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Subtlety Rogue DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.3.2)

Last updated on Sep 13, 2017 at 18:41 by Furty 343 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 7.3.2. 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 and Reviewer

This guide has been written by Furty, who has an illustrious history in the World of Warcraft raiding scene and race for World First. He has been a member of guilds such as Serenity, Midwinter, and many more, and is currently raiding in Future. He plays most classes at the highest level. You can follow him on Twitter and watch him play on Twitch.

This guide has been reviewed and approved by impĂ˝, a Subtlety Rogue who raids in The Unnamed, a top German guild.

1. Ability Priority List

1.1. Single Target

  1. Maintain Nightblade Icon Nightblade.
  2. Activate Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades if available.
  3. Enter Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance if you have 2 charges, or there is less than 20 seconds remaining before you get your second charge (3 charges and 30 seconds for Enveloping Shadows Icon Enveloping Shadows).
  4. Activate the Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death buff in combination with at least 1 Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance charge and Death from Above Icon Death from Above when you are below 60 Energy.
  5. Activate Vanish Icon Vanish and then Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike when available if you are at or below 3 Combo Points.
  6. Cast Goremaw's Bite Icon Goremaw's Bite if you are not in Stealth Icon Stealth or Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, at or below 3 Combo Points, and have less than 50 Energy.
  7. Cast Death from Above Icon Death from Above at 5+ Combo Points. Always combine with Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance and Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  8. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate to spend Combo Points with 5+.
  9. Cast Backstab Icon Backstab to generate Combo Points (from behind the target whenever possible).

1.1.1. Correctly Using Death from Above with Dark Shadow

When using these talents in combination, it is ideal to overlap them for maximum damage whenever possible. You should aim to activate your Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance after the first part of Death from Above Icon Death from Above happens, shortly before you land. This ensures you immediately get the 30% damage bonus on the Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate portion of Death from Above and still have time to get 4 global cooldowns off during your dance. In AoE situations you should use dance before Death from Above, ensuring that Dark Shadow Icon Dark Shadow affects the cleave damage as well.

Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death, on the other hand, can be used before the Death from Above Icon Death from Above as it lasts long enough to cover the entire ability and the following Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance. Try to also combine your Death from Above Icon Death from Above usage with Finality: Eviscerate Icon Finality: Eviscerate. This entire combo can be tricky to pull off, but when all is said and done it results in a hefty damage increase.

You should always delay Death from Above Icon Death from Above so that it can be used with Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance and Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.

1.2. Multiple Targets (2+)

  1. Maintain Nightblade Icon Nightblade on 3-4 targets that will live for the entire duration.
  2. Activate Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades if available. If there are 5+ targets, it might be better to save it for when there are less targets present, as your Combo Point generation is already very high at this point.
  3. Enter Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance if you have 2 charges, or there is less than 20 seconds remaining before you get your second charge.
  4. Activate the Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death buff in combination with at least 1 Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance charge and Death from Above Icon Death from Above when you are below 60 Energy.
  5. Activate Vanish Icon Vanish and then Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike (Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm if there are 3+ targets) when available if you are at or below 3 Combo Points.
  6. Cast Goremaw's Bite Icon Goremaw's Bite if you are not in Stealth Icon Stealth or Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, at or below 3 Combo Points, and have less than 50 Energy.
  7. Cast Death from Above Icon Death from Above at 5+ Combo Points. Always combine with Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance and Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  8. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate to dump any excess Combo Points.
  9. Use Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm 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:

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.

2.1.1. 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 (4 seconds, and 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. 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 slightly.

If you are playing with Master of Shadows Icon Master of Shadows, you should consider your "maximum" Energy (when approaching Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance) as roughly 85-90, due to the 25 Energy over 3 seconds gained upon activation.

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.

2.2. 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, 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 5 Combo Point finisher will reduce the cooldown of Shadow Dance by 7.5 seconds (or 12.5 seconds when playing with Enveloping Shadows Icon Enveloping Shadows).

We still cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate when we cap Combo Points during the effects of Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance. There are several reasons for this:

You should make an effort to enter Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance with 3 Combo Points. This allows our 3rd global inside Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance to be a finisher (ideally Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate), which will return 30-36 Energy (depending on Combo Points) and help sustain our dance. Entering dance with the correct amount of Combo Points ensures we get a full power Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate and maximum Energy return from our passive. A typical Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance (without Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge) will look like:

  1. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  2. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  3. Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  4. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.

If Shadow Techniques Icon Shadow Techniques procs during before you are able to cast your second Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike, you instead perform:

  1. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  2. Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate
  3. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  4. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike

An alternative to this is to go into Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance high on Combo Points and perform this dance (although this is not preferable):

  1. Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate
  2. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  3. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  4. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike

If you perform this combo you must be conscious of your Energy before entering Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, as Relentless Strikes Icon Relentless Strikes combined with Master of Shadows Icon Master of Shadows may overcap your Energy.

Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm deals 100% 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. During Shadow Blades

The Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance changes during Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades. This is most likely to occur during the opener, as there is less incentive to overlap these cooldowns afterwards (as any Shadow Techniques Icon Shadow Techniques procs will be wasted). It is ideal to enter dance with 2 Combo Points when Shadow Blades is active. A typical dance during Shadow Blades looks as follows:

  1. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  2. Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate
  3. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  4. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike

2.3. Vanish

Vanish Icon Vanish can be used more or less on cooldown at the player's discretion. You should use Vanish Icon Vanish when you are low on Combo Points with at least 60 Energy, allowing you to Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice in succession if you are fast enough. This macro must be used in order to get a second cast off from Vanish:

  • #showtooltip Vanish
  • /cast Vanish
  • /cast Shadowstrike
  • /stopattack

This macro must have a secondary bind and should not be used as your primary Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike key.

If you have Mantle of the Master Assassin Icon Mantle of the Master Assassin, you will want to use your Vanish Icon Vanish in a slightly different fashion. Ensure you do not have an active Mantle buff, and combine your Vanish with Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death, leading into a Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance once your Vanish global(s) are performed.

2.4. 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 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. 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. Cloak can be used for intercepting in fight mechanics, like Tichondrius's Seeker Swarm Icon Seeker Swarm on Mythic. It can also be used for damage gains, such as staying in and hitting the boss during Star Augur Etraeus' Fel Nova Icon Fel Nova.
  • 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 Icon 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 getting slammed, or you are out of range of a healer.

2.5. 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. 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. 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.

Try to always get maximum time out of your Finality: Nightblade Icon Finality: Nightblade debuffs, and do not overwrite existing Nightblade Icon Nightblades empowered by Finality until they have fallen off.

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, Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge or Shadow Focus Icon Shadow Focus, and Master of Shadows Icon Master of Shadows the specialization becomes 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.

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 Icon 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.

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.

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.

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 Sequences

Both openers are optimized for the use of Mantle of the Master Assassin Icon Mantle of the Master Assassin, however, they are still effective even without this legendary.

4.1. Standard Opener

Always open while in Stealth Icon Stealth.

  1. Use your Potion of Prolonged Power Icon Potion of Prolonged Power.
  2. Activate Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  3. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  4. Apply Nightblade Icon Nightblade.
  5. Activate Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance and Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  6. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  7. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  8. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  9. Activate Vanish Icon Vanish.
  10. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  11. Cast Death from Above Icon Death from Above and activate Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance before landing (see our Correctly Using Death from Above with Dark Shadow section for more information).
  12. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  13. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  14. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.

4.2. With The First of the Dead

  1. Use your Potion of Prolonged Power Icon Potion of Prolonged Power.
  2. Activate Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  3. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  4. Apply Nightblade Icon Nightblade.
  5. Activate Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance and Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  6. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  7. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  8. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  9. Activate Vanish Icon Vanish.
  10. Cast Death from Above Icon Death from Above and activate Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance before landing.
  11. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike twice.
  12. Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  13. Cast Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.

You should activate Specter of Betrayal Icon Specter of Betrayal (if equipped) alongside Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death. Feel free to delay it if the boss will be moved during the opener, otherwise you may lose the effect.

Goremaw's Bite Icon Goremaw's Bite is best used sometime into the pull after the initial high Energy phase (usually 20-30 seconds into the fight). The main reason for this is to fully utilize the Energy return and Combo Points from Goremaw's Bite Icon Goremaw's Bite rather than getting it on cooldown as soon as possible.

5. ChangeLog

+ show all entries - show only 10 entries
  • 13 Sep. 2017: Small fix to the FotD opener.
  • 10 Sep. 2017: Updated opener and added an opener for players using The First of the Dead.
  • 28 Aug. 2017: No changes needed for Patch 7.3.
  • 28 Jun. 2017: Updated rotation and APL, added section pertaining to Dark Shadow and Death from Above, updated opener.
  • 15 Jun. 2017: Large update to all sections.
  • 14 Jun. 2017: Updated ability priority list and removed mentions of Premeditation.
  • 03 Apr. 2017: Slight adjustments in the Shadow Dance advice for the single-target rotation.
  • 27 Mar. 2017: No changes needed for Patch 7.2.
  • 23 Jan. 2017: Updated APL for Anticipation bug.
  • 09 Jan. 2017: Checked and confirmed for Patch 7.1.5.
  • 06 Dec. 2016: Big update; Action Priority List split into single/multi target, resource management updates, many tweaks to "Important Notes" sections.
  • 29 Aug. 2016: Updated for Legion's launch.
  • 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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