Combat as a Rogue

Rogue combat is a very complicated thing, because it differs wildly based on specs and specs differ from patch to patch. There is little that remains the same with Rogues, other than Sinister Strike gets pressed a lot while leveling up. This page will go over the basics of Rogue combat so that you know how to get out there and kill the enemy, but will not touch on the high level Rogue combat which deserves its own article.


As you’ve read in our basics section (if you haven’t, go back and read it), Rogues use Energy for their resource. It’s always refilling and provides a fast paced combat experience because Rogues rarely run out of Energy for more than 4 seconds. Managing that Energy is important, because you’ll ALWAYS want to have Slice and Dice up.

Slice and Dice (SnD) increases your melee attack speed by 40% and also increases energy regeneration if you have Combat Potency and does a lot of other things, like making any proc not normalized to weapon speed fire off a lot more. So it’s important that Slice and Dice is always up.

Cut to the Chase will refresh Slice and Dice to its 5 combo point length when you use Envenom or Eviscerate. This is important, because it will mean you’ll get a fresh Slice and Dice when you Envenom or Eviscerate. That makes it as if Slice and Dice was attached to those finishers. Combat Rogues won’t have Cut to the Chase, so they’ll have to refresh it themselves.

Then it comes down to two things: what’s your main ability for combo point generation? Mutilate Rogues will need to use Mutilate, which requires you to use Daggers. Combat Rogues will use Sinister Strike to generate combo points. Subtlety Rogues will use either Backstab or Hemorrhage depending on whether they're able to be behind their target. So next it comes down to use your main skill to 5 combo points (or less if Slice and Dice is not up) and then using a finisher.

Finishers all depend on your build. Subtlety Rogues will be able to keep Rupture up through their Serrated Blades talent, and Mutilate Rogues will always want to be running Rupture due to their powerful Venomous Wounds talent. If you don’t use Rupture or if Rupture is up and not going down anytime soon you’ll want to Envenom if you’re Mutilate spec’d (Envenom at 4 or 5 combo points) or Eviscerate if you’re Combat spec’d. Subtlety Rogues have a slightly stranger rotation, almost like a backwards Mutilate rotation, where they're going to want to run Recuperate at all times for the energy they will gain from Energetic Recovery.

Always use as many cooldowns as possible to keep your DPS up. Killing Spree is a big DPS boost if you use it every time it's up. Likewise Shadow Dance and Vendetta should be used at any available opportunity.

Again, this is for non-raiding Rogues or lower level Rogues. If you are raiding it becomes much more complicated, especially when you need to interrupts, do AoE with Fans of Knives, etc. If you're a raiding Rogue you'll find a lot of the basics remain the same, but you'll need to get a lot better at utilizing them and doing other tasks (especially interrupts).

What poisons should you use? That’s a can of worms, but the basic advice is main-hand Instant Poison and off-hand Deadly Poison for PvE. The only real exception to this is if you're using your slower weapon in your off-hand as Mutilate in which case you would reverse the order.


Speaking of poisons, here is what each poison does:

  • Crippling Poison: Snares the enemy reducing their movement speed by 70%, mostly for PvP. Sublety Rogues especially will want to use this on their main or offhand while PvPing.
  • Mind-Numbing Poison: Increases casting time by 30%, useful for duels or PvP against casters. This is rarely useful in PvE.
  • Instant Poison: The strongest direct damage poison. Instantly deals damage and synergizes incredibly with the Assassination tree.
  • Deadly Poison: The go-to offhand poison. It applies a damage over time effect that stacks up to 5 times, once the stack reaches 5 applications each additional application will cause your mainhand poison to fire. Every PvEr should be using this as well as PvPers that use Mutilate and Envenom.
  • Wound Poison: Deals direct damage and reduces healing by 25% (soon to be 10%). This is the typical poison for PvP use due to the healing reduction, it does less damage than Instant and may become obsolete when Cataclysm releases.

All in all, you should only care about four poisons. Instant, Deadly, Crippling, and Wound.

Solo Play

Soloing as a Rogue is fun, so much fun we have a 1-80 Rogue leveling guide available for you. It goes over all of the aspects of soloing as a Rogue.

Since patch 4.0.1 virtually every Rogue spec is viable for leveling up. Subtlety has ferocious openers and quick movement from Shadowstep, Combat has burst cooldowns and armor, and Mutilate has strong steady damage.

Group Play

In a group there is only one important thing you need to know, “Tricks of the Trade”. As soon as you get it you’ll want to make a macro for using it on the tank. It increases the tanks damage and moves all of your threat from you for the first attack and all actions six seconds afterwards, including the Sap if you’re Sapping or any other attack. This keeps you from getting immediate threat, throws threat at the tank, and increases the tanks damage so you get even more benefit. Remember, the threat movement/dmg buff doesn’t start until you hit something. TotT is also important for using it and then snagging aggro on a caster who is stuck out of the tank’s AoE.

[protip]Cyrak's Tricks of the Trade Macro:

/cast [help] [target=focus, help] [target=targettarget, help] Tricks of the Trade; Tricks of the Trade

This will prioritize Tricks on your primary target, then your focus, then your target's target giving you flexibility and quick reactions for moving threat around as you wish.[/protip]

You may also need to Sap. In the modern WoW world it’s not necessary, but you could be in a group where Sap is needed to progress. You simply stealth, distract, and then sap. It’s that easy. Run back real quick. Having TotT (Tricks of the Trade) up will transfer Sap aggro to the tank which, if you fail, will cause everything running his way. That could be good or bad.

You’ll often /focus a tank, so this macro is great for Tricks of the Trade “/cast [target=focus] Tricks of the Trade”.


Ahh, PvP with a Rogue. It’s such a complicated manner that we have an entire guide devoted to PvP as a Rogue. Click here to view this guide.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our World of Warcraft Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.


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