With patch 4.0.1 now upon us, rogues are experiencing more changes in a single patch than probably ever before. While our talent trees have regressed to 31-point incarnations, new mastery bonuses and abilities have been added to each tree to create definition and purpose. The glyph system has seen a similar reworking and boosts the number of glyphs we can use by a full 50 percent. Finally, the reworking of the buff and debuff system has granted us new utility in a raid environment.
Due to the breadth of the changes and the uncertainty of new mechanics, it's difficult to predict exactly what the outcome will be. It's hard to say which spec will be the most powerful, as each has seen significant change. Assassination rogues were hurt the least by the removal of armor penetration, but combat rogues had many of the abilities buffed to compensate. Subtlety may even be the dark horse, eclipsing both of the traditional PvE specs if everything goes its way. After we've had a few more days of patch 4.0.1 under our belt, it should be easier to figure out exactly what's working and what isn't.
Over at Elitist Jerks, Aldriana has compiled a list of many of the frequently asked questions that rogues may have after patch 4.0.1 is released. (Speaking of Aldriana, I am working on an interview article with the famed EJ moderator that should be ready to publish in the next couple of weeks.) The biggest change that you'll be grappling with is the talent tree redesign. Once you're at level 79 to 80, you'll have 36 talent points available. That's just enough to fill up your primary tree with 31 points and then migrate to a new tree. You can't leave the tree you're in unless you've spent 31 points there, so cross-specs are effectively dead.
Assassination talents and glyphs
Assassination rogues will be using a talent build similar to the 31/2/3 build listed here, including the marked glyphs of Backstab, Mutilate and Rupture. I also marked major and minor glyphs for each spec, though for most of them, they're pretty subjective. The keys to the new Mutilate rotation will be the addition of Rupture, the replacement of the pesky Hunger for Blood with the new cooldown Vendetta, and the new Backstab-infused rushdown via Murderous Intent.
I went into the changes in detail on my new rotations article, but for the most part, Mutilate plays pretty similar to today. Instead of watching Hunger for Blood, you can simply watch your Rupture timer. Use Vendetta for burst phases or execute phases to boost your damage, but make sure you can stay on your target the whole time since it's a debuff placed on your current target. Finally, using a 4+ finisher rotation for both the Mutilate and Backstab phases of an encounter will yield you the best results.
Combat talents and glyphs
Combat rogues are going to need to put on a few expertise pieces to meet the new cap, now that we're not receiving any expertise from talents. Similarly, with the conversion of armor penetration to critical strike chance, you'll likely want to regem your gear with all agility to compensate for the loss. Agility gems will likely be the best gems for every spec, with agility/hit gems to fill blue sockets (since hit is now a blue stat) and agility/haste to fill yellow sockets. Visit the reforging vendor in your capital city (Orgrimmar or Ironforge) and feel free to flex your gear to reach your hit and expertise caps. Once that's done, you can focus on your secondary stat of choice. I turned all of my excess expertise into haste, and even shaved some crit off of my Deathbringer's Will and turned it into haste as well. Finally, combat is now weapon-independent, so tossing a dagger in our off hand will likely be the best way to go due to their quick speed-- unless it's a weak dagger. Because of the loss of the poison talents in assassination, combat rogues have been trying out Wound Poison / Deadly Poison instead of Instant Poison.
You'll notice that nearly every spec is picking up Relentless Strikes as a core DPS talent now, and that's largely due to Rupture's newfound popularity. Mutilate rogues are using Rupture because it returns energy via Venomous Wounds, while combat rogues are using it for a different reason altogether. With the complete removal of armor penetration, Rupture becomes the finisher of choice, easily beating Eviscerate's damage. The most common combat builds will be something like 2/31/3, with four points to spare in combat. I think Blade Twisting and Improved Recuperate are easily the best uses for the points, but Improved Sprint is also a valid option. The glyphs for combat will likely be Adrenaline Rush, Rupture and Sinister Strike, as well as the spec-specific Blade Flurry glyph, which will boost our multi-target DPS even more.
Combat will play similar to how it does today, with a few exceptions. We move into a high-Rupture cycle, maintaining it and Slice and Dice at all times. Eviscerate takes the backseat and is only used if both Rupture and SnD have plenty of time remaining. We'll be weaving Revealing Strike into our rotations, and I recommend using it at 4 combo points to generate your 5th point. That way, you can immediately use your Rupture and you don't risk getting separated from your target and having the bonus time out. You don't need to use Revealing Strike before a Slice and Dice, since that finisher isn't affected. Also, remember to not use Blade Flurry during your cooldown phases unless there are two targets, as it actually lowers your single target DPS. Be sure to watch your AR and Killing Spree cooldowns, as Restless Blades will be shaving 10 seconds off the cooldown every time you perform a 5-point damaging finisher.
Subtlety talents and glyphs
You can read about subtlety's complex rotation in my post on the topic, but let's just say that without Honor Among Thieves and Relentless Strikes, this 3/2/31 build would be dead in the water. Your priorities are: keep your target bleeding (via Rupture or glyphed Hemorrhage), keep up Slice and Dice, and then use Eviscerate as much as possible. The glyphs are up in the air, based on the performance of the spec and its variety of rotation options, although Backstab is a given. I'm going to try it with Slice and Dice to smooth out the rotation and Hemorrhage to lower the ramp-up time, but I'm sure I will try several options.
New glyph and enchant system
The new glyph system allows you to swap out glyphs at any time, as you only have to learn them once. Be sure to visit a friendly scribe and pick up all of the glyphs available to you, since they're really only one-time purchases. Also stack up on the Dust of Disappearance that you'll need to swap between glyphs on the fly. We'll finally be able to be truly flexible in a raid environment, switching between dual specs and our entire bag of glyphs for any given encounter.
Finally, for all of you engineers out there, be sure to get new enchants for your cloak, boots and gloves. Our engineering tinkers now stack with enchants, so you can toss Cat's Swiftness on your boots and Major Agility to your gloves without losing your engineering perks. I suggest buying your glyphs and enchants from friends or guildmates, as prices are likely to be incredibly inflated after the patch comes out.
I highly suggest that you spend the new few weeks experimenting with each spec, finding out which flavor of spec you enjoy the most. Feel free to post your results and tests here for comments. This is an exciting and uncertain time for every rogue, and I look forward to exploring the new post-4.0.1 world with all of you. We can make sense of all of these changes, and I am certain we will be back to stabbing our opponents brutally in very short order.
Check back every Wednesday for the latest strategies in Encrypted Text! If you're looking for information on the changes in patch 4.0.1, check out the rotation guide and list of new rogue glyphs that are available. You can also read the 4.0.1 rogue summary for information on how the patch affects rogues on a big-picture basis.