As every good Rogue story does, we start with an opener. After some great research from Serialize of the RogueSpot community, we learned that Ambush is now affected by the talent Lethality. This, when coupled with the early 70's Assassination Rogue's inability to pick up Dirty Deeds, makes Ambush a very attractive opener in the short, bursty fights that typify Mutilate leveling. Combat and non-dagger Subtlety should still be opening with Cheap Shot, as solo fights are rarely long enough to warrant a Garrote.
In a similar vein, I'd also recommend dropping talents like Blood Spatter while leveling, as Rupture will be wasted in a short fight where it doesn't get to run its full duration. Deadly Poison is a similarly taboo, the chance of getting 5 stacks up to Envenom is also very low and you will never get all your ticks out of the poison itself. I would run Wound/Instant or Wound/Crippling depending on the situation.
This carries over to your gear choices as well. Haste gear is great for PvE and long duration fights where that 1-2% speed increase can make a difference. However, because you start most fights with full energy, the ratio of yellow (special) damage to white (normal) damage is very high. This means burst wins out over endurance. The key is to hit hard and hit fast. After AP/Agility, Crit/Hit gear is what you should be looking for while leveling. Haste should take a backseat to other stats.
Speaking of the various ratings you see on the gear in Northrend, it's important to note the reason that gear now has "crit rating" instead of the old "% chance to crit". The idea is that while it takes 22 Critical Strike Rating to gain 1% crit at 70, it takes almost 46 rating to gain the same effect at 80. This means that if you replace none of your gear on the way to 80, you'll have less than half the bonus critical strike chance that you had previously.
Many Rogues are reporting a significant loss in the amount of crit/haste/etc percentages that they're sporting as they level up. The best way to circumvent this is to focus on gear and stats that doesn't diminish with level. Luckily for us, it's also one of our favorite stats: Attack Power. It never declines in value and is pretty awesome anyway. When given a choice, focus on maxing your AP first and let the rest fall as it may.
Blizzard has really pulled out all the stops for WotLK questing, and you can tell that they're flexing their designing muscles with some of the new mechanics. They compensate our lack of air mobility by introducing new methods of transportation like ferries and boats on zip lines, allowing us to quest in very different areas very efficiently. When coupled with superb and varied rewards, it makes questing the way to go.
For those of you who are used to grinding your way to the next level (myself included), it's a very different playstyle. Rogues are first and foremost designed to kill, and grinding was previously one of the best ways to gain experience. But now, with the quest structure being very defined and the obvious flow from one area to another, there's really no reason not to quest. The amount of running around, quests that don't overlap, and those drop quests that rely solely on luck have been removed or corrected in this iteration of the leveling process.
So while spending a few hours grinding Naga in STV may have been the way you got to 40 back in the day, I really suggest starting in either Howling Fjord or Borean Tundra and simply doing every single quest. They're really refreshingly fun, designed for efficiency, and they will constantly point you in the right direction when you're finished with an area.
I would also recommend hitting every instance on your way through Northrend at least once. There's typically 2-4 quests in each instance, typically with great rewards and a huge experience boost. If you find a qualified group to run with, it's worth the time to do at least one run-through to complete your group quests and maybe score a few blue pieces of gear along the way. Don't fuss over running the Nexus until a certain piece of gear drops; continue on and you'll get something better pretty soon.
Speaking of gear, I've compiled a short list of what I think are good blue pieces of loot that drop in either Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord. While they won't replace Season 4 or Tier 5/6, they will give anything lower a run for their money, depending on the slot. I didn't find good pieces for every slot, but here are a few of the better pieces that are also easy to obtain, mostly through dungeon quests:
Head: Bearskin Helm - Quest in Grizzly Hills
Neck: Hundred Tooth Necklace - Quest in Utgarde Keep
Shoulders: Cured Mammoth Hide Mantle - Quest in the Nexus
Chest: Skarvald's Dragonskin Habergeon - Drops from Utgarde Keep
Bracers: Vrykul Shackles - Drops from Utgarde Keep
Gloves: Time-stop Gloves - Quest in the Nexus (Alliance only)
Pants: Marshwalker Legguards - Quest in Borean Tundra (check out the Expertise on these!)
Boots: Treads of Torn Future - Quest in the Nexus (Alliance Only)
Ring: Executioner's Band - Quest in Utgarde Keep
Trinket: First Mate's Pocket Watch - Quest for the pirates in Howling Fjord
A few closing tips for those of you who have been 70 forever and may have forgotten some of the finer points of Rogue-specific leveling. Make sure you're pickpocketing every mob possible, and save the Junkboxes you find. Every time you level, you gain access to 5 more points of Lockpicking skill. So wait until you have the capacity to level your LP, and then pick the locks, so that you're always at maximum level. And don't forget that higher level mobs have an easier time seeing through stealth, be careful and use Distract if there's a chance of being seen. And don't bother returning to town to train your level 72 skill, it's only another rank of Feint, a spell you shouldn't even have on your bar.
Next week we'll talk more about the next few zones on the way to 80, as well as answer any more questions I receive in the mean time. Take some time to enjoy your trip to 80, there's a lot of great quests and things to experience, especially in the later levels. Until next time, keep on representing the Rogues in Northrend, and watching out for anything with Retribution Aura active.