Destruction Warlock PvP Guide in Battle for Azeroth (BfA 8.1)
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 Destruction Warlocks
Destruction Warlocks are capable of some of the strongest single target damage in the game. Chaos Bolt is one of the most feared spells in the game, and for good reason. If you give a Destruction Warlock a chance to chain together multiple Chaos Bolts, the game will surely be over.
1.1. Strengths of Destruction Warlocks
- Great control
- Strong burst damage
- Multiple interrupts
1.2. Weaknesses of Destruction Warlocks
- Struggle to stay alive against melee teams
- Hard to cast against teams with multiple interrupts
- Very few defensive cooldowns
2. The stat priority for Destruction Warlock in PvP is as follows:
The stat priority for Destruction 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 reducing your cast time. This will help you cast your Chaos Bolt and Cataclysm quicker.
3. Azerite Traits for Destruction 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 or healing 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 Flashpoint. You need to maintain Immolate on all enemies and you will have increased Haste for almost the entire game. Chaotic Inferno and Crashing Chaos both improve your Chaos Bolt, but the downside is you will not be able to complete many Chaos Bolt casts in an arena match. 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, Destruction Warlocks want to get trinkets that line up well with Dark Soul: Instability. If you are using Channel Demonfire, you will still be using the same trinkets. 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.
4.2. Recommended Items
Dread Gladiator's Badge is strong for the Versatility and the on-use Intellect effect. The 2-minute cooldown lines up well with either Dark Soul: Instability. If you are using Channel Demonfire you can still use this trinket for when you are able to cast multiple Chaos Bolts.
Dread 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.
5. Talent Choices for Destruction Warlocks
|15||✘ Flashover||✘ Eradication||✔ Soul Fire|
|30||✘ Reverse Entropy||✘ Internal Combustion||✔ Shadowburn|
|45||✘ Demon Skin||✘ Burning Rush||✔ Dark Pact|
|60||✘ Inferno||✘ Fire and Brimstone||✔ Cataclysm|
|75||✘ Darkfury||✔ Mortal Coil||✔ Demonic Circle|
|90||✘ Roaring Blaze||✘ Grimoire of Supremacy||✔ Grimoire of Sacrifice|
|100||✘ Soul Conduit||✔ Channel Demonfire||✘ Dark Soul: Instability|
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
Soul Fire is the best choice in this tier. This deals a decent amount of damage. However, it also generates 4 Soul Shard Fragments which helps with your rotation.
Quick note: 10 Soul Shard Fragments make up a single Soul Shard.
5.2. Tier 2 (Level 30) Talents
Shadowburn is the best choice in this tier. This is good instant damage that will also help you generate 3 Soul Shard Fragments per use.
5.3. Tier 3 (Level 45) Talents
Dark Pact is the best choice in this tier. This is a great tool to increase your survivability. The only downside to this talent is that it sacrifices 20% of your health. This means you need to keep track of your health at all times. Use this talent when you are high on health. If you find yourself low on health often, or have a hard time tracking your health, Demon Skin is another option. It is slightly weaker, but a great passive defensive.
5.4. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents
Cataclysm is the best choice in this tier. This is a strong ability that will help you spread Immolate without have to cast it multiple times. Cataclysm can be used on teams that are trying to line of sight your damage. More importantly, you can use it to prevent Rogues and Druids from using Stealth.
5.5. Tier 5 (Level 75) Talents
If you are playing against at least one caster, Mortal Coil is the best choice in this tier. This gives you extra control over the enemy caster(s) with instant crowd control.
If you are playing a team with two melee that will be focusing you, Demonic Circle is the best choice in this tier. This will make it easier for you to avoid or get away from teams when using their burst cooldowns.
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
Channel Demonfire is the best choice in this tier. This talent represents a large increase to your single target damage. Additionally, it does great spread pressure if a team is stacked.
6. PvP Talents for Destruction 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.
Focused Chaos causes Chaos Bolt's damage to be increased by 65%, but no longer strike additional targets afflicted by Havoc. This makes your Chaos Bolt a much more scarier ability. This is also a significant increase to your single target damage.
Fel Fissure Chaos Bolt creates a 5 yd wide eruption of Felfire under the target, reducing movement speed by 50% and reducing all healing received by 25% on all enemies within the fissure. Lasts 6 sec. This PvP talent is powerful when playing with a teammate that has a stun for your kill target. This will also help you punish players that are out of position or do not notice the Fel Fissure animation.
Nether Ward surrounds the caster with a shield that last 3 sec, reflecting all harmful spells cast on you. This is a crucial talent to take against all casters. You also want to use this talent versus teams with a Shaman, Death Knight or Demon Hunter. This is because their kicks are magical and this will prevent you from being interrupted while it is active.
Entrenched in Flame causes Conflagrate to root the enemy target for 3 seconds. This effect does not break from damage. This is a crucial talent to help increase your survivability against teams with multiple melee players. You should replace Nether Ward with this PvP talent.
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.
7. Racial Bonuses for Destruction Warlocks
Racial bonuses can provide interesting PvP benefits. Here are the best races to choose for each faction.
Orc is the best race for Destruction Warlocks, thanks to the passive Orcs have ( Hardiness) reducing all stuns, thus greatly improving survivability.
The Human bonus ( Every Man for Himself) is a great way to escape stuns. However, because you will the primary target for most people, the racial from Void Elves ( Preternatural Calm) will help you cast your spells without a delay.
If you do not what to play Human or Void Elf, the Iron Dwarf racial ( Fireblood) is a great defensive that can also help increase your burst damage.
8. Playstyle for Destruction Warlocks
The Destruction Warlock has two roles when in an Arena: set up kills with large Chaos Bolts and survive. Destruction Warlocks are powerful because they have strong single target damage and the ability to crowd control enemy teams. Most of your damage and kills will come from your Chaos Bolts. You will survive by using Fears and Mortal Coils on enemies. You can also use your Demonic Gateway to create distance.
8.1. Before Gates Open
Have a plan for who you will be mainly using your crowd control on. Destruction Warlocks are able to use their main crowd control, Fear, along with Mortal Coil. You also have Shadowfury. This has a somewhat short cast time and will AoE stun anyone that is in range for a small period of time.
You should also use Create Soulwell to generate Healthstones for you and your teammates.
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.
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 Immolate on all enemies to generate Soul Shards. If the enemy team starts behind a pillar, you can use Cataclysm to put your Immolate on all of them.
- Cast Incinerate to generate Soul Shards.
- Use Havoc on an enemy and cast Soul Fire if you need more Soul Shards.
- Use Conflagrate to slow the enemy player and generate Soul Shards. With the passive Backdraft, Conflagrate will also reduce the cast time of your Chaos Bolts or Incinerates.
- Once you have at least 4-5 Soul Shards and the enemy healer is in crowd control, you will be able to use your burst rotation.
8.2.2. Burst Damage
- Make sure you have 2-3 stacks of Backdraft.
- Use Curse of Fragility (if you have taken this talent).
- Use Havoc on the enemy you are not targeting.
- Use Mortal Coil on the enemy you are focusing.
- Cast Chaos Bolt.
- Cast Chaos Bolt.
- Use Summon Infernal if the enemy team is stacked or you need an interrupt.
- Use Conflagrate to generate Soul Shards.
- Cast Chaos Bolt.
- Use Channel Demonfire if the enemy team has no interrupts.
- Use Soul Fire.
- Cast Incinerate as a filler.
- Use Shadowburn if the enemy is at low health.
8.2.3. Sustained damage
Sustained damage is damage you do when your burst cooldowns are not available.
- Apply Havoc and follow it up with a Mortal Coil to prevent enemy players from interrupting your damage.
- Maintain Immolate on all enemies.
- Cast Chaos Bolt when you have 4-5 Soul Shards.
- Use Rain of Fire if multiple targets are stacked and you are about to cap on Soul Shards.
- Cast Cataclysm if multiple targets are stacked and you need to generate Soul Shards.
- Use Conflagrate to generate Soul Shards and generate stacks of Backdraft.
- Cast Incinerate to generate Soul Shards.
- Channel Channel Demonfire when the enemy team has no interrupts. This ability deals large amounts of damage it is important to be able to channel this for the full duration.
- Use Soul Fire to generate Soul Shards.
- Use Shadowburn if the enemy is low on health. You can use Shadowburn at any time to generate Soul Shards, but it is great to have this instant damage for when an enemy is low on health.
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 Chaos Bolt 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.
Summon Infernal should be used to stun enemies that are trying to chase you. This will typically best used when enemies are using their burst cooldowns and you are close to dying.
9. Best Team Compositions for Destruction Warlocks
Now that you have the correct talents and understand your damage rotation, it is time to step into the arena with your team. The combination of Chaos Bolt damage and crowd control make Destruction Warlocks a very scary caster.
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 while your teammate stuns the kill target and cast multiple Chaos Bolts. If the enemy team is stacked and trying to line of sight your damage, use Cataclysm to generate Soul Shards or Rain of Fire if you have a high amount of Soul Shards. It is important to note that if you are interrupted while casting Fear, you can still cast Chaos Bolt.
Here is a list of the best team compositions for 2v2:
- Destruction Warlock + Holy Paladin;
- Destruction Warlock + Restoration Shaman;
- Destruction Warlock + Restoration Druid;
- Destruction Warlock + Holy Priest.
9.2. 3v3 Arena
Your role in 3v3 is similar to 2v2 Arena. You are trying to find a time to use Mortal Coil on both DPS and cast multiple Chaos Bolts on your kill target. It is best to be playing with another caster so you are not the only person being interrupted. Use Fear on the enemy healer and have one of your teammates stun your kill target. Teams will try to run away from your damage behind a pillar, use Rain of Fire when they do this. 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.
Here is a list of the best team compositions for 3v3:
- WLS (Destruction Warlock + Arms Warrior + Holy Paladin/Restoration Shaman);
- FLS (Destruction Warlock + Feral Druid + Restoration Shaman);
- Destruction Warlock + Elemental Shaman + Restoration Druid/ Holy Paladin;
- Shadowplay (Destruction Warlock + Shadow Priest + Holy Paladin/Restoration Druid).
10. Useful Macros for Destruction 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 Destruction 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. Havoc Focus Macro
- #showtooltip Havoc
- /cast [target=focus] Havoc
This makes it so you can use Havoc on your focus target while still damaging your main target.
10.5. 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.
- 12 Dec. 2018: Minor changes made for Patch 8.1.
- Updated PvP talents section.
- 23 Nov. 2018: Added Gear Recommendations section.
- 08 Oct. 2018: Added Azerite traits section and talent table.
- 02 Oct. 2018: Removed PvP Gear and War Mode sections.
- 01 Sep. 2018: Updated guide for Patch 8.0.1.
- Updated Introduction and spec overview.
- Added Stat priority.
- Updated tier 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 talent 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 Defensive section.
- Updated Macros section.
- Removed Gear section.
- Removed 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".
- 18 Sep. 2017: Made multiple changes for Patch 7.3
- Updated recommended tier 5 and 7 regular talents.
- Updated recommended tier 6 honor talents.
- Updated sustained and burst damage rotations.
- 22 Jul. 2017: Guide created.
- Patch 8.1.5 Build 28938: Class Changes
- BfA PvP Season 2 Preview [Official]
- Tools of the Trade in Patch 8.1.5
- Four New Collectible Blizzard Books Coming This Fall
- Kul Tiran & Zandalari Druid Empowered Moonkin Form
- Allied Races: Are Mechagnomes and Vulpera Next?
- Titan Residuum Hotfix: January 16th
- The Story of Xal'atath in Patch 8.1.5
- Guardian Druid 8.1
- Knight85's home for probably stupid questions
- Need help with BoS
- Feral Druid 8.1
- when to use blizzard/aoe as frost?
- Windwalker Monk PvP 8.1
- Unholy Death Knight PvP 8.1
- Survival Hunter PvP 8.1