Affliction Warlock DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Shadowlands 9.1
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 9.1.
If you were looking for WoW Classic content, please refer to our TBC Classic Affliction 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.
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 covenants below, the rotations in this guide will update accordingly.
- With the Haunt talent selected.
- With the Shadow Embrace talent selected.
- With the Inevitable Demise talent selected.
- With the Phantom Singularity talent selected.
- With the Siphon Life talent selected.
- With the Dark Soul: Misery talent selected.
- With the Vile Taint talent selected.
- With the Sow the Seeds talent selected.
- With Night Fae Niya Soulbind.
- With Night Fae Dreamweaver Soulbind.
- With Night Fae Korayn Soulbind.
- With any Kyrian Soulbind.
- With any Necrolord Soulbind.
- With any Venthyr Soulbind.
Single Target Priority for Affliction Warlock
- Maintain your Agony, Unstable Affliction and Corruption effects at all times.
- Apply Malefic Rapture if you are at maximum Soul Shards.
- Cast Malefic Rapture to avoid capping shards.
- Cast Shadow Bolt/ 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 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 and Drain Soul, it is better to manage DoT refreshes in order to get a full buffed channel. Consider casting Decimating Bolt on low health targets in order to gain the biggest damage amplification.
- Soul Rot's buff on a target does not make Drain Life casts worth using for damage increase, unless Inevitable Demise is talented. Consider the free Drain Life a bonus sustain option if needed instead. Niya's Grove Invigoration and Dreamweaver's Field of Blossoms are powerful enough effects that make resource pooling a better strategy.
Keep in mind every Covenant ability (except Necrolord) interacts with Malefic Rapture, increasing the damage.
Cooldown Usage for Affliction Warlock
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
- Pre-cast Unstable Affliction.
- Apply Agony.
- Apply Corruption.
- Use your trinket and/or racial which has any stat other than Haste.
- Cast Summon Darkglare.
- Cast as many Malefic Rapture as possible until Shadow Embrace is about to fall off.
Multiple Target Priority for Affliction Warlock
- Maintain Agony and Corruption. If there are 3+ targets stacked together, use Seed of Corruption to apply and maintain Corruption.
- Maintain Unstable Affliction on the primary target.
- Cast Malefic Rapture if already at 5 Soul Shards to avoid capping.
- Cast Shadow Bolt as a filler.
We have a dedicated Mythic+ page if you want specific information about the best M+ Affliction Warlock rotation.
Important Notes for Affliction Warlock
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 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, Phantom Singularity windows, and, to an extent, Summon Darkglare and covenant abilities (except Necrolords).
In order to maximize the damage output is advisable to pool resources and cast as many Malefic Raptures inside these windows, essentially creating a 45-second or 1-minute cooldown loops, with few Malefic Raptures casted outside to avoid capping shards.
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 has a lengthy ramp-up period before it reaches full effectiveness. This means that if you let 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 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 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:
- Agony: 5.4 seconds
- Corruption: 4.2 seconds
- Unstable Affliction: 6.3 seconds
- Siphon Life: 4.5 seconds
When Creeping Death is talented the values change as follows:
- Agony: 4.5 seconds
- Corruption: 3.5 seconds
- Unstable Affliction: 5.4 seconds
- Siphon Life: 3.8 seconds
Pet damage is normalised, therefore the choice is usually tied to the type of utility needed in a given situation: for defensive dispel and if there are frequent swap between distant targets, Imp will provide the highest uptime. Use Felhunter whenever an interrupt or a purge effect is required. Voidwalker can offer some additional AoE due its torment ability, but its biggest utility comes from a taunt. Succubus offers additional crowd control at the expense of DPS or a permanent slow on a single target which may be useful under certain situations.
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 can be highly effective on many encounters, and is under-appreciated by many players and raid groups. Think of 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 anywhere specific; if not used for your strategy, use it instead as a personal cooldown.
Agony and Corruption can be refreshed when you need cover movement. Nightfall actually has some potential on higher movement fights, particularly with cleave, as the instant 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 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.
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.
- 08 Jul. 2021: Updated selectors for Shadow Embrace.
- 28 Jun. 2021: Reviewed and approved for Patch 9.1.
- 09 Mar. 2021: Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 01 Feb. 2021: Updated opener, added selectors for covenants, and expanded few sections.
- 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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