PvE Demonology Warlock Rotation & Cooldowns

wotlk pve demonology warlock rotation and cooldowns

Demonology has a very dynamic rotation — you’re never stuck casting the same spell over and over like in the old days of the Warlock class. This makes it highly enjoyable to play, but also pretty challenging!

Single Target Rotation

Before combat starts use Life Tap to get the extra spell power. Soul Fire can be precast when using pull timers. When we use Metamorphosis depends on the encounter, you can read more about this a tad bit later on.

  1. Shadow Bolt – Can be precast instead/right after (of) Soul Fire.
  2. Curse – Keep up at all times
  3. Corruption – Keep up at all times, procs Molten Core
  4. Immolate – Keep up at all times
  5. Filler spell
  6. Life Tap to keep the buff up/mana.
  7. Demonic Empowerment on cooldown.
  8. Shadowflame – used as a finisher or during forced movement

If other warlocks provide the initial Improved Shadow Bolt you can consider skipping step 1. Soul Fire takes priority over Incinerate during Molten Core if Decimation is up. Decimation is caused by hitting a target with 35% health, this includes adds that are around, consider using one of your filler spells on an add to snipe the bonus and focus back on your main target. During execution phase (under 35% health) you want to keep your damage over time abilities up assuming they will last their full duration. You can consider postponing to refresh Corruption if it has fallen off during a Molten Core proc until the proc is over.

For the Hybrid Demonology spec you would use Incinerate as dominant filler instead of Shadow Bolt and use Conflag on cooldown, everything else stays the same.

Area of Effect Rotation

Demonology Warlocks have the best AoE of all the Warlocks specializations. This is major because of Immolation Aura and Shadow Cleave from Metamorphosis, our Felguard also deals a minor bit of cleave damage thanks to, well cleave.

  1. Be in melee range
  2. Metamorphosis + Immolation Aura + Shadow Cleave
  3. Shadowflame
  4. Seed of Corruption spam

Metamorphosis, Immolation Aura, and an initial Shadow Cleave can all be put into a single macro. Shadow Cleave after that becomes harder as it is based on your next melee swing, which normally wouldn’t come if you are chain casting spells. However, we can use it in combination with instant cast spells such as Corruption. Shadowflame has a damage over time portion whose damage does not get limited by the AoE Cap, making it a very worthwhile spell to use.

When it comes to demon charge to close the gap there are a couple of things you got to keep in mind. The charge is not a teleport/blink so you still lose out on the travel time. It also triggers a global cooldown, this means you need to be at near max distance if you use it and don’t want to be stand waiting to cast once you arrive at your target. This also means you essentially lose out on a portion of your precious time that you spent being a demon, most often Demon Charge is not recommended and you are better off closing the gap first before using Metamorphosis.


Whether it comes to Area of Effect damage or single target damage a big portion of the Demonology Warlocks DPS happens during Metamorphosis. Because of this, it doesn’t take long to notice if you missed out on a Metamorphosis use or couldn’t optimally make use of it. We want to prevent ending a fight with a partially used Metamorphosis, where we could potentially have squeezed one more in, and we also don’t want to be left hanging when we do enter Metamorphosis and the encounter doesn’t allow us to be in melee range or god forbid, deal damage at all!

When Not To Go Full Demon

The last thing we want is to pop Metamorphosis and be left standing not able to cast or reach within melee range. Positioning and knowing the encounter is incredibly valuable and important for a Demonology Warlock. You want to know what mechanics are coming next and where you should be when there are opportunities for free casting in melee range when there are not. A lot of this comes with experience, but luckily for us being prepared well. Read up on boss fights and learn the important mechanics by heart. It will not only make you able to make the most out of Metamorphosis, but it will also make you a better raider overall.

Being a Demon is a Fulltime Job

Whilst we don’t want to waste our Metamoprhosis use, we do want to be a demon as frequently as possible! It goes without saying that strong procs, buffs, and debuffs all best are combined to get the most out of it. This is also true with Decimation or Bloodlust, and Metamorphosis. We know Metamorphosis has a cooldown of ~2 minutes (3/3 Nemesis) and lasts 30 seconds (36 with Glyph).

This means if the fight lasts at least two and a half to three minutes we can get the full use out of metamorphosis twice if we use it early on. All this will of course be dependent on the fight length and the mechanics of the fight. Another thing to keep in mind is the length of the execution phase, we want to be able to make full use of our Metamorphosis, you don’t need to wait until decimation is up if that means you will end the fight with 10 seconds left on your metamorphosis. We want to get as many (full use) metamorphoses we can get out of a fight, the more the merrier.

Demonic Pact

These five talent points are the key reason Demonology Warlocks are brought to raids. Demonic Pact triggers a buff whenever our demon lands a critical strike which snapshots 10% of our spell power at the time and provides it in the form of a buff to all raiders for the next 45 seconds. A new fresh buff can only be triggered after the internal cooldown of 5 seconds (used to be 20) has passed and our demon lands a new critical hit. Stronger versions of the buff can always overwrite weaker ones. Weaker versions (that provide less spell power than the current active buff) can only overwrite stronger ones when there are less than 10 seconds left on the buff. Demonic Pact on average provides more spell power than Totem of Wrath, and on top of that does not stack (along with Flametongue Totem).

All of this makes the Demonology Warlock highly sought-after raid support that provides the raid with a significant amount of spell power. However, all of these mechanics also have big implications on how a Demonology Warlock gears.

How High Can I Get My Raid?

The spell power amount that we have at the time the proc occurs stays up for its full 45-second duration (if it doesn’t get overwritten). This is an important fact if we want to provide the most support possible. There are two key moments where having more spell power for the raid will be increasingly valuable. Whenever Bloodlust is popped, and whenever we reach the execution phase, plenty of other casters also have special abilities that scale of spell power and deal extra damage during the last quarter health of the boss. Just as with Metamorphosis knowing the encounter will make a big difference for this. Keeping track of your current spell power, available cooldowns to use and the internal cooldown of your demonic pact is key to maximizing the demonic pact during these burst moments.

Spell Power (Internal) Cooldowns:

Overview of Abilities

Damage over Time

  • Curse of the Elements provides the raid with a 13% increase in spell damage. Unholy Deathknight or a Balance Druid can provide a debuff that does the same thing without the cost of losing out on damage, so in an ideal world, you don’t need to use this curse but can rather use one of your other curses.
  • Curse of Doom is our highest damage-dealing spell compared to how long it takes us to cast, but it does take a full minute to pop off.
  • Curse of Agony should be considered on shorter fights (or if the fight won’t last another full minute) instead of Curse of Doom.
  • Corruption is essential for Demonology Warlocks as it is a means to proc Molten Core, a big damage-increasing buff.
  • Immolate has increased value for us thanks to the fact that the talent Molten Core makes it last that little bit longer, causing us to have to refresh it less.
  • Conflagrate only really comes into play for the Hybrid Demonology Warlock. It causes a small amount of additional damage over time whilst also dealing a big chunk of upfront direct damage.

Filler Spells

  • Shadow Bolt is our main filler spell that we cast in between all other shenanigans. It applies the Shadow Embrace debuff on target which causes 5% extra critical strike chance thanks to improved shadow bolt.
  • Incinerate is the filler of choice once Molten Core pops up. With Molten Core these are cast 30% quicker and deal an extra 18% damage.
  • Soul Fire functions as our execute filler thanks to Decimation. Once Decimation is up Soul Fire also takes precedent over Incinerate during Molten Core.
  • Seed of Corruption is the biggest source of our area of effect damage, trusty and fun just like how it has been in the Burning Crusade.
  • Immolation Aura is a spell only usable when we are in our demon form. It causes damage to all targets around us and is one of the main reasons we want to be in melee range when we use metamorphosis. The neat thing about this is that it is a buff and we don’t need to be channeling it, in other words, we can keep spamming other spells whilst it is up.
  • Shadowflame is an instant cast AOE spell that deals damage directly in front of us, already being in melee range for immolation aura plays into this. Along with dealing direct damage it also places damage over time debuff on all affected targets.
  • Shadow Cleave is sadly less useful than one would initially hope. It deals damage to 3 targets in front of you, but it is linked to our melee swing, in other words, we can’t use it whilst we are casting spells however, you can macro it into instant cast spells.

Cooldowns, Procs, and Others

  • Metamorphosis is our biggest and baddest cooldown. It causes us to transform into a demon that looks oddly enough a lot like Illidan, with the demon form comes new goodies, such as Immolation Aura, Shadow Cleave, and Demon Charge. On top of that our defenses are buffed up and we deal an extra 20% damage.
  • Demonic Empowerment buffs our demon friends. Depending on who receives the buff it is slightly different. In an ideal world, this spell is used as frequently as possible and is never off cooldown.
  • Molten Core is procced by Corruption. It causes us to change up our normal filler spell Shadow Bolt to instead be using Incinerate.
  • Decimation causes it to rain down big blasts of fat Soul Fires whenever a target reaches 35% health. Soul Fire also takes precedent over Incinerate when Molten Core is up.
  • Life Tap returns us mana in exchange for health. Thanks to Glyph of Life Tap it also provides us with a tad bit more spell power which is helpful overall for our damage as well as for Demonic Pact. It is important to note that ideally, you don’t end a fight with a bunch of mana left, this means you Life Tapped to frequent losing out on DPS due to the global cooldown that it triggers. However, do Life Tap enough to keep the buff active.


About the Author


I am a Classic Warlock enthusiast and in general like theorycrafting. I am the owner and admin of the best community in the whole wide world, being the Classic Warlock Discord. This is the home of some of the best Warlocks in this game and the basis for theorycrafting and figuring out the optimal plays for us warlocks. My aim is to make sure this up-to-date information is out there everywhere to be found and to give back to the community.
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Opw - Benediction
Opw - Benediction(@opw)
1 year ago

This guide is BIS. Thank you Zephan!!

1 year ago

Thank you so much for the amazing guide!
Question about something I’ve been seeing some warlocks do; is it worth casting a lower rank shadow bolt (with reduced cast time) to trigger Decimation instead of casting Incinerate? I highly doubt the extra ~1sec that you save to get quicker Decimations is overall more damage than an Incinerate (with or without MC) into a Soul Fire. Would like to know what you or others think, thanks!

1 year ago

Is it ever worth while to summon the infernal? Or are you better off sticking with Fel Guard at all times?

1 year ago

I like this guide, good job

1 year ago

For single target, when boss is under 35%, which debuff/dot ability is worth it to refresh? Immolate, Corruption, Agony, and shadow bolt crit debuff;

Reply to  Tim
1 year ago

you should always have at least Corruption (for Molten Core), and Shadow bolt (if you are the only one how can give the extra crit). Agony is a plus dps not mandatory however it is highly recommended, but if the boss lasts a long time you should use Doom, Immolate have 23segs dmg, and in killing face you should always use Soul Fire so it’s not that useful in that moment

Last edited 1 year ago by Kragguk
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