The Ironsong Tribe

Full Version: The Art of DPS (Mutilate DPS guide)
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This is a rogue guide, but I'm going to start with general observations about playing a DPS class that I hope will be useful to other damage dealers as well.

What's the raid game about as DPS?

When you are raiding as DPS your most important job is to maximize your damage on the target without dying or absorbing unnecessary amounts of healing mana.

First rule: Don't die -- dying eliminates your DPS
Second rule: Don't pull aggro -- aggro drains healer mana
Third rule: Do as much damage as you can without violating rules #1 and #2. Playing DPS is about controlling your damage.

To restate: By doing more DPS we damage-dealers reduce the amount of inbound damage that the tank's mitigation and stamina and the healers' mana pools have to survive.

What can you do to increase your DPS?

Maximize your time on target

This means hitting the target as soon as it is safe to do so, as soon as the tank has a firm grip on the mob.

For rogues, one way to maximize time on target is to be in the right position in the raid: next to the tank. You want to be on the spot when it's time to attack. Don't waste time, each pull, creeping several yards up to your target. This wastes precious time. Instead, advance with the tank. Stay stealthed a step behind or even a step ahead of the tank (watch out for mobs that see through stealth or you may face-pull). This way, when the tank pulls, the mobs run *through* you. Pivot and nail the main target a fraction of a second after the tank hits it. You are guaranteed to be on the spot every time.

When you open your attack this way on a trash pull of multiple mobs, don't open with your AoE (Fan of Knives). The tank may not have aggro on all the mobs yet and you'll just pull them onto yourself and die. Open with your main single-target attack and wait a few seconds to start Fan of Knives. Fan of Knives is a new ability for rogues, and I'm still getting the hang of it... I'd say that half my deaths in the past few weeks (since the cooldown was removed) have been due to a too-soon use of Fan of Knives.

You will need to develop judgement about when "safe" is. Jump too early and you will die. However, if you wait too long to attack, you are losing valuable seconds in which to DPS the mobs. This lost damage adds up over the course of a raid.

To illustrate: If someone is doing 2000 DPS and is delaying for an unnecessary 2 seconds on each pull, over the course of forty pulls that person will have lost 80 seconds of DPS time, or 160,000 damage. How much is that? If these fights last 30 seconds on average, then 160,000 represents a loss of 7% of that character's damage. That's a big number: a 7% damage difference is far greater than most gear upgrades.

One way to measure whether you are maximizing your time on target is to look at the "activity" number in Wowwebstats or Recount. This number shows how much time you spent attacking during the raid. A rogue's number should be just under that of the tank. So, if the tank is attacking 33% of the time, a good number for a DPSer would be 32%. If the DPS's number is a lot less than that of the tank (say, in this example, 27%), that indicates a lot of lost DPS and a good area for personal improvement.

Casters are a bit handicapped in this domain, as they may need to lead with a spell that has a 2-3 second cast time. That adds a built-in delay. One way around this is to start casting before the tank pulls, and to time it exquisitely so that the spell lands just after the tank has pulled and has aggro (if casting starts too soon, it should be interrupted to avoid pulling the mob, of course). This, too, takes good judgement. Another way is to lead with an instant or a channeled spell.

Main message: Maximizing the time spent attacking the target is one of the best ways to increase your damage.

Focus your attention

This is a big one. When raiding, be on the ball. Keep your character in position, attack the instant it is safe, attack from behind, keep your Hunger for Blood and Slice and Dice up at all times. Pay attention to your surroundings and get out of AoEs. If you pull aggro dump it quickly with feint, tricks, vanish, or sprint. Use healing potions (don't wait for the healers to catch you if you're in deep trouble) and bandages. Spam your attacks so they go off the instant the global cooldown is up. Blow your cooldowns when they are available and you will get the full use out of them.

If you are tired and distracted, if your HfB and SnD stacks drop off, if you are a little late in engaging the mob, if you don't hit your abilities the instant they are available, if you are slow to follow the mob or get behind it, your damage output will be significantly impaired.

As an example: in TBC I wanted to compare two similar weapons empirically. So Oryx agreed to be my Target Dummy. He cast Earth Shield on himself, let me beat away at him, and just stood there healing himself until I finally killed him. We did this six times, with me swapping weapons between each test.

The results were revealing. The weapons were so similar that it was impossible to tell which one was better in the noise of field testing. But a much more surprising and important lesson was that my DPS declined over the six tests. Upon reflection, I realized that my attention had begun to flag over the course of the experiment. I had got distracted. Oryx and I started having a conversation. I looked away from the screen a few times. I was a little late in hitting my main attack on several occasions. That loss of attention resulted in a 5% loss of DPS between the early and late tests. This loss of DPS dwarfed the difference between the weapons and, in fact, dwarfs most gear upgrades -- very few upgrades will improve your DPS by 5%.

Main Message: Focus intently on what you are doing. Engage quickly, react fast, and attack continuously. Minimize distractions. Focus will increase your DPS by the equivalent of several gear upgrades.

Use Keyboard and Mouse Efficiently

Playing Warcraft means pressing keys on the keyboard, moving the mouse around and clicking on the screen. Anything you can do to speed up this keyboarding and mousing process will increase your efficiency, your reaction time and your DPS. This is a very individual thing -- you need to find what works for you. With that in mind, here is some general advice:

Keyboard shortcuts are the fastest. Link abilities to buttons on the keyboard. Have them at your fingertips.

If you do use the mouse to click on abilities, organize your ability buttons so that the ones you use most often are clustered close together on the screen. This will minimize eye movement and wrist/mouse movement. Place less-frequently used abilities just outside that hot zone (oh-crap abilities, cooldowns).

There are mods out there that will allow you to organize your ability buttons in, say, a circle around your character.

Main message: Use keyboard shortcuts and/or arrange your buttons to minimize time spent moving your eyes or moving your pointer. This will improve your reaction time and thus your DPS and survivability.

Know your attack rotation

Every class and spec has a set of attack combinations, or rotations, that does a great deal of damage -- far more damage than a randomly chosen pattern. This is because a class's attack abilities all interact with each other, unlock each other, build on each other, and have varying cooldowns and costs. Pressing the attacks in the right order makes a big difference in your DPS.

To get the most DPS out of your character, you should know your attack rotation. Memorize it. It will probably take some time for your rotation to become second nature. When I respecced Zlinka from Combat to Mutilate, I had my new rotation on a sticky note on the monitor for about a week.

I only know the attack rotations for rogues (see below). If you are not a Mutilate rogue, I recommend going to the Elitist Jerks Class forums and visiting the section for your class. There will be a post which summarizes the current top-DPS rotation for your class and spec, as well as gear advice etc. Note that DPS rotations change from time to time as Blizzard fiddles with our abilities. Check back periodically to keep your attack rotation current.

In the reality of a raid, it is often impossible to apply a perfect attack rotation. You may need to run out of combat to avoid an AoE, you may be called on to interrupt spellcasting, or to help a comrade in some way. But when you are DPSing, it's a fun part of the game to make your attack rotation as perfect as possible. And always remember that as you do more DPS, you kill the mobs faster, and the tanks' and healers' lives are made easier.

DPS meters

I run a DPS meter (Recount), and I recommend running one, or knowing someone who does, or looking at Jaba's Webstats report so you can keep an eye on your performance and identify areas that you can improve.

There are two measures of damage: instantaneous DPS measures your average damage per second. "Damage done" measures how much damage you do over a span of time -- a boss fight, a trash pull, or during the entire raid. "Damage done" is a more useful number than DPS because it measures your actual utility to to the raid. The two measures are correlated, but it is common to see someone with high DPS do less overall damage than someone with lower DPS.

Things to look at on a DPS meter

* Look at your damage done during particular boss fights

How are you doing? Note that different fights are designed to allow different kinds of classes to shine (fights may favor ranged DPS, AoE classes, single-target DPS, or hero tactics -- the performance of a few players with special tasks) so rogue damage will vary according to the fight. Rogues do best on single-target "tank and spank" fights, and will do less well on fights requiring, say, AoE damage or lots of running around. With this in mind, how are you doing in the different fights?

* Look at your overall damage

Overall damage is a very coarse number that blurs a lot of different contexts, so you can't look at it in too much detail -- an AoE heavy dungeon will favor mages, and so forth. However, it's useful to get a general idea of your own performance. Blizzard has designed classes so that similarly geared/skilled players will have roughly similar damage outputs. How are you doing relative to other players in the raid? If your damage is significantly less than theirs, what is going on? Possibilities include:
- Did you die a lot? Dead rogues do no damage. Be a little more conservative.
- Did you disconnect?
- Do you have bad lag? Lag will reduce your efficiency.
- Are you using a track pad instead of an external mouse? The pointer is much harder to control with a track pad.
- Did you join late or leave the raid early?
- Did you have another non-DPS task to perform?
- Does your gear have lower stats? (Look at the aggregate item level -- that's a useful rough measure of gear quality).

Those are some of the non performance-related reasons DPS may vary. However, if you were in the raid, online, alive, and your gear is similar, then we're looking at a gap that can be improved by skill.

* Look at your activity numbers

Sometimes players have high DPS but do less overall damage than they could because they simply aren't in combat enough. Your activity time should be just below the tank's. If it's significantly lower than the tank's you can be more active. This is an easy one to improve -- get into combat sooner.

* Learn from others

Examine the abilities of someone of the same class who has similar gear but is out-damaging you. What abilities are they using? How much are the different abilities hitting for? How many of their attacks are crits? What is their miss rate? How much of their damage comes from which abilities, and how does this compare to yours? Learn from this. Do research on your class to figure out what you can do better -- attack rotations, gear, activity level, enchants etc. Talk to other players, ask what they're doing. If research reveals a higher-DPS build, and you are open to re-speccing, consider trying that out.

* Rogue-specific things to check

- Look at your miss rates for yellow attacks, poisons, and white damage. If missing is a problem, work on getting more +hit gear

- Look at your dodge rates. If they are too high, work on getting more +expertise gear

- Look at your parry rates. These should be almost non-existent because you should always be attacking from behind. If you get a lot of parries, watch your position and get behind the mobs more.

- Look at your energy gained. If you gain less energy than another energy-user (another rogue or cat druid) it means that your energy capped out during the raid, and you therefore had unused potential damage. Don't let that happen -- use your special attacks more. Your energy should never sit at 100% during a fight. You should, ideally, hit an attack the instant you have enough energy to do so.

But always remember...

* Don't worry about the DPS meter during a new encounter. When learning something new DPS matters far less than having the correct strategy, executing it properly and surviving the encounter.
* Be very cautious when comparing your absolute numbers with those of players in other raids, and even your own numbers between different raids. Buffs may differ from raid to raid and these have a substantial impact on your DPS (see below).
* The DPS meter is a learning tool. Don't get too obsessed about it. Friendly competition is good, but don't let the meter sour your enjoyment of the game.

Raid Buffs

Blizzard has redesigned how buffs work in raids. In Wrath, there are a few dozen buffs, each of which can be provided by two or three class/spec combinations. Only one character with each buff is necessary to buff the entire raid. Other buffs of the same type are redundant. (See the end of this post for a list of the buffs that increase rogue damage.)

Sometimes you have a choice of which buffs to receive, especially from paladins and shamans. From paladins, you should always get Blessing of Might. If you have a second Paladin, get Blessing of Kings. From a Shaman you should get Windfury Totem and Strength of Earth.

Rogues are extremely buff-sensitive. A rogue with a full complement of 25-man raid buffs can put out twice as much damage as the very same rogue in an unbuffed 5-man. Buffs in raids interact with each other mathematically, so their contribution to your DPS becomes enormous in a big raid. Lacking one buff can easily take hundreds of DPS off your absolute DPS number.

DPS enhancements -- a comparison

How much do upgrades, enchants, gems and buffs actually contribute to your DPS in a raid? It's good to have a general idea of the big contributors. Absolute numbers are impossible because real DPS is so context-dependent, but with a given set of starting conditions you can calculate the relative value of different contributors.

Oryx and I spreadsheeted a fully-geared Assassination rogue in a fully buffed 25-man raid. We removed various buffs, enchants and upgrades one at a time to see how much each one contributed to the rogue's overall DPS. After each calculation, we replaced the item and removed another. Here's what we found, in order of least to greatest contribution:

From one green-quality AP gem (+24 AP) to one blue-quality AP gem (+32 AP): 0.09% DPS
Icewalker enchant on boots: 0.5% DPS
Crusher enchant on gloves: 0.5% DPS
From no enchant on weapon to Potency on weapon: 0.6% DPS
Tier 7 to 7.5 chest: 0.6% DPS
Tier 7 to 7.5 shoulders: 0.7% DPS
Haste food: 0.7% DPS
From Greater Potency on weapon to Berserking on weapon: 0.9% DPS
Fish feast: 0.9% DPS
Mark of the Wild: 1.8% DPS
Flask of Endless Rage: 2.1% DPS
Mangle/Trauma: 2.1% DPS
Heart of the Crusader / Master Poisoner / Totem of Wrath: 2.4% DPS
Ferocious Inspiration/Sanctified Retribution: 2.9% DPS
Blessing of Kings: 3.1% DPS
Leader of the Pack / Rampage: 3.6% DPS
Titansteel Shanker to Webbed Death dagger: 3.8%
Tunic of the Dark Hour (QD badge reward from TBC) to 7.5 chest: 4.6%
Unleashed Rage / Trueshot Aura / Abomination's Might: 6.1% DPS
Horn of Winter / Strength of Earth Totem: 6.2% DPS
Battle Shout / Blessing of Might: 8% DPS
Sunder Armor / Expose Armor: 8.3% DPS
Windfury Totem / Improved Icy Touch: 10.8% DPS

The main message here:
* Stat food is equivalent to one gear upgrade. Use stat food at all times.
* Flasks and Elixirs are worth several gear upgrades. Use them.
* Know what buffs to ask for -- Windfury Totem is worth a complete Tier of gear.
* Buffs matter a lot to your absolute numbers. A single buff makes a big difference. Therefore, be cautious when comparing your performance to that of others in other raids with different buffs. Also be cautious when comparing your own performance from one raid to the next.
* Combine the above calculations with the rough estimate that being distracted costs 5% DPS and you can see how important it is to pay attention.

Assassination Build

Assassination is the new top PvE raiding build for Wrath. In Classic Warcraft, the top raiding build was Combat Daggers. In TBC, it was Combat Swords, with other Combat specs a couple percent behind. In Wrath, however, Assassination rose to become the top raiding build, a status that has been confirmed by the developers.

I specced Zlinka for Combat Daggers in Classic Warcraft and kept her that way all through TBC (I figured my familiarity with the build could overcome its slight disadvantage), but in Wrath that build became untenable -- its damage was significantly less than that of other builds and classes. Zlinka simply could not keep up as Combat Daggers. After three years in the Combat tree I respecced her to Assassination a few weeks after starting Wrath raiding.

51/18/2 is the current top Mutilate spec, instead of the older 51/13/7.

A word about Master Poisoner vs. Turn the Tables: Since patch 3.1, Master Poisoner is now superior to Turn the Tables, because Master Poisoner received a buff. It now increases the chance to apply Deadly Poison after an Envenom by an additional 45% (as well as its old function of increasing the crit chance of ALL raid members by 3% against poisoned targets.) MP's raid buff function does not stack with the similar functions of Heart of the Crusader (Retribution Paladin) and Totem of Wrath (Elemental Shaman) but its self-buff function still makes it worth it.

Best Weapons: Speed and Damage

Put the highest DPS dagger in your main hand, regardless of speed. If your two daggers are the same DPS, put the faster one in your main hand. The faster weapon gives you extra poison procs, which just slightly outweigh the loss in Mutilate damage.

Put Deadly Poison on the faster weapon (even if it's the main hand), and Instant Poison on the slower one. If both weapons are the same speed, put Deadly Poison on the main hand.

Assassination attack rotation

Brief summary of the most commonly-used abilities:

* Mutilate is the main attack and combo point generator.

* Envenom is the main finisher, once Slice and Dice is up -- Envenom renews Slice and Dice to its maximum duration.

* Hunger for Blood is a self-buff that increases damage by a flat percentage. Have this up at all times. The target needs to have a bleed debuff on it for you to be able to activate HfB. If no bleed debuff is available, use Rupture to get it up. Rupture is no longer used as part of the rogue's regular cycle, however.

* Much of an Assassination rogue's job consists of keeping two abilities up: Hunger for Blood and Slice and Dice.

* Use Deadly Poison on your faster weapon (often, but not always, the off-hand), and Instant Poison on the slower weapon. A very large percentage of your damage comes from these poisons.

Tip: I found it very difficult to keep an eye on Hunger for Blood and Slice and Dice. I wasted a lot of time seeking them on the screen. To solve this, I use a mod called NeedToKnow which displays an activity bar for buffs and debuffs of my choosing. I have placed these activity bars right above my "hot spot" of activity keys. I can attack, watch these abilities tick down, and renew them without moving my eyes.

The Assassination rogue attack rotation is dynamic. It is not as simple as the Combat 5s/5r rotation from TBC. Here's the basic idea against a single target:

Before combat:
(1) Apply Deadly Poison to your faster weapon and Instant Poison to your slower one. If both weapons are the same speed, put DP on the main hand.

Opening moves:
(1) Open with Mutilate
(2) Get Hunger for Blood up as soon as possible. Usually someone in the raid will apply a bleed debuff right away and you can activate HfB. If not, you'll need to get a Rupture up quickly and then HfB.
(3) Get Slice and Dice up as soon as possible. I open with Mutilate and then hit Slice and Dice.

Ideally, you can just hit HfB in the first seconds of combat and still open with Mutilate and SnD. If nobody applies a bleed, I either open with Mutilate-Rupture-HfB-Mutilate-SnD, or with the slightly longer Mutilate-SnD-Mutilate-Rupture-HfB.

(4) Mutilate twice, to four combo points
(5) Decision point:
* If Hunger for Blood is about to fall off, renew it (you may need to apply a Rupture first -- look ahead)
* Otherwise, Envenom. As a side benefit, Envenom renews SnD to its max duration, thanks to Cut to the Chase. SnD should always be up.
(6) Repeat steps 2-4

Using Envenom: Don't think of Envenom as a SnD 'renewer,' waiting until SnD is nearly spent to hit Envenom! Envenom is a damage finisher that also applies a useful 4-5 sec debuff which increases your chance to hit with poisons, so you should use Envenom as much as you can. Seriously, go nuts!

Cold Blood: use this on a 5-point Envenom / 5-stack of Deadly Poisons whenever CB is up.

Capping and dumping: Don't let your energy cap (sit at 100%), and don't generate more than 5 combo points if you can help it. If you are capping energy or combo points, or if the mob is almost dead and you still have combo points on it, just burn an Envenom.

AoE Fan of Knives

Many of the trash pulls in Naxx are AoE pulls. The no-cooldown Fan of Knives is a new ability that I am still figuring out how to use, but here is my current attack rotation on AoE trash:

(1) Poison up and get Hunger for Blood up
(2) Open with Mutilate against a single mob (because opening with an AoE is a death sentence).
(3) Get Slice and Dice up. (That way I get maximum white damage against a single target).
(4) Spend the rest of the fight hitting Fan of Knives, except when Hunger for Blood needs to be renewed
Few fights last long enough to warrant a second mutilate-SnD rotation.

I use Fan of Knives like this when there are three or more mobs in a trash pull. With just two mobs, I generally use single-target DPS.

Threat and Oh-Crap abilities

In Wrath, the tank's ability to generate threat has been dramatically increased, so in heroics and early raiding threat management is not the balancing act it was in TBC. Tanks routinely have twice the threat of the next DPS or healer on the threat charts.

However, as you get better and better geared, your threat will approach that of the tank, and managing your threat once again becomes one of your important jobs. Drawing aggro often means death, and a dead rogue does no damage.

I find it helpful to use a threat-tracking mod, such as Omen, to keep an eye on my threat to make sure it is always below that of the tank, or at least never exceeds the tank's by 10%. At 110% of the tank's threat you will pull aggro as melee DPS (for ranged, this number is 130%).

If your threat is getting into the dangerous range, Omen will notify you and you can Trick, Feint, or dump all aggro with a Vanish. If all these are on cooldown and you pull aggro, Sprint and kite.

If the tank dies, a boss usually turns instantly on the melee DPS and kills them. Be alert and hit Vanish the instant the tank dies.

Tricks of the Trade

Tricks is the rogue Misdirect. It gives all your threat for 6 seconds to a target of your choice (the tank). Make a macro that will target the current tank, cast Tricks of the Trade, and return to your original target:

/tar [Name]
/cast Tricks of the Trade

Use Tricks pro-socially to help the tank hold aggro on the target. Tricks is especially useful when there is a threat wipe and the tank has to regain control of a mob in the middle of a fight. You can also use Tricks instead of Feint when you're in trouble, though Tricks takes a few seconds longer than Feint (you have to run the macro and do damage for it to work) so if you're really in trouble, Feint.

Tricks: buff your fellow rogues

Rogues can trick each other every 30 seconds to give each other a DPS boost. If the tank is solid on aggro, arrange with another rogue to exchange Tricks.

To exchange tricks with another rogue, here's a macro that will select the target rogue, cast tricks, then go back to your previous target:

#showtooltip Tricks of the Trade
/tar name
/cast Tricks of the Trade
/w name I've [Tricked] you!

Where name = the name of the rogue you want to trick. This macro shows the cooldown on Tricks, and sends a warning message to the target rogue to let him know he's been Tricked. The alert is helpful because (a) Tricks boosts threat so it will alert the target rogue to a possible threat increase (If you're the target, watch your threat), and (b) the alert will remind you to cast Tricks yourself.

In addition, you can run the "Trick or Treat" mod which will (a) wait to cast tricks until you attack, (b) alert the target, and © calculate how much bonus damage you gave to the other player and whisper it to them. I have this mod installed but so far have found all the whispers rather distracting and unhelpful, so I've turned it off for now.

On Zlinka, I have four Trick macros ready: one for each of three tanks, and one for a fellow rogue. This way I can bump up a struggling tank if necessary, or trick my fellow rogue if the tanks are holding aggro. I just change the target names at the beginning of each raid.


Gearing a rogue means balancing between AP, agility, crit, hit, expertise, armor penetration, and haste. All of these stats have their place. The decisions are dynamic.

Making gear choices

* For a fast and dirty way to make decisions between items (say, during a roll) I use Shadowpanther's PvE gear ranking. However, a generic item ranking list will only take you so far. For example, how valuable +hit is to you depends on how much +hit you already have.

* For a more personalized and accurate method of choosing gear, use a spreadsheet. I use the Optimal Mutilate Gear Spreadsheet. Non-mutilate rogues use the Roguecraft Spreadsheet.

However, remember that all spreadsheets assume a perfect world (as I like to think of it, they are written for spherical cows). They assume conditions are perfect, players are robots, and all fights are against Patchwerk (the top DPS fight in the game). Therefore, a spreadsheet's calculation of your DPS should be considered ideal and not real. Real DPS in real raids is never perfect. A spreadsheet is best used for comparisons: comparisons between two items, gems, food buffs, etc.

On that note, a word about trinkets. In spreadsheets and ranking lists, on-use trinkets are ranked as though the trinket is used the instant the cooldown is up and that you get the full benefit of it (i.e. the mob stays alive for the entire duration of the trinket's ability). In reality, I find that I rarely use trinkets as often as their abilities are available, and sometimes a mob dies before the trinket's ability is done. Therefore, I tend to value on-use trinkets lower than their official ranking. When choosing between two similarly-ranked trinkets I prefer the one that don't require me to click on it.

Hit and Expertise rating

In TBC, +hit was the most important stat for raiding rogues. Rogues worked hard to reach the hit cap without totally unbalancing themselves. One reason for this was that most raiding rogues were Combat-specced, and more than half of a combat rogue's DPS came from white damage, so reducing white-misses was one of the most effective ways (cheapest, from an item budget standpoint) to increase DPS. A rogue could reach the +hit cap (around 330) and never miss at all.

In Wrath, +hit is no longer the end-all, be-all of stats. For one, the top raiding spec is no longer Combat, but Assassination, and only about a quarter of an Assaassination rogue's damage comes from white damage. For another, the hit cap for white damage (722) is no longer reachable in Wrath.

Currently we have three hit caps to think about. These hit caps assume you have 5/5 precision and you're attacking a boss:

* Hit cap for special attacks: 99. Every rogue should strive to be over this one.
* Hit cap for Poisons: 315. Aim for this, but balance it against other upgrades. Reaching this cap is a "nice to have" but not a "must have." Look at your miss rate for poisons and use a spreadsheet.
* Hit cap for white damage: 722. Impossible.

Expertise is just as valuable as hit, if not more so. It eliminates dodges (and parries, but you shouldn't have these because you'll be attacking from behind). The expertise cap is also a lot easier to reach than the higher hit caps.

Expertise cap: 26 (214 Expertise rating)
(With 2/2 Weapon Expertise: 16 Expertise (132 Expertise rating), but this is a deep Combat talent)

So, one good strategy is to go after the yellow hit cap first (99, this is a must) then go after the expertise cap (214), then pursue the Poison hit cap (315) and exceed it if you can. But don't unbalance yourself: don't deny yourself big upgrades just to maintain your +hit from an inferior item.

Item enhancements: gems and enchants

Make sure to enhance every item you have. Put gems in all your sockets; enchant every piece of gear that can be enchanted. Pursue the rep enchants for head and shoulder items and don't forget to put a belt buckle on your belt for the free socket. I can make buckles; ask me for one.


Metagem: [item]Relentless Earthsiege Diamond[/item]

Mutilate, below yellow hit cap
Red sockets: Glinting or Pristine
Yellow: Rigid
Blue: Use just one [item]Nightmare Tear[/item] in all your gear to activate your metagem. In other blue sockets, use red gems.

Mutilate, above yellow but below poison hit cap
Red: AP or Agi gems (you may wish to use pure or mixed expertise gems here until you hit the expertise cap)
Yellow: Glinting/Wicked
Blue: Use just one [item]Nightmare Tear[/item] in all your gear to activate your metagem. In other blue sockets, use red gems.

Mutilate, above the poison but below the white hit cap
Red: AP or Agi gems (AP has a slight edge)
Yellow: Stark/Deadly/Wicked
Blue: Use just one [item]Nightmare Tear[/item] in all your gear to activate your metagem. In other blue sockets, use red gems.


Weapon: [item]Enchant Weapon - Berserking[/item] is the best, but very expensive. Reserve that for a weapon you'll have for a long time. For your interim weapons do something cheaper like +50 AP.
Helm: [item]Arcanum of Torment[/item]. Knights of the Ebon Blade revered.
Shoulders: [item]Greater Inscription of the Axe[/item] if exalted with Hodir. The exalted reward is only slightly better than the honored enchant: [item]Lesser Inscription of the Axe[/item]
Chest: [item]Enchant Chest - Powerful Stats[/item]. Very expensive enchant, use for a terminal upgrade. For interim chestpieces, use +8 stats.
Cloak: [item]Enchant Cloak - Major Agility[/item]
Bracers: [item]Enchant Bracers - Greater Assault[/item]
Gloves: [item]Enchant Gloves - Crusher[/item]
Legs: [item]Icescale Leg Armor[/item]
Boots: [item]Enchant Boots - Icewalker[/item]
Belt: [item]Eternal Belt Buckle[/item] with a gem in it

Check your professions to see what self-buffs you have available and apply them:
Leatherworkers only: Fur Lining - Attack Power
Inscriptionists only: Master's Inscription of the Axe
Tailors only: Swordguard Embroidery
Enchanters only: Enchant Ring - Assault
Blacksmiths only: Apply an additional socket to gloves and bracers


[item]Glyph of Mutilate[/item] -- cheaper Mutilate, a must-have
[item]Glyph of Hunger for Blood[/item] -- increases HfB's bonus damage by 3%, a must-have
[item]Glyph of Tricks of the Trade[/item] -- increases the duration of Tricks of the Trade.
[item]Glyph of Fan of Knives[/item]

There's also [item]Glyph of Slice and Dice[/item] -- +3 seconds to SnD. But honestly, I don't have trouble with SnD running out even though I don't have this glyph, because I'm spamming Envenom which renews it anyway. So this one isn't that useful.


Bring potions and food and consume them at every raid. Rebuff yourself with food and elixirs after every death. Stat food and potions confer a lot of DPS (see above).

Flask: [item]Flask of Endless Rage[/item]
- or -
Battle Elixir: [item]Elixir of Mighty Agility[/item], [item]Wrath Elixir[/item]

Food: This is a good place to make up for weaknesses in your gear or for missing raid buffs. There are many excellent foods out there that buff agility, attack power, hit, crit, expertise, or haste. Spreadsheet this to figure out which one. Personally, I use +80 AP food (poached musselback sculpin or fish feast).

[item]Potion of Speed[/item] -- I use one of these during each boss fight if it looks like I won't be needing a health potion.

Good starting set of gear for entry-level Wrath raiding

These are crafted, rep and heroic items. Get as many of these together as you can before raiding. Look at the Wrath crafting thread to see who can make these and work with the crafter to get them made. For BoE drops, check the Auction House. Once you start raiding, you can continue to pursue these items while you wait for random drops from your raid:

* Dagger, main hand: [item]Titansteel Shanker[/item] -- BS recipe, [item]Librarian's Paper Cutter[/item] -- HoL Heroic trash drop, [item]Lightblade Rivener[/item] -- Kirin Tor honored.
* Dagger, offhand: [item]Librarian's Paper Cutter[/item], [item]Lightblade Rivener[/item]
* Head: [item]Mask of the Watcher[/item] -- heroic Oculus
* Neck: [item]Titanium Impact Choker[/item] -- JC crafted
* Shoulders: [item]Trollwoven Spaulders[/item] -- Leatherworking crafted
* Waist: [item]Trollwoven Girdle[/item] -- Leatherworking crafted
* Wrists: [item]Dragonfriend bracers[/item] -- Exalted Wyrmrest, [item]Drake-Champion's Bracers[/item] BoE heroic Oculus drop
* Chest: [item]Custodian's Chestpiece[/item] - Heroic ANH or [item]Darkheart Chestguard[/item] -- KEB Exalted
* Legs: [item]Mind-Expanding Leggings[/item] -- Kirin Tor Revered, or [item]Leggings of Visceral Strikes[/item] -- LW recipe, or [item]Chain Gang Legguards[/item] -- BoE heroic Violet Hold trash drop
* Feet: [item]Boots of the Whirling Mist[/item] HoS heroic, [item]Slag Footguards[/item] HoL-H, the [item]Darkspeaker's Treads[/item] IC quest reward
* Hands: [item]Gilt-Edged Leather Gauntlets[/item] UP-H, [item]Gloves of Immortal Dusk[/item] LW recipe
* Finger: [item]Titanium Impact Band[/item] -- JC crafted, [item]Stained-Glass Shard Ring[/item] BoE AnH-H trash, [item]Ring of Scarlet Shadows[/item] JC recipe
* Trinket: [item]Meteorite Whetstone[/item] UP-H, [item]Sphere of Red Dragon's Blood[/item] Heroic Nexus, [item]Incisor Fragment[/item] DTK-H. Your first 25 Badges of Heroism should go towards [item]Mirror of Truth[/item], a superb trinket. [item]Darkmoon Card: Greatness[/item] is considered best-in-slot but is insanely expensive.
* Back: [item]Ice Striker's Cloak[/item] -- LW recipe

Raid buffs that increase rogue DPS

These are all the raid buffs that enhance rogue DPS, and which class/spec combinations provide them.

Agility and Strength:
* Horn of Winter (All DK)
* Strength of Earth Totem (all Shaman)

Attack Power:
* Battle Shout (All Warriors)
* Blessing of Might (All Paladins)
* Furious Howl (Marksmanship, Survival Hunter) -- occasional

Attack Power %
* Abomination's Might (Blood DK)
* Trueshot Aura (Marksmanship Hunter)
* Unleashed Rage (Enhancement Shaman)

Bloodlust / Heroism (2/2)
* Bloodlust / Heroism (All Shaman)

Damage %
* Ferocious Inspiration (Beastmaster Hunter)
* Sanctified Retribution (Retribution Paladin)

Haste %
* Improved Moonkin Form (Balance Druid)
* Swift Retribution (Retribution Paladin)

Melee Critical Strike Chance
* Leader of the Pack (Feral Druid)
* Rampage (Fury Warrior)

Melee Haste
* Improved Icy Talons (Frost DK)
* Windfury Totem (All Shaman) -- not that a Shaman cannot cast both Windfury (melee haste) and Wrath of Air (spell haste).

Stat Add
* Mark of the Wild (all Druids)

Stat Multiplier
* Blessing of Kings (If there's just one paladin, choose Might. If there is another, get Kings too)

Debuffs on target that increase rogue DPS

Armor (major)
* Acid Spit (Beastmaster Hunter)
* Expose Armor (Rogue) -- this is rarely used because it takes precedence over the warrior's Sunder Armor, which is a high-threat tank move. However, with a non-warrior tank you can use Expose Armor to increase everyone's damage.
* Sunder Armor (Warriors)

Armor (minor)
* Curse of Recklessness (All Warlocks)
* Faerie Fire (All Druids)
* Sting (Marksmanship and Survival Hunters)

Critical Strike Chance Taken:
* Heart of the Crusader (Retribution Paladin)
* Master Poisoner (Assassination Rogue)
* Totem of Wrath (Elemental Shaman)

Buff info is from MMO-Champion RaidComp, which lets you compose a raid to see what buffs the raid will have, and who provides which buffs.

Further reading

An extremely helpful pocket guide to playing a rogue in Wrath.
This is a very nice guide, Zlinka.

I just wanted to add that from here on out, our progress in Naxx 25 is going to be directly tied to our DPS. Soon, perhaps, this evening, we will try Patchwerk, which is a basic check for the raid on tanking, healing, and especially DPS. Whatever you can do to squeeze out that last bit of DPS will help us progress further into Naxx.

If you die, we will rez you Tongue
Very nice guide Zlinka. A lot of this can be translated to other classes as well.
Update: 5/23/09

* Integrated the 3.1 changes into the main text
* Added more detail on getting HfB up after the 3.1 patch
* Added more detail on using Envenom


For debuffs that increase rogue DPS, arms warrior apply a 4% increased physical damage taken debuff. It may be minor, but it's pretty much up all the time.. so long as the target is not immune to bleeds.


Thank you Z!
Update: 1/14/10. These changes have also been integrated into the main text.

* The new Mutilate spec

The new top DPS Mutilate spec is 51/18/2 instead of the older 51/13/7.

This change moves talent points from energy regen and Mutilate damage enhancements to crit and melee haste enhancements.

* The new ruptureless cycle

With recent changes, Mutilate rogues have dropped Rupture from their rotations.

Everything else remains the same: keep HfB up using someone else's bleed debuff (if nobody applies one you'll need to apply rupture every 60 seconds just to trigger HfB, then you can let Rupture drop). Keep SnD up at all times (Envenom renews it automatically). The main attack and combo-point builder is Mutilate. The main finisher is the 4-point Envenom. Envenom as much as you can -- go nuts.

Replace your Rupture glyph with either Tricks of the Trade or Fan of Knives.

This also means that the Tier 9 2-piece set bonus (rupture enhancement) is no longer useful, so break your 2-piece without fear.

* Gems

The best gems are now Attack Power and Haste. Use gems to get to the Expertise cap (214 expertise rating/26 expertise/6.5% boss dodge chance) and Hit cap (315 hit rating). The other rogue stats (Agility, crit etc.) are still very good. Armor Penetration is the weakest stat.

* Best Weapons: Speed and Damage

Put the highest DPS dagger in your main hand, regardless of speed. If your two daggers are the same DPS, put the faster one in your main hand. The faster weapon gives you extra poison procs, which just slightly outweigh the loss in Mutilate damage.

Put Deadly Poison on the faster weapon (even if it's the main hand), and Instant Poison on the slower one. If both weapons are the same speed, put Deadly Poison on the main hand.