If I were choosing one word to describe the Mutilate playstyle, I'd have to go with the easy answer: Assassin. Keeping the tradition of the tree's namesake, Mutilate rogues are experts of the quick and efficient kill. Not designed for toe-to-toe combat or lengthy encounters, the last dagger-wielding rogue spec prefers a more vicious approach. You give your enemy no quarter, and expect none in return.
Specializing in single-target damage, a Mutilate rogue performs at peak efficiency when there's only a solo target. The assassination tree grants us a complete mastery over all things poisonous, and in this, gives us strength against highly armored opponents that our siblings of the shadow can only envy. A properly played Mutilate rogue on an advantageous fight can be rivaled by no other DPS class in the game, and why should there be any competition? Killing is what an assassination rogue was born to do.
1. What is Assassination?
Assassination is one of the main talent trees of the rogue class and home to many of the crucial DPS talents. Any serious rogue spec will be dropping several points into assassination, as it is simply too good to pass up. The core talent of the tree is Mutilate, which dramatically alters a true assassination rogue from all others. Mutilate rogues have their own unique playstyle and strategy based on dual daggers and poison damage. I'll be using Mutilate to describe the deep assassination specs for the rest of this article.
2. Mutilate Benefits
- The highest possible single target DPS - period
- Poison-based damage allows us to punish even highly armored opponents
- Less dependent on powerful weapons than the other rogue specs
- Most engaging rotation and priority system
- Strong burst and control make it the premier PvP spec
- Poor target swapping due to long ramp-up time
- Weaker cooldowns don't allow for massive burst phases
- DPS is very dependent on the proper buffs and debuffs
- Suffers the biggest DPS loss on fights with heavy movement or down time
- Most fragile spec in terms of survivability
4. Stats to look for
While agility and stamina are a given on nearly any piece of gear you'll acquire, there are several other melee stats that are quite beneficial to a Mutilate rogue. Agility is the rogue's primary stat, and so of course you'll have a ton of it, but don't focus on gemming for it. Leather DPS gear always has 5 stats as opposed to plate's 4 stats, so get used to seeing agility / stamina / attack power and two other stats on just about every piece you get. This means that a particular piece of gear is usually defined by the two bonus stats, and balancing these becomes the focus of most rogue gearing decisions. As with any rogue spec, the value of any given stat varies wildly based on your current gear, so consult a spreadsheet for the exact value of any stat versus another.
- Attack power. A mutilate rogue's favorite stat, AP will also be found on just about any piece of gear you pick up. Our poison attacks are considered spells, and so their crit chance doesn't scale with our agility. They do, however, scale with our attack power. This makes AP the stat of choice, as poison damage will add up to 50-60% of your overall damage. Mutilate rogues have a very high passive critical strike chance from talents, and so at higher gear levels, we are often near the 'crit cap'. This makes AP even more attractive as AP is far superior to agility when agility's critical strike boost is removed from the equation.
- Haste. The core of Mutilate's energy generation, haste directly increases the number of Focused Attacks procs that we can expect to see. Due to Mutilate's heavier dependence on energy-based damage versus combat, haste is invaluable. At certain levels of energy regeneration, a Mutilate rogue can adjust their rotation to provide near-constant uptime for their buffs and deal massive damage while doing so. Haste is typically slated opposite armor penetration on gear, so when at all possible, take the piece with haste over the piece with ArP. Haste also has no cap to speak of, and so you can really stack it without every worrying about it.
- Critical strike. Another stat that you'll see on most of your gear, maintaining a high crit level is key to maximize the effects of Focused Attacks and Seal Fate. A Mutilate rogue will pick up plenty of crit on gear alone, and well-geared assassins will actually have too much crit for their own good. Don't search it out as a stat specifically, but realize that it's going to come on a good chunk of the gear that you acquire.
- Hit rating. Hit plays an especially important role in the Mutilate paradigm, as poisons use the spell hit table to determine their chance of hitting. Because guaranteeing a spell hit requires more hit rating than most melee attacks, Mutilate rogues will focus on reaching the Poison Hit Cap at all costs. While we've traditionally had plenty on our gear before, Tier 10 is abnormally low on hit rating. Many of your gearing choices will focus around hit rating, just remember the basic tenets: it's crazy valuable up to the cap, and still pretty good over it. There's also a very interesting interaction between hit and crit when you are nearing the critical strike cap, be sure to check out my full explanation if you're concerned about this issue affecting you.
- Expertise. Assassination rogues lack some of the expertise and 'guaranteed hit' talents of the combat tree, and so expertise becomes particularly valuable. A dodged finisher can be a huge blow your DPS, which suffers greatly if any of your buffs are allowed to fade. While it will only take a few expertise pieces to cap you at 26 expertise, there are very few gear combinations that add up to exactly 26. You'll typically want to be a little bit over and just eat the extra expertise, or a little bit under and use a few expertise gems to fill in the gap. Be sure to consult a spreadsheet before doing this, as expertise is one of those stats that can vary wildly based on your individual gear and again has an interaction with the crit cap that is difficult to visualize without getting your hands dirty.
5. Stats to avoid
- Armor penetration. While ArP is simply amazing for a combat rogue, its value is greatly diminished for Mutilate builds. This is due to Mutilate's heavy leaning towards poison damage, which gains no benefit from ArP. It's not the worst thing in the world to see on your gear, and unless you are the luckiest rogue alive, you'll probably have a few pieces with ArP in your collection. While not as bad as gemming spirit or enchanting for strength, a non-ArP piece will almost always trump a similarly strong ArP piece for you. Haste and ArP are typically placed opposite each other, so look for the haste alternative for an ArP slot you currently have equipped.
- Strength. I shouldn't have to say it, but if it's got strength on it, leave it alone. I know that warrior DPS ring might look great to you now, but strength is terrible for rogues as it only gives us 1 AP versus 2 for a plate class. It simply costs too many itemization points to make it better than any other stat, even ArP.