wotlk pve destruction warlock rotation cooldowns abilities

In this guide, we will go through several key points of the Destruction Warlock’s gameplay and how you can perfect your playstyle.

Destruction Warlocks specialize in raining down Fel fire upon their enemies, wreaking havoc upon their bodies and minds. These corrupt sorcerers have reached such a high mastery over the nether that they are capable of unleashing pure chaos and wild flames upon any who dare cross their paths.

Unlike in The Burning Crusade, Destruction Warlocks will find themselves quite lower on the DPS charts when compared to other casters. Nonetheless, they bring in a very fun playstyle and quite a few interesting effects for the dungeon parties and raid groups.

We can compare a Destruction Warlock to a fire mage in a sense – their gameplay is based on procs and burst damage with high critical strikes.

Offensive Abilities 

  • Chaos Bolt is a brand new ability added in WotLK. It sends forth a bolt of pure chaos energy that cannot be resisted. You will find yourself spamming this ability on cooldown, as it can crit for significant damage.
  • Incinerate is an ability that sends forth a wave of fire towards your target. This will be your main “filler ability”. You will find yourself spamming this ability, especially since it’s affected by several procs and talent effects.
  • Immolate is a damage-over-time ability that you will want to keep on your target at all times. It enables the use of Conflagrate and also empowers your other abilities while it afflicts your target.
  • Conflagrate is one of the main abilities that you should use on cooldown. Originally, it consumes either Immolate or Shadowflame from the target in order to deal direct damage on it. However, with the use of Glyph of Conflagrate, Conflagrate will no longer consume Immolate or Shadowflame. Beware of the fact that the damage Conflagrate deals is lesser when used in combination with Shadowflame.
  • Shadowflame is an ability that summons demonic fire upon your enemies, in a cone directly in front of you. The direct damage part of the ability deals Shadow damage, while the damage-over-time part deals Fire damage. Whenever you find yourself forced to stay next to a pack of mobs, or close to a boss, use this ability on cooldown. You can trigger Conflagrate with the use of Shadowflame.
  • Curse of Agony is one of the main 3 DoT abilities that you should maintain on the target at all times. Even as a Destruction Warlock, you must never forget to apply your dots! Curse of Agony deals Shadow damage to its target and has a slow build-up. Use this ability on packs of adds.
  • Curse of Doom can be considered an alternative to the Curse of Agony, and can be used during longer fights. You can prioritize Curse of Doom due to its higher activation time, which in turn lets you use your global cooldown for direct damage spells instead of reapplying Curse of Agony. You only need to reapply Curse of Doom once every minute instead of every 24 seconds.
  • Corruption is a DoT ability that should be kept on target at all times. You must reapply this ability every 18 seconds. Corruption deals Shadow damage to its target.
  • Rain of Fire is an Area-of-Effect ability that brings fire down on your enemies within a massive zone. Use this ability when fighting multiple mobs. This ability has no purpose in a single-target fight.
  • Searing Pain is a direct-damage ability with a relatively fast cast time that produces a high amount of threat. You will not use this ability frequently – it is a situational ability previously used for Warlock Tanking strategies. However, you can use this ability to take some pressure off of your tank in a dungeon, in case you find yourself in a sticky situation.
  • Soul Fire is an ability generally used as an execution tool for Demonology Warlocks because of the Decimation talent. Sadly, this ability has little use for Destruction Warlocks.
  • Hellfire is an Area-of-Effect ability that can be used for large packs of mobs. However, the damage dealt to all the enemies will also be dealt to you. It’s best to use this ability if you truly trust your healer, or for dungeons.

Defensive Abilities

  • Demonic Circle is an ability that allows you to teleport yourself to a designated glyph that you can place literally anywhere. You should be able to use this spell to evade certain raid mechanics or dangerous dungeon situations.
  • Demon Armor is a Self-Buff type of a spell that provides you with a 20% increase in health generated through spells and effects, and increases your Armor Rating by 2100.
  • Fel Armor is a Self-Buff type of a spell that provides you with a static 180-point increase in spell power, as well as with additional increase in spell power based on 30% of your total Spirit value.
  • Shadow Ward is an ability that allows you to absorb 3300 Shadow damage from all types of spells and effects. This ability lasts 30 seconds.

Utility Abilities

  • Curse of the Elements is a utility ability that reduces all resistances of the target by 165, and increases their spell damage taken by 13%. This ability shares a slot with Earth and Moon and Ebon Plague on the target. However, the Curse of the Elements also reduces the target’s resistance, and is far superior to the other two effects. Use this especially if the other two effects are not present.
  • Create Healthstone allows you to create a Healthstone consumable that can be used to urgently restore health in dire situations – you should use this consumable if your healer cannot aid you when you find yourself in peril.
  • Ritual of Souls allows you to create a well that provides 25 charges of Healthstones. This ability should be used to provide Healthstones as a last resort heal for all of your allies. The ritual requires 2 other players in order to be completed. 
  • Summoning Ritual is one of the most desired abilities for a raid group: this ability alone can often persuade any raid leader to have you in their raid. This ability allows you to summon a player to any location in Azeroth, even inside raids. However, there is a catch, as there always is when it comes to demonic ways – it requires another 2 participants in order for the ritual to be completed.
  • Create Soulstone is a utility ability that allows you to preserve the soul of a fellow ally or that of yourself, effectively negating the effects of imminent death. You will be required to use this ability on key targets during raids, in order to complete certain raid mechanics, or to save a healer in order to resurrect the group after a wipe – whether it might be in a raid or a dungeon. This ability is especially useful when leveling.
  • Create Firestone allows you to create a Firestone in order to buff your Direct Damage spells and Critical Strike Chance.
  • Soulshatter is an ability that allows you to drastically reduce your generated threat during an encounter; it reduces your threat by 50%. Use this ability when you steal aggro from a boss, especially during raids.
  • Banish is an ability that allows you to send Demons or Elementals to an entirely new plane of existence. This ability will render the target invulnerable for 30 seconds, but will prevent any action or movement from it. Definitely use this one when dealing with a large number of pesky adds, or to isolate key targets.
  • Curse of Tongues is an ability that increases the target’s casting time by 30%. Sadly, this ability has been severely nerfed compared to its TBC counterpart, but it can still work wonders against caster mobs.

Crowd Control Abilities

  • Fear is a signature Warlock ability that allows you to instill terrifying panic into an enemy and make them run in terror for 20 seconds. However, this ability can only affect one target at a time, and it can often cause a mob to run into a different pack of mobs and cause a larger pull. Use this ability carefully.
  • Shadowfury is the last-tier ability of the Destruction talent tree. It allows you to stun a large group of mobs instantly, for 3 seconds. This ability is best used in dungeons or in certain raid encounters.
  • Howl of Terror is an ability that can be used as a last resort – to fear 5 enemies in close proximity for 8 seconds. Beware that it can result in the same chain-pull effect as with Fear. Use this ability cautiously.
  • Death Coil can be used as an instant healing effect that also fears the enemy target for 3 seconds. This ability can be used as a last resort when you find yourself in peril, as it requires no cast time.

Single-Target Rotation

Destruction Warlocks specialize in burning their enemies to a crisp with Fel Fire, turning their very souls to ashes. This specialization unleashes impressive Direct Damage, while also being capable of dealing large amounts of Burst Damage. Destruction Warlocks, however, suffer from the lack of an execution tool – where Affliction Warlocks benefit from Drain Soul, Demonology Warlocks benefit from Soul Fire.

Furthermore, while the Destruction Warlocks of The Burning Crusade era have found themselves claiming high spots on the Damage Meter, the Destruction Warlocks in Wrath of the Lich King often find themselves in a spot below other classes.

Earlier in this guide, we have offered you a list of spells that you will find yourselves using in a variety of situations while playing this build. Now, we will talk about different strategies you can use when you find yourself inside Dungeons and in Raids.

Utility Spell Strategy

We will first talk about your current utility spells: Create Healthstone and Create Soulstone. These are crucial tools that will aid your group in its conquest. Soulstones should always be used on priority targets that have access to resurrection spells, while Healthstones act as a last-resort healing effect if your group runs into a sticky situation.

Soulshatter should always be used in boss encounters rather than a normal dungeon, or during raid add fights, as they will surely kill you in one hit most of the time.

Banish should always be used to reduce the number of threats that your group faces – it allows you to isolate extremely dangerous demons or elementals.

Curse of Tongues will not affect raid bosses, but it will certainly affect dungeon and raid adds. Be sure to cast this on enemy casters to reduce the number of spells they can throw at your tank. Curse of Tongues can be used effectively on bosses as well, but it is often better to interrupt them and then choose another curse.

Crowd Control Strategy

It is best to use Death Coil and Howl of Terror in dire situations only. Meanwhile, Fear can be extremely useful if you are certain that your target will not draw the attention of more enemies towards your group.

Shadowfury should be used as often as possible when dealing with groups of adds, as it will severely reduce the amount of damage they will deal due to its stun effect.

Adapting to Your Group

You will encounter plenty of dangerous foes within Dungeons that will threaten the life of your party, and your overall rotation will always depend on the composition of your adventuring group. In this case, we specifically mean the active curse that you will use on your target. When discussing the rotation, we will also take into consideration how strong your group is and how long the encounter will last. 

If your group has an Unholy Death Knight or a Balance Druid present, Curse of the Elements will have no effect, since your allies will have Earth and Moon and Ebon Plague. Depending on how strong your group is, you can predict how long a boss encounter will last. It is advised to use the Curse of Doom for long fights, and Curse of Agony for short fights.

Important DoTs

Corruption has to be applied no matter the situation, and must be refreshed on the target every 18 seconds. Meanwhile, Immolate is your most crucial spell and must be refreshed every 15 seconds.

Single-Target Rotations

We will now offer you several potential Single-Target Rotations, depending on the different situations you may find yourself in.

If there is no Earth and Moon or Ebon Plague present:

Curse of the Elements->Corruption->Immolate->Conflagrate->Chaos Bolt->Incinerate->Incinerate->Incinerate->Incinerate->Incinerate->Immolate->Conflagrate->Chaos Bolt->Corruption

If Earth and Moon or Ebon Plague are not present on the target:

Long Fights-Raid Bosses:

Curse of Doom->Corruption->Immolate->Conflagrate->Chaos Bolt->Incinerate->Incinerate->Incinerate->Incinerate->Incinerate->Immolate->Conflagrate->Chaos Bolt->Corruption

Short Fights-Raid Bosses: 

Curse of Agony->Corruption->Immolate->Conflagrate->Chaos Bolt->Incinerate->Incinerate->Incinerate->Incinerate->Incinerate->Immolate->Conflagrate->Chaos Bolt->Corruption

Area-of-Effect Rotation

When it comes to Area-of-Effect spells, we will sadly not use Seed of Corruption. This spell deals shadow damage and, as a Destruction Warlock, we do not benefit from multiple empowering effects from the Shadow School, like the Affliction Warlock does.

However, we got two main tools that will wreak havoc on the enemy lines – namely, Rain of Fire and Hellfire.

As described earlier, Hellfire provides abundant damage, but at a great cost to Health, which places stress on our healers. The use of Hellfire can be situational, and it is far better used in dungeons, as you do not run the risk of being one-shot by raid adds.

Rain of Fire will be your main Area-of-Effect spell that you will use for packs of adds in raids. This spell calls forth literal small meteorites made of Fel Fire that fall down on your enemies, burning them down to small crisps. You will not be required to multi-dot packs of adds like Affliction Warlock does. Instead, you will simply have to spam Rain of Fire until all of your enemies wither down. 

If you are using the AoE talent build, you will gain access to Shadowfury. Shadowfury will be a great addition to your AoE Rain of Fire spam. The spell itself will also render enemies incapable of doing any action for 3 seconds – those 3 seconds will greatly aid both your healers and the tank!

Young Warlock, tread carefully when playing with the chaotic energies of Fel magic, as it can often consume its user to a far greater extent than the enemies that are the target of your potent destructive spells. With time, you will master the rotation and the right mentality to climb the Damage Meters, even if the Meta itself might be against you.


About the Author


Hey there folks, I am Nevermore and have been deeply passionate about WoW for more than a decade. Whether we talk about the hidden mysteries of Azeroth or the otherworldly Outland, my journey brought me here to share the things that I have experienced with you all.
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