WoW Factor: Examining Shadowlands’ Warlock, Paladin, and Demon Hunter changes

Do this differently.

It’s the penultimate column in this particular series! And that’s good because if people who used to make World of Warcraft are going to keep going down the “ridiculous comment” road it’s only a matter of time before we hear that the Internet was invented to let people play WoW and I can’t bear to not respond to that in a whole column. Wikipedia is free, people. It just lets you look basically anything up. I use it all the time, it helps me not look absurd by claiming that cars were invented in 1954 or something.

Anyhow, let’s get back to looking at class changes, shall we? We’ve got three more on deck for this week, and they’re an interesting lineup, if for no other reason than the fact that if you think about it, Demon Hunters are like the Paladin version of Warlocks. It sort of works, right? No, probably not, but sometimes it’s hard to make a segue for these things. Let’s get down to this.

Don't call me Kyle right now.


There are two things I really like that are front and center for Warlocks. First and foremost, I like that Curses are coming back in a big way for the class. I get why Curses became less of a thing, really I do, but I always liked the idea that they were these specific debuffs that weren’t about stacking but about a targeted crippling effect. It lent space for specific Warlocks to do different things in groups with multiple ones, and I’m glad to see this back.

I also like that Affliction is… well, there’s no other way to say this, it feels like it’s taking some interesting cues from Summoner with its explosions to make use of DoT effects and the spreading of those DoTs. This is a gameplay element I really like, and I’m glad to see Warlock using it for that specific spec.

Unfortunately… there endeth much of note. Beyond that point, a lot of the changes feel as if they’re functionally half-measures or minor changes, not really any fundamental alterations to the way that Warlock currently plays and feels. I feel like this is a pretty consistent theme with the non-hybrid classes in particular; there are adjustments, but even the unpruning is still not really majorly overhauling what the class was up to this point.

Still, a very small list of changes with net positives is better than nothing. I’m not sure this addresses specific Warlock gripes particularly well, but it’s at least generally good.

Holy arts.



All right. Holy Power for everyone. Bleh. I don’t like Holy Power. I’ve never liked Holy Power or found it compelling, but now it’s something for every Paladin spec. Fine, I might not like it, but it’s not that huge of a change.

But then we get our Auras back, and… oh, great, a version of Retribution Aura that sounds nearly useless. Like, I can’t believe this is going to be the final state because “you get Avenging Wrath when someone dies” is not really a great ability. It’s basically not something even Retribution Paladins will want unless you already have your other Auras accounted for, so it… well, it needs a rework, by which I mean “complete and total revision.”

So already this is not looking exactly great. I get it, I really do, we don’t necessarily want an aura that just buffs damage dealt by 10%, but this isn’t better. Balancing abilities to be functionally unhelpful is not an improvement.

In the finer details of specs, well, it’s mostly fine changes again. Having Wake of Ashes as a baseline ability is a nice change for Retribution, and the interaction for Protection with baseline Word of Glory does look like fun. Neither of the new talents strike me as particularly compelling, since they’re still in the territory of things that aren’t really going to change how you play a spec in any serious fashion. Even Divine Purpose is a familiar talent that’s mostly relevant because everyone’s on that Holy Power game again.

It’s not a really dire list of changes, mind you, but it puts me back in the mindset of something that I said back when we first heard we were getting Auras back, that the addition of these abilities is short of one full rotation to make playing Retribution more interesting. Instead of feeling like a return to form or pulling closer to the Classic Paladin experience, we get… the easiest element to pull out that’s slapped back in with some fairly irrelevant Auras.

So not too different from Searing Totem, at the end of the day. Getting the idea of something that was missed, but not understanding the why. (Gosh, I should do a whole column about liking the way Retribution was kind of terrible, huh?)


Demon Hunter

So… in the midst of unpruning, Demon Hunter was always going to be unique because it didn’t really get pruned much. So it is perhaps not a huge surprise that their changes are… basically not there at all, outside of some very minor tweaks and resource consolidation.

Adding Immolation Aura as a baseline is a good change, don’t get me wrong – it’s very on-brand and it feels neat, something that’s always really been a part of how Demon Hunters work. At the same time, it also highlights how thin the overall archetype for Demon Hunter really is. There aren’t a whole lot of different places to go with the class, and with only two specs and an unwillingness to branch out further, there’s not much to be pruned or added to the class at this point.

I do appreciate at the very least that the talent changes for Vengeance are meant to encourage somewhat different build choices; the “only really one choice for builds” issue has kind of stuck with Demon Hunter for a while now, unfortunately. Having more universal options for things like Demonic? Welcome change. But it still kind of speaks to… well, a ceiling for how much there is to be explored with Demon Hunter.

Having said all of that, suddenly adding new abilities to Demon Hunter would have also felt somewhat out of place, so it’s perhaps not the worst thing. I’d feel really weird if the class had just gotten a bunch of new toys to feel like more was being added, and the small changes do help unify the specs more. It just… well, still does feel like a somewhat thin expansion to what’s already there.

Then again, that’s kind of been a theme here, hasn’t it?

While a lot of these changes are not actively bad, none of them actually feel like more than tweaks. Obviously, a lot remains to be seen about how the specs will actually play, but the core of it makes these changes feel far more like another incremental change like the one we experienced from Legion to Battle for Azeroth. That is… perhaps not enough for people who are currently knee-deep in irritation about how their specs are currently playing.

At any rate, you can guess by this point that the last three classes will be Rogue, Warrior, and Death Knight. Can you guess the order? You have reasonable odds! Not that it matters much, you’ll find out in a week.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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