Friday, March 07, 2008

Why People Hate Warlocks

V’Ming Chew at WoWInsider has a post up asking Why People Hate Warlocks. In the post, he identifies four possible reasons:
  1. PvP Dominance?
  2. Easy Mode?
  3. Warlocks don't provide goodies?
  4. Warlocks are evil?

While these reasons may contribute to the negative emotional responses to warlocks, I think they miss the mark. In my opinion the real reason warlocks are disliked is that:

Warlocks have no obvious weaknesses.

Class-based design requires classes to have specific weaknesses as well as strengths. That’s what allows classes to work together, to complement each other. In PvP, it’s what allows you to come up with a strategy to defeat the other class. Classes which have no weaknesses are just as broken as classes that have no strengths.

Let’s compare warlocks to the other DPS classes. Mages have several obvious weaknesses. They’re fragile. They rely heavily on mana and are very vulnerable when they run out. They have good crowd control, but Polymorph breaks on damage and even heals the target. Rogues are somewhat fragile and require melee range. Hunters require being at range. Getting into melee with a hunter is a good strategy.

So what are the warlock’s obvious weaknesses? They’re not fragile, you can’t run them out of mana, they’re good at range, they can Fear--or even Drain Tank--when people get too close. They can kill you slowly with DoTs, or they can blast you down with Shadowbolts.

I think that warlocks were originally designed to be a “control” class. Their weakness was they dealt damage slowly, but could control the fight until their opponent died. However, Shadowbolt allows a warlock to blast like a mage, while still retaining their original control. I think it’s telling that the major high end spec is 0/21/40 which spams Shadowbolts.

I think that Shadowbolt needs to be reigned in. I think that Blizzard should knock the coefficient down a few percent. Shadowbolt scales too well, and doesn’t really fit the whole “control” aspect of the warlock, negating their required weakness.


  1. This is awesome. After reading the original warlock piece this morning, which I took to be mostly a fluff piece, I got an earful from my mage friend who disagreed vehemently with it, echoing many of your sentiments here.

    I think whether you agree with V'Ming Chew's reasons or not for warlock hate, you have to agree that the subject of warlocks elicits some serious emotion.

  2. Just correcting a little error, if you are 0/21/40, you will spam incinerate with immolation up and not shadowbolt.
    For anything else, I agree with you.

  3. "Shadowbolt scales too well, and doesn’t really fit the whole “control” aspect of the warlock, negating their required weakness."

    Well, sort of. In PvE (on a raid-debuffed mob) SB does scale better than any other nuke in the game, which seems a bit out of place for a class that isn't _just_ about nuking. A big part of it is also the improved shadow bolt debuff. Honestly I think that the honor of single best-scaling nuke should belong either to mages (which don't do anything else) or to a class that's balanced by other responsibilities (perhaps moonkin or ele shamans)

    I disagree with your idea about it negating their "required weakness" though. In PvP, shadow bolt is pretty much a non-issue; destruction locks are the only ones who nuke with any degree of frequency, and they're easily considered the least powerful and least represented spec.

    In PvE, "control" is basically a non-issue: that's what tanks are for. Rather, I think that the problem in PvE is that SB eclipses all other ways of doing damage in a class that's almost defined by its variety and complexity. The effort required to maintain an efficient DoT sequence for affliction or micro-manage a felguard for demonology should pay off more than mashing the SB button for destruction, but it doesn't. At the high end, it's not even close, and the result is that what _should_ be a dynamic and fun class to play is reduced to spamming SB and lifetapping when necessary, and doing your job better than specs that are more involved to play.

  4. Erm, I'm sorry, but no weaknesses? Even if we discount stunlocking, which is pretty much just as effective against everyone, there's still plenty of drawbacks.

    - Even with Soul Link, a Warlock is still fairly fragile. As well, that's only one tree. A heavy Affliction or Destruction Warlock doesn't have that, and thus is no more protected then a Mage or Priest.

    - You can run a Warlock out of mana, and their recovery method both 1) Prevents then from casting, and 2) Hurts them. A lot. If you manage to get their mana down low, then it costs most of their life to recover, thus making them an easy target. However, it does let the Warlock choose the time for a hit, instead of taking them out of combat for the entire time, like Evocate.

    - Fears break on damage as well. While it may be less likely with a DoT, it's another matter with Shadow Bolt. Not to mention that there's more ways to break Fear then to break Sheep.

    - Like any other caster, Melee beats a Warlock casting. It's hard to get out more then the instants if someone is beating on them, and if someone's in their face they're not going to be using Life Tap.

    I just don't really know what all the commotion is, personally. But I don't really like to PvP much, so maybe that's it.

  5. Locks do have weaknesses, and if you play at a decent level of Arena, it'll become very apparent to you this Season 3---training the Lock hard with 2-3 melee classes in conjunction with constant dispel spam from a supporting Priest or Shaman = win. Lock dies or just becomes a useless mana sink for your healers.

    A Lock's defense at this moment is a Mage (Nova+Sheep to control melee) and a Druid (Cyclone/Root cycle). As a Lock in 5v5, my defense is entirely in the hands of my teammates.

    People who complain about Locks are the ones running around for HK's in BG without any organization---you have 7K HP and complain that Fear+2 DOTS killed you? Any class will kill you in 7K HP, the problem is not the opponent.

    And 0/21/40 is a raiding spec, of course it's going to focus on Shadow Bolts and nuking.

  6. megan, you're being very specific. I'm not saying that warlocks are immortal or overpowered. But if you look at it from a high or more general view, what are the weaknesses?

    For example, paladins have lower DPS and no range. That's our weaknesses in general. Level 1, level 70, PvE, PvP, the paladin class is designed with those weaknesses built-in.

    What weaknesses are built-in to the warlock?

  7. Rohan, while I do not disagree totally with the premise of your argument, I do feel that perhaps you're only seeing half of the issue.

    Warlocks may seem to have no apparent weaknesses, but they have to specialize very specifically to get that way.

    In many recent blog articles I've seen similar complaints, talking about the overall survivability in PVP coupled with an intense ability to dish out damage in PVP. We're talking about entirely different specs here.

    On the one hand, PVP survivability falls almost exclusively to Demonology builds, requiring Soul Link as the primary means of defense. PVE specs that focus on shadowbolt give up nearly all other utility to do so. They do not have a pet. They do not have instant-cast corruption. To get to Demonic Sacrifice they are forced to invest in talents that buff the demon they intend on sacrificing in the first place. There IS give and take here.

    Warlocks do have a weakness, and that has to do with their inability to survive focus fire from melee range. Rogues with the aptitude to hold a stun-lock used to be bad enough, and now Cloak of Shadows makes surviving chain almost impossible for anyone but a Soul Link spec. Warriors can attack with hardly a thought given to our primary defense mechanism - Fear. The only reliable way to survive a warrior is using Seduce coupled with Curse of Exhaustion to kite them.

    I will not argue that a good warlock puts up a terribly good showing in either pvp or pve, but specializing for one requires almost completely forgoing the other. Only Affliction provides something in the way of both, but lacks the punch of Destruction or the survivability of Demonology.

  8. Ferenczys has it spot on. Most folk I know still are under the belief that all locks are somehow specced 41/41/41.

    I think that of all the different classes/specs out there, the Warlock has 3 very viable talent trees that can be used effectively in PvE or PvP. It's not unusual to see 3 Warlocks running around in the BG's specced 3 completely different ways and being good at it.

    It takes different strategies to beat each type and it is not always apparent what type of lock you are facing (except if the felguard is out). As opposed to say a priest, it is easy to see if they are shadow or not. Or, most warriors you will face in the BG's will be Arms/Fury, mages are mostly fire, get the picture.

    I'll admit this makes it more difficult to kill a warlock, but not impossible. It just requires the ability to adjust your tactics on the fly.

    I can see where people would say they got dotted to death, and then nuked all the while having a Felguard beat on them. You are just not going to see one spec running around. Warlocks are effective damage dealers no matter what your playstyle is.

    What we need is Blizzard to do the same for other classes and not pigeonhole them so much into one spec for a particular purpose.

  9. Warlocks are the best class at PvP in the 3v3/2v2 arena brackets because of soul link and the ability to easily keep dots up on three targets.

    The 5v5 arena brackets are another story because shamans are much more common and can purge a lot of the effects that warlocks depend on. Warlocks are still useful but aren't unkillable like they tend to be in the 3v3 bracket.

  10. Coriel, this may be the first time I have disagreed with your analysis of a game mechanic. I want to start by saying that I generally find your observations to be quite insightful, even compared to those offered by experienced game developers.

    As mentioned by several others here, it is important to remember that the abilities referenced in your post are largely dependent upon specific talents - talents which cannot all be possessed by a single character. Short of Soul Link, the Warlock is arguably the least protected class in the game against melee attacks.

    While I would agree that Shadowbolt is all too effective a nuke in the PvE game, it is rare to see cast in PvP except as a finisher. The reason is spell interruption; Shadowbolt has a relatively long cast time, and even the white damage of a single melee character or pet is sufficient to delay the cast far longer than is practical. Shadowbolt is also guaranteed to break Fear.

    Fear is likely the single most powerful and single most detrimental skill the Warlock possesses. The entire class depends on the Fear mechanic. Successful Fear ensures a win, while failed Fear ensures a loss. The Warlock possesses no other means of escape and no other way (short of the popular "SL/SL" build, which I will address) to buy the time necessary to kill his opponent.

    The real reason other players dislike Warlocks is because the class was designed to rely on "negative status" as it's primary offense. Did you ever play Final Fantasy? Do you remember the "Malboro" creature? They're no fun to fight, right? Even when you're tough enough to guarantee a win against one, it's just annoying to lose control of your character - to be poisoned, silenced, confused, or put to sleep. That's your Warlock. They are designed to rely on the "negative status" type of attacks rather than direct damage in order to differentiate the class from the Mage. Quite frankly, no one wants negative status effects, and I doubt they would be happy with the Warlock even if it was scaled down in power significantly.

    There is a comment in this thread which claims that Warlocks are "the best class at PvP in the 3v3/2v2 arena brackets", which I feel proves my point. There is no evidence to support this claim (in fact, all the numbers available to us name the Druid as the hands-down favorite in 2v2 and 3v3 arena), yet thousands of players cling to this belief. They continue to cry for nerfs to the Warlock class, claim the class has not been previously nerfed (an easily disproven claim), and complain the class has no counters. Fear in particular has seen a number of reductions in power over the past several years. In the current incarnation, it is no longer powerful enough to rely on for survivability against most classes, so many Warlocks have turned instead to the hated "SL/SL" spec.

    "SL/SL" refers to Soul Link and Siphon Life, the two key talents of the build. Due to their placement in the Demonology and Affliction trees, this build has very little flexibility and very few damage-maximizing talents. Instead, it confers a level of damage mitigation which roughly compares to mail or even plate armor against melee attacks and provides two methods of regaining life (via Siphon Life and Improved Drain Life, which reduces interruption of Drain Life due to damage taken). Of particular concern is the level of mitigation offered by this build versus magical damage. By combining DOTs with Drain Life, the SL/SL warlock can wait out his opponent while he slowly kills them.

    "SL/SL" is not a control spec. Quite the contrary, the play style reinforced by this talent specialization may be the most straightforward of any I know. The frustration comes in that another class looking to take on an SL/SL warlock cannot simply face off with him in a straightforward manner. Instead, they must rely on the Warlock's lack of burst damage and dependence on Drain Life to gain control of the fight.

    That said, I do agree that this particular combination of talents makes the Warlock a little too tough. Soul Link is fine, and Siphon Life is fine, but together they are a little too much.

    Overall, I would say that the Warlock class is in desperate need a of a review. I'd like to see Fear reworked so it is less heavily relied upon and more extensive control options provided to the Warlock. I am particularly fond of the use of Warlock pets as selectable skill extensions, conferring a unique and situational set of abilities to the Warlock, but requiring a choice between the various pets.

    The bottom line is, Warlocks get a bad rep, and it's not all deserved. They are neither the most powerful class in PvE or PvP, yet they continue to gain negative publicity and ill-will from the community.

    My main is a BT attuned Holy Paladin - Aerendar, on Echo Isles.

  11. @tim
    Could you clarify "negative status"? I think I know what you mean, but never having played Final Fantasy and therefore never having encountered a "'Malboro' creature" I can't be sure...

  12. I am not an expert player; rather I see myself as average.
    I play an Afflcition Warlock in PvE. Despite what a lot of people say, I see plenty of weaknesses.

    Crowd Control. I have 2 ways of CCing mobs - Fear/Horror/terror and Succubus.
    Fear etc - very unreliable. Mobs run in random directions, may run a long way, run out of los, run towards other mobs, run behind the healer and so on.
    As fear has such a pathetic range, mobs can recover from fear and start attacking from range again, while still out of my range.

    Succubus - I would swap her for a sheep any time. In a typical Heroic, the short duration of Seduce means I will have to reapply Seduce maybe 3 times. No such thing as chain-seduce, the cast time is too long, unlike polymorph, and the duration of Secude itself is pathetic.
    So typically mob breaks seduce or gets too close, and then one-shots the Succubus, and then comes after me. Is there any wonder LFG is full of people asking for Mages for CC rather than Warlocks?

    Armor. Warlocks have the lowest armor in the game. Get any Heroic/Instance mob into melee with me and I die in one or two hits.
    Get zerged by a bunch of mobs and I have one chance to get them off me - Howl of Terror, and then after a few seconds they come back and take me down. No chance to cast any decent spells, no Ice block here. Seeds of Corruption? Might get a couple off, still won't save me.

    No spell interrupt, except a fear effect. Time and again I see a mob starting to cast a Heal spell, and there is nothing I can do about it.

    Aoe: Seed of corruption - quickest way I know to get mob aggro. Rain of Fire - weak. Hellfire - fine, but even a couple of taps will interrupt it, and even if I do get it going properly, I'm probably going to die.

    Burst Damage - what is that? My typical shadow bolt does maybe 2k damage - big deal. Put me on totem killing duty in Zul Aman, and have a laugh at my ineffectiveness.

    Don;t tell me I have no weaknessess.

  13. Wow, your so right! Lets make it so that warlocks only viable spec in pvp and raid is heavy affliction thats so fair and fun for everyone!!!!!

  14. @tim: My 2250 rated warlock uses shadow bolt all the time.

    @coriel: I mostly agree with your general analysis. It's not about them not having any weaknesses, but those weaknesses not being readily apparent.

  15. It's funny how you don't even mention how a warrior can stand a chance with a warlock, because we have absolutly no defence against one. I'm a warrior obviously. I think Blizzard has a hard on for warlocks and must hate warriors. It's like a regular man fighting a super hero, only the super hero is evil and controled by a 17 yr old kid. What really angers me is that they lie to you in the handbook about how powerful warriors are.

  16. a sl/sl (soon to be coming in Wotlk sl/sl/netherprot) warlock that knows how to play the class should never lose one on one gear being equal...EVER. If they do they need to learn more play tactics. Even the game itself, Blizzard, calls the lock "the ultimate dueling class" for Ch's sake even the inventor admits it.

    Roguetrader- iLLidan "Where we take PvP to another level"

  17. a sl/sl (soon to be coming in Wotlk sl/sl/netherprot) warlock that knows how to play the class should never lose one on one gear being equal...EVER. If they do they need to learn more play tactics. Even the game itself, Blizzard, calls the lock "the ultimate dueling class" for Ch's sake even the inventor admits it.

    Roguetrader- iLLidan "Where we take PvP to another level"

  18. reference my comment above- this will be the new sl/sl/nether protect build in Wotlk- its going to cause alot more blog posting of how nasty locks are and will be and how "unfair blah blah blah" locks are. Quite frankly I see the ret pally as being the new "ultimate duel" class, that is if you don't have a free-action pot with you ...hehe

    on with the show----

    my lock is sl/sl and with the new 80 talent tree today not the 24/37 we all knew- its this build:
    22-11-28 starting at 70 and then going to ultimate 32-11-28- its the unkillable lock. with the addition of netherprotection (ALL SCHOOLS OF MAGIC NOW GUYS) this makes the sl/sl/nether lock a truely pvp/all purpose machine. Now- if you raid mostly and don't like sneaking ppl enjoying their daddy's toon somewhere in terrokar forrest- then this build is not best for you. However you can raid with it as well as never lose one on one and have a good chance against as many as 3 as long as no healer involved. Also, to the tool/felguard comment. I kinda agree b/c the felguard, while cool and bad and all that crap, is not as useful to the lock as a felhunter. With proper macros you can dispell sheep, other fears, other dots and with the additional use of shadow ward you should never lose to any shadow school including another lock, assuming you can out play him. As to that- agon, corr, siphon, fear, drain life--searing pain if spellcast 1/2 procs drain, drain ((at any point during that process when u see ur opponent cast fear SPELL LOCK)) if see it again - DEATH COIL- you should have a decisive advantage by that time your 3/4 health his should be under 1/2 if you out played him. Don't forget to have that macro to dispell his curses and dont dispell them untill you've feared him, remember they don't really hurt untill about 6-7 seconds.

    I hope any or all of this helps- happy hunting!
    Roguetrader- iLLidan "Where we take PvP to another level"

  19. As a warlock playing in wotlk i agree with the shadowbolt being moved away from the affliction tree and replaced with drain life we are like vampires. Shadowbolt does not seem to fit into that we need to cc to survive. We control the course of combat with cc and used to have high stamina to survive now we are gimps...

  20. I want to respond to this... what _should_ be a dynamic and fun class to play is reduced to spamming SB and lifetapping when necessary

    Affliction has one of the most complex rotation of any class to be effective. Spamming shadowbolts was for bc raiding or meta/ruin builds in wotlk.

  21. Dear Pallys... I have always found the lock/pally battle to be epic. Against a skilled pally it can last a while with both the pally self heal and the life tap/drain combo.
    Unfortunately the unskilled pallys last 3-4 seconds in most of my fights.

    Now with the turn evil i would say the pally has the advantage in wotlk but a lock who knows his class can overcome it.