Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Upcoming Changes In Cataclysm: Warlock Edition

As you have probably heard by now, information was released last week about the changes that are being made to the Warlock class in the Cataclysm expansion!  There are a lot of "cataclysmic" changes for Warlocks that will ultimately revolutionize the way that we play this class.  Let's dive right in.

New Warlock Spells

Fel Flame (level 81): Quick-hitting spell dealing Shadowfire damage. This is similar to the mage ability Frostfire Bolt, in that the lower of the two resistances (in this case shadow and fire) on your target will be used for calculating its damage. Additionally, Fel Flame refreshes the duration of Immolate and Unstable Affliction. Our goal for Fel Flame is to provide a spell that's good for mobility and for use by Destruction and Demonology specs. Also, did we mention it uses green fire? Yep. Instant cast.

I think this is going to be very helpful to Warlocks in any situation -- PvP or PvE because it gives them an instant cast that they can use while they are moving to continue DPS.  Many of us casters lose DPS every time we have to move to get out of the gook or what have you, and it will be awesome to be able to keep up our DPS while we are dodging whatever is being thrown our way.  Plus, who wouldn't love green fire??

Dark Intent (level 83): Increases the target's chance for a critical effect with periodic damage or healing spells by 3%. When the target lands a crit, you get a buff to your damage for 10 seconds. This effect stacks up to three times.

This seems like it will be great for groups/raids.  I like the idea of playing off another player's damage and crits, contributing to each other's DPS rather than competing on the DPS meter.

Demon Soul (level 85): Fuses the warlock's soul with his or her demon. This provides warlocks with a self-burst cooldown to use. The specific effects granted by Demon Soul depend on the demon chosen. Demon Soul lasts for a certain number of charges or until it expires (around 20 seconds), depending on the demon used. 2-minute cooldown.

This reminds me of the old Demonic Sacrifice talent that gave your Warlock a buff when you sacrificed your demon.  I am interested to learn what the specific buffs are for the different demons.

Soul Shard Overhaul

This major change regarding Soul Shards was previously announced at BlizzCon 2009. Soul Shards will no longer be inventory items, but instead a new UI resource mechanic. Warlocks will have 3 Soul Shards that can be used during a fight and will not be able to gain additional shards during combat. Soul Shards will not be required outside of combat. Soul Burn will consume a Soul Shard resource, thereby allowing you to use the secondary effects of some spells. Soul Burn has no mana or health costs and is off the global cooldown. Planned secondary effects are outlined here.

  • Summon Demon + Soul Burn = summon the demon instantly. 
  • Drain Life + Soul Burn = Reduces cast speed by 60%. 
  • Demonic Circle + Soul Burn = Increases movement speed by 50% for 8 seconds after teleporting. 
  • Unstable Affliction + Soul Burn = Instantly deals damage equal to 30% of its effect. 
  • Soul Fire + Soul Burn = Instant cast. 
  • Healthstone + Soul Burn = Increases total health by 20% for 8 seconds. 
  • Searing Pain + Soul Burn = Increases the crit chance of Searing Pain by 100%, and subsequent Searing Pain spells by 50% for 6 seconds.

Here's the one we've all been waiting for.  Finally, a solution to all those annoying shards that we carry around, taking up bag space!!  This is something that's needed a makeover for a long time, and it will be so refreshing to play in Cataclysm.  What I didn't expect is that they would do something more interesting with the shards than just make them stackable!  I love the idea of the secondary effects, and I think this will force players to become more skilled about timing their spells and making more strategic actions.  There are some concerns about the use of shards in varying combat lengths.  There has been an updated response to those concerns:

On regenerating shards in combat, we will add a mechanic to regen shards if we find that we need to in order to handle variable combat length. We haven’t added one yet because we really want to emphasize locks using shards at the right time and not as fast as they can with then an Evocation-like spell to bring them back again. These are supposed to be special moments in a fight -- think Bloodlust perhaps -- and not used every 20 seconds on cooldown (or whatever the cooldown ends up being).

Next you will find a list of some of the warlock spell and talent changes for the release of Cataclysm. There will be further changes, but those revealed below should offer some insight into our goals.

Changes to Abilities and Mechanics

  • All warlock damage-over-time (DoT) spells will benefit from crit and haste innately. Haste will no longer act to reduce the DoT's duration, but rather to add additional ticks. When reapplying a DoT, you can no longer "clip" the final tick. Instead, this will just add duration to the spell, similar to how Everlasting Affliction currently works.
  • Curse of Agony and Curse of Doom will be converted into Bane of Agony and Bane of Doom. Bane spells are considered magic instead of curses. This means you will be able to cast one Bane (e.g. Bane of Agony) and one Curse (e.g. Curse of Elements) on a single target.
  • Hellfire will no longer deal damage to the warlock.
  • Imps will lose Fire Shield, but will gain a new ability, Burning Ember, which is a stacking DoT.
  • The succubus melee range will be increased. The succubus will no longer have Soothing Kiss, but will instead have Whiplash, which knocks back all enemies within 8 yards.
  • Voidwalker Torment will do increased damage and generate a lot of area-of-effect (AoE) threat. Suffering will become a single-target taunt.

I'm very curious to see how the new DoT mechanism plays out.  It seems like it could actually make game-play a little boring for us.  What's to stop us from throwing up a DoT at the beginning of a fight, increasing its duration by throwing it up several more times, and then sitting back and tossing shadow bolts for the rest of the fight?  I'm not so confident that this is going to work well, but I trust that Blizzard will work it out.  The Bane spells are awesome since we will get some added damage by being able to use one Bane and one Curse at a time.

And Hellfire?  We won't be able to commit suicide anymore??  ...But seriously, it has been said that Hellfire is going to be the specialty for Warlocks in the Demonology tree, whereas Affliction Warlocks have Seed of Corruption and Destruction Warlocks have Rain of Fire.  Not sure about this one.

The Demon changes are cool as well, and pretty much just make them more effective in their individual roles.  I love using the Voidwalker for solo questing, and this will make it all the more enjoyable.  I would love to see a reason for the Succubus to become more advantageous to use in distinct situations, but I don't see Whiplash as giving us a good enough reason to use a Succubus over another Demon.

New Talents and Talent Changes

  • Pandemic will now cause Drain Soul to refresh Unstable Affliction and Bane of Agony on targets below 25% health.
  • The ability Fel Domination will be removed (because Soul Burn accomplishes the same effect).
  • Demonology will gain a new direct-damage spell, Demon Bolt. Demon Bolt will add a debuff that improves the damage done by the demon to the target.
  • We plan to add a new talent, Impending Doom, which will give certain spells a chance to reduce the cooldown on Metamorphosis and Curse of Doom.
  • Metamorphosis will no longer be subject to demonic crowd control. Furthermore, abilities available only while under the effects of Metamorphosis will be altered to put more emphasis on the warlock's own spells.
  • Shadowburn will now do additional damage to targets below 25% health.

All welcomed improvements to say the least.  Demon Bolt should be helpful in bringing the Demon in as a more significant part of the damage rather than basically being little more than an added buff.  The Impending Doom, Metamorphosis, and Shadowburn changes sounds interesting, but I'd need to see some more details about them before I form an opinion.

Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses

Spell Damage
Spell Crit 
Shadow DoTs

Spell Damage
Spell Haste 
Demon Damage

Spell Damage
Spell Critical Damage 
Fire Direct Damage

Shadow DoTs: The damage caused by Shadow damage-over-time spells is increased.
Demon Damage: The damage caused by pets and Metamorphosis is increased.
Fire Direct Damage: The damage caused by Fire direct damage spells is increased.

These really seem to be suited for individual trees, and again, I am anxious to see more details about how this will play out.  Sometimes it really is difficult to know until you see these things in action.  That just about covers everything that has been released thus far, but I want to make sure the include the additional comments and updates that you may not have seen.  Apparently, there were some concerns with the fact that Blizzard has not included anything about a new Demon.

Demon lovers, we haven’t ruled out adding a new demon, but we want to be very careful here. We’ve had a hard enough time finding niches for some of the current ones. So we first want to make sure existing demons are cool before we’re faced with Q&A several months from now asking why the new demon either isn’t cool enough, or why warlocks no longer use, say, their felhunter because of the new demon.

  • We did mean to cover doomguards and infernals, but they didn't make it into our preview. Our plan is that you can summon a doomguard or infernal as a cooldown-based pet, much like the shaman elementals, without having to give up your current, permanent demon. If we add a new demon it will likely be one of these cooldown-based ones, and not a permanent pet like the imp, voidwalker, succubus, felguard or felhunter. We’re just not convinced there is a niche for a new permanent demon (and perhaps not even a temporary one).
  • Flying mounts and female Metamorphosis forms are great ideas and something we’ve had on the wish list for a long time. We can only create so many new creatures during a single expansion, and getting one of these might mean fewer new creatures in outdoor worlds or dungeons. It’s just a trade-off and sometimes you have to make hard calls. We’ll keep them on the list though.

  • We do like the idea of allowing warlocks to re-skin their demons and have been talking about possible ways to implement this. I have no concrete information for you at this time beyond that.
  • When it comes to naming demons, this has always been one of those sacred cows, where the hunter gets to name their pet because he loves his pet bear, but the warlock considers the demon to be something disposable -- a tool.
  • The Demon Bolt debuff will only affect the warlock's demon, not other demons. We wanted a Demo-themed nuke that made it feel like the pet was part of the damage.
  • For Soul Shard bags, we will probably do something like remove all the shards, reduce the bag size (a little) and convert it to a normal bag. This would be a one-time conversion. We'll probably get rid of the recipes, as we wouldn't want other classes to go out and get shard bags just to get a free bag.

So until we get any more information from Blizzard, we will have to do our best to digest this and excitedly anticipate the release of Cataclysm.  It sounds like we can't get our hopes up too much about Warlock flying mounts or female Meta forms, but wouldn't it be epic if that were something we could count on being given in the future?!

I can't wait to see how all of this goes in the Alpha and Beta testing, and we will be sure to do our best to keep you updated as the information rolls out.  Signing off.

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