Warlock Minion Talent Trees AKA “The tree doesn’t fall far from the hunter.”
Recently, I was conscripted by a hunter friend to help her swath through the dense foliage that makes up the hunter talent trees. It was a daunting and arduous journey, to say the least. I’m a warlock: I don’t have time to look at hunter talents because I am too deeply entrenched in my own talent jungle. In doing this, however, it came to my attention that hunter pets have their own talent tree!
Initially, this struck me as odd, considering that I could have sworn that I read something that kinda went exactly like “Warlocks are a pet class, but they gain more of their own power from their pets and can make their pets do more than say a hunter or death knight.” At this point, I’d like to call myself to the stand as an expert witness in the field of Death Knights, my credentials being that I have played the class in both PVP (1500+ rating in arena) and PVE (having served the roles of tank and DPS in raids as high as ToC 25) extensively. I would agree that Gnaw, Leap, and Explode are less dynamic than the combined abilities of all warlock minions, though arguably equal to the abilities of a single warlock minion. However, can the same be said about warlock minions when juxtaposed with hunter pets?
Given my history of hunter talent ignorance, I decided that initially I needed to give our friend, Ghost Crawler, the benefit of the doubt. The first thing that comes to mind is that, similar to warlocks, hunters have the ability to use a varied repertoire of pets. These pets, given that they have customization in both their owner’s talent tree and their own, appear to have more utility than warlocks’ minions at first glance. Ghost Crawler’s statement would seem to infer that this is incorrect, but let’s do some examining before we draw any conclusions.
Each hunter pet has the core abilities Cower and Growl for reducing and increasing threat generation, which can be talented into a taunt for pets that use the Tenacity tree. While warlock minions don’t all have a threat increasing ability, the Voidwalker and Felguard can provide a taunt. Voidwalkers are actually the clear winner with their Suffering ability. Succubus seemingly provides greater utility than Cower with her Soothing Kiss spell, unless of course the hunter is using a pet of the Ferocity tree flavor, in which case they can spec for Improved Cower. Overall, I think Ghost Crawler’s statement is right on the money, though; while Cower and Growl type abilities would be nice to have on all warlock minions, I don’t think it would be worth sacrificing what we gain in comparison.
Hunter pets have additional non-talented abilities that would fit in perfectly with warlock minions, but have been neglected. One such example is the serpent pet’s ability, Poison Spit. The point not being so much that demons seem as likely a candidate as any serpent to have the ability to spit harmful liquids from their mouths, but instead that at least one minion could have at least one Damage Over Time (DoT) spell. I could be wrong, but if memory serves me correctly, aren’t warlocks the class that tower over all others in the area of DoT spells? There are no DoT spells of any kind provided by any warlock minion. The fact of the matter is that hunter pets seem built around the idea of applying periodic effects, many of which include a damage component.
There is, however precedent for warlock minions to accomplish effects similar to or greater than those of the warlock’s own spells. Curse of Tongues results in a 3.9 seconds increase of casting time over a thirty second period, assuming the worst case scenario being that all spells have three second casting times. Hunters can obtain a pet called a Core Hound which is especially favored due to its Lava Breath ability. The math behind this one gets a little tricky, but a hunter that directly controls this pet could easily achieve a 3.75 seconds increase of casting time in the course of thirty seconds. Warlocks have a vastly superior minion in the area of caster torture when they are using their Felhunter. When this minion is using its Spell Lock ability, it will result in a minimum average of 3.75 seconds of increased casting time for every thirty seconds. Even if the warlock doesn’t assume full command of this ability, a six second increase of time is effortlessly accomplished with the chance for nine seconds with one interrupt or twelve seconds if the warlock/minion manages to interrupt a cast twice. If we assume for a moment that it is Blizzard’s intention to make warlocks truly a “pet class” and to ensure that “they gain more of their own power from their pets and can make their pets do more than say a hunter or death knight” then they surely have plans to implement more abilities for minions that are similar to hunter pet abilities but overall more powerful.
There are a number of abilities that hunter pets only gain via the use of one of three talent trees. All hunter pets fall into one of three categories: Cunning, Ferocity, or Tenacity. In the first tier, hunter pets gain Charge as Tenacity or Dash/Dive as Cunning/Ferocity. No warlock minion has the ability to increase their movement speed. This is not a huge loss, but would definitely be something we could make use of in the same way that hunters do. It is possible that warlock minions do not receive this talent in an effort to make a greater difference between how the pets and minions are used in PVP. There are several instances of hunter pet talents resulting in “Crowd Control” (CC) superiority compared warlocks. Warlock pets have at the most only two CC based spells: Intercept and Seduction. Those spells each belong to a different minion and can’t be used in conjunction with one another. If you take the hunter pet talents Charge and Swoop and then add the individual abilities of the various hunter pets, you would get at least nine different CC abilities. There are also at least four pet/talent combinations resulting in two CC abilities on one pet alone. In this example warlocks are clearly not doing more with their pets than hunters. Going back to the idea of creating a greater difference between how pets and minions are used in PVP, it would seem that the class with fewer CC abilities also has the pet/minion with fewer CC abilities. To make an attempt at objectivity and fairness, I could argue that Seduction, which can be talented down to a 0.5 second cast but shares diminishing returns with our highly coveted fear spell, is the best pet/minion CC spell. This is certainly true, but only in certain situations. If a hunter were to use a Crab for a pet then the pet alone would be able to utilize not only Charge but also an ability called Pin which could result in five consecutive seconds of getaway time. Five seconds easily pales in comparison to the potential fifteen seconds of seduction until of course you either intentionally or unintentionally do damage to your opponent. During those five seconds of CC, the hunter can continue to attack their target, not to mention utilize a variety of other CC abilities that to my knowledge ( I admit that I could be incorrect) don’t share diminishing returns with their pet’s abilities. A warlock utilizing Seduction can run away for a bit at the cost of one use of a fear spell while not being able to cause any damage which includes DoT spells. If Blizzard followed their concept of warlock pet dependency, then wouldn’t it seem logical for at least one minion to be able to apply crowd control while attempting to finish off a target?
In retrospect, I feel that certain aspects of this article may seem like an attempt to claim that hunters have it good while warlocks do not. My intention was not to give the impression that warlocks are left wanting; I feel that they are a powerful and quite capable class. However, I do feel though that if Blizzard is really trying to model warlocks as a “pet class”, then they still have a ways to go in making them equally dependent on their minions as hunters are to their pets.