If there's one trend that I am enjoying in Firelands, it's that the encounters are much more rogue-friendly than those of the previous tier. We're not swapping targets as often, and there are several fights where combat rogues get to shine via Blade Flurry. There are also role-based encounters like Rhyolith, where our DPS is less important than our reaction time and planning.
Beth'tilac and Baleroc start very differently, but they both finish with a race to beat the ever-increasing damage being dealt to the tank. Rogues are particularly effective against both bosses, especially since both are simple fights that let us establish our rotations. Rogues prefer to focus on single targets, as opposed to specs like boomkins and shadow priests that prefer tossing their DOTs around.
Beth'tilac, or "Hope you get picked for web duty"
The Beth'tilac encounter consists of a fixed-duration starting phase followed by a very simple (but intense) burn phase where we work through the rest of the Cinderweb matriarch's health pool. The starting phase is very reminiscent of the Thorim encounter in Ulduar, where your raid splits up into two groups. The primary group focuses on establishing a foothold on the bottom of Beth'tilac's lair by annihilating her entourage of adds. The secondary group pursues Beth'tilac to the top of her fiery web, putting pressure on her to make the following phase just a bit earlier.
If you're a member of the ground crew, you'll spend most of your time running around, burning down Cinderweb Drones and Cinderweb Spinners, and using Fan of Knives on the Cinderweb Spiderlings. Combat rogues can deal a ton of damage to the Drones and Spinners with Blade Flurry, so try to round up any loose Spinners and cleave them near where your tank is handling the Drones. Make sure to stand behind the Drones at all times, since they have a deadly Boiling Spatter attack that hits targets in front of them. Assassination rogues can help handle the packs of Spiderlings with Fan of Knives, especially since Vile Poisons and Deadly Brew allow us to apply Crippling Poison to them as part of our normal AOE.
If you're a member of the web crew, you get to grab onto a web filament that lets you ascend up to the top of Beth'tilac's lair. Once you're up there, you get to be the star, burning down as much of Beth'tilac's HP as you can until being forced to retreat from her Smoldering Devastation. Be careful to not use your cooldowns toward the end of each web cycle, as your CD will be wasted if you have to retreat. The boss will also be pulsing with fire damage every few seconds with Ember Flare, which you can help to mitigate with Feint and Cloak of Shadows.
You will get three shots at Beth'tilac until she decides to come down from her web for good. While you're on top of the web, you also need to worry about the flaming meteors that will be coming down from the sky, burning chunks out of the web. If you run into one of the holes that the meteors leave behind, you'll fall down to the ground. You'll want to use these holes to descend once Beth'tilac starts Smoldering Devastation, but not before then. Try to sidestep to avoid the meteors, as you can continue attacking the boss even while evading the meteors themselves.
Phase 2: Stack up and burn
Once you've taken your three shots at Beth'tilac, she'll come down and fight your entire raid at once. You'll be stacking up behind the boss and moving into your standard tank-and-spank burn rotation. Continue to use Feint to mitigate as much of the Ember Flare damage as possible. I just spam Feint on cooldown since it will always coincide with at least one Ember Flare. As the fight winds down, you can also use your Cloak of Shadows to help give your healers some breathing room as well. If everything goes right, you'll have killed the spider matriarch before her Frenzy stack murders your tanks.
Every raid tier needs its Patchwerk encounter -- the simple tank and spank that lets DPS classes stretch their legs and see what they're really capable of. Baleroc resembles Chimaeron greatly in this regard, as healers and tanks will have their hands full countering Baleroc's unique mechanics, but rogues and the rest of the DPS pack get to tunnel-vision their way to the finish.
There actually is one mechanic that rogues need to worry about against Baleroc, although it only requires a bit of movement every minute or so. Baleroc will spawn Shards of Torment on one of the melee DPS in the group, and someone needs to stand next to the shard in order to prevent it from dealing some nasty AOE shadow damage. While you're standing next to the shard, you'll start building up stacks of a debuff called Torment. Once Torment reaches 11 to12 stacks, it gets dangerous to stand near the crystal any longer, and you'll swap places with another DPSer. Based on your raid leader's decision, you can have either two or three players set up in a rotation to handle every other crystal.
Handling your turn on the crystal is easy; you simply move over to it and continue nuking the boss. Once your stack has built up, your replacement steps in and you step out. Avoid intersecting with the incoming player, because if you get too close, you will spread your Tormented debuff to them, which would be deadly. Don't bother trying to use Cloak of Shadows; it won't clear your Tormented debuff.
Phase 2 changes everything
Just kidding -- there's no phase 2! You get to simply continue burning the boss, taking your turn in the crystal every minute or so. If you want to get fancy, you can drop your Smoke Bomb on a spawning Shard of Torment to mess up its targeting for a few seconds. The key is that you have to have the Smoke Bomb down before it's fully formed; otherwise, it will continue to attack players. The Smoke Bomb tactic is usually reserved for heroic mode, since on normal mode, you actually want your players to build up stacks of Torment to make your healers' jobs easier.
Check back every Wednesday for the latest rogue strategies, from rogue basics and kicking your interrupts into high gear to how to handle your dual-spec rogue and how to pickpocket top tips from top-performing rogues.