Summary: Considering playing WoW? Curious about the Rogue? Check this guide out - it covers all the basics and then some, complete with talent builds, professions, race choices, etc.
The Rogue is a special class in most games, and in World of WarCraft it is no exception. A Rogue in World of WarCraft is one of the four core pure classes, and fundamentally may be the most single specialized class in the game. Warriors are the pure tanks, Priests are the pure healers, Mages are for pure magic and ranged damage… yet each has the ability to do or become something else. A Warrior need not only absorb damage, he can become a considerable damage dealer himself, as may a Priest. Mages never vary from their damage-dealing roles, but they bring considerable utility to a party – they create food and water for healing and mana regeneration. Their water is the best in the game, better than anything you’ll buy at a vendor or see drop off a mob (‘mob’ being the MMORPG term for monster, being sort for mobile object, a word coined in MUDs). Moreover, Mages provide crowd control options with their polymorph spells.
A Rogue? Well, Rogues can pick locks on chests and scout ahead in a dungeon, but the reality is that in a Player vs Environment situation, a Rogue serves one purpose and one purpose only – to deal damage. Rogues do have some nice tricks like Sap and Blind, but generally speaking, other classes have abilities that have similar or better effects. Outside of his ability to deal hideous amounts of damage, there is little a Rogue can provide that another class usually can’t match or surpass. This guide will not only help you maximize your damage ability, but also teach you the few tricks a Rogue can bring to a group that help you stand out from your competition. We’ll also teach you how to gear yourself, what the best race choices are, and how to avoid the most common mistakes.
What’s the downside to being a Rogue? You’re not alone. Not nearly alone. They are one of the most common classes in the game and while you’ll hear in public chat and guild chat constant requests for a tank or healer, hardly anyone finds themselves saying “man, it’s so hard to get a Rogue these days.” Competition for groups is fierce. Find a guild – trust me.
Just as the key feature of a Rogue in a group is his ability to deal damage, the key ability of the Rogue for himself is stealth. Stealth makes the player invisible to creatures, friends, and foes around him, but with certain limitations. Get close enough to someone, they will see you. Also, if you’re in a party or raid group, you’re always visible to your comrades. Finally, people and monsters higher level than you have an easier time spotting you. There are items and talents that boost your stealth level, but it’s never a 100% free pass. Also, you have to beware of certain mobs out there that are specifically stealth-detectors. When you enter stealth mode, you’ll see a spinning teal colored icon above the monsters with stealth detection ability.
The four original alliance races – Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, and Night Elves – can all be Rogues. Draenei do not have Rogue as a choice.
The Horde like the Alliance have four out of five races that can be Rogues. Three of them are original races, while Blood Elves are for The Burning Crusade owners only.
All in all, race choice isn’t definitive by any stretch of the imagination, but as you can see, the racial abilities do have their uses. They won’t make you a good Rogue or a bad Rogue, but they can make a good Rogue slightly better in some situations. Hopefully you’ll be able to knowledgeably choose what is important to you and what’s not.
The first ten levels in World of WarCraft go by very quickly. Nothing especially interesting happens, but we’ll give you some tips anyway. For starters, once you hit level 4-6 or so, you’ll be done with quests in your starting area and move to the newbie zone proper. You should take this time to find where the main city in the area is so you can train your professions. If you don’t do so now, you’ll end up doing it somewhat later (usually around level 10-12) and may find yourself spending unnecessary time skilling up your professions rather than doing that as you are leveling. Guards in all the major cities will be able to guide you to your profession trainer, just beware that at the moment at least the Draenei guards give directions in Stormwind rather than the Exodar (though this shouldn’t be a problem as Draenei can’t be Rogues).
Engineering is possibly the most unique trade of all. It creates consumable items like dynamite that help add to your damage, specialized trinkets and weird items and rocket helmets. The trinkets can be specialized to fight against spellcaster, or some designs can be used to resurrect players even if you’re not a healer. Engineering is absolutely awesome to have for PvP, though it is rather expensive to skill up, like enchanting. Mining is the best gatherer trade to have for engineering, though it won’t make you self-sufficient. You’ll still need to buy other components from the auction hall.
Jewelcrafting is new, useful, and fairly lucrative. With it you create necklaces, rings, and can cut gems to fit into items with sockets in them at higher levels. There are also consummable items that can be created with jewelcrafting.
Blacksmithing is possibly the best choice for a rogue right now. Like all finished goods trades it’s a bit of a pain to finish skilling up, but the rewards for a Rogue are the most tangible: weapons. Specifically, you want to specialize as a weaponsmith and then focus as a hammersmith, because one of the best weapons in the game at the moment is a crafted hammer. To make things better, this hammer can be upgraded to make it even more powerful as you gather the necessary reagents. The thing is, you need to be a master hammersmith to even use this hammer, so don’t think you can simply buy one!
Leatherworking uses leather, obviously, to craft armor and certain consummable items. It’s gotten a big boost in the expansion and is a viable trade for a Rogue. Like all finished goods skills, it’s only truly profitable once you hit the higher levels and can start crafting the cool consummables and creating cured hides with your long cooldown ability.
Finally, there’s Alchemy. It’s not especially bad, but not particularly useful for a Rogue. Having your own supply of potions is somewhat cool, and at high levels the ability to transmute is both lucrative and necessary, if you specialize that way.
Ultimately, if you’re new on a server and have no one to help you with money, it may be easiest to go skinning and herbalism or mining. However, you will miss out on the advantages of a finished goods skill in the long run. Blacksmithing is probably the best choice, since it guarantees a good weapon for you. Engineering is also a good option if you’re sure you want to do a lot of PvP to earn your weapons as PvP rewards. However, just go with what sounds cool. You may have some regrets in the end, but nothing is irreversible and none of the regrets will have you slicing your wrists.
The other Rogue resource is the Combo Point. Combo points, or CPs, are gained by using special attacks on targets. Sinister Strike, Backstab, Ghostly Strike, Mutilate, or Hemo are going to be your main CP generators. Openers, or opening attacks, like Cheap Shot, Ambush, and Garrote, also generate CPs, but you can only use these when in stealth. Once you attack and lose stealth, you cannot use them again until you re-stealth.
The trick is in taking advantage of the best combination of talents (discussed on the next page) to create the most CPs and do the most damage. You have to balance your energy with your CP generation. Sinister Strike without any talents takes 45 energy to create a single CP. Hemo takes 35, and Backstab takes 60! Mutilate also takes 60 energy, but generates two CPs at a time. Then there are talents that can give you extra CPs if you crit or if you deliver a finishing move.
Finishing moves cost very little energy (usually 25) but use CPs to increase their effect. A single point Eviscerate won’t do much damage, and a single point Kidney shot will only stun a mob for 1 second. However, use 5 CPs, and Eviscerate starts hitting hard, and Kidney Shot stuns for 5 seconds (6 at later levels). So it’s almost always best to use 5-point finishers, unless the target is almost dead or you’re desperate.
CPs don’t carry over from one target to another. You can switch targets and switch back to your original one and retain your previous CPs, but only as long as you didn’t attack the second target. Also, if your target dies, the CPs are wasted almost instantly.
You will often hear the terms “white damage” and “yellow damage” as a rogue. White damage is your regular weapon damage from auto-attack. Yellow damage means the damage from special attacks like Hemo, Sinister Strike, Eviscerate, Envenom, Mutilate, Backstab, Ambush, Rupture, Garrote, or your poisons. Your white damage is fairly constant, you can only change it by getting better gear and selecting a few key talents – however, it usually accounts for at least 60% of your total damage output. Where you mostly customize your class is with yellow damage – how much you do it, how you do it, and when.
A Rogue can only wear up to leather armor and this means he is squishie – you can’t tank and you can’t take a lot of damage. Your armor, like your weapons, should ideally have agility, or agility and stamina as stats. Though strength adds to your attack power as well, try to focus on agility. Agility adds to a Rogue’s critical strike chance and his dodge ability. Stamina increases your hitpoints and thus survivability, but agility is more important.
As you progress in levels, you will find items with +ap (attack power), +hit, and +crit ratings. 1 agility or 1 strength is equal to 1AP. 14 AP add 1dps to your attacks. Agility also adds to your +crit, but this scales with level (the higher your level, the more agility you need to gain a crit point). +hit isn’t affected by any stats except +hit items. A nice balance between AP, hit, and crit items is usually good. Typically, a Rogue player will value crit twice as much as AP and just as much as hit, so if you’re deciding between items, unless you get twice as many AP as you get hit or crit points, then it’s not worth switching. Some builds, Seal Fate builds in particular, are more dependent on crit gear than AP or hit. Combat builds, especially if you’re focusing on raids or instances, are going to be happier with hit and AP and need less crit items. But these are general rules, and can vary depending on the situation.
Similarly, your ratio of stamina and agility gear can vary depending on what you are built for. In instances, you can get away with slightly more emphasis on agility, unless you know you’re going to be taking a lot of damage (such as heroic instances with mobs that do significant AoE). In PvP, you want a lot of crit but you also need to be survivable. World PvP is different from Battlegrounds. In Battlegrounds, you’ll be attacked far more often and thus benefit from more stamina. In world PvP, you’ll get to choose your opponents and thus are less likely to be involved in a prolonged fight against multiple opponents.
Enchantments are expensive and should be used only if you intend to keep a weapon for a long time. If you got a nice epic drop, or even a very good rare weapon, that’s when you’d enchant. Krol Blade at level 51 or so is a good example. It’d be a worthy recipient of a +15 agi enchantment. On something like a Thrash Blade, which most Rogues go to the bother of getting, which you’ll outgrow fairly quickly, a Fiery enchant is enough and worth splurging on – it won’t make a huge difference in your life as a Rogue but it’s pretty sweet. However, generally people don’t enchant while leveling because the cost to benefit ratio isn’t worth it. Even at level 70, most people don’t bother with enchantments except on gear they know they’re stuck with.
Be sure to take advantage of a talent calculator, like the one here, at wowhead, or the official one. Note that wowhead has a button that will give you the link to your build, and the official calculator has a link that changes as you add and subtract points. We’ll use the Wowhead calculator for the purposes of demonstrating builds.
You’ll hear a lot of talk about builds like “combat swords” or “seal fate/prep”, sometimes designated as “15/41/5” or “30/0/31”. These just roughly describe someone’s build, never in detail unless you ask.
Your leveling build should almost certainly be combat swords. That means speccing in the Combat tree and using swords. Why swords? Because swords come in fast and slow varieties, they’re abundant and generally cheap to buy if you must buy them. Daggers are harder to find and more difficult to use, and arguably less efficient for many stages of leveling (and I say this as a player who has spent a lot of time with daggers). Maces and fist weapons are options, but fist weapons are almost non-existent before level 60, while maces are usually limited in number – and there are very few decent off-hand maces available. Moreover, many maces are specifically designed with healers in mind, and have +heal or +spell buffs.
So, given that you’ll most likely to building around swords as your weapons, remembering to keep a slow, high-damage weapon in your main hand and a fast weapon in your off hand. Below are the step-by-step common, effective choices. Not all of them have to go in order, but the sequence below is popular.
Note: the last three talent choices don’t have to be done in order, the above is just my preference.
The upside of this leveling spec is that you don’t have to re-spec if you’re going to be raiding. This is pretty much the same build you’d use on raids or even 5-man instances, except that you should get 3/3 Improved Slice and Dice and 1/2 Endurance. I just showed an Endurance/Sprint build for extra PvP survivability, and to demonstrate that while I prefer Improved Slice and Dice, having 2 or 3 points in it isn’t mandatory to be effective in an instance or raid. Combat Daggers is an excellent damage build, competitive with other Combat builds and even a Mutilate/Dual Wield spec.
On the down side, Combat Daggers is among the worst builds available for PvP because its CP generation is the lowest possible. This means that stunlocking your target is very difficult. Your damage will be high, especially against cloth targets, but once they’re out of the stun you’re pretty much up the creek without a paddle.
A player respecs if he’s bored, if he really wants to get to a key talent early, or if he decides he wants to try another grinding build. Perhaps you’re tired of swords and want to try Combat Daggers or Mutilate, or maybe you want to do PvP and check out the Assassination and Subtlety trees.
There are a variety of builds, even a variety of builds oriented around the same talent like Mutilate, each with a different purpose and style in mind. Let’s explore some.
Why not combat?
The Combat tree is a terrible option for PvP. PvP relies on burst damage and control – being able to deal a lot of damage in a short amount of time, when you need to. Even more than burst damage, however, being able to control the fight is the most important thing about PvP, and Rogues excel at that. To control, you need to stun. To stun, you need Combo Points and the Combat Tree just doesn’t provide them. In addition to stuns like Cheap Shot and Kidney shot, or the standard Rogue ability to Vanish to stealth even while flagged as “in combat”, talents like Preparation, Cold Blood, and Premeditation make the Rogue a vicious PvP opponent. Under ideal circumstances, even the most difficult classes, like Warriors, Hunters, and Druids, can be killed. Often this requires a bit of luck (ie, not missing a Cheap Shot or Kidney Shot), and a lot of skill, but it’s possible. Other classes, like Mages, Priests, and Warlocks, are meat. In fact, Rogues are the only class that Warlocks generally fear. However, if you go Combat, many of these abilities aren’t available or aren’t as efficient.
The downside to both builds listed above is that neither has Improved Gouge. Improved Gouge combined with Camouflage is just about the only way you’ll kill a feral-spec Druid or a Warrior, since it incapacitates your target for just long enough for you to re-stealth. It may take several such re-stealths before you beat through the massive armor of the bear-form Druid or the Warrior, and it takes some luck and not inconsiderable skill as well.
PvP without daggers is considerably different than PvP with. You usually rely on Sinister Strike or Hemo, so your CP generation won’t be as great as a Mutilate build. You’re also lacking the high-damage openings of Ambush. Your burst damage is usually limited to Eviscerates. Relying on Sinister Strike gives higher damage and you might as well spend the extra 3 points for Improved Gouge in that case, but then you have to choose between Seal Fate or Premeditation, rather than enjoying both. 25/5/31 is an example of a PvP build based around SS. It gives access to Cold Blood, Preparation and Premeditation, but not Seal Fate.
Envenom or Eviscerate?
Envenom and Eviscerate are both finishing moves that rely on your points. Envenom also requires your target to be afflicted with deadly poison – one poison per CP you intend to use. Envenom deals nature damage and completely ignores armor. Eviscerate is affected by armor. Naturally, Envenom doesn’t work on poison immune mobs but is otherwise almost completely superior. However, if you intend to PvP, spec for Eviscerate, since Envenom relies on deadly poison, which is not a good choice for PvP. Remember, if you plan on using Eviscerate, get Improved Eviscerate. If you plan on using Envenom, get Vile Poisons and Improved Poisons.
Rupture or Eviscerate?
Long fight? Does the mob have high armor? Rupture. Rupture ignores armor and usually hits for more than Eviscerate even against light-armored targets. However, Eviscerate can crit and Rupture takes time to tick off – Eviscerate does the damage instantly.
What poisons should I use?
What poisons a Rogue uses is dependent on the situation. For common PvE grinding, instant poison is the best unless you’ve speced Mutilate, in which case a Crippling Poison or Deadly Poison are necessary so that the poison debuff is present for your Mutilate to gain the 50% damage bonus. Crippling poison is naturally ideal for mobs that run away.
In PvP, it depends on your target. Warriors should usually be hit with double crippling or main hand crippling and off hand instant. You want them slow. Most Rogues err on the side of caution and go double crippling.
Priests, Paladins, Shamans, and Druids should be hit with main hand Wounding Poison and offhand crippling, due to their annoying tendency to self-heal. This isn’t always true, of course. Shamans specced in Enhancement and Feral-spec Druids would probably be best to hit with an Instant instead of the Wounding, or even double-cripple.
Mages and Warlocks are definitely main hand crippling and off hand Mind Numbing. Both classes tend to run when they can, and being casters, the extra casting time that Mind Numbing poison adds can save your life.
Hunters should be attacked with double crippling poisons or a crippling and instant, just like Warriors. The difference is that while you want to be able to keep a Warrior far away from you when he’s not stunned, you want to be able to keep up with a Hunter if he isn’t stunned.
What’s Deadly Throw good for?
Deadly Throw uses CPs and does less damage than Eviscerate or Envenom. So why use it? Against targets that flee. Ideal against casters and hunters in PvP, and runner mobs in PvE.
Any mods you recommend?
Yes, get EnergyWatch so you can time your energy ticks (start your attack on a target just before you recharge 20 energy, it’s almost like 20 free energy), and CCWatch or Chronometer to watch your stun/incapacitate effects. There are also dozens of other mods out there like FuBar and its add-ons that help make leveling easier. At least get FuBar, LocationFu, Atlas, and Cartographer. It will help you when you’re getting co-ordinates from players in-game or websites guiding you through quests.
How do I skill up lockpicking?
The best way to do it is to keep at it from the moment you get the skill. Pick pocket humanoid mobs and they’ll occasionally have chests for you to open. Your class trainer will also be able to guide you to areas where there are practice chests to work on. If you’re in a group in an instance, nothing is going to annoy your teammates as much as your inability to open a chest. It’s one of the few non-damage abilities you bring to a group.
The official forums say I’m nerfed!
Ignore the official forums, they’re the haven of class whiners everywhere. There are good patches and bad patches, just play through them. Every class gets better or worse as time goes on. Going to the forums is only going to make you unhappy about yours. Were you unhappy before you went? Probably not.
How do I deal with class X?
Figure it out. There are too many class/talent combinations to worry about. Feral druids usually eat Rogues alive, but a Restoration Druid is one of the easier kills out there. Arms Warriors are terrifying if they’re in melee range and you can’t stun or gouge them, a Prot Warrior isn’t nearly as scary but it’s not worth beating on him for five minutes before he dies. Elemental Shamans play completely differently from Enhancement. You get the idea.
Hints and tips for groups?
Yeah, let the tank or Hunter pull. Let the tank attract the mob’s attention and build some aggro before you jump in and start beating on it. NEVER use Expose Armor if you have a Warrior tanking. ALWAYS use Expose Armor on tougher mobs if there is a Druid or Paladin tanking. Don’t stun a mob while it’s still running towards the tank, and watch out for the healer. Healers draw a lot of aggro, so this means adds (additional mobs in the pulls) or pats (patrolling mobs that run into your group) will sometimes focus on the healer. This is why you have Blind and stuns. The tank may not be able to get aggro off the healer immediately, so you do it. You’re only DPS, better that you die.
As a Rogue, you should be primary DPS. If you don’t know the instance, ask what to target. Usually the order of attack is as follows:
1. Any mob that causes Fear.
2. Any mob that Heals.
3. Any caster.
4. DPS mobs (Rogues, Hunters).
5. Other mobs.
There are exceptions, however. Ranged DPS should usually assist target off you, since it’s easier for them to switch targets than it is for you. It may be “cool” to totally top the damage charts, but in tough situations you should give up those CPs and use Stuns instead of Envenoms/Eviscerates. Also, you have to judge what’s more dangerous – a healer mob or a Fear mob. Best to discuss with your group.
If you’re with a bad tank who can’t hold aggro, don’t whine and quit, just cut down on the damage you’re dealing. The easiest way is to use stuns instead of damaging finishers. After that, switch poisons to non-damaging types. Then take it easy on CP-generating attacks. If that doesn’t help, bring it up as an issue in group chat.
How should I act in world PvP?
You’ll get to know the other side’s tendencies. There are aggressive guilds and tame guilds. There are jerks and nice people. I adopt a live-and-let-live policy unless someone starts trouble with me or my guild, then I’ll go all out. Unless a guild or individual starts trouble consistently, I don’t start it. Why? Am I a wuss? No, because reputations matter. There are Horde on my server who are kill on sight to half the Alliance. Nobody gives them a chance any more, and you don’t want that kind of reputation – you can’t grind for items, you can’t grind for reputation, you can’t quest. At least, not without being constantly interrupted.
Why don’t you ever have Daggers and Hemo, or Daggers and Sinister Strike?
Daggers are meant for Backstab and Mutilate. You could generate fast CPs with daggers and Hemo, but the damage would be absurdly low. Trust me, I’ve tried. Whether out of curiosity, ignorance, or determination to find something new that works, I’ve tried a lot of weird builds and Hemo Daggers is quite possibly one of the worst ideas ever, followed shortly after Daggers and Sinister Strike.
What’s the point of Distract?
Besides turning around your target mob for an easy pick pocket, cheap shot, or ambush, you can sneak around them easier in stealth. Also, Distract is actually fairly useful on select group situations. If you see a patrol about to hit your group while you’re fighting another set of mobs, use Distract to pause them for 10 seconds. Similarly, there are certain boss encounters that spawn right after you kill the trash mobs, and Distract can give your group 10 seconds to eat and drink to regain health and mana. Finally, you CAN use it in PvP. If you’re just barely out of range of your opponent and he’s about to run off, throw a Distract to turn him around for a split second so you can catch up. Your opponent cannot be flagged as “in combat”, however. Neither can the mobs.
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