Friday, June 20, 2008

Rogue School: Level 1 to 9

In my last Rogue School article, I talked about which racial traits are beneficial for Rogues. In this article, I am going to talk about your first levels (specifically 1-9) in which I’ll provide some leveling tips and talk about some of your first abilities and talents. I also recommend an article I wrote suggesting some leveling addons that I find are useful.

Basic mechanics
Rogues are a physical damage class that need to be in melee range in order to do damage. Physical damage is different from Non-Physical damage in two main ways: It can’t be resisted and the damage is reduced by your target’s Armor. Unlike many caster classes, a very large contribution of the physical damage dealt by melee comes from our weapon’s auto-attack (called white damage). I recommend reading an an article on Attack Power I wrote that includes a nice in-depth explanation about factors that impact these types of physical attacks.

Rogues use Energy to perform class abilities, rather than Mana or Rage. Energy has a maximum of 100 points and is filled with a fixed 20 Energy every 2 seconds in or out of combat. This static flow of Energy controls the combat pacing of a Rogue. So while they typically start a fight with 100 Energy – they quickly spend it and need to wait on more Energy. Since Rogues already wait on Energy every 2 seconds, most Rogue abilities are on a 1 second Global Cooldown rather than the standard 2 second GCD for other classes. It’s worth noting that most Rogue abilities are between 35 and 60 Energy, so they need 2-3 Energy ticks between actions.

In addition to Energy, some class abilities require that you have Combo Points on the target and the duration or damage dealt by this Finisher is determined by the quantity of Combo Points. You can have up to five Combo Points on single target and get them by using other class abilities that give Combo Points. Applying Combo Points on a NEW target will cause you to lose any points earned on your previous target. This is one reason why Rogues should rarely be given the task of killing “adds” during a boss fight.

Level 1-3
Your first few levels are all about getting used to the idea of Energy and Combo Points.

Sinister Strike: An instant attack ability that deals weapon damage + some additional damage and generates a combo point. For most Rogues, this is the most commonly cast ability and the one you will regularly use to build up combo points for your finisher. The single most important thing to remember about SS is that it is an instant Mainhand attack. Any poisons or enchants on your Mainhand have a chance to proc everytime it is used. Since the damage dealt by SS is instant, you want the weapon that deals the most average damage in your Mainhand (rather than DPS). Traditionally, this is a SLOW weapon. Instant attacks from Daggers are modified to do less damage than other weapon types, so rule of thumb is to use a non-Dagger. At level 1, you aren’t going to have many options, so this will be a Dagger. Costs 45 Energy.

Eviscerate: An instant attack ability that deals damage based on the number of combo points. We call abilities that use these combo points a Finishing move or Finisher. This is the only finisher of the direct physical damage variety and the damage caused applied instantly and is reduced by your target’s armor. In the early levels, a 5-pt finisher is not always that effiecient because much of the damage is overkill by the time you have earned 5 pts. During these levels, I suggest practicing with 2 and 3 point Eviscerates. Costs 35 Energy.

Stealth: The class defining ability of going invisible. It costs no energy and has a cooldown of 10 seconds that starts when you exit Stealth. Unfortunately, while this is incredibly cool and likely the reason you chose the class – it’s almost useless until level 18 (Ambush) or possibly even level 26 (Cheap Shot). The reason is that Rank 1 Stealth incurs a horrible 50% movement penalty and it takes far longer to Stealth up to a mob than it does to simply pull it with the default thrown weapon. In fact, you may even find that this continues to be faster up until Level 40 or so when you get the Rank 3 version with only a 35% penalty. That being said, I highly recommend Stealthing immediately after you begin to Eat Food. Just remember to Stealth then Eat Food or you will break out of Stealth. Costs 0 Energy.

Level 4-8
Backstab: At level 4, you get Backstab which is an instant attack ability that requires a mainhand Dagger and that you are behind the target. It also generates a combo point like Sinister Strike. It does a pretty significant amount of damage, but costs 15 more Energy than SS and the only way to get behind the target at this level is to use it while Stealthed. Costs 60 Energy.

Pick Pocket: Pick Pocket is an instant cast ability that allows you to pilfer the pockets of a targeted mob within melee range (provided that you are Stealthed). Pick Pocketing usually results in a some coins and possibly a garbage item, healing potion or junkbox. The junkboxes are the most useful because they provide some Poison reagents and allow you to level Lockpicking. Costs 0 Energy.

The lousy thing about Pick Pocket is that it’s a pain to remember to use it. Fortunately for you, Pick Pocket can be chained with an attack ability using a macro similar to this one:
/cast Pick Pocket
/cast Ambush (or Garrote, Cheap Shot)

Gouge: At level 6, you get Gouge. This is a very cool ability for the level because it deals a modest amount of damage, adds a combo point and incapacitates the target. The incapacitate effect last for 4 seconds and is useful as a Spell Interrupt against casters. When used, it automatically turns auto-attacks off and is broken if any damage is dealt to the target. Gouge requires that your target be facing you and is on a 10 second cooldown. It’s an excellent ability that can give you some time to run away. Or if you ever have the need to “kite” a mob as a Rogue, then using it every 10 seconds is the best way to do it. The most notable thing at this level is that Gouge can be used to setup a Backstab. Costs 45 Energy.

To set up a Backstab using Gouge, you will need at least 65 Energy and are close to your next Energy “tick” that would make it 100 Energy. The reason is that Gouge takes 45 Energy and Backstab is 60, so you need a total of 105 Energy. Gouge gives you four seconds, so you can receive a maximum of two “ticks” if timed correctly. 65 Energy .. Gouge (-45) .. Tick (+20) .. Tick (+20) .. Backstab (-60). At higher levels, you can put points in Improved Gouge and increase it up to 5.5 seconds which can fit in a third tick if your timing is really good and make that second tick a certainty. (5.5 seconds can also be enough time to get you out-of-combat and reenter Stealth).

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