Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Not really back...

In a rare, but not unprecedented, move, the judge gave the jury two weeks off mid-trial for the holidays. I'll be back in deliberation after the New Year, so I won't be back on schedule for probably another 2 weeks here in blogland.

WoW-wise, I've been so immersed in the minutiae of rogue mechanics (mostly so I can keep up with my guild's stupid fury warrior, who is inexplicably about to get buffed while I'm not) that I haven't talked much about what's been going on lately.

About 6 weeks from being unleashed upon Northrend, I'm in nearly full epics (still need trinket and helm), I've run out of things to buy with badges (heirloom items, here I come!), and my guild has cleared all 4 themed wings in 10-man Naxx. Now the game's insidious grip has finally loosened enough that I can finally pry its black talons from skin and actually spend some of my free time outside of Azeroth.

Though Naxx was definitely a major challenge when we first stepped in wearing our leveling gear and having barely dipped our toes in heroics, the entire place has now become trivial, save for a kiting boss (Gluth) that is unusually hard for our group makeup. One short week after going in undergeared and killing only 2 bosses, we come back and cleared out almost the entire place in one weekend, one-shotting most of the bosses. So yeah, the place is a little easy for a group of seasoned raiders on the hardcore side. So it will probably be just right for the "we are a guild of friends who help each other and have a tabard, and we're going to try 10 man raids once we get more healers!" set, which makes up a large chunk of the subscriber base, as far as I can tell. And more power to them. I like having an easy early instance, though I look forward to something a little more old-school challenging in the future patches.

Once you clear the 4 wings (first 13 bosses), there are two bosses remaining in Naxxramas: Sapphiron the frost wyrm and Kel'Thuzad the lich. They both drop gear that is a tier higher than the rest of the instance. As far as I can tell so far, they are appropriately a tier harder than the other bosses. After blowing through the rest of the place, we've been stopped cold by Sapphiron. This is partly because we don't yet have much frost resist, but it's also partly because the fight can be pretty unforgiving. There is a ton of raid damage going around, the blizzard is tough to see and get out of, and you only have a few seconds to hide behind an object before his frost bomb kills you.

Wherever I look on the internet to figure out if we need frost resist (we're all making it anyway, which doesn't seem to jive with the casual focus of the rest of the instance, but is much easier than I thought it would be to craft), all I see are the "omg I'm a better person because I'm better at this game, you losers" crowd saying "you don't need frost resist if your group isn't retarded".

Not only are those people probably stretching the truth a little, and seemingly posting for no purpose other than to self-aggrandize at the expense of others, but they also have probably never led a normal raid. I defy you to find a group of ten people who you can get all together at once who are actually good enough to "not be retarded" by that guy's standards. The only guilds that make that are the server-first guilds, and only a tiny percentage of players are in them.

My guild is a casual guild that "seriously" raids, which to us means that anyone who is cool can join, and anyone from that group is free to raid with us as long as they contribute. This means bringing consumables, gemming and enchanting appropriately, performing reasonably well at your role, being able to follow raid directions to a reasonable extent, and not being a whiner or trying to wring more out of us than you earned.

From this policy, we end up with a raid full of awesome people, where half of the raid are absolute top-of-the-line (I'd pit them against any member of a server-first guild and expect them to keep up), and the other half are "pretty good". They put out strong dps but don't compete for the top spot, they tank well but don't have the full situational awareness of our best tanks, or they can keep the group alive in most situations but can't perform the emergency miracles that our best healers can. I would never, ever consider these people a "drag on the raid", and each one of them has an awesome attitude to match, where they will sometimes pass upgrades if they think the other person deserves it more, or cheerfully sit out a raid if we are full. Wherever they are weak, they take good constructive criticism and make efforts to improve, and then actually show improvement. In short, they are awesome to have in a raid.

They are not "retarded". But sometimes, they don't quite get behind the pillar in time, or don't notice that they are standing in the Bad Shit. And that's OK. I view myself as a top-of-the-line raider by any standard, and yet I've been known to walk right into a Heigan eruption myself from time to time. But it means that Frost Resist is right for us on the Sapph fight, since it gives us a nice margin for error that forum trolls claim isn't needed if you "aren't retarded".

So basically what I'm saying is: those guys on the forum are wrong. Why did I waste so much space on that?

Also, I can't stop reading The Greedy Goblin, even if he could stand to read something besides Ayn Rand once in a while.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Still on &($&%ing Jury Duty

My justice, though deadly, will not be quick. I expect to be out on Jury Duty for another week, which I will then follow by going away on a long holiday vacation.

Rather than leave the site totally dark for nearly a month, I'll try to at least throw up some sporadic content when I get some free time. Unfortunately, that time is not today.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jury Duty

My apologies for no new content today. I have been summoned to Jury Duty, and it is my legal obligation as an American to attend. I do not know how long I will be gone, it could just be one day, and it could be as long as a week. In the meantime, I don't expect to be able to post here. Rest assured that I will get back to posting once every weekday after I am done meting out justice.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Laziness: Supreme Laziness Edition

OMG I AM SO LAZY. Here is a 1- paragraph post! Or 5 paragraphs, if you like counting for yourself instead of taking my word for things.

How come this holiday season is the least exciting one video games have probably ever seen? Is it just because Nintendo has forsaken us, with their big releases being the glorified children's toy Wii Music and the brain-saggingly boring Animal Crossing? Or is it because every single other major release is a first-person shooter (Fallout, Bad Company, Resistance 2, Gears 2) or an exploration platformer (Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider). OK, Fallout is technically a first-person RPG and not a shooter, but that's probably why it's the only major holiday release I'm actually planning to pick up. Every single thing I listed is a sequel. Where are the creative new IPs (besides Left 4 Dead, which also has a number in it's name for some reason)? Most Xmases, I have a long list of exciting games I can't wait for.

What gives? Is it just that the gaming mainstream is straying further and further from my tastes? It definitely is, when the bestselling games are Call of Duty and Halo. Or maybe I'd just rather play WoW?

. . . or maybe...I'm just getting old? Have I finally outgrown your average video game? What am I going to do with my free time?

Sometimes I just like to wallow in the laziness, and let it wash over me like a mountain spring on a cool morning.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Level 80 Rogue Stats, Part 2: Simple Maths

Math. No one, except maybe that demonic woman who taught you 8th grade algebra, wants math to be part of their free time. It's not fun, or at least many of us have been trained to think it's not fun.

But math is a part of every recreational activity that even the least math-y person enjoys. Baseball is all about statistics, angle, and velocity, while billiards is pretty much trigonometry and basic physics with balls. Heck, even beer has to be measured. How many glasses of beer can we get from this pitcher? Should we get two?

My advice: get two.

And WoW, being a nerdy pursuit, is even more steeped in numbers. In all seriousness, WoW is little more than a pretty graphical sheen put over an invisible Matrix of math equations. And I'm here to give you the red pill for your rogue.

So what's going on under the hood? A LOT. And most of it you don't need to understand in order to top the damage meters while staying alive, and generally being an all-around asset to your group. You can just follow a few basic rules-of-thumb, and you'll be able to get an A or B+ in rogueing. Unfortunately, if you are going for that elusive A+, you're going to need the spreadsheet. Sorry.

Deciding whether a piece of gear is an upgrade is not as complicated as it seems.

First, you need to understand the concept of "Equivalency Points". Equivalent is a big word, but we all know it means "the same as" or "equal to". Why do we need these? Because we need to translate all of the different stats on an item, each with their different relative values to your DPS, into a single language so we can easily compare them.

According to those hardcore theorycrafters over at Elitist Jerks, the generally-accepted EP weights for Combat are:
  • Agility = 1 EP
  • Attack Power = .5 EP
  • Crit = .75 EP
  • Expertise = .8 EP
  • Haste = .7 EP
  • Hit= .8 EP in most cases. If you have 0%-9% total hit (including 5% from talents), it's worth more at .9 EP. If you have between 9% and 17%, it's worth .8 EP. If you have over 17% total, it drops to .7 EP.
  • Armor Penetration = .6 EP

The EP weights for Mutilate are:
  • Agility = 1 EP
  • Attack Power = .5 EP
  • Crit = .8 EP
  • Expertise = .95 EP
  • Haste = .7 EP
  • Hit= .9 EP in most cases. If you have 0%-9% total hit (including any from talents), it's worth more at 1.1 EP. If you have between 9% and 17%, it's worth .9 EP. If you have over 17% total, it drops to .65 EP.
  • Armor Penetration = .5 EP

Be warned, these weights will change based on what gear you currently have. That's what the spreadsheets are for. But if you are looking to simplify your math, you'll see that a few patterns emerge:

1 agility tends to be equal to 2 AP. Most ratings land at about 3/4 (.75) of an agility point. A special case is expertise for mutilate builds, where it is worth nearly as much as agility. Also, armor penetration is worth just over half an agility point. It won't be exact, but you can use these observations to get a general idea of how good a piece of gear is by translating all of the values into agility equivalency points ("the same as" agility!).

So, for those who want to do as little math as possible and get on with the killing (preferably of mages), the best quick 'n dirty way to figure out an item's "DPS Score" is in the following steps. I'll use as my example a cloak with 30 agility, 25 hit rating, 15 crit rating, and 100 attack power.
  1. Divide the Attack Power on the item in half. (100 AP = 50 EP)
  2. Add to the agility number. Remember, agility=EP (30 agi + 50EP= 80 EP)
  3. Combine the hit/crit ratings (25 + 15 = 40). If present, also include haste and expertise, remembering that expertise is a special case for Mutilate buids.
  4. Remove about a quarter off this rating total (40*3/4 = 30 EP). Do this either with quick mental guesstimates, or use the calculator on your computer if you want more exact numbers.
  5. Add the rating value to agi+AP value (30 EP + 80 EP = 110 EP).
And bam, you're done! You've determined that the cloak is worth roughly 110 EP, and can now compare it to a similar item to see which one will give you more dps. If the item has armor penetration, remember to divide that stat in half instead to find the EP value. Again, this isn't an exact measurement, but it does give a good idea while requiring as little pause as possible from actually playing with your new gear. If EP totals for two items are very close as Mutilate, remember that +hit is generally more valuable than haste or crit.

The steps listed above may at first seem like more bother than you'd like. But I guarantee you that if you try using them a few times, they will quickly become second nature, and you'll start to appreciate being able to quickly evaluate if an item is an upgrade or not.

The more specific conversation about why these values are the way they are, and how come hit is no longer king like it was back in TBC, will have to wait until next week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Level 80 Rogue Stats, Part 1: Spreadsheeting. (yes, spreadsheeting)

Continuing Shark Wee-I mean, Rogueing Week here at Escape Hatch:

So yeah, things got a bit wonky with the stat explanation on my rogue weapon post. Even I can barely understand what I'm trying to say there at this point. Tomorrow, I'll go into more detail on how rogue stats work at level 80, and hopefully clear this up once and for all. At least, until someone else on Elitist Jerks figures out that it's all wrong. But first...

Escape Hatch: The Home Game!

If you'd like to play along at home, all you'll need is this handy-dandy rogue dps spreadsheet, courtesy of Vulajin. Sadly, it's the only way to really know for sure whether a piece of gear is an upgrade or not, or what cycle or spec you should use. There are just too many interactions amongst all of the various rogue stats to make truly hard and fast rules about what is most effective for every situation. You can use this spreadsheet to find out what will work best for you and your current gear.

It seems daunting, but it's simple to use. The main part of the talents tab is straightforward; just insert your spec. Then check the right side and fill in your race and professions. Also make sure it's using the right combo builder (mutilate or sinister strike) and a good cycle. Start with one of these cycles, and experiment with others once you get a hang of the sheet:

For Mutiliate, you want to start with Xe/Yr(CttC) and set Envenom to TRUE. This means that once you have an initial Slice N Dice up, you alternate e (envenom) and r (rupture) while keeping Cut to the Chase (CttC) up. The X and Y represent how many combo points, at minimum, you have up when you use the finisher. You can set these in the X and Y rows just below the cycle cell. Start by setting X and Y to 4.

For Combat, start with an Xs/Yr/Ze cycle with Envenom set to FALSE. Set all three values to 5. This means you will do a 5-point SnD, then 5-point rupture, then 5-point eviscerate, then repeat. This tends to be a strong Combat rotation on raid bosses.

The buffs tab is also simple, just type "true" or "false" depending on what your raid makeup usually is. For now, ignore the version history, cycle, cooldowns, and dps tabs.

Head to the gear tab, which is the real meat of the spreadsheet. You only need to worry about the left side of this page for now. You can use a dropdown menu at each slot and select, by name, what gear your character is currently wearing. The spreadsheet will fill in all the statistics for you. You can also use dropdown menus to select gems and enchants. It takes a little while to fill this out, but its worth it. Make sure you save your work.

Now it's time to pay attention to the green box at the top of the page, which displays the results of all of the calculations the spreadsheet is doing in the background, based on known rogue mechanics modeling. You should be able to figure out on your own what most of the stuff in this box means. The thing you are really concerned about is: Total DPS. This is what your projected raid-buffed dps should be in optimal conditions. Usually, this estimate is higher than what I can actually acheive, so don't worry too much about that for now.

Take that Total DPS figure, and type it into the Saved DPS slot. This will allow you to monitor how your Total DPS changes, in comparison to your current stats, when you make changes to the spreadsheet.

Now, keep an eye on that Total, and play around. Change some points in your spec, switch your weapons, try different poisons on them, etc., and watch how it affects your projected Total DPS. You may be surprised. For instance, I found that the 130 dps offhand that drops in Heroic Oculus was actually a dps downgrade compared to the 120 dps offhand I got from Wyrmrest reputation, because the heroic sword has inferior dps stats (too much stam!) and was .1 second slower (which can make a lot of difference with current rogue mechanics). Looking even further, it turned out that the 1.6 speed epic, 143 dps heroic badge sword is not as good an offhand as the 1.3 speed, 130 dps blue dagger (Librarian's Paper Cutter) that I'm currently using. Glad I could save myself some badges!

Once you've got this set up, keep it updated as you get new gear. Then use it to easily compare items and figure out what is an upgrade and what is not, without all of the tedious math that I'm going to go through tomorrow to try to explain why you should go for certain stats over others.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How to use Tricks of the Trade

Tricks of the Trade is one of the new Rogue abilities added in Wrath of the Lich King. It becomes available at level 75. It may seem innocuous at first, but after I had it for only a day, I found that I could no longer be without it, and I'm probably spoiled from ever being able to play another melee dps class again, at least in 5-mans.

Its tooltip reads thusly:

Tricks of the Trade
15 Energy20 yd range
Instant30 sec cooldown
The current party or raid member becomes the target of your Tricks of the Trade. The threat caused by your next attack and all actions taken for 6 sec afterwards will be transferred to the target. In addition, all damage caused by the target is increased by 15% during this time.

You cannot use it on yourself. Sorry, meter-whores.

The game-changing ramification of this for me: I never have to worry about aggro again. I can begin attacking a mob immediately after the tank does, instead of having to wait and watch to make sure they have enough threat to keep me from pulling off of them. In fact, the more damage and threat I generate with my opener, the better it is for the tank! It's the exact opposite of what used to be the correct way to play.

The cooldown is only 30 seconds, so you can essentially use it every pull. When you activate it, it places a 30-second buff on you. This buff has the swiss-army-knife Tricks of the Trade icon. The 6-second window in which your target has 15% increased dps and you transfer your threat to your target does not start until you actually attack. So use it as early as you can: as soon as you are sure that the tank will pull in less than 30 seconds. You don't have to worry about wasting the effect until that 30 second timer is up.

Another reason to use it a few second before the pull is its 15 energy cost: you want to regen the energy before you actually start fighting.

If you simply click the TotT button with a party or raid member targeted, the 30 second buff will activate, but only appear on you. There will be no sign that it is on the right target until you actually begin the 6-second effect by attacking. At that point, the buff will show up for 6 seconds on the target's buff list. Don't worry: once you click the TotT button, the game will "remember" who you targeted and give the 15% damage and your threat to the proper target when you start attacking, no matter what you do in between. You just have to learn to trust the Tricks.

So obviously, in 5-mans, you are going to want to use this on the tank at the beginning of every fight. While you could manually target the tank between every pull, I personally find it easier to set the tank as my "focus target". Your focus target is an entity that the game remembers indefinitely (until you reset it or log out) as another target beyond whatever you currently have selected. The main use of setting a focus target is to be able to use an ability on your focus target without de-targeting your actual target. In this case, if you set up a macro that casts Tricks on your focus target you can use that macro while attacking, and you'll never de-target the mob.

Here's a very simple macro to start with:

#showtooltip Tricks of the Trade
/cast [target=focus] Tricks of the Trade

Eventually you are going to want a more complicated macro, but I haven't personally been able to get one to work yet. I'll report back if I do.

I have this macro hotkeyed, in an easy-to-reach spot. When I start an instance run, I set the tank as my focus (either by typing /focus while I have the tank targeted, or right-clicking his portrait and selecting "set focus"). Then, I hit my Tricks macro before each pull. Then me and the other dps can go hog-wild immediately without having to worry about pulling aggro off the tank.

This is especially fun with the level 80 rogue ability, Fan of Knives, which does aoe damage to all targets in range. On aoe pulls, I can open with FoK and give a ton of aoe aggro to the tank instantly.


In a raid, you might find that after the initial pull, Tricks will come back off cooldown before a boss is dead, perhaps multiple times. Since your tank likely will not need help with aggro after the first Tricks, you can utilize all of the following cooldowns to give 15% dps to another dps player in your raid. Ideally, you just want to trade this with another rogue, so you both get 15% more damage and just trade your threat. But in a 10-man raid, there is unlikely to be another rogue. In these cases, you have a few things to consider:

  • Does the target have a full threat dump? This is important, as you give extra threat to the target. Hunters and Rogues are best for this, and mages and warlocks slightly less so. DPS warriors, DKs, and hybrid dps classes are last on the list because they tend to have little to no way of getting rid of the extra aggro if needed.
  • Who in your raid does the highest dps, besides you? In my raid group, this is a mage. Since the buff is a flat percentage of the target's damage, you want to give it to whoever is already doing the most.
  • Is the target in range? In my raid group, it's a hassle to get the mage within 20 yards of me, so in some cases I will instead use Tricks on a lower-dps melee character, or even the tank, just so it doesn't go to waste. But this is far from optimal.
When killing trash in raids, I use Tricks exactly as I do in a 5-man: set focus on tank, use before pull. On bosses, I will switch my focus to the dps-er I wish to buff. For the start of the fight, I'll manually target the tank, and click the original non-macro tricks button (placed elsewhere on my action bars) to give the tank opening aggro, then use my macro whenever Tricks comes off cooldown during the boss fight.


And that's pretty much how you use Tricks of the Trade. Being able to attack right at the beginning of a fight and actually help with aggro has been like crack to me, and an ability that looked lackluster on paper has actually turned into one of my favorite aspects of playing my rogue (as has Fan of Knives, but we'll talk more about that once they remove the cooldown).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Level 80 Rogue Weapons: a guide

Here is a guide to getting weapons for your rogue upon hitting level 80. It is from a PvE perspective of gearing up for 5-man dungeons and raids. I completely ignore PvP in this guide.

[4/1/09 note: some of the below guide will become outdated as of patch 3.1. I've added notes about what has changed.]

First, let's get a few basics out of the way.

-There are 2 viable specs for level 80 raiding: Mutilate and Combat (I will get into spec details in a future post). [if your guildies have good gear and you can get a good group setup, a deep subtlety Honor Among Thieves build is also viable. See my guide here]

-Maces suck for PvE. Don't bother with them at 80.

-Stats: with either spec, you want agility attack power first and foremost, followed almost immediately by attack power agility (but remember it takes 2 AP to compete with 1 agility!). You want to gem and enchant for agility AP and/or agility. Other melee stats (hit, crit, expertise, haste) are good, but slightly less desirable than agility/AP. Armor penetration rating is the black sheep: it's only about half as good as the other stats. Don't gear for it. When evaluating whether one piece of gear is better than another, add up the value of the stats according to their weights (1 agi=2, 1 AP=1, 1 hit/crit/haste/exp=1.8, 1 ArPen=1), then compare. [EDIT: Actually, 1 hit/crit/haste/exp would be more like 1.5] [EDIT2: recent research has shown that at current level 80 gear levels, AP is actually slightly more desirable than agility for pure raiding dps, though agility does offer defensive benefits of dodge and armor]

-For combat, you need a slow mainhand (2.5-2.8 speed) and a fast offhand (1.3-1.6 speed, the faster the better). Do not offhand a 1.8 speed dagger, no matter the dps on it! For mutilate, you want two fast daggers (1.3-1.5 speed), with the faster one in your mainhand. There is basically no PvE use for slow 1.8 speed daggers. [3.1 normalizes poison procs, making dagger speed matter a lot less. Focus on the dagger's dps rather than speed for the most part after the patch.]


There are 5 "tiers" of gear available at 80 currently: dungeon tier, heroic tier, Naxx 10 tier, Naxx 25 tier, and "25 man Sapphiron/Kel'thuzad/Malygos tier". I'm going to post today only considering the weapons you can get your hands on pre-raid, so no raiding drops will be featured here.

But it's interesting to note that Sapphiron and Kel'thuzad (the last 2 bosses in Naxx) and Malygos drop gear that is a tier higher than what is dropped by other bosses in that tier level. For rogues, this means that while most Naxx 10 bosses drop 143 dps weapons, Kel'thuzad 10 drops a 156 dps weapon. The 25-man Kel'thuzad drops a 171 dps weapon!

Why should this matter to you? Well it means that at whatever tier of raiding you do as Combat, your weapon specialization choice will likely end up being restricted by what these guys drop. For instance, it would be foolish to spec combat swords if you have a fist that is a tier higher available to you! In both cases (and as you'll see, even earlier) the best mainhand available will be a fist. Though it may make sense to spec combat swords as you work your way up to these bosses, you're inevitably going to end up speccing into either combat fist/dagger or combat fist/sword depending on what offhand you are able to get. Blizzard's item designers seem to have consciously decided to favor fists over swords at almost every tier, so be prepared to drop your swords when you have to. I personally favor swords, so this is pretty disappointing that the option isn't really there if you want to do your best dps.

Now, on with the show!

Dungeon tier (120 dps):

  • Mainhand: Ymiron's Blade (Utgarde Pinnacle, final boss)
  • Offhand: Fang of Truth (Wyrmrest Accord - Honored) or Meathook's Slicer (Culling of Stratholme, first boss). The Fang is a much better option, and much easier to get, so I wouldn't even bother with the Slicer.
  • The Ritualistic Anatheme (Utgarde Pinnacle, first boss) and Lightblade Rivener (Kirin Tor - honored) have exactly the same stats. The Rivener is not unique, so you can hit honored with Kirin Tor, buy two, and you're good to go for Mutilate.
  • There's also the BoE Dustbringer (apparently caught while fishing?) if you really hate the Kirin Tor.
  • There are zero appropriate fist weapons for rogues at this gear level. Har har, Blizzard.

Heroic tier (130 dps):

  • The only option is Librarian's Paper Cutter, a BoE drop from Heroic Halls of Lightning. It is incredibly fast, and thus will outpace even higher dps slow weapons. Going into Naxx as Mutilate, you'll probably be weilding one or two of these. They also make an excellent offhand if you happen to be specced combat with a fist mainhand.
  • One extremely good-looking Fist of the Deity (see photo above) drops off the final boss in Heroic Gun'Drak.

But don't stop here!

Naxx 10-level (143.5 dps) weapons available without raiding:

  • Mainhand: I would not consider the Krol Cleaver, a BoE world drop, to be a reasonably available weapon, though it does compete for best pre-raid Combat mainhand. Currently, none of these even exist on my server, and I imagine any that do will go for unbelievable sums of gold. Better to save your money and go for the fist described below.
  • Offhand: The best option is Avool's Sword of Jin. However, this is a BoE drop off of trash in Naxx 10. Though you may see one for sale, most raids will give it to someone who will equip it. And if you do see it for sale, it most likely won't be worth the price, especially when you can pick up the Grasscutter for 50 badges, or a competitive dagger offhand for a more reasonable price.

  • Again, speed screws us here. A BoE world drop option, Namlak's Supernumerary Sticker, is OK, but will never be worth the price with all that useless dodge and parry rating on it. The more affordable Titansteel Shanker is a viable option that you can buy straight up or have a friendly Blacksmith craft for you, though it borders on being unacceptably slow. I'd almost just keep the Librarian's Paper Cutter instead of either of these. [the Shanker becomes an excellent starter choice after 3.1, and the sticker isn't so bad either, though likely not worth getting whent he Shanker is so easy to craft]

  • The best Combat mainhand readily available without raiding is sadly not a sword, but a fist weapon. Greed drops from the final boss in Heroic Culling of Stratholme. On the bright side, it looks great.

So, in summary, here's the easiest way to gear yourself as best you can at each tier:

  • Dungeon level: get honored with the Kirin Tor as you hit 80 and pick up two Lightblade Riveners.
  • Either save up or run Heroic HoL to upgrade to one or two Paper Cutters. These will be fine to bring into Naxx.
  • If you want, you can replace your offhand Paper Cutter with a Titansteel Shanker. I am not sure if this would be a dps upgrade. [It definitely would be as of 3.1, do it!]
  • Dungeon level: respec to Combat Swords as soon as you can get the mainhand from Utgarde Pinnacle. It should be easy to hit honored with Wyrmrest for your offhand as well.
  • Heroic level and beyond: Rep up with the Ebon Blade to revered next (you also want to do this for the helm enchant) for a better mainhand. Run Heroic Strat as often as you can, until you get Greed for your final mainhand upgrade (at which point you respec to Combat Fist/Dagger or Fist/Sword depending on your offhand). At the same time, you have a number of options for offhands:
  1. Craft a Titansteel Shanker
  2. Purchase a Grasscutter for 50 badges
  3. Purchase or run Heroic HoL for a Paper Cutter
  4. Purchase Avool's Sword of Jin
  5. Sit on whatever lower-tier offhand you have while you work on random drops

You'll walk into Naxx with a 143.5 dps mainhand fist, and at least a 130 dps offhand sword or dagger, if not a 143.5 dps one. Considering that this would match most Naxx drops, you'll be quite prepared to kill bosses and maybe even top the meters (not that we rogues care about that...wink wink).

[Note: with the change to the Lightning Reflexes talents, fist/sword specs will be official dead as of patch 3.1. When you walk into Naxx as combat, you should either have fist mainhand/dagger offhand or sword/sword, NOT a mix of the two.]