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Subtlety Rogue DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities in Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.0.1

Last updated on Sep 12, 2018 at 00:10 by Ashine 66 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 Battle for Azeroth 8.0.1. 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 Ashine, European Champion of the second Mythic Dungeon Invitational and a member of two top 60 guilds, Wiping as Intended and Group Therapy. He is regarded as one of the top Subtlety Rogues in the world and contributes a fair bit to the spec's theorycrafting. You can watch him play on Twitch.

1. Ability Priority List for Subtlety Rogue

1.1. Single Target

  1. Cast Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades on cooldown.
  2. Maintain Nightblade Icon Nightblade on your primary target.
  3. Cast Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death and Secret Technique Icon Secret Technique (if talented)in combination with Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance. If talented into Enveloping Shadows Icon Enveloping Shadows cast Shadow Dance twice every time Symbols of Death buff is up.
    • Aim to be between 50 to 60 Energy when activating Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance if Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death is available to make sure you are entering Shadow Dance with as much Energy as possible without wasting any.
  4. Cast Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death (if talented) on cooldown and when not in Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  5. Cast Vanish Icon Vanish and Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike to extend the duration of your Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness.
  6. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate to spend Combo Points with 4+ (5+ if talented into Deeper Stratagem Icon Deeper Stratagem).
  7. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike to generate Combo Points if Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance is active. Otherwise, use Backstab Icon Backstab (from behind the target if possible to gain 20% extra damage on it).

As mentioned above, always combine Secret Technique Icon Secret Technique (if talented) with Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death and Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance to ensure maximum burst possible. In single-target situations, you should never cast these spells alone.

1.2. Multiple Targets (2+)

  1. Cast Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death and Secret Technique Icon Secret Technique (if talented) in combination with Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
    • In AoE situations you should cast Secret Technique Icon Secret Technique on cooldown with a Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance charge. Do not hold Secret Technique for Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death for more than 2-4 seconds.
    • Try to be between 50 to 60 Energy when activating Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance if Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death is available to make sure you are entering Shadow Dance with as much Energy as possible without wasting any.
  2. Maintain Nightblade Icon Nightblade on all targets that will live for the entire duration.
  3. Cast Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death (if talented) on cooldown, preferably on mobs that will get finished off early.
  4. Use Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm during Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance instead of Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike, if there are 3+ targets present.
  5. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate to spend Combo Points with 4+ (5+ if talented into Deeper Stratagem Icon Deeper Stratagem).
  6. Cast Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm to generate Combo Points.

While Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades still does decent damage on multi-target, due to the accelerated Combo Point gain on multi-target situations, the value of the extra Combo Point generated from Shadow Blades is diminished. Use Shadow Blades at your own discretion on multi-target or save it for a single-target situation.

Vanish has fairly low value on multi-target and is best used to extend the duration of Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness (if talented).

2. Opener Sequence for Subtlety Rogue

Always open while in Stealth Icon Stealth.

If possible, use Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death 30 seconds before boss is pulled. This means that you will have 3 Combo Points when boss is engaged and the cooldown will be ready.

  1. Use your Battle Potion of Agility Icon Battle Potion of Agility 1 second before the pull.
  2. Cast Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades 1 second before the pull.
  3. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  4. Apply Nightblade Icon Nightblade.
  5. Cast Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance and Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  6. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  7. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate or Secret Technique Icon Secret Technique if talented.
  8. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  9. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  10. Cast Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death and Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate if talented into Marked for Death.
  11. Cast Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  12. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  13. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  14. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  15. Cast Nightblade Icon Nightblade.

If you are talented into Enveloping Shadows Icon Enveloping Shadows, you should also use your third Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance in the opener and follow the normal Shadow Dance rotation.

You should activate any on-use trinkets you may have alongside Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.

3. Important Notes for Subtlety Rogue

3.1. 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 guarantees your finishers restore 6 Energy per Combo Point;
  • Shadow Techniques Icon Shadow Techniques, which awards 8 Energy every time it procs;
  • Vigor Icon Vigor, if chosen as your Tier 3 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.

Never let your Energy reach its maximum, as resource overflow is wasteful and results in lost damage.

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.

3.1.1. Pooling

You will often have to wait for resources in order to ensure optimal delivery of your burst. The time you spend waiting (simply auto attacking the target) is known as "pooling". This allows your Energy to regenerate in anticipation of a burst window.

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. This is due to the short duration and limited availability of Shadow Dance (5 seconds, and 6 with Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge). If you do not have enough Energy, then you cannot get all your Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrikes off in that time. For this reason, it is incredibly important that you enter Shadow Dance with as close to maximum resources as possible. Playing with Shadow Focus Icon Shadow Focus does ease this by quite a bit.

Consider your "maximum" Energy as roughly 50 to 60 if your Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death) is ready. This is due to the fact that you always want to cast Symbols of Death (which gives 40 Energy) instantly when entering Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance to get the damage increase for your first global in Shadow Dance, which should be Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike).

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, and you will be doing it extremely often as Subtlety.

3.2. Shadow Dance

Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance is your "bread and butter" cooldown, and your damage output relies heavily on proper usage. Shadow Dance has 2 charges (or 3 when playing with Enveloping Shadows Icon Enveloping Shadows, each with a 1-minute recharge. The Deepening Shadows Icon Deepening Shadows passive, however, ensures that they will be available much more often than that. Each Combo Point spent will reduce the cooldown of Shadow dance by 1.5 seconds (or 2.5 when playing with Enveloping Shadows).

3.2.1. Shadow Dance Rotation on Single-Target

You should make an effort to enter Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance with high Energy and low (0-1) Combo Points. Note that you should always cast Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death in combination with Shadow Dance. The optimal Shadow Dance rotation on single-target will look as follows:

  1. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  2. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  3. Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate or Secret Technique Icon Secret Technique if talented.
  4. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  5. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.

3.2.2. Shadow Dance Rotation on Multi-Target (4+)

You should make an effort to enter Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance with high Energy and high (5-6) Combo Points. You should aim to cast Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death in combination with Shadow Dance. However, you should never cap on Shadow Dance charges. If you are about to cap on them, cast Shadow Dance without Symbols of Deaths. The optimal Shadow Dance rotation on multi-target will look as follows:

  1. Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate or Secret Technique Icon Secret Technique if talented.
  2. Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm.
  3. Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  4. Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm.
  5. Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

3.3. Vanish

Vanish Icon Vanish can be used more or less on cooldown at the player's discretion. You should use Vanish to extend the duration of Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness.

3.4. Defensive Utility

Rogues have the best defensive capabilities in the game, which makes them the best candidate for soaking required mechanics and dealing with heavy incoming damage.

  • Feint Icon Feint reduces AoE damage taken by 40% for 5 seconds for only 35 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.
  • Cloak of Shadows Icon Cloak of Shadows removes all non-physical debuffs, followed by 5 seconds where all spells will miss. Cloak can be used for intercepting in boss fight mechanics or be used for damage gains, such as staying in and hitting the boss during an AoE that you would otherwise have to avoid.
  • Cheat Death Icon Cheat Death is a talent that allows you to escape lethal damage once every 6 minutes. The damage cannot exceed more than twice your maximum health. Cheat Death is great for soaking mechanics that pierce immunities and damage reductions as it guarantees your survival. It is 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 6 minutes.
  • Crimson Vial Icon Crimson Vial provides a respectable amount of healing on a very short cooldown. Useful for an extra bit of healing if you are low on Health, or you are out of range of a healer.

3.5. 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. Nightblade can be safely refresh at 4.8 seconds.

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.

4. Core Concepts for Subtlety Rogue

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 mastering 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.

4.1. Resource Management

As discussed in depth earlier in this section, pooling is one of the most important aspects of this specialization. When playing optimally, you will spend a lot of time doing nothing and just waiting for your Energy bar to fill. 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.

The 3 resources of Subtlety are Energy, Combo Points, and Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance charges. The main goal of resource management is to minimize overflow and wastage of these resources. Oftentimes these resources will be at odds with each other; aiming for perfect Combo Point management may result in Energy cap, immaculate Energy management may result in Shadow Dance charge overflow, and so on. Perfect resource management is impossible, and therefore the crux of becoming a seasoned Subtlety veteran is learning which compromises to make. Listed below is the priority of resources to help you minimize wastage:

  1. Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance charges;
  2. Combo Points;
  3. Energy.

It is very important that you never waste Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance charges.

4.2. 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 getting the maximum value out of your Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dances.

When playing with Dark Shadow Icon Dark Shadow the impact of Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance is even more critical, so take care not to waste any global cooldowns.

4.2.1. Personal Initiative

Your personal experience and instincts will play a large role in your ability to fully maximize output. 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 Secret Technique Icon Secret Technique 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 so you are able to use Secret Technique Icon Secret Technique immediately. Understanding how these spells interact with each other is critical when lining up a burst window for Shadow Dance.

5. ChangeLog

  • 12 Sep. 2018: Added a note about third Shadow Dance in the opener along with few other small fixes.
  • 11 Sep. 2018: Added finisher Combo Point threshold when talented into Deeper Stratagem.
  • 27 Aug. 2018: Changed wording on few paragraphs and added Shadow Dance AoE rotation.
  • 13 Aug. 2018: Updated for Battle for Azeroth launch.
  • 18 Jul. 2018: Removed redundant rotations and openers.
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