So you've decided to become a rogue. Roaming invisible through the darkness, lashing out in fury with your blades, the bane of casters in PVP, the most sustainable DPS in PVE, the most mispelled class name of all. You've picked your race, entered the game, rerolled your race because you noticed your stealth animations sucked, and finally started leveling. Then one day while you're grinding in Darkshore or running through Wailing Caverns, a nice weapon drops, and you finally have to face the question that all rogues must answer someday -- what kind of weapons do I want to use?
Whereas other classes are defined by their spec -- "I'm a feral druid," "I'm a prot warrior," "I'm a resto shaman" -- rogues are defined mainly by their choice of weapons. This is because we can only DPS, while many other classes can tank or heal as well. (At least until Dogan's Bandage Spec becomes a reality.) Plus, from my experience in-game, not too many non-rogues know much about rogue talent trees. ("So you're Assassination ... is that the one with the thing that lets you sneak up behind people?")
While you're leveling up early, you'll probably just use the best weapon you come upon, whether it be a sword, a dagger, a mace or a fist weapon. This is a pretty good strategy, since it gives you experience with all the different weapon types and helps you decide which one you like most. But eventually, you'll want to pick a type of weapon and stick with it for a while. No one wants to raid with the rogue who changes his weapons every time something new and shiny drops, and then spends the rest of the instance going "lol sword skill 230" and whacking at trash while the actual sword rogues and fury warriors who lost the roll seethe in anger and plot how to make him autofollow them off a cliff. So here's a quick guide to the types of weapons out there for rogues, their ideal specs, their plusses and their minuses.
Daggers: When people think rogues, they think daggers. It's the one weapon rogues start out knowing how to use, and three of our most lethal abilities -- Backstab, Ambush, and Mutilate -- require their use. Some dagger rogues believe rogues who use other weapons are wanna-be fury warriors, and that "real rogues use daggers." This is kind of silly, as other weapons can be just as good or better in many settings. Do all orc warriors use axes? Do all paladins swing big maces? Then all rogues shouldn't have to use daggers. Although I agree that skinny undead or elf rogues dual-wielding giant swords or maces look like they're about to fall on their faces.
- Plusses: Daggers are required for the opening move Ambush, which is able to knock off a large portion of a mob's health right off the bat; Backstab, the main damage-dealer for many rogues; and Mutilate, which can be an amazing damage spec for both PVE and PVP in the right situations. Daggers are generally faster than swords and can apply poisons quicker. There's often less competition for daggers than for swords and maces, particularly since they are widely considered to go to rogues first. Combat dagger and mutilate rogues can do insane DPS in raids, and daggers provide a greater variety of options for damage than swords. The assassination tree's high combo point generation makes stunning a breeze.
- Minuses: Grinding efficiently is an enormous pain, since to backstab or mutilate you have to be behind the target, which doesn't exactly work well with soloing. The dagger rogue compensates by either stunning the target befor moving to its back or giving up and using inefficient Sinister Strikes. I do the latter, but then again, I'm amazingly lazy when soloing. In groups, the positioning factor means that trash mobs are more difficult for you than for sword rogues. In a Mutilate build, constantly reapplying poisons can be annoying, and your DPS hits the ground on mobs that are immune to poison (like elementals.) All your memories of fighting bosses will be of staring at their butt.
- Examples of Specs: Combat Mutilate, Combat Daggers, Shadowstep, PVP Mutilate, Combat Shiv, Seal Fate Premed.
Swords: Sword rogues are very common in Azeroth, and indeed, combat swords (with a smattering of combat daggers) seems to be a build of choice for the top guilds. The main move of choice for most PVE sword rogues is Sinister Strike, with Slice and Dice used as a finisher. Combat skills like Adrenaline Rush and Blade Flurry add a little variety to swordfighting. Some rogues enjoy Hemo specs, although they're not as powerful as they used to be.
- Plusses: Many rogues now believe that combat swords is the best spec for both raiding and arena. You don't have to worry as much about positioning as dagger rogues, although you should still be behind the enemy. The bonus for sword specialization in the combat tree can be powerful if it procs (and it's currently bugged so that mainhand attacks can proc off offhand sword hits!) Grinding is much less difficult with swords than daggers, since you don't have to constantly stun and run behind mobs. You can do good damage on mobs that are immune to poisons, unlike Mutilate builds.
- Minuses: 2222232222232222279 ... also known as this spec can get boring in raids. Since you're just Sinister Striking and most of your combo points will go towards keeping Slice and Dice up (or Rupturing), you don't see a lot of variety. Many people prefer the passive crit bonus of fist weapons or dagger spec over the procs of sword and mace spec in the Combat tree. Warriors and hunters who believe that "daggers go to rogues first" generally don't feel the same about swords. In the early dungeon and raid instances at 70, there are better daggers than swords available. Hemo usually falls behind combat and mutilate specs in raid DPS.
- Examples of Specs: Combat Swords, Hemo, Seal Fate Combat Swords, Seal Fate Hemo.
Fist weapons: Fist weapons work basically the same as swords, except that instead of the chance to proc an extra hit in Sword Spec, you get a passive 5 percent increase in crit chance. Fist weapon and mace specs are usually the same as swords, with any points in Sword Spec diverted into the appropriate weapon.
- Plusses: The ease and white damage of swords, plus extra crits instead of an unreliable proc!
- Minuses: Same as swords, mostly. Good luck finding two good fist weapons. (There are a lot more in Burning Crusade than there were before, though.) Your guildmates will make fisting jokes.
- Specs: Combat Fists, all Hemo builds.
Maces: Finally, we have maces, probably the least popular of all rogue weapons. Maces work a little more like swords than fists -- mace spec is also proc-based, as full mace spec gives you a 5 percent chance to stun your enemy for three seconds on a hit. Mace spec also increases your skill with maces.
- Plusses: Same as swords and fists, and the stuns can be killer in PVP. The crafted blacksmithing maces are also very nice.
- Minuses: You can't stun bosses, so mace spec falls behind sword spec in PVE raiding. Like with fists, there's a lack of high-end itemization.
- Specs: Combat Maces, all Hemo builds.
So what should you choose? Really, you've got to try it out for yourself and see what you like. I know dagger rogues who feel bored to pieces every time they've tried a sword, and sword or fist rogues who feel frustrated with daggers. I am currently combat mutilate spec, but intend to go combat daggers as soon as I get a decent fast offhand. I know I should go swords, since that's the popular thing to do right now, but I treasure my memories of dashing around dragons in BWL to find the right spot too much to go swords. Plus, the three levels I spent using fist weapons may have been more efficient, but I like the versatility combat daggers offers.
Rogues, what weapon do you use? What do you think the positives and negatives of different weapons are?