Subtlety Rogue DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoD 6.0.3)

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Subtlety Rogue Art Image
General Information

On this page, we list your Subtlety Rogue core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft WoD 6.0.3. 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 Reviewers

This guide has been reviewed and approved by FieryDemise, a prominent Rogue theorycrafter and the author of Rogue Chat (a theorycrafting blog for Rogues), and by Spazzo, one of the best Rogues in the world, who raids in Blood Legion; you can watch his stream on Twitch and follow him on Spazzo.

6.0.2 Transition Guide

If you want to read all about the Patch 6.0.2 changes and learn how they affect your character, make sure to read our Rogue Transition Guide!

1. Single Target Rotation↑top

  • Combo Point builders (by order of priority)
    1. Use Ambush Icon Ambush when you are in Stealth.
    2. Use Hemorrhage Icon Hemorrhage to apply and maintain the bleed effect it causes on your target.
      • Reapply Hemorrhage after the bleed effect ends.
    3. Use Backstab Icon Backstab as your default Combo Point builder.
    4. When you cannot attack your target from behind, then you cannot use Backstab Icon Backstab, so Hemorrhage Icon Hemorrhage becomes your primary Combo Point builder.
  • Finishing Moves (by order of priority)
    1. Apply Rupture Icon Rupture with 5 Combo Points and refresh it when it has 8 seconds or less remaining (with 5 Combo Points as well, preferably).
    2. Apply and maintain Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice, with 5 Combo Points preferably:
      • always refresh Slice and Dice when there are between 0 and 10 seconds remaining.
    3. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate with 5 Combo Points.

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

2. Multiple Target Rotation↑top

When fighting 2 or 3 enemies, use Fan of Knives Icon Fan of Knives as a primary Combo Point builder, apply Rupture Icon Rupture on everything, maintain the Crimson Tempest Icon Crimson Tempest DoT on all targets, and use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate as a finisher on one of the targets.

When fighting 4 to 6 enemies, build up Combo Points with Fan of Knives Icon Fan of Knives and spend them with Crimson Tempest Icon Crimson Tempest. Keep Rupture Icon Rupture applied on all targets.

When fighting 7 or more enemies, build up Combo Points with Fan of Knives Icon Fan of Knives and spend them with Crimson Tempest Icon Crimson Tempest.

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.

Crippling Poison Icon Crippling Poison is your only default Non-Lethal poison and you should use it, unless you choose Leeching Poison Icon Leeching Poison as a Tier 3 talent.

4. Cooldowns↑top

You have three main DPS cooldowns.

  • Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance enables you to cast your Stealth-only abilities for 8 seconds. While active, this ability also reduces the Energy cost of Ambush Icon Ambush by 20. This ability only has a 1-minute cooldown, so you should use it whenever it is available.
  • Vanish Icon Vanish makes you enter Stealth. Use this ability on cooldown, immediately followed by 1 or 2 casts of Ambush Icon Ambush (depending on whether Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge is your Tier 1 talent). Proper usage of Vanish greatly increases your Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness uptime (not to mention that you can reset its cooldown with Preparation Icon Preparation).
  • Premeditation Icon Premeditation adds two Combo Points on the target, but it can only be used while in Stealth, which means that you will have to use it at the pull, when you use Vanish Icon Vanish and whenever you use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.

If you have taken Shadow Reflection Icon Shadow Reflection as your Tier 7 talent (as we advise), you should use it in a macro with Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.

In addition to those, you have Sprint Icon Sprint, which can give you more uptime on the boss. This translates into a direct DPS increase, so you can (and should) 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 Subtlety Rogue↑top

The Subtlety specialisation is not very hard to play, and even though the information given above will yield good results, there is much more you need to understand before you can play your Subtlety Rogue to its full potential.

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 (115 with Venom Rush Icon Venom Rush chosen as your Tier 7 talent) and refills at a rate of 10 Energy per second. Your Energy regeneration is increased by:

  • your melee haste (Haste + 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 Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice ability, which restores 8 Energy every 2 seconds;
  • Venom Rush Icon Venom Rush, if chosen as your Tier 7 talent.

The faster you regenerate Energy, the more casts of Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate you can fit in your rotation.

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

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 Honor Among Thieves Icon Honor Among Thieves, a passive ability that grants you 1 Combo Point every time you or an another raid/party member scores a critical hit with a spell or an ability (with a limit of 1 Combo Point every 2 seconds).

You should never cap Combo Points (i.e., reach 5 Combo Points or 5 stacks of Anticipation Icon Anticipation) for more than 1 second after the last proc of Honor Among Thieves Icon Honor Among Thieves. Similarly, you should never use Backstab Icon Backstab or Hemorrhage Icon Hemorrhage at 4 or 5 stacks of Anticipation Icon Anticipation. Capping Combo Points means that you run the risk of wasting Combo Points generated either by Honor Among Thieves or by Backstab and Hemorrhage. What you can do instead is wait and let Honor Among Thieves generate the fifth Combo Point.

Anticipation Icon Anticipation can also be used to improve your DPS slightly. By keeping a high amount of Anticipation stacks where there is no damage increase (i.e., periods of time without Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness uptime, without trinket procs, etc.), you have extra Combo Points to spend whenever you enter a period of increased damage done. Also, it can help you refresh Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice and Rupture Icon Rupture if they are going to expire at the same time.

5.2. Honor Among Thieves

The most important aspect of your resource management is to learn how to rely on procs from Honor Among Thieves Icon Honor Among Thieves. This passive ability grants you a Combo Point every time a party or raid member critically hits or heals (with a limit of 1 Combo Point every 2 seconds). This effect only procs from spells and abilities (but not from white melee attacks) and is only active while you are in combat.

Thanks to Anticipation Icon Anticipation, it is very hard to waste Combo Points from Honor Among Thieves Icon Honor Among Thieves and this is why this talent is so valuable for Subtlety Rogues.

5.3. Find Weakness and Stealth

Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness is the most important thing to keep in mind when playing a Subtlety Rogue. This temporary damage increase is only available after using Ambush Icon Ambush, Garrote Icon Garrote, or Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot. These abilities require Stealth to be cast so you will have Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness uptime at the pull, every time you use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, and every time you use Vanish Icon Vanish (the cooldown of which you can reset with Preparation Icon Preparation). Never refresh Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness before it expires (delay Vanish Icon Vanish or Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, if you have to).

Attacks made in Stealth Icon Stealth and 6 seconds after breaking out of Stealth grant you 10% increased damage. The buff is called Master of Subtlety Icon Master of Subtlety and it does not proc during Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.

As Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness and Master of Subtlety Icon Master of Subtlety are often up at the same time, we chose to detail them together.

We previously explained in this section (pre-6.0) how timing was important to avoid having to refresh Rupture Icon Rupture and Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice during Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance and Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness. With the changes to Sinister Calling Icon Sinister Calling, this will often not be possible, so we advise you to simply maximise Shadow Dance uses instead of worrying about timing.

For increased effect, you should also try to have Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness and Master of Subtlety Icon Master of Subtlety up when raid DPS cooldowns are being used (for example, Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust, Heroism Icon Heroism, or Time Warp Icon Time Warp), when you use your Draenic Agility Potion Icon Draenic Agility Potion potion and on-use trinkets, and when the boss takes increased damage.

Finally, one last trick can be used when Vanish Icon Vanish and Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance come off cooldown at the same time. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance first. After Shadow Dance expires, you will still benefit from the Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness given by the last Ambush Icon Ambush you cast during Shadow Dance. Wait for that Find Weakness to have about 1 second left on its duration. Then, cast Vanish Icon Vanish+Ambush Icon Ambush. This will cause Ambush to benefit from the Find Weakness that was about to expire and to apply a new Find Weakness.

5.4. Sanguinary Vein

Sanguinary Vein Icon Sanguinary Vein is a passive ability that increases the damage of your Rupture Icon Rupture ability by 10% and that causes you to deal 20% increased damage to enemies afflicted by Rupture Icon Rupture, Garrote Icon Garrote, or Crimson Tempest Icon Crimson Tempest (your AoE Finishing Move). It is also applied by Hemorrhage Icon Hemorrhage + Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins Icon Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins (a glyph that you should be using in all situations).

The most obvious implication of having this passive ability is that it should always be up on your target. Usually, this is done through Hemorrhage Icon Hemorrhage (thanks to Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins Icon Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins), but in AoE situations, you will prefer applying it with Rupture Icon Rupture and Crimson Tempest Icon Crimson Tempest, depending on the number of enemies.

5.5. Sinister Calling and your Bleeds

Sinister Calling Icon Sinister Calling causes your multistrikes with Backstab Icon Backstab and Ambush Icon Ambush to advance your bleed effects by 2 seconds, triggering an instant tick. This is something that you need to watch out for, because it means that Rupture Icon Rupture will not always last its full duration and will very often need to be refreshed earlier than you had planned.

5.6. Building Combo Points during Shadow Dance

When using Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, Ambush Icon Ambush takes the place of Backstab Icon Backstab as your Combo Point builder. This is very beneficial as Ambush deals more damage and generates more Combo Points than Backstab.

5.7. Opening Sequence

In the opening sequence presented below, we assume that you took Shadow Focus Icon Shadow Focus as your Tier 1 talent.

  1. A few seconds before the pull, get Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice up, using the Combo Points that healers will have generated for you through Honor Among Thieves Icon Honor Among Thieves.
  2. 1 second before the pull, use your Draenic Agility Potion Icon Draenic Agility Potion potion and get in Stealth.
  3. Cast Premeditation Icon Premeditation and Ambush Icon Ambush.
  4. Cast Hemorrhage Icon Hemorrhage.
  5. Cast Shadow Reflection Icon Shadow Reflection and use on-use trinkets and racials at the same time.
  6. Apply Rupture Icon Rupture.
  7. Cast Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  8. Spam Ambush Icon Ambush and cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate whenever you reach 5 Combo Points.
  9. Start the regular rotation.

If you took Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge as your Tier 1 talent, the opening sequence is almost the same, just that you will have to fit in as many casts of Ambush Icon Ambush as possible when you get out of Stealth.

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 1 seconds of immunity against spells (both damage and application of harmful effects) followed by 4 seconds during which spells will miss you. Some fight mechanics can only be bypassed during the 1-second window (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.
  • Smoke Bomb Icon Smoke Bomb reduces damage taken by your raid by 10% 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.

5.9. Bosses That Cannot Be Attacked From Behind

Certain bosses cannot be attacked from behind, for example Ultraxion in Dragon Soul. This means that you need to use Hemorrhage Icon Hemorrhage, instead of Backstab Icon Backstab, to build Combo Points.

Finally, there is no reason for you to stick with a Dagger in your Main-Hand slot, as you cannot use Backstab Icon Backstab. So, if you have a 2.6-speed weapon that is better than your current Dagger, then equip it.

6. Changelog↑top

  • 16 Dec. 2014: Improved single-target and multiple-target rotations and improved opening sequence on Spazzo's advice.
  • 22 Nov. 2014: Improved some explanations regarding Rupture usage.
  • 14 Nov. 2014: Updated for Level 100.
  • 22 Oct. 2014: Now that Shadow Focus is viable, we added explanations for this talent wherever we were talking about Subterfuge.