Playstyle & Rotation
The general rotation of demonology revolves around resource management and building/spending shards properly. Summon Demonic Tyrant is a talent that is pretty much always taken, and a lot of your rotation will revolve around what's called tyrant setups. The goal of tyrant setups is to extend all your "big" demons (Dreadstalkers, Vilefiend, Grimoire: Felguard) and as many imps as possible. The priority is always to extend your big demons. The amount of imps you are able to fit into a setup is a bonus.
General priority can be summarized as this:
- Don't overcap soul shards
- Don't overcap Demonic Core procs
- Cast Call Dreadstalkers on cooldown
- Clean Nether Portal (if talented) and Tyrant setups
- Don't use Hand of Gul’dan below 3 shards as it will spawn up to 3 imps based on shards used (unless you're supposed to, we’ll get to that later).
Precast Power Siphon (if talented, with 1 or 2 points in Inner Demons) around 10 seconds before combat.
- 2x Shadowbolt
- Grimoire: Felguard (if talented)
- Summon Vilefiend (if talented)
- Soul Strike (if Talented)
- Build to 5 shards
- Call Dreadstalkers
- Build Soul Shards with instant Demonbolt if available (demonic core procs) and Shadow Bolt
- Hand of Gul’dan on 3+ Soul Shards. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until 5 seconds left of either Grimoire: Felguard, Vilefiend, or Dreadstalkers
- Cast Hand of Gul’dan until 0 shards or less than 2 seconds left on either Grimoire: Felguard, Vilefiend, or Dreadstalkers
- Summon Demonic Tyrant
- Demonic Strength / Bilescourge Bombers (if talented)
When Tyrant has less than 19 seconds left if talented into Grand Warlock’s Design or 13 seconds left when not, make sure to have 3+ core procs saved, which can be guaranteed from the previous set of dreadstalkers expiring. You spend shards on summoning demons that have a specific duration, when that duration is over, the demons despawn, which is what we call times out. Then, repeat the opener from step 2.
Call dreadstalkers can sometimes get desynced by a few seconds, making it available later in your tyrant setup. When this happens, make sure that you are able to extend all of your bigger demons (Dreadstalkers, Grimoire: Felguard, Vilefiend).
For example, if dreadstalkers is more than 15 seconds away, but your Grimoire: Felguard, Vilefiend, and Tyrant are ready to go, delay the tyrant setup until you can fit all the big demons before the Tyrant to maximize demon extensions.
General Priority Outside of Tyrant Setups
- Call Dreadstalkers unless you decide to hold a few seconds for a Tyrant setup. Generally, you don't want to hold Call Dreadstalkers for more than 5-10 seconds. The number of seconds it is acceptable to hold depends on fight timings, mechanics, and when you need your next Tyrant to be.
- Vilefiend (only use on CD if NOT talented into Grand Warlock's Design)
- Soul Strike (if talented) and less than 5 shards
- Power Siphon (if talented), unless you have 3+ core procs or 1+ core procs, and Dreadstalkers is timing out in less than 2 seconds
- Instant Demonbolt if close to Demonic Core cap (4) unless it will shard cap
- Hand of Gul’dan on 3+ Shards
- Instant Demonbolt
- Shadow Bolt
It can be acceptable to overcap shards by casting Demonbolt on 4 shards if you have 2+ core procs and Call Dreadstalkers are timing out in 1-2 seconds, giving you 3 core procs guaranteed, assuming Ripped through the Portal talent is picked. Using the demonbolt as a "makeshift shadow bolt" not to waste the demonic core proc that would otherwise be overcapped.
Nether Portal Opener
Nether Portal is a talent where you throw the whole "only cast Hand of Gul'dan on 3+ shards" entirely out the window for 15 seconds and focus on having as many individual instances of shard uses as possible. Each time you spend one or more shards, you summon a demon from the portal. If Talented into Ner’zul’s Volition you have a 15/30% chance to summon an additional demon. Every demon summoned from the Nether Portal buffs your Pit Lord’s damage and haste (if talented into Gul’dan’s Ambition) when it spawns at the end of the Nether Portal duration.
In short, this means if you can use a shard, you use a shard. Nether Portal setups' difficulty comes from the complete lottery that is Soul Conduit and Demonic Meteor procs.
The following is a general guide to Nether Portal Opener, but it will vary significantly based on procs.
Precast Power Siphon (if talented into Power Siphon and Inner Demons)
- 2x Shadowbolt
- Nether Portal
- Grimoire: Felguard (if talented)
- Vilefiend (if talented)
- Call Dreadstalkers if possible. If not, cast demonbolt then Call Dreadstalkers
- Hand of Gul’dan if 1+ shard
- Instant Demonbolt, Soul Strike or Shadow Bolt
- Repeat step 7 and 8 until 5 seconds left on Nether Portal Duration
- Summon Demonic Tyrant
- Hand of Gul’dan x2 if time left of Nether Portal
- Demonic Strength / Bilescourge Bombers
As with the Tyrant setups, when your Nether Portal comes off cooldown, make sure to save 3+ core procs leading up to the Nether Portal Rotation and start from Step 2 after building to 5 shards.
Multi target rotation revolves around Implosion Cycles. The goal is to implode all your imps while using as few globals on implosion as possible, giving you more globals to build and spend shards.
The only change to the rotation from single target is that you press implosion before any imp expires. You can play it safe, and implode a few globals before the lowest energy imps expire. As you get more comfortable with the spec, you can fit in more Hand of Gul'dans into each implosion cycle.
The addition of Imp Gang Boss (if talented) makes the interval between our implosions shorter, as we are essentially spawning our next set of imps to be imploded with the implosion cast itself. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDjd7_UBt_s for imp gang boss implosion guide.
Because of the cyclical nature of the gameplay and the linear correlation between your cast speed (haste) and the lifetime of the imps (six casts scaling with haste), an Imp timer is not necessary because you can always fit the same amount of globals between the implosions regardless of haste.
If this is something outside of your comfort zone (I suspect it is for many), I highly recommend using this Demon Timers WeakAura (https://wago.io/DemonTimers) to track when your imps are going to expire.
If Implosion talent is not taken, your rotation LITERALLY does not change on multitarget.
Reverse Tyrant setup for M+
In mythic+, you can sometimes do what is known as a reverse setup. Instead of summoning all your big demons first, and then your imps before your tyrant, you can end a trash pack or a boss with a sequence of Hand of Gul’dan and instant demonbolts to build up 6-15 imps (depending on timing and procs). This gives you a head start going into the next pack, where you can use dreadstalkers and all your big demons into a quick Tyrant + Demonic Strength for massive burst damage. This can be especially useful when fighting for damage with classes with less setup time.
The Seasonal Affix for Season 1 is Thundering. It gives a 30% damage buff to the whole party that goes away once you clear your debuff with a party member of the opposite charge (+/-). Thundering has a 70-second in-combat internal cooldown which means it lines up with every tyrant, assuming Warlocks's Grand Design talent is picked. Playing around Thundering timings for your big Demonic Strength and Tyrant with the huge implosion at the end can be a significant damage gain in Mythic+.
On another note, please don't get upset if you are pugging and your team decides to clear the debuff early. The damage gained from this is rarely worth risking getting stunned for. But it is very fun to play around with in more coordinated groups.
Thundering Affix CD WA:
I did not make this, and the wago page is in the information tab of the weakaura, but I edited it because the timing was 5 seconds off.
Felstorm/Demonic Strength/Guillotine interactions
Felstorm in this section refers to the base felguard ability.
Demonic Strength cannot be cast during guillotine or Felstorm duration.
guillotine cannot be cast during Demonic Strength, but a guillotine cast will cancel an ongoing Felstorm.
The implications of this is that you want to prioritize Demonic Strength over guillotine inside demonic tyrant windows, and you do not want to cancel a Felstorm with a guillotine cast.
In most raid encounters and mythic+, you want to use your cooldowns as soon as they are available to not lose out on possible uses. This is also true for Demonology, but there are cases where you will need to hold cooldowns or sometimes even rush cooldowns to have better cooldown alignment throughout the rest of the fight. When reaching more advanced levels of demonology gameplay, your thoughts should not be on the current Tyrant setup. Focus should instead be on where the NEXT Tyrant / Nether Portal will be. If you get used to the "think of the next cooldown" mentality, your damage will go up on average.
Demonology has been known for having poor mobility, but that isn't necessarily the case anymore. We are practically drowning in Demonic Core procs, and Burning Rush + Demonic Circle being pretty much mandatory class tree talents, we can move around freely outside of cooldowns. For most cases, as long as you know the fight and can find a 10-15 second window to stand mostly still and set up your cooldowns, no amount of movement should feel awful.
Defensive usage as a warlock pretty much comes down to pressing Dark Pact BEFORE you take incoming damage. With the cooldown reduction from Frequent Donor talent, it is one of the strongest short cooldown defensives in the game.
If that wasn't good enough, you have Fel Armor giving 3% flat damage reduction +10% "stagger," Demonic Skin recharging based on % hp, which was recently buffed by the 40% increased health pools in Dragonflight. You also have a 3-minute cooldown 40% damage reduction, or 2-minute 15 seconds cooldown 25% damage reduction in Unending Resolve to fall back on.
- Soul link for another 10% flat damage reduction
- 15% flat stamina from Demonic Embrace and Demonic Fortitude
- Drain life amplification talents
- 4% damage reduction for 10 seconds after using Demonic Circle
- Soulburn + Healthstone increasing its healing by 30% and increasing max hp by 20% for 12 seconds
- An additional 10% damage reduction via soul link when below 35% hp if you choose to spec into it
After all that, it's pretty much a given that if you are dead as a warlock in any raid encounter, you either did something horribly wrong, or your entire raid is already dead.