Subtlety Rogue in Shadowlands
Subtlety Rogue mostly relies on abilities cast while Stealth or Shadow Dance is active, combining high Physical damage, armor penetration effects and Shadow magic. You will learn more about this spec in our guide.
The Rogue is a lightly armored class that specializes in melee damage and has 2 main resources: Energy and Combo Points (CP). Accordingly, there are abilities that spend these resources, or, vice versa, allow you to gain them. The correct use of these abilities and wise rotations are your keys to success.
- High damage to single targets due to frequent bursts, such as Shadow Dance and Symbols of Death.
- The ability to provide these bursts in the right place at the right time.
- Great survivability, typical for this spec.
- High mobility.
- Low damage, apart from bursts.
- Average AoE potential.
The author of the guide is teyka, a raider of the Exorsus Guild. Visit my Twitch channel, where you can find lots of interesting things, including the Rogue gameplay in the most difficult game mods.
Backstab – combo generator when out of Stealth. Deals a small amount of damage and awards 1 CP. Damage increased by 20% when you are behind your target. Costs 35 Energy.
Shadowstrike – your main generator, used only while Stealthed. Deals high damage, awards 2 CP.
Shuriken Storm – AoE generator, sprays shurikens at up to 8 targets around you, dealing Physical damage. Awards 1 CP per target hit. Costs 35 Energy.
Shuriken Toss – throws a shuriken at an enemy target, but deals low damage. Costs 40 Energy and awards 1 CP. You can use it to pull mobs or fill in a pause.
Cheap Shot – isn’t often used in PvE, but we can’t fail to mention it. Requires Stealth, deals no damage, but stuns the target for 4 sec and awards 1 CP.
Slice and Dice – consumes combo points to increase attack speed by 50%. Lasts longer per combo point, up to 42 sec for 6 CP. Benefits from Pandemic and can be refreshed, providing a longer duration. Costs 25 Energy.
Rupture – tears open the target, dealing Bleed damage over time. Lasts longer per combo point, up to 28 sec for 6 CP. Damage per tick doesn’t change. Costs 25 Energy.
Eviscerate – finishing move that disembowels the target, causing instant physical damage. Targets with Find Weakness suffer an additional 50% damage as Shadow damage. Costs 35 Energy.
Black Powder – AoE finisher that launches explosive Black Powder at up to 8 nearby targets dealing Physical damage. Similar to Eviscerate, it deals additional damage to targets affected by Find Weakness. Costs 35 Energy.
Kidney Shot – finishing move that stuns the target. Lasts longer per combo point. up to 7 sec for 6 CP. Costs 25 Energy.
Poisons are learned automatically as you level. A Rogue can only have one Non-Lethal and one Lethal type of poison at the same time. Poisons are applied in advance and last for 1 hour. At any moment, you can change or refresh poisons if you need to.
Instant Poison – your attacks have a 30% chance to poison the enemy and instantly inflict Nature damage. Used by default.
Wound Poison – each strike has a 30% chance to poison the enemy, which instantly inflicts Nature damage and reduces all healing received by 8% for 12 sec, stacking up to 5 times. Mostly used in PvP.
Crippling Poison – your attacks have a 30% chance to poison the enemy, slowing movement speed by 30% for 12 sec.
Numbing Poison – each strike has a 50% chance of poisoning the enemy, clouding their mind and slowing their attack and casting speed by 15% for 10 sec.
Bursts and important passive effects:
Find Weakness – a very important passive ability. Cheap Shot and Shadowstrike reveal a flaw in your target’s defenses, causing all of your attacks to bypass 30% of that enemy’s armor for 18 sec. This effect can also be proc’d for 6 sec by Shuriken Storm’s Crit and Backstab, when used from behind.
Symbols of Death – invoke ancient symbols of power, generating 40 Energy and increasing your damage done by 15% for 10 sec. Also, your next combo point generator will critically strike.
Shadow Dance – allows use of all Stealth abilities (such as Shadowstrike and Cheap Shot) and grants all the combat benefits of Stealth for 8 sec, increasing damage by 15%. Shadowstrike is used in most cases, as it deals significant damage and generates 2 CP.
Due to Deepening Shadows your finishing moves reduce the remaining cooldown on Shadow Dance by (10% / 10) sec per combo point spent.
Shadow Blades – draws upon surrounding shadows to empower your weapons, causing your combo point generating abilities to generate 1 additional combo point and deal 50% additional damage as Shadow for 20 sec.
Vanish – activates Stealth. It’s used for 1 Shadowstrike (grants some bonus damage and refreshes Find Weakness), CD 2 min. Besides, Vanish is combined with some Legendaries, namely Mark of the Master Assassin.
Other important passives
Shadow Techniques – your auto attacks have a chance to generate 1 combo point and 8 Energy.
Relentless Strikes – due to this passive ability, your finishing moves generate 6 Energy per combo point spent.
Feint – performs an evasive maneuver, reducing damage taken from area-of-effect attacks by 40% for 5 sec. Costs 35 Energy, CD 15 sec. Since in raids and dungeons most of the damage you take is AoE, this is a Rogue’s iconic ability. It also allows you to simplify some raid mechanics, helping your raid.
Cloak of Shadows – another ace up your sleeve. Provides a moment of magic immunity, instantly removing all harmful spell effects. The cloak lingers, causing you to resist harmful spells for 5 sec. CD 2 min.
Crimson Vial – drink an alchemical concoction that heals you for 20% of your maximum health over 4 sec. CD 30 sec.
Evasion – increases your dodge chance by 100% for 10 sec. CD 2 min.
Shadowstep – step through the shadows to appear behind your target, friendly or enemy. 25 yd range. CD 30 sec.
Shroud of Concealment – massive Stealth for party and raid members within 30 yards. CD 6 min.
Sprint – increases your movement speed by 70% for 8 sec. CD 60 sec.
Distract – throws a distraction, attracting the attention of all nearby monsters for 10 seconds. CD 30 sec. Usable while stealthed.
Tricks of the Trade – redirects all threat you cause to the targeted party or raid member, beginning with your next damaging attack within the next 30 sec and lasting 6 sec.
Sap – incapacitates a target not in combat for 1 min. Only works on Humanoids, Beasts, Demons, and Dragonkin. Requires Stealth. Damage will revive the target.
Blind – blinds the target, causing it to wander disoriented for 1 min. Damage will interrupt the effect. CD 2 min.
Shiv – deals Physical damage and applies a concentrated form of your active Non-Lethal poison. Costs 20 Energy, CD 25 sec.
General information. On reaching several levels, you will open new Talent tiers. In each tier, you can choose one Talent at a time. Talents can affect your abilities in different ways: add new ones, replace old ones, passively modify various effects and spells. You can change Talents while you’re in Sanctums or in rest areas, but if there are no such places nearby, you can use Tome of the Tranquil Mind, which allows you to change Talents within a minute. Note that Talents can’t be changed in combat. Also, if a Talent selected in a certain tier is on CD, you’ll have to wait for it to recharge in order to change it.
Tier 1 Lvl 15 Talents that affect DPS.
Weaponmaster – Shadowstrike and Backstab have a 15% chance to hit the target twice each time they deal damage. Nice Talent, especially against single targets.
Premeditation – after entering Stealth, your next Shadowstrike grants up to 10 sec of Slice and Dice, and generates 2 additional combo points if Slice and Dice is active. This Talent works better when additional targets appear, so it’s mostly used in M+, cleave combats and raids. Though, if you have Finality (Legendary), you can use it on single targets.
Gloomblade – replaces Backstab. It’s a non-target spell, which deals Shadow damage. It’s stronger than Backstab, but compared to the other two Talents, grants less DPS, as your primary damage is based on other abilities.
Tier 2 Lvl 25 DPS Talents that interact with Stealth.
Nightstalker – while Stealth is active, you move 20% faster and your abilities deal 12% more damage. Works with Shadow Dance. At the moment, its potential is very limited, the Talent is only useful for heavy AoE with 5+ targets.
Subterfuge – your abilities requiring Stealth can still be used for 3 sec after Stealth breaks. Also increases the duration of Shadow Dance by 1 sec The weakest choice at the moment.
Shadow Focus – abilities cost 20% less Energy while Stealth or Shadow Dance is active The best option in this tier, both for single targets and M+. Shadow Dance provides a greater part of our damage, so consuming less Energy during bursts is just what you need.
Tier 3 Lvl 30 Talents that affect resources.
Vigor – increases your maximum Energy by 50 and your Energy regeneration by 10%.
Deeper Stratagem – you may have a maximum of 6 combo points, and your finishing moves deal 5% increased damage. In Subtlety, it’s your default Talent in any situation, as it grants a nice boost and prevents CP overcap issues.
Marked for Death – marks the target, instantly generating 5 combo points. CD 60 sec (dynamic), duration 60 sec. Cooldown reset if the target dies within 1 min.
Tier 4 Lvl 35 Defensive abilities.
Soothing Darkness – you heal 3% of your maximum health every 1 sec while Stealth or Shadow Dance is active. Can be used for solo-content or in the open World, but almost useless in raids.
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 6 min. Always take this Talent, as there’s nothing better than a second life!
Elusiveness – Feint also reduces all damage you take from non-area-of-effect attacks by 30% for 5 sec. Keep in mind that Feint costs 35 Energy and lasts only 5 sec (CD 15 sec), so maintaining its high uptime is quite impossible, while frequent use negatively affects your damage. Questionable Talent, as it’s very specific.
Tier 5 Lvl 40 Control tier.
Shot in the Dark – after entering Stealth or Shadow Dance, your next Cheap Shot is free. Useful in PvP and in the open World.
Night Terrors – Shuriken Storm reduces enemies’ movement speed by 30% for 8 sec. Say, you can use it for additional passive slow in M+.
Prey on the Weak – enemies disabled by one of your stuns take 10% increased damage from all sources for 6 sec. Sometimes it can be useful in raids.
Tier 6 lvl 45 Talents that affect DPS.
Dark Shadow – Shadow Dance now increases damage by 30%. Significantly increases our burst damage, but overall grants a smaller boost than the other Talents. Can be used in rare situations, when rapid burst is more important than DPS.
Alacrity – your finishing moves have a 20+ % chance per combo point (up to 100% with 5 CP) to grant 2% Haste for 20 sec, stacking up to 5 times. This is a good Talent, but the next one is better.
Enveloping Shadows – Deepening Shadows reduces the remaining cooldown of Shadow Dance by an additional 0.5 sec per combo point spent. Shadow Dance gains 1 additional charge. Makes gameplay more comfortable, letting you use Shadow Dance when it’s more profitable. You can combine Shadow Dance with Symbols of Death more effectively or simply keep it for a certain moment in combat. At the moment, this Talent is the best choice.
Tier 7 Lvl 50 Talents that affect DPS.
Master of Shadows – gain 25 Energy over 3 sec when you enter Stealth or activate Shadow Dance. Great Talent against single targets.
Secret Technique – finishing move that creates shadow clones of yourself. You and your shadow clones each perform a piercing attack on up to 6 enemies near your target, dealing Physical damage to the primary target and reduced damage to other targets. CD 45 sec. It’s a standard choice for cleave-fights and M+.
Shuriken Tornado – focus intently, then release a Shuriken Storm every sec for the next 4 sec. Costs 60 Energy, CD 1 min. This is a very niche Talent and it’s rarely used.
Here are your common builds:
Prey on the Weak
Master of Shadows
M+ / Cleave:
Prey on the Weak
Prey on the Weak
When you join a Covenant, you get 2 abilities: one of them directly affects your DPS, while another – grants either a defensive feature or increases your mobility.
Below you can learn more about the abilities these Covenants provide.
Echoing Reprimand – deal Arcane damage to an enemy, extracting their anima to Animacharge a combo point. Damaging finishing moves that consume the same number of combo points as your Animacharge deal damage as if they consume 7 combo points. Costs 30 Energy, CD 45 sec.
Sometimes hard to implement, but still grants a solid boost.
Summon Steward – call your steward to bring you a Phial of Serenity. CD 4 min.
It may seem useless, but don’t underestimate the extra heal. It also removes all Curse, Disease, Poison, and Bleed effects – very useful throughout the game.
Flagellation – lash the target 3 times, dealing Shadow damage and adding a stack of Flagellation for each lash. The target remains tormented for 20 sec, receiving an additional lash for each combo point you spend. Reactivating Flagellation cleanses their torment, increasing your Haste by 0.5% per stack, up to a maximum of 15% Haste for 20 sec. CD 1.5 min. Good DPS ability, but it can be fairly inconvenient when used against squishy targets.
Door of Shadows – castable blink.
Can be used to skip some enemies or shorten the distance, but overall this class is mobile enough even without it.
The Night Fae
Sepsis – infect the target’s blood, dealing Nature damage over 10 sec. If the target survives its full duration, they suffer an additional damage and you Vanish from sight.
Cooldown reduced by 60 sec if Sepsis does not last its full duration.
This ability has a nice synergy with Mark of the Master Assassin, but since this Legendary isn’t your priority at the moment, it shouldn’t affect your choice.
Soulshape – turn into a Vulpin, teleporting 15 yards forward and increasing your movement speed by 50%. You may reactivate Soulshape every few sec to teleport again. Lasts 12 sec, or indefinitely while in a rest area. When Soulshape is active, you can’t cast spells.
It’s a useful ability both for mobility out of combat and for quick repositioning in fights.
Serrated Bone Spike – embed a bone spike in the target, dealing Bleed damage every 3 sec until they die. Deals damage and generates 1 Combo Point per active bone spike. Refunds 1 charge when target dies or is healed to full. Costs 10 Energy, CD 30 sec.
Can be used on single or multiple targets.
Fleshcraft – form a shield of flesh and bone over 4 sec that absorbs damage equal to 20% of your maximum health for 2 min. Channeling near a corpse claims their essence to grow the shield, up to 50% of your maximum health. This is most effective against powerful enemies. Besides, the spell gives you a combat buff, depending on the race of the monster.
It’s a pretty good utility ability, but it’s channeled, so you can’t always use it in fights.
The Covenants that suit Subtlety best are the following:
the Kyrian > the Venthyr >= the Night Fae >= the Necrolords
In Subtlety, we have the following Potency Conduits:.
Planned Execution – Symbols of Death increases your critical strike chance by 4%.
Stiletto Staccato – Shadow Techniques now also reduces the remaining cooldown of Shadow Blades by 1 sec.
Perforated Veins – Shadowstrike increases the damage of your next Backstab by 18%, stacking up to 6 times.
Deeper Daggers – Eviscerate and Black Powder increase your Shadow damage dealt by 8% for 8 sec
The current rating of Potency Conduits:
Planned Execution > Stiletto Staccato >= Perforated Veins >= Deeper Daggers >= Covenant Conduit
When upgrading your Soulbind, the most beneficial option is to take 2 slots for Potency Conduits and use the Conduits according to their rating above. However, in some situations, you can take 1 Potency Conduit, if a particular Soulbind has a strong DPS Talent that leads to a Conduit of another type.
The image below shows the optimal builds for the Soulbinds. The red border also indicates the best Soulbind out of three. The orange border indicates one of the possible options in M+.
Overall, the Subtlety Rogue has 8 available Legendary Items: 4 general and 4 spec Powers.
Let’s have a look at the most useful of them:
For single targets:
Akaari’s Soul Fragment >= Finality > Mark of the Master Assassin
Mark of the Master Assassin > Finality > Essence of Bloodfang
Also, the choice of Legendary Item Effects can be affected by your Covenants, Talents and equipment.
Try to use finishing moves at 5-6 CP, avoiding overcap, including Shadow Techniques procs.
- Keep Slice and Dice active throughout the whole fight, trying to refresh the buff without Symbols of Death and Shadow Dance.
- Maintain Rupture on your target, refreshing it between bursts.
- Use Shadow Blades on recharge.
- Shadow Dance is used with Symbols of Death once the latter is up, or if the number of Shadow Dance stacks is close to 2.
- Use Vanish on recharge, combine it with Shadowstrike, but not with Shadow Dance.
- (if you have Secret Technique) use Secret Technique on recharge, or with AoE / Symbols of Death if necessary.
- Eviscerate is your main finisher at 5-6 CP.
- Use Shadowstrike to gain CP in Stealth or during Shadow Dance.
- Out of Shadow Dance, use Backstab to generate CP only if you’re close to Energy overcap, and save Energy before bursts.
In AoE situations, use Shuriken Storm on 2+ targets, and if Shadow Dance is active – on 3+.
Black Powder is used on 3+ enemies.
Rupture can be active on all targets that can survive most of its duration, but don’t use it for short-term AoE. Besides, don’t use Rupture on 6+ targets, just like Slice and Dice – better go for Shuriken Storm -> Black Powder.
Covenant abilities and their impact on your priorities:
Echoing Reprimand – used on recharge. The buff itself lasts for 45 sec and has the same CD. It means that it can be easily implemented with other useful buffs, say, to enhance Eviscerate during Shadow Dance, while Symbols of Death is active.
Flagellation – used on recharge and recast at 30 stacks, or before the buff goes off. No point to synergize it with bursts, we just want to minimize its downtime.
The Night Fae
Sepsis – used on recharge. If the target survives its full duration, Vanish from sight and follow your standard rotation.
Serrated Bone Spike – minimize its downtime and if you have 3 Spike charges, embed at least one of them in any target.
When fighting single targets, just use Spike charges whenever you can, for example, to cap your CP.
In M+ or in cleave fights, keep this ability active on as many enemies as possible. Try to use Serrated Bone Spike on targets that are most likely to die first to gain some extra charges.
Choosing a race
For a Rogue, your race doesn’t really matter, as the damage boost you get does not exceed 1.5%. Nevertheless, here’s a chart:
Your basic stats priority is the following:
Finesse > Crit = Versatility > Mastery > Haste
Versatility and Crit are your main priorities. Mastery is a bit more important for AoE, while Haste loses its significance in this case.
To maximize your stats, use raidbots.com (-> Stat Weights) and import this information to the game with Pawn (addon) for further convenience.
Based on the above-mentioned characteristics and your own simulation results, let’s move on to Gems, Enchants and Consumables.
Deadly Jewel Cluster (Crit) / Versatile Jewel Cluster (Versatility)
Boots: Eternal Agility
Chest: Eternal Skirmish / Eternal Stats
Cloak: Soul Vitality / Fortified Leech
Rings: Tenet of Critical Strike/ Tenet of Versatility
Weapons: Celestial Guidance + Sinful Revelation / Lightless Force (AoE) x 2
Stones: Shaded Sharpening Stone
Flasks: Eternal Cauldron / Spectral Flask of Power
Potions: Potion of Spectral Agility / Potion of Phantom Fire / АоЕ: Potion of Empowered Exorcisms
Heal pots: Spiritual Healing Potion
Food: Feast of Gluttonous Hedonism (+20 Finesse) / Phantasmal Souffle and Fries (+30 Crit) / Steak a la Mode (+30 Versatility)
Armor kits: Heavy Desolate Armor Kit
BiS Gear & Trinkets
Head – Sadist’s Sinister Mask – Sire Denathrius
Neck – Noble’s Birthstone Pendant – The Council of Blood
Shoulder – Wicked Flanker’s Gorget – General Kaal
Cloak – Crest of the Legionnaire General – General Kaal
Chest – Corset of the Deft Duelist – The Council of Blood
Wrist – Precisely Calibrated Chronometer – Artificer Xy’mox
Hands – Bleakwing Assassin’s Grips – Kael’thas Sunstrider
Waist- Spell-Woven Tourniquet – Huntsman Altimor
Legs – Chiropteran Leggings – Shriekwing
Feet – Enchanted Toe-Tappers – The Council of Blood
Ring #1 – Hyperlight Band – Lady Inerva Venaoscura
Ring #2 – Most Regal Signet of Sire Denathrius – Sire Denathrius
Trinket #1 – Nathria Trinket – The Council of Blood
Trinket #2 – Stone Legion Heraldry – Stone Legion Generals
Weapon #1 – Zenith Anima Spherule – Sire Denathrius
Weapon #2 – Zenith Anima Spherule – Sire Denathrius
Top list of trinkets in Shadowlands:
Tricks of the Trade multi-macros
/cast [@mouseover, help, exists] Tricks of the Trade
/cast [@focus, help, exists] Tricks of the Trade
/cast [@targettarget, help, exists] Tricks of the Trade
Tricks of the Trade macros for M+ (pull to the leader, usually a tank)
/cast [@party1] Tricks of the Trade
Kick on your focus or current target
/cast [@focus , exists, harm] Kick;Kick
Secret Technique / Shuriken Tornado, depending on the Talent taken
/cast [talent:7/2] Secret Technique;Shuriken Tornado
Marked for Death at the cursor position (mouseover macro)
/cast [@mouseover] Marked for Death
Shadowstep at the cursor position (mouseover macro)
/cast [@mouseover] Shadowstep
WeakAuras is probably the most important addon in modern WoW. It allows you to customize almost anything, and on wago.io you can find hundreds of useful auras and import them to your game in a few clicks. You can also find a full pack of auras for any spec, for example, check out this link!
BigWigs/Deadly Boss Mods – addons with timers and announcements for bosses in raids and M+, choose either of these. It’s also super useful in PvE. For BigWigs, the instance module, LittleWigs, must be installed separately.
nugComboBar – an addon for displaying combo points in an aesthetic form.
ElvUI is an all-in-one global build for fans of a neat and concise interface. Replaces several addons at once. On wago.io you can find a large number of different customized profiles for ElvUI.
Details! Damage Meter is the most up-to-date and advanced damage meter at the moment.
Plater Nameplates – an addon from the author of Details that changes enemy nameplates. Fully customizable design and a huge number of available features, as well as the ability to import profiles and mods from wago.io – what else do you need?
Dominos is a customizable panel addon.
Basic Chat Mods – addon for chat customization.
Deja Character stats – adds more information about the character.
Shadowed unit frames – an alternative to ElvUI for unit frames.
Use this WeakAura to avoid losing combo points when proccing Shadow Techniques. It provides an option to display the CP proc timer as a number (1-5) or as text.
That’s it, guys! We hope you have no more questions and are ready to get down to practice. Thanks for reading! Best of luck in the world of Azeroth!