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

35 comments
Combat Rogue Art Image
General Information

On this page, we list your Combat 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 a Combat Rogue.

The other pages of our Combat 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. Cast Ambush Icon Ambush when you are in Stealth.
    2. Cast Revealing Strike Icon Revealing Strike only to keep its debuff up.
    3. Cast Sinister Strike Icon Sinister Strike.
  • Finishing Moves (by order of priority)
    1. Apply and maintain Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice (with 5 Combo Points preferably, because of Ruthlessness Icon Ruthlessness).
    2. Apply and maintain Rupture Icon Rupture with 5 Combo Points.
      • There are cases when you should not maintain Rupture (see our Rupture section).
    3. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate with 5 Combo Points.

Dropping Rupture Icon Rupture from the rotation simplifies it, but it sacrifices about 1 or 2% of your DPS.

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

2. Multiple Target Rotation↑top

When fighting less than 8 targets, turn on Blade Flurry Icon Blade Flurry (even if there are only 2 enemies) and proceed with your single-target rotation on one of the enemies. Do not use Rupture Icon Rupture, as it is not transferred by Blade Flurry. If there are more than 5 enemies, use Fan of Knives Icon Fan of Knives every 12 seconds in order to maintain Deadly Poison Icon Deadly Poison on them.

When fighting 8 or more targets, you should abandon your single-target rotation and spam Fan of Knives Icon Fan of Knives instead. When you reach 5 Combo Points on your target, use Crimson Tempest Icon Crimson Tempest to spend them.

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 three main DPS cooldowns. As one of our readers once put it, a rule of thumb for cooldown management as Combat Rogue is to use them often and early.

  • Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush greatly increases your Energy regeneration for 15 seconds. It should be used on cooldown. Do not hesitate to stack it with Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust, Heroism Icon Heroism, or Time Warp Icon Time Warp, as you will still benefit from the increased attack speed (but the increased Energy regeneration will, for the most part, be wasted).
  • Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades increases your Combo Point regeneration for 12 seconds, on a 3-minute cooldown. Use this ability whenever you can. Do not hesitate to use a macro to combine it with Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush (their cooldowns have the same duration), this will enable you to make numerous casts of 5 Combo Point Eviscerate Icon Eviscerates.
  • Killing Spree Icon Killing Spree performs a series of attacks against your target (or a nearby enemy, if you have no target). If Blade Flurry Icon Blade Flurry is active, Killing Spree will perform its attacks against random enemies. Use this ability on cooldown and make sure that you are low on Energy before casting it, as you will not be able to spend any Energy while Killing Spree is active. In AoE situations, activate Blade Flurry before using Killing Spree.

Because of your Restless Blades Icon Restless Blades passive ability, the cooldowns of Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush, Killing Spree Icon Killing Spree, and Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades is reduced by 2 seconds every time a damaging Finishing Move consumes a Combo Point (i.e., 10-second reduction for each 5 Combo Point Rupture Icon Rupture and Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate). As a result, try to always use Killing Spree before Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush+Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades. This will cause the cooldown of Killing Spree to be greatly reduced, thanks to the numerous Finishing Moves you will get to use while Adrenaline Rush and Shadow Blades are active.

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 Ambush Icon Ambush. Because of Shadow Focus Icon Shadow Focus (your Tier 1 talent), Ambush Icon Ambush'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. Mastering Your Combat Rogue↑top

The guidelines above should enable you to play your Combat Rogue with near perfection. That said, if you want to excel at playing your character, you need to understand, among other things, how your Combo Points and your Energy are generated, and what Bandit's Guile Icon Bandit's Guile does and how you can benefit from it.

5.1. Combo Points and Energy

As a Rogue, most of your abilities need Energy to be used. Your Energy bar has a capacity of 100 Energy 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 Vitality Icon Vitality passive ability, which increases Energy regeneration by 20%;
  • your Combat Potency Icon Combat Potency passive ability, which grants your off-hand melee attacks and Mastery: Main Gauche Icon Mastery: Main Gauche attacks a chance to generate 15 Energy;
  • your Relentless Strikes Icon Relentless Strikes passive ability, which grants your Finishing Moves a 20% chance per Combo Point to restore 25 Energy;
  • your Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush cooldown, which temporarily increases your Energy regeneration by 100%.

The faster you regenerate Energy, the more casts of Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate you can fit between your refreshes of Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice and Rupture Icon Rupture.

Note that, whenever you are in Blade Flurry Icon Blade Flurry, your Energy regeneration is reduced by 20%.

Letting your Energy reach its maximum is something to avoid. You should always try to spend your Energy by (literally) spamming your buttons. Unlike for Assassination Rogues, Energy pooling is not beneficial for Combat Rogues. There are many situations when you will generate more Energy than you can spend (haste trinket procs, Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust, Heroism Icon Heroism, Time Warp Icon Time Warp, Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush, etc.), and you should spam your buttons even harder than usually during such times.

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 the debuff that Revealing Strike Icon Revealing Strike applies on your targets This buff lasts 24 seconds and causes, among other things, Sinister Strike Icon Sinister Strike to have a 20% chance to generate an additional Combo Point. You should never ever use Revealing Strike Icon Revealing Strike before its debuff drops.

Ruthlessness Icon Ruthlessness causes your Finishing Moves cast at 5 Combo Points to generate a Combo Point. This is an incentive to use Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice with 5 Combo Points.

You should never waste Combo Points. Never cast a Combo Point-generating ability when you are at 5 Combo Points (if you are not using Anticipation Icon Anticipation). With Anticipation, never cast Sinister Strike if you have 4 or more stacks of Anticipation (3 or more when Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades is up).

5.2. Bandit's Guile

Bandit's Guile Icon Bandit's Guile is an important mechanic for Combat Rogues. It causes your character to cycle through different buffs of increased damage dealt to your current target:

Attacking your current target 4 times with any combination of Sinister Strike Icon Sinister Strike and Revealing Strike Icon Revealing Strike will cause the cycle to progress to the next buff. For Shallow Insight Icon Shallow Insight and Moderate Insight Icon Moderate Insight, you need to make one attack every 15 seconds at least, otherwise the buff will drop and the cycle will restarts from 0% increased damage. Deep Insight Icon Deep Insight cannot be refreshed and at the end of the 15 seconds, the buff drops and the cycle restarts from 0% increased damage.

Switching to a new target does not reset your cycle of Bandit's Guile Icon Bandit's Guile.

Bandit's Guile Icon Bandit's Guile is largely out of your control and the cycle will repeat itself as the encounter progresses. That said, you can try and time your cooldowns so that they are used during one of the buffs, possibly the highest one. Also, thanks to Anticipation Icon Anticipation, you can save Combo Points and use them for Bandit's Guile. We detail this in the next sections.

5.2.1. Delaying Cooldowns for Bandit's Guile

It can be viable to delay Killing Spree Icon Killing Spree slightly so that it benefits from a higher Bandit's Guile Icon Bandit's Guile buff. We believe that Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush should not be delayed for Bandit's Guile Icon Bandit's Guile.

Because of Restless Blades Icon Restless Blades, the real cooldown on Killing Spree Icon Killing Spree and Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush is much lower than what the tooltip indicates. Depending on your Energy regeneration, it should be between 40 seconds and 1 minute for Killing Spree and between 1 minute and 1 minute 30 for Adrenaline Rush.

These abilities will therefore often be available and delaying using them can be a DPS loss.

  • For Killing Spree Icon Killing Spree, we advise you to delay using it, if you will gain a higher buff of Bandit's Guile Icon Bandit's Guile in the next 3 or 4 seconds. Otherwise, use it immediately.
  • For Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush, we advise you to use it as soon as it is off cooldown, in order to benefit from the increased Energy regeneration as often as possible.

5.2.2. Anticipation and Bandit's Guile

Thanks to Anticipation Icon Anticipation, you can save Combo Points for Deep Insight Icon Deep Insight. To do so, use your finishing moves when you reach 4 or 5 stacks of Anticipation. Once you enter Deep Insight, use the extra stacks of Anticipation to cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate more times while Deep Insight is active.

5.3. Revealing Strike

Revealing Strike Icon Revealing Strike afflicts your target with a 24-second debuff that you will need to strive to keep up. This debuff is important because, while active, it increases the effectiveness of your offensive Finishing Moves against the target by 35% and it causes your Sinister Strike Icon Sinister Strike to have a 20% chance to generate 2 Combo Points.

5.4. Rupture

Rupture Icon Rupture should only be refreshed at 5 Combo Points and after it has dropped, as otherwise it is not a DPS gain over Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

In this case, Rupture is better than Eviscerate, but only because it costs less Energy to cast. In periods of high Energy regeneration (i.e., when Energy is no longer the limiting factor), so during Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust / Heroism Icon Heroism / Time Warp Icon Time Warp, Rupture should not be refreshed.

When using the Item - Rogue T15 2P Bonus Icon Rogue T15 2P Bonus, Rupture Icon Rupture's duration is increased and it becomes much more beneficial. In this case, you should simply keep Rupture Icon Rupture applied all the time.

You should never use Rupture Icon Rupture under Blade Flurry Icon Blade Flurry, as it does not reproduce Rupture's damage on the additional targets.

5.5. Opening Sequence

  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 Ambush Icon Ambush.
  5. Cast Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice.
  6. If you are using ICD-based trinkets (e.g., Vicious Talisman of the Shado-Pan Assault Icon Vicious Talisman of the Shado-Pan Assault), cast Revealing Strike Icon Revealing Strike and spam Sinister Strike Icon Sinister Strike until they proc.
  7. Cast Killing Spree Icon Killing Spree.
  8. Cast Adrenaline Rush Icon Adrenaline Rush and Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  9. Start your rotation.

5.6. 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.

5.6.1. 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).

5.7. Swapping Target and Redirect

Since Bandit's Guile Icon Bandit's Guile and Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice are self-buffs, switching to a new target only requires you to reapply Rupture Icon Rupture and Revealing Strike Icon Revealing Strike.

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.

5.8. 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).
    • Killing Spree Icon Killing Spree now attacks your target only, unless you have Blade Flurry Icon Blade Flurry turned on.
    • Ruthlessness Icon Ruthlessness is a new passive ability that acts as an incentive to always cast Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice at 5 Combo Points (and not less).
  • 20 May 2013: Patch 5.3 update: changed Revealing Strike Icon Revealing Strike's duration (was 18 seconds, is 24 seconds now).
  • 20 May 2013: Dryaan's second review of the guide.
    • Numerous improvements to nearly all the sections of the guides (rotations, poisons, Energy, Rupture, etc.)
  • 19 Mar. 2013: Removed paragraph that recommended pooling Energy for Revealing Strike Icon Revealing Strike.
  • 19 Mar. 2013: Added advice for saving up Combo Points with Anticipation Icon Anticipation for Deep Insight Icon Deep Insight.
  • 19 Mar. 2013: Added a Rupture Icon Rupture section to give more information regarding when and how to refresh Rupture.
  • 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.
    • Updated description of Vitality Icon Vitality, which now increases Energy regeneration by 30% (was 25%).