Subtlety Rogue PvP Guide in Battle for Azeroth (BfA 8.1)

Last updated Today at 12:00 by Mysticall 28 comments

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to play in a PvP environment. The guide will cover everything from talent choices, PvP talents, gameplay and rotation, and useful racial bonuses. It is most applicable to Arena content, but most talents and racial bonuses will work in Rated Battlegrounds and skirmishes.

1. Spec Overview / Place in the Current Meta for Subtlety Rogues

Subtlety Rogues have unmatched utility as a pure DPS class. With multiple ways to enter Stealth Icon Stealth, they have tools such as stuns, Blind Icon Blind, and countless other forms of crowd control. The Subtlety Rogue is the master of control. Match a Rogue's control with a Mage and you have a powerhouse of a team composition.

1.1. Strengths of Subtlety Rogues

  • Great control
  • Decent mobility
  • Strong burst

1.2. Weaknesses of Subtlety Rogues

  • Weak to teams with two melee on it
  • Needs help from teammates to stay alive
  • Very few defensive cooldowns

2. Stat Priority for Subtlety Rogues in PvP

The stat priority for Subtlety Rogue in PvP is as follows:

  1. Agility;
  2. Mastery;
  3. Critical Strike;
  4. Haste;
  5. Versatility.

Agility is the best stat in all situations. Mastery is the strongest secondary stat at all times, due to increasing the damage of your finishing moves. This will increase your sustained and burst damage. You should also be looking for gear with Critical Strike. This will increase the chance your damaging abilities deal additional damage.

3. Azerite Traits for Subtlety Rogues

Azerite traits are unlocked in you helm, shoulders and chest. With each Azerite level in your neck, you get closer to unlocking the center trait in your gear. These traits vary from increasing damage of certain abilities to helping increase your survivability. Depending on what traits you use, it can completely alter your playstyle and what talents you should be using.

3.1. Outer Ring

Below are the best Outer Ring traits.

  1. Blade In The Shadows Icon Blade In The Shadows
  2. The First Dance Icon The First Dance
  3. Inevitability Icon Inevitability
  4. Archive of the Titans Icon Archive of the Titans

Subtlety Rogues do not depend on one single trait to increase their damage. Instead, they want a mix of the above traits. Archive of the Titans Icon Archive of the Titans increases damage dealt to your target. This is an increase to your overall damage. Blade In The Shadows Icon Blade In The Shadows, The First Dance Icon The First Dance, and Inevitability Icon Inevitability all increase your overall damage output and are the primary traits you want in your Azerite gear.

3.2. Middle Ring

Below are the best Middle Ring traits.

  1. Heed My Call Icon Heed My Call
  2. Earthlink Icon Earthlink
  3. Overwhelming Power Icon Overwhelming Power
  4. Elemental Whirl Icon Elemental Whirl

The Middle and Inner rings are important for additional damage. Elemental Whirl Icon Elemental Whirl, Overwhelming Power Icon Overwhelming Power, and Earthlink Icon Earthlink give an increase to your stats. These are minor stat boosts, but still increase your damage. Heed My Call Icon Heed My Call will help increase your single target pressure.

3.3. Inner Ring

Below are the best Inner Ring traits.

  1. Resounding Protection Icon Resounding Protection
  2. Azerite Fortification Icon Azerite Fortification
  3. Shrouded Mantle Icon Shrouded Mantle
  4. Impassive Visage Icon Impassive Visage

All of these traits give you additional ways of surviving. These are all passive, but are crucial to have.

4. Gear Recommendations

4.1. General Guidelines

In general, Subtlety Rogues want to get trinkets that line up well with Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades. Because this ability has a 3 minute cooldown, your trinkets can have a passive or on-use effect. The stat you want to be increasing is Agility. The reason you want to increase Agility is because it drastically increases your overall damage output.

To be successful in 3v3 arena, you need to have at least 2 pieces of gear to have the The First Dance Icon The First Dance. You will also want either Earthlink Icon Earthlink or Heed My Call Icon Heed My Call in the second tier.

Below, we list the items that have these traits.

4.1.1. Helms

4.1.2. Shoulders

4.1.3. Chest

4.2. Recommended Items

Dread Gladiator's Badge Icon Dread Gladiator's Badge is strong for the versatility and the on-use Agility effect. The 2-minute cooldown lines up well with most of your burst cooldowns.

Darkmoon Deck: Fathoms Icon Darkmoon Deck: Fathoms is not an item you get from PvP. Instead, you will have to look at the auction house or find an someone with the Inscription profession. This trinket also gives a passive effect. You cannot control the proc, but the damage this trinket can do is substantial. You will quickly notice a large increase to your overall damage.

Dread Gladiator's Insignia Icon Dread Gladiator's Insignia has a good amount of Versatility on it and has a passive effect. This effect increases your Agility. This increases your sustained damage.

4.3. Weapon Enchant

Enchant Weapon - Quick Navigation Icon Enchant Weapon - Quick Navigation and Enchant Weapon - Masterful Navigation Icon Enchant Weapon - Masterful Navigation are the best weapon enchants. You will be duel wielding weapons and having one of each of these enchants on your weapons. These enchants give you a strong Haste and Mastery buff that can be crucial in multiple ways. Both of these procs increase your damage output and are great if you can line it up with your burst.

5. Regular Talents for Subtlety Rogues

Level Choices
15 Weaponmaster Weaponmaster Find Weakness Find Weakness Gloomblade Gloomblade
30 Nightstalker Nightstalker Subterfuge Subterfuge Shadow Focus Shadow Focus
45 Vigor Vigor Deeper Stratagem Deeper Stratagem Marked for Death Marked for Death
60 Soothing Darkness Soothing Darkness Cheat Death Cheat Death Elusiveness Elusiveness
75 Shot in the Dark Shot in the Dark Night Terrors Night Terrors Prey on the Weak Prey on the Weak
90 Dark Shadow Dark Shadow Alacrity Alacrity Enveloping Shadows Enveloping Shadows
100 Master of Shadows Master of Shadows Secret Technique Secret Technique Shuriken Tornado Shuriken Tornado

While the above table provides a generally accurate overview of the viability of talents, some finer points are discussed in the sections that follow, and we recommend you read those for a deeper understanding.

5.1. Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents

Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness is the best choice in this tier. This is an overall strong talent to increase your damage against targets with the Find Weakness debuff.

5.2. Tier 2 (Level 30) Talents

Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge is the best choice in this tier. Using this with Vanish Icon Vanish makes it a very versatile talent. This will give you more control and extend the duration of your Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance. This will also allow you to use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot on multiple enemies to help your teammates cast.

5.3. Tier 3 (Level 45) Talents

Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death is the best choice in this tier. This can be used in many different ways. You can use Marked For Death and get a full Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot on your kill target or for crowd control. You can also use it aggressively for Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate on an enemy with low health.

5.4. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents

Elusiveness Icon Elusiveness is an all-around solid choice, and the best talent in this tier. Just make sure to use Feint Icon Feint when you are the focus for the enemy team.

5.5. Tier 5 (Level 75) Talents

Prey on the Weak Icon Prey on the Weak is the best choice in this tier. This is a damage increase to you and your teammates. Because your kill target will most likely be stunned, this is an important damage increase to have when securing a kill.

5.6. Tier 6 (Level 90) Talents

Dark Shadow Icon Dark Shadow is the best choice in this tier. This talent gives you the most consistent pressure while Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance is active.

5.7. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents

Master of Shadows Icon Master of Shadows is the best choice in this tier. This will allow you to regenerate Energy quicker while you are in Stealth, increasing your sustained damage.

6. PvP Talents for Subtlety Rogues

The first PvP talent tier is will give you a choice between Gladiator's Medallion Icon Gladiator's Medallion, Relentless Icon Relentless, and Adaptation Icon Adaptation. Gladiator's Medallion Icon Gladiator's Medallion is the best choice in this tier. It is great for removing crowd control on you that your healer cannot dispel. Subtlety Rogues are also notorious for dying in stuns and this well help you trinket and kite incoming damage.

You can choose 3 of the following PvP talents. Each of them has their uses, but some are better for certain strategies than others. The top three choices are the most useful, but can be replaced with other PvP talents depending on your team's goal.

Phantom Assassin Icon Phantom Assassin increases your Critical Strike while Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance is active. This, in combination with the Dark Shadow Icon Dark Shadow talent, turns Shadow Dance into a very strong offensive cooldown. This PvP talent is crucial for landing kills on enemy players.

Smoke Bomb Icon Smoke Bomb creates a cloud around you. Enemy players who are outside the cloud will not be able to target anyone inside of it. This talent is mandatory for multiple reasons. The first is to land a kill while your target is stunned without a trinket. The enemy healer will not be able to heal and you will easily secure a kill while Smoke Bomb is active. The second is to stop incoming spells. This is not done often, but you can use Smoke Bomb on your healer to prevent enemies from crowd controlling them. It all depends on the situation, which is why this PvP talent is so good.

Cold Blood Icon Cold Blood instantly deals 10% of the enemy players health when you use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot or Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike. This is a good offensive cooldown and a great ability when using your burst rotation.

Maneuverability Icon Maneuverability makes Sprint Icon Sprint suppress all movement-impairing effects for 4 seconds when used. This is a great talent versus teams with multiple slows. You should take this versus classes like Mages and Death Knights. You can replace Cold Blood Icon Cold Blood with this PvP talent.

7. Racial Bonuses for Subtlety Rogues

Racial bonuses can provide interesting PvP benefits. Here are the best races to choose for each faction.

7.1. Horde

The passive Orc racial bonus (Hardiness Icon Hardiness) is great if you find yourself being stunned a lot and having a hard time against melee classes. This racial will increase your survivability.

7.2. Alliance

The Human racial bonus (Every Man for Himself Icon Every Man for Himself) is a great way to get out of stuns. This will help you if you overextend and get stunned away from healer. It is important to note that, this will put your Gladiator's Medallion Icon Gladiator's Medallion on a 90 second cooldown.

If you do not want to play Human, Dark Iron Dwarf is also a great race. The racial bonus (Fireblood Icon Fireblood) is a solid defensive, but can also be used aggressively versus teams with multiple bleed/poison effects.

8. Playstyle for Subtlety Rogues

The Subtlety Rogue has two roles in PvP: control the enemy team with relentless mobility and crowd control and having strong sustained damage outside of burst cooldowns. Although Subtlety Rogues lack offensive cooldowns, they make up for it with the strongest control in the game.

To lock down healers, you will aim to push in and get crowd control on the healer (Sap Icon Sap, Blind Icon Blind when they do not have trinket, and Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot or Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot).

The ability to control the enemy team is what makes Subtlety Rogues so deadly. You should look to partner with a class that has very strong single-target damage, such as Mages, Fury Warriors, Survival Hunters or Balance Druids.

8.1. Before Gates Open

Have a plan for who you will be mainly using your crowd control on. Rogue crowd control is powerful, but dealing any damage to the target will break and waste it. Also, remember to enter Stealth Icon Stealth.

8.2. Offensive Rotation

8.2.1. The Opener

The opener refers to your team's opening crowd control chain and damage done as soon as you get out of the gates. The main goal in the opener is to force your enemies to use their cooldowns.

If the enemy healer uses their trinket in the opener, they are in trouble. Blind Icon Blind, with a follow up Sap Icon Sap, is one of the most devastating crowd control combinations in the game, with very few ways of getting out of it without having a trinket. Save Blind for when the enemy healer does not have their trinket.

If an enemy DPS uses their trinket, you can crowd control the healer and stun the DPS without a trinket. This means they can be burst down in a stun and possibly killed. This would be the best time to use Smoke Bomb Icon Smoke Bomb.

When opening, always try to Sap Icon Sap the enemy DPS player who is trying to bring you out of Stealth Icon Stealth, then Sap the healer. Then, use your burst rotation. After you are done with your burst rotation, perform your sustained damage rotation until your burst abilities are available again.

This is the rotation you should use on your target at the beginning of the game that will maximize your opening damage. You will want to use as many 5 Combo Point Eviscerate Icon Eviscerates as you can, while using Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot to control your target. This opener will allow you to use Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death and Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot as crowd control on the enemy healer.

  1. Enter Stealth Icon Stealth.
  2. Sap Icon Sap the enemy healer.
  3. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot on your main target.
  4. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  5. Use Nightblade Icon Nightblade.
    • In addition to the damage over time effect, you will deal 15% increased damage to your target.
  6. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  7. Use Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  8. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  9. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  10. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  11. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  12. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  13. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

8.2.2. Burst Damage

When you have the enemy healer in crowd control and you are trying to kill an enemy, you use your burst damage.

  1. Use Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  2. Use Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot.
  3. Use Smoke Bomb Icon Smoke Bomb.
    • You should only use this if your target does not have a trinket. Otherwise, they can easily trinket and use a defensive cooldown.
  4. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  5. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  6. Apply Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death to yourself.
  7. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate at 5 Combo Points.
  8. Use Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death.
  9. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  10. Use Cold Blood Icon Cold Blood.
  11. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  12. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  13. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate at 5 Combo Points.

8.2.3. Sustained damage

Sustained damage is damage you do when your burst cooldowns are not available.

  1. Use Backstab Icon Backstab to generate Combo Points.
  2. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike if you need to generate Combo Points while stealthed or Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance is active.
    • Do not use Backstab Icon Backstab to generate Combo Points when Shadow Dance is active. Use Shadowstrike to generate them.
  3. Maintain Nightblade Icon Nightblade on your target.
    • This deals decent damage and increases your damage dealt to that target.
  4. Use Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death to generate 40 Energy and increase your damage.
  5. Use Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm if the enemy team is stacked to generate multiple Combo Points quickly.
  6. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate when you have 5 Combo Points and do not need to refresh the Nightblade Icon Nightblades DoT.
  7. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot for Combo Points and controlling the enemy.
  8. Use Shuriken Toss Icon Shuriken Toss if you are slowed or rooted and want to generate Combo Points.

8.3. Defensive Techniques

Vanish Icon Vanish is one of your main defensive cooldowns. Use Vanish when you want to avoid damage and get away from the enemy team.

Cloak of Shadows Icon Cloak of Shadows is a strong defensive cooldown when playing against casters. Use this when in trouble against caster teams and run to your healer or re-enter Stealth Icon Stealth.

Feint Icon Feint (with the Elusiveness Icon Elusiveness talent) grants you a flat 30% damage reduction from everything. This is a buff that should be active on you at all times. A Rogue is very weak against stuns, so having Feint up when stunned greatly increases your chance of surviving heavy damage from the enemy team.

Crimson Vial Icon Crimson Vial is the trickiest, but most useful defensive ability a Rogue has. If you feel a hard swap onto you or you are about to be stunned, use Crimson Vial. Using this efficiently can enable you and your teammates to save your other cooldowns.

9. Best Team Compositions for Subtlety Rogues

Now that you have the correct talents and understand your damage rotation, it is time to step into the Arena with your team. Subtlety Rogues have some of the best crowd control in the game and are a threat to any team.

9.1. 2v2 Arena

In 2v2 Arena you will be focusing on single target damage. Depending on what healer you are playing with, use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot on the enemy healer to setup crowd control. For example, if you are playing with a Discipline Priest, you should use Cheap Shot on the enemy healer so your Priest can get close enough to use Psychic Scream Icon Psychic Scream. Your overall goal is to force a trinket out of the enemy healer early. This gives you the opportunity to use Blind Icon Blind with your next Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance. Once Blind is almost expired, use Sap Icon Sap.

Here is a list of the best team compositions for 2v2:

  • Subtlety Rogue + Discipline Priest
  • Subtlety Rogue + Restoration Druid
  • Subtlety Rogue + Holy Paladin
  • Subtlety Rogue + Arcane/Frost Mage

9.2. 3v3 Arena

Your role in 3v3 is similar to 2v2 Arena. You will likely be focusing on maximizing your single target damage. If you are playing against a healer that is not mobile (Discipline Priest, Holy Paladin or Restoration Shaman), you can open on them and try to force a trinket or a major defensive cooldown. If the enemy healer trinkets, you can use Blind Icon Blind with your next setup. Your overall goal is to focus an enemy without a trinket. When you and your teammate have damage, use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot on the enemy healer. After this, use Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot on your kill target and continue with your burst rotation. The good thing that Subtlety Rogues can do that the other specs cannot is peel for their teammates. Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance can be used offensively, as well as defensively. When it is active, use Cheap Shot on as many enemy players that are within your range as possible. An important note is that Rogues are very easy to kill in 3v3 Arena. Make sure you are maintaining your Feint Icon Feint buff and play defensive when your team does not have much damage.

Here is a list of the best team compositions for 3v3:

  • RMP (Subtlety Rogue + Frost Mage + Discipline Priest)
  • RPS (Subtlety Rogue + Shadow Priest + Restoration Shaman)
  • Subtlety Rogue + Balance Druid + Holy Paladin
  • RLS (Subtlety Rogue + Destruction/Affliction Warlock + Restoration Shaman)

10. Useful Macros for Subtlety Rogues

Macros are crucial to be successful in PvP. They allow players to use abilities on enemies without having to target them. This helps increase overall damage/healing and general awareness in the arena. Here are a few macros that all Subtlety Rogues can benefit from.

10.1. Shadowstep + Kick Focus Macro

  • #showtooltip
  • /cast [target=focus] Shadowstep
  • /cast [target=focus] Kick

Using this macro will use Shadowstep Icon Shadowstep on your focus enemy. If you press this macro again, it will use Kick Icon Kick on your focus target. This makes it easier to interrupt an enemy while staying focused on your target.

10.2. Blind Focus Macro

  • #showtooltip Blind
  • /cast [target=focus] Blind

Put an enemy on focus and this macro will use Blind Icon Blind on that player while you are still focused on your target.

10.3. Kidney Focus Macro

  • #showtooltip Kidney Shot
  • /cast [target=focus] Kidney Shot

Put an enemy on focus and this macro will use Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot on that player while you are still focused on your target.

10.4. Sap Focus Macro

  • #showtooltip Sap
  • /cast [target=focus] Sap

Put an enemy on focus and this macro will use Sap Icon Sap on that player while you are still focused on your target.

10.5. Stealth Macro

  • #showtooltip Stealth
  • /cast !stealth

This makes it so, when you use Stealth Icon Stealth, it will not cancel if you click it a second time.

11. Changelog

  • 12 Dec. 2018: No major changes needed for patch 8.1.
  • 07 Dec. 2018: Added Gear Recommendations section.
  • 08 Oct. 2018: Added Azerite traits section and talent table.
  • 02 Oct. 2018: Removed PvP Gear and War Mode sections.
  • 12 Sep. 2018: Updated guide for patch 8.0.1.
    • Updated Introduction and Spec Overview.
    • Added Stat Priority.
    • Updated tiers 1, 2, 3 and 7 regular talents.
    • Added PvP (War Mode) talents and gear sections for the new BfA system.
    • Updated Racial Bonuses section.
    • Updated Burst Damage and Sustained Damage sections.
    • Updated Macros section.
    • Removed Gear section.
    • Updated Artifact Traits and Relics sections.
  • 21 Jun. 2018: Updated sustained damage and burst rotations.
  • 13 Jun. 2018: Added an Arena Compositions section.
  • 24 Apr. 2018: Made several updates to the guide and its structure.
    • Added sections for Macros, Strengths, and Weaknesses.
    • Moved Gear, Artifact Traits, and Relics sections to the end, since they are not that important.
  • 07 Mar. 2018: Updated burst rotation.
  • 07 Feb. 2018: No major changes needed for patch 7.3.5.
  • 24 Dec. 2017: No major changes needed for patch 7.3.2.
  • 01 Sep. 2017: Removed artifact trait descriptions. Updated burst rotation.
  • 12 Aug. 2017: Made several updates.
    • Updated recommended tier 1, 6, and 7 regular talents.
    • Updated recommended tier 3, 4, and 6 honor talents.
    • Updated burst and sustained damage rotations.
  • 01 May 2017: Subtlety Guide created.
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