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Destruction Warlock DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoW 4.3.4)

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In this article, we list your Destruction Warlock (WoW 4.3) core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation). We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that playing a Destruction Warlock will face you with. The other articles of our Destruction Warlock guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the left.

1. Basic Single Target Rotation↑top

The single target rotation for Destruction Warlocks is based on the priority system we provide below.

Make sure to apply Curse of the Elements Icon Curse of the Elements on the target if no one else is providing this debuff (Assassination Rogues, Balance Druids, Unholy Death Knights or other Warlocks).

  1. Cast Soul Fire Icon Soul Fire
  2. Apply and maintain Immolate Icon Immolate on the target.
  3. Apply and maintain Corruption Icon Corruption on the target.
  4. Apply and maintain Bane of Doom Icon Bane of Doom on the target.
  5. Cast Conflagrate Icon Conflagrate on cooldown.
  6. Cast Shadowflame Icon Shadowflame (only if you can afford to be in melee range).
  7. Cast Soul Fire Icon Soul Fire (only if it is instant cast, thanks to your Empowered Imp Icon Empowered Imp talent).
  8. Cast Chaos Bolt Icon Chaos Bolt on cooldown.
  9. Cast Shadowburn Icon Shadowburn on cooldown
    • only available when the target is below 20% health.
  10. Cast Incinerate Icon Incinerate.

Keep in mind that the priority is slightly different if you have the 4-Part Tier 13 Set Bonus, in which case we suggest that you read this section.

2. Basic Multiple Target Rotation↑top

The multiple target rotation depends on how many enemies you are facing and how long these enemies will live. Use the following guidelines, but do not hesitate to adapt your playstyle to your particular situations.

2.1. Persistent Enemies

If your enemies will live for a longer period of time, then make use of the following guidelines:

2.1.1. Against 2 Targets

You should keep DoTs up on both targets:

After your DoTs are up, you should continue with the rest of your single target rotation on the primary target.

2.1.2. Against 3 or More Targets

  • Against 3 or 4 targets:
    1. Place Bane of Havoc Icon Bane of Havoc on the target that will live the longest.
    2. Apply and maintain your DoTs (Corruption Icon Corruption and Immolate Icon Immolate) on all of the targets.
    3. Apply and maintain Bane of Doom Icon Bane of Doom on one target.
    4. Cast Shadowflame Icon Shadowflame on cooldown (if you are in melee range).
    5. Continue with your single target rotation on one target (not the one on which you applied Bane of Havoc Icon Bane of Havoc).
  • Against 5 or more targets:
    1. Make sure that Improved Soul Fire Icon Improved Soul Fire is kept up (by casting Soul Fire Icon Soul Fire at least once every 20 seconds).
    2. Cast Shadowflame Icon Shadowflame on cooldown (if you are in melee range).
    3. Channel Rain of Fire Icon Rain of Fire on the enemies.

2.2. Short-lasting Enemies

If the targets you must AoE will live for such a short amount of time that applying your DoTs on them is not worth it (10 seconds or less), then simply use Shadowflame Icon Shadowflame on cooldown (if you are in melee range) and channel Rain of Fire Icon Rain of Fire on them.

3. Minion↑top

For both single target and AoE DPS, your best choice is to use an Imp.

4. Armor↑top

You should use Fel Armor Icon Fel Armor, as it increases your spell power, thus increasing your DPS.

5. Dark Intent↑top

Deciding who to cast Dark Intent Icon Dark Intent on should be done with the best interests of the raid in mind. If your raid is in need of more healing, then you should pick a suitable healer class. Otherwise, you should choose a suitable DPS player.

In a subsequent Dark Intent section, we provide you with rankings of different classes and specs that should enable you to make the best decision regarding Dark Intent.

6. Cooldowns↑top

As a Destruction Warlock, you only have 2 DPS cooldowns. You should use them as we describe below.

6.1. Demon Soul

Demon Soul Icon Demon Soul (Demon Soul: Imp Icon Demon Soul: Imp, since you should always be using an Imp) is a DPS cooldown that increases the critical strike chance of your Destruction spells (only those with a cast time, including from procs that make them instant cast) by 30% for 20% for 20 seconds. It has a 2 minute cooldown.

Essentially, you should use this ability on cooldown, making sure that it is used as many times as possible during the encounter. It is best to use Demon Soul at the same time as Heroism Icon Heroism/Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust/Time Warp Icon Time Warp, trinket procs and your Volcanic Potion.

6.2. Doomguard/Infernal

For most situations, summoning a Doomguard is your best choice. In case you are faced with a large number of enemies that you wish to use extra burst on, you should use Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal.

Summon Doomguard Icon Summon Doomguard/Summon Infernal Icon Summon Infernal will summon a Doomguard/Infernal to fight by your side for 45 seconds. The ability has a 10 minute cooldown, meaning that it will realistically only be usable once per fight. Your Doomguard/Infernal benefits from your own Critical Strike Rating and spellpower, at the time of summoning him. He is not affected by your haste, and any change in your stats after your Doomguard/Infernal has been summoned will not affect him.

This makes the ideal time to use your Doomguard/Infernal when you have as many of the following buffs as possible:

This generally makes the best time to use your Doomguard/Infernal at the start of the fight, unless a burn phase at another time requires that you delay it until then.

7. Optional Read: Mastering Your Destruction Warlock↑top

The rotation of a Destruction Warlock is somewhat complex, and it requires you to pay a great deal of attention to your DoTs and procs. In the following sections, we will give you more details to help you understand it better.

7.1. Single Target Rotation in Detail

7.1.1. Refreshing Your DoTs

As a Destruction Warlock, a large part of your DPS is dependent on keeping up your 3 DoTs: Corruption Icon Corruption, Immolate Icon Immolate and Bane of Doom Icon Bane of Doom. For this reason, you must strive to maintain 100% uptime on all of them.

DoTs benefit from your statistics at the time when the DoT was cast. This means that the DoT will take into account your haste, spellpower, etc. at the time when you cast the DoT, and it will not be affected by any change in your stats while the DoT is running. While this does, in theory, mean that you should try to apply your DoTs when you benefit from various procs, it is a DPS loss to refresh your DoTs simply because you had a trinket proc or you used a Volcanic Potion.

Instead, you should refresh your DoTs right before they expire. This will ensure that you maintain 100% uptime and that no ticks of your DoTs are wasted (as is the case when you refresh a DoT while it still had a long duration, because the existing ticks will be overwritten).

7.1.2. Empowered Imp and Refreshing Improved Soul Fire

A crucial part of your DPS as a Destruction Warlock is maintaining 100% uptime on your self buff from Improved Soul Fire Icon Improved Soul Fire. In short, each time you deal damage with Soul Fire Icon Soul Fire, you gain an 8% damage increase to all your Fire and Shadow spells for 20 seconds.

Keeping this buff up is simple enough. It means that you need to cast Soul Fire Icon Soul Fire at least once every 20 seconds. Soul Fire's damage is rather weak and, as such, you should not cast it unless you need to refresh the buff. The ideal time to refresh Improved Soul Fire is right before it expires.

Thanks to your Empowered Imp Icon Empowered Imp talent, you will occasionally gain a proc that makes your next Soul Fire (within 8 seconds) instant cast. In this case, you can choose between the following two options:

  • Making use of the instant cast Soul Fire immediately, even if your Improved Soul Fire does not need to be refreshed soon, in order to make sure that the proc is not overwritten by a subsequent one and thus wasted.
  • Delaying using the instant cast Soul Fire until such a time that Improved Soul Fire is about to expire.

Neither one is clearly better than the other and you can decide how to play based on your own preference.

7.1.3. Bane of Havoc

Bane of Havoc Icon Bane of Havoc deserves a special mention, because it works in a rather unique way. It lasts 5 minutes, and causes 15% of all the damage you deal to other targets to also be dealt to the target of your Bane of Havoc.

As you know, you can only have one Bane up on one target at any one time. Additionally, as you can see, having Bane of Havoc up on the only target in the fight provides no benefit.

Bane of Havoc is ideally used on a target that is present in the fight, but that is not the target of your attacks. You should use the guidelines provided in the Multiple Target Rotation section to see how to best use Bane of Havoc in AoE situations.

Another good use of Bane of Havoc is to apply it to the boss before diverting your attention to attacking adds.

7.1.4. Shadowflame

Shadowflame Icon Shadowflame has a higher priority than Incinerate Icon Incinerate (your filler spell), provided that you are in melee range of the target.

In most encounters, it should be relatively easy to stay in melee range, so you should aim at doing this whenever possible. If, however, the fight mechanics require you to be elsewhere, it is not worth moving to melee range just to use Shadowflame.

7.1.5. Rotation with 4-Part Tier 13 Set Bonus

If you have the 4-Part Tier 13 Set Bonus, then it is imperative to use Soulburn Icon Soulburn on cooldown. This ability becomes your second priority (after keeping up Improved Soul Fire Icon Improved Soul Fire).

The most beneficial use is to cast Soulburn Icon Soulburn and then, within the 15 second window while Soulburn is active, to use an instant cast Soul Fire Icon Soul Fire to refresh your Improved Soul Fire.

If you find Soul Burn coming off cooldown when a different use is more appropriate (such as instantly resurrecting your dead minion), then do so, but be sure not to use up all 3 of your Soul Shards (see below).

7.1.6. Soul Shards

Soul Shards are a type of secondary resource system. You have a maximum of 3 Soul Shards. Outside combat, they are easily regenerated by casting Soul Harvest Icon Soul Harvest. In combat, however, you cannot regenerate your Soul Shards through any reliable means (only by getting killing blows).

As a Destruction Warlock, there is only one ability that requires Soul Shards to cast: Soulburn Icon Soulburn. This means that you are limited to three Soulburn uses per fight.

The only exception to this rule is when you have the 4-Part Tier 13 Set Bonus. In this case, any time you cast Soulburn Icon Soulburn with Soul Fire Icon Soul Fire, the cost of Soul burn (1 Soul Shard) will be refunded to you. This makes it possible to cast Soulburn on cooldown.

7.2. Dark Intent

Dark Intent Icon Dark Intent is a unique spell, similar in a way to Arcane Mages' Focus Magic Icon Focus Magic. Dark Intent is a buff that you can apply on a party or raid member. This effectively links the two of you together, granting you certain benefits. Namely:

  • Both you and the recipient of Dark Intent gain 3% haste.
  • When either you or the player you are linked with scores a damage over time or healing over time critical effect, the other one will gain a buff:
    • If you score a critical effect, the other player's periodic damage and periodic healing will be increased by 1% for 7 seconds, stacking up to 3 times.
    • If the other player scores a critical effect, your periodic damage and periodic healing will be increased by 3% for 7 seconds, stacking up to 3 times.

Note that, if two Warlocks exchange Dark Intent Icon Dark Intent, the effect will not stack (i.e., each Warlock will get a gain of 3% haste, instead of 6%).

Dark Intent, therefore, is most beneficial when cast on a player who:

  • performs many periodic damage or period healing spells.
  • has a high chance to score critical effects with these spells.
  • is performing a role (DPS/healer) that is crucial to the encounter.

If your raid is progressing on an encounter where you are wiping to overwhelming damage, then you should cast Dark Intent Icon Dark Intent on a healer. If your raid is progressing on an encounter where you are wiping due to insufficient DPS, then you should cast Dark Intent on a DPS player. Refer to the table below to see what are the best classes to cast Dark Intent on.

Healers DPS
  1. Restoration Druid
  2. Holy Priest
  3. Restoration Shaman
  4. Discipline Priest
  5. Holy Paladin
  1. Shadow Priest
  2. Fire Mage
  3. Balance Druid
  4. Elemental Shaman
  5. Frost Mage

7.3. Curses

As a Destruction Warlock, you have the possibility of applying one of several curses on the target. You are limited to only having one curse on each target active at any one time. Your choice is between:

None of these curses offers a DPS boost to you. You should only apply a curse if no one else in the raid is able to provide that debuff on the target.

Exceptionally, you can make it a habit to always apply Curse of the Elements Icon Curse of the Elements on the target at the start of the fight. This curse lasts 5 minutes (meaning you will not have to refresh it often, if at all) and it is not provided by very many classes.

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