Assassination Rogue DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoW MoP 5.4)

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General Information

On this page, we list your Assassination Rogue core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft MoP 5.4. We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that you will need to know if you want to excel at playing an Assassination Rogue.

The other pages of our Assassination Rogue guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Reviewer

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Dryaan, one of the best Rogues in the world, who raids in Envy. You can watch his stream on Twitch.

1. Single Target Rotation↑top

  • Combo Point builders (by order of priority)
    1. Use Dispatch Icon Dispatch, if the target's health is below 35% or when Blindside Icon Blindside procs.
    2. Use Mutilate Icon Mutilate, if the target's health is above 35%.
  • Finishing Moves (by order of priority)
    1. Apply and maintain Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice.
    2. Apply and maintain Rupture Icon Rupture.
      • It is optimal to apply and refresh Rupture Icon Rupture with 5 Combo Points. That said, if it is going to expire in less than 2 seconds, refresh it with whatever amount of Combo Points you have.
    3. Use Envenom Icon Envenom with 5 Combo Points.
      • If Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice needs refreshing, then you can afford to cast Envenom with fewer Combo Points.
      • If you do not have Anticipation Icon Anticipation, use Envenom Icon Envenom whenever you have 4 or 5 Combo Points.

For more information about the optimal opening sequence, refer to our dedicated section.

For more information about Energy pooling, refer to our section about Envenom and Energy pooling.

2. Multiple Target Rotation↑top

When fighting 2 or 3 targets, maintain Deadly Poison Icon Deadly Poison (with Mutilate Icon Mutilate or Dispatch Icon Dispatch) and Rupture Icon Rupture (cast with 3 or more Combo Points) on all targets. The rest of the time, keep performing your single-target rotation on one of the enemies. Vanish Icon Vanish (thanks to Shadow Focus Icon Shadow Focus) and Redirect Icon Redirect make maintaining Rupture easier, although they have rather long cooldowns.

When fighting 4 to 8 targets, maintain Deadly Poison Icon Deadly Poison (with Fan of Knives Icon Fan of Knives) and Rupture Icon Rupture (cast with 3 or more Combo Points) on all of them. The rest of the time, use your Combo Points on Envenom Icon Envenom and generate them with Fan of Knives Icon Fan of Knives.

When fighting more than 8 targets, you should simply spam Fan of Knives Icon Fan of Knives and use Envenom Icon Envenom to spend your Combo Points.

If your main target will die in less than 1 minute and you have chosen Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death as your Tier 6 talent, then use it on cooldown.

3. Poisons↑top

Your Lethal Poison should always be Deadly Poison Icon Deadly Poison.

Your Non-Lethal Poison depends on the encounter.

4. Cooldowns↑top

You have two main DPS cooldowns.

  • Vendetta Icon Vendetta (with Glyph of Vendetta Icon Glyph of Vendetta) increases the damage you do on your target by 25% for 30 seconds, on a 2-minute cooldown. Naturally, it is more beneficial to use Vendetta during times when you deal increased damage to the boss.
  • Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades greatly increases your Combo Point regeneration and the damage of your white melee attacks for 12 seconds, on a 3-minute cooldown.

Using Vendetta Icon Vendetta and Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades together is very beneficial, but these two abilities have different cooldowns, so you will rarely be able to use them together. That said, at the beginning of the fight, and every 6 minutes after that, they will be available at the same time. Also, being aware of the remaining duration of the fight can be beneficial; for example, if the fight finishes in 2 minutes and Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades is off cooldown while Vendetta Icon Vendetta still has 1 minute left on its cooldown, you can simply wait for that minute to pass and use Shadow Blades and Vendetta at the same time.

In addition to those, you have several minor DPS and utility cooldowns.

  • Vanish Icon Vanish makes you enter Stealth. Use this ability on cooldown, immediately followed by Mutilate Icon Mutilate. Because of Shadow Focus Icon Shadow Focus (your Tier 1 talent), Mutilate Icon Mutilate's cost is reduced by 75% when using it in Stealth. The cooldown of Vanish can be reset with Preparation Icon Preparation.
  • Redirect Icon Redirect is a DPS gain in fights where you have to fight different enemies. See our Redirect section for more details.
  • Sprint Icon Sprint (in addition to its obvious survival role) can give you more uptime on the boss, which translates into a direct DPS increase. So, you can use Sprint as a DPS cooldown in some fights. Its cooldown can be reset with Preparation Icon Preparation.

Finally, you have a number of survival cooldowns, such as Feint Icon Feint, Cloak of Shadows Icon Cloak of Shadows, Preparation Icon Preparation, Evasion Icon Evasion, etc., which you can use to keep yourself alive. See our section about survival cooldowns for more information.

5. Optional Read: Mastering Your Assassination Rogue↑top

The Assassination specialisation is rather easy to play. The information given above will yield good results. However, being aware of the few subtleties that we detail in the rest of this page will enable you to play your Assassination Rogue to its full potential.

In particular, poisons do most of the damage of an Assassination Rogue, therefore it is important to understand the synergy they have with your various abilities.

5.1. Combo Points, Energy, and Anticipation

As a Rogue, most of your abilities need Energy to be used. Your Energy bar has a capacity of 120 Energy (thanks to Assassin's Resolve Icon Assassin's Resolve, one of your Assassination-only passive abilities) and refills at a rate of 10 Energy per second. Your energy regeneration is increased by:

  • your melee haste (Haste Rating + haste-enhancing buffs);
  • your Relentless Strikes Icon Relentless Strikes passive ability, which grants your Finishing Moves a 20% chance per Combo Point to restore 25 Energy;
  • your Rupture Icon Rupture and Garrote Icon Garrote periodic damage ticks, which have a 75% chance to restore 10 Energy (thanks to Venomous Wounds Icon Venomous Wounds).

The faster you regenerate Energy, the more Combo Points you generate, and the more casts of Envenom Icon Envenom with 5 Combo Points you can fit in your rotation. This maintains a virtuous circle, thanks to Relentless Strikes Icon Relentless Strikes, more Energy means more Combo Points, and more Combo Points means more Energy.

You should never be Energy capped (i.e., never let your Energy reach its maximum). If you find yourself at your maximum Energy, then you are losing DPS, because any Energy you generate is wasted.

Some abilities add one or several Combo Points on your target, up to a maximum of 5 Combo Points (10 with Anticipation Icon Anticipation). Other abilities, called Finishing Moves, consume up to 5 Combo Points on your target. The more Combo Points a Finishing Move consumes, the more powerful its effect is. Your Combo Point generation is increased by Seal Fate Icon Seal Fate, which causes your critical hits with Mutilate Icon Mutilate and Dispatch Icon Dispatch to add an additional Combo Point on your target.

In a similar fashion as with Energy, you should never waste Combo Points by forgetting to spend them when you are at the maximum. Anticipation Icon Anticipation gives you extra storage room for Combo Points, which makes Combo Point management much easier (hence why this talent is so great). The implication of Anticipation is that you will never want to cast Mutilate Icon Mutilate after 3 stacks of Anticipation or Dispatch Icon Dispatch after 4 stacks of Anticipation (because of the potential extra Combo Point from Seal Fate Icon Seal Fate). When playing without Anticipation, you can however let this extra Combo Point be lost and cast Mutilate at 3 Combo Points. Never use it at 4 Combo Points though.

5.2. Envenom and Energy Pooling

Envenom Icon Envenom is your hardest hitting ability. It also gives you a temporary buff that increases your chance to apply your Poison by 15% for 1 second plus an additional second per Combo Point used.

In order to maximise your DPS, you need always delay Envenom Icon Envenom so that it does not override (clip) your previous Envenom Icon Envenom buff (if it is still running). Doing so has two beneficial consequences.

  1. Not clipping Envenom results in a higher uptime on your Envenom Icon Envenom buff.
  2. While you wait for your previous buff of Envenom Icon Envenom to drop, your Energy will pool, and you will be able to perform more casts of Mutilate Icon Mutilate and Dispatch Icon Dispatch after re-applying your Envenom Icon Envenom buff. This will results in more poison applications and thus more damage.

Note that the Envenom Icon Envenom buff is applied on you before Envenom deals its damage, therefore Envenom will always benefit from its own buff, even it misses your target or if it is parried or dodged.

Clipping Envenom Icon Envenom is not always a DPS loss.

  • When there is less than 1 second remaining on your current Envenom Icon Envenom buff. In this case, the time remaining on your former Envenom buff will be added into your new Envenom buff.
  • When your Energy regeneration is high enough that you will be Energy capped if you do not clip Envenom Icon Envenom. Being Energy capped is a much higher DPS loss than clipping Envenom. This happens mostly when you benefit from haste buffs such as Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust, Heroism Icon Heroism, or Time Warp Icon Time Warp, trinket procs or set bonuses (e.g., Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades with the Item - Rogue T15 4P Bonus Icon Rogue T15 4P Bonus).

Pooling Energy is also useful in other situations than Envenom Icon Envenom management, for example when you expect a damage increase (trinket procs, cooldowns, encounter-specific buff, etc.). The idea is that pooling Energy is not a magical DPS gain by itself. It allows you to slightly adjust the timing of your abilities so that you fit more attacks during periods of increased damage (provided you can properly identify when such periods are going to come).

5.3. Rupture, Garrote, and Venomous Wounds

The DoTs left by Rupture Icon Rupture and Garrote Icon Garrote do not deal much damage by themselves, but, thanks to Venomous Wounds Icon Venomous Wounds, each tick has a 75% chance to deal additional Nature damage (shown as Venomous Wounds in your combat logs) and to make you regain 10 Energy.

Venomous Wounds Icon Venomous Wounds is the reason why you want to maintain Rupture Icon Rupture on your target. Garrote Icon Garrote should never be used, even on the pull. Indeed, Rupture ticks every 2 seconds, while Garrote ticks every 3 seconds, making Rupture the better choice when it comes to triggering Venomous Wounds.

Rupture Icon Rupture takes a snapshot of your stats at the moment you apply it on your target. This means that if you benefit from a large trinket proc when you apply Rupture, then all subsequent ticks of Ruptures (until the next refresh) will benefit from that large trinket proc, even after it expires.

Rupture Icon Rupture interacts dynamically with your target's debuffs. This means that if you cast Vendetta Icon Vendetta halfway through a Rupture, then only the ticks following the application of Vendetta will benefit from the 25% increased damage. Similarly, if you cast Rupture on your target a few seconds before Vendetta finishes, then only the first few ticks of Rupture will benefit from the increased damage.

5.4. Dispatch and Blindside

When your target is below 35% health, Dispatch Icon Dispatch becomes available and it replaces Mutilate Icon Mutilate as your Combo Point builder. Dispatch costs almost twice less Energy than Mutilate, gives less Combo Points, and does slightly more damage.

When you are using Mutilate Icon Mutilate, Blindside Icon Blindside grants you a 30% chance per hit to trigger an Energy-free Dispatch Icon Dispatch that you can use even if the target is above 35 health.

You need to watch out for procs of Blindside Icon Blindside, so that you never cast Mutilate Icon Mutilate before first consuming your Blindside proc with Dispatch Icon Dispatch (otherwise, you run the risk of wasting the proc, by overriding it with a new proc). If you have to choose between Dispatch Icon Dispatch and a Finishing Move, cast your Finishing Move first.

5.5. Applying and refreshing Slice and Dice

Whenever you have to apply Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice, do not bother doing it with 5 Combo Points. Indeed, thanks to Cut to the Chase Icon Cut to the Chase, Envenom Icon Envenom will always refresh your Slice and Dice to a 5 Combo Point duration. This is true regardless of how many Combo Points you had applied Slice and Dice with in the first place and regardless of how many Combo Points you use on Envenom. As a result, it is suboptimal to apply Slice and Dice with a high number of Combo Points, as you would be essentially wasting Combo Points.

If your Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice ever drops, re-apply it as soon as possible.

5.6. Opening Sequence

There are several possible opening sequences for Assassination and none has been proven to be significantly better than the others, in terms of final DPS output. The opening sequence that we present you below is the one our reviewer uses.

  1. Before the pull, use Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade on your Tricks of the Trade target (see next section).
  2. 1 second before the pull, use your Virmen's Bite Icon Virmen's Bite potion and get in Stealth.
  3. When the boss is pulled:
    • Shadowstep Icon Shadowstep it if the boss is far away, if you have picked this talent, and if you will not need it in the next 24 seconds;
    • Sprint Icon Sprint to reach the boss if it is far away and you cannot use Shadowstep;
    • otherwise, simply run to the boss and continue your opening sequence.
  4. Cast Mutilate Icon Mutilate to get out of Stealth.
  5. Depending on the number of Combo Points your Mutilate Icon Mutilate granted you, there are two courses of action.
  6. Cast Vendetta Icon Vendetta.
  7. Cast Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  8. Start your rotation.

5.7. Tricks of the Trade

Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade was originally designed to be cast on tanks in order to help them keep aggro. With the changes that threat generation has undergone in WotLK and Cataclysm, it is now more beneficial to your raid if you use Tricks of the Trade on one of the best DPS players in order to increase their damage done. Indeed, Tricks of the Trade provides a 15% DPS increase on its target for 6 seconds, on a 30-second cooldown.

Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade costs 15 Energy to cast, but is not on the Global Cooldown. The damage bonus that it grants to your target is so beneficial to your raid that you should never refrain from sacrificing 15 Energy for it. Glyph of Tricks of the Trade Icon Glyph of Tricks of the Trade should never be used, as it removes the damage increase. Regarding usage of Tricks of the Trade, you should always cast it on cooldown, unless your target asks for it to be slightly delayed (to line it up with cooldowns, for example).

Since Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade is off the global cooldown, you should cast it together with Vanish Icon Vanish in order to reduce its Energy cost by 75% every 2 minutes (because of Shadow Focus Icon Shadow Focus). You can also cast it on the tank before the pull, as you have a 20-second window to make your first attack and proc its effect (which will increase the threat generation of the tank). After the pull, you should start using Tricks of the Trade on a DPS player.

Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade does not stack with itself: someone getting two Tricks of the Trade simultaneously from two Rogues will only benefit from one and the second one will be wasted.

Please refer to our Macros and Addons page for a Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade macro.

5.7.1. Picking your Tricks of the Trade Target

There are a few things to know in order to properly pick your main Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade target.

  • Avoid players that rely on their pet's DPS, such as Frost Mages or Beast Mastery Hunters.
  • Avoid players that massively rely on DoTs, such as Warlocks or Balance/Feral Druids.
  • Avoid players that have damage-increasing buffs, such as Retribution Paladins, Arcane Mages, or Warriors. Tricks of the Trade does not stack with those buffs.
  • Prefer players with a relatively constant damage output, such as Rogues.

Our advice is to have a main Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade target that your casts will default to and a secondary target that can sometimes ask you to buff them before they are about to do a lot of burst damage (e.g., at the beginning of the fight).

5.8. Swapping Target and Redirect

Swapping target has never been as easier as it currently is. Indeed, you only need two things on your new target to start dealing damage as if you had stayed on your former target:

  • Deadly Poison Icon Deadly Poison, which will be applied pretty much instantly;
  • Rupture Icon Rupture, which can be cast with any amount of Combo Points.

Redirect Icon Redirect helps with target swapping because it transfers your existing Combo Points to your new target.

Also, when an enemy dies, your unused Combo Points remain on it, which means that you can transfer them through Redirect Icon Redirect. This is very useful for transferring Combo Points from a dead trash mob to the boss prior to the pull.

5.9. Survival Cooldowns

One of the greatest strengths of Rogues is their survivability, which they owe to a large number of powerful survival cooldowns.

  • Feint Icon Feint (with Glyph of Feint Icon Glyph of Feint) reduces your damage taken from AoE attacks by 50% for 7 seconds. With the Tier 3 talent Elusiveness Icon Elusiveness, damage taken from AoE attacks is reduced by 65% and damage taken from all other types of damage attacks is reduced by 30%. Feint has a very low Energy cost and has no cooldown, which makes it your primary survival tool (as you can use it whenever you need).
  • Cloak of Shadows Icon Cloak of Shadows removes all harmful spell effects on you and makes you resist all spells for 5 seconds, on a 1-minute cooldown. This 5-second window consists of 2 seconds of immunity against spells (both damage and application of harmful effects) followed by 3 seconds during which spells will miss you. Some fight mechanics can only be bypassed during the first two seconds (e.g., Ionization Icon Ionization against Jin'rokh the Breaker in Heroic mode).
  • Evasion Icon Evasion increases your dodge chance by 100% for 10 seconds, on a 2-minute cooldown. It should be used whenever you receive physical damage that can be dodged (e.g., Ji-Kun's Quills Icon Quills or Sha of Fear's Death Blossom Icon Death Blossom) or when you have to tank an add. The cooldown of Evasion Icon Evasion can be reset with Preparation Icon Preparation.
  • Combat Readiness Icon Combat Readiness causes you to take 50% less damage from melee attacks. The damage reduction builds up gradually by stacks of 10%, until you have 5 stacks. Each enemy hit grants you a stack. The effect lasts 20 seconds, but it is removed after 10 seconds without receiving melee attacks.
  • Growl Icon Growl (given by Druids through Symbiosis Icon Symbiosis) increases your armor by 330%, your stamina by 20% and renders you immune to critical attacks for 30 seconds, on a 3-minutes cooldown. In addition, it makes you taunt your target, but this effect rarely works against raid bosses.
  • Smoke Bomb Icon Smoke Bomb reduces damage taken by your raid by 20% on a 8 yard radius during 5 seconds (7 seconds with Glyph of Smoke Bomb Icon Glyph of Smoke Bomb). It is the only raid cooldown you have. You can use Smoke Bomb to force ranged enemies to come to melee range or to prevent those inside the smoke to be targeted by mechanics.

6. Changelog↑top

  • 10 Sep. 2013: Patch 5.4 update.
    • Evasion Icon Evasion now lasts 10 seconds (down from 15), its effectiveness is 100% (up from 50%), and its cooldown is 2 minutes (down from 3).
  • 22 Jun. 2013: Improved section about pooling Energy.
  • 20 May 2013: Patch 5.3 update: nothing to change.
  • 20 May 2013: Dryaan's second review of the guide.
    • Numerous improvements to nearly all the sections of the guides (rotations, poisons, Energy, Envenom, Venomous Wounds, etc.)
  • 25 Apr. 2013: Improved section about Envenom and Energy pooling.
  • 19 Mar. 2013: Improved the section on the interaction of Venomous Wounds Icon Venomous Wounds, Rupture Icon Rupture, and Garrote Icon Garrote.
  • 19 Mar. 2013: Improved AoE rotation.
  • 11 Mar. 2013: Patch 5.2 update.
    • Updated mention of Preparation Icon Preparation being a Tier 4 talent (it is now baseline).
    • Added a mention of Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death in the multiple-target rotation section.
    • Added a mention that using Ambush Icon Ambush to get out of Stealth is the best option, when Cloak and Dagger Icon Cloak and Dagger is talented.