“Subtlety” Rogue – a rogue specializing in subtlety relies usually on – surprise! – the abilities that are used from subtle or even during the active stage of the Shadow Dance. The talents that come with this specialization are also devoted to modifying the condition of subtlety as well as the abilities that are only active during this condition.
‘Subtlety’ as any other specialization of this class has two main resources – Energy and Combopoints (hereinafter CP). Consequently, there are abilities that consume those resources or vice versa, allow to store them. The correct usage of these abilities coming from the main priorities list is the basics of any spec in this class.
Let’s view the main advantages and disadvantages that come with this spec:
- Serious damage to one target. This is achieved due to a series of bursts, ‘Shadow Dance’ and ‘Death Symbols’ spells
- The ability to give these bursts away whenever and wherever you need if the encounter demands it
- Average constant damage in an area
- Incredible survivability, typical of any Rogue spec, though
- Very high mobility provided by the 15% bonus in the moving speed, Sprint and Shadowstep. The latter has two charges which is a unique feature of this specialization
- Cooldown dependent. Despite the fact those are fairly frequent, the DPS between the bursts is rather lowy
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AoE (Area of Effect) is basically the area where this of that effect is actuated regardless of whether its damage or healing. This command is usually used to act in a team/raid on several targets. It is also used to describe any ability of a Boss with the aforementioned effect.
Buff stands for any positive effect. Always reflected to the left of the mini-map, by its upper edge.
Burst is an ability to do – in multiple ways – massive damage within a short period of time.=
GCD (Global Cooldown) is the overall ability recovery time.
Debuff stands for negative effect. By default, it’ reflected to the left of the mini-map by its lower edge.
DoT stands for Damage over Time.
DPS (Damage per Second) is a measure that reflects the damage done within one second.
Cleave is an ability to damage secondary targets through damaging the main one with no (or minor) loss in the damage done to the main target.
Cooldown (often CD) primarily refers to the ability recovery time. Can be often applied to bursts and various protective abilities.
Melee and Range. Melee is the close-range combat zone, also used in the titles of all the classes and specs that do effective damage in this zone. Range usually refers to a zone that is not a close-range one and is used, respectfully, in the titles of all classes and specs that do effective damage remotely.
Trait is a name for the ‘talents’ your azerite armor has.
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Outside Stealth, Backstab to a single target is the main combo generator. It consumes 35 Energy and generates one CP. It does little damage however if used from the back, the damage rate goes up by 20%.
Shadowstrike is only available while Stealth is active. It does quite sizeable damage to one target consuming 40 Energy and generating 2 CP.
Shuriken Storm can be used in any condition however under Stealth the damage doubles up. Generates 1 CP for every target it hits.
Shuriken Toss takes 40 Energy and allows you to toss a Shuriken into your enemy, grants you 1 CP but does minor damage. It is only used when you can’t use your standard strong Melee abilities to damage in the long run.
Cheap Shot is not often used in PvE but we can’t just leave it out. The ability does not increase the damage you do but under Stealth, it allows you to stun a target for 4 secs and generates 2 CP.
Now let’s touch upon the abilities that can help you spend those CPs:
This is what they often call these abilities as they finish the series of CP you’ve earned before.
Eviscerate. This finisher spends all your CP (the more CP the higher the damage from Eviscerate) and consumes 35 Energy. Responsible for the main share of the damage you do.
Nightblade – a finishing DoT (Damage over Time). This one will also cost you all the CP you’ve earned by the time of the ability activation. The more CP the higher the damage and the longer the effect (1 CP = 8 secs, 6 CP = 18 sec). Consumes 25 Energy. Decreases the target’s running speed by 30% and increase the damage your enemy gets from your Rogue by 15% over the time of the effect.
Kidney Shot stuns the target for CP. The effect time depends on the amount of CP spent on it (1 CP = 2 secs, 5 CP = 6 sec)
Death Symbols. Now on pushing it you get 40 Energy and a buff for the damage you do increasing it by 15% over 10 secs.
Shadow Dance. Within 5 secs after activation, you can use abilities demanding Stealth (e.g. Shadowstrike and Cheap Shot). In 99% of the cases, Shadowstrike is used as it does sizeable damage by default and generates 2 CP per use. It has 2 charges. Each charge restores for 1 min.
An important passive effect connected to the Shadow Dance is the passive ability Deepening Shadows. This effect allows to reduce the Dance restoring time by 1.5 secs per each CP spent.
Shadow Blades. All the CP generating abilities generate one additional CP and deal 50% of dark magic additional damage. Duration is 20 secs, CD 3 min.
Vanish activates Stealth. It is used for 1 hadowstrike and has 2 min cooldown. Basic CD is 2 min but with traits it can be reduced to 1.5 min.
You can gain combo points passively from Shadow Techniques which grants 1 CP and restores 8 energy for each 4-5 auto attack.
Relentless Strikes is a passive ability that restores 6 Energy per each CP spent.
Feint reduces the incoming damage in the AoE by 40%, lasts for 5 secs, consumes 35 Energ. CD 15 sec.. As in raids and in dungeons most of the damage you receive is exactly in the AoE, this ability is Rogue’s trademark. It also allows you to simplify some raid mechanics for the sake of the raid.
Cloak of Shadows is the second Ace up Rogue’s sleeve. Within 5 secs, you become resistant to magical damage. But you’re only immune to any magical effects during the first second. The ability alleviates any negative magical effects upon activation. CD 2 min.
Crimson vial allows a Rogue to restore 30% of their max HP stock within 6 secs and some minor 30 Energy. CD 30 secs.
Evasion gives you 100% chance of dodge foe 10 secs. CD 2 min.
Shroud of Concealment is a mass Stealth for 15 secs. Everyone on the group or raid to be in the AoE for this effect also get Stealth. CD 6 min.
Sprint increases your running speed by 70% for 8 secs. CD 60 secs
Shadowstep allows you to instantly get behind the target’s back (both enemy and ally). Effect range – 27 yards. Has 2 charges, CD 30 sec for each charge.
Distraction allows you to attract the attention of the enemies in the given zone to its center. The effect lasts for 10 secs. CD 30 secs. Can be used under active Stealth.
Tricks of the Trade – after using it on one of your groupmates, for the next 30 secs any your attack activates a 6-second effect that will redirect the danger you create completely onto the ally you’ve chosen.
Sap incapacitates one enemy not in the combat at a time. Requires Stealth. Any damage done on a sapped target deactivates the effect.
Blind allows you to disorient one enemy for 1 min. Any damage some to the enemy deactivated the effect. CD 2 min.
Kick cuts the spells casted by the enemy and obstructs casting spells of the same school for the next 5 secs.
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General information. On achieving several new levels you’ll get access to new talent ‘Tiers’. Talents may have different effect on abilities: add new features, replace old ones, modify passively different effects and spells. Talents can be changed in Sanctuaries or any recreational zones. However, if you don’t have any of those places nearby you can use the Codex of the Tranquil Mind which allows you to switch channels within a minute. You can’t change talents in combat. You can’t change a talent if the talent you’ve picked in the last Tier is on Cooldown. You’ll have to wait until it’s restored first.
Tier 1. Lvl 15.
- Weaponmaster – Shadowstrike and Backstab have 15% chance to hit the target twice.
- Find weakness – your Shadowstrike and Cheap shot reveal a flaw in your target’s defenses, causing all your attacks to bypass 40% of that enemy’s armor for 10 sec. It is an optimal talent and it is taken for any situation
- Gloomblade is a substitute for Backstab. Deals Shadow Magic damage, no fixed position regarding the target’s location. It’s basically stronger than a regular Backstab, but compared to the other two talents, gives less dps burst because your primary damage is based on other abilities.
Tier 2. Lvl 30.
- Nightstalker increases the running speed by 20% and the damage you do by 50% while Stealth or Shadow Dance is active. This talent is granting very good burst potential.
- Subterfuge allows you to use the abilities that require Stealth for 3 seconds after Stealth is over. It also prolongs the Shadow Dance by one sec. At the moment, the talent is not relevant.
- Shadow Focus. All the abilities consume by 20% less Energy during active Stealth and Shadow Dance. This is a perfect choice everywhere.
Tier 3. Lvl 45.
- Vigor increases the max Energy stock by 50 and increases its restoring speed by 10%. Not usually taken because in most cases lowering the cost of abilities with Shadow focus is enough
- Deeper Stratagem increases the quantity of CP up to 6; all the abilities for which the power depends on the CP spent can spend up to 6 CP, and the damage they do increases by 5%. An optimal talent which is also good in Aoe for less CP loss with Shuriken storm
- Marked for Death. Marks the target, instantly generating 5 combo points. Cooldown reset if the target dies within 1 min. CD 1 min. Not a bad talent could be used together with Deeper stratagem
Tier 4. Lvl 60.
- Soothing Darkness restores 3% of the max Health capacity once a second with Stealth or Shadow Dance on. This is an optimal choice for acting in the Open World.
- Cheat Death prevents a fatal attack from killing you and enables the following effects: for 3 secs you receive 85% less damage, your health level can’t go lower than 7% of the max; you also get a debuff for 6 mins to remind you that Cheat Death won’t save you from the next fatal attack during this period. Death terminates this effect. This is a choice by default as nothing’s better than a new life, even with a cooldown this long.
- Elusiveness. On top of the 40% of the attacks in the AoE, it now decreases the damage received in any attack outside AoE by 30%. Sometimes it can be useful. Just listen to the Healers of your group/raid. But keep in mind that the Feint demands 35 Energy and is on for only 5 secs. You won’t be able to keep a high uptime with the Feint and do max damage at the same time.
Tier 5. Lvl 75.
- Shot in the dark – after entering Stealth or Shadow dance your next Cheap shot is free. The talent could be useful in PVP and open world.
- Night terrors – Shuriken storm reduces enemy’s movement speed by 30% for 8 sec. Quite useful talent if for example your mythic key group has no passive movement reduce.
- Prey on the Weak. After a Kidney Shot, Cheap Shot or Sap, the target receives 10% more damage from any damage source over the active period of the aforementioned effects. In some combats, you’ll have to use Stun or your group/raid may need max damage done to a particular target (one you can stun, for sure). In the second case, it is most effective to use Kidney Shot with max CP.
Tier 6. Lvl 90.
- Dark Shadow. While the Shadow Dance is active, all the damage is increased by 25%. Good burst talent.
- Alacrity provides a probability of 20% per CP spent (so 5 CP make for 100%) that your speed increases by 2% for 20 secs. Effect stacks up until 5 times. The talent is worse than other options in the tier and there is no point taking it.
- Enveloping shadows – grants 3d charge for Shadow dance and effect of passive spell Deepening shadows increases from 1.5 to 2.5 sec. Currently its the best talent in tier because of effective azerite trait The first dance. The talent allows spec’s damage to be more bursting.
Tier 7. Lvl 100.
- Master of Shadows helps you 25 Energy within 3 secs after you’ve activated Stealth or Shadow Dance. Best choice on solotarget fight.
- Secret technique – finishing move that deals high damage to the main target and additional damage to all targets in front of you. It has 45 sec cooldown and it is a standard choice for cleave. It is a good choice for mythic keys.
- Shuriken tornado – releases Shuriken storm every second during 4 seconds. Costs 60 energy and has 1 min cooldown. The talent is rarely taken.
- Find weakness
- Nightstalker / Shadow focus
- Deeper stratagem
- Enveloping shadows
- Master of Shadows
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BfA introduced a new system of traits for items. Helmet, shoulders and chest are now special items improved by azerite. They have a few rings with traits which grant different improvements. Subtlety spec has a few best traits which are recommended to have for comfortable gameplay and high damage. Here is the list of them:
The first dance. It is the strongest trait but it is enough to have only 1 of such – other traits after the first one are not that strong. This trait grants you 2 combo points and increases your haste during Shadow dance.
Night’s Vengeance – strong trait that allows you to increase damage of your Eviscerate.
Inevitability – This trait increases the duration of your Symbols of death for 0.5 seconds for each Shadowstrike or Backstab and their damage. It is a very strong trait but it is enough to have only one of it because we take it to increase buff duration not damage.
Blade in the shadows – Trait stacks up until 10 times, each time increasing your Shadowstrike and also reduces its cost by 2 energy. The most important thing here is reducing the energy and increased damage is additional perk, that’s why taking this trait first would be very important. Since the first traits you take give you the main increase of stats we need to look for good traits to improve damage overall.
Let’s not forget about minor traits as they grant increase of stats and damage. The best trait in Assassination is Overwhelming power – when it procs it grants haste which is rogue’s priority stat. Another good variant is Gutripper because of its increased execute proc. Most of the time this trait will be useful on mythic bosses because the hardest part in fight is the last phase.
For those who use addon AzeritePowerWeights, there is also a command for approximate strength stats or another trait:
( AzeritePowerWeights:2:"herodamage.com - Stacks_1T_T24":4:261: 413=10, 575=6.45, 175=6.34, 522=5.86, 526=5.85, 193=5.83, 562=5.58, 82=5.33, 196=5.26, 414=4.64, 501=4.50, 240=4.34, 478=4.27, 479=4.22, 494=4.13, 488=4.13, 157=4.05, 504=4.02, 483=3.94, 192=3.92, 480=3.78, 521=3.74, 492=3.74, 486=3.74, 195=3.50, 485=3.49, 495=3.42, 489=3.42, 30=3.38, 482=3.36, 194=3.32, 523=3.31, 505=3.09, 561=2.89, 481=2.86, 156=2.63, 498=2.49, 500=2.31, 445=2.20, 576=2.13, 459=2.08, 124=1.99, 31=1.94, 22=1.75, 560=1.74, 21=1.74, 493=1.63, 487=1.63, 499=1.43, 461=1.28, 490=1.24, 496=1.24, 541=1.22, 462=1.10, 497=1.08, 491=1.08, 18=1.07: )
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These ratings are based on simulations, statistics of WarcraftLogs and players experience.
- The target should always have Nightblade on
Let’s talk a little bit about Nightblade new mechanic. Pandemic mechanic of this spell allows you to refresh periodical effects taking into accounts duration of the previous buff. If the buff lasts 10 seconds and you decide to refresh it – the duration of the new effect will be 13 seconds if you refresh it when there are 2 seconds left, the duration of the new effect will be is 12 seconds. So it keeps 30% of the duration of the previous effect. In the end Nightblade refreshes with 6 cp on 5.4 second, with 5 cp on 4.7 second.
- Secret technique ( if you have it) is used by cooldown and has a high priority right after Nightblade. Preferably use it with Shadow dance
- Eviscerate is used when Nightblade is already on
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The basic characteristic value is as follows:
Crit = Versatility > Mastery > Agility > Haste
Priority stats for you will be Versatility, crit and Mastery. They basically equal and their exact number will depend on stats of the character. Mastery in Subtlety increases the damage of all finishing moves. Check your character on raidbots.com for stats in Stat Weights tab. ALso use Pawn addon to import the information in the game before choosing gear.
Among the aforementioned characteristics and results of your character’s own simulation results, you can draw conclusions on Gems, Chants and Raid Chemicals.
- Flasks and Potions
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We recommend you create convenient marcoses to facilitate instant use of abilities after utilizing the Shadow Dance in order to save precious time:
/cast Shadow Dance
Where “Ability” = Eviscerate, Shadowstrike or Shuriken Storm
A convenient macro for a pool
Kick with a modifier, with the Shift key held, the ability is applied on a remembered target, without – on the current one.
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- Leveling. If your character has been inactive since the previous expansions, the best option to level up it is by Timewalking dungeons. You will gain a lot of experience, but there is one big disadvantage of leveling this way. Timewalks are available only for one week during a month, but Overgear is always here.
- Equipment. At high level, the most important thing for you will become your gear. WoW is a multiplayer game, that’s why we recommend for you to play it with your friends, or to find a new friends for mythic+ runs. If you have any trouble with it – Overgear may help you to find not just friends for a run, but a complete well geared and experienced group that also will be glad to trade all the loot you need.
- Raids. Raids are the top-tier PvE content in the game. That’s why the equipment’s base ilvl is higher than anywhere else. These dungeons require knowing all the tactics and have a good gear to kill the bosses. The possibilities of Overgear might let you skip those criteria.
- Azerite. It is also not the best idea to forget about the Heart of Azeroth and not to feed it with more Azerite. Ignoring this won’t make your character stronger. The easiest way to do it – just complete all the world quests with Azerite rewards everyday. You can get extra azerite from Island Expeditions. Companions can be found at Overgear.