Affliction Warlock PvP Guide in Battle for Azeroth (BfA 8.1.5)
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to play in a PvP environment. The guide will cover everything from talent choices, PvP talents, gameplay and rotation, and useful racial bonuses. It is most applicable to Arena content, but most talents and racial bonuses will work in Rated Battlegrounds and skirmishes.
1. Spec Overview / Place in the Current Meta for Affliction Warlocks
Affliction Warlocks are in an excellent spot in terms of 3v3 Arena. They not only have the strongest spread pressure, but they also have the ability to burst enemy players down. If left unchecked for even a few seconds, they can easily apply their DoTs and begin melting entire teams. Even if an Affliction Warlock is being focused by enemies, most of their damage is instant and will slowly pressure down teams.
1.1. Strengths of Affliction Warlocks
- Great spread damage
- Strong crowd control
- Multiple interrupts
1.2. Weaknesses of Affliction Warlocks
- Lack of mobility
- Struggle to stay alive against melee teams
- Very few defensive cooldowns
2. Stat Priority for Affliction Warlock in PvP
The stat priority for Affliction Warlock in PvP is as follows:
- Critical Strike;
Intellect is the best stat in all situations. Haste is the strongest secondary stat at all times due to it reducing the Global Cooldown on abilities and increases the tick rate of your DoTs. Critical Strike increases the chance your damaging spells do additional damage.
3. Azerite Traits for Affliction Warlocks
Azerite traits are unlocked in you helm, shoulders and chest. With each Azerite level in your neck, you get closer to unlocking the center trait in your gear. These traits vary from increasing damage of certain abilities to helping increase your survivability. Depending on what traits you use, it can completely alter your playstyle and what talents you should be using.
3.1. Outer Ring
Below are the best Outer Ring traits.
There is one trait you are going to want in all pieces of your Azerite gear and it should be Inevitable Demise. You need this trait so you can kill an enemy player with full DoTs on them. If you cannot get this trait in all of your Azerite gear, there are still other options. Sudden Onset and Cascading Calamity both help increase your spread damage. These traits are great if your goal is to rot an entire team. Archive of the Titans increases your primary stat, Intellect, and results in an increase to your sustained damage.
3.2. Middle Ring
Below are the best Middle Ring traits.
The Middle and Inner Rings are important for additional damage. Elemental Whirl, Overwhelming Power, and Earthlink give an increase to your stats. These are minor stat boosts, but still increase your damage. Gutripper will help increase both your single target and spread pressure.
3.3. Inner Ring
Below are the best Inner Ring traits.
All of these traits give you additional ways of surviving. These are all passive, but are crucial to have.
4. Gear Recommendations
4.1. General Guidelines
In general, Affliction Warlocks want to get trinkets that line up well with Dark Soul: Misery. These trinkets can have a passive or on-use effect. The stat you want to be increasing is Intellect. The reason you want to increase Intellect is because it drastically increases your overall damage output.
Below, we list the items that have these traits.
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Cover;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Cover;
- Cowl of Tideborne Omens;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Hood;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Hood.
- Brood Cleanser's Amice;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Mantle;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Mantle;
- Honorbound Artificer's Amice;
- Mantle of the Skyterror.
- Vestments of the Afterlife;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Vestments;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Vestments;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Robe;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Robe.
4.2. Recommended Items
Sinister Gladiator's Maledict is absolutely the best trinket you can have. The on-use damage and healing absorption is capable of forcing defensives by itself. This can be used by itself or while you are using your burst rotation to force multiple cooldowns out of enemy teams.
Sinister Gladiator's Safeguard is a mandatory trinket if you think the enemy team can swap to you and kill you. This provides an additional defensive for when you drop to low health. If you do not think a team will swap to you and kill you, you can use replace this one with any of the trinkets below.
Sinister Gladiator's Badge is strong for the Versatility and the on-use Intellect effect. The 2-minute cooldown lines up well with Dark Soul: Misery, and should be used every time you want to use your burst rotation.
Sinister Gladiator's Insignia has a good amount of Versatility on it and has a passive effect. This effect increases your Intellect. This increases your sustained damage.
4.3. Weapon Enchant
Enchant Weapon - Quick Navigation is the best weapon enchants. This enchant provides a proc that gives you more Haste. This reduces the cast time of your important spells and results in an increase to your overall damage. It also increases the rate that your DoTs deal damage.
5. Talent Choices for Affliction Warlocks
|15||✘ Nightfall||✘ Drain Soul||✔ Deathbolt|
|30||✘ Writhe in Agony||✔ Absolute Corruption||✘ Siphon Life|
|45||✔ Demon Skin||✘ Burning Rush||✘ Dark Pact|
|60||✘ Sow the Seeds||✔ Phantom Singularity||✘ Vile Taint|
|75||✘ Darkfury||✘ Mortal Coil||✔ Demonic Circle|
|90||✘ Shadow Embrace||✘ Haunt||✔ Grimoire of Sacrifice|
|100||✘ Soul Conduit||✘ Creeping Death||✔ Dark Soul: Misery|
While the above table provides a generally accurate overview of the viability of talents, some finer points are discussed in the sections that follow, and we recommend you read those for a deeper understanding.
5.1. Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents
Deathbolt is the best choice in this tier. This gives you a strong, instant spell that is an overall increase to your sustained damage.
5.2. Tier 2 (Level 30) Talents
5.3. Tier 3 (Level 45) Talents
Demon Skin is the best choice in this tier. This defensive talent allows you to passively heal throughout an arena match. This is crucial for your survivability against most teams.
5.4. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents
Phantom Singularity is the best choice in this tier. This talent is the best choice because it deals a good amount of damage, as well as healing you for 25% of the damage done.
5.5. Tier 5 (Level 75) Talents
Demonic Circle is the best choice in this tier. This is a strong talent to have to help you get away from incoming damage, or to reposition with your team.
If you are playing against a team and will not have to kite damage often, Mortal Coil is a better choice. This allows you to crowd control an enemy and also heal for a large amount.
5.6. Tier 6 (Level 90) Talents
Grimoire of Sacrifice is the best choice in this tier. The abilities that this talent gives your pets makes it the best talent in this tier.
A quick note on pets: Against a team that has multiple magic crowd control for your healer ( Hammer of Justice, Polymorph, Fear), you should sacrifice your Imp for Singe Magic. Against any other composition, you should sacrifice your Felhunter for Spell Lock.
5.7. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents
Dark Soul: Misery is the best choice in this tier. This is a very strong offensive burst cooldown.
6. PvP Talents for Affliction Warlocks
The first PvP talent tier will give you a choice between Gladiator's Medallion, Relentless, and Adaptation. Gladiator's Medallion is the best choice in this tier. It is great for removing crowd control on you that your healer cannot dispel. You will normally save your trinket for a stun, followed by Demonic Circle: Teleport.
You can choose 3 of the following PvP talents. Each of them has their uses, but some are better for certain strategies than others. The top three choices are the most useful, but can be replaced with other PvP talents, depending on your team's goal.
Gateway Mastery increases the range of your Demonic Gateway by 20 yards, and reduces the cast time by 30%. It also reduces the time between how often players can take your Demonic Gateway by 15 sec. This is a crucial talent no matter what team you are playing against. This allows your team to avoid incoming damage or reposition more often.
Rot and Decay increases the duration of your Unstable Affliction, Corruption and Agony on the target each time your Drain Life deals damage, by 1 second. This is an overall large increase to your sustained damage.
Nether Ward surrounds the caster with a shield that lasts 3 sec, reflecting all harmful spells cast on you. This is a strong talent against classes with magical spells. It is also important to note that this can also reflect interrupts from some melee classes (Demon Hunter, Death Knights or Enhancement Shaman).
Demon Armor increases your health and armor by a significant amount. This is a crucial PvP talent when playing against teams with two melee on it because you will likely be the main target for them. You can replace Nether Ward with this PvP talent.
Curse of Weakness reduces the target's Physical damage dealt by 25% for 10 sec. This is a talent that should be chosen when playing against melee DPS. If there is only 1 melee DPS on the team, you can replace Rot and Decay for this talent. If there are two, you can replace Nether Ward instead.
Endless Affliction increases the duration of your Unstable Affliction, but the damage remains the same. This talent is helpful versus teams with multiple interrupts, as it gives you more time to use Unstable Affliction. You can replace Nether Ward with this talent.
7. Racial Bonuses for Affliction Warlocks
Racial bonuses can provide interesting PvP benefits. Here are the best races to choose for each faction.
Orc is the best race for Affliction Warlocks, thanks to the passive Orcs have ( Hardiness) reducing all stuns, which greatly improves survivability.
The Human bonus ( Every Man for Himself) is a great way to escape stuns.
8. Playstyle for Affliction Warlocks
The Affliction Warlock has two roles when in an Arena: keep applying spread pressure and survive. Affliction Warlocks are powerful because they have strong AoE damage and the ability to crowd control enemy teams. Most of your damage will come from your instant-cast DoTs ( Agony and Corruption) and you will score kills with Unstable Affliction. What makes this specialization tricky is determining when to use your Unstable Afflictions. It is important to note that healers can dispel this and you should try to use this spell when they do not have a dispel at the ready. If you are in a situation where you have 5 Soul Shards and the enemy healer is able to dispel, use Unstable Affliction on multiple enemies and not just one. You will survive by using Fears on enemies. You can also use your Demonic Gateway to create distance between you and foes.
8.1. Before Gates Open
8.2. Offensive Playstyle
8.2.1. The Opener
The opener refers to your team's opening crowd control chain and damage done as soon as you get out of the gates. The main goal in the opener is to force your enemies to use their cooldowns.
If the enemy healer uses their trinket in the opener, they are in trouble. In the opener, Affliction Warlocks should focus on applying their DoTs to every enemy on the other team.
This is the rotation you should use on your target at the beginning of the game.
- Cast Demonic Gateway from your pillar to another part of the map.
- Use Demonic Circle (if talented into it) and place it behind a pillar.
- Apply and maintain Agony on all enemies.
- Agony is your biggest source of damage and spread pressure.
- It is very important to keep it active on all enemies, including pets, at all times.
- This helps you generate Soul Shards much quicker.
- Apply and maintain Corruption on all enemies.
- Once you have Agony and Corruption on all enemies, start using Drain Life to extend the durations of them.
- Once you have at least 3-4 Soul Shards and the enemy healer in crowd control, you will be able to use your burst rotation.
8.2.2. Burst Damage
The best talent setup for Affliction Warlocks is the "spread pressure" build for strong spread damage. It is important to note that you should be focusing on spread pressure rather than single target. With that said, the following is how you will burst if you have crowd control on the enemy healer and are trying to secure a kill.
- Use Dark Soul: Misery.
- Refresh Agony.
- Refresh Corruption.
- If the enemy healer cannot dispel, do the following on your kill target:
- Do the following if the enemy healer can dispel:
8.2.3. Sustained damage
Sustained damage is damage you do when your burst cooldowns are not available.
- Maintain Agony on all enemies.
- Never let this fall off any enemies at any point of the Arena match.
- Maintain Corruption on all enemies.
- Once you have Agony and Corruption on all enemies, channel Drain Life to extend your DoTs.
- Cast Unstable Affliction on a single enemy if the enemy healer cannot dispel, or on multiple enemies if they can.
- Cast Shadow Bolt as a filler.
- Channel Drain Life if you have 50 stacks of Inevitable Demise.
8.3. Defensive Techniques
Unending Resolve is your primary defensive ability and should be used if your healer has no defensive cooldowns and you are at high health. You cannot use this when you are stunned. You will not be interrupted while this is active, so you can use this time to cast Fear to stay alive or Unstable Affliction for damage.
Dark Pact is a great defensive, but it comes with a price. You have to make sure that you use this ability at high health or classes like Warrior will take advantage of their Execute. Besides that drawback, this will help you survive against teams with high sustained and burst damage.
Healthstone should be used when you are at very low health and your healer does not have defensive cooldowns to keep you alive.
Demonic Circle, if talented, should be placed away from the enemy team, but close to your healer. Make sure you coordinate when you will be using this, so your team can position themselves accordingly. You will want to use this when the enemy team is using their offensive cooldowns and you need to create distance between you and them. Use the same concept when you need to take Demonic Gateway.
Curse of Weakness should be used on a melee DPS to prevent incoming Physical damage.
Curse of Tongues should be used on a caster DPS to prevent or slow down incoming spell damage.
9. Best Team Compositions for Affliction Warlocks
Now that you have the correct talents and understand your damage rotation, it is time to step into the arena with your team. Affliction Warlocks do not have much burst damage, but if they get a chance to cast, they have the ability to rot entire teams.
9.1. 2v2 Arena
In 2v2 Arena, there are not many options. Your primary goal is to get a full Fear on the enemy healer and use multiple Unstable Afflictions on the enemy DPS. If you cannot fear the enemy healer, try to make them use their dispel. This will allow you to cast and apply DoTs, without having to worry about them being dispelled. It is very important that you maintain all of your DoTs on as many targets as you can. Agony should not expire. Make sure to cast Unstable Afflictions on multiple targets so the enemy healer cannot dispel them all at once.
Here is a list of the best team compositions for 2v2:
- Affliction Warlock + Holy Paladin;
- Affliction Warlock + Restoration Shaman;
- Affliction Warlock + Restoration Druid;
- Affliction Warlock + Discipline Priest.
9.2. 3v3 Arena
Your role in 3v3 is similar to 2v2 Arena. Make sure to maintain your DoTs on all enemies, including pets. It is best to be playing with another caster, so you are not the only person being interrupted. Try to use your burst rotation when the enemy team does not have any interrupts. Use Fear on the enemy healer and have one of your teammates stun your kill target. It is important to note that Fear should also be used to help your teammates. If you or a teammate is struggling to stay alive, use Fear on an enemy DPS without a trinket. If they both have trinkets, use it on whichever enemy you want. Make sure to cast Unstable Afflictions on multiple targets so the enemy healer cannot dispel them all at once.
Here is a list of the best team compositions for 3v3:
- WLS (Affliction Warlock + Arms Warrior + Holy Paladin/Restoration Shaman);
- FLS (Affliction Warlock + Feral Druid + Restoration Shaman);
- Affliction Warlock + Elemental Shaman + Restoration Druid/ Holy Paladin;
- Shadowplay (Affliction Warlock + Shadow Priest + Holy Paladin/Restoration Druid).
10. Useful Macros for Affliction Warlocks
Macros are crucial to be successful in PvP. They allow players to use abilities on enemies without having to target them. This helps increase overall damage/healing and general awareness in the arena. Here are a few macros that all Affliction Warlocks can benefit from.
10.1. Fear 123 Macro
- #showtooltip Fear
- /cast [target=arena1] Fear
Using this macro will cast Fear on arena enemy 1. This makes it easier to crowd control an enemy while staying focused on your target. If you want macros for the second and third enemies, simply change the arena1 to arena2 or arena3.
10.2. Fear Focus Macro
- #showtooltip Fear
- /cast [target=focus] Fear
If you find that you do not have much room on your action bars, you can use a focus macro. This is much simpler to use than the arena123 macro. Put an enemy on focus and this macro will cast Fear on that player while you are still focused on your target.
10.3. Spell Lock Focus Macro
- /cast [target=focus] Spell Lock
10.4. Mouseover Banish Macro
- #showtooltip Banish
- /cast [@mouseover] Banish
This makes it so you can use Banish on another Warlock's demon or an elemental pet, while still damaging your main target.
10.5. Mouseover Corruption Macro
- #showtooltip Corruption
- /cast [@mouseover,harm] Corruption; [harm] Corruption
This makes it so you can use Corruption on any enemy without having to target them. Mouseover macros are not required, but they make it much more efficient than clicking your targets.
10.6. Mouseover Agony Macro
- #showtooltip Agony
- /cast [@mouseover,harm] Agony; [harm] Agony
This makes it so you can use Agony on any enemy without having to target them. Mouseover macros are not required, but they make it much more efficient than clicking your targets.
10.7. Mouseover Unstable Affliction Macro
- #showtooltip Unstable Affliction
- /cast [@mouseover,harm] Unstable Affliction; [harm] Unstable Affliction
This makes it so you can use Unstable Affliction on any enemy without having to target them. Mouseover macros are not required, but they make it much more efficient than clicking your targets.
- 28 Apr. 2019: Several changes made to the guide.
- Updated Gear section.
- Updated Talent Table.
- Updated Tier 3 regular talent.
- 14 Mar. 2019: No major changes needed for Patch 8.1.5.
- 31 Jan. 2019: Updated Gear Recommendations.
- 13 Dec. 2018: Updated Azerite traits section.
- 12 Dec. 2018: Minor changes needed for Patch 8.1.
- Updated Azerite traits section.
- Updated PvP talents section.
- Updated Burst damage section.
- Updated Sustained damage section.
- 23 Nov. 2018: Added Gear Recommendations section.
- 08 Oct. 2018: Added stat priority section, Azerite traits section, talent table, and updated Burst Damage section.
- 02 Oct. 2018: Removed PvP Gear and War Mode sections.
- 01 Sep. 2018: Updated Defensive section.
- 25 Aug. 2018: Updated guide for Patch 8.0.1.
- Updated Introduction and spec overview.
- Added Stat priority.
- Updated all regular talents sections.
- Added PvP (War Mode) talents and gear sections for the new BfA system.
- Updated Racial Bonuses section.
- Updated Burst Damage and Sustained Damage sections.
- Updated Macros section.
- Removed Gear section.
- Updated Artifact Traits and Relics sections.
- 02 Jun. 2018: Added an Arena Compositions section.
- 19 Apr. 2018: Made several updates to the guide and its structure.
- Added sections for Macros, Strengths, and Weaknesses.
- Moved Gear, Artifact Traits, and Relics sections to the end, since they are not that important.
- 21 Jan. 2018: No major changes needed for Patch 7.3.5.
- 08 Dec. 2017: No major changes needed for Patch 7.3.2. Updated "About the Author".
- 30 Aug. 2017: Removed artifact trait description.
- 30 Jun. 2017: Made several updates to the guide.
- Updated description for Tier 1 and Tier 2 regular talents.
- Updated talent choice for Tier 4 and 7 regular talents, and tier 5 and 6 honor talents.
- Updated Opener, Burst, and Sustained damage rotations.
- 05 Jun. 2017: Guide created.
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