Destruction Warlock Guide (5.3)

I’ve been planning on finishing this for ages, and finally decide to do so now that Destruction is a spec that is actually viable in raids again dps wise. It will be updated again when 5.4 arrives, but should be up to date for 5.3. As always with guides on this site, it’s not the be-all-end-all of guides, but is meant as a quick guide to get the basics for those who may be a bit new to the Warlock class, or Destruction.


This expansion there really is no right or wrong way to spend your talent points. Most likely you will switch them between fights or depending on what suits your playstyle best. You can check out my Talent guide for more information on the separate talents.

Make sure you always bring a lot of Tome of the Clear Mind to raids, so that you can change your talents around when needed!

The two talents that you will want to take an extra look at are the tier 5 and tier 6 ones.

Tier 5 Talents

Tier 5 Talents

Grimoire of Supremacy together with the Observer pet usually yields the highest damage output. Grimoire of Service I rarely see used (but can be used in fights where you want a big burst of damage), while Grimoire of Sacrifice can be useful on fights where your pet will bug out or die a lot. (Ji-Kun, if you’re flying for example.) It’s also possible to play a GoSac spec with lots of Mastery on fights with multiple targets where they can snipe adds and cleave with Havoc. However, we’re not going to look too closely at that today.

Tier 6 Talents

Tier 6 Talents

There are few (if any) fights where Archimonde’s Vengeance is good at the moment that I’ve noticed. Kil’jaeden’s Cunning is currently my go-to talent for almost every boss fight, since it allows me to move while casting. On the odd fight here and there, Mannoroth’s Fury can be beneficial. (For example, on Primordius and his many, many adds.)


As a Destruction Warlock you will want to be at 15% Hit (5100 rating) for raiding to avoid misses. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a Chaos Bolt miss!

Intellect is your primary stat as always, and you will cherish it with your life. (Or someone else’s life… It’s what drain life is sure, right?)

Between the secondary stats, Mastery, Haste and Crit the values are fairly equal for Destruction. The difference is so small that changing one piece of gear will most likely change your stat values if you run SimCraft. I’ve been trying to keep them fairly balanced myself, but I know that some people are using a Mastery heavy build together with Grimoire of Sacrifice on some fights.

In the end, you can’t go entirely wrong in your secondary stats, which is nice in a way, since it allows you to reforge for Demonology or Affliction, and still use the same for Destruction.


This expansion, you’re left with a lot of choice. Like with talents, you can more or less choose your glyphs depending on what fits your play style best. I won’t go through them all here, but I’ve written them down on separate pages; Major Glyphs and Minor Glyphs.


As before, we work more on a priority based system than a rotation, and it’s all about building our embers and spending them on Chaos Bolts, or Shadowburn below 20%.

Your general “rotation” will be:

Some extra notes:

You’ll want to pop Dark Soul: Instability on cooldown, unless there’s a burn phase or phase with extra damage that you’re saving it for.

When you have Dark Soul: Instability up, you’ll want to try and squeeze out as many Chaos Bolts as possible since they will do extra damage with the crit bonus. (Higher crit chance = higher damage on CB.)

Try never to cap your embers. Use them! (Though feel free to save up 3 if you’re about to hit Dark Soul: Instability.)

Conflagrate causes Backdraft, which you will want to use on Incinerate, and not Chaos Bolt. Always make sure that you have less than 3 charges of Backdraft before casting CB!

Remember to never use Chaos Bolt when Shadowburn is available, so below 20% boss health!

At the start of a boss fight: Curse of Elements – Dark Soul: Instability – Conflagrate x2 – Incinerate x4 – Chaos Bolt x2 (3 if you have enough embers).. then reapply Immolate and go back to the regular rotation. The idea behind this is to build as many embers as possible quickly, so that you can shoot off a bunch of Chaos Bolts with high damage.

AoE and Havoc

On fights with two targets, you’ll want to put Havoc on one of them every cooldown, to split your damage. Havoc will duplicate either 3 single-target spells, or 1 Chaos Bolt. One trick you can use with Havoc, is that while Shadowburn can only be used on targets below 20% health, you can do it to a target at that health – and have another target take the same damage through Havoc.

You’ll want to use Rain of Fire any time there are 2+ targets, because the ember generation is so high. With 3+ targets, you’ll keep RoF going, and use your embers to activate Fire & Brimstone.
Then you follow the following rotation:

  • F&B: Immolate
  • F&B: Conflagrate
  • F&B: Incinerate

Re-apply Immolate as needed, and use Conflagrate on cooldown. Incinerate as a filler. And of course don’t forget to keep Rain of Fire running!


Destruction Warlock Guide (5.3) — 8 Comments

  1. Ahhh, now this is how I like a guide. Thanks!

    One question: when targets are outside Shadowburn range, is it more productive to use Havoc with Chaos Bolt or with the next 3 other spells?

    • If targets are above 20%, you will get the most damage out of using Chaos Bolt with Havoc.

      That said, if you need to build up embers quickly it can be nice to Havoc and use 3 incinerates (or 1 immolate and 2 incinerate). I use this on Megarea’s heads where only the dps on one head counts. It allows me to build embers quicker for more Chaos Bolts on the head we’re killing 🙂

      Glad you like the guide!

  2. I have considered going as far as putting Dark Soul in a macro so that it triggers whenever I start casting CB. Currently I have the Static Casters Medallion, with an on-use buff of Static Charge trigger. 1 minute cooldown is about long enough before I am casting again.

    • That’s an interesting idea, and could definitely be useful. I prefer to have full control over when I pop it though, in case I need to wait for a burn phase or similar. 🙂

  3. Excellent guide! I love a guide that suggests rotations even though we are working with a priority system. Thanks so much! Now, how about that 5.4 update? 😉

    • While there’s no rotation per se, since we do work on a priority system, I do find that there are times when you get so used to your current gear/timing that you find a nice rhythm. The opening sequence is almost always the same as well. For me, I have an easier time remembering it like this, and just have to look out for procs etc.

      There wont be a 5.4 update until the patch is live, since everything is still changing too much 🙂 I’m hoping the actual priority/rotation doesn’t change much though cause I’m quite enjoying it as it is. 🙂

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