The last time I played as a subtlety rogue was while I was leveling in Burning Crusade. Needless to say, the entire game has changed since then. Subtlety gets a bad rap because its hard to use in raids. However, its extremely efficient when leveling.
Our guild needs a dwarf rogue for the Stay Classy guild achievement. Since I know that class so well, it makes sense for me to be the one that will powerlevel one. Last week I started a rogue and set off into Azeroth.
I did outfit him in four pieces of heirloom gear. That upped my strength a bit, but the general playstyle would be the same even if you had no heirloom items.
As a subtlety rogue, you start with Shadowstep from level 1. You also have Master of Subtlety. Since those abilities both boost the damage of your Ambush, you’ll want to start using Ambush as your opener as soon as you get it (level 8).
Very quickly, you learn the way of the subtlety rogue. You stealth to within 25 yards of your target. Shadowstep to get behind him, then Ambush. That first attack should take a level-appropriate mob down to less than half of its health. It also gives you two combo points. You can probably finish it off with a 2-CP Eviscerate. Almost every non-elite, non-named mob for the first 60 levels can be two-shot.
Then re-stealth and repeat.
The great thing about Subtlety is the way it makes you feel like a real assassin. You stealth past everything that you want to avoid, and find your target. You then two-shot it with Shadowstep-Ambush-Eviscerate, then re-stealth and walk away. Especially fun are the quests that ask you to kill a named opponent. Sub rogues are very efficient at this, avoiding all of the trash and guards along the way.
Because most of your damage while solo leveling comes from Ambush, your talent points are best spent to maximize that attack. Improved Ambush, Opportunity, Initiative, and Find Weakness are the talents you want to work toward as you accumulate talent points.
The process gets even faster once you get the Premeditation talent. With that, you can alternate openers. One mob gets the Shadowstep-Ambush opener. When it dies and you re-stealth, Shadowstep will be on cooldown. So you Premeditation-Ambush the next one, setting you up for a 4-CP Eviscerate which will probably do the trick. Then restealth and repeat the Shadowstep-Ambush opener again.
I didn’t bother to get such iconic subtlety talents as Honor Among Thieves or Hemorrhage. I’m soloing, not instancing, so HaT is not very useful and very few things live long enough for Hemo to be worthwhile.
The down side to a sub rogue is that if something survives your initial Ambush and Eviscerate, then it takes forever to kill it. Without HaT and without a group the CP generation is slow, and you’ll be energy-starved most of the time so you sit there watching your autoattacks while you wait for energy regeneration. Also, without HaT or Energetic Recovery, my performance in an instance would be pretty poor, if I was running instances.
So far I’ve taken the rogue to level 59. I’ll admit that this gets a little repetitive. I have had no trouble killing any target I choose within a few seconds through the Shadowstep, Premeditation, Ambush system. Its certainly efficient, if a little dull.
If you want to feel like a real assassin, give subtlety leveling a try.