Playing a Rogue in Mists of Pandaria

Now that the expansion release is looming before us, we can expect that the way the class is playing currently in beta will be very close to the way it plays when MoP goes live.  That means its a good time to look at what has changed. For the most part, the rogue will play as it has played in the past.  The main combo-building attacks and finishers are mostly unchanged.

Changes to Talents and Abilities

The largest change is the new talent system.  We still have our assassination, combat, and subtlety specs as always, but the choice of spec impacts the baseline abilities, not the talent tree.  In the shared talent trees, the choices are aimed at utility rather than damage increases.  As a result, there will be very few “mandatory” talents and there should not be a cookie-cutter build that everyone uses.  I anticipate that there will be a number of talent choices that will be changed from one raid boss to the next depending on the specific needs of the fight. All rogues will have the same talent trees to select from.

The things that make each spec unique are no longer from talents (like Mutilate and Blade Flurry were talents previously).  These abilities have been rolled into the base abilities for each spec. Here are the base abilities which are unique for each spec (these are not all the rogue abilities – just the ones that distinguish the specs from each other):

Assassination Combat Hemorrhage
Assassin’s Resolve (passive) Ambidexterity (passive) Hemorrhage
Improved Poisons (passive) Blade Flurry Master of Subtlety (passive)
Mutilate Vitality (passive) Sinister Calling (passive)
Envenom Revealing Strike Find Weakness (passive)
Seal Fate (passive) Combat Potency (passive) Premeditation
Dispatch Adrenaline Rush Backstab
Venomous Wounds (passive) Restless Blades (passive) Honor Among Thieves (passive)
Cut to the Chase (passive) Bandit’s Guile (passive) Sanguinary Vein (passive)
Blindside (passive) Killing Spree Energetic Recovery (passive)
Mastery: Potent Poisons (passive) Mastery: Main Gauche Mastery: Executioner
Vendetta Shadow Dance

There are a few changes and a couple of new abilities (detailed below) but most of these should be familiar from the current game. A lot of people have complained that the talent system is “dumbed down” in MoP.  However, when you look at the lists you can see that the talents that everyone would have selected (Mutilate, Blade Flurry, Premeditation, etc…) have been turned into baseline abilities. With the main attacks and distinguishing moves rolled into baseline abilities, the talent system is pared down to a smaller number of interesting choices rather than a huge list of mandatory clicks.

This is the talent tree that is shared by all three specs.  Note that you only select six talents – one every fifteen levels.

The big brouhaha in the rogue community is over the level 60 talent tier, where we have to choose between Preparation and Shadowstep (or Burst of Speed, but I don’t think that will be popular).  These are both abilities that have been the heart of the subtlety spec for a while, and now they are available to all specs (but only one out of the two!).  Shadowstep is great for leveling, but I think that Preparation will be enticing for raiding or pvp.  You can change your talent choices from one fight to the next at any time using a reagent made by scribes.

I think that we will find that there is no “best” spec.  Your choices will depend on your preferences and playstyle and on the mechanics of the fights.  For example, in the level 90 tier, Anticipation is useful to prevent wasted combo points, which is most likely to happen on single-target fights, while Versatility improves your Redirect, and that will be helpful on target-switching fights.

Also – Prime Glyphs are gone.  Prime glyphs that were “mandatory” have had their effects rolled into the base abilities.  Most Major/Minor glyphs are for utility or personalization.

New Abilities

In the lower levels, assassination rogues have been given Dispatch.  This is an execute-phase attack, much like Backstab became in Cataclysm.  Dispatch hits hard when the target is below 35% health.  However, this attack has another role.  The Blindside ability (gained at level 70) gives assassination rogues the chance to proc a Dispatch at any time in the fight (and it costs no energy!).  Thus, the assassination attack sequence will not be a set rotation, but instead will have to be modified on the fly due to Dispatch procs.

While the other specs have been tweaked and had some abilities shuffled, they haven’t gained anything really new at lower levels.

Of course with the new expansion come new abilities for all specs.  They are:

  • Shroud of Concealment (level 76): Extend a cloak that wraps party and raid members within 20 yards in shadows, concealing them from sight for up to 15 sec.
  • Crimson Tempest (level 83): Finishing move that consumes combo points on any nearby target to slash at the flesh of all enemies within 8 yards, dealing Physical damage based on combo points and causing victims to bleed and suffer an additional 30% of the initial damage over 12 sec.
  • Shadow Blades (level 87): Draw upon the surrounding shadows to empower your weapons, causing your autoattacks to deal pure Shadow damage and your combo-point-generating abilities to generate an additional combo point when used.

Those are pretty interesting.  Crimson Tempest is being hailed as a new era for rogue AoE.  No longer must we just spam FoK or start Blade Flurry and watch our combo points and debuffs drop.  Now that FoK generates combo points, we can FoK and then mix in Crimson Tempest for a true AoE rotation.

Shroud of Concelament will be useful for bypassing trash in dungeons with your whole group – especially useful in the Challenge Modes.

Shadow Blades is a dps cooldown.  The shadow damage will allow your autoattacks to bypass armor, which is nice but not awe-inspiring.  Each spec will manage that differently depending on their procs and other cooldowns.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see this buffed a bit before it goes live.

Weapons and Poisons

One thing that rogues will notice right away in MoP is that their thrown weapon slot is gone.  Now rogues have a Throw attack (replaced by Deadly Throw perhaps or Shuriken Toss at level 90) but no dedicated thrown weapon.  FoK uses the equipped melee weapons (and their poisons).

Also, there are no more fast and slow daggers.  All daggers are now 1.8 speed.  This is to smooth the proc rate on poisons and get rid of the advantages to having a slower main hand and faster off hand.

Most surprisingly, the poison system is overhauled.  No longer do you actually apply poison to weapons.  Now, poisons are a buff to the rogue.  You can have two poisons – one lethal and one non-lethal.  Both poisons can proc from either or both weapons since they are a buff to the rogue and not the specific weapon.  Lethal poisons are Instant, Deadly, and Wound.  Non-lethal poisons are Crippling, Mind-Numbing, and – if you spec for them – Leeching and Paralytic.


From my little time spent in beta, gameplay as a MoP rogue is very similar to gameplay as a Cata rogue.

I will say that having Shadowstep in any spec is a big gamechanger, and adds fun to questing and soloing.  Since I’ve never played subtlety for any length of time, I was like a kid with a new toy, popping around Pandaria.

As an assassination rogue, you’ll still use Mutilate as your main combo point generator, and envenom as your  finisher.  You still keep Rupture going for the energy return from Venomous Wounds.  Your Envenoms still refresh SnD.  The big difference is that Blindside procs let you hit Dispatch in between your other attacks, which adds some variation to your rotation.  Cold Blood is gone, but there are two damage cooldowns – Vendetta and Shadow Blades.  In beta, there are a lot of comments about assassination being energy-starved.  We’ll have to hope that problem clears up by the time you reach the level cap.

Combat rogues will play exactly the same way they play now.  Sinster Strike and SnD/Rupture/Eviscerate are still the finishers.  None of the major abilities or cooldowns have been removed.  Rupture damage has been buffed so it is a higher priority finisher than Eviscerate.  Revealing Strike now has a chance to proc an extra combo point, which makes it more attractive to use.  Bandit’s Guile now follows you when you switch targets, which is convenient.  Still, this will be the same cooldown-based spec that we are all familiar with, using Adrenaline Rush and Killing Spree liberally and now including Shadow Blades.

Subtlety rogues are losing exclusive rights to Shadowstep and Preparation.  Other than that, the general style of play is similar to the way they played in Cataclysm, but the rotation is somewhat streamlined.  Backstab/Hemorrhage are still the main attacks.  The most important change is that the energy gain mechanism from Energetic Recovery has been shifted from Recuperate to SnD.  That means you won’t have to keep Recuperate up anymore.  That’s one less finisher to juggle.  Rupture and SnD will have longer duration, making it easier to maintain their uptime.  Hemorrhage now applies a DoT to the target, but no longer increases bleed damage.  Sanguinary Vein has been buffed, so Rupture uptime is vital.  The other cooldowns remain the same – Premeditation, Shadow Dance, and now Shadow Blades.  Sub rogues will be happy to have FoK/Crimson Tempest as viable AoE in Mists.


There are no sweeping changes to the rogue class.  Blizzard has long maintained that rogues are well-designed, and they have not made large-scale changes for a long time.  Despite this, the number of rogues declined during Cataclysm.  Will Shadowstep for all rogues help bring some players back to this class?

4 Responses to “Playing a Rogue in Mists of Pandaria”

  1. 1 Stabarella
    August 1, 2012 at 1:32 am

    A great summary of the changes! Definitely useful for planning how I’ll level and raid in MoP.

  2. 2 Doc Savage
    January 2, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    Sorry, I hate the changes, including not being able to apply poison to both weapons. No more throwing knives? Sorry WoW developers, you screwed the pooch on this one.

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Classic WoW:
Dinaer - 11 Assassination Rogue
Cepheid - 13 Prot Warrior
Cartho - 11 Elemental Shaman

Retail WoW:
Dinaer - 120 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Cartho - 120 Elemental Shaman (US - Quel-dorei)
Derence - 120 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 120 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 120 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 120 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
July 2012
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