Warlocking in Wrath Arena - Part 1
In the next few articles I’m going to cover the basics of how to play a warlock in the new arena environment of Wrath of the Lich King, as well as go over a few specific comps and matchups and various tricks to use. If you want to see what teams I run and my gear choices you can check out my armory (NOTE: it is possible that I am logged out in PvE gear). Pretty much everything I will talk about in these articles pertains to the 2v2 and 3v3 brackets. Additionally, the spec information I am posting is pre-3.1 (although from the looks of things not a whole lot changes, spec wise).
By and far the most popular warlock arena spec is 54/17/0. Rather than explain each point, I’m just going to touch on a few of the major mistakes I see people make and also mention what points are flexible.
In demonology, the two points in Improved Health Funnel are the only points that most players consider optional (some prefer 2/2 in Improved Healthstone). If you are playing with a healer, however, the Improved Health Funnel is far more valuable. The buff to health funnel will allow you to keep your pet up against DPS players who don’t have MS, even if your healer is crowd controlled. If they have MS, then it will be a great way to prevent your pet from taking too much damage before your partner can toss out a quick heal. Improved Healthstone is good, and probably a better choice if you are running a double DPS setup, but in most situations take Improved Health Funnel every time. The main arguments that I have heard against Improved Health Funnel, even when playing with a healer, are that 1) it is easier to just resummon your pet than bother healing it and that 2) using health funnel makes you very vulnerable to interrupts.
Unfortunately, the affliction tree is not significantly more flexible than demonology. Dark Pact is not mandatory, but I find it a great way to get mana in tight situations. Life Tapping can put you in a very dangerous position, especially if you are the focus target and your healer is crowd controlled. Dark Pact allows you to quickly get some mana without losing life. However, it is important to make sure that you do not tap your pet dry. The fel hunter needs mana to use Spell Lock and Devour Magic, and if he is OOM then you could miss a vital opportunity. If playing with Dark Pact isn’t your style, this point can easily go into Suppression (useful if you aren’t hit capped), Soul Siphon (more on why this talent is worth getting in another article), or Eradication. Eradication is a great talent, but because it has an internal cooldown the first point gives you a lot more mileage than subsequent points. I won’t post the math here, but suffice to say that the first point gives you about twice the value of the second.
If you have specific questions on talents choices, I would be more than happy to answer them in the comments section.
Warlocks are a very fragile class and in order to succeed wearing nearly full PvP gear is a must. There are several stats you need to pay attention to. Firstly, aim to get your resilience rating to around 800 (800-850 is the best range). The soft cap for resilience is around 1200, but there is no way to get there right now. Getting up to about 1000 is possible, but you sacrifice a ton of damage to do so and it isn’t worth it.
Two other important stats to pay attention to are spell hit and spell penetration. Your goal should be to get 6% spell hit and around 130 spell penetration. If you are below 6%, then important spells like fear can miss and this can easily lead to lost games. I see a tremendous number of players who ignore spell hit in arena, probably because they assume it is a PvE stat. It is not. Picking up enough spell hit is easy if you get the PvP offpieces with spell hit, such as the neck and cloak. Spell penetration is also crucial to get. 130 is the golden number because this lets you get through the priest shadow resistance buff, most mage resistances, and the paladin aura. A great way to get spell penetration is to use the PvP offhand, wand, +35 penetration cloak enchant, and allocate one socket to spell penetration.
Once the above stats are taken care of you have a choice: gem for spell damage or spell haste. Most warlocks prefer spell damage since it greatly increases the amount of pressure you can create. Spell haste, however, is a fairly popular alternative. Gemming for spell haste makes it easier to get a fear on a target that is constantly running behind a pillar. It also makes it easier to juke fears and get casts off with a rogue riding you. Try both to see which you prefer.
The last gear topic I will discuss is trinkets. There are quite a few out there, and if you are human you get to use two. I am a firm believer in Battlemaster’s Bravery being the best choice, whether you are running with a healer or a full DPS setup. This trinket has a huge amount of spell power, and if used in at the same time as a healthstone (via a macro) you can get a 7k+ self heal even if you are silenced and your partner is crowd controlled. Unfortunately, this trinket requires an 1800 rating and is therefore not available to warlocks new to arena. Great alternatives are Flow of Knowledge, Embrace of the Spider, Dying Curse, and Gnomish Lightning Generator (requires Engineering). Extract of Necromatic Power may look like great, but it isn’t. Warlocks don’t scale well enough with crit to make this trinket worthwhile.
What comp should I run?
I prefer 2v2ing with a healer, the best of which in my opinion is a Holy Paladin. This might change in 3.1, but as it stands now Holy Paladins are a cut above the rest. Due to the bursty environment of WotLK (thanks Blizzard!) bubble will allow you to beat virtually any double DPS team. Other healers like Druids and Shamen and are easily trained and frequently blown up in the first five seconds of the match (I’m not kidding). Priests are also not ideal now (although they are getting some nice buffs in 3.1), due to their general squishiness. The Holy Paladin has many other benefits, such as never going OOM and usually never having to drink. Despite these significant advantages, playing with any healer is viable and many other healers offer significant advantages. Playing with a shaman, for example, will give you a huge advantage over any other comp with a warlock.
I will get into specific comps and strategies in the next article, but I’ll leave you with a little preview.
Holy Paladin/Warlock vs. Mage/Rogue
Assuming equal gear and skill, the Holy Paladin/Warlock should win every time. Get in combat as soon as possible against this comp to avoid one of you getting sapped. A trick for getting into combat once the gate opens is to use hellfire while you are soul linked. This will cause your pet to take damage (and put it into combat). If you buff your pet with spell (I use Detect Invisibility) after it has taken damage you will be put into combat for several seconds. Continue buffing until you engage your opponents. Your partner can also buff the pet to get into combat. I will go over a macro in the tips/tricks article that easily let’s you do this. Avoiding sap is crucial because if you don’t you will probably lose.
Try and start the fight near a pillar or some LOS object. The mage should be your focus target and your goal will be to kill the rogue. DOT the mage as early as possible to stay in combat and pressure them to start the engagement. Try and save your Howl of Terror for when the mage creates his images. This will help mitigate any opening burst. Once the rogue pops out put full instant dots on him. You should have macros to easily dispel sheeps off you and your partner. Never spell lock a polymorph (it should be saved for any frost spell the mage is casting). While all of this is happening it is important to keep out of the LOS of the mage as much as possible. You need to be good at juking kicks and counter spells so you can get fears off on both the rogue and the mage. Also, don’t be afraid to port offensively. If you need to get a fear off, porting first to get some distance is a great trick.
The rogue will cloak fairly quickly to wipe your DOTs off. Once he comes back you will need to reapply your DOTs and then fear him. Keep DOTs up on the mage too, but your kill target should be the rogue. Once he uses cloak he will be very easy to kill. The mage, on the other hand, is generally harder to kill because of his various defensive cool downs (ex: ice block).
That’s it for me for now. Stay tuned for the next installment where we will look at even more comp strats and matchups!