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Encrypted Text: Building your own Rogue

[Fear my baby Rogue and her faded black sweatpants! Yeah....]Friends, countrymen (and women), lend me yer... eyes! Today I come to you with the first installment of our shiny new Rogue column, Encrypted Text. As the weeks go by, Elizabeth W. and I will share Rogue tips, tricks, gear, and more about all things stealthy and stabby. You'll get lots of Information spanning levels 1 to 70, based on questions we get, interesting forum posts, and more. (As such, if you have any questions or suggestions for Encrypted Text, you know the drill!)

Before we get rolling, allow me to steal just a moment of your time and give you a bit of information about my history (and passions) as a Rogue. My main Rogue is a L70 Troll who I have spent the last year and a half leveling and raiding under different Combat variants for the most part. I also have a L23 Blood Elf Rogue on Zangarmarsh who will be my test subject for builds once she gets to a respectable level. Currently, I am running a Swords variant on my main and do a respectable amount of damage with her. While I know many folks will immediately scream "but Swords don't fit the sneaky stabby thing, and you disable attacks that way" at me. Yes, I am aware of that. Playing up the assassin personae can definitely be a lot of fun. However, as I am primarily about PvE content, and still spend a great deal of time soloing between instances (motes - you know I love 'em) I find Combat Swords to be an excellent build for what I generally want to achieve. I do not want to mess around with having to worry about positioning or timing -- especially when in a situation where I am competing for taps. I want to walk up, pilfer through the mob's pockets, drop an opening Cheap Shot (love that noise) get my Combo Points, throw my (Improved) Slice & Dice, and proceed to Cuisinart my target into a pile of sparkly win at my feet.

If this sounds like fun to you, then keep reading. Past the jump I'll share some of what I consider to be the crucial things that anyone considering rolling a Rogue for the first time needs to know. (For those of you who are battle-proven Rogue veterans, feel free to join us and add your own observations!)

Before you even get to the character screen and start playing with customization, the first thing you want to ask yourself is what your Rogue intentions are. Do you want to PvP heavily, or are you interested in PvE only content? Mix of both? From there, you also should ask if you expect to be soloing a great deal, grouping or even raiding. Having at least a vague idea of what your intentions are from the word go can save you a lot of frustration later on. I can't tell you how many people I've seen restart Rogues from scratch later because they just had to have a particular racial ability.

Thus, the first thing you should consider when creating a new Rogue are the different benefits of each of the races:
  • Dwarves have Stoneform, which will clear poisons, diseases, and bleed effects as well as giving you a small bonus to armor and making you immune to those effects while Stoneform is active. (8 seconds) This is very useful against other Rogues or Hunters in PvP. Dwarves also have Find Treasure, which is an excellent skill to have when you're hunting around for lock boxes to skill up on. The downside is that Find Treasure doesn't stack with other tracking abilities, such as Herbalism and Mining, so keep that in mind if you're planning on running around with it on all the time.

  • Night Elves have an increased (1%) Dodge, increased Stealth, and have the highest base racial Agility in the game at 28 Agi. As their "racial stealth" Shadowmeld does not operate on the same cool down as a Rogue's Stealth, it can be used as a stop-gap Stealth, but you really shouldn't consider trying to replace Stealth with it... Unless you happen to like trying to PvP by standing very very still -- any movement will break the effect.

  • Gnomes have the second highest base Agility in the game at 26 Agi, and have a lovely ability called Escape Artist. This is primarily useful for anytime you find yourself rooted or snared and you've already Vanished to break it -- or if you just didn't want to blow Vanish getting out of a snare/root in the first place. Also, if you are considering PvP, the +15 to Engineering is nice to have. Special side bonus: Hooray for not having to run around with the Defias (or now Blood Elf Bandit) masks like every other Rogue out there!

  • Humans have a 10% bonus to spirit, and Diplomacy, which grants a 10% bonus to faction reputation gain: If you are planning on running the character to end game and do all that there is to do in PvE content, you may seriously want to consider a Human. Who wouldn't want a bonus to all faction grinds? Humans also have a +5 bonus to Sword and Mace skills, which is excellent if you're looking at either a Combat swords build or a stun Rogue mace build. Additionally, Humans have Perception which gives them a bonus to stealth detection that lasts 20 seconds. Sure, it has a three minute cool down, but twenty full seconds of "I see you" is still 10 more than you need to target and kill other stealthed Rogues.

  • Undead have Will of the Forsaken and Cannibalize. WotF will remove Charm, Fear, or Sleep spells once every 2 minutes. As you can imagine, against the dreaded Warlocks and Priests, the ability to resist Fear, Charm or Sleep is worth its weight in gold in PvP. (Hell, in instancing/raiding the ability to ignore fear/charm/sleep is quite valuable!) Add to that Cannibalize, and you can stop to grab a bit of health without depleting your stocked food. To make matters worse, in PvP I'm told that Cannibalize is insult to injury -- there are a lot of people who get weirded out by watching their attacker chow down on their freshly killed corpse. Mmmm. Tastes like chicken!

  • Blood Elves have the racials Mana Tap and Arcane Torrent, as well as a basic 5 resistance to all forms of magic. Mana Tap burns the mana of an enemy, and can be useful if you've got a HUD up and notice that the caster you're fighting has only a small portion of mana left. This is good in PvE and PvP, situationally, although the more Taps you stack (max 3) the more energy you gain back when you hit them with the golden child of BE racials. Arcane Torrent is a beautiful ability for any time you find yourself up to your eyeballs in casters. You can use it to produce a 2 second area of effect silence that will shut down up to 4 casters close to you. And with stacked Mana Taps, you can snag that 30 energy when using Arcane Torrent. (Always useful when you're about to move on to your next target.)

  • Those great big Orc Rogues have the racials Blood Fury and Hardiness. Blood Fury is great when you're staring that last smidge of your opponent's health in the face and know no heals are incoming. It gives you a bonus to your Attack Power ( (level*4)+2 = Attack Power gained) for 15 seconds. When combined with Adrenaline Rush later on, it can put out a nice sized chunk of hurt. The problem is the debuff that goes with it -- it reduces healing by 50% during the time it's active. It's good as a last-ditch "it's-your-death-or-mine" move, or when you're at near full health, and you'd just like that extra little push to finish off a mob or Boss. Hardiness gives Orcs a passive 15% resistance to Stun and knockout effects, which can save you from many different situations that would keep other Rogues standing there spinning while their opponents tore them down.

  • Trolls have the racials Regeneration and Berserking as well as Beast Slaying. Personally, I can't imagine living without Berserking now that I've had it for so long. It gives me an Attack Speed bonus percentage equal to the percentage of health I have remaining. If I have a full health bar, I only get a 10% increase. I have macroed Berserking into my "Rogue Tank!" macro for instances (and Rogues -- you know what I'm talking about there) just because if I'm taking enough damage (the tank is dead) that I have to hammer that button, I want that 30% bonus to speed on top of everything else I'm about to attempt to kill you with. Regeneration is fair when traveling between mobs while farming, but honestly it is nowhere nearly as useful as Beast Slaying can be in those situations.
Once you've picked your race, it's time to get into the game, and start putting the smack down on those starting zone beasties. However, it's best to keep a few other basic considerations in mind when you're starting out on a Rogue of your own.
  • At basic starter levels, Agility is your #1 statistic. Your #2 statistic love is Stamina. You can worry about AP/+crit/+hit/etc later. Besides, you aren't likely to find a lot of gear in your first 20 levels that will have those modifiers anyway.
  • Your gear is 100% rich Azerothian Leather, and most of it at low levels is pretty hideous. If you're in a guild with a cool tabard design, get a tabard as fast as you can.
  • Your primary weapon choices are Daggers, One-Handed Swords, One-Handed Maces, and Fist Weapons. Daggers, Swords and Maces are fairly easy to come by, and each has their own particular use, depending on how you want to play. Fist weapons are woefully under-represented in game. (Hey Blizzard, more cool fist weapons, please!)
  • Once you make it to level 10, you get Dual-wield which opens up whole new levels of hurt. (and math -- but that's for another time.)
  • Your ranged weapons are Bows, Thrown weapons, Crossbows, and Guns.
Even if you have plans to spec a specific way and pursue certain weapons (Daggers, for example) it is crucial to keep all of your weapon skills trained up as best as you possibly can. You never know when the [Awesomesauce Weapon of Insane Pwnage] will Random World Drop on you and you're going to win the roll. I'd also add that you really don't want to be That Rogue who equips the nifty new weapon and spends the rest of the instance missing everything and dying a lot because "weapon skill is twelve, lol."

I also cannot stress this last bit enough: All Rogues should pick up First Aid and Cooking as soon as they get started! (Fishing is also an excellent idea, but not nearly as crucial, really.) You'll want First Aid because try as you might, you cannot cast heals on yourself. The day will come when you have a potion and a health stone on cool down and you'll be wishing you had a bandage right about then. Then you'll die, it will annoy you, and you'll go back and train First Aid all the way up anyway. (Besides, it's tedious to go back and grind it up later.) Cooking is also fantastic for Rogues because it means lots of portable buffs. Also, you are going to feel quite silly when you get the [Thistle Tea] recipe that gives you the Rogue energy restorative "tea" (it acts like an elixir) -- and then it occurs to you that you can't make any for yourself. (That 10 stack they give you never lasts long enough.)

With these basic things in mind, all new Rogues should be able to tear through their first several levels in no time flat and be on to bigger and better things -- like tearing it up in L19 WSG groups. No matter what you do, though, have fun with it! Rogue is a great class with lots of excellent options and styles available to you as you make your way through the game.

Until next time, keep your blades sharp, and your backs to the wall.

Filed under: Rogue, Analysis / Opinion, Classes, (Rogue) Encrypted Text

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