When I was but a young rogue, I shunned stunlocking in all its forms. "Only cowards stun their enemies," I would say. "I prefer to face the enemy head on." Then again, I also leveled to 60 as a dagger rogue who Sinister Struck and wouldn't stun, which serves as strong anecdotal evidence that I was stupid.
Then one day a kind fellow rogue took me under his wing and showed me that stunlocking can actually be an effective way of killing enemies, not to mention getting behind them once in a while to throw a Backstab or two. Eventually, I realized that stunning wasn't cheap -- it was the only way for rogues to survive. So for the benefit of my past self, and any other overly ethical rogues out there, I present a guide to the art of the stunlock.
Abilities: The principle behind stunlocking is keeping your enemy incapacitated while performing high-damage moves. Rogues have several abilities that are important to stunlocking:
- Cheap Shot: Your first move. This stuns the target for four seconds and awards you two combo points. It gives you time to do some damage and awards you combo points for:
- Kidney Shot: The big stun. This finishing move stuns your target for one second, plus one second for each combo point you have. So if you have five combo points, your target will be stunned for six seconds.
- Gouge: Does 105 damage, plus incapacitates the target for 4 seconds (5.5 with talents.) Not a true stun, since you cannot do damage without breaking Gouge, but it gives you time to prepare a move, regain energy, or even restealth and prepare for another Cheap Shot in PVP(if you have the 5.5 second Gouge.)
- Blind: Causes the target to move around slowly and confusedly for 10 seconds. This gives you time to restealth in PVP, bandage, regain energy, etc.
- Vanish: Makes you invisible for 10 seconds, drops combat, and puts you back in stealth. Note: hunter and warlock pets will still attack you!
- Premeditation: This talented ability in the Subtlety tree adds two combo points to your target for 10 seconds, but requires you to be stealthed.
Tactics: So how do you stunlock? There are a lot of different formulas, depending on your build. Cheap Shot > Sinister Strike > Gouge > Sinister Strike > Kidney Shot is a nice mini-combo if you don't want to do a full stunlock, and a good starter for any rogue. If you must memorize one thing about stunlocking, that's what you want to remember.
If you're a rogue who has Hemorrhage in the Subtlety tree, it can go Cheap Shot > Hemorrhage x2 > Kidney Shot > Hemorrhage x1 > Gouge > Restealth > Repeat, or you can move the Gouge up and only Hemo once the first time. If you decided to go for a more Assassination-oriented dagger build, you can Cheap Shot > Backstab > Gouge > Sinister Strike > Kidney Shot > Backstab > Gouge > Sinister Strike > Finisher, or Cheap Shot > Sinister Strike > Gouge > Kidney Shot > Backstab > Blind > Restealth > Repeat except for Blind.
Mutilate rogues will find themselves with more combo points, and will also want to try to toss Shiv in to get Crippling Poison on their target if it doesn't take right away. Combat rogues will often find it difficult to stunlock unless they pop Adrenaline Rush. Really evil rogues who take Cold Blood, Preparation and Hemorrhage can pretty much do whatever they want. A classic stunlock for this build is Ming's lock, which is Cheap Shot > Sinister Strike > Gouge > Kidney Shot > Backstab > Blind > Restealth > Cold Blood > Cheap Shot > Eviscerate > Gouge > Backstab. This will finish off most classes.
There are as many ways to stunlock as there are rogue builds, and good rogues will know when to improvise. For more formulas, check out http://www.wowwiki.com/Stunlock, Ming's Dueling Guide, or the wonderful Osiris's Rogue PVP Guide.
Counters: Unlike mobs, any player can get out of stunlock as long as they have their PVP trinket equipped. Luckily for us, many inexperienced PVPers will not wear their trinkets when grinding, or will pop it when they first get Cheap Shotted (leaving you available to Vanish or restealth and Cheap Shot them yet again.) But aside from that, a few classes have a way to get out of stuns:
- Mages can Blink out of stuns, and out of range of your melee attacks. This will often be followed by them Frost Novaing you and then moving far away to hit you with a large fireball or frostbolt. And that's why Blizzard gave you Cloak of Shadows. COS or Imp Sprint to them and resume your assault.
- Paladins can Divine Shield out of stuns, and most of them are smart enough not to blow it on Cheap Shot. Instead, they'll wait until they're low on HP, shield, and heal themselves. When they're shielded, rebandage if they're healing and restealth if possible (if they're not blowing the area up with Consecrates.) You'll essentially be starting the fight over, but they'll be lacking some mana and you'll be lacking health and stealth if you didn't get to bandage. Paladins are tough.
- Beast Mastery hunters have a 41-point talent that makes them immune to stuns, etc. for 18 seconds.
- Orcs of all kinds have a passive resistance to stuns. This can be countered by rolling a Horde character. Several other classes can spec into talents that give them stun resistance.
This is intended to be a basic guide to stuns, so I may have missed something. I'm not a PVP master, so I usually just use simple combos and don't spend time devising intricate locks with Thistle Tea and Renataki's. Feel free to toss in your own stunlock ideas!