Warlock Rotation – WoW Classic

  • Author: Zephan
  • Date: December 3, 2021
  • Updated: October 28, 2023
  • Expansion: WoW Classic

The general rotation for warlocks looks like the following: You first apply your assigned Curse after which you apply all your damage over time abilities. All the remaining time you fill up casting shadow bolts. Once you DoTs fall off you will want to refresh them ASAP In the case of Immolate you can even start casting it before the last tick falls off, as such your application of the fresh new immolate lands right after the final tick of the old one. Note that you do not want to refresh DoTs if you will not be enjoying the majority of their duration, especially with Curse of Agony which has a long ramp-up time, it does 2/3 of its damage in the last 1/3 of the time it is up.

General rotation:

  1. Asigned Curse
  2. DoTs
  3. Shadow Bolts

Immolate, Corruption, Curse of Agony, and Siphon Life are all spells that increase your damage dealt compared to just Shadow Bolting (as long as the mob doesn’t die long before the dot runs out). There used to be a debuff limit of 8-16 debuffs maximum on targets back in vanilla wow, that prevented the use of these debuffs. This is no longer the case since 1.14 Season of Mastery. This results in our damage output being stronger, and our rotation becoming a bit more interesting.


Curse of Recklessness (CoR), Curse of Shadows (CoS), and Curse of Elements (CoE) are all mandatory, to the point where you usually have three Warlocks individually dedicated to these spells to make sure they are always up on important targets. The remaining Warlocks can use either Curse of Agony (CoA), or Curse of Doom (CoD) if the target lives long enough.

Damage over Time

After all the curses are taken care of you will want to apply all your remaining DoTs. These are Immolate, Corruption, Curse of Agony, and if you are SM/Ruin: Siphon Life. You will always want to use Corruption but those last two need a bit more context. Immolation should not be used on Fire immune or high Fire resistance targets, as there are plenty in Molten Core. Siphon Life is a life leeching spell. These spells have a special relationship with debuffs which modify a spells damage (Improved Shadow Bolt, Curse of Shadows, Shadow Vulnerability). Life-leeching effects snapshot these modifiers, meaning if you apply siphon life whilst one of these debuffs is up it will enjoy the bonus for the full duration of the DoT even if the debuff falls off. This means you ideally only apply Siphon Life with its long duration once ISB is up on the target.


I also want to talk about the spell “Shadowburn” which shares the same characteristics as a Shadow Bolt except that it’s shorter range, instant cast, has a cooldown and uses a Soul Shard. Normally while leveling you’d only use this spell as a finisher as you don’t get the Soul Shard back unless the enemy dies from it, but in raids you can increase your overall damage by using it mid-fight (despite losing a Shard every time you do so). The main area of use for Shadowburn is when moving during a boss fight as instant-cast spells don’t require you to stand still, or when the target is about to die and you can’t get another Shadow Bolt off before.

There is one big downside to Shadowburn, aside from it consuming Soul Shards: It also consumes Improved Shadow Bolt charges without the chance of reapplying the debuff. So not only do you lose out on a charge, but you also don’t potentially refresh or re-apply the debuff. If you would be using Shadowburn whilly-nilly on cooldown I would result in a DPS loss for the raid due to lowering ISB uptime.

Luckily, some smart warlock scientists over at the Classic Warlock Discord have done some math for us. We can minimize the loss of ISB uptime by only using Shadowburn when there are is a max stack of ISB up or when there are as many or more Shadow Bolts already flying towards the target as there are charges of ISB up. That last one might be hard to keep track of in-game, so a more practical rule is only to use it if there is only one charge remaining of ISB and you have just sent a shadow bolt already flying towards the target. Adhering to these rules for Shadowburn results in the highest potential DPS gain and least cost to ISB uptime.

Note that Shadowburn doesn’t benefit as much from your +Spell Power stat as Shadow Bolt does (3/7 instead of 6/7). So if you are low geared you will see Shadowburn doing about the same damage as Shadow Bolt, but the better geared you get the more effective Shadow Bolt will become while Shadowburn will lag behind (you need 2000+ spell power for Shadow Bolt to become stronger, something not obtainable in the game). However, it’s always a damage increase to use Shadowburn, even when standing still, so don’t hesitate to use it as long as you have enough Soul Shards stacked up AND you don’t negatively impact ISB uptime.

Spell Power Coefficients

If you are interested in knowing how much your spells benefit from your +Spell Power items here are the spell coefficients:

Corruption – 1 (1/6 per tick)
Hellfire – 1/3 (1/45 per tick)
CoA – 1 (0.0565 per tick for the first 4 ticks, 0.0835 for the next 4, 0.11 for the last 4)
Rain of Fire – 1/3 (1/12 per tick)
Life Tap – 0.8
Shadow Bolt – 6/7
Drain Soul – 0.5 (0.1 per tick)
Searing Pain – 3/7
Drain Life – 0.5 (0.1 per tick)
Soul Fire – 1
Curse of Doom – 1
Shadowburn – 3/7
Siphon Life – 0.5 (0.05 per tick)
Immolate – 0.2 for the initial damage, 0.65 for the DoT (0.13 per tick)
Death Coil – 3/14
Conflagrate – 3/7
Dark Pact – 0

Lastly, make sure to hand out Healthstones to people who need them and put some effort into Soulstoning healers. Aas an SM/Ruin Warlock, focus on positioning your Imp correctly so the tank gets the Blood Pact buff.


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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