Encrypted Text: Finesse in PVP

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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 or article suggestions you'd like to see covered here.

World of Warcraft is more than just a game. Over the years, an entire ecosystem surrounding the game has developed, created by the gaming community. I've read a few WoW novels and comic books, seen fanfics and fan art featured on the community portal, and I've enjoyed so many awesome pieces of WoW machinima. It's actually quite common for the community to influence the game itself, as we've has seen countless changes implemented after community demand. The fan-created Leeroy Jenkins video, for example, still represents WoW for most of the world.

When I first started playing the rogue, I watched a lot of rogue-centric machinima. Boss encounter videos weren't very popular then, and so most of the machinima was based in PVP. I watched in awe as Grim annihilated everything in his path. I laughed as Happyminti stomped on characters who were 10 levels higher than himself. I sat agape as Hector leaped off of the tower of Karazahn after a mage who tried to escape. My style of rogue PVP has always been colored by the finesse and grace of these rogues, and that still holds true today.

Rogues set the pace

I have always felt that rogues are the ultimate dueling class. Subtlety, in particular, can do some amazing things by abusing Preparation and our vast array of cooldowns. In a one-on-one fight, a rogue has always been able to truly control his opponent. We have an answer for any ability that our enemy chooses. With a strong enough plan, our opponent's demise isn't expected -- it's guaranteed.

If World of Roguecraft taught us anything, it's that rogues in vanilla were nigh invincible while their cooldowns were available. In order to prevent rogues from being unkillable when all of our abilities were ready, the developers have taken several steps to nerf our control. The devs introduced diminishing returns on our stuns to weaken our stunlock, and they even recently put Cheap Shot and Kidney Shot into the same DR category. Our two long-term CCs, Blind and Sap, both saw their durations cut from 10 seconds to 8 seconds in PVP. Preparation has been repeatedly nerfed into a bloody pulp, as Vanish is the only truly useful cooldown it resets. Indirect changes like the dramatic scaling of player health over the past few years have even weakened our ability to lock down a single target.

Energy requires finesse

Warriors always want to be taking and dealing damage. In their ideal fight, they're bleeding all over the place while they pummel their target. The incoming and outgoing damage constantly feeds them rage, which allows them to hit their enemies with even more force. Mages simply want to get the fight over as quickly as possible, as their limited mana resource favors short encounters, as opposed to lengthy battles.

We can't fight a warrior heads-up, as the damage we deal to them only allows them to punish us harder. A freecasting mage will make easy work of a rogue, as we can't handle their raw damage output. If we were to run into every fight blindly, we would be easily slaughtered. The perfect encounter for rogue is a staccato song -- short bursts of action punctuated by silence.

When we rogues engage our targets, we want to unload all of our energy pool into damage quickly, and then we want to retreat until our energy pool fills back up. Our general strategy is to control our target with stuns as we unleash our burst damage onto them, and then use our other CC abilities like Gouge, Blind, and Sap to lock them down as we wait for our energy to replenish itself.

In a PVP scenario, all of our burst damage comes from our special abilities, like Mutilate, Hemorrhage, or Backstab. We don't get enough uptime for our plain melee damage or poisons to make or break an engagement. We'll also get the occasional Eviscerate or Envenom in against our opponents, but I find that Kidney Shot is my most common finisher.

Avoiding instead of absorbing damage

While the virtues of waiting for our energy to regenerate are obvious, it's equally important that we avoid taking too much damage. Recuperate isn't nearly strong enough to keep us alive through any sort of serious pressure, and rogues are particularly vulnerable to incoming attacks. All of the other melee classes are tank-capable hybrids with multiple defensive cooldowns at the ready, while we're typically limited to a single Evasion or Cloak of Shadows per encounter. The only way to survive is to avoid damage, and CC is the best way to accomplish that goal.

A lot of new rogues fail to see the value of an ability like Gouge because they're not able to attack while Gouge is active. The key is that Gouge allows us to regenerate our own energy, reposition ourselves and even use a bandage, all while preventing our enemy from putting more pressure on us. If you want to play a rogue effectively, you need to learn to be patient. Waiting to attack as our energy pools up can be difficult to do, but our only chance of victory revolves around minimizing our damage taken.

When we are forced into open combat with our opponent, we want to make sure we minimize our exposure to damage. Evasion and Cloak of Shadows are our two most potent options for physical and magical attacks, respectively. We can also utilize Smoke Bomb and other line-of-sight mechanics to reduce the number of angles of attack our opponents have. We don't want to take any unnecessary damage, and so if we choose to engage in combat, we need to make sure it's on our terms. Tools like Dismantle and Kick, while not granting us complete control, allow us to dictate how much damage our opponents can deal.

Stealth is our best friend

Stealth is the final key to the rogue PVP experience. While we can obviously deal awesome damage while our energy bar is full and then use our crowd control abilities to lock our targets down, we need Stealth to bridge the gap between those two phases. After 5 seconds of inaction by both ourselves and our opponent, we leave combat and we can restealth at will. Blind and Gouge can both be used to get us out of combat, allowing us to reopen on our targets with a new opener.

After Blinding your target and restealthing, you can even choose to Sap your opponent from Stealth. By choosing to Sap after we Blind someone, we can keep them locked down for 16 seconds, which resets the diminishing return for our stuns and then our next Cheap Shot to Kidney Shot combo will last for its full duration.

Vanish is our final option for restealthing, and it plays a key part in extending our control over an engagement. Even though so many other moves like Evasion have been removed from Preparation, it still resets the cooldown on Vanish, giving us yet another opportunity to restealth. In World of Roguecraft, it's specifically this abuse of the stealth/restealth system that allows for them to destroy their opponents with ease. Every time we stealth, we get an opportunity for a brand new stunlock.

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.

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