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The term cooldown is defined as a period of wait time before a spell, ability, or item power can be used after a prior spell, ability, or item power. Often referred to by the pseudo-acronym "CD".

'Cooldown' may refer to:

  • The period of time after using a spell, ability or item before it can be used again. Many powerful spells and abilities have lengthy cooldowns, encouraging players to exercise forethought in choosing the best moment to use them. Some abilities have no cooldown and can therefore be used as often as desired (provided any other requirements are met).
  • The period of time after using almost any spell or ability in which it is not possible to use any other spell or ability. This is known as the global cooldown, and prevents players from using several abilities at once, instead requiring them to be used one at a time (often as part of a 'rotation'). Most abilities cause and are affected by the global cooldown, but some are not - see the list below.
  • An ability with a lengthy cooldown; for example, Save your cooldowns for boss fights.

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Shared cooldown

A shared cooldown is when some spell, item or ability prevents usage of certain others while it is cooling down. It effectively applies the same cooldown to all those that it shares a cooldown with.

It is important to know if a spell or item has a shared cooldown, since that is much more limiting than an isolated cooldown. This usually means that you must choose wisely which to use, since you cannot use all within a short time period. For instance, many potions share cooldowns with other potions; the warrior abilities [Heroic Strike] and [Cleave] share a cooldown; and so do hunter traps.

A shared cooldown need not match the ability's individual cooldown; some powerful abilities with lengthy cooldowns also have a short shared cooldown with similar abilities, preventing a player from gaining several powerful effects at once.

Warrior stance changes also fall under the shared cooldown category. Switching stances as a warrior prevents switching to another stance for 3 seconds but does not prevent the user of other abilities.

Some abilities do not have shared cooldowns, but still prevent players from using certain other abilities during their effect, such as to prevent players from combining excessively powerful buffs. Similarly, [Divine Shield], [Lay on Hands] and [Hand of Protection] use the forbearance debuff to prevent a player from receiving any of these effects within 1 minute of each other. However, they do not share a cooldown, and so can be used in short succession on three different targets.

Global cooldown

The global or universal cooldown, frequently shortened to "GCD", is the cooldown which starts every time you start to use a spell or ability, and affects all of your class spells and abilities. There are exceptions to this, however, as noted below. The basic rule of thumb is that if the spell affects the casting of the next spell, it will not activate the global cooldown.

The term 'global' is also often used to refer to a single global cooldown. In this way it serves as a basic unit of measurement for time and ability usage. It may take a certain number of globals to set up a rotation, to deal a certain amount of damage/healing, or to respond to an event. The phrase 'to global' (or 'to be globaled') refers to being killed extremely quickly, such as in the duration of only a single GCD.

If a spell has a casting time less than the global cooldown (or instant cast), you generally have to wait the remainder of the global cooldown. If a spell with casting time is interrupted before it has finished casting, the global cooldown is canceled. This allows you to immediately begin casting a new spell, be it the same spell or another.

The base global cooldown is generally 1.5 seconds for all classes except hunters, rogues, [Cat Form] druids, monks and death knights, whose abilities mostly have one second global cooldowns. Shaman totems also only trigger a one second global cooldown. However, since patch 2.4.0, haste can reduce the global cooldown to a minimum of 1 second. A few specific abilities have global cooldowns as short as 0.5 seconds. The global cooldown affects the wait for the next ability, so using an item or ability with the standard 1.5 second cooldown will require waiting that long before a 1 second global cooldown ability can be used.

Some abilities are not affected by the global cooldown, and do not trigger the global cooldown when used. This means that they can be used at times when other abilities cannot (such as immediately after using an instant ability), and can be followed immediately by another ability without delay. Such abilities are often referred to as being "off the global cooldown" or "not affected by the GCD". All such abilities are currently instant cast, allowing several to be used simultaneously, followed immediately by the use of another ability. Many of these abilities have the effect of augmenting the character in some way, and are often placed in macros with other abilities, for speed and convenience.

Abilities noted for not affecting nor being affected by the global cooldown:

Racials

Abilities that are affected by but will not themselves trigger the global cooldown:

Abilities with irregular global cooldowns:

Cooldown and usage theory

The cooldown determines how often something (spell, ability, or item) may be used. Specifically, it has an inverse relationship to how many times per fight it may be used.

For example, a druid should never use [Rebirth] in the post-encounter resurrection. The druid resurrection spell is on a 20 minute timer and should be used in emergencies only, such as when it can prevent a wipe.

Here's a rough guide to help with when to burn a cooldown:

Cooldown length When usable
1.5 sec GCD Spammable at will
10 sec very short Used as part of a rotation
90 sec common Usable often
3 min common Usable each battle, sometimes several times during a boss fight
10 min mildly long Usable on most tough miniboss fights
30+ min long Usable at calculated times and emergencies

Item cooldowns

Items with cooldowns are simply items that have limit on how often you can use them.

For example [Major Healing Potion] has a 2 minute cooldown, so it can be used just once every 2 minutes. The average cooldown is 2 or 5 minutes, but they range from 10 seconds to 3 hours (like [Signet of Expertise]) to 3 days at the longest. These items can be equipped in a variety of slots or used from the backpack.

Most consumable items have a shared cooldown, such as alcoholic beverages.

These items have a long cooldown (this isn't an exhaustive list):

Most equippable items with "Use" effects have a 0 second global cooldown.

Internal cooldowns

An internal cooldown is the cooldown on several abilities usually found on items. It exists as a regulator to prevent specific chance-to-proc abilities from being active at all times. One example is [Pendulum of Telluric Currents] which has a 10% chance to proc and a 45 internal cooldown. When it does proc, there will be 45 seconds before it can do so again. Internal cooldowns vary in duration, but the most common is 45 seconds as with the Pendulum of Telluric Currents.

Internal cooldowns are often hard to perceive and measure. This is because the description of the item which holds the ability rarely tells if there is any cooldown on the ability, nor how long any possible cooldown is. As a result, internal cooldowns are often mentioned as "hidden cooldowns". Because of this, the cooldown of an item's ability is usually discovered via player testing in-game. It is important to know the internal cooldown of an item's ability since it highly affects how powerful the item is. One example is [Darkmoon Card: Greatness]. It has a 35% chance to proc, a 15 second duration and a 45 second internal cooldown. If there were no cooldown, players would be able to refresh the duration via procs over and over, enjoying a nearly permanent effect from this item. Applying the cooldown will reduce the time the effect is active to 33% possible uptime (as 15 is 33% of 45), which in comparison reduces the item's performance by almost 70%.

Tradeskill cooldowns

Several professions have recipes with long cooldowns. Note that many "1 day" cooldowns do not in fact last 24 hours; rather they have a daily reset time (usually 1am server time) at which point the cooldown is reset.