Friday, June 27, 2008

Rogue School: Level 10 to 19

Last week in Rogue School, I covered levels 1-9 and this week I plan to cover levels 10 to 19. FYI – I don’t plan on covering each article in 10 level chunks, the first 19 levels just happens to work out that way.

Talent Points
The big news at level 10 is that you just received your first talent point. The key thing to remember about these early levels is that 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 lesson from a leveling standpoint is that we should put these 11 points in Assassination for the early levels. Then when you reach level 29, you can respec and put these 20 points into Combat.

BUT – and this is a big BUT – your first two points should still go into Combat before Assassination. Putting these points in Improved Sinister Strike will reduce the amount of Energy needed to cast SS by 5. While that may not seem significant, recall that you use this ability more often than any other ability. 40 Energy instead of 45 means that you be able to cast three SS for 120 Energy and only need a single Energy Tick. For example, the rhythm for a 3-pt Eviscerate becomes: SS (-40), SS (-40), Tick (+20), SS (-40), Tick (+20), Tick (+20), Eviscerate (-35). That’s three Ticks to a 3-pt Eviscerate instead of four Ticks.

Level 10-11
As discussed above, the two talent points spent at these levels are best spent on Improved Sinister Strike. You also get Dual Wield, so go get yourself an Offhand. At this level, the only thing to consider for an Offhand is DPS. When you get Poisons, you will want something FAST because proc rate is based on hits not procs per minute like typical enchants.

Sprint: Rank 1 provides a 50% increase in run speed for 15 seconds and has a cooldown of 5 minutes. At this level, you don’t have Vanish yet so this can be a wonderful way to simply run away when you are overwhelmed. Humanoids that run away and get adds can be particularly annoying, so saving this to help you escape can be a real life saver. Alternately, you can simply use it to save you time running around. My personal preference was to keep it on cooldown as much as possible in order to speed up the inevitable runs to and from NPCs and quest locations. Costs 0 Energy.

Sap: Sap is an incredibly useful skill while questing. It allows you to CC a possible add and take on two or three mobs you otherwise couldn’t handle on your own. It can also be used to Sap a mob that is protecting a quest object. Rogues have a real advantage in questing in that they can stealth into an area, Sap something, loot the object, then re-stealth. I highly recommend that you get used to Sapping mobs during your leveling career because when you start instancing dungeons, this will be one of your most useful skills to bring to the group. In PvP, Sap provides the added benefit of allowing you to “even the odds” a bit. I can often take two players by Sapping one, killing the other. It can also be used to get away from a high level player attempting to gank you. A level 10 player can Sap a level 70 for 10 seconds. If you are quick, you might be able to get the Sap off before they hit you and take you out of stealth. A quick Sprint and some sneaky hiding and you can get away unharmed. Costs 65 Energy.

Slice and Dice: SnD is a finishing move which increases weapon speed. Rank 1 provides a 20% increase in your weapon speed. Rank 2 provides a 30% increase. The duration depends on the number of Combo Points used. This weapon speed increase effectively increases your white damage and frequency of weapon procs by 20-30% respectively. In the early levels, this is an overlooked ability because a large % of your damage comes from your instant attacks like Sinister Strike and Eviscerate. However, as you gain levels, white damage and poison procs can easily equal 60% of your overall damage output. Increasing 60% of your damage by 20-30% results in an overall boost of 12-18% DPS and easily makes it the most important finisher. It’s worth noting that the only difference between a 1-pt SnD and a 5-pt SnD is duration. Without Improved SnD, 1 point provides 9 seconds and each additional point provides 3 seconds. With Rank 3 Imp SnD, the duration is increased by 45% which is up to 30 seconds at 5 pts. Costs 25 Energy.

Level 12-13
Don’t bother rushing to find a trainer when you hit Level 12. You get an upgrade to Backstab and a new ability called Kick. Kick is an important ability, but arguably not worth the run back to a capital city. Just visit a trainer when it’s most convenient.

Kick: A spell interrupt that does a minimal amount of damage and prevents casting from that school for 5 seconds. Rank simply increases the amount of damage dealt, but it is never a significant amount (level 70 is only 110 damage total). This interrupt is far superior to Gouge because it costs less Energy, doesn’t require the target to be facing you, and prevents the spell casting in that school. The prevention is quite notable when you are working to prevent a caster from healing or dealing a lot of damage with a particular spell (like Pyroblast). Costs 25 Energy.

Level 14-15
Garrote: This is your first real stealth opener. Openers are powerful ‘surprise’ attacks that provide combo points and require you to be stealthed and in melee range. Garrote also requires that you be BEHIND your enemy like Backstab, but does NOT require a Dagger. The ability itself provides one combo point puts a damage over time bleed on the target that does X damage based on Rank and is modified by Attack Power. The bleed lasts for 18 seconds and ignores armor mitigation. Rank 7 and 8 silences the target for 3 seconds making it a powerful attack against casters, particular high armor targets like Paladins. The Attack Power modifier is 18%, so 1000 AP is equal to an extra 180 damage. Rank 8 with 1500 AP will deal 1080 damage for 18 seconds (or 180 damage per 3-second tick). This is arguably the best opener in boss fights immune to stuns, particularly if you don’t Mainhand a Dagger. Costs 50 Energy.

Expose Armor: This is a finisher that reduces the target’s armor by an amount based on the number of Combo Points used in the attack. It also causes a large amount of threat and lasts 30 seconds. The ability is inferior to the Warrior ability Sunder Armor and does not stack with it, making it useless in groups that include a Warrior. In fact, an easy way to piss off your warrior is to put this debuff on a mob and prevent him from applying Sunder Armor. However, in Boss fights where a Warrior is not present but includes a lot of other melee classes, the armor reduction will benefit all the other melee classes which could make it superior to SnD in those situations. The effect is also most beneficial against low armor targets, particularly casters, so it’s not uncommon to use the ability against casters in PvP. Still, in most situations this is likely the least popular or beneficial way to utilize Combo Points. Costs 25 Energy.

Level 16-17
I also wouldn’t recommend running out of your way to find a trainer at level 16. These two abilities are both important, just not important to your leveling career at this particular moment.

Feint: This ability is one of the most important in a Rogue’s arsenal because it allows the Rogue to instantly reduce the amount of aggro or threat they have within a group. Of course, when you solo, this is useless because you will always be the target of the thing you are attacking. But in a group, this allows you to continue to do lots of damage without drawing aggro or threat from the Tank. The ability to control your threat so accurately is what makes Rogues one of the best pure DPS classes in the game. Of course, when you are soloing at level 16, this ability won’t seem terribly useful to you.

Pick Lock: Lockpicking is an ability that skills up, just like a weapon or trade skill. Your max lockpick level is 5 * Current Level. At level 16, that’s a max skill of 155 but it only starts at 1 and takes some time to level. You will need lockpicking in a few levels for your Poison quest, but we are going to ignore it for moment until it’s a bit easier to level it.

Level 18-19
Ambush: This is a powerful opener that requires you to be stealthed and behind your target. However, similar to Backstab, it DOES require a Dagger to be in the Mainhand. It provides a Combo Point and deals 275% weapon damage plus X amount of damage based on the Rank. Since this is a modified weapon damage attack like Sinister Strike, the amount of damage dealt rises dramatically when you use a slow Dagger with a high average damage. A typical slow speed Dagger will be around 1.8 weapon speed. The issue is that since Ambush uses a Dagger, a follow-up attack with Sinister Strike will be drastically less than a slower 2.4 or 2.6 non-Dagger. So... if you want to open with Ambush, you can either use the Gouge-Backstab combination to make full use of the Dagger, or you can figure out how to use a macro to swap weapons.

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