season of discovery warlock dps featured image
  • Author: Zephan
  • Date: November 22, 2023
  • Updated: December 30, 2023
  • Expansion: WoW Classic

Warlocks have consistently been staples in Classic raids, offering invaluable utility through curses that enhance raid-wide throughput, Soulstones for raid-wipe prevention/recovery, summons, and healthstones. Additionally, they stand out as one of the most potent spell casters in terms of raw numbers, boasting arguably the best Area-of-Effect (AoE) damage in the game.

The new rune system, introduced in the Season of Discovery, adds unique flavors to Warlock DPS. Warlocks are no longer confined to spamming Shadow Bolt, as a plethora of different playstyles has opened up. This includes focusing on damage-over-time abilities alongside Drain Life, playing with Fire as a Firelock, and unleashing impressive Area-of-Effect (AoE) damage with none other than the previously single-target-only Shadow Bolt, thanks to Shadow Bolt Volley. In the following guide, we’ll delve deeper into the new runes and how they impact the various DPS-focused builds available.

Build Summary

There are three main viable builds, each with its own benefits and drawbacks, depending on the runes you can obtain.

Firelock

We are all too familiar with the Fire Warlock dream. Some of us played it during Phase 5 and 6 of Classic, utilizing Searing Pain, which came with its own threat management challenges. Others opted for the Fire spec at the beginning of the Burning Crusade as an alternative to the standard Destruction build. While in Wrath of the Lich King, the Destruction tree fully embraced fire, it suffered in performance compared to its alternative talent tree options. Now, however, we can play Firelock in Classic without any compromise.

Thanks to Incinerate, we have a filler spell for fire that doesn’t generate additional threat. Additionally, Incinerate provides a 25% fire damage increase buff for 15 seconds. Incinerate isn’t the only spell from later expansions added to our arsenal through runes; Chaos Bolt joins the lineup. Chaos Bolt has the benefit of never missing, which is particularly advantageous at this lower level bracket where hit chance on gear is harder to come by. Furthermore, it ignores Fire resistance and allows our fire spells to pierce through absorptions.

Finally, Lake of Fire adds a ground effect to Rain of Fire. When mobs are present in it, their Fire damage taken increases by a whopping 40%! All these elements contribute to the triumphant return of Firelocks in the Season of Discovery!

Affliction

Many of the new runes place a strong emphasis on enhancing our damage-over-time abilities. It just so happens that many of the most advantageous talents available this phase are found in the Affliction talent tree, further amplifying the effectiveness of our damage-over-time capabilities. Therefore, it’s not surprising that a build concentrated on merging these elements would be significantly powerful.

The Haunt rune adds another damage-over-time ability to our arsenal, boosting the damage from our already-present Corruption and Curse of Agony by 20%. Soul Siphon allows us to substitute Shadow Bolt as a filler spell and concentrate on Drain Life, benefiting from the additional damage provided by both Soul Siphon and Haunt. Alternatively, one could choose to employ Master Channeler to transform Drain Life into a full-fledged damage-over-time ability, using Shadow Bolt as a filler spell instead.

Shadowlock

One of the more distinctive runes for Warlocks (absent in The Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King) is Shadow Bolt Volley, providing the ability to cast 5 Shadow Bolts simultaneously, reaping all the benefits associated with Shadow Bolt. Notably, crits apply Improved Shadow Bolt, and if opting for Everlasting Affliction, maintaining Corruption across a multitude of enemies becomes easily achievable, extracting extra value from this particular rune in group encounters. Consider combining this with Demonic Tactics for additional crit chance, further increasing the uptime on Improved Shadow Bolt and the damage inflicted by these simultaneous Shadow Bolts.

Runes

Chest

Demonic Tactics

  • Increases the melee and spell critical strike chance of you and your pet by 10%.

This additional 10% crit chance is extra useful for those that put talents into Improved Shadow Bolt, it is one of the few sources for spell crit chance. Additionally, if you were to take Demonic Pact this could also supplement the uptime by a small amount.

Lake of Fire

  • Rain of Fire also leaves a Lake of Fire on the ground that increases all Fire damage you deal and your Demon pet deals to affected enemies by 40% for 15 sec.

As a Firelock the majority of your damage comes from fire spells such as Incinerate and Immolate, as such it should come as no surprise that the Lake of Fire which increases Fire damage by 40% is a massive boost to a Firelocks damage, it remains to be seen if the effect stays present upon canceling Rain of Fire but at the moment of writing the guide this is the assumed behavior. This would make casting and interrupting Rain of Fire for the debuff a valid strategy.

Master Channeler

  • Your Drain Life is no longer channeled, lasts 15 sec with a 15 sec cooldown, costs 100% more mana, and heals you for 50% more each time it deals damage.

The primary advantage of this rune lies in the additional damage over time ability without having to cast, this leaves you free to wand or cast Shadow Bolt instead. Note that with the 15 sec duration also comes a 15 sec cooldown making it extra punishing when the spell misses, as such it could be vital to take some points into Suppresion to diminish the chance of this happening.

Soul Siphon

  • Increases the amount drained by your Drain Life and Drain Soul spells by an additional 6% for each of your Warlock Shadow effects afflicting the target, up to a maximum of 18% additional effect.

This rune effectively positions Drain Life as an enticing filler spell, surpassing Shadow Bolt, particularly when combined with Haunt—a rune that enhances our Damage over Time abilities, consequently boosting Drain Life as well. The synergy lies in the fact that the more Damage over Time abilities we have, the greater the damage output from Drain Life. With the additional possibility of reaching Improved Drain Life in this level bracket, opting for Drain Life becomes a viable option.

Legs

Incinerate

  • Burn your enemy for 96 to 111 damage and increase all Fire damage you deal by 25% for the next 15 sec.

The primary use of this rune for Fire Warlock is to provide us with a filler spell that doesn’t have added threat generation and provides an additional 25% fire damage dealt to enemies. This buff increases our damage throughput significantly, especially when combined with the Lake of Fire debuff, seeing as both are most likely multiplicative resulting in 75% more fire damage being dealt compared to 65% if both were additive.

Everlasting Affliction

This rune enables us to refresh Corruption with most of our filler spells, cast frequently enough to guarantee a 100% uptime after the initial application of Corruption. On paper, this implies that every 18 seconds of a fight, we save 1.5 seconds of casting by avoiding the need to reapply Corruption. At first glance, this appears to not be a significant efficiency gain. However, combined with Shadow Bolt Volley this has real potential.

Demonic Pact

  • Your pet’s critical strikes apply the Demonic Pact effect to your party members for 45 sec. Demonic Pact increases spell damage and healing by 10% of your spell damage or 13, whichever is higher. Does not work on Subjugated demons.

Spell Damage is restricted on gear at the level 25 bracket. Additionally, Demonic Pact applies only to the party, unlike its Wrath of The Lich King counterpart that affects the entire raid. Moreover, there’s a limitation on crit chance for our pets, coupled with a lack of powerful spell damage procs, resulting in a lower average amount of spell power gained from Demonic Pact. However, if your talent build doesn’t hinge on any of the other runes, it remains a commendable option. In caster-heavy raids, the party still benefits from 13 x 5, or 65 spell damage at least, which is a substantial amount.

Demonic Grace

  • Surge with fel energy, increasing your pet’s and your own dodge chance by 30%, and your chance to critically strike with all attacks by 30%. Lasts 6 sec. 20 second cooldown.

As Warlocks, we have limited defensive and offensive cooldowns, but this rune provides both. The biggest con for this spell is its short duration, only allowing us to cast a single buffed Shadow Bolt, on top of that this level bracket we are lacking Ruin which further diminishes its effect. The spell also incurs a global cooldown, further diminishing its benefit. In general, this rune should only be used when you are in need for its defensive capabilities.

Gloves

Shadow Bolt Volley

  • Your Shadow Bolt now strikes up to 5 targets within a chain distance of 10 yards, but for 20% reduced damage.

This rune essentially transforms Shadow Bolt into a potent AoE spell, cleaving up to 5 targets with Shadow Bolt and incorporating all the associated benefits. This includes Improved Shadow Bolt triggering additional Shadow Damage when it crits. If you also employ Everlasting Affliction, it becomes an effective method for maintaining numerous Corruptions on different targets simultaneously.

Haunt

  • Unleash a ghostly soul on an enemy, dealing (* 251 / 100) to (* 295 / 100) damage, and increasing all Shadow damage over time you deal to that target by 20%. When the Haunt ends or is dispelled, you will be healed for all the damage it dealt to your target.

Whereas in Classic we were constrained by the limited debuff slots dictating which damage-over-time abilities we could use, this limitation has long been lifted. This rune assists us in fully embracing the damage-over-time lifestyle, providing a no-brainer decision to deal an additional 20% damage with all our damage-over-time effects.

Chaos Bolt

  • Sends a bolt of chaotic fire at the enemy, dealing (* 522 / 100) to (* 662 / 100) Fire damage.  Chaos Bolt always hits, cannot be resisted, and its knowledge causes all your Fire spells to pierce through absorption effects.

Chaos Bolt deals Fire Damage, benefiting from the fire damage buff provided by Incinerate and the fire damage debuff from Lake of Fire, rendering it a fantastic source of damage. However, its greatest advantage lies in the fact that Chaos Bolt cannot be resisted or miss, ensuring a consistent 100% hit chance. Given the scarcity of hit chance gear, this makes Chaos Bolt an excellent damaging spell. Moreover, it proves exceptionally useful when facing higher-level targets, such as the Furbolgs for acquiring the Medicine Pouch. Additionally, Chaos Bolt causes our Fire spells to penetrate absorption effects.

Talent Builds

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Firelock
sod dps shadow bolt volley
Shadowlock
sod dps soul siphon
Affliction

In general, there are several viable Warlock DPS builds, each with its own set of benefits. The most valuable talents in this tier are found in the Affliction talent tree, as reaching deep into other trees for must-have talents like Demonic Sacrifice in Demonology or Ruin in Destruction is not possible.

Talents worth considering across builds include Improved Corruption. You can choose to make it an instant cast for mobility, especially valuable for the Shadow Bolt Volley build, which relies on spreading Corruption and maintaining it on multiple targets through the Everlasting Affliction and Shadow Bolt Volley combo.

With the removal of the debuff limit, many Warlocks will be applying Curses and Corruption, potentially Drain Life with Master Channeler. Allocating points into Suppression for more spell hit chance with Affliction spells is not a bad idea.

Improved Life Tap is essential for most DPS specs. Since damage-increasing talents are limited, tapping less means more time casting offensive abilities and in turn more throughput.

It’s noteworthy that Improved Curse of Agony, Improved Drain Life, and Amplify Curse only increase the base damage of spells. However, at this level bracket, where spell damage may be limited, this drawback is less significant.

In the Demonology tree, there’s not much in terms of raw DPS increase. Demonic Embrace can enhance survivability by boosting stamina. Improved Imp increases the imp’s throughput, though without pet avoidance, keeping them alive can be challenging. Improved Healthstone allows carrying multiple Healthstones with different ID numbers.

In the Destruction tree, reaching the most beneficial talents is not possible, except for the Shadow Bolt Volley build. For this build, it’s crucial to get Improved Shadow Bolt and Bane for a faster cast time. Cataclysm benefits the Firelock build, its value on a per-point basis is minimal and might only save a handful of Life Taps in an entire raid, however it also allows us to take Bane for faster Immolate casts. On top of that the Imp is one of our best DPS pets , as such Improved Firebolt is also worth considering.

Key Spells and Abilities

Filler Spells

Incinerate

  • Burn your enemy for 96 to 111 damage and increase all Fire damage you deal by 25% for the next 15 sec.

Thanks to the Incinerate Rune introduced in Season of Discovery, we gain access to a version of Incinerate with notable benefits. The significant advantage is that it increases all our fire damage by 25% after being cast. Consequently, this makes Incinerate a powerful damage per second buff, a must have for the Firelock build.

Shadow Bolt

  • Sends a shadowy bolt at the enemy, causing 86 to 98 Shadow damage.

Shadow Bolt remains the faithful filler spell that we’ve been consistently spamming in every iteration of Classic. Despite the introduction of more alternatives in the Season of Discovery, we don’t have to throw Shadow Bolt aside. The Shadow Bolt Volley rune grants us access to a new and excellent cleave option.

Drain Life

  • Transfers 17 health every second from the target to the caster.

Drain Life typically functions as a continuous channeled spell, preventing the casting of other spells during its duration. However, with the new Master Channeler rune, it transforms into an instant-cast spell that lasts 15 seconds, in contrast to the normal 5-second cast time. The mana cost is doubled with Master Channeler, and it gets a 15 sec cooldown, however it no longer requires you to stand still and channel the spell. At the same time, it heals for 50% more than damage it does, meaning for each tick of 17 damage, you heal for 34.

Alternatively, Drain Life can serve as a filler spell. When utilizing Soul Siphon along with Haunt, we see an additional 41.6% damage done with the spell, which increases to 55.8% when combined with Improved Drain Life (looking at the base damage).

Damage over Time

Immolate

  • Burns the enemy for 53 Fire damage and then an additional 90 Fire damage over 15 sec.

Immolate stands out as a spell with good damage per cast time, attributed to its combination of instant damage and a damage-over-time component. The added advantage of dealing fire damage means that it also benefits from the buff acquired through both Incinerate and Lake of Fire, further enhancing its overall effectiveness for the Firelocks.

Corruption

  • Corrupts the target, causing 222 Shadow damage over 18 sec.

Investing 5 points into Improved Corruption allows us to make Corruption an instant cast. While technically, allocating 1 points in the talent reduces the cast time to 0.1 second above the Global Cooldown, opting for the full 5 points provides the added utility of being able to instant cast it while moving. Once Corruption becomes an instant cast, it boasts one of the highest damage per cast times among all spells. Additionally, obtaining the most recent version of Corruption at level 24 ensures its maximum damage potential for the given level bracket. This becomes especially beneficial when employing the combination of Everlasting Affliction and Shadow Bolt Volley to maintain the Damage over Time (DoT) on as many mobs as possible.

Curse of Agony

  • Curses the target with agony, causing 180 Shadow damage over 24 sec. This damage is dealt slowly at first, and builds up as the Curse reaches its full duration. Only one Curse per Warlock can be active on any one target.

Curse of Agony offers a respectable amount of damage per cast time. However, its effectiveness is diminished as its most recent available rank is obtained at level 18. This lower rank causes the total damage to fall off compared to other available spells.

Haunt

  • Unleash a ghostly soul on an enemy, dealing (* 251 / 100) to (* 295 / 100) damage, and increasing all Shadow damage over time you deal to that target by 20%. When the Haunt ends or is dispelled, you will be healed for all the damage it dealt to your target.

Although it may not conform strictly to the notion of dealing damage over time since it directly inflicts damage, the debuff remains active on the target and enhances the damage provided by all damage-over-time effects.

Other

Shadowburn

  • Instantly blasts the target for 115 to 131 Shadow damage. If the target dies within 5 seconds of Shadowburn, and yields experience or honor, the caster gains a Soul Shard.

Shadowburn boasts higher damage output on a per-cast-time basis compared to other filler spells. The main drawback is, of course, the consumption of a Soul Shard for each cast. Additionally, it uses a charge of Improved Shadow Bolt without the possibility of refreshing the debuff. Therefore, it is more advisable to cast Shadowburn when Improved Shadow Bolt is either not in use or has its maximum charges. Alternatively, given its instant-cast nature, it proves to be an excellent spell for on-the-move situations.

Chaos Bolt

  • Sends a bolt of chaotic fire at the enemy, dealing (* 522 / 100) to (* 662 / 100) Fire damage.  Chaos Bolt always hits, cannot be resisted, and its knowledge causes all your Fire spells to pierce through absorption effects.

Chaos Bolt deals Fire Damage, benefiting from the fire damage buff from Incinerate and the fire damage debuff from Lake of Fire, making it a potent source of damage. However, its most significant advantage lies in the fact that Chaos Bolt cannot be resisted or miss. This means it consistently maintains a 100% hit chance. Given the scarcity of hit chance gear, Chaos Bolt stands out as an excellent and reliable damaging spell.

Rain of Fire / Lake of Fire

  • Calls down a fiery rain to burn enemies in the area of effect for 168 Fire damage over 8 sec.
  • Rain of Fire also leaves a Lake of Fire on the ground that increases all Fire damage you deal and your Demon pet deals to affected enemies by 40% for 15 sec.

Rain of Fire stands as our sole sustained AoE spell until Hellfire becomes available. The Lake of Fire rune introduces a substantial ground splat akin to Consecration that provides 40% additional damage to enemies in it. It appears immediately/instantly on cast and persists even when the channel is canceled. Consequently, as Firelock it can be advantageous to use a global cooldown to apply the debuff, after which you can return to your normal rotation on single-target bosses. This approach optimizes the benefits of the debuff without committing to the entire channel duration.

Noteworthy Items

Hands of Darkness / Phoenix Gloves

Other profession-specific items are Hands of Darkness or Phoenix Gloves depending if you are after shadow or fire damage. The biggest boon for these being that they are bind on equip so everyone will be able to get their hands on these.

Orb of Soran’Ruk

This offhand is rewarded for our level 25 class quest as Warlocks and provides us with both 4 fire and shadow damage. On top of that, it also has a self-healing on use effect.

Heavy Dynamite

Grenades continue to be an iconic tool in Classic WoW, and the Season of Discovery is no exception. Ensure you stock up on these, as they will be an essential tool for AoE situations.

Item of Shadow / Fire Wrath

Spell Damage or Fire/Shadow damage is scarce and limited in this level bracket. Consequently, uncommon items with the Fire or Shadow Wrath suffix will be highly sought after. However, it’s important to note that these items won’t provide you with any Intellect or Stamina, potentially leaving you vulnerable.

Race Choice

Orc

Orcs, as Warlock, have two racials that can impact their performance. Command increases the damage from their demons slightly, which, while not having the most significant impact, can still be a nice bonus. Hardiness is another Orc racial that could contribute to raid performance, especially depending on the number of stun effects present in a raid. The resistance to stuns might prove valuable in certain encounters, providing additional survivability and control for the Orc Warlock.

Undead

Undead Warlocks possess two situational racial abilities that can be advantageous in raid scenarios. Let’s first delve into the benefits of Will of the Forsaken. Numerous boss encounters in Classic WoW feature Fear effects. Some of these can be avoided without any issues, others are challenging to evade without losing threat or proper positioning. In these situations, Undead Warlocks can leverage Will of the Forsaken to completely bypass one fear, enabling them to continue dealing damage. This will be especially beneficial when Horde priests don’t get a spell on the lines of Fear Ward, or when the group is missing a priest in later phases.

Shadow Resistance, although offering minimal benefits, aids Warlocks in reducing shadow damage taken from certain bosses with damaging shadow abilities. One common example is when using a Warlock to tank Emperor Vek’lor. While the impact may not be as significant as other racial abilities, Shadow Resistance contributes to the overall survivability of an Undead Warlock.

As a side note, Cannibalize provides short downtime between pulls in dungeons, with the Warlock being able to Life Tap to full mana, then consume an undead or humanoid to get a large percentage of their health back.

Gnome

Gnomes are an excellent choice for Alliance Warlocks due to their racial abilities. Expansive Mind boosts Intellect, providing us with a bigger mana pool and ever so slightly more crit chance. Engineering Specialization aids in reaching the engineering skill required for items like the Deepdive Helmet or Rose Tinted Goggles in later level bracket. Additionally, Gnomes benefit from Escape Artist, offering a handy escape ability, and Arcane Resistance, which provides resistance against arcane damage—both valuable traits for various situations.

Human

Humans receive The Human Spirit racial, which boosts Spirit. While helpful, it doesn’t quite provide a lot for Warlock. Sword Specialization potentially can be useful for Warlock who intend to do some melee weaving, though the weapon must be faster then . Humans also have other racials such as Diplomacy, s and you need to be in melee range ace Specialization, and Perception. These additional racials may not offer direct advantages for a Warlocks, making gnomes a generally more favorable choice for this specific role.

 

About the Author

Zephan

I am a Classic Warlock enthusiast and in general like theorycrafting. I am the owner and admin of the best community in the whole wide world, being the Classic Warlock Discord. This is the home of some of the best Warlocks in this game and the basis for theorycrafting and figuring out the optimal plays for us warlocks. My aim is to make sure this up-to-date information is out there everywhere to be found and to give back to the community.
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