Dead DPS does zero DPS. We all know that saying. I introduce to you my Princess Bride collorary to the Dead DPS rule:
The perfect description of what happens when a mob dies in an RPG aside, Miracle Max is right: mostly dead is slightly alive, and slightly alive means you can still do more damage. Naturally -- since we are magnificent, resilient bastards instead of glass cannons -- warlocks are quite excellent at staying slightly alive.
Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do.
Inigo Montoya: What's that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.
The art of avoidance
The classic way of avoiding taking damage is to not be the one who attracts the most attention from the boss. But threat has been trivialized with the Vengeance changes to tanks. If you're pulling threat nowadays, one of three things has happened:
- You've hit the wrong thing, Einstein.
- You hit the right thing but before the tank did (or the tank was parried or flat-out missed).
- The tank has died and all your paranoid dreams are about to come true.
Kiting is also a classic avoidance technique: the basic gist is that you run away from the mob until either it dies or an aggro leash kicks in. The more advanced gist is that you manipulate where exactly the mob runs by knowing how mobs are programmed to path to you. Warlocks can kite in circles quite well with the use of Demonic Circle and Demonic Gateway.
The last resort is to peel a mob off yourself through crowd control. Demonology warlocks specifically can knock back enemies with Carrion Swarm. Fear and Banish are the baseline CCs available to all warlocks, as are the three choices in talent tier 2. In select cases, Enslave Demon can help. Howl of Terror is an AoE fear and Shadowfury is an AoE stun. Mortal Coil is both a single-target short Horror effect and a self-heal. In talent tier 4, Blood Fear will also send a target screaming away, but it replaces Fear as an ability, rather than adding to our arsenal.
Mitigation and absorbs
The floor is out to get you. Especially Heigan's floor, but usually if your health bar is going to go down, it's the floor's fault. But when it's not the floor's fault, when it's just unavoidable raid damage or the boss is purposefully pewpewing at you, you'll need to start using your damage reduction abilities and absorbs.
For baseline, warlocks got a new ability in Mists of Pandaria called Unending Resolve. It's a flat 40% damage reduction along with cast protection, which is really nice for pulsing or constant raid damage.
We've retained our old shadow damage ward, but it's now called Twilight Ward and it blocks holy damage as well. I may only see the holy damage part used in PvP, but for PvE I like to use Twilight Ward on Spirit Kings for Zian's attacks or Meng's Cowardice, or for a little mitigation help in Gara'jal's spirit realm.
With the Dark Apotheosis glyph for demonology warlocks, Twilight Ward transforms into Fury Ward, which will absorb an amount of all damage schools for 10 seconds. The ward is theoretically spammable since the cooldown is only as long as the duration, unless you absorb the whole ward in less than 10 seconds. But it does take a whopping 200 demonic fury per ward to maintain.
Dark Apotheosis itself is a boost to mitigation. Both magic damage and physical damage taken are reduced by 15-17% while in Dark Apotheosis form.
Talent tier 3 is the mitigation tier, boasting three options. Sacrificial Pact is the old voidwalker-only ability that would sacrifice your pet's health to provide you with a shield based on the sacrifice. Dark Bargain is the warlock's Cauterize, except we don't almost die and we take half the damage prevented over 8 seconds, not 6.
Soul Link has two modes of operation. One is the ultimate bond between master and minion as both damage taken and healing taken are shared between the two. The other is a special pairing with Grimoire of Sacrifice that I'll later mention.
The only absorption that happens in a glyph is with Glyph of Life Tap. The MoP-era glyph delays the health penalty on Life Tap; instead of losing health, we simply absorb healing given. The glyph's absorb effect will stack if it is not overhealed before the debuff wears off.
I recall loving Chimaeron as a fight for as an affliction warlock. I almost told my healers I was just fine, I didn't need heals while Finkle's buff was up. But, alas, we've been nerfed very much in the self-heals department since early Cataclysm. In Mists of Pandaria, some of our old passive self-heals are still around, but they're not guaranteed bonuses anymore with the new talents and glyphs.
That's not to say we can't still be great in the self-heals department; it just requires a little more activation, is all. We still have so very many options with which to heal ourselves.
Warlocks are the beefier class of the clothies due to Fel Armor, our old armor buffs combined and turned passive. We can also extend our maximum health by combining Grimoire of Sacrifice with two things: a voidwalker, which grants Shadow Bulwark to the warlock, and Soul Link, which will increase the warlock's maximum health by 20% so long as the Grimoire buff is active.
There are a couple of passive always-on health regeneration effects for the warlock. Firstly, Soul Harvest has dissolved into a passive effect that regenerates health out of combat (and outside arenas). Secondly, a warlock can choose to talent into Grimoire of Sacrifice, which will also regenerate health as part of its buff.
We have a handful of direct bulky heals. The baseline healthstone will heal 20% of maximum health instantly. If maximum health is increased, the heal is increased to match. Ember Tap is the destruction warlock's second healthstone, and it costs a full Burning Ember rather than a 2-minute cooldown. Mortal Coil will provide a 15% maximum health heal regardless of whether the target is horrified.
But the warlock isn't known for being immortal. The warlock is known for taking forever to kill because our self heals happen as we deal damage. It's like karma coming back to us, almost. Oldies but goldies have stuck around through the years.
Drain Life has been the epitome of the self heal for warlocks. But it's been heavily nerfed in the past to discourage its use as a main filler spell, and its AoE version, Harvest Life, got nearly as nerfed in beta as well for the same reason in AoE form. Soulburning either will increase the healing done.
Siphon Life has gone from a spell to a passive talent and now to a glyph, but it still provides the same old benefit. A major DoT of each spec will heal the warlock for 20% of the damage done. Soul Leech is still a talent. It's a good companion to Siphon Life, as Siphon Life heals with the major DoT while Soul Leech heals with the major fillers.
Soul Consumption is the old Glyph of Drain Soul, which heals us after using a specific execute ability on a dying mob of experience of honor. For affliction, drain a soul; for demonology, be in a demonic form at pronouncement of death; for destruction, land a Chaos Bolt or Shadowburn as the killing blow.
There's only two new healing over time abilities for warlocks in MoP. Dark Regeneration is a tier 1 talent that will generate 30% of maximum health over 12 seconds while also increasing the effect of heals on you. The Glyph of Healthstone has also changed a little. While it still allows the warlock double the healthstone effect, instead the healthstone becomes a HoT over 10 seconds rather than a direct 40% heal. With a little practice, the warlock can get used to proactively popping a healthstone or Dark Regeneration to trigger these powerful HoT effects.
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.