Affliction Warlock DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Shadowlands 9.0.2

Last updated on Dec 28, 2020 at 10:19 by Motoko 19 comments
General Information

On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Affliction Warlock in both single-target and multiple-target situations. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS. All our content is updated for World of Warcraft — Shadowlands 9.0.2.

If you were looking for WoW Classic content, please refer to our Classic DPS Warlock rotation.


Playstyle for Affliction Warlock

Welcome to our Rotation page for Affliction Warlocks. On this page you will find everything you need to know about actually playing the spec in Raiding and Mythic+ scenarios.


Easy Mode

If the rotations below seem overwhelming to you, you might benefit from visiting our Easy Mode page which outlines a close-to-optimal rotation with a much greater ease of use.



Since the content on this page is only relevant for PvE, we recommend the PvP page below in case you want specific PvP rotation information.

Affliction Warlocks aim to apply a series of damage over time effects to targets, weaving in empowerments and buffing them up where possible. Much of the optimization revolves around maintaining your active effects while ensuring you spend Soul Shards correctly.


Select Your Talents and Essences

By selecting talents and essences below, the rotations in this guide will update accordingly.


Single Target Priority for Affliction Warlock

  1. Maintain your Agony Icon Agony, Unstable Affliction Icon Unstable Affliction and Corruption Icon Corruption effects at all times.
  2. Maintain 3 stacks of Shadow Embrace Icon Shadow Embrace.
  3. Apply Malefic Rapture Icon Malefic Rapture if you are at maximum Soul Shards.
  4. Cast Malefic Rapture Icon Malefic Rapture with as many periodic effect on targets as possible.
  5. Cast Shadow Bolt Icon Shadow Bolt/Drain Soul Icon Drain Soul as a filler.

How to use Covenant Abilities as Affliction Warlock

Most Covenant abilities are simply used on cooldown, with some optimisations:

  • Scouring Tithe Icon Scouring Tithe should be maintained on the target, aiming at the highest uptime possible, unless a target is about to die and there is enough time to dump every shard in order to get 5 shards back. Do not hold on the ability for more than 10 seconds though.
  • With Decimating Bolt Icon Decimating Bolt and Drain Soul Icon Drain Soul, it is better to manage DoT refreshes in order to get a full buffed channel. Consider casting Decimating Bolt Icon Decimating Bolt on low health targets in order to gain the biggest damage amplification.
  • Soul Rot Icon Soul Rot's buff on a target does not make Drain Life Icon Drain Life casts worth using for damage increase, unless Inevitable Demise Icon Inevitable Demise is talented. Consider the free Drain Life Icon Drain Life a bonus sustain option if needed instead.

Keep in mind every Covenant ability interacts with Malefic Rapture Icon Malefic Rapture, increasing the damage.


Cooldown Usage for Affliction Warlock

Summon Darkglare Icon Summon Darkglare is our main cooldown. Darkglare should be used once we have applied as many DoT effects as possible, in order to get the maximum value out of the 8-second extension. You should also ensure that the main target has as many DoT effects as possible, due to the increased damage Darkglare will gain.


Opening Sequence for Affliction Warlock

  1. Use Potion of Phantom Fire Icon Potion of Phantom Fire.
  2. Apply Unstable Affliction Icon Unstable Affliction.
  3. Apply Agony Icon Agony.
  4. Apply Corruption Icon Corruption.
  5. Get to 3 stacks of Shadow Embrace Icon Shadow Embrace with either Shadow Bolt Icon Shadow Bolt or Drain Soul Icon Drain Soul if talented.
  6. Use your trinket and/or racial which has any stat other than Haste.
  7. Cast Summon Darkglare Icon Summon Darkglare.
  8. Cast as many Malefic Rapture Icon Malefic Rapture as possible.

Multiple Target Priority for Affliction Warlock

  1. Maintain Agony Icon Agony and Corruption Icon Corruption. If there are 3+ targets stacked together, use Seed of Corruption Icon Seed of Corruption to apply and maintain Corruption.
  2. Maintain Unstable Affliction Icon Unstable Affliction on the primary target.
  3. Cast Malefic Rapture Icon Malefic Rapture if you have 5 Soul Shards.
  4. Cast Malefic Rapture Icon Malefic Rapture.
  5. Cast Shadow Bolt Icon Shadow Bolt as a filler.

Shadow Embrace Icon Shadow Embrace stacks should not be prioritised at 3 or more targets, as there will be too much global cooldown competition leading to DPS loss. Instead aim for Shadow Embrace Icon Shadow Embrace uptime on the target with Unstable Affliction Icon Unstable Affliction, unless in a situation where you can constantly recast it to snipe additional shards.


Mythic+ Rotation

We have a dedicated Mythic+ page if you want specific information about the best M+ Affliction Warlock rotation.


Important Notes for Affliction Warlock


Soul Shards

All Warlocks use Soul Shards as their primary resource. Properly managing your Shards is crucially important to success, as overcapping results in potential damage loss.


Malefic Rapture Usage

Malefic Rapture Icon Malefic Rapture at surface level is a pretty straightforwards spell, but it has several implications that may not be that immediate at first glance.

Due its linear scaling with each additional periodic effect on each target, in order to maximise the output, it is better to cast it with the highest amount of damage over time spells. This, in turn, means that it is tied to talent cooldowns such as Vile Taint Icon Vile Taint, Phantom Singularity Icon Phantom Singularity windows, and, to an extent, Summon Darkglare Icon Summon Darkglare.



Agony Icon Agony is by far your most important spell, as it is the sole source of Soul Shard generation in the regular rotation. It also deals very high sustained damage. The trade-off, however, is that Agony Icon Agony has a lengthy ramp-up period before it reaches full effectiveness. This means that if you let Agony Icon Agony drop on one of your primary targets for any reason you are going to be hemorrhaging DPS. Keeping careful track of your active Agony Icon Agony casts is the single most important priority of this specialization, and also the most punishing failure if you mess this up.


"Pandemic" — Learning to Efficiently Refresh DoTs

Pandemic is a hidden mechanic that allows you to refresh certain timed effects early without penalty. You can refresh your DoT effects when they have less than 30% of their maximum duration remaining, and the new DoT's maximum duration will be added with the remaining duration of the current DoT.

For example, if you cast a fresh Agony Icon Agony while your current one has a duration of 3.5s, your new Agony will now have a duration of 21.5 seconds.

The Pandemic values for safe refreshes for your other DoTs are as follows:


Pet Choice

The Felhunter is the best choice in terms of single target damage and if you need interrupt or purge, consider swapping to Imp if you need a dispel.


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 an Affliction 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.

Agony Icon Agony and Corruption Icon Corruption can be refreshed when you need cover movement. Nightfall Icon Nightfall actually has some potential on higher movement fights, particularly with cleave, as the instant Shadow Bolt Icon Shadow Bolt procs offers another global cooldown where you can move without losing DPS.

You can mitigate the need to move by positioning in locations central to fight movement. For instance, if a boss is being kited in a circle, you should stay on the inside of the kite path to ensure minimal movement. You should also determine how your Demonic Circle Icon Demonic Circle can make a fight easier for you. There are many boss mechanics that can be trivialized with a clever portal, which can free you up to deal a lot more damage.


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, make your path as direct and decisive as possible.



  • 28 Dec. 2020: Added Shadow Embrace lines.
  • 23 Nov. 2020: Updated page for Shadowlands release, removed Essences, Azerite and updated consumables.
  • 04 Nov. 2020: Removed some outdated info regarding pandemic.
  • 12 Oct. 2020: Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
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