Destruction Warlock DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoD 6.0.3)

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General Information

On this page, we list your Destruction Warlock core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft WoD 6.0.3. We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that you will need to know if you want to excel at playing a Destruction Warlock.

The other pages of our Destruction Warlock guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Reviewers

This guide has been reviewed and approved by two prominent Warlock theorycrafters: Gahddo, who maintains the Warlock profiles and rotations in Simulation Craft, and Zagam, our in-house Warlock theorycrafter.

6.0.2 Transition Guide

If you want to read all about the Patch 6.0.2 changes and learn how they affect your character, make sure to read our Warlock Transition Guide!

1. Single Target Rotation↑top

Your single-target rotation is based on the following priority list.

  1. Cast Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn, when your target has less than 20% health and the conditions below for Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt are met.
  2. Apply Immolate Icon Immolate and refresh it, if it is about to drop and if Cataclysm Icon Cataclysm will not come off cooldown before this happens (provided you took this Tier 7 talent).
  3. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate if you have two charges.
  4. Cast Cataclysm Icon Cataclysm if you chose it as your Tier 7 talent.
  5. Cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt if
  6. Refresh Immolate Icon Immolate, if it has less than 4.5 seconds remaining and if Cataclysm Icon Cataclysm will not come off cooldown before Immolate expires (provided you took this Tier 7 talent).
  7. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate if you have one charge.
  8. Cast Incinerate Icon Incinerate as a filler.

The idea is to keep a relatively high amount of Burning Embers, so that you can always cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt when it will be dealing more damage (trinket proc, Dark Soul, etc.).

Tier 17 set bonuses change your rotation, so please refer to our section about Tier bonuses for more information.

2. Multiple Target Rotation with Demonic Servitude or Cataclysm↑top

When fighting 2 or 4 enemies, keep doing your single-target rotation on one enemy with the following tweaks:

  • apply and refresh Immolate Icon Immolate on as many enemies as possible;
  • use Havoc Icon Havoc on Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt (if no target is below 20% health) or Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn (if there is a target below 20% health);
  • make Cataclysm Icon Cataclysm (if talented) your top priority.

Starting from 5 enemies, you should apply Immolate Icon Immolate with Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone. You should also use Rain of Fire Icon Rain of Fire, if the enemies will live for the full duration of the spell.

When fighting 6 or more enemies, you should also use Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone to cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate@ and Incinerate Icon Incinerate. Using Havoc Icon Havoc with Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt or Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn has priority over using Fire and Brimstone.

If Mannoroth's Fury Icon Mannoroth's Fury is your Tier 6 talent, then you should start using Mannoroth's Fury Icon Mannoroth's Fury+Rain of Fire Icon Rain of Fire when there are 3 or more targets.

3. Multiple Target Rotation with Charred Remains↑top

When fighting 2 enemies, keep doing your single-target on one enemy with the following tweaks:

  • apply and refresh Immolate Icon Immolate on both enemies;
  • use Havoc Icon Havoc on Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt (if no target is below 20% health) or Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn (if there is a target below 20% health);
  • keep Rain of Fire Icon Rain of Fire up, if the enemies will live for the full duration of the spell.

When fighting 3 enemies, you should start using Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone with Immolate Icon Immolate, Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate, and Incinerate Icon Incinerate. Before casting Fire and Brimstone + Immolate, you should wait until you have 2 or more Burning Embers, to avoid dropping below 1 Burning Ember. The primary objective of using Fire and Brimstone on Conflagrate and Incinerate is to generate more Burning Embers, which you will be able to spend on single-target Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolts and Shadowburn Icon Shadowburns. So, you will need to deactivate Fire and Brimstone before casting Chaos Bolt. The priority between all these spells is the same as in your single-target rotation.

When fighting 4 or more enemies, you should start casting Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt with Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone (instead of Havoc Icon Havoc). Before casting Chaos Bolt, you need to wait to have 3 to 3.5 Burning Embers. This way, you will be able to immediately start generating Burning Embers again with Fire and Brimstone + Conflagrate or Fire and Brimstone + Incinerate. Note that if cleave damage is more important than AoE damage, then you should start casting Chaos Bolt with Fire and Brimstone when there are 5 enemies (not 4) or more.

If Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone ever drops, then you need to do the 2 enemies rotation until you have a Burning Ember to reactivate Fire and Brimstone.

4. Demon↑top

If Demonic Servitude Icon Demonic Servitude is your Tier 7 talent, then use the Doomguard for all situations where you fight less than 4 enemies and the Infernal for more enemies.

If you use another Tier 7 talent, demons are tuned in such a way that they are extremely close in DPS, so you can use whichever demon you want. In some situations, you may want to use a specific demon.

  • The Imp/Fel Imp works great on fights where the boss moves a lot, but you remain mostly stationary.
  • The Felhunter/Observer is crucial if you need to interrupt.
  • The Succubus/Shivarra is great for movement.

In the same way, the demon you summon with Grimoire of Service Icon Grimoire of Service, if you use that talent, will not impact your DPS, so make your choice based on the special ability the demon casts when summoned.

If you use Grimoire of Sacrifice Icon Grimoire of Sacrifice, the demon you will sacrifice will not affect your DPS. However, bear in mind that you are given their Command Demon Icon Command Demon ability.

5. Cooldowns↑top

Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability is your main DPS cooldown. It increases your critical strike chance by 30% for. Use it on cooldown and try to max out your Burning Embers before using it, so that you can cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt as many times while your critical strike chance is increased.

Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard and Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal share a cooldown. As such, you will have to decide which of the two you will use. These two abilities are on a 10-minute cooldown, so you will realistically only use them once per fight. Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard is better when fighting 4 enemies or less, while Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal is better when fighting 5 enemies or more.

If you choose Grimoire of Supremacy Icon Grimoire of Supremacy, as a Tier 5 talent, then Summon Doomguard becomes Summon Terrorguard Icon Summon Terrorguard and Summon Infernal becomes Summon Abyssal Icon Summon Abyssal.

In addition, you have a number of defensive and offensive cooldowns, the majority of which depends on your choice of talents. We detail all these cooldowns in a subsequent section.

6. Optional Read: Mastering Your Destruction Warlock↑top

Overall, playing a Destruction Warlock is not difficult, and following the priorities listed above will yield excellent results. Despite this, there are a few concepts that we feel require a bit of additional explanation for you to fully understand your class.

6.1. Burning Embers

Burning Embers Icon Burning Embers will play a major role in your play style, as you need them to cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt or Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn. Most of your damaging abilities generate Burning Embers.

You have 4 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 3 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 Icon Incinerate is your main Burning Ember-generating ability. It has a 2-second cast and each strike fills 10% of a Burning Ember (so, 1 graduation). Critical hits fill 20%.
  • Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate is your second source of Burning Ember. Each strike fills 10% of a Burning Ember and critical strikes fill 20%.
  • Immolate Icon Immolate is a 15-second DoT that deals Fire damage. Each time Immolate critically hits (from the initial damage or from a subsequent tick), you have a small chance of regenerating 10% of a Burning Ember.

Burning Embers will mostly be consumed with the following two abilities.

  • Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt consumes 1 Burning Ember, has a rather long cast, and deals a large amount of damage. This ability will always critically strike and its damage is increased by your critical strike chance.
  • Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn consumes a Burning Ember, is instant-cast, and deals a large amount of damage, but it can only be used on targets below 20% health.

Note that the Life Tap Icon Life Tap ability that other Warlock classes have is replaced with Ember Tap Icon Ember Tap, which heals you at the cost of 1 Burning Ember.

6.2. Refreshing Your DoTs

As a Destruction Warlock, a small part of your DPS comes from a DoT: Immolate Icon Immolate. Even though DoTs are much less important to Destruction Warlocks than they are to Affliction or Demonology Warlocks, you should still know how to refresh them optimally.

When you refresh Immolate Icon Immolate, the remaining duration is added to the new duration, up to 30% of the base duration. So, if you refresh Immolate when there are 3 seconds remaining, then the new duration will be 18 seconds.

DoTs automatically scale with your statistics, so there is no need to cast them while you benefit from trinket procs or other damage-increasing effects. In other words, snapshotting is gone, so do not bother taking it into account anymore.

6.3. Demons

By default, you can summon one of four demons to help you fight your foes. Except for the Voidwalker, they are all viable for raiding.

You also have two demons that you can use as DPS cooldowns: a Doomguard (Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard) for single-target damage or an Infernal (Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal) for AoE damage.

Finally, you have the Command Demon Icon Command Demon ability, which, if put on your action bar, will change with the demon you are using:

6.3.1. Grimoire of Supremacy

Grimoire of Supremacy Icon Grimoire of Supremacy is a Tier 5 talent that improves your demons and gives them better abilities.

The Fel Imp, Observer, and Shivarra deal similar damage, so choose one for the abilities it brings you.

Your demon DPS cooldowns are replaced with more powerful versions: a Terrorguard (Summon Terrorguard Icon Summon Terrorguard) for single-target damage or an Abyssal (Summon Abyssal Icon Summon Abyssal) for AoE damage.

Finally, Command Demon Icon Command Demon gives you the following abilities:

6.3.2. Demonic Servitude

If you choose Demonic Servitude Icon Demonic Servitude as your Tier 7 talent, then Doomguard and Infernal (Terrorguard and Abyssal with Grimoire of Supremacy Icon Grimoire of Supremacy) become regular demons that you can summon and dismiss at will. They also gain new abilities that you can control.

Doomguard has Doom Bolt Icon Doom Bolt, Shadow Lock Icon Shadow Lock (a 6-second silence), and Cripple Icon Cripple (a 30-second slow that is channeled). Terrorguard replaces Cripple with Debilitate Icon Debilitate (a 30-second root that is channeled). Both versions of the demon cast Shadow Lock with Command Demon Icon Command Demon, which is also the ability you get when sacrificing them with Grimoire of Sacrifice Icon Grimoire of Sacrifice.

Infernal has Meteor Strike Icon Meteor Strike (AoE damage), Burning Presence Icon Burning Presence (passive tank buff), Seethe Icon Seethe (taunt), and Torch Magic Icon Torch Magic (purges 1 beneficial effect from 1 enemy or 1 harmful effect from 1 ally). Abyssal replaces Torch Magic with Blaze Magic Icon Blaze Magic, which does the same thing, but on more targets. The Command Demon Icon Command Demon for Infernal and Abyssal is Meteor Strike, which is also the ability you get when sacrificing them with Grimoire of Sacrifice Icon Grimoire of Sacrifice.

The Infernal / Abyssal is a particularly good choice for solo content, thanks to the tanking abilities it receives from Demonic Servitude Icon Demonic Servitude.

6.3.3. Felguard/Wrathguard as Destruction

By using Flames of Xoroth Icon Flames of Xoroth, you can use a Felguard/Wrathguard as a Destruction Warlock. Spec into Demonology, summon your Felguard/Wrathguard, then spec into Destruction. Casting Flames of Xorroth will revive your Felguard/Wrathguard, but it will only last for about 25 seconds. Since it has a very powerful AoE ability, this trick can be useful in some AoE-heavy fights, where you will summon your Felguard/Wrathguard every minute.

6.4. Shadowburn

Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn is an important spell for Destruction Warlocks in multiple-target situations. On fights where you can cycle through many adds, including some that are below 20% health, Destruction Warlocks can really shine.

The key is to use Havoc Icon Havoc with Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn as often as possible. Havoc allows you to cast Shadowburn 3 times before its effect runs out (against only once for Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt). So you should always focus on targets lower than 20% health so that you can use Havoc and Shadowburn. Often, you will not have enough Burning Embers to cast Shadowburn more than once or twice while Havoc is up. Even so, you should always try and use Havoc for Shadowburn and not Chaos Bolt, because one cast of Shadowburn during Havoc is worth more than a cast of Chaos Bolt during Havoc. It is acceptable to postpone using Havoc for a few seconds if an add is about to drop below 20% health.

Also, if a target dies less than 5 seconds after you attacked it with Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn, you regain 2 Burning Embers, so this is another reason why proper usage of Shadowburn is crucial. Ideally, you should try and damage every add that is about to die with Shadowburn. In turn, this will give you Burning Embers that you can use to keep spamming Shadowburn.

6.5. Backdraft, Incinerate, and Chaos Bolt

Backdraft Icon Backdraft causes your Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate spell to lower the Mana cost and cast time of your 3 next Incinerate Icon Incinerates or of your next Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt by 30%.

Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt deals a lot more damage than Incinerate Icon Incinerate, so you should not hesitate to consume charges of Backdraft with Chaos Bolt, when you want to cast several Chaos Bolts in a short period of time. The rest of the time, simply consume your procs of Backdraft with Incinerate.

6.6. More on Cooldowns

In addition to your Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability, Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard, and Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal, you have other defensive and offensive cooldowns, the majority of which will depend on your choice of talents. We present them in this section, but first, we need to say more about your Doomguard and your Infernal.

6.6.1. Doomguard and Infernal

For most situations, summoning a Doomguard is your best choice. In case you are faced with a large number of enemies that you wish to use extra burst on, you should use Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal.

Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard/Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal will summon a Doomguard/Infernal to fight by your side for 45 seconds. The ability has a 10 minute cooldown, meaning that it will realistically only be usable once per fight. Your Doomguard/Infernal's damage will scale dynamically with your own Spell Power and Critical Strike, so any change in your stats after your Doomguard/Infernal has been summoned will affect him.

Ideally, you need to use your Doomguard/Infernal at the pull or when your raid uses Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust/Heroism Icon Heroism/Time Warp Icon Time Warp.

Everything we said in this section is still valid for Summon Terrorguard Icon Summon Terrorguard and Summon Abyssal Icon Summon Abyssal, if you choose Grimoire of Supremacy Icon Grimoire of Supremacy as your tier 5 talent.

6.6.2. Defensive Cooldowns

You have a total of 6 defensive cooldowns, 3 of which depend on your choices of talents.

  • Soulshatter Icon Soulshatter reduces your threat by 90% for all enemies within 50 yards. It has a 2-minute cooldown.
  • Unending Resolve Icon Unending Resolve reduces all damage taken by 40% and prevents your spells from being interrupted or silenced for 8 seconds. It has a 3-minute cooldown.
  • Dark Regeneration Icon Dark Regeneration is a Tier 1 talent that restores 30% of your health and that of your pet, and increases healing received by 25% over 12 seconds.
  • Sacrificial Pact Icon Sacrificial Pact is a Tier 3 talent that sacrifices 25% of your demon's health (or 25% of your health if you have no demon) to create an absorption shield on you for 400% of the sacrificed health.
  • Dark Bargain Icon Dark Bargain is a Tier 3 talent that prevents all damage from 8 seconds. When the effect fades, 50% of the damage prevented is dealt over 8 seconds.
  • Healthstone Icon Healthstones can be much more beneficial to Warlocks than they are to other classes, because of Glyph of Healthstone Icon Glyph of Healthstone. Do not hesitate to make good use of them!
  • Ember Tap Icon Ember Tap consumes a Burning Ember and restores some of your health.

For other Warlock specialisations, this number of defensive cooldowns can be explained by the fact that they need to often use Life Tap Icon Life Tap to regenerate Mana, so having these cooldowns is a means of compensating for requiring more healing from the healers.

In the case of Destruction Warlocks, Life Tap Icon Life Tap is replaced by Ember Tap Icon Ember Tap, so these cooldowns will simply be used with survival in mind.

6.6.3. Offensive Talent Cooldowns

Grimoire of Service Icon Grimoire of Service is a Tier 5 talent that enables you to summon an additional demon to fight for you for 20 seconds. The demon you summon matters very little for your DPS, so make your choice based on the special ability that each demon casts when summoned. Grimoire of Service should be used on cooldown and preferably when you have a trinket/weapon enchant proc or when you deal increased damage on the boss, as your demon benefits from a number of your stats.

Mannoroth's Fury Icon Mannoroth's Fury is a Tier 6 talent that enables you to greatly increase the damage and area of your AoE spells. Use it whenever you need to do heavy AoE damage. It has a 1-minute cooldown, which lets you use it many times a fight.

6.7. Tier 17 Bonuses

The 2-piece bonus adds a condition for casting Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt. With this set bonus, you can start casting Chaos Bolt as soon as you have 2.5 Burning Embers (down from 3.5 in our rotation). The reason for this is because this set bonus gives you a chance to generate a full Burning Ember at any moment, so casting Chaos Bolt at 2.5 Burning Embers ensures that none of these procs will go to waste.

The 4-piece bonus grants you a small chance to proc Chaotic Infusion Icon Chaotic Infusion. This buff last for 30 seconds and causes your next Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt to multistrike 3 additional times. This buff does not stack, so you need to consume it rapidly to prevent it from being overridden. As a result, when you have this set bonus, casting Chaos Bolt while Chaotic Infusion is up becomes your top priority.

7. Changelog↑top

  • 01 Dec. 2014: Revamped AoE rotation sections.
  • 27 Nov. 2014: Removed Rain of Fire from the single-target rotation and made a few adjustments to the multiple-target rotation section.
  • 16 Nov. 2014: Updated rotations for Level 100. Added a new demon section for Demonic Servitude. Added new section for Tier 17 Bonuses.