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Destruction Warlock DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoD 6.2.4)

Last updated Yesterday at 21:03 by Furty 68 comments

Table of Contents

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 6.2.4. 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 Author

This guide has been written by Furty who raids in Serenity, the number #1 World of Warcraft guild. He plays most DPS classes at the highest level. You can follow him on Twitter and watch him play on Twitch.

1. Ability Priority List

Destruction does not follow a strict or reliable rotation, but instead focuses on leveraging opportunities as they arise. A basic priority system is outlined below, with more detail highlighted in the Core Concepts section. Feel free to uncheck some of the boxes just below, if conditions do not apply.

  • With Nithramus?
  • Secondary target present?
  • 4 or more stacked enemies for Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone?
  1. Cast Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability when Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer is active. You should have at least 3 Embers pooled in anticipation of this cooldown usage. Use any racials, such as Blood Fury Icon Blood Fury, at the same time.
  2. Cast Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard when Heroism Icon Heroism / Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust is activated.
  3. Cast Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn up to 3 times if your target is below 20%, and Havoc Icon Havoc is applied to a secondary target.
  4. Cast Havoc Icon Havoc if it is off cooldown and a secondary target is present, or will be present within 10 seconds. Havoc Icon Havoc charges are best spent on Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt if Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn cannot be used.
  5. Cast Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn once if the target is below 20% and will die within 5 seconds, ensuring an Ember refund.
  6. Activate Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone if at least 4 targets are present. While Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone is active you will need a minimum of 3 Embers before you can start using Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt, as it consumes 2 Embers. You will also need an Ember in reserve to generate more Embers via Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate and Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone Incinerate Icon Incinerate. If the targets will live for fewer than 10 seconds, do not apply Immolate Icon Immolate via Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone. Refer to the priority system as normal while using Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone.
  7. Cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt when Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability and Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer are active.
  8. Cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt when advantageous procs occur, such as trinket procs and Mark of Bleeding Hollow Icon Mark of Bleeding Hollow.
  9. Cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt if you are about to hit 4 Embers.
  10. Apply Immolate Icon Immolate if it is absent on your primary target and it will live for at least 10 seconds.
  11. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate if you have two charges.
  12. Apply Immolate Icon Immolate to a secondary target if present and it will live for at least 10 seconds.
  13. Refresh Immolate Icon Immolate if it has less than 4.5 seconds remaining.
  14. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate if you have one charge.
  15. Cast Incinerate Icon Incinerate as a filler.
  16. Cast Rain of Fire Icon Rain of Fire if you are moving and Havoc Icon Havoc and Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate are on cooldown.

The core component of this specialization is building Burning Embers and unleashing them at the most opportune moments. Be ready for Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability and Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer, as a large portion of your damage will come from making the most of these cooldowns. When Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer is on cooldown, focus on spending your Embers when your trinkets or weapon enchant proc. If you can anticipate AoE, pool your Embers so you can immediately begin your Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone rotation.

For more information on your opening sequence, please refer to our dedicated section.

2. Important Notes

There are several important nuances that aren't common knowledge.

2.1. Chaos Bolt vs. Shadowburn

Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt is always better than Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn if Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn will not return Embers. There are several reasons why this is the case, listed below.

  1. Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt always critically strikes, and gains a bonus 1% damage per 1% critical strike you have. Not only does this result in more average damage, but it also allows Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt to scale much better during Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability.
  2. The T18 2-piece bonus reduces the cast time of Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt, while the T18 4-piece bonus gives Chaos Bolt a 12% chance not to consume a Burning Ember. Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn benefits from neither of these bonuses.
  3. Mastery is our core stat, and therefore we will never have enough critical strike for Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn to be reliable damage.

It is always worth casting Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn to get an Ember return, or when you can get 2 or more in combination with Havoc Icon Havoc. Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt is more effective than Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn even if you lack a set bonus.

2.2. Ember Generation and Consumption

During combat, Burning Embers are generated through the use of your core abilities.

  • Incinerate Icon Incinerate generates 1 Emberbit (10% of an Ember) on normal casts, and 2 Emberbits on crits.
  • Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate generates 1 Emberbit on normal casts, and 2 Emberbits on crits.
  • Immolate Icon Immolate generates no Embers on normal ticks, and 1 Emberbit on crits.

Burning Embers will mostly be consumed with the following abilities.

2.3. Backdraft

Backdraft Icon Backdraft causes your Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate spell to lower the Mana cost and cast time of your 3 next Incinerate Icon Incinerate casts or your next Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt cast by 30%. Generally speaking it does not matter whether you use Backdraft Icon Backdraft on Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt or Incinerate Icon Incinerate. On pure single-target, outside of Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability, it is usually a damage gain to spend the stacks on Incinerate Icon Incinerate. For AoE scenarios, it is generally much better to instead spend the stacks on Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt, since Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate can be used to instantly regenerate most of your embers. This results in more burst as AoE adds generally have a short lifespan, allowing you get more casts of Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt off in a shorter timeframe. Ultimately, Backdraft Icon Backdraft is a matter of context and there is no perfect answer to determine the usage in all situations. Getting a feel for this passive will contribute to an overall damage gain, but bear in mind this is a very small optimization to make, and not worth stressing over.

2.4. Doomguard and Infernal

Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard is best paired with Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust for maximum damage. Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal can be used on mass area-of-effect, but this is generally inadvisable as it is a very weak pet and is almost never a benefit on an actual boss encounter. Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard does 20% more damage when the target is below 20% health, though this is not enough to outweigh the benefit of Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust.

2.5. Notable Passives

Chaotic Energy Icon Chaotic Energy causes you to passively regenerate mana 625% faster, further increased by haste value, in place of Life Tap Icon Life Tap. Chaotic Energy Icon Chaotic Energy also grants all Destruction Warlock abilities with a baseline 1-second Global Cooldown, which cannot be further affected by haste, in contrast with most classes' 1.5-second Global Cooldown which is affected by haste. We also have Devastation Icon Devastation, which causes us to gain 15% more benefit from the critical strike stat. Accounting for Devastation Icon Devastation, it only takes Destruction Warlocks 93.5 critical strike to achieve 1% rating, versus the normal 110 rating to 1%.

2.6. Ember Tap

Ember Tap Icon Ember Tap should never be used, in any situation. It is a crippling loss of damage and players that get accustomed to using it often consistently overuse it. Instead, become better adept at avoiding mechanics to begin with and make good use of your Healing Tonic Icon Healing Tonic and Shadow Bulwark Icon Shadow Bulwark.

3. Core Concepts

Destruction Warlock is a specialization that is simple enough to grasp on a single target, but due to the flexibility of your abilities, allows for some of the highest optimization of any specialization in World of Warcraft. There are 3 major concepts that form the central trinity of optimizing for success.

  1. Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer and Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability usage.
  2. Ember management and Havoc Icon Havoc usage.
  3. Movement management.

While managing movement is a fundamental skill shared by all the caster classes in World of Warcraft, the highly immobile nature of Destruction Warlock makes the proper positioning and movement play of particular importance on many encounters.

3.1. Dark Soul and the Legendary Ring

Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer and Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability synergize perfectly together, each of them sharing a 2-minute cooldown. In anticipation of the activation of Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer, you should store a minimum of 3 Burning Embers ready for use. You should refresh Immolate Icon Immolate right before Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer is activated, so you do not waste global cooldowns once it is active. You should also save a minimum of 1 charge of Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate as a means of instant Ember generation. Once Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer is active, do not bother refreshing Immolate Icon Immolate and instead focus on fitting as many Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt casts in as possible. The meteor explosion stored by Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer is applied on spell impact instead of spell cast, so being close to the boss is an advantage at this time, as both Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt and Incinerate Icon Incinerate have extremely slow travel times. If the boss is under 20%, you are not directly on top of your target, and there is less than 2 seconds remaining on Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer, you should cast Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn instead of Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt.

If possible, look for AoE opportunities to help increased the impact of Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer. Both Havoc Icon Havoc and Fire and Brimstone Icon Fire and Brimstone can be used to great effect. You should also use your Draenic Intellect Potion Icon Draenic Intellect Potion during your predicted highest impact Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer, to bolster your damage even further.

3.1.1. Archimonde's Darkness

Your first charge of Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability should always be used with Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer, without exception. Your second charge of Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability can be used at your discretion. There is no right answer, but you should also avoid using it randomly. Several ways to use it for maximum punch have been listed below.

  1. To help deal with a crux your group is struggling with. Many groups struggle with certain parts of a boss, where an extra cooldown can be the difference between wiping and succeeding. For example, Primal Elementalists on Blast Furnace or Infernals on Mythic Archimonde. Having a charge in reserve to deal with a pesky add(s) is a very good use of this cooldown.
  2. When your trinket procs and you have several Embers already pooled, allowing for maximum impact.
  3. On large scale AoE, for maximum overall damage or to help your group eliminate adds quickly.
  4. During Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust if Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer is on cooldown.
  5. You should try to avoid using both charges consecutively, but if you determine this is necessary (e.g. to help push a damage check) you should try to generate a few embers between usages so you don't go into the second charge without Embers.

Do not be afraid to experiment with this cooldown to help hone your instincts. Playing this specialization properly relies heavily on intuition and getting a solid sense for cooldown usage is key.

3.2. Ember Management and Havoc Usage

Properly pooling and unleashing Embers is of the highest importance to your success. There is little reason to cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt unless you are in danger of Ember capping or you have an active proc. Boss timers should be carefully watched so that you are always ready to deal with adds at a moment's notice. When casting Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn it is ideal to be at 3 Embers or less, so the Ember refund will not Ember cap you. Setting up for AoE is very important as precious seconds will be lost generating Embers if you are not ready.

3.2.1. Havoc Usage

Havoc Icon Havoc is one of your most important spells. Spells affected by Havoc are: Immolate, Incinerate, Conflagrate, Chaos Bolt, Shadowburn, Mortal Coil, and Spell Lock. Chaos Bolt consumes all 3 stacks of Havoc, but all other spells consume a single stack. In multi-target scenarios this should be used on cooldown, and paired with Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt or 2 or more Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn casts, when available. On situations where a single target periodically spawns an add(s), you can use Havoc Icon Havoc early. Havoc Icon Havoc lasts for 14 seconds, and has a 15-second cooldown, therefore, if you use it in advance of an add spawn you can use it a second time almost immediately afterwards. This requires careful timing and close attentiveness to your boss timers, but it results in a very large damage gain on many encounters. Every Havoc Icon Havoc is a "free" Ember (since your spell is copied), and by utilizing this technique you are effectively doubling that return. If you are extremely low on Embers leading up to cooldown usage, you can also use Havoc Icon Havoc to quickly generate Embers. This is not advisable for regular usage, since this can be prevented through proper foresight and planning, but it can be used contextually to help patch a mistake. Havoc is typically unaffected by range or line of sight requirements. This is very much a 'feel' ability! Play with it, get to know it, learn to use it to benefit your current situation. Havoc has many applicable uses, and often the rules change or bend depending on the situation and the fight.

3.3. Movement Management

While it is difficult to describe the best ways to position and move during a dungeon or raid encounter, it is essential to your success as a Destruction Warlock. Demonic Circle: Teleport Icon Demonic Circle: Teleport is very underutilized by many Warlocks, but provides a significant boost to your ability to quickly deal with predictable mechanics. Demonic Circle: Summon Icon Demonic Circle: Summon should be placed on every fight, even if you cannot think of a perfect usage for it. Oftentimes it can be helpful just to have a panic button that will teleport you away from your current location and potentially save your life. Demonic Gateway Icon Demonic Gateway can be highly effective on many encounters as well, and is under appreciated by many players and raid groups. Think of Demonic Gateway Icon Demonic Gateway as a raid cooldown that can instantly teleport your entire raid group 40 yards, and the potential this ability holds quickly becomes clear. Ask your group if they want Demonic Gateway Icon Demonic Gateway anywhere specific — if not used for your strategy, use it instead as a personal cooldown. Finally, always try to position yourself in a location central to fight movement. For example, if the boss is being moved in a circle, try to stay on the inside of the kite path to ensure minimal movement.

3.3.1. Quiet Movement

Many players will unconsciously move during fights, despite it being unnecessary. For example, sometimes the boss or adds will be moved by the tank a couple yards, and though you are still in range to cast, you subconsciously mirror that movement, costing you global cooldowns. Consciously work to "quiet" your movement, and reduce unnecessary movement to a minimum. The best way to see this in action is to take a video of your raid, then watch yourself play. Most players will be surprised by the amount of wasted movement they commit. When you are forced to move, try and cover a global with Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate, and make your path as direct and decisive as possible.

4. Opening Sequence

  1. Use Draenic Intellect Potion Icon Draenic Intellect Potion
  2. Pre-cast Incinerate Icon Incinerate at 5s on the countdown
  3. Pre-cast a second Incinerate Icon Incinerate
  4. Pre-cast Immolate Icon Immolate
  5. Cast Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard
  6. Activate Dark Soul: Instability Icon Dark Soul: Instability
  7. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate
  8. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate
  9. Activate Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer
  10. Activate any on-use trinkets or racials you have
  11. Cast Incinerate Icon Incinerate until you have ~3.5 Embers
  12. Cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt as many times as possible
  13. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate, refresh Immolate Icon Immolate, and several casts of Incinerate Icon Incinerate to generate more Embers
  14. Fit as many casts of Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt as you can in the time remaining that Nithramus, the All-Seer Icon Nithramus, the All-Seer is active
  15. continue with your normal rotation.

It is highly recommended you watch the video below for a practical demonstration and explanation of the opener.

The opener is of paramount importance. It is recommended you practice in LFR or on a target dummy to build enough muscle memory to consistently execute it without flaws.

5. ChangeLog

  • 24 May 2016: Furty update. Entire rewrite to focus more on high-end content.
  • 22 Jul. 2015: Added legendary ring section.
  • 22 Jun. 2015: Patch 6.2 update.
    • Added sections about the T18 set bonuses and Fragment of the Dark Star, the new Warlock trinket.
    • Revamped the opener section.
    • Added a new Dark Soul: Instability
  • 08 Apr. 2015: Added explanations on the synergy between Dark Bargain and Unending Resolve. Added tips in the demon section.
  • 24 Feb. 2015: Patch 6.1 update and Gahddo's new review.
    • Rewrote AoE section for Charred Remains.
    • Removed section about Felguard as a Destruction Warlock, as the bug has been partially fixed and using it is no longer worth it.
  • 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.
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