When World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is released all the classes will get a brand new talent system to deal with. The new talent system 2.0 is vastly different than the old system and greatly simplified. For a complete look at the new system check out the preview article here: WoW Talent System System Overhaul - Mists of Pandaria and Talent System 2.0.
This article however looks at the brand new warlock talent tree to see if each choice that you can make provides a greater impact on your character than the old system provided. You should be made aware up front though that Blizzard warned that warlocks will be undergoing some other bigger changes in mechanics as well when Mists of Pandaria launches. This means that the talents shown now will very likely change significantly by launch date. It is still fun to look at them now though and see how they fit in, and if they are better or worse choices than the old talent system.
You can look at the new talents for Warlocks on the Mists of Pandaria Warlock Talent Calculator over on Blizzard's site.
Mists of Pandaria Warlock Talent Tree: Tier 1
The first tier in the new warlock talent system is about healing or regenerating health. This is critical for warlocks since they use their health as an extended mana pool through the use of life tap. The first talent is Dark Regeneration and is an instant heal of 50% of your health and a 25% boost to all healing done to you for the next 20 seconds, and is on a 3 minute cooldown. Next up is Soul Leech which grants each specs main damage agility a heal to the warlock of 15% of its damage caused. Lastly is Harvest of Life which is a channeled ability that deals damage to the target an anything nearby while healing you for 2% health every second for every additional target that is in range of your primary target.
All three appear to be extremely useful to any warlock. In PVE situations I would push all warlocks to take soul leach since it allows you to heal while going about your normal damage rotation. While the others may provide more direct and immediate healing, they also cause you to have to actively do them, thereby lowering your DPS. In most PVE situations you will not need that.
In PVP Dark Regeneration could be the star here especially in Arena combat. In battlegrounds where you may need healing more often than every 3 minutes then harvest of life may work out better. It will all depend on your play style. Personally I would take dark regeneration all the time for PVP, but I can see arguments for harvest or even for soul leech.
Mists of Pandaria Warlock Talent Tree: Tier 2
The second tier in the warlock talent tree is about control over your enemies. There is Howl of Terror which is an instant AOE fear. There is Mortal Coil which is essentially a ramped up Death Coil, causing the target to run for 3 seconds and heals you for 25% health. Lastly there is Shadowfury which is an AOE stun for 3 seconds. They are all cooldown abilities and are on 45, 40, and 30 second timers.
None of these abilities will see a whole lot of use in end game PVE situations since you will have tanks, healers, and more permanent CC (Crowd Control) options in your group. In leveling situations I think all of them are semi-useful. Howl of terror and shadowfury can help you out a bit if you get swamped, while mortal coil is a nice heal every once in a while. In PVP situations again, all three have their place, in battlegrounds howl of terror and shadowfury are probably a bit better since they affect multiple enemies. In arenas Mortal Coil would be my preference as it does a fear and a heal all in one.
Mists of Pandaria Warlock Talent Tree: Tier 3
The third tier is about health regeneration or prevention yet again, which is a little odd as most classes talent trees that I have looked at up to this point have each tier do something vastly different. On to the talents though, where we have Spell Drain first, which is a self buff that last 4 seconds. If you are hit with a spell during that time you are instead healed for 1/2 of the damage it would have caused, the spell itself is on a 15 second cooldown. Next up is Soul Link which shares all damage and healing that the warlock takes with their pet. Lastly there is Sacrificial Pact which is a 3 minute cooldown ability that sacrifices 1/2 of your pets life to prevent all damage to you for the next 10 seconds.
Again at this level, none of these seem particularly good for end game PVE situations, although soul link could help against AOE raid damage, and pact could help against big nukes in raids. While leveling soul link seems the way to go so that you take less damage constantly and therefore live longer, although the others could have their place as well.
In PVP I really like Spell Drain, especially since it is only on a 15 second cooldown. In arenas this could be an amazing talent as every 15 seconds you would be forcing your opponent to either waste a cooldown to dispel it, stop casting for 4 seconds, or to heal you instead of hurt you. All three things give you an advantage. Sacrificial pact could also be big, especially in arena combat, since it would give you immunity for 10 seconds which can really help out when you are being focused.
Mists of Pandaria Warlock Talent Tree: Tier 4
Tier four a really mixed bag of abilities. It is a little control, a little speed, and a little damage prevention. Again a very odd tier when compared to some of the other classes very specialized and unique tiers. First up there is Blood Fear which makes your fear an instant but at the cost of 10% of your life. Next there is Burning Rush which grants you a 25% speed increase for 8 seconds after a life tap. Lastly there is Dark Bargain which is a kind of shield that prevents damage to you for a short time, and hurts you at the end if any of it is left.
For PVE situations I would grab burning rush as it allows you to reposition more quickly during fights where movement is required. Better yet, since it is tied to an ability that you will use to gain mana back and therefore cause a global cooldown to trigger you will have time then anyway.
For PVP both blood fear and dark bargain have their uses. I really like the idea of an instant fear, but the cost of 10% health is a bit much for me. Dark bargain's shield would therefore be my choice in battleground PVP to prevent incoming damage when you are focused on. In arenas it would be a toss up, but blood fear might actually be worth it.
Mists of Pandaria Warlock Talent Tree: Tier 5
This tier is themed around your demons. First up is Grimoire of Supremecy which allows you to summon more powerful demons that deals 10% more damage and has extra abilities. The second choice is Grimoire of Service which allows you to summon a second demon ally every 2 minutes that lasts 30 seconds. Lastly there is Grimoire of Sacrifice that allows you to sacrifice your minion to empower your own attacks, this benefit lasts until you summon a new minion.
All of these abilities are interesting and varied, while all seeming viable. Which one is best will really come down to what the exact extra abilities are, and how much you are boosted when you sacrifice a demon. Without all the numbers and math it is hard to make an educated guess at which one is best for what. Just shooting in the dark, I would suspect summoning an extra demon would be best in PVP since it would allow you to pump out some extra burst damage when needed, and better demons or a self buff would be better for PVE. Again though that is just a guess, without hard numbers its hard to pin that down.
Mists of Pandaria Warlock Talent Tree: Tier 6
The final tier is all about big abilities all of which significantly affect your character. First up is Archimonde's Vengeance which links you and an enemy causing them to take 25% of the damage you do. Next up is Kil'jaeden's Cunning which allows you to cast while moving, but doubles the cast time of the spell. Lastly there is Mannoroth's Fury which allows you to always deal 10% damage from specific spells to targets in between you and your main target, or for short periods of time do 100% damage to those targets but then loose the 10% bonus until the cooldown is over.
The base PVE talent, especially when leveling, should be considered Mannoroth's Fury as it allows you do add some plash damage to your main attacks. At the end game this damage may be useful in instances, but probably not a whole lot in raids, where Kil'jaeden's Cunning is likely the better choice as it allows you to reposition during fights while still casting. This has the potential to add some DPS to a fight since you normally could only cast instants when moving before.
In PVP situations it is a toss up between Archimonde's Vengeance and Kil'jaeden's Cunning. The ability in PVP, especially in arenas, to link an opponent to suffer a portion of your damage is a huge ability and not one to be overlooked easily. In battlegrounds though the ability to cast on the move may outweigh it, but only if you plan on focusing enemies rather than just DOTing everyone in sight.
Mists of Pandaria Warlock Talent Tree: More or Less Choice?
I've looked in-depth at many of the Mists of Pandaria talent trees now, and this one seems the strangest of them. There are several tiers that are not really themed that well, and many tiers where is mainly seems about PVP utility. I would far rather all the talents be focused on the core of WOW which is PVE and if they happen to work well in PVP then so be it. Here it feels like most of the talents are purely aimed at PVP and any PVE benefit is a side bonus.
That being said many of the talents here are really good. In many cases they dramatically change how the class can be played and provides a huge boost in one direction or another. I can see Warlocks being completely viable with several different abilities here, yet being completely different from others.
On the PVP front, many of their abilities look to be among the best PVP talents out there. I can see that if these go forward as they are Warlocks will be truly feared in the arena system, even more than they are now. My only complaint there is again, the whole talent tree seems a little too much aimed at PVP, but that's my take on it.