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Blood Pact: So you want to play a warlock

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology, and destruction warlocks. This week, Megan O'Neill explores the beginning of MoP.

The next thing is to write a "how to warlock" at 90 series, but I feel like I've done this before. The deja vu is strong with this one topic.

Oh right! I wrote something like it back in 2012, when the big patch 5.0 first came out. Not all of the same advice is relevant -- well, Soul Link isn't what it was anymore, for one -- but the basics are all still there. I'll go over the specs in detail later, so let's start with the general introduction to warlocks.

What races are good?

PvE? Horde rules. The orc and troll racials are just too good to pass up, and the goblin racial isn't half bad either. Undead and blood elf can also work in your favor in select PvP cases. For those of us who picked Alliance anyway, the worgen racial is the best way to go.

PvP? Alliance rules, specifically humans. That free PvP trinket racial is just too awesome. For Horde PvPing locks, it varies on what race goes well, as the PvE racial strengths can bring good burst when used properly. The undead racial Will of the Forsaken is the Horde's answer to humans, however.

What spec is best for ...

All three. No, I'm quite serious; you might expect that one PvP spec from rogues, hunters, or mages that doesn't do well in PvE, but warlocks have been great across all the specs. There will always be a "best" spec per tier, and there will certainly be a best spec depending on what strengths you need, but if you really want to play demo, you can rock it.

But what about tier 16? Siege of Orgrimmar? Currently, destruction is a beast. Affliction's not too far behind, and demonology remains viable if you're more than a little familiar with it and you have nearly a full set of raid gear. The current favorite to dualspec as is destruction/affliction.

What if I want to PvP? The old saying is that you go affliction early on in PvP, because nothing can quite compare to the pressure of DoTs when healer mana is strained, and you can switch to destruction toward the end to pump out massive nukes once we've got the stats and throughput to support that style. If you look at the top end of arena warlocks currently, there's mostly destruction but still a fair bit of affliction.

Can you do demonology PvP? Yes, you can. It probably won't give you the best results in the game, but it is quite possible for two warlocks to play around with double DPS builds like destro-demo, like Cobrak and Morpheus did recently.

Professions?

Ideally, you want two production professions. But let's face it, if this is your alt, it's quite fine to have a gathering profession on it. You're probably using it for important farming business.

I've personally had Tailoring and Enchanting on my warlock since I started playing, and the two have worked well enough over the years and tiers. Tailoring has a powerful back enchant proc as well as your own cheap leg enchant, and Enchanting provides a ring bonus in addition to being that valued member of the raid who can disenchant epics.

Engineering is the other profession warlocks might love, especially if you PvP. Cobrak goes into more detail with Tailoring and Engineering in a PvP sense. Engineering can be a pain in the butt to level currently, but it's quite fun when you're done and have all the tinkering perks.

It's time to make like Lord Godfrey and break out the bulleted points.

TL;DR pets

I already wrote that one, and it's still relevant. But for spec reasons:
  • Affliction: GoSup (observer) for near everything or GoSup (imp) for frequent target switches
  • Demonology: GoServ (felguard) or GoSup (wrathguard)
  • Destruction: GoSac, generally
Typical reasons to have a certain pet flavor:
  • Imps: a small self-heal or a defensive dispel
  • Voidwalker/lord: a tanky pet or a health cooldown
  • Felhunter/observer: interrupt or an offensive dispel
  • Succubus/shivarra: crowd control or knockback
  • Felguard/wrathguard: AoE damage or stun
For guardians, the Doomguard/Terrorguard is always the DPS cooldown in raid. The Infernal/Abyssal can see some use occasionally, but you usually whip that one out for the AoE stun, not the damage.

TL;DR stats
  • Hit cap thyself. The spell hit cap in PvE is 15% or 5100 rating, whether a combination of hit or expertise -- that probably explains all those Keen gems you see. Really, in the current tier of gear, I'll be surprised if you can't hit cap yourself. In PvP, the spell hit cap is 6% or 2040 rating. Humans, gnomes, and trolls have cool racials that can contribute 1% of hit depending on their main hand weapon.
  • Affliction: mastery > haste (breakpoints) >> crit. Breakpoints = 9778 Agony, 13737 Corruption. Even with gear to support 13737 haste, stick to the 9778 breakpoint as Corruption isn't the best DoT to buff.
  • Demonology: mastery >= haste (breakpoints) > crit. Breakpoints = 8064 Doom, but really try to keep haste even with mastery values.
  • Destruction: mastery > crit = haste. Crit is better for damage purposes, but with the AoE opportunites in Siege, haste works just as well in a pinch.
  • Mastery rating to percent conversion is different for every spec, so we'll just talk about rating.
  • Haste caveats: The popular breakpoint figures assume 5% raid haste. The amplification trinket off Immerseus will change up the haste values slightly.
  • There's a word warlocks like to rhyme with crit to describe its historical usefulness to us, but I'm not allowed to write it here.
TL;DR gear
  • A weapon upgrade is a big fel deal. Standing unbuffed, 35% of my total spellpower comes from my weapon alone. It doesn't matter if you wield a staff or a one-hander; you can only find the spellpower stat on weapons (and possibly trinkets), not on offhand items. If you receive a weapon with a tier's item level upgrade or more over your current, equip that sucker, because the difference in spellpower and other stats very likely outweighs the light 1650 intellect of Jade Spirit's enchant proc that you'd be missing for a moment.
  • Trinket procs are a big deal. With the RPPM system of enchant and trinket procs, life revolves around getting your big abilities off during important procs. Of course, the better procs you have, the better deeps you get.
  • Chest, legs, head, and shoulders. That's your item level upgrade priority after weapon and trinkets. Everything else is about equivalent with each other.
  • 2-piece T16? Affliction and demonology love theirs. The destruction one has a crap proc frequency.
  • 4-piece T16? Get it: it's good for all specs.
The Timeless Isle 101

There's no heirloom set yet for 90-100, and although it's been datamined that we might get a set of greens with boosted 90s, there's a slightly better set out there. You just have to grind for a while to get it. You probably already know how to get it -- get thee to the Timeless Isle, and go find all the chests, hit up all the rare mobs, etc.

I farmed up a whole Timeless Isle see for my warlock, for science, including buying a staff for Timeless Coins and using the two trinket options. I couldn't for the life of me get a set of gloves to drop, so I pulled out my old Sha-Skin Gloves of comparable item level. Here's what I've got for stats after I reforged the best I could (toward hit cap):
  • Spellpower (unbuffed): 20,766
  • Hit: 12.51%
  • Mastery: 6078 rating
  • Haste: 10.56% (4,486 rating)
  • Crit: 11.67% (2,439 rating)
It's not too shabby. It's not going to get you grand DPS in a raid setting, but it does a good enough job on the Timeless Isle and in heroic dungeons. It's a good starting point.

I didn't pick the above picture randomly, either. On the Timeless Isle, clicking a shrine can give you a random Celestial's buff. Whenever I go to farm the Isle, there's always a specific shrine buff I chase before going up to the yaungol areas: Chi-Ji's Hope. (In addition, grab each of the three item buffs -- the heal, the intellect proc, and the extra damage.)

25% to crit, haste, and mastery? Yes, please. In my current gear (571), I'm incredibly overpowered; as destruction I can one-shot most of the woodland elites below and I can even take on the lower yaungol level sans pet. More importantly, in my baby Timeless Isle gear with Chi-Ji's Hope, I don't feel undergeared anymore. I feel like my spells have enough stat synergy going on that I can really get the hang of things.

To put it in perspective, let's compare the baby Timeless Isle set with a Chi-Ji's Hope buff on to my standing heroic Siege set. Less mastery and more crit than I'd like, but it'll do.
  • Haste: 25.56% (baby) vs. 23.78% (heroic)
  • Mastery as affliction: 81.20% (baby) vs. 129.28% (heroic)
  • Crit: 37.85% (baby) vs. 19.35% (heroic)
If you're still too squishy, go for Niuzao's buff -- 25% less damage taken. This will help you survive until you find enough gear in enough chests, and it can help when you move up the island to harder mobs. I find that Xuen & Yu'lon have pretty equivalent buffs; Yu'lon's lies more on the survivability side than Xuen's.

Of course, these buffs go away if I leave the Timeless Isle at all, whether by hearthing or entering a dungeon. But the Timeless Isle is a great place to start learning a warlock spec, and you don't have to feel useless or underpowered while you do it. Next week, I'll break down a spec and show how to use the Timeless Isle as your personal training grounds.
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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