Tobold's Blog
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Leveling a rogue

My rogue is level 13 now, and I started some research into how to best level him. I was faintly aware of the general tenor of advice on rogue leveling you always hear: get a slow sword for your main hand, and a fast dagger for you off hand. But I was lacking deeper understanding of why that would be better than using a dagger in the main hand, and where to get good swords apart from the auction house. I found the answers at Zodar's Rogue Leveling Tips and in various WoW forums: The problem with daggers is that their awesome damage is positional, you need to stealth, backstab, gouge, run through the mob, turn around, backstab again, etc.. That is already a lot of work with one mob, but gets downright impossible if fighting several mobs.

Furthermore if you twink (I'm still using the old definition of twinking as equipping a low level character with stuff he couldn't get on his own, not the WoW definition of doing so just for level 19 / level 29 battleground PvP), your health points, armor, dodge, etc. are going do be much better than that of an untwinked rogue. So you can very well afford to stand face to face with a mob and exchange blows, even if you aren't really a tank. Taking a slow sword means that even if the regular dps is the same as the one of a dagger, your Sinister Strike which is based on the maximum damage your weapon can deal will be far superior. The only downside is that spamming Sinister Strike is more boring than the positional dagger attacks. But if you really want those, you can use weapon swapping macros and have the best of both worlds.

For talents it seems the best way to go is taking Improved Sinister Strike first, from the combat talent branch. Then put 5 points in Malice from the assasination branch. And then back to combat for most of your leveling career.

I'm having fun twinking my rogue. My wife has a level 68 rogue on the same server and side, so I already got a "boost" run through the Deadmines, and will be able to visit a couple more dungeons, even if regular groups are hard to come by. What makes it fun is that the rogue actually can use various stats: agility, attack power, crit chance, stamina, they are all useful. The character I leveled up before the rogue was a mage, and for that class there is only one good stat for leveling: +spell damage; so I ended up leveling all the way up to 70 in green "of the frozen wrath" gear and awesome frost damage. Extremely cheap for twinking, but so trivial it isn't even fun, because the only way to get that gear is to buy it. For my rogue I can use a combination of dungeon boosts, and crafting leather armor with my level 60 priest who I moved to the same server. The gnome rogue himself has mining and engineering, which not only is a lot of fun, but the various bombs, exploding sheeps, and target dummies are actually a big help in low level combat.

There is a certain art to twinking. You still get to see all the content, quests, and zones, but you are trying to cruise through it as smoothly as possible. While killing lets say Hogger with a level 70 character isn't fun, soloing him with a level 11 twink sure is. You are feeling powerful, because the twinking elevates your actual power level to far higher than your nominal character level. Thus you can win combat against elite mobs of your level, or "red" mobs a couple of levels higher than you. The goal isn't really to level as fast as possible, you sometimes waste more time getting some set of equipment than that gear saves you in leveling up time. The fun lies in being more powerful than you should be.
Don't forget one of the most enjoyable and challenging things about being a rogue - soloing instances to take on the bosses. Make sure to sneak your rogue through Gnomeregan to take out the boss and get some Triprunner Dungarees.
I always enjoy your blod, Tobold. Thanks.
I always enjoy your blod, Tobold. Thanks.

Freudian slip of a vampire? :)
Make sure to check out for Rogue hints, especially the Leveling Tips. It's also a good resource for various good twink armor at levels, and a really good guide for what to do for gear once you hit 70.
Sets are fun to look for at low level, My rogue is in DM set and my war was in SM set until he reached 40 and i got these without a 70 to rush the instances.

Even the T0 and T0.5 set was fun to look for a long time ago .

In TBC, i had no fun trying to gear myself. that's probably why i had gone back to leveling alts. Thinking that almost no one will go to scholo or strat....

This is true that having some cash to "twink" the alts is enjoyable. And especialy for crafting, buying the mats you are lacking to make this blue that is so good at your level.

I was remembering this week-end the number of wype i hade when soloing in the first days of wow and it has nothing in common with today. This is also due to knowledge of the areas but gear makes most of the power of the game.

You can use your skills and powers less efficiently if in excellent gear. good or bad ? i'd say both but mostly bad.
Rogues are never happy.
Once they ding 70 they spend all their time and gold constantly respeccing, buying/grinding new weapons, moaning at ranged dps for having an easy life, and complaining that despite their uber dps, no-one cares about them.
Poor things.
"The fun lies in being more powerful than you should be."

I would say this is also the main reason why people use afk bots in the battlegrounds. The common excuse is that people are just trying to skip the boring parts of the game. But truthfully a large portion of the gaming population are overly competitive. Thus they find being weaker the boring part of the game.
My alt Rogue is 49 at the moment. I've leveled with daggers and an almost 100 percent Assassination build. It's not the most efficent, but personally I like CC'ing a mob and using BS all the

What's crazy to me, is the fact that I can CS, BS, SS, KS, BS, SS and Blind a 70 pally before he kills me. It's especially amazing because I can't hardly hit a mob that's 5 levels above me.

Several times I've CC'd a 70 in TM or Xroads long enough for the guards or other players to kill them. It's a blast.
I'm right there with you on the twinking of your alts. I just left a comment about my 49 BE pally alt in your microtransaction thread. But based on my main's Jewelcrafting coffers, my BE has everything she could possibly want that I could find BoE. She's got an epic tanking mace and shield, epic boots, epic shoulders waiting for another 2 levels and a nice skullflame shield waiting in the bank. Basically I've got epics or blues waiting for her at just about every level up to the cap. And as a full protection spec, I can take on elite mobs 1-2 higher levels than me. Or last night I was clearing out the entire pirate camp in Tanaris in one pull. :-) Good times AoE twink grinding.
Of course in your fun of being "more Powerful" tobold you failed to mention that this is part of the grouping problem. I can go twink out any class and not need a group till 60 or higher.

While I don't have a problem with people getting thier blues BOE stuff off the AH, I'd love to see a more reasonable level restriction on enchants. like requireing level 50 to have a level 60 enchant......
Rogues are very well itemized from 1-60, unlike mages. As you said, there are a lot of different useful stats that you can blend together across gear.

Casters were not itemized as well pre-BC, with just a few key stats. Blizzard would do good to go back and balance in more of the new stuff (+dmg, +spell hit rating, +spell crit rating, etc) to the old greens. Would make leveling a mage more fun.

The real question is how long you'll keep leveling the rogue when you start to feel the grind. ;)

Thus they find being weaker the boring part of the game.

Curb stomping more powerful mobs is a longstanding tradition in MMORPGS. I use to take my Enchanter to the wall in Misty Thickit and buff low level halflings, so they could slay everything in their path.

One of my fondest memories was talking my 12 level Necro wisp hunting, while enjoying the benefits of a breeze and bashing them with my Runed Totem Staff.

Is there anything more fun than playing low level EQ while twinked?
The two key DPS talents for Rogues are Relentless Strikes and Dual Wield Specialization. The first 11 points into Assassination provide more DPS than the first 11 into combat. However, the first 20 in combat provide more than the first 20 into Assassination. So, the best leveling spec is to go heavy into Assassination in the early levels, then respec 100% combat when you reach level 29. Then through 40, go back and pick up all the Assassination talents again. This will put you at 11/20/0 which is the foundation for ALL top DPS rogue builds.

Here is the order I would suggest:

Imp SS * 2 (combat)
Malice * 5 (assassination)
Murder * 2 (assassination)
Ruthlessness * 3 (assassination)
Relentless Strikes * 1 (assassination)
Lightning Reflexes * 3 (combat)
Imp SnD * 3 (combat)
Precision * 1 (combat)
*****RESPEC AT LEVEL 29*******
Imp SS * 2 (combat)
Lightning Reflexes * 3 (combat)
Imp SnD * 3 (combat)
Precision * 5 (combat)
Endurance *2 (combat) – these points are optional, but at low levels very helpful
Dual Wield Specialization * 5 (combat)
Blade Flurry * 1 (combat) – see note below
Malice * 5 (assassination)
Murder * 2 (assassination)
Ruthlessness * 3 (assassination)
Relentless Strikes * 1 (assassination)

I wrote an article on my blog and look into why this is the foundation for top DPS builds. And while 11/20/0 is the foundation, I highly recommend taking Blade Flurry at level 30 since it is a great talent that is available for only 1 point. Blade Flurry is unique in that it makes adds actually desirable and I will often Sprint to grab 1 or 2 extras.
Hey Tobold,

Back in the day, I levelled my rogue from 1 to 60 using an assassination spec. When TBC came out, I switched to combat for the climb from 60 to 70, since I had learned by then that combat was the "standard" levelling spec. However, I found that combat was actually no more efficient at levelling than assassination, and it was about one tenth of the fun. Assassination's positioning requirements make combat very interesting--being able to execute a proper stunlock takes a lot of effort and practice, but it's also a very useful and very satisfying technique. Another bonus is that you'll be viable in both PvP and PvE, whereas combat basically stinks for PvP.

Unfortunately, the assassination spec doesn't really come into its own until the 30s, when you have both Cheap Shot and Kidney Shot. I might actually suggest a combat spec for the short term, switching to assassination once you have these abilities. (Perhaps this is why most people think combat is best for levelling--they started out that way and never bothered to respec once assassination became viable!)
Once you reach lvl 30, I recommend respecing to 21 points in the Subtlety tree and getting Hemorhage. While it doesn't do as much damage as Sinister Strike, it costs less energy, meaning you can use it a lot more often, and the debuff it causes cancels out some of the lost damage. Also, in the Sub tree, you can get Camoflage and Master of Disguise, making sneaking around a lot faster and easier, making it a lot more fun imo.

Also, if you have the opportunity, run SM by the time you hit 39, and grab the Hand of Righteousness. It may seem like a weapon for a healer, but it has the highest damage of any 1-handed weapon at lvl 39, and the only alternative that compares is the reward you can get for 30 WSG marks of honor, and that's a pain to get unless your faction always wins at 39. =/

Osiris has been around for a long time...I'm shocked he still plays.

But his guide was what I used when I started in open beta...and he's updated it.
Rogues are one of the most fun classes to play, I think. My main Warrior was a full prot tank from retail release up until the expansion was looming on the horizon. I began to level a rogue in anticipation of the gear reset (when the most important aspect of a toon were going to be the numbers 6 and 0, not tier 2, 3 etc). The rogue was so much fun to play, I blew right past my warrior and played mostly on the rogue exclusively (for reasons I'm sure you're aware of, with your mage versus tank scenario).

End game raiding forced me to spec combat swords, but i got tired of seeing daggers sharded over and over so I went mutilate on a whim last week and am having a BLAST again in raids. The positional requirement makes combat fun, and everything feels more ... I dunno... "roguey". Just spamming SS regardless of mob placement is dull, but you see yourself climbing the DPS charts. With Mut, I'm still up above a bunch in the raid (due to being higher geared), but I feel much more in tune with the action taking place on the screen. Swords was just SnD, rupture, SnD, rupture, but the combo point generation of Mut makes for more frantic, on the fly decisions, which I'm really enjoying.

My advice would be to just play however you WANT to play. Daggers are tough, but the payoff in the end feels much more satisfying. For low levels, a serious dagger MH build would focus on Imp Gouge first, so you can pop it on the mob, and get behind it for backstabs. The one mistake many starter rogues make is just using the gouge to get into place, and then breaking it early. Stay back there, plotting, cackling maniacally to yourself, until the gouge is JUST about to wear off (all while your energy bar fills back up, and your other skills are cool cool cooling down), then slam that bad boy in his back.. Kidney Shot, backstab, repeat.

Low level mobs don't take more than a few Backstabs to put away, and in a dungeon with a tank giving you free reign to just stand back there, it's awesome ;)
ah! and no deadly poison! it'll break the gouge prematurely ;)
The fact that you can't turn with your mouse is going to pose a problem if you want to do anything other than straight up swords/combat pve.
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