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.