Raid Performance: Maximize Rogue DPS

Posted 1 year, 10 months ago at 12:03 am. 24 comments

This could be you!*         *Your jump height may vary by race.

None of this is a secret. Virtually none of this original. Most of this comes from the analysis by Elitist Jerks on their forums, WoWWiki and numerous other sources.

I’m going to approach this from the same perspective I did as I made suggestions for our new Rogue to rebuild her character with the goal of maximizing DPS during raids. I had her spec for the common 20/41/0 Combat Swords build.

There is a common perception that DPS is easy. It is. Performing well at DPS is not easy. You have to know what you’re doing. You have to know what stats you should focus on. You need to know about the aspects of your character that don’t lead directly to DPS, but help you survive like Cloak of Shadows, Vanish and Feint. You need to be aware of your surroundings. You have to know when to use what abilities at what part during a fight to maximize your damage, while ensuring your survivability by pulling aggro or breaking CC. (See also: Dirty Tricks to Surviving)


Whether considering normalized or non-normalized attacks, your weapons as the basis of your DPS. If you are a Combat Swords Rogue, you want the slowest sword with the highest average damage in your main hand. You want the fastest sword with the highest average damage in your off hand. Swords wielded in the off hand can proc the extra sword swing, but the main hand sword is weapon that gets the extra attack. One challenge faced by our new Rogue was the lack of a decent main hand sword for her Combat Swords build. But even that was easily fixed with honor and the purchase of the [Gladiator's Slicer] from Season One PvP gear.


Next, we examined her build. I had her change her build to match my cookie cutter build. Her choices were mostly correct. How can you go wrong with more than 41 points in combat? But we trimmed the few points she had in Subtlety and transferred them over to Assassination.


Using Recount allowed me to quickly gauge how often she used each ability and whether she needed to focus on more +Hit without ever looking at her equipment or Armory profile.

I emphasized these stats in the following order:

  • Hit Rating. As a duel-wielding Combat Swords Rogue, your chance to miss a 73 raid boss on a normal swing is a whopping 28%; missing on a special attack is still 9%. Reducing this chance to miss by increasing your hit rating adds directly to your damage. The Combat talent Precision reduces your chance to miss by 5%, reducing the hit rating you need to eliminate misses on special attacks to 64. Eliminating misses on normal attacks will require 363 hit rating, something virtually impossible to acquire without severely hindering your character in other areas. I have found at the SSC/TK level that ~300 is a good level to obtain.
  • Attack Power. Attack Power affects almost all Rogue combat abilities in a linear fashion. If you have more attack power, your attacks are going to do more damage. As a general rule, remember that every 14 points of attack power yield 1 additional DPS on normal attacks. You get 1 point of Attack Power for each point of Strength or Agility.
  • Haste. I’d place this below Attack Power as Haste helps maximize what you already have, and you need to be able to hit, hit hard, and then hit fast.
  • Agility. Agility is going to provide you with Attack Power (1 Agility for 1 Attack Power) and Critical Strike chance. From item budgeting, Agility seems a bit overvalued, so you’ll find it easier to improve your Attack Power with items with Attack Power rather than Agility. [Many posters have commented on this post that Agility is more attractive than Attack power because Agility scales with Blessing of Kings. - Val 05/07/2008]
  • Expertise Rating. As explained back when it was implemented, Expertise reduces your opponent’s chances to parry and dodge. Think of it as another Hit Rating. While a mob cannot parry attacks made from behind, they can dodge them. Since every point of Expertise lowers their chance to dodge by 0.25%, you’ll need 26 Expertise or 104 Expertise Rating to eliminate their chance to dodge. That’s 63 more Expertise Rating from gear if you pick up Weapon Expertise. You can pick up 44 Expertise Rating from just the [Shard of Contempt] from Magister’s Terrace.
  • Critical Strike Rating. Critical Strike Rating is not quite as important for a Combat Swords Rogue as perhaps it might be for a Backstab Rogue or Mutilate Rogue. It shouldn’t be completely ignored, but Hit Rating and Attack Power will provide us much higher overall, sustained DPS.
  • Armor Penetration. After everything else, Armor Penetration is excellent, especially against bosses. However, until you have a large amount, it isn’t going to help you as much as any of the above stats.
  • Strength. If you see items with Strength on them, PASS. These are meant for DPS Warriors or Ferals. Strength only gives you 1 Attack Power for each point. You’re better off with other gear. Trust me.
  • Stamina. You should get enough of this elsewhere. Do not try get to any more. Do not consider this stat when you look at gear. It shouldn’t matter.
  • Armor. See Stamina. If Blizzard made DPS cloth, I’d suggest you look into it.

Ability Use

Bleed and Butter As I run Recount almost constantly, it was easy to examine the new Rogue’s choice of abilities based on the damage sources from her attacks. Though I couldn’t tell from Recount explicitly, I surmised from the amount of swings she may not be using Slice and Dice as often as she could (the number of her normal, melee swings with weapons of similar speed to my own was significantly lower). Also, Eviscerate showed much higher use than Rupture, even during boss fights. There are only a few rules that I feel Combat Sword Rogues need follow for attack abilities in raids:

  • Open with Garrote. As a bleed, it’s slow and steady damage. It gives you a combo point to start your Slice and Dice. However, don’t waste too much time trying to apply Garrote. If the fight starts and you’re nowhere near the boss, just unstealth and start off with a Sinister Strike after your tank has established some aggro.
  • Use your first combo point for Slice and Dice and try to never let Slice and Dice fade. For our new Rogue, I suggested she swap around some of her gear to get the two piece set bonus of Netherblade set. This makes a 1 CP Slice and Dice last 17.4 seconds.
  • Spam Sinister Strike up to five combo points and use Rupture on any mob you think might live more than ten more seconds. Any less and you’re probably better off using Slice and Dice or Eviscerate. If your mob is near death and you have 1-3 combo points left, spend them on Slice and Dice; if you have 4-5 combo points, use Eviscerate.
  • If your Slice and Dice and your Rupture are still up and you have five combo points, continue to use Sinister Strike until Rupture fades, reapply Rupture and then use your next combo point on Slice and Dice. This often happens during Adrenaline Rush.


Use me, but don't abuse me.

As a Combat Swords Rogue, you’ll have access to two Combat Tree abilities: Blade Flurry and Adrenaline Rush. These two abilities should be used as often as possible at the right times.

  • Blade Flurry. (a.k.a. Death Blossom, Cuisinart, Rogue Suicide) Make sure you time your Blade Flurry for when you know you won’t break crowd control and you won’t grab aggro. Available for 15 seconds every 2 minutes, this should be used as often as possible even on boss fights as it’s another 20% increase to your attack speed. Combining Blade Flurry with Adrenaline Rush maximizes both abilities.
  • Adrenaline Rush. Like Blade Flurry, you should definitely time this ability for the start of any boss fight after tanks have established aggro. It also last 15 seconds, during which you’ll have virtually endless Energy. If Slice and Dice, Rupture, and Adrenaline Rush are up with 5 combo points, keep using Sinister Strike until Rupture fades. Again, combining Blade Flurry with Adrenaline Rush maximizes both abilities.
  • Vanish.  After building up all your threat from stacking all of these abilities, it is usually a good time to check your threat meter and use Vanish to dump all your threat.
  • Trinkets. If you have a [Bloodlust Brooch] or other trinket with an On Use ability, time their use for Blade Flurry and Adrenaline Rush to maximize your bonus Attack Power.


For weapon enchants, I still like Mongoose for its Haste and 120 Agility proc. I wouldn’t bother with +20 Agility on a weapon because, as stated above, Agility is expensive for its return and I think the Haste with Mongoose is worth it. Executioner, which provides an Armor Penetration proc, looks promising if you already have high Armor Penetration from other sources.

For gear, look at the Stats section above for what you should focus on. Everything that can be enchanted should be enchanted as follows:


I’m not going to go through all the gems. If you’ve read the rest of this post, you know what you should focus on: Hit Rating, Attack Power. Ignore Stamina. When looking at socket bonuses, always get Hit Rating bonuses, consider Agility bonuses, ignore Stamina bonuses.


Before combat:

During combat:

  • Use [Haste Potion]s as often as possible in situations where you might not have to use a healing potion to save your life. These potions increase your attack speed by 25.37% alone. Timing these with your cooldowns will also help maximize each of their uses.
Haste Potion
Requires Level 60
Use: Increases haste rating by 400 (25.37% @ L70) for 15 sec. (2 Min Cooldown)

Focus and Skill

It’s not enough to have a character with the right gear, the right enchantments and the right gems. You need to know how to use it.

You need to ensure you’re not engaging targets before a tank establishes aggro, but that you’re also engaging as quickly as possible.

Get into position early. And your position should always be behind the boss. Use stealth when appropriate, but don’t worry about wasting ten seconds stealthing to the boss mob after combat starts so you can get that Garrote in. If think you’re more than 3 seconds off from when the tank has aggro, it’s better to unstealth, run in and Sinister Strike for your first combo point for Slice and Dice.

Be aware of crowd control.  Nothing else is going to get you on the bad side of the raid leader, the healers and the crowd control than breaking their sheep because you’re not paying attention.  And it could very likely get you or another soft, squishy target killed.


Weapons, build, ability use, cooldowns, stats, enchants, gems, consumables, and focus and skill. Each area alone is going to help you improve your DPS. As you look to improve each of these areas, you’ll start to feel the synergy of them helping you achieve your maximum potential.


24 Replies

  1. Bhaerau May 5th 2008 Gravatar

    Very enjoyable read that quickly and neatly sums up the important points about raiding as a Combat Rogue. I’d recommend reading Elitist Jerks as well, and then referencing back to this one when needing to look something up quick.

    A small correction: Agility only offers 1 AP per point, while Strength does the same.

  2. Ooh, great guide! I just started a rogue, so this will be very helpful. Thanks!

    Another small correction — the Glyph of Ferocity requires that you be revered with Cenarion, not just honored. I’m currently grinding rep for that one for my hunter. :)

  3. valenna May 5th 2008 Gravatar

    @ Bhearau: I recommend reading the Elitist Jerks thread as well. It’s the first link at the top of the article. I fixed the bit about Agility. Thanks, must have been late.

    @Ess: Awesome. Most of this applies as you level, but don’t ignore Stamina, Dodge or Parry when soloing. Yeah, I’m grinding Revered for Honor Hold for another level 70 to get her head enchant. I should have realized that (or just read the tooltip. ^_^) Thanks!

  4. Cedric May 5th 2008 Gravatar

    Good advice all around. The only thing that I’m not quite sure I agree with is what to do if you have 4-5 combo points and both Rupture and Slice and Dice are still running. You recommend to keep Sinister Striking, but I prefer to sneak in an Eviscerate here and there, although it usually depends on how much longer before any of these two aforementioned abilities will be up for.

  5. Naganuina May 5th 2008 Gravatar

    You should wait for Heroism if you have a shaman before using blade flury

  6. Great guide!

    A few random observations:

    * The Mongoose proc is agility, not attack power.
    * The best 1h agility enchant you can get is +20 (, not +12.
    * It’s not obvious from your ordering of stats, but if you have the special hit cap (64 hit rating) and are not yet expertise capped (which is a common scenario) then stacking expertise is better dps than stacking hit, since it affects your yellow and white hits instead of just white.
    * Timing AR and BF together is only useful if you’re actually hitting multiple mobs – apart from that the BF haste bonus (which only affects your white swings) and the AR energy regen bonus (which only affects the number of yellow swings) do not interact. For most bosses there’s no advantage to synchronizing them.
    * I don’t believe agility is overvalued relative to attack power – do you have any citations for this? My understanding was conventional wisdom dictates stacking hit first, then agility as you near the cap.
    * Might be worth mentioning poison choice vs oils vs windfury, this is sometimes nonobvious to new rogues.

    It might also be worth mentioning the EJ spreadsheets, since they are by far the best way to evaluate gear.

    Great guide though, I’ll definitely be linking new rogues to this from now on!

  7. valenna May 6th 2008 Gravatar

    Thanks, everyone!

    @Cedric: I usually find that the opportunity cost of using Eviscerate and possibly losing my Slice and Dice and Rupture isn’t worth using Eviscerate.

    @Naganuina: Good point. My Shamans are often random when they decide to use Heroism and I never get a chance to time it with their Heroism.

    @Chronic: ^_^ Thanks for the observations. I’ll try to incorporate them. Totally right on Expertise and how AR and BF don’t really work together unless you are on multiple mobs.

    As for Agility versus Attack Power, I’m going with the idea the Attack Power has a StadMod of .5 while Agilty as a stat has a StadMod of 1.0. Thus Agility costs twice as much and only provides 1 point of Attack Power, Dodge and Critical Strike Chance. But I’m completely open to the idea that I might be wrong. ^_^

  8. Thecla May 6th 2008 Gravatar

    In raids, Agility will always be better than AP just because of Blessing of Kings. Agility scales, AP does not

  9. I appreciated your vote of confidence on my first post back in the “recreational” blog world. Thank you so much. It was nice to know that someone is actually reading!

  10. Greasypete May 7th 2008 Gravatar

    I often lurk around various blogs, but this is the first time I’ve really been inspired to say anything; you really did an exceptional job. I’m on my first character, as a rogue, and this really helped me understand some concepts that I was overlooking. Thank you!

  11. Regarding Agility vs Attack Power: you’re right that they’re not costed the same, but although you aren’t usually “stacking” critical strike rating on a rogue, the extra crit you gain from agility is still valuable. Crit is costed worse than hit, and will not increase combat potency procs or poison applications, but it has the advantage that it affects both your yellow and white damage and works with Lethality, which a lot of combat rogues will have.

    Even before you factor in blessing of kings, you get a slightly better deal from 2 agility than you do from 2 attack power and 1 critical strike rating (which would have the same cost in terms of itemization). Once you factor in kings (EDIT: and vitality!) the agility is considerably more powerful.

    There’s a page on describing how he weights stats, and although it’s very “rule of thumb” and will not quite fit each individual rogue, it’s pretty obvious from there that in the general case agility is the stronger stat (ie, 1 agility is more than twice as good as 1 attack power):

    You can see a similar situation in the EP weights on the Elitist Jerks Roguecraft 101 thread (which you link near the top of the page):

    Also note that, if you do prefer AP, Ravager Dog would be a better food choice than Warp Burger when you’re hitcapped :>

  12. Okay one more thing and then I promise I’ll shut up:

    For elixirs, Fel Strength Elixir is probably a better choice than Onslaught (but still not as good as Agility):


  13. chedds May 22nd 2008 Gravatar

    i gotta say, this is pretty basic stuff some of it is nice to know but if u didn’t kno the majority of this info ur a discredit to the class

  14. @Thecla: I’m not thoroughly convinced that stacking Agility is better than Attack Power at the level most people would benefit from this article, but I do agree with what you and Chronic have said about it. I added it to the section regarding Agility.

    @Greasypete: Thanks! I hope you start rocking the damage meters.

    @Chronic: OMG. Why didn’t my spam filter catch you?! ~_^ Great comments. I’m going to roll all of them into the article.

    @chedds: You’d be amazed at how many Rogues seem to not follow most or sometimes ANY of this information.

  15. Hanable May 29th 2008 Gravatar

    Couple things quick ….

    First, nice post. Very informative for people trying to learn the ins and outs of being a rogue, and a nice thought provoker for those who have been doing it awhile.

    Second, any thoughts on combat daggers? And would you or anyone else know if you were to spec swords and daggers if the the proc for the extra attack (from having the sword in your offhand) would affect the dagger in the main hand? I don’t know if this is a viable build or not, but something I was curious about.

    Last, something I have a tendency to do since there seem to be an abundance of Pally and Druid tanks now, is if there is noone sundering and I am in a position where I have combo points to spare (from AR or just plain lucky from crit procs) I will use Expose Armor. I will usually open with an ambush for my starting point (or two) SnD, then hit AR and BF and Drums of Battle, hit 5 CP Rupture, single SnD, 5 CP EArmor, then go back to SnD and Rupture. I feel this is a good use of skills and helps everyone, including the non-sundering tank, to get some good burst damage in and kind of set the pace for the whole boss fight.

  16. Sitron Jun 4th 2008 Gravatar

    100 AGL= 100 Att Pwr + Kings = 110 AGL = 110 Att Pwr

    100 Att Pwr= 100 Att Pwr + Kings= 100 Att Pwr

    This is what I like about Agility, not to mention the crit and dodge that comes with it. I only mention dodge because sometimes you could be the victiim of a cleave or you may end up tanking a mob to keep it off the healer

  17. @Hanable:

    Combat daggers is generally recognized to be significantly less DPS than combat swords, combat fists, or combat sword+fist, so it can be harder to find theorycraft about it. If for some reason the only weapons you can get your hands on are daggers, it’s still “viable” I guess, just not optimal.

    If you spec swords and daggers and have a sword in your offhand, yes, the extra attack will come from the dagger in your main hand. Since daggers have a much lower damage range than swords due to their high speed, this is not really a good thing. However, you can spec sword+fist, using a fist in your mainhand, and then when the sword procs extra attacks from your mainhand fist these attacks will get the benefits of fist spec’s 5% extra crit. Depending on your weapons, this can be a very competitive build.

    As to expose armor, yes, it’s a good ability to use when you don’t have a warrior tanking. If you have one rogue in your group with the talent, it’s better than 5 stacks of sunder – but only if you can keep it up 100% of the time. I’ve heard it’s quite hard to sustain 100% snd uptime and 100% ea uptime as combat daggers because of the abysmal combo point generation, but YMMV.

  18. Really nice article, thanks a tone! I raided with a Fury Warrior for a while before moving on to Holy Paladin (ugg) and needing some DPS back in my life started a Rogue. I’m totally loving it so far. (My hubbie & I are tag teaming rogues.. holy fast levelling batman)

    I was confused with my initial info search, people were saying to not use Garrot or Rupture, which wasn’t making any sense to me, who doesn’t want more damage? Of course, none of those people ever say Why to use, or not to use anything. I still don’t have an in depth explanation, but at least I’ve found someone else that agrees with me. :)

  19. any tips on dagger speccing??

  20. my bad didnt read some replies and daggers was one of em :S

  21. Darogue Jul 31st 2008 Gravatar

    Very very nice guide, i raid quite a lot myself and knew about the skills to use and hit rating quite a bit, but thank you for helping me on the timing of my cooldowns, I just didn’t know when to use them together or not etc… Thanks a load :D Keep up the good work ;-)

    Kind regards,


  22. ketamean Aug 11th 2008 Gravatar

    Nice..but yes should be motly common knowledge to end game raiding rogues.
    The suggestion I would make would be “dexterity” to boots rather than cats swiftness…but thats probebly just my preference really.

  23. Yes, it is common knowledge. But only for those who did some research into theorycrafting and class mechanics. My experience as a raid leader and being responsible for our melees is, that although most players have a basic understanding of their class mechanics, most players lack deeper knowledge. Mostly this is because they listen to somebody telling them “The One Truth” and haven’t read the “classics” as wowwiki, Vujadins 101 or similar stuff themselves.

    Additionally this post here contains all essentials and can be recommended for all fellow raiders as the necessary knowledge about rogues.

  24. Caeradorn Oct 26th 2008 Gravatar

    @Sitron, Thecla and Chronic:

    You’re assuming that you’d get the same amount of agi on an item as you would ap. But in most cases it’s likely that you’ll get 2-3 times more ap than agi from an item, in as Sitron very simplified pointed out 100 agi + blessing of kings = 110 ap (not counting the crit), and 100 ap + blessing of kings = 100 ap. However, in reality you’ll be able to stack MUCH more ap than agi. After all, blessing of kings is “only” a 10% boost. So as long as the 10% increase won’t give you more total ap than you would with chosing ap instead, you’ll benifit more from stacking ap. Sure, the crit is a good boost as well, but assuming we’re talking combat swords, the majority of damage will be non-crit white damage.

    Gearwise it’s completely fantasy-land to assume that you’ll get 1 agi vs. 1 ap, you simply won’t. If I had a choice of an item with 20 agi + 75 ap or an item with 50 agi, i’d got with the 20 agi + 75 ap combo every time.

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