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Introductory guide to fighting rogues, Part 3

Zach Yonzon

Zach broke up this week's The Art of War(craft) covering rogues because, well, those rogues are darned sneaky! So sneaky that they surprised him with more secret information than he was expecting to write about. So read quickly. Because those rogues have sent all their best operatives to go all Ninja Assassin on Zach's sorry butt. Read and make it worth the sacrifice.

Rogues. The one class that everybody can truly agree to hate. Or maybe that was the paladin... I forget. Anyway, today we pick up where we left off in this introductory guide on how to deal with those sneaky little scoundrels. In the first part of the guide, we took a look at the most commonly used abilities of rogues in PvP. Today, we'll talk a little about how the class works and why this defines their limitations and playing style. A deeper understanding of how the class works should give you a better idea of how to handle them.

Combo points

Rogues have a unique class mechanic called combo points, with two sets of abilities that either grant them or consume them and scale according to how many combo points are on a target. The more combo points on a target, the most devastating the effect of their finishing ability. This means that rogues are basically single-target killing machines. Once a rogue chooses a target, they have tunnel vision on that target until that target is dead or are forced to change.

What does this mean for PvP? This essentially means rogues can't switch targets as easily as other classes. It penalizes them. They won't lose the combo points when they select another target, but combo points are lost when they apply even a single point on someone else. A rogue focusing on one of your allies is a great target for you because you're sure to get a lot of free damage in with little fear that she will switch quickly. Rogues are trained through their leveling to keep at one target until it's dead before moving on to the next one, with very few AoE options, Fan of Knives notwithstanding. After the jump, I'll break down a list of builders, or strikes that grant combo points, and finishers, or abilities that consume them.


  • Ambush - Awards 2 combo points, requires Stealth and a dagger in the main hand. Must be behind the target.
  • Backstab - Awards 1 combo point, requires a dagger in the main hand. Must be behind the target.
  • Cheap Shot - Awards 2 combo points, requires Stealth.
  • Garrote - Awards 1 combo point, requires Stealth. Must be behind the target.
  • Gouge - Awards 1 combo point. Must be in front of the target.
  • Hemorrhage - Awards 1 combo point. Talent.
  • Mutilate - Awards 2 combo points. Talent.
  • Shiv - Awards 1 combo point.
  • Sinister Strike - Awards 1 combo point.
FinishersThere are also a number of talents in the different trees that grant additional combo points, but the general idea I want you to absorb right now is that rogues rotate their abilities between builders and finishers. For best results, rogues will build up to five combo points and unleash a finishing move. I am unaware of any way to track how many combo points you have on yourself, so it's all fuzzy math from hereon. Basically, if you are able to keep tabs on what strikes the opposing rogue is using, it should help you predict what her next strike is.

As I mentioned in the first part of this guide, it's a pretty bad idea to let a rogue get the opener, but let's just say they get you with a Cheap Shot. This means you'll be stunned for the next 4 seconds, allowing the rogue to get a couple more builders on you before the stun breaks. For most rogues, this will be a Sinister Strike. Now, unlike most classes, rogue strikes trigger a 1 second global cooldown instead of the regular 1.5 seconds for most spells and attacks. This means that the rogue can apply a few more builder strikes, so when the stun finally breaks, she'll have a full five combo points which she can use to apply a finisher (she won't, really, and I'll explain why a little further down). For total obscenity, let's go with Kidney Shot. So now you're stunned for another 6 seconds because controlled stuns (Kidney Shot) don't share the same DR as opener stuns (Cheap Shot). Sweet.

If you don't have a cc-break at this point, you can assume the rogue will use all six seconds to apply as many builder strikes as possible and finish it off with something really nasty, like an Eviscerate. If you're not dead yet, you'll probably manage to be facing the rogue at which point she'll Gouge you before dropping a couple more builders and then finally kill you before you've had a chance to type 'HELP!' in Battleground chat.

Why is it so important to understand rogue strike categories? Mostly, it gives you an idea of what to expect. Very few rogues will mix up strikes, with most relying on their bread and butter Sinister Strike to apply combo points. Thus, you should expect them to throw up a finisher after 2-3 of these (they won't always wait for 5 combo points). In PvP, you should also mostly expect only two basic finishers from most rogues: Kidney Shot and Eviscerate. More experienced rogues, however, can use Expose Armor on plate, or Rupture on durable enemies (like healers).

It's good to learn what the finishers are because it's a fairly good assumption that after a rogue has applied a finisher, she's less likely to apply another one with considerable effect. This means that the best time to peel from a rogue is after she's unleashed a finisher. This means she won't have combo points for a Deadly Throw, so time peels such as Disengage or Typhoon after their finisher, leaving them to have to build up again. With any luck, the loss of combo points can discourage them and force them to switch targets. This is why it's not the best idea to break a Cheap Shot, because you already have combo points on you. It's far better to break Kidney Shot because it's a finisher.

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