Chromatic Souls: Rune Bomb Warlock

Here’s a quick guide to the T8 Warlock, which I thought I’d share now that we’re quickly approaching T8 gear. It’s long, but the TL;DR version is that the T8 Warlock is now the best damage dealer in both T8 and T9 content. If you’re looking to invest XP crystals, skill enhancements and gear enhancements in a toon, I’d suggest focusing on the Warlock once you start obtaining T8 gear. 

Obvious note: the devs could rebalance anything at anytime, which could impact this guide. They did it before, buffing the Paladin to the point where he became the best tank. The devs could similarly tinker with the Warlock, possibly nerfing his potential. They haven’t yet and probably never will, but you never know what comes with the next patch. 

Anyways, that said, without further ado:  

The Rune Bomb Warlock uses three skills, without variation: GM Decay, GM Shadow Wave and Master (Gold) Epidemic. Here’s an image of the skill setup:

These three skills compliment the T8 four piece equipment bonus, which creates a rune bomb in the target everytime a skill is used. The rune bomb explodes when the target is hit with a damage skill or an attack, and it then deals AoE damage to all targets and restores a significant amount of mana to the Warlock.  Here’s an image of T8 equipment; the ability that adds a rune bomb is the fourth bonus:

The rotation is fairly straightforward: the Warlock casts Epidemic, which is a no-action skill, and then casts Decay, which is another no-action skill, and then attacks. Epidemic will place a rune bomb on the target, which will explode when the Warlock casts decay on the target, dealing damage to all enemies. Decay will place another rune bomb on the target, which will again explode and deal damage to all enemies when the Warlock attacks the target. The three piece bonus from the T8 set also causes additional primal damage, and Shadow Wave – which we’ll cover later – also results in more damage. Simply put, everytime the Warlock takes his turn, the screen becomes covered in a sea of red numbers. Check it out:

As the Warlock runs through his rotation, Shadow Wave places a stacking buff on the Warlock, increasing his skill damage by 5% for each skill cast, up to a maximum of 25%. It also places a stacking debuff on the target, dealing magic damage, and the debuff stacks up to five times. Here’s an image of the skill once fully GM’ed:

The skill’s description makes Shadow Wave sound complicated, but it really comes down to this: once the Warlock receives five stacks of the buff and the target receives five stacks of the debuff, the Warlock’s rotation changes: the Warlock casts Epidemic, immediately followed by Decay, and then instead of attacking the Warlock casts Shadow Wave. Shadow Wave does massive damage, and it automatically crits when cast on a target that has five stacks of Shadow Wave’s passive debuff. Expect to do 30k – 100k with Shadow Wave, depending on whether the target has other rebuffs applied from other characters (such as the Scholar’s Mana Steal or the Paladin’s JoR). Check it out:

You don’t really need to memorize the details.  There’s a lot going on. In the end, the rotations for achieving maximum damage become simple:

Epidemic -> Decay -> Attack until both the Warlock and the target have five stacks of Shadow Wave. 

Epidemic -> Decay -> Shadow Wave when both the Warlock and the target have five stacks of Shadow Wave. 

It gets even better, because mana is rarely a problem for the Rune Bomb Warlock. The T8 set bonus provides the Warlock with 20 mana everytime a rune bomb explodes. Since the Warlock typically plants two rune bombs per turn, generated from Epidemic and Decay, he typically receives 40 mana per turn – in addition to his mana regen and mana provided from any other source, such as another toon’s Wisdom. This compliments another bonus the Warlock receives from the T8 set, which makes the bonus primal damage increase proportionally to the Warlock’s remaining mana. Simply put, mana – as well as damage – rarely a problem. 

And yes, it gets even better. Even though the Rune Bomb Warlock is dealing a ton of damage, he rarely steals aggro from the tank. The T8 bonus provides for a reduction of aggro from rune bombs, meaning the Warlock is not generating threat proportional to his damage dealt. As a result, the Warlock is a very low maintenance toon.  

So, how’s it work out when everything comes together? I ran through Queen’s Neat (Hellfire) using a Paladin, Mystic, Warlock and Scout. I figure that this is the best dungeon to use when comparing damage dealt by toons, since there aren’t many mechanics that get in the way of smooth rotations. In the end, the CS 288 Warlock in T8 gear constantly out damaged my CS 317 Scout in T9 gear. That’s right: even though the Scout was using gear a full tier higher than the Warlock’s gear, the Warlock consistently out damaged my Scout. Here’s a two screenshots of a typical run:

You’ll note that the Warlock did considerably more damage than the Scout. You’ll also note that he took far less damage than the Scout. Ultimately, he’s a very low maintenance toon that seems to out damage all other toons using this setup. 

The essences that you use really help amplify his damage. I’ve been using a red essence on the weapon that increases his ATK, meaning he deals more damage when using his rotations. I’ve also been using a red essence in his robe, which increases his ATK when he receives physical damage, and a yellow essence in his cloak, which increases ATK when he receives magic damage. Although the Warlock doesn’t take too much damage, these essences combine to ensure that he deals considerably more damage whenever he is hit with any attack. It’s like revenge, or retribution. Here’s a few images of the essences:

Ultimately, I was surprised that the T8 Warlock is so darn solid, even with the introduction of the T9 gear. There is a downside, though, if you can call it that: the Warlock is a one-trick pony. He deals a heck of a lot of damage, but doesn’t bring anything else to the group. He can’t interrupt, he can’t buff toons, he can’t use any other skills that debuff the enemies. He simply deals damage, and a heck of a lot of it. 

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