There’s this really old screenshot that a friend emailed to me a few years ago; it’s mostly just of his Mage and my Warlock sitting there as he and I talked. He had just run me through a dungeon during my re-roll at the start of the Burning Crusade. While I’m uncertain of context of the conversation before it, the chat in the box as our characters sat there on the screen read: “And this is why I will never play Demonology.”
I laughed, he laughed. When we talk about it now years later, it’s an ironic sort of laughter.
Still, I was right, I never got the itch to play Vanilla or Burning Crusade Demonology, the appeal never got to me over the Demonic Sacrifice and Shadowbolt spam. Even when Wrath’s pre-patch launched and the “New and Improved!” Demonology was rolled out, I could only find myself staring at the spells and thinking; “Eeeeehhhhhh… No.”
Learning to like the spec was an accident:
Honestly, I would have never strongly identified with the class and spec if it hadn’t been for the need for spellpower, and what others would call homogenization. While usually Elemental Shamans could drop the totems that would provide your raid group a Spell Power buff, in Wrath, Demonology Warlocks gave out a buff that while they were in demon form would give your entire raid a percentage of Spell Power based upon their spell power the player had between procs and base spell power. For the first two raid tiers, our raid leader was an Elemental Shaman, for the next one, he sometimes showed up to raids… Come Icecrown Citadel, I would have given a kidney for an Elemental Shaman.
So I did what any Warlock would do, and punished myself to help others. And for a few weeks, it truly felt like a punishment. My DPS was worse, I needed different gear, and I had to dance in and out of melee. Every 25 man felt like a punishment until, one day, in the middle of the fight with my brain counting down the exact moment to pop all of my cooldowns and demon form, I thought, ‘I enjoy this.’.
I had a mixed love affair over the next few years. Truly, my love of this spec sounds like a relationship I could never quite walk away from. Sometimes, it became a matter of what the raid needed, and a matter of what was sensible. I couldn’t be upset about it when Demonology changed a bit here, and changed a large amount there. Change is the lifeblood of the Warlock class no matter what spec you fell in love with. To me; a patch isn’t how much was I nerfed, but how much do I have to relearn or adjust because things were “improved” or “adjusted” in the name of balance. Still, I wasn’t a person who looked at Demo and thought “Oh no, it’s the top spec.” I looked at it doing better than the bottom, and thought that Blizzard had smiled upon me, and specced that way. I don’t love Destro, I don’t love Affliction.
I am not one of the people who suffered through the spec and was unhappy and confused that Ion brought up, and except my first four to six weeks in Wrath: my heart belonged to demonology.
Even with the constant teeter-totter of rebalancing and moving between the top and bottom of the meters, most of my ‘laugh out loud in utter delight at my class’ moments happened as a Demo Warlock. Demonic Leap, our brief expansion Carrion Swarm and it’s knock-back at the Lumber Mill in Arathi Basin, seeing just how many demons I could summon every time they changed the class a tiny bit, the slightly (okay, very) cocky joy of dropping a green Abyssal on top of a Horde Warlock who just summoned a orange Abyssal in a battle ground and then destroying them (usually a Destro Warlock). Some of the changes I liked, some I really hated, but in the end it really felt like my spec; creepy and cute with it’s class iconic horns and wings; it became my little corner in Azeroth. Honestly, it has been a glorious four expansions with Metamorphosis.
TO THE GROUND:
Something felt weird when the Devs stated in early Warlords that they had no intention at that time of fixing the problem with Warlocks and their broken wings. Previously, with the “Tanking Glyph” Dark Apotheosis, Warlocks had purple wings if they didn’t want green fire, or had not passed the trial for it, or they simply had verdant green wings. In Warlords, Dark Apotheosis was replaced with a new glyph, removing the ability to tank with a cosmetic ability: be a large demonic man, or have demonic wings. If you chose the demonic form, your green fire abilities stuck with you, but somehow, the green wings without a large form didn’t. Yet, blue posts confirmed they had no intention of fixing the bug. It didn’t seem like lost code; the Horde Garrison Bodyguards had no problem having fel afflicted wings. It was simply a problem they had no interest in fixing unlike the minor annoyance that our ponies had red fire when water walking as opposed to green.
Eventually when we walked into HFC my identity as the Warlock in the giant green Demon body was so ingrained in my guildies’ minds, that while first fighting Hellfire Assault, that guildies thought the Fel Casters were me, and not an add. Only minor chaos happened.
I sucked it up, I was a giant demon man, and had the time of my life through the end of Highmaul and all of Blackrock Foundry. Honestly, almost every Warlock was. Even Still, I looked for every excuse to raid: LFR, farm night, progression night. I was having enough fun to know it wouldn’t last, so the 25% nerf didn’t shock me.
Well, it didn’t shock me quite too much.
When Ion Hazzikostas aka, Watcher, first said they didn’t want us playing Demo Warlocks anymore (“Why are you nerfing Demonology Warlocks…?” “Because we’d rather you didn’t play them…”) and the 25% nerf rolled out before HFC was because they were “working on them” (is working on code for dismantling?), I felt pretty okay with that. The spec was full of issues, it did have problems. I really did agree with his assessment that you could take wrong turn and not understand the class, or end up facerolling your way through without playing the way they were intended.
The 25% seemed brutal, but a 10% nerf or 15% would have left people still trying, and the class required addons, auras, and other assistance to really play if you weren’t just dropping massive AoE when it was up and hoping for the best (which, was really fun and tempting). Watcher talked about how the class wasn’t performing in a way that made sense to a lot of players, and they needed a lot of outside help from websites that could be misleading.
Even still, he indicated they weren’t doing what was intended. At first I thought he had lost his mind, never before had a Developer said that they didn’t want you to play a spec in the game. However, I could see where his point was. The class did play as though I was rolling my face against the keyboard for Demonic Power, and then rolling it the other way to spend it all. On the days I was least attentive, I still did very well. It didn’t make the 25% nerf any less brutal, or confusing.
To be fair, and in Ion’s defense: We were warned that there was a massive overhaul coming. However, every class, especially a few, hear massive overhauls all the time. Soul shards gone, soul shards back. Sometimes, it’s like doing the hokey-pokey. Your favorite spells and ways of gaining power vanish and return. I’m certain some day hunters will no longer be able to joke about being out of mana at the rate things change. It’s not a design flaw, it’s simply the way MMOs that last and have some staying power are; change is inevitable.
The rug, your wings, whatever:
Still, I suppose I or other Warlocks just didn’t expect to hear during BlizzCon, on the back of how great Demon Hunters were, that Warlocks were losing Metamorphosis, and were going back to the spec that had never appealed to me. I don’t think any current Warlock did. Granted, what we’re getting isn’t Vanilla and Burning Crusade Demonology, but the way we were being sold on it was about as appealing as doing my garrisons without Master Plan. I never wanted to play old Demonology, why was I being fed something ancient now while another class would be playing an evolved version of what I and many others was part of the identity of our spec? I felt like the older sibling having all of it’s toys taken away to welcome the new child, and I know I most certainly was not the only Warlock who felt that underlying annoyance.
Worst of all, outside of some general “You’ll summon some things, and have a skull.” ideas, there were a few weeks where Warlocks weren’t certain at all of what we were getting in replacement, and the general feeling of the Warlock community was filled with nervousness and animosity towards the new class. When Demon Hunters got Fel Green as their class clor, I was annoyed. When I realized my class could no longer speak demonic and hold cross faction coven meetings like they had all of Mists/Warlords but Demon Hunters could; I felt loss. During Blizzcon we were rewarded with a new pet which had the wings previously associated with Demonology wings; and in the future, Demon Hunters. I thought I wanted the pet, but after everything that’s happened, I think he’s something that I won’t keep out until I fall in love with new Demo.
Perhaps the worst problem of all was that, as radio silence was going on, guilds were slowly progressing to the point that Demonology Warlocks were holding them back and needed to respec. Similarly, in PvP Demonology Warlocks perhaps needed to reconsider if the spec was still worth playing as Season 2 ended and Season 3 began. We had no clue what our future was, our class identity was slowly being stripped away and given to Demon Hunters who were being paraded around on Beta already, and now we had to pick Affliction or Destruction until we had a spec again that wasn’t really our spec.
While change is inevitable, I guess many simply didn’t expect a new spec with the old name on it. Personally, I’m still rooting for it to be called Summoner, as they’re well established in lore such as the Mannoroth fight where Imp-losion was used.
Quickly, the guild joke became “They gave that to Demon Hunters.” Once, while transmogged into my Challenge Mode gear, and I got asked if I dressed up like a Demon Hunter. I laugh when I hear it. There’s some cursing going on my end, but I have to laugh. I join in on the joke, and it keeps me pretty far out of the salt mines. Cross faction coven meetings? Demon Hunters. Falling off ledges? Sorry, only Demon Hunters get that. Face pulling? Sorry regular Hunters, gonna have to stand down.
The problem of being a “Special Snowflake”:
I struggle a lot when people say that Demon Hunters are getting what Demonology Warlocks have simply because they’re Demon Hunters. Demonology Warlocks got an entire quest line explaining the lore behind the Demonology shape in Mists of Pandaria, but they had the Metamorphosis form since the launch of Wrath of the Lich King. Apparently Demon Hunters were considered for Burning Crusade, but then Blizzard decided to pass on them, giving the form to Warlocks instead. And so we sat with the form for the next 8 or so years.
However, one major thing that some Warlocks forget with the quest lines that lead to Kanrethad and green fire, is one of the people who helped the Green Fire quest line; Xelnath, was fired leading up to Warlords of Draenor after public remarks over design decisions about the Warlock class. Perhaps this continuity is being abandoned after his departure. I don’t see inside Blizzard, or understand their internal lore decisions (as much as I’d like to divine them).
The class fantasy is one of my biggest struggles when we’re being told about how it’s the coolest part of the expansion. Why did Warlocks stop turning into demons as a populous? In lore that is being added to explain it, be it Demon Hunters or another problem yet to be explored. So I’m left torn. The lore nerd in me says that Demon Hunters deserve the form because what are they without it besides tattoo nerds ready for an anime convention? The Warlock nerd in me struggles with the idea that we’d be erasing Kanrethad and others like him, and a part of our undesirable history. If retconning is happening, perhaps we’re just not in on the loop yet which another thing we should have known about. Most frustrating, the two Metamorphoses look different, there could have been two, though there didn’t have to be.
Perhaps the largest problem is that there’s no promises of class stories to explain the sudden switch in direction, or more really compelling NPC lore. How did ALL of the Warlocks collectively forget demonic or stop speaking it and don’t they need it for dealing with certain demons? I’d much rather see antagonizing conversation between the two classes’ NPC’s in the language that no one can understand in this expansion and the future. Warlocks and Demon Hunters are the two classes that went too far in different ways by choice to help as much as they could.
And so, in a time when I am supposed to be the most excited about how cool Warlocks are, I’m having trouble putting on my foam finger and screaming about how we’re #1.
In the end, begin again:
Needless to say, I have a lot of anxiety about Warlocks, and their future. The other night, before they went live on Alpha, I actually had a dream that they couldn’t get the balance right with Demo and decided to remove it from the game. It had just been so long since we had heard anything about them or Destro (who had at least kind of had their artifact stuff not quite on the servers before vanishing), that I was starting to get worried. In my dream Demon Hunters only got two specs, so it was only fair, read the patch notes. Writing this, I had to stop and check every news site just to be certain it was a dream. I think in the dream I wound up playing a Demon Hunter, and I spent my whole dream telling my new character how much I hated it until it started crying and I had to ticket a GM because I broke the Demon Hunter.They weren’t amused.
In all these years, my only other WoW nightmare was more just sleep talking over wiping on Al’akir. Apparently I was yelling at people in my sleep about squall lines. Yes, it was that brutal for a few weeks, and my roommates were glad when he was dead.
As it stands, there are a lot of problems that I feel powerless to truly give feedback on. I can’t see how anything actually plays myself, and I’m forced to hear how others feel about the flow of things. I don’t think I’ve ever cared quite so much about what happens to a spec as I do right at this moment. For now, I’m left reading through people’s Twitters, their notes, their Reddit comments and watching Twitch and YouTube videos.
Still, everything I see from watching others, and from what others are saying points to the idea what they have thus far failed to make playing a Demonology Warlock simple. In fact, they seem to have done the opposite. It’s not a shock if you play a pet class, or have in the past; the myth of the “Huntard” is just that, a myth. Pet classes and the baseline UI are an unending nightmare resulting in the need for macros, addons, and weak auras. The class itself still has things to be tracked outside of pets.
A spec being harder because of having more to watch isn’t the worst thing ever. I’ve found Affliction and Destruction to be the equivalent of driving the same mile of highway, Groundhog Day style. I like them just fine, but there’s no thrill of the challenge and I’m not certain if I’ll find it in both, or either, next expansion. Currently, the challenge in them is provided not by the spec, but by my fellow raiders. I would rather struggle to succeed, and have to do my research, than do what is simple and in a cookie cutter. At the start of HFC, even with the 25% nerf, it was more fun to try to do well.
There’s also just quality of life problems. People complained about large bodyguards in WoD and my raid had problems with large Doomguards seeming like people due to their size. Now with Demonic Empowerment, Warlocks are making multiple pets huge, and with the packs upon packs of Hunter pets as well, there will be a mini raid team up the boss’s rear. A solution to this would be a toggle-able option for other raiders to make other people’s pets see-through similar to the Witch Doctor’s Fetishes in Diablo 3 so they can focus on on the ground and raid boss options.
Spell wise, the artifact tree isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the Affliction one, and a lot of the spell rewards seem more baseline, and less “game changing” than the other spec. Some of the names of the spells on the artifacts are hopefully placeholders, including “Dirty Hands” and “Imp Slap”. There’s funnier jokes to be had, even if we already have Lich Slap as a spell. Dirty Hands isn’t even chuckle worthy.
While these seem like tiny nitpicky problems, well, they might be. I feel as if I am crazy for my feelings about a problem in a videogame, of all of the damn things in the world. In real life, I barely think about the Warlock class changes unless I see news about it; then I read it, frown at it or smile at it, and move on with my day. I’ve been at this long enough to know that right now there’s a lot to watch, but the spec is brand new with an old name. Things will be re-balanced, removed, and rethought a few times in some areas.
In many ways, now that the final nail of the metamorphosis coffin has been driven in, I feel relaxed, and ready to look at how I want to play next expansion. The sense of anger isn’t really anger, just frustration at a lack of communication and no more real time with a play style I enjoyed very much until it’s gone. For others, I still catch hints of loss from community members over the spec, especially raiders and role-players. To many, including myself, it was a loss of Avatar Identity as Self and Other, and I have no idea how I or others will feel when Demon Hunters join the game. I suspect it will be excited over our new specs with a side dish of salt. A lot of people, myself included, have good will towards the people who help helm the Blizzard Community.
Most, though not all, can understand that the Blizzard “Blues” are humans that people trust, rather than figureheads. Most of the frustration, anxiety and confusion can be chalked up to miscommunication, and inability to communicate everything because of expansions and NDAs. The more Blizzard communicates changes in a manner that doesn’t feel as though we are veering suddenly in a different direction without warning (even if it was given in a hinting manner) and the more the developers preserve established class fantasy and ability to perform; the more the community will respond to the company as a whole. This has been a trial of Fel Fire for everyone, and at the end of the day, I had to accept that I don’t have Meta and that this wasn’t my sandbox to decide if I do or don’t get to keep an ability.
For now, I simply care that Demonology makes it out of the gate in excellent working order so I and others can play it with a similar vicious delight that I found in the previous variation. Besides, nothing says “Screw you” to anything like hordes of minions anyhow.