You can be a mediocre rogue simply by pushing three buttons. While that might seem shocking, remember that you can be a great mage with just one button. There's just one problem with being a rogue who spams Sinister Strike blindly -- you're not using all of your capabilities.
Rogues have a rich culture of maximizing our damage at all costs. Rogues are a conceptually simple class. We only have the capacity to deal damage in melee range. Rather than letting that stifle us, we embrace the purity of form. Every single ability that a rogue wields is designed for a specific purpose. Our talents are designed around a single paradigm: kill. As you being to unleash the full arsenal of the rogue, it's easy to see why we're so efficient -- and why we're so feared.
No penalties for lazy play
I'm a strong believer that better play should result in better performance. A rogue who's played as elegantly as a symphony should be crushing a rogue who's spamming a macro while watching season 3 of The Wire on a second monitor.
However, that's not how the game is played. A combat rogue using an incredibly simple SnD/Eviscerate rotation can pull nearly 80% of a veteran combat rogue's DPS with just a sliver of the work. You have access to all of the key ingredients for this rotation by level 22, and it can carry you through most of the game's content. In fact, with just a few more additions, the lazy combat rogue can get even closer to dealing their maximum potential damage.
Pop those CDs
Combat rogues have two major cooldowns: Adrenaline Rush and Killing Spree. You don't need for me to waste any time explaining the intricacies of Bandit's Guile and Killing Spree timing and the synergy between Adrenaline Rush and Bloodlust, because those discussions are relegated to the ivory towers of rogue theorycrafting. All you need to do is pop these abilities on cooldown, every time. Don't worry about anything else. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.
Killing Spree is pretty simple to grasp. You'll deal a ton of damage, and you'll end up with a full energy bar at the end of it. Don't activate Killing Spree while Adrenaline Rush is active. Try to pop it before AR, or use it just afterwards if they both come up at the same time. It doesn't matter if there's one target or multiple targets in range -- just pop KS on cooldown, and you'll do just fine.
Adrenaline Rush is a bit more difficult. While it's active, you'll deal more damage, and your cycles will accelerate. During Adrenaline Rush, you'll be able to get multiple Eviscerates in between each Slice and Dice. That's about as dynamic as combat's rotation gets these days. Just keep doing what you normally do, only faster. There's really not much to it.
If you can pop your cooldowns as they become available, you'll end up with a 10% boost to your overall damage. You're now armed with five buttons: Sinister Strike, Slice and Dice, Eviscerate, Killing Spree, and Adrenaline Rush. With this handful of abilities, you're going to be nearly indistinguishable from most other combat rogues. In fact, you'll be outperforming several of the rogues that I run into in the Raid Finder raids and heroic dungeons.
At this point, your new rogue or rogue alt is ready for just about anything that WoW can throw at you. You're not going to be holding anyone back in dungeons or the starter raids, and you'll be a valuable member of the team. I have coached multiple rogues through the lazy combat build, and now they're more than capable of appearing to be fluent with a class that they barely understand. Any rogue can hit level 85, pick up Fear and Vengeance, and then become a Raid Finder hero.
The final tenth
So where does the last 10% of a rogue's damage come from? A big chunk of it comes from Revealing Strike, which adds a bit of variety to our current rotation. Revealing Strike will play a much larger role for rogues in Mists of Pandaria, as the current Glyph of Sinister Strike is getting rolled into the RS buff. We're going to want to keep the RS buff active while we're using SS, but it's still consumed by Eviscerate and has a fixed duration. That's interesting. Changes that require rogues to make decisions are always a good thing, and the new Revealing Strike is a step in the right direction.
Maximizing the number of Eviscerates you can squeeze between your Slice and Dice refreshes is another way to boost your damage. As long as you keep Slice and Dice active at all times, you can focus on using 5-point Eviscerates as often as you can. You don't always have to use 5 combo points on Slice and Dice, and typically, I just refresh Slice and Dice with however many combo points I have at the time.
Refreshing SnD with just a couple of combo points gets you the best ratio of combo points to seconds of SnD, while refreshing SnD with 5 points is the best energy to seconds of SnD ratio. At the end of the day, you're looking to ensure 100% SnD uptime while adding in as many Eviscerates as possible, and how you get there is largely up to you.
Sneak in every Wednesday for our Molten Front ganking guide, a deep-dive into the world of playing a subtlety rogue -- and of course, all the basics in our guide to the latest rogue gear.