I’m not a theorycrafter, but I am a min/maxxer or theory user. In my mind, the crafters are the ones creating the math formulas and scrutinizing the combat logs. I simply keep myself informed on their discoveries and let them do the heavy lifting while I put the theory into practice.
My preferred site for the latest and greatest in Theorycraft is the Class Mechanics forums at Elitist Jerks. From what I can tell, just about every viable spec and class has a thread discussion on class mechanics and details the staples of what you need to know to min/max your class. You can also find incredibly useful Excel spreadsheets (like this one for Rogues) that will act as DPS calculators based on your spec and gear selection. BTW, one thing that is nice about that spreadsheet is that you can search for gear upgrades and calculate your buffed DPS based on the types of buffs you are most commonly receiving.
For rogues, there is nothing I could ever contribute about maximizing your DPS that isn’t already detailed in that spreadsheet or in this Roguecraft 101 thread. IMHO, that thread should be required reading for every Rogue.
Of course, the only gospel that I preach is that your shouldn’t take everything as gospel. In other words, don’t use those sites as the bible for how you should spec and play, but as a guide for maximizing your DPS for the style that you want to play. With that in mind, I will provide some key learnings that I have found to be true from reviewing the Theorycraft on Rogues.
I am going to talk about incremental DPS benefit. First, let me explain what I mean by incremental. This is simply the benefit gained (in terms of DPS) from taking a talent or not taking a talent. Since we have a limited pool of points, it’s important that each talent is chosen for maximum benefit.
Secondly, most DPS talents build upon each other – this means that having MORE of these types of talents will provide a greater incremental benefit. In other words, the final result is greater than the sum of the parts. The highest DPS build, Combat Swords, requires very few non-DPS based talents so everything is very complimentary to one another.
To illustrate the point about talents building on each other, let me provide an example. Using the default setting in the calculator, we can see that the first 11 points into Assassination provide us an extra 72 DPS unbuffed. The first 20 points into Combat provides us 119 DPS unbuffed. If we simply add these two numbers together, the sum total is 191 DPS unbuffed. However, when we actually use the calculator to select 11 pts in Assassination and 20 in Combat, the actual DPS output for these talents is 203, or 6% higher. That 6% increase represents the complimentary effect the talents have together to provide something greater than the sum of the parts.
In terms of bang for your buck, the first 11 points into Assassination provide the greatest amount of incremental benefit early in a tree. In fact, the first 11 points into Assassination provide roughly 40% more benefit than the first 11 points into the next closest tree (Combat). However, when you go 20 points into each tree, it flips and Combat actually provides 34% more DPS benefit than Assassination. The actual benefit is even greater as well, since you also need to use 5 pts in other non-DPS related talents in Combat (most likely in Dodge, Riposte, Imp Sprint or Endurance).
Having established that 20 pts into Combat is greater than 20 pts into Assassination, what about the next 11 pts? Is there more benefit in Combat or Assassination? Contrary to gut instinct, the most benefit is gained by picking up those 11 pts in Assassination over your 31 pt talent. In fact, 11-20-0 is 8.3% greater than 0-31-0.
The key learning here is that 11 pts into Assassination and 20 pts into Combat are going to be optimal for any DPS build. You might be tempted to take Blade Flurry over Relentless Stikes. Don’t. The incremental benefit from Relentless Strikes is about 75% more than Blade Flurry. The other key learning is that we also know that if you go 41 points into Subtlety or Assassination, the remaining 20 pts are best spent in Combat to maximize DPS.