NB: This realistic viability of progression raid level warlock tanks bit the dust with the removal of 6% crit reduction for locks and non-prot warriors, this change relegates lock “tanking” to lower level mobs or purely spell based bosses. This info is all current as of build 5.0.5 (16135)
This series is going to be a test to see how far we can push this tanking thing, 90 heroics this week and then we’re moving on to challenge modes!,
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 hell 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 13.8% and allows the use of various demonic abilities. In addition, Soulshatter taunts your target (this doesn’t work on bosses, so make sure your dps knows this), 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 physical damage reduction in DA scales, but not terribly well with mastery at this point but it still makes Dark Soul: Knowledge a decent tank CD.
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. 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 a few 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. 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. As the tank you should also make sure you are keeping up Aura of Enfeeblement to help keep the damage you take under control. The final possible ability is the use of Drain Life. Now as a base, warlocks only have 3% dodge, so the fact that you can’t dodge while channelling is only a real issue when you start gemming/enchanting or gearing with dodge. 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.
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 right now. 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 100k higher than what you have personally at pre-raid levels. 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 ~20k 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 increases the total armor of the Void Lord so if you’re running the Grimoire of Supremacy talent then you shouldn’t take this unless you plan on using the VL to actually tank rather than just be an extra health pool. 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 and Soul Consumptions are the last two glyph options and in general I’d recommend against them unless you’re killing lots of adds. My experience 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.
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 50k left, you take 4/5ths of the damage and your pet takes 1/5th. 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 50k/100k health (these health pools are approximately how they are at 90) then I also receive 4/5ths of any heal either of us receive and he the remaining fifth. So with the health pools you effectively have a 500k HP lock tank, cool right?! Now to turn this into a survivability CD you just combine this with the fact that for 200 fury in DA you can instantly summon any of your demons out with 100% of their health. Let’s look at an extreme situation to see how this works. Let’s say we get hammered by something and it reduces both the lock and our pet to 10% health. That puts us at 40k health and the pet at 10k, as soon as this happens we summon out an instant pet at the full 100k health, now any damage we take is split such that we take 2/7ths of the damage and our pet takes 5/7ths 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!: 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.
The gearing for tanking is pretty straight forward. For trinkets, I recommend anything with Stamina. This tier I would go for the Jade Warlord Figurine and Lao-Chin’s Liquid Courage. You want to socket Stamina gems and find gear with Mastery. If you can get a second Tier 14 set to reforge and gem for tanking the 4 piece bonus is a great tanking cool down. If you’re doing for a Drain Life style of tanking grab haste after Mastery or if reforging for dodge, just reforge the stat other than mastery to dodge on all items.
With enchants you want to enchant with stamina if possible followed by mastery. For your meta I recommend, an Austere Primal Diamond. The gearing for Challenge Modes is much more complicated but we will cover that next time :)