Destruction Warlock DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Shadowlands 9.1.5
On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Destruction 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 9.1.5.
If you were looking for WoW Classic content, please refer to our TBC Classic Destruction Warlock rotation.
Playstyle for Destruction Warlock
Welcome to our Rotation page for Destruction 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.
Ability Priority List for Destruction Warlock
The Destruction specialization revolves primarily around generating Soul Shards via your filler spells before unleashing them for a large burst of damage. This specialization does not follow a strict and consistent rotation, rather, the emphasis is on leveraging opportunities as they arise.
Select Your Talents and Essences
By selecting talents and essences below, the rotations in this guide will update accordingly.
Single-Target Priority for Destruction Warlock
- Maintain Immolate at all times.
- Cast Chaos Bolt if you are about to cap Soul Shards.
- Cast Conflagrate if you have 2 charges.
- Cast Conflagrate to generate Soul Shards.
- Cast Incinerate to generate Soul Shards.
How to use Covenant Abilities as Destruction 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. In multi-target, if you Havoc a dying target with Scouring Tithe, you can get both 5 shards and the cooldown refund.
- Consider casting Decimating Bolt on low health targets in order to gain the biggest damage amplification. Decimating Bolt has a reduced effectiveness when Fire and Brimstone is talented even on single-target.
- Soul Rot's buff on a target does not make Drain Life casts worth using for damage increase. 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.
- Impending Catastrophe, due to its long cast time, poor damage, and no shard generation is barely worth casting with 4+ targets with Cataclysm talented. It is a DPS LOSS in AoE when talenting either Fire and Brimstone or especially Inferno.
Cooldown Usage for Destruction Warlock
Destruction's main cooldown, Summon Infernal, is relatively simple. The Infernal does AoE damage, and also deals damage and stuns when it impacts from the initial summon. Infernal will often be used on cooldown, however, if you can delay it for a little while in order to maximize cleave damage it can be a net gain.
If you are playing with Dark Soul: Instability, you should aim to use it on cooldown. In preparation for use, you should ensure your Immolate is freshly refreshed and you have a healthy supply of Soul Shards; 4+ is ideal. Your aim will be to unleash as many Chaos Bolts as possible during this time, and therefore, Shard generation is also important. Having Conflagrate charges ready to quickly supplement the Soul Shards consumed is also a big advantage.
- If the encounter is ~190 seconds or shorter, use Dark Soul on cooldown.
- If the encounter is 190-250 seconds long, delay Dark Soul for your second Infernal use.
- If the encounter is 250-380 seconds long, delay Infernal for your third Dark Soul use.
The main objective is to maximize the number of uses for both cooldowns. The simple rule of thumb is that if using either cooldown immediately will result in a full extra usage during the fight, you should use the ability immediately.
Opening Sequence for Destruction Warlock
- Pre-cast Incinerate.
- Pre-cast Immolate.
- Cast Summon Infernal.
- Use your trinkets and racials.
- Cast Conflagrate.
- Cast Chaos Bolt.
- Cast Conflagrate.
- Cast Chaos Bolt.
Multiple Target Priority for Destruction Warlock
Destruction can thrive in environments with steady cleave, as we do it efficiently. In many cases, the presence of secondary targets actually enhances our single-target output considerably thanks to the additional resources generated.
- Maintain Immolate on the main target.
- Cast Rain of Fire if there are 5+ targets with Havoc up, or 3+ if on cooldown.
- Cast Chaos Bolt if you have 5 Soul Shards.
- Cast Cataclysm (if talented).
- Apply Havoc if a secondary target is present.
- Cast Chaos Bolt to spend Soul Shards.
- Cast Conflagrate to generate Soul Shards and Backdraft stacks.
- Cast Incinerate to generate Soul Shards.
We have a dedicated Mythic+ page if you want specific information about the best M+ Destruction Warlock rotation.
Important Notes for Destruction Warlock
There are several important nuances that are not common knowledge.
Soul Shard Generation and Consumption
You start every fight with 3 Soul Shards/30 Soul Shard Fragments. During combat, Soul Shards are generated through the use of your core abilities.
- Conflagrate generates 5 Soul Shard Fragments on cast.
- Immolate generates 1 Soul Shard Fragment on normal ticks, and has a 50% chance for an additional 1 Soul Shard Fragment on critical ticks.
- Soul Fire generates 10 Soul Shard Fragments on cast.
- Shadowburn (if talented) returns its Soul Shard cost if the target dies within 5 seconds.
- Incinerate generates 2 Soul Shard Fragments on normal casts, and an additional 1 Soul Shard Fragment on critical hits.
- Fire and Brimstone generates 2 Soul Shard Fragments per target hit and an additional 1 Soul Shard Fragment on critical hits.
Soul Shards will mostly be consumed with the following abilities.
- Chaos Bolt consumes 2 Soul Shards/20 Soul Shard Fragments.
- Rain of Fire consumes 3 Soul Shards/30 Soul Shard Fragments.
- Summon Imp, Summon Voidwalker, Summon Succubus, and Summon Felhunter consume 1 Soul Shard/10 Soul Shard Fragments per cast.
Chaos Bolt costs 2 Soul Shards/20 Soul Shard Fragments to cast. Since we can only have a maximum of 5 Soul Shards/50 Fragments, this means that the maximum number of Chaos Bolts we will be able to reliably cast in a short window of time is Chaos Bolt → Chaos Bolt → Conflagrate → Chaos Bolt. 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 should now primarily be used to maintain as high an uptime as possible on the Eradication debuff (if talented). This is will noticeably increase your 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. This is your best spell for quickly bursting down high priority targets.
Pet damage is normalised, therefore the choice is usually tied to the type of utility needed in a given situation. For a defensive dispel and if there are frequent swaps between distant targets, Imp will provide the highest uptime. Use Felhunter, instead, whenever an interrupt or a purge effect is required. The Voidwalker can offer some additional AoE due its Consuming Shadows ability, but its biggest utility comes from a taunt. The Succubus, meanwhile, offers additional crowd-control at the expense of DPS or a permanent slow on a single target, which may be useful under certain situations.
Havoc is one of your most important spells. Havoc copies any of your direct spells, however, and it does affect the Soul Shard generation of your Soul Shard generating abilities (i.e., you generate double Soul Shards). The Soul Shard consuming abilities still cost the same amount, however, and only 60% of the total damage done will be copied.
In multi-target scenarios this should be used on cooldown, without exception. Now that Havoc copies all spells for a 10-second window without limit, it is a significantly more potent tool for cleaving that it ever was before.
It is best to use Havoc to duplicate spells that are limited by Soul Shards, due to the efficiency of expenditure. If possible, try to lead into your Havocs with several Soul Shards at the ready. Follow up by dumping Chaos Bolt casts to debuff each target with Eradication (if talented) and double your Shard efficiency.
Havoc range is 60 yards after you apply the debuff on a target and is unaffected by 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 that an add will be spawning in the next 10 seconds, you should hold on to your Soul Shards and Conflagrate charges for Havoc. If you have 4 Soul Shards ready, you can immediately cast Havoc as soon as the add spawns. Cast Immolate, then Conflagrate, dump 2 Chaos Bolts, Conflagrate again to generate a Soul Shard. This is very much a 'feel' ability! When in doubt, however, use Havoc on cooldown when a second target is present.
Remember to cast Havoc on the secondary target, since it will only duplicate single-target spells at 60% of their original value.
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 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.
Conflagrate can be used strategically to cover movement, as can Havoc. Shadowburn can also be a good choice on fights with high amounts of movement if targets are frequently dying, as you gain 2 charges of a new, instant-cast ability for you to leverage. 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.
- 01 Nov. 2021: Reviewed and approved for Patch 9.1.5.
- 28 Jun. 2021: Reviewed and approved for Patch 9.1.
- 21 Mar. 2021: Updated openers, pet choice, and shard generator sections.
- 09 Mar. 2021: Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
- 23 Nov. 2020: Updated page for Shadowlands release, removed Essences, Azerite and updated consumables.
- 12 Oct. 2020: Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
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