season of discovery warlock tank featured image
  • Author: Zephan
  • Date: November 14, 2023
  • Updated: December 2, 2023
  • 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 Curse of Recklessness into a taunt and introducing an AOE taunt with Demonic Howl.

Build Summary

Our role as tanks involves a dual focus: drawing the attention of mobs to us and, equally crucial, ensuring our own survival. The first objective is swiftly achieved through the synergistic use of Searing Pain, featuring a double threat modifier, and Metamorphosis, which not only further increases threat output by 50% but also makes Searing Pain instant. Moreover, other runes significantly impact our threat per second (TPS) and damage per second (DPS). Incinerate, for instance, grants a 25% increase in Fire damage for 15 seconds when cast. 

Lake of Fire further enhances our damage dealt by 40% to all affected mobs in the AOE area. It’s worth noting that Rain of Fire doesn’t require continuous casting to spawn the lake, but its mana consumption is substantial if used solely for the debuff. 

Beyond strict threat generation, our arsenal includes tools to attract the attention of our enemies. Metamorphosis transforms Curse of Recklessness into a single-target taunt, albeit with a 10-second cooldown. Demonic Howl, a new spell introduced with Metamorphosis, serves as an AOE taunt. Demon Charge proves useful for closing the gap between new pulls, although it’s not usable in combat.

In terms of survivability, as cloth-wearing casters we unexpectedly get most of it thanks to armor in Metamorphosis. This transformation grants a substantial boost to our armor, increasing the total amount by 500%. Alongside this, we benefit from a 6% reduced chance of being critically hit. Furthermore, Life Tap becomes doubly advantageous, as it doubles the amount of mana gained, consequently reducing the need for self-inflicted damage and the amount of global cooldowns required to cast Life Tap.

For defensive cooldowns, our Voidwalker’s sacrifice provides a temporary absorb shield. Another option, Demonic Grace, offers a 30% dodge for 6 seconds, though it comes at the expense of having Incinerate, which subsequently slightly reduces threat generation. The Master Channeler rune stands as an alternative to the Lake of Fire rune, enhancing survivability through self-healing via instant-cast Drain Life, coming at the cost of more overall threat generation.

Considerations of Being a Caster Tank

It’s important to note that there are some unique aspects to being a caster tank. We don’t have access to block or parry, so the only other source of damage mitigation we have apart from armor, is dodge. While you are casting or channeling a spell, you cannot dodge. Even if you have a dodge chance of 50%, your dodge becomes 0% while casting. On top of that casted or channeled spells are prone to pushback and locking us out of the spells school used when interrupted.

This is very likely why Metamorphosis makes Searing Pain an instant cast spell. It allows us to generate threat, while still benefiting from damage avoidance. Certainly we can still cast spells in combat, and very likely will have to, but it’s likely best to avoid hard casting where possible. For example, Incinerate provides an excellent buff to fire damage for us when cast, but leaves us vulnerable while casting it. This can potentially be offset by timing it along with absorb effects, such as Power Word: Shield.

Beyond removing damage avoidance, hard casting a spell opens us up to spell school lockouts. In dungeons, there are a significant number of enemies that interrupt spell casting, often locking you out of a school for 4+ seconds at a time. That is a significant amount of time to be unable to cast Searing Pain.



Demonic Tactics

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

That’s a 10% crit chance increase which might help you to generate additional threat and damage.

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.

Searing Pain takes the spotlight as our primary threat generation spell, thanks to its double threat modifier and Fire damage (which benefits from multiple talents and runes). Rain of Fire not only serves as our primary AOE spell until we acquire Hellfire, but also plays a crucial role in significantly boosting our single-target threat generation by creating the Lake of Fire. Importantly, the Lake persists even if the Rain of Fire cast itself is canceled.

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 added self-healing it provides. This not only alleviates some of the pressure on healers but also makes it a valuable option to consider swapping in for specific encounters where extra healing might be required. With there being no channel, this essentially becomes a damage over time effect akin to Corruption.



  • 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 Warlock tanks is to get the additional 25% fire damage dealt to enemies. This buff increases our threat production significantly off of Searing Pain. Incinerate could in theory be used as an alternative filler spell to employ instead of Searing Pain for dealing additional damage when threat is already under control. 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.

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.



  • 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.
  • Curse of Recklessness: Now also taunts your target to attack you for 3 sec, but gains a 10 sec cooldown and range is reduced 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 to be 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. Curse of Recklessness evolves into a single-target taunt, and we gain an AOE spell that makes mobs fixate on us through Demonic Howl for 6 seconds.

Talent Build

season of discovery warlock tank talents
Talent Build

When it comes to talents, Warlocks have ample room for personal preferences, but some are considered mandatory. All Warlocks, regardless of specialization, benefit from making Corruption an instant-cast spell. Another essential talent is Demonic Embrace, which boosts our stamina by 15%.

For optional talents, Suppression is a viable choice, reducing the chance of our taunt missing with Curse of Recklessness, Drain Life (if you opted for Master Channeler), and ensuring a reliable application of Corruption. Improved Life Tap synergizes well with the bonus mana from Metamorphosis, further reducing the global cooldowns spent on Life Tap. Improved Drain Life combines effectively with Master Channeler, depending on whether it applies only to the base damage or the full damage.

Improved Healthstone stands as the least thrilling option, as the extra healing it offers can technically be achieved by any Warlock and doesn’t necessarily need to be the tank. Improved Voidwalker, on the other hand, strengthens sacrifice, one of our best defensive cooldowns. Fel Domination becomes a consideration for summoning a new Voidwalker after using sacrifice. The drawback is that we do not have enough talents to invest 2 points into Master Summoner, which would otherwise make summoning instant.

Key Spells and Abilities

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. It’s noteworthy that we gain access to the second rank of Searing Pain at level 26, making the currently available version relatively weak in terms of damage but still potent in threat generation due to generating three times its damage dealt as threat.

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 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 the buff it provides that inc increases all our fire damage by 25% after being cast. This means that Searing Pain also deals an additional 25% damage or another 75% threat when factoring in all the threat modifiers it benefits from. Consequently, this makes Incinerate a powerful threat per second buff, and it is recommended to be cast at least every 15 seconds when prioritizing threat generation.

Note that Incinerate is prone to knockback, spell school lockout from interrupts, and generates less threat. We want to keep up the buff it provides but otherwise want to be extra careful to weigh when it is worth using as a filler over Searing Pain (if ever applicable).

Shadow Bolt / Shadow Cleave

  • Punish up to 3 nearby enemies with a Shadow lash, dealing 26 to 39 to each.
  • 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 Bolt, Everlasting 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.

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. While the additional healing doesn’t provide more threat generation, it again removes the burden of a cast time, allowing for self healing while filling with Searing Pain.

The main drawback is that this rune shares the Chest slot with the Lake of Fire rune, which is crucial for optimal AOE threat generation or maximizing TPS through the debuff it provides. Balancing the use of these runes becomes a strategic consideration, weighing the benefits of increased damage, threat and self-healing.


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

Immolate stands out as a spell with high 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.


  • 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 3 points in the talent reduces the cast time below 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.

Curse of Recklessness

  • Curses the target with recklessness, increasing melee attack power by 20 but reducing armor by 140 for 2 min. Cursed enemies will not flee and will ignore Fear and Horror effects. Only one Curse per Warlock can be active on any one target.
  • Metamorphosis: Now also taunts your target to attack you for 3 sec, but gains a 10 sec cooldown and range is reduced to melee.

Curse of Recklessness undergoes a transformation from primarily being a debuff intended for melee DPS to becoming our essential taunt when Warlock tanking in Metamorphosis. This shift implies that on targets requiring taunting, we will likely forgo using Curse of Agony to prioritize the crucial function of Curse of Recklessness as our taunt, even though Curse of Agony could contribute additional DPS and threat.

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. It’s worth noting that with Curse of Recklessness serving as our primary taunt, Curse of Agony might not be frequently used due to potentially being overwritten by Recklessness to taunt, except perhaps on additional enemies.

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. However, it comes with the obvious drawback of being a channeled spell susceptible to knockbacks and interruptions. The use of Concentration Aura from a Paladin, later combined with the Intensity talent, can help alleviate some of these negatives.

The Lake of Fire rune introduces a substantial ground splat visually similar 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, 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.

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 likely 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.

Demon Charge

  • Charge an enemy and stun it for 1 sec.  Cannot be used in combat. 15 sec cooldown.

Demon Charge is most useful for closing the distance at the start of an encounter, getting us quickly into melee range. This ability can be strategically employed immediately after pre-casting a spell before combat, such as Incinerate, to generate substantial snap threat at the beginning of the encounter.

Noteworthy Items

Deepdive Helmet (Gnome)

The Deepdive Helmet is an engineering item, but its acquisition requires an engineering skill level of 230, surpassing the normal cap of 225 for characters at level 25. However, the Gnome racial ability, Engineering Specialization, raises the engineering skill cap by 15 to 240. This racial bonus enables Gnome engineers to equip the Deepdive Helmet, which offers substantial health for the given level.

Lucky Fishing Hat

Similar to the Deepdive Helmet, this headpiece offers 15 stamina (although with slightly less armor at 43 compared to 49). The challenge lies in the fact that acquiring it will require you to fish in Stranglethorn Vale during the Fishing Extravaganza event, with the rare chance of catching Keefer’s Angelfish. With Stranglethorn Vale typically being a level 35 to 45 zone, the wildlife might not take kindly to your presence.

Totem of Inflictiont or Stitches Femur

Both of these items provide 50 armor, making them one of the few ways to obtain armor on the offhand slot at this level, especially since shields cannot be equipped. When combined with Metamorphosis, which increases our armor by 500%, these offhands become some of the best options for damage mitigation.

Alliance members have access to the Totem of Inflictiont, which uniquely inflicts Shadow Damage when the bearer is struck in combat (1% chance). This feature makes it particularly advantageous for AOE tanking situations.

Horde members will have to scour the Neutral Auction House or raid Duskwood and kill Stitches for his femur, which can be a challenge in and of itself.

Furbolg Medicine Pouch

This offhand provides a substantial 10 stamina along with potent self-healing through its on-use effect. In practice, obtaining the required reputation by killing Furbolgs at level 25 will be exceptionally challenging if at all possible.

Iron Grenade / Solid 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 tanking situations.

Race Choice


Orcs, as Warlock Tanks, 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 Tank.


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 tanking. 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 tank.

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 stand out as an excellent choice for Alliance Warlocks due to their racial abilities. Expansive Mind boosts Intellect, providing a valuable stat for Warlocks. Engineering Specialization aids in reaching the engineering skill required for items like the Deepdive Helmet in this 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.

Gnomes also have the highest base agility for any Warlock race, increasing their armor and dodge percentage just slightly over their competitors.


Humans receive The Human Spirit racial, which boosts Spirit. While helpful, it doesn’t quite provide a lot for Warlock Tanks. Sword Specialization potentially can be useful for Warlock Tanks depending on how Shadow Cleave interacts with melee hit chance. Humans also have other racials such as Diplomacy, Mace Specialization, and Perception. These additional racials may not offer direct advantages for a Warlock Tank, 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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11 days ago

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

4 days ago

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

3 days ago

What are the thoughts on pets as a tank?

2 days ago
Reply to  YUKO
2 days ago

Im curious if nightfall procs correctly with Shadow Cleave

Reply to  YUKO
1 day ago

This is what I’ve been wondering as well.

17 days 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
16 days 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 16 days ago by Passion
Reply to  Passion
6 days 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
5 days 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
1 day ago

Does nightfall proc instant shadowcleaves?

Reply to  TheBobNasty
14 days 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 days 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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