Combat Mastery: Tuning and Weapon Speed

Another cross post from the official forums.

There are some issues with combat mastery tuning that are causing a number of problematic tuning issues with the spec.

First SimC results:

This shows three different combat weapon configurations, MH dagger, OH sword, double swords and MH sword, OH dagger.  All use the ilvl 660 pvp set with mastery enchants except slow_fast_haste_stack which uses haste enchants.  Fast_slow_RvS_maintain uses RvS only for debuff maintenance, all others use RvS as primary cp builder during deep insight.

As additional confirmation that this is not an artifact of SimC Vigilate tested Slow/Slow and Fast/Slow with 660 pvp gear and 680 tier gear.  This shows Fast/Slow ~5.6% ahead of Slow/Slow which is consistent with the SimC results.


There are a few problems with this:

  1. Fast/Slow is a very counterintuitive, I don’t believe that fast/slow has ever been the optimal weapon configuration for combat, and dagger main hands haven’t been a thing since combat daggers was killed in early wrath.  Beyond the historical rationale it just doesn’t make a ton of sense for the weapon that is hitting with spamable abilities like SS and RvS to be weaker than the one that is just there for auto attacks and mastery procs and has a 50% damage penalty attached.
  2. Even in the Slow/Slow setup the OH_dps is more valuable than MH_dps, this is problematic for the same reasons as above, the OH weapon being more valuable doesn’t make much sense.
  3. Combat passive damage (defined as auto attack, poison and MG damage) is very high.  In the fast/slow case it is 71.4% and even in the slow/fast case which should move more damage into active sources still has 63.4% passive damage.  I don’t think we have ever been told the target passive damage percentage however using the other two specs for comparison sub has 38.5% and mut has 34.6% in the ilvl 660 pvp gear.
  4. Despite SS being higher DPE and CPPE than RvS, RvS still appears optimal to use during deep insight (T17 2pc may change this).  Personally I don’t mind that however given that changes were made to prevent this a few build’s ago this is likely a problem.

The root of all of these issues is combat’s mastery is overtuned.  At 225% OH weapon damage an MG proc out damages a sinister strike (100% MH weapon damage) given equal weapons.  While this isn’t strictly tuning related having our main CP builder deal the same damage as a MH auto attack and RvS deal less damage than a MH auto attack seems very problematic.

Shadowboy did a useful analysis of this issue with slow/slow vs. slow/fast (before fast/slow was discovered to be comparable dps) and proposed a revised tuning that moves damage from MG into SS and RvS that appears to solve all of the issues above.  He proposes nerf MG to 140% weapon damage, buff SS to 160% weapon damage and buff RvS to 120% weapon damage.

Full post on his proposal with SimC results demonstrating its effect:


Late Beta Feedback Part 1

Another cross post from the official forum beta feedback thread.

Comments on three issues that don’t require new mechanics to solve.

1) The new Sinister Calling mechanic is much better than the old one because it eliminates the wonky snapshot and stack behavior or hemo however there are a few problems with the mechanic. The mechanic may break down at high gear levels, at around 60% MS, something that seems readily achievable with weapon enchants by the middle to end of the second tier the effective duration of rupture will be ~12-13 seconds. Given sub’s high cp gen the rotation should be reasonably sustainable but I’m not sure the managing a very short duration dot will be particularly enjoyable. The mechanic also makes it impossible at almost all gear levels to avoid refreshing rupture during FW, a generally important optimization for sub. At 12-13 seconds I believe rupture would be shortest duration active maintenance dot in the game.

Complicating the duration issues is SV, such a large portion of subtlety’s damage is tied up in maintaining an active bleed on the target that making those bleeds advance faster makes the rotation feel unforgiving and MS procs punitive despite being a net damage increase. It isn’t clear to me why SV as a mechanic needs to exist, rupture maintenance is already an important part of sub dps, elevating it with SV seems redundant.

With the change to SC its not clear why hemo snapshotting and dot rolling was removed since the mechanic wasn’t particularly problematic on its own. It seemed like a good solution to narrow the gap between positional uptime and lack of positional uptime. The mechanic was hugely problematic in the context of the old SC extra tick mechanic but with that mechanic changed it didn’t cause any problems.

Finally I mentioned in the AoE issues in an earlier post on sub AoE but the problem remains, even with the new version of SC. The MS interaction is sub’s big new mechanic and presumably the reason MS is sub’s fancy attuned stat however its value is diminished on AoE or in solo play. While stat weight variance between different situations is expected the lack of MS interaction on solo play and AoE seems problematic. This may also pose problems for subtlety on fights that do not allow high positional uptime, something that may be a problem even with the new, larger, backstab arc (this could be its own item but I’ve mostly given up on it).

2) I’m a huge fan of the new Bandit’s Guile mechanic, I think it has the potential to add a lot of dynamism to the combat rotation but the direction indicated by these two tweets ( and seems worrying. If SS is strictly superior to RvS in every way, as suggested by the last tweet, then delaying BG doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not only are you reducing the uptime of the now 50% deep insight buff but you are also losing out damage and combo points versus normally advancing the rotation. This seems to remove the possibility of optimizations related to synchronizing cooldowns with BG. Shadowboy’s computations ( suggest on sustained single target a 5 second BG delay per cycle in moderate insight works out as dps neutral at best. This seems to relegate the new BG delaying mechanic to skipping enforced downtime, which seems like a waste of a potentially cool mechanic.

Even in the case of enforced downtime its not clear if BG delaying makes sense given the short duration of BG. I mentioned this in one of the first posts of the earlier thread, BG’s 15 second duration doesn’t make a ton of sense given BG’s rotational role as a pseudo-resource much like a monks TeB. Since RvS does not refresh BG using RvS to delay deep insight across even a short period of enforced downtime risks BG dropping completely. At the very least RvS should refresh the duration of the BG buff to make delaying less risky however even better would be increasing the baseline duration of non-deep insight BG. Combat already suffers more than other rogue specs on enforced downtime fights like Lei Shen due to BG falling off and the increased strength of deep insight (50% up from 30%) makes enforced downtime even more problematic. Given the substantial resource investment required to get into deep insight (600 energy, ~30-45 seconds) it seems odd that the buff should fall off so easily.

3) The combo point UI remains inadequate. We’ve talked a lot about the lack of change to combo point UI in this thread but it hasn’t been changed yet so lets talk about it again. The current combo point UI does a terrible job communicating the actual behavior of combo points, its no wonder many rogues believe combo points aren’t really on the rogue and are just being automatically redirected, that is what the UI communicates. Yes we can fix it with addons (kinda, more on that in a moment) but we shouldn’t have to use addons for the fundamental resource system of our class.

The funny part is addons can’t actually solve the issue because the GetComboPoints() function still returns 0 when we do not have an attackable target selected. Its still technically trackable by addons but it requires fully implementing the out of combat combo point decay logic which shouldn’t be necessary. We’ve heard the justification of “consistency” before but I don’t buy it, the functionality is no longer consistent so why should the UI have to be?

Finally on the topic of combo points there seem to be a lot of mechanics that just ignore anticipation. The assassination pvp 4pc bonus sets your combo points to 5 rather than generating 5 combo points. The sub FoK perk only generates extra combo points per target hit but not extra anticipation stacks. With combo points now on the rogue anticipation should work like the Monk talent Ascension and simply grant extra combo point bubbles on the UI. Combo points in the current system feel like a mess, caught half implemented and not totally functional. Three months ago this wasn’t a problem because beta is beta, things are expected to be half implemented and only partially functional but as we’re now in the polishing stage its very worrying.


Subtlety Feedback (WoD Beta)

This is a post with lots of Subtlety PvE feedback. You have been warned. If you are not familiar with the theorycrafting that has been done thus far with Subtlety, I suggest you read my post so that you are up-to-date.

In theory, I really like how Subtlety is changing. The new Multistrike mechanic, SC, is super interesting, and the Fan of Knives perk is amazing. In practice, I think there are a lot of small problems with Subtlety mechanically that all together could make it a bit of a mess. Here goes:


nHemo Weaving

nHemo Weaving is what I and Fierydemise, and therefore everyone, is calling the playstyle of maintaining a certain potency of the Hemorrhage DoT by using some number (n) of Hemorrhages, then using Backstab as the primary combo point builder. In theory, this is really interesting, and in fact using a 4-Hemo rotation was really fun during raid testing. The problem is, there is a good chance that the n will fluctuate quite a bit depending on both gear and RNG.

This could very well lead to addons being required to play Subtlety at a top 100 progression level, which would be a problem. Moreover, for those who do not want an addon or to check out the average number of Hemorrhages to weave every time they get an upgrade, this question becomes even more of a problem, since guide writers have no idea what kind of gear this person has so it could very well be that for one, weaving 4 Hemorrhages is optimal, while for another, a full-Hemorrhage rotation is best. This leads me nicely to my next point.



As I mentioned in my theorycrafting post, it is reasonable for someone with low multistrike to completely forsake Backstab and use a full-Hemorrhage rotation. This is problematic for multiple reasons. First, without Backstab it is unlikely that Multistrike will be our most valuable stat, making justifying it somewhat difficult. I don’t see that as a big issue, but if you are fighting for gear with another class that would use that gear immediately you may find it a hard fight to win. Second, discouraging Multistrike means discouraging our attuned stat, which means Subtlety rogues with bad gear are also getting fewer stats for their item level, which is just kicking them while they’re down. Third, it is super unintuitive to not use Backstab at all for Subtlety, so while it is unlikely that a new player will get the rotation right if they are supposed to be nHemo-weaving, it is even more unlikely that they will on their own realize that Backstab is strictly worse than Hemorrhage for them.



On a similar note, while the Fan of Knives perk is amaaaaaaaazing, the fact that we may actually want to AoE as Subtlety brings to light some of its problems.

First, Subtlety AoE gains no particular benefit from haste, since with 5 CP per FoK you are unlikely to be low on energy unless the AoE lasts quite a long time and autoattacks are less significant. Similarly, Subtlety AoE is unaffected by SC, which means that once again the mechanic that makes our attuned stat good is no longer functional. Crit just kinda continues to be Crit for Subtlety, however with a finisher every other second, Mastery’s value is substantially increased. This means that while for single target DPS we ideally want Multistrike over all else, for AoE we go from caring maybe some but not a ton about mastery to OH DEAR LORD GIMME MORE GIMME MORE. Why is that a problem? Well first of all, it might encourage Subtlety rogues to carry two gear sets so that they can switch to their mastery set for AoE fights, second, because it might encourage rogues to go Assassination for single target and Subtlety for AoE/cleave (depending on how numbers tuning works out) since both specs when used that way would like mastery, and third because shouldn’t our attuned stat be useful in all common circumstances? It is worth noting that a full mastery build would probably discourage the use of Backstab altogether, which I already talked about.

Second, as much hype as there has been regarding SC, I’d argue Find Weakness is still the main mechanic of Subtlety in PvE. Unfortunately, Find Weakness is only applied through single target abilities, which makes it pretty useless in AoE situations. While I could see it being worthwhile in cleave situations, it still involves ignoring the other targets for the duration of the ability as well as only dealing extra damage to one target after AoE resumes.

Finally, none of Subtlety’s AoE abilities do good damage with the possible exception of Crimson Tempest, which takes 12 seconds to do its damage. The lack of instant AoE damage encourages Subtlety rogues to use FoK only for the combo points and just keep dumping them on the boss or for SnD, as the damage dealt that way will be significantly more and other classes are far more capable of dealing with quick AoE bursts.



As I see it there are two basic problems, which I will address one at a time.

The first is Sinister Calling’s interaction with Hemorrhage. Since at this point in Beta this is unlikely for this to be addressed via major mechanical adjustments, I think the two best ways of solving this issue are to revert the change that makes Hemorrhages’ bleed damage be conserved upon refreshes, and to significantly reduce the duration of Hemorrhage, say to dealing 100% of the initial damage over 3 seconds, ticking once every second.

The first would lead to regular Hemo-weaving like we do on live, which I dislike for a few reasons. Right off the bat, the thing I really liked about nHemo-weaving is how I really felt that Hemorrhage and Backstab were working together, and that I had a great deal of control over their interaction. Testing out this rotation on a target dummy, I realized that for the first time since Cataclysm, I felt true satisfaction in executing the Subtlety rotation. Reverting the rotation to single Hemo-weaving would make the spec notably easier to play, which completely removes one of the points of the Multistrike mechanic which was to “add rotational depth” (WoD Beta Patch Notes, Subtlety Section). Right now, Subtlety is super close to being utterly amazing, and removing the rolling periodic behavior from Hemorrhage would be undoing everything good that happened to Subtlety’s single target rotation.

Another objection I have for removing the rolling periodic behavior of Hemorrhage is that the rogue community as a whole will likely see that as a huge nerf to frontal damage. As it is, Sublety rogues are still forced to use Hemorrhage as their primary combo point generator when facing their target. The potency and rolling behavior of Hemorrhage, combined with the frequency in which we can side-stab, finally got some respected raiders that I know to drop positional requirements as a reason not to play Subtlety. Whether valid or not, I think it highly likely that my fellow rogues will once again find it impossible to recommend Subtlety for Mythic progression.

Also, I recently talked about this very issue with Fierydemise and we agreed that sacrificing the rolling periodic behavior of Hemorrhage for the purposes of rotational stability would be a step in the wrong direction. I only say this because when Fiery and I agree on something, it is worth noting.

Can you tell I really don’t want this option? Because I really don’t want this option….

Option two, shortening Hemorrhages bleed to the point where it would be unfeasible to weave more than one Hemorrhage, still has its problems but is also clearly superior. For starters, it keeps the rotation interesting. The dynamic of pooling energy to pull off Hemo-Backstab-Backstab works really well with the need to maintain Rupture and Slice and Dice. While pulling off Hemo-2xBS is easier than 4Hemo-weaving, the fact that Rupture is now the only consistent way to maintain SV makes up for it. This also has the interesting dynamic of Hemorrhage still being good for providing fast SV for quick swaps, but not being passable as a consistent source of the debuff. This is significantly more OK than it is on live, because Rupture does a lot more work in Warlords and therefore should be up more anyway. This rotation also makes Hemorrhage no longer an upkeep buff that should be ideally used during Find Weakness (yes, there would be issues there, losing a few ticks so that it snapshots during FW for more damage would likely be recommended).

I’m getting really tired and know I am missing some arguments regarding the short-duration option, however all in all I think this would solve the issue of nHemo-weaving in a way that would keep Subtlety approximately as fun as it is now on Beta, which is really super fun!

Finally let’s get to the second problem, which is Subtlety’s core mechanics’ lack of interaction with AoE. Honor Among Thieves gets completely overshadowed by FoK, which is fine because getting 5 CP on a generator is amazing and HaT still does work, however Find Weakness and Sinister Calling not interacting at all with AoE is pretty anticlimactic. Since Subtlety’s AoE continues to be pretty meh (not to be confused with its single-target DPS when surrounded by a bunch of baddies), and numbers haven’t been tuned yet, I think it makes sense to talk in terms of adding mechanics which are inevitably going to be buffs.

First on the list is SC, which actually is a serious issue because it messes with stat weights. The easiest way of dealing with this is to make it so that FoK multistrikes proc additional procs of bleeds on the affected target – in other words, add FoK to SC. This would slightly help Subtlety’s problem of backloaded AoE, but mostly make the mechanic that is supposed to make Subtlety rogues want Multistrike actually good on all fights. Thankfully, Crimson Tempest hits for low enough that extra procs shouldn’t be a very big deal, though if they are I would love you to frontload more of its damage as a “nerf”.

Second, Find Weakness. The only reason I mention this is because I really think it is Subtlety’s primary mechanic, and not having it be single target feels awkward. I think the best solution for this is to make Ambush cleave, allowing the debuff to be applied to multiple targets (say in a cone). If this is OP, then instead make Garrote cleave or FoKs from Stealth or Shadow Dance apply FW. While I admit that these mechanics are a bit unintuitive, I think that at the very least Subtlety should have a bit more support of cleave from its primary mechanic.


Subtlety Multistrike Mechanic

This post is my analysis of Subtlety’s new multistrike mechanic that is currently slated for delivery in 6.o, Warlords of Draenor.  Because this post is primarily for theorycrafters, I will be assuming a fair bit more familiarity with math and class mechanics than I usually do.  This post will be broken up into n sections.  In the first, I will describe the mechanic.  In the second, I will list some of the questions theorycrafters have been asking regarding the mechanic.  In this third, I will dump the raw data for work that I have done.  Finally, in the fourth section I will do some analysis.  If you are considering reading this because you are wondering if I will stop sounding like an automaton, then I suggest you instead play some Warcraft.


The Mechanic

Subtlety’s multistrike mechanic, which for now on we will call SC as it is attached to the Sinister Calling passive, reads “When you multistrike with Backstab or Ambush, you also twist the blade, causing all of your Bleed effects to instantly tick an additional time.”  What this translates to is simply, “Your bleeds make Backstab stronger.”

At this point I should mention that making Backstab stronger is quite important for Subtlety, as without this mechanic Backstab does less damage than Hemorrhage on Beta.



  1. How should Hemorrhage be woven into the rotation?  This is the main question.  Since Hemorrhage without multistrike deals more damage than Backstab, it is reasonable to assume that at normal levels of multistrike Hemorrhage might deal more damage than Backstab still, until the Hemo bleed increases Backstab’s potency to the point where it is more powerful.
  2. How should Crimson Tempest be woven into the rotation?  Although Crimson Tempest does much less damage than Eviscerate, it applies a bleed which could lead to Backstab picking up the slack.
  3. How should Garrote be woven into the rotation?  Same deal as the others, though it is important to compare Garrote coming out of Vanish (with MoS and compared to a 60 energy Ambush) and in Shadow Dance (no MoS and 40 energy Ambush).
  4. How do questions 1 and 2 change during during Find Weakness?  Because the Hemorrhage and Crimson Tempest bleeds are based on the damage of the initial hit, the bleed snapshots, making these abilities more potent during Find Weakness compared to their alternatives (Backstab and Eviscerate).
  5. How do questions 1-3 change with gear?  Higher actions per minute and more multistrike are likely to impact the rotation, perhaps substantially.
  6. At low levels of multistrike, how does our rotation change, and is it reasonable to fully forsake the stat until we get enough?  If you are using gear with 0 multistrike on it (so 5% base MS), Backstab may never be worth it, making a full Hemo build optimal and potentially encouraging pulling stats farther away from multistrike, similar to how armor penetration worked in Wrath where it was bad until a specific breakpoint.
  7. Procs.  What the heck do we do about temporary power gains?  This is especially relevant given that our weapon enchant will likely give a multistrike buff.
  8. If we find that at a certain gear set weaving on average n Hemorrhages at a given time is optimal, how far away from optimal is that rotation?  Basically, the point where you want to stop using Hemo and start using Backstab is when the extra tick damage gets high enough.  This means that if on average we are to weave 3 Hemorrhages before using Backstab but the first two crit and double mulstistrike, then our bleed damage will be high enough that it would be optimal to use Backstab.  If this damage difference across a whole fight is large enough, then it could cause people to seek the help of addons, trivializing the rotation.  In many ways, this is the main concern with this mechanic.





With the help of Fierydemise’s APM calculations, I made a spreadsheet that crudely models the damage of Backstab and Hemorrhage and tries to answer question 1.  It has limited support for stats, but you can change the numbers for amount of bleeds on the target.  It makes the false assumption that Hemorrhage and Backstab both cost 35 energy, which means among other things that it will be slightly biased towards Backstab.  The purpose of this spreadsheet is not to be accurate, as much as it is to determine around where the breakpoints for the stats are.  I have enabled editing on this so that people can play with the numbers of bleeds, APM, and multistrike, but I would request that after playing with it you return it to the format you found it in.  The numbers that are there at the moment are accurate as of a few builds ago.

Feel free to change the haste, mulstistrike, crit, and bleed amounts.  Also when you change the haste rating make sure to verify that the APM number actually changed, because I added those later and think there may be some jankiness with it.  Worth noting, the stats I took were me gearing specifically for multistrike using the PvP gear you can purchase, which is to say it is probably a bit more biased than is realistic.  Oh, and I should mention that the Hemo_nC where n is 0/1/2 is how I represent how many ticks have been spent on each Hemo since the last time it refreshed.  That is, if you use Hemo once, then you have hemo_0C set to 1 and the rest set to 0.  If you used Hemo 3 times in a row, then that is using Hemo twice, letting a tick go, and then using it the final time, so you have Hemo_0C set to 1, Hemo_1C set to 2, and Hemo_2C set to 0.

Link to spreadsheet:  (link)

Copy of spreadsheet that you can’t edit (for reference):  (link)


Dummy Testing

Unfortunately the computer I’m on doesn’t have the text file that I saved the data on, but I tested some simple rotation on Beta against the Mythic Test Dummies in Shattrath on Beta.  The rotation was simplified, I was using no cooldowns, and for my relevant talents Anticipation (duh) and Lemon Zest.

Each trial lasted over 5 minutes and most were done with a multistrike heavy gearset.  Some later on were done with substantially less multistrike in order to test question 5, but the primary questions being tested were 1 and 2.


Raid Testing

Thanks to Ninjablaze and the kind folks at <Victory of Whatever> I was able to try out Subtlety during Tuesday’s heroic raid testing.  WOO!  During the tests I kept logs on Skada and have some findings that may be worthwhile but are probably so corrupted by RNG as to be meaningless.  At the very least though I got some interesting findings on questions 6.





Due to the faulty assumptions, the major finding of the spreadsheet is that on some level it makes sense to weave some number of Hemorrhages and Backstabs.  It is also reasonable to guess that the number of Hemorrhages woven should be reasonable high, in the 4-6 range.  In practice, it is difficult to weave more than 5 Hemorrhages due to the amount of energy pooling required and the fact that you have to fit a finisher in there too, but we’ll talk about that a bit more later.  As for the stat weights, the spreadsheet mostly indicates that the number of Hemorrhages woven is reasonable dynamic, such that if this mechanic makes it to live we will probably have to support variable numbers of Hemorrhages in our rotation.


Dummy Testing

First, keep in mind there is an implicit “under the testing conditions” qualifier for all of this.  Also keep in mind that while I did not use anything that provided temporary power gains besides the weapon enchants, there is RNG in these.

When testing Full Hemo and Full Backstab rotations, Full Hemo came out ahead.  This is in-line with the data I had available but verifying it is always nice.  The practical applications are that if you want to be lazy and just use one generator out of stealth, have it be Hemorrhage.

DPS peaked weaving 4-5 Hemorrhages depending on gear, and showed a fairly substantial difference between the low-Hemo rotations, indicating that we might have issues with proper weaving being too important – we’ll see.  At any rate, I would say it definitely makes sense to add support for multiple levels of Hemo weaving into ShadowCraft.

I did not attempt weaving 6 Hemos, as that would have been a great deal of pooling, and required using a finisher in the middle.  Long story short, I don’t think it will be practical, however I could very well be wrong.

Even without using any Hemorrhages, Crimson tempest was not worth it.  It remains to be seen whether better gear (higher APM, more Mastery) will change this.


Raid Testing

First of all, Subtlety appears to be the best spec for kicking hunter BUTT in DPS, so good thing I was there!

For the first boss I was using a premade character with 0 mulstistrike on gear, though was fully enchanted, fooded, and flasked for multistrike.  I started out with a 4-Hemorrhage rotation and had some success, though on that fight it is difficult to measure success as magical damage does not show up on meters.  Later I switched to full mastery enchants/food/flask and a full Hemo rotation and saw an increase in my DPS, although that was only for a few attempts so it may well have been RNG.  That said, forsaking multistrike and going full Hemo if moderate-high levels of multistrike are unattainable is worth looking into.

For the two other tests I used a level 100 premade with high-multistrike gear and a 4-Hemo rotation for all attempts.  All I can say is the pacing and feel of the spec is pretty good with that rotation.


Thhhhhhhat’s all folks!

If you have questions or anything to add, please feel free to join the discussion on the Subtlety multistrike mechanic at the theorycrafting forum!


Fixing Subtlety AoE

Another cross post from the official forums.

Talked with Vigilate in #ravenholdt about this earlier so its no surprise we agree but seeing sub AoE in action tonight on a fight like Beastlord where there are almost always 5+ targets made me rethink what I said previously about the sub AoE rotation.  The sub AoE rotation doesn’t feel bad but looking at the damage meters (obviously acknowledging that the tuning pass hasn’t happened yet), it feels really weak.

The key problem is none of our AoE abilities hit hard enough.  FoK and CT do not do enough damage, quick dummy numbers as sub put FoK at around 800 damage with CT at around 1.8K (mastery stacking gear set up for assassination),  To put these numbers in perspective, FoK is dealing less damage than an OH white swing while CT is comparable to an OH white swing.  Things aren’t as problematic for assassination due to the power of poisons but with subtlety, which has to rely solely on FoK and CT shows very clearly how weak they are.

In addition to raw number tuning the subtlety AoE and ST target rotations have basically nothing to do with each other.  You keep up SnD and rupture because of massive cp overflow but otherwise you are just spamming FoK->CT->FoK->CT ad infinitum.  All of the mechanics that define subtlety on single target, vanish, shadow dance, find weakness, fit into the AoE rotation about as easily as an elephant in a phone booth.  A simple solution to this would be a new AoE opener which applies FW to all targets it hits or even simpler FoK applies FW to all targets if cast from stealth or during shadow dance.  This doesn’t have the complexity of a single target FW but it allows sub’s AoE rotation to integrate more smoothly with its primary mechanics.

In addition to the FW issue sub suffers from the “s word”, stat scaling on AoE is messy.  Given the low number of FoKs per CT while AoEing subtlety has substantial energy overflow degrading the value of haste.  More problematically, the new sub MS mechanic is entirely non-functional on AoE when backstab is replaced wholesale by FoK.  I understand that stat weights will change in different situations but to have the mechanic that makes MS interesting as subtlety’s attuned stat be entirely non-functional on AoE seems wrong.  A simple fix would be to allow FoK MSs to proc additional bleed ticks just like backstab. Since FoK and backstab have the same energy cost this is unlikely to cause odd side effects in the single target rotation.  Combine this with the previous idea of AoE FW and potentially a damage buff to FoK and CT and subtlety could have a solid AoE burst niche, in line with its single target burst niche.


Beta Rogue Rotation APM

Another cross post from the official feedback forum.

A few days ago I posted my thoughts on rotations for each spec on beta, a couple days Vigilate posted his thoughts on combat on Sentry Totem which mostly lined up with my own.  One thing sorely lacking from both our analysis was numerical backing.  Today in#ravenholdt someone asked what the actions per minute for combat would be in WoD compared to MoP so I decided to compute this for all three specs.

A couple notes about these APM computations.  These are simple steady state models, they do not take into account time varying stats or temporary buffs unless otherwise noted.  Vanish is not taken into account which would increase the APM of each spec somewhat.  The stat amounts for each spec are based on the ilvl 660 premade gear which I believe is equivalent to WoD Normal/MoP Flex level gear, additionally to see if “haste will fix it” computations are done for two other haste points.  The upper haste point of 1500 haste rating is something I believe will be reachable during the first tier since the premade gear set is somewhat light on haste and not enchanted which can add an additional 540 haste.  The MoP models use WoD stats but otherwise uses the MoP launch mechanics, so for example 40 energy sinister strike and no ruthlessness for combat.

Mastery for combat and crit for assassination are held constant between the haste points.  All models assume Lemon Zest as the level 100 talent, the combat model adds 3 target LZ with blade flurry.  3 target LZ is not considered for other specs because AoE rotations are not set in stone yet and number of targets adds more complexity than it adds in clarity.

Some top line numbers (full results linked below)

Assassination_APM_WoD_No_Execute: 31.77
Assassination_APM_MoP_No_Execute: 37.44

Assassination_APM_WoD_Execute: 39.75
Assassination_APM_MoP_Execute: 34.32

Combat APM_WoD: 27.69
Combat APM_MoP: 28.85

Combat_APM_WoD_3rd_Haste_Point: 30.9 
Combat_APM_MoP_3rd_Haste_Point: 30.7
Combat APM_WoD_AR: 50.23
Combat_APM_MoP_AP+SB: 58.17

Subtlety_APM_WoD: 38.11
Subtlety_APM_MoP: 37.02

These numbers confirm a number of the observations made about rogue dps specs.

  1. Assassination is much faster.  A number of people have commented that assassination on beta feels much smoother than it does on live and these numbers bear that out.  Assassination gains more than 4 APM over MoP which helps make the spec feel much smoother at low ilvls.
  2. Combat is slower.  While both assassination and subtlety both gained APM going from MoP to WoD due to true haste buff and lemon zest, combat loses 1 APM due to increased SS energy cost.  Despite this combat’s energy regen appears to scale faster with haste than it did in MoP, note that despite starting 1 APM slower in WoD at the 3rd haste point combat is as fast as its MoP equivalent and if you were to extend that more, for example to T18 levels of haste, it would more than pass the MoP APM.  This could cause issues for combat down the line, while the enhanced AR perk will probably keep combat from ever GCD capping during AR as Vigilate has pointed out previously very few people actually enjoyed the 0.5 second GCD during ToT.
  3. The gap between AR and not AR is lower than MoP but still problematic.  The loss of shadow blades slows combat down by about 14% during adrenaline rush, however the APM gap is still quite substantial.  The drastic difference in speed between the two states exacerbates the sluggish feeling of the spec without adrenaline rush up.  Additionally, while I do not attempt to quantify restless blades interaction here the slowdown during adrenaline rush leads to a longer effective adrenaline rush cooldown which makes the spec feel slower still.

There are probably other pieces of additional information to be gleaned from the full spreadsheet so it is provided below.

A number of people have expressed an interest in how these are computed. The spreadsheet isn’t particularly well documented but it should be understandable. At a high level these computations are based on the resource budget modeling technique discussed previously in the context of ShadowCraft.  If you have questions about the spreadsheet leave them in the comments or come join the conversation in #ravenholdt.


Beta Rogue Rotation Feedback

Cross posted from official forum feedback thread because I doubt many people are following the beta feedback threads too carefully.

Testing done with a level 100 premade.  Level 100 talent was Lemon Zest.

Single Target:

Assassination– Overall feels pretty good, energy regeneration in level 100 premade gear (ilvl 660) seemed about right especially with lemon zest proving an addition 0.6 energy per second.  There are two problems with the spec, vendetta and complexity.  Vendetta remains a really boring button to press with absolutely zero rotational interaction.  Especially compared to the cooldowns of the other two specs vendetta feels very lacking.  I completely forgot about the vendetta crit perk till I was writing this just now as I didn’t notice it during testing.  The spec also feels like its missing a mechanic.  The new emphasis on envenom is good but it isn’t enough to make the spec challenging and interesting.  The combination of the new pandemic mechanic plus the rate that spec plays at means that you’d be hard pressed to generate combo points fast enough to clip envenom.

Combat– Combat feels very slow, not just compared to current live speed but compared to the other two specs.  While combat does have faster energy regeneration than the other two specs the much higher energy cost per combo point makes the spec feel very slow.  The energy cost of sinister strike probably should be returned to 40 energy and then rebalance adrenaline rush so the spec doesn’t feel too spammy.  I’m also somewhat worried about the UI requirements of the new bandit’s guile system, I’m a huge fan of the design but this mechanic is going to require addons to play correctly.  You can track the progress in your head reasonably well but it requires a fair amount of concentration, especially if you are also trying to mentally track bandit’s guile progress (As a reminder this really needs better UI support).

Subtlety– Subtlety hasn’t changed much from live where it’s a lot of fun and so it still plays very well on beta.  The pace seems good and find weakness optimization is still a fun mechanic, albeit a frustrating one with the default UI.  The problem is that is really all the spec has going for it right now, the resource generation is high enough (even without full HAT saturation) to keep SnD and rupture up trivially without having to refresh during dance which was one of the major sources of complexity in the spec.  If the design intent is for subtlety is for the spec to be intentionally more difficulty it certainly isn’t living up to that now.  The durations of SnD and rupture need to be reduced substantially, at least 20% to 30% to make subtlety rogues have resource constraints that need to be actively managed.

AoE (Two AoE cases examined, priority target with incidental cleave on two targets and sustained three target AoE):

Note: Crimson Tempest is currently proccing Relentless Strikes per target which probably isn’t intended, I’ve tried to consider the impact of that additional energy to evaluate these rotations without this behavior.  I’ll also note that even if this isn’t intended it does make the current rotations better.

Assassination– Lemon Zest speeds up the rotation very nicely when you have multiple targets to cleave.  I’d like to see the default UI provide a bit more information about Lemon Zest, specifically how long your shortest deadly poison has left but that may be enough of specialized piece of information for addons to handle.  For sustained AoE rupture multidotting and weaving in crimson tempests is a lot of fun, on three targets it feels like you have infinite energy and crimson tempest as AoE poison damage increase synergizes nicely.  Even discounting the possible CT, RS bug (weaving envenoms rather than CT) the energy regen feels quite high. I don’t know if this is the intended or optimal damage AoE rotation for assassination but it is a great rotation so I hope it is.

Combat– The combat single target rotation is slow and AoE is even slower.  The blade flurry energy penalty makes the spec feel even worse.  Blade flurry provides passive maintenance for lemon zest which helps counter the blade flurry energy penalty but still slows the rotation substantially.  For sustained AoE CT basically effectively replaces eviscerate with a time to die breakeven point depending on the number of targets.  CT does not however feel like an exciting button to press, at least not without the possibly unintended RS interaction.  The same issues that plague the single target rotation plague combat here, the rotation feels incredibly slow and when compared to the way the other two specs speed up on AoE it feels even worse.

Subtlety– Combo points per target on FoK feels exactly as overpowered as we all expected but given subtlety’s current AoE weaknesses on live I’m not sure that is a huge problem.  The combo point overflow exacerbates the lack of resource limitations and multiple target lemon zest maintenance is a bit more frustrating for subtlety compared to the other two specs but it isn’t a deal breaker.  On sustained AoE CT as a rolling dot can result in some pretty beefy dots on a lot of targets but doesn’t provide a lot of AoE burst which seems like a good tradeoff.  The one complaint I have with sub AoE is the general lack of interaction between its major single target mechanic, shadow dance, and AoE, it makes the two rotations feel somewhat disconnected.

To recap:
Assassination Single Target: Good pace and flow, vendetta is boring and spec doesn’t have enough skill rewarding mechanics.
Combat Single Target: Way too slow, BG needs better UI support and may still be too hard to manage without addons.
Subtlety Single Target: Good pace, dance is still a good mechanic, not enough resource limitations to challenge players.
Assassination AoE: Good pace and flow, rotation is really fun.  Awesome design, please don’t change.
Combat AoE: SLOWWW, not particularly interesting but basically function.
Subtlety AoE: Good pace, very high combo point generation is fun, may need more interaction with single target.


Assassination Rogue PvE Guide (WoW: Warlords 6.2)

Assassination is a timing based spec where the principle decision-making process is when to use abilities.  This timing based design lends Assassination a slower pace, often with more than 30% of GCDs unused.  Assassination is generally considered the most new player friendly and forgiving spec however Assassination does offer a number of places to optimize damage, especially in multi-target scenarios.  Assassination’s central mechanic is Envenom and pooling energy to squeeze as many abilities as possible into the Envenom buff.  Assassination excels on fights with a major dps check when the target is below 35% or if the target will spend a greater than normal amount of time below 35%.


Tier 15: Stealth Talents

The tier 15 talents provide a small dps increase when using vanish.  The dps difference between Shadow Focus and Nightstalker is generally less than 0.2%.

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Nightstalker is slightly weaker than Shadow Focus so it is generally not used however the difference is negligible on most boss encounters.

Subterfuge allows the player to use stealth abilities for a longer duration however at their full energy cost stealth abilities are strictly weaker than their non-stealth counterparts making Subterfuge useless.

Shadow Focus is the numerically best talent on the tier however the gap between it and Nightstalker is very small.


Tier 30: Utility Talents

The tier 30 talents are in general quite situational and in most scenarios not particularly useful.  There is no general recommendation for this tier.

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Deadly Throw can be used for dealing damage from range when paired with the tier 90 talent Shuriken Toss however this is quite rare.  Deadly Throw can also be used as a backup interrupt on “interrupt-or-die” fights such as Fallen Protectors.  Using Deadly Throw as an interrupt requires 3 combo points and is a dps loss; a multi-person interrupt rotation is generally preferable.

Nerve Strike can be useful on fights with a dangerous add that needs to be stunned till death, for example the large adds during the Tsulong day phase.  Nerve Strike provides a very powerful buffer on an add that needs to be stunned till death by substantially reducing the target’s damage output after the stun fades.

Combat Readiness can be useful on fights where you expect to take melee swings from a non-boss attacker such as Dark Animus.  Since the damage reduction applies to all sources of damage but only stacks from melee attacks this can be a very powerful defensive cooldown if allowed to stack.


Tier 45: Survivability Talents

All tier 45 talents can be useful depending on the damage profile of the fight.  Cheat Death is a strong general purpose choice for progression raiding but the other talents on the tier can be situationally better.

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Cheat Death allows a lethal mistake to not waste a battle res.  In a progression raiding environment this can be invaluable even if you don’t expect to make mistakes since mistakes from other people in your raid group can be lethal to you.  Cheat Death is best on fights with spikey, unpredictable damage where mechanics will kill you if you are not topped off.

Leeching Poison is considered the weakest talent on this tier however it can still be useful on fights with moderate constant damage where most of the healing will not overheal.  On fights with spikey damage much of the healing provided will be overhealing.  Leeching Poison is also somewhat weaker for Assassination since a majority of its damage does not come from weapon strikes.

Elusiveness is very powerful on fights where you will need to soak a high damage mechanic with high regularity.  Elusiveness adds an additional 15% damage reduction on AoE which can be enough to make certain mechanics such as Sparks on Heroic Will of the Emperor soakable.  Certain mechanics such as Violent Gale Winds on Lei Shen are not considered AoE damage and on those Elusiveness grants a 30% damage reduction.


Tier 60: Mobility Talents

Both Burst of Speed and Shadowstep can be useful in a raiding environment.  Shadowstep is generally preferred if there isn’t a specific need for Burst of Speed since it does not cost energy.

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Cloak and Dagger is rarely used in a raiding environment since players rarely enter stealth during boss fights.

Shadowstep is the strongest general purpose talent on this tier, the 24 second cooldown is enough for most boss movement if planned appropriately and unlike burst of speed it does not cost energy to use.  Shadowstep can also be useful to attack enemies you would not otherwise be able to reach such as the Siege Engineers on Garrosh.

Burst of Speed while not generally the best talent for general mobility has a number of situational uses where it can be better than Shadowstep.  Burst of Speed is powerful on fights that have sustained mobility requirements such as the kite phase of Thok or fights where a snare break may be needed such as Heroic Malkorok.


Tier 75: Crowd Control Talents

As with Tier 30 talents the tier 75 talents are highly situational and there is no general recommendation on this tier.

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Prey on the Weak is quite powerful on fights with adds that need to be stunned to death and provides a useful damage boost to the rest of the raid that will generally make up for the personal damage loss from using Kidney Shot instead of Envenom.

Internal Bleeding

Dirty Tricks is generally not useful in a raiding environment since even if your dots will not break Gouge and Blind, other people’s dots will.  Gouge and Blind are rarely used so the energy reduction is not particularly useful.


Tier 90: Combo Point Talents

Both Anticipation and Marked for Death are useful in a raids. Anticipation is generally considered the stronger talent since it provides substantial quality of life benefits.  On add heavy fights Marked for Death is the stronger talent.

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Shuriken Toss allows you to dps from range to a limited degree, this is rarely useful since the damage from Shuriken Toss and the ranged auto attacks is less than that of a full ranged dps.

Marked For Death grants a similar number of combo points per minute to Anticipation on a single target however it is generally considered harder to play and so is rarely used on single target.  On add heavy fights such as Spoils of Pandaria where the cooldown reset is utilized it is a very powerful talent.  Marked for Death is also useful on fights where an add must be stunned very rapidly since you do not need to build combo points on that target.

Anticipation is generally considered the standard talent on tier 90 since it provides comparable damage to Marked for Death and a significant quality of life increase.  Anticipation provides a combo point buffer that allows greater control over ability timings such as an additional combo point builder during the Envenom buff to prevent Envenom clipping.


Tier 100: Damage Talents

Shadow Reflection is the numerically best talent on this tier and has strong synergy with assassination’s primary cooldown vendetta.

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Venom RushLemon Zest is a theoretically strong AoE talent however since assassination AoE tends to create energy capping it is less useful in AoE situations.  Venom Rush can be beneficial on fights with incidental AoE.

Shadow Reflection has strong synergy with vendetta and is the numerically strongest talent on the tier.  Shadow Reflection should be macroed with vendetta making sure that shadow reflection is cast before vendetta.

Death from Above is a weak talent for assassination, while the additional damage from envenom the high energy cost results in slightly lower envenom buff uptime.



Damage Increasing Glyphs

Glyph of Vendetta increases the duration of Vendetta but reduces the damage bonus.  If you can stay on the target for greater than 24 seconds (20 without glyph) this is a dps increase.  If a fight requires burst you may want to replace this glyph.

Glyph of Disappearance – Increases overall combo point generation through vanish, generally ~1% dps increase.

Glyph of Energy – Allows you to pool to higher energy before using envenom.  Generally a small dps increase (<0.2%) since sufficient pooling can be done without the glyph.


Utility Glyphs

Glyph of Cloak of Shadows makes Cloak of Shadows useful against physical damage.  On fights with low amounts of magical damage to mitigate or physical damage that aligns with magical damage this glyph makes Cloak of Shadows even stronger.

Glyph of Feint increases the duration of Feint.  On pulsing aura fights where you are attempting to keep high Feint uptime, this glyph reduces the amount of energy needed for Feint.

Glyph of Smoke Bomb increases the duration of Smoke Bomb by 2 seconds.  If Smoke Bomb is being used to mitigate more than a single AoE pulse this glyph is very powerful.  Additionally your raid leader, when planning cooldowns, may expect you to have this glyph; talk to your raid leader if you don’t plan to use this glyph.

Glyph of Sprint makes sprint a 100% speed boost (mount speed).  This can be useful on fights where you utilize Sprint heavily.  Additionally the greater run speed can be very useful to combat pushback mechanics which have been very common this expansion.

Minor Glyphs

Glyph of Poisons makes poisons apply faster.  This is a useful, albeit minor, quality of life glyph.

Glyph of Safe Fall can be useful on fights with knock up mechanics.  It can be also be useful to defeat the deadly elevator boss in most raid instances.



The majority of this section assumes you are using Shadow Focus (Tier 15 talent), Anticipation (Tier 90 talent), and Shadow Reflection (Tier 100 talent).  If you are not using any of these, check out the “Alternative Builds” subsection.  This guide also assumes 120 maximum energy, so keep in mind that pooling to 100 energy is not a suggestion to energy cap.


The best lethal poison is Deadly Poison.  As for non-lethal poisons, if you are running Leeching Poison then use it, otherwise Crippling Poison is the only option.  It is worth noting that Crippling Poison is highly situational, while Deadly is completely essential.

Single Target

The basic assassination priority is:

  1. Keep Rupture up on the target (note that Slice and Dice no longer needs to be used, thanks to the Draenor perk Improved Slice and Dice)
  2. Use Envenom at 5 combo points if the Envenom buff is not up OR if you are going to energy cap
  3. Use Dispatch when available for combo points
  4. Mutilate for combo points

Assassination’s central mechanic is the Envenom buff which increases your poison application chance.  The goal of Assassination dps is to maximize Envenom buff uptime and maximize the number of special abilities which you use during the Envenom buff.  Note that capping energy is worse than clipping the Envenom buff, in cases of energy overflow such as during Bloodlust you should clip the Envenom buff instead of energy capping.

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Envenom pooling is a technique to maximize the number of special abilities used during the Envenom buff.  When you have enough combo points to use an Envenom, pool energy until you are at approximate 80% of your total energy pool then Envenom and immediately follow it with Mutilates or Dispatches.  With sufficient energy regen this will move most of your combo builders into the Envenom buff.


Cooldowns:  Assassination has two major cooldowns,  Vendetta and the talent Shadow Reflection  These cooldowns should be macroed together with Shadow Reflection cast first so the reflection casts its own vendetta.

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Assassination’s cooldowns do not substantially change the rotation so the primary consideration is using the cooldowns optimally within the fight timing.  Since assassination has a strong execute mechanic under 35%, cooldowns should ideally be used during that execute phase and aligned with bloodlust whenever possible. The key idea is you can freely delay cooldowns if that delay will not cost you an additional use of the cooldown.  For instance on a 5:30 minute fight assassination will get at most 3 cooldown uses and so vendetta can be delayed up to a full minute without losing a cooldown use, this additional minute of timing can be used to align cooldowns with bloodlust and/or execute phase.


Multiple Target

Assassination has a number of different approaches to AoE depending on the scenario. 

Sustained AoE/Cleave: Rupture Multi-dotting

Since Assassination gains energy from Rupture ticks due to Venomous Wounds applying Rupture to multiple targets grants substantial energy.  In a 2 target cleave scenario use Mutilate and Dispatch as your primary combo builders and apply Rupture to both targets.  Remember that Venomous Wounds requires Deadly Poison on all targets, use Fan of Knives to keep Deadly Poison up on one target while building combo points on a different target. 

On 3 or more targets, replace Mutilate and Dispatch with Fan of Knives as your primary combo builder and get Ruptures up on as many targets as possible, typically 3-4.  Instead of using full 5 point Ruptures on these targets, use 2-3 point ruptures, this will allow you to get more Ruptures out simultaneously.

Incidental AoE/Cleave

Unlike multi-dotting for other specs, Rupture multi-dotting is not a single target dps increase, so if the goal is a single primary target with incidental cleave or AoE do not Rupture mutli-dot.  Instead simply do your single target rotation as normal on the primary target and use Fan of Knives to spread Deadly Poison when it is about to fall off on your other targets.

Burst AoE: Envenom+Fan

For burst AoE, Lei Shen’s Ball Lightning for example, instead of spreading Ruptures to targets that will die shortly, attempt to maximize poison damage on the adds.  Before the AoE begins, generate 5 combo points and pool energy, if timed correctly the adds should spawn just before max energy.  When the adds spawn use Envenom and spam Fan of Knives. The Envenom buff will increase the number of poison procs you get from the Fan of knives spam.

Gaming Venomous Wounds Energy Refund

Venomous Wounds refunds energy based on the duration of the Rupture remaining on the target.  On add heavy fights such as Horridon or Spoils of Pandaria, you can game this mechanic, especially with the tier 90 talent Marked for Death.  Use Marked for Death to apply 5 point Ruptures to adds that will die shortly and then continue damaging your primary target.  When the add dies you will get a full energy bar which can should be used to apply another 5 point Rupture to another short lived add.  This is beneficial because the net energy gain from Venomous Wounds should be greater than the net energy cost of applying a 5 point Rupture using Marked for Death.

Alternative Builds

Marked for Death:  Use finishers at >4 combo points rather than 5 combo points to prevent combo point waste.

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When using the tier 90 talent, Marked for Death, instead of the tier 90 talent, Anticipation, you should use a “4+ finisher rotation” rather than a 5 finisher rotation.  In a 4+ finisher rotation if you are at 4 combo points and Dispatch is not available, use a finisher (or pool for your next Envenom) rather than using another Mutilate.  This is because the combo point lost from Mutilate, since it generates 2 combo points, is worth more than the additional damage from Envenom and Envenom buff time.  Additionally if you have a Blindside proc at 5 combo points you should use a finisher before you use Dispatch.



Subtlety Rogue PvE Guide (WoW: Warlords 6.2)

NOTE (2/27):  The bug where Glyph of Vanish can provide extra Subterfuge buffs is back, so that is now a recommended DPS glyph. 

Subtlety is a resource management spec based on juggling several timers and short cooldowns.  Subtlety is paced somewhere in between Assassination and Combat with about 20% of GCDs unused.  Subtlety is often considered a more challenging spec with a number of mechanics that require precise execution.  Subtlety excels on fights with high regularity burst where it can exploit its primary Find Weakness mechanic.


Tier 15: Subterfuge

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Nightstalker– While extra damage on Ambush is nice, the biggest part of Ambush’s damage comes from Find Weakness and the extra Combo Point, which this does not buff.

Subterfuge– This allows us to use a second Ambush from stealth, increasing our Find Weakness uptime.  This talent tends to be slightly ahead of Shadow Focus and significantly ahead of Nightstalker.

Shadow Focus– Having Ambush cost only 15 energy is quite significant, although it is not quite worth the hit to Find Weakness uptime that you get by not taking Subterfuge.


Tier 30: Your Choice

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Deadly Throw- Useful as a ranged interrupt or in fights where you will be spending a lot of time at range such that you might overflow on Combo Points, however these situations are quite rare in today’s raiding scene.

Nerve Strike– Useful when dealing with big adds that can be stunned, although like the other talents in this tier, such situations are rare.

Combat Readiness- Good when taking steady, reasonably small amounts of physical damage.


Tier 45: Cheat Death

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Cheat Death- This is the most consistent talents on this tier as what amounts to an extra life is useful on all fights, which is why we suggest it.

Leeching Poiso– Generally considered our weakest survivability talent, this is still useful on fights where you will take continuous but not particularly threatening amounts of damage.  While this is the least likely to save you on its own, it can save you healers a lot of mana.

Elusiveness– This is very strong on encounters where you will be taking large amounts of damage and can predict when.  It is worth noting that this stacks multiplicatively with feint’s main effect, so your total AoE damage reduction will be 65%.  If you are not taking Cheat Death, this is probably the strongest option as when it does work it does a LOT.


Tier 60: Shadowstep

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Cloak and Dagger- This talent is pretty terrible, do yourself a favor and don’t use it.

Shadowstep– Widely considered our best mobility talent, teleporting behind a target is extremely useful for swapping to/from adds and getting into position for Backstabs.  Just make sure you don’t kill yourself with it and you’ll be fine.

Burst of Speed– Useful for fights that involve a lot of frequent movement, however the energy cost and the fact that we already have Sprint make this talent rarely worth it.


Tier 75: Your Choice

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Prey on the Weak– Extremely good for dealing with stunnable mobs that need to be killed by your raid.  Unfortunately, that situation almost never comes up.

Internal Bleeding

Dirty Tricks- This talent is just not useful in group PvE content.


Tier 90: Marked for Death / Anticipation

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Shuriken Toss– Only good in fights where you will be spending an inordinate amount of time at range, which in today’s raiding scene is quite rare.

Marked For Death– Our best talent for single target DPS as well as fights with periodic adds.  Using this on adds for the cooldown reset is ideal however if that is not possible than try to use it during Find Weakness.

Anticipation– Greatly simplifies the rotation by making wasted combo points a thing of the past.  This is our best talent for fights with important AoE and prolonged cleave as the talent will catch the extra Combo Points obtained through Empowered Fan of Knives.


Tier 100: Shadow Reflection

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Venom RushLemon Zest – Strong for fights with important AoE phases.

Shadow Reflection – Has great synergy with Shadow Dance.  This is our biggest DPS talent and can just be macro’d in with Shadow Dance.

Death from Above – As fancy as this talent is, Shadow Reflection’s synergy with Shadow Dance is currently too good to pass up.  If used well, it is about as good as Venom Rush on a single target.  NOTE:  There is some disagreement on this talent between ShadowCraft and SimulationCraft on how much of an impact this talent makes.  It is generally considered worse than Shadow Reflection currently, but the buffs slated for 6.1 might change this.



Damage Increasing Glyphs

Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins – Allows you to quickly apply Sanguinary Veins.  Extremely useful for fights with adds.

Glyph of Energy – Lets you pool more energy before using cooldowns, as well as waste less energy during prolonged periods of downtime.

Utility Glyphs

Glyph of Cloak of Shadows – Useful if you are taking infrequent, predictable, and heavy bursts of physical damage and don’t have anything better to Cloak.

Glyph of Feint – Similar to Glyph of Smoke Bomb, this is useful for fights with heavy sustained AoE damage where you will want to use Feint as soon as it expires.

Glyph of Deadly Momentum – Useful for fights involving adds that you have a high chance of dealing the killing blow on. 

Glyph of Smoke Bomb – Typically useful on fights with heavy sustained raid damage where Smoke Bomb will be useful for its entire duration.

Glyph of Sprint – An all-around solid choice, although our mobility is such that this is often unnecessary.

Minor Glyphs

Glyph of Safe Fall can be useful on fights with knock up mechanics.  It can be also be useful to defeat the deadly elevator boss in most raid instances.

Stats and Gearing

As a general rule, use whatever items have the most agility.  While it is tempting to give a straight stat priority for the secondary stats, their values change quite a bit depending on gear.  Instead, we suggest you go straight to the source of numbers and use ShadowCraft.  



The majority of this section assumes you are using Subtefuge (Tier 15 talent), Anticipation (Tier 90 talent), Shadow Reflection (Tier 100 talent), and Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins.  If you are not using any of these, check out the “Alternative Builds” subsection.  This guide also assumes 120 maximum energy, so keep in mind that pooling to 100 energy is not a suggestion to energy cap, but rather to pool as much energy as possible without capping.


The best lethal poison is Deadly Poison.  As for non-lethal poisons, if you are running Leeching Poison then use it, otherwise Crippling Poison is the only option.  It is worth noting that Crippling Poison is highly situational, while Deadly is completely essential.

Single Target

Opener:  Premeditation or Marked for Death > Prepot+Slice and Dice > Follow Your Heart

(If you have the tier 18 4-piece bonus, your heart should probably tell you to pop all cooldowns and go ham.)

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Subtlety’s opener is all about getting Find Weakness, Slice and Dice, and Sanguinary Veins started as soon as possible, which is why despite Garrote not actually doing damage it is our best opener. Keep in mind that Premeditation > Slice and Dice can (and probably should) be used slightly before the fight.  The opener is the only time you will want to clip Find Weakness, as Dancing during prepot, bloodlust, and trinket/enchant procs is huge.

Openers make up a tiny portion of your overall DPS and are very often in one of the least critical parts of the fight.  Generally speaking, as long as you are starting in Stealth and getting your Sanginary Veins, Find Weakness, and Slice and Dice up quickly you will be doing very close to optimal DPS.  While there are some people who enjoy fiddling around with SimulationCraft to create the perfect opener, the margins for these openers are extremely small to the point where you’d do better off to simply not mess up later in the fight.  The exception to all this is if you have the tier 18 four-piece bonus, which appears to make it beneficial to pop all cooldowns immediately in order to stack the damage buff.


Generators:  Ambush > Backstab Hemorrhage

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Ambush is by far your best CP generator, yielding both the most damage per energy and the most Combo Points per energy.  If it is time to use a generator and you can use Ambush, you should use Ambush.  When Ambush is not available use Backstab.  Hemorrhage should be used when facing the target and at high energy so as to avoid capping.  It can also be used for its bleed which combined with Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins adds redundancy to Sanguinary Veins.  Using Hemorrhage instead of Backstab to keep up the bleed has almost no effect on DPS and what little it theoretically does depends on gear.  At this point it should be noted that Sinister Calling, which causes your Backstab and Ambush multistrikes to speed up your bleeds by 2 seconds, does not actually have any impact on our optimal rotation.  Hemorrhage’s other use comes from Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins, as it is our quickest and cheapest way to apply Sanguinary Vein outside of Stealth.  This makes it exceptionally useful for target swapping.


Finishers:  Slice and Dice > Rupture Eviscerate

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Ignoring Sanguinary Veins, the damage you gain from Slice and Dice is far greater than the damage of either Rupture of Eviscerate, and therefore it should have 100% uptime.  However, with Rupture as the only source applying Sanguinary Vein to your target, it becomes much less clear which is better.  Thankfully, the Pandemic mechanic solves this by allowing us to refresh our buffs and debuffs when they only have 30% of their normal duration remaining.  This means a 5 Combo Point Slice and Dice can be refreshed as long as it has fewer than 12 seconds left in its duration, and a 5 Combo Point Rupture can be refreshed as long as it has fewer than 8 seconds left in its duration.  Because Backstab and Ambush multistrikes advance Rupture, it is usually best to refresh Rupture as early as possible without losing ticks.  If neither Rupture nor Slice and Dice need to be refreshed, then use Eviscerate as filler.  It should be noted that Eviscerate does less damage than Rupture even during Find Weakness, and as such the debuff does not change our finisher priority.


Cooldowns:  Shadow Reflection + Shadow Dance > Vanish, also there’s Preparation and Shadowmeld

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Before using any cooldown, make sure you pool energy as much as possible without capping.  This ensures you will be able to fit the most damage into the upcoming Find Weakness buff, as well as Spambush more.  Shadow Dance is by far our best Cooldown, and it should be used as close to on-cooldown as possible without clipping Find Weakness or having your target run off/die on you.  Because Ambush is great, Shadow Reflection should be used in conjunction with Shadow Dance.  After Shadow Dance comes Vanish on the priority list, which with Subterfuge is basically just Shadow Dance’s slightly disappointing cousin, complete with a longer cooldown, shorter duration, and more expensive Ambush.  At least it applies Master of Subtlety though, which is something Shadow Dance could never do.  During both of these cooldowns you’ll want to be trying to fit as many Ambushes as possible into them, making sure to both begin and end with an Ambush to maximize Find Weakness uptime.  You’ll also want to throw Premeditation somewhere in there if it is ready, although be careful not to use it when you have more than 3 Combo Points because it does not add Anticipation charges.  Preparation can be used to reset the cooldown of Vanish.  In short fights where you can only get one Preparation in, try to save it for Heroism.  For longer fights, try to use it early so you can get a second one in later.  For anyone playing a Night Elf, Shadowmeld can be used to get an extra Ambush.


Multiple Target

Subtlety has many different ways of dealing with the various types of multiple target scenarios we encounter.  Below is what we suggest for the most common situations, although it is important to use your best judgment in deciding how you should be doing damage.

AoE:  When dealing with large packs of mobs (5+) that all need to die, your best bet is to use Fan of Knives as your generator and replace Rupture/Eviscerate with Crimson Tempest.  Still keep up Slice and Dice.

Cleave:  In situations where you have 2-4 high priority targets that need to die, you should replace Backstab with Fan of Knives as the extra Combo Points it applies makes up for its weaker damage and the lack of Sinister Calling procs.  It is also optimal to spread Rupture to all targets and keep up Crimson Tempest for its bleed.  It should be noted that Crimson Tempest does not eclipse Rupture in this scenario.  Cooldowns should still be used as normal unless mechanics dictate otherwise, and during Find Weakness Eviscerate becomes better than Crimson Tempest against two targets, but not against three.  As always, keep up Slice and Dice.

Incidental Cleave:  This is the situation where Subtlety truly shines.  When dealing with an enemy with lots of health while surrounded by relatively low priority adds, your job as a Subtlety rogue is to abuse the Empowered Fan of Knives perk and pump out massive amounts of single target DPS into your foe all the while hoping that the hunter who is trying to kill the adds around you has a sudden attack of the sniffles and can no longer do their job.  Fan of Knives should completely replace Backstab while you do your single target rotation otherwise normally. At three targets it becomes optimal to use Ambush only for Find Weakness and fill the rest of your Shadow Dance with Fan of Knives.


Alternative Builds

Marked for Death:  Get the most uses out of this as possible, using it during Find Weakness when possible.  Also, try not to waste Combo Points.

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Marked for Death can be an incredibly powerful talent if used well.  In general, you should try to get the most uses out of it as possible.  This means using it against things that will die quickly whenever possible in order to reset the cooldown.  At times when you won’t be able to reset the cooldown any time soon, say in a phase with no adds, use this ability during Find Weakness for maximum benefit.  This is also a good way to get a Rupture or Slice and Dice reset quickly if you are at risk of having one drop off.  Because taking this means you won’t have access to Anticipation, you’ll have to put actual effort into not wasting Combo Points.  The best way to accomplish this is by not using generators at 4 Combo Points and instead letting Honor Among Thieves fill in the 5th.  It is better to use Eviscerate at 4 Combo Points than to overflow, so if it comes to a choice between using a 4 Combo Point finisher and sacrificing Find Weakness uptime or capping out on energy, the choice should be to take the 4 Combo Point finisher.


Death from Above:  Replace Eviscerate with this as much as possible.

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Death from Above does good damage, but not as much as Rupture or Slice and Dice.  If possible, use this on cooldown, but don’t sacrifice uptime on any of your buffs/debuffs for this.  Keep in mind that this takes about 2.5 seconds to complete, so using it near the end of Shadow Dance or Find Weakness is risky.


No Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins:  Make sure you get Sanguinary Veins up on adds as soon as possible, even if it means using a short-duration Rupture or even Crimson Tempest.  Also, don’t mess up with Rupture.

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Alternatively, you can never swap targets unless they are going to be there long enough for that Rupture you had ready to apply as soon as you got in range to be worth it.