Props to Vick for giving me direction where to go next in this series — discussing what makes the warlock class unique in the game: the sheer variety and multiple roles of pets (demons) that they have at their command.
Now hunters, of course, are granted pets, but theirs is a different relationship. All hunter pets fill the role of tank/some dps with little difference. Some are better tanks, some are better DPS, some have trainable skills that help with these two functions, but that’s where it ends. A hunter pet is a hunter pet is a hunter pet. Not to mention the fact that a hunter can only tote around one pet at a time.
Warlocks, on the other hand, have an incredible selection of multiple utility pets. None that are all-around perfect, mind you, but each with a specialty and situational usefulness that comes into play constantly. By level 70, your standard warlock has four main attack pets at his or her command. A demo lock has five. Add two more pets if you’re counting the regular and epic summoned mount, and two more on top of that if you count the Infernal and Doomguard. That totals up to NINE demonic critters (well… how about ten with the Eye of Kellogg’s or whatever) that a lock can cycle through in their journeys.
By the way, here’s a quick tip — if, as a lock, you get overly dependent on just one demon and never use any of the others, not only are you playing your class in a gimped fashion, but you’ll be denying your teammates your greatest asset: flexibility. You might as well go roll a hunter in this case.
Here we go as we look through the ten warlock pets, and how and when to deploy them:
Feisty and never without a screeching complaint, your pint-sized pal comes into your spellbook as early as level 2-4. He’s incredibly weak, health-wise, but perfect to get you to 10 (or 20) when you’ll probably switch to your Succy or VW as your main soloing companion. Even so, the imp remains a valuable tool in any lock’s arsenal for one reason: it’s always useful in groups. Awesome in groups, actually.
Imps are great at support, offering nice ranged damage (firebolts) which keeps them out of harm’s way in boss battles that would otherwise kill your pets, a “phase shift” spell that keeps them from being hurt unless you trigger them to attack, a stamina-boosting buff that goes out to your entire party, and a “fire shield” buff that it throws on party members being attacked to offer them a bit more damage to their enemies.
You’ll use imps early on, then mostly later in the game if you’re either raiding or in a group that has great need for the stamina buff. Imps have a few other advantages — they don’t require a soul shard to summon, they have an enormous mana pool (great for affliction locks and their dark pact talent), and if you spec them right, they can be a little firebolt-tossing machine gun that presents opportunities for great burst damage.
AKA “Big Blue”, the VW is your own personal meat shield, capable of absorbing blows and keeping the enemy attention on them (with two taunts). To say their damage is sub-par, however, is an understatement. If you’re soloing with a VW, you better bring the damage yourself. VW’s also offer a nice self-heal (consume shadows) and an emergency bubble option for yourself (sacrifice). Sacrifice is nifty, but you’re basically bubbling to the cost of a soul shard and a resummon.
Ultimately, VWs are a crutch pet that lets locks get to their 20s and 30s without dying too much. Past 30, no lock should really be using one, except in the rare instance run when an offtank is needed (and even then, a VW needs a constant health funnel from you to stay alive).
Succys, as we call them, are the sassy, whip-oriented demons that become the warlock’s mainstay helper for much of his or her middle-to-late career. While fairly fragile (although nothing as bad as the imp), Succys are nasty DPS-dealers. You’ll love her lash of pain, you’re wonder why the heck she needs invisibility, and you’ll swoon over her seduce technique.
Seduce is the reason why Succys get pulled out in groups, as it offers the warlock an opportunity to CC a humanoid mob. However, I’m not a big fan of seduce — it tends to break (which takes micro-managing to reaquire), you have to trigger it manually for it to really be effective (which takes time away from attacking other critters), and when it does break, the mob guns for your pet with a personal vendetta. Seduce, however, is highly popular in PvP, and is one of the reasons (coupled with our three fears) that people get frustrated with the lock class and claim the OP status.
AKA “the doggy”. If you’re a lock soloing with one of these, I have a kind of weird respect for you. You’re hardcore. You don’t need the training wheels of the VW any longer, and are looking for a different playstyle than the succy can offer.
Although it offers the second-highest health pool of the base four demons and a nice melee debuff to whoever attacks it, the felhunter is basically an anti-caster pet. It really shines when you find yourself battling wave after wave of casters/healers who do annoying things like heal themselves or load up on more buffs than you’re find at a Jimmy Buffet buffet. Spell lock is an awesome spell silence skill that shuts casters up in a hurry (although you should put this on manual trigger), and devour magic not only strips an enemy of its buff, but heals the doggy at the same time. Nice!
Devour magic is also a useful tool if you or your allies have harmful magical debuffs on them — just let the doggy chew them off!
Overall, the felhunter is a much more situational pet than most, but when you need it, it shines.
Arguably, the inferno (a giant burning rock elemental thing) was the poster boy pet of the warlock class, at least according to WoW’s opening cinematic. However, Blizzard got it into their heads to make this and the doomguard pains in our collective butts to use in any sane situation, and ergo it goes largely unused by the lock community. Once you complete a quest chain to tame one, the inferno is summoned with the help of an inferno stone (not a soul shard), something you can only do outside and every 30 minutes. The upside? The quick 2-second cast time and summoning damage that it causes is pretty nice if you have a pet go down and you need another in a pinch. The downside? It comes with a limited warranty: a five minute enslave timer that, when up, requires you to repeatedly enslave it (which costs soul shards and tends to break unpredictably).
The inferno is a fun pet to use as a novelty, or to unleash upon a friendly/hostile city when it breaks. It does decent damage and looks properly intimidating, and is worth getting just for the occasional joy of using it. Otherwise, Blizzard needs to up and admit that they’ve failed when it comes to these pets and their enslave mechanic, and need to make some serious adjustments.
This is the only lock pet that I’ve never gotten, and probably one most locks have never seen. This is due to the difficulty in aquiring it: you either have to hope that Curse of Doom kills a creature and summons the DG, or you have to partake in a party ritual wherein one of your party members (possibly you) dies instantly.
Like the inferno, it too requires a summoning reagent and comes with a five-minute enslave timer. For its trouble, the DG has great tanking and damage potential, but that comes at a cost: when enslave breaks, that damage potential will be focused on you.
With the Burning Crusade’s new 41-point talents came the Felguard in the demo tree. I’ve always been a huge fan of the demo tree, and never more than the day when I got my new favorite pet. The felguard, like the VW, is a tank, but much more of a DPS tank than a prot tank. It gets into the battle quick with its intercept charge/stun, has a decent attack coupled with a multiple-target damaging cleave, avoids AOE damage, taunts you enemies off you, and can whip itself into a DPS-happy frenzy quite easily.
Until post-68 dungeons, the felguard can happily offtank for your party, as long as you feed it a health funnel now and then. Once you get into high level dungeons where the demon pets don’t scale with lock gear (which is a bug that needs to be fixed), the felguard loses its ability to be a good tank, but can still bring the damage quite well. Its power in PvP situations (especially with intercept) caused it to be nerfed twice early on, but it still does an impressive job thwacking away at clothies and nasty rogues who think they can up and stun you.
Felguard-using locks get a bit of a bad reputation for some reason, but I absolutely love mine and solo with him exclusively. You do want to be aware that he’s a bit more fragile than the VW, and his multiple abilities chew through his mana pool incredibly fast — you’ll need to be life tapping (coupled with the mana feed talent) to keep him fueled up.
Locks are blessed with a free level 40 summonable mount (Felsteed) and can quest for an absolutely wicked-looking level 60 epic mount (Dreadsteed). Getting my Dreadsteed after a particularly bothersome quest chain was one of the highlights of the game for me. Unfortunately, warlocks do not have any options for unique flying mounts, although skeletal griffyns would be quite tasty.
The Eye of Kilrogg is worth mentioning as an extremely situational demonic summon. It conjures up a floating eye with no aggro radius, and allows the warlock to control it, seeing through its eyes as it scouts ahead. Great for seeing what’s around the corner or to freak out low level players.