[4.1] Destruction - Basics guide by Manni
Disclaimer: I know there are plenty of guides to go around with, but I felt like I might be able to put up something useful, and at the very least, have something I can refer people to so I don't have to explain this stuff over and over again to everyone who asks. I do intend to cover mostly only the very basics you need to know to play Destruction, with some slighty advanced stuff here and there, because it's the basic stuff I get asked the most and surprisingly many don't know that well.
I wanted to create a guide for all specs, but it felt like too much work for time being, maybe I'll work on them later.
Table of contents
1. When to use Destruction?
2. The basics
-2.1 The Spec & Glyphs
-2.2 How to roll it
-2.3 Your world of DPET
3. Your gear and what to do about it - What stats to go for - how much haste you need - do you need to gem hit - and all your other favorites explained!
4. Your core raiding abilities and what to do with them
-4.3 Soul Fire
-4.4 Bane of Doom
-4.6 Chaos Bolt
-4.10 Bane of Havoc
-4.11 Rain of Fire
-4.13 Nether Ward
-4.15 Demon Soul
-4.16 Fel Flame
-4.17 Life Tap
5. Additional tips and information
1.When to play Destruction?
Destruction is generally a very versatile spec that allows heavy movement, high survivability and decent output in single- and multi-target situations at the cost of being lackluster in most situations which require good AoE output. Destruction currently has good theoretical output in single-target situations and is the spec I'd recommend on using on several current tier encounters.
However, you should never be married to your spec and considering how weak Destruction becomes in AoE or multi-target situations with more than 2 targets, I would also highly recommend anyone who were to raid as Destruction to keep a Demonology (pref) or Affliction spec at hand.
2. The basics
I do not intend to cover the theorycrafting behind the specs, glyphs and such to bore you with numbers. If you're interested in the why's of this section, feel free to ask or lurk some /f80/ to satisfy your thirst for knowledge.
2.1 The spec & glyphs
The spec currently acknowledged as the best is 3/7/31. The first tier Demonology points in Fel Synergy and Demonic Embrace may be moved around as you see fit. Destruction does not really have any major glyphs that would bring you any benefit in terms of DPS, apart from the Glyph of Life Tap, which incindentally isn't very good for Destruction. Glyph of Soul Link is however a good and and should definitely be used, and for the last Major slot, I'd definitely recommend Glyph of Shadowflame for the grand 70% slow comes in handy in many situations.
2.2 How to roll it
I cringe when I hear the word ”rotation” because there really aren't set rotations for the warlock. However I'll try to cover in here, mostly because I get asked it a lot and a lot of people have it very wrong, how you should open on a single-target entity and proceed with your casting from there. A lot of this is based on the Destruction spell DPET list, which is posted and explained below.
Pull -2,5 seconds: (pre-combat Volcanic Potion), Start casting Soul Fire, tell your pet to attack at -2 seconds.
Throw Bane of Doom in while your Soul Fire travels.
- Conflagrate (Corruption first if you play with high latency or are between 25% and 30% haste)
- Demon Soul
- Chaos Bolt
- Incinerate/New Soul Fire when needed.
How you should proceed from here is just hitting your cooldowns and refreshing your DoTs as needed, in an order dictated by DPET as posted below. The only tricky part in this is the Improved Soul Fire. The best way to keep it up is to always aim to land your next Soul Fire before the buff runs out. With the long cast time and often rather long travel time, this means you should start casting your next Soul Fire with around 4-5 seconds left in your ISF buff at minimum. However because you can't time when your globals are free from chain-casting and because you might suddenly have other cool buttons like Conflagrate asking to be pressed when you should be refreshing ISF, it's recommended to add some seconds to your safe margin. When you're down to the options of casting either an Incinerate or a new Soul Fire, always try to evaluate if you have any short cooldowns coming up or if you have DoTs running out so you can time that long Soul Fire cast so it doesn't delay any other important action. It's better to be too early than too late.
2.3 Your world of DPET
I pulled this image from simcraft on my profile. In case you didn't know, DPET stands for Damage Per Excecution Time and what it tells you is how much damage your spells do per the amount of time you spend casting them. As you can imagine, damage-over-time spells excel in DPET for even they deal their damage in low amounts and their actual DPS isn't great, the amount of damage they do for the tiny amount of time you spent casting them often is. Even this list is for my profile, it should give you a decent idea on how much damage your abilities generally do, and most importantly, which abilities are better than others and how much so.
I will be referring to this image a lot later on. As you can see, a lot of this image has something to do with the ideal opening I posted above, and that is because the correct ”rotation” is often determined by ranking spells on their DPET. So if you've been wondering before what you should cast first in a situation where your Immolate and Corruption are both running out at the same time, well, you should now have your answer. And while this image might explain a lot to you if you haven't seen anything similar before, you should however keep in mind that it only looks at the damage and not at all to the other effects, like BoD proccing Ebon Imps and Soul Fire refreshing ISF in addition to the damage they deal.
Also, notice that the damage of Fel Flame is based on a simulation where it is only cast when Fel Spark (4pct11) is up.
3. Your gear and what to do about it
I don't wish to link images of scale factors, because people tend to read them like a bible and they often change a lot with different gear levels and even change between simcraft runs. However, as for desctruction, the priority goes a lot like this: Your best stat is Intellect, and Intellect is almost always 50-100% better than any combat rating. This is why a new piece of gear of higher ILVL is often better than your old one, even if you have to give up your favorite ratings. And from that we come your favorite ratings of Hit and Haste. Hit, while uncapped, is almost always your best rating and can beat your worst ratings by a good margin, ranging from 60%-100%. Haste is the other thing you should aim to have in your gear, it's value typically hovering between Crit and Hit, often much closer to the latter. The slighly less awesome ratings are Crit and Mastery, Crit usually being slightly ahead. Destruction scales reasonably well with both, actually, but since the changes to ISF in 4.0.6 Haste has become much more important, and Hit is a bit hard to cap in ILVL 372 gear.
Since the change to meta-gems in 4.0.6, you should have most of your gear gemmed with +40 intellect gems, your meta being Burning Shadowspirit Diamond. As explained above, Intellect is your most important stat and you should only try to go for socket bonuses when the piece of gear has only one blue or yellow socket and the socket bonus is 20 Intellect or more. If that is not true, you should never try to gem Hit and only gem Haste if you absolutely need to to get to the 30% (or 25%) raidbuffed plateau for your 7th Immolate tick. If you don't know exactly what you're doing, just gem pure Intellect.
Getting 4 parts of T11 for the set bonus (Fel Spark) is well worth it. The ideal piece to leave out is head for the ILVL 379 Crown from Sinestra, but if getting that is unrealistic for you, I'd recommend Hands of the Twilight Council.
4. Your core raiding abilities and what to do with them
In here I will try to explain, in detail, the relative value, role and utilization of most abilities you need to often use when playing Destruction.
Your core skill, makes up over 15% of your total damage output. Required to cast Conflagrate. You should aim to have near-if-not-100% uptime on single-target situation, and like most DoTs, you should aim to always refresh it between the last and second to last tick (with more than 0 and less than ~2,1 seconds remaining.) Do not try to refresh Immolate with Fel Flame unless you absolutely need to move and have no other instants up or have Fel Spark proc. Immolate being a very high DPET ability, you should always try to keep it up on several targets in multi-target scenarios.
Your biggest nuke, conveniently instant-cast and on (glyphed) 8-second cooldown. Procs Backdraft and should (obviously) always be used right when it's off cooldown. It's damage depends on the total damage your Immolate does, but it doesn't actually check the damage from the Immolate you currently have up on your target, so you don't need to worry about rolling high Immolates for Conflagrate. Lucky as you are to have such a high-value instant that is often available, it's often a good idea, when you should be making a small adjustment to your position, to just wait for your next Conflagrate (or any other instant, but it just often is Conflagrate) and move during the GCD.
4.3 Soul Fire
Since 4.0, Soul Fire no longer is the ultra-high damage blaster due to having it's base cast time (and coefficient) lowered from 6.0 seconds (4 talented) to 4.0 (3 talented.) Due to the long cast time that doesn't benefit from Backdraft, Soul Fire loses well to Incinerate in terms of DPET. There are, however, three cons to hard-casting Soul Fire, primarily having it proc Improved Soul Fire and secondarily having it proc mana from Soul Leech and DoT from Burning Embers.
I already covered a lot on how you should hard-cast it for ISF in part 2 of this guide. For times when you don't have time to hard-cast (or need movement output), you have the option to Soulburn it out instantly. Soulburning Soul Fires is a moderate DPS increase and you should be sure to utilize it as much as you can on every boss, but you should also try to save up at least one Soul Shard toward the end of the encounter in case there is a risk that you might lose your pet. Additionally, it's a very good idea to save Soulburn uses for times when you want to have high output and don't want to hard-cast, such as Exposed Head phases for Magmaw. Additionally, you have the Empowered Imp procs provide you with instant casts. I don't have any any general rule on when to blow that Empowered Imp proc – My simcraft runs showed a slight DPS increase in casting Soul Fire as soon as EI procs against the default of delaying the Soul Fire slightly as suggested in the default action list, but again I believe the best idea is to situationally judge if you need to delay using the proc or not.
4.4 Bane of Doom
One of the highest DPET skills in game, BoD is pulls it's weight several times, and as multi-dotting this thing might result in a several case of imbalanced, you can only have one up at any given time. BoD is unaffected by Haste and deals it's damage in four ticks every 15 seconds. As you have a luxurious 15-second window in which you can refresh it without losing uptime, you have plenty of opportunity to time it with any neat Spell Power procs or time the cast for movement.
One of the three commonly used shadow-damage spells in your repertoire that unfortunately doesn't benefit from your Mastery, Corruption still provides high output, rivaling with Conflagrate when you hover between the 25% and 30% (raidbuffed) marks on your Haste. Again, ideally refreshed between the last and second to last tick with more than 0 and less than ~2,2 seconds remaining.
4.6 Chaos Bolt
Your slightly undervalued 31-pointer, it's damage beats Incinerate by a fair margin and it has faster cast time, although it's slightly more prone to GCD-capping. This does however proc mana from Soul Leech and it's good idea to not miss these, but if you're having trouble keeping up with everything as Destruction, you can take some slack on Chaos Bolts and focus more on other things until you get better.
The spell many forget they even have, Shadowflames damage rivals that of Corruption or Conflagrate and should be routinely used whenever possible. Not only is Shadowflame another powerful movement-friendly instant-cast in the Destruction Warlock's repertoire, it's also quite easy to line up to hit several targets for a ton of extra damage. It's also easily your best AoE spell, but suffering from the minor issue of having a cooldown it still doesn't make you a king in sustained AoE. Shadowflame actually also hits reasonably far, so you don't by any means need to hug your target to hit it, nor do you need to face it for longer than the instant in which you cast the spell. It is, however, not a good idea to spend casting time to run into Shadowflame range to cast it unless you can time the movement with your instants, nor is it a good idea to linger in melee in situations where casters need to keep their range. Additionally glyphing Shadowflame brings you loads of utility in situations where powerful slows are valuable, for example when there are adds such as Toxitrons Poison Bombs or Blood of the Old God on Cho'gall.
The other spell many forget they even have, Shadowburn serves as the rather minor execute-style ability of Destruction. It has a long-ish cooldown and the damage isn't too extreme even it beats Incinerate easily and closes on Chaos Bolt. And it's yet another instant-cast, just in case you haven't done enough laps around the boss to piss off your ele shamans. Gives you a slight DPS boost when used under 20% mark over Incinerate whenever possible.
Additionally, Shadowburn has another excellent use: Since the Soul Shard revamp in 4.0, a lot of adds summoned by bosses can now replenish Soul Shards. So timing a good Shadowburn on, for example, the Blazing Bone Constructs on heroic Magmaw or drakes on Halfus will refund you all your 3 Soul Shards, allowing you to Soulburn Soul Fires a lot more than you could with just your 3 base Soul Shards.
Often considered the core ability for Destruction, I'd call this ability vastly overvalued. As you can see from the DPET-image posted in part 2, it's damage isn't even close to your true moneymakers. Even you use it a lot as a filler, it won't even make 25% of your total damage output. So if you have to (predicably) cut back on casting to move, perform defensive actions or to hard-cast that Soul Fire, always try to do it when you're down to Incinerate in your action list, and as easy as it is, never just blindly tunnel your Incinerates.
4.10 Bane of Havoc
A somewhat misunderstood spell. For those that struggle to understand the basic concept, the spell inflicts 15% of all the damage you do to the target with BoH, as long as that damage wasn't originally inflicted to the target with BoH. Havoc is your so-called auto-cleave, which makes Destruction output on 2 targets good, although it still struggles to beat Shadow, Balance or Affliction in multi-target damage, especially with more than 2 targets. Also note that Bane of Havoc does not transfer the damage done by your pet, but it does transfer the damage done by Burning Embers. However, you shouldn't limit your multi-target damage on just slapping BoH on the second target and then forgetting about it – even you don't get the 15% bonus when casting directly to that target, as you can see by examining the DPET chart there are several spells that are still worth casting on secondary targets, such as Immolate and Corruption. Optimal use of BoH varies a lot between bosses, but I'll try to clarify the matter by using an example of how I use BoH on Valiona & Theralion.
Scenario: Valiona on ground, Theralion in air. You cast your usual ”rotation” on Valiona, your pet attacks Valiona, Your Bane of Doom is on Valiona and your Bane of Havoc is on Theralion. But what else? Observing the DPET-chart, we can easily interpret that casting Immolate on Theralion is a lot better option than casting, say, Incinerate+15% on Valiona. Additionally, Corruption seems to fill the same criteria, so let's keep that up too. Even that's all for the DoTs you have, there is one more thing! As your pet attacks Valiona, (s)he(?) is constantly having full Burning Embers up, which leaves you free to land your Soul Fires on Theralion for ~8k extra damage from Burning Embers, which easily beats getting +15% extra to your Soul Fire.
4.11 Rain of Fire
Your only hope at sustained AoE damage, RoF is both painfully weak and painful to use. Inconvenient against moving targets and annoying to channel, you might just want to leave your AoE contribution to Shadowflame + Shadowfury and leave the rest to those who can, or respec if your raid struggles to have enough AoE for something.
Shadowfury is actually better AoE damage than Rain of Fire and is yet another instant, which makes it well worthy of keeping at hand. The stun also has some utility on bosses like Cho'gall and Conclave where you might be able to save people with it, which is always nice.
4.13 Nether Ward
A very neat filler-talent that in combination with Nether Protection gives Destruction excellent damage mitigation and survivability. Especially when doing progress raids you shouldn't hesitate to pull a Nether Ward in times of peril (especially if you were just going to cast Incinerate anyway) and you will save plenty of mana from your healers. Pulling Nether Ward as a panic button or when forced to move with nothing up is a good idea, or at idle times such as when jumping between platforms on Conclave.
A very useful tool in the healing world of Cataclysm, you should always aim to use your Healthstone at some point on a boss, at least if your healers struggle more than just a bit. Put your Healthstone on a really good keybind, one that you can reach fast and instinctively. A good Healthstone is a fast Healthstone, and dying with your Healthstone unused is just silly. Put Soulwells down before bosses and stalk your Recount so you can tell people off for not using them. Using Soulburn in conjuction with Healthstone can provive you a nifty Last Stand for damage spikes like those on Nefarian, but as Soulburn: Soulfire is rather valuable for Destruction, you probably don't find yourself wanting to use that very often.
4.15 Demon Soul
A rather basic cooldown, most basic cooldown rules apply: Try to use as often as possible, try to time with Bloodlust and Volcanic Potion uptime. However take notice of how it mentions it only affects spells with cast time, so you don't want to activate it right before you're about to refresh Corruption or cast Conflagrate. Also, Soul Fires cast through Empowered Imp or Soulburn still seem to count as spells with cast time.
4.16 Fel Flame
Our level 81 skill, which is situationally useful in PvE. The damage is rather low and you should not use it to keep Immolate up in normal circumstances. If you don't have 4pct11, you should never cast this unless you absolutely have to move and none of your other instants are up or expiring. Just to recite, that means none of the following are available or should be casted: Conflagrate, Corruption, Shadowflame, Shadowburn, Soulburn: Soul Fire, Bane of Doom, Empowered Imp or even Nether Ward of Life Tap should you need either.
Incidentally, 4pct11 makes Fel Flame really damaging, especially for Destruction with the benefits from Mastery. Fel Spark is a rather rare proc (at least until you have several Immolates up) and lasts for 15 seconds for its 2 stacks, so you should wait until you have less than 9 seconds left on Immolate before casting FF to get the full benefit of the spell.
4.17 Life Tap
Thanks to the generous mana income you get from Soul Leech and Mana Feed (and the fact you cast more Soul Fires in 4.0.6), you very rarely need to Life Tap as Destruction. Actually, you often don't need to LT at all, and you should avoid casting it while idle or moving if you know you won't be needing the mana. Your healers will hate you and even Fel Flame would be better output than a pointless LT.
Superior to Doomguard in AoE damage, the Infernal will bring you decent increase in damage output and some passive AoE for a while. You will often want to land it before Bloodlust, and obviously cast it when you'd normally be casting Incinerate. With 10-minute cooldown it should be available for almost every boss and you should aim to utilize it as much as you can. Also, you can make use of the initial AoE stun on for example the beginning of Cho'gall p2 by landing the Inferno on the Darkened Creations.
Superior to Inferno in single-target output in 4.1.
5. Additional tips and information
Just like I've mentioned several times in this guide, the part I feel Destruction really excels at is movement. By planning ahead as much as you can, it's possible for you to move a lot without losing much DPS. Time your instants well and you can cover movements like Chimaeron Feud-phases without even needing or wanting to use a global for Demonic Teleport, and when you find yourself in a spot you need to move from right away, the chances are you have something up anyway. It's also vital that you have all your movement-friendly abilities bound to easy-to-reach keybinds that allow you to maneuver while you press them. Good keys are, for example, 1-4, q, e, r, mousewheel up/down or any additional mouse buttons.
Your Imp is a vital part of your output, Firebolt alone being usually 15-20% of your total damage done, and your Imp also procs Mana Feed, Empowered Imp and Burning Embers, which is why it's important that your Imp is always attacking something, preferably the right target as well. If your Imp dies, it's important to get it back as soon as possible with Soulburn: Summon, or even by hard-casting the summon if you're out of Soul Shards, as completely without your Imp you also lose your Soul Link and ability to trigger Demon Soul.
If you want to find out more about your personal scale factors, DPET-values, gear scaling and such, I recommend you get SimulationCraft yourself and try it out, as it's pretty easy to get started with. However when trying to get your scale factors, make sure to make runs of 10,000 iterations and run it several times. Especially Haste and Hit tend to act up, so you will want to, for example, try knocking 100 haste out of one item and running it again, and then putting 100 extra haste to one item and running it yet again, just to check if the results you get make sense. And please don't ask me to do this stuff for you.
As for AddOns, you really need something to keep good track of your Improved Soul Fire duration and your cooldowns and DoT durations. I'd recommend using PowerAuras or NeedToKnow for keeping track of everything.
As mentioned before, I tried to keep the raw theorycrafting to the minimum in this post and left most why's unanswered. Undoubtedly I've managed to leave at least one inaccuracy or a mistake in here and welcome you to point it out if something seems funny to you. Or if you feel like you don't understand something or you would like to see something added to this, feel free to ask for it.
Comments, feedback, wishes & flames are welcome!