On Warlocks: Cynwise’s journey to the heart of warlockery concludes

Some time ago, noted Warlock blogger Cynwise decided to write a two-part article about the decline of Warlocks in Cataclysm.

No-one predicted what would follow.

His original article became a massive, multi-part, thirty thousand word treatise that we’ve linked to twice already and compared to no less than Hunter S. Thompson’s quest for the American Dream.

And with some justification. This is an astonishing treatise, filled with both original research and insights born of years of play and a personal struggle with the game and class he loves.

Now, it’s finished, and it finishes on an up note, as Cynwise looks into the Warlock in the upcoming WoW expansion Mists of Pandaria, and discovers that a brave new world awaits

“I find it ironic that I named this series after Gibbon’s masterpiece, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon assembled a wealth of material around the collapse of Roman governance in Western Europe in the third through sixth centuries, but he used it to formulate a monocausal theory – that the Roman Empire’s fall was inevitable because of the influence of Christianity. This theory overlooks much in pursuit of forwarding an Enlightenment viewpoint of the Medieval period and Christianity as bad, and the Greco-Roman classical tradition as good.

As a historian, I have always preferred the works of J. B. Bury, who did not dispute the evidence Gibbon presented, but rather interpreted them differently. Bury posits that Rome’s fall was not inevitable, but rather the result of a series of incidents which lead to a catastrophe. Internal political pressures, external migratory pressures on the Germanic tribes, inflation, increased taxes to deal with the Sassanid Empire’s threat, a series of terrible decisions by Imperial and Provincial leaders alike – all these contributed to the calamity of the fourth and fifth centuries. I recommend reading Gibbon so you’ve read him, but I recommend Bury if you want to see the vast scope of problems in Late Antiquity, and how monocausal theories need to take them all into account.

To quote Bury:

The gradual collapse of the Roman power … was the consequence of a series of contingent events. No general causes can be assigned that made it inevitable.

It’s my hope that this series has been more like Bury than Gibbon. While there has been a central theme to this work – inelegant complexity without reward led to the decline of Warlock populations in Cataclysm – it is my firm belief that it was a series of design decisions and balance changes during the expansion which contributed to the decline of this class. Attributing it to any one specific change misses the big picture. Our personal reasons and agendas need to take a back seat to the data.

The Warlock class declined in Cataclysm. Based on what I’ve seen so far in the Mists of Pandaria Beta, it is too early to write its epitaph, but its recovery is by no means a certain thing. It is transforming into something very different what came before, and it is my sincere hope that it flourishes and thrives in its new incarnation.

Let’s see what the future holds for this great class.

Cynwise has also helpfully indexed all of the Decline and Fall series in one place.

If you haven’t read these pieces already, and if you’ve got even a passing interest in Warlocks, game design, or why some classes work and others don’t, I’d strongly recommend taking the time to read through it – particularly “The Loss Of The Warlock’s Soul”, which squares the circle of game mechanics versus the fantasy a game presents better than any other article I’ve read.

We’re not an accredited institution over here, sadly – because if we were, we’d definitely be awarding Cynwise a Doctorate if not a Professorship of MMO writing for this astonishing magnum opus.

Go read.


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