I don’t think I’ve seen as much class hate as the current player base holds for Warlocks. If you put the word “warlock” in a forum post title, you can be assured it’s going to reach “buzz” status and max out the allowed number of response pages. I’m sorry to say, that this is classic Blizzard changing stances on an issue in a way that swings from one side all the way to the other, which causes a large amount of player angst. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there are many statistical modeling tools that allow you to work through various scenarios in order to optimize outcomes. I’m starting to think that the players need to take up a fund and send a copy of Crystal Ball over to Blizzard.
I’ve heard tales that Warlocks were over powered during the WOW Beta. I wasn’t fortunate enough to play Beta so I can’t comment. What I do know is that when I selected it as my first toon’s class, it was anything but over powered. She could hold her own against mobs and the flexibility of matching curses to the mob, class and situation was a fun challenge. Once you had more than one pet, doing the same thing – matching pet to situation was an interesting dynamic that kept the leveling fun and fresh.
I avoided in world PVP as much as I could because we sucked at it. In cloth with average health and no escape mechanism other than a long cast timer on Fear, death was lurking around every encounter. We were such a joke that players 3-5 levels below me would take me on without a second thought. The basic opinion of the average player at the time was that a Warlock was a free honor kill. In a crowd they’d still rush to take you out first because you went down easy and it removed any opportunity for you to cast Fear.
I distinctly remember playing around with my son’s Paladin when he was in his low 50s one day, I had been 60 for a while by then. It really struck me how people didn’t dismount to try and gank me. Even if two horde players saw me some where alone, they didn’t just assume they could kick my ass and rush in to gank. In fact, it was just the opposite. Horde usually went in the opposite direction. Not because the Paladin was known for damage but because they knew it would be a long fight, and someone of my own faction might happen to mosey on by before they could kill him and be on their way. It was a very eye-opening experience to have players higher than his toon just ride on by when they saw the class. That was definitely not how life worked for me as a Warlock.
The first real improvement for Warlocks came when Death Coil was introduced as our escape mechanism. Instant cast fear with a damage component. I would say player hate started building in small degrees with this spell. It’s on a timer so you can’t cast it at will. However, many Warlocks started using this as an opening move. Doing so, allowed them to get you away from them while they DOT or cast the real Fear and then DOT you up. It’s a rather low-blow or EZ-mode PVP strategy, one that I didn’t personally use. I continued to use Fear as I think it was intended – escape mechanism. It was long enough for me to start to run in the opposite direction while casting any instant DOTs I had available. This was usually enough to dissuade the attacker who’d go about their business and try to mitigate the DOT damage, while I kept running.
The other way to use it, and this I did often was as a finishing move. If my opponent was low on health I could DC them away from me and then Shadow Bolt, Searing Pain or drain the remaining health. Either way, the DC gave me just enough breathing room to finish them off. So as nice as the introduction of DC was, it wasn’t enough of a boost where I felt secure in PVP against most of the other classes.
Some time after, I’m old and the dates are fuzzy, Soul Link was buffed to mitigate more damage. SL is only available to Demonology Warlocks who weren’t very popular at the time. But if you went Demo now, you had DC, SL and Fear. 1v1 this is what made demonology shine and it gained in popularity. Prior to this, players ignored your pet so unless you had the Succi out, they just pummeled you into the ground. Now they had to respect the pet, because as long as it lived, it absorbed 60% of my damage. Yes, it was first released at 60%!! I was and always had been, Demo spec’d and it was as if I became uber over night.
I stopped running. If you ganked me I would DOT you, DC you, Bolt you and if you were still stupid enough to pursue me, I’d Fear you and commence to nuking in earnest. My play-style and my PVP experience changed overnight. Before I knew it, I could take on 2v1 and win, regardless of which pet I had out. Prior to that, if I didn’t have the right pet out for the class who was attacking me, I was dead. Now it didn’t matter, any pet was of use to me for the damage mitigation. Even the Imp, with its low health, could save me just enough health to outlast my opponent. Demonology spec’d Warlocks became 1v1 and 2v1 gods. The level of player hate increased at this juncture. But having survived a year or more of abuse, I laughed my ass off and killed with reckless abandon.
Everyone hates Warlocks unless their in your group and working toward the same objectives. And even, then some people just flat-out hate the class now, and screams for nerfs and laments of how over powered they are, flood the forums on a daily basis. Chief complaints are DOTs, 2 instant cast Fears, burst damage, high HP and pets. The problem is that when people complain about Warlocks they consider all of the talents together as though every Warlock as them, which isn’t the case.
Affliction Warlocks have the improved DOTs, improved drains, Siphon Life and 2nd instant cast fear. Demonology Warlocks have the highest amount of survivability are probably the more balanced spec. With their spare points, they had the option of getting a little burst damage from the Destruction tree or some improved DOTs from Affliction. Destruction is for the nuke minded player. They can bring the pain quickly but are very squishy. If you get the jump on one and they don’t have the appropriate pet out, they’re problem going to be toast. For this reason, I’ve never stayed Destruction for long. In my early raiding days, I tried Destruction for the damage output but farming and grinding honor on a highly contested PVP server sucked hard. With three or more Warlocks on every raid, I didn’t feel it necessary to take the personal hit by keeping a spec that I didn’t like, and went back to Demo.
So over time, Warlocks went from being Kibble to dominating people in PVP. It seems like it happened over night but it didn’t. It seems like every Warlock has all the tricks up his sleeve but they don’t. They have some depending on their spec, and I’ll grant you that you can’t really have a fucked up spec being a Warlock. Why? Because they are one of the few classes, maybe the only class, where all three trees are synergistic. Unless someone splits evenly across all the trees and fails to take anything of consequence, you’re guaranteed a pretty good spec. Is this a bad thing? No, it’s how it should be in the first place. Each of the class trees should have a particular focus or playing style. However, you should be able to specialize in one while picking up useful and complimentary talents from one of the others.
Because the trees are so good now, the only way they can tone down Warlocks is to nerf their base damage but I don’t think Blizzard wants to gut the class. They’re trying to pick at it from the corners – resilience affecting DOTs, reduce durations on fears, etc. To be fair, Warlocks have been nerfed several times over the past few months, and still the cries of “ZOMG, NERF WARLOCKS,” continue to draw crowds. We already have some really broken classes/specs when it comes to PVP. I don’t think gimping another class is the right direction. We know that Blizzard does feel it’s often easier to nerf something than buff what’s really broken – hell, they’ve said as much on the forums. That’s really too bad and annoying for the broken classes/specs. I’m sure that many of the people who flooded to the Warlock class were members of the broken. I’ve seen Priests and Paladins say they gave up on whatever spec they were hoping to see fixed and instead took refuge in the most dominate class, Warlock.
Can you imagine the number of pissed off players they’d have on their hands if they gutted another class? Remember that nerfing any class does nothing but make raiding harder. Frankly, I’m sick of them trying to balance classes around PVP – especially arenas. What about those of us who don’t play arenas or give a flying fart about what is or isn’t broken in there?? If they really want competitive PVP they need to mimic GuildWars and be done with it. Pre-made level 70s, in standard gear with a certain set of talents/specs to choose from for PVP, would end all of this non-sense. At that point PVP would be all about skill and strategy, and it could reduce if not eliminate, all this balancing around something that wasn’t a core mechanic of the game in the first place. But I digress…
Rolling a toon from 1 to 60 got old a long time ago. Rolling 1 to 70 is rather obscene. I would worry about people completely becoming outraged and abandoning the game if they nerf Warlocks to the point that the refugees now feel that effort was pointless, and are once again playing a broken class. However much time and effort it would take, is what Blizzard owes its players and paying customers toward fixing the other classes and making them as viable as Warlocks. If they buffed/fixed the other classes, Warlocks who are just drunk on power would be unhappy but their character would still function they way they’re used and it would be really hard to be too outraged. The other classes would be happy and the mature Warlocks would just realize that the free ride is over and it’s time to step up their game the same way they did when Warlocks sucked. Others might actually elect to go back to other classes which would diversify the playing field a bit more, and that could only be good for the game as well.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the course of the next few months. I’m sitting in an “I can’t lose” position. I have a Warlock. If they decide to fix Priests I have one of those. If they fix Retribution, it might be fun to try that, since it’s the one spec combination I never touched on the Paladin. In case you missed it one of my comments, I’ve also been leveling a Druid when I just want to revisit the best parts of the game – pre TBC human zone leveling. Whatever they do, my family has been playing so long that we have most bets covered.
For now I’m just watching the show – reading forums, doing the occasional Kara, dorking around with a Druid and praying for Beta invites.