Arthas has been busy over these past years. Killing his father, defiling the Alliance's most sacred city, enslaving an entire army of mindless undead, and a virulent zombie invasion; just to name a few. The Light's greatest paladin tried to stand against him, and was crushed. The demonic have tried to defeat him using their own fel magics, and were left bloodied in the snow. Even the most powerful Elven mages tried to stop his relentless assault, and their civilization was utterly destroyed.
After these hard years, Arthas' cruel reign of fear and terror over the citizens of Azeroth has reached a breaking point. The people can suffer no more pain or agony. The hounds of war have been unleashed and the wax-sealed envelopes from Thrall and Varian have been delivered. We've received our orders, and the message is clear: Assassinate the Lich King. Finally, our leaders have gotten some sense shaken into them by Arthas' brutality and ruthlessness. Finally, they've decided to send in the Rogues.
We have a mission in Northrend, to end the Lich King's dominance of Griftah's favorite ski resort. Arthas is strong; we are the shadow. But in order to defeat this dark enemy, you must first know yourself. You must know where your inner strength lies, and where to draw your power from when combating the Scourge in this desolate wasteland.
Every class will be receiving new skills as they level from 70 to 80, and Rogues are no exception. The majority of our new skills simply do more damage than the previous ones, but a few are unique. For example, our first trainable skill at level 71 is a new-and-improved version of Sap, specifically designed to frustrate Druids, Hunters, and Warlocks. With its new capacity to incapacitate Beasts, Demons, and Dragonkin, expect to be using it more often against the wide variety of creatures in Northrend.
Our next new spell is Tricks of the Trade, available at 75. This is great for when you're playing in a party, but if you plan on solo'ing, it won't be of any use. Cast this often and coordinate with your party members; two Rogues can cast this on each other to provide a significant boost to damage. TotT may become more important in the raiding world as an improved version of Misdirect (shows those Hunters right for calling dibs on Thunderfury), and will also be a key ability for coordinated burst in the arena. Get it on your action bar, and get used to casting it on your friends.
Our last new ability comes in the form of an AoE, with Fan of Knives. While currently its energy cost and effectiveness are questionable, it can prove useful while leveling and questing, especially for Rogues of the Combat persuasion. The cooldown was recently reduced to 10 seconds, making it more available for AoE though its energy cost will determine how often we can use it. While sure, it's not as fancy as some of the other level 80 class abilities, just be glad we didn't get stuck with Heroic Throw (shows those Warriors right for calling dibs on Thunderfury).
Speaking of the Combat tree, I still believe it will be our most powerful leveling talent spec. Unfair Advantage and a metric ton of sustained DPS with some multi-target utility tops the burst of Mutilate against mobs with significantly higher health pools than we're experiencing at 70. I will personally be spec'd Assassination, as leveling on my PvP server will likely incite a few open world skirmishes to settle some old blood feuds. Subtlety leveling is not out of the question, but I would reserve it only for those who are in love with the playstyle (or really, really hate Combat).
Questing and Grinding:
Similar to when The Burning Crusade was released, mobs have evolved in WotLK to more complex creatures than the simple auto-attacking drones that we encountered in vanilla WoW. Expect to be using Kick often in PvE (and hey, it costs 10 less energy) and using your stuns to prevent key mob abilities as you encounter entirely new types of enemies. And if you didn't catch the reference, the Deadly Throw Silence effect was removed from our PvP gloves and replaced with a 10 energy reduction on Kick. I haven't spoken with any Rogues happy with this change, and hopefully Blizzard will see our unhappiness, and we might see the change reverted on the Season 5 set.
As a Rogue, and especially when solo'ing, figure out which quests are the most tailored to your abilities. Quests that only involve killing mobs, or recovering an item from behind enemy lines are typically very easy for us to pull off, and will result in the most experience per hour on your way to 80. Blizzard has added some interesting new quest types, such as interactive airborne attacks. Look for quests with rewards that offer useful gear, and try to complete those first. That way, you'll have the new gear while completing the next set of quests.
With a "Ring of Blood version 2" at 75 and several Blacksmithing items requiring only basic materials, you shouldn't have much of a problem having good quality blue weapons available in Northrend. You'll also start to see more leather gear with Expertise and Haste Rating as well as open sockets, giving us some variety in our choices. I find Expertise to be a fantastic leveling stat; if you've got some good gear with Expertise on it, throw it on before you jump on that frozen zeppelin headed North.
As we did when we migrated to Shattrath and the hostile remnants of Draenor, be sure to cut your ties with Outlands before you depart for the frozen wastes that await us. Blow your Badges of Justice on some leveling gear or slots that you are weak in, dump all of your quest items and clear out the trash from your bank. Get a few Glyphs or materials ready, and stock up on useful consumables (I recommend Warp Burger and Elixir of Major Agility) for the grind that awaits.
Plan out your talent choices as you level, and choose where you'll put them each time you 'ding'. Take a look through some quest guides and area maps and start formulating your plan of attack. A great Rogue is like a good chess player: we're always 10 steps ahead. Someone has to kill Arthas and destroy his Throne, and the Shadow knows that if we leave it to the Warriors we would all still be deciding who is going to be the main tank for Lucifron. So master your techniques, prepare yourself, and execute on our plan to take the fight to the Lich King himself. With any luck, we'll do a little better than the last time we tried to take out a major player. Happy hunting, my brothers and sisters of the shadow.
(P.S. - I will be at the WotLK midnight launch at the Paseo Nuevo GameStop in Santa Barbara, CA at 9 p.m. PDT if you'd like to show up and talk shop!)