Rogue Basics: Why slow/fast?

There are a lot of new rogues out there.  Rogue seems to be a pretty popular class for Worgen.

I’ve seen a number of rogues lately who have just equipped the highest iLevel weapons they get, regardless of speed.  Others don’t even realize that weapon speed makes a difference.  Many new rogues are told flatly “use a slow weapon main hand and a fast weapon off-hand” but not given a reason why.

Why a slow weapon in the main hand?

Look at abilities such as Sinister Strike, Mutilate, and Backstab.

For all of these abilities, the damage of the ability is based on the weapon damage.

Lets compare two weapons… the heroic Steelbender’s Masterpiece and the heroic Lightning Whelk Axe. Note that both weapons are the same iLevel. They both do the same dps (409.6). However, the axe has a higher weapon damage (745-1385) than the dagger (589-885). Slow weapons have to do more damage for each hit because they don’t hit as often. Fast weapons can do less damage per hit because they hit more frequently.

Special abilities use main hand weapon damage as the base of their calculations.  These will hit harder if using a slow weapon. Since Sinister Strike for combat rogues, Backstab for subtlety rogues, and Mutilate for assassination rogues all make use of the main hand weapon, then you want a slow main hand to maximize the damage of those abilities.

P.S. – I am ignoring the topic of speed normalization… it doesn’t impact the general gist of the point I am making

Why a fast weapon in the off hand?

The main reason for this is poison stacking. The faster the off hand weapon, the faster it will get you to a 5-stack of Deadly Poison.

Look at the full tooltip for Deadly Poison. Once it gets to a 5-stack, every time you apply it, it procs your main hand poison instead. That means you are doubling up on your Instant Poison procs… once every time it procs from your main hand, and again every time your DP procs from the off-hand. For a Mutilate rogue, this usually makes Instant Poison our #1 source of damage.

Combat rogues have yet another reason to use a fast off-hand. They have a talent called Combat Potency. This gives you energy from your off-hand attacks. More energy means more attacks means more damage. So faster off-hand means more Combat Potency procs.

This makes a huge difference. The slow/fast combination has a major impact on your dps. In one run I was in, there another rogue and he was using a fast main hand dagger.  When I suggested that he switch to a slow main hand, even though it was a lower iLvL weapon, his dps went up dramatically just from that one alteration.

Its so important that there are hardly any combat rogues dual-wielding swords any more. Even combat rogues are trying to use a 1.4 speed dagger in their off-hand.

The more you know!


20 Responses to “Rogue Basics: Why slow/fast?”

  1. January 25, 2011 at 8:59 am

    “Its so important that there are hardly any combat rogues dual-wielding swords any more. Even combat rogues are trying to use a 1.4 speed dagger in their off-hand.”

    Which is because there are no fast swords nowadays. Oh wait, I’ve just checked on wowhead and there are, two of them. Both with spellpower and int. Axes, maces, fists? None. I don’t want a dagger, I was happy with my swords and axes.

    This really doesn’t make me want to play my rogue. So there he is, sitting in Stormwind bored, disenchanting some stuff from time to time.

    • January 25, 2011 at 10:20 am

      Then again, with the size of the swords, maces, and axes that we are given in WoW, trying to wield two of those monsters is probably a bit unwieldy.

      Its an interesting point – if you’re focused purely on performance and damage output then you use whatever weapon is best, and who cares what it looks like. If you’re attached to a certain weapon type (like “anything but daggers”), then you can use that and sacrifice some performance.

      If you require both, then you’re limited by what Blizzard designers have put in the game. I wonder if they think about the subcategory of rogues that don’t like daggers.

      I also wonder if they think about mages who don’t like blue robes, or priests that insist on wearing pants instead of a skirt/kilt/dress. Its not like this stuff is customizable, so we’re stuck with whatever they give us. There is inherently a limit on the variety of items in the game, so they can’t make everyone happy.

      Should they make the weapons “moddable”? Let you “reforge” a weapon you have into your choice of a sword, fist, dagger, axe or mace – all with the same dps, iLvL and stats? Or is that too mechanics-oriented and far-removed from the immersion of the game?

      • January 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

        It seemed in Wrath that they wanted to make rogues use more weapons than just daggers – we had maces, swords and fists from TBC (don’t ask me about vanilla WoW), we’ve got ability to use axes at some point as well. And then with Cataclysm they go all back to “you’re a rogue, so you *will* use a dagger, because we don’t give you anything else to use”.

        It’s really strange and makes me wonder what’s the real reason behind it. Why let me use axes or swords at all if there aren’t any in the game I can use?

        The pvp swords (not that I pvp but it’s easiest to compare with previous tier’s gear on them) were also changed in a way that Slicer (the old slow sword) is now the slow warrior weapon with str on it, and the Quickblade is now the slow rogue weapon with agility on it. Quickblade indeed, with 2.60 speed. Why not add a fast agility sword? They already have thousands of items in this game, it’s not like they’re limited by something.

        Moddable weapons – nah, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Also, this is definitely harder than simply making one pvp sword and a few dungeon drops.

    • 4 Moghedean
      October 4, 2011 at 12:53 am

      I use the dagger offhand but I have to say that I still prefer the sword, mace, fist off-hand weapons as well. So Blizzard, please give me a fast sword again! 😀

    • 5 guy
      December 19, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Venerable Dal’rend’s Sacred Charge? Fast Sword pretty good

  2. January 25, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    It’s a bit tough to ask them to itemize fast swords when only one spec of one class in the entire game would use them. Yes, I’m aware they still make intellect plate :>

    I don’t really understand people who care about weapon types. I would guess that most people just use whatever is best, but I would be very interested to see some actual data on that.

    • January 27, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Then why bother with the intellect plate? Make a talent in holy spec that turns strength into intellect, however stupid it might sound. 🙂

      Remember that in patch 3.2 they made so that we can use axes – so that it’s not only a weapon for the enhancement shamans. They’ve added polearms to druids earlier, so it’s not only a hunter’s stat stick. And now?

      Agility axes and maces are for the enhancement shamans only because they don’t care about slow offhands, swords with agility on it go for combat rogues for mainhands only. The fast agility daggers also go to rogues exclusively. So what’s wrong with a fast agility sword?

      There’s also a more theorycrafting way to approach this if you deem my “daggers suck” approach wrong, though. Weapon types are nice because all random races have all random weapon spec racials. So my dwarf’s mace spec is already half wasted because of the dagger in the offhand. Should I reroll a gnome then, so that I get free expertise for both offhand and mainhand (sword/dagger spec)?

      • January 27, 2011 at 6:02 pm

        I wouldn’t be surprised if they do merge int plate one way or another. Especially now that the secondary stats are more or less interchangeable. I imagine it’s only a matter of time!

        “The fast agility daggers also go to rogues exclusively.”

        Well, not rogues exclusively. Hunters can use fast agility daggers as well as agility axes.

        I’m not suggesting that there’s anything *more* wrong about a fast agility sword, but they’re trending towards less item types, not more.

        I agree that the racial thing is annoying, especially because suddenly your main hand and offhand now have differing expertise caps which makes reforging a pain. However probably the right way to solve this is change the racials themselves, either have them apply to both hands even when only one of the appropriate weapon is wielded, or scrap them entirely for something else.

      • January 28, 2011 at 3:15 am

        Well, hunters don’t count, because a) every weapon is a hunter weapon anyway ;], and b) most of them uses polearms. They don’t require the fast daggers in the sense that rogues do – it’s nothing more than a stat stick to them, just like guns for my warrior.

        Even though, they still make guns with strength on it – yet another example of stuff that goes for one class only, some even have specifically tank stats.

        The racials, they were changed already! I definitely don’t remember gnomes having a sword/dagger spec. I wouldn’t scrap them though, because I think it’s a nice touch – you use appropriate weapons and have that bit easier gearing because of it – or you can ignore that and get the 3 expertise more from somewhere.

        It’s just stupid that you have to ignore that anyway, because you can’t possibly get a proper offhand. I’d rather see that fixed by adding 5 more items than changing the racials – it seems much much simpler to me.

  3. 10 ejay
    February 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Quick question – at what point is it ok to use a slow offhand dagger? I just hit 60 on a rogue and got 2 of the grand marshal daggers – 2.0 speed. I have quicker off-handed daggers but they’re approx 15 dps less. I’m assuming in this case I’m better off with the 60dps dagger. What is an appropriate dps cut off to sacrifice speed in the off-hand spot? thanks

  4. June 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I re-rolled a rogue when Cata came out. Combat spec. In the lower levels I had great dps in dungeons. I’m now lvl 72 and I suck. I followed the rule of slow MH weapon, fast OH weapon, but my damage still sucks. I joined PVERogues forum and they tell me that my 1.90 speed axe belongs in my OH (second slot when looking at the armory??), which makes me think that the lower the number, the faster the weapon. It’s really confusing.

    • June 14, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      Yes, the speed of a weapon is the delay (in seconds) between swings. The bigger the delay, the slower the weapon.

      When people talk about a slow rogue weapon, they mean something 2.5 or 2.6 (the higher the better). Acceptable combat offhands are 1.3-1.4 speed.

  5. 13 Boe
    October 6, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I know this is an old thread, but I just want to point out that [Backstab] as a subtley rogue requires a dagger in the main hand. And since backstab is my main source of damage in sub is Backstab. So the concept of a slow weapon (or any weapon other than a dagger) in your main hand for subtley rogues is going to hurt you more than help.

  6. 15 James
    October 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Say i have 2 x Heroic Gatecrashers (391 ilvl)(2.6ws) and i currently use a Heroic GC as my mainhand and a scaleslicer (359)(1.4ws) as my offhand do you think the agility / 100+ weapon dmg gain of 2x gatecrashers would override the slow/fast combo out of pure power?

  7. 16 Hubie
    March 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Hey there…

    Slow Mainhand means your abilities (which are based on weapon damage) deal more damage. Fast offhands are good for spraying your deadly poinson on your targets and triggering skills.

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