Rogues bring the most potent single target damage in the game during vanilla and BC, but do so at the cost of utility - notably a lack of buffs. Melee groups are usually built around maximizing the rogue's DPS by providing the necessary buffs to make their DPS skyrocket, which are efficiently provided by a fury warrior and enhancement shaman in tandem. Rogues are particularly reliant on auto attack damage, and reflecting that is the fact that one of a rogue's highest damage priorities is to maintain uptime of Slice and Dice.
A rogue's top priorities, no matter the specialization and talent point generator, are commonly and well-cited as the following in order:
1. Stay aliveEdit
- Simply do whatever you can to not die. It is the hugest mistake you can make to sacrifice your safety to increase immediate damage, with the rare exception being maybe to finish a boss off before an enrage timer.
2. Don't risk the Raid group or greatly inconvenience othersEdit
- Much like point 1, it simply is not worth anything at the cost of risking the death of the raid. This should be intuitive, however a rogue must also make considerations for the healers and tanks such as not drawing so much aggro that the tank must struggle or shirk other duties, and to not drain healer mana by taking much unnecessary damage or making them dispel potent debuffs that you would do well to remove with Cloak of Shadows.
3. Stay on your targetEdit
- A damage dealer is useless when not dealing damage. While there are times you will not be able to damage your target (largely by being out of range), your absolute first job aside from basic survival is to minimize these periods. Practically, this primarily falls into smart positioning and good use of sprint to prevent and close (respectively) large gaps between targets and yourself.
4. Do not cap energyEdit
- "Capping" energy means allowing your energy to stop generating by reaching its maximum. This is simply wasting resources. A perfect rogue will only let this happen when he is not able to DPS his target and it is impossible to prevent.
5. Do not drop Slice and DiceEdit
- Slice and Dice is an extremely important part of a rogue's DPS no matter his spec, and so a rogue's job is mostly to keep it up without capping energy or dying. If you are keeping slice and dice up consistently without capping energy or dying, you will do reasonable damage from your gear - even by ignoring optimization of your cycle and other factors.
6. Optimize your CycleEdit
- Once you have the basics of DPS down, the most impactful part of your damage is how well you use the resources this allows you, namely your energy and combo points. This generally falls to whatever maximizes your Rupture uptime (the finisher you should use when you don't need to SnD) without letting your energy cap or SnD fall off. Spreadsheets can be used to determine what is best. Combo point cycles are typically written in the format #x/#x/#x... where # is the amount of combo points used on x finisher - for example a 5s/5r cycle builds 5 combo points, then uses Slice and Dice before building 5 combo points and using Rupture. Then its goal is to have 5 combo points to use to refresh Slice and Dice, without capping energy. These are of course heavily dependent on your spec, your combo point builder, your hit rating and expertise, set bonuses and potentially your trinkets, etc.
7. Cooldown useEdit
- The first rule of cooldowns is to use them often. Most of the time and especially when in doubt, use them on cooldown. Stack them when possible, however in many cases this is only practical at the beginning of a fight, as many have differing cooldowns. Remember that it is particularly powerful to stack buffs on top of haste buffs, especially bloodlust, and this is one of the few times that you should delay use of most cooldowns for a short time. Percentage-based haste makes everything - more percentage-based haste, haste rating, attack power, etc - more powerful.
Basic Talent Specialization InformationEdit
Relentless Strikes and Dual Wield Specialization are such powerful talents that no viable PvE DPS spec can survive without them, and so the general shell of every PvE rogue spec is 11/20/0 (with 30 points remaning). A spec can be easily began by taking this shell and draining points in ruthlessness for Puncturing Wounds if using Backstab heavily, or draining points from Lightning Reflexes for Improved Sinister Strike if using Sinister Strike heavily. Points may also be drained from Lightning Reflexes to Improved Gouge at no cost to DPS, based on preference. Similarly, Improved Sprint can be dropped completely for Endurance (it is not advisable to have one point in Improved Sprint). However, most rogues find that a decreased cooldown is not necessary and that the root break is useful on specific fights, e.g. Vashj.
From this point, all three trees and all four basic talent point generators (Sinister Strike, Backstab, Mutilate and Hemorrhage) can provide sufficent DPS to be viable in raid. However, as rogues are taken purely for damage considerations, Subtlety/Hemorrhage builds are generally supplanted by combat builds and Combat Dagger/Backstab builds are often supplanted by Assassination/Mutilate builds, which mostly provide marginally higher DPS with the same gear. A final note - beware of Opportunity, which seems an amazing talent particularly for Mutilate builds, but is placed so that a Mutilate build must choose between it and Dual-Wield Specialization, which is always superior.
When talent points cannot be placed towards damage, survivability should be prioritized, as it increases damage indirectly by allowing a rogue to live to disperse more damage or even to ignore or to avoid danger that would normally force the rogue to sacrifice damage.