Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rogue leveling build (70-80)

If you don't want to know anything about rogues, then don't bother reading this post.

With the xpac fast approaching, it's high time to consider leveling talent builds for 70-80. Since I plan to level my rogue first, I've been absorbed lately in researching what would be best for him.

Certainly I can't keep my current 5/51/5 combat raiding spec. It is built for pure sustained damage. It has no defensive talents, and while it can put out massive damage over a long fight, its real strength lies in capitalizing on the full duration of slice n dice and rupture as finishers. Since these can take anywhere from 12-30 seconds to use their full duration (depending on combo points used), any time I spend away from my target is lost efficiency. This difference becomes very pronounced on mobile boss fights, or even boss fights where I lose melee range on the boss for even short periods of time. My dps suffers on trash because I usually can't build enough combo points to get off a useful eviscerate, let alone get a cycle going.

While leveling solo or in small questing groups, I'm never going to be in a sustained damage situation. I'll quickly blast through non-elite mobs, mowing them down and moving on to the next as quickly as I can. This is better suited to a burst-damage build that doesn't waste energy keeping up things like SnD and rupture when I won't be getting the full duration. So, I should de-emphasize my white (autoattack) damage and focus on my instant yellow (special ability) damage moves: meaning combo point builders, eviscerates, and poisons.

Another important thing to consider when leveling is mobility. It's easy to underestimate the leveling time wasted simply traveling on foot from mob to mob or through indoor areas where you can't mount. So anything that gets me from target to target more quickly is good.

Then, you need to look at your weapons. What are the best weapons you have? For me, I have a fist/sword combo that outperforms my daggers and all other weapon combos currently available to me. This means I will probably level faster, at least at first, if I avoid a dagger-dependent leveling spec. As you level, you'll inevitably find new weapons. For this reason, I generally prefer to avoid weapon specializations while leveling so as not to limit my options. Also, keep in mind there are more maces/swords/fists out there than there are daggers, so you're more likely to find some good weapon upgrades if you avoid daggers. This is not to say that leveling with daggers is somehow innately inferior (especially considering that you can now mutilate from the front!), just that I personally find it more convenient to avoid dagger builds while leveling. I don't want to waste money respeccing while leveling, either.

The final difference is utility and survivability. In a raid, you get no advantage from improved stealth talents or better CC abilities. You don't need much survivability in general, because you should never be attacked during normal circumstances, and if the tank goes down it's a wipe anyway. When leveling, there is no other tank - you have to take all of the damage yourself, and kill the target quickly to reduce the damage you take, and thus your downtime. You'll also end up in some desperate situations on your own: maybe you get ambushed by 4 monsters accidentally. You'll find improvements to your defensive cooldowns (such as evasion and vanish) invaluable for avoiding a corpse run. I cannot tell you how many times preparation (the talent that resets your cooldowns) saved me while leveling my rogue to 70. Another benefit of prep is being able to take down elites that you otherwise could not have killed. This way, you can complete some quests without a group, or with a smaller group than was intended. Me and my girlfriend's priest duo'd many 3-5 man elite group quests on our way up. Double evasion with ghostly strike is crazy good for tanking.

So as you can probably guess, I want some points in the subtlety tree to get prep. I also want to avoid the deep assassination tree, as mutilate requires daggers and hunger for blood (51 pt talent) will have a lot of wasted uptime while leveling. The combat tree has a lot of appeal, but I'd hate to have to respec every time I got a new weapon, and a lot of the talents in there are focused more on sustained raid damage than burst damage. Plus, if I went deep combat, I'd either have to give up the strong burst/grinding talents at the top of the assassination tree, or I'd have to forgo the desirable utility of the subtlety tree.

I ended up settling on this spec: 20/0/41

It grabs all of the burst damage and grinding talents from early assassination, and at levels 71 and 72 I'll be able to spec into fleet footed, which gives a run speed increase. I elected to leave that talent out of the initial build so i could fit in Shadowstep, an even more effective mobility talent (which also has other advantages I'll describe in more detail below). After I fill out Fleet Footed, I'll likely sink the next five points into dual-wield specialization in the combat tree, then decide from there where to progress based on how much I'm grouping. Gear-wise, I'll stack agility whenever I can (a great stat for us, and this build boosts it by 15%), build combo points with Hemo, and use Eviscerate if I have 3 or more combo points and I think it will kill the target. Instant Poison will be on both weapons, as Deadly won't have time to tick much.

Here's an in-depth evaluation of the talents I took, and why:


5/5 Malice: Every rogue build ever made should have this. Period, no argument.

3/3 Imp. Eviscerate: this will be the only finisher you can get great use out of while grinding. It has been buffed significantly for the xpac.

2/2 Remorseless Attacks: A grinding-only talent. This will get even better when stacked with other talents that boost your specials.

5/5 Lethality: another no-brainer. I should have high crit, and synergizes with remorseless attacks and the agility increase.

1/1 Vigor: Fully optional- spend the point in Imp. Poisons if you want. I expect to often cap out on energy while traveling between targets, and against dangerous targets I'll want the extra energy for a better stunlock.

4/5 Imp. Poisons: this looks at first glance to be inferior to its sibling Vile Poisons, but in reality it's a better deal if you aren't using Envenom. Instant Poison only procs off 20% of hits, so a 2% increase in chance to apply is actually a 10% increase in poison damage! Compare that to Vile's 7%.


5/5 Relentless Strikes: Makes finishers cheaper. If I move quickly from mob to mob, this becomes more valuable while vigor becomes less so.

3/3 Master of Deception: Invaluable for questing (especially on a PvP server!) You'll be able to sneak to more places without being seen, and "cheat" a lot of quests to level more quickly.

3/3 Camoflage: Movement speed increases are always welcome in leveling builds. Makes using stealth while grinding a lot less punishing. If you are picking pockets or fighting dangerous mobs, this build will do well using stealth and opening with a Cheap Shot.

2/2 Elusiveness: Makes some of your best "oh shit" cooldowns come back faster. Awesome.

1/1 Ghostly Strike: does good damage (not as good as hemo) and helps with survivability. Use it when you need some extra defense. Especially cool during an evasion to potentially reach over 100% avoidance.

3/3 Serrated Blades: A strong dps increase, especially while solo and against clothies.

3/3 Initiative: if you are stealthing between mobs, this makes it more attractive to open with cheap shot. Improves stunlocks. Not the best talent, but you need to get something to reach...

1/1 Preparation: You already know why. In my opinion, this is the best rogue talent in the entire game. It just has almost no use in raids.

1/1 Hemorrhage: If you don't take all the sinister strike talents in the combat tree, this is your best combo-builder for non-daggers.

2/2 Dirty Deeds: another talent that helps Cheap Shot, it also has a nice built-in dps increase. Obviously better against bosses (who are below 35% health for longer), but there are few other options at this point in the tree.

2/2 Heightened Senses. My choice for filler. Put these 2 points wherever you want.

5/5 Deadliness: straight damage increase.

1/1 Premeditation: taken for two reasons: prereq for a key talent coming up, and better than the other options. Limited usefulness.

3/3 Cheat Death: It might not seem like much, but this thing WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. Basically forces any mob to kill you twice. Makes a big skull appear over your head, which for me triggers the pavlovian response of hitting my vanish button. Keeps you from getting killed by surprise if a situation gets out of control or you forgot to check your health bar. Especially nice because it makes it impossible for you to get one-shot by a wandering Void Reaver or a loose instance boss.

5/5 Sinister Calling: big damage increase, and buffs Hemo. Goes a long way to making up for the filler talents you had to take to get down here.

1/1 Shadowstep: The ultimate in rogue mobility, this makes jumping from mob to mob a snap, cutting down wasted time. It also boosts the damage of your opening hemo, which synergizes very well with Remorseless Attacks. 20% increased damage on a hemo that has an extra 40% crit chance? Sign me up!

So on November 13th when you see me Shadowstepping from mob to mob in Borean Tundra spamming Hemo with my fist weapons, give me a /wave.

Any suggestions for improvements? I want to make leveling as efficient and painless as possible. My main worry is the possibility that a deep combat SS build will simply put out so much more damage that the increased mobility/survivability of my build will be negated. I'll test it out and let you know what I discover.

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