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The Warlock presents aaaone of the greatest challenges to run on a competitive arena team, in part because he tends to be the most fragile character in the game when subject to concentrated attack. However, he also has access to some of the move powerful PvP abilities, led by the incredibly versatile Curse of Tongues and the ability to spam targeted Fears. Additionally, the Warlock can dish out more damage than almost any other class if left alone. Properly played, geared, and supported, the Warlock can be a great asset to a well-constructed team and is one of the more dangerous classes on the battlefield.
At any level of play, the Warlock’s chief concern is always survivability. While all classes have an array of “clearing moves” (such as Death Coil, Psychic Scream, Root, Frost Nova, etc., that actively influence the opponent in some way that pulls them off their target), most classes also have access to “escape moves” as well; these abilities, such as Blink/Ice Block, Druid Shapeshift, Blessing of Protection, Divine Shield, Vanish/Cloak of Shadows, etc. allow a character to get away without giving the opponent a resist check or requiring some form of spell channeling. A Warlock, on the other hand, has access only to clearing moves – Death Coil, Fear, Felguard Intercept, Spell Lock, Howl of Terror, and Succubus Seduce. Additionally, most of these are single-target abilities, at best pulling off one person, and several of them either have cast time (and thus can be interrupted) or only work on certain classes (Warrior are fully immune to Fears at most stages of a fight). Since a Warlock has no escape moves to quickly flee a dangerous situation, and have no way to pull most snares and roots off themselves, the Warlock’s other major weakness comes into play: Warlocks have the lowest armor in the game of any class, and thus take the most raw damage from physical attackers.
Orc Warlocks benefit from a passive Stun Resistance racial ability that helps them survive against meleesBecause of these reasons, it is really not considered practical to run any talent build with a Warlock that does not include Soul Link and other survivability talents in the Demonology tree. A Warlock needs enormous amounts of HP just to survive against melee.
A Warlock who survives initial bursts can have a lasting, decisive impact on a fight. Curse of Tongues remains one of the most powerful abilities in the entire game when fighting against enemy casters, severely hampering their damage and healing capabilities while also slowing the rate they can apply crowd control of their own. Fear, combined with the Felguard’s Intercept or the Felhunter’s Spell Lock, makes the Warlock one of the best characters at disrupting opponent healers and damage casters. Finally, Death Coil presents a universal one-time tool for offense, defense, and general crowd control, helping smooth over dangerous situations and assist in timely kills.
Warlock Talent Specs
If you are looking to PvP seriously and fare well against all teams, a heavy Demonology Spec is probably the only real consideration – anything else simply lacks the HP and other survivability options to function against most teams. While a 41-point Affliction build will decimate certain teams that cannot handle an abundance of Damage over Time (DoT) spells, any team running 2 melee classes can drop the Affliction Warlock before he can make a real difference. Heavy Destruction builds have a great deal of offensive power and can drop someone fast if left alone, but they suffer just as much as the Affliction Warlock against multiple melee. Additionally, they fill much the same role as a Mage would in the same position, without several of the perks gained from fielding a Mage (such as survivability – the mage has several tools that make focusing on them first extremely dangerous and rarely successful for the opposing team).
A heavy Demonology build gives several perks. First, the option of using the Felguard (a universally strong pet who dishes out large amounts of melee damage and has Intercept on a 30-second timer) gives the Warlock a great default pet to have up at the start of an arena, instead of guessing whether a Succubus or Felhunter would be more useful against an opposing team as Affliction and Destruction Warlocks often must do. Soul Link (combined with several other Stamina increasing talents in the Demonology tree) is absolutely necessary for survival, as the 20% extra HP it gives are the only way to make up for a Warlock’s low armor rating. Additionally, Demonology Warlocks gain several spell damage and spell critical talents (roughly comparable to those a Destruction Warlock gets for overall nuking power), which renders many of the supposed benefits to going Destruction somewhat pointless. Finally, the Felguard’s damage gives Demonology Warlocks the ability to deal damage even while under pressure or administering crowd control spells, as the pet’s auto-attack and Cleave are a constant threat.
Here are a few sample builds:
Build One: Survival Demonology
This build is probably the most common for a competitive Warlock. It includes instant-cast Corruption, a very strong DoT that allows the Warlock to apply pressure in the form of damage without having to stand still, has Demonic Resilience (which reduces the chance of the Warlock suffering a Critical hit) and still lets the Warlock take Shadowburn, an absolutely vital nuke that allows the Warlock to drop a target that is low on health without having to channel a spell.
Build Two: Demonology/Destruction
This build includes channeling and range talents for nukes and is ideal for a Warlock on a team that is low on damage output. It is not the safest build, especially compared to the previous talent spec, because it requires the Warlock to stand still to deal damage and is missing out on Demonic Resilience.
The Warlock’s primary gear considerations are Stamina and Resilience. +Damage and +Spell Critical are both nice to have, but ultimately are not worth giving up meaningful amounts of Stamina and Resilience for. The top competitive Warlocks generally have upwards of 12,000 HP unbuffed, and around 250-300 resilience. These numbers are so important as to be non-negotiable; certainly you will not be able to attain them at first, but if you equip yourself in PvP and Gladiator gear, enchant everything with +HP and Stamina enchants, and put +12 Stamina gems (Solid Star of Elune) in every slot, your character will be more successful than the Warlock who does not.
It is worth giving up a few points of Stamina for a few points of Damage and Spell Critical – these are important stats, too. For example, the Gladiator’s Felweave set, which has slightly less Stamina and Resilience than the Gladiator’s Dreadweave set, is still probably better overall because it has much better Spell Critical and Damage ratings and does not give up too much in the way of survivability. The goal, really, is to reach a threshold with the Warlock where attacking him is not a free kill but a chore – at this point, people will stop attacking the Warlock, and he still needs the ability to light someone up (thus, the need for +Spell Damage and Critical).
This is a safe range to keep your pet at.Proper use of Felguard Intercept
To use this skill properly, the Warlock needs to understand exactly how the skill functions. Intercept only works on targets that are at least 8 yards away from the Felguard, and so normally if a target is too close to the Warlock when he sends the pet at it, or the Felguard is already in melee range of the target, the Intercept will not happen and the pet will simply default to an “Attack” command.
Of course, a Warlock cannot control his pet directly. In order to send the pet at a target that the Felguard is already near, the Warlock must somehow pull the pet away before sending it at them again. The most simple of these methods is to move away from a target, issue a “Pet Follow” command, and then issue an “Intercept” command when the pet moves 8 or more yards away from the target.
Sometimes, however, the Warlock is snared and cannot get away from a target, or the Warlock is channeling a spell and still needs an intercept. The easiest way to solve this issue is to select a distant target (that is far away from the target you wish to Intercept) and issue a “Pet Attack” command. This will send the pet at the far target, moving them away from the primary target, at which point you can reselect the main target and issue an “Intercept” command just as your pet reaches the 8 yard range. This method takes slightly longer to execute on the player’s end, but is often a faster way to move the pet out into intercept range without giving up what the Warlock is currently doing.
A third method is most useful against Rogues and Druids, and in other situations where the Warlock is worried about being targeted. Stand about 10 yards away from where you plan to be when the fight starts and issue your pet a “Pet Stay” command. Make sure your Felguard is not set to “Aggressive” or “Defensive” (which it should never be for PvP anyway, as this takes control out of your hands). Now, when you are attacked by a Rogue and stunned for several seconds, you can time your pet to Intercept (since he is at least 10 yards away) just before a stun fades so you can Fear, nuke, Death Coil, or run away while your assailant is stunned.
The Warlock’s role in PvP is versatile and powerful, but very dependent on the support of teammates and severely limited when the Warlock himself is being targeted by melee opponents. The first step in any PvP encounter will be to Curse of Tongues opponent spellcasters (especially healers) while trying to keep distance from melee targets. This holds true regardless of skill level, tournament type, and team configuration. Past that point, gameplay can go in a number of directions depending on player skill level and the opponent’s team.
Beginner Level Goals
Your first goal should be to stay alive and still dish out a fair amount of damage. The easiest way to do this is to find a target that might give you trouble if left alone and start Fearing them while keeping your DoT spells up on them (and any other targets that are convenient). Send your pet at your primary target, and try to work in the Felguard’s Intercept ability if they get too far away so you can keep up with them (you may need to call the pet back to you before Intercepting your target, as it cannot Intercept a target that it is currently in melee with). By keeping your primary target Feared and keeping damage on them, you can safely start working in nukes like Shadowbolt and Searing Pain to do extra damage, or you can cycle through your other targets and renew Curse of Tongues and other DoTs.
It is important to remember that this does NOT work on Warriors. Warriors are almost completely immune to fear due to Berserker Rage and Deathwish, and they will kill a Warlock long before these abilities wear off under most conditions. Generally, against a Warrior, it’s best to either go full-out damage, or to do what you can to stay away from him and take on someone else.
One of the harder tasks for newer players is finding a balance between dealing damage and crowd control. Generally, if you keep your DoTs up on 1-2 targets at all times, have your pet on your main target, and are occasionally throwing a nuke, you should be doing at least decent damage. If you are ever left completely alone, you should be able to throw out all your dots and Shadowbolt or Searing Pain several times and your damage should be very respectable, even if you have done nothing else. If your damage is ever significantly lower than other damage-dealing classes, you may be spending too much time running and fearing and not enough DoTing and nuking, and probably need to be more careful about your positioning so you can spend more time dishing out pain.
At the intermediate level, the Warlock is dealing with more than one target at the same time. A secondary target, usually a healer, is the subject of most of the Fears and pet Intercepts (or Spell Locks, if you are using a Felhunter). This means that you are paying attention to two targets – one of them the person you are trying to kill, and one of them you are trying to prevent from keeping that person alive. Generally, a Warlock can very easily tackle someone like a Hunter or Shaman while simultaneously dealing with a Priest or Paladin and keeping them from effectively healing the target for long stints, because even if a target can quickly break a Fear or an Intercept, any spells they were casting are interrupted and must be recast in full (and since the Warlock has been Curse of Tonguesing the healer, this will take a very long time). Furthermore, the Warlock’s DoTs are still ticking away at the target, and the pet is probably beating them down as well. This is where the Warlock starts to establish himself as a real powerhouse in PvP – as long as he is not being locked down by the other team.
At this point, the Warlock’s greatest enemy is a Warrior, Rogue, and/or Feral Druid that decides to make his life miserable by sticking on the Warlock indefinitely. These classes have lots of instant attacks, several ways to interrupt Fears, and are unaffected by Curse of Tongues (the Warlock’s most powerful spell by far). Thus, they are nearly impossible to cast Fear on and can dish out more damage than the Warlock while on top of him (since he cannot stop to channel a nuke, as it will be interrupted). Warrior/Rogue especially can be fatal to a Warlock, as the combination of stuns and Mortal Strike are nearly impossible to survive. For this reason, a Warlock should almost always be run in combination with a Paladin to receive Blessing of Protection and Blessing of Freedom where appropriate – otherwise, they are often fodder for melees.
A skilled Warlock not only watches a primary and secondary target, but has become proficient at following 3 or more important targets well enough to be able to rapidly shift focus from heavy crowd control to heavy damage. All opponent casters are under the effects of Curse of Tongues for the entire fight. The Warlock applies constant, slow pressure to targets other than the main target from time to time (using DoTs and Fear), and if one of those targets ever gets too far from healers or drops too low on HP, the Warlock is prepared and able to drop them before a response can be made by the opponent team. Furthermore, the Warlock has the ability to gauge, independently, when to flip from crowd control to full damage-dealing, and can stay safe enough to do so without fear of being killed the moment he stops moving. At this level, the Warlock is able to use a combination of Pet Attack, Pet Follow, and Pet Stay commands to move the Felguard into proper Intercept range of any important target, and keeps abreast of enough targets that this Intercept usually happens at the right time on the right opponent.
One of the hardest tasks for a player in reaching this level is simply following all aspects of a fight without losing focus on the main goal. The only real solution here is playtime and understanding of the game.
The Warlock is very easy to play at a low-intermediate level of play, and tends to dominate other low-intermediate skill-level players, but to play a Warlock in a highly competitive environment requires a great deal of skill, speed, and very good gear to survive the concentrated attacks that are sure to come your way. A great Warlock, likewise, can take a good team and make them extremely competitive – as long as they can keep the Warlock alive. Be prepared to hit a brick wall as you come up against opponents that are more experienced and better-geared than you are, but also realize that once your survivability caps out and your skill catches up, you have the potential to shut more people down at once than possibly any other class. And there’s always Death Coil!