I've heard a lot of statistics from various sources stating that the rogue population has been dwindling since Wrath of the Lich King was released. Whether our decline is due to former assassins deciding to try out the new death knights, or rogues simply moving on to greener pastures, we may never know. I do, however, know that there's also a lot of newly minted rogues, working their way up through the levels and lowbie zones. And if there's not, there should be!
There's a lot of fights that are absolutely amazing for rogues, with Yogg-Saron hard mode (no keeper) and Anub'Arak hard mode being two of the most prevalent and important encounters currently in the game. I have seen guilds beg their inactivate rogues to resubscribe with promises of gold, crafted epics, and endless heroic runs to gear them out. I know of a rogue on my server who went from newly 80 to better geared than myself in about a month with a ton of help from his guild and friends. Many of the world's top guilds are looking for solid rogues to fill the shoes of those who have given up the mantle of shadows in the past year.
We've also got a lot of new rerolls who are working on getting a new class to 80 for Cataclysm's upcoming release. I have been working on a guide for those rogues who are new to the class (and possibly the game) who are looking for tips and tricks for getting the most out of their roguish experience. I would also ask that any veterans or novice rogues alike add their own tips in the comments, if you've got a personal anecdote or bit of info that made your time leveling easier.
What does it mean to play a rogue?
You are DPS. That may sound fairly uncomplicated, but it actually goes far deeper. We are so focused at DPS that we are completely helpless in every role besides pure damage. A rogue cannot off tank an add in a pinch, we can't add support healing, and our raid buffs / debuffs are all purely damage boosts. All other DPS classes have traditionally been balanced (intentionally or unintentionally) around the rogue's DPS capabilities. The more utility or buffs another class brings over the rogue, the further they fall behind on the damage parses.
With Fan of Knives giving us a true AoE and one of the most robust toolkits for dealing damage in every environment, if a raid wants to maximize their DPS, they will always have several rogues on their roster. The downside to being so focused on damage is that you will never be capable of accomplishing anything else. You can't tank for a heroic or heal your raid when your priest is sick. You have no other options than DPS, and for many players this is a deal-breaker. You have to love doing DPS to the point that you can live without being able to even taste any of the other roles. Our 'purity' of DPS is both a blessing and a curse: what you make of it will decide if the rogue is the right class for you.
What's more important than damage?
Rogues in both PvE and PvP environments will always focus on damage output above all other statistics and values. We're not interested in stacking Stamina for more survivability or Dodge gems to give us the edge against random AoE attacks. Our goal is to output as much damage as possible and to annihilate our opponents before they get a chance to return the favor. We're not the type to string our enemies along, to kite them around, or to attempt to outlast them. We're short, dirty, and quick killers with one goal: the destruction of our opponents.
As you level up, this should be one of the key points to remember. If you've got the choice between bracers with Stamina and bracers with Agility, you should take the Agility bracers every time. Your goal is to do as much damage as possible, as quickly as possible, and to win the fight so quickly that the extra Stamina you sacrificed wouldn't have even come into play. While being survivable enough to stay alive can be an issue if you're soloing higher level mobs or group quests, rogues are typically able to simply increase their damage (instead of their life) to compensate for the added difficulty.
Starting a new rogue:
With these thoughts in mind, if the rogue sounds like the class for you, then I suggest you go start one immediately. Patch 3.3 is bringing a very welcome change, in that all rogues will be able to dual wield weapons from level 1. This will make the 1-10 experience much quicker and more painless, though it's already pretty easy and can be handled in one sitting. You'll save more time by starting your rogue now (without all the commotion surrounding Icecrown happening) rather than waiting. But before we even can get to level 1, we have to create our rogue.
On the topic of races, all races are having their starting stats balanced soon. This means that no particular race holds an advantage over another in terms of starting statistics (such as life, agility, etc). The only differentiator becomes the racial abilities and aesthetics. I would suggest focusing on which race you believe you would enjoy playing the most. With the upcoming "Race Change" feature, if you find out down the road that you're not happy with your choice, you'll be able to easily swap to another race at will. This really prevents the issue of choosing the "wrong" race. Whether your focus is PvE or PvP, there will always be the "best" racial based on the situation that you're in. Think about what you plan to use your rogue for, and pick the race that aligns best with your goals.
If you've got a main on the same server, you can send yourself some starting gold and a few bags to make inventory management a breeze. You probably won't reach a mailbox on the rogue until around level 6-10, so if you want it earlier, see if you can find a way to get the gear to your alt such as a portable engineering mailbox or walking to town extra early. If you have some Stone Keeper's Shards or Emblems of Heroism/Valor/Conquest to spend, feel free to send yourself a few heirloom items to make your leveling process even easier than normal. Here's a list of heirloom items for your upcoming rogue:
- Stained Shadowcraft Spaulders or Exceptional Stormshroud Shoulders (10% EXP, stacks with Chest)
- Stained Shadowcraft Tunic (10% EXP, stacks with Shoulders)
- Swift Hand of Justice
- Venerable Dal'Rend's Sacred Charge / Venerable Mass of McGowan or Battleworn Thrash Blade for your main hand. I'd recommend taking Swords as this is a common leveling weapon specialzation.
- Sharpened Scarlet Kris for your off hand
- Charmed Ancient Bone Bow for your ranged weapon
If you've read all of the pros and cons of playing a rogue (you can only do damage, but you do it the best) and you're still interested, go start your rogue today. Plan out any heirloom or starter gear that you can afford, with bags and a few gold for skills being the top priorities. Next week, I'll be going over the type of gear you'll want to acquire, and what to expect for you first few levels of roguish goodness!