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Blood Pact: First look at Demonology on Legion alpha

It’s here! I can talk about something that’s not Affliction, and it happens to be the newly designed Demonology that’s out on Legion alpha now. We have plenty of time and column space to talk about talents, spells, and artifacts in fuller detail, so today we’re going to briefly look at some of the cosmetic topics of Demonology.

The Felguard has gotten a smoother model update and so have Wild Imps, though the imps are less noticeable as there are so many of them and they have a tendency to stand on each other. We have two new demons in our arsenal, Dreadstalkers and, if talented, Inquisitors. Dreadstalkers are the dog-like felhounds walking around our class hall, and Inquisitors are the floating candlestick-thin demons often found with beholder eyeballs that are apparently sold separately and do not come with default Demonologist Inquisitors. Infernals are currently gigantic on alpha (even more so when empowered), but I don’t expect that bug to last into live.

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Green Fire as Demonology?

Although green fire is certainly in Destruction’s wheelhouse, many players have felt that with a tinted Metamorphosis, and Hellfire or Immolation Aura, green fel fire really shone with Demonology. So whether or not Demonology in Legion will still have effects for green fire, or green fire will become a Destruction-only trait, is a pretty important question.

The Dreadsteed and Felsteed are obviously still around in Legion. The fiery ability Burning Rush is also still available. However, that’s about it for Demonology previously-orange-but-can-be-green fire spells. The Wild Imps you summon are already immolated with a fel green, and they shoot fel green firebolts at a target. Demonbolt appears to be the only Demonology spell that contains actual fire — the talent Shadowflame shoots pink/magenta fire at a target — but Demonbolt is orange on live with green fire activated anyway, so I’m unfortunately doubtful that that fire will turn to green.

Back to Soul Shards

In Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor, Demonology Warlocks have Demonic Fury, which is a continuous purple bar of 1000 units that builds up with caster abilities and drains down with Metamorphosis abilities. In Legion, with the removal of Metamorphosis for Demonology Warlocks and a return to a focus on summoning demons, we’re back to Soul Shards.

The Legion Demonologist’s secondary resource feels like combo points. Only Shadow Bolt (or the talent Demonbolt, which replaces Shadow Bolt) is an active generator of Soul Shards. Doom will generate a single Soul Shard with its single damage tick after it expires, and Demonwrath has a chance to generate a Soul Shard on tick damage, so Shadow Bolt will likely remain the main generator of Soul Shards for Demonology.

I’m sure the future optimization of Demonic Empowerment will determine whether our new combo point resource feels more like a Rogue’s 5-point or maximum-point system, where you build to max resources and then dump everything, or more like a Paladin’s 3-point or partial-points system, where you can bank Soul Shards for combinations of back-to-back spender burst.

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Visual clutter and UI confusion

Throwing demons at the target originally sounded boring to me, as if I barely get to do anything important at all, but in practice, it feels a lot better. Hand of Gul’dan has always felt powerful visually, and casting Call Dreadstalkers tries to match it when you summon leaping dreadstalkers that land like missiles on the target. Right now it’s fun trying new combinations of summoning and empowering, whether it’s having a gigantic army within a few casts or gradually building up to a loyal horde.

The only thing that appears terrible about throwing lots of demons at the target is the resulting visual clutter, especially if you manage a lot of empowered demons, which are currently also bigger in visual size. The picture above consists of demons from just two Demonology Warlocks on a training dummy, and you can already barely tell which demon is which or even which demon is the one that’s been empowered. Even while soloing quest content, I sometimes wouldn’t know what I was hitting if it weren’t for the enemy nameplates I have enabled, simply because my purple-wrapped demons are visually overwhelming the target’s model.

Currently, I can see everyone’s demons and they can see all of mine, so I wonder if Demonology summons should take a cue from Affliction’s artifact Tormented Souls or other diminishing effects. I can only see my own Tormented Souls — I can’t see anyone else’s. If I use a targeting macro, it only targets my Tormented Souls. I’ve also noticed on live that other Warlocks’ Doomguards appear smaller than mine, making it easier to pick mine out of all the effects and models moving around in a raid. Some combination would be welcome for this visual clutter in the melee with pets — perhaps the pets can be semi-invisible if they’re not yours. I don’t know what our pets will do to a raid boss, if they’ll presumably all chill in that one spot behind the boss that is usually relegated for pets. But currently on quest mobs in alpha, they all fan out around a target, completely surrounding it.

Visual clutter around a target isn’t the only UI problem involved with all our demons on alpha. Although I’m sure Wild Imps are bugged in position right now, they currently spawn in the center of the target’s hitbox, often right underfoot and obscured completely. They will stay stationary, which means they’ll be at ranged if the target moves, but it’s otherwise very difficult to tell even how many imps you have summoned, other than assuming that Soul Shards aren’t bugged and are actually summoning the correct number of imps. Currently on alpha, other spells in both Affliction and Demonology have sometimes been appearing to cost more than they really should; for example, Unstable Affliction will sometimes take all of your shards (3-4) instead of costing just one.

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On your unit frame, you get a little circle icon for summoned demon types like you would for Demonic Gateway, or for totems if you were playing a Shaman. You get one for each group of demons you summon: one for Dreadstalkers, one for Inquisitor, one for Wild Imps, another for Wild Imps again if you summon a second set, etc. The icon shows duration of the group, but it doesn’t tell you key information like what buffs they have, or how many of them are actually in the group. Players have already come to the conclusion that this spec will actually require addons to play even decently with the current iteration’s interface.

I’m sure that addons used by players to combat this UI problem will show as a sort of DoT-like bar addon like NeedToKnow or perhaps absorbed into the popular AffDoTs addon that would predict when is the best time for Demonic Empowerment. However, the default UI still has some options open. With the removal of Soul Fire and thus Molten Core, Demonology currently has no visual “weak aura” mechanic on the default UI. It’d be great if the default UI could flash a graphic if you have one or both Dreadstalkers empowered — like a left and then right aura — or when you have all four Wild Imps empowered — perhaps a top flashing aura. The largest demons are obvious when they are empowered or not, even in a visual melee clusterfel, and a Warlock’s controllable pet has never featured in an aura visual before, despite having many symbiotic buffs with its owner.

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