NB: This has all changed with the removal of the 6% crit reduction for locks and non-prot warriors, this change relegates lock “tanking” to low level mobs or purely spell based bosses. If you are reading this and would like me to do a full on guide for the kind of tanking we can now do, please let me know in the comments. It’s going to be extremely situational in progression raiding so I won’t be doing too much on it unless I get some feedback!!!!
It appears that despite what Ghostcrawler has said in the past, as of the current beta build (5.0.1 (15781)), Warlocks appear to be a fully functional, raid worthy, tank. I have tanked many random heroics as well as organized guild groups and even the current raid content out for testing. Threat generation is a non issue and healer feedback has ranged from “just fine” to being “way easier to heal than other tanks”. I’m sure most of this is due to the skill level and game knowledge of various tanks but it’s a good indication that there are not glaring deficiencies in our abilities to fill that role. Before anyone makes assumptions, no, warlocks cannot queue as tanks nor can we “roll” on tank trinkets or gear in group loot situations. However, what we can do is keep the attention of the trash and bosses in an instance away from the rest of the group and stay alive while doing so.
Warlock Tanking Basics:
I assume most of you know this already but for those of you who don’t know the answer to “how the fuck are warlocks a tank?” I’ll address that here in brief. In Mists, for I will be referring to Mists of Pandaria by this moniker as I hate that people have settled on calling it “mop”, Warlocks have been given a glyph called Glyph of Demon Hunting. The glyph grants a Demonology warlock the ability Dark Apotheosis (DA) which does the following “You imbue yourself with demonic energies, reducing damage taken by 15.10% and allows the use of various demonic abilities. In addition, Soulshatter taunts your target, Twilight Ward will absorb all schools of damage and Demonic Slash is shorter range and generates fury.” What the glyph description neglects to mention is that Dark Apotheosis also grants the Warlock 500% increased threat and massively increased armor combine that with the taunt and we have the basic scaffolding on which we can construct a tank build. Please read on for the details.
Warlock Tanking Details:
Okay, so we’ve covered the basic passives as well as the fact that SS becomes a taunt. The damage reduction in DA scales, but not terribly well with mastery. Since tool-tips tend to be pretty off in the beta and numbers tuning for mastery is one of the last things done due to the fact it’s almost always a flat increase to something it’s hard to tell how this will compare to what innate reduction other tanks get at 90 but currently I have ~7.5k mastery and that increases the reduced damage by ~10%. With out DA I have ~16k armor which becomes ~50k with DA active. Let’s move on to discuss the active abilities and cool downs.
As mentioned in the glyph description, Twilight Ward becomes Fury Ward, an absorb shield with a 10 second cool down that scales with spell power and costs 200 fury to use. Think of fury as a resource similar to a DKs Runic Power, it’s generated from specific attacks and is spent to use most of your abilities, as compared to something like Rage which is generated by getting hit. The other base ability of note is Unending Resolve, this ability is a 12 second long, 3 minute CD 50% reduced damage CD, it’s very nice.
In addition to Fury Ward you have two (three) other primary fury dumps. The first is Immolation Aura, free to cast but a cost of 25 fury per second. This is nice for picking up any adds that wander into the area or simply dumping fury while you are off tanking (NB: unlimited range refers to the cast, the AoE pulse is the same as hellfire on live. Secondly you have Void Ray, not only will this refresh corruption on any target it hits it also hits for decent single target numbers as well as every other target in a line. The reason I mention a possible third ability is the use of Drain Life. Now as a base, warlocks don’t have any dodge, so the fact that you can’t dodge while channeling (last I checked) is only an issue when you start gemming/enchanting or gearing with dodge but with such low dodge values the survivability gain for the first few percentages are going to be important so I recommend against this in most cases. In the event you are needed to be used as an interrupt on a given fight, carrion swarm is also a 50 fury dump but has a 12 second CD or if you are the only tank you can bring “Weakened Blows” in the form or our Aura of Enfeeblement.
We’ve discussed fury spending but how is it generated? There are four main sources of fury when in DA. The first is from your pet as your pet’s base attack ability generates fury, so make sure it’s always attacking. The fire bolts from your Wild Imps also generate fury but that’s really a fairly passive source as you have little control over it unless you choose to glyph it. The three spells in our own repertoire that generate fury are Demonic Slash, Corruption, and Hand of Gul’dan. When in DA, D. Slash has three charges, is on a one second global, and charges regenerate every 5 seconds modified by haste and generates 60 fury when used (currently it still generates fury even if it misses). Corruption is it’s same old self, costs mana while in DA and generates 6 fury every tick (3 second tick interval modified by haste).
The last spell is Hand of Gul’dan, which generates 2 fury per tick of the DoT effect has 2 charges and these charges regenerate every 15 seconds. The applied dot ticks once per second but it has a weird stacking mechanic (it appears that the damage gained through the SP coefficient is multiplied by the stack count but the base damage is not) so rather than maximize fury gain by making sure you get the full number of ticks out of every HoG cast you’re likely going to want to clip the last tick so that you have normal_ticks-1 ticks of a one stack HoG dot and then normal_ticks of a 2 stack HoG dot but I digress. These are your basic abilities there are a lot of other niche abilities and perhaps even a core one I’ve overlooked while writing this up but this is the general idea.
Talents and Glyphs:
Here is a link to the talent and glyph build I use on the beta right now, keep in mind that some of the things don’t do exactly as they say in the calculator and exact numbers are always being tuned. On the first tier it’s hard to argue that there’s a better choice for boss fights other than the 25% increased healing CD provided by Dark Regeneration as well as HoT.
The second tier of talents is an even easier choice. There may be some encounters where you want the stun or AoE fear but your go to talent should be the 15% self heal on a 45 second CD. The third tier is where it gets kind of interesting. Currently I can’t see any reason for a main tank not to take Soul Link. If you are using the Void Lord as your pet it gives you a health pool that is essentially 200k higher than what you have personally at raid testing gear levels (for raid testing I was sitting at over 600k total health pool between the two of us). There may be some select encounters where one will want to use one of the other options but with the way SL works right now it’s just too good to pass up, more details on that below.
The 4th tier is kind of a wash as far as tanks go, it’s possible that some fights will have a use for increased movement at the cost of a percentage of your health or the ability to cleanse yourself at a health cost but in general I don’t use the talents in this tier too often out side of specific raid bosses. The 5th talent selection is based primarily on the fact that the improved demons also have 20% increased health, this combined with Soul Link gives you an extra ~40k to your health pool.
The final and 6th tier is a choice that’s based on your roll in a specific encounter, most encounters will lend themselves to a tank taking Archimonde’s Vengeance but I can certainly see some fights where having the range on your Immolation Aura doubled would be very nice.
Glyph choice is much more encounter based. Minor glyphs are mostly cosmetic, I’d recommend Carrion Swarm if it’s an encounter where an AoE knock back would be frowned upon and Hand of Gul’dan if there’s an encounter where you’d like to be able to drop HoG in a specific location rather than centered on a target.
Major Glyphs are reduced down to two choices since one slot is obviously taken up by the Glyph of Demon Hunting. Currently Glyph of Demon Training doesn’t increase the total health of the Void Lord so if you’re running the Grimoire of Supremacy talent then you shouldn’t take this unless the “bug” is fixed. There are 3 other real glyph options as a tank, Dark Soul I’d recommend for any fight where maintaining a constant level of damage reduction is better than having a larger CD. Siphon Life is not awful if you’re working on an encounter where there are multiple adds and/or you are able to take advantage of the healing though in general your EH will be higher due to the DS glyph than SL. Health Stone is the last real glyph option and in general I’d recommend against it. My experience in raids so far suggests that 20% instant heal is worth more to you and your healers than a 40% heal over 10 seconds. That being said I’m sure there will be encounters where a large hot like that will out weigh the instant heal.
There are some other glyphs worth discussing and when/if I think they might be used; Glyph of Soul Consumption is the first of these, right now it only seems to trigger if you (or your pet?) get the killing blow but this glyph I found to be very useful when banished by Gara’jal the Spiritbinder. Soul stone shouldn’t be a glyph the tank is expected to take. Glyph of Imp Swarm is an interesting choice, this will allow you to chose burst dps and fury over the steady rate you get w/o the glyph. If this were a minor glyph I’d say take it for sure but as a tank I’m not sure it’ll ever be worth the Major slot.
Nuances and/or bugs:
This will be a fairly detailed section about the interaction of some of our abilities and I’m going to assume that the reader has a good grasp on warlock talents and mechanics though I’m happy to answer any questions that arise and are asked.
Soul Link (and how it’s an extra 1 min defensive CD):
The first is a detailed look at exactly how ridiculous Soul Link is right now and how that can be used and abused to no end in it’s current implementation. So rather than going into “mathy” specifics I’m going to just go over it’s general behavior and show how ridiculous it is. In it’s most basic incarnation it turns the health pools of you and your pet into a single large health pool that is the sum of the two. To do this it splits all damage and healing you or your pet receive between the two of you. Where it gets tricky is that all damage is divided in such a way that, based on your current health, that you and your pet would die at the same time from sustained damage. A basic example is that if you have 200k health remaining and your pet has 100k left, you take 2/3rds of the damage and your pet takes 1/3rd. Heals, on the other hand, are split such that you and your pet would be healed to 100% health at the same time based on the amount of health you are currently missing. If I am at 200k/400k health and my pet is at 100k/200k health (these health pools are approximately how they are at 90) then I also receive 2/3rds of any heal either of us receive and he the remaining third. So with the health pools about you effectively have a 600k HP lock tank, cool right?! Now to turn this into a survivability CD you just combine this with the fact that for 250 fury in DA you can instantly summon any of your demons out with 100% of their health. Let’t look at an extreme situation to see how this works. Let’s say we get hammered by something in a raid and it reduces both the lock and our pet to 10% health. That puts us at 40k health and the pet at 20k, as soon as this happens we summon out an instant pet at the full 200k health, now any damage we take is split such that we take 1/6th of the damage and our pet takes 5/6ths of the damage BUT!!! any heals we receive go 100% to us since our pet is no longer missing any health!! Obviously all of this is only true until we get that heal and the percentages change but it’s pretty sweet on a 1 minute CD!
Soul Link and the double dip!: This is something that I think Blizzard is going to have to change but right now Soul Link is an amazing way to increase the effective HPS of your healers on a single tank. Since all heals are shared healers can each roll two HoTs (one on you and one on your pet) on a single health pool as well as the benefit of double ticks of any AoE heals on both you and your pet. This “bug” gets to unreasonable levels with a holy paladin healer. Normally a heal and it’s copied Beacon effect can’t apply to the same target, this is not so with a Soul Link lock tank. I’m sure Blizzard is going to have to address at least the beacon effect, I’m not sure how they can possibly do it w/o reworking Soul Link or changing beacon in someway.
Bear-Catting syndrome: Depending on the needs of the encounter the only thing a Lock tank looses over a pure demo DPS is a glyph slot and perhaps slightly suboptimal reforging and gearing. With the introduction of 4 druid specs Blizzard hopped to solve the issue of having a tank that can DPS much better than others when not required to actively tank a MOB. Well, with this Glyph they’ve introduced a whole new one after removing the druid issue. I haven’t looked at tank DPS too much when not tanking but it’s possible that it’s similar at entrance gear level to what a sub optimal demo lock does but I’m sure this will not scale into later Mists tiers.