Saturday, July 30, 2011

Warlock Updates (revised)

The playtest for the Warlock class updates has ended, and what seems to be the ultimate revision for the class has been released. Not much has changed from the previous document, but they did succeed in implementing the most demanded fix: Star Pact warlocks can (finally!) have their choice of Charisma or Constitution for their fixed at-will, Dire Radiance. This had been a long standing problem for a build that allegedly allowed focusing on either ability modifier, and goes a long way towards improving the playability of the Star Pact. Aside from that, a few daily powers have received additional rewordings, usually to boost their power (notably, Hunger of Hadar has basically recovered its pre-errata status), and the at-wills Hellish Rebuke and Dire Radiance have been rewritten so as to trigger only once per round, which seems only fair and prevents a few egregious loopholes.

If you have ever been curious about playing a warlock, the class is in better shape than ever, and well worth a shot. It’s still a striker with relatively low damage output (meaning that it’s not uncommon for non-strikers to hit harder than you), but on the other hand it offers very respectable control and many, many tricks. It’s also one of the most supported classes in the game, with tons of options for powers and feats, and even a good deal of class-specific magic items, offering a potential build variety that is only matched by fighters and wizards, if at all. And, most importantly, it’s quite fun to play.

By the way, for those lacking a Player’s Handbook or a DDI subscription, the class is now available for free on wizards website.


  1. Warlock is by far my favorite 4e class, but even this isn't enough to make me start paying attention to DnD. I wanted to be on WotC's side, & I don't consider myself a casualty of the Edition Wars; I have just been let down one to many times, I think.

  2. Hellish Rebuke may be 1/round now, but the "bonus" damage is no longer extra damage-meaning that yes, if you suffer any damage, you're basically attacking twice. Imagine using White Lotus Master Riposte with Hellish Rebuke. Heh.

    That's always been thought to be the case for most people, but a very precise reading didn't follow it-but no longer!

  3. This will definitely be welcomed by my wife, who plays a Warlock in our current game.

  4. Out of curiosity, if you wanted to make the warlock more damage-capable, what would you set their curse die at? I've been considering going as high as a d12 (after all, rogues get 2d6).

  5. >Out of curiosity, if you wanted to make the warlock more damage-capable, what would you set their curse die at?

    That is a tricky question because, while I think I know what some warlocks need, I'm not sure I can find a generic solution. There's actually a lot of variance in the amount of damage a warlock can put out.

    On the weaker side, we have plain builds relying on stuff like Eyebite, Eldritch Blast, and average encounter powers (the kind that, on heroic tier, deal 2d8+stat+int and have some minor added effect. These are reliably outdamaged by any random idiot wielding a Maul (never mind a mordenkrad), without need of striker features or anything. A warlock using this kind of powers would need an extra 3-5 damage at heroic to have anything resembling respectable damage. Actually competing with stronger strikers in the damage department would require even more, but I believe warlocks have enough tricks and control to deserve dealing less damage than other strikers (though not by such a wide margin as they do now!)

    On the other hand, we have the stronger warlock options which are actually capable of causing quite a bit of pain. I can see three common builds that achieve this: Infernal warlocks exploiting Hellish Rebuke, Sorcerer-King warlocks using Mindbite Scorn and possibly Hand of Blight, and melee warlocks abusing Eldritch Strike. Those are strong strikers on their own right, and the kind of boosts we are suggesting for weaker builds would push them over the top. Interestingly, such damage-focused builds often ignore encounter attacks because tricked-out at-wills often yield better results.

    To complicate things a bit further, there's also a strong variance across tiers. Warlocks enjoy a couple of extremely potent damage-boosting feats at paragon and epic tier, in Called Shot and Cursed Spells. I believe that with these feats, any warlock - even the poor Eyebiting Feylock - is turned into a decent striker, and the best builds can achieve impressive numbers. Introduce changes that fix the weaker heroic warlocks, and you run the risk of creating a monster at epic.

    Because of this, I'd go for a solution that helped the weakest builds, while introducing enough safeguards to prevent overpowering the best warlocks. This could involve:
    - Slight increases in damage dice for the mediocre at-wills. 1d8 for Eyebite, 1d12 for Eldritch Blast, 1d10 for Spiteful Glamor (2d8 vs targets with full HP), 1d8 for Eyes of the Vestige, 1d10 for Hand of Blight.
    - Nerfs for the best at-wills. Prevent Hellish Rebuke from triggering off self-inflicted damage, and have Eldritch Strike work only on a 1-handed weapon.
    - Remove Mindbite Scorn from the game.
    - Add a conditional, non-scaling bonus to curse damage, worth 3-4 damage. A possible example would be dealing an extra curse die against an enemy you just cursed (as a class feature, no additional feats required). It should be non-scaling in order not to break in combination with paragon and epic feats, and I'd like it to be conditional so as not to aggravate Rogues, who need to make some effort to gain an equivalent bonus with sneak attack.

    That said, you could also use d10s for curse damage, and cross your fingers (and ban Eldritch Strike and Hellish Rebuke).

  6. Ah, one more thing I forgot! In order to compete in damage, warlocks are also missing a magic item to provide them with item bonuses to damage. Currently, non-staff implement-based characters have to jump through many hoops to get one of those, and they make a good chunk of a character's damage output.