So, after reading the list of pros and cons, you've committed to starting your new rogue. This is a proud day for the brotherhood of assassins, as we welcome a new member into our fold. You will learn to embrace the shadows and your adrenaline will spike after your first kill. You will learn to hide your tracks and strike fear into your enemies.
Before you're ready to slay dragons and assassinate high-profile targets, you've got a lot of learning to do. Rogues can be a complex class, with our nearly limitless bag of tricks and a playstyle that is uniquely our own. You must learn how to use your techniques effectively, and how to maximize your damage output while staying alive. The journey from a young rogue to a powerful assassin begins today.
I'll assume you've read the first article of this series, and you've chosen a great name and customized your new character to your liking. You're thrown right into combat upon logging in, with the goal of killing some variety of low level beasts. You'll be presented with two abilities: Sinister Strike, and Eviscerate. Your basic attack structure will revolve around using Sinister Strike to do damage to a mob, and using Eviscerate when you have built up a few Combo Points.
Combat will be mostly boring for the first few levels, as your attack structure and rotation will be the same for quite some time. The idea of building combo points and then releasing them via a finishing move is a core rogue mechanic, and so building combo points and then using them will be your method for killing just about everything. The only variety comes in how you build the combo points and what you choose to use for your finishing attack. This is a great time to set your key bindings for your basic moves, so that they become second nature as you begin your journey to level 80.
Combo Points & Finishers:
The combo point -> finisher cycle will be what dictates the pacing of a rogue attack sequence. If you were to stack combo points using Sinister Strike, and then finish with Eviscerate, you would have to wait around 30 seconds before your Eviscerate is ready. Knowing when your enemy will die is key to your ability use decision-making. If your enemy will die in 4 seconds, there's no point in saving your combo points: use them immediately so that you don't lose your investment. I suggest TimeToDie as one of your first addons. It's great for knowing how long your enemy will be alive so you can choose whether or not to use a finisher or continue building combo points.
As far as starting gear goes, there's really not many options. Most won't have any stats on it, and if it does, you don't really have much variety or any choices. Try to pick up as much leather as possible (for the higher armor class) and anything with Agility, Strength, or Stamina (in that order). The suffixes of perfect rogue gear are "of the Monkey" or "of the Tiger". Your stat selection will matter more at later levels, but right now, be happy with whatever you can find. Do not buy any gear from the vendors, as it is not worth it.
After completing your first quest, you'll be asked to go visit your friendly rogue trainer. He'll have a new spell for you: Stealth! While Stealth may seem fun, you actually don't have any Stealth-only moves at this level, and so it is mostly used for sneaking around. However, you'll want to be killing almost everything you see for experience, and so you won't spend much time in Stealth at all.
At level 4, you'll be eligible for two brand new moves. One is a personal favorite: Pick Pocket. This is your first move you can perform in stealth, and it allows you to steal some copper or items from your enemies. While leveling up, I would suggest using Pick Pocket as often as possible to ensure you always have some gold available for training new abilities or buying reagents. The second move you acquire is Backstab, which will unfortunately not even warrant a position on your hot bar. It's a largely useless move currently, with no Backstab spec being viable anywhere.
Level 6 brings an update to Sinister Strike which should make it fairly more potent, and our first defensive ability: Gouge. Gouge is one of the most underused of rogue techniques. Use this if you are being attacked by two mobs, as you can effectively knock one out of the fight. Use this if you need to run away, as it will give you a fairly big head start, or if you need to use a bandage. It's a great ability that should find its way to one of your hotkeys. Try using it as often as possible to get used to its nuances.
Level 8 brings another update to a base ability, making Eviscerate do more damage. You also pick up Evasion, which is the first powerful rogue CD you'll acquire. At lower levels, nearly all mobs are melee attacks, and so this will make you nigh immune to their attacks for 15 seconds. This is great for taking out elite or group quest bosses, and for mistake pulls where you end up with more mobs attacking you than you'd like. It's key to remember that you can only dodge an attack if you are facing your enemy, so this does nothing for you if you are running away from a fight. Use Evasion every time it's available, as the longer that Evasion is sitting "ready", the more time it is being wasted.
Finally, upon reaching level 10, you receive quite a few new abilities. Blizzard tends to stagger abilities every 10 levels (for 1-60, at least) and so every 10 levels you will see a major playstyle shift. This time, you receive another Stealth-only move of Sap, which is the rogue's best form of crowd control. It can allow you to solo groups by Sapping one of the mobs and then killing the other quickly. We also receive another infamous cooldown, Sprint. This one is more for escaping fights than for staying to rumble. If you think you can win, use Evasion and tough it out. If you're sure that you'll be defeated, use Sprint to escape from combat. There's no shame in sneaking up and taking a second shot at your prey.
Finally, you'll receive Slice and Dice. This is a staple of rogue DPS, and you should bind it to a key that you can reach easily. Attacking 20% faster will have you doing a ton more damage, and will become even more useful when you gain the ability to apply poisons to your weapons. If you're in combat, you should try to keep Slice and Dice up at all times, especially when fighting multiple targets. If you finish every fight by dumping your combo points into Slice and Dice, you'll be able to keep it up between targets, and you'll hop from mob to mob with great ease. You don't always need to save up 5 combo points before using Slice and Dice, usually 2-3 combo points is enough to keep it active for an entire fight.
While you're on your way to level 10, you'll have questions like "what speed should my weapons be?" I would suggest reading up on the basics of rogue axioms. The short answer is that any gear you use will be fine while leveling, and that you shouldn't worry terribly about min/maxing while on your way to 80. The key suggestions I can provide would be to use the best equipment available to you at the time, and focus on your abilities instead of your gear. A well-played rogue can often defeat a well-geared rogue, and the lower levels are an even greater example of this.
Once you've reached level 10, you've started to get some of the meaty rogue abilities that you'll be using all the way until level 80. Next week I will be covering a larger range of leveling, complete with a few choice rogue quests and some of our great new abilities and tricks to try out while experimenting with the rogue class. Please post any tips you have for a rogue between the levels of 1-10, or any tricks that you have to share for those just starting a new rogue.