Adapting to a rogue playstyle

If you’ve played a certain class for a long time, you really get to know the playstyle that works for that class.  It becomes ingrained in your muscle memory.

Then you pick up a new class.  An inevitable problem is when you play the new class using the methods that worked for your previous class.  When I first started playing a caster, for example, I repeatedly found myself standing in melee range because it was a habit from all my years as a rogue.  That was eventually corrected.

If you have picked up playing a rogue after playing something else for a long time, then you have more changes to adapt to than just being in melee range or not.  The rogue has a completely unique playstyle and it takes a whole different mindset.

Big Bear Butt is playing his rogue and complained that it was hard to play solo.  One quote from BBB,

the longer I play my Rogue and have the opportunity to compare playstyles with the Paladin, Druid and Warrior, the more the Rogue feels like it got a rock.

In his post, one of BBB’s biggest complaints is about the lack of AoE spam ability, and the difficulty in taking on groups of mobs because rogues take too much damage. He is specifically referring to his attempts to solo old content, but the sentiment carries over to a general complaint about rogues.

It sounds to me like he’s playing his rogue too much like he played his druid.


He’s not the first person to complain about this.  I’ve had people in my guild tell me that they can’t play a rogue, that they die too much, etc…

The rogue is a melee dps class.  That lumps them in with warriors, death knights, paladins, and druids.  All five melee dps classes have to get in close and deal damage, and so they will take damage in return.  That is where the similarities end, though.

Of the five melee dps classes, three of them (warriors, DKs and paladins) wear plate.  That gives them a great deal of survivability when dealing with large numbers of mobs.  Druids in cat form can take rogue-like damage, but they can always switch into bear form or even throw a self-heal on themselves in order to survive.  Druids and Paladins can heal themselves during combat.  So can Blood spec death knights, for that matter.

The plate armor, bear form, and self healing of druids and paladins completely dictate their playstyle.  As I was leveling my paladin, I remember running into a group of 6-8 mobs and just tearing them all up and finishing with 95% health left.

If you try and do that on a rogue you will die, and then die some more.

Rogues require a completely different approach to melee dps.  If you try and play a rogue like you played a druid or paladin you won’t like it.

Rogues pick their battles.

As a stealth class, we don’t fight mobs that we don’t want to fight.  We can use stealth, Vanish, and Distract to get around most obstacles and get to where we are going.

Nissan Rogue

I have gone solo through UBRS and LBRS to farm lockboxes.  I’ve gone into Molten Core solo to kill trash for a drop.  If I tried to take on all the packs of mobs, I might have died, even though they are twenty levels below me.

But I don’t fight them.  I stealth around them.  I use Distract to get through tight spots.  I save my Vanish to restealth if something spots me, and my Cloak of Shadows to remove any DoTs that might keep me from restealthing.

I remember doing quests while leveling that involved going into a cave to kill a named monster.  I’d see a warrior chewing his way through the mobs 2 or 3 at a time to make his way to the back of the cave complex.  Me?  I’d hit stealth and walk right past him.  I’d get to the back of the cave, pop out of stealth long enough to kill my target, then restealth and leave.

Rogues control their fights

Is there a group of three mobs all togteher?  A paladin would run in and grab all three and let Ret Aura do the dirty work.  A death knight can probably /afk while killing a group of “only” three.  Druids would swipe them all down while their self-HoT keeps their health up.  Warriors might whirlwind the whole group to bits.

A rogue, properly played, might stealth in, sap the first one, Cheap Shot the second, and then burn down the third.  Once the Cheap Shot wears off, if our health is good we can start attacking the second one, using Evasion to minimize damage.  Or we can Vanish, reapply sap to the first mob, and re-open with a stun on the second.

Rogue movie

Playing a rogue is not about taking on waves of mobs.  Its about picking them off one at a time, even in a group.  This is the single hardest part to learn about the rogue playstyle, especially if you’re playing the class after being another melee class.

Some of my greatest memories on my rogue are when I found creative ways to use sap, stun, Evasion, and Vanish to down groups of mobs that I had no business killing.  Its not about pure survivability.  Its about creativity and care, which is exactly how an assassin should be played.

Rogues are not for the impatient

That fight sequence I just described?  Yes, the rogue will take longer to kill those mobs than the other melee classes.  And we might have to bandage or eat afterward.

This is the summation.  For a rogue to take on group pulls or solo bosses takes planning and care.  It takes guile.  It takes cunning and creativity.  We can’t steamroll things, even if they are well below our level.

Yes, our fights can take longer.  When a paladin fights six mobs at once, they all die pretty much simultaneously in a nice semicircle.  Not so for rogues.

This Isn't Good

If you have played a druid or a DK or a paladin, then it might be hard to adapt to the rogue style. It might seem slow or underpowered.  Its not.  Its just different.

Why play a rogue, then?

I remember someone telling me that he would rather play his Death Knight because it was easier to kill lots of mobs really quickly.  He also complained that rogues had to bandage a lot.

I tried playing a Death Knight.  Yes, its true that I could wade into an entire camp of opponents and leave nothing but destruction in my wake.  It was fun at first, being an invincible God of Death.

But then it became boring.

Let me restate that.  It was BOOOOOOOORRRRRRRIIIIIINNNNNNNNNGGGGGGG.  Leveling the Death Knight was without a doubt the most dull thing I have ever tried to do in WoW.  Leveling my paladin was a close second.

That’s not a knock on those classes.  Its that I was used to the rogue playstyle.  I liked having to use my smarts to make careful pulls.  I liked having to use all of my sneaky abilities to control my opponents and keep from dying.  I was used to the slower pace of the game.

I think that the changes in WoW over time have made us impatient.  When we log into WoW, we want to hurry up and get to where we are going.  Leveling is about getting to 80 as fast as possible.  We use add-ons to help us finish quests without reading the quest text.  Dungeons are about blitzing to the end boss at breakneck speed.  We are in a huge hurry to get places.  In that mindset, the idea of moving at 70% speed while in stealth is horrifying.

BBB sums it up well, saying

Laziness. It’s my anti-Rogue.

I’m not saying that BBB is lazy (those are his words).  But its true that the rogue solo playstyle takes more attention and thought to do it right.  Its certainly no easy-mode or faceroll.  When you’re leveling your third or fourth alt, maybe that’s not what you’re looking for.  I can understand that.

But if you’re going to play a rogue, try not to play it like a paladin or a druid or a death knight.  Play it like it was meant to be played.  You might have fun!


14 Responses to “Adapting to a rogue playstyle”

  1. 1 Stonedrake
    July 30, 2010 at 9:26 am

    I talked about the rogue playstyle over on BBB’s blog, but I want to address something you mentioned, too, particularly with regards to rogues being slow.

    Yes, Rogues are slow. Yeah, we kill things one at a time. But… No, rogues are NOT slow. We may kill things one at a time, but we’re very active whilst we’re doing it. It’s a dance. It’s active. It’s never a game of ‘wait for the swing timer’.

    I remember a particular night, ages past, when my bear friend needed help taking down Blazerunner. She just couldn’t do it solo. I told her to come find me in Un’goro and we’d handle her business. I was already there killing the tar elementals (and to this day I can’t remember why). She stopped and watched for a few moments and then said, “How did you do that? why didn’t you drink a potion? You didn’t use bandages! you were about to die! AND HOW DID YOU KILL THEM SO FAST?” I didn’t have any potions, I had no first aid skill at all and did it because it’s the only way I knew how to play a combat rogue: burn hard and fast, use those cooldowns and surf the HP bar down to the last shreds of health. If I’d slowed down, I’d have had to do a corpse run.

    It only gets better as we go up in levels. By the time you’re level 80, and you’re facing all a bunch of mobs, you’re Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. You look at the mobs, and you know the sequence of events that is going to unfold. You define it. You control it.

    And then you loot it and move to the next set of targets.

  2. 3 Celendus
    July 30, 2010 at 9:51 am

    I found a similar sense of rewarding gameplay leveling my hunter as survival.
    My pet simply couldn’t survive tanking more than one mob for long, and if I layed into a mob I’d rip it off my pet, guaranteed.
    But, between trapping, wyvern shot, pet offtanking, kiting my current kill target, scatter shot and counterattack I was able to take on groups of 4+ mobs at once, and it felt much as you describe – entirely in the hands of my ability to plan and execute the pull whether I’d come out alive or not.

    If you haven’t already leveled a hunter and plan to do so, give survival a shot.

  3. 4 Zeenaa
    July 30, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Great write up you guys. Ive played my Rogue since before BC and you just summarized why I can’t level any other class beyond lvl 30.. with the exception of my DK which I stopped playing after the epic battle and Stormwind run. Im directing my guild mates to this article so they can understand why I only have 1 level 80… “Zeenaa”

    Whats also funny to see is. I have guild mates with many lvl 80 alts but neither of them have a lvl 80 rogue in the mix…They probably think its boring or difficult class to play. Ive never regret leveling a rogue. I have time to take on quests and enjoy them, I have some of the best gear and Im rich cause I dont have to fund 8 alts. =P

  4. 5 Melpo
    July 30, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I agree that rogues are not slower, but for a different reason.

    My main is a rogue, but I also finally have a paladin at max level. I have done the same thing that BBB is (farming the darkmantle set to have something cool to hang around town in) for my rogue. To that end, I took my mostly welfare T9 geared but through UBRS over and over to farm the chest piece. I could get to General Drakkisath in about 15 minutes. I would stealth past most of the mobs, killing only the ones in the first rooms to open the door, the fire elemental boss to open another door, Rend to open another door, and the packs in Drak’s room so they didn’t swarm when I engaged.

    On a whim, I went on my Prot paladin. Took me about 30 minutes to get to Drak, killing everything on the way (though I did avoid a good number of mobs since I was 20 levels higher than they were and they ignored me). I’m sure it would have been faster if I was retribution, but eh, he’s my tank.

    And just like those quests when you were leveling when you stealthed to the back of the cave, I tend to get to my goal faster. Of course once I get there, I couldn’t survive Drakisath’s Conflagration attack usually on my rogue, but the paladin lasted through 3 of them 🙂

  5. 6 MegaMick
    July 30, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Great read, and it pretty much sums up why I got bored everytime I tried to level another dps alt. Since I first went for a Rogue, and was used to just play with him for a while. All the other classes stayed 20ish or 30ish or so.

    The only two other alts that I didn’t get bored leveling had to be healer and tank respectively. I leveled my Priest as Holy and my Warrior as Prot! to 80. Well, that was also because I genuinely wanted to learn how to heal and tank properly before reaching the level caps… Not after reaching them. But I had fun doing so, and I did try the faceroll specs first.

  6. 7 Stanko
    July 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    “Druids in cat form can take rogue-like damage, but they can always switch into bear form or even throw a self-heal on themselves in order to survive.”

    Switching to bear or throwing on a self-heal is sometimes necessary when things go badly, but I’ve always considered it a failure as a cat. Keep in mind that rogues have cloak and vanish while a cat’s survival options are basically to sprint away, heal or go bear and hope you can soak up the damage. Leveling as a cat is very similar to leveling a rogue. It pays to study the encounter, stealth to the objective and plan your kills rather than just wading in to a group. Sure, you can play a druid like it’s a warrior but why bother when you can play like a rogue.

  7. 8 Elegantdeath
    August 2, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    I started playing WoW just as BC was released. Rogue was my first class and I have always loved it. As you have pointed out, taking on mobs with a rogue requires you to slow down and strategize a bit. On the contrary, my other favorite class/spec is prot pally (completely the opposite… in terms of questing/farming). I’ll see a group of 8-10 same-level mobs (e.g. doing Shadow Vault dailies), round them up and grind them down. Although opposite, I guess that’s what keeps the game interesting/challenging for me.

  8. 9 Rochmoninoff
    August 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I’m another rogue main with no other max level alts.
    I took a detour into shamanism in TBC because I was so frustrated by fear-chaining in BGs.
    But when I went back to my rogue and learned Cloak of Shadows suddenly it was great to be a rogue again.

    I keep looking at that shaman, stuck at level 70 (still! and Cata is almost out) thinking: I should level that guy. And I just can’t bring myself to do it.
    I’ve got a DK who completed the DK-only quest chains and thats it. I’ve never even logged into that guy since.

    I’ve struggled to find words explaining why. And now that I’ve read your excellent post I think you’ve nailed it: those other classes playstyle is too different.
    I get frustrated by the inability to pick my fights and control the targets.

    BTW, the new Cata abilities Combat Readiness & Recuperate may break this playstyle paradigm.
    There has been many a time where I’ve wished I could just wade in and kill a gazzillion mobs at once like a Ret Pally or Blood DK.
    But once we can won’t this mean an end to the old playstyle?
    Just like mass-AoE ending CC as a strat, you can still use CC by why bother when the whole party can AoE and end the fight in seconds?

    • August 12, 2010 at 8:35 am

      I agree. Combat spec will have the short cooldown Blade Flurry, Recuperate, and the armor-boosting talents in that tree. I expect that Combat spec will be a lot like a fury warrior plays now.

  9. 11 Kelekona
    August 11, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Very well put. My main originally was a paladin but I got tired of the same old routine of killing everything along the path to my quest goals. I tried a rogue second and that became my main for the exact reason of this…the play style of a rogue.

    IMO, that’s also what makes rogues faster to level. I’ve leveled every class but a warrior to 80 and the rogue was the easiest and fastest. And it was my first 80. The other classes benefited from already knowing which quests were quickest and which ones to skip, yet I still got to 80 faster on my rogue. Stealthing past mobs, being able to pick my fights, etc. etc….it’s what I love about playing a rogue.

    I went back to my paladin after and I have to say, playing a rogue benefited my ability to tank on my pally. I pulled a lot smarter than most tanks and was more mob aware. My 3rd toon I leveled was a hunter and it was the same. Playing a rogue kept me in the mindset of being aware of how much to pull and how to pull.

    And as for playing solo…once you hit 80, as combat, you have so many fun tools to pull big mobs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with friends and aggro’d huge mobs that almost anybody would think was a suicide pull, pop everything (killing spree, blade flurry, adrenaline rush, fan of knives) and obliterate everybody in seconds. I could literally see their jaws drop on their toons and they’d be like, what happened? Everything’s already dead! O.o And of course should you fail to have done that…vanish!

  10. 13 Windfall
    September 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Indeed, rogues are superb. Anyone can play paladin, but for rogue you need the brains. I’m an eternal rogue. Though i’m trying dk now.

    Some time ago i tried the paladin and let me say, he is virtually invincible, besides i happen to find the PvE fights very boring. You know standing right in front of the guy and flashing all kind of things with heroic names (not for me), i mean, where are skill and tactics. Though we rogues aren’t as hard as plate, we are balanced with some other unique skills Vanish, Shadowstep, Evasion etc…

    Now i own a dk. Let me say, i’m inevitably fascinated with it’s brutal force and skills, BUT the thing i want to say is due to the time of my life i’ve spend playing as rogue i’ve gotten the kind of skill a melee class player generally lacks. (i’m not messing with Palas nor Dks, just with bad players). So having played rogue makes me a fine DK (i also have a former rogue, now paladin acquaintance, he’s an obliterator machine lol).

  11. October 1, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Great write up. I am a primary rogue player, but I have a DK, Pally(ret) and Shaman(enh) so you can tell I love to melee. I started vanilla with my rogue and got my pally and shaman to 50 before BC(with my rogue to 60). I never raided with my other toons until Naxx(northrend) and that was only when I was max geared on my rogue.

    I’ll just re-state the main point of yours that is the reason I still play my rogue 75%+ of the time, the other classes feel so boring and monotonous compared to my rogue.

    Once again, excellent write up. Thanks.

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