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.
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.
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So, you’d like to know what the optimal Destruction Warlock spell rotation is? Guess what? There isn’t one. Strict rotations are a thing of WoW’s past. Most classes now use a priority system, and destro locks are no exception. If you’d like to know how to get the most out of the standard Destruction priority system, read on.
Destruction Warlock priority system
This priority system is the one generally recommended by the warlock community. It’s designed for a boss fight – your system for trash mobs will be much simpler. Take a look at our guide to Destruction warlock stats, rotation and spec to find a good talent build and more information for warlock players.
The priority system for most destro warlocks will be:
- Soul Fire – you should open with this, and re-cast it at least every 15 seconds, to make sure that the buff from the Improved Soul Fire talent is always active.
- Demon Soul – cast it if it’s off cooldown. On certain fights it may be worth holding off on Demon Soul until a specific moment (a DPS burn phase, for example), but with a 2 minute cooldown you can be confident of hitting this more than once per fight. As a general rule, if you’re not sure, cast it.
- Immolate – you can afford to allow the Immolate DoT to fall off for a couple of seconds, if you really must, but make sure it’s in place again before you cast Conflagrate.
- Conflagrate – Boom. Instant cast, instant damage. Use it whenever it’s off cooldown.
- Bane of Doom – Bane of Doom lasts a full minute, and is instant cast, so keeping it up shouldn’t be very hard. Don’t be scared to refresh this before it expires – doing so will not override the current ‘tick’.
- Corruption – instant cast, 18 second DoT. You had this in your repertoire since early levels, so you should be very familiar with it by now.
- Shadowflame – you may wish to skip this entirely. Remember that it’s a frontal cone AoE, which won’t be appropriate in all circumstances. If you have to move more than a few steps to cast it, or if an AoE blast is not safe, don’t do it.
- Soul Fire – If your Imp’s buff from Demon Soul is active, cast Soul Fire even if the buff from Improved Soul Fire doesn’t need to be refreshed yet. Doing so will make big numbers appear on your screen, and will cause the little green bar above the boss’s head to get smaller.
- Chaos Bolt – that’ll leave a mark. It has a 12 second cooldown (10 seconds if you’ve bought the talent). Ideally, the cooldown for Chaos Bolt should alternate with the cooldown for Conflagrate.
- Shadowburn – only usable when the boss drops to 20% health. Note that this comes almost at the bottom of the priority list. Don’t be tempted to cast Shadowburn in favor of other, higher-priority, spells just because it’s suddenly become active.
- Incinerate – if you’ve absolutely nothing better to do, you might as well cast Incinerate. Be prepared to interrupt your casting to cast a higher-priority spell instead, if the better spell comes off cooldown halfway through. It’s often worth doing – the DPS loss from the missed Incinerate will be minimal.
It’s the thought that counts
Let’s talk about Dark Intent. It’s 30 minute ‘buff’ that affects you and one lucky fellow raider. It’ll increase the damage from your DoTs, and it’ll also increase the damage from your new best buddy’s DoTs (or the healing from her HoTs). The decision as to who to favor with your dark intentions is a complicated, and subjective, one. You really, really should read this thread on MMO Champion, which breaks the whole thing down and which is reproduced as part of the Elitist Jerks Destruction thread, but the basic summary is: use it on a healer unless your healers are utterly amazing, in which case you can throw it at a DPS class. The best classes to pick are Restoration Druids, Holy Priests and Restoration Shaman. If you’re targetting a DPS class, a Shadow Priest is your best bet, followed by Balance Druids and Fire Mages.
You should also consider Curse of the Elements. The chances are you won’t need to bother – many other classes and even some hunter pets provide similar buffs which won’t stack with CotE – but if nobody else is bringing the debuff to the party, be a responsible Warlock and add Curse of the Elements to your priority system. It lasts for 5 minutes, so for most fights you should be able to throw it down right at the start and then not worry about it again, but do remember to check. A 6 minute fight where the last minute is a DPS burn race is exactly the wrong fight to let CotE fall off!
Remember to check out our guide to Destruction warlock stats, rotation and spec in 4.2 for more information.
Have we got our priorities all wrong? Do you have any clever tips and tricks for Destruction Warlocks? Let us know in the comments.
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