Warlocks have never been a typically primary class when it comes to World of Warcraft, as they’re usually said to have derived from some other core Warcraft class. We’re either corrupted Shaman or corrupted Mages, for the most part, or we’re corrupted Hunters with our pets. We pull demons from the Void and deal Shadow magic, but we’re more of a chaotic fel kind of shadow, not Old Gods kind like Shadow Priests. On the gameplay mechanical side of things, we also have had a lot of spec-to-spec comparisons. Affliction is like Shadow Priests (shadow + DoTs + channels) or Moonkin (DoTs), Demonology is like Beast Mastery Hunters (special pets + pet damage focus), Destruction is like Fire Mage (fantasy) or Arcane Mage (buttons), Grimoire of Sacrifice is like Lone Wolf play, etc.
Although it’s impossible to avoid any comparison whatsoever, I think it’s interesting that all three Warlock specs can be directly compared to different class specs in similarity of gameplay mechanics. I also think that looking at how other specs do their damage is a positive aspect of learning theorycrafting, as you get to know other theorycrafters and guide writers and you get to learn about other complex mechanics in the game. All of this gives you a better footing and understanding when it comes to providing feedback and possible brainstormed solutions when testing new game features, especially when you talk about grouped endgame content which often involves cross-class thinking.
So one of the things I’m doing is testing not only all three Warlock specs, but also all of the other caster specs, including the two ranged Hunter specs. I’m not testing these specs in-depth like a mainspec player or theorycrafter might be, but I’m approaching them from a broad and general perspective like a newbie or a long lost alt. It started as a project to learn about the Warlock-comparable specs — Shadow Priest, Beast Mastery Hunter, and Fire Mage — and then once I found that Shadow Priest is more like current/old Demonology than it is Affliction anymore, I opened it up to Arcane, Frost, Marksmanship, Balance, and Elemental to see if any of them remotely compare to Affliction’s new playstyle.
For the most part, these will be my own first impressions and thinking through of mechanics. When I reference mainspec player commentary and feedback, I’ll note it. Builds change things more quickly than I can level and swap toons, so some of my feedback may be quickly outdated. I’ve already mentioned that I’m not really an expert in these non-Warlock classes as I don’t play them regularly enough, even as alts (my main alt is a Guardian Druid!). I also am not as motivated by my personal opinion of how I want a spec to be as I am with Warlocks, so I feel that I can’t truly speak on “how well” Fire Mage (etc.) is doing, I can only just tell you the parts I find fun or not fun.
Because of the how the alpha realms currently restrict play, I have to do some rerolling in order to play all of the specs I want to see. The max-level PvP realm includes spec switching with all specs’ full artifacts in bags, but it won’t let you go out into the Broken Isles for questing and it won’t let you queue for dungeons. Since my primary focus is PvE content, this is rather useless for me, unless I just want to hit a training dummy with a fully artifact’d out character. The leveling realm has templates only for level 100 characters that have yet to choose and acquire artifacts, so rerolling implies starting all over. There is currently as of writing no way to acquire another spec’s artifact in your class, so if you want another spec, you need another character. There are eleven character slots on the leveling realm right now, and six are given to Warlocks for me (one for each spec 100-110, and then one for each spec to look at 1-100 leveling). That leaves me with five spots for caster/ranged testing. I’ve arranged it like so:
- Ponsanity (Shadow Priest)
- Ponboom (Balance Druid)
- Ponele (Elemental Shaman)
- Ponter/Ponmarks (Beast Mastery/Marksmanship Hunters)
- Ponblast/Poncinder/Poncicle (Arcane/Fire/Frost Mages)
I’ve tried to alternate races and factions for a few reasons: one, I don’t get bored of same factional storylines or casting animations; two, I have a diverse screenshot arsenal; three, I can tell them apart easily!
I’ve always been curious and often on live realms I have at least one of every ranged class to max level just to try them, even if I don’t regularly play them. But I’ve always kept my opinions to myself and never really tried to write them down thoroughly. So this is a bit of an experiment, but I really need to stop being so terrible on myself and try more things out.
As I just finished looking a little at Beast Mastery and Shadow for my latest Blood Pact column at Blizzard Watch, I’m going to set those aside for now (even though I have more thoughts on each that what’s in the column). I’m currently working my way through Balance, albeit with the camera shapeshifting bug, and I’ve rerolled the Fire Mage into a Frost Mage, which was recently released for testing. I’ll probably try writing those thoughts down first.