I remember what it was like to play a rogue in dungeons in vanilla WoW. Our only form of long-term crowd control was Sap, and it brought us out of stealth every time we used it. Subtlety rogues could spend three talent points on Improved Sap, which still left Sap knocking us out of Stealth a tenth of the time. Every mob had some sort of AoE or whirlwind-style attack, and rogues were often right behind tanks in terms of healing necessary.
We've come a long way since the old days. Tricks of the Trade, with its instant threat transfer, has become the crutch that supports even the greenest tanks. Fan of Knives is one of the best AoE abilities in the game and synergizes with our poisons for incredible potency. Improved Sap has been baked in to the ability, and we can use our CC safely on a wide variety of targets. Feint's new ability to reduce our AoE damage taken also allows us to survive most attacks. You might say that rogues are nearly perfect for running heroics. Unfortunately for us, Cataclysm's heroics have a thing or two to teach us about complacency.
Crowd control is absolutely necessary
Whether it's that tanks are less capable of mitigating damage, or that healers are less capable of healing as much, or that mobs are just hitting like Saurfang the Elder mixed with Chuck Norris -- you can't simply AoE down every room in a heroic anymore. You'll end up on the floor very quickly without even killing a single mob. It will also take some time for players to learn all of the new mechanics in each heroic, similar to how everyone used to wipe to Loken in Wrath. The easiest way to simplify a fight and slow down the pace while learning is to apply a lot of crowd control. While Sap was once the weakest CC in the game, it's come a long way since then. In Cataclysm, it's effective against demons and dragonkin, which expands the range of targets we can control.
While Sap's being both reliable and versatile is important, there's something even more critical to our success in using crowd control. Master of Deception has also been baked in to our normal Stealth, so we're nearly invisible to our enemies. This allows for us to Sap nearly any mob in a pack without fear of being discovered. We can also Stealth ahead to scout for patrols. There's even a Glyph of Sap that extends its duration to more than twice its normal length -- any rogue running heroics in Cataclysm should invest in this glyph.
Be the hero -- use your cooldowns
Rogues have a lot of cooldowns. After about 15 minutes of playing a rogue, you'll realize that we've really got every tool in Batman's utility belt and then some. There have always been two schools of thought when it comes to cooldown usage. The first mandates that you save your cooldowns so that they're available when you really need them. The second paradigm, which I follow, instructs you to use your cooldowns as often as possible to ensure that they're never wasted. When you're learning new content and you can't always rely on your teammates, using cooldowns can turn the tide of any battle.
Your top priority should be ensuring that the healer is safe and sound. If the healer is OK, he can keep the tank alive, and the fight should be simple from there. Utilize every short cooldown you have, like Gouge and Blind, to prevent someone from dying. I keep my eye on the healer at all times, just in case any mob happens to head his way. Sometimes it only takes a few seconds for the tank to be able to get control of a group, and every second of CC you can provide counts. If you don't have that option, you can still pop open "tank in a can," also known as Evasion. The death of one rogue wouldn't normally even be noticed, but if you save the healer, you've become the group's savior.
All three specs are pretty comparable
While damage meters on the beta servers are unreliable at best, I have been seeing pretty even performance from each of the rogue talent specializations in the heroic dungeons. Combat rogues have an edge in terms of raw damage due to Blade Flurry's new 30-second cooldown, which means you're nearly always attacking two targets at once. Assassination rogues have been very fun to play, with Vendetta providing some burst damage when necessary. Subtlety rogues are actually doing reasonable damage, though it can take some time to get into a full rotation. Once I started using the Glyph of Hemorrhage to provide the bleed debuff quickly instead of using Rupture early, my damage was much higher. I am eager to see how each spec performs once raids are unlocked on the beta servers.
Check back every Wednesday for the latest strategies in Encrypted Text! Get ready for Icecrown Citadel with our rogue guide, part 1, part 2 (Plagueworks), part 3 (Crimson Halls) and part 4 (Frostwing Halls). Just hit 80 and need information? Try Combat 101 or Mutilate 101.