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Subtlety Rogue guide (7.1.5) - World of Warcraft: Legion

Our ongoing guide to the Subtlety Rogue specialization in World of Warcraft.

Subtlety Rogue is effectively World of Warcraft’s take on the ninja - an assassin that sticks to the shadows and strikes from stealth to deliver killing blows. It is possibly the most challenging of all the Rogue specialisations to play, but in this Subtlety Rogue guide, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know to get a solid grip on the playstyle.

Subtlety is a fantastic all-rounder character, performing well in any kind of activity in World of Warcraft. Its one weakness is that it is too dependent on its cooldowns for it to achieve a consistently high damage output. As such, its playstyle is very unforgiving of rotational and timing mistakes.

Beyond this guide, you will be required to have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of each boss fight so that you know precisely when you can activate your cooldowns and make the most of their duration. This is of course true of any class, but it's particularly important for the Subtlety Rogue.

In this guide, we’ll lay out a talent build that is focused on ease-of-use and minimising any room for errors, without undue sacrifices to damage output. At a later date we’ll grow it with optimisation in mind. We’ll also establish a basic rotation and ability priority list for you to follow as a combat template.

In future updates, we’ll add some alternative, expert-level talent builds, a section that explains how the several stats affect your performance, and what you should look for in your gear. Finally, we’ll add a section that will detail the best upgrade path for your Artifact Weapon.

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Subtlety Rogue talent build

This talent choice is focused on ease-of-use, and performs equally well in dungeons, sub-mythic raids, and open-world / questing content. It will provide you with a good basis for leveling up as well.

Level Talent Option Reason for Choice
15 Weaponmaster - Your abilities have a 6% chance to hit the target twice each time they deal damage. While 6% might not look like a big chance, it adds up over time. Of all this tier’s talents, this one provides the biggest net gain.
30 Subterfuge - Your abilities requiring Stealth can still be used for 3 sec after Stealth breaks. Also increases the duration of Shadow Dance by 2 sec. Shadow Dance and stealth-activated abilities are the bread-and-butter of our rotation, so this is a crucial talent to get.
45 Vigor - Increases your maximum Energy by 50 and your Energy regeneration by 10%. While you will lose slightly in damage output for not choosing Deeper Stratagem, we believe this choice makes the specialization substantially easier to play.
60 Cheat Death - Fatal attacks instead reduce you to 7% of your maximum health. For 3 sec afterward, you take 85% reduced damage. Cannot trigger more often than once per 2 min. One of the best safety nets in the game, this will help you immensely while learning high-level fights, and embolden you to punch above your weight while levelling and questing.
75 Strike from the Shadows - Shadowstrike also stuns your target for 2 sec. Players are Dazed for 5 sec instead. This adds an often-recurring stun to your basic rotation, very helpful in Mythic+ dungeons and solo content.
90 Premeditation - Cheap Shot and Shadowstrike generate 1 additional combo point. This will ramp up your combo point generation and allow you to perform finishers more often.
100 Master of Shadows - You immediately gain 25 Energy when you enter Stealth or activate Shadow Dance. This will set you up with the ability to go all out with your combo point generators as soon as you enter stealth / Shadow Dance.

Subtlety Rogue rotation

At the hearth of the Subtlety rotation is Shadow Dance (and, to a lesser extent, stealth). These can only be used infrequently, but they will open up short windows of opportunity where you can use your most powerful abilities.

To this end, it is crucial that you enter battle prepared. When you enter stealth or a Shadow Dance, you want to have as few combo points (CP) as possible (since you will generate them by the truckload with Shadowstrike) and a big pool of energy - but not so much that you will have a full bar at any time.

Remember that our Master of Shadows talent grants you 25 energy when entering stealth or Shadow Dance, so if you activate Shadow Dance when over 125 energy, part of that gain will go to waste. The safest entry point is at 120 energy.

By the same token, Shadow Dance is always replenishing itself, having 3 charges and a 60-second cooldown. In order to optimize its usage, you should never let it sit at 3 charges for long, as that's simply wasted recharge time. The 1st charged must be used as soon as possible - the others are to be spent at your discretion, when you think you will be able to make the most out of the damage boost.

Subtlety Rogue rotation - Single target

This is the sequence of abilities we advise when facing a single target.

Action Condition / Further Instructions
1 Open with Symbols of Death From Stealth. Apply whenever available.
2 Shadow Blades If available.
3 Shadowstrike Until stealth wears off or you are at 5 CP
4 Nightblade Using up your combo points.
5 Shadow Dance Preferably with 100-120 energy and at least 1 CP.
6 Shadowstrike Until stealth wears off or you are at 5 CP
7 Backstab If out of stealth / shadow dance and under 5 CP
8 Nightblade At 5 CP, if not already applied to the target.
9 Eviscerate At 5 CP, if target already has the Nightblade damage-over-time effect.
10 Goremaw’s Bite (Artifact Weapon ability) Whenever available, if at 2 or less combo points.
11 Repeat from 1

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Unholy Death Knight guide-Guardian Druid guide
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Retribution Paladin guideShadow Priest guideSubtlety Rogue guide
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Elemental Shaman guideAffliction Warlock guideArms Warrior guide
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Restoration Shaman guideDestruction Warlock guideProtection Warrior guide

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Subtlety Rogue rotation - Multiple targets

When facing two opponents, simply use the single-target rotation as described above, but keep the Nightblade damage-over-time effect on both targets. For 3 or more targets, use the following rotation, and keep Nightblade on as many as possible.

Action Condition / Further Instructions
1 Open with Symbols of Death From Stealth. Apply whenever available.
2 Shadow Blades If available.
3 Shuriken Storm Until you are at 5 CP.
4 Nightblade Using up your combo points.
5 Shadow Dance Preferably with 100-120 energy and at least 1 CP.
6 Shuriken Storm Until you are at 5 CP.
7 Nightblade At 5 CP, if not already applied to the target.
8 Eviscerate At 5 CP, if target already has the Nightblade damage-over-time effect.
9 Goremaw’s Bite (Artifact Weapon ability) Whenever available, if at 2 or less combo points.
10 Repeat from 1

This concludes the first version of our Subtlety Rogue guide. In the next update, we’ll include a section on upgrading your Artifact weapon, and outline which stats you should prioritise on your gear, to increase your damage output.

Did we forget anything? Please let us know in the comments below.

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