Destruction has evolved a lot since the one-button Shadow Bolt days of The Burning Crusade. Now in Cataclysm, destro has a convoluted cast rotation, still retains shadow DoTs despite being the master of fire, and has a clunky buff mechanic to boot. While skilled warlocks can pull off amazing numbers with their fantastical weaving of spells, the clunkiness of the spec is still present for beginners.
Of the three specs, destro has the laughable AoE. Rain of Fire is the fire AoE spell, but it's a target circle, channeled, and doesn't hit very hard or fast.
The good news is, as far as I can read into the beta, destro AoE will be much better in Mists. The bad news is, we're still in Cataclysm for a while.
Some commenters mentioned Shadowflame on my affliction tips. Shadowflame is great for all specs, but I don't mention it much to new warlocks so they don't kill themselves trying to get into melee range. But, if you can, Shadowflame as a destro 'lock for AoE, because the rest of your AoE, even trying to multiDoT, is pretty crappy.
Dual Targets: Bane of Havoc
While destro isn't so great at lots of target, the spec is really awesome with two targets. Destruction gets a special Bane, different from Doom or Agony, called Bane of Havoc, which copies some of the damage you do to other targets to the Baned target. It's almost like a misdirect of damage to another target, except you don't lose all the damage you're already doing.
Otherwise, Banes are the same for all warlocks: Agony if the target won't live or be active for at least 15 seconds or if you are multiDoTing. Doom on bosses, in general. Havoc if you're destro and there's a second target to take down.
What's this ISF business?
ISF is short for Improved Soul Fire, which is a tier 3 talent in destruction. After you land a Soul Fire on a target, you get a 20-second buff that increases the damage of all your destro 'lock spells. If your DPS is lacking, as a beginner, low uptime on ISF is usually the culprit.
ISF is also what makes the destro spec a bit clunky and hard to pick up. Learn to hate the mechanic because we all do or did at some point. Without great ISF uptime, the warlock's DPS suffers a lot. You have some tools, though, to keep ISF up.
First, I'd recommend grabbing either an aura addon (I like WeakAuras, but PowerAuras is great, too) or a buff tracker so you can see when your ISF buff is about to expire. Next, realize what tools you have for getting Soul Fire to your target.
There's hardcasting Soul Fire, which you will do half the time anyway. Soul Fire has a long cast time -- even when you're in Dragon Soul gear with approximately 3k haste and the power of the Emberstorm talent behind you, Soul Fire still takes about 2.5 seconds. Soul Fire also has a travel time to the target after you finish the cast. Starting the Soul Fire cast at 3 to 4 seconds left of the ISF buff (your haste depending) is about the window for landing the refresh of the buff.
With Soulburn, you can cast an instant Soul Fire. This makes the four-piece T13 set bonus rather delicious for destruction warlocks, as you're no longer restricted to three Soulburns of your favorite spell per fight. Your pet, the imp, can also proc an instant Soul Fire cast through Empowered Imp. You can set up that proc in your auras addon or buff tracker, too.
Destro has lots of spells in its rotation. Let's talk about the spells and their priorities.
Out of the DoTs, Immolate is the most important. Immolate connects the other major destruction spells in the priority rotation. Conflagrate cannot be cast unless an Immolate is up on the target. Through the Fire and Brimstone talent, the filler spells get buffed by an Immolate on the target. Focus on keeping Immolate up, then add in Bane of Doom and Corruption.
For the direct damage spells, destro has a handful, and successful DPS is determined by how you weave all these spells together. I've found it's much easier to thread together the dynamic priority list when I know what each spell is cast for.
Conflagrate hits like a truck and thus should be used on cooldown. Shadowburn is the destruction execute spell; once the target reaches 20%, this should be cast on cooldown. As mentioned before, if you can get into melee range safely, Shadowflame as much as you can, but this spell is optional if you are forced to stay at range.
Chaos Bolt used to be a very awesome spell, but it's been watered down in damage to be almost equal to an Incinerate for the effort (DPET) it takes you to cast it. Chaos Bolt is still cast on cooldown (for the nitty-gritty -- under Heroism, the warlock can forgo Chaos Bolt), so the warlock can proc Replenishment for her comrades. When there's nothing left to cast, Incinerate is the go-to spell.
In summary, here's the entire priority order:
- Temporary damage buffs like talents, special spellpower effects, and cooldowns are most awesome, so they sit at the top of the priority list. Improved Soul Fire and Demon Soul are the big two.
- A curse follows if no one else has it covered for you.
- Next, remember Immolate and Conflagrate together, with the Bane and Corruption following.
- Next are the "ifs": Shadowburn if the target is below 20% health, and Shadowflame if you're within 12 yards of the target.
- Next, we have Chaos Bolt, unless you're lusting for more ...
When catching up an old 'lock guildmate, I spent a few hours on a target dummy myself, just getting used to the destro rotation again. Don't get upset if it takes a while to learn it; destro is plenty complicated, and we all know it.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through tier 13 set bonuses.