While there are a couple of talent options for PvE Mutilate builds, you have to remember that rogues have one of the strongest theorycrafting communities in the game. We've been broken down into very powerful mathematical models that allow us to find the clear winner when it comes to maximizing our DPS. There's always other options, but part of the meta game and culture of playing a rogue involves min/maxing at nearly any cost. The most powerful current build is 51/18/2, with an obvious lean towards assassination while picking only the strongest DPS talents from the other trees. This particular variant has a low amount of burst and a focus on white/poison damage versus the alternatives.
7. Talent overview
Talents in italics are optional, and you can flex your build to pick up or drop these based on your particular desires. For example, if you choose to not take Fleet Footed, be sure to pick up a speed boosting enchant to your boots to compensate. If a talent is struck out, avoid it, as it provides little or no benefit to a healer. I'll only be covering the combat and assassination talents that are relevant for a mutilate rogue to pursue.
Improved Eviscerate– No current assassination build uses Eviscerate at all, and so this talent is worthless. Remorseless Attacks– A mid-tier leveling talent at best, RA really has no place in any serious rogue's talent spec once you've hit 80.
- Malice – The simplest talent you'll see today, 1% crit per point, and one of the many synergistic talents in the assassination tree. Critical strikes play a huge role to a Mutilate rogue, so expect to see many more talents along this vein. I also predict critical strike chance / damage will be one of the mastery bonuses for assassination rogues in Cataclysm.
- Ruthlessness – Here's a talent that captures every rogue's favorite acronym: RNG. Sometimes this talent will save your rotation's life and you'll be praising its virtues. Other times, this fickle talent won't proc for ages, and you'll be wondering why your rotation seems so thin. It's still worth picking up, either way.
- Blood Spatter – With patch 3.3.3's upcoming Rupture buff, this talent may be en vogue again, but currently Mutilate builds don't Rupture at all, so leave this one at the door.
- Puncturing Wounds – A talent that gives Mutilate an extra 15% chance to crit directly translates into extra combo points via Seal Fate, and bonus energy via Focused Attacks. This makes crit talent number two, and we're only on the second tier of the tree.
Vigor– A PvP-only talent. No matter how your intuition or estimations may make it seem valuable, it is terrible for PvE. Improved Expose Armor– It's actually ironic that this talent finds itself in the assassination tree, which has the least dependence on the major armor debuff. I haven't seen anyone pick this up in ages, just get a warrior to do the job.
- Lethality – A core damage boost to any rogue spec, this is yet another crit-related talent. While its wording has been changed several times over the years, just know that it really only affects Mutilate for you.
- Vile Poisons – The first of the two major poison talents we'll be seeing in assassination, it also boosts the damage of our primary finisher: Envenom.
- Improved Poisons – The stronger of the two poison talents, it's such an amazing talent that even combat rogues sacrifice everything to pick it up. This talent is a large part of the reason that Mutilate's DPS is even viable, and without it, enjoy your spot at the bottom of the meters.
- Fleet Footed – An optional talent, Fleet Footed is also the only place to put your spare talent points that even has a chance of boosting your DPS. With Mutilate's poor target swapping and incredible dependency on having the right buffs and debuffs active, making sure you're on target as long as possible becomes crucial.
- Cold Blood – A weak PvE cooldown with little bite, I typically use it to jump start a failed rotation by guaranteeing a Mutilate crit for the Seal Fate proc. You can also use it to drop a huge Envenom if your target is fully debuffed, although Envenom has a pretty high crit chance anyway.
Improved Kidney Shot– This is a tricky talent, as it seems pretty cool at first sight. Unfortunately, no serious PvE target can be stunned, and most of your PvP opponents will be avoiding your Kidney Shot anyway.
- Quick Recovery – The other option for your two floater points, this talent rapidly loses value once you reach the expertise cap. The healing boost may make your healers' lives easier, but throwing away two talent points to help a priest is not really the rogue way of life.
- Seal Fate – The talent that carried this tree through vanilla and parts of TBC, Seal Fate ensures that Mutilate's combo point generation remains high enough to maintain the required rotation. This talent synergizes in several ways with the other crit talents in the tree. At decent gearing levels, this means that we'll be pretty much always seeing 3 combo points per Mutilate. If we factor in a Ruthlessness proc to set us 4 CP, you can see that an additional Mutilate would waste 2 CP since we'd already be at the cap of 5. Due to this, Mutilate will typically user their finishers at 4-5 CP, but consult a spreadsheet for which rotation is strongest for you.
- Murder – The recently buffed Murder is what really brings Mutilate up to the other specs in terms of raw DPS, and at 2% damage per talent, it's actually incredibly strong per point.
Deadly Brew– An amazingly strong talent, this becomes the core of every Mutilate PvP build. It allows massive poison damage via Instant and Deadly Poison on either weapon, while maintaining control via Crippling Poison.
- Overkill – The second assassination cooldown, this allows us to use Vanish for a temporary energy regeneration boost. If we generate 10 energy per second naturally, and this boosts that by 30% for 20 seconds, it yields a total of 60 energy over 20 seconds. Contrast that with the nearly 190 energy that combat sees from Adrenaline Rush and the fact that combat doesn't have to sacrifice Vanish to do it, and you see that Overkill is really lackluster in terms of power. You can use it to add a bit of pep to a burn phase, or to quickly start your rotation on a new target.
Deadened Nerves– A PvP only talent, and a weak one at that, don't expect to put any points in here soon.
- Focused Attacks – The core of Mutilate's energy regeneration plan , FA scales incredibly well with haste and critical strike. This is one reason that Mutilate loves a fast weapon, as it is not normalized to any given weapon speeds.
- Find Weakness – Mutilate does a higher percentage of its damage via special attacks than combat does, and so Find Weakness is a gem for any assassin.
- Master Poisoner – Well, here's another crit talent, except that this one affects the entire raid. Our only true raid buff/debuff, and since it is typically brought by another class, we usually take Master Poisoner for the Deadly Poison/Envenom interaction change that is crucial to any successful Mutilate rotation.
- Mutilate – The double dagger attack itself, here's the talent that defines the entire tree. It has undergone several quality-of-life changes that have moved it from 'dumb backstab clone' to 'best CP generator'. Make no mistake, without Mutilate, assassination would be dead today.
Turn the Tables– While it's not a bad talent by any means, Mutilate's crit chance is already huge and there are simply better talents to take elsewhere. Why pay 3 talent points for 6% Mutilate crit when we got 15% crit for the same 3 points earlier in the tree? Also, this talent makes your character do an animation any time a raid member performs a dodge/block/parry, so you'll end up looking like a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man.
- Cut to the Chase – Now, I have to add this disclaimer: while Blizzard has been naming a lot of items after major figures in the theorycrafting community, this talent has no relation to me. It is, however, completely relevant to everything you'll ever need to know about a Mutilate rotation. Every time you Envenom, your Slice and Dice is refreshed to its full duration. This means that instead of wasting energy on refreshing SnD, like a poor combat rogue would have to do, you instead get to Envenom for massive damage and a sweet poison proc buff.
- Hunger for Blood – Hunger for Blood is simple: 5% extra damage, or 8% when glyphed. Don't look for any depth here, Blizzard has admitted that it was bandaid fix that they hate because it's so poorly implemented. This hasn't stopped them from using it as the knob to adjust Mutilate's DPS, which luckily means that if we do fall behind, it won't be for long. HfB has a token energy cost, requires our target to be bleeding, and a 60 second duration to make it seem like there was some thought put into it, but realize that HfB as we know it will be completely blown away and rebuilt from scratch come Cataclysm. I just hope you're raiding with a kitty or DPS warrior, or else you're on Rupture duty.
- Dual Wield Specialization – No talent build is complete without it, as so much of our damage comes from our offhand attacks. Also note that this affects the OH portion of Mutilate, so it's double cool in that aspect.
- Precision – Hit is precious for Mutilate, as I mentioned earlier, and this talent boosts both our melee and spell hit equally. I've always said that hit is the 'purest' way to increase a rogue's DPS, and our gear is typically itemized with the assumption that we're getting 5% from our talents. Without it, you'll be hard-pressed to find good gear without enough hit to cover the caps.
- Close Quarters Combat – Another 5 points for 5% crit talent? Works for me, but it also pushes us 5% closer to the crit cap.
- Lightning Reflexes – The real reason we're even this deep in combat, 10% haste is simply so crazy good that we're giving up free energy just to get to it. If it weren't for LR being amazing, these points would be in subtlety.
- Relentless Strikes – Assassination used to house this former 1-point-wonder, but now the torch has been passed to the 5 point version in Subtlety. Obviously RS is a simple energy return talent, but the amount of energy it returns can't beat the 10% haste from LR in combat. That's why there's only 2 talent points here, though other builds that forsake LR will fill this out instead.
- Opportunity – A simple boost to our Mutilate damage, this is the other talent that receives a few points in the non-LR builds. It's also great for PvP builds, as yellow damage is burst, and we need all the burst we can get. Today's Mutilate rogues don't spec for it in PvE anymore, but we remember it fondly.
Well, for starters, you can't even get down to Mutilate until level 50. Secondly, Mutilate is pretty bad until you can get Envenom, and your hit / expertise will be super low and you'll be missing attacks all over the place. I'd recommend leveling with slow weapons up until 60 or 70, and then swapping to a full Mutilate build once you've been able to round out your gear with some of the well-itemized Outland or early Northrend items. The simple agility / stam gear from levels 1-60 simply isn't going to support a poison-based spec at all. Once Mutilate is humming along, Overkill and Vigor can have you wrecking targets in record time. Slow daggers, like the heirloom weapons, are fine while leveling, since yellow damage will be a high percentage of your total damage done.