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Subtlety Rogue DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.0.3)

Last updated Yesterday at 20:45 by Furty 22 comments

Table of Contents

General Information

On this page, we list your Subtlety Rogue core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft Legion 7.0.3. 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 Subtlety Rogue.

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

About Our Author

This guide has been written by Furty who raids in Serenity, the number #1 World of Warcraft guild. He plays most classes at the highest level. You can follow him on Twitter and watch him play on Twitch.

1. Ability Priority List

  1. Maintain the Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death buff.
  2. Activate Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades if available.
  3. Activate Vanish Icon Vanish, refresh Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death if necessary, and use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  4. Maintain Nightblade Icon Nightblade on your primary target.
  5. Enter Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance if you have 2 or more charges.
  6. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate to spend Combo Points when you cap.
  7. Cast Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm to generate Combo Points on 2 or more targets.
  8. Cast Backstab Icon Backstab to generate Combo Points.

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

2. Important Notes

2.1. 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. With Vigor Icon Vigor we have 150 Energy. Your Energy regeneration is increased by:

  • Melee haste (haste + haste-enhancing buffs);
  • The Relentless Strikes Icon Relentless Strikes passive, which grants your finishers a 20% chance per Combo Point to restore 40 Energy;
  • Vigor Icon Vigor, if chosen as your Tier 7 talent.

The faster you regenerate Energy, the smoother the rotation will begin to feel, as you will need to "pool" less. Faster Energy regeneration and proper management allow for more finishers, more damage contribution from your Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, and more burst damage.

You should never let your Energy reach its maximum. This a DPS loss, as you are wasting every Energy point generated during this time.

You should also avoid capping Combo Points (i.e., reach 5 Combo Points) for more than 1 global cooldown so you do not waste a potential Shadow Techniques Icon Shadow Techniques proc.

2.1.1. Pooling

During a fight, the DPS value of Energy and Combo Points fluctuates. For example, during Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, the DPS value of Energy is extraordinarily high, because it sports a large damage buff and only lasts for 3 seconds (5 with Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge). If you do not have enough Energy, then you cannot get all your Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrikes off in that time (or refresh Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death and spam Shadowstrike). For this reason, it is incredibly important that you enter Shadow Dance with more than 100 Energy. Remember that you will get 30 Energy back immediately if you are playing with Master of Shadows Icon Master of Shadows, so do not go much higher. The time you spend waiting (simply auto attacking the boss) while your Energy regenerates in anticipate of a burst window is known as "pooling."

Combo Points, on the other hand, have a higher value when the boss enters a period of increased damage taken, as pumping out as many finishers as possible during this time results in the highest overall damage yield. These examples should highlight the importance of pooling as you will be doing it extremely often as Subtlety.

2.2. Shadow Dance

Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance is your most frequently used cooldown, and contributes to your damage more than any other source. Shadow Dance has 3 charges, each with a 1-minute recharge, however, the Deepening Shadows Icon Deepening Shadows passive ensures that they will be available much more often than that. Each 5 Combo Point finisher will reduce the cooldown of Shadow Dance by 15 seconds.

You should still Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate if you cap Combo Points in Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance for the energy return from Relentless Strikes Icon Relentless Strikes and avoid Combo Point overflow. A typical Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance with Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge will look like:

  1. Refresh Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death if necessary. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  2. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  3. Dump CP with Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  4. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  5. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.

You will be forced to Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance or Vanish Icon Vanish once every 35 seconds to refresh Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death. For every Shadow Dance it is very important that you budget a minimum of 100 Energy, as you only have very limited time inside this cooldown. As Symbols of Death is off the global cooldown, you need to press it simultaneously with your first Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike, which have a combined Energy cost of 75 Energy.

Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm deals 200% increased damage during Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, but in most situations it is better to focus on single-target damage. If you need to quickly burst down a large pack of mobs, such as the imps on Mannoroth, try to go into Shadow Dance with 0 Combo Points so that the generation from Shuriken Storm is not entirely wasted.

2.2.1. Building Combo Points during Shadow Dance

When using Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike takes the place of Backstab Icon Backstab as your Combo Point generator. This is very beneficial as Shadowstrike deals significantly more damage than Backstab, and generates twice as many Combo Points when using Premeditation Icon Premeditation.

2.3. Shuriken Storm as a Generator

When 2 or more targets are present and stacked, you should replace Backstab Icon Backstab with Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm as your main Combo Point generator. Otherwise, perform your rotation as normal. This results in a greatly increased number of finishers, and therefore, much more single-target damage.

2.4. Shadow Blades

Remember that you have increased Combo Point generation during Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades, so take care not to accidentally overcap. You should dump your Combo Points and pool at least 100 Energy before activating Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades to take maximum advantage of this cooldown.

2.5. Vanish

Vanish Icon Vanish can be used more or less on cooldown at the player's discretion. It can be beneficial to use as a free window to refresh Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death and get a single Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike (remember, you need 75 Energy to do both) with expending a charge of Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance. This allows you to save your Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance charges for procs or bursting down high priority targets.

2.6. Defensive Utility

All Rogues come ready made with a dizzying phalanx of defensive cooldowns, which make them the best candidate for soaking required mechanics and dealing with heavy incoming damage.

  • Feint Icon Feint reduces AoE damage taken by 50% for 5 seconds for only 20 Energy. When talented into Elusiveness Icon Elusiveness it also reduces all other damage by 30%. This is one of the most overpowered abilities in the game and a huge asset on fights with heavy raid damage. Do not forget about this button!
  • Cloak of Shadows Icon Cloak of Shadows provides magic immunity for a second, followed by 5 seconds where all spells will miss. This spell is mostly used for clearing debuffs that might otherwise force you out of melee range, like Fel Surge on Xhul'horac. Cloak is also a fantastic tool for soaking abilities that don't pierce immunities.
  • Cheat Death Icon Cheat Death is a talent that allows you to escape lethal damage once every 2 minutes. The damage cannot exceed more than twice your maximum health. Cheat Death Icon Cheat Death is great for soaking mechanics that pierce immunities and damage reductions as it guarantees your survival. It's also great for encounters with bursty damage that might take you by surprise, as you get a free get out of jail free card once every 2 minutes.
  • Crimson Vial Icon Crimson Vial provides a respectable amount of healing on a very short cooldown. Use this often in boss encounters.

2.7. Pandemic

Some of your personal buffs benefit from Pandemic, a mechanic that allows you to refresh early without penalty as long as the buff has less than 30% of its maximum duration remaining. The current timer will be added to the newly refreshed full duration buff, allowing for a new buff longer than the maximum duration. For example, if you refreshed a 5 Combo Point Nightblade Icon Nightblade when it had 4 seconds left, it would result in a new Nightblade Icon Nightblade debuff that lasts 22 seconds. These are the safe refresh times for your buffs and debuffs:

The Pandemic timing from Nightblade Icon Nightblade is based off of your current Combo Point value, rather than the duration of the original Nightblade. So if you had a 2 Combo Point Nightblade on the target, and refresh with a 5 Combo Point Nightblade, the Pandemic value would be treated as a 5 Combo Point Nightblade instead.

3. Core Concepts

Subtlety Rogue has been entirely redesigned, and though there are some familiar concepts returning, this specialization is its own beast. Subtlety has plenty of complexity and a ton of room for personal creativity and interpretation, due to the charge based nature of Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance. Given that abilities like Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death incur no global cooldown, this specialization rewards the fleet fingered as there are a considerable number of buttons to press in very small windows of time. Ultimately, this is a specialization that rewards the initiated and informed but can be incredibly punishing to the neophytes. Learning to focus on what is important and master the core concepts of a specialization is what leads to strong overall performances on the damage charts. Subtlety features 3 major concepts that form the central trinity of optimizing for success:

  1. resource management;
  2. cooldown usage;
  3. personal initiative.

3.1. Resource Management

As discussed in depth earlier in this section, pooling is one of the most important aspects of this specialization. Particularly when playing with Deeper Stratagem Icon Deeper Stratagem, the preferred Tier 3 talent, you will spend a lot of time pooling for Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance with little margin for error. When using Vigor Icon Vigor, Premeditation Icon Premeditation, Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge, and Master of Shadows Icon Master of Shadows the specialization becomes much faster and slightly more forgiving. Pay very close attention to your boss timers, as you will want to ensure you have enough Energy ready to apply pressure to high priority adds, phases of increased damage output, or a fortuitous trinket proc.

3.2. Cooldown Usage

Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance is one of the least rigid cooldowns in the game currently, as it allows for a variety of different usages depending on player interpretation of the current situation. As mentioned earlier in the guide, it is imperative to pool Energy and ensure you are not going to cap Combo Points before entering Shadow Dance, as you will be spamming Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike (a Combo Point generator) while dance is active. Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death must be maintained at all times for maximum damage output. Vanish Icon Vanish can be used for a similar purpose without burning a Shadow Dance charge.

When playing with Premeditation Icon Premeditation and Bleeding Hollow Toxin Vessel Icon Bleeding Hollow Toxin Vessel it is okay to cap Combo Points inside of Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, as the goal is to get as many buffed Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.

3.2.1. Personal Initiative

Your personal experience and instincts will play a large role in your ability to fully maximize output. Getting a feel for when it is worth it to use your Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance to deal burst AoE with Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm versus going full single target with Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike is something that can only be learned, not explained. Try to keep track of all your cooldowns as a whole, rather than as individual abilities, as they interact together in ways that alter the rotation significantly. For example, Nightblade Icon Nightblade only lasts for 18 seconds, so if Death from Above Icon Death from Above is coming off cooldown at the same time Nightblade is going to expire, you will want to refresh Nightblade a little early and build up Combo Points for use on Death from Above immediately. Understand these spell interactions is of critical importance when lining up a burst window for Shadow Dance.

4. Opening Sequence

Always open while in Stealth Icon Stealth.

  1. Use your Draenic Agility Potion Icon Draenic Agility Potion right before the pull.
  2. Cast Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death and immediately Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  3. Activate Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades and any on-use trinkets or racials.
  4. Enter Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  5. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  6. Apply Nightblade Icon Nightblade to the primary target.
  7. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  8. Enter Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  9. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike as many times as Energy allows.
  10. Dump Combo Points with Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate as necessary.
  11. Follow normal priority.

4.1. T18 Item Bonuses

The T18 2 and 4 piece do not actively affect your rotation other than the fact that Vanish Icon Vanish will be available more frequently, and you will ideally want to dump your Combo Points before activating Vanish Icon Vanish.

4.2. Bleeding Hollow Toxin Vessel

When using this trinket the value of Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike casts goes up considerably. While this has no change on your regular rotation, it increases your DPS potential considerably.

5. ChangeLog

  • 19 Jul. 2016: Many small improvements (more notes on Pandemic, Subterfuge, and many tweaks).
  • 18 Jul. 2016: Updated for the Legion pre-patch.
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