Why Doesn’t Destruction Warlock Gameplay Feel Good?

World of Warcraft: Legion has been a solid expansion so far and I’d even go as far as saying that it’s up there with The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King and Mists of Pandaria. But as with all expansions, they each have their faults. Today I’d like to share with you a problem that Destruction Warlocks are facing at the moment. And that’s class design. I’ve been wanting to voice my thoughts on the spec since Legion launched and now seems like a good time to do so, and while it may come across as a whine post, I’m simply being passionate about the spec I’ve been playing for years. =)

So what if the class or spec you’ve been playing for years has become a shadow of its former self and isn’t anywhere near as exciting to play anymore. Everything about it feels dull and uninspired. Playing it is a drag and the only reason you’re still playing it could be that it’s what you’ve always played for years. This is how I feel at the moment. Playing a Destruction Warlock isn’t as exciting as it was before.

I always remain optimistic when it comes to these things because at the end of the day, it’s just a game. To many people,  World of Warcraft is more than a game, including me. It’s something I’ve grown up with over the past 8/9 years, with in-game friends come and gone. That’s why I’m passionate about the game. I could write a whole post on why that is, but not today! What makes the spec not very exciting to play? Well most of it. Legion Destruction Mechanics are pretty shallow, and although it’s much better than the Charred Remains playstyle in Warlords of Draenor, it’s still not that great.

Fantasy and Mechanics

Class fantasy for Destruction is all about chaos and tanking damage, and while it certainly fulfills the fantasy, it’s too dominant over the spec. Sure the Mastery stat is ‘chaotic’ in the sense that you don’t know what damage increase and decrease you’ll get, giving it a ‘chaotic’ feel, but when it comes down to it, the spec is balanced around that stat. Which isn’t particularly exciting having your damage out of your control.

The reward for playing this spec is determined by RNG, not solely on how you play. You can do your rotation perfectly and still get rewarded with bad luck. Over a series of fights, the damage will average out, but the point is, it’s not exciting gameplay having RNG determine your every aspect of your damage or gameplay (see Roll the Bones and the current Legendary system). Soul Shard generation isn’t too bad because it’ll improve as your Critical Strike and Haste stats increase through higher item level gear, but there are moments where you get lucky with shards and other times where you don’t see a single shard generate in over 10 seconds.

Warlocks are now also known as the ‘tanky’ class because of two spells. Soul Leech and Dark Pact, and as a result, the entire class is about as mobile as Death Knights are. There is an upside and a downside for having the class like this. The great thing is you can ignore a lot of damage in dungeon/raid environments so you don’t have to move and lose damage. However being incredibly immobile makes it quite painful to move from A to B, unless you have the Pillars of the Dark Portal legendary. The entire class just feels too slow at the moment, and Burning Rush isn’t really an option.

Pruning Went Too Far

Moving on, many specs received interesting talents and new abilities. Meanwhile the Destruction Warlock toolkit seems to have gone backwards, with baseline spells either removed or baked into the talent tree, this caused the spec to become even more watered down than it was in Warlords of Draenor. Demonic Circle is now a talent, Shadowfury given a cast time (in a world of melee), utility removed through Grimoire of Sacrifice, Shadowburn, Fire and Brimstone, Backdraft, Soul Harvest (aka a weaker version of Dark Soul), and the -0.5 second component of Reverse Entropy. These are spells that were baseline, and it doesn’t feel fun to have to choose between two talents we used to have access to anyway. Let’s not forget, baking spells that were baseline shows some lack of originality, and as we’re in World of Warcraft’s sixth expansion, this is something you can’t be lacking in.

Destruction Warlock Talents (7.1)

Another problem with Destruction is how restricted talents feel. Talents should be a way of enhancing your gameplay and changing the way you play, however in the current patch (7.1), that’s not the. Want some AoE damage? You’re going to have to sacrifice a good deal of single damge, which Destruction is average at even with talents such as Eradication and Soul Conduit. There should be choice, but it shouldn’t really hamper the spec. Having to switch talents to suit each raid fight can also be very expensive and annoying. I like having choice, but having to switch so often makes the spec feel incomplete compared to other specs like Fire Mages for example, they have decent single target damage and incredible AoE/splash damage baseline. As a Destruction Warlock, you’re either going with a single target, AoE or cleave setup.

Incinerate used to do things in previous expansions such as benefit from increased damage on immolated targets in Burning Crusade and generating Embers in Warlords of Draenor. It was a spell with purpose, even if it was only used as a filler. In Legion, Incinerate does nothing for the spec until you get the golden trait, Dimension Ripper, which gives you a 5% chance when using Incinerate to give you a charge of Dimensional Rift. 5%. More RNG to add to an already RNG infested spec. As opposed to having Incinerate give a charge, it could take off a bunch of seconds and proc more often. Apart from this trait, Incinerate has 0 synergy with the rest of the spec. It’s actually also not that much of an issue with how much you rely on Immolate and your Mastery stat to generate Soul Shards and to get reliable Mastery rolls. Having Incinerate do more for the spec might even hurt it by further making the spec immobile.

The ‘Saviour’ Spells

Dimensional Rift, Havoc, Lord of Flames and Dark Pact are what I call, the ‘saviour’ spells. Why? Because these are the four spells that keep the spec interesting. Dimensional Rift breathes life into an otherwise drab rotation, even on a 45 second cooldown per charge, opening up rifts to barrage your target with Chaos and Shadow. It’s the perfect chaotic spell for Destruction Warlocks and fits great with the spec.

With Havoc, the gameplay suddenly becomes far more thrilling because you can nuke two targets at once and seeing all your single target spells duplicated gives you a sense of satisfaction. This is when the spec truly shines. But having to rely on these situations burdens the spec because of how much damage you can dish out with Havoc.

Lord of Flames is an incredible trait that can do a lot of damage, especially when there are multiple targets. The only thing is, it has a 10 minute cooldown. It’s one of the most thrilling spells in the toolkit, yet it’s not used very often and that’s the only downside to the this trait, otherwise it’s pretty great.

7.1.5 and Shadowburn

Patch 7.1.5 goes live in January (which I’ll do a post about after it’s gone live) and there’s just one change that brings some great uncertainty. The change to Shadowburn is without a doubt, the most questionable and worst design change I’ve ever seen. It’s effectively a dead talent when 7.1.5 goes live because there are no situations where it beats Backdraft or Roaring Blaze. Even though it isn’t used all that much in dungeons and raids at the moment, it certainly is in PvP.

destruction warlock shadowburn 7.1.5
Destruction Warlock Shadowburn (7.1.5)

A ‘Shadowburn‘ build is the alternative to a ‘Chaos Bolt‘ build, where you combine it with Cremation (live version) so there isn’t a need to cast much to do any damage. Sure it does less damage than Chaos Bolt, but it gave us a choice between two builds. As soon as 7.1.5 goes live, the Shadowburn build is dead (along with Cremation – 7.1.5 version) and we’ll be stuck with one build. It just doesn’t make any sense.

It’s these kind of changes that make me not want to play a Destruction Warlock and I’ve even started to get my Affliction artifact weapon up to speed, with improvements coming in 7.1.5.

Am I being too pessimistic? Whether or not you agree with me, I’d love to know your thoughts on the matter in the comments below! : )

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