Warlock Leveling: 1-30 Affliction

24 Jan

I’ve done a lot of playing around on low level Warlocks over the last couple of months, and it’s been hard to find one that really felt right in all the ways that low level alts need to in order for me to keep playing them rather than simply deleting them before I really have a chance to see what they have to offer. Having played a Warlock off and on over the last couple of expansions, I was surprised by how much things felt…off at low levels across the different specs. We’ll get into that a bit later on in the article. I did eventually find a spec that really felt right to me, and we’ll discus that as well.

For now, let’s take a look at the Affliction Warlock, what makes them (and their DoT’s) tick, and how you can become a successful soul-sucking, DoT’chucking overlord of death.

Playing an Affliction Warlock
Before we get into details on spells and specs and all that business, I wanted to take a minute to talk a bit about some of the things that separates Warlocks from the other cloth-wearing caster classes, and also take a look at what’s so special about Affliction in particular.

The first thing that distinguishes the Warlock from all other casters is their demons. Frost Mages get to pretend to be cool, but when you get right down to it the Warlock is where it’s at. Warlocks get access to four permanent demons, though only one can be active at a time. They also get access to two temporary demons, but I won’t be covering those in detail in this post because you won’t have access to either one of them in the 1-30 level range. However, you do get access to all four of the permanent pets so we’ll take a look at those now:

Demon Level Role Notes
Imp 1 Ranged DPS Provides a Stamina buff to your party.
Voidwalker 8 Melee Tank
Succubus 20 Mid-Ranged DPS Can Seduce (stun) targets.
Felhunter 30 Melee DPS Dispels beneficial magic from enemies.

Imp: The demon you start with provides some nice DPS to help you get started, and he’s ranged so he doesn’t take much damage (most of the time). His Firebolt attack provides a bit of burst damage which you’re otherwise lacking at low levels. In the long run, you won’t use this little guy all that often in any of the three Warlock specs, but he is useful early on if you’re looking for more damage. The main advantage to using the Imp is that he’s ranged, so he can more easily deal damage to multiple enemies that are spread out as opposed to any of the other demons who are mostly melee which have to run all over the place if the mobs are clustered together.

Voidwalker: Your second demon exists primarily to save your life. He’s a tanking demon, and he typically does a really good job of keeping your enemies focused on him rather than you. He can get a little squishy at times if you’re pulling too many mobs, but you have the tools you need to keep him alive. The Voidwalker is the default pet to use while leveling in PvE content because of his tanking abilities. In PvP he’s not all that useful, though his Disarm ability can save your life in PvP. While in dungeons, you should check with your tank and healer to see if they want to you use a different pet or if they’re fine with the Voidwalker. Until you get the Felhunter at level 30, this should probably be the demon that you focus on using outside of dungeons and PvP.

Succubus: The least used demon overall, the Succubus is a bit of a niche pet. She has great utility in PvP, and she does some decent damage as well. If you’re just looking at damage, the succubus is not for you. If you’re looking at PvP utility then she very well could be. Overall, she’ll be your least-used pet unless you just use her because you enjoy having her around.

Felhunter: Your final permanent demon is your strongest DPS option. The Felhunter is the default demon of choice for both Affliction and Destruction Warlocks. Demonology Warlocks get a special pet that deals more damage, but since you don’t have that luxury you’ll just have to settle for the coolest pet out there. You won’t have access to his special abilities in this level range since you get him right at the end of it, but he’ll still do solid damage for you. The one drawback that the Felhunter has is that he’s melee which means sometimes he’ll spend a lot of time running around from one target to another.

Killing Them Slowly: Affliction
There are two primary ways that you deal damage in WoW. The first and most common is direct damage, spells that deal their damage as soon as they hit. The second is damage over timer spells, or DoT’s, which hit the target and may or may not do damage right away but will deal damage at various time intervals throughout the duration of the spell. Affliction is the master of the second kind, focusing primarily on DoT’s to deal their damage.

DoT’s also come in two varieties: debuffs and channels. Debuffs are spells that hit the target and then apply a harmful debuff on them which will deal damage to them for however long the duration of the debuff is. Channeled spells deal damage in the same way, but instead of applying a debuff they instead deal their damage for the amount of time you’re able to channel it before the channel’s duration ends or your channeling is interrupted.

As an Affliction Warlock, you will be putting both of these types of DoT’s to good use. Your primary source of damage comes from debuffs, but you’ll be channeling plenty of spells as well. For the level 1-30 range, Corruption and Unstable Affliction are your main debuff DoT’s, while Drain Soul and Drain Life (Harvest Life) are your main channeled spells.

Affliction Mechanic: Soulburn & Soul Shards
Each Warlock spec has a special mechanic now that makes it stand out from the other two. For Affliction, this is called Soulburn, which allows you to burn a Soul Shard in order to boost the effect of certain spells. Soul Shards are generated by Drain Soul (1 Shard every second time it deals damage, or 3 Shards if the target dies while Drain Soul is active) and Corruption (5% chance for 1 Shard every time it deals damage). By default you can only have 3 Shards at once, and you can increase it to 4 with a glyph (see Talents and Glyphs below). When you want to use Soulburn you simply cast the Soulburn spell which triggers a buff, and then you cast the spell that you want to enhance and that’s it.

In this level range, Soulburn is kind of boring and fairly limited in usefulness because you don’t have access to all of the spells that it impacts. Here is a table of which spells are effected by your Soulburn at this level, and what benefit you gain from using it.

Spell Effect
Summon (Any Permanent Demon) Instant cast.
Drain Life Healing increased by 50%.
Harvest Life Healing increased by 33.3%.
Curse of Enfeeblement Applies the Curse to all enemies w/i 15 yards of the target.
Health Funnel Instantly restores 36% health and reduces damage taken by 30% for 10 seconds.
Unending Breath Allows you to walk on water.

In this level range I most often use Soulburn for instant demon summons, and for increased healing from Drain Life/Harvest Life. Using it to make your Curse hit an area is cool too, especially if there are casters flinging big spells at you, but I tend to use that more in PvP than PvE. Health Funnel can go a long way towards keeping your pets alive if you get into a bind, though typically I just summon a new pet instead, but that’s just me.

Important Spells & Abilities
Here we’ll take a look at all of the spells that you have available to you, and talk a little bit about which ones you should really focus on (or avoid) and what they’re used for.

Spells for Levels 1-10

  • Shadow Bolt (1): Sends a shadowy bolt at the enemy, causing Shadow damage.
  • Summon Imp (1): Summons and Imp under the command of the Warlock. Imps cast ranged Firebolts. [Soulburn: Instant cast.]
  • Corruption (3): Corrupts the target, causing Shadow damage over 18 seconds.
  • Drain Life (6): Drains the life from the target, causing Shadow damage and restoring 2% of the caster’s total health ever 1 second. Lasts 6 seconds. [Soulburn: Healing increased by 50%.]
  • Summon Voidwalker (8): Summons a Voidwalker under the command of the Warlock. Voidwalkers can withstand heavy punishment. [Soulburn: Instant cast.]
  • Create Healthstone (9): Creates a Healthstone that can be used to instantly restore 20% of your maximum health. has 3 charges.
  • Unstable Affliction (10): Shadow energy slowly destroys the target, causing Shadow damage over 14 seconds. If the Unstable Affliction is dispelled it will cause damage to the dispeller and silences them for 4 seconds.

Shadow Bolt is your only form of burst DPS right now as all of your other spells deal their damage over a period of time rather than up front. Shadow Bolt has a bit of a long cast time, but it hits really hard and is an excellent choice of spell for pulling new mobs into combat. For most mobs while you’re questing, your DoT’s are more than enough to deal with them so you won’t need to cast Shadow Bolt very often, but once you get into dungeons and PvP this becomes your primary filler spell unless you have a reason to substitute one of your channeled spells instead. Summon Imp is your first demon and he’s a decent source of DPS. Imp isn’t the best source of DPS, but he’s the one that I prefer for low levels because things tend to die quickly enough that using one of the others loses you DPS because of the time they spend running around from one target to another where the Imp just shoots off fireballs all day long. He’ll provide your party members with a Stamina buff while he’s active, too.

Corruption is your first DoT spell, and one that you’ll want to cast on every mob you ever have any intention whatsoever of killing. Drain Life is your first channeled spell, and it does a fair amount of damage while also restoring some life to you. This spell is replaced by the Harvest Life talent if you happen to take it at level 15, which is an AoE version of the same thing. This is your other primary option for a “filler spell” once you’ve already got your DoT’s established if you would rather do more immediate damage with this instead of waiting for the cast time of Shadow Bolt.

Summon Voidwalker is your second demon, and this is the one you’ll probably want to use most often while you’re questing. In dungeons you should probably switch to one of the other demons for DPS since Voidwalkers tend to piss off your tank by constantly taunting mobs. Create Healthstone gives you an item with 3 charges that can be used to heal yourself. You can also hand these out to party members, though doing so is a pain in the butt early on when you have to cast the spell to summon one, then initiate a trade, then cast to create another one and trade it to another person and so on. Generally, I don’t bother making these for other people unless they ask me to because it’s so tedious to make > trade > make > trade back and forth.

Unstable Affliction is your spec-specific DoT spell which has a cast time. You want to apply this to most of the enemies you face as well. Cast this and follow it up with an immediate Corruption cast and you can bet the target is going to be hurting. If you’re in heirlooms then this combination will be enough to kill most things on it’s own, but you can speed the process up by either adding a Shadow Bolt to the mix or utilizing one of your channeled draining spells like Drain Soul or Drain Life (Harvest Life) which we’ll talk about later.

Spells for Levels 11-20

  • Health Funnel (12): Sacrifices 2% of your maximum health to restore 6% of your summoned demon[s maximum health every 1 second for 6 seconds. [Soulburn: Instantly restore 36% health and reduces damage taken by 30% for 10 seconds.]
  • Fear (14): Strikes fear into the enemy, causing it to flee for up to 20 seconds.
  • Life Tap (16): Sacrifices health to restore mana.
  • Curse of Enfeeblement (17): Binds the target in demonic energy, reducing physical damage by 20% and increasing casting time of all spells by 50% (25% on player targets) for 30 seconds. Less effective on dungeon and raid bosses. you can have only one Curse active per target. [Soulburn: Your Curse of Enfeeblement will affect all enemies in a 15 yard radius around your target.]
  • Soulstone (18): When cast on a living party or raid member, the soul of the target is stored and they will be able to resurrect upon death. If cast on a dead target, they are instantly resurrected. Targets resurrect with 60% health and 20% mana.
  • Rain of Fire (18): Calls down a fiery rain to burn enemies in the area of effect for Fire damage over 8 seconds.
  • Drain Soul (19): Drains the soul of the target, causing Shadow damage every 2 seconds and energizing one Soul Shard after it deals damage twice. If the target dies, three Soul Shards are energized. Lasts 12 seconds. If the target is at or below 20% health when Drain Soul deals damage, it deals 10% additional damage and causes all of your other periodic Affliction damage effects to instantly deal 100% of their normal periodic damage.
  • Soulburn (19): Consumes a Soul Shard, unlocking the hidden power of your spells. Affects Summon Demon, Drain Life, Soul Swap, Seed of Corruption, Health Funnel, Curses and Demonic Circle: Teleport.
  • Summon Succubus (20): Summons a Succubus under the command of the Warlock. Succubi are dangerous, close-range spellcasters. They seduce Humanoid creatures, preventing them from attacking. [Soulburn: Instant cast.]
  • Summon Felsteed (20): Summons a Felsteed, which serves as a mount.

Health Funnel is for keeping your pet alive, and depending on how well you’re geared and how quickly you can kill things you’ll either rarely use this spell or use it all the time. In my experience, it’s usually easier to just summon a new demon than bother trying to heal one. Fear is your crowd control spell and one that you’ll want to be familiar with casting. By default, Fear causes the target to run away which can get you in trouble sometimes if they are “social mobs” meaning that if they get near other unfriendly targets they will pull them into the fight. You can use a glyph to make them tremble in place instead of running away if you’d like, but I prefer my fear targets to run because it’s more helpful in PvP.

Life Tap sacrifices a portion of your life to return mana. You shouldn’t have too much trouble with mana at this level, but in case you do find yourself running low then this is how you get it back. Just remember that your healer’s mana is more important than your own in most cases, so don’t expect your healer to constantly spend their mana to heal you just because you ran out of mana. Curse of Enfeeblement is your first curse, and the only one you’ll have for quite a while. It’s not a bad spell, but dungeon bosses and PvP are the only time you should bother using it since everything else should be dead before it matters. I wouldn’t have even included it in this list if there had been any other curse to choose from in this level range because it’s so unnecessary at this level.

Soulstone gives the target a free resurrection if they die during the duration. When you’re playing solo you might as well always cast this on yourself. If you’re in a dungeon then it’s best to use it the healer or maybe the tank first, but if you have the Mass Resurrection guild perk then you can keep it on yourself there as well. Rain of Fire is your first AoE spell and the damage it deals is pretty good. It can be expensive on the mana side, so keep that in mind before you go spamming this thing all over the place, but don’t be afraid to use it if you have more than 3 things that you can hit at the same time.

Drain Soul is another channeled spell, and it has an execute component to it which means it deals increased damage if the target is down to 20% or less of their health, and it generates Soul Shards. Soul Burn is how you consume those Soul Shards, as we discussed in the previous section.

Summon Succubus is your third demon, and one that you’ll probably use the least. She’s good for PvP, but not especially thrilling for PvE. I mention her only for the PvP aspect, honestly, as she’s otherwise not all that useful to you. Summon Felsteed is a mount rather than a normal spell, and in my opinion it’s one of the coolest looking mounts in the entire game. Since you get a mount at level 20, you also get your first level of riding skill for free, so you’ll save a couple of gold over other classes (except Paladins who also get a mount).

Spells for Levels 21-30

  • Soul Harvest (27): You and your demon absorb nearby wandering souls, regenerating 2% health every second while out of combat. This effect is disabled in arenas.
  • Summon Felhunter (30): Summons a Felhunter under the command of the Warlock. Felhunters are drawn to magic and heal themselves by consuming beneficial magic effects from enemies.

You get more than just two spells in this bracket, but most of the others aren’t worth mentioning.

Soul Harvest is a passive effect rather than an actual spell, which allows you to regenerate your health more quickly while you’re out of combat. I mention it here mostly because it means you’re going to have less downtime overall so it deserves to be noted that it’s there. Also, this was a spell during Cataclysm that restored health outside of combat when you channeled it, so if you’ve taken a break from playing a Warlock for a while and are just now getting back into it you might be wandering what happened to this spell.

Summon Felhunter gives you your final permanent demon, who also happens to be your most effective DPS demon. If you don’t need the extra protection offered by your Voidwalker, the Felhunter is the demon you should use by default. I covered the demons in a bit more detail in the previous section if you want to go back and reference that.

Leveling an Affliction Warlock
The Affliction spec is all about spreading DoT’s on all of your targets, and then using direct damage or utility spells to fill in the gaps until you need to reapply your DoT’s (assuming everything isn’t already dead). Let’s take a look at how a Warlock weaves the nether, shall we?

  • Single Target: Shadow Bolt, Unstable Affliction, Corruption, {Filler Spell, see below}, Drain Soul
  • Multi-Target: Unstable Affliction & Corruption on ALL TARGETS, Rain of Fire or Harvest Life (Talent)

Single Target If you’re facing mobs one at a time, whether they be questing mobs or dungeon bosses, you want to take advantage of the situation that you’re in. To do that you want to pull the mob with Shadow Bolt so that its cast time isn’t “wasted” time during combat. Follow that up by applying both of your DoT’s. I prefer to cast UA before Corr because the cast time is at least partially absorbed by the take it takes Shadow Bolt to travel from you to the target. There are two options for your Filler Spell: Drain Life and Shadow Bolt. If you’re wearing heirloom gear, then I suggest you use Drain Life because chances are you’re dealing enough damage with everything else that the target’s going to be dead before a Shadow Bolt could finish casting (unless it’s a boss fight). If you’re just wearing quest rewards, then I suggest you use Shadow Bolt as your filler instead so that you can get bigger bursts of damage in to help bring down the mobs.

Multi-Target For killing multiple targets, you want to establish your DoT’s on as many targets as possible and then utilize an AoE. Rain of Fire is a class spell so you’ll have access to it as long as you’re high enough level, while Harvest Life is a level 15 talent spell so you’ll only have access to it if that’s what you take as your first talent. I really like Harvest Life, so I take it in all of my Warlock specs at the moment; the damage is good, the healing is decent, and the mana cost is cheap. If you get into a bind and those multiple mobs are trying to eat your face, just Soul Burn and then Harvest Life and watch those healing numbers start flying by.

Talent Points

  • Harvest Life: Drains the life from all enemies within 15 yards of the target, causing Shadow damage and restoring 3-4.5% of the caster’s total health every 1 sec for 6 seconds. [Soulburn: Healing increased by 33.3%.]
  • Mortal Coil: Causes the enemy target to run in horror for 3 sec. The caster restores 15% of their maximum health.

Harvest Life replaces Drain Life when you take it, but it’s an AoE version of the spell. I most often use this as my filler spell when I’ve already got DoT’s established on my targets and I’m just waiting for them to get down to 20% health so that I can Drain Soul and finish them off. It only heals you for 33.3% instead of Drain Life’s 50%, but keep in mind you’re hitting multiple targets with it now too. If you prefer to level by facing single targets, then this probably isn’t the talent for you and I would recommend Dark Regeneration instead as Drain Life would be the more effective spell.

Mortal Coil is an instant Fear that also heals you for 15% of your max health making this a great tool both offensively and defensively. Personally, I actually use Shadowfury instead, because I’m real big on AoE as I’ve said before, and I also like to PvP so being able to stun multiple targets at once and do it instantly is more appealing to me. Which one you use is up to you, Mortal Coil is technically the “better” choice between the two, I just prefer to use Shadowfury myself.

Oddly, Affliction doesn’t have a whole lot of glyph choices that really thrill me. They don’t do much to help your damage output, at least not at this level, but they do at least offer a bit more survivability.

Major Glyphs

  • Glyph of Siphon Life: Your Corruption spell will heal you for 20% of the damage dealt.
  • Glyph of Demon Training: Improves your demon’s special abilities: Your Imp’s Firebolt cast time is reduced by 50% and fires in bursts of three. Increases your Voidwalker’s total armor by 10%. Your Succubus’s Seduction ability also removes all damage over time effects from the target. When your Felhunter uses Devour Magic, you will also be healed for that amount. Increases your Felguard’s total health by 20%.
  • Glyph of Soul Shards: Increases your maximum Soul Shards by 1.

The first major glyph that I suggest is Siphon Life which will cause your primary DoT to also heal you for 20% of its damage. That might not seem like much if you’re fighting one target at a time, but get Corruption up on 5-10 mobs at once and watch that healing roll in.

Demon Training makes your pets a bit more effective. Your Voidwalker will be able to tank better, your Succubus will be able to use her Seduction without having to worry about DoT’s breaking the target out early, and your Felhunter will be able to heal himself every time he eats an opponent’s buff.

Soul Shards increases your maximum Soul Shard count from 3 to 4. At this level you probably aren’t using Soulburn enough to justify having the three you get by default, but in case you just love burning those souls then this is the glyph for you.

Minor Glyphs

As usual in MoP, minor glyphs don’t really do a whole lot for you. Nightmares in my favorite since there actually are some times that being able to walk on water will save you time. You do have to be riding your Felsteed/Dreadsteed in order for it to work, but considering those are two of the coolest mounts in the game that’s not really a drawback.

Health Funnel is one you might consider if you do find that your demons are always taking a lot of damage. You can probably get more useful healing out of using Soulburn: Health Funnel than just this glyph, but the two together can put out a lot of healing in a short amount of time as well.

Unending Breath makes you swim faster, which is kind of cool. Most of the times that you’ll need to go underwater in today’s Azeroth though will provide you with a way to breath underwater by default and most of them also include an increase to movement speed. Not all of them do though, so it does still serve some purpose even if it’s small.

Gearing Up Your Affliction Warlock
Since you’re playing a caster, you’ll shoot for typical caster related stats. However, since your damage is based on DoT’s rather than direct damage, you’ll prioritize Haste as your secondary stat.

Intellect >= Spell Power > Haste > Crit

Since it’s something I’m known for, let me also give you a link to Cloth section of my Heirlooms Guide.



10 responses to “Warlock Leveling: 1-30 Affliction

  1. Green Armadillo

    January 24, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    “Frost Mages get to pretend to be cool, but when you get right down to it the Warlock is where it’s at”

    I don’t know the temperature of green fire compared to freezing yourself in a block of ice so you can survive for at least 8 seconds against a Warlock, so this statement might not be literally correct.

    That quibble aside, I can agree. Being a Warlock is like being a mage except that mages have to rely on snaring, kiting, freezing, and generally running around like a crazy person to avoid being squished. Warlocks have NPC pets to do all of that automatically for them while they sit around and regenerate health for their trouble. :P

  2. grimdem

    April 27, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    Great stuff. Is there a post for 30-60 etc. I have a early 50’s lock on the way up.

    • Psynister

      April 30, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      Not yet. I’ve been swamped with critical projects at work for the last few months that has reduced my play time as well as my blogging time. I do intend to write the 30-60 guide, I just haven’t had time.

  3. Rick Farris

    June 26, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    What about this part: “I did eventually find a spec that really felt right to me, and we’ll discus that as well….” At least tell us which spec it was!

    • Psynister

      June 27, 2013 at 8:21 AM

      It’s a little thing I like to call “Demonology”. I may or may not get around to writing the guide for that depending on whether or not we get back into playing WoW again and I have time for my blogging to keep up with my gaming without the nerves in my hands wanting to kill me.

      • Rick Farris

        June 27, 2013 at 11:29 AM

        Really? Demo as a leveling spec? Starting at 10, or at 50 when (as I remember) you pick up the cool pet?

        • Psynister

          June 27, 2013 at 11:40 AM

          You get the Felguard at 42, but the pet isn’t even the important part. Level 10 Metamorphasis is a big deal on its own, but there’s also the Glyph of Demon Hunting which gives you a psuedo-tanking form to take on that also adds some very nice DPS options.

          Demo will start off feeling magey with the shadowbolt spam, but then you pop into demon form and start flinging instant damage around and it’s much better. Then when you activate that glyph you get basically a partial version of demon form that has no duration so you just keep the form active at all times. That gives you some burst dps as well as instant cast options, and it just gets better the more levels you gain. You’ll kill crap so quick that having a pet around won’t even matter for most fights.

          Once you do get the Felguard though, it’s hello AoE heaven as you have him start using his AoE on top of your own AoE and it’s a beautiful thing.

          • Rick Farris

            June 27, 2013 at 12:40 PM

            Alrighty then. I’ll try out Demo. I’m starting my first alliance side toons. I’ve got all 11 classes at 90 on the horde side and I’ve played both destro and affliction on my warlock, but I’ve never played demo. Demo it is.

        • Psynister

          June 27, 2013 at 1:18 PM

          Destro isn’t too bad for leveling too, but it’s very magey basically the entire time, and it feels sort of…stale at certain points in the lower levels where you don’t have access to any of Destro’s tools yet. It’s not bad, but it had a similar feel of something lacking that Affliction did to me. Around the level 60 mark and beyond, all of the specs feel like they work well and flow well, but at low levels things just feel a bit off. That’s my experience, at least.

  4. alethiar

    July 11, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    I’m somewhat late to the party, as always! However, this was a very serendipitous post as far as I’m concerned. I finally got my Warlock alt to 90, (Demonology/Destruction) and am currently working on the green fire boss. I loved the experience of Warlocking so much that I decided I would use what little free time I have to level another baby Warlock, going Affliction this time.

    This post provides just the guidance I needed to really get into the swing of things. Thank you so much for writing it.


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