A Handbook to Warlocks as Pure Strikers
I am writing this guide because I'm tired of seeing questions about "why does my warlock's damage suck?" and "what can I do to put out good damage as a warlock?" The fact that most warlock builds put out less damage than many non-strikers doesn't mean that warlocks can't be good strikers. Warlocks can be good strikers, but they need specialized builds to become good strikers. Because warlocks need specialized builds to do good damage, general guides don't serve the warlock class as well as they do for other strikers. This is where the current guide comes into play. If you are interested in more of the control aspects of the warlock, I highly recommend Malkonnen's excellent general guide to warlocks
This guide is going to first lay out the problem, then lay out the reasons for it, and then it will lay out solutions for the problem.
This Handbook will use the following system for ratings:
- Red: A very weak choice, or one completely overshadowed by another.
- Purple: A sub-par, situationally useful, or heavily build-specific choice.
- Black: A middle of the road choice. Not bad, but not great either.
- Blue: A very good choice.
- Sky Blue: The optimal choice.
All ratings are based on damage. Other guides, such as Malkonnen's excellent guide, should be used if you want a more well-rounded treatment of the warlock class. I am very open to discussion, and am glad to add or reconsidering anything you guys find that I have overlooked.
This Handbook covers the following sources:
- AP - Arcane Power
- AV - Adventurer's Vault
- AV2 - Adventurer's Vault 2 (in progress)
- DP - Divine Power
- D### - Dragon Magazine, issue ###
- DMG - Dungeon Master's Guide
- DMG2 - Dungeon Master's Guide 2
- EPG - Eberron Player's Guide
- FRPG - Forgotten Realms Player's Guide
- MM - Monster Manual
- MM2 - Monster Manual 2
- MOTP - Manual of the Planes
- MP - Martial Power
- PHB - Player's Handbook
- PHB2 - Player's Handbook 2
- PHH# - Player's Handbook Heroes - Series # (the cards in with the new miniatures line)
- Cha'lock - A Warlock who focuses on Charisma for a primary stat including Fey Pact Warlocks, Dark Pact Warlocks, and some Star Pact Warlocks.
- Con'lock - A Warlock who focuses on Constitution for a primary stat including Infernal Pact Warlocks, Vestige Pact Warlocks, and some Star Pact Warlocks.
- Dark'lock - A Dark Pact Warlock.
- DPR - Damage Per Round refers to the average damage you will do factoring chance to hit, average damage on a hit, miss and critical hit. The measuring stick for Strikers.
- Star'lock - A Star Pact Warlock.
- Fey'lock - A Fey Pact Warlock.
- Hell'lock - An Infernal Pact Warlock.
- Vestige'lock - A Vestige Pact Warlock.
- DIS - An acronym for Dual Implement Spellcaster, a feat that will get referenced a lot.
- AIP - An acronym for Arcane Implement Proficiency, a feat that will get referenced a lot.
- THP- An acronym for temporary hit points, which are your friends.
Acknowledgements: Malkonnen's excellent general guide to warlocks, from which I've shamelessly stolen. Crimson_Lancer for opening my eyes to the possibilities of the warlock. Lordduskblade for the gold standard of handbook formatting.
Do warlocks actually do poor damage?
I've seen this question asked many times, and the answer is complicated. If built and played like other classes, warlocks put out poor damage. Most classes by mid paragon play something like this: rounds 1 to 5 spend all four encounter powers, and maybe spend 1 daily. Rounds 5+ use at-wills. This means that for most classes, their damage is coming primarily from encounter powers, with at-wills and dailies supplementing their encounter powers. Let's compare a warlock to another single-target striker class whose damage is obvious: the barbarian. For this analysis, I'm going to exclude all magical items, all feats, and leave stats at optimized level 1 values.
The most damaging level 1 barbarian encounter power is Avalanche Strike, which does 3W+str+con (for Ragebloods). As barbarians use big 1d12 or 2d6 weapons and there are str and con races (like goliaths), this is typically 3d12+4+4= 27.5 damage.
Warlocks have no encounter power that can even match this damage until level 17, with Your Delectable Pain doing 4d8+ 2d6 (curse) +4 (charisma)= 29 damage. Yes, you read that right: the base damage of the most damaging warlock encounter powers doesn't even match the base damage of the most damaging level 1 barbarian encounter power UNTIL LEVEL 17.
In short, a warlock, if designed and played like other strikers, will be at least whole tier behind in damage.
Why does my warlock's damage suck?
There are three reasons why warlocks typically do less damage than other strikers
First, warlocks were designed with a large focus on control. So although they get the striker label, most builds are at least half controller. This focus on control, in part, accounts for the relatively poor damage output of warlock encounters and dailies.
Second, warlocks are primarily designed to be lurkers, unlike all other striker classes, which are all artillery (e.g., sorcerers), skirmishers (e.g., rogues) or brutes (e.g., barbarians). Lurkers are hard to kill because they're evasive. Lurkers also don't do as much damage as other strikers, making lurker fights long, drawn out affairs. This is of course, fine and dandy for monsters, but players are in a party, which might not be able to compensate for the long drawn out style that warlocks, as lurkers, were designed to use.
Lastly, warlock damage can suck because designing and playing a damaging warlock is much more complicated than with any other striker. Previous guides unfortunately haven't really helped a whole lot in this regard because they focused on optimizing the class in a straightforward way, like you would any other class. This approach, although sensible, puts a good deal of controller into a build, and doesn't adequately address the class-specific methods for making the warlock into a good striker.