Vanilla WoW Wiki

Full Title: Shadow Mastery/Ruin
Trees Involved (Points): Affliction (30) / Destruction (21)

General Build Information

Until the revamp of the Demonology tree in the 1.6 patch, for a long time, SM/Ruin build was considered the king in terms of DPS by many. (Whether DPS is the primary consideration is up to the individual warlock.) This build implies 5/5 points in Shadow Mastery, and 1/1 point in Ruin. This requires 30 points in Affliction and 21 points in Destruction, leaving no room for any Demonology talents at all. Apart from Shadow Mastery, there weren't any other really necessary talents in the Affliction tree. However, Talents such as Improved Life Tap, Siphon Life, Improved Corruption and Nightfall usually form part of the Affliction background. In Destruction, there was not much free room: Bane, Shadowburn, Devastation, and, of course, Ruin were quasi-necessary. Additionally, Improved Shadow Bolt and Destructive Reach were highly favored.

With the revamp of the Demonology tree in the 1.6 patch, a new build with strikingly similar playstyle, named MD/Ruin, evolved.


The advantage of the SM/Ruin build is its high burst damage and DPS. Especially in PvP, where burst damage often is favored. Especially so-called double-crits (normal crit + crit through negative resistances) resulted in huge crits, even higher if preceded by another crit. The combination with Shadowburn gives the opportunity powerfully finish off enemies.

In a large fight, the warlock can quickly put Corruption on a number of enemies, which is highly likely to cause Nightfall to activate, probably several times, doing enormous burst damage.

If mana is low, it can easily be regained with the combination of casting Siphon Life on multiple targets and then casting Life Tap.

This build can contain almost all important talents for a normal DoT-Warlock, and as such it is possible to seamlessly switch from nuking to dotting.


There is a conflict with the Ruin talent and the affliction tree. Ruin will improve the value of critical hits, but the affliction tree add several points on DoTs that do not get critical hits.

The disadvantages are the sustainability and survivability problems. Shadow Bolt spam costs a relatively large amount of mana, reducing the Warlock's mana pool quite fast. Although the build does provide means to handle this (Siphon Life, Improved Drain Life and Fel Concentration combined with Improved Life Tap to convert the drained health into mana), it does keep you from nuking. Additionally, while being attacked in melee, it is almost impossible to get off a Shadow Bolt.

Warlocks don't have much in terms of defense, but what they do have centers primarily around talents in the Demonology tree, such as Demonic Embrace and Soul Link, as well as some of the Master Demonologist and Demonic Sacrifice effects, and this build contains none of them. The build almost completely ignores upgrades to the warlock's pet, with the exception of Improved Firebolt or Improved Lash of Pain.

Finally, a factor to consider with regards to this build is its aggro management (or lack thereof). In this area, SM/Ruin is about as bad as it gets. In addition to high overall damage, it also results in frequent bursts of damage, which can cause incredible aggro. This increasingly becomes a problem post-Molten Core because damage capabilities of Warlocks grow faster than aggro holding capabilities of Warriors, and consequences of pulling aggro become increasingly dire. At this stage Warlocks often respec from SM/Ruin either to MD/Ruin for Master Demonologist imp buff, or even to SM/DS build to rely on constant, sustained damage.

Specific Talent Build Examples

Drain-Tank Capable

Blizzard's Talent Calculator Links

Basic Combat Information

Typical Combat
  1. Send in your Succubus
  2. Hit the mob with Curse of the Elements just before she starts to attack them so that her Lash of Pain gets the curse's damage bonus.
  3. Cast Corruption
  4. Cast Shadow Bolts until the mob reaches you.
  5. Cast Immolation
  6. Cast Shadow Bolts
  7. If Nightfall procs, insta-cast Shadowbolt unless the mob is about to die anyway from your Corruption.
  8. Cast Shadowburn if the mob is about to die.

Many people rely on drain-tanking instead, as it allows more fluid levelling.

Max Range

2 points in both Destructive Reach and Grim Reach give all your spells an extra 6 meters of range which, when combined with Bane, can give you an entire extra Shadow Bolt when the mob starts running after you.

Improved Succubus

By reducing the cooldown of your Succubus' Lash of Pain from 12 seconds to 6, you allow her to better hold aggro. With practice she will be able to hold a mob's attention until your second, or even third, Shadow bolt (not counting crits) allowing those few vital "free" shots before you finally pull aggro.

At level 70

Two very different versions of this build have emerged since the advent of The Burning Crusade. Both build upon the basic SM/Ruin template and take Dark Pact, changing only the 9 remaining points.

With the first version, the spare points are used to bolster the warlocks solo capability, by filling up parts of the Affliction tree that had to be skipped before, and by moving into the demonology tree to improve survivability.

The second variation places all those extra points in Raid friendly talents, such as Malediction, Improved Healthstone and Shadow Embrace.

Since the philosophies behind the 2 variation are different, its worth noting that the Talents taken to build up to SM are also different. The 2 examples given are just 2 variations (see else where for the merits of 2 points in Suppression and Improved Corruption)