The State of Warlocks in high level PvP

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Warlocks are in a very bad place in high level PvP right now. With the 5.1 Aura of Enfeeblement nerfs, Warlocks went from being one of the best classes in arena, (albeit in a way that was not fun for either side) to being one of the worst.

Here's a rundown of the main problems Warlocks have in arena right now.

1. Damage is too based around Dark Soul. With the addition of secondary resources (Burning Embers, Soul Shards, or Demonic Fury) in MoP, and the huge power of Dark Soul combined with the on-use-spellpower PvP trinket, Warlocks in PvP must save their secondary resource to use, for the most part, only in Dark Soul. The steady-state damage that a Warlock does for 90% of a game feels like a meaningless chore to get to the 20 seconds where you'll actually be able to kill something. This means that, at low levels of play, where players may not have the awareness or capabilities to interrupt the Warlock during Dark Soul, Warlocks seem very overpowered. But at the highest levels of play, where players are all over my Dark Soul, I feel ineffective and frustrated as they spam CC on me during my cooldowns.

1a. Damage is too low outside of Dark Soul. Here are some screenshots of my damage breakdown on recount after a good amount of arena games. Mostly as Destro, some with Demonology, and a few Affliction games.

Chaos Bolt is a little bit higher than it should be, as I recorded some data from hitting dummies. Most of these abilities are instant cast. Of the abilities with cast times, Chaos Bolt is mostly cast in Dark Soul. Incinerate hits for an average of 21,480, the Immolate DoT ticks for 4.3k average, and UA ticks for 3990 average. Soul Fire hits for an average of 16,786, and Haunt hits for an average of 27,233. Look at my gear. I am in nearly full Malevolent Gladiator's with the T2 weapon upgraded twice. I have 481 equipped ilvl. My gear is very good, and yet the damage numbers on all of my casted abilities are very low, with the notable exception of Chaos Bolt (which still only hit for an average of 86k). As Affliction or Demonology,opponents can simply ignore me, because the spells I cast are not threatening enough (outside of Dark Soul+on-use trinket). Or they can train me down... which leads me to point #2.

2. Lack of passive damage mitigation. Ever since the first season of arena, Warlocks have had Soul Link, which has provided 20% damage mitigation. With MoP, that's changed. We've lost the 20% damage reduction, and the new Soul Link is not a good ability. It transfers damage two ways, so that people can simply train your pet and kill you. Yes, you can take it off, but that costs a global, which is significant, and it has a 10 second cooldown, which makes the ability extremely clunky to use. I would understand removing Soul Link passive damage reduction if damage reduction was being removed across the board, but it has not been. Shadow Priests and Boomkins have kept their passive damage reduction (nearly as much reduction as old Soul Link, and no penalty of damage going to the pet). Warriors have gained 25% damage reduction for much of the game with the new Defensive Stance. I don't believe that other classes having these abilities means Warlocks need it, but 20% damage reduction was a pillar of Warlocks in arena, which has been taken away in MoP.

3. Too much instant damage, casting not rewarded. Destruction is really the only spec that casts a significant amount in PvP anymore. With Blood Fear and Soul Burn Soul Swap, Affliction doesn't cast much beyond the occasional UA. With Demonology, you can opt to cast a few Soul Fires when you have procs, but the damage (see above) is not significant at all. Blood Fear is one of the most situationally overpowered abilities in WoW's history. If you're a healer without Tremor Totem, you're gonna have a bad time. If you have Tremor Totem, Blood Fear's power is much diminished. Blood Fear artificially props up both Warlock and Shaman power in PvP, in a very un-fun way, for both sides.

4. CC options gone. With MoP, Shadowfury, Death Coil, and Howl of Terror were all put on one tier of the talent tree. In the past, Affliction had both Death Coil and Howl of Terror, and Destruction had all three (albeit with a cast time on Howl). These abilities combined to give the Warlock a bit of time to cast, but with Warlocks being forced to pick only one, we lose 1-2 of these crucial (but limited) instant CC abilities.

Here's what I'd propose to solve the issues. Ordered from least affecting PvE to most affecting PvE:

1. Remove on-use-spellpower/agi/str PvP trinkets from the game. This is more for the health of the game, rather than a Warlock-specific problem. Replace them with Battlemaster, or simply refund the conquest/honor points. These trinkets do not provide interesting gameplay--nearly every player simply macros them in with their other offensive cooldowns (Dark Soul, Avatar, Icy Veins, etc). The on-use on these trinkets might as well say: "While doing 50% more damage, you do an additional 20% more damage." Offensive cooldowns are out of control right now in PvP, and this is one change that you could easily make which would remove one stacking cooldown from every class, without affecting PvE at all.
1a. I don't expect this to happen, but I'd love to see the proc trinket gone as well. Let people pick between Battlemaster, CC-breaker trinket, and a third, spec specific trinket, which provides a passive or active ability, and is used as a PvP balance dial, much like PvP power. For example, Affliction's trinket could be a passive which increases DoT damage by 70%, (or whatever number is balanced) but removes the Soul Burn: Soul Swap ability. This would let the devs tone up or down specs in a PvP-specific way, and could let them do things with abilities which would otherwise break PvE.

2. Reorganize our level 30 talents. Mages were given Ring of Frost on a talent tier with two new CC abilities, and Deep Freeze was made baseline for all specs. I would like to see a similar thing happen with Warlocks. Give us 1.5-2 minute cooldown Mortal Coil baseline, Howl of Terror baseline (possibly with a 1.5 second cast time for Demonology and Destruction), and make us choose between Shadowfury and two new abilities for our level 30 talent. There's tons of potential here for cool new CC curses.

3. Nerf the duration of AE Fears to 6 seconds. Psychic Scream, Howl of Terror, and Intimidating Shout are very powerful with dispel on an 8 second cooldown. If Howl of Terror is made baseline for all Warlocks, I think this needs to happen.

4. Remove Blood Fear. Replace it with another ability. If removing it is not an option, make Blood Fear only have a 15 yard range.

5. Increase UA dispel damage. Right now, from memory, it crits for about 60-80k, depending on cooldowns. This is simply not enough, and with dispel instantly removing all of our DoTs and Haunt, Affliction needs more protection. Dispelling a Haunted target is currently a no-brainer. Maybe change the Glyph of UA to not remove the Silence portion of the dispel punishment.

6. Add some passive damage reduction to Fel Armor. Warlocks have, for years, been based around being a bit tankier than your average caster. Suddenly this is not at all the case. Mages with their armors, Shadow Priests, and Boomkins all have significantly more passive damage reduction than Warlocks. I know we have 10% extra healing received, but it's not enough. Give Warlocks 10-20% passive damage reduction in Fel Armor. 20% is almost certainly too much, and 10% is probably a little on the low side. Maybe 15%? If needed, reduce Unending Resolve to only 20-30% damage reduction.

6a. Some choice of armors would be great. We used to have Fel and Demon Armor, and could pick which one to use depending on the situation. Mages still have their three armors, and we lost our choice. It'd just be cool to have a more offensive based and more defensive based armor. But this is just something that would be nice to have, not a gamebreaker.

7. Add some passive self-healing back to Warlocks. Warlocks have always been able to regenerate some health simply by doing damage, yet in MoP that is gone in PvP. Soul Leech is a good ability which should simply be baseline for all Warlock specs, as nobody will ever take it over Dark Regeneration in PvP, and I believe most people take Soul Leech in PvE (correct me if I'm wrong). In the past, when I got into a 2dps vs 2dps situation in 3s, (after trading healer kills) I would be able to sustain myself for a short amount of time with some passive self healing. Now, if I don't have Dark Regeneration + Healthstone up, I have essentially no way to heal (unless I'm Destro, with Ember Tap, which is great, BTW). I'd like to see a Warlock who was playing defensively be able to gain a bit of life back, like the old Siphon Life. Yes, I know Drain Life still exists.

8. Reduce Dark Soul numbers by 33-50%. Make Destruction's Dark Soul give 15-20% crit, instead of 30%, and so on for the other specs. Nobody likes Chaos Waving for 200k crit, and nobody likes 200k Chaos Bolts. Tone down the burst a bit and increase our steady-state damage.

8a. Increase our steady-state damage. Demonology's Corruption, Shadow Bolt and Soul Fire; Affliction's plain non-CD DoTs; Destruction's Conflagrate and Incinerates. These all need to hit harder in PvP. I know this will mess with PvE balance, so I know it's unlikely. Still, I feel that something in this area needs to happen for Warlocks to be a fun class this expansion. It's not fun to simply be waiting around for Dark Soul to come up. I think that the spec-specific PvP trinkets I suggested earlier would be a good way to do this. Or have these abilities gain extra benefit from PvP power. Perhaps a simple PvP power coefficient on abilities?

8b. Tone down our hardest hitting abilities a bit. The two main offenders are Chaos Bolt and Chaos Wave. I know that Chaos Bolt was already toned down a bit with the extra Sacrifice damage being added as a DoT, and it's totally possible that the new Chaos Bolt will be fine with Dark Soul at 15% crit. I don't know. I do know that Chaos Wave currently hits too hard, and there's a ~10% chance that you crit and hit for twice that. Chaos Wave damage needs to be toned down a bit. It currently hits for 70-100k in PvP with Dark Soul + on-use trinket, depending if you have Grimoire of Sacrifice or not. If the ability crits, we're talking 140-200k AE damage on an instant cast ability with another one coming in the next global. If two crit in a row, you've practically won the game right there. It's incredibly powerful and makes Demonology a very one dimensional spec, based around gibbing someone with your Chaos Waves once every 2 minutes.
It has only taken a week and I've already noticed warlocks falling off the ladder.
Aura nerf really really hurt demo locks. Didn't help that the other lock specs were hurt by the enfeeblement change. At lower ratings locks may seem a bit crazy but at higher ratings locks are pretty easy to counter.
12/02/2012 01:32 AMPosted by Nadagastt
Tone down our hardest hitting abilities a bit.[/b]

No thanks.

edit: And also, I love 200k + Chaos Bolts. They are crazy hard to get off against a good opponent.
how are they the weakest lol

some guy did double lock w\ a healer and hit 2200 so easily on bg9

i dont know ur class, all i know is that they turn into a illidan and spam waves that can break my ams lol
All of these points are spot on. Lets hope Blizzard sees this and considers it. Personally, I love the idea of bringing back class specific trinkets. That idea, in my opinion, seems to be the most logical idea as it would have no affect on pve.
This post pretty much sums up the changes that need to happen to locks.

I think your post is falling on deaf ears though, blizz seems to not really listen to the PvP community when it comes to class balancing (changes to warr's). Good post either way though!
Hmm. I obviously have no experience with high-end PvP but warlocks have made such a comeback in MoP.

They've gone from a dying, least-popular class to rivaling mages from what I can see. And I think it's great.

If there are issues suddenly in 5.1, I hope they address them. Also, I'm still afraid of chaos bolt.
You probably should have posted this on the Warlock section Nada.
I do agree with you, that is a hell of a breakdown well done.
Good post, but probably a waste of time.
The damage disparity between abilities/cooldowns is so absolutely and obviously insane.

I spend most globals using Fel Flame for 15k, and then suddenly spend a couple globals using Chaos Wave for over 200k. That's over 12x as much damage. A 1200% damage increase when I use my oneshot.

How can 1200% even exist? How do you miss on balancing abilities by THAT MUCH? It's off by over 1100%
3. Nerf the duration of AE Fears to 6 seconds. Psychic Scream, Howl of Terror, and Intimidating Shout are very powerful with dispel on an 8 second cooldown. If Howl of Terror is made baseline for all Warlocks, I think this needs to happen.

Please read The History of Fear to know why this shouldn't happen. Every class, save for probably Druids and Monks, has craptons of ways out of Fear.
Awesome post.

6a. Some choice of armors would be great. We used to have Fel and Demon Armor, and could pick which one to use depending on the situation.

I so hated swapping back and forth between demon and fell armors. I kinda like this change.

7. Add some passive self-healing back to Warlocks. Warlocks have always been able to regenerate some health simply by doing damage, yet in MoP that is gone in PvP.

Destruction doesnt need this with the increased ember generation. Ember Tap is Strong.

I think the easy answer would be to buff the Siphon Life Glyph from 20% to 40% therefore only affecting Affliction and Demo.

Awesome post man.
12/02/2012 01:32 AMPosted by Nadagastt
Warlocks are in a very bad place in high level PvP right now

*looks at warlocks*


*looks at rogues*


Yeah, your fine.
Addressing issues with warlocks is not about comparing them against the state of other classes; people tend to do this purely out of spite because they're frustrated with being literally globaled by the ridiculously gimmicky parts of warlocks right now (understandably). Instead of analyzing the numerical and statistical problems plaguing Warlocks right now (as Nadagastt has accurately and for the most part unbiasedly already accomplished), I'd like to examine the largely ignored ethical issues:

a.) Most decent warlocks who have ever been above 2200 or 2400 pre-MoP will tell you that they do not enjoy this play style, there is literally nothing fun whatsoever about landing 200k chaos wave crits back-to-back on a player for many of us -- This type of gameplay was not why i chose to roll as a warlock back at the beginning of Cataclysm, let the classes such as mages fulfill this niche.

b.) Although landing absurd burst like this is entertaining, it's not entertaining for the right reasons. It's simply not fun for either the giver or receiver, because as the giver there is no sense of reward garnered from macro-ing literally 4 to 5 abilities, trinkets, and cool downs into one button and watch an opponent's health drop from 75% --> 0%. This is not how I want to win games sorry. As the receiver, I think the last couple of months of feedback across multiple forums centered around this topic address how they feel about this.

c.) Lack of consistent confirmation by Blizzard to simply acknowledge that they are either aware of what players are experiencing, aware of what players desire for the meta-game to be (i.e. not one based around 3-4 seconds windows of burst cool downs and 2-3 minutes of running around building up our "resources"), or even just confirming that they are paying attention at all to the other half of the game. I personally think this should really give Blizzard a very, very poor reputation as a company that cares about its community and address all aspects of its game.

-PvPers recognize that PvE is the emphasis of World of Warcraft, but it would be ignorant to deny PvP as a very important staple feature of WoW -- Let us consider the publicity Arena Tournaments and Global Events Arenas have given World of Warcraft.

-The type of feedback a multibillion dollar company such as ActivisionBlizzard should be providing its faithful playerbase in all aspects of the game should be immensely more than it has given. We should literally have daily interactions with mods, developers, and anybody else involved with producing and maintaining the game, and they should want to interact with us just as eagerly. As players we should be dissatisfied with anything less than this.

d.) That being said, most Warlocks recognize that there is a problem with the class in PvP, however, the problem has to do both with the numbers and style of play (a style of play not limited to only Warlocks), but also with the fact that being forced to play this way is not fun.

If we take a look at the ethical issues of the game, or rather take a step back and ask ourselves if we are actually having fun playing this game in its current state, we realize that these aren't class-specific problems, these are problems of the meta-game and it's not improving.

Off-topic but still relevant in my opinion, but during the Burning Crusade and to a lesser extent WotLK, players were very enchanted and engaged with arenas because there was noticeably more effort put in to create a balanced PvP system that had never been done in an MMO before.

Innovation has basically turned into homogenization and it is totally crushing what made this game so appealing when arenas were first introduced.
There isn't a whole lot I can add to be constructive to be honest, I agree with pretty much every point you've made.
12/02/2012 01:48 PMPosted by Styln
As long as kids cry about chaos wave and chaos bolt blizzard will do nothing. Warlocks, as they are right now, are in a position to be as uncompetitive as they've ever been.

As well as many other classes; I feel really bad for the few players subjecting themselves to arena but still trying to take it seriously.

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