Every Wednesday, Elizabeth Wachowski or Chris Jahosky write Encrypted Text, a look into the shadowy world of rogues.

This week on Encrypted Text is the first part in a small mini-series of articles that should serve as a guide for any up and coming rogues looking to start raiding. I will cover a few of the more raid-friendly specs, talk about their strengths and weaknesses, the hit and expertise caps, and the type of gear you should be looking for.

Combat vs. Assassination and Subtlety
I'll be the first to admit that many Combat heavy builds, especially Combat daggers (which I was for a long time while raiding), are not inherently fun to play.

However, since the inception of the Burning Crusade expansion and its long list of changes to the talent trees, Combat sword/mace/fist builds have gotten far more complex. With enough +hit gear, a Combat Rogue can generate enough energy to keep Slice and Dice and Rupture up at all times during a fight (though Rupture is not generally used on trash). A well geared Rogue may also have enough time to throw in an additional Eviscerate and still have enough combo points to keep SnD and Rupture running. The amount of damage a Rogue like this can cause is astronomical -- highly geared rogues have broken 3,000 DPS in certain fights. There are 10 man raids that don't have 3,000 DPS combined. Of course, these rogues are the exception rather than the rule, but it is possible for anyone to get to that level, provided they have the skill and the gear.

Before the Burning Crusade, it was extremely difficult to obtain enough +hit gear to reach the Hit Cap (these days it's still difficult, but possible). The Hit Cap, by the way, is a term to describe how much +hit you need to have before all your attacks will never miss (though they still can be dodged or parried, but more on that later). The Hit Cap is normally calculated for the most difficult mob to hit. In the current game, this means a level 73 (boss) mob. The base chance to miss a level 73 while dual wielding is 28% for your "white" damage (normal swings), and 9% for your "yellow" damage (special attacks). In simple terms: once you have 9% hit, your special attacks will never miss, and once you have 28% hit, you'll never miss your normal swings. We'll get more into the Hit Cap later, but one of the reasons Combat performs so well in raids is based on a talent called Combat Potency, which gives your off-hand a 20% chance to give you 15 energy when it hits. As you get closer to the hit cap this talent gets better and better, and with a fast off-hand weapon you can get to the point where you'll have more energy than you know what to do with.

Aside from Combat Potency, there are many other talents that will increase your damage output directly, many of which synergize well with a high hit rating. By never missing an attack, you maximize your chance for Sword Spec to proc. Precision increases your chance to hit (more on that later), Dual Wield spec increases your off-hand damage, etc...

The Assassination tree is often utilized as a secondary tree when using a heavy Combat build. It has talents that enhance energy regeneration and increase combo point generation, as well as passive and direct increases to damage output. Some builds, like Combat Mutilate, spec deeply into this tree and can be competitive in smaller raids assuming the targets can be poisoned. However, it is much more difficult to reach the Hit Cap with this build, and reaching the Hit Cap does not increase energy regen, as it does in Combat. All that increasing your hit with Assassination and Subtlety specs will do is increase your white damage -- this is still important, but the effect is not as dramatic as it would be with Combat Potency.

The Subtlety tree has undergone perhaps the most amount of changes over the years. For a long time it was the "utility" tree for rogues. These days the utility is still there, but is now even stronger; additionally, the tree has become even more popular for PvP due to talents like Shadowstep and Hemorrhage. The tree is generally of limited use for raids as it lacks the sustained damage of Combat, and the energy/CP generation of Assassination. However, in larger raids, the debuff from Hemo can increase the raid's overall DPS. With enough melee DPS in the raid, this can make up for the loss of the rogue's personal DPS. In smaller raids, hybrid builds that mix Subtlety and Combat can do enough damage to be competitive on trash fights, but will most likely fall behind during Boss encounters.

I will go over some more raid-friendly specs that include Subtlety talents, but if you are interested in doing the most amount of damage (and thus, being the most useful to your raid), a heavy Combat build is really your only option. Remember, every other DPS class brings more to a raid than just DPS:
  • Mage - water/food/Crowd Control
  • Warlock - health stones/soul stone
  • Warrior - group buff/Off Tank
  • Shaman - group buff/Off Healer/wipe prevention
  • Hunter - group buff/CC/Misdirection
  • Shadow Priest - mana battery/OH
  • Druid - OT/OH/battle rez
  • Retribution Paladin - group buffs/OH/wipe prevention
Almost all of the Rogue's utility is wasted in raids -- you are primarily there to be the highest source of single target DPS, able to DPS continuously throughout the fight without having to worry as much about threat as other DPS classes. The damage meters are not the end-all, be-all of your existence, but I am trying to impress upon you the importance of your role: damage dealer.

The Hit Cap

Hit Rating, as a stat, is misleading -- it actually decreases your chance to Miss. As mentioned earlier, the Hit Cap currently is 28% / 9% against level 73 targets (raid bosses). What this really means is that your base chance to miss is 28% (while dual wielding) with regular swings, and 9% to miss with your special attacks.

In terms of Hit Rating (what you see when you look at your Character's stats), you'd need 442 / 142 Hit Rating (for regular swings / special attacks, respectively) to reduce your chance to miss to 0%. With Precision (from the Combat tree), this number drops to 363 / 64. Keep in mind that this is not a number you must achieve -- even the rogues of Nihilum, arguably the best geared rogues in the game today, don't achieve this number (though they come quite close, generally between 300-320 hit rating). Aside from just lowering the number of attacks you miss, hit rating can actually lead to an increase in critical strikes on regular swings -- this can be a difficult concept to understand. Think of it this way: Your crit chance encompasses all of your swings, not just the ones that land. The reason behind this is that there is only one "roll" made by the game engine when your character swings. Let's imagine that the computer rolls a 100-sided die to determine what your attack will be. If you have 0 hit rating and a 50% crit chance, the "attack table" (arrangement of all possible outcomes of your swing) on a level 73 might look like this:
  • 1-28: Miss (28%)
  • 29-36: Dodge (~7%*)
  • 37-62: Glancing Blow (25%)
  • 63-100: Critical Strike (40%)
  • 0: Hit (0%)
* - the actual dodge chance of a level 73 boss is 6.5%... rounded here for easier viewing

This is the priority that WoW uses to determine what the outcome of an attack is. Because a critical strike has a lower priority than miss, dodge, or a glancing blow (and that all possible outcomes must combine to equal a 100% chance -- after all, something must happen when you swing), we can see that our crit chance has been lowered to 40%! Now let's see what happens if we add 10% hit chance, and lower our crit chance by 5%.
  • 1-18: Miss (18%)
  • 19-26: Dodge (6.5%)
  • 27-51: Glancing Blow (25%)
  • 52-97: Critical Strike (45%)
  • 98-100: Hit (5.5%)
How interesting! Even though we lowered our crit by 5%, by increasing our hit we actually increased our effective chance to crit by 5%! Seems strange, I know, but even your missed swings are potential crits! By not having enough hit, you are actually lowering your crit chance. Once you're attained the Hit Cap, however, there is no benefit to increasing your hit rating.

In the next installment, I'm going to talk about the Expertise cap, positioning, and the different specs you should be considering. Read it here ===>

This article was originally published on WoW Insider.