So you want to level a Warlock, and want to know the fastest, most-efficient method? You've come to the right place. Note that this article only discusses talent choices and play style, and not specific warlock class quests.
Note these notes were made pre-patch 3.02 and therefore do not take into account the major talent changes that occurred at that time.
When you first start out, all you have is Shadow Bolt and Demon Skin. Demon Skin is a self-buff that gives you a small amount of armor and health every 5 seconds. Demon Skin should always be up. At the beginning, Shadow Bolt is going to be your primary damage spell, but this will change later on.
The first time you see your class trainer, he will give you a quest to acquire your Imp, which will be your first demon. Do the quest as soon as you can, as he provides considerable DPS for the first few levels. Don't wait any longer than level 4 to get your Imp. Once you get your Imp, Immolate, and Corruption make this macro:
/castsequence reset=target/combat Immolate, Corruption
This macro will be your general purpose DoT macro, while also telling your demon to attack, but only if you're not in combat. The idea is that your demon won't switch targets if you DoT up a second target. The "reset=target/combat" ensures that the macro always starts with Immolate when you target a new target. This macro will be modified later on. When soloing, just use this macro to tell your pet to attack and put up your DoTs. Once your DoTs are up, spam Shadow Bolt or wand (highly recommended wand ) it until the target is dead. If a target is nearly dead at the end of a Shadow Bolt (Less then 10% or so) then just let the DoTs finish it off.
At level 8, put Curse of Agony between Immolate and Corruption in the macro to give:
/castsequence reset=target/combat Immolate, Curse of Agony, Corruption
Second Opinion: The Curse of Agony does slightly greater DPS if the DoT is completely used. However, seeing that most of its damage is caused in the last 1/4 of the DoT, it can give you a higher DPS at this stage of the game to put Corruption first. When creatures start living longer, then it is more worth it.
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 Curse of Agony, Corruption, and 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: The Voidwalker tank can be useful but like the original Author said, you have to start out slowly. This can decrease your DPS and I only held the Voidwalker from 15 to 20, when I got the Succy. However getting it is still worth it as there are some situations where summoning and getting it to aggro everything while you run in and get whatever you need can make questing quicker.
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 huge mana cost, creating a lot of downtime. You will find yourself having to drink after every other mob.
Your first 5 points should be put into Improved Corruption to make your Corruption instant-cast (Note that this was changed in 3.02 to "Increases the damage done by your Corruption by 10%, and increases the critical strike chance of your Seed of Corruption by 5%" making it less essential for early leveling). While this isn't that important for the first few levels, it is a must-have later. Then get Improved Life Tap and Soul Siphon.
Second Opinion: Demonology has been seen to be a quick leveler, however it only starts to shine at level 40 and beyond. Until then, spec Affliction. Don't level Destruction, as it will have far to much down time and as we can't conjure food and water cost more. Affliction is the best until 40 then it’s up to your style more than anything else.
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 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 Lifetap, 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 Lifetap actually causes you to have a net gain of both HP and 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 4% for every Affliction debuff on the target. Since you should already have Curse of Agony and Corruption on your target (remember, while Immolate is a DoT, its not an Affliction effect—it’s Destruction!), that means your Drain Life will always do 8% more damage. If you have more Warlocks with you, Soul Siphon becomes that much better! With a pair of Curses and Corruptions, Drain Life will have its effect increased by 16%!
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. It is also worth nothing that you should only use Rank 1 Drain Soul. Rank 1 still generates a soul shard and procs Improved Drain Soul, while costing the least mana. It does less damage, but Drain Soul is not intended to be a source of damage, and should only be used on a target that is about to die anyways.
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. It does everything Demon Skin does better, plus it adds Shadow Resist. Once you get Demon Armor, there is no reason to keep Demon Skin on your action bar. Again, just like Demon Skin, it should always be active.
Second Opinion: I agree with his Talent/Spell choices up to this point but we start to diverge here. I use the higher ranks of Drain Soul, since its damage is higher, you can safely put it on earlier and thus not miss it. However, once some skill is taken in the switch between Drain Life/Drain Soul the weaker one has greater benefits. However slow internet will cause lag which makes the risk of low-level quick Drain Soul a great risk. Choose whatever works for you.
As for your next talent choices, he went for the decreased knockback route while I prefer increasing my damage early. Thus Improved Curse of Agony is taken first, then two points in Suppression, as, unless you are spamming instances, that is all you should need. Three points if you want to fight people above your level in the wild, tops. Then finally one point in Fel Concentration taking you to level 25 giving you this.
Also at level 20 get your Succy. The quests are annoying but she is worth it. Her DPS is higher then the Imps 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 Succy more then anything else.
At this point, you've probably noticed your Voidwalker doesn't hold aggro well anymore. This is why we picked Fel Concentration. We are going back to soloing with an Imp, only this time, instead of using Shadow Bolt, we will be using Drain Life. I highly recommend creating this macro:
/cast [nochanneling:Drain Life] Drain Life
And put it where you had Drain Life. What this macro does is allow you to spam your Drain Life button without canceling the Drain Life spell you are already channeling. When killing a mob, your sequence will simply be to use the DoT macro to put up your DoTs while telling your Imp to attack, and then spam Drain Life until the mob is about to die, then quickly use Drain Soul to proc Improved Drain Soul and get some mana back.
Second Opinion: Like I said I prefer the Succy and usually don't wait around this long to get rid of the Voidwalker. A lot of people don't bother with it at all but it can be useful in some circumstances.
Your next talent will be Amplify Curse, your first cooldown spell. When should you use Amplify Curse? Whenever you just want just a little extra DPS. Example, fighting an Elite, a mob that's orange to you, or against a player. You won't use it that often since the extra damage isn't really noticeable when fighting a non-elite your level, but for only a single point its nice to have.
Next, take 2/5 Suppression. Yes, just 2 points. An equal level mob has a 4% chance to resist a spell, and by taking 2/5 Suppression, you reduce the chance to resist your Affliction spells to almost 0%. There is always a small chance to have your spells get resisted, regardless of talents and gear. I've had a level 5 cow in Elwynn Forest resist a Moonfire from my level 70 druid.
Second Opinion: I don’t bother with Amplify Curse, at least not until later. It increases your DPS for one fight and has a three-minute cooldown. Not quite worth it unless you spam Instances. Instead I fill up the Fel Concentration I missed earlier, making it really rare to get knock back when channeling Drain Life or Drain Soul. Then get Siphon Life to get this.
Let me just say one thing about Grim Reach before we continue. The spell is good, there is no denying that. However as to do the most DPS we open with Immolate which is not affected by Grim Reach, thus making us waste the talent by having to move close enough to cast Immolate.
Change your DoT macro to:
/castsequence reset=target/combat Immolate, Siphon Life, Curse of Agony, Corruption
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.
Complete your points in Grim Reach then your next talent should be Curse of Exhaustion. Its handy to have when you feel like running through an area with mobs rather than taking the path simply because going through mobs is faster. Just put it on the mobs to slow them down so they don't keep you dazed.
Your next talent choice will depend on whether or not you've picked up any spell or shadow damage gear. If you have, get Empowered Corruption. Otherwise, pick Improved Curse of Agony. If you get Empowered Corruption, only put in two points. Then, get 5/5 Shadow Mastery.
Second Opinion: Like I said, if you are using Immolate Grim reach is pointless as it just wastes talents. Immolate is not effected by it so the range bonus is removed.
At this point it gets a little harder to pick talents. First choice is simple, put one point in Shadow Embrace. Once again just one point. The reason for this is because Shadow Embrace is an Affliction effect and thus increases the damage done and health received by Drain life. The decrease in damage done by enemies is okay but mostly not worth it.
I, at this point, take Empowered Corruption. While not that good, unless you are watching the auction house or doing a lot of instances, it will become much better later on. However, depending on who you are, one point in each of Nightfall (Warlock talent), Amplify Curse, and Curse of Exhaustion or two points in Nightfall (Warlock talent) and one in Amplify Cursecan also be good. I personally don't like Nightfall (Warlock talent) as the chance of it procing is low. If you have been following me so far and chose to take Nightfall (Warlock talent) and something else, good luck because I am only going to continue like you have taken Empowered Corruption.
Put the next talent point into Dark Pact. Dark Pact is an extremely powerful spell when used correctly. We will still be using an Imp, however, we will now be putting him on Passive mode, and you will be removing the /petattack line from your DoT macro. Your Imp is no longer a source of DPS, but rather, a mana battery. Lifetap will now only be used to keep your HP below 100% so that Drain Life's healing isn't wasted, rather than a source of mana. The Imp has the highest mana regeneration out of all the summoned demons, plus the Fire Shield will provide a small amount of damage.
Now, take 5/5 Contagion, 2/2 Improved Howl of Terror, and 2/2 Improved Curse of Agony. If you took Improved Curse of Agony earlier, take Empowered Corruption, as by now, you should have some spell/shadow damage gear. Your spec should look like this.
Second Opinion: This is the point where some Warlock swear you must re-spec to Demonology, and their point is valid. The DPS will drop, this is true. However, talents like Soul Link, Master Demonologist, and Demonic Resilience increase your survivability greatly. You will also have far lower downtime then even the best Geared Affliction as most of your damage is done by your pet. Lastly it has the obvious weakness of over reliance on the pet.
However in this Guide we will assume you don't respec as the over reliance on the pet is annoying.
Put your Next talent into Dark Pact. This is a must for Affliction Warlocks from this level until level 70. It is also good in a raiding Environment, however not the best. Thus we say goodbye to the Succy and bring back the Imp. Now the Imp will have still been leveling even though he has not been brought out. This belief that he won’t have been is a common misconception. Thus his high mana regeneration rate, is perfect for the ability. Turning on Fire Shield and Blood Pact is a good idea, and Phase Shift must be on. You may have to update the Grimoires if you haven't been. The Imp now must be on Passive, and using Dark Pact we gain mana.
At this point, Dark Pact can make Drain Soul and Drain Life seem more pointless. Thus, it is your choice to keep them or get rid of them and spam Searing Pain or Shadow Bolt, depending on what does more DPS at that point in time. However, Drain Life can still be useful while soloing as can Drain Soul so it mostly depends on play style. Dumping Drain Life and Drain Soul soul increases downtime but also increases DPS.
Now, take both Contagion and Improved Howl of Terror. These are useful. Improved Howl of Terror is better than Fear and when you over-pull, instant casting that can save you. It can also save you in a raid if you exceed the tank’s Threat. Lastly, it’s a godsend in PvP.
Now difficulties occur. Malediction is extremely useful in instances but if you stick to quest leveling, it’s nowhere near as good. Nightfall (Warlock talent) is one of the best for both soloing and instances, and Amplify Curse and Curse of Exhaustion are both good in and out of Raids. All these are okay but are mainly used to get Unstable Affliction, an excellent spell, in both raids and soloing. Once again re-speccing is an option to get the Felguard, and going down the Destruction tree is also good. These 10 levels are some of the hardest to pick points in and expect to re-spec a lot. I have little advice to you other than experiment. You should have a lot of gold at this stage and picking the leveling tree that is right for you will be a lot more difficult from this point on.
Right now presents a major fork. At level 50, you could re-spec to Demonology and get a Felguard. The Felguard is a 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. Overall, I've found that speccing for a Felguard is viable. It has little downtime, especially if you've got plenty of spell damage stacked. However, I would highly recommend against going Felguard until level 57 so you can get Improved Lifetap, unless you have a significant amount of damage gear stacked. If you do decide to go Felguard, I recommend this spec. Then, change your DoT macro to Curse of Agony, Corruption, Immolate, and add the /petattack [nocombat] back in.
/petattack [nocombat] /castsequence reset=target/combat Curse of Agony, Corruption, Immolate
Otherwise, take Unstable Affliction and change your DoT macro to put it right after Immolate.
/castsequence reset=target/combat Immolate, Unstable Affliction, Siphon Life, Curse of Agony, Corruption
From this point on, your strategy when soloing will remain the same all the way until 70. If you've stayed Affliction, then 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. 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.
All that remains is talents.
For Affliction spec, I recommend doing 5/5 Improved Shadow Bolt, 5/5 Bane, Shadowburn, 3/3 Improved Imp, 5/5 Demonic Embrace, then 1/2 Improved Healthstone. Why go down the Destruction tree to improve spells you won't use when soloing? From level 60-70, you will probably find yourself doing a lot of instances. It is easy to go all the way from 60-70 doing nothing but instances, and even with Affliction, Shadow Bolt will be your primary nuke when in groups. In groups, Drain Life becomes a way to get mana back, rather than a primary source of damage. Shadowburn will also be handy when fighting elite mobs for some extra DPS. Also, taking only a single point in Improved Healthstone makes it possible to have three of the highest level Healthstone since while each Healthstone is flagged as unique, having different Warlocks with a different number of points in the talent counts as a different stone.
If you went Felguard at 50, then your final talent spec should be 5/5 Improved Corruption, 2/2 Improved Lifetap, 2/2 Soul Siphon, 2/2 Improved Drain Soul, Amplify Curse, 2/2 Improved Curse of Agony, 1/5 Suppression, 3/3 Empowered Corruption, 2/2 Nightfall.
If you're planning on raiding, you may wish to also consider obtaining extra range by using this build.
Now you're level 70! Enjoy!
When soloing, there's no reason to keep more than a few shards with you, so I would recommend just using regular bags, and using an add-on to automatically destroy extra shards.
Second Opinion: The Shard Bag can be good at low levels, as unless it is your alt it is hard to afford the bigger bags. However by 40+ the Shard Bag is better replaced by other bags.
The other curses
Curse of Weakness does not provide enough of a damage reduction to warrant the loss of DPS. You get Rank 5 Curse of Weakness at level 42, which reduces their attack power by 123, which means about 8.8 DPS. At that level, your Drain Life will be healing you for 41 HPS, not including Soul Siphon, Shadow Mastery, or any spell damage.
Curse of Recklessness boosts their DPS, while reducing their armor. Armor does not reduce damage from spells at all, so Recklessness does you no good. It does make the target unable to flee, but usually that's not a problem, anyways. Note that while using the Felguard, Recklessness does improve the damage done by your pet and thus permits him to hold aggro better. However, you may deal more damage with Curse of Agony depending upon your gear. As such, the choice is typically a personal or gear dependent choice as to go with Agony or Recklessness.
Second Opinion: Only use in Raids, some instances and with a Felguard. And with the Raids and instances, it depends on the caster-to-melee ratio. More casters, it’s useless, more melees, it’s far better.
Curse of Elements is great if you have a Shadow Priest or Mage with you, or if you need more damage from your Shadow Bolts while running a 5-man raid. However, while soloing, you're typically better off using Curse of Agony for more DPS.
For an Affliction or Destruction spec, you mainly want "...of the Eagle" gear, though "...of Stamina" and "...of Shadow Wrath" are good. You want to find a good balance of Stamina, Intellect, and Spell/Shadow Damage. Spirit is completely unnecessary as a Warlock. Spell critical strike rating isn't needed when soloing, since the only spell you'll be using when soloing that can crit is Immolate, and it’s not worth losing other stats for that. However, if you're in groups a lot, it helps for your Shadow Bolts.
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, go for the stamina. However, gimping your intellect also means the Improved Drain Soul talent becomes less potent, so again, there is some balance to be found.
Note that Demonology spec'd warlocks rely more on Stamina than Intellect. This is because the Felguard receives a portion of that Stamina and this, in turn, gives the Warlock +spell damage. Thus, "... of Stamina" gear is typically preferred over "... of the Eagle" gear in this case. The full Netherweave item set offers excellent +spell damage and a high level of Stamina and will work well to gear up for Kara and heroics. Once you can run heroics and Kara, slowly replace the Netherweave set with T4 or gear from your marks of Justice as better pieces become available.
"God of Death Mode"
Some affliction warlocks choose to spend their time while leveling collecting +Shadow Dmg and +Spell Dmg over all other stats. The goal is to reach 200+ shadow spell damage by level 40 and 250-300 damage by 60 (See external links below for suitable armor). To do this, you will need almost exclusively armor "... of Shadow Wrath". 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. Especially since 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 writer of this section calls "God of Death Mode" appears. In GoDM the combined damage of Corruption, Curse of Agony, and Siphon Life is enough to kill an enemy, as a result a warlock can cast 3 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. This is a much faster method of grinding and questing since there is no time wasted stopping to cast or on spell pushback. Dark Pact greatly facilitates this due to no longer having to worry about using health for mana. GoDM warlocks love murlocs. (Try the Level 35-38 Mirefin murlocks in Dustwallow Marsh)
- EU WoW forums
- US WoW forums
- Warlock @ Wikispaces - A warlock-specific wiki
- Blood Pact - weekly warlock feature at WoW Insider
- Thottbot Armors - Cloth Armour Levels 30 to 40 with +Spell Damage
- Thottbot Armors - Cloth Armour Levels 30 to 40 with +Shadow Damage
- Warlocks Den - Forum Specifically For Warlocks