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Leveling a warlock

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So you want to know everything about leveling a warlock, and need to know the fastest and most efficient method? You have come to the right place. Note that this article only discusses talent choices and play style, and not specific warlock class quests.

Solo vs Group

When you start a warlock, like starting any other class, it is always quicker to level with a second person. The first level or two it will hurt your wallet because gold looted will be split between all players in your party, but later on your group will complete quests quickly enough to make up for the division of looted gold.

Your leveling partner's class and talents will affect how you play. While this guide will discuss solo play in depth, which is the most common way to level, this section will discuss game play with certain classes and talent specifications.

We will consider four types of playing partners: tanks, healers, damage dealers, and other warlocks. As a warlock, your role in the group is to kill, and sometimes crowd control, mobs. The tank should convince the mobs to attack him (preferably by hitting them with large pointy objects). The healer is supposed to keep you alive.

When leveling with a tank, affliction spec is worthless. The mobs are too weak and the tank will kill them before you can. Demonology isn't bad either, but as the Felguard's tanking abilities are rather useless, this will just decrease downtime.

When leveling with a damage dealer, affliction is still worthless. They will pull aggro if you try to drain, tank, and kill the mob before the DoTs are finished.

When leveling with a healer, none of the trees have any great benefit. However affliction is less useful than the others, due to making the healer kind of redundant. Your best bet is to do destruction. Its high burst damage will protect your healer.

When leveling with another warlock, affliction is the way to go provided both of you choose that tree.

Levels 1-9

When you first start out, all you have is [Shadow Bolt] and your Imp. Your Imp has good DPS and should always be kept by your side until level 8 when you can buy a Voidwalker. Make sure you ALWAYS keep your Imp's [Firebolt] on auto-cast. At the beginning, Shadow Bolt is going to be your primary damage spell but this will change later on.

Once you acquire your Imp, [Immolate] and [Corruption] spells, your cast rotation should be something like this:

For those of us that use macros, the following can be useful:

/petattack [nocombat]
/castsequence reset=target/combat Immolate, Corruption

Both this spell rotation and macro get your imp into play as quickly as possible and at the same time not let it pull aggro, something that beginner warlocks can have trouble with. If you are going to use the wand instead of Shadow Bolt, a good starter wand is the [Lesser Magic Wand] as it has the highest damage of any wand until the low to mid teens. If a target is nearly dead after using Shadow Bolt or wand (less then 10% or so), then just let the DoTs finish it off.

Once you reach level 5 you will be able to learn [Life Tap] from your trainer. And at level 6 you will learn [Drain Life]. Even though you probably wont need [Life Tap] to much at this point it will become useful later on. It is HIGHLY recommended that you learn first aid at this point as you will quickly realise that [Drain Life] doesn't quite do the job for getting back health after [Life Tap] and this will cause problems when you start to run dungeons.

At level 8, you will get your Voidwalker. Your Voidwalker is an effective tank and should replace your Imp for a while (unless you're in a dungeon group in which case you should change back to Imp to prevent the Tank losing aggro). You will want to redo your rotation to allow your Voidwalker to get some aggro first. Your new rotation should look like this:

At this point you will also have learned [Create Healthstone]. Your  [Healthstone] is incredibly useful. It can save you in a tight situation, or it can replenish your health after a round of [Life Tap]. It is recommended that you put the actual  [Healthstone] somewhere on your action bar as if you try to fish through you bag for it during a fight your chances of survival are 0-1% (give or take).


The remainder of this guide is significantly out of date. Many of the abilities have changed significantly, or been removed entirely. The balance and value of abilities and strategies has also changed. In addition, the introduction of specializations has made almost all of the talent advice redundant. While some of the following information is still viable, most has been rendered inaccurate to some degree.

Levels 10-23

At level 10, you get the quest to summon a Voidwalker, as well as the spell [Drain Soul], which will be used to create Soul Shards. Soul Shards are required to summon all your demons except for the Imp, as well as making Healthstones and Soulstones.

For now, you will use your Voidwalker as your own personal tank. Change the sequence of the dots in your macro to Bane of Agony, Corruption, Immolate. The idea being that you start your damage out slow, to allow your Voidwalker to generate some aggro. Make sure that the Voidwalker is set to auto-cast [Torment].

Second Opinion: Having to start out slowly can decrease your DPS and will increase leveling time slightly. I only held the Voidwalker until 20 when I got the Succubus.

At this point, you get your first talent points. The three talent trees for the Warlock are Affliction, Demonology, and Destruction. Affliction mostly focuses on debuffs, including your DoTs (excluding Immolate). Demonology provides a lot of buffs for your demon, and Destruction concentrates on burst damage. All of them have their merits, though for the first 50 levels, Affliction is the way to go. Demonology relies too much on your demon, but the performance of the demons tends to fall a bit behind at around level 30-35. Destruction can kill mobs much faster than Affliction, but at a higher mana cost, meaning having to drink more often. Overall, the extra downtime with destruction is more expensive than the higher damage.

Your first 5 points should be put into Improved Corruption. Then get Improved Life Tap and [Soul Siphon].

When you reach level 14, you gain [Drain Life]. At face value, Drain Life doesn't seem that great. It's the most mana-expensive damage dealing spell in the game. The mana cost is higher than the damage done at rank 1, and at higher ranks, the mana cost is equal to the damage done. However, it is very important to note that it HEALS you for the damage done, and Warlocks have the unique ability of [Life Tap], which converts HP into mana, and once you get Improved Life Tap, you actually get more mana back than HP lost. The result being that as long as Drain Life isn't overhealing, then casting Drain Life followed by Life Tap actually causes you to have a net gain of mana, while simultaneously damaging your target! Once you add the Soul Siphon talent, your Drain Life becomes even more efficient. Soul Siphon increases the damage (and therefore the HP generated) by Drain Life by 6% for every Affliction effect you have on the target. Since you should already have Bane of Agony and Corruption on your target (Remember, while Immolate is a DoT, it's not an Affliction effect - its Destruction!), that means your Drain Life will always do 12% more damage.

This guide will assume you spend most of the time soloing, so your next pick should be [Improved Drain Soul]. Now, get into the habit of using Drain Soul on EVERY mob before it dies. Even go so far as to stop casting a Drain Life to use Drain Soul. As long as you or your demon gets the killing blow, you will gain 15% of your mana back. This of course will generate a lot of extra shards, so I recommend using a UI mod that will automatically destroy extra shards. I personally use Necrosis.

At level 18, you gain the ability to create Soul Stones. You should ALWAYS have a Soul Stone active on yourself while soloing. Sometimes, things take a turn for the worse and you find yourself dead. Having the ability to self-resurrect every 30 minutes is handy. And if you're in the habit of using Drain Soul on every mob like you should be, the shard cost is insignificant.

At level 20, you get [Demon Armor]. Demon Armor replaces Demon Skin, and as of 3.1.0, it only continues to increase your armor bonus. It no longer adds shadow resistance. At 20 you can also pick up your mount, which as a warlock you get for free!

Your next talent choice should be 3/3 [Fel Concentration], allowing you to Drain-tank effectively, which is a very useful technique. This will give you a build like this at level 23.

At level 20 get your Succubus. The quests are annoying but she is worth it. Her DPS is higher than the Imp's until at least level 30 probably 40, she can continue to attack after she runs out of mana, and seduce will save you from over pulls and instance Wipes. I owe that Succubus more than anything else. If you can't stand the Voidwalker at this stage, change your cast rotation to the Drain Tanking one at the end of this section and swap the Voidwalker for the Succubus.

Around this time you should try to get a Glyph of Corruption for your Major Glyph slot. When this Glyph procs you get an instant [Shadow Bolt]. It also stacks with Nightfall (warlock talent), making this a very useful Glyph. If you get this Glyph, put Corruption on BEFORE [Bane of Agony], giving it more chance to proc.

At this point you Casting rotation should be;

OR if Drain Tanking already

And for Macro people;

/petattack [nocombat]
/castsequence reset=target/combat Bane of Agony, Corruption, Immolate,

and second macro

/cast [nochanneling:Drain Life] Drain Life

and for Drain Tankers

/petattack [nocombat]
/castsequence reset=target/combat Immolate, Bane of Agony, Corruption

and second macro

/cast [nochanneling:Drain Life] Drain Life

Levels 24-29

At this point, if you haven't given up already, you've probably noticed your Voidwalker doesn't hold aggro very well anymore. This is why we picked Fel Concentration. We are going to get rid of the Voidwalker and move to the Drain Tanking cast rotation mentioned above.

Now that we're not worried about letting our Voidwalker build threat before we start dealing damage, we want to change our dot macro to cast [Immolate] first. This is because it has a 2 second cast time, which is 'free' before the mob is hit by something, so we can get more spells in if we cast it first. This time is perfect, if you aren't using Macro's, to set the pet on the Target.

Your next talent can either be [Amplify Curse] or another damage talent like Improved Bane of Agony. Amplify Curse can increase your Haste after curses. Whether or not you choose it depends on if you want Haste or Damage. If you don't have a Lag adjusting mod like Quartz, Amplify Curse is not so good.

Next, take 3/3 [Suppression]. An equal level mob has a 4% chance to resist a spell, and those three talents cut that down by 3%, improving damage. They also reduce the mana cost of all of your affliction spells, which is 90% of the ones we're using, to improve efficiency even further.

If you've picked up some gear with Spellpower, then Empowered Corruption is a worthy investment, otherwise put the points in Nightfall (warlock talent) for extra damage, especially if you have Glyph of Corruption. Your level 30 talent point should definitely be [Siphon Life] giving something like this.

Note on Grim Reach - many recommend this, but our spell order at this level is to open with Immolate, which isn't affected by Grim Reach, so it's mainly wasted. Later on when we get [Unstable Affliction] to open with it may come in handy, but not now.

Your Cast rotation now should be;

As a Macro:

/petattack [nocombat]
/castsequence reset=target/combat Immolate, Corruption, Bane of Agony

and second macro

/cast [nochanneling:Drain Life] Drain Life

Levels 30-39

Here things get iffy. On one hand some say the Imp has better DPS at this level. Others say the Succubus still beats it for up to ten more levels. This partly depends on your gear and personal preference. When in doubt, choose the Succubus, as its seduce can save your life.

Continue to fight the way you did before, DoTing up your target and then spamming Drain Life, with a Drain Soul thrown in before the mob dies.

A great place to pick up gear is in the Scarlet Monastery.  [Whitemane's Chapeau],  [Inquisitor's Shawl] and the  [Hypnotic Blade] are some of the highlights.

At this point the talents become a bit lackluster. [Amplify Curse] and [Curse of Exhaustion] can come in handy when kiting, as can Improved Fear if you use a lot of Fear to keep mobs under control. A single point in Shadow Embrace counts as an affliction effect for Soul Siphon as well as boosting your dot damage, but requires a [Shadow Bolt] to apply it, which we haven't been casting so far unless Nightfall or Glyph of Corruption proc. This may be a good time to put points into Empowered Corruption regardless of your spellpower - even if you don't have much now you will later.

Your talents between 34 and 39 should definitely go into [Shadow Mastery]. Almost all of the damage you're doing is shadow damage, so this is very nearly a flat 15% increase in damage dealt and life drained. Outstanding! Your build will probably now look something like this.

Your Cast Rotation should not have changed these last ten levels -- only your Pet if you change to an Imp from a Succubus.

Levels 40-49

Put the next talent point into [Dark Pact]. Dark Pact (old) is an extremely powerful spell when used correctly. There are two ways to continue, you can either use your Imp as a mana battery or a Felhunter. If using an Imp, we put him on passive and remove the /petattack line from your DoT macro. While not casting firebolt his mana regeneration is quite impressive. Alternatively, we can put 2/2 in Improved Felhunter, making his Shadow Bite ability give him a great deal of mana, which we can then Dark Pact (old) for ourselves. Lifetap will now only be used to keep your HP below 100% so that Drain Life's healing isn't wasted. The Imp on passive is far simpler, while the Felhunter will improve damage. If on a PvP server the Felhunter is also a useful weapon against other players.

Now, take 5/5 Contagion, 2/2 [Improved Howl of Terror], and 2/3 [Malediction] if you didn't take 2/2 Improved Felhunter, giving you this at level 49.

Your cast Rotation should be

Imp

Felhunter

As macros:

Imp:

/castsequence reset=target/combat Immolate, Corruption, Bane of Agony

and second macro

/cast [nochanneling:Drain Life] Drain Life

Felhunter:

/petattack [nocombat]
/castsequence reset=target/combat Immolate, Corruption, Bane of Agony

and second macro

/cast [nochanneling:Drain Life] Drain Life

Levels 50-59

Right now presents a major fork. At level 50, you could respec to Demonology and get a Felguard. The Felguard is a very powerful demon. He has more DPS than the Succubus and more threat-producing ability than the Voidwalker, with almost as much survivability. He makes a great tank for yourself. However, I would highly recommend not speccing for Felguard until level 57 so you can get Improved Lifetap, unless you have a very significant amount of damage gear stacked. If you do decide to spec for Felguard at 50, I recommend this spec. Then, change your DoT macro to Bane of Agony, Corruption, Immolate, and add the /petattack [nocombat] back in.

/petattack [nocombat]

/castsequence reset=target/combat Bane of Agony, Corruption, Immolate

Otherwise, take [Unstable Affliction] for this spec and change your DoT macro. Note that, as of Patch 3.1.0, Immolate and Unstable Affliction belong to the "same exclusive category (both damage-over-time effects cannot be present at the same time by the same caster on a target)." Thus, if you plan to use Unstable Affliction, talents points can be safely shifted to [Grim Reach] since you'll be relying mostly on Affliction spells; perhaps using a talent spec like this.

/castsequence reset=target/combat Unstable Affliction, Bane of Agony, Corruption

If you went Felguard, use the macro to send the Felguard in to attack and put the dots up, then use Drain Life and Drain Soul. If you've stayed Affliction then you now have a great many dots and you may benefit from a change in playstyle. Against tough mobs just use your DoT macro to put up the DoTs, then use Drain Life until the mob is about to die, then use Drain Soul to proc Improved Drain Soul. However against mobs your own level you will likely find that the combined action of your dots AND drain life will kill the mob long before your dots have run their course, which is mana inefficient. You may find that pulling multiple mobs and kiting them all with fear, howl, death coil and curse of exhaustion while your dots kill them is overall faster and more efficient. Failing that, take [Immolate] and [Bane of Agony] out of your cast Rotation. This shall get rid of the need of [Curse of Exhaustion] and is easier, but is slower when you need to grind mobs for a Quest.

Level 60+

The main new thing at this point is the level 51 talents. [Haunt] further increases the damage of your already formidable DoTs. It also allows you to apply [Shadow Embrace] to the target much more easily, so you may find that talent useful; perhaps using a talent build like this (natural progression from above) or this. [Chaos Bolt] is the 51 point talent in the destruction tree, which is a big boost to your damage dealing capability, however it's not enough to make destruction a competitive choice for leveling until you get [Incinerate] at level 64. Until then, you're better off staying with affliction or demonology unless you do a lot of instances. [Metamorphosis] is a useful 'oh no' button when soloing, and is also on a short enough cooldown to be used whenever it's up for a 20% damage increase for 30 seconds every 3 minutes - a decent increase overall. You will probably find however that spending those points in low level affliction talents like Improved Life Tap and Improved Drain Soul first will be more useful for leveling, in which case you won't get metamorphosis until nearly 70.

At level 62 you will obtain [Fel Armor], which is a generally superior armor spell than [Demon Armor] and should generally be used instead.

Notes

The other curses

[Curse of Weakness] does not provide enough of a damage reduction to warrant the loss of DPS. While mobs convert AP to damage at a significantly different rate than players do, the healing abilities warlocks come stock will are generally more than sufficient to keep you alive, and the dps loss from not using Bane of Agony prolongs the fight. This curse also reduces the target's armor, which will increase the damage (and threat) done by your demon, however the armor decrease does not benefit the magic damage that you deal with your spells, so is usually still not a good choice of curse.

[Curse of Recklessness] was removed with patch 3.02.

Curse of Elements is great if you have another spell caster with you, or if you need more damage from your Shadow Bolts while running a 5-man or raid. However, while solo-ing, you're typically better off using Bane of Agony for more DPS. Also, Moonkins and Unholy Death Knights have an ability that does the exact same thing that does not stack with CoE, and are applied passively - Moonkins apply the buff while casting Wrath or Starfire, which they would do anyway, and Death Knights apply it passively with their diseases, which they can apply to multiple targets using [Pestilence], so if you are in a group with one of these it is a DPS loss for you when it is passive for them.

[Curse of Tongues] use this curse against caster mobs to significantly reduce their DPS towards you. Also since casters are generally easier to kill, replacing Bane of Agony with curse of tongues is not really a problem.

Gear recommendations

Before level 60 you mainly want "...of the Eagle" gear, though "...of Stamina" and "...of Shadow Wrath" are also good. You want to find a good balance of Stamina, Intellect and Spellpower/Shadow Damage. At level 62 you gain Fel Armor, which increases Spell power by a proportion of your spirit, so from then on spirit becomes a useful stat, but before then it is worthless unless you have the  [Glyph of Life Tap]. Spell critical strike rating becomes somewhat useful for affliction when you get the [Pandemic] talent at level 50, but before then is only useful for destruction and demonology warlocks.

The most important thing to remember is that for a Warlock, HP = mana, so if you have to choose between 10 stamina and 10 intellect, you would generally want to go with the stamina. However, intellect provides 15 mana per point while stamina provides only 10 health per point (before talents), and gimping your intellect also means your spell crit chance will be lowered and the mana recall of the Improved Drain Soul talent becomes less potent, so again, there is some balance to be found.

"God of Death Mode"

Some affliction warlocks choose to spend their time while leveling collecting +Spell Crit and +Spell Dmg over other stats. The goal is to maximize spell damage as early as possible (See external links below for suitable armor). The advantage of doing so in favor of Stamina and Intellect is that it boosts the damage and healing of drain life which offsets the loss of health and mana. A skilled warlock should be able to balance out his life-tapping and life draining to keep himself over 50% in both health and mana at all times, thus rendering large amounts of either unnecessary due to having no downtime anyways. If enough damage is accumulated, then a phenomenon the originall writer of this section called "God of Death Mode" appears. In GoDM the combined damage of Corruption, [Bane of Agony], and the occasional [Haunt] is enough to kill an enemy, as a result a warlock can cast 2 instant casts while moving between targets to rapidly kill enemies. This allows the warlock to take on 4-12 enemies (depending on level and gear), while sometimes draining life on one enemy to maintain his health, (although it is not always necessary thanks to siphoned health, and later, Haunt). This is a much faster method of grinding and questing since there is no time wasted stopping to cast or on spell push back. Dark Pact (old) greatly facilitates this due to no longer having to worry about using health for mana. This form of grinding is similar to AoE Grinding of Tankadins and Frost mages, but requires more changes of focus. The cons of this style of grinding, especially at higher levels, is that it requires complete focus on several mobs and ones own life total, and especially important in Outland and Northrend, leaves the Warlock more open to ganking than usual.

External links