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  • Author: Nevermore
  • Date: August 25, 2022
  • Expansion: WotLK Classic

As a Subtlety Rogue, you cannot mindlessly spam buttons and hope to achieve good results! In order to defeat your foes, you’ll need to make decisions in the moment based on the team comps and the current situation on the battlefield. In this guide, we’ll go over what your rotations might look like, discuss all of your important abilities, and cover basic strategy for playing a PvP Subtlety Rogue.

Single Target Rotation

Rogue gameplay emphasizes a need for flexibility — as our class functions upon energy, wasted button presses are extra punishing. Therefore, the rotation below is more of a decision tree, and you’ll need to make choices on the fly rather than mindlessly following a rotation.

Overview of Abilities

You can’t utilize your abilities effectively if you don’t understand them, so in this section, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Rogue abilities.

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Ambush is an ability that, in order to work, requires both that you be in Stealth and that you’re positioned behind the target. This ability deals direct high physical damage to your target. Ambush requires you to equip daggers — as this is one of our most powerful abilities, especially considering how you can use it multiple times in the right conditions, we will focus on using daggers for this guide.

Backstab is an ability that can only be used while behind a target and while having a dagger equipped in your main hand. As with Ambush, this ability deals high direct physical damage. Backstab will be one of your core spells to use on the target once you manage to crowd control it properly, make sure to not forget about it! Backstab can actually be considered your highest hitting ability besides Ambush, marking it as your “filler” ability

Eviscerate is a finishing move that requires combo points in order to be used. It deals high direct physical damage that scales with the number of combo points on the target. This ability deals higher damage the more Armor Penetration you acquire. When thinking about Eviscerate, we should mention that it can certainly be your “core” finishing move, as long as you acquire enough armor penetration. This ability should be used instead of other finishing moves especially if you plan to Blind your target afterward. This is because Blind is interrupted by any damage sustained by the target, rendering it useless if used in conjunction with a DoT ability.

Hemorrhage is an ability that deals direct damage to your target while also placing a debuff on the target with 10 stacks. This debuff increases the physical damage of your attacks or your abilities on that target by 75. Unlike many other key Rogue abilities, Hemorrhage does not require you to be positioned behind your target. However, one should never make the mistake of considering  Hemorrhage your main spell; this spell should only be used for its enhancing effects, as Backstab is a lot more powerful.

Rupture is a finishing move that requires combo points in order to be executed, growing increasingly more powerful after each combo point is added into the mix. Rupture provides a powerful bleed effect on the target that is able to critically strike, making this ability especially lethal. However, this ability should be used only if you intend to quickly kill your target and not crowd control it afterward with Blind or Gouge.

Shadowstep is one of the key abilities offered by the Subtlety specialization, allowing you to phase through the shadows, leaping behind your target. This is one of your most powerful abilities as it provides a direct gap closer to your targets, while also providing you with a buff that enhances the damage of your next ability by 20%. Note that this ability can be used in stealth without breaking the effect of stealth. Keep in mind that this is your only gap-closer, so don’t waste it! At the same time, do not underestimate how powerful a combination of Shadowstep and Ambush can be.

Cheap Shot is an opener-style of ability that can be used only in stealth, and stuns the target for 4 seconds. Cheap Shot can be one of the most powerful opener spells in the game, allowing you to effectuate strong crowd control.

Kidney Shot is a finishing move that can be used in order to stun your target, the duration of this ability is directly correlated to the number of combo points you have on your target. You will want to use this spell as early as possible in order to stun lock your target. You will always want to use this ability with 5 combo points!

Garrote is an opener ability that requires you to be in stealth; it inflicts bleed on your target for 18 seconds, and also silences the target for 3 seconds. This ability is great against casters or healers as it puts massive pressure on them right at the start of the fight. However, it will stop you from using Blind or Gouge for as long as it is active due to how both abilities are interrupted by any damage received by the target.

Gouge is an ability that deals direct damage while also incapacitating the target for 5 seconds. Beware that any damage will cancel the CC effect! Luckily for us, when we use Gouge we will stop attacking our target automatically (so we do not have to worry about breaking it with basic attacks) however, any dot on the target will instantly break the effect. Gouge is a perfect ability if you are looking to re-stealth.

Shadow Dance is the most powerful ability in your arsenal, allowing you to use your abilities as if you were in stealth without actually being in stealth. This ability is extremely strong and should always be used when you find yourself at full energy. With this ability, you can manage to stun your target with a Cheap Shot and perform approximately 3 Ambushes on the target. It is worth noting that this ability forces you to change your action bar, initially forcing you to use this ability in order to set up your action bar.

Premeditation is an ability that you can use while in Stealth in order to automatically add two combo points to your target. This ability can be used in a large variety of ways: you can use it together with Slice and Dice before engaging your target without breaking the effect of Stealth. You can also use it in order to keep your combo points for a fast Eviscerate or Kidney Shot after your initial opener.

Slice and Dice is a finishing move that increases your melee attack speed by up to 40%, with the duration depending on how many combo points you spend on the ability. You should aim to maintain this ability on yourself, as the increase in attack speed can be quite powerful when combined with the right poisons. 

Deadly Throw is a finishing move that can be used in order to damage your target from afar. This ability is best used when Shadowstep is on cooldown and your target manages to create distance while still having some combo points left on them.

Shiv is an ability that allows you to quickly stack your poison on a target. You can use this ability in order to guarantee that the poison on your off-hand weapon afflicts the target. This can be used in a multitude of ways, ranging from faster stacking of deadly poison to simply guaranteeing that you apply crippling poison on your target.

Fan of Knives is an ability that can be used to damage multiple opponents at the same time, however, you should take into consideration that this ability is extremely ineffective against a player’s pet. You can use this ability to deal damage to multiple stacked enemies in a battleground if you choose to engage directly into the fold instead of picking off lone targets in the backline.

Stealth is your class’s main ability, allowing you to slip into the shadows and become entirely invisible, however, doing so will reduce your overall movement speed by 30%. Due to our talents, this effect can be reduced down to 15%, so it won’t hinder your movement too much. Stealth is core to Rogue gameplay, allowing us to utilize opening moves and avoid dangerous situations or sneak up upon our prey.

Watch out for classes that have access to abilities that can reveal invisible targets, and make sure to use stealth properly. There are plenty of ways to reveal invisible targets such as Flare, Detect Lesser Invisibility or AoE spells such as Consecration and Death and Decay

Preparation is an ability that can be used in order to restore some of your cooldowns, allowing you to quickly use them in succession. This ability can be used to better optimize your burst or to reset entire fights! This ability can be extremely strong, as you can effectively benefit from a 30-second duration of Evasion or two Shadowsteps in a row.

Vanish is an ability that instantly grants you Stealth, even if you are in combat. This ability is mostly used to reset fights, however, you should always be aware of your debuff situation before you use this ability, as any dot debuff that is currently afflicting you can instantly negate Vanish.

Sap is an opener ability that incapacitates the target for 9 seconds. You can effectively cast this ability 3 times in a row until your target is no longer susceptible to it. With each cast, this ability suffers from diminishing returns. This is your one and only true opener, the ability that you will always want to use no matter the situation. This ability can be great in order to crowd control a target and quickly ambush its allies. Be cautious of the range that Sap has, as getting too close to the person you are trying to Sap might result in them detecting you. Always use this ability from the max range!

Tricks of the Trade is an ability that normally would be used in PvE situations, however, you can use this ability in order to buff up your arena partner at the beginning of the fight. You will want to make sure that you use this ability after you engage the target because doing so before might just waste its beneficial effects.

Dismantle is your main “weapon” against melee opponents, as it allows you to disarm your target for 10 seconds. This ability is extremely strong when used properly, as it can entirely negate other powerful or even overpowered abilities such as Bladestorm.

Kick is your main interrupt ability, you should use this in order to fully negate strong casters. This ability will lock the school of magic that is interrupted for 5 seconds, making it a very strong ability when used in a correct crowd control chain.

Sprint is your second gap closer ability alongside Shadowstep, allowing you to increase your movement speed by 70% for 15 seconds. You will want to use this ability only when your target is using obstacles to break line-of-site (LoS-ing you) or otherwise creating a large gap between you.

Blind is an ability that allows you to disorient your target for 10 seconds, effectively making them wander in circles. This ability is extremely strong when used in two situations: When you are trying to CC lock the ally of the target that you are bursting down (Sap followed by Blind can be extremely strong), and when forcing a reset on the entire fight. Effectively you can use this ability to disorient your enemy long enough for you to find yourself out of combat and Stealth again. 

Expose Armor is a finishing move that allows you to break your opponent’s armor rating, effectively reducing it by 20%. You can use this ability in combination with Premeditation and Cheap Shot to ensure that your following burst will be more effective. 

Evasion is your main defensive cooldown, increasing your dodge chance by 50% and reducing the chance to be hit by ranged attacks by 25%. Know that ranged attacks do not mean spells! However, this ability is extremely strong against most melee classes, with one exception — Warriors. They are your natural counter, as using this ability will allow them to spam Overpower on you, generally resulting in a swift death (yours).

Cloak of Shadows is your second defensive spell. It allows you to effectively remove any harmful magical effect from yourself, including curses and diseases. After this ability removes them, you will have a 90% chance to resist any spell for the next 3 seconds. However, Cloak of Shadows does not remove bleed effects or make you immune to physical abilities. As Cloak of Shadows does not act as a dispel, this ability can remove harmful effects such as Unstable Affliction without triggering the effect that the ability would normally have when it would be dispelled.

Feint is a situational ability that can be used against area-of-effect abilities such as Bladestorm! You can use this ability to effectively reduce up to 50% of the damage received by such abilities. Feint is a very useful ability when Dismantle is on cooldown.

The term “Resetting a Fight” is represented by a rogue that suddenly becomes stealthed and either attempts to initiate his crowd control sequence on the enemy again, or runs away to recuperate any damage sustained. This tactic is generally used when your opponent is either weakened or when you find yourself in peril of immediate death.

The term (LoS) refers to Line-of-Sight, often used as a verb — an action that is defined by using the environment around you in order to cancel an enemy’s spell or to force your opponent to chase you. LoS tactics are usually referred to as “Hit and Run”, in which, a player quickly makes use of their environment to damage an enemy and vanish out of their sight immediately after, hiding behind the terrain.

Strategy

Now that you know your options, we can discuss basic strategy and tactics in any kind of PvP scenario. When it comes to Player-versus-Player combat, as we have mentioned earlier, there is no way to actually dictate a full-on rotation, however, we can explain to you how a fight should play out and what abilities you should always prioritize.

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As far as openers go, Sap will be your first priority, you should always open up a fight with it. The target that you choose to Sap largely depends on different situations, such as which target is closer and available for it, or which target you want to lock down in order to focus on eliminating the other target. Sap in and of itself is not a crowd control tool for your main target, but rather for their allies. What we mean by this is that you will often want to use Sap on an enemy’s ally in order to incapacitate them and quickly burst down your main target in the meantime. Their ally will either be forced to watch their friend get demolished or they will be forced to use their trinket in order to escape and aid them.

The following opener really depends on what type of target you have — if you are dealing with either a caster or healer, Garrote will be your go-to. If your target is quite beefy and seems to have a lot of gear, you should always open up with Cheap Shot.

There is a third option when it comes to the opener — if your target is squishy, you can choose to open up with Ambush, dealing high initial damage.

A neat trick you can do for your opener is to use  Premeditation along with Slice and Dice as it does not break Stealth, and then just simply Shadowstep followed up by either Cheap Shot or Ambush.

What happens after your opener depends entirely on you! The most natural choice that you can do is to use Hemorrhage once and then immediately Kidney Shot the target to ensure that the cc chain keeps on, followed up by Backstab and a finishing move based on what you want to do to the target next. You have two main choices of a finishing move with the other finishing moves that can either be situational or used to empower your damage. 

 Alternatively, you can choose to use Shadow Dance and just burst your target down with Ambush. The entire fight after the opener is up to you and what you desire to do with your target, as there are multiple ways to go about it.

You should always remember to prioritize Backstab over Hemorrhage, as it hits a lot harder than the Hemorrhage.

Regarding your finishing moves, you have two main choices, Rupture and Eviscerate. You will want to use them according to what you plan to do to the target next, as you have to take into consideration that you are actually the one that controls how the fight will go, not your opponent. Eviscerate will be your main choice if you plan to crowd control your target with either Blind or Gouge

If you have no desire or need to crowd control your target even further, you will always choose to use  Rupture, as it is a powerful bleed effect that can critically strike.

Keep in mind that Blind and Gouge can both be either defensive tools or offensive tools. You can use them to interrupt your enemy entirely while either waiting for energy or a cooldown or you can use them to reset the fight entirely and slip back into Stealth.

You have access to other finishing moves that you can use situationally, such as Expose Armor at the beginning of the fight to empower your further attacks. 

Kidney Shot is one of the finishers that you will want to prioritize over everything else, as keeping a target in crowd control will prove to be a lot more favorable than just dealing raw damage to it.

Deadly Throw as mentioned earlier, is entirely situational and should only be prioritized if you do not have any gap closer at your disposal in that specific moment and you still retained some of your combo points when your target managed to escape.

Tactics

Depending on which type of combat theatre you find yourself in, the tactics you can employ change entirely. One thing that you really have to take into consideration is how many enemies you find around yourself, and which is the ideal target to engage on. In choosing your targets, you must always consider what they have at their disposal to counter your own arsenal.

If you find yourself in a battleground or the open world, you should choose to target the most vulnerable target that also has the highest value. This generally means targeting healers or casters. Beware however that if you have not yet mastered your spell priority, it will be extremely difficult to kill a healer, as they can recover quickly even if you manage to get them low.

If you find yourself in an arena scenario, you should always communicate with your partner regarding which target you choose to keep in a crowd control chain and which target you choose to annihilate. Always keep a calm mindset and do not act rashly, as using your abilities poorly can prove extremely punishing. Moreso than most classes, a Rogue that presses the wrong buttons at the wrong time can quickly find themselves dead on the ground of the arena.

Keep in mind that as a Subtlety Rogue, you will not benefit from LoS-ing (breaking line of site against) your target, as you will want to be the one in control of the fight and stick to your chosen target as much as possible. 


With proper practice and plenty of assassination attempts under your belt, you will eventually master the ways of a Subtlety Rogue, able to rid the battlefield of any target that you set your eyes upon.

 

About the Author

Nevermore

Hey there folks, I am Nevermore and have been deeply passionate about WoW for more than a decade. Whether we talk about the hidden mysteries of Azeroth or the otherworldly Outland, my journey brought me here to share the things that I have experienced with you all.
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lin
lin
24 days ago

thank you for sharing this guide!

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