Subtlety Rogue PvP Rotation and Playstyle (Shadowlands / 9.1)

Last updated on Jul 04, 2021 at 14:24 by Shadenox 23 comments

PvP requires you to perform various actions in the course of a duel, match, or battleground: interrupting/silencing enemies, damaging them, bursting them down, defending yourself, keeping yourself alive, etc.. It is a game mode that fully utilizes your kit, especially spells that are rarely used in PvE. On this page, we go through all the spells you need to use in PvP as a Subtlety Rogue, how you should use them, and we explain what your playstyle should be.

This page is part of our Subtlety Rogue PvP Guide.

1.

Playstyle for Subtlety Rogues

Subtlety Rogues have two roles in PvP: control the enemy team with Sap Icon Sap, Blind Icon Blind, Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot, Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot and Dismantle Icon Dismantle, and burst down stunned enemies very quickly. Subtlety Rogues badly lack sustained damage, but they make up for it by controlling the pace of the game. You should look to partner with a class that has very strong single-target damage as well as follow-up crowd control for your stuns, such as Mages, Hunters, or Priests.

1.1.

Before Gates Open

Discuss with your team to have a gameplan. Subtlety Rogue is a specialization that is exclusively played in setup comps and that means you and your team need to agree on who to control and who to kill before the game begins, and you need to know who will use their offensive cooldowns first. Wasting an entire go because you did not plan and broke each other's crowd control can make you lose the game.

Apply Wound Poison Icon Wound Poison and Crippling Poison Icon Crippling Poison. Wound Poison will be removed after each Arena match, so it is easy to forget to reapply it. A 12% healing reduction effect is important in arena, so do not forget it!

Press Stealth Icon Stealth and you are good to go!

1.2.

Crowd Control

The ability to control the entire enemy team is what makes Subtlety Rogues so deadly. To lock down a team, you will aim to push in and initiate crowd control chains on the healer (Sap Icon Sap if they are not in combat, Blind Icon Blind and Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot). Most of the time your teammates will follow up as long as you Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot the DPS so that they cannot stop your team. As of Patch 9.1 you also have the option to use Dismantle Icon Dismantle to stop an enemy melee DPS in between your own setups.

2.

Offensive Rotation

2.1.

Generating and Spending Combo Points

Rogues have two resources to manage. The first, Energy, is quite straightforward. Using a spell costs Energy, and it regenerates over time. The second resource is Combo Points. Some abilities generate Combo Points, and powerful abilities called Finishing Moves consume them. In order to maximize your damage output as well as your Energy regeneration you need to use your Combo Points efficiently. You have several ways to generate Combo Points.

  • From Stealth Icon Stealth, Subterfuge Icon Subterfuge, or when Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance is active, there are 2 ways to generate Combo Points:
    • Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot stuns the target and generates 1 Combo Point.
    • Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike can only be used in Stealth as well. It deals damage and generates 2 Combo Points.
    • Note: both of these abilities put the Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness debuff on your target. It is extremely important to have this debuff on any target you want to use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate on.
  • When not in Stealth, you generate Combo Points with the following:
    • Backstab Icon Backstab deals little damage and generates 1 Combo Point. If you hit from behind it will deal 20% increased damage. Critical Strikes will apply Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness for 6s.
    • Shiv Icon Shiv generates 1 Combo Point. If you have Crippling Poison Icon Crippling Poison on, it will slow the target by 70% for 4 seconds.
    • Shuriken Storm Icon Shuriken Storm is an AoE ability and will generate 1 Combo Point for each target hit by it. Weirdly enough in PvP this does not work on pets, only players. You can use this when two players or more are stacked and you need to generate Combo Points. Be careful not to break crown control such as Polymorph when using this ability.
    • Shuriken Toss Icon Shuriken Toss does very little damage, but generates 1 Combo Point. This should be used if you are slowed/rooted and cannot reach your target, but are about to overcap Energy.
    • Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death instantly generates 5 Combo Points. This can be used for Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot to setup crowd control, or for an additional Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate during a kill attempt. It should never be used to deal damage in between two setups.

Now that you know how to generate Combo Points, knowing how to spend them is even more important. As a Subtlety Rogue, you have a passive called Relentless Strikes Icon Relentless Strikes that grants you Energy for every Combo Point you spend on a Finishing Move. It makes it important to use the Finishing Moves with 5 Combo Points. Here are the abilities you will be spending Combo Points on and what situations you will use them in:

  • Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot is your primary stun to setup crowd control on the enemy healer or kill target.
  • Rupture Icon Rupture is a bleed that lasts longer based on how many Combo Points you use. Only use this ability when you are not bursting a target.
  • Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice increases your attack speed. Slice and Dice should almost have a 100% uptime during an arena match. Only manually use it when you are not bursting a target.
  • Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate is your primary damaging ability. This will deal more damage based on the amount of Combo Points used for it. It also deals additional shadow damage to targets with Find Weakness Icon Find Weakness on them.
2.2.

The Opener

The opener refers to your team's opening CC 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 or your kill target uses their trinket in the opener, they are in trouble.

The opener is a key part of the game as Rogue. Stealth Icon Stealth gives you the advantage as you get to choose how the fight begins. Because people will not be in combat right after the gates open you will be able to Sap Icon Sap a target, already providing your team with numerical superiority. If you manage to get stuns on the other enemies you can create a situation where your kill target is stunned for you and your team to deal damage, without any external help. You will also benefit from Mark of the Master Assassin Icon Mark of the Master Assassin if you play it, for a significant damage increase.

If you forced a trinket in the opener you are on the right track to win the game. If the enemy healer used their trinket then you will be able to do a go with a Blind Icon Blind on them, followed by a Sap Icon Sap while you kill the enemy DPS. If the enemy DPS uses their trinket you will be able to do a go on them with a Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot followed by a Smoke Bomb Icon Smoke Bomb to prevent the healer from helping, and hopefully kill the DPS in that stun.

There are multiple openers as a Subtlety Rogue. Here is a very standard opener with a Sap on the healer.

  1. Sap Icon Sap the enemy healer.
  2. Use Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  3. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot on your kill target.
  4. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  5. Use Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  6. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  7. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  8. Use Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death.
  9. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  10. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  11. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  12. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

If you are Venthyr you want to use Flagellation Icon Flagellation instead of the other Covenant abilities in the opener above. However, as it does not generate Combo Points you will be forced to also use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike right after to get to 5 Combo Points. This adds a GCD to the opener described above. Therefore, in order to keep the target in a stun at all times the spell sequence has to be slightly changed. There is one example below, but remember that this will be true for all the other openers and burst rotations shown here.

  1. Sap Icon Sap the enemy healer.
  2. Use Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  3. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot on your kill target.
  4. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  5. Use Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  6. Use Flagellation Icon Flagellation
  7. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  8. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  9. Use Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death.
  10. Use Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot.
  11. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  12. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  13. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

Sometimes you will want to get crowd control on the enemy DPS to prevent them from preemptively using a defensive ability when you land crowd control on their healer. And sometimes, the enemy team will enter combat before you can use Sap Icon Sap. For both of these scenarios an alternate opener exists.

  1. Sap Icon Sap the enemy DPS, or do not Sap if the enemy team is in combat.
  2. Use Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death.
  3. Use Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot on the enemy healer.
  4. Use Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  5. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot on your kill target.
  6. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  7. Use Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  8. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  9. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  10. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  11. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  12. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  13. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  14. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  15. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

If you choose not to use Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades in the opener you will get fewer Combo Points from Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot and Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike, so the opener will look different. In the same way, if the enemy is an Orc or has Relentless, the stuns will be shorted and the opener will again be different. Simply remember that you always have to keep the target in a stun. If a stun is about to expire then stun again, and use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate when you have 5 Combo Points and a stun is not about to expire. Otherwise, use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.

2.3.

Burst Damage

When you have the enemy healer in crowd control and you are trying to kill an enemy, you use your burst damage. In most cases, you will have used your Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot on the enemy healer to initiate the crowd control chain, so you will stun your kill target with Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.

  1. Use Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  2. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  3. Use Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  4. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  5. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  6. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  7. Use Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death.
  8. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  9. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  10. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  11. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

Sometimes, however, you will land crowd control on the enemy healer without using Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot. In that case your burst rotation will include a Kidney Shot on the enemy DPS so you can spend more GCDs on damage and fewer GCDs on stuns.

  1. Use Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades.
  2. Use Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot on your kill target.
  3. Use Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance.
  4. Use Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
  5. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike
  6. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  7. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  8. Use Marked for Death Icon Marked for Death.
  9. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  10. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  11. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  12. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.
  13. Use Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.
  14. Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike.
  15. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate.

Once again if you are Venthyr and want to use Flagellation Icon Flagellation, if you do not have Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades available or if your target is an Orc or has Relentless you will need to change the spell sequence to keep the target in a stun.

2.4.

Sustained damage

Sustained damage is damage you do when your burst cooldowns are not available, and when your enemies cannot be crowd controlled because of diminishing returns. Because Subtlety Rogues have weak sustained damage, they spend their sustained damage windows trying to re-Stealth if possible to prepare the next setup, or, if they cannot, they apply their bleed to the enemy, their maintenance buff to themselves and gather Combo Points for the next setup.

  1. Try to re-Stealth if possible.
  2. Use Rupture Icon Rupture with 5 Combo Points.
  3. Use Slice and Dice Icon Slice and Dice with 5 Combo Points. Having this buff up when you initiate your next setup will allow you to gain more Combo Points with the Premeditation Icon Premeditation passive.
  4. Use Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate with 5 Combo Points and do not need to refresh Rupture Icon Rupture.
  5. Use Backstab Icon Backstab to generate Combo Points.
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. With the Legendary Mark of the Master Assassin Icon Mark of the Master Assassin it can also be used offensively. It can also be used to land crowd control with Sap Icon Sapand Cheap Shot Icon Cheap Shot.

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 safety. You can also use it to mitigate incoming magic crowd control abilities such as Mortal Coil Icon Mortal Coil or Hammer of Justice Icon Hammer of Justice.

Evasion Icon Evasion is a strong defensive cooldown when playing against melees and Hunters. Use this when the enemy team is using offensive cooldowns on you. You can also use it to dodge incoming physical crowd control abilities such as Kidney Shot Icon Kidney Shot or Mighty Bash Icon Mighty Bash.

Feint Icon Feint (with the Elusiveness Icon Elusiveness talent) is the trickiest, but most useful defensive ability a Rogue has. It grants you a flat 30% damage reduction from everything for 6 seconds on a 15-second cooldown. This is a very powerful tool to mitigate incoming damage. A Rogue is very weak against stuns, so preemptively using Feint when a stun is coming your way greatly increases your chance of surviving heavy damage from the enemy team. Of course it can be used when the enemy team is using cooldowns on you, even if there is no stun.

Crimson Vial Icon Crimson Vial is a small healing over time effect. It can be used the same way as Feint, either when you are about to get stunned, or when the enemy is using cooldowns on you and your healer needs to extra help.

4.

Macros

It is advised to use Macros to use abilities on enemies or allies without having to target them. For this reason, we have a page dedicated to them.

5.

Changelog

  • 04 Jul. 2021: Updated for Patch 9.1.
  • 28 Mar. 2021: Rewritten by Shadenox and updated for Patch 9.0.5.
  • 18 Mar. 2020: Reviewed for Patch 9.0.5.
  • 05 Dec. 2020: Updated Rotations to include Covenant Ability.
  • 02 Dec. 2020: Updated Burst Damage rotation.
  • 01 Dec. 2020: Updated Opening and Burst rotations.
  • 29 Nov. 2020: Removed outdated Traits and Essences.
  • 10 Nov. 2020: Updated Opening Rotation.
  • 14 Oct. 2020: Updated for Shadowlands pre-patch.
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