Starting a warlock

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So, you're thinking of playing a warlock? This page is intended to give a short overview of what to do over the first 10 levels or so, just to get you started on the right path. If you're looking for more of an overview of the class's abilities, see the main Warlock page.

For even more info on warlocks, see Category:Warlocks.

For a more general overview on starting out playing WoW, see the Newbie Guide.

Race selection

Main article: Warlock#Racial traits

If you're a power-player, you'll want to consider the various racial traits when choosing what race to play. For more casual gamers, there's really no major difference between the races - choose the race that you want to play, whether for its looks, its voice, or because its simply good fun!

For an overview of the racial traits useful to warlocks, see Warlock racial traits.

Early leveling

A warlock training

The easiest way to progress through the early levels is to simply do any and all quests you can find. Not only will you breeze through the first few levels, but you'll get useful gear and precious money.

Make sure you get all the spells you can from your trainer, as soon as they become available. Although many will not be useful at low levels, try to understand each ability's purpose and unique advantages. Most will come in handy at higher levels, or in PvP.

Currently, progression as a low level warlock is very easy. Many abilities which are crucial to warlock survivability or competitive dps at higher levels are redundant at lower levels; simply casting the fastest and most powerful spell is almost always enough to defeat the current target and steadily increase in level. Sadly, employing more intelligent and complex rotations is simply unnecessary at low levels, and will usually lead to slower and less productive encounters. However, as you progress, these abilities will become increasingly relevant. Dungeons provide a new set of variables, such as aggro management and bosses with many times the health of an average mob, and offer a new way of playing your warlock. Battlegrounds present an entirely new challenge, and will require you to rethink your strategy if you are to survive.

Consequently, at low levels, the simplest path to victory is often the best. However, as each new ability becomes available, use this time to explore and experiment with them, and discover their uses. Sooner or later each will become a valuable part of your rotation, and by taking the time to learn your class, you will be prepared to face any situation, and become a valuable member of any team. Too many players arrive at max level without really understanding their class; exploring the potential of your warlock will make you a better player, a better teammate, and allow you to quickly adapt to the more challenging requirements of higher level play.

You start out with only an imp and [Shadow Bolt]. Simply pick a target (ideally at maximum range) and cast Shadow Bolt until it's dead. Your imp should join in after a moment or so, increasing dps. At level 3 you will gain [Corruption]. This is your first DoT (damage over time spell). DoTs represent a different approach from direct damage spells like Shadow Bolt, and are favoured by Affliction warlocks. Individually they are fairly weak and usually take a long time to deal their damage, but when multiple DoTs are used on a target (especially in combination with other abilities) the combined damage can be devastating, and often inescapable. However, since DoTs take a while to deal their damage, in quick fights they simply don't have time to deal enough damage to make casting them worthwhile. As a rule of thumb, in fights that last less than 9 seconds, simply use your fastest/most powerful attack (which is Shadow Bolt until at least level 10). In longer fights (such as against bosses) warlocks of all specs can benefit from first applying all available DoTs before focusing upon direct damage spells, and must remember to re-apply them as they expire.

An alternative multiple-target grinding technique is to pick a mob at maximum range and cast [Corruption] on it. Immediately switch targets to a new mob and cast Corruption again. It is possible to grind down as many as 6-7 mobs in rapid succession this way, although you're more likely to run out of nearby mobs than to run out of life or mana. By the time you have entered another suitably crowded zone, both you and your imp should be reasonably prepared for another killing spree. At later levels you may need to supplement your Corruption with a Shadow Bolt. This method of pulling and killing multiple mobs will suffice until well after you leave your starting zone.

Later come [Drain Life] and [Life Tap]. Life Tap sacrifices health for mana, while Drain Life deals a small amount of damage while restoring the warlock's health. Both of these are signature warlock abilities, with health regeneration being one of the trademarks of the class. At higher levels proper use of these utility abilities can be crucial for warlocks, maintaining good dps in lengthy encounters and surviving against all odds; for pure dps purposes stick to Shadow Bolt. Both health and mana regenerate very quickly between mobs at low levels.

Level 8 also brings [Summon Voidwalker]. Voidwalkers are very effective tanks, and will serve to distract mobs while you attack them, reducing pushback and potentially saving your life. At higher levels their large health pools allow them to tank powerful mobs that would overwhelm you if a less threatening minion was used; however at low levels most mobs will usually die too quickly for aggro to be much of a concern, and the rapid health regeneration outside of combat means there's little reason to worry about taking damage even against several mobs. Even the imp can solo tank mobs, so minion death is unlikely. The imp does more damage than the Voidwalker, and so is the preferred minion where speed and dps is the main concern.

At level 9 you learn [Create Healthstone] which functions as an emergency health cooldown should things turn sour. Create one and keep the healthstone itself on your action bar at all times, just in case. Healthstones are conjured items and so will disappear if you log out for more than 15 mintues, so don't forget to create a new one each time you log on.

Learnt at level 10, [Control Demon] allows you to give commands to your minion, sending them to attack before you, or to tank an annoying add. All demon special abilities available at this level should be set to auto-cast, so that the minion uses them as often as possible; this is the case by default. Practise sending your minions to attack distant targets, or to start on a new target while you finish the current one.

Level 10 also brings the most important development so far: the choice of Specialization. Choosing between Affliction, Demonology and Destruction will set you on your way to becoming one of three very different kinds of warlock. Luckily at these levels re-specializing costs as little as 12s, so there's no harm in experimenting with a spec for a few levels before trying another. Each spec has its own abilities and talents, as well as its own rotations and priorities. Some abilities which seem useless in one spec are vital to another. Explore each spec, or whichever appeals to you, and find one that you enjoy playing.

Above level 10, the warlock's path is significantly determined by their specialization. Each spec has its own abilities and resource mechanics as well as passive bonuses. Abilities which may in themselves seem lacklustre, when improved with passive bonuses can turn into powerful attacks or crucial utilities, becoming a vital part of your rotation. In addition, each scenario - be it PvP, dungeons or soloing - provides very different challenges, and rewards a different style of play, with some abilities only shining in the right situation.

Overall, enjoy levelling your warlock, and take this time to explore everything that the class has to offer. Don't forget to try a different spec if you're not enjoying your current one - each has its own style, and something unique to offer - as well exploring all the different types of play available. New abilities and talents will change your style of play and open up new possibilities, with the class evolving significantly as you level.

Minions

Each minion has its own special benefits to you, your party, and those around you. Some may be good for PvP, while some may be useful for PvE. Warlock soloing is as much about pet management as about spell management. Demonology warlocks have an additional minion in the form of the Felguard.

At higher levels further minions become available, with different talents further increasing the abilities and desirability of each; the below is a guide to the minions available in the first 20 levels.

Imp

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Your first pet, the Imp, is a good pet for dealing additional damage. It steadily casts Firebolts at the enemy, and does more damage than the Voidwalker. The Imp has an additional advantage at low levels as it does not need to be in melee range to deal damage, allowing it to spend less time running toward mobs, and more time dealing damage.

For low level Affliction and Destruction warlocks, the Imp is the best choice for dps.

Voidwalker

At level 8 you can get a spell from a Warlock trainer that allows you to summon a Voidwalker. While the Voidwalker usually does less damage than the Imp, it has a larger health pool, and causes high amounts of threat. This makes it perfect for tanking, ensuring that mobs are attacking the Voidwalker, not you.

One very effective way to use a Voidwalker when confronted with a group of mobs is to stand at a safe distance, select your desired mob, and send your Voidwalker out to make contact with it. If you then immediately recall your Voidwalker, the mob will follow. Allow your Voidwalker to bring your enemy within range of your spells, then put him back on the offensive, keeping the enemy occupied while you drain its life away from a safe distance. One by one, you lure your enemies away and vanquish them. As you become more confident, you can also have your Voidwalker tag 2 or more enemies before recalling him and the enemies to within range of your destructive power.

At low levels, it is often unnecessary to completely avoid damage, as mobs die easily and your health will quickly regenerate once the fight is over. When damage mitigation and survivability is of importance, the Voidwalker makes an excellent tank.

Felguard

The Demonology primary ability is [Summon Felguard]. The Felguard deals substantially more damage than the Imp, and also reduces healing on the target (mostly useful in PvP). A small amount of its special attack damage is divided among all nearby targets, which may be useful for tanking groups of mobs. It also generates more threat than the Voidwalker, at least at low levels.

All of the above makes the Felguard the Demonology warlock's minion of choice at lower levels, offering the best dps as well as the best threat (effectively a form of damage mitigation for the warlock) and a healing debuff handy for PvP.

On soloing and grouping

Soloing

There are a number of different approaches to soloing at low levels. Most mobs present little threat to the warlock and can simply be attacked with the fastest and most powerful spell available. Single mobs are usually killed so quickly at low levels that there is no need to apply DoTs. Alternatively, warlocks take on multiple targets at a time using DoTs.

When dealing with more substantial opponents, warlocks can use their voidwalker to tank for them, preventing damage as well as pushback. Once [Control Demon] has been learnt, warlocks can send their voidwalker to attack, allowing it a couple of seconds to build aggro before applying DoTs. More powerful direct damage spells like Shadow Bolt may draw aggro - this is a great way of learning how to handle threat, and how to deal damage without drawing the attention of the target, an ability which is vital in dungeons.

[Fear] provides another way of dealing with mobs, although again it is not needed against most mobs at low levels. If incoming damage is of concern, especially when facing multiple foes, fearing one of the targets (preferably not the one you're attacking, as damage may break Fear) should allow you time to finish your current target. Fear can be re-cast against mobs indefinitely, but beware that feared mobs can alert nearby allies, sending a large pack of angry enemies your way. Theoretically, when not using your voidwalker to tank mobs, the time spent casting Fear may be compensated for in reduced pushback.

Grouping

Warlocks are powerful damage dealers, but that is not all. When playing in groups, warlocks can perform a number of useful roles:

  • Curses can be used to weaken foes, reducing their damage dealt or increasing their damage taken
  • Minions can perform a number of support roles, increasing the group's stamina, cc'ing additional mobs or removing harmful spells from party members

While Fear can be used quite regularly when soloing mobs, in dungeons it is rarely possible to do so (at least not until [Glyph of Fear] becomes available at level 25), due to the likelihood of alerting other mobs. However there are certain situations in which Fear (and later Howl of Terror) can be very useful, potentially even saving the group. These include the following:

  • The healer is low on health and is getting pounded on. If your tank isn't getting aggro and you can't kill the enemy in time, go ahead and fear. Try and nuke it while it's feared so you will gain aggro, as a warlock has more stamina and is a less group-breaking loss than a main healer.
  • There is no chance to aggro any more enemies. These include event situations in which the mobs are already generated.
  • It's the only chance. If death is certain without use of fear, the risk is worth it.

As for all classes, dungeons should present a challenge in learning to play your warlock a little differently. Bosses present lengthier encounters against powerful opponents, while mobs will use abilities and group in ways that you haven't seen before. Aggro management becomes extremely important in order to stay alive, and also stay on the right side of your group. Do your best to produce competitive dps, but make sure you're not pulling too much aggro. A good tank should be able hold his own, but unlike when soloing, it is necessary to think of more than just dealing damage - causing too much damage too quickly can very easily cause your death. Be considerate to the rest of the party (especially the tank and the healer trying to keep you alive), allow the tank to pull, and try not to generate too much threat.

In dungeons, many aspects of the warlock's repertoire become more important. Against bosses, DoTs become far more worthwhile due to the length of the encounter, and should usually be maintained and re-applied, as should Curses. [Life Tap] can be crucial to maintaining dps during long dungeon crawls without spending all your money on water. Use Life Tap to restore your mana, then [Soul Harvest] to restore your health (and Soul Shards). Unlike many classes, warlocks are quite capable of self-healing between pulls, at no cost other than the cooldown on their Soul Harvest. Doing this can save the healer mana, reducing group downtime.

Although it may be tempting to focus exclusively on dps, try to make use of your utility abilities. Curses such as [Curse of Weakness] can make a healer's life much easier, while using your Succubus' [Seduction] can be helpful when dealing with too many mobs. While at low levels these may be optional, becoming skilled at employing these abilities will stand you in good stead for higher level dungeons and PvP.

Useful professions

The warlock can benefit directly and indirectly from many of the professions available.

Primary professions

Tailoring is directly useful to the warlock for crafting Cloth armor (the only subset of armor available to warlocks). You can equip yourself with spiffy new duds, or sell it to purchase other things you need. However, to skill up tailoring requires large amounts of cloth, which you may wish to consider if you also take first aid.
It should be noted that unlike most other crafting primary professions, Tailoring does not require a gathering profession, so you can take Skinning, Herbalism, or Mining and sell the materials to other players.
Enchanting is another profession which the warlock can personally benefit from. "Green" (uncommon) items are broken down into essences which you can then use to enchant your own equipment with various stat boosts. Enchanting is also a good source of early access to wands, although any enchanter can make these for you. Enchanting is a good companion profession for Tailoring. Tailoring provides abundant amounts of "green" items for disenchanting, which in turn provide the components for your own enchantments.
Herbalism and Alchemy are useful for the warlock, and are essentially two Primary Professions that go hand in hand. Herbalism allows the gathering of various herbs, and the Alchemy profession allows the creation of various potions, using those herbs. Herbalism and Alchemy make for useful warlock professions as it's always handy to have plenty of health, mana, and stat-boosting potions in your arsenal for fighting. Given that several useful potions require fish, the fishing secondary profession (see below) can be a wise choice for alchemists. As a further bonus, Herbalism grants the [Lifeblood] ability, granting haste and a heal-over-time effect, which works well with Life Tap.
Inscription can be a good profession for a warlock. Not only does it offer a convenient source of glyphs and scrolls of intellect, it also offers some off-hand tomes and at high levels some shoulder enchants.
Engineering is a fun way to complement a warlock's skillset. You can craft very quick AoE bombs, which go well with the warlock's otherwise slow spells, and the high Stamina on goggles allow for more health to Life Tap. The gimmick items can be fantastic. Goblin Engineering's specialty in explosives is incredibly handy, allowing you time to cast Fear against especially aggressive opponents. Comparatively, Gnomish Engineering is far less useful to a Warlock.
Jewelcrafting can be a good option. At low levels, it offers some useful rings and neckpieces that can be in short supply while leveling. At the higher levels, the warlock can cut gems and make useful BoP trinkets. However, the later levels of Jewelcrafting are incredibly expensive with designs having low drop rates and high prices on the AH. An enterprising warlock can sell mining bars for a considerable amount, and it's a good investment once you reach the end, but is a better choice if you have a high level character to help fund it.
  • Two Gathering Professions
Depending on the economy of your chosen server, you can select two gathering professions and sell everything you collect to other players for hard (virtual) currency. The three combinations are Mining/Herbalism, Mining/Skinning and Herbalism/Skinning. Herbalism and Mining will generally earn you more than Skinning, due to leather being in generally higher supply then demand making it lower priced while herbs and ores generally have a higher demand then supply making the price higher. Enchanting can also be a gathering profession to a certain extent, when chosen for the ability to harvest enchanting materials (via disenchant) from Bind on Pickup items that no one in the party has a particular use for.

Start your professions early! It's usually not too expensive, and you want to ensure that the gear you create with your skills is applicable to your warlock's level.

Secondary professions

Any or all three of the secondary professions are good for the warlock. Cooking allows you to create various tasty treats that provide small stat buffs. Cooked food also regenerates health and mana, but for warlocks, using [Life Tap] followed by [Soul Harvest] is usually a preferable and quicker way of achieving this. Fishing is good for getting fish to use in your recipes, or for catching random gear you can sell to vendors. While the usefulness of First Aid for warlocks has been reduced by the arrival of [Soul Harvest], it can still come in handy. Bandages can be used in battle, which allows for fast healing that translates into health that can be converted into mana using [Life Tap]; it's as effective as a mana potion in returning mana, but requires cast time for Life Tap. Archaeology is not available until level 20, and is mainly a 'fun' profession, although it does provide some bonuses at level 85. Due to the way archaeology zones jump around, starting at level 20 can save you some time later on, as you can simply level archaeology as you go.

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