Saturday, September 8, 2012

5.0 Intro to Destro

I wasn't sure about doing one of these, but part of the process of getting any sort of guide together (if I want it to be at all useful for anyone) is research . . . a lot of research. As a progression oriented raider, I need to be able to switch seamlessly between specs from tier to tier or even from fight to fight in order to maximize my DPS and take on the hardest content in the game. Being able to do that also requires research, so forcing myself to sit down and write out a guide to each spec that everyone can use not only helps the three or four people who will read it, but it also helps me to be a better Warlock. Win-win.

The introduction of Pyroclasm and Pandemic as well as level 90 scaling will change this up a bit in a few weeks, so I'll try to make a point of making any needed changes to this when we get there.

Destruction: Thematically
Chaos Bolt
Destruction is, to put it as simply as possible, all about blowing crap up. Fire, explosions, chaotic energies that threaten to rip you apart if not harnessed. While it has ranged from a one-button "spam Shadowbolt" spec in BC to one of the hardest specs in the game in Cataclysm, it has never lost it's essence. Nukes and explosions. Shadow and flame. Making ugly things go "boom".

The vitriolic feedback to Blizzard about the spec in 4.0 (not from me, I'm one of the masochists who adored the challenge it presented) apparently caused some corporate heads to roll, as the Mists of Pandaria variant of Destruction has been greatly simplified in comparison to the Cataclysm version by pulling several abilities out of it's "rotation". Instead of three dot's to manage, we have one. Instead of three short CD spells, we have one. Improved Soul Fire is gone as well as it's companion Empowered Imp, and there was much rejoicing. In it's place we have a spec that strikes a surprising resemblance to the Arcane Mage (put your torch and pitchfork down - I'll explain).

In 5.0, Destruction is all about generating and spending Burning Embers, our new secondary resource, and how that is handled is going to separate the "decent" Destro locks from the great ones. Like I said, this is actually something that we share with Arcane Mages in that, while a bad Arcane Mage will blow all their mana as soon as possible and then drag their tail along the bottom of the meters for the rest of the fight, the good ones will cycle their spells and watch their mana in order to make the most of their Mastery, only dumping significant amounts of mana during burn phases or when CD's allow. Destro handles Embers in much the same way. We can have up to four Embers (glyphed) and the ideal usage is to store up a bunch, only spending them as needed to keep from capping, and then dump them during burn phases or while CD's are rolling. The really good Warlocks will learn to walk that line while those less concerned with optimal performance will simply spend Embers as they're available and just do "alright".

Spell usage

Besides any utility or defensive abilities that you may make regular use of, these are the spells you'll want to have on your action bars at all times in order to do maximum DPS:

Curse of the Elements
Chaos Bolt
Fire & Brimstone
Summon Doomguard/Terrorguard
Summon Infernal/Abyssal
Rain of Fire
Flames of Xoroth (when talented for Supremacy or Service)
Dark Soul
Fel Flame


The idea of an actual "spell rotation" is more or less extinct in WoW the last few years as just about every spec has some sort of condition to its spell choice or proc/buff/debuff to watch for, but the phrase still sticks around. Instead, we have a priority list, meaning that every time you cast a spell, you'll make your way down a list of abilities (ordered by importance) and use the first one that applies or is available. For single targets, this is ours:
  1. Curse of Elements - Keep this up if no one else in your group or raid is. Note that Boomkins and Unholy DK's no longer provide this at all, but all Rogue specs do.
  2. Shadowburn - Our execute, use whenever the target is under 20% and you have an Ember to spend.
  3. Immolate - Generates Embers. Don't let it drop off.
  4. Chaos Bolt - Our primary Ember dump. Use while Dark Soul is rolling or if you're at risk of capping out.
  5. Conflagrate - Generates Backdraft stacks and no longer requires Immolate to be on the target. Use whenever it's available.
  6. Incinerate - Generates Embers.
  7. Fel Flame - Use any time movement prevents you from doing anything else.
AoE will probably warrant it's own post, so I'll come back to that at another point.

Our major cooldowns haven't changed too much and still revolve around our Doomguard or Infernal and Dark Soul (formerly known as Demon Soul). Cooldown usage is another one of those things that "separates the men from the boys", so to speak, and can make a serious impact on your total damage done over the course of an encounter.
The Doomguard and Infernal (Terrorguard and Abyssal under Grimoire of Supremacy)still share a ten minute cooldown, so unless you have the CD reduction bonus from T13, you'll only get one per fight. Assuming there isn't a large burn phase where the boss takes more damage (Alysrazor's ground phase) or something like that, the best time to use it is about 10 seconds into the fight when you're still under the effect of your prepot, CD's are rolling and all of your proc trinkets or enchants are off their ICD and likely to be rolling at once. As always, use your Doomguard for single target fights and Infernal for AoE.
Dark Soul should generally just be used as soon as it's available, even at the start of the fight when you don't have a lot of (or any) Embers to spend. The only exception to this is if you're approaching a burn phase where it will be more effective or some sort of transition phase where damage is not needed or impossible (Hagara's lightning phase) and using it would be wasted. Even heavy movement phases should probably be avoided with DS, since it kinda sucks to blow a big cooldown and then spend the whole duration spamming Fel Flame.
If you're really bad at handling CD's and tend to forget to use them, then you can macro it into a commonly used spell like Incinerate so that it's going off as soon as it's available, but this isn't really recommended for competitive play since you won't have any real control over when it goes off, preventing you from properly lining it up with fight mechanics or Ember stacking. In some cases, you could end up using it at the absolute worst time and completely wasting it. Which route you choose is entirely up to you. An ability not used is as good as an ability that you don't have, but well stacked cooldowns are greater than the sum of their parts.


The removal of Prime Glyphs that directly buff your abilities means that the remaining glyphs, like talents, are highly situational in Mists of Pandaria. The only one that could possibly resemble a DPS increase is Glyph of Burning Embers, which gives you a fourth Ember to spend during cooldowns or burn phases. Even this, however, will depend on your gear levels. If you don't have the Haste or Crit needed to generate a fourth Ember between Dark Soul uses, then it won't benefit you at all.

Just to make a note, Glyph of Dark Soul is easy to misunderstand. While good for leveling or questing when you're not going to be blowing CD's at every opportunity, it is ultimately a DPS loss in any sort of raid encounter.


Since Beta is still ongoing and tweaks are still being made to classes, solid numbers about stat weights and such are still mostly "to be determined". However, there are some things we know for sure.
  • Intellect - No longer increases the size of our mana pool (not that mana conservation was ever much of a concern for us), but still increases our Spell Power on a 1:1 basis and provides a small amount of crit chance. Like in Cataclysm, this is still our best stat by a significant margin.
  • Hit - Still the same stat it's always been. The only difference is that we'll need less of it since the spell hit cap has been changed to 15% instead of 17%.
  • Expertise - Some "quality of life" changes to combat ratings intended to make things easier for melee classes actually ended up benefiting us in unexpected ways. One of the things that Expertise does now is contribute to Spell Hit. While this generally won't affect our gearing priorities since we're unlikely to ever see a caster item with Expertise, it is going to affect races with racial bonuses to Expertise, specifically Humans and Gnomes. Orcs also seem to benefiting from their Axe Specialization, in the same manner when a wand is equipped (wands are apparently under the "unarmed" skill which is the domain of fist weapons), but it's currently unclear if this is intended or not. Personally, I think that if any race should benefit from a "Wand Expertise" racial then it should be Blood Elves, but I'm a little biased in that regard.
  • Haste - In addition to the benefits it gave us during Cataclysm (faster casts, shorter GCD, faster dots), Haste also increases our mana regen due to Chaotic Energy, making it a strong stat for Destruction.
  • Crit - Historically a pretty craptastic stat for all Warlock specs, Crit has several benefits baked into our new spell design that make it much more appealing than it has been in the past. Critical strikes from Immolate ticks or Incinerate will generate Embers. In addition, Chaos Bolt (since it crits every time) hits harder based on Crit rating. Destro's Dark Soul makes it clear that Blizzard wants Crit to be appealing to us, and so far it's looking to be that way.
  • Mastery - Increases the damage of . . . just about everything we do. While this isn't too different from the boring "+ Fire damage" version we had in Cataclysm, it's been tuned to be much stronger this time around and is a very competitive stat. 


Again, I'm mostly looking at this mechanically since numbers are still in flux.

Reforging as a system has not changed in any way since it was introduced, so the same advice applies. The main thing to note is that, according to the simulations I've been running over the last few days, the Grimoire you decide to talent into can affect your reforging priorities. I'll look more into that when we get to 90. In the meantime, pick a Grimoire and stick with it unless you like reforging your gear every time you retalent . . . or if you don't care.

Gemming, however, is going to see some significant changes. Cataclysm gemming mostly boiled down to "Brilliant good, everything else bad", which led to a lot of ignored socket bonuses. Mists of Pandaria gems are going to be different in that they'll have twice the budget for secondary stats than we're used to seeing. That means that instead of an orange gem having 20 Intellect and 20 Haste, our Mists of Pandaria gems will have 80 Intellect and 160 Haste. This makes matching sockets for bonuses much more interesting.

As always, what works for a Warlock in BiS H-T13 doesn't necessarily work for a fresh 85 in PvP gear and quest greens. While the stat weights that you'll pull off of Elitist Jerks or Icy Veins may be a good guideline, the best thing to do is to run your own simulations in SimCraft and do what works for your gear.

Next time, Demonology.

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