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Blood Pact: To summon or not to summon, that's the question

Blood Pact To summon or not to summon, that's the question
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology, and destruction warlocks. This week, Megan O'Neill scraps another attempt at Kanrethad to discuss being a pet class instead.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous pet bugs in encounter design like jumping down into Nefarian's pit in Blackwing Descent so your pet then did nothing but stand in the middle, or to take up Doomguards against a despawning abyssal phase 3 in Throne of the Four Winds -- and by opposing end them: to die, to sacrifice.

To sacrifice, perchance to DPS; Aye, there's the rub, for in that sleep of death, what meter-topping dreams of 5.0 may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil (no, not that one!), must give our developers pause.

My terrible warlock Shakespeare adaptation aside, we've had the ponderings about how tied to pets warlocks should or shouldn't be. As I continue to throw myself at Kanrethad's own demonic stampede, I've had some thoughts about the subject.

Lore-wise, yes

I asked lore lovers once what really is the difference between warlocks and shadow priests, and what usually comes up is demons versus no demons. After searching through WoW Insider's own Know Your Lore archives, I found a slightly old article for the types of magic. Warlocks mechanically use the same shadow school of spells as shadow priests, but lore-wise, our shadow is more the twisted corruption with fel magic and theirs is the polar opposite to the Light's holy magic.

A similar difference exists between destruction's fire magic and a mage's fire magic. A mage's fire magic is almost entirely energy-related -- 'blasts and 'balls, Combustion, Critical Mass, etc. Meanwhile, a warlock's fire draws up images of pain with immolation, general terror by chaos, and specific aims for annihilation of targets. Mages and shadow priests are about the means of the magic they use; warlocks are completely about the end results.

Our warlock role models in lore are either eredar or demons themselves -- Mannoroth, Kil'jaeden, Archimonde -- or they're orcs who drank the blood of demons, such as Teron Gorefiend or Gul'dan. That's mostly what the big deal about the Council of the Black Harvest was for warlocks -- for once, it's a band of warlocks in lore who have as much a bond with demons -- that is, just enough, rather than a strong one -- as we players do.

Of course, we rightly speculated that the three pairs that make up the Council of the Black Harvest mirrored the three specs. Ritssyn and Zinnin went back to the Firelands and Sulfuras, likely in the search for destruction's insights. Shinfel and Zelfrax went hunting for Twilight's Hammer cultists, who were allies of the corrupting Cho'gall during Cataclysm. Kanrethad and Jubeka went back to Outland and as we've found out through the questline, they studied all those supreme demons we warlocks can now summon.

But, Kanrethad is definitely looking to be a demonologist, the warlock spec that has a stronger bond with demons than the other two. Demonologists can summon wild imps with mere spell casting instead of a direct summoning spell from the normal warlock toolkit. Is it really about the physical presence of a demon by a warlock's side?

Blood Pact To summon or not to summon, that's the question
Permission slips

The opposite of the Light is the undead or the unholy shadow, so we get opposites like paladins and death knights or holy priests and shadow priests. I think the opposite of warlock is not mage, but shaman.

Tangentially, I think the "opposite" of mage would actually be warrior. Mages are about different flavors of the elements of magic: frost, fire, arcane. Warriors are about different flavors of melee elements: wielding a single weapon, mixing and matching weapon types through dual wielding, or the classic sword and board pairing.

Of course, this warlock-shaman axis feels right when we look at the first warlocks on Azeroth -- orcs who were former shaman. But further into it, mages grow their magical strength with knowledge of energies. Warlocks and shaman, on the other hand, draw our powers from the spiritual (nature magic) and soulful realms (shadow and fel instead of holy magic). We warlocks definitely have a hellbent (felbent?) attitude towards natural accumulation of soul-driven power, while shaman tend approach natural power with caution and reverence.

Shaman get permission first; warlocks don't see why we should even bother to apologize for what's ours anyway. Shaman trade off increasing power with time spent learning and observing; warlocks devour the essence of the subject at hand and pay the toll with our health.

Drink (demonic blood) responsibly

So where do pets and demons come into play with sacrifice? It's simply another way to get around the whole tradeoff of power. Why sacrifice your health for a power boost when you can kill another being and add their strengths to your own?

The problem with Grimoire of Sacrifice was mechanical, not philosophical. The problem was how much greater Sacrifice's DPS was doing over the Supremacy and Service options, not over the philosophical debates of being a pet class. Sacrifice was actually nerfed appropriately and brought in line with the other Grimoires instead of being nerfed entirely into the ground for daring to be a little overpowered, like Drain Life filler.

If it were a philosophical issue, demonologists would obvious play with demons by their sides, and by the patch 5.2 numbers, that's still the case. Demonology can go for either case of the strongest demons or hordes of demons. Kanrethad is a ridiculously powerful demonlogist as he manages to do both extremes.

I like how affliction's top demon choices tend to be felhunters or succubi; a succubus corrupts the soul with temptations of lust and jealousy, while felhunters will directly corrupt or devour the actual magic energy nearby. Sacrifice fits in with affliction as torturously killing someone is practically the ultimate corruption.

Finally, destruction has had a long standing with the imp, but I think the philosophy of the destruction spec is more about synergy with the master than usefulness or demonstration of strength. Remember back to the relationship between Improved Soul Fire and Empowered Imp. The master's attacks buffed him or her with Improved Soul Fire, which helped the master's power, which in turn helped the demon's power through the master-demon bond, and the demon's attacks provided extra and free spells for the master to continue the buff. But now that destruction plays off Burning Embers entirely instead of relying on a demon, I think it's quite OK for destruction warlocks to sometimes cause chaos companionless.

Blood Pact To summon or not to summon, that's the question
From a pure mechanics standpoint, pets have drawbacks but also strengths. In PvE, the tendency is problematic, ranging from too much maintenance (macroed to all spells: /cast [pet:imp] Firebolt) to actual programming problems where pets either bug out on their targets (dragons that don't like to completely land!) or despawn altogether (any platform or flying fight ever).

In Mists of Pandaria, the maintenance problem has largely been removed since all pets now use a fixed focus-like or energy-like resource instead of mana. Even using select pet abilities like the felhunter's interrupt or the felguard's stun have been solved with the wonderfully dynamic Command Demon ability.

The glitchy bugs still remain, but I never expected them to be solved easily anyway. We've gotten some improvement to the AI in MoP, but we're probably still building off the original pet AI that couldn't even dream of Extra Action Button flying mechanics and distant platforms without a direct travel path.

On the flipside, in PvP, pets can be argued for the advantage. I still stick with Sacrifice in my battleground sauntering mostly because I'm still focused on learning my way around the spellbook from a PvP perspective. But veteran warlocks will often point out that if you're locked down through crowd control, Sacrifice isn't going to do you much good. Meanwhile, the stunned warlock with the succubus by her side can still knock people off Lumber Mill with Whiplash.

In the end of it all, to summon or not to summon comes down to what fulfills the warlock's specific needs. We are not demonic hunters with a constant companion, nor are we corrupt shamans with temporary guardians, and still we are not squishy death knights or shadow mages with nameless minions. We warlocks have pets for a specific purpose, and we thank them for their contribution to our DPS by gracing them time and time again with a glance at life outside the chaotic Twisting Nether.

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.

Filed under: Warlock, (Warlock) Blood Pact, Mists of Pandaria

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