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Destruction Warlock DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.0.3)

Last updated on Jul 18, 2016 at 22:46 by Furty 58 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 Legion 7.0.3. 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 Author

This guide has been written by Furty who raids in Serenity, one of the top World of Warcraft guilds. He plays most 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.

  1. Apply Havoc Icon Havoc if a secondary target is present.
  2. Maintain Immolate Icon Immolate on your main target(s).
  3. Cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt if you have 5 Soul Shards.
  4. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate immediately following a fresh application of Immolate Icon Immolate.
  5. Cast Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn (if talented) if the target will die within 5 seconds.
  6. Cast Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard on cooldown.
  7. Cast Grimoire: Imp Icon Grimoire: Imp on cooldown.
  8. Cast Rain of Fire Icon Rain of Fire on large groups of stacked targets.
  9. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate to generate Soul Shards.
  10. Cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt to maintain Eradication Icon Eradication.
  11. Cast Incinerate Icon Incinerate as a filler.

The core component of this specialization is building Soul Shards and unleashing them at the most opportune moments. Immolate Icon Immolate is also responsible for an equally high portion of your damage through Roaring Blaze Icon Roaring Blaze, so be sure not to let it drop from your primary target(s).

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

2. Important Notes

There are several important nuances that are not common knowledge.

2.1. Chaos Bolt

Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt costs 2 Soul Shards to cast now. Since we can only have a maximum of 5 Soul Shards, this means that the maximum number of Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolts we will be able to reliably cast in a short window of time is (Chaos Bolt → Chaos Bolt → Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate → Chaos Bolt). Generating resources is also noticeably slower, especially with Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn no longer being a part of the specialization for the most part. For these reasons, casting Chaos Bolt during beneficial procs is less of a priority now, as we cannot fit anywhere near the same amount of casts into a small window of time.

Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt should now primarily be used to maintain as high an uptime as possible on the Eradication Icon Eradication debuff. This is will noticeably increase your Immolate Icon Immolate damage as well as increasing the damage of your next Chaos Bolt. You should still look out for good windows to cast increased numbers of Chaos Bolts. For example, if you are playing with a Sandman's Pouch Icon Sandman's Pouch, you should try and enter the proc with at least 4 Soul Shards ready. This is still your best spell for quickly bursting down high priority targets.

2.2. Soul Shard Generation and Consumption

You start every fight with 1 Soul Shard. During combat, Soul Shards are generated through the use of your core abilities.

  • Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate generates 1 Soul Shard on cast.
  • Immolate Icon Immolate has a 15% chance to generate 1 Soul Shard on normal ticks, and a 30% chance to generate 1 Soul Shard on critical ticks.

Soul Shards will mostly be consumed with the following abilities.

2.3. Roaring Blaze vs. Shadowburn

With Immolate Icon Immolate dealing such a high amount of damage via Roaring Blaze Icon Roaring Blaze, it is very difficult to make a compelling argument for Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn in most situations. On encounters where targets have a very short mortality and heavy cleave is prevalent, Shadowburn will overtake Roaring Blaze. A good example of this situation is Hellfire Assault. Shadowburn can still be paired with Havoc Icon Havoc, which is very beneficial as you can always non-stop spam Shadowburn on such encounters.

When playing with Roaring Blaze Icon Roaring Blaze you should always have a charge of Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate ready for your Immolate Icon Immolate refresh. The Roaring Blaze effect is stackable, meaning that casting Conflagrate twice in a row will increase the damage again. This is very useful if you have to set up to burn down an important add, as you can budget Soul Shards for Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt and also have your Conflagrate charges ready to empower a beefy Immolate. You should be able to double empower every few Immolates on a single target, however, this will be more and more frequent as you obtain higher levels of gear (as Conflagrate's cooldown is decreased by Haste).

2.4. Wreak Havoc!

Wreak Havoc Icon Wreak Havoc is one of the most potent cleave talents in the game. It immediately displaces Soul Conduit Icon Soul Conduit as the go-to end tier talent if a second target is present for an extended period. There is no special way to use this talent other than to keep Havoc Icon Havoc applied 100% of the time. This talent is usually the winner on heavy cleave/AoE encounters as well as Channel Demonfire Icon Channel Demonfire does abysmally low levels of damage in comparison.

2.5. Doomguard and Infernal

Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard is your single-target DPS cooldown. It shares a cooldown with Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal, your AoE DPS cooldown. In most situations Summon Doomguard is more beneficial, as the initial impact of Summon Infernal is very low, and scenarios where a large AoE pack lives for a full 25 seconds are rare. The infernal can be extremely potent if you can take advantage of most of the uptime, however, so you should keep a ready eye for such encounters (for example, Shadow Lord Iskar adds). Summon Infernal starts to be become more damage if you can hit 6+ targets for the entire duration of its summon.

2.6. Unending Resolve

As the Eternal Resolve glyph no longer exists, we are back with our active cooldown Unending Resolve Icon Unending Resolve. As with most defensive cooldowns, it is best used during periods of high incoming damage where you feel mortally threatened. The one caveat with our cooldown, however, is that it also gives interrupt immunity. Keep this in mind as there are quite a few bosses with interrupting shout style mechanics, and this cooldown allows you to ignore them entirely.

2.7. Pet Choice

Destruction Warlocks always use the Summon Imp Icon Summon Imp and Grimoire: Imp Icon Grimoire: Imp, as they deal increased damage against targets afflicted by your Immolate Icon Immolate. This only reinforces the very high priority Immolate has, as your pet deals 50% less damage if it is not active! Also keep in mind that the Imp's Command Demon Icon Command Demon is Cauterize Master Icon Cauterize Master, which heals you for 8% of your maximum health over 12 seconds. While not an overwhelmingly large heal, it can be the difference between life and death during high damage situations, so do not forget about it!

2.8. Cataclysm

Cataclysm Icon Cataclysm can be an extremely potent spell when you can reliably take advantage of it. A great example is the Mythic Mannoroth encounter, where the Fel Imps spawn every 50 seconds. As Cataclysm Icon Cataclysm has a 45-second cooldown, this allows us to hit every wave of imps with a large burst of AoE, followed by the heavy damage of the Immolate Icon Immolate ticks. As Reverse Entropy Icon Reverse Entropy provides amazing quality of life it can be difficult to sacrifice this, but rest assured that in the right situation Cataclysm Icon Cataclysm can easily turn the tide. Keep an eye out for situations where you can abuse this spell.

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. Soul Shard management;
  2. 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. Soul Shard Management

Shard management is significantly simpler than managing Embers was, mainly due to the slower pace of the rotation and predictable nature of Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate. Correctly managing Soul Shards now is more of a contextual skill than a static one; that is to say, you should adjust your approach based on the situation. On fights that are purely single target, like Fel Lord Zakuun, you will generally be best aiming for the highest uptime of Eradication Icon Eradication to empower your Immolate Icon Immolates. On encounters where add damage is a priority, however, you might be better served to pool your Soul Shards to allow you to burst down an important target. If you are playing with a predictable trinket, like Sandman's Pouch Icon Sandman's Pouch, you should always budget Soul Shards for the proc as it will greatly increase your damage during this time.

There are talents and (in Legion) Artifact traits that affect your ability to recoup Soul Shards. The primary one of note is Soul Conduit Icon Soul Conduit, which is our best end tier talent for single target. The 20% chance to refund the Soul Shards works at an individual level, meaning that if you cast Rain of Fire Icon Rain of Fire (3 Shard cost) there is a chance you could get all 3 Soul Shards back. This makes this talent a little more powerful and reliable than you might otherwise expect.

3.2. Havoc Usage

Havoc Icon Havoc is one of your most important spells. Havoc copies any of your direct spells, however, it does not affect the Soul Shard generation of Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate (i.e you still get 1 Shard). In multi-target scenarios this should be used on cooldown, without exception. Now that Havoc copies all spells for an 8-second window without limit, it is a significantly more potent tool for cleaving that it ever was before.

It is best to use Havoc Icon Havoc to duplicate spells that are limited by Soul Shards or charges. For example, duplicating Immolate Icon Immolate and then immediately empowering both of them with Roaring Blaze Icon Roaring Blaze via Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate is a great way to start. Follow up by dumping Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt casts to debuff each target with Eradication Icon Eradication and double your Shard efficiency.

Havoc Icon Havoc is typically unaffected by range or line of sight requirements. Over time you will develop the knowledge and instinct to take full advantage of the ability. A good way to go about building this experience is by paying close attention to your boss timers. If you know the add on Tyrant Velhari is coming in the next 10 seconds, you should hold on to your Soul Shards and Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate charges for Havoc. If you have 4 Soul Shards ready, you can immediately cast Havoc as soon as the add spawns. Cast Immolate Icon Immolate and Conflagrate, dump 2 Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolts, Conflagrate again to generate a Soul Shard and double empower your Immolate via Roaring Blaze Icon Roaring Blaze (this combination is only possible with Wreak Havoc Icon Wreak Havoc). If you are playing without Wreak Havoc, it is usually better to hard Immolate each target before casting Havoc, then apply Havoc and empower both with Conflagrate simultaneously. This is very much a 'feel' ability! When in doubt, however, use Havoc on cooldown when a second target is present.

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 Gateway Icon Demonic Gateway can be highly effective on many encounters 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 5 seconds on the countdown.
  3. Pre-cast a second Incinerate Icon Incinerate.
  4. Pre-cast Immolate Icon Immolate.
  5. Activate any on-use trinkets or racials you have.
  6. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate.
  7. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate.
  8. Cast Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard.
  9. Cast Grimoire: Imp Icon Grimoire: Imp.
  10. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate when available for Soul Shards.
  11. Cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt (when you have Soul Shards).
  12. Refresh Immolate Icon Immolate when needed and Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate immediately for Roaring Blaze Icon Roaring Blaze.
  13. Cast Incinerate Icon Incinerate as a filler when necessary.
  14. Continue with your normal rotation.

5. ChangeLog

  • 18 Jul. 2016: Updated for the Legion pre-patch.
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