Encrypted Text: Stabbing your way through the Zandalari heroics

Chase Christian
C. Christian|05.04.11

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Encrypted Text: Stabbing your way through the Zandalari heroics
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Encrypted Text for assassination, combat and subtlety rogues. Chase Christian will be your guide to the world of shadows every Wednesday. Feel free to email me with any questions, concerns, or column ideas.

Have you heard about the new Call to Arms mechanic that rewards the lesser-played roles with bonus loot? I've come to peace with the fact that my rogue is never, ever going to earn a Satchel of Exotic Mysteries for himself. DPS classes simply aren't in demand. The good news is that the CtA mechanic has shortened my queue times by quite a bit; let me know if you're seeing the same results. While the quality of tanks and healers in the system has gone down slightly, we're usually able to knock out whatever heroic dungeon we're faced with.

Lately, that heroic dungeon is either Zul'Gurub or Zul'Aman, the two new Zandalari heroics. As an aside, I refer to them as The Zuls, while I imagine a sitcom starring a bunch of 20-something trolls trying to find their identities in the big city. While they're dungeons that you may have seen before, the new Zandalari heroics have received some significant changes during their Cataclysm remodeling. In addition to the generous valor point reward, there are quite a few new rogue weapons and armor pieces available. You'll be running these dungeons for a while, so learning them is in your best interest.

The spoils of war

The Zuls are a cornucopia of ilvl 353 epic gear. While often weaker than the 359 epics you could be scoring in a raid or from valor points, this gear is obtained much more easily and is designed to be a stepping stone toward raiding.

The weapons are particularly attractive, and there's one for everybody. Combat rogues will be looking forward to the Mace of the Sacrificed from Daakara in Zul'Aman, while assassins and shades will want the Twinblade of the Hakkari from Jin'do in Zul'Gurub. All three specs can enjoy the other Twinblade of the Hakkari (not a set, unfortunately) that is easily the best pre-raid off-hand. There's also a great throwing weapon available, the Zulian Throwing Axe. Throwing weapons are rare, and so having a guaranteed epic option is awesome. The thrown weapon is actually a quest reward that involves killing Daakara, which means that the two final bosses of the Zuls each have two weapons for us.

The available rogue armor, on the other hand, is not as flexible. While there are 13 total agility items available, most of them aren't that strong. More than half of the pieces are stacked with critical strike rating, and most of the remainder sport expertise. The expertise pieces are clearly designed to help combat and subtlety rogues reach the expertise cap easily, but they're worthless to assassination rogues. In fact, the only two items without crit or expertise are a belt and cloak. The crafted Belt of Nefarious Whispers (which scored a red socket in this patch) is significantly better than the Belt of Slithering Serpents, and the Recovered Cloak of Frostheim is literally hunter loot. If you're a combat or sub rogue, you can rejoice at all of your new haste/expertise gear, while assassins gain little.

Interrupt everything

If you want to succeed in the Zuls, be ready to Kick your heart out. Kicks can't be avoided (or miss) in patch 4.1, so you should be landing more Kicks than ever. Several bosses, like Hex Lord Malacrass and High Priestess Kilnara, require solid interrupting in order to defeat them cleanly. Bosses aren't the only ones casting, as I'd say there's something to interrupt on about half of the trash pulls across both dungeons. The difference between a Kicking rogue and a lazy one is huge, and your group will remember that when they're contemplating returning the favor by kicking you. DPS classes are easy to find, so make yourself irreplaceable by targeting the "caster" type mobs (the ones in dresses) and interrupting everything you can. Every time you interrupt, a Naaru gets its wings. Think of the Naaru.

If you want to pull off some awesome moves, then there are particular mobs you can watch out for. The Amani'shi Flame Casters are especially deadly, as they can buff themselves with a 300% casting speed buff. The secret is to watch for them to gain Blazing Haste and then to hit them with a Kidney Shot. You can buy your dispellers or mages a precious few seconds to remove the buff, allowing you to kick whatever spells the Flame Caster chooses next. The Zandalari Archons are similarly dangerous. You can stun them to interrupt their Sigil casts, which prevents your group from taking some significant damage. If in doubt, try Kicking something once, and you'll quickly learn what's interruptable and what's not. Once you get the hang of interrupting in these dungeons, your healers and tanks won't want to let you go.

Minimize your damage taken

The Zuls are intended to help transition players into raiding, and so you should treat these dungeons like you treat a raid. Use Feint, Cloak of Shadows, and Recuperate when appropriate to help your healers out. Many people are still learning these dungeons, and so minimizing your incoming damage will help ensure that you're successful. You know how to do your primary job of applying DPS directly to your enemy's forehead. If you want to stand above the drones of other DPS classes vying for your spot, you should use all of your secondary abilities and tricks to make yourself useful. Speaking of tricks, remember that Tricks of the Trade now has a 100-yard range, meaning you can use it on cooldown to help out your tank.

Maximize your damage done

I tried playing subtlety in the new heroics, but I found that many of the tanks I was grouped with didn't understand that I need to attack from behind. If you get stuck out of position, remember that you have other abilities at your disposal.

I also focused on finding windows of opportunity when my cooldowns would be most effective, like during the Venom Withdrawal phase of the Venoxis encounter or after you've killed all of Kilnara's panthers. While the Zuls may feel like lite versions of raids, the boss encounters are still incredibly short. You'll only get to use your cooldowns once or twice, so make sure you get the full effect from them.

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.

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