From Level One to Level Awesome!: Your First Six Levels

August 5, 2009 at 9:40 am (From Level One to Level Awesome!, Warlock)

In this post, I’ll cover a warlock’s first six levels, culminating in the acquisition of the most important spell in your arsenal.  And no, I don’t mean Drain Mana.

Nothing worse than showing up to a party, and finding everyone wearing the same dress as you.

Nothing worse than showing up to a party, and finding everyone wearing the same dress as you.

Okay, so you’re starting your career as a warlock.  You’ve picked your race, and are playing through your starting zone of choice.  To some extent, your goal is to just get through these levels, because (a) there are virtually no interesting gear choices to make, and (b) your playstyle at this point bears very little resemblance to your eventual soloing playstyle (though interestingly, it bears a somewhat greater resemblance to your eventual instancing playstyle, except for, y’know, the tendency to get all stabby with the enemy.)

Getting stabby with the enemy is not a good habit to get into.

Morgulion was convinced he had a frustrated inner rogue. Until he realized he didn't like getting hit.

When you start out at level 1, you have two spells – Demon Skin (your first armor) and Shadow bolt.  Put on your armor spell, then forget it for 30 minutes.  Shadow Bolt is your core nuking spell.  Spam shadowbolt at the mobs to bring them down.  Congratulations, you’re now playing at the same level Warlocks who raided 0/21/40 in Burning Crusade did.

The numbers are tinier, but otherwise, welcome to TBC raiding...

The numbers are an order of magnitude smaller, but otherwise, welcome to TBC raiding...

At level 2, you get two spells which represent precisely what a warlock is – your first DOT (Damage Over Time spell), and (the quest to obtain) your first minion.  Your first DOT is Immolate, a destruction spell that does fire damage over 15 seconds.  In being Destruction, and in being fire damage, Immolate is somewhat unusual for a warlock DOT, but a DOT it is nevertheless.  Your imp is a tiny,annoying howitzer, who is a premier damage pet (and for Destruction warlocks, remains the primary damage pet all the way to level 80).  Plan to use your imp in dungeons for the foreseeable future.  You will find these first few levels immensely easier with him alongside, so do the quest to get him as soon as possible.

Already dead, and it doesn't even know it.  DOTs = Love.

Already dead, and it doesn't even know it. DOTs = Love.

Objects in the foreground may be smaller than they appear.

Objects in the foreground may be smaller than they appear.

At level 4, you will gain your second core DOT, Corruption, and your first curse, the Curse of Weakness.  You may only cast one Curse on a target at a time, and you will almost never again cast Curse of Weakness after these first few levels, because in very short order, there will be better options.  For that matter, you may not want to cast it now, because you’re going to be spending more time drinking these first half dozen levels than you’re going to spend the seventy-four following it (excluding instances).  So save your mana, unless you pull more than you can handle, and need to weaken them.

Savor it, mages.  A warlock drinking.  For probably the last time in seventy-something levels.

Savor it, mages. A warlock drinking. For probably the last time in seventy-something levels.

It is no exaggeration to say that at level 6, you get the spell that, more than any other, defines what a warlock is.  Shadow priests have DOTs (as do others, but shadow priests have as many as we do).  Hunters have pets.  Mages have nukes.  Paladins, warriors, priests, and hunters have Fears (though we have more, and a wider variety of them).  But nobody else has Life Tap, and in having effectively two mana bars, a blue one and a red one, and having (particularly once you get Drain Life at level 14, whereupon the conversion goes the other way as well) the ability to almost-freely move points from one to the other, warlocks are unique.  When you truly think of your mana and health bars as interchangeable, just one giant pool of health-mana, and when turning around and playing a priest or a mage brings you up short because you think “converting health to mana…uh…oops…”, you’ll know you’ve truly assimilated to playing a warlock.  This is why, in the leadup to patch 3.0, when a rather substantial Life Tap nerf was on the table, warlocks (who have endured many a hit from the nerf bat relatively stoically) went absolutely ballistic.  Fears get the attention, but Life Tap is where the soul of our class is.

A true Warlock is about to be born.

A true Warlock is about to be born.

That said, don’t be stupid.  Life Tap is a wonderful spell, but part of group play is being sensitive to your fellow players, particularly your healers.  Please do not be one of those warlocks who Life Taps to 5% health right before a pull.  Your health bar is your mana pool.  Your healer’s mana pool is not your mana pool.  In an instance, Life Tap to equalize health and mana so you can eat/drink quicker.  If your healer is very kind, and willing to toss a HOT on you, that’s wonderful, because while their mana pool is not yours, a very tiny expenditure of their mana (a single Renew or Rejuvenate) can return a rather massive amount of yours, which makes pulling quicker.  But don’t expect it, either.  If it comes down to it, ask.  Your healer might be so shocked that you did them the courtesy of asking, you might make a friend forever.

Additionally, during fights, don’t Life Tap more than once at a time.  First off, it’s a waste of time you could be spending doing damage (you should end a lengthy boss fight out of mana, or very close to it).  But second, if you’ve ever healed an instance, then you know the mindset you get into when staring at health bars, and seeing a party member’s health bar drop precipitously is a great way to give a healer cardiac arrest.  If it turns out the damage is self-inflicted, you’re likely to find yourself in the doghouse.  And by “in the doghouse”, I mean “making an endless succession of graveyard walks because the healer’s not going to heal your obnoxious ass anymore.”  And you’ll deserve it.



  1. Chrno said,

    Since my main is a druid healer, I have to agree with and thank you for your comments on lifetap. There is very little more annoying than having someone else use my mana bar to cast their spells. But that being said if it’s a lock I like, then I always try to keep a rejuv. up on them so they can tap whenever they need to.

    • Kahleena said,

      It’s tricky. The reality is, Life Tap is part of a warlock’s arsenal, and part of how the class is balanced (we’re radically less mana efficient than most other casters in terms of damage-inflicted-per-mana-point-spent – Life Tap compensates for that), and to have a warlock not use Life Tap at all (which I’ve heard people suggest – “use potions, nobody else gets to Life Tap” is one I’ve heard from members of the WoW brain trust, believe it or not) is simply not an option. Particularly now that potions can’t be chain-chugged. Anyway, that means some healing. But too many of my brethren simply don’t think about the impact of how/when they tap on the rest of the party, particularly on healers. I don’t enjoy healing, as a general rule, but I have healed instance runs, and I’m glad, because given that the core of my mana-management strategy is inflicting damage on myself, it’s worthwhile to know how to do that courteously (or at least, minimally-annoyingly) 🙂

  2. Tamarind said,

    Yep, yep, seconded – thank you so much for your sensible, sensitive points about lifetapping. This made me so happy to read 🙂

    I love warlocks conceptually, they are perhaps the most ‘selfish’ class in the whole of WoW. I mean, there’s so very little a warlock can do for other people. They can’t even buff you as you walk past. Yes, there’s the healthstone / soulstone stuff but that comes later and is really only applicable to instancing. (Although not so long ago a warlock came up to me out of nowhere and just gave me a healthstone, I was really touched). The thing is, I *like* that. Harnessing dark energy and fel power isn’t sociable, and shouldn’t be.

    They’re kind of the anti-priest 🙂

    But the problem is that so many fledingly warlocks Have Really Not Learned To Play Well With Others. If the warlock is nice to me, I genuinely have no problem with keeping a HoT on them, or throwing the occasionally heal their way as long as the fight is under control (the same goes for hunter pets, actually) but when players seem to take it as their due that I’ll be funelling my mana bar into theirs, gah! It makes me throw pissy fits.

    Ii’ve actually been in PUGs with warlocks who life tapped like they were getting off on the endophin rush and then whinged at the amount of mana breaks I’ve had to take.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also PUGed with a warlock who, with my permission, set up a macro to whisper me when she was lifetapping in order to save my poor nerves. I loved her passionately. She was never without a HoT.

    Weird isn’t it, how much difference a little social awareness makes?

    • Astoreth said,

      I am so grateful for the people who got me into WoW holding my hand periodically and teaching me to be a Good Warlock — including threat management, responsible pet ownership, and recommended talent builds for various situations. My number one goal in playing Astoreth is to be more useful to the group than annoying, and so far I think I’m doing pretty good. 😉

      I really love the macro idea — I may ask my regular healer if that would be useful for her!

      • Kahleena said,

        I really like that macro idea as well, though I’m not sure it works quite as well in a raid as it would in a five-man, as five-mans have one healer (ergo one person to whisper), while raids have anywhere from two to a half-dozen (with assignments as to who’s healing the raid (as opposed to the tank) sometimes changing from fight to fight).. I think in that situation, the best thing one can do is simply stick to a single Life Tap, as necessary, so the hit is a tiny ding to health, and not a massive red-alert-all-hands-to-battlestations hit to the warlock’s health. I may ask our healers, though, if posting something (i.e. “Life Tapping, Don’t Panic”) in raid chat via a macro would be helpful.

  3. Schadenfreude Sunday « standing at the back in my sissy robe said,

    […] not to give their healers a heart attack by discriminate life-tapping. Part one is here, part two here and the floor is opened for questions […]

  4. Millea said,

    Ahh life tap, how I miss you when I play my druid.

    Fantastic read. I am curious about the future entries. I’m curious as to how you are going to level.

    My warlock was not my first character I made, but she was the first one I fell in love with. She became my first 80 and is kicking ass and taking names.

    I tend to make sure I become friends with the healers for the singular purpose of life tapping heals. Since I am an affliction warlock I get healed by my corruption and haunt spells, so I typically don’t need heals. I like to notify the healer that they dont need to heal me unless I am obviously very low.

    I have yet to not get any heals 😀

  5. Schadenfreude Sunday at Righteous Orbs said,

    […] not to give their healers a heart attack by discriminate life-tapping. Part one is here, part two here and the floor is opened for questions […]

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