Archive for June, 2012

Are Warlocks a broken class?

Sad SylvannasIf you’ve read this blog before you’ll know I switched to Warlocking in early TBC after suffering tank burnout. I’ve seen the class change from the the alleged Shadow Bolt spammers of yore to where we are now. Warlock has become the lowest represented raiding class, Affliction the least used spec. Why? It’s simple there is a perceived lacking in damage output from Affliction warlocks.

I say perceived as Blizzard doesn’t think warlocks markedly underpowered, they don’t think we have balance issues. Maybe so in PvP, I only do the odd BG now and again. The balance I’m concerned with is between PvP and PvE. It’s a very tricky job for Blizzard balancing eight classes so no one is massively over- or underpowered in PvP. Sometimes in achieving this one class will gain an edge in PvE or more likely lose an edge.

Every class traditionally harps on about their deficiencies and conveniently forgets about their strengths. This is the stuff of every trade chat exchange. However, the statistics Guildox have put together confirm conventional wisdom (check out Cynwise blog for some more analysis). Warlocks have significantly declined as a raiding class, warlocks struggle to output viable levels of DPS.

The warlock problem in PvE isn’t one of edge it’s one of competitiveness. We’re dead on the metres. DPS / Damage metres never tell the whole story and I’d quite happily see them disappear from the game. However, we are where we are and the simple truth is metres are read simply. As affliction my spec is balanced around my DoTs. When my DoTs begin to tick their cumulative damage is pretty good. Then roll in the long casts and channelled spells and that’s how our damage output is built. Blizzard balances around end content gear naturally, so like mages we can really suffer on trash, especially at lower gear levels.

What really hurts us at lower gear levels is our almost totally inability to scratch trash packs. Don’t get me wrong we have AoE tools. OK, we have to work harder in quickly evaluating the opposition. 5 mobs up: Soulburn > Seed of Corruption and Rain of Fire does some reasonable numbers. I do mean reasonable, don’t get your hopes up. Four mobs? OK this is hard because four mobs is really an edge case. As above two Rain of Fire then a mob usually dies. DoT up the weakest and (glyphed) Soul Swap the DoTs onto another target, continue full rotation. 3 mobs – fully DoT a mob, Soul Swap to a second. You can even open with Souldburn > Seed of Corruption to spread a Corruption to every mob at the outset. On four mobs our DPS will begin reasonably and then substantially degrade as mobs die or the Corruptions expire. Three mobs…meh. Two longer living mobs we can do quite well with if we keep the DoTs up on both. Hard work and less rewards than most classes get for hardly any work at all.

I have never experienced the level of abuse and party kicks as I did when hit 85 and scraped the item level for heroics. As I picked up gear my DPS naturally ramped up a level. In some groups with people of comparable ilevel to me I would put out pretty good numbers, the only conclusion is that I can play warlock and rotate through my abilities in a reasonably effective way. The nightmare was when people with item levels above 372 joined parties I was in. Mobs including bosses when down so quickly! Affliction ‘locks don’t burst we DoT up and grind down over time. I can fake a massive burst opener with Haste pot > Trinkets > Demon Soul > Curse of Elements > Soulburn > Soulfire > Haunt > Shadow Bolt especially if Nightfall procs. However, as the DoTs go on the DPS troughs and doesn’t pick up for three global cooldowns and a couple of Shadow Bolts. Haunt get’s reapplied about now and DPS plateaus before building up. If the boss dies now warlock damage looks very lame. Bun fight, name calling, finger pointing, warlock back in Orgrimmar.

If this had been Burning Crusade I would’ve given up my Warlock before I got any heroic gear. No thanks, not touching that again. Not worth the griefing and abuse. Fortunately I had enough Justice points for two pieces of T12 (which is still decent gear) and my numbers began to assist me in blagging my way to the end of 5 mans. When I just made the ilevel to get into Hour of Twilight runs the abuse got significant worse, it literally went up a gear. Now all the raid bullies are in, Valor point farming. Why is it so hard to explain to a part Heroic Dragon Soul geared paladin that if he is going to put out 54K damage the affliction warlock in shabby looking ilvl 355 blues and entry level epics isn’t going to have time to do more than 4K damage to a mob before it’s dead.

When I have a (by my standards) tiny rant in guild chat people ask me why I keep getting kicked? I explain: “Chronic DPS”. I then get carefully worded questions: “Is this your first Warlock?”, “Have you been playing Warlocks long?”, “Have you checked your rotation with Noxxic?” Noxxic? I could’ve written their whole guide. Don’t get me wrong I like Noxxic, it’s concise, it’s distilled. However, for real meat everyone still goes to ElitistJerks surely? I had a classic question asked of me yesterday: “Are you having an off day or is your DPS always that bad?” From a guildie!?

I’m not the best WoW player that ever was, I’m certainly not making claims to be the best warlock ever. However, I was at times (when I could stay alive ;D) masterful in ICC, I have been right up there in Dragon Soul (normal) and I topped the metres in Heroic. Adjusting to new situations and stepping up to new mechanics in a fight is something I do very well. So our first heroic Dragon Soul runs really suited me.

Warlocks are currently pretty much broken at lower gear levels and in end game we really struggle. That’s why Blizzard is drastically overhauling the class in Mists of Pandaria. I welcome an overhaul, but I hope Blizzard don’t gut us and change what was essentially warlock and give us a completely new class.

Wot a charmer…

A healer joined my 5-man half way through the other day. I’m abusing the tank. Now normally, if the tank is doing an OK job, I’m defending them because tanking is easy to do badly and hard to do really well. I’ve written about this many times before. In addition I was also berating the hunter and the druid. The new healer dryly commented “What a charmer…”

I replied archly “You should’ve been here since the start but don’t let me colour your judgement.” We were just the other side of Corborus in Stonebore and recovering from a trash wipe on the first group of Stonecore Flayers. We got down the hill to the two flayers and around the corner from Slabhide into the chamber packed with adds down each side before Ozruk. The healer was already becoming a little…frayed. The tank positioned us appallingly and managed to pull a Giant and another pack…we wiped horribly.

The healer apologised to me and said he was beginning to see the problem. “The hunter is a ninja-pulling idiot, the tank is very soft and…and what is the druid doing?”

I explained that the situation in the group was obvious before and especially at the first boss. The hunter didn’t know what misdirect was or that his pet had a taunt. He also wanted to pull before the tank arrived and he wanted the tank to get the aggro off him. The tank was of the class: problem. The druid wasn’t really doing any DPS. At the first boss I asked mid fight, Corborus taking a lot longer than usual and myself on five times more damage than the druid (no, literally) “What is the druid doing?”. He said and I quote: “Sorry I’m looking for the quest item.” Note I said ‘I’m looking’ not ‘I was looking’ because he didn’t stop looking or start doing some boss DPS!

The tank. I hold my head in my hands as I say it. The tank was a Death Knight. I say tank, amongst a long line of Death Knights I’ve seen again this week the only thing tank about him was his Blood spec. His gear…well he wasn’t top of the DPS metre for nothing. How the healer kept him alive in any situation was beyond me…I had to explain to the ninja-pulling hunter that he was never going going to get heals mid fight because if the healer switched targets and invested one global cooldown on the hunter the tank would be dead then we would all die and not just one hunter-tank ‘DPS’.

The healer thanked me for my explanation and support. I explained about the druid who happily announced “I’ve found it!” and scampered down to catch us up in the first chamber beyond Corborus then left the group mid fight shortly after Slabhide and the first healers frustration. He gave a short tirade and group quit after the first boss. The hunter he could see for himself and if he had a vote to kick we should probably lose the hunter first if we could, but his DPS was good and the rogue who joined with the healer was barely doing the druid’s DPS. It was a tough call who to kick to ensure we could actually reach the end. It was made considerably easier by the hunter throwing his dollies out of the pram being criticised and quit the group.

We got a really nice Affliction lock who chatted to me about Affliction and I helped him make the most of it. He’d been away since Wrath and had forgotten the Dark Intent he’d just trained and wasn’t using Bane of Doom on bosses. Bane of Doom [BoD] generates more DPS than Curse of Agony [CoA] but you can only put it on one target. In multiple mob situations, where there are less than four, you’ll want to Soul Swap and you can only have BoD on one target so CoA was an intelligent choice. He was very easy to bring up to speed on our spec. We had time to chat waiting for a new tank. We had kicked the DK.

The three of us, the two locks and healer hung around at the end of the dungeon. I said it was a pleasure finishing the dungeon with them. The healer said likewise and apologised again for being negative towards me when he joined. He understood now that what I had been saying was both fair and reasonable. So yeah, I do often rage at party members, maybe some of the advice/critique will be used by them going forward. I know I sometimes deny, ignore, rage back at the feedback I get and then implement the suggestions in the next dungeon. So who knows.

If you do port into a dungeon to find a lock pulling out her hair and a tirade of advice masquerading as abuse just remember: you weren’t here to see the stupidity that preceded it.

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