Blood Pact: Destruction’s first look in Legion
On one hand, our third spec is finally here! On the other hand, it’s not the same spec we used to know and many Warlocks are slightly upset by the changes we’ve seen so far.
Of course, this is alpha, and this build got off to a rocky start with a significant phasing bug that left most friendly and hostile NPCs flickering in and out of interactivity with players. Krasus’ Landing became a temporary extension of the Warlock class hall as Destruction Warlocks everywhere congregrated to catch the flickering NPC for quest turn-in and pickup. While the bug was being researched and fixed, I had plenty of time to wander around taking screenshots of new spell graphics, the artifact questline that wasn’t in Dalaran, and the visually updated Warlock class hall.
The artifact ability for Destruction Warlocks is Dimensional Rift, which randomly summons one of three types of rifts in space. The green portal shoots one green lob at the target before disappearing. The purple portal fires one purple bolt at a time for a few shots. The green and purple portal fires off rapid green and purple shots at your target. Although the green portal hits very hard currently, the rifts are meant to average out in damage done.
Our artifact quest line deals with being given the Scepter under the impression that we will stabilize a portal, and instead we rip it open once we have the Scepter in hand, betraying the major lore figure on the other side. But other than that, Dimensional Rifts have nothing to do with the rest of the Destruction toolkit, unfortunately. They are simply extra damage at this point, although an artifact trait lets your Incinerate help reset the Dimensional Rift cooldown.
There aren’t many new spells for Destruction, but it’s also not familiar. Most of the spells we know feel off for one reason or another, and much of Destruction’s old spell synergy is missing or mismatched, particularly in the talent choices.
The first talent row is a hard choice, because Conflagrate feels weird if we don’t take Backdraft, but the bar otherwise feels empty without our traditional Shadowburn execute. Shadowburn itself is weird to play with right now because it’s not locked to the execute range anymore — so you can hit it any time if you really feel like it (like during movement). Backdraft is also not limited in spell casts, but is a simple five second duration.
Although feedback is ongoing and not complete, there’s a bit of a war between the ease of Reverse Entropy’s mana return and the damage buff from Mana Tap’s mana cost. Reverse Entropy feels more natural and like old Destruction, where we had mana that regenerated quickly during a Chaos Bolt. Mana Tap is a clear damage buff winner, but it feels out of place on the action bar since we haven’t used Life Tap as Destruction in a couple expansions, so we end up doing an awkward Tap dance when using that talent.
Wreak Havoc is one of the talents received well by Destruction Warlocks so far, but I’m not sure if it’ll survive currently or if it will negatively affect our single target damage. Havoc in Legion is normally on a 20-second cooldown that allows all single-target spells to copy over to the target in a period of eight seconds. Wreak Havoc turns Havoc into a 20-second duration with no cooldown. Effectively, the Destruction Warlock using Wreak Havoc has a perma-Havoc that she can place on any mob at any time. Since the talented duration is the same as the normal cooldown, we’re not casting Havoc any more or any less than we normally would, but the full duration allows for essentially all single-target spells to copy over to the second target. While this is great for any add fight we might have, it’s concerning that Wreak Havoc’s effectiveness might get tuned not by tweaking the talent, but by lowering our overall single-target damage such that we don’t deal so much when we double it with Havoc.
Soul Shards as Destruction
This is a hard shift in playstyle for most Destruction Warlocks. We’re going from the smooth, mostly planned Burning Embers to the hard RNG of proccing Soul Shards. So far, it’s not quite as fun as we would like, with some of us outright hating the mechanic.
Conflagrate guarantees a Soul Shard, but the spell is on a charge system with two charges with a 10-sec recharge (before haste). Immolate ticks have a 15% chance to generate a Soul Shard, with double the chance on critical strikes. Chaos Bolt, our primary spender, costs two Soul Shards, and the maximum we can have is five Soul Shards, so we can hold the equivalent of 2 Chaos Bolts, with an almost guaranteed third Chaos Bolt if you have a Conflagrate lined up at the end. Talents like Soul Conduit and Soul Harvest can help in shard regeneration.
The overall feel of playing with Soul Shards is definitely not as smooth as building up and burning down Embers. Soul Shards for Destruction fall victim to the same pitfalls as Affliction’s shard system has, though not nearly as hard. Destruction still has a constant generator in Conflagrate, although generating shards through only Conflagrate is too slow to compensate for a bad tick RNG streak.
The unfortunate side-effect of changing our resource is not obvious. Our synergy between spells has fallen apart, since all of our shard generation is focused on a cooldown spell and our DoT. Incinerate has no reason to be cast other than there is nothing else to do — a true filler. Conflagrate pulls heavy duty as being a shard generator as well as a haste effect for Incinerate and Chaos Bolt if you take the Backdraft talent. It ends up feeling lopsided as our former generator falls into reasonless damage while our former simple drumbeat starts pulling all the rotational weight.
Immolate has a 15% chance to generate a Soul Shard on tick, 30% if the tick crits. Immolate feels so awkward because instead of the previous system where crits definitely helped you gain resource faster (by doubling Burning Ember gain), we now have only the possibility of a Soul Shard. The stacked RNG doesn’t feel very fun, because instead of providing a reaction to the RNG, we have the Affliction problem of always feeling behind when the shard doesn’t proc. Many Warlocks are looking for a way to give Incinerate a purpose back again, so some ideas are floating around from Incinerate generates a shard sometimes to Incinerate helps stack a buff that increases your chances of getting a shard. We might not sway the developers back to the fun of the smoothness of Burning Embers, but the full RNG direction of the Legion Destruction design is just not working out for us right now. After all, the fantasy of Destruction includes a lot of chaos, but we’re still Warlocks and if anything, our Destruction artifact line indicates that we still use quite a bit of cunning and precise planning to take advantage in the field.
Mastery: Chaotic Energies
The new mastery for Destruction has so far been heavily disliked by nearly all vocal Warlocks. I feel this mastery is also the reason why the Destruction Warlock is so squishy at times while being fairly robust some of the time. Let’s take a look:
Your spells deal a random amount of additional damage, up to X%. Damage you take is reduced by a random amount, up to Y%.
The main problem with this mastery is that the swing on the damage bonus is far too big. For example, on the level 100 premade I have leveled a little on alpha, I have about 56% mastery (12% for the damage reduction level). Sometimes the damage bonus will be 50% more, but sometimes it is only 1% more. The full mastery amount feels great and fun, but the smaller percentages do not feel fun at all, and are often imperceptible from a normal hit. Many Warlocks are asking for a floor on the lower end of chances — suggestions range from 20-30% bonus as a base roll — rather than a straight nothing or 1% to given mastery, so that we get some perceivable benefit to using mastery gear.
The side effects of the damage reduction are noticeable as well, even if Destruction also gets the passive Soul Leech. Affliction has self-healing to combat the frequent use of Life Tap, and Demonology has a self-heal through its passive Soul Link. Destruction does not have an innate self-heal until many artifact traits are unlocked that allow for extra active healing and damage reduction. So right now on the leveling realms in alpha, when I don’t have much of the artifact lines open, sometimes my Destruction Warlock is really squishy for a few moments as the mastery rolls badly on its damage reduction chance. Being randomly squishy when in previous attempts you were just fine is definitely not fun.
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