Warning It appears that you may be blocking the ads, and we are fine with it (read more here). That said, it would really be awesome if you decided to whitelist our website or make a donation :) You can also send us Bitcoins (1DEkropiHPWBmfJxogFaXQscfzhmdpTti4)!

Subtlety Rogue PvP Guide (Legion 7.3.5)

Last updated on Jun 21, 2018 at 07:24 by Mysticall 28 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 2500 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 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 and sustained damage

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. Talent Choices for Subtlety Rogues

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.

2.1. Regular Talents for Subtlety Rogues

2.1.1. Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents

Gloomblade Icon Gloomblade is the best choice in this tier. Gloomblade replaces Backstab Icon Backstab, but deals significantly more damage. It is important to note that this ability ignores armor and makes "tankier" classes much easier to kill.

2.1.2. 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.

2.1.3. 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.

2.1.4. 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.

2.1.5. 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.

2.1.6. 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.

2.1.7. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents

Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death is the best choice in this tier. This is a very versatile talent. This can be used for additional crowd control on enemies with Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot or damage with Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

2.2. Honor Talents for Subtlety Rogues

2.2.1. 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.

2.2.2. 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.

2.2.3. Tier 3 Talents

Maneuverability Icon Maneuverability is the best choice in this tier. This gives you an on-demand way to remove all movement-impairing effects. This increases your uptime on enemy players resulting in more damage output.

2.2.4. Tier 4 Talents

Smoke Bomb Icon Smoke Bomb is the best choice in this tier. Because you will likely be trying to kill an enemy player in a single stun, this will prevent any healing being used on them. This is best used when using your offensive cooldowns.

2.2.5. 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.

2.2.6. Tier 6 Talents

Thief's Bargain Icon Thief's Bargain is the best choice in this tier. This is an overall excellent talent for Subtlety Rogues. This works great with Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge and allows you to control enemy teams even more.

3. Racial Bonuses for Subtlety Rogues

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

3.1. 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.

3.2. 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.

4. 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, or Balance Druids.

4.1. 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.

4.2. Offensive Rotation

4.2.1. 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 Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  8. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  9. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  10. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  11. Use Gloomblade Icon Gloomblade.
  12. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

4.2.2. 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 Smoke Bomb Icon Smoke Bomb.
  2. Make sure you have Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death on yourself.
  3. Use Cold Blood Icon Cold Blood.
  4. Use Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  5. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  6. Use Goremaw's Bite Icon Goremaw's Bite.
  7. Use Nightblade Icon Nightblade.
  8. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  9. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  10. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  11. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  12. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  13. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  14. Use Gloomblade Icon Gloomblade.
  15. Use Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death.
  16. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

4.2.3. Sustained damage

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

  1. Use Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death to generate 40 Energy and increase your damage.
  2. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike if you need to generate Combo Points while stealthed.
  3. Use Gloomblade Icon Gloomblade to generate Combo Points out of stealth.
  4. Use Nightblade Icon Nightblade at 4-5 Combo Points to maintain the DoT it puts on the enemy.
  5. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate when you have Combo Points, but do not need to applying Nightblade Icon Nightblades DoT.
  6. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot for Combo Points and controlling the enemy.

4.3. 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.

5. 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.

5.1. 2v2 Arena

In 2v2 Arena you will be focusing on single target damage. If the enemy healer is playing Vim and Vigor Icon Vim and Vigor, you will want to focus on them so they do not get the additional healing when above 80% health. If they are not playing Vim and Vigor, you can focus any target you can hit. 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

5.2. 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)

6. 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.

6.1. Shadowstep + Kick Focus Macro

  • #showtooltip Polymorph
  • /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.

6.2. 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.

6.3. 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.

6.4. 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.

6.5. 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.

7. Gear for Subtlety Rogues

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.

8. Artifact Traits for Subtlety Rogues

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.

8.1. 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.
  3. Take  Icon Embrace of Darkness.
  4. Take Precision Strike Icon Precision Strike.
  5. Take  Icon Demon's Kiss.
  6. Take  Icon Finality.

8.2. Second Golden Trait

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

  1. Take  Icon Energetic Stabbing.
  2. Take  Icon Ghost Armor.
  3. Take  Icon Flickering Shadows.
  4. Take  Icon The Quiet Knife.
  5. Take  Icon Akaari's Soul.

8.3. 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.

9. Relics for Subtlety Rogues

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

10. ChangeLog

  • 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.
+ show all entries - show only 10 entries
Force desktop version
Force mobile version