Patch 4.0.1 introduced major changes to every class. The talent system was redesigned, every spec altered, combat stats altered… it’s the patch before Cataclysm where our classes change in anticipation of the new expansion, without having any new content available, so we can learn to play again in a familiar environment, and not have to worry about new quests and new lands and new bosses while we’re also struggling with new rotations and new mechanics and new spells. A lot of the focus of the next two months really should be on relearning our classes, of experimenting with new things, of challenging old assumptions.
It’s a smart move by Blizzard, really.
My patch install was not smooth, so I ended up reinstalling and have been rebuilding my UI from the ground up. With all of this external change around me, I decided to go ahead and switch specs as well, going from Affliction PvP/Demonology PvE to Destruction PvP/PvE. Destruction is a familiar spec to me, having played this dual-Destro setup for most of 3.2 (ToC) when it was the dominant spec. I enjoyed Destro a lot during this time, and it looked like there wasn’t too much that had changed.
Well, I was pretty much wrong about that.
I’ve been having trouble getting into endgame Battlegrounds since the patch – haven’t managed to get past the preparation phase without disconnecting – so my look at Destro PvP is going to have to wait. However, I’ve already raided some with Destruction in ICC, and it is awesome. The changes have made it more complex without being overwhelming, there are several subtle things you can do to enhance your DPS, while missing them is not the end of the world. It feels like Destro has grown up and joined the other specs in having a lot of things going on, without becoming totally overwhelming.
So I hopped over to Elitist Jerks, looked through their 4.0 Pre-Cataclysm Raiding guide for Warlocks, and gave it a try.
Let’s take a look.
If you played Destro in Wrath, before 4.0.1, you’re familiar with the 4 spells that made up your main rotation – Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate, and Chaos Bolt. Immolate was your primary dot, with perhaps Curse of Doom or Curse of the Elements used as the situation called for it.
You can still play Destro like this in 4.0.1, which is good for a transition, but the spec has a few more things going on now. You’ll have a bit more to juggle to get the most out of your DPS.
The core spell of Destruction remains Immolate. Immolate is both your most potent DoT spell, as well as a spell that allows other spells to hit harder. You should keep Immolate up at all times.
Immolate’s presence allows you to use Conflagrate, a huge instant nuke which takes your Immolate or Shadowfury DoT and blows it up. (The DoT remains intact now, which is a nice change from Wrath.) Conflagrate is your biggest nuke and should be used whenever it’s off CD. Conflagrate also procs Backdraft, which hastens your next 3 Incinerates, Chaos Bolts, and Shadow Bolts. This proc is a nice bonus but is no longer the focus of your rotation.
You have two other DoTs to manage as Destruction, now: Bane of Doom and Corruption. Yes, Corruption. Depending on your raid composition, you may also need to cast Curse of the Elements, but these are your main DPS dots. Bane of Doom is like the old Curse of Doom, except that instead of delivering its damage every 60 seconds, it does so every 15, making it preferable even in short fights to Bane of Agony. Corruption is an interesting addition to the Destro toolkit, but with a few talent points in Affliction it becomes a potent DPS increase, and a nice change from solely nuking something down.
There is a final DoT that your Imp’s Firebolts or your Soul Fires will place on the target: Burning Embers. Your Imp should be able to keep this one refreshed automatically. It’s an important DPS increase, but not something you have to worry about once the firebolts start flying.
You have three nukes in your rotation: Chaos Bolt, Soul Fire, and Incinerate. Chaos Bolt is a hard-hitting direct damage spell on a long CD. Soul Fire is a new addition to your routine – a long cast time nuke with great damage. The removal of the Soul Shard mechanic means that we’ll want to cast Soul Fires either at the beginning of the fight, when Empowered Imp procs and makes them instant cast, or deliberately made instant by Soulburn. Incinerate is an old friend, but relies upon the presence of Immolate to deal increased damage. Never cast Incinerate if Immolate is not present on the target.
A really interesting addition to the rotation is our frontal AoE attack, Shadowflame. Shadowflame has been buffed and is now a viable spell for use in your rotation. Using it requires situational awareness, though, since you don’t want to stand next to every boss all the time if you can help it. Demonic Circle can help a lot here.
On top of all this, you have one proc you need to track: Improved Soul Fire. This was formerly a reverse execute, applying only to the first phase of the fight (> 80% boss health) but has now been changed to apply throughout the fight. The haste it grants is a huge boost to your DPS, and should be kept up at all times. Because it has been modified recently, I don’t know if it’s going to stay as an all-the-time buff you have to maintain, or will go back to being > 80%, or be turned into an execute (< 25% boss health) – but it’s a proc you’ll have to track for at least part of the fight.
So, to sum up, Destro has:
- 3 DoTs you need to worry about
- (1 DoT you don’t)
- 2 CD-limited nukes
- 2 standard nukes
- 1 frontal AoE spell
- and 1 buff that needs to be maintained.
It can actually be a lot of fun keeping all this going. Let’s look at how you can do that.
PRIORITY, NOT ROTATION
Like most specs at this point, Destro is on a priority system, not a rotation per se. You cast the most important spell on your list, then move down until you find the next one that needs to be cast. If you get to the bottom, you cast your filler, Incinerate.
- Improved Soul Fire.
- Bane of Doom.
- Chaos Bolt.
- Hasted Soul Fire (from either Empowered Imp procs or Soulburn)
Generally speaking, the Improved Soul Fire buff will take a bit of work to keep up, so learning when to cast slow Soul Fires vs. waiting for Soulburn to come off CD (and gambling on a Empowered Imp proc) takes some practice. Don’t worry at first if it falls off; just get it back up when you can.
Shadowflame may only be practical in certain fights, and you should skip it if it’s too risky. You can’t DPS if you’re dead because you got to close to a boss.
If all of this seems overwhelming to try to manage, let me let you in on a little secret: Need To Know.
ON A NEED-TO-KNOW BASIS
Above is how I make sense of the priority rotation in my UI. Instead of trying to track CD timers in one addon, procs in my buff area, and DoTs in another, I use the Need To Know (NTK) addon.
NTK allows you to group buffs, debuffs, and cooldowns in a customizable interface. By ordering the items I’m tracking by priority, I’m able to look and quickly determine what I need to do next. In the above example, I am casting Incinerate, Conflagrate is about to come off CD, and Improved Soul Fire is about to drop off. I can hope for a lucky Empowered Imp crit and start spamming Conflag, or start casting Soul Fire to keep the buff alive.
I color code the bars so I can see at a glance what is going to drop off, and which bar needs to be filled up.
If you’ve never used NTK before, the setup is relatively straightforward.
- First, open your Interface menu and go to the NTK options.
- Enable group 1 of the bars, and increase it to 6 bars.
- Enable group 2 of the bars, and decrease it to 1 bar.
- Arrange them around your cast bar as desired. I placed the ISF buff above my cast bar because it’s a proc that (formerly) wasn’t up all the time; you may want to group it with the others.
- Right click the single bar, and set the effect to monitor to Improved Soul Fire.
- Next, set the type of effect to Buff. (This is the default)
- Set the Unit to Monitor to Player, since you are monitoring this buff on yourself.
- Select “Display Icon” under effects, and choose a color that resembles the buff. You’re done with ISF.
- Right click the first bar in the set of six, set the effect to Immolate, and the type to Debuff. Set the Unit to Monitor to Target, set the icon to display, and set the color.
- For the second bar, right click, set the effect to Conflagrate, and set the type to Spell Cooldown. Repeat the same process as above to fill out the bar.
- Go down the list, choosing Debuff/Target for Bane of Doom & Corruption, and Spell CD for Shadowflame and Chaos Bolt.
A few notes about this setup.
- You can set a single bar to monitor different types of effects, with the first effect in the list taking priority of all are listed. Just enter the names of the effects separated by commas. Some helpful examples would be “Bane of Doom, Bane of Agony”, “Fear, Corruption” (for when you need to start CCing in Cataclysm), and “Curse of the Elements, Curse of Weakness” for your curses. You can get quite fancy with this (checking all debuffs instead of just your own to see if CoE needs to be cast, for example), but that’s really for when you’re comfortable with NTK.
- You want to track the Shadowflame CD instead of the debuff because you’re using the timer to regulate your actions, not to actually monitor the debuffs on the target. (That is what unit frames are for.) The Shadowflame CD is substantially longer than the effect itself, so if you looked only at the debuff you’ll try to cast it before it’s ready. Tracking the CD, however, means that you might miss and not know it. That’s fine, but be aware that just because you see the purple bar doesn’t mean you’re actually hitting the target.
- Backdraft doesn’t require monitoring anymore. Backdraft used to be a vital part of the rotation but is now relegated to a nice-to-have – if you can cast your Chaos Bolt or Incinerate under its effects, do so, but not at the expense of a higher priority item.
- Soulburn might require monitoring. I’m using OmniCC and watching my bars to see when this comes up, but in general I’m saving the Soulburn -> Soulfire combos to keep the ISL buff up. I would rather leave Soulburn off CD for when I need to keep that buff up but am not getting lucky with the Empowered Imp procs.
- Your big companion demon CDs – Doomguard and Infernals – might also be a good inclusion here. They are a significant DPS increase, don’t cause your existing demons to despawn, and can be cast every 10 minutes. I tend to want to save these for Heroism/Bloodlust, though. I’m on the fence about monitoring them as part of my standard procedure, since I don’t need to know when the CD is up – I need to pick the right time to use them, instead.
I’m a big fan of NTK over other buff/dot trackers, because it allows me to parse out the data I don’t need, and focus instead on only what I need to know instead.
TALENTS AND GLYPHS
For my talents, I’m using the 2/3/31 build from Elitist Jerks right now. There has been some good discussion about how far you should go into Dark Arts given your current Haste levels, but in general that build will serve you well. Yes, there are some “wasted” talents – Searing Pain is no longer part of the rotation, for instance, after a recent round of nerfs – but those talents are needed to get to the next level, and you do what you gotta do.
The recommended glyphs of Immolate, Conflagrate, Imp and Life Tap are all relatively straightforward – improve damage directly (Immo, Imp) or indirectly through lower cooldowns (Conflag, LT.) Other Prime glyphs that do similar things can be used in a pinch (Chaos Bolt, Incinerate) but in general you’ll want to buff your best spells first. The two remaining major glyphs are at your discretion – I went with Shadowflame (to give me a slow for the Valks in the LK encounter) and Soul Link, to help out the healers. Fear is likely going to be another good option for your Major glyph selection.
With the new installation, not only did I throw out my UI, but I’ve started throwing out all my old macros and starting over. There are a few things I’m still macroing – my Imp’s Firebolt, for one – but I’m trying to use fewer macros than I did during Wrath in PvE.
(PvP is still macro city, though!)
The biggest challenge to reducing macro use is the need to manually trigger your Imp’s Firebolt because of the spell queuing delays. Pretty much every spell you cast should have this in there, like so:
/cast Soul Fire
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt
This simple macro can have a substantial impact on your DPS, so, do it. Bind it to Immolate, Soul Fire, Chaos Bolt, Incinerate at a minimum.
Next is making sure that your Soulburn-empowered Soul Fires are as fast as possible. In PvE you will never need to use Soulburn to hasten another spell, so just make a castsequence macro you can tap to fire off a big ball of flame like an instant-cast spell.
/castsequence reset=2 Soulburn, Soul Fire
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt
Finally, I do use a setup macro to get everything rolling. This doubles as my Immolate button during the normal rotation (due to the reset timer) but can be used to place everything on the target during a pull.
/castsequence reset=target/combat,2 Immolate, Conflagrate, Bane of Doom, Shadowflame, Corruption, Chaos Bolt, Incinerate, Incinerate
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt
I’ll keep experimenting with macros to see if there are other combos I’m always hitting, but for now I’m trying to keep it simple.
Area of Effect spells aren’t as effective now as they were in Wrath, as the stated design goals are to move away from AoE fests and focus instead on single-target burndowns and CC. That’s great, but we’ve still got big trash packs in ICC that sometimes need to get burned down.
Ideally, each Warlock tree would have its own AoE spell – Seed of Corruption for Affliction, Hellfire for Demo, and Rain of Fire for Destro. This model makes sense, and I can’t wait for us to get there.
Unfortunately, it still looks like Seed outperforms Rain on Destro by a bit. Test it out on some dummies yourself, since this could vary by Mastery and Haste, but… yeah. I’m still going to be spamming Seeds into trash packs for the near future.
Update: Rain of Fire got buffed this morning. Back to the training dummies!
There’s been some major changes to how gear is itemized in this patch, and you can also reforge unused stats (like Spirit) into other stats.
The current itemization priority is:
Hit (to 17%) > Intellect > Mastery = Haste = Spellpower >>> Crit
Basically, get rid of Sprit first, then Crit. Get hit capped, then look at Int, Mastery, and Haste.
WATCHING IT IN PRACTICE
I’ve put together a video of how this works so you can see it for yourself. Sometimes, seeing someone else do it (no matter how expertly or not) makes all the pieces click. Hopefully this will help put it all together if you still have questions.
I am really enjoying the challenge of relearning the warlock class. There are a lot of interesting changes that make me think about how things work. None of this is set in stone right now. Changes happen every rolling restart. There will be a lot of discovery over the next few weeks, both in the endgame and in leveling, in PvE and PvP.
I’m enjoying Destruction now, but I can’t wait to see how some of the other specs do, too!