Monday, February 11, 2013

A look at 5.2 Warlock changes

PTR changes for Warlocks have slowed significantly which means that we’re probably at a point where Ghostcrawler and his team are mostly satisfied with our abilities (in fact, they’ve outright said as much). A numbers and tuning pass is still pending, but it’s a good time to look at what 5.2 holds for us mechanically. In general, with the exception of some tweaking to Grimoire of Sacrifice, we’re mostly looking at some quality of life changes and survivability buffs, which is a good thing. 

You can read the most current and complete list of patch notes here on Blizzard’s site


Complaints have risen within the Warlock community about being tied to the Imp for the Stamina buff when no other source is available, prompting a change to Dark Intent that will allow it to provide Stamina as well as the 10% Spell Power we’re used to.  Blood Pact has been removed as a result. While I see the logic in the complaint (particularly because the Imp is fairly low on the DPS gain list and Sacrifice is currently better for two of the three specs), I have to wonder how many raid groups actually have this problem and how many simply weren’t using the tools they had at their disposal creatively. I don’t have any evidence to back my assumptions, but I find it hard to believe that there are that many  10M raids out there that don’t have at least one Warrior, Priest or BM Hunter (especially now that BM is viable and popular again).

We’re also seeing a small change to Fel Armor that, again, makes us a bit less squishy. Rather than increasing our armor, it now provides a flat 10% damage reduction across the board. Since Armor Rating only reduces physical damage and the majority of raid damage is magical, this will just be one more way in which we can take some of the load off of our healer’s shoulders. 

Fire & Brimstone and Soulburn: Seed of Corruption are getting a small nerf in their effected radii. Per a blue post, Destro and Affliction Warlocks were doing too much AoE damage with this should bring them in line with most other AoE spells. This seems like a PvP driven change because I honestly can't think of a situation in PvE where AoE is an important part of an encounter and the adds aren't neatly clumped up on the tank since Cho'gall. We always have Mannoroth's Fury if something like that comes up again.


As expected, Blizzard is still doing some tweaking and modification to our talent trees to balance them out a bit and make the crappy ones less crappy. First, Sacrificial Pact has been given a reduced health cost to make it more appealing. On live, the ability requires half of your pet’s health pool (or your own if you don’t have a pet out) to shield you for 200% of the sacrificed amount  – a fancy way of saying that the shield equals your pet’s (or your own) max HP. The problem is that, while the shield is significant, giving up half of your health pool in a situation where you’re already concerned about being turned into a smear on the pavement is unnerving. There's also the fact that you're much more likely to be under 50% health and unable to use the ability than you are to be under 25%. As a result, the health cost is being reduced to 25% and the absorb amount increased to 400%. In the end, the amount of damage you’ll be shielded from doesn’t change at all. It just won’t be as risky to use or give your healer a heart attack as often.

In addition, we see that the active effect of Kil’jaeden’sCunning has been removed. Let’s be honest; no one was using it. Two minutes of being able to cast on the move, even with the slow, was too valuable to give up for a few seconds of unhindered movement.  As a raiding Warlock, I’m wondering if there is still (or has ever been) a reasonable use for Mannoroth’s Fury in competitive group play. It’s handy during some dailies, but in general you’re going to have a hard time convincing me to take it over Archimonde’s Vengeance or KJC.

The most important change to our talent tree, in my opinion, is the transition of Soul Leech from a self-heal to a stacking absorb. One of the biggest problems with Soul Leech in a raiding environment is that the vast majority of it results in overhealing and, therefore, is wasted. This new version will allow us to stack up a sizable shield during periods when there is little to no raid damage to ease some of the stress on your healers during periods of spike damage while still helping out in those fights where there's a lot of constant raid damage. PTR testing indicates that the shield currently caps out at your maximum health which, for a Sac specced Warlock in mostly T14 gear and raids buffs, is between 450 and 500K. It will take some time to stack the shield that high, but combined with personal cooldowns, such as Sacrificial Pact or Twilight Ward, a Warlock can eat an obnoxious amount of damage without even seeing a scratch on their health pool. The change results in a nerf to self-healing (which may hurt the soloing game) but a buff to survivability overall.

Blood Fear’s redesign to Blood Horror is in reaction to the overprevalence of instant-cast and uninterruptable CC’s in the PvP world. The new version is like a fel-infused version of a Mage's Frost Armor that, rather than slowing your attacker, sends them running for a few seconds. It's a bit more appealing as a PvE talent in this form as it makes for a nice little escape tool incase you have an add or trash mob beating on you, but it's likely to be replaced by Burning Rush or Unbound Will in any sort of organized or competitive PvE environment. Keep in mind that this is a Horrify effect and shares diminishing returns with Mortal Coil. Most importantly, it turns the ability back into a defensive ability as it was always intended to be, rather than an offensive one.

Burning Rush also has some extra functionality built into in that, while active, will not allow you to drop below 100% movement speed. Again, this seems to be a PvP adjustment. It’s not cool to blow your movement speed ability only to be locked down by a Frost Trap or a Mage’s Slow. 


It seems a few glyphs haven’t been nearly as “optional” as the developers had originally intended leading to a few that were direct DPS increases or just too strong to pass up (having a higher cap on your spec resource allows for bigger burst and execute phases). As a result, Glyph of Burning Embers, Glyph of Soul Shards and Glyph of Unstable Affliction are all becoming baseline effects for their respective specializations and the glyphs themselves being redesigned or replaced entirely.

Glyph of Burning Embers is becoming Glyph of Ember Tap, which is very similar to the Glyph of Healthstone we already have – increasing the amount of total healing but changing it into a HoT. I personally don’t think I’ll be using this particular glyph, to be honest. Maximizing Ember generation and spending is central to Destruction’s damage output and I have little to no desire to ever spend an Ember on survival instead of a Chaos Bolt or Shadowburn. There’s only two situations where I would actually use Ember Tap (if I’m generating Embers faster than I can use them or I’m on the verge of death and everything else is on cooldown) and both are a last resort for an emergency situation. Typically, emergency situations require healing now rather than over the next 10 seconds.

Glyph of Soul Shards is receiving the same treatment and also being transformed from an unintentional DPS increase to a survivability boost, Glyph of Drain Life. Using Drain Life is a DPS loss in any situation, but it’s still a handy spell to have on your bars. It’s a decent filler glyph.  Note that PTR testing indicates that the glyph does not affect Harvest Life.

Lastly we have the Glyph of Unstable Affliction. Again, the glyph's effects here are becoming baseline and replaced with some other functionality - in this case, a reduction on the cast time of UA. Now, experienced players will look at a glyph that reduces cast time of a damaging spell and instantly recognize it as a potential DPS increase (after all, less time spent casting UA is more time spent channeling Malefic Grasp) but in this case they would be mistaken. The cast time for Unstable Affliction already runs close to the global cooldown and the glyph will actually push it below the global cooldown without reducing affecting the GCD itself. Translation: This makes Affliction a bit less prone to interrupts without throwing off PvE balance.

Honestly, it's kind of terrifying to think of how much damage a well played Warlock can soak without dying with the right talents and glyphs and if cooldowns are aligned properly. 

The last boss in the Black Harvest quest line is currently bugged in the latest PTR build and simply lets you stand there and beat on him until he falls over, so I'm waiting for that to be fixed before I finish my full walkthrough. Hopefully this week. In the meantime, the raid soloing guides will continue and I’ll finish up my notes/tips post on normal mode Terrace. We still haven’t downed Sha of Fear (wiping on the attendance boss and his Creepy Pug spawns, but I’ve seen enough of the fight that I’m confident in sharing my thoughts.  I'm also looking at gear lists for 5.2 now that all the drops and vendor items have been added.

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