Rogues are a results-driven class. While napkin math and fluff may suffice for the hybrids, rogues need for their hard work to end in a DPS increase. There's no reason to perform at anything else than our best, and so every adjustment or suggestion is viewed through our critical lens of analysis. Every optimization is made in order to bring up that bottom line.
What's the best way to improve your DPS? What's the optimal strategy on a given boss fight? These answers are closely guarded secrets for many rogues. Luckily for us, we have other ways to extract information. World of Logs is a public repository of combat parses, and with a bit of know-how, we can mine this data for nuggets of wisdom. Many of the best rogues in the world don't even realize that all of their secrets are being laid bare. We can exploit this to increase our own skill and strategy.
Browsing World of Logs parses
The easiest way to find the top rogue parses is to visit World of Logs. Once there, you can select the Rankings tab on the top left, select DPS, and then select the zone you're interested in reviewing. Once you're looking at a particular zone's parses, you hit the "(more)" button underneath a given boss' heading, which then shows you all parses. Sort the parses by spec by clicking on one of the rogue talent icons at the top, and you're now viewing the top rogue parses on that encounter for that particular spec.
It's also important that you start capturing your own combat log files, so that you can upload them to WoL to compare them with others. You can start capturing by simply typing in "/combatlog" into the chatbox while in WoW -- no addon necessary. After your raid or dungeon is over, load the WoL client, and it will walk you through uploading the file.
The first thing I look at in another rogue's WoL parse is the damage breakdown. I'm interested in seeing if he's using a similar strategy to mine and what percentage of his damage comes from what type of attack. A typical assassination rogue, for example, will have the following hierarchy of damaging attacks: Instant Poison, Melee, Envenom, Deadly Poison, etc. The exact order can change on any fight due to the mechanics, but I expect to see most parses on the same fight to be roughly similar.
Whenever I see an attack out of order, I immediately suspect that something's different. For example, on this parse by Kisz on Magmaw, I notice that Deadly Poison is the top attack -- and by a large margin. I now know that he's somehow getting a ton of Deadly Poison procs. I also notice that Fan of Knives is pretty high up on his damaging attack list, which means that's he's probably helping to kill the adds by spamming Fan of Knives on them. Clearly, he's doing a ton of DPS with this method, and so if your guild is having issues with adds on Magmaw, you can copy his strategy and try Fanning them down as well.
Check your rotation
While checking out the damaging attack list, you can also get a good idea of someone's rotation. On Chimaeron, for example, I noticed that almost no combat rogues had used Rupture, and thus more of their damage was coming from Eviscerate. Combat doesn't really rely heavily on Rupture, especially since there's not really any synergy with any of the talents in the tree. Obviously they're able to stay competitive without using Rupture, and so I can simplify my rotation on that encounter. Rupture also isn't replicated through Blade Flurry, which drops its value on fights with more than one target.
Don't take everything that you see in a parse as gospel. I've seen several combat rogues drop Rupture from their rotation because they don't have anyone with the Mangle debuff in their raid. While it works for them, it may not be a smart move if your raid does have that debuff. Make sure to take everything into account before making drastic changes to your playstyle based on what someone else does. I'll often find a parse that I think is interesting and share it with other rogues, and we'll work on figuring out what's special about that particular parse.
One of the most obvious things to check for when reviewing your own parses (and you are recording your own parses, right?) is uptime. If you're playing as assassination, you want to maintain a very high Rupture uptime while also maximizing your Envenom buff uptime. If you see your Rupture uptime isn't where it should be on a fight, it's a sign of serious problems. While Rupture itself doesn't show up very high on the meters, it contributes both extra damage and energy via Venomous Wounds. If you have less energy, you get to use fewer Mutilates, which means fewer Envenoms, which means fewer Instant Poisons procs, and so on. By checking your uptimes on Rupture and Slice and Dice, you can ensure that you're not letting anything slip through the cracks. This is especially useful to check on new encounters, as you can get caught up in handling the new mechanics and let your timers expire.
The second thing to watch for is cooldown usage. If you miss an extra set of cooldowns that you could've used, your DPS is going to suffer. I like to look at a fight's total duration and then figure out how many times I could've used Vendetta or Adrenaline Rush if I was using them on cooldown. Then, figure out if you missed any by checking under the Amount tab of the Buffs Gained section. I also check my Tricks of the Trade usage here as well, as using TotT with the glyph will help boost your raid's overall DPS.
CompareBot makes comparing simple
While you can tab back and forth between parses trying to find differences, there's an easier way. CompareBot will take two to three parses and combine them into an easy-to-read comparison table, making it simple to review. You can quickly see what other rogues are doing differently or even compare two of your own parses to see where you're struggling or improving. Rogues are all about results, and by comparing notes with the highest-performing rogues in the world, you can ensure that you're performing your best.
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.