Community Team: We’d like start this Q&A off by asking a question that players of all classes often ask in regard to the very purpose of their class. In this case, we’re looking specifically at the warlock.
Where do warlocks fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do we see them going from this point forward?
Ghostcrawler: The warlock is a caster -- a ranged damage dealer. They can fill only one role, which makes them a “pure” class as opposed to a hybrid. Warlocks have a reputation for trafficking with darkness, and their spells and abilities reflect this -- demons, curses, drains, fears. All warlocks rely on damage-over-time spells and demonic pets to some extent. The Affliction tree focuses on damage-over-time spells, curses, and shadow magic in general. The Demonology tree emphasizes the damage and abilities done by demons. The Destruction tree gives up a little of both to become a little bit more like a mage with direct damage and fire magic. Overall, the vision is for warlocks to feel less fragile than mages. They have historically had higher health pools and easier to sustain mana, but fewer emergency escapes. Keeping the mage and warlock feeling distinct is a big challenge. They fill a similar role and share similar gear so sometimes even the profiles of their character art look similar.
Going forward, we want to try and make the warlock experience more different from the mage. Our new plans for Soul Shards will help here. We want to make them a core mechanic instead of a minor feature that can be neglected at best and feels tedious at worst.
We’re happy with the relative damage done by Affliction and Destruction. Depending on which Lich King patch you look at one or the other are slightly on top, but they’re close. Demonology still seems to lag a little behind. We think there is still room for a strong Felguard build in there. It might be that the pets still require too much management or it could just be that the rotation isn’t as interesting as the ones Affliction or Destruction use right now. Demonology suffers from a little bit of the same problem as the Beastmaster hunter, which is when the pet is such a big part of your damage you are crippled in moments when the pet is killed or ineffectual.
Except for a brief moment early in Lich King, warlocks have been under-represented in PvP and we want to see more of them. We don’t want to get there through fear bombs, though. In fact, we think the damage locks can do is in a pretty good place. The problem is survivability, especially when stunned. Now some of the 3.2 changes are going to chill out damage across the board and we are increasing the survivability of pets in PvP. Both of those changes should help warlocks, who historically have been a little better in endurance fights than quick scrums. If those changes aren’t enough, we’re prepared to make additional ones.
Lich King made the warlock pets more interesting but we think there is still a lot of opportunity here. Some of the pets have abilities that just don’t get much use (Imp Fire Shield anyone?) while other pets could benefit from a couple more abilities. The voidwalker for example does all of his damage through just a simple autoattack. While we are slightly positioning the imp as a Destruction pet and the felhound as an Affliction pet, we think we can make the choice of what demon to use at a particular time more interesting. The succubus has too narrow a niche, and the voidwalker is still used mostly as a level-up pet.
Community Team: What is it that makes them unique compared to all other classes?
Ghostcrawler: Demons are a big one. Warlocks are a pet class, but they gain more of their own power from their pets and can make their pets do more than say a hunter or death knight. The way they do damage is different from a mage because a lot of their damage, even for Destruction, comes from damage-over-time spells instead. Warlocks bring some utility that doesn’t strictly increase raid damage, so we feel like it’s fine to keep those abilities unique to the lock -- things like summoning and health stones. But again, we think the real way to keep warlocks from feeling like mages with pets is to do more with the Soul Shard mechanic.
Community Team: Soul Shards is subject that has been a constant amongst warlock players since the launch of the game. While we've made some minor improvements over time, players still find Soul Shards to be an annoyance. Are there any plans in motion to make further improvements to the warlock Soul Shard system?
Ghostcrawler: Yes. As we have hinted on occasion, we have a revamp of the entire system in the works. This is a big change, beyond the scope of the 3.2 patch, but we are confident -- CONFIDENT -- that the new system will be something warlocks finally enjoy. (I’m sure I will never, ever regret saying that.) We hope to be able to talk more about it at BlizzCon, but the basic idea is that shards provide a combat boost when needed without becoming a resource that needs to be farmed. Currently too many of the shard abilities are maintenance-like things such as demons and stones. Blowing a shard should be a big deal -- an exciting moment. We want to make shards fun and remove the hassle, but we want to make them a core part of the warlock experience and not a marginalized feature.
Community Team: Most DPS classes can spend three (or less) talent points to decrease their threat by 30%, while warlocks must spend four talent points in two different trees to gain a 10% drop in threat. What are our thoughts on this, and why the discrepancy?
Ghostcrawler: There are a couple of situations like this in the warlock tree. The essential problem is we want locks to be able to go down their different trees. When you have something important like threat-reduction or range, it either needs to go very high in the trees where everyone can reach it, or you need to have duplicate talents that essentially accomplish the same thing. The problem with the latter approach is that confusing things can happen when you get both talents -- either they stack (which is too powerful) or they don’t stack (which can be confusing or make talent builds difficult). The way we have tried to solve the latter problem is having some talents affect Fire / Destro and some affect Shadow / Affliction. Of course the problem with that approach is that warlocks use both kinds of damage spells. We recognize that we need to solve this problem, but sliding a lot of talents around is not the right way to do it, and also beyond the scope of 3.2. See below for a partial solution for the threat problem though.
Community Team: As a follow-up to the last question, would we consider giving warlocks a better "aggro dump" ability? Currently, their one "aggro dump," Soulshatter, has a long cooldown and costs a reagent.
Ghostcrawler: We are going to lower the cooldown of Soulshatter to three minutes. We don’t think the shard cost is a big expense in PvE situations. Threat-dump abilities are tricky to balance. We don’t want these spells to feel rotational -- you aren’t supposed to do say Curse of Agony, Immolate, Soulshatter, Curse of Agony, Immolate, Soulshatter. They are there for emergencies.
Community Team: In PvP, warlocks feel at a disadvantage against melee classes (and hunters), particularly rogues. What are our thoughts in this, and are there any plans to provide warlocks with a little more help in this area? Additionally, players have often suggested allowing Demonic Circle to be usable while stunned, is this something we'd consider?
Ghostcrawler: The reason we don’t like making Demonic Circle usable while stunned is that changes the ability from a remote evacuation into a stun-breaker. Our concern is locks would never use it except for the stun removal, which makes the spell a lot less cool. Circle is definitely one of those abilities that requires a lot of finesse. Clever locks can do amazing things with it and beginner locks might not get as much benefit out of it. It’s probably also fair to say that stuns (especially chained ones) have become too important in PvP, especially now that we have toned down the impact of some of the other forms of crowd control.
Community Team: Pet survivability is something that comes up often. Do we see this as a concern, and if so are there any plans to increase warlock pet survivability and/or consider decreasing the warlock's dependency on pets in PvP?
Ghostcrawler: It is a concern. We never wanted it to feel like it was stupid to attack the pet -- like they were so unkillable that you just have to endure damage from the pet while you chase down the lock. You have to remember that locks were once really dangerous in PvP (this was back when we added resilience for DoTs) and so everyone was nervous about making their pets too powerful. It’s just incredibly frustrating to be on the other end of that and finally get a pet down only to have to then face the warlock. However times have changed and we think pets are too fragile now. We tried buffing their health a few times, but we think it’s finally time to add resilience to pets and fix it right.
Community Team: Continuing off of the previous question, are we happy with pet scaling currently? One constant request by warlocks in PvP, is to allow scaling for resilience. Would we consider making this change?
Ghostcrawler: Yes, pets are never going to scale correctly as long as there are some stats that affect the master but not the pet. If the lock gains crit and haste, the demons don’t benefit as much as if the lock had gained spellpower. This is a problem. We need to make pets just scale with all stats. Technically, this is not a “flip the switch” kind of change. It’s complicated so it’s going to take some time to do right. We’ll get resilience and spell pen done first.
Community Team: Many warlocks often find it difficult to resummon or switch pets, especially when compared to other pet classes. Fel Domination with Master Summoner is nice for those who have the talents, but still somewhat problematic due to the long cooldown of Fel Domination.
Ghostcrawler: As you probably know by now, we are dramatically lowering the cooldown on Fel Domination.
Community Team: Talents that increase the range for spells is often a point of concern, particularly for PvE-focused warlocks due to the warlock's mixture of using both Affliction and Destruction abilities. Is it possible that warlocks can be given a merged range talent in a low tier of either tree?
Ghostcrawler: This is the same problem I mentioned above. Moving the talent up higher is one solution, but it would have to be very high and whatever talents are there now would have to come down. This then becomes a pretty significant re-architecture of the talent tree. It is something we want to address, but probably isn’t a 3.2 change.
Community Team: Do we have plans to add a little more burst potential to the Affliction tree?
Ghostcrawler: Yes, and Haunt is probably the right place to do it. Haunt is one of the few Affliction spells that can’t reach the 200% crit level, so we are going to make that change through Pandemic.
Community Team: The spell Hellfire is one that warlocks rarely use, due to that fact it's channeled, generates a great deal of threat, and has self-damaging properties. What are our thoughts on how this spell currently functions, and what might we consider changing in the future?
Ghostcrawler: We’d agree that the “interesting tradeoff” isn’t that interesting, and in fact it’s hard to find niches for so many different AE spells. Long-term this might be the kind of spell that gets cut.
Community Team: A common concern that comes up regarding warlock players is in regards to their minor glyphs. While they understand that these glyphs aren't meant to be game-changing, many of the minor glyphs focus on improving spells that aren't really used at all, such as Eye of Kilrogg. Would we consider looking at the minor glyphs available for warlocks and possibly making some improvements?
Ghostcrawler: We can look at the minor glyphs. We are more concerned at the moment with making sure the major glyphs are interesting without being overpowered.
Community Team: Green fire for spells has been something that's often requested by warlocks. Would we consider adding this into the game, possibly in the form of a minor glyph so that we're not forcing it on players who may not desire their fire spells to be green?
Ghostcrawler: We wouldn’t do it through a minor glyph. Originally, we were going to make the minor glyphs mostly cosmetic like this, but as we evolved the glyph feature we found that some spells just didn’t make sense to have a major glyph, so these became minors. We definitely understand some (many? all?) warlocks would love to have green fire and we’ll try and find a cool way to deliver on this. At this point, we’d probably rather do it with a flashy new spell rather than just change up an existing one, but we’ll have to see. As with the new druid forms, after waiting so long, we’d want to do it right.
Community Team: Would we consider adding a warlock-specific flying mount? Warlocks have promised to never complain again should such a feature be added. Okay, not really...
Ghostcrawler: I think it fits the warlock kit pretty well to have some kind of crazy flying demon. We don’t have any art for such a creature yet, but we’ll keep it in mind. You’d have to go back to Dire Maul to get it. Okay, not really…
Community Team: Are there any plans to allow warlocks to slightly customize or change the appearance of their pets?
Ghostcrawler: This is something we are discussing. There are several voidwalker and imp models we could use pretty easily and it might be nice to add more felhounds and succubi. This isn’t a high priority, but something we would like to eventually get around to improving. We are discussing whether this is simply just random variation (like the names) or whether it becomes an even bigger feature.