[4/1/09 note: some of the below guide will become outdated as of patch 3.1.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
-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):
- Mainhand: Reaper of Dark Souls (Ebon Blade - revered), Crypt Lord's Deft Blade (Heroic Azjol'Nerub, final boss). They are roughly equivalent, but the Reaper is easier to get.
- Offhand: The Interrogator (Heroic Oculus, first boss)
- 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:
- Craft a Titansteel Shanker
- Purchase a Grasscutter for 50 badges
- Purchase or run Heroic HoL for a Paper Cutter
- Purchase Avool's Sword of Jin
- 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.]