Warlocks are a fun class to play, with a set of complicated mechanics and the need to juggle a whole handful of different damage-over-time spells. It’s only natural to wonder what type of warlock makes the best warlock, and which is the best spec and the best warlock rotation. Well, the simple answer is Affliction, but if you want to know a few more details, read on.
We have a winner! Sort of!
It’s true that Affliction is generally consider the ‘best’ warlock tree in 4.2, where ‘best’ equates to ‘has the highest DPS potential’. Even then, there’s very little in it. The other two trees are only a tiny fraction behind, and there are plenty of other good practical reasons for choosing the Destruction or Demonology trees. The Destruction tree grants access to the Felguard, a high-DPS pet which can benefit from the synergistic abilities of the Demonology tree. The Destruction tree is actually considered to outrank Affliction for multiple-target DPS. So, the tree you choose is very much a personal choice.
If you want a breakdown of exact numbers, the theorycrafters of Elitist Jerks currently rank the DPS potential of Affliction as being 2-3% higher than that of Destruction, which is itself 5-6% ahead of Demonology. For multiple target fights, Destruction wins out easily. For a fight with two targets, the difference between Affliction and Destruction is negligible (although Demonology does still lag behind).
Warlocks are no longer slaves to strict rotations, having moved to a priority system with the arrival of Cataclysm. The basic Affliction priority system is:
- Haunt if it’s not on cooldown.
- Demon Soul if it’s not on cooldown.
- Bane of Doom if this 1-minute DoT is close to expiry.
- Corruption if the Corruption DoT is close to expiry. Corruption only lasts 18 seconds, so you’ll be refreshing this reasonably often.
- Unstable Affliction if the Unstable Affliction DoT is close to expiry. Unstable Affliction lasts 15 seconds.
- Drain Soul, but only once the boss drops below 25% health.
- Shadowflame if it’s safe to do so (Shadowflame is an AoE spell, so be careful).
- Shadow Bolt.
For a fight with two targets, you’ll need the Glyph of Soul Swap. You can then cast all of your damage-over-time spells on the first target (so that’s Haunt, Bane of Doom, Corruption and Unstable Affliction) and then use Soul Swap to duplicate the DoTs and drop them right onto the second target, which is pretty darn awesome.
For a multiple-target fight, bring Soulburn + Seed of Corruption to the party, and watch the damage fly.
Our guide to Affliction warlock stats, rotation and glyphs has a more in-depth look at the Affliction tree.
Like their Affliction cousins, Destruction warlocks operate a priority system rather than a pure rotation.
- Soul Fire, but only if the Improved Soul Fire talent has proc’ed
- Demon Soul
- Bane of Doom
- Shadowflame if it’s safe
- Soul Fire if your Imp’s buff from Demon Soul is active
- Chaos Bolt
- Shadowburn once the boss drops below 20% health
Take a look at our guide to the Destruction warlock spell rotation for a more in-depth look at the Destruction priority system, or our guide to Destruction warlock stats and spec in 4.2 for an overall view.
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The Demonology priority system is made slightly more complicated by the fact that the spec has two viable pets: the Felguard and the Felhunter. Generally speaking, you should be using the Felhunter for boss fights and the Felguard for trash mobs. Demon Soul has a different priority depending on which pet is active.
- Demon Soul: Felguard
- Hand of Gul’dan
- Demon Soul: Felhunter
- Bane of Doom
- Immolation Aura
- Incinerate, but only if Molten Core procs
- Soul Fire, but only if Decimation procs
- Shadow Bolt
For multi-target fights, or fights with a high AoE requirement, you can simplify this priority system to:
- Felguard Felstorm (if you’re using the Felguard pet)
- Immolation Aura
Take a look at our guide to Demonology warlock stats, rotation and glyphs for a further discussion of the Demonology tree. In particular, the comments from reader Wolferene suggesting an alternative rotation are very much worth reading.
The choice is to which warlock tree to choose is almost entirely up to you. For single-target DPS fights, Affliction is a strong choice, but for AoE-heavy multiple target fights, Destruction has the edge. Of course, for sheer I-can-turn-into-a-fraking-demon fun, you can’t beat Demonology.
What’s your favorite warlock spec? Do you have any tips for better rotations? Let us know in the comments.