[WoW] Ask Uncle Von: How To Get Ahead In Demonology

On a previous post, David asked:

Since I’ve started playing a warlock, I’m interested in how you run that pet-less demonologist? Sounds different and I’d like to give it a shot.

Since David also linked to an interesting article, with which I don’t entirely agree (I think there’s a new breed of hardcore player that subs out epic six-hour grind-fests into nibbling away at grindy content two hours a night, three nights a week, but with the same spreadsheet-driven longing for NUMBERS that the poop-sock brigade display… but these might look more ‘casual’ based on the actual time spent playing) but which I enjoyed reading, I figure the least I can do is show some love and introduce y’all to Aunty Sybeth.

Sybeth PvP Cata

I’ve had Sybeth since I started playing the WoW thing back in mid-2009, although she’s jumped back and forth across factions a few times. She levelled, in those half-forgotten days of 51-point talent spreads and careful, finicky percentile-counting, as a Demonologist before switching to Affliction when I discovered the joys of running through Battlegrounds with lots of instant-cast fear and damage-over-time effects. During that time I sort of neglected Demonology a bit and, during Cataclysm, only used the spec for daily quests because it was so damn easy and safe (send Felguard to hit things, cast Immolation, wait for Molten Core to trigger, cast Soul Fire, rinse and repeat, cast Health Funnel now and then). I was sure there was more to do with it but I just couldn’t be bothered when I had all that Afflicting to enjoy.

Mists of Pandaria has brought with it some saucy new Warlock powers, in particular some saucy new Glyphs, which have revitalised my interest in Demonology as ‘that spec you can run without a demon’. It seems counter-intuitive, but trust me on this, there’s a method to my madness here. The key lies, as one might expect, in combos. Combos that sort of leapt out at me from the morass of new options in the Mists talent builder and the range of new Glyphs and the revised class specialisation, while I was trying to work out what the hell to do with this Sybeth person. I threw this together on a whim and blow me down dead if it didn’t work quite nicely.

First things first: Demonology specialisation. The two things we’re most interested in here are the Felguard, the unique pet for Demonologists, and the passive Talent ‘Wild Imps’. Every time Sybeth casts her signature damage-dealing spells, Shadow Bolt and Soul Fire, an Imp appears and lobs ten fireballs and then disappears again. These Imps generate Demonic Fury, the resource that powers Sybeth’s nastiest abilities, and they also add some ranged damage that you don’t need to fart around with managing or controlling; they appear, they blast whatever you’re targeting, they disappear again, pretty much automatically. The Felguard, meanwhile, is of interest entirely because of Pursuit, its sudden burst of speed after a retreating enemy, which comes in quite handy given that enemy players and the sodding evil bitey gnashy rabbit dudes you’ll be fighting millions of in Mists like to run out of her spell range and get help.

Second things second: the Talents. Sybeth’s talent spec looks a bit like this:


The crucial one here is Grimoire of Sacrifice. This sacrifices your active demon and gains you extra spell power and regenerating health for an hour. It also gives you one of the demon’s signature abilities; Pursuit for the Felguard, Void Shield or whatever-it’s-called for the Voidwalker, or Seduction from the Succubus. I haven’t really messed with the others yet because, frankly, a damage-catcher and a movement buff have the most direct and obvious appeal to me, and I’m not too clever when it comes to fiddly stuff like Spell Locking. Anyway, the spell power buff from this syncs nicely with Soul Leech (regain health from dealing damage with Shadow Bolt and Soul Fire). The other three are instant-cast panic-button type spells; Blood Fear is an instant-cast single-target Fear upgrade that costs life instead of mana, Dark Bargain defers damage over a slightly longer period of time for those last-minute runs on a flag carrier in those Battlegrounds I’m so crazy about, and Shadowfury is a nice area-of-effect stun. I’d normally go for Howl of Terror in that slot, but since Sybeth has a decent amount of health and lots of good area-of-effect spells (Hellfire, Hand of Gul’Dan and Summon Infernal, for instance), I like her opponents clustered up and standing still rather than running around spreading Seeds of Corruption everywhere like in her Affliction build.

Then there’s the Glyphs. I like Glyphs and it doesn’t hurt that Sybeth’s Inscription profession has been run close to max for two expansions.


I’ll look at the least important ones first, ’cause I’m contrary like that. Nightmares allows her Dreadsteed to run across water, useful for getting around Battlegrounds and soggy Pandaria environments at speed; Falling Meteor in theory stops her taking damage from jumping, although in practice I’ve found it a bit unreliable because it needs two other abilities to trigger (Metamorphosis and Demonic Leap at the right moments). Hand of Gul’dan is nifty though, lets me target an area rather than a single target with Sybeth’s big blasty  quick-to-cast area-of-effect spell, which lets me drop it on places where I think Rogues and Druids are hiding, and into a big knot of players rather than having to actually lock onto and target one.

Everlasting Affliction keeps Corruption going for longer, and Corruption is important to have ticking because it’s instant to cast, does a bit of damage, and crucially, generates Demonic Fury over time. Fear causes the target of Sybeth’s Blood Fear to stand still instead of running out of spell-slapping range, useful for pinning down healers and flag carriers, and then there’s Demon Hunting. As well as giving her bad-ass wings and horns made out of purple shadows, this one reduces the damage Sybeth takes, increases the damage Sybeth deals, and upgrades three core abilities. Soulshatter becomes a taunt rather than an aggro dump, Twilight Ward becomes a shield against all forms of damage, not just magical, and Shadow Bolt becomes an instant-cast, shorter-ranged spell called Demonic Slash. It has a stacked cooldown – three times before it runs out – but chucking three of those out chucks out three Wild Imps and generates enough Demonic Fury to start chucking out Soul Fire, and by this point there are enough Imps out to give a reasonably good chance of Molten Core going off and making Soul Fire an instant-cast, auto-crit, fury-generating slap in the face. The cooldown on Demonic Slash is pretty short, too; enough time to chuck out an AOE or a Fear plus an instant-cast Soul Fire and then be ready to Slash again.

The only downside seems to be that it’s really hard to build up Demonic Fury to trigger Metamorphosis, but honestly, I’ve very seldom needed to trigger Metamorphosis unless I urgently need the Leap. The one other spell that I’ve found very useful and always have on the quickbar is the new-for-Mists Carrion Swarm, which is a corridor knockback effect that gets those awkward melee people out of Sybeth’s grill and juuust far enough back for a quick Shadowfury or Hand drop. Alas, it’s also juuust far enough back to be out of range of Demonic Slash, but we can’t have everything.

I think what I like best about it’s that Demonic Slash looks like a melee attack, and with the knockback effect being there and having a short range, and Hellfire being so self-centred, and always having Pursuit and Demon Hunting up, it allows me to kid myself that I’m playing a melee Warlock. That’s what made me want to play it. The fact that it’s turned out to be quite effective is a plus. Lousy for instances though, as Demon Hunting has the unfortunate side effect of quintupling Sybeth’s threat generation and taking her Soulshatter threat dump away. It’s a good job I have another character for instances. Maybe I’ll talk about them next time.

Hey, since this has turned into a ‘let me talk about my character’ post, d’you want to hear about her RP persona as well? I’m quite proud of this one. Needless to say, the one you’ll read in-game is much shorter, and doesn’t have any of the backstory in it apart from her medal. Wouldn’t want to end up over here, now, would I?

Sybeth Starkadder (Deceased)

That she puts ‘Deceased’ after her name on her correspondence probably indicates volumes about the kind of person Sybeth is. Prim, proper, almost austere – or, putting it another way, she has a stick the size of Frostmourne up her bony dead arse. She’s fussy, fastidious, and the sort of person who can not only spell ‘antimacassars’ but would actually put them on things.

She’s a skinny little lady with a skinny little tie, in her late fifties when she died. She has no eyes that anyone’s ever seen, and wears a fiddly, lacy bandage over the sockets “to keep the chill out”. She also has a pronounced limp in her right leg, and usually walks with a cane – it’s difficult to tell given that she favours floor-length skirts of a swooshy nature, but she often claims that her foot’s actually on backwards. Apparently this is her idea of a joke.

Her Gilnean accent is not an affectation, though she does play it up around people she doesn’t like (she’d never actually be rude to anyone, but she can call you ‘my dear fellow’ and make it sound like a declaration of war) – in life, she was the daughter of the Gilnean ambassador to Dalaran. When Gilneas effectively dropped out of the Alliance, the embassy naturally broke up, and Sybeth ended up taking a job in the libraries of the Kirin Tor. Bypassed for promotion and ridiculed by what she calls “spoiled little parasites who never earned an erg of the power they were so proud of”, she spent most of her mortal life in the library, becoming more bitter and resentful by the day.

That’s probably what appealed to Kel’Thuzad. That and she had keys to most of the Kirin Tor. Sybeth isn’t proud of how easily she joined the Cult of the Damned, nor of her role in the fall of Dalaran (very minor, but she’s been beating herself up about it for years). Naturally, they killed and raised her as soon as she’d outlived her usefulness, which was more or less the first thing to occur to her when Sylvanas gave her back her mind.

In many ways undeath has been the best thing that’s ever happened to Sybeth. Most of her physical infirmities, in particular her failing eyesight, can now be safely ignored or bypassed. The undead largely don’t give a damn about her vengeful, obsessive interest in fel magic, and she doesn’t have to eat or sleep – more time for learning. She’s become far too cynical to be one of those aggressively-more-Forsaken-than-thou Forsaken, but she is in a quiet way a committed believer in the Forgotten Shadow, Undercity patriot and devotee of Sylvanas, and it’s worth noting that she was decorated for valour after the Battle for Undercity – the medal forms the shiny end of her ever-present tie-pin.

She speaks several languages and reads quite a few more, maintaining a vigorous correspondence with fellow warlocks across the Horde territories and one or two in the borderlands like Ratchet and, for that matter, Dalaran. This has recently been interrupted, though, by her conscription into Squad Red Mesa, who needed a competent and diplomatic fel-specialist to investigate the mysterious Sha on their behalf. Sybeth is definitely competent, and is harmless-looking and polite enough to at least be tolerated by most of the strange new people (and things) she encouters in Pandaria.

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