This article is the original work of Vulajin of <Serious Casual> / Mal'Ganis (US)
It is often said that a rogue brings nothing to a raid beyond his damage. While such a statement is debatable, it is certainly true that a rogue's most important function in raids is to provide a high level of damage to a single target. However, realizing the full damage potential of the class requires more than blind button-mashing. Proper talent choices, gear selection, and ability usage are all crucial to maximizing damage output in a raid situation.
This article is currently out of date; many of the specifics are not updated for Wrath of the Lich King and patch 3.0. However, the fundamental points of interest still apply to all rogues. The article should be updated by December 31, 2008.
1Rogue Play Skills
1.1The Seven Commandments of Rogue DPS
1.3Cooldown Usage and Synchronization
1.4Energy Management and Pooling
1.5User Interface Improvements
1.6Knowing Your Enemy
2Weapon Selection and Talent Builds
2.1Weapon Specialization and Dual Wield
2.2Main Hand Weapons
2.3Off Hand Weapons
2.4Choosing Your Spec
3.1General Gear Selection Technique
3.2Equivalence Points System
3.2.1Pre-raid EP Weights
3.2.2Tier 4 EP Weights
3.2.3Tier 5 EP Weights
3.2.4Tier 6 EP Weights
3.2.5Sunwell EP Weights
3.2.6Example EP Comparison
3.3Meta Gems and Blue Sockets
3.5Hit and Expertise Caps
3.6.3Shard of Contempt
3.6.4Ashtongue Talisman of Lethality
4Buffs and Enchants
4.2Buffs and Debuffs
4.2.2Raid-wide Buffs and Boss Debuffs
4.2.4Buffs and DPS Output
5Abilities and Cycles
5.1Building Combo Points
5.3Combo Point Cycles
5.3.1Sinister Strike Cycles
6Appendix: Evaluating Rogue Performance via WWS
[top]Rogue Play Skills
[top]The Seven Commandments of Rogue DPS
Success as a raiding rogue results from adherence to the 7 commandments of rogue DPS. If you do not follow these guidelines, the DPS optimizations in the remainder of this article will be of little worth to you.
Don't do anything that risks wiping the raid.
Maximize your time on target.
Don't let your energy cap out.
Don't let SnD drop.
Use one of the spreadsheets to figure out your best cycle; this will usually be the highest Rupture uptime cycle that doesn't violate rule 4 or 5.
Use your cooldowns.
One of the advantages rogues have over other melee DPS classes is a high degree of survivability. Putting Sprint, Evasion, Vanish, and Cloak of Shadows to rigorous use separates good rogues from those who spend most of the fight eating cobblestone. Your use of each ability will depend heavily on the fight in question, and you should make every effort to figure out the optimal way to use these cooldowns to maximize your survival. Cloak of Shadows, for example, should be used as much as possible to negate incoming magic damage and harmful debuffs. When learning a new fight, one of the first things you should do is to learn which of the boss's spells/debuffs may be Cloaked. Evasion is much more situational; however, it can and should be used where possible, since most raid targets are likely to kill you if they land a melee swing.
Sprint may be activated any time you need to cross a significant distance to get back into melee range, thus reducing your time off the target and increasing your overall DPS. It may also be used to escape AoE effects, or to cross any distance quickly to accomplish a non-DPS objective. Vanish's primary use is as a threat wipe on all targets, and it should be used for this purpose on any fight where threat is an issue. In general, save Vanish from the start of the fight until you have very nearly surpassed the tank's threat, then use it. Provided your tank's threat is reasonably good, this will usually enable you to go the rest of the fight with no concerns, or at least until Vanish comes back off cooldown. Also note that Sprint and Vanish can both act as snare/root breakers, depending on your talent build, and can be quite handy for this purpose on trash as well as bosses with snare abilities.
[top]Cooldown Usage and Synchronization
A common mistake made by novice rogues is not putting cooldown-based abilities to regular use. Offensive cooldowns, in particular, should be used at every available opportunity. If you are in combat, there is no reason to have any offensive ability off cooldown unless you know you would be fighting a boss before it cooled down. Blade Flurry, Cold Blood, and Adrenaline Rush should be used as often as possible, along with any other offensive cooldowns you may have, including Blood Fury/Berserking/Arcane Torrent (making sure to Mana Tap as often as possible), trinkets, and for bosses, [Drums of Battle] and [Haste Potion]. On bosses, unless the fight is extremely threat sensitive, use cooldowns as soon as possible after the fight starts and repeatedly thereafter on cooldown.
In general, the best practice is to use your available cooldowns simultaneously. This is most important when it comes to haste effects. Using two separate %-based haste effects together will provide greater total damage than using them one after another. In addition, using a rating-based haste effect will provide greater total damage while other %-based effects are active than it will normally. Finally, using any other stat-based cooldown (attack power or armor penetration, for example) will provide greater total damage while haste effects are active than it would normally. As a result, it is best to use haste-based cooldowns (most typically Blade Flurry and [Haste Potion]) and other stat-based cooldowns together. It is also best to ask your shaman to cast Bloodlust/Heroism at a particular time when you can also use your haste-based and stat-based cooldowns.
Technically, there is no direct interaction between most cooldowns and Adrenaline Rush, since the energy gained from the ability is constant and haste does not increase your damage per point of energy. However, AP and armor penetration effects will both increase your damage per energy, and since you will already be using these together with Blade Flurry when possible, you should also try to use Adrenaline Rush at the same time. Beyond the first use of Adrenaline Rush in a fight, the 5-minute cooldown will usually prevent it from syncing up your other cooldowns. Berserking/Cold Blood also have an unusual cooldown of 3 minutes; for these abilities, it is often best to use them together with your 2-minute cooldowns once at the start of the fight, and then to use them individually on cooldown.
Note that if you know the length of a fight beforehand, in particular for combat, and the number of Bloodlusts/Heroisms you will be receiving and when, you can sometimes plan better usage of your cooldowns. The most notable example of this is Brutallus, which will last very close to 6 minutes until your guild obtains a fair amount of Sunwell loot. Based on the 6-minute duration, you know that you can use Blade Flurry/Blood Fury/[Haste Potion]/[Drums of Battle] each three times, Berserking/Cold Blood/[Flame Cap] twice, and Adrenaline Rush/[Thistle Tea] twice. Thus, you should plan in advance exactly when you will receive any Bloodlusts/Heroisms (no closer than 2 minutes together) and synchronize your usage of cooldowns as much as possible within the available time. Typically this means that you can use your 3- or 5-minute cooldowns together with your 2-minute cooldowns twice: once near the start and once near the end.
Finally, a note regarding [Flame Cap] and [Thistle Tea]. These two items have 3- and 5-minute cooldowns, respectively, and they also both trigger the 2-minute shared healthstone cooldown. Thus, you may not use either of them more often than its individual cooldown, but you may alternate between the two, using [Thistle Tea] first, then using [Flame Cap] 2 minutes later, and then using [Thistle Tea] again 3 minutes later (when it comes off its 5-minute cooldown). Alternatively, you may save your cooldown to have [Thistle Tea] available in case of an energy deficit in your ability cycle.
[top]Energy Management and Pooling
As a rogue, energy is your lifeblood. Proper energy management means the difference between 100% Slice and Dice uptime and letting it drop for 2-3 seconds every cycle. There are several basic tactics to keep in mind, and then there are some more advanced techniques which you can work in on more DPS-sensitive fights.
You begin any fight with 100 energy (or 110 if you have Vigor) and regenerate energy at a rate of 20 every 2 seconds. Adrenaline Rush provides an extra 100% energy regeneration for 15 seconds per use, or 150 energy. It is vital to note that your energy will always cap at your original base of 100 or 110. If you gain more energy at any time than it takes to reach this cap, the remaining energy will go to waste, effectively costing you DPS. Thus, it is very important that you never let your energy surpass the cap. The safest way to avoid this situation is to simply spend all of your energy as you receive it. If you never have more energy than the amount required to Sinister Strike or Backstab, then you are theoretically immune to capping your energy.
However, it is not always necessary or optimal to spend your energy immediately as you receive it. As long as your energy doesn't tick over 100 or 110, it is not wasted and can be used at your convenience. The technique of intentionally allowing energy to accumulate without spending it is called "energy pooling" (also known as "energy queuing") and has many applications. For combat rogues, energy pooling is most commonly used when you reach enough CP to refresh your Slice, but still have several seconds left on your previous Slice buff. Pooling at this time effectively gives you more energy to spend on the next iteration of your cycle. This is useful particularly for combat rogues because most cycles count on Combat Potency to provide a certain amount of extra energy per cycle. In the event that you have bad luck on Combat Potency procs during your cycle, the energy you pooled before your Slice helps you complete the cycle without letting Slice drop.
Another use of energy pooling is for Mutilate rogues with Find Weakness, and for any rogue with [Ashtongue Talisman of Lethality]. Pooling energy before finishers, in combination with either of these procs, effectively gives you more energy to spend during the proc. The more energy affected by these procs, the more effective DPS they provide. In particular, Mutilate rogues must pool energy before a finisher so that Find Weakness will be active for all of their Mutilates and any direct-damage finishers. This same strategy can be applied by any rogue to any proc, in fact. By pooling energy between Sinister Strikes (or other primary attack), one can wait until some number of procs occur (typically double Lightning Speed procs) and unleash the energy at once. However, be wary of attempting such precise energy pooling if the encounter demands more than focused DPS, as you may end up either missing important non-DPS duties or else letting your energy tick over 100.
Of final note is [Thistle Tea], which instantly regenerates 40 energy for a level 70 rogue. For any rogue, this 40 extra energy provides some additional DPS. However, another important aspect of this consumable is that it provides some extra breathing room to compensate for an absence of procs (notably Combat Potency for combat rogues and Seal Fate for Mutilate rogues). It is highly recommended that you keep some [Thistle Tea] in your inventory for such situations.
[top]User Interface Improvements
A well-designed user interface will greatly assist a rogue in following the advice given in this section. While the default user interface may suffice, it is usually necessary to utilize external add-ons to provide the information you need to quickly make the correct decision during combat. In some cases, such as your health and energy totals, the default user interface displays information in an inconvenient location. In other cases, such as your current threat level, the information simply isn't available through the default interface.
Your interface should display your current health, energy, and combo points, and to help with energy pooling, a timer for your energy regeneration ticks. It should also contain a display for incoming and outgoing damage and non-duration procs (e.g. Combat Potency). All these things should be in a convenient location, most likely near the center of the screen. In addition, to help with cycles and energy pooling, you should also have timers for your buffs (Slice and Dice as well as various procs) and for debuffs on the target, preferably displaying precision to tenths of a second.
Having a threat meter is essentially required. It may also help to have more general raid information displayed, such as unit frames, boss mods, and the like. However, these items are not strictly necessary if you are not a raid leader. You should display as much information as you need to operate with a minimum of extraneous features.
[top]Knowing Your Enemy
Knowing your enemy is a vital aspect of playing any class, be it in raiding or in PvP. For rogues in particular, knowing an encounter beforehand enables you to make several optimizations. First and foremost, you have the highest chance to survive whatever a boss will throw at you if you know what to expect before the pull. If the information is available to you, research the boss and find out what attacks it can use to kill you, and which ones other rogues recommend you to cloak. Know whether there will be any abilities that require you to suddenly move out of melee range for a short or long period of time, so that you can prepare your cooldowns and alter your cycle accordingly. Important things to know about fights are whether there are "no melee" phases, whether there are any anti-melee abilities, and whether there are any threat wipes or special threat-based abilities.
Beyond mere DPS optimization, if you know the encounter beforehand, you give yourself a leg up learning it in person. Even as a DPS class, it is important to realize that you are a member of the raid as a whole. While it's not particularly important for every member of the raid to always know how much damage the tank might be taking, it is certainly important to know what abilities might affect the rest of the raid, particularly randomly-targeted abilities. For example, on Kalecgos, if you do not move out of melee range when your Spectral Exhaustion debuff falls off, you may be targeted for a portal, hitting the rest of the melee and potentially killing them. When in doubt while learning a new fight, always prioritize reacting to the mechanics of the fight above DPS. A few seconds of lost DPS will not usually mean the difference between a wipe and a kill, but forgetting to run away from the raid when Grand Warlock Alythess targets you with Conflagration will definitely wipe the raid.
[top]Weapon Specialization and Dual Wield
Before considering any weapon choices or talent builds, it is worth examining the way weapon specializations and Dual Wield interact with one another. Each hand obtains the benefit of a weapon specialization talent only if the weapon in that hand is of the type corresponding to the specialization. For example, if you take 5 points in Fist Specialization, and equip a fist in your main hand, all of your main hand attacks will receive the 5% increased critical strike chance. However, if you equip a dagger in your off hand without taking any points in Dagger Specialization, then no matter what type of weapon you have in your main hand nor other specializations you have taken, your off hand attacks will crit at your normal rate (this might not necessarily match your character panel crit rate, which is always calculated based on your main hand).
There are two caveats also worth noting. First, your main hand specialization affects all attacks made by your main hand, including special attacks and finishers (other than Shiv and Deadly Throw). Second, the extra attacks granted by Sword Specialization are always performed using your main hand weapon, regardless of which weapon caused the proc. As a result, if you combine Sword Specialization with another weapon specialization and equip a sword in your off hand with the other specialized weapon type in your main hand, your off hand attacks will proc extra main hand attacks which will receive the benefit of your second specialization. By way of example, if you take both fist and sword specializations, and equip a main hand fist with an off hand sword, your extra attacks will gain the 5% increased critical strike chance from your fist specialization.
[top]Main Hand Weapons
In general, the most important considerations for a main hand weapon are weapon DPS and damage range. Due to limited itemization, physical DPS stats on the weapon are not usually an important consideration. Weapon type is also important for main hand weapons in one sense -- daggers are currently regarded as being largely inferior to other weapon types for raid DPS (see "Talent builds" section for more information). Between the other three weapon types, the DPS differences (assuming equivalent weapons) are minimal enough that you need not feel constrained to a particular one.
The best general rule is to choose, of the weapons available to you, the highest DPS weapon in the speed range of 1.7-1.9 for daggers, or 2.5-2.8 for swords/fists/maces.
As with any rule, there are certainly exceptions. For example, [Talon of Azshara] proves to be superior to [Merciless Gladiator's Slicer], as the Talon has 6.5 more average damage in addition to superior stats. Also, human rogues have good reason to feel constrained to either swords or maces, as their racial provides a substantial damage boost while using those weapon types.
[top]Off Hand Weapons
Unlike for main hand weapons, weapon type and speed are both at least as important considerations for an off hand weapon as weapon DPS is. First and foremost, if you are using a dagger in your main hand, you should also use a dagger in your off hand; otherwise, if you are specced combat, regardless of your main hand weapon type, you should seek a sword for your off hand. With Sword Specialization, a sword in your off hand gains a large damage boost relative to off hand weapons of other types. Typically an off hand sword will perform on par with other weapon types of up to two itemization tiers higher.
Separate from weapon type, you must also consider the speed of your off hand weapon. Combat Potency and Sword Specialization both greatly increase the value of fast off hands; however, even rogues without these talents will want a faster offhand to increase the frequency of poison procs. A good way to compare off hand weapons is to apply an effective weapon DPS bonus to the faster weapon based on the talents you have taken. If you have taken Combat Potency, you should add 10 extra weapon DPS to the faster weapon per 0.1 speed difference; else, if you have taken Sword Specialization, you should add 5 extra weapon DPS per 0.1 speed difference; else, you should add 2 extra weapon DPS per 0.1 speed difference.
To briefly summarize, you can apply the following effective weapon DPS bonuses to compare off hand weapons:
Weapon is a sword, and your main hand is not a dagger: add 10 DPS
You have Combat Potency: add 10 DPS per 0.1 faster speed
You don't have Combat Potency, but do have Sword Specialization: add 5 DPS per 0.1 faster speed
You don't have Sword Specialization: add 2 DPS per 0.1 faster speed
The exceptions to this rule stem largely from the stats on actual weapons. For example, [Tracker's Blade] is superior to [Searing Sunblade]. Also, Mutilate builds defy the above rules, since your off hand is also used for special attacks. In general, the damage increase gained from using a "slow" off hand dagger with Mutilate is offset by the loss of poison procs. Thus, the prime concerns for a Mutilate off hand dagger are weapon DPS and stats.
[top]Choosing Your Spec
Currently, the highest DPS may be obtained through the combat tree -- specifically, through Sword Specialization and Combat Potency. The highest DPS is obtained by using a sword in the off hand in conjunction with any "slow" weapon type (fists/maces/swords) in the main hand, with the appropriate weapon specialization talents taken. Sword/sword, fist/sword, and mace/sword builds are all within roughly 1% of one another in terms of theoretical DPS output, assuming equivalent weapons. Pure fist, mace, and dagger combat builds fall roughly 1-2% behind the sword hybrid builds. Mutilate falls roughly around the same level as combat daggers.
Hemorrhage-based builds such as trispec Hemo swords and trispec Hemo Deadliness were, at one time, quite popular. This popularity was due to a patch change which boosted Hemo builds up to the same theoretical DPS level as combat builds while allowing them to provide the Hemorrhage debuff to the raid. Since then, Blizzard has retuned the ability such that Hemo builds will perform roughly 5-6% behind combat builds using equivalent weapons. While the Hemorrhage debuff will provide a decent benefit to raid DPS (on the order of 100), it scales poorly. By tier 6 content, your personal DPS loss from speccing Hemo will likely eclipse the raid DPS benefit of the Hemorrhage debuff. Rogues desiring to spec for Hemorrhage may obtain the highest DPS by taking two swords and speccing trispec Hemo swords. Rogues who do not have access to two swords may use trispec Hemo Deadliness.
For raid DPS, the two most important talents in any tree are Relentless Strikes and Dual Wield Specialization. Not taking either of these two talents is essentially madness. Any PvE build should start with the same initial point spread in Assassination: Malice, Ruthlessness, and Relentless Strikes (with Puncturing Wounds if applicable). Spend any remaining talent points in Lethality, then Murder, then Vile Poisons. Note that taking Dual Wield Specialization mandates also taking Precision.
For combat builds, the mandatory talents are Improved Slice and Dice, Blade Flurry, Weapon Expertise, Aggression, Adrenaline Rush, Combat Potency, and Surprise Attacks, as well as the appropriate weapon specialization(s). Combat dagger builds additionally require Puncturing Wounds and Opportunity, while other weapon types require Improved Sinister Strike.
For Hemorrhage builds, the mandatory talents are Serrated Blades and Hemorrhage. For trispec Hemo sword builds, note that one point of Sword Specialization and one point of Weapon Expertise are each superior to one point of Dirty Deeds for sustained DPS. For trispec Hemo Deadliness builds, taking Blade Flurry is superior to taking a fifth point in Deadliness.
For Mutilate builds, the mandatory talents are Puncturing Wounds, Cold Blood, Seal Fate, Vigor, Find Weakness, and Mutilate.
The following sample builds illustrate how each build might appear in actual use. Keep in mind when looking at these samples which talents are required (the remainder are usually considered to be up to taste).
Sword/sword (applicable to any single non-dagger build) - Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
Fist/sword (applicable to any sword hybrid build) - Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
Combat daggers - Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
Trispec Hemo swords - Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
Trispec Hemo Deadliness - Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
Mutilate - Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
Please note that the following types of builds are established to be inferior for raid DPS: 30/x/x, x/x/41, 0/x/x.
[top]General Gear Selection Technique
Rogue DPS is a complex interaction of a wide variety of stats: strength, agility, hit rating, crit rating, haste rating, expertise rating, armor penetration, and attack power. For example, increasing your agility increases both your attack power and your crit rate; increasing your attack power increases the value of hit, crit, haste, and expertise rating, and armor penetration; increasing your crit rate increases the value of attack power, haste rating, and armor penetration. Because of these interactions, it becomes very complicated to evaluate a piece of gear in a vacuum (i.e. with no assumptions about the rogue's stats before the item).
This is where spreadsheets come in handy. Three notable rogue spreadsheets exist which can be used to roughly calculate DPS output given a set of gear, talents, and buffs. Thus, using one's current gear setup as a base, one may swap in various potential replacement items and see how much DPS increases. This is always the recommended way to evaluate prospective gear upgrades, as it will be as accurate as possible specifically for you. Avoid falling into the trap of looking at any single DPS stat -- rather, look at your total DPS output, and seek upgrades that increase that total. The best item is always the item that provides the most DPS, regardless of the specific stats it provides.
Here are links to the spreadsheets' respective discussion threads:
Rogue Gear Spreadsheet
[top]Equivalence Points System
For those who cannot, for whatever reason, make a direct spreadsheet comparison, we present a system to compare arbitrary pieces of gear, which we will call Equivalence Points (EP). We will start by defining 1 AP = 1 EP; that is to say that 1 attack power provides exactly 1 Equivalence Point. Now, to flesh out the system, we must figure out how much DPS a single point of attack power provides. Then, we assign each other stat a weight in EP proportional to its DPS contribution relative to a single point of attack power.
To utilize the EP weights, simply take a piece of gear and multiply each stat bonus on that piece by the stat's corresponding EP weight. For gem sockets, assume that you will always gem a red or yellow socket with the proper color, but that you will simply use your best DPS gem in a blue socket (following the instructions in "Gem selection" below). Only calculate EP for the socket bonus if the piece has no blue sockets. (See the gem section below for an explanation as to why sockets are handled this way.) Any stat that does not provide direct DPS value (e.g. stamina, dodge rating, resilience) can be valued at 0 EP. An example of using the EP weights is provided following the tables.
Alternatively, the EP weights may be used with various loot ranking facilities, including Loot Rank and addons such as Pawn.
Note that all EP weights assume the following set of buffs: Leader of the Pack, 5/5 Mark of the Wild, Faerie Fire, Mangle, 5/5 Hunter's Mark, 0/5 Blessing of Might, Blessing of Kings, Bloodlust/Heroism, 2/2 Strength of Earth Totem, 2/2 Windfury Totem, Unleashed Rage, Curse of Recklessness, Sunder Armor, 5/5 Battle Shout, Flask of Relentless Assault, and Spicy Hot Talbuk. If you raid with more, fewer, or otherwise different buffs, consult the Gear Spreadsheet to obtain more accurate personalized EP weights.
[top]Pre-raid EP Weights
These weights assume your average gear level consists of heroic and non-heroic 5-man dungeon gear, pre-2.3 badge gear, and non-raid crafted gear.
Strength 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10
Agility 2.16 2.13 2.12 2.09 2.09
Hit Rating 2.26 2.13 2.03 1.83 2.12
Crit Rating 1.67 1.62 1.61 1.63 1.56
Expertise Rating 2.48 2.35 2.26 2.15 2.38
Haste Rating 2.13 2.12 2.12 1.71 2.18
Armor Penetration 0.29 0.29 0.29 0.28 0.31
Meta Gem 64.27 69.71 71.40 96.73 88.14
[top]Tier 4 EP Weights
These weights assume your average gear level consists of Karazhan, Gruul's Lair, and Magtheridon's Lair drops, as well as pre-2.3 badge gear.
Tier 4 EP
Strength 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10
Agility 2.17 2.14 2.12 2.12 2.11
Hit Rating 2.36 2.23 2.13 1.96 2.24
Crit Rating 1.69 1.64 1.62 1.68 1.60
Expertise Rating 2.55 2.43 2.32 2.28 2.49
Haste Rating 2.07 2.06 2.06 1.68 2.14
Armor Penetration 0.29 0.29 0.29 0.29 0.31
Meta Gem 64.73 70.11 71.82 95.50 89.87
[top]Tier 5 EP Weights
These weights assume your average gear level consists of Zul'Aman, Serpentshrine Cavern, and Tempest Keep drops, as well as 2.3 badge gear.
Tier 5 EP
Strength 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10
Agility 2.19 2.15 2.14 2.18 2.12
Hit Rating 2.42 2.29 2.18 1.90 2.30
Crit Rating 1.72 1.67 1.65 1.78 1.61
Expertise Rating 2.65 2.52 2.41 2.32 2.56
Haste Rating 2.13 2.12 2.12 1.70 2.21
Armor Penetration 0.30 0.30 0.30 0.32 0.33
Meta Gem 77.88 83.09 84.74 110.56 102.07
[top]Tier 6 EP Weights
These weights assume your average gear level consists of Hyjal Summit and Black Temple drops, as well as 2.4 badge gear.
Tier 6 EP
Strength 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10
Agility 2.21 2.18 2.17 2.14 2.14
Hit Rating 2.44 2.31 2.19 1.96 2.32
Crit Rating 1.76 1.71 1.70 1.71 1.64
Expertise Rating 2.66 2.53 2.42 2.27 2.59
Haste Rating 2.29 2.28 2.28 1.86 2.38
Armor Penetration 0.34 0.34 0.34 0.34 0.36
Meta Gem 83.48 88.85 90.56 115.68 107.52
[top]Sunwell EP Weights
These weights assume your average gear level consists of Sunwell trash and boss drops and crafted gear.
Strength 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10
Agility 2.31 2.28 2.27 2.23 2.23
Hit Rating 2.71 2.56 2.43 2.09 2.57
Crit Rating 1.92 1.87 1.85 1.86 1.79
Expertise Rating 2.93 2.79 2.66 2.40 2.85
Haste Rating 2.24 2.24 2.23 1.93 2.32
Armor Penetration 0.38 0.38 0.38 0.38 0.40
Meta Gem 88.28 94.06 95.98 126.86 112.92
[top]Example EP Comparison
Here is an example comparison, using T6 EP weights for a sword/sword build to compare [Nyn'jah's Tabi Boots] to [Shadowmaster's Boots]:
Nyn'jah's Tabi Boots
278 Armor ---> 0 EP
+29 Agility ---> 29 * 2.23 = 64.67 EP
+21 Stamina ---> 0 EP
[ ] Blue: +10 Hit ---> 10 * 2.47 = 24.70 EP
[ ] Red: +5 Agi/+5 Hit ---> 5 * 2.23 + 5 * 2.47 = 23.50 EP
Socket Bonus: N/A
Equip: Improves hit rating by 22. ---> 22 * 2.47 = 54.34 EP
Equip: Increases attack power by 60. ---> 60.00 EP
Total: 64.6 + 24.70 + 23.50 + 54.34 + 60.00 = 227.21 EP
305 Armor ---> 0 EP
+30 Agility ---> 30 * 2.23 = 67.90 EP
+38 Stamina ---> 0 EP
[ ] Red: +5 Agi/+5 Hit ---> 5 * 2.23 + 5 * 2.47 = 23.50 EP
[ ] Yellow: +10 Hit ---> 10 * 2.47 = 24.70 EP
Socket Bonus: +3 Critical Strike Rating ---> 3 * 1.78 = 5.34 EP
Equip: Improves critical strike rating by 17. ---> 17 * 1.78 = 30.26 EP
Equip: Increases attack power by 76. ---> 76.00 EP
Total: 67.90 + 23.50 + 5.34 + 30.26 + 76.00 = 227.70 EP
Note that in the case of a difference this small, it is not possible to conclusively state that one item is better than the other. Such a small difference based on EP weighting indicates that you should check a spreadsheet for an exact valuation.
[top]Meta Gems and Blue Sockets
To put it simply, you want a helm with a meta gem socket. The [Relentless Earthstorm Diamond] is an extremely powerful gem which provides DPS value enough to boost helmets with meta gems well above same-tier helmets without meta gems. By way of example, [Netherblade Facemask] nearly outdoes [Grimgrin Faceguard] even ignoring set bonuses.
The value of the meta gem socket is determined by two factors. First, obviously, is the DPS gain caused by the 12 agility and 3% increased critical strike damage on the gem. Second, less obviously, is the loss in stats caused by having to use two blue gems somewhere on your gear. Because of the way the EP system assumes you gem any item, this cost is fixed: it is equal to the value of the two gems you would have used in two blue sockets, minus the 8 agility gained back from the two purples (10 agility if you're using epic gems).
Until Sunwell, it is not really possible to avoid having blue sockets on your gear -- they will simply be there. Thus, you can take advantage of them by choosing the two blue sockets on your gear which you can match to obtain the highest total socket bonuses you would not otherwise have obtained. This gain in stats is a variable determined by your overall gear setup. It is impossible to know beforehand which items with blue sockets you will use to meet the meta gem requirement. This is why socket bonuses on items with blue sockets are always ignored in EP calculations.
Note that both the [Thundering Skyfire Diamond] and [Swift Skyfire Diamond] are inferior to [Relentless Earthstorm Diamond]. Also, if you do not have two blue sockets on your gear setup, simply use red sockets as necessary.
Because gems provide a fixed itemization budget worth of a single stat, they are usually used to stack your most valuable DPS stat (the stat with the highest EP weight). For almost all builds, the two stats for which you should gem are hit rating and agility.
It is generally worthwhile to gem for any socket bonus that provides offensive stats and which is obtainable using only red and yellow gems. If your hit rating EP weight is higher than your agility EP weight (typically for combat builds), then you should do this by using [Rigid Dawnstone] in yellow sockets and [Glinting Noble Topaz] in red sockets. If your agility EP weight is higher (typically for Mutilate and Hemo builds), you should use [Glinting Noble Topaz] in yellow sockets and [Delicate Living Ruby] in red sockets. You should also gem for exactly two socket bonuses that require one blue gem each, using [Shifting Nightseye] as your blue gem. In any other item that has a blue socket, or that has a non-offensive socket bonus, simply stack the stat with higher EP (either [Rigid Dawnstone] or [Delicate Living Ruby]).
Note that in low buff situations for certain builds, [Bright Living Ruby] is a viable alternative to [Delicate Living Ruby], and [Balanced Nightseye] to [Shifting Nightseye]. This may or may not be a worthwhile trade-off, especially since Blessing of Kings alone usually tips the scales in favor of agility; consult a spreadsheet for an exact determination.
If you have access to epic gems, you may simply substitute the epic equivalent of any of the above named gems where applicable. Note that [Crimson Spinel] are still in high demand from just about every caster class; therefore, if you would like to use them, you will most likely need to purchase them using [Badge of Justice]. Note that epic gems are only available for purchase via badges once the Isle of Quel'danas has been fully opened on your realm.
Of special note for combat builds is that by the end of Sunwell gearing, you are very likely to surpass the hit cap following the given gemming strategy. See below for more information on the hit cap. Use a spreadsheet and plan out all of your gear upgrades as you approach this gear level to ensure that you do not have to resocket. In general, you can avoid this situation by gemming all of the red and yellow sockets on your Sunwell gear with [Glinting Pyrestone], or by gemming [Delicate Crimson Spinel] in red sockets and [Glinting Pyrestone] in yellow sockets.
The following BoP epic gems are available from various sources, and may be used in any socket where a rare gem of the same color would normally be placed. The PvP and jewelcrafting gems listed below are also unique-equip (with the exception of [Bold Ornate Ruby] purchased from arena points), meaning you may only wear one at a time in any given set of gear. The heroic gems are not unique-equip, and may be used without limitation.
[Bold Ornate Ruby] (red) - PvP honor reward
[Bold Ornate Ruby] (red) - PvP arena reward
[Crimson Sun] (red) - Jewelcrafting BoP
[Stone of Blades] (yellow) - Jewelcrafting BoP
[Brutal Tanzanite] (purple) - Heroic Botanica
[Pulsing Amethyst] (purple) - Nightbane quest
[Shifting Tanzanite] (purple) - Heroic Steamvault
[Glinting Fire Opal] (orange) - Heroic Black Morass
[Pristine Fire Opal] (orange) - Heroic Sethekk Halls
Finally, note that the following gems are strictly inferior to available alternatives, and should not be used for any PvE build:
[Bold Living Ruby] / [Bold Crimson Spinel]
[Wicked Noble Topaz] / [Wicked Pyrestone]
[Smooth Dawnstone] / [Smooth Lionseye]
[Jagged Talasite] / [Jagged Seaspray Emerald]
[top]Hit and Expertise Caps
The term "cap" refers to a point at which the value of a particular stat changes greatly. There are two kinds of caps: a "soft" cap means that beyond a certain point, the stat will have diminished DPS value, whereas a "hard" cap means that the stat has zero DPS value beyond a certain point. For rogues, the two stats with caps are hit rating and expertise rating. The hit cap refers to the point at which you have enough hit rating not to miss an attack, and the expertise cap refers to the point at which you have enough expertise rating not to be dodged. For obvious reasons, hit or expertise rating beyond its respective cap is worth zero DPS value.
There are two hit caps for rogues: the soft cap occurs when you can no longer miss a special attack, while the hard cap occurs when you can no longer miss a white attack. Against a raid boss, your base chance to miss a special attack is 9%, and your base chance to miss a white attack is 28%. Against a level 72 mob, your chance to miss any attack is reduced by 3%, and it reduces by 0.5% per level below that. For each ~15.77 hit rating you equip, you reduce your chance to miss by 1%. Thus, we can calculate the hit caps for special and white attacks for various mob levels (assuming 5/5 Precision in all cases):
Special 64 16 8 0
White 363 316 308 300
White (w/ Draenei racial aura) 347 300 292 284
White (w/ Imp Faerie Fire) 316 269 261 253
White (w/ Draenei + Imp FF) 300 253 245 237
Of these caps, generally the level 73 caps are most important, since DPS usually matters most against boss mobs. However, much of a raid is typically spent fighting level 70-72 trash, and in addition, many bosses have additional level 70-72 targets to kill, on which DPS is often as important as it is against the boss itself. Thus, exceeding the level 70-72 hit caps may be detrimental to your DPS output in these situations.
Your base chance to be dodged by a raid boss with any attack is thought to be 6.5%. For each ~3.94 expertise rating you equip, you gain 1 expertise, reducing your chance to be dodged by 0.25%. Thus, it takes ~15.77 expertise rating to reduce your chance to be dodged by 1%, the same conversion as for hit rating. Here we calculate expertise caps for various combinations of talents and racial abilities:
0/2 Weapon Expertise, non-Human (or Human wielding daggers/fists): 103
2/2 Weapon Expertise, non-Human (or Human wielding daggers/fists): 64
0/2 Weapon Expertise, Human wielding swords/maces: 83
2/2 Weapon Expertise, Human wielding swords/maces: 44
The hit and expertise caps are NOT magic numbers that every rogue [or any rogue] must reach. Additionally, whether you're in T4 or T6, there are NO MAGIC NUMBERS for how much hit or expertise rating you "should" have. Finally, there are NO SPECIAL THRESHOLDS where the value of hit or expertise rating changes dramatically other than these caps. There is no special benefit to being hard-capped with either stat, nor is there any special benefit to reaching an arbitrary threshold. The purpose of listing the caps here is so that you do not accidentally overshoot either cap by equipping too much hit rating or expertise rating. Always remember that any hit rating or expertise rating beyond the cap will have zero effect on your DPS.
The [Blackened Naaru Sliver] is the best trinket in the game for all specs. For combat and Hemo builds, the next best tier of trinkets is [Dragonspine Trophy] and [Shard of Contempt] (with a few caveats), followed further behind by [Warp-Spring Coil], [Ashtongue Talisman of Lethality], and [Madness of the Betrayer]. For Mutilate builds, the tier below the Sliver consists of [Ashtongue Talisman of Lethality], then [Shard of Contempt] and [Warp-Spring Coil], then [Dragonspine Trophy] and [Madness of the Betrayer].
In general, these options are followed by [Berserker's Call] and [Tsunami Talisman]. Pre-raiding trinket options include [Bloodlust Brooch], [Abacus of Violent Odds], [Romulo's Poison Vial], [Icon of Unyielding Courage], and [Hourglass of the Unraveller], ranked roughly in order of quality. For more specific valuations of these trinkets, consult a spreadsheet.
The [Dragonspine Trophy] is a potent trinket that scales well with other gear upgrades, typically retaining its status as best-in-slot for combat builds from T4 all the way through T6. However, the caveat is that haste rating does not scale with itself, while it does scale up most other stats. The result is that, as haste rating on gear becomes more prevalent, the Trophy's proc loses value relative to equivalent amounts of other stats. By the end of Sunwell, certain combinations of gear result in the Trophy falling behind other trinkets. Consult the spreadsheet to determine exactly when this might happen for you.
[top]Shard of Contempt
The [Shard of Contempt] derives much of its power from the 44 expertise rating it provides. However, for many rogues, this is nearly enough expertise rating to reach the expertise cap. Particularly, human rogues wielding swords or maces with Weapon Expertise will reach the cap simply by equipping the Shard. Thus, it is not worthwhile for a human sword/mace rogue to equip the Shard together with any other expertise item and Weapon Expertise. Consult the spreadsheet to determine which expertise item(s) are best for you to equip in comparison with the alternatives available to you.
For non-humans, humans wielding fists or daggers, or humans without Weapon Expertise, there are still several combinations of expertise items which, together with the Shard, will exceed the expertise cap. In some cases this waste of expertise is worthwhile due the superiority of the Shard over other trinkets. As a rule of thumb, if you are wasting 8 or more expertise rating, then the Shard's advantage over other trinkets is likely eclipsed by the wasted stats. However, this rule of thumb does not necessarily apply to other pieces of gear with expertise and their respective alternatives. Always consult a spreadsheet for an exact valuation of the gear combinations available to you.
[top]Ashtongue Talisman of Lethality
The [Ashtongue Talisman of Lethality] is worthy of special mention because its proc's power can be somewhat controlled through appropriate timing of finisher usage. Specifically, by delaying usage of each finisher until your energy is nearly full (see the Rogue Play Skills section for more on this technique, called "energy pooling"), it is possible to have the Talisman's proc last until you've generated all or almost all of the combo points for your next finisher. This effect enables the Talisman to reach slightly greater performance in reality than theoretical models indicate. For a combat build at most gear levels, this places the Talisman above [Warp-Spring Coil] and [Madness of the Betrayer] for situations where you can focus on optimal energy pooling.
The [Warp-Spring Coil] tends to be a powerful trinket for tier 6 rogues due to the low armor (6200) on many bosses in Hyjal and Black Temple -- particularly Teron Gorefiend, the most commonly-used benchmark boss in that tier of content. As a result, it is often considered more powerful for combat rogues than [Ashtongue Talisman of Lethality] (ignoring the superior performance in practice as detailed in the above section) and [Madness of the Betrayer] during tier 6 progression. Although its power scales back somewhat against high armor (7685) bosses, it also scales with your gear level, to the point that when you reach the end of Sunwell, it may well be superior to the [Shard of Contempt] or [Dragonspine Trophy]. As always, consult a spreadsheet to determine the trinket's exact value for you.
[top]Buffs and Enchants
The following permanent enchants should always be present on your gear in the slots as indicated below:
MH Weapon: Enchant Weapon - Mongoose or Enchant Weapon - Executioner (see below)
OH Weapon: Enchant Weapon - Mongoose (see below)
Head: [Item not found!]
Shoulders: [Might of the Scourge] if you have access to it, else [Greater Inscription of Vengeance] (for Aldor) or [Greater Inscription of the Blade] (for Scryers)
Back: Enchant Cloak - Greater Agility
Chest: Enchant Chest - Exceptional Stats
Wrist: Enchant Bracer - Assault
Hands: Enchant Gloves - Superior Agility
Legs: [Nethercobra Leg Armor]
Feet: Enchant Boots - Dexterity or Enchant Boots - Surefooted or Enchant Boots - Cat's Swiftness (see below)
Rings: Enchant Ring - Striking (for daggers) or Enchant Ring - Stats (for non-daggers)
Currently, Mongoose is considered to be the only viable permanent weapon enchant for both main hand and off hand weapons for nearly all gear levels. Executioner is also a strong enchant, and eventually does out-scale Mongoose by a very slight amount towards the end of Sunwell. Consult a spreadsheet for an exact valuation of the two enchants. It is worth mentioning that although two weapons with Mongoose may proc separate Lightning Speed buffs (for a total of 240 agility and two 2% hastes), two weapons with Executioner may only proc and refresh a single Executioner buff. Thus, it is only worth enchanting Executioner on your main hand weapon, if at all. It also bears mentioning that Greater Agility (20 agility) is an inferior enchant, even on an off hand weapon.
For all builds, the superior temporary enchant setup is [Deadly Poison VII] on the off hand weapon and Windfury provided by any shaman on the main hand. If for some reason you are not receiving Windfury Totem, then one hand should have [Deadly Poison VII] and the other should have [Instant Poison VII] -- it makes very little difference to your DPS which hand has which poison in this situation. Sharpening stones and [Righteous Weapon Coating] are inferior for all builds.
The three reasonable options for boot enchants are Surefooted (10 hit rating, 5% snare resist), Dexterity (12 agility), and Cat's Swiftness (6 agility, 8% run speed). To start with, for Surefooted to be as good as Dexterity, your EP value for hit rating must be 20% higher than that for agility. This only happens for a combat build with mostly best-in-slot gear, towards the end of Sunwell. Also note that the snare resist provided by Surefooted is of very little usefulness in raids, as the only bosses to have notable snares are Lady Vashj and Kaz'rogal, and most trash with snares simply don't present enough of a danger to warrant the enchant. Thus, Dexterity is, for the most part, superior to Surefooted.
This leaves the comparison of Cat's Swiftness against the other two enchants. For a Mutilate build, this enchant is obviously not worthwhile, as it does not stack with Fleet Footed. To figure out whether 8% run speed is worth trading Dexterity or Surefooted for a non-Mutilate build, we must consider T, the amount of time we spend moving back into DPS range per minute; C, our DPS with Cat's Swiftness; and D, our DPS with the alternative enchant (D and C as computed by the spreadsheet). Start with the following equality:
By solving this equality for T, you obtain the following equation:
Though it is best to determine this value for yourself using a spreadsheet, we calculate an example value using D = 2005 and C = 2000:
Thus, in a fight where you spend roughly 2 or more seconds moving per minute, Cat's Swiftness comes out ahead given these DPS values. In addition to increased DPS in movement-oriented fights, Cat's Swiftness also provides a slight advantage over Dexterity or Surefooted for non-Mutilate builds in terms of survivability. Particularly, in fights with AoE effects or other attacks that require quick movement, Cat's Swiftness enhances your reactions enough to be considered worthwhile even if it causes a theoretical DPS loss.
[top]Buffs and Debuffs
For most rogues, the biggest group-based buffs are Windfury Totem, Unleashed Rage, and Battle Shout. Thus, an enhancement shaman and a DPS warrior are considered irreplaceable members of a raid melee group including any number of rogues. A resto shaman dropping Windfury can substitute for the enhancement shaman, but the loss of Unleashed Rage is as great as losing either Windfury or Battle Shout. Other notable (but far less vital) party-specific buffs for rogues include Leader of the Pack, Improved Sanctity Aura, Ferocious Inspiration, and Trueshot Aura. Note that because hunter group-based needs don't synergize well with most melee classes, hunters tend not to be grouped with rogues. However, melee groups incorporating a feral druid or ret paladin in addition to the shaman and DPS warrior are not entirely uncommon.
Of specific note regarding shamans is that if you must choose a single air totem for them to drop, that choice should be Windfury Totem for nearly all builds. Even though Grace of Air Totem allows the use of an additional poison on the main hand, the total gain will still not be as great as that from Windfury Totem. Note also that if you have an enhancement shaman in your group, s/he should be encouraged to twist both totems if possible. See Shaman: Enhancement for more information on totem twisting.
[top]Raid-wide Buffs and Boss Debuffs
The most critical boss debuffs are generally those affecting the boss's armor: Sunder Armor in particular is completely indispensable, but Faerie Fire and Curse of Recklessness are also very important and should be kept up unless it is completely infeasible to do so. Other very useful boss debuffs that should not be overlooked include Mangle, Improved Hunter's Mark, Expose Weakness, Improved Seal of the Crusader, and Blood Frenzy.
Note that a 5-CP Expose Armor with 2 points in Improved Expose Armor is worth slightly more armor reduction than Sunder Armor (3075 vs. 2600). If your tank is a protection warrior, then Expose Armor will overwrite and prevent the use of Sunder Armor, reducing the warrior's initial threat from Devastating up to a full stack of Sunder Armor, as well as his threat on subsequent Devastates with 5 Sunders. The net effect on his TPS will be a reduction of roughly 100, usually precluding usage of Expose Armor. However, if your tank is not a warrior, then it is a net raid DPS gain for one rogue to switch to a cycle incorporating Improved Expose Armor rather than having a DPS warrior apply Sunder Armor. See the cycle section below for more information on Expose cycles.
If the raid has fewer than 3 paladins, then prioritize blessings in the order Salvation > Might > Kings. Make sure you are also getting Power Word: Fortitude and Gift of the Wild.
The best option for your elixir slots in nearly all cases is [Flask of Relentless Assault]; however, [Elixir of Major Agility] is very nearly as good for most builds. In general, choose the flask for progression content and the elixir for farm content. Note that [Elixir of Demonslaying] is superior if the target is a demon -- however, it also requires [Gromsblood] and [Ghost Mushroom], making it a highly expensive option that is typically only used when fighting Brutallus. Your food of choice should be either [Spicy Hot Talbuk] or [Warp Burger] -- consult your respective EP chart to determine which one is superior for your build.
Many other consumables may be used to eke out maximum DPS performance. [Haste Potion] may be used on any fight where you will not need to use healing or elemental protection potions, and provide a substantial DPS boost. [Thistle Tea] and [Flame Cap] both share cooldowns with healthstones, but may be used as an additional way to increase DPS (see the Rogue Play Skills section for more on [Thistle Tea]). Finally, if you are a leatherworker, [Drums of Battle], used on cooldown, provide a substantial group DPS boost; [Drums of War] are an inferior alternative.
[top]Buffs and DPS Output
In a raid, your buffs are your DPS. Proper gear and gem selections are critical, but nearly half of your total damage stems from raid buffs. If you are in a 5- or 10-man group, or in a 25-man where you aren't being given some of the aforementioned buffs, you will not do as much DPS as a rogue who is receiving more buffs. As mentioned above, the most critical contributions to rogue raid DPS are having an enhancement shaman and DPS warrior in your group and having someone debuffing the boss's armor. However, many other buffs are required to maximize your DPS output. A difference of just a few buffs can make a large total DPS difference. Keep this in mind when attempting to compare yourself to other rogues in your raid or in other guilds via WoW Web Stats or other methods.
[top]Abilities and Cycles
[top]Building Combo Points
Your main combo point building ability serves two purposes: it provides you with combo points, and it provides you with the bulk of your energy-based DPS. Your talent spec determines your special attack. Mutilate builds use Mutilate, Hemorrhage builds use Hemorrhage, combat dagger builds use Backstab, other builds use Sinister Strike. With very rare exceptions, you should only use your main combo point builder. Other abilities aside from the one for which you are specced will universally provide inferior damage per energy.
Though Shiv is not an exception to this rule, it is worth noting that it provides roughly similar damage regardless of spec, provides a combo point, and will automatically proc your off hand poison. This is important because when you have a 5-stack of Deadly Poison on a target and it falls off, you suffer a damage cost based on the amount of time it takes to refresh the stack. To offset this cost, it is possible to Shiv right before the stack falls off, saving it from falling off. This technique is not currently well-modeled, therefore it is difficult to say whether Shivving to save your DP stack is a DPS loss or gain. As with other precise DPS techniques, it may not be worthwhile to attempt this tactic during an encounter that isn't specifically DPS-focused.
Your most important finisher by far is Slice and Dice. Your first goal is to maintain 100% Slice and Dice uptime or as close to it as possible. Though there are certain builds where the value of Slice and Dice is such that this goal isn't worthwhile, those builds are universally inferior for DPS, and therefore are not worth considering.
Rupture is the second-best finisher in most circumstances for most builds. Your second goal is to maintain as high Rupture uptime as possible. Note that Rupture damage is increased by your AP: a 1-CP Rupture gains 1% of your AP per tick, a 2-CP Rupture gains 2% of your AP per tick, and a 3-or-higher-CP Rupture gains 3% of your AP per tick. As a result, Ruptures lower than 3 CP are typically not worth using, but 3-, 4-, and 5-CP Ruptures are nearly equivalent in DPS.
Eviscerate is the third-best finisher for most builds in most situations. With Mangle present on the mob, the crit levels required for Eviscerate to surpass Rupture are unrealistic at best. Without Mangle, it's reasonable for Eviscerate to surpass Rupture in damage done by the ability itself, but Rupture's lower energy cost means more energy to spend on combo point builders, meaning a slight increase in effective damage. Thus, for most builds the best use of Eviscerate is only when you have an excess of combo points with both Slice and Rupture already active. This will most often be the case during Adrenaline Rush.
Envenom is slightly superior to Eviscerate in terms of damage dealt, but will eat your Deadly Poison stack and therefore incurs a damage penalty that is usually not worth the slight damage increase of the ability itself. Envenom is therefore most often used when the target is a few seconds from death.
Untalented Expose Armor is not worth using in raids, even if your tank is not a warrior, as Sunder Armor provides 2600 armor reduction compared to 2050 for a 5-CP Expose. However, if your tank isn't a warrior, whether you have other warriors in the raid or not, it is worthwhile to take 2/2 Improved Expose Armor and use 5-CP Expose Armor for 3075 armor reduction. See the Buffs section above for more information.
[top]Combo Point Cycles
A combo point cycle is a fixed ordering of ability and finisher usage used to maintain 100% Slice uptime in conjunction with as high Rupture uptime as possible and as much energy return from Relentless Strikes as these constraints allow. A combo point cycle is typically given in the form "5s/5r," this example indicating that you generate 5 combo points, use Slice and Dice, generate 5 more combo points, use Rupture, and repeat. An 'e' represents Eviscerate and an 'a' represents Expose Armor. Note that all combo point cycles are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Your fundamental goals are always the same; if you run into a situation during your cycle where you would, for example, let Slice drop for a moment, you should ignore the cycle and refresh it immediately. In other words, stick to your cycle as long as it won't force you to deviate from the guidelines given above.
When reading the sections below for cycle recommendations, note that multiple given recommendations for the same build indicate that you should choose the one which works for you. This matters most typically for rogues with Combat Potency, as depending on the speed of your off hand weapon and your hit and expertise rating, you may need to use more or fewer CP on Slice to sustain it. Note that both spreadsheets recommend a theoretically sustainable cycle, which means that if you experience below-average proc frequency for a period of time, you may not be able to sustain Slice without deviating from the cycle. However, the spreadsheet recommendation also accommodates your exact gear and raid buffs, and therefore should be used over general guidelines such as these.
[top]Sinister Strike Cycles
Rogues with T4 2pc should use 1s/5r or 2s/5r. Rogues without T4 2pc should use 3s/5r, 4s/5r, or 5s/5r. Slight differences in hit rating and off hand speed matter quite a bit for these cycles. In addition, the difference between 3s/5r and 5s/5r depends on whether you use [Ashtongue Talisman of Lethality]. Sinister Strike-based rogues are best suited for the task of keeping Improved Expose Armor up; the cycle to use for this purpose is always 5s/5a.
Rogues with T4 2pc should use 1s/3r. Rogues without T4 2pc should use 3s/5s/5r. It will be impossible for a dagger rogue to simultaneously sustain 100% Slice uptime and 100% 5-CP Expose Armor uptime, therefore it is not recommended to ask a dagger rogue to perform this task.
Rogues with T4 2pc should use 2s/5r or 3s/5r. Rogues without T4 2pc should use 5s/5r. Raiding Hemo builds will be unable to take Improved Expose Armor, therefore it is not advisable to ask a Hemo rogue to perform the task of keeping Expose Armor up.
The best cycle for nearly all Mutilate rogues is 3-5s/5r, indicating that you perform Slice as soon as you hit anywhere from 3-5 CP, but always Mutilate to 5 CP before Rupturing (even if it means some CP go to waste). Mutilate rogues with T5 2pc may get slightly more mileage out of three finisher cycles like 3-5s/4-5r/4-5e. A Mutilate rogue may sustain 100% Slice and 100% 5-CP Expose Armor uptime using 3-5s/5a. However, it is advisable to ask a Sinister Strike rogue to do so rather than a Mutilate rogue, as the Mutilate rogue's cycle is highly susceptible to poor proc luck.
[top]Appendix: Evaluating Rogue Performance via WWS
If you wish to evaluate the performance of a rogue in your raids using tools like WWS, it is very important to note, first, that there are a large number of factors that affect rogue DPS. Gear and talents both play major roles in total DPS output, but proper ability usage and raid buffs are of even greater import. There are various methods by which you can evaluate each of these factors using a WWS report.
Above all, check the rogue's Armory profile to ensure that the rogue has made proper gear, gem, enchant, and talent choices. Consult the corresponding sections in the rest of the article to learn how to make sure the rogue is geared and specced correctly.
Ability usage may be evaluated using WWS itself. First, check the rogue's Buffs & Debuffs breakdown and look for "Slice and Dice." The theoretical ideal for Slice and Dice is to use it once at the start of the fight and then sustain it for the entire duration of the encounter. If you accomplish this ideal, you should see only one gain of Slice and Dice on WWS. More than one gain indicates that Slice dropped at some point during the fight. Note that many fights have interruptions or phases which may result in Slice falling off and unavoidably needing to be refreshed. Take the fight into account when you evaluate Slice usage by your rogues. For example, a good rogue on Felmyst may still show eight gains for Slice and Dice -- one per ground phase and one per air phase. Note that a rogue showing zero gains of Slice and Dice is using either a horribly incorrect cycle or a horribly incorrect spec.
Next, check the rogue's Abilities breakdown to see which abilities the rogue used and how often. At least 50% of the rogue's damage should come from white attacks ("Swing"), followed by his special attack -- either Mutilate, Hemorrhage, Sinister Strike, or Backstab. You should not see more than one of those four special attacks in the list. Other sources of damage which should contribute non-negligible damage (1% or more) are Rupture and Deadly Poison VII. Unless the target is immune to poisons, or the rogue is Mutilate and has T5 4pc, Eviscerate should be a negligible source of damage. Other negligible sources of damage might be Shiv, Garrote, Ambush, and Ghostly Strike. If any of these abilities contributes 1% or more of the rogue's damage, then the fight was either too short or the rogue is doing something wrong.
Return to the Buffs & Debuffs breakdown. Look for cooldown abilities, including Blade Flurry (2 minute cooldown), Blood Fury (2), Berserking (3), Cold Blood (3), Adrenaline Rush (5). Take the total length of the fight and divide it by the length of each cooldown, then round up. If the cooldown was used fewer than that number of times, then it was not used enough. For example, on a 6-minute fight you should see three uses of Blade Flurry and/or Blood Fury, two uses of Berserking and/or Cold Blood, and two uses of Adrenaline Rush. Also look for consumable usage, including [Haste Potion] (the buff is called "Haste" -- note that [Dragonspine Trophy] provides a buff of the same name, and it is not currently possible to differentiate the two using WWS), which is also a 2-minute cooldown, as well as [Flame Cap] (3 minutes) and [Thistle Tea] (5 minutes), all of which would indicate the rogue is going the extra mile for DPS.
Still on the Buffs & Debuffs breakdown, look at the various buffs provided to the rogue. Look for Windfury Attack, Battle Shout, and Unleashed Rage -- if any of these three are missing, then the rogue is not getting the best buffs he can get for group DPS. Leader of the Pack and Sanctity Aura are also useful buffs, if present, but they are not as vital. Check the Buffs & Debuffs breakdown for the boss itself, and see if Sunder Armor (or Expose Armor), Curse of Recklessness, Faerie Fire, Expose Weakness, Mangle, and Blood Frenzy are being applied -- these buffs contribute DPS roughly in the order given here, and should be applied for maximum DPS unless completely unfeasible.
Depending on how much the rogue's abilities and buffs and the boss debuffs deviate from the given guidelines, the rogue's DPS can slip quite a bit relative to what it "should" be. In case of any discrepancy in the rogue's abilities or self-buffs, the best bet is to provide the rogue with a link to this article to educate himself on his class. In case of discrepancies in the buffs provided to the rogue or debuffs applied to the boss, encourage your raid leader to cater more towards DPS classes except for the least DPS-centric fights.
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