While Mists of Pandaria is still actively being developed and patches are dropping regularly, the rogue of tomorrow is starting to take its final shape. The amorphous blob of shadow that we see on the horizon is congealing into something resembling a functioning class. In fact, rogues have been receiving fewer changes these past few weeks than any other class. I'm not surprised by this fact, as there's really not much to improve upon when we're already a model class.
With talent choices reduced to a half-dozen easy decisions, there's really not much you can mess up while playing your rogue in Mists. I like to think that you can break a class down into three basic categories: customization, enhancement, and execution. You need to pick the talents and glyphs that best suit your situation, gear up with the right gems and enchants, and finally push the right buttons.
Unlike mages or hunters, our rogue talent choices really don't matter much. Other classes can see their entire playstyle completely transformed by talents, whereas rogue talents are typically moves we used to have put into a tree format. There are very few bad choices here, which is actually a good thing. Rogues should have quite a bit of talent flexibility in Mists, rather than being locked into only a handful of talents due to their effect on our DPS.
Level 15: Shadow Focus Shadow Focus is going to provide you with the best bang for your buck when it comes to level 15 talents. Free energy ensures that every rogue spec will want to use an opener, which is important since combat normally doesn't use one and assassination won't need to Garrote any more. Subterfuge might work for subtlety, but I think the free energy will let us get our rotation started sooner.
Level 30: Combat Readiness Deadly Throw will likely never find its way into our PvE toolbox. Nerve Strike isn't bad, but most raid bosses are immune to our stuns. Combat Readiness can be useful if we're soaking up cleave damage or some other physical attacks. I will probably use Nerve Strike while leveling and then swap to CR at level 90.
Level 45: Toss-up Cheat Death is definitely going to be a valuable talent for raiding rogues, as it can save us if we make a mistake. Leeching Poison is also very powerful, both for leveling and for bosses with pulsing damage. Elusiveness will be a nice tool for surviving big damage pulses, but remember that Feint costs energy now, so it's not exactly spammable. I see all three of these talents being used based on the situation, although Leeching Poison will probably be my default talent.
Level 60: Shadowstep Preparation is obviously going to be everyone's favorite PvP talent, but it simply isn't as useful as Shadowstep in a PvE environment. Burst of Speed simply costs too much energy to be valuable while raiding, as energy spent is damage lost. Shadowstep increases our mobility without decreasing our damage, and I love teleporting around so I consider this to be a win-win. Subtlety rogues might pick Preparation on tank-and-spank fights for the extra Vanish.
Level 75: Prey on the Weak Paralytic Poison will be very fun for leveling up or PvP, but I don't see it being used much in PvE as it is too unreliable. Similarly, I can't remember the last time I had to Blind or Gouge a mob, so Dirty Tricks is likely pointless too. Prey on the Weak will be useful for leveling and should be valuable in any raid where a mob can be stunned. Stunnable mobs are typically priority targets, so increasing the mob's damage taken should help the raid's burst damage.
Level 90: Anticipation or Versatility Let's be honest here, there's no way that a ranged rogue is going to work. I love the concept, but we'll never be a ranged class. If we're looking at a single-target boss fight, Anticipation makes sense. All three rogue specs can generate combo points in an irregular manner, and Anticipation helps to smooth that out. Versatility will be our go-to talent for encounters with lots of target swaps. I fully expect to be swapping between Versatility and Anticipation several times a raid night in Mists.
In Mists, there are only major and minor glyphs. Very few of the major glyphs actually improve our DPS, while none of the minor glyphs help our damage at all. Because of this redesign, we have much more flexibility with our glyphs than we have ever had before. There are a few major glyphs that stand out, though.
If you're an assassination rogue, you're almost always going to want the Glyph of Vendetta. It increases the duration of Vendetta by 50% for only a 16% loss in effectiveness. The only downside is that you'll need to stay on your target for 30 seconds to get the full effect. Combat rogues will be looking at the Glyph of Adrenaline Rush if their energy starts capping during Adrenaline Rush. We shouldn't see this issue until the middle of Mists, when we have more haste on our gear.
Outside of those two spec-specific glyphs, we have a few options available. You can pick up the Glyph of Expose Armor if you're designated to apply the armor debuff. The new Glyph of Feint, while not as awesome as before, is still quite potent. I can also see myself working the Glyph of Shiv and Glyph of Sprint into my build as necessary. Glyph of Blade Flurry doesn't actually cause Blade Flurry to apply poisons, but it could be useful if our secondary poison is needed for something special. There's actually some flexibility here, which is quite nice.
Stats and gems
You really can't go wrong stacking red agility gems into nearly every slot. The new red gems are Delicate Primordial Rubies, and our new meta gem is the Agile Primal Diamond.
When it comes to reforging, we're going to be aiming for our hit and expertise caps first. Once we've picked up 7.5% hit and 7.5% expertise, we'll be focusing on haste, mastery, or crit. Which stat we'll be stacking will depend on your spec and current gear, so I'll leave it up to Shadowcraft to give you character-specific advice.
Most of the enchants we'll be looking for are simply upgrades from the Cataclysm enchants with a bit more agility applied to them. The new weapon enchant is Dancing Steel, which will actually increase our agility directly instead of granting attack power like Landslide and Berserking before it.
If you can't afford Dancing Steel, which will be likely due to inflated material prices, you have options. Elemental Force and Windsong will still grant us a ton of damage with the added advantage of being much cheaper. Note that none of the gear enchants in Mists requires any particular reputations, which should make gearing up much easier.
Helm None! Helm enchants are completely gone in Mists.
Shoulder Greater Tiger Claw Inscription (Inscription)
Chest Glorious Stats
Wrist Greater Agility
Gloves Greater Haste / Superior Expertise / Superior Mastery
Pants Shadowleather Leg Armor (Leatherworking)
Boots Blurred Speed
Rogue gameplay isn't changing much in Mists. We'll still be standing behind the boss, stabbing away. Feint will still be our primary defensive ability by reducing our incoming AoE damage. Tricks of the Trade will still be useful for boosting damage or directing aggro. Deadly Poison will be the only lethal poison option for PvE-focused rogues, as its damage easily surpasses Wound Poison's. Our utility poison will probably change between each encounter, although Leeching Poison will be active quite often.
We won't have many choices for weapons in Mists. All daggers will be 1.8 speed, and all other weapons will be 2.6 speed. Our ranged weapon slot is also gone, so we don't have to worry about finding throwing daggers anymore. Fan of Knives is based off of our melee weapons for its damage and poison calculations again. The new Fan of Knives and Crimson Tempest combo has created an actual AoE rotation that we'll be using.
Combat: Not much of a change
Generators Sinister Strike, Revealing Strike
Finishers Slice and Dice, Eviscerate, Rupture
Cooldowns Adrenaline Rush, Killing Spree, Shadow Blades
Special Blade Flurry, Bandit's Guile
Combat rogues haven't changed much since Cataclysm (or since vanilla). The biggest change is the redesign of Revealing Strike. Rather than using it right before each finisher, we'll be trying to keep the buff up as much as possible. Revealing Strike's buff now emulates the old Glyph of Sinister Strike, giving us extra combo points. The buff isn't consumed upon using a finisher or SS but rather lasts 18 seconds no matter what.
We'll probably open with Revealing Strike, follow up with four Sinister Strikes, unload our finisher, wait for energy, and then start the cycle over. Rupture may or may not be on the table, depending on how it scales in Mists. Other than that, our rotation will remain mostly unchanged. Maintain Slice and Dice at all times, Eviscerate and Rupture when you can, and pop your cooldowns as often as possible.
The new Bandit's Guile sticks to the rogue even when swapping targets, so combat's swap power has increased dramatically. Try to line up your cooldowns with a good Bandit's Guile stack whenever possible to gain the maximum effect. The new Killing Spree is also much easier to use, as it allows you to pick what target or targets you want to attack. Push the button once to burn down a single target, or spam the button to teleport around between multiple targets.
Assassination: Picking up a proc
Generators Mutilate, Dispatch
Finishers Slice and Dice, Rupture, Envenom
Cooldowns Vendetta, Shadow Blades
Assassination rogues aren't seeing many changes to their rotation either. Slice and Dice will be maintained via Envenom and Cut to the Chase, while Rupture will provide energy via Venomous Wounds. You'll be using Mutilate to generate points, and then you'll alternate between Envenom and Rupture as necessary. Once a boss goes below 35% life, Dispatch becomes active, and you'll spam that just like you're spamming Backstab today. Use Vendetta whenever you can get some uninterrupted time on a boss.
Blindside is the game-changer for assassination and for all rogues. It's our first true proc effect, giving you a chance to get a free Dispatch. You'll want to watch your UI for this effect, which might be hard since we're not used to watching for procs. Hit Dispatch as soon as the button lights up for a bit of free damage. Anticipation will be very useful here because it will allow us to Dispatch freely even if we're at 5 combo points.
Generators Backstab, Hemorrhage
Finishers Slice and Dice, Rupture, Eviscerate
Cooldowns Shadow Dance, Shadow Blades
Special Vanish, Premeditation
Subtlety rogues are actually going to be easier to play in Mists, thanks to Energetic Recovery's being tied to Slice and Dice instead of Recuperate. Subtlety rogues will have one less finisher to manage. Functionally, sub rogues will play much like combat rogues, except for spamming Backstab instead of Sinister Strike. Slice and Dice is the top priority, and the rest of our points will be spent on Rupture and Eviscerate. Subtlety must keep Rupture up at all times, due to Sanguinary Vein's empowering effect. Hemorrhage will no longer be good enough to maintain a bleed on the target; you'll actually need to use Rupture.
Shadow Dance is still the cooldown of choice, and when combined with Find Weakness, it will still be quite potent. Subtlety rogues don't have to worry about using Shadowstep to increase their damage any more, which further simplifies their playstyle. You'll still be managing three separate finishers, but that shouldn't be an issue for any experienced rogue. I would suggest that every subtlety rogue pick up Anticipation, because it will help to ensure you don't lose any free combo points from Honor Among Thieves.
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.