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:
You cannot use it on yourself. Sorry, meter-whores.
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.
Tricks of the Trade
15 Energy 20 yd range
Instant 30 sec cooldown
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.
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).