Walk With Me in Hell: The Warlock's Guide
Since Malkonnen's guide has not been updated in a while, missing material from several Dragon magazines and, most importantly, the Essentials books, this guide is meant as a spiritual successor to The Power of the Dark Side: The Warlock's Handbook, and much credit will be given to him for its role in this guide's creation.
Credit will also be given to several others:
LordDuskblade for the handbook format that's now taken for granted here;
Zelink551 for the encouragement;
Malkonnen as mentioned above for the (excellent) original guide and the inspiration for this guide;
anyone here who posts with honest opinions. I need 'em. :p
As a Warlock, you belong in the realm of the Arcane Striker, a designation you share with your AOE-centric cousin, the Sorcerer. However, the two classes are monumentally different. You fit more along the lines of the Ranger, of which you share the same Player's Handbook: instead of focusing on AOE DPR, you go instead for single-target heavy damage, with a huge bent on Controller abilities. Indeed, you are second-to-none in this regard, acting as an excellent single-target Controller while putting down solid damage to honor your original intent.
How you work as a Striker is also rather unique. Your power grows as enemies fall to their deaths, giving you special abilities and boosts depending on the Pact you sign with. You also share the "Quarry" feature of the Ranger in the Warlock's Curse; however, the Curse is arguably much more powerful than Hunter's Quarry, as the damage bonus component can be boosted to absurd numbers, on top of several feats and items that can give you incredibly nice boosts, such as automatic combat advantage, defensive boosts in convenient equipment slots, and accuracy boosts.
Before I get into the Striker Traits, you may be seeing a lot of colors in this guide. On features, powers, feats and the like, you'll be seeing these colors, adopted and borrowed from LordDuskblade's handbooks:
Light Blue (very good, or at least worth serious consideration)
Blue (good, though probably not excellent)
Black (middle-of-the-road, but not bad)
Purple (mediocre, or build specific)
Red (terrible or otherwise not recommended)
Green (no rating, shows emphasis)
So, to clarify how you compare with other Strikers:
- Alpha Striking: Unfortunately, this kinda isn't your best suit. A common characteristic of 4e Strikers is multiple attacks in one round, out-of-turn attacks, or "zone abuse". While you're decent at the second and OK in the third, the first of this list is not something you really do. On top of which, your Curse only works once per turn, and your Encounters and Dailies do not do significant damage over your At-Wills, so that's regretable.
- Damage/Round (DPR): This is an area you're quite a bit better at, especially since Arcane Power and several trains of Dragon Magazines have come out. Prime Shot really helps here, since you ride more on accuracy than straight damage rolls, and starting at level 9 or thereabouts, whenever Shadow Warlock Armor comes into play, automatic combat advantage nearly every round is quite awesome.
- Debilitating Effects: Though again, you work more in the single-target range, what you can sling around in regards to Controller abilities is phenomenal. You run the gamut from teleportation, to daze, stun, immobilize, dominate, and even attack dissuasion - eliminating yourself from the board as a legitimate option to attack does help in several ways. Charisma-based Warlocks come close to gold in this field.
- Survivability: As the first of only two Constitution-primary (if you so choose) classes in the game, you can choose to be one of the healthiest Strikers in the business, with a solid stockade of hitpoints and healing surges. On-demand Concealment also tends to help you a lot, on top of the propensity to stay five to ten squares away from everything you want to hit (having a Defender blocking the enemy's path to your face tends to work quite well for you). Charisma'locks are a little worse, but can still pull some strings to keep themselves out of danger. Being stuck in Leather armor could be a little bit of an issue, especially if your race doesn't get a bonus to Intelligence, but you can manage, especially as a lot of neat enchantments are contained in Leather.
- Targeting Capacity: Another advantage of being a ranged combatant is the freedom of choice as to what you want to hit. And especially as you gain a bonus to defenses just for shimmying along in the battlefield, you can stray inwards a little bit to gain your Prime Shot bonus and ruin a monster's day. Several facets of the Warlock also rely on teleportation, which also helps a lot with mobility, but some Warlocks may not want to get too much in danger to force their Prime Shot to activate, especially with melee-focused allies.
The Hexblade and Binder - I'll Cast a Shadow
Luckily, handbooks already exist for the two Essentials daughter classes. They may be slightly outdated, but barring suggestion for an updated version of either, I will present these guides, written by LordVentnor and Malisteen, respectively.