Season of Discovery (SoD) Warlock Tank Build Guide & Best Runes

season of discovery warlock tank featured image
  • Author: Zephan
  • Date: November 14, 2023
  • Updated: April 18, 2024
  • Expansion: WoW Classic

After years of teasing Warlocks with pseudo-tanking spells and talents like Searing Pain (which doubles threat), Soul Link (splitting incoming damage with your pet), or later expansions’ Metamorphosis (increasing armor sixfold and providing a taunt), it’s finally time for the real deal. With the Season of Discovery, we step into the role of true tanks, akin to how Pinocchio became a real boy. The new rune system, unveiled in the Season of Discovery, brings a unique flavor to Metamorphosis tailored for cloth tanking. This transformation permanently turns us into a demon with increased armor and threat generation. The spell rework enhances its effectiveness for tanking, notably transforming Fear into a taunt and introducing an AOE taunt with Demonic Howl. In the following guide, we’ll delve deeper into the new runes and how they impact the various DPS-focused builds available.

Build Summary

Single Target

Multiple Mobs




As chunk of our damage comes from our damage-over-time abilities. As such it should come as no surprise that making it so that they can deal critical damage is an increase in our throughput. This also means the frequency of crits overall increases which is beneficial for  Demonic Pact and Dance of the Wicked .This also makes critical chance on gear slightly more valuable for us.


  • When activated, this ability temporarily grants you a 30% increase to your maximum health for 20 sec. After the effect expires, the health is lost. Additionally, while in Metamorphosis, Vengeance causes your wings to slow your falling speed.

Warlocks have in general always lacked a good defensive cooldown. This rune aims to fix this by giving us a temporary boost in our total health, by increasing it with 30% for 20 seconds. This allows us to survive burst windows more easily. But I should be noted that this additional health is lost once the buff fades. Something to be mindful off when used during tricky situations.


  • Your Conflagrate ability also grants 30% spellcasting haste for 10 sec.

In previous phases we did not make use of Conflagrate since it meant you needed to recast Immolate without gaining any additional damage, essentially losing 1.5s of cast time. Now with the Backdraft rune we get a 30% cast speed increase, offsetting the lost time and overall improving our throughput. As such we always want to keep up the buff from Backdraft, essentially casting Conflagrate whenever it comes off cooldown and following it with a fresh Immolate. This could be used for increased threat generation, however seeing as Searing Pain is already capped by the global cooldown we shouldn’t really expect significant gains.


Demonic Tactics

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

This additional 10% crit chance is one of the few sources for spell crit chance. If you use Demonic Pact or Dance of the Wicked this could also supplement the uptime by a small amount. On top of that extra crit chance in general is a solid amount of threat increase.

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 channel the spell. Note that with the 15 sec durations also comes a 15 sec cooldown making it extra punishing when the spell misses.  This rune is mostly beneficial for in situations where additional healing is required.



  • Transform into a Demon, increasing Armor by 500%, reducing the chance you will be critically hit by 6%, increasing your threat by 50%, increasing mana gained from Life Tap by 100%, transforming the functionality of some of your abilities, and granting some new abilities:
  • Searing Pain: Now instant.
  • Shadow Bolt: Becomes Shadow Cleave, a Shadow melee attack that hits up to 3 nearby enemies but has a 6 sec cooldown.
  • Fear: Replaced with Menace.
  • Menace: Taunts the target to attack you but has no effect if the target is already attacking you. to melee.
  • Demon Charge: Charge an enemy and stun it for 1 sec. Cannot be used in combat.
  • Demonic Howl: Forces all nearby enemies to focus attacks on you for 6 sec.

The pivotal rune that makes it all possible is Metamorphosis. Unlike the temporary buff seen in Wrath of the Lich King, Metamorphosis in this context is a permanent form for tanking with unique spells and benefits, akin to Druids bear form. Our survivability sees a massive boost with an additional 500% armor and a 6% reduction in the chance of being critically hit. Furthermore, the need for Life Tap is halved. Our threat generation is increased by 50%, and Searing Pain is turned into an instant cast. Additionally, Shadow Bolt transforms into Shadow Cleave, an instant melee spell with a 6-second cooldown, capable of hitting up to 3 targets. Fear evolves into a single-target taunt Menace, and we gain an AOE spell that makes mobs fixate on us through Demonic Howl for 6 seconds.


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. Does not work on Subjugated demons.

Spell Damage is a great source of damage for casters. Additionally, Demonic Pact applies only to the party, unlike its Wrath of The Lich King counterpart that affects the entire raid. This rune tends to be especially easy to pick up for Tanks as all the others leg rune options tend to be a bit underwhelming. In caster-heavy raids, the party still benefits from all the additional spell damage, making you increase the raid-wide throughput by a significant amount.


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

The primary use of this rune for Tank Warlocks is to provide us with a buff that provides an additional 25% fire damage dealt to enemies. This buff can increase our damage throughput significantly.  It’s important to note that Incinerate is cast in contrast to Searing Pain (which is instant during Metamorphosis) and as such is susceptible to pushback, a factor that can be partially mitigated by Concentration Aura (and eventually Intensity ). However it remains a casted spell meaning we lose out on overall protection as we can not dodge when casting, as such you likely will only be using Incinerate for the buff that it provides.

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. There is however potential with the new niche item Zila which has a great synergy if you can keep the buffed spell rolling.

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 added critical chance boosts our snap threat when needed. And with a ~30% up time, over a long fight, the dodge chance is a significant source of damage avoidance.

It’s good to note that this spell has no mana cost, so can and should be used on cooldown. With a 6 second duration, and a 20 second cooldown, that means there are 14 seconds of downtime where you don’t have the buff.


Grimoire of Synergy

  • Recite from a dark tome, granting damage done by you or your summoned demon a 5% chance to increase the damage done by the other by 25% for 15 sec. Recitation lasts 30 min.

Of all the belt runes this one has the highest average damage increase. It increases the damage from the player and pet by a whopping 25% for 15 seconds. The proc chance will of course largely depend on the average time till you and your pet deal damage. For example, builds using the Machine Gun Imp which casts every 1 sec when done correctly will see a slightly higher uptime on the buff compared to those using other demons which on average hit every 2 seconds.


Demonic Knowledge

  • Increases your spell damage and healing by a value equal to 10% of your Demon pet’s total Stamina plus Intellect.

This rune essentially is free spell damage for the player. Our demons gain stamina and intellect based on a fraction of the player’s equivalent stats, on top of that our pet’s intellect and stamina can be further boosted by making sure they get the proper buffs in raids. All of this in turn comes back to us in the form of spell damage. Which also gets translated proportionally back to the pet as spell damage or attack power. This loop increases the demons damage as well as yours.


Immolation Aura

  • Burns nearby enemies with fire damage every 2 seconds, and reduces all magic damage taken by 10%. Lasts until cancelled.

Whenever we can be in melee range this provides us with essentially free damage that doesn’t require any additional effort. It should be noted that you need to be in melee range for this to take effect, however seeing as how we are tanking this most often is not an issue at all.

Summon Felguard

  • Gain the Summon Felguard ability:
    Summons a Felguard under the command of the Warlock.
    The Felguard benefits from all talents and effects that trigger from or benefit any of your other Demon minions.

This rune gives us access to summon the Wrath of the Lich King Felguard. The Felguard itself deals less damage compared to the output from a buffed Imp. However where the Felguard shines is the fact that it gains the benefit of all pets for talents such as Master Demonologist and Demonic Sacrifice . Also when combined with Metamorphosis  as Master Demonologist actually increases threat generation instead of diminishing it. Overall, this is a great rune for those that go deeper into the Demonology talent tree and focus on mitigation.

Talent Build

There are two schools of thought when it comes to tanking. Mitigating as much incoming damage as possible and dealing as much threat as possible. In the real world we need to find a balance between the two. This too ensure that we get the attention of all the mobs and the DPS dealers don’t have to hold back, and secondly to ensure that healers can keep us alive whilst doing so. Whilst our gear has a big impact on this, our talents do as well. Runes can offer some flexibility in between encounters but in general unless using two specializations with dual talent specialization our talents tend to be relative set-in place.

Threat Generation

threat talents
Threat Talents

This build mainly relies on gear and the skills of healers to stay alive, and instead focuses on dealing as much threat as possible. Therefore, this build tends to also deal more damage and have talents more like that of a Firelock.

When it comes to the talents we will be picking up all the fire damage related ones to increase the damage of our main filler as much as possible, namely Searing Pain. We do this by taking  DevastationRuin, Emberstorm and improved searing pain.

We also make use of Improved Imp in combination with Imp Firebolt. This allows us to change our imp into a true machine gun that deals additional damage, though the threat generated from this is attributed to your imp and not yourself. It can still be a nice source of some additional damage for the raid.

Note that you want to pick up 5/5 Imp corruption and want to use corruption in your rotation. This combined with Pandemic can be a nice source of additional threat.

The two points in for intensity or improved searing pain can be swapped based to Destructive Reach preferences.


mitigation talents
Mitigation Talents

On the opposite spectrum we try to minimize the amount of incoming damage, this comes slightly at the cost of our threat generation potential. This build delves deeper into the Demonology Talent tree and mainly makes use of its interactions with the new Felguard.

The biggest bonus of the Demonology build is the fact that our Felguard provides all the bonus effects of Demonic Mastery. In other words, we get increased threat (when in Metamorphosis otherwise its reduced threat which we don’t want). Reduced physical damage taken increases to all our damage by 10% and all our resistance increases by 1 per level.

Sadly, Soul link no longer works in combination with our Metamorphosis. Making it not worthwhile to invest all the way down in the talent tree.

Key Spells and Abilities

Filler Spells

Searing Pain

  • Inflict Searing Pain on the enemy target, causing 38 to 47 Fire damage. Causes a high amount of threat.

Searing Pain is our primary filler spell and key threat generator. Unique to Warlock Tanks we have a threat generator that is usable from 30 yards away. The threat generated by the damage of Searing Pain is not only doubled once by the base spell but increased by another 50% again by Metamorphosis, which also transforms the spell into an instant cast. This instant casting eliminates the chance for knockback, maximizing potential threat generation.

Once we establish a significant threat lead, we have the option to incorporate other filler spells like Incinerate. While these alternatives generate more DPS, they come with the drawback of being prone to pushback, spell school lockout from interrupts, and generating less threat.


  • Burn your enemy 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.

Shadow Bolt / Shadow Cleave

  • Sends a shadowy bolt at the enemy, causing Shadow damage.
  • Shadow Cleave benefits from and triggers most talents and effects that Shadow Bolt benefits from and triggers. 6 sec cooldown.

Metamorphosis transforms Shadow Bolt into Shadow Cleave, turning it from a single-target spell with cast time, into an instant melee cleave that hits up to three mobs simultaneously. This change introduces a brief cooldown of 6 seconds. Additionally, it inherits all the triggers that benefit Shadow Bolt, including but not limited to Improved Shadow BoltEverlasting Affliction (rune), and Vampirism (Tier 3 set bonus, though not applicable for this level bracket).When facing multiple mobs, utilizing this modified version of Shadow Bolt on cooldown becomes a straightforward decision, maximizing its effectiveness in dealing with multiple mobs.

Damage over Time


  • Burns the enemy with Fire damage and then deals additional 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 Incinerate, further enhancing its overall effectiveness. The debuff is also required to cast Conflagrate which is an required to activate the Backdraft rune, note that you might not use this rune at all in your rotation, only when min maxing threat.


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

Investing 5 points into Improved Corruption allows us to make Corruption an instant cast. While technically, allocating 1 point in the talent reduces the cast time to 0.1 seconds 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.

Curse of Agony

  • Curses the target with agony, causing 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. Note that you might be required to cast Curse of Recklessness instead if no other warlock provides it.

Drain Life

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

Drain Life typically functions as a continuously 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 50% more than damage it does.



  • Taunts the target to attack you but has no effect if the target is already attacking you.
  • Lasts 3 seconds, 10 second cooldown.

Fear undergoes a transformation from primarily being a crowd control spell intended for PVP to becoming our essential taunt when Warlock tanking in Metamorphosis.

Demonic Howl

  • Forces all nearby enemies to focus attacks on you for 6 sec. 10 min cooldown. In our Metamorphosis form, a new spell called

Demonic Howl becomes accessible. This spell empowers us to AOE taunt multiple mobs simultaneously, redirecting their focus entirely onto us for the next 6 seconds. This brief window provides an opportunity to build up sufficient threat, aiming to maintain their focus permanently on us. It will be used on an emergency or specific fights as current data indicates a 10-minute cooldown. This is in line with Warrior’s AoE taunt, i.e., Challenging Shout.


  • Targets in a cone I front of the caster take Shadow damage and additional Fire damage over 8 sec. This effect can be consumed by Conflagrate.

This is a great spell to use whenever you are tanking multiple mobs and are in melee range. It provides us with an instant bit of threat, which can be followed up by other cleave spells such as Shadow Cleave or Hellfire. Note that you will have to swap in the rune to make use of the spell, so you might want to keep in mind for which encounters it is useful and for which you would rather run another rune.


  • Instantly blasts the target with 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.


  • Ignites a target that is already afflicted by Immolate, dealing Fire damage and consuming the Immolate spell.

On its own Conflagrate doesn’t increase our damage as it just deals the damage that Immolate would do on its own whilst triggering a global cooldown. However, with the addition of the Backdraft rune it does provide us with a strong buff. This increase in cast speed more than makes up for the loss of time from the global cooldown.

Example Best-in-Slot




Race Choice


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. Resistance to stuns might prove valuable in certain encounters, providing additional survivability and control for the Orc Warlock.


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 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.


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.


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, Mace Specialization, and Perception. These additional racials do not offer direct advantages for Warlocks in PVE, making gnomes a generally more favorable choice for this specific role.


About the Author


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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6 months ago

Thank you for this write up! Really makes me excited to try a Warlock in SoD!

6 months ago

Is there a reason bringing Demonic Pact on legs as a tank if you do not need Demonic Grace won’t be viable?

5 months ago

What are the thoughts on pets as a tank?

5 months ago
Reply to  YUKO
5 months ago

Im curious if nightfall procs correctly with Shadow Cleave

Reply to  YUKO
5 months ago

This is what I’ve been wondering as well.

Reply to  YUKO
5 months ago

I believe Nightfall makes SB instant cast, but Shadow Cleave is already an instant cast spell?

Reply to  YUKO
5 months ago

I am considering this build:

Reasoning (no Soul Link or DS):
Soul Link requires healer attention on pet, its split damage (doesn’t mitigate, so only needed to avoid 1 shots) and healers will have an easier time keeping up 1 target (me). If the void walker dies I cannot “Sacrifice” when I need to for a big tank CD.

There is no reason for Demonic Sacrifice if keeping the void walker alive for Master Demonologist (10% Physical Reduction) & the void walkers Sacrifice CD.

Reasoning: (no Imp. Lifetap & Corruption)
We will have to wait and see, try things out, but my gut feeling is that corruption spam will be a waste of time for AoE (rain/hellfire), and the “extra threat” modifiers on Searing Pain so good on single target that having 15% extra crit on Searing, plus “Ruin” will give the best TPS.

I might be completely wrong here, but not using Corruption or CoA, would result in less mana consumption and less need for lifetaps. Searing Pain would be the go to, and the build also takes Cataclysm for 5% mana reduction.

The Imp. Shadow Bolt needs testing, but if this is applied and consumed by Shadow Cleave it could be very nice for raid DPS and threat generation.

Back in classic a lot of build took Ruin, I know it is DPS centric, but DPS = TPS, and it benefits Searing Pain so I think should be considered as an option.

Soul Link doesn’t feel necessary in a raid situation, the pet dying feels like a bad situation & healers would still need to heal the damage. It feels like more of a “solo content” or PvP talent to me.

I’d rather my void walker be alive so I benefit from Master Demonologist.

Last edited 5 months ago by Vaelkyr
6 months ago

Fantastic summary using the given information so far!!


Until launch, I am still wondering if Improved Shadow Bolt in the Destro tree would benefit Shadow Cleave. Metamorphosis states that Shadow Cleave benefits from (most) talents that Shadow Bolt is affected by. Makes me wonder if a 7/5/4 cleaving talent build would be viable.


Also, do we know yet if other spells not listed under Metamorphosis are castable/useable in the form, or will they kick us out of meta?

Reply to  TheBobNasty
6 months ago

To my knowledge Metamorphosis functions more similarly to Righteous Fury than a Druid form, and does not restrict your casting. Additionally, Imp. Shadow Bolt does not look to modify Shadow Cleave, based on the datamining available.

Cataclysm, Devastation, Ruin, and Shadow Mastery seem to be the main talents that alter Shadow Cleave.

Last edited 6 months ago by Passion
Reply to  Passion
6 months ago

It’s shadow damage, so unless the game is bugged Improved Shadow Bolt will improve the shadow damage of Shadow Cleave..

Reply to  Ash
6 months ago

Yes, it would of course increase the Shadow damage Shadow Cleave deals, but Shadow Cleave will not proc Improved Shadow Bolt.

I assumed that was what the question was asking, because otherwise the answer is very obvious.

Reply to  Passion
5 months ago

Does nightfall proc instant shadowcleaves?

Reply to  TheBobNasty
6 months ago

because of the 6 seconds cd on shadowcleave we won’t be able to benefit that much from imrpvoed shadow bolt proc

Reply to  TheBobNasty
6 months ago

It would synergize, but it would not be worth it. You’re mainly generating threat with fire damage and if you want improved shadowbolt get another warlock to take it.
You can’t go 7 in affliction, you need 3 in suppression and 5 in corruption. 5 points in stam is obviously good, I’d argue 2 in improved life tap is mandatory as well, leaving 1 point for improved shadowbolt.
As for your question did you read meta? Obviously we will be able to cast our spells, why would you think that?
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