Primer: Level 45 Talents

90 Undead Warlock
13680
Or, Primer of the Black Harvest: Defensive Training

Hello initiates of the dark arts, and welcome to the first of (hopefully) many threads that will explore and expose the lesser known abilities, synergies, and effects our class will have in the Mists of Pandaria expansion. For a complete listing of the various Primer guides, check out the Compilation thread:

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/6490539814

So, with that in mind, this first thread will be about our level 45 defensive talents. There's a couple reasons why I chose this as my starting point instead of, say, one of our specs, or our level 15 talents, or some of our other new tools.

First, Soul Link has gotten a pretty bad rep as one of our weakest talent choices, and Dark Bargain is often seen as a no-brainer best choice. I don't agree with either of those viewpoints, primarily because of what I know about how these talents work. Second, out of all our new abilities, this tier of talents has some of the strongest synergy with the rest of our kit.

So, grab a comfy seat and a snack, this is going to be a long one.
Edited by Fallensaint on 9/17/2012 11:23 AM PDT
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90 Undead Warlock
13680
Soul Link

There are a whole lot of misconceptions about how Soul Link behaves, both in Cata and in MoP. Many players like to think of the Cata Soul Link as a straight 20% damage reduction. The reality is that Cata's Soul Link is sort of an elaborate absorb shield, which partially defers damage to your pet, which then usually gets healed by talent effects.

For MoP's Soul Link, let's first look at the tooltip:
Soul Link
Requires Level 45
100 yd range
Instant
10 sec cooldown

When active, all damage and healing you and your demon take is shared,
but your demon's health is reduced by 50%. Recasting this spell cancels
the effect. Replaces Health Funnel.


The most common reaction to MoP Soul Link's tooltip is something like:

Wait, shared damage and healing? You mean that if someone attacks my pet they'll hurt me? And my pet will reduce the healing I take? AND my pet is 50% weaker? AND I can’t even heal my pet? Gee, thanks for the nerf Blizz! Give me back my damage reduction! >:(


Though technically true, that's a pretty bad perspective to take here. A much more accurate (and positive) perspective would be to think of Soul Link as an effective health increase equal to 50% of your minion’s health, which is also shared by your minion. I think I’ve spent enough time talking about surface perceptions, so let’s get into the hard mechanics.

First, there’s your minion’s health to take into consideration. In MoP, your minions have a flat percentage of your total health:

  • Imp: 30%
  • Felhunter, Succubus, Felguard, Fel Imp: 40%
  • Voidwalker, Observer, Shivarra, Wrathguard: 50%
  • Voidlord: 60%
  • As you can guess with a little math, your minion would have between 15-30% of your max health with Soul Link active.

    Second, there’s the damage and healing split, which is where things get tricky. Soul Link doesn’t split a flat 20%, or even a flat 50% of your damage and healing. Instead, it uses a ratio based on you and your minion’s current health compared to your total combined health.

    For the sake of easy math, let’s assume you have 100k health, and you’re linking with your Voidwalker. Using the above health scaling percentages, your Voidwalker should normally have 50k health, which is halved by soul link to 25k. So, your combined health pool while linked would be 125k. Now, let’s say you’re at full health and take a 10k hit, how is that split up?

    100k/125k=.8 and 25k/125k=.2, so the damage is split 80% to you and 20% to your Voidwalker, or 8k damage to you and 2k to your Voidwalker. But what if that attack hits your Voidwalker instead? The ratios don’t change at all, so 8k still goes to you and 2k still goes to your minion.

    Now, let’s say that for some reason or another, you’re at half health but your Voidwalker is still full. The ratios are now: 50k/75k=~.66 and 25k/75k= ~.33, so a larger percentage of the damage is going to your minion instead of you. If your health somehow goes below your minion’s, then the majority of the damage you take will go to your minion instead of you.

    Healing works in a similar way, though it uses your amount of health lost. So, if you’ve lost a greater percentage of your health than your minion has, you’ll receive more of the healing. One interesting advantage to this split is that if say the minion is at full health, and the ‘lock is not, then all healing to either target will go to the ‘lock (or vice-versa) without overhealing until both targets are full.

    Do you see what I mean when I say that Soul Link acts like an effective health increase? All damage and healing is split in such a way that it affects the total pool more than the individual ‘lock and minion pools. Except under extreme and unusual circumstances, you won’t die until you take more damage than your total combined health pool.
    Edited by Fallensaint on 8/15/2012 12:40 PM PDT
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    90 Undead Warlock
    13680
    The third thing to take into account is your minion’s defenses. Most of your minions have twice your armor, with the Voidwalker and Voidlord having triple your armor. Your minions also share your dodge (what little of it there is) and your resilience (including your base resilience). All minions also still have their passive Avoidance, which reduces PvE AoE by 90%. The Voidwalker, Voidlord, Felguard, and Wrathguard also have a passive ability Void Reflexes, which grants 10% dodge and parry. The Voidwalker and Voidlord also have some special defensive abilities which I will go into detail in a later thread. When you add everything up, our minions have a better passive defense than we do.

    Fourth, you should know what Soul Link can’t split. Soul Link functions mechanically as an absorb, so any effect that ignores absorbs will not get split. Fall damage will not get split. Abilities with health costs (like Life Tap) will not be split, because they do not technically do damage but instead just use health as a resource. Damage from Hellfire will be split because it is actual damage. Soul Link can not split its own damage, because that would be silly. Soul Link can’t split natural health regeneration out of combat, and since Soul Harvest increases our OOC health regen it also will not be split.

    Mechanics sorted, let’s start going into the hidden fun stuff.

    Self-healing
    For the most part, our self-healing only affects just us. However, there are two exceptions which heal both us and our minions: Dark Regeneration and Soul Leech. Since Soul Link splits our healing, we get a little extra mileage out of these two talents. Keep in mind that since Soul Link halves your pet’s health, that Dark Regeneration isn’t quite as strong as you may think.

    Absorbs
    Soul Link’s damage can’t be mitigated by effects like Unending Resolve, but it can be absorbed by priest shields and the like. Additionally, since Soul Link does shadow damage, it can be absorbed by our Twilight Ward, which allows us to use this spell to mitigate some damage in situations where it normally couldn’t.

    Grimoire of Sacrifice
    So you’re probably thinking that since Soul Link needs a minion to function, it would be worthless to take GoSac right? Nope. When you take both these talents, some hidden magic happens and your GoSac buff will now increase your health pool by 20%. If you’ve been paying attention, you’d notice that that’s about what you’d get on average from linking to a non-GoSup minion. Additionally, since this effect directly increases your health pool, it also directly increases everything that depends on your total health, like all your percentage-based self-heals and your abilities that have a percentage-based health cost.

    Archimonde’s Vengeance
    When you have Soul Link active and you use Archimonde’s Vengeance's active effect, all damage done to your minion acts as if it had been done to you, and 25% of it gets reflected back to the target. Though it’s a bit out of left field, this makes sense, as any damage done to your pet is affecting your combined health pool. Also, it’s worth pointing that unlike other mitigation effects, AV’s reflected damage is calculated after damage is reduced by Avoidance, so you won’t be heavily double-dipping in PvE.

    Hopefully I’ve convinced some of you that Soul Link isn’t as weak as it appears, and though it does have a couple weaknesses it has plenty of strengths to exploit. However, I’m still not done here, and I’ve got two more talents left to cover.
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    90 Undead Warlock
    13680
    Sacrificial Pact

    Let’s start off with the tooltip:

    Sacrificial Pact
    Requires Level 45
    100 yd range
    Instant
    60 sec cooldown

    Your demon sacrifices half its current health to shield its master for 200%
    of the sacrificed health. Lasts 10 sec. If you have no demon, your health
    is sacrificed instead.


    Pretty self-explanatory, right? 200% of 50% of your minion’s current health is 100% of its current health, and using the percentages listed above in the Soul Link section we can determine how big that bubble can potentially get (between 30-60% of your max health, depending on minion choice). Of course, it uses your minion’s current health, so if something’s been beating on your minion that bubble’s going to be smaller than it could be. Then again, if something’s beating on your pet, it’s not beating on you. The no-pet version uses your health instead of your minion’s, which means it will effectively give you temporary health increase equal to half your current health, though after 10 seconds you effectively lose up to half your health.

    The big question, though, is why would you take this talent over the other two? Well, first off it’s better than Soul Link for soaking big hits in a short window. At best, Soul Link gives you a 30% health increase, whereas Sacrificial Pact can give you double that for its duration. Second, it can be used more often than Dark Bargain. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re getting hit hard every one to two minutes a slightly weaker shield with a shorter cooldown is going to be more useful than a stronger ability with a longer cooldown. Third, Sacrificial Pact can be used when you’re CC’d, while Dark Bargain and Soul Link can not (though Soul Link can be turned off when you’re CC’d).

    Sacrificial Pact doesn’t have as much deep synergy with other abilities because it’s a pretty simple effect (push button, receive bubble). Soul Leech is nice for passively maintaining your minion’s health for the biggest possible bubbles. Dark Regeneration is useful for quickly recovering the self-damage inflicted when going petless. Sacrificial Pact’s petless option allows it to function with Grimoire of Sacrifice.

    Last but not least, there’s...
    Edited by Fallensaint on 10/12/2012 9:42 AM PDT
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    90 Undead Warlock
    13680
    Dark Bargain

    Tooltip:

    Dark Bargain
    Requires Level 45
    Instant
    3 min cooldown

    Prevents all damage for 8 sec. When the shield fades, 50% of the damage
    prevented is dealt over 8 sec.


    First, it’s important to note that Dark Bargain is not an immunity bubble. Functionally, it works kind of like an absorb shield in reverse. When it’s first applied, it’s an absorb shield with a value of zero. As you take damage, the value increases. When the buff expires, it takes the final value, halves it, and uses that number to determine how much damage the 8-second DoT does. Any sort of damage that ignores absorbs would ignore Dark Bargain, and Dark Bargain won’t prevent debuffs from being applied, and it won’t provide a temporary threat drop.

    That said, it is a very strong ability. For 8 seconds, you are very nearly unkillable, and you can pretty safely absorb damage equal to twice your health (though if you do, I hope you’ve got some heals ready). The fact that it deals 50% of its absorbed damage as a 8 second DoT gives you some wiggle room. It’s a lot easier to deal with damage that’s spread out instead of all in one spike.

    Much like Sacrificial Pact, Dark Bargain has a fairly simple design, though it has a much stronger synergy with other abilities.

    Mitigation and Absorbs
    Much like Soul Link, Dark Bargain’s DoT does shadow damage, though unlike Soul Link this damage can be both absorbed and mitigated. Depending on what sort of other mitigation tools you have available, it may be worthwhile to use your cooldown on Dark Bargain's DoT instead of on its shield. Unending Resolve, for example, can completely cover DB's DoT, which would effectively allow you to mitigate a much larger portion of incoming damage. As for Twilight Ward, there’s very little reason to not use it to mitigate the DoT if you can. In fact if you’re really clever (and have some very good timing), you can take advantage of Twilight Ward’s long duration to potentially absorb twice as much of the DoT.
    Edited by Fallensaint on 10/12/2012 9:43 AM PDT
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    90 Undead Warlock
    13680
    And that concludes the first (incredibly long) Primer of the Black Harvest. Feel free to ask questions and discuss information for the rest of this thread. Next week I’ll be posting Primer of the Black Harvest: Demonic Influence, which will cover our level 90 talents.
    Edited by Fallensaint on 8/15/2012 12:24 PM PDT
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    90 Orc Warlock
    0
    Interesting. Maybe Soul Link isn't that bad after all.
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    90 Blood Elf Warlock
    4400
    Very interesting and informative indeed, thank you Fallensaint for your analysis.
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    100 Blood Elf Warlock
    6600
    Great job Fallensaint, sticky requested.
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    Thank you Fallen, I have been waiting to see what you would post on the new talent sytem and look forward to seeing your other posts. Sticky requested.
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    90 Human Warlock
    8360
    Is av going to be good after its nerfs recently? It seems a tad weak now.
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    90 Undead Warlock
    13680
    Thanks for the support guys.

    Just an update on recent beta changes, Dark Bargain had it's DoT time reduced from 20 seconds to 8 seconds. It still does the exact same amount of damage, but the shorter DoT has a couple different implications. For one, it limits the amount of damage you can safely take a bit more since the DoT's individual ticks will be stronger. Two, it's harder to make use of a double Twilight Ward to absorb the DoT (not that it was that easy in the first place). Three, the entire DoT can be covered by Unending Resolve, which makes the synergy between UR and DB much stronger, and would essentially allow you to use UR to mitigate 16 seconds of damage instead of just 8 seconds.

    I'll include these changes in my above posts when I can get onto the beta to test it myself (tooltips have a nasty habit of not telling the whole story).

    08/18/2012 09:27 AMPosted by Omelete
    Is av going to be good after its nerfs recently? It seems a tad weak now.


    It depends. Concerning the recent cooldown nerf, for PvP it's definitely weaker as a burst counter ability (popping AV when your opponent pops their cooldowns). However, since we already have quite a lot of other active defensive abilities, the nerf to it's cooldown shouldn't be a huge issue. For PvE, AV is primarily used with DB to maximize it's potential damage output, and since DB is a 3 minute cooldown ability there isn't going to be any significant difference in how it's used.

    If you're referring to the recent 50% nerf, then again that affects PvP more than PvE, and I took that into account when writing this thread.
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    90 Undead Warlock
    6900
    You mentioned that Soul Link doesn't work while crowd-controlled. On live, only Cyclone or Banish can prevent the effect of Soul Link, are you saying that all forms of CC stop the effect in MoP?

    I suppose that's necessary to prevent SL from breaking the Warlock out of Polymorph, but it might make pets a lot easier to pick off.
    Edited by Mandorgan on 8/19/2012 6:58 AM PDT
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    90 Gnome Warlock
    8180
    Good Job Fallen :D Yet I would really recommend people to try out the PTR after reading this to get a hands on experience of these :P

    For me atleast I was almost set on going for Dark Bargain "CUZ LOL I CAN NOW BUBBLE" But after a while I discovered a few things a) Its not a reactive shield to pull out when ur low, its more meant to be like shield wall 2.0 used at the beginning of really high burst, and b) That synergy with Unending Resolve is meh :\

    I don't know you but I don't like using my defensives back to back :P And just to add a side note to soul link, it still leaves you with a crucial and obvious weakness, cleaves :( I know as Destro if I can get off a dark Soul powered Chaos Bolt+Havoc on someone with soul link on, it pretty much means a one shot to the poor soul... SURE u could turn off soul link, but now your pet is dead and so is your defensive mechanism,

    Anyways just my 2 cents, Good Job Keep it up!

    (Just a side note Question... While using Sacrificial Pact I have noticed something interesting... My pets are getting healed by something, so that if u spam Pact each min you will get the full shield, anyone know what that is?)
    Edited by Frinkls on 8/19/2012 8:31 AM PDT
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    90 Blood Elf Warlock
    9270
    Just awesome. I'm really on the ropes on what I want to use.
    I Have a question though. What are those "extreme and unusual circumstances, you won’t die until you take more damage than your total combined health pool " for soul link. How extreme are we talking about and what are the cases in question?
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    90 Undead Warlock
    6900
    Just awesome. I'm really on the ropes on what I want to use.
    I Have a question though. What are those "extreme and unusual circumstances, you won’t die until you take more damage than your total combined health pool " for soul link. How extreme are we talking about and what are the cases in question?


    He probably means "one shot" situations where the health split is unable to be recalculated between full HP and death.
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    90 Human Warlock
    12080
    What about Soul Link in regards to multi-target classes?

    When I tested Soul Link (pre-any resil changes), I found that putting dots on the warlock and the pet made the warlock's health go down a lot quicker, and it kept the pet's health somewhat in line as well, as it too was receiving damage from two sources.

    At the time, I think our pets were not receiving our resil as well, so if you say they receive it now, this should change quite a bit, but it was easier to kill the warlock through the pet at that time.

    Thank you for your posts. I'll need to do some more testing with Soul Link, especially after some of the other recent changes.
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    90 Undead Warlock
    13680
    You mentioned that Soul Link doesn't work while crowd-controlled. On live, only Cyclone or Banish can prevent the effect of Soul Link, are you saying that all forms of CC stop the effect in MoP?

    I suppose that's necessary to prevent SL from breaking the Warlock out of Polymorph, but it might make pets a lot easier to pick off.


    Sorry if I wasn't clear, but I meant that you can't activate Soul Link if it's not up and you get CC'd, not that it doesn't work. Though I haven't had much of an opportunity to thoroughly test Soul Link and CC, I do know it still splits damage and heals while stunned. I'm not certain how it works with CCs that break on damage, but I assume that the damage won't break the CC. Immunity CCs like Banish are a little more uncertain, and I would assume that Soul Link is just temporarily suppressed while you or your pet is immune.

    08/19/2012 08:29 AMPosted by Frinkls
    (Just a side note Question... While using Sacrificial Pact I have noticed something interesting... My pets are getting healed by something, so that if u spam Pact each min you will get the full shield, anyone know what that is?)


    I'm not sure what's causing this effect on your end, but I'm not seeing it. If you're out of combat, then Soul Harvest will rapidly heal your minion. If you're in combat and have Soul Siphon talented, then it's pet healing component should fully heal your minion as long as you're actively attacking.

    08/19/2012 09:08 AMPosted by Elmoish
    I Have a question though. What are those "extreme and unusual circumstances, you won’t die until you take more damage than your total combined health pool " for soul link. How extreme are we talking about and what are the cases in question?


    Mostly I was referring to instant kill effects. True insta-kill effects don't deal any actual damage, the game just says "you dead now" and you fall over. Usually, these effects are reserved for hard enrages on raid bosses, but they can some times crop up in encounter mechanics. In PvP there aren't any insta-kills, with one possible exception. I don't know if the monk's Touch of Death with their PvP set bonus is a true insta-kill or if it just does a ton of damage.

    08/19/2012 08:29 AMPosted by Frinkls
    I know as Destro if I can get off a dark Soul powered Chaos Bolt+Havoc on someone with soul link on, it pretty much means a one shot to the poor soul... SURE u could turn off soul link, but now your pet is dead and so is your defensive mechanism,


    CB+Havoc is a very strong counter to Soul Linked 'locks, but if you can pull it off successfully I'd be very impressed. In addition to CB's much touted 3 second cast, you're telegraphing your intentiosn by sticking up a Havoc beforehand. I mean, if you're facing a Destro 'lock, he's on fire, you get feared, and he sticks Havoc on you, what do you think he's going to do next? Assuming you can't break the fear and you can't interrupt the 'lock, your best bet is to cut Soul Link. Yeah, your pet's going to die, but we have tools to deal with that. Avoiding player death is more important than avoiding pet death.

    (Alternatively, you could team up with a warrior with Mass Spell Reflection. Now who's eating a double CB? ;) )

    08/19/2012 11:46 AMPosted by Oniania
    What about Soul Link in regards to multi-target classes?


    Resilience should be working on pets now, so cleave damage shouldn't be as huge as it was, though it's still a weakness of the talent in PvP. However, it also has some strong synergy with AoE, HoT, and multi-target healing, which is a pretty significant strength.

    1v1 it's not likely to be a very strong talent, since many classes have cleaves and other multi-target damage abilities. However, the game isn't balanced on 1v1, and Soul Link can be very powerful with the right classes backing you up (and against the right enemy, for that matter).
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    90 Undead Warlock
    7255
    This is some great stuff here, and I thank you for sharing this. Been following the beta for a while, but this nice consolidation is very helpful.

    Grimoire of Sacrifice+Soul Link


    Definitely did not know about this at all.

    I shall patiently await what you have to say about Mannoroth's Fury in the next one >.>
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    90 Gnome Warlock
    8180
    (Alternatively, you could team up with a warrior with Mass Spell Reflection. Now who's eating a double CB? ;) )


    Touché :P Hey in more hopeful note tho! The animation in chaos bolt is sooo slow I can sometimes (not many) cast fel flame right after CB, and it will eat up the reflection!

    Oh and yea i have the siphon glyph :O didn't know it healed my pet o.O THANKS! Was thinking of switching out of it wont anymore :P
    Edited by Frinkls on 8/19/2012 5:35 PM PDT
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