In Cataclysm, it seems that all three rogue specs are viable. Subtlety is looking a little rough for two reasons:
- its maximum damage potential seems a little lower than combat and assassination
- it has a very complicated rotation in order to achieve that damage output
For those reasons, I think we’ll see most rogues raiding as combat or assassination, the way it has been for the past two expansion.
The old advice was that rogues should let their weapon determine their spec. If you scored a sweet sword drop, then you went combat. If you found an awesome dagger, then you went assassination. That’s still mostly true to this day, although weapon upgrades are a bit more common. If you really prefer to play combat, you can probably go out and find a sword that will work for you.
Also, the differences are no longer so severe. It used to be that combat rogues definitely wanted to dual-wield swords for the Sword Specialization proc. Nowadays, the off-hand weapon is all about speed so both specs are using 1.4 daggers as off-hands. Armor penetration was removed, and both specs prioritize agility over everything else. That means that the main difference between the two specs is the main hand weapon.
There are other smaller differences. For assassination, mastery is a great secondary stat, while for combat it’s not.
Here’s what is true for all three specs:
- All three specs benefit from using a fast off-hand weapon. Right now, that means off-hand daggers for all three
- All three specs benefit from a slower main hand. For assassination and subtlety that means a slower (1.8) dagger. For combat it means a slow sword/mace/axe/fist.
- With the current mechanics, all three specs should use Instant Poison on main hand and Deadly Poison on off hand.
Still, its great that rogues can raid on any spec they choose. Here I’ve made three guides. Honestly, they are pretty similar. The main differences are the specs, of course, and some specific enchants and reforging advice that one spec might prefer over another. I hope that they help.