With patch 4.0.6 out I would like to delve into some viable Subtlety and Assassination pvp builds and highlight the differences in play style between the two trees, primarily focusing on rotations, stat priorities, glyphs, pros and cons of each build, and the impact the patch has had.
Prior to Cata coming out we saw Assassination as pretty much the only viable choice for pvp. Now in Cata with major talent tree changes we see Subtlety rise as a pvp contender. In the latest patch (4.0.6) Subtlety received a much needed damage boost and a slight utility nerf, while Assassination remained untouched (see Rogue Patch 4.0.6 Changes post). This change has made Subtlety competitive as a sustained damage dealer (but still substantially lower than Assassination) closing the gap between Assassination and Subtlety dps.
Personally I prefer to play Subtlety as I believe its mobility and utility far outweighs Assassination’s sustained damage advantage. The current mobility state of Assassination is terrible. Assassination rogues are very exposed to kiting from classes such as hunters and mages and really only have sprint as a gap closer. Until mobility is addressed I will be sticking to Subtlety.
–> Large sustained damage
–> Spell damage debuff on opponents
–> Quick combo point regen
–> Little utility
–> Poor mobility
–> Dependency on poisons
Subtlety is an opener build that relies heavily on burst damage through abilities like Find Weakness and Shadow Dance and also cooldown usage to keep opponents controlled. It is regarded as the most challenging build to master due to its positional dependency (must be behind target to Backstab, Ambush, Garrote), its reliance on going in and out of stealth and its rotationless playstyle. But once mastered, it should be the preferred choice as it is really the only build of any sort of utility and mobility. Things such as Gouge not breaking on your bleeds; using Shadowstep to easily stick to opponents and secure CC, and Shadow Dance effectively locking down opponents, not to mention having Preparation readily available is what makes Subtlety so attractive. There are two variations of Subtlety pvp builds that I have played around with.
Subtlety Build 1 - 8/2/31
Secondary talents (handy talents to have)
This build is regarded as the current cookie-cutter Subtlety level 85 pvp build. It skips Serrated Blades and Enveloping Shadows which are very lackluster in pvp. Initiative and Waylay are also rarely choosen by most rogues as other talents are more preferable and most rogues consider Waylay to be overkill when confident with their Crippling poison application.
1 point is usually placed in HaT for the 5% crit buff and combo point generation (be wary when switching targets however). Sanguinary Vein is also recommended mainly for allowing Gouge not to break during bleeds. Cheat Death can regularly mean the difference between victory and death and has saved me countless times.
The speed and healing buff from Quickening is the target in the Assassination tree. 3/3 Lethality and 2/3 Coup de Grace is your best option (dps wise) to get to Quickening and then put the remaining point into Puncturing Wounds for an increase in crit chance on your Backstab.
Subtlety build 2 – 0/10/31
Secondary talents (handy talents to have)
This is the build I am currently playing and one which focuses on secondary talents from the Combat tree. The aim is to get to Improved Sprint in the Combat tree to enhance your mobility even further, making you virtually unkiteable. Once again Improved Recuperate is taken and is pretty much a must have pvp talent for all pvp builds. A single point here is equivalent to over 300 resilience and the heal over time it grants is awesome, healing you for around 6K per tick with buffs! I find Precision coupled with the Glyph of Crippling Poison a handy talent in maintaining Crippling poison on my target. Aggression provides a nice dps increase on your Backstab and Eviscerate making it a good alternative to Lethality in the Assassination tree.
–> Good mobility
–> Lots of utility
–> 5% crit chance to party
–> High burst damage
–> Low sustained damage
–> Positional dependency
–> Challenging build to master
Assassination is a build that has potent sustained damage. It is all about offensive pressure, utilizing your stuns, bleeds and poisons to chip away at an opponent until they’re dead. While being able to hit like a truck, the build has a big problem with mobility. Assassination rogues are therefore very susceptible to kiting and you will often find it hard to reach and stay on your target.
Assassination build – 31/2/8
As stated above this build is all about offensive pressure on your target. Realistically you could allocate points anywhere within this tree except Deadly Momentum and Murderous Intent. Skipping Cut to the Chase and Improved Exposed Armor is also recommended as they are weak talents when compared to awesome Subtlety talents like Relentless Strikes and Opportunity. One modification to this build is to sacrifice the dps gain from Opportunity for the survivability that Elusiveness provides, but this is personal preference (also remember that Elusiveness received a nerf in 4.0.6).
Subtlety stat priority, rotation, poisons and glyphs
Priority: 5% hit cap > Agility >Haste > Mastery > Crit
As with all rogue builds, agility is your priority stat. Haste is great for your energy regen and you should reforge crit or mastery to haste where possible. Mastery is a weak stat for Subtlety but make sure its at 10 for the Slice n Dice buff (2% faster attack speed vs 4.0.3 if you have 10 mastery) if you do make regular use of Slice n Dice in your rotation (but most Sub rogues rarely use it).
As far as rotations go, there is no standard Subtlety rotation. Another reason why a Subtlety pvp build can be challenging to master. Depending on the target and their current level of hp I more often than not open with Garrote (which i have macroed with Premeditation), then always Shiv (unless I am going to use Kidney Shot), then hit Hemo, followed by Rupture. I rarely open with Cheap shot or Ambush because bleeds is what Subtlety rogues excel in so having Garotte and Rupture up is key. Furthermore opening with Garrote ignores armor and silences your target, an effect which can be extended with the Glyph of Garrote. I tend to leave Ambush for when I hit Shadow Dance or when my opponent is very low on hp.
If I intend to use Shadow Dance on a target, I will usually use Kidney Shot instead of Shiv, and follow with up to 3 Ambushes and either Evicerate if they are almost dead else hit Rupture.
After a 4-5 point Rupture, you can either apply a Backstab, get Recuperate up, then continue backstabbing until u need to refresh Recuperate, Hemo or Rupture. Or u can Vanish, Recuperate and Backstab.
After your initial attack on your opponent ensure that you keep Recuperate up at all times. Slice n Dice I rarely use and only really get up when I have a spare combo point handy.
Poisons to use:
Wound Poison main hand, Crippling Poison off hand. Crippling Poison thrown. You can also try and use Wound Poison or Mind Numbing Poison on your off hand if you have specced in Waylay and are confident in its use.
The Prime Glyphs I currently use include:
Glyph of Slice n Dice may also prove to be an option with the buff to Slice n Dice in 4.0.6.
There are a lot of options when it comes to major glyphs. The ones I currently use include:
Glyph of Preparation is considered as mandatory for Subtlety PVP builds and I will probably end up swapping it back in for one of my current glyphs after some more testing. Glyph of Cloak of Shadows is also a viable option if u can afford to replace an existing one.
Assassination stat priority, rotation, poisons and glyphs
Priority: 5% hit cap > Agility > Mastery >= Spell Penetration > Haste > Crit
Mastery is actually an awesome stat for Assassination. The increase in poison damage that it provides outweighs the benefits of other stats like Haste and Crit.
Why Spell Pen you may ask? Well if you are an Assassination rogue you rely on poisons for a large portion of your damage. You will therefore want around 120 Spell Pen to cut through resistances which reduce your poison damage.
Rotation: Assassination is much easier to play than Subtlety. Your standard rotation includes either Garrote or Cheap shot (usually Garrote for the bleed and 5 second silence if glyphed), Mutilate and then either Kidney Shot or Rupture at 4-5 combo points (Rupture is usually used for Venomous Wounds energy procs). Then Mutilate, get Slice n Dice up, Envenom at 4-5 combo points if Rupture and SnD is still up. Only use Recuperate when you really need it as it has no regen benefits like the ones provided in a Subtlety build.
Poisons to use:
Instant Poison main hand, Deadly Poison off hand. Wound Poison or Mind Numbing Poison thrown.
The Prime Glyphs I used for Assassination:
Glyph of Slice n Dice is also a great option and should be used if you took Cut to the Chase.
Major Glyphs include:
- Glyph of Blind (Mandatory for Assassination)
Glyph of Garrote, Glyph of Gouge, and Glyph of Cloak of Shadows are other popular Assassination Major Glyphs.
As we can see Assassination and Subtlety are two rogue builds that have very different playstyles. Some players like the easier playstyle of Assassination where you stun and wear down your opponent with superior sustained damage. Others prefer the more challenging Subtlety playstyle with its high mobility and vast array of tricks. If you are mostly running battlegrounds I recommend using Subtlety as you won’t have a dedicated cleanser and you will get very frustrated from being kited constantly. For arenas you may want to use Assassination in 2v2 if paired with a healer for the heavy pressure that will be needed to down your opponent. However in 3v3 Subtlety will be your best bet due to its superior utility. At the end of the day pick the build that suits you most, and the build that you enjoy playing.