First WoW Class Overhaul: Redefining the Warlock Class in World of Warcraft

Picture of Alexander Brazie

Alexander Brazie

Alexander is a game designer with 25+ years of experience in both AAA and indie studios, having worked on titles like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Ori and The Will of The Wisps. His insights and lessons from roles at Riot and Blizzard are shared through his post-mortems and game design course. You can follow him on Twitter @Xelnath or LinkedIn.

Game: World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
Game Element: Warlock Class Overhaul
Discipline: Class Design

Today, we’ll delve into the intricate world of class quests as we explore their rarity, significance, and the art of executing them flawlessly.

Class-specific quests offer players a truly extraordinary experience tailored to their unique abilities and fantasies.

Find out what reward we chose to incentivize participating in this quest line.

A close mentor of mine asked me to explain to him why the MoP Warlock was such a polarizing and dramatic creation – and how it came to be.

For the last two expansions, I’ve sat back and observed as changes were made to the class – an inevitable, necessary thing – and by watching, realized which lessons applied to the MoP Warlock survived and which ones were lost in the noise.

While change is inevitable, the core changes that were thrown away all matched a particular theme.

That at a fundamental level, the changes did not remain in harmony with the underlying ‘minigame’ that existed for each spec – nor did they pursue a goal of replacing one ‘minigame’ with a new one.

Ultimately, however, I am not the judge nor the audience of a class rework or update any longer.

Only you, the players, can decide if the changes are appealing or unappealing.

So let’s talk about what existed, how it came to be, and what the spirit of each spec was meant to represent.

Perhaps you’ll even come to realize what it was that enjoyed and miss – or be able to teach me about what they did that was so vital and important that I didn’t understand.

First, though you need to know why this rework came to be – and the risks taken by Blizzard during its creation.

Credit: Lowly Lowly


Why did I decide to overhaul the Warlock class?  The answer, in a word, is Cynwise.

Cynwise, for more recent players, was a uniquely inspiring blog writer.

His ability to deeply understand and convey the problems of the Warlock class were unparalleled and reveal a deeply rooted problem with World of Warcraft’s design – which was that we couldn’t add new skills forever.

At a certain level, most of the design team understood this – but it was the Warlock which was the first class to break the upper limit so severely that the class’ playrate dropped, becoming 42% less popular than other classes from Wrath of the Lich King into Cataclysm.

Cynwise’s brilliant articles on this topic are archived here.

I highly recommend the read for anyone who wants to deeply understand the human relationship between complexity and gameplay.

After reading his articles, it became clear to me that only dramatic and significant effort could restore the class in the eyes of the playerbase.

It was too complex, too unwieldy – and too much same across specialization.

When I spoke with the Warlock designer at the time, who had just been assigned the responsibility of creating the Monk class from scratch – it became apparent that he was burned out trying to keep the identities of Shadow Priest and Warlock unique and overwhelmed with work load with Monk.

So I privately approached Ghostcrawler (who is one of the kindest guys you’ll ever meet).

Ghostcrawler and I had worked together heavily on the Death Knight – and I asked him if I could take a crack at proposing some changes to the Warlock class for Pandaria.

He hesitated for a moment, but said that if the current Warlock designer was OK with the direction of the changes, he would get all of the resources needed to revitalize the class.

The Warlock designer, relieved to have one less thing to worry about, enthusiastically encouraged me to take a shot at it.

However, he warned me, the Warlock community was very sensitive to changes and didn’t trust us very much – a minefield that we would need to handle delicately.

With that encouragement and admonition, I planned a path to balance both the needs of the game with the needs of the players

unnamed file
Credit: WoW Head

Convening the Council

Prior to Mists of Pandaria, I served Blizzard as a Raid, Dungeon and Encounter designer.

This meant that my role was focused on creating opportunities for players to USE tools, rather than create the player’s toolkit themselves.

While, I did a majority of the talent tree work for Death Knight, directed by Ghostcrawler and with the support of Kris Zierhut, I had never done serious class work before.

I knew if I tried to navigate these waters alone, I would miss the mark.

Rebuilding a class is far more difficult than creating a new one for 2 reasons:

  1. You have years of expectations and baggage to overcome
  2. You will inevitably need to remove someone’s favorite feature

After pulling my manager at the time into a private room, I told him my plan:

I intended to subvert Blizzard’s wall of silence policy – selecting talented and insightful members of the Warlock community, with whom I had built relationships during my Raid design days, and reveal the full scope of the rework plans from day 0.

I believed that in exchange for the risk of having our plans leaked early, the benefit of having direct player feedback and transparency would enable us to pull off this near-impossible task.

With a look of worry on his face, he put his hand on my shoulder and said:  “I believe what you describe is exactly how we should be designing at Blizzard – with steady feedback and input from a group of trusted and respectful players – but this isn’t how we do things right now – only a hand picked group of designers are allowed to reveal that they are designers at Blizzard publically – and if you get outed for it, I cannot protect you from the consequences.”

I told him that I understood – and hoped Blizzard would begin to catch up with its competitors and embrace the power of transparent, direct community interaction, such as through Twitter and other media form.

Black Harvest BannerThe Council

I selected 6 long-time Warlock players to join a secret email list.

These players, or at least the ones who replied consistently, would later be memorialized as the member of the Black Harvest.

They swore an oath to keep the discussions – no matter how heated or controversial – confidential to the email list until the rework was released to the public.

Much to my surprise – they did.

Incredibly eager to help – and frequently challenging both my ideas and my math – their regular, consistent feedback shaped the game as it was soon to become.

Putting Fantasy First

World of Warcraft is a game of fantasies. Power curves, cinematic experiences, strategic and intellectual challenges, all shaped to reinforce a core identity.

The mighty Warrior, the evasive, all powerful Mage, the stealthy and duplicitous Rogue.

The first, most pointed bits of feedback from both the Council and Cynwise was that the 3 specializations no longer embodied the fantasies the names conveyed.

  • Affliction
  • Demonology
  • Destruction

All three had become muddled and stuck around this generic idea of a ‘DoTs’ (Damage over Time effects) and ‘Pet’ class.

All three specs felt the same.

This became the cornerstone of the rework. How do we create an experience that strongly links the player to the fantasy?

Well, first, you have to identify the fantasies.

Shaper of Fantasy

Sitting down, I stepped back from the class as it was.

I was at peace with the idea that things needed to be changed – but without a goal and direction, the shape of the work would continue to be muddled and inconsistent.

What were the underlying fantasies of each spec?

  • Affliction – pain and suffering
  • Demonology – power and pets
  • Destruction – raw, unrestrained force

As a long-time Warlock player, these concepts made sense to me, but alone, they are not enough:

The greatest game designs happen when the fantasies and the game mechanics align.

dims 1

Feedback from the Hammer

I sat down with Indalamar, aka Travis Day, to talk to him about this insight.

Travis, then an item designer, confirmed that the fantasy alignment was way off – but didn’t feel there was room to change things without a ton of work.

Indalamar: “When I picked Affliction as my favorite spec, I did it because I wanted to focus on DoTs. Pain, suffering, agony, this is what that spec was about.

However, for some reason, that specialization has the fewest DoTs now – and …. destruction has the most instead?

I don’t get how that happened. It just doesn’t even make sense.”

Me: “What do you WANT to be doing?”

Indalamar: “I picked that spec to be a juggler.

To handle lots of things running across as many targets at one time as I can handle.”

Me: “What about the rest?”

Indalamar: “I don’t know… but I do know that they just don’t make sense at all.

I have no clue what I’m trying to achieve.”

His words lingered with me after I left his office.

What was missing?

Stripping it down

My goal was to align mechanic and fantasy.

This meant untangling all of the noise and garbage that had built up around the class since its release in November 2004.

I began with a simple mission.

If I could keep only five things from the class for each spec, what would be left?

What so strongly contained the essence of that playstyle that nothing else mattered?

For Affliction it was easy:

  • Corruption
  • Agony
  • Unstable Affliction
  • Fear
  • Drain Life / Soul

This created the core play loop – and the fantasy of that spec. Indalamar’s words also resonated through this design.

You use ‘Fear’ to push enemies away, while keeping the other effects running on the target.

While that target fled, you ‘juggled’ another monster, DoTing them up and pushing them away again.

Your skill as an Affliction Warlock was defined by this ability to manage timing, target limits and pressure.

For Destruction, it was a bit harder:Picture1

  • Immolate – set them on fire
  • Incinerate – burn them down
  • Conflagrate – at the last second
  • Rain of Fire – burn everything as much as possible
  • Chaos Bolt…. uhm…. because it looked cool, I guess?

There many other spells used by destruction warlocks at the time. However, as I looked at them… they all felt the same.

There was so much to deal with, but all of it came down to the same player story:

“The game is telling you to push this button now. So you better push it right now – or you’re going to be ineffective”.

This troubled me heavily. While Warcraft was meant to a game to be skillfully played, the layers of complexity here were too harsh.

Destruction – class focused on the simple task of “Blowing things up” was instead a class of “Simon Says”.

So I sent my intention to find a new story or minigame for Destruction.

Finally Demonology:

  • Summon Demon Pet
  • Empower demon
  • Metamorphosis
  • … oh

When I really cut the noise away from Demonology, I realized its problem. Its core was completely uninteractive.

There were plenty of buttons to push – but they were again ‘set it and forget it’ type of effects.

Everything else kind of happened ‘around’ you.

You didn’t have any strategic agency, except for deciding when to swap pets or when to push Metamorphosis – your big cooldown.

So I asked myself:  What is at the heart of being a big, scary demonic overlord?

  • Being Tough
  • Being Unstoppable
  • Sacrificing your minions to save you

That was when I realized: These are the fantasies of a Tanking class, not a DPS class.

Ah, shit.

The Games of War

This is when I stepped back and asked myself a question:  What does playing Warcraft feel like at a physical level?

dimsWhen working on Death Knight, the answer was ‘this feels a lot like playing Guitar Hero’ – the first version of the Rune resource system did not give any wiggle room.

You had to precisely hit the pattern you had the first time to maximize output.

This was why Kris and I added a small over-charge window, which allowed you to be more flexible with your rune expenditures.

Affliction, with its constant in-game fear attacks, along with stacking, clipping and rolling DoTs, felt like juggling.

This lead me to explore the basic games that compose WoW:

  • DoTs/Fear – juggling
  • Crowd Control – multi-tasking
  • Proc (Periodically triggered instructions) – simon says
  • Death Knight Runes – Guitar Hero
  • Rogue combo points – musical sequences / piano
  • Warrior rage dumps – playing drums (repeat the same base buttons with the occasional rapid dump) and firing water guns
  • Fire mage – playing the slot machine (RNG based rolling ignite damage)

This inspired me to think about creating a physical feeling for the core casting rotation, rather than just a bunch of spell buttons.

This lead to the Destruction plan.

wowdestrowarlock large

The Music of Destruction

If Affliction was all about maintenance and juggling – what if Destruction was the opposite: A rhythmic, consistent core rotation, like playing a musical harmony?

This is what the Immolate, Incinerate repeatedly, Conflagrate button loop encouraged anyways. So I leaned into this *even harder*.

The base Warlock design was this:

  • Fire shadowbolts and DoTs
  • Run low on mana
  • Convert life into mana
  • Restore health with fear + drain life
  • Repeat

However, this loop was horrible experience in WoW Alpha. It was merely a matter of time before a Warlock defeated any player while the other player was unable to respond.

There are few things as anti-fun as long periods of agency free gameplay.

So this loop was repeatedly undermined.

Bringing it back at full strength was not an option – but the concept inspired me.

I bounced this idea off of the council:

What if destruction warlocks had very consistent core loops, but the more spells they cast,  the more ‘charged up’ and ‘on fire’ they became – harming themselves until they released their excess power.

The reaction was curious and electric – though they cautioned wisely – “how will you afford to use Life Tap if you’re already burning your health away?”

To which I said:  “Well, why do you need to Life Tap at all?”

Following the path we were on, I inverted the Warlock model for Destruction.

What if, instead of needing to focus on mana management, the Destruction Warlock was focused on Health management only?

Removing the mana bar entirely, the more spells, the Destruction Warlock cast, the hotter her ‘Fire’ bar became, increasing the damage she dealt to her self.

I commissioned 3 visual effects – a small fire at the warlock’s feet, one up to the waist – and finally, one that fully embodied the Warlock.

While levels 1 and 2 did minor damage, three was devastating and needed to be exited as quickly as possible.

Finally, huge pay-outs were needed for taking the risk of leaving yourself on fire for long.

Chaos Bolt was converted to fire an additional missile for each ‘level’ of Burning you reached.

However, while running around the world, if you happened to reach level 3 without an enemies around… you stood around just burning to death.

So, I added ‘Ember Tap’ which consumed all of your Burning levels and healed you.  (Remember, Destruction was supposed to be a ‘backward’ Warlock)

This lead to a very appealing decision point – do I heal myself to keep going – or do I unleash my damage in one huge burst to defeat the enemy?

The light bulb went on – here was a way to create a moment of agency inside the musical notes of Destruction.

This worked well for the solo experience. It was fun to take the risk of raising your ember levels as high as possible, then purging them off at the last second or blowing up one last enemy quickly.

However, two major problems remain:

  1. Without a mana bar, the best way to play was to never stop casting
    • This causes major issues in Raids – as demonstrated by Arcane Mage missile turretting
    • Players do not engage themselves with the world, focusing entirely on a perfectly played button spamming sequence
  2. Cooperative play became confusing for allies
    • Healers, used to Warlock life tap antics, were used to seeing a slowly draining Warlock health bar, then taking action to save them.
    • Now, the Warlock’s HP would be dropping, then he would instantly be full again.

Enter Chaotic Energy

The problem of being utterly ruined by constant movement during a Raid encounter was one close to my heart.  It was a problem often experienced by caster classes – and one of the reasons I played a Warlock.

The baseline Warlock could run from place to place and use those precious repositioning seconds to Life Tap (An instantaneous spell which had a 1.5 second cooldown and can be cast while moving) – allowing her to optimize while moving.

Without a mana bar, she was encouraged to remain immobilized – which is a huge problem in both raids and PvP.

Fortunately, this is a solved problem.

Meet the Rogue.

Rogues – one of the most mobile classes in Warcraft. The nature of rogue is simple – your energy bar fills up every 10 seconds.

Your abilities cost 40-60 energy and fire instantly.

This creates a beautiful, natural tension: You want to use your abilities before your bar is full – and you want to never be completely empty, in case a situation occurs where you want to use an ability right away.

This is easily the best resource system in Warcraft.

The wise observer will even realize that Death Knights are just 6 energy bars and a rage bar.

Energy doesn’t penalize small amounts of latency, penalizes long periods of inaction, creates moments of decision (particularly with combo points) and keeps the player connected to the action of the game world.

So why was this model never used for a caster resource system?

The longer I looked at it, the more I realized this an ideal solution for the day-to-day woes of most caster classes.

Every other class came up with some way of addressing what was ultimate a core mana problem.

  • Mages got instant relocation (blink) along with many mana regeneration tools.
  • Balance druids got innervate to passively surge up manage without breaking their stride.
  • Elemental Shaman got mana totems to recharge them and their team.
  • Shadow Priests innately regenerated mana from dealing damage.
  • Warlocks had life tap.

What if instead of being constrained by the mana game – we fundamentally changed it.

Would this even work?

So Enter Chaotic Energy – it increased the mana costs of all spell massively, eliminated life tap – but caused your mana pool to refill completely every 20 seconds.

A Post Mana World

What happened?  Total chaos.

On my first pass, you would run out of mana quickly… press your ember tap or chaos bolt… then sit there and do nothing.

That felt terrible.

When you run into a wall, you have three options

  1. Turn around and go back
  2. Find a clever way around the wall
  3. Destroy the wall

It felt very likely that anyone else who reached this point likely threw up their hands and retreated. The WoW class design was regularly under immense pressure – each designer handled 3 or 4 classes.

Multiply that with 3 (or 4 specs in the case of Druid) – and there’s only so much time you can commit to solving these kinds of problems.

However, I wasn’t under that kind of constraint.

During MoP, I had been moved of the Raid and Quest teams to develop Warcraft Pet Battles – which had long periods of downtime while engineers built the core technology.

This was just the kind of time needed to really dig in and see if the ‘mana energy’ problem was innately flawed – or hiding a potential gameplay gem.


During the overhauling process, I cleaned out the class and made impactful changes to the class, emphasizing its theme and fantasy with great intensity.

However, I soon realized that the magnitude of the changes exceeded what I could accomplish on my own, resulting in the demonology spec lacking a coherent vision and identity.

There are 3 specs per class for those of you who haven’t played WoW.

This experience taught me the importance of having a strong and cohesive vision that can inspire and invigorate players, even if it initially intimidates or displeases them.

As a result, in Mists of Pandaria, we witnessed a remarkable influx of new players into the Warlock class, breathing new life into its essence and revitalizing its appeal.

To this day, more than a decade after I did this warlock overhaul, I still get nostalgic and thankful emails and presents from warlock players.

This show that when you make an immersive experience that connects with the players, they will remember.

By the way…

If you enjoyed reading this post-mortem, here are the upcoming learning resources we’re planning to release including post-mortems, guides, fireside chats, and courses by other industry practitioners and I.

And if you need to develop the skills to get hired or level up your career as a professional game designer, here are 2 ways you can accelerate your learning curve:

  1. Join Funsmith Club Discord and get feedback on your game project, career decisions, job hunting process from game developers of all skill levels, including myself.
  2. Use the Game Design Skill Development Program to acquire the practical design analysis and decision-making skills and framework I’ve used to
    • Revamp the Warlock class into the best player-rated version through all of the World of Warcraft expansion packs.
    • Redesign the champion Xerath, support system, and ward system in League of Legends.
    • Train and mentor junior designers in Riot Games.
    • Design enemies, combat, and the UI for the Ori and The Will of The Wisps (Average 92.8/100 ratings by 23 top game rating sites).

… Continued to the next part here →

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29 Responses

  1. I think it’s cool you guys had a ‘secret council’, even if I wasn’t in it. ;p

    Tbh I like the idea of the devs reaching out to the players for feedback, I’ll admit though that I’ve always been a player who has appreciated and enjoyed interesting themes more than raw mechanics. Sometimes it feels like mechanics take precedence though, particularly where raiding is concerned.

    Would you say this is true? It always seemed like a brutish, necessary evil from my perspective.

    1. Job #1 is to create the ‘feel’ of the class or spec. Job #2 is to make the balance work. Sometimes #1 is so broken that #2 can’t happen. That’s when you have to pull out the cutting knife.

      I agree – recently I’ve seen more Devs reaching out to communicate with the players. I think this is healthy and appropriate. (Also, the secret council felt thematically appropriate ;P)

  2. This is a great read and highly interesting. Thank you for putting in the effort to describe my (and many others) most beloved iteration of the Warlock class design. I am especially interested in what made you give Destruction Warlocks so many instant casts. I loved it!

    1. Was there that many? Fel Flame… Conflag… Ember Tap… Chaos Bolt, Immolate, Incinerate was nukes and the majority of the damage. Which ones am I missing?

  3. Xelnath I appreciate the article but you need a copy article. The past tense of “to lead” is “led”, not “lead” (pronounced like the metal).

    2 line breaks after the Cynwise link the section that reads “and too much same across specialization” should have a “the” between “much” and “same”.


  4. This was a good and interesting read. I have and still play my Warlock from the very beginning to this day and I feel that while a lot of classes have lost much of their identity, Warlock has been hit really hard, especially with the addition of classes like Demon Hunter that have taken some of the fundamentals of the Warlock away. Repetitive ability pruning is another example of why Warlocks have lost a lot of their identity. I understood the first round of pruning, there were simply too many buttons. Anyone who played the game at a molecular level had to decide which macros they wanted to have on their bars at any given time, unless they had addons. After WoD I don’t really think it was necessary to further reduce the mechanics and abilities of our classes.

    I will say that I didn’t think the Mists of Pandaria Warlock was perfect, but I think you captured the identity of a Warlock pretty well with your changes. The way the specs were played, and things like the green fire quest were a real testament to what a Warlock should be.

    Thank you for posting this, and thank you for your work on the Warlock class.

    1. Thank you, Xoja.

      I like to joke that Demonology warlocks weren’t changed – they were just too cool to be limited to 1/3rd of a class. So now they are 3 specs of their own 🙂

  5. Hmm, maybe it’s true. During legion’s development it didn’t feel like there was any communication at all tbh. It might be different now though.

    I think you were right about demo’s theme essentially being a tank’s theme. I read Cynwise’s article about how early in MoP’s dev there was speculation that demo would become a tank tree and make warlocks into a hybrid class. I was one of the people who wanted to see warlock become a hybrid; I loved meta but loved dark apotheosis more.

    I remember back in vanilla each spec had an underpinning theme, where the idea was that the warlock sacrificed one aspect of the class to achieve something extreme. Destro was extreme burst, demo was extreme survivability, and aff was extreme sustain. Nobody could outburst a destrolock, nobody could outlast an afflock, and outside of legit tanks, nobody was more durable than the demolock. This is sort of what put that spec on the outs, its only place was in questing, pvp other and the occasional gimmick encounter. It was a tank on the outside but not on the inside.

    It was for this reason that dark apotheosis felt more like my vanilla warlock (plus all the thematic advancements and mechanic refining) than anything since.

    1. Yes. That was the goal – and I’ll circle around to the mistakes I made in Demo’s creation.

  6. Thanks for so many useful insights. As the next expansion approaches many of the situations mentioned above repeat once more and, especially for a handful of specs that are in a not-so-good state, it really helps to read insights like that to know how to better characterize problems to provide better feedback to the Devs in charge of expansion changes.

    One question about styles of systems, in a world now that we have dungeon balancing as important as raids, do you think there is a way to make a cooldown that requires build up, or ramp up time to be able as the base of a spec’s core gameplay and still feel rewarding to the player using it?

    1. Stacking. That’s ultimately what the custom warlock resources where – build-up pools that allow you to blow them in small or large amounts as YOU decide – not when the item designer tells you to push buttons in response to a proc.

  7. This is neat and also highlights why things get so messed up sometimes (devs aren’t able to devote themselves to 1 thing because they are tasked with developing so many things at once, and also might be balancing classes they don’t understand intimately for this exact reason). Basically give the devs a break, we love the game and so do they, they aren’t out to ruin anybodies fun and probably take it to heart when things go bad before they learn to just let it go because everybody makes mistakes.

    1. Yes. You as players are playing the game, but the developers are sacrificing their entire lives to creating it.

      They do care – but they are limited and human. Fortunately, I am still mostly robot. Beep boop.

  8. “Polarizing”? You’re a celebrated legend who’s invoked in community discussions by nostalgic players. The way warlock mains breathlessly say your name is hilarious sometimes. There’s a personality cult of worship surrounding you, even years after you left Blizzard.

    1. There’s an interesting psychological phenomenon – when people suffer irreversible loss, they look to the divine for inspiration. Even for atheistic people, we put people on pedestals – just pick your favorite politician or political group. When they fall, often the memory of their struggle is stronger than the person they were.

      And while I worked hard – there were many who worked to make the Warlock amazing. Dan who did immense QA work. The UI team who created the resource UI overnight. Pat and Pat who helped me with the numerous features needed to support the rework. Kyle and Omar who put extra hours into getting the transformation and pet controls JUST Right.

      I was just the one who got caught talking.

  9. Thank you for this, very interesting read and I hope to hear more.

    I also really hope that if this was deemed a success from blizzards part, that the council would be copied to other classes.

    I would never be picked but I would be happy to know that People that is also outside the building has influence on the core design on some classes.

    1. Thank you. I’m working on these articles as I can between other projects. The simple truth is that who a developer picks to communicate with is more about their relationship with the individual – and that individuals ability to put their emotions aside to solve problems.

      I hope to share some examples of great feedback from those days on here.

  10. Hey Xelnath, wanted to say thank you for all your work on the Warlock Class. I also had a honest question which I reckon a lot of other players have wondered for years also.

    I played a Lock in Vanilla, but by Wrath I’d moved on to DK and Shadow Priest because of the reasons you outlined. It was a pure joy to return to my Lock in MoP, and it’s been a heartbreak to see it slide back into a mess.

    Did Blizzard intentionally revert the work that you did as a spiteful act?
    Or was it a legitimate effort on their part to fix errors?

    I ask because it felt like players were being unfairly singled out in WoD and the spec which was in many ways perfect, just lost something as if every patch had some new dig at Warlocks. Even as of Legion it still doesn’t feel the same. Warlocks feel like they are never meant to excel at the same level as say Mages.

    I mean I completely understand changing a class or a spec when it’s improving it, but the mentality of Blizzard feels like at times, changing things for the sake of changing things.

    Am I wrong to feel this way?

    1. I don’t know. The people working on BFA were all developers I was pretty close to – Ion in particular helped me develop Burning Embers. I have a hard time believing it was entirely malicious – and more that the people who removed it didn’t understand how it worked.

  11. I deleted my account because of Legion.

    10 year warlock here, and I tried to recapture the exhilaration of the class from MOP, and before.

    Not going to happen with these devs. I deleted the account because I felt compelled to play due to nostalgic reasons. So I just pulled the plug entirely. It isn’t what it used to be.

  12. Honestly, MoP warlock. Particularly Destruction and Demonology was the most fun I’ve had with the class (and thus the game as a whole) ever and since.

    Thank you (and your team) for the hard work that made it all possible. Eagerly looking forward to hearing the rest of this.

    “Stacking. That’s ultimately what the custom warlock resources where – build-up pools that allow you to blow them in small or large amounts as YOU decide – not when the item designer tells you to push buttons in response to a proc.”

    Just to add this is also part of what made the class feel so good at the time, you felt like you were in control and not so much at the mercy of rng (outside of trinket procs) but could spend your resources when and where you saw fit, any pay off or loss was due to how you well/ badly you played.

    Thanks again.

  13. As a heroic raider back then at MoP and as a warlock from BWL and after, I can’t wait for the next part(s) ! We miss you, BTW.

  14. I fell in love with the warlock class back in Vanilla because of Demo, but back then it was just an “after thought” by the Dev team. Buring crusade it was the same thing but they added the Felguard which was great but it still was outshined by the other 2 specs. But this blog highlighted Demo’s problem then that all of it’s spells came from Affllition and destruction

    In Wrath is when they butchered the class, they wanted to destroy the Shadowflame/DemonSac spec which dominated BC and they tried to make warlocks have use of Spirit which still turns my stomach today. They introduced Meta to demo but it was poorly inplemented as a CD, same again in Cata.

    Mop i have to admit is the time were Demo was no longer an “after-thought”, Demonic fury showed alot of promise but Meta because something to weave in and out which both i didn’t like and predicted will be problimatic down the road which it was, also demo had dot management which it shouldn’t have in the first place and be pruned from demo and stayed in affliction and turned Doom from a mega-nuke that summons a demon on kill to a crappy dot. If i knew of your work Xelnath i would of returned to the game and said my peice earlier before i returned just after mop release.

    BfA shows promise again and i was lucky enough to get a beta invite for the first time ever since i started playing back in vanilla, they made alot of effort for demo considering the mess they made it in legion and completly gave up on fixing it. But i do wish the dev in charge of Warlocks would be more vocal on the beta forums, or at the very least posted up a rough idea plan at the start of alpha instead of dumping everything at once without context

  15. Cynwise?! Oh gosh, I remember his name! I read his insane post about the downfall of Warlocks in Cataclysm! So cool to know that his work was influential and paramount! Wow!

    1. It really was – he showed a lot of insight into both the human nature of mental chunking and the design overload on the Warlock class. Warlock was already complexity saturated in classic, and the expansions just pushed it past the breaking point.

  16. played warlock since vanilla but mained it since wotlk

    mop was some of the best design warlock has ever had but seems they have thrown a lot of the great design down the pan and back to being this weird immobile glass (not even glass cannon) casters that I can only assume blizzard don’t want people to play

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The Funsmith Tavern

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All tactics. No fluff . Pro advice only. Unsubscribe any time


[STUDIO] Blizzard Entertainment: Content, mechanics, and systems designer

(Creator of Apex Legends & former Creative Director at Respawn)

[GAME] World of Warcraft: MMORPG with 8.5 million average monthly players, won Gamer’s Choice Award – Fan Favorite MMORPG, VGX Award for Best PC Game, Best RPG, and Most Addictive Video Game.

  • Classic:
    • Designed Cosmos UI
    • Designed part of Raid Team for Naxxramas
  • Burning Crusade:
    • Designed the raid bosses Karazhan, Black Temple, Zul’Aman
    • Designed the Outlands content
    • Designed The Underbog including bosses:
      • Hungarfen, Ghaz’an, Swamplord Musel’ik, and The Black Stalker
    • Designed the Hellfire Ramparts final bosses Nazan & Vazruden
    • Designed the Return to Karazhan bosses: Attumen the Huntsman, Big Bad Wolf, Shades of Aran, Netherspite, Nightbane
  • Wrath of the Lich King:
    • Designed quest content, events and PvP areas of Wintergrasp
    • Designed Vehicle system
    • Designed the Death Knight talent trees
    • Designed the Lord Marrowgar raid
  • Cataclysm:
    • Designed quest content
    • Designed Deathwing Overworld encounters
    • Designed Morchok and Rhyolith raid fights
  • Mists of Pandaria: 
    • Overhauled the entire Warlock class – Best player rated version through all expansion packs
    • Designed pet battle combat engine and scripted client scene

[GAME] StarCraft 2: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Diablo 3: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Overwatch: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Hearthstone: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[STUDIO] Riot Games: Systems designer, in-studio game design instructor

(Former Global Communications Lead for League of Legends)
(Former Technical Game Designer at Riot Games)

[GAME] League of Legends: Team-based strategy MOBA with 152 million average active monthly players, won The Game Award for Best Esports Game and BAFTA Best Persistent Game Award.

  • Redesigned Xerath Champion by interfacing with community
  • Reworked the support income system for season 4
  • Redesigned the Ward system
  • Assisted in development of new trinket system
  • Heavily expanded internal tools and features for design team
  • Improved UI indicators to improve clarity of allied behaviour

[OTHER GAMES] Under NDA: Developed multiple unreleased projects in R&D

Game Design Instructor: Coached and mentored associate designers on gameplay and mechanics

[STUDIO] Moon Studios: Senior game designer

(Former Lead Game Designer at Moon Studios)

[GAME] Ori & The Will of The Wisps: 2m total players (423k people finished it) with average 92.8/100 ratings by 23 top game rating sites (including Steam and Nintendo Switch).

  • Designed the weapon and Shard systems
  • Worked on combat balance
  • Designed most of the User Interface

[GAME] Unreleased RPG project

  • Designed core combat
  • High-level design content planning
  • Game systems design
  • Game design documentation
  • Gameplay systems engineering
  • Tools design
  • Photon Quantum implementation of gameplay

[VC FUNDED STARTUP] SnackPass: Social food ordering platform with 500k active users $400m+ valuation

[PROJECT] Tochi: Creative director (hybrid of game design, production and leading the product team)

  • Lead artists, engineers, and animators on the release the gamification system to incentivize long-term customers with social bonds and a shared experience through the app

[CONSULTING] Atomech: Founder / Game Design Consultant

[STUDIOS] Studio Pixanoh + 13 other indie game studios (under NDA):

  • Helped build, train and establish the design teams
  • Established unique combat niche and overall design philosophy
  • Tracked quality, consistency and feedback methods
  • Established company meeting structure and culture

Game Design Keynotes:

(Former Global Head of HR for Wargaming and Riot Games)
  • Tencent Studio
  • Wargaming
  • USC (University of Southern California)
  • RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • US AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association)
  • UFIEA (University of Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy)
  • West Gaming Foundation
  • Kyoto Computer Gakuin – Kyoto, Japan