Welcome to our assassination rogue guide for WoW Classic! Rogues are one of the pure damage-dealing classes, meaning each specialization is only designed for DPS. Assassination rogues are less common than combat rogues, but they can pack a mean punch if you have enough crit rating. Despite serving only one role, rogues have quite a lot of flexibility and complexity to their class.
We’ll do our best to simplify that in this guide! We’ll cover the setup of your character, including the best races available and what talent builds will serve you best. After that, we’ll fully cover optimization. This includes your stat priorities, professions, the best enchants to use, and consumables to give you an added edge. To cap things off, we’ll explain your rotation and how you can play to best benefit the rest of your raid group!
If you want to play as a rogue, you have several choices for race. You can play as horde or alliance, both having a clear favorite for offering the most advantages. For a better idea of what each race offers for an assassination rogue, check out all the racial abilities offered here. Otherwise keep reading for a breakdown of each faction!
Dwarf – Dwarves are the worst choice for an alliance rogue, considering they have a low agility base value and have no beneficial abilities outside of Stoneform, which will give +10% Armor every 3 minutes.
Gnome – Gnomes are almost on the same tier as dwarves, but can make use of Escape Artist situationally to remove any movement-impairing effects. They also have the 2nd highest agility base value in the game.
Night Elf – Night elves are roughly the same as gnomes. They do have the highest agility base value in the game, and also have better stealth thanks to Shadowmeld. Outside of this, they don’t offer much for raiding.
Human – This means humans are the clear winners for alliance rogues. This assumes that you’ll play as a sword assassination rogue to take advantage of Sword Specialization, which boost your weapon skill with swords. If you aren’t using swords, humans no longer have the advantage.
Undead – Undead are definitely the least-favorable choice of a horde rogue. Will of the Forsaken has some occasional use to remove charm, fear, and sleep. Combined with average agility and strength base values, there isn’t enough to make the race impactful.
Troll – Trolls actually make for a great choice. They have great base agility and strength values, while also having access to Berserking. This grants 10-30% attack speed based on missing health. If you know how to use it properly, this is a fantastic 3 minute cooldown.
Orc – Orcs are far more reliable, making them the best choice for a horde rogue. They have a fairly weak agility base value, but a great strength base value. What really puts them ahead is the racial ability Blood Fury, granting +25% Attack Power for 25 seconds every 2 minutes.
The talents you ultimately decide on will vary depending upon what weapon type you use. If you’re using daggers, Backstab becomes a crucial part of your rotation and thus benefits from different talents. Alternatively, swords eliminate the use of Backstab, so you can reapply those talents to more useful locations.
If you want to use daggers, then you’ll want to use a 30/16/5 build. You’ll notice that you don’t pick up Vigor, as 10 extra energy just isn’t useful. You instead pick up a point in Dual Wield Specialization and 5 points in Opportunity in the subtlety tree. Combined with 3 points in Improved Backstab, this is the optimal Backstab assassination dagger rogue build.
If you want to use swords, you’ll actually free up 8 whole talent points as you won’t ever use Backstab to benefit from Improved Backstab or Opportunity. This allows you to put a full 5 points in Dual Wield Specialization, while also picking up the important Blade Flurry cooldown. Blade Flurry boosts your attack speed by 20% for 15 seconds, while also making all abilities cleave. This is absolutely lethal in combination with orc or troll racial abilities.
Before you even think about raiding, you’ll need to go about the tedious process of optimizing. This will cost you a lot of time and gold, but it’ll be well worth it when you see how much more damage you deal. Failing to optimize your character often shows a lack of investment, which won’t get you invited back to raids! Take the time to optimize so you can perform better for yourself and your raid group.
Because assassination rogues are pure damage dealers, their main focus is on stats that boost their raw damage output. They do attack with melee weapons, meaning that you will need to cap your hit rating. Outside of that, assassination rogues have a slightly different priority than combat rogues due to the Seal Fate talent, making critical strike rating very important.
Here are the stat priorities for an assassination rogue:
Hit Rating to Cap (9%) – No matter how experienced you are, you’ll still need to reach the hit rating. For rogues, this value is 9%. Fortunately, 5% of this is already achieved thanks to 5 points in the Precision talent, leaving just 4% to gear.
Agility – After you cap your hit rating, you’ll want to stack as much agility as you possibly can. Agility will boost your attack power, but it also boosts your crit rating, something that assassination rogues thrive with.
Critical Strike Rating – As mentioned above, critical strike rating is very important for assassination rogues. To benefit from Seal Fate and acquire 2 combo points when using Backstab or Sinister Strike, you need to crit, making the stat essential.
Strength/Attack Power – Even though it is at the bottom of the list, strength and raw attack power is still fantastic for an assassination rogue. It just isn’t as important as crit rating, but don’t shy away from it!
Seeing that assassination rogues attack with melee weapons, they’ll also need to max out the weapon skill of whatever weapon they choose to use. If you’re a human, you should definitely be using swords to take advantage of the racial passive. Weapon skill is crucial for avoiding glancing blows, which severely reduce the damage of your attacks.
Every weapon skill level up will also grant:
0.04% reduced chance to miss.
0.04% reduced chance of opponent blocking attack.
0.04% reduced chance of opponent parrying attack.
0.04% reduced chance of opponent dodging attack.
0.04% increased critical strike chance.
If you’re really concerned about maximizing your damage, then you’ll also need to pick the right professions. The default choice for any class that doesn’t necessarily require professions is engineering, and that is no different for a rogue! You can also benefit from leatherworking for an easier time gearing before you enter raids. Pick whichever is more important to how you plan to play!
There aren’t any better professions than these for an assassination rogue:
Engineering – If you want to do the most damage possible, then you’ll need to be an engineer. The main appeal is access to bombs, which deal significant area-of-effect damage. You can also create useful quality-of-life gadgets that make raiding just a little easier.
Mining – To save yourself stress, pick up mining to pair with engineering. You can level it without mining, but it will get expensive very quickly. Gather all the ores and stone you need yourself with mining!
Leatherworking – Another common choice for assassination rogues is leatherworking. The main set you can make here is Devilsaur Armor, which grants +2% Hit Chance with both pieces. This makes gearing much simpler, but this is less impactful if you already have better gear.
Skinning – If you plan on taking leatherworking, then you’ll definitely want skinning too. All the hides and leather necessary to make any gear you want will be gathered with skinning.
Another important part of making sure you deal the most damage is collecting a long list of enchants. These will go a long way for boosting your overall attack power, so you’ll definitely feel the damage increase when you manage to obtain them. As many of these enchants are quite expensive, consider using cheaper alternatives until you find epic pieces you plan on keeping.
You’ll do the most damage with these enchants as an assassination rogue:
Rogues have a unique list of consumables considering that they need their own materials for specific abilities. In addition to those, they’ll need a standard set of consumables consisting of an elixir, food, and juju. Consumables are less impactful for rogues, but you should still collect them for added bonuses.
You won’t want to skip out on these consumables as an assassination rogue:
Whether you decide to use daggers or swords, assassination rogues are quite deadly once you have enough crit rating. Thanks to the Seal Fate talent, you can gain 2 combo points every time a combo-point-generating ability critically strikes. With high enough crit rating, you can rely on this enough to consistently need just 3 or 4 abilities to max out your combo points, meaning more Eviscerate casts.
Here are some helpful tips to getting the most out of your assassination rogue:
Rogues have several useful cooldowns at their disposal. Learning when to use them is critical to utilizing your full toolkit. Your DPS cooldowns should be used every time they are available, unless you need to save them specifically for a burst period.
They also have several defensive cooldowns. These should be used only when you are in danger considering they all have lengthy 5 minute cooldowns. This includes Sprint, granting +70% Movement Speed for 15 seconds, Vanish, which instantly puts you out of combat and into stealth, Evasion, giving +50% dodge chance for 15 seconds, and Blind, which will disorient an enemy for 10 seconds.
Rogues also have access to Sap, which crowd controls an enemy for a minute. This requires that they aren’t in combat, so you’ll need to approach via stealth.
Don’t forget to use Kick to interrupt spell casting.
Always use Instant Poison IV as your poison of choice. It deals the most damage and doesn’t take up a debuff slot like Deadly Poison V does. If you’re horde, don’t apply it to your main hand weapon so you can benefit from a shaman’s Windfury Totem, the best melee buff in the game.
You’ll want to keep Slice and Dice applied at all times. It grants +30% Attack Speed with a lengthier duration based on combo points spent.
You’ll benefit most from using 5 combo points on all finishers to restore 25 energy through the Relentless Strikes talent.
When fighting a boss, most of your finishing abilities become useless. Expose Armor is unnecessary thanks to a warrior’s Sunder Armor, while Kidney Shot is unable to stun bosses. Rupture may seem useful, but it takes up a debuff slot, which means you probably won’t get to use it.
The rotation for a rogue may seem overwhelming considering the number of abilities available, but you won’t use many of them in a raid setting. The basic theory behind rogue damage involves building combo points by spending energy, then consuming those combo points with a finishing ability.
Depending upon whether you use daggers or swords, your combo point generator will be different. Dagger rogues will use Backstab, while sword rogues will use Sinister Strike. Both will consume combo points using Eviscerate.