In preparation for the updates to our guides for Mists of Pandaria Patch 5.0.4, we are releasing articles such as this one, explaining what has changed for a particular class and spec, and what the new rotation is likely to be.
Keep in mind that this is still a work in progress (both from Blizzard's side and from our own) and that this article assumes you are at least somewhat familiar with the Cataclysm version of the Destruction Warlock rotation and playstyle (such as from reading our guide).
We will first list the most important changes to the Destruction Warlock Cataclysm abilities, and then we will proceed to explaining the (likely to be) optimal rotation. Keep in mind that we do not document every single change or new ability, only those that impact the rotation.
Finally, we will give you some information about the most useful talents and glyphs you should choose.
Removed Abilities and MechanicsMany abilities from the Affliction and Demonology specialisations have been removed from the game or are no longer available to Destruction Warlocks. Here is a non-exhaustive list: Bane of Agony, Bane of Doom, Corruption, Curse of Tongues, Curse of Weakness, Death Coil, Demon Armor, Drain Soul, Hellfire, Infernal Awakening, Life Tap, Seed of Corruption,
Shadow Bolt, and Soul Swap.
In addition, many Destruction-specific talents, abilities, and mechanics have been removed: Burning Embers, Empowered Imp, Improved Searing Pain, Improved Soul Fire, Nether Ward, Nether Protection, Searing Pain, Shadow and Flame, Shadowflame, Shadowfury, and Soul Fire.
Changed Abilities and MechanicsThere have been a number of minor changes, such as:
- Twilight Ward replacing Shadow Ward, and absorbing Shadow and Holy damage (instead of only Shadow damage);
- Ritual of Souls being renamed to Create Soulwell, or Create Soulstone being renamed to Soulstone;
- Fel Armor being a passive skill, increasing Stamina and Armor, and increasing healing generated through your own spells and effects;
- Howl of Terror now being a Tier 2 talent and having been slightly redesigned (as we will see in the talent section);
- Enslave Demon increasing the time between the target's attacks by 50% and reducing the target's casting speed by 50%;
- Curse of the Elements now only increasing magic damage taken by 5% and no longer inflicting a magic resistance reduction;
- Soul Harvest now being a passive ability that makes you regenerate health out of combat (previously, it had to be cast, while out of combat, to regenerate health and Soul Shards, which are now an Affliction-specific resource);
- Dark Intent now being a raid-wide buff providing +10% spell power.
- Aftermath still gives Rain of Fire a chance to stun enemies but no longer causes Incinerate to daze the target. In addition, Aftermath now makes Rain of Fire an instant-cast spell (it no longer needs to be channeled).
- Backdraft has been much improved. It now reduces the cast time and mana cost of your next three Incinerate or of your next Chaos Bolt by 30% (up from 10%) after casting Conflagrate. Previously, it also applied to Shadow Bolt, which you can no longer use, and it did not affect mana costs.
- Backlash now only applies to Incinerate, as Shadow Bolt has been restricted to Demonology Warlocks.
- Havoc is the successor of Bane of Havoc. Previously, your Bane of Havoc target was being damaged for 15% of all the damage you did on other targets. In Mists of Pandaria, your Havoc target will receive 100% of the damage you will deal on other targets with your next 3 single-target spells.
- Conflagrate now deals Fire damage regardless of whether the target is immolated. If the target is immolated, then its movement speed is reduced by 50% for 5 seconds. Also, the spell no longer has a cooldown. Instead, it works with a system of 2 charges. Each charge takes 12 seconds to regenerate and using the ability consumes a charge.
- Fire and Brimstone no longer increases the damage you deal to targets afflicted by Immolate. It is now an active AoE ability that you can use to make your next Immolate, Incinerate, Conflagrate, or Curse hit all enemies within 15 yards of your target for a portion of the damage.
New Resource: Burning EmbersBurning Embers will play a major role in your play style, as you need them to cast Chaos Bolt or Shadowburn. Most of your damaging abilities generate Burning Embers.
By default, you have 3 Burning Embers. A Burning Ember is a container with 10 graduations. When the container is full, the Burning Ember can be used and you will be able to start filling the next Burning Ember (provided that they are not all full).
Out of combat, you will always end up with exactly 1 full Burning Ember. The other 2 Burning Embers will slowly decay if they are filled. The first Burning Ember will slowly regenerate if it is not full.
During combat, Burning Embers are generated through the use of your core abilities:
- Incinerate is your main Burning Ember-generating ability. It has a 2-second cast (down from 2.5 seconds in Cataclysm), and each strike fills 10% of a Burning Ember (so, 1 graduation). Critical Strikes fill 20%. Note that Incinerate no longer deals more damage on immolated targets.
- Fel Flame is another strong Burning Ember-generating ability. It regenerates Burning Embers in the same way as Incinerate. Its instant-cast time and high mana cost will make it hard to spam this ability. As in Cataclysm, this spell will increase the duration of Immolate on your target by 6 seconds (up to a maximum of 22.5 seconds).
- Immolate is still a 15-second DoT that deals Fire damage. The only difference with Cataclysm is that each time Immolate critically ticks, you have a small chance of regenerating 10% of a Burning Ember.
- Rain of Fire still has an 8-second duration and still deals AoE damage. On immolated targets, this ability deals 50% more damage and each hit has a 25% chance to regenerate 10% of a Burning Ember. Thanks to Aftermath, Rain of Fire no longer needs to be channeled and enemies struck 3 times will be stunned for 2 seconds.
- Chaos Bolt consumes 1 Burning Ember and deals a large amount of damage. This ability will always critically strike and its damage is increased by your critical strike chance. In Cataclysm, the damage it dealt could not be resisted; this is no longer the case.
- Shadowburn no longer grants Soul Shards, as this resource is now exclusive to Affliction Warlocks. Instead, it consumes a Burning Ember and deals a large amount of damage. It is still only usable on targets below 20% health and it now restores 15% of your mana after 5 seconds.
- Dark Soul: Instability is a new DPS cooldown that is specific to Destruction Warlocks and that grants +30% critical strike chance for 20 seconds on a 2-minute cooldown. Other Warlock specialisations have their own variant of the spell.
- Mastery: Emberstorm is your new Mastery. It increases the damage of Immolate, Incinerate, Fel Flame, and Conflagrate. It also increases the effectiveness of your Burning Ember-consuming abilities.
- Ember Tap is a new Destruction-only ability that consumes a Burning Ember and instantly restores 20% of your health.
- Flames of Xoroth is a new Destruction-only ability that consumes a Burning Ember and instantly revives your last demon.
- Unending Resolve provides 50% damage reduction for 12 seconds, on a 3-minute cooldown.
- Demonic Gateway is your level 87 spell. It is an extremely interesting ability, the usefulness of which will soon be very obvious to you. It creates a gateway between your current location and the location that you click (the maximum distance seems to be about 100 yards). The gateway initially has 0 charges and will generate a new charge every 15 seconds, up to a maximum of 5 charges. A charge is consumed every time someone steps in the gateway (on either end). Stepping through the gateway, on either end, will transport you to the other end. It will also apply a buff to you, which prevents you from using the gateway for the next 15 seconds and reduces your threat for 15 seconds.
- Curse of Enfeeblement reduces the physical damage done by your target by 20% and increases the casting time of all its spells by 50%.
- Pandemic is your level 90 ability. It causes the remaining duration of your DoTs to be added to the new duration when you refresh them, up to 50% of the base duration.
DemonsBy default, you can summon one of four demons to help you fight your foes.
- The Felhunter will be your demon of choice for raiding. It currently deals the most damage. It will automatically cast the following abilities: Devour Magic and Shadow Bite. It can also cast Spell Lock if you instruct it to.
- The Imp may have its uses for raiding, though it does not do as much damage as the Felhunter. It will automatically cast the following abilities: Firebolt, Singe Magic, and Blood Pact. It can also cast Flee if you instruct it to.
- The Succubus may have its uses for raiding, though it does not do as much damage as the Felguard. It will automatically cast the following abilities: Lash of Pain, Seduction, and Lesser Invisibility. It can also cast Whiplash if you instruct it to.
- The Voidwalker will be your demon of choice while leveling up. It will automatically cast the following abilities: Shadow Bulwark, Suffering, and Torment. It can also cast Disarm if you instruct it to.
Also, you have the Command Demon ability, which, if put on your action bar, will change with the demon you are using. For the Voidwalker, the Felhunter, and the Succubus, this ability will cast their manual ability. For the Felguard, it will cast Felstorm. For the Imp, it will cast Cauterize Master, which does not seem to be otherwise available.
Grimoire of Supremacy is a Tier 5 talent that improves your demons with better abilities.
- The Felhunter becomes an Observer. Devour Magic is replaced by Clone Magic, Shadow Bite by Tongue Lash, and Spell Lock by Optical Blast.
- The Imp becomes a Fel Imp. Firebolt is replaced by Felbolt and Singe Magic is replaced by Sear Magic.
- The Succubus becomes a Shivarra. Lash of Pain is replaced by Bladedance, Seduction by Mesmerize, and Whiplash by Fellash.
- The Voidwalker becomes a Voidlord. Shadow Bulwark is replaced by Threatening Presence.
Your demon DPS cooldowns are replaced by more powerful versions: a Terrorguard ( Summon Terrorguard) for single-target damage or an Abyssal ( Summon Abyssal) for AoE damage.
Your Command Demon ability will cast the manual ability of your demon, except for the Fel Imp, for which it casts Cauterize Master (as it does for the Imp).
RotationYour rotation as a Destruction Warlock is very different from what it was in Cataclysm. You will need to follow this priority list:
- Apply Immolate and keep it up by casting Fel Flame every 6 seconds in average.
- Cast Conflagrate as often as possible and never consume the charges of Backdraft with Chaos Bolt (always consume them with Incinerate).
- Cast Incinerate to build up Burning Embers.
- Cast Chaos Bolt when you have a Burning Ember available.
Note that using Shadowburn will considerably increase your mana regeneration. One might think that this will make it possible to cast Fel Flame a lot more often without running out of mana. However, the tests we did on the beta tend to show that doing so is detrimental to your DPS. So, we are left to wonder what exactly Destruction Warlocks are supposed to do with this mana.
CooldownsIn Mists of Pandaria, you will gain a number of cooldowns (offensive and defensive), the majority of which are obtained through your choices of talents (as we explain in our talent section).
Your offensive cooldowns should be used as often as possible and combining them will usually grant you an increased effect:
- Dark Soul: Instability, for which you will want to pool Burning Embers, so that you can cast as many Chaos Bolt or Shadowburn while the cooldown is active;
- Summon Doomguard and Summon Infernal or Summon Terrorguard and Summon Abyssal, depending on your choice of Tier 5 talent;
- Grimoire of Service (Tier 5 talent);
- Grimoire of Sacrifice (Tier 5 talent);
- Archimonde's Vengeance (Tier 6 talent);
- Kil'jaeden's Cunning (Tier 6 talent).
- Unending Resolve;
- Dark Regeneration (Tier 1 talent);
- Sacrificial Pact (Tier 3 talent);
- Dark Bargain (Tier 3 talent);
- Ember Tap.
AoE RotationWhen fighting 2 or 3 enemies, stick to your single-target rotation on one of them, all the while trying to keep Immolate up on the other targets. You should also maintain a good uptime on Rain of Fire.
When fighting 4 or more enemies, you need to stop using Fel Flame. Instead, you will always refresh Immolate manually after having cast Fire and Brimstone. This way, Immolate will be applied to all enemies within 15 yards.
Havoc is also an important multiple-target ability that you should try to use on cooldown on a secondary target.
TalentsTier 1 talents give you the choice between self-healing talents.
- Dark Regeneration is a 3-minute cooldown that restores some of your life and increases healing received for 12 seconds.
- Soul Leech is a passive ability that grants self-healing capabilities to your three most important offensive abilities.
- Harvest Life is an improvement over Drain Life, which it replaces. It deals AoE damage and regenerates more health, between 3% and 4.5% maximum health per second, depending on the number of enemies.
Tier 2 talents offer crowd control abilities.
- Howl of Terror used to be an ability available by default to all Warlocks. Its effect has not been changed.
- Mortal Coil is the new name of Death Coil.
- Shadowfury used to be only accessible to Destruction Warlocks.
Tier 3 talents offer damage reduction mechanics.
- Soul Link causes the damage you and your demon take to be shared. However, your demon's health is reduced by 50%.
- Sacrificial Pact is on a 1-minute cooldown and causes your demon to sacrifice half of its current health to give you a shield for 200% of the sacrificed health. If you do not have a demon out, your health is sacrificed instead.
- Dark Bargain is on a 3-minute cooldown and prevents all damage for 10 seconds. After the 10 seconds are up, the damage prevented is dealt over 20 seconds.
Tier 4 talents offer crowd control and utility abilities.
- Blood Fear is an improvement over Fear, which it replaces. It is instant cast and no longer has a mana cost. Instead, it costs 10% of your maximum health.
- Burning Rush sacrifices health and increases your movement speed.
- Unbound Will removes all magic and movement-impairing effects, as well as effects that cause loss of control of your character. It costs 20% of your health.
Tier 5 talents provide various modifications to your demons.
- Grimoire of Supremacy replaces your minions by more powerful demons that deal 20% more damage.
- Grimoire of Service is a 2-minute cooldown that enables you to summon a second demon for 20 seconds.
- Grimoire of Sacrifice sacrifices your demon to increase spell damage by 30% to 50% (depending on the specialisation) and to regenerate 2% of maximum health every 5 seconds. Resummoning a demon cancels the effect. Finally, you gain one of your demon's abilities:
- Imp: Singe Magic;
- Voidwalker: Shadow Bulwark;
- Felhunter: Spell Lock;
- Succubus: Seduction.
Tier 6 talents provide various means of increasing your DPS.
- Archimonde's Vengeance is a 1-minute cooldown that causes the enemy to suffer 50% of all damage you take for 12 seconds. When Archimonde's Vengeance is not on cooldown, enemies who attack you suffer 10% of all damage they deal to you.
- Kil'jaeden's Cunning is a 1-minute cooldown that enables you to cast and channel while moving for 6 seconds. When Kil'Jaeden's Cunning is not on cooldown, you can cast and channel while moving, but at the expense of a 50% casting speed reduction and a 20% movement speed reduction.
- Mannoroth's Fury increases the area of your AoE spells by 500%.
GlyphsGlyph of Burning Embers increases your number of Burning Embers to 4, enabling you to pool more Burning Embers (to use with Chaos Bolt or Shadowburn) before a period of increased damage dealt.
The following major glyphs will also be useful to Demonology Warlocks:
- Glyph of Conflagrate, which causes Conflagrate to snare the enemies even if they are not afflicted by Immolate;
- Glyph of Dark Soul, which should be used when you want to transform the effect of Dark Soul: Instability into a less powerful, but passive bonus;
- Glyph of Siphon Life, which causes your Immolate to heal you for 20% of the damage it does;
- Glyph of Soul Consumption, which causes Chaos Bolt and Shadowburn to restore 20% of your health when you kill an enemy (this can be interesting in AoE situations).
This concludes our Destruction Warlock preview for Mists of Pandaria. We hope you have enjoyed reading it and that it proved useful to you. As always, we are looking forward to reading your opinions on the matter!
Edited by Damien, 29 August 2012 - 12:29 PM. Updated for MoP beta build 15961.