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Subtlety Rogue PvP Guide (Legion 7.2)

Last updated on May 01, 2017 at 07:02 by Mysticall 8 comments

Table of Contents


This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to play a Subtlety Rogue in a PvP environment. The guide will cover everything from talent choices, artifacts, 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.

About The Author

This guide has been written by Mysticall, a seasoned PvP player who has repeatedly achieved Arena Master and 2300 rating. You can watch his stream on Twitch, and you can also check out his YouTube channel.

1. Spec Overview / Place in the Current Meta

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.

2. Gear

With regards to gear, the biggest change in Legion is that there is no more PvP gear. Your strength in PvP will be determined based on the average item level of your gear (as displayed on your character sheet). For example, the base item level at level 110 is 800, so your stats in PvP will be adjusted accordingly. For every 10 item levels you gain, your stats are increased by 1%.

The implication is that it does not matter where your gear comes from, and all that matters is its item level. Gear from quests or PvE content is just as good as gear you get as a reward from PvP (which, in fact, will be very similar to PvE gear; there are no more PvP stats on gear).

Practically, you will simply look to collect gear with the highest item levels possible, and the stat distribution on the gear will not matter.

3. Artifact Traits

Below, we will explain what the recommended order for artifact traits is, if you wish to maximise your PvP potential. It is quite possible that your artifact path (at the time of reading this guide) differs from our suggestions. If this is the case, do not worry, and use the information below to help you understand your traits and guide your future choices.

If you have suddenly decided that you want to turn to PvP, the best thing to do in your artifact progression is continue to your closest Golden trait, and then follow the recommendations below. Picking up the most useful traits ( Icon Embrace of Darkness,  Icon Energetic Stabbing, and  Icon Flickering Shadows) along the way is a great way to boost your potential.

3.1. First Golden Trait

The first Golden trait you should go for is  Icon Finality.

  1. Take  Icon Shadow Fangs.
  2. Take  Icon Fortune's Bite. Although random, being able to generate two Combo Points will increase your sustained damage.
  3. Take  Icon Embrace of Darkness. This is a great survivability trait. Subtlety Rogues will often enter stealth, and this shield will help mitigate any damage if you are the focus of the enemy team.
  4. Take Precision Strike Icon Precision Strike. Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike is crucial for Subtlety Rogue damage and will increase your sustained damage.
  5. Take  Icon Demon's Kiss. Just like the above, Nightblade Icon Nightblade is another crucial damaging ability for Subtlety Rogues, and this will increase your sustained damage.
  6. Take  Icon Finality. This will give you even more sustained damage when using your finishing abilities.

3.2. Second Golden Trait

The second Golden trait to take  Icon Akaari's Soul.

  1. Take  Icon Energetic Stabbing. You will often be using Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot and Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike. This trait will give you enough Energy to keep using abilities with very little downtime.
  2. Take  Icon Ghost Armor. This increases your Dodge chance, which could potentially save you if you are the focus for the enemy team.
  3. Take  Icon Flickering Shadows. This is a great trait for getting away from the enemy team and getting into Stealth Icon Stealth. Use this when there is a chance for you to not take damage and get behind a pillar.
  4. Take  Icon The Quiet Knife. This increases the damage of Backstab Icon Backstab, which will increase your consistent damage.
  5. Take  Icon Akaari's Soul. Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot and Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike are key abilities in your rotation, the damage from this trait will increase your consistent damage output.

3.3. Remaining Traits

After taking  Icon Akaari's Soul, start making your way to  Icon Shadow Nova. There is no particular order you have for the remaining traits.

4. Relics

Relics are disabled in PvP, so they are not a concern to you.

5. Talent Choices

Regular talents work in both PvP and PvE content (although they may sometimes work differently in the two environments, which is indicated by their tooltips). In other words, they are always active.

On the other hand, Honor talents are inactive outside of a PvP environment.

5.1. Regular Talents

5.1.1. Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents

Master of Subtlety Icon Master of Subtlety is the best choice in this tier. This talent is an increase to your consistent damage.

5.1.2. Tier 2 (Level 30) Talents

Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge is the best choice in this tier. Using this talent 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.

5.1.3. Tier 3 (Level 45) Talents

Vigor Icon Vigor is the best choice in this tier. With the increase to Energy and Energy regeneration, this will be an increase to your consistent damage.

5.1.4. 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 keep applying it to yourself.

5.1.5. 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.

5.1.6. Tier 6 (Level 90) Talents

Premeditation Icon Premeditation is the best choice in this tier. This talent becomes important when you activate your Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance ability. By generating and spending more combo points, you can reduce the cooldown of Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance significantly.

5.1.7. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents

Master of Shadows Icon Master of Shadows is the best choice in this tier. This reduces your downtime when trying to generate Energy. By activating Vanish Icon Vanish or Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, you will not have to wait to start using abilities.

5.2. Honor Talents

5.2.1. Tier 1 Talents

The best talent in this tier is Gladiator's Medallion Icon Gladiator's Medallion, which provides a standard PvP trinket effect. If you are Orc, Relentless Icon Relentless is the best choice in this tier.

5.2.2. Tier 2 Talents

We recommend Reinforced Armor Icon Reinforced Armor in this tier. This improves the effect of Crimson Vial Icon Crimson Vial, making it a good all-around talent. However, if the enemy team has two melee on it, Sparring Icon Sparring is the best talent to use.

5.2.3. Tier 3 Talents

We recommend Cut to the Chase Icon Cut to the Chase in this tier. It can be very useful if, for example, there is a Druid in Travel Form Icon Travel Form next to you, as you will match their movement speed and exceed it by 5%.

5.2.4. Tier 4 Talents

Shadow's Caress Icon Shadow's Caress is the best choice in this tier. The cooldown reduction that this talent gives is crucial for Subtlety Rogues. It gives you access to important cooldowns, such as Blind Icon Blind.

5.2.5. Tier 5 Talents

Cold Blood Icon Cold Blood is the best choice in this tier. This is a good offensive cooldown and a great ability when using your burst rotation.

5.2.6. Tier 6 Talents

Phantom Assassin Icon Phantom Assassin is the best choice in this tier. This is a great talent for the increased duration of Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, this will give you more control. It also applies Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death when you enter Stealth Icon Stealth, which is great so you do not have to constantly apply it manually.

6. Racial Bonuses

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

6.1. Horde

Blood Elf is the best race for Subtlety Rogues, thanks to the Silence (Arcane Torrent Icon Arcane Torrent), which is very strong. This increases the spec's crowd control kit.

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

6.2. Alliance

The Human racial bonus (Every Man for Himself Icon Every Man for Himself) is a great way to get out of stuns. This helps with survivability and when kiting away from players.

7. Playstyle

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, or Balance Druids.

7.1. 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 and will break and waste it. Also, remember to enter Stealth Icon Stealth.

7.2. Offensive Rotation

7.2.1. 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.

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.

  1. Enter Stealth Icon Stealth.
  2. Apply Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  3. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot on any enemy in range.
  4. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  5. Use Nightblade Icon Nightblade.
  6. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  7. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  8. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  9. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  10. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  11. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

7.2.2. 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. Make sure you have Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death on yourself.
  2. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  3. Use Cold Blood Icon Cold Blood.
  4. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  5. Use Nightblade Icon Nightblade.
  6. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  7. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  8. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  9. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  10. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  11. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  12. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  13. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  14. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

7.2.3. Sustained damage

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

  1. Maintain Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death on yourself.
  2. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike or Backstab Icon Backstab to generate Combo Points.
  3. Use Nightblade Icon Nightblade at 4-5 Combo Points to maintain the DoT it puts on the enemy.
  4. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate when you have Combo Points, but do not need to applying Nightblade Icon Nightblades DoT.
  5. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot for Combo Points and controlling the enemy.

7.3. 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.

8. ChangeLog

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  • 01 May 2017: Subtlety Guide created.
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