Of course I have my best gear all equipped when I walk into a raid. These are the pieces that give me the best damage numbers according to my tests on practice dummies and playing with the EJ spreadsheets.
But there is a difference between fighting a boss where you need sustained dps over a 3-8 minute span, versus dps on a trash pull with 3-10 mobs that will all die within 30-40 seconds.
Rogue damage tends to build up slowly. Our first combo points go toward starting SnD… then our next combo points go to Rupture… then finally we can start using combo points for hard-hitting finishers like Eviscerate or Envenom. That approach simply isn’t effective on trash.
On the trash pulls you want fast damage in bursts. There are a couple of ways to do that – maximizing damage across multiple targets, or doing burst dps on one target. Burst dps is about your special attacks. That’s different than dps on a boss, which is usually dominated by white damage.
First – damaging multiple targets… rogues have a couple of tools for damaging multiple targets. All level 80 rogues have Fan of Knives. Combat rogues have Blade Flurry (and Killing Spree, to some extent). Lets see how we can take maximum advantage of those abilities. (note: Subtlety rogues have Shadow Dance which allows for a bunch of Ambushes for good burst, but you would have to be behind the mobs which is hard on a lot of group trash pulls)
Fan of Knives
The tooltip for this reads “Instantly throw both weapons at all targets within 8 yards, causing 150% weapon damage with daggers, and 100% weapon damage with all other weapons.” Note that this is based on the weapon damage, regardless of speed. Using slower weapons does not in any way slow down your FoK attacks. They are limited only by your energy pool. Thus, the way to make your FoK hit harder is by having weapons with higher damage values. That generally means slower weapons.
So while the prevailing wisdom is that faster weapons are better for raiding for poison procs, you can switch to slower, harder hitting weapons for your Fan of Knives. Don’t forget to keep poison on that weapon, also. And make sure to use Tricks of the Trade to avoid pulling aggro on all the mobs you hit.
In addition, it is best for Assassination rogues if you are in stealth before using your FoK. See my previous post on that. Having points in Master of Subtlety makes starting in stealth even more important.
Remember that daggers do 150% weapon damage, while all other weapons do 100% damage. A dagger with a top end damage of 300 will do more from FoK than a sword with a top end damage of 400.
The Recount screenshot at the top of this post is from a trash pull where I used FoK. I have Webbed Death and Twilight Mist equipped for those fights. If I start the fight in stealth, I can keep up with the mages on locks on AoE damage. And since my threat goes to the tank with TotT, I never pull aggro the way that they do.
For Combat rogues, there is a clear way to maximize your dps on trash groups. It is all about stacking cooldowns. Blade Flurry says that it “Increases your attack speed by 20%. In addition, attacks strike an additional nearby opponent. Lasts 15 sec.” Importantly, this stacks with SnD.
So you can make an opening attack to get a combo point, then start up SnD. At that point hit your Blade Flurry. For the next 15 seconds, every attack you make will hit two mobs instead of one. So you have to make those attacks count, and try to make as many big attacks within those 15 seconds as possible.
There are two things that limit the number of specials we can throw around. One is combo points, and the other is energy. You’ll get combo points from your special attack. For energy, you’ll want to hit your Adrenaline Rush, providing you with energy to hit all those special attacks while BF is running. The SnD+AR+BF combo is awesome. You can add Killing Spree in there too for more fun.
This Combat talent has the same logic as Fan of Knives. The tooltip says, “Step through the shadows from enemy to enemy within 10 yards, attacking an enemy every .5 secs with both weapons until 5 assaults are made. Can hit the same target multiple times. Cannot hit invisible or stealthed targets.” Note that you are going to hit targets every 0.5 seconds no matter what your weapon speed is. That means that you will do best with slower, harder hitting weapons.
In addition, you can proc your extra attacks on Sword Specialization while hitting with Killing Spree. So slow swords are preferable here.
We know that fast weapons are preferable for boss fights. They proc poisons more, and give more energy through Combat Potency or Focused Attacks. However, your specials (Mutilate, FoK, SS) will hit harder with slow weapons. For sustained dps, the poison procs on fast weapons outperform the harder hits with slower weapons. On trash fights, especially when using FoK or BF, you can do well with slower weapons. You can manage this with a weapon-swapping macro (a topic for another post). Note that swapping weapons invokes the GCD, so you want to do that before combat, not during.