed my way to victory. The times I did slip into tank form, I only did once I was above 500 fury or so, and yet I still had to rotate talent cooldowns and racials to keep up my health reasonably for Matt.
Will things be different at maximum level? Will it be possible to gain enough mastery then to smooth out the damage taken? Maybe, but I doubt it. Questing and possibly scenarios look great for Dark Apotheosis; however, I think the warlock tank in instances will stay confined to pet tanking and kiting.
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.