Rogues are the cooldown class. You've heard it before. For the entire lifetime of World of Warcraft, rogues have been defined by their cooldowns. Vanish and Blind were the key ingredients to the infamous Roguecraft videos, while Shadowstep and Adrenaline Rush defined an entire expansion's worth of arena matches. Preparation, the cooldown-eliminating cooldown, has been considered to be the most powerful ability in a rogue's arsenal.
Aside from the low-level ability Recuperate, all three of our new Cataclysm abilities are cooldowns. We have a plethora of both defensive and offensive cooldowns, and knowing when to use them becomes key in defining the difference between a good rogue and a great one. While it may seem simple to pop CDs as soon as they're ready to be used again, defensive cooldowns are much more complex. Offensive CDs can be coordinated with external effects to increase their potency significantly. Many cooldowns ride the line between the offensive and defensive categories, as they're viable for each purpose.
Defending yourself from physical attacks
When you're fighting warriors or death knights in melee combat, they have the defensive upper hand. Their plate armor absorbs much of our damage, and our leather is supple against their fierce attacks. Our defensive cooldowns give us the ability to go toe-to-toe with any opponent in melee range. It's important to know when to use which cooldowns, as using them properly will yield the best results. While Vanish can be used to both evade your opponent and to attack with an opener, you need to learn how to survive once you're dedicated to a fight.
Evasion is our primary defense against melee attackers. It grants us a significant amount of dodge to avoid attacks, making us incredibly hard to hurt. Unfortunately for us, on the new PTR, Evasion's CD is no longer reset by Preparation. Evasion is best when used against a single attacker and typically after you've seen your opponent use any stuns or CC he has. If you're stunned during Evasion, you won't be able to dodge. Hammer of Justice is the ultimate counter to our Evasion, so I like to wait until an attack like HoJ has been used before using Evasion. If you're fighting more than one target, it's very likely that one of them will be able to use a stun on you to nullify your Evasion.
Combat Readiness, on the other hand, is at its peak capacity when we're getting beat up. It reduces all incoming damage by up to 50% while we're being attacked and is key when you're being attacked by more than one target. Combat Readiness can't be dispelled, and it works whether we're stunned or not. I like to use it relatively early in fight, especially to counter any early cooldowns used by my opponent. While we're definitely not invincible during Combat Readiness, it gives us the best survivability while being attacked a ton. Try not to use Evasion and Combat Readiness at the same time, as if you dodge too many attacks the Combat Insight buff will fade.
Dismantle is the secret to crippling an enemy melee attacker (and hunters too). Depending on the situation, you may want to save Dismantle to help prevent damage to your teammate. I like to use Dismantle early in a fight, as it has a relatively short cooldown. Dismantle, as an offensive ability, can be avoided by your enemy. Using it when you're behind your opponent or right as a stun is wearing off ensures that it's always effective. It's easy to forget about Dismantle after using it once, but with an only 60-second cooldown, remember to use it as often as you can.
Countering the ranged classes
While Evasion does provide a small amount of bonus dodge versus hunters' ranged attacks, it's only a secondary bonus. We have to rely on a different set of cooldowns when facing the ranged and caster classes. There are two ways to counter a ranged class: Avoid their attacks from a distance, or close said distance. Depending on the situation and opponent, you can choose whichever cooldown makes the most sense.
Smoke Bomb is the newest addition to our anti-ranged arsenal and serves several purposes. While it primarily prevents our ranged opponents from casting single-target spells at us, it also prevents enemy healers from casting heals on their friends in the cloud. I've seen Smoke Bomb used well both offensively and defensively, though I like to use it to counter a Frost Nova or Entrapment situation. Many enemies are still unfamiliar with the ability and don't know how to properly counter it.
Cloak of Shadows is one of the most important CDs we have when dealing with casters and can play a different role based on our opponent. Against warlocks, I like to let them waste their time and mana loading me up with DoT spells, only to Cloak the DoTs and force them to start over. Whatever your strategy for using Cloak may be, it's important to use it when it's most effective. Whether that's avoiding a potent crowd-control effect or countering a powerful attack, try not to waste Cloak of Shadows against weak attacks. CoS's cooldown is being increased in patch 4.0.6 via a nerf to Elusiveness, so it will be even more important to activate it at the right moment.
Mobility can control a fight
Have you ever ended up trying to kill a resto druid who's running around in travel form? Chasing a cheetah around a pillar, trying to score a killing blow, can be painful. Rogue mobility has come a long way in the past few years, and I think we're finally at a good place in terms of how mobile we can be. Sprint's new 1-minute cooldown makes it usable several times in any encounter, and the shortened duration really doesn't affect us that much. Having Quickening placed so early up in the assassination tree also lets us keep up with any opponent's normal movement speed.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard people requesting that Shadowstep become a baseline rogue ability. While I agree that it's an awesome technique that really fits in with the class, subtlety also needs all the love it can get. Against a class like a mage, you'll find yourself using Shadowstep as the counterplay to their Blink. When fighting hunters, Shadowstep can mirror their Disengage. All ranged classes are fairly ineffective at point blank range, and closing the distance gap is a great way to ensure that you stay alive.
I heard you liked cooldowns
Preparation has been nerfed so many times. In the past, it cleared the cooldowns on nearly all of our abilities. Double Blind was nerfed to prevent long-lasting stunlocks, double Adrenaline Rush was nerfed to prevent Warglaive rogues from owning everything, and even now Evasion has been removed from Preparation's domain. It now only clears the CDs on Sprint, Vanish, and Shadowstep. Double Vanish is still incredibly valuable, and with the new talent tree design, there's not really anywhere else to go if you're a subtlety rogue. The Glyph of Preparation adds Kick, Smoke Bomb, and Dismantle to the list, literally doubling the number of CDs reset. I've never used Prep to simply reset my Kick CD, although I have done a double Dismantle when fighting two melee opponents at once.
What are some of your favorite cooldowns or your favorite situations to use a cooldown for? I recently got the opportunity to fight Lord Marrowgar again, and Combat Readiness literally owns against his Bonestorm attack.
Check back every Wednesday for the latest rogue strategies in Encrypted Text! We'll show you how to navigate Cataclysm rogue basics, dig into new rogue mechanics, and gear up for heroics.