So many years ago, I picked up a copy of World of Warcraft. It was my first MMO, although I had played my fair share of RPGs. Once I started my rogue, I found myself leaning on Sinister Strike to kill everything. Eviscerate didn't seem very potent, and Slice and Dice was just some dumb buff. Other games had taught me that damage now was better than damage later, and so I focused on simply hitting my targets with Sinister Strike as often as I could. Stealth only slowed me down, and so I would just run up to my enemies. The learning curve of WoW isn't exactly steep, and so I was able to level pretty easily even though I was playing poorly.
Looking over our talent trees today, it's clear that Blizzard has spent quite some time refining the rotation of each build. In the past, we relied on diligent theorycrafters to guide our every move. Now, the talents themselves tell us how to play. How can you read Master Poisoner's tooltip and not realize you should be using Envenom? Improved Sinister Strike clearly points combat towards Sinister Strike, while Energetic Recovery makes Recuperate a staple of the subtlety builds. As I've mentioned before, each spec really has its own combo point generator and finisher priority. Figuring out what abilities go with which spec isn't rocket science; it's merely common sense.
The mechanical parts are easy
Learning our rotations isn't that difficult. I could spout off something like "4s4r5e" and many of you will immediately recognize that as a "4-point Slice and Dice, 4-point Rupture, 5-point Eviscerate" rotation and be able to pull it off without too much difficulty. Rogue rotations are basically just following orders while remembering your finisher priority list. Cooldown usage can usually be compressed down to "use them during some special phase" or "use them as soon as they're available." While newer players might waste some energy or a few combo points, it doesn't take long for them to find their groove.
Boss battles can be distilled down to a schedule of when to use what abilities. Cloak this, Feint that, and make sure to Sprint when that bad thing happens. Rogues know that you use Feint against an AoE attack and that Cloak will clear most of the nasty magical debuffs that we pick up. Kick interrupts spells, and Vanish might save you a few gold on your repair bill. Our rotations are generally pretty reliable, and we don't really ever have to worry about handling random procs.
Patience can take forever
One of the hardest things I've had to learn while playing my rogue is patience. While casters can't spare a single GCD, rogues have the luxury and burden of not always having something to press. We have lulls in our rotation while we're pooling energy or waiting for enough energy to attack again. The simple dead spots in our rotation were hard for me to handle, as I felt like I needed to spam something in order to do my best. The truth is that sometimes it's best to wait, and playing a rogue can teach you that.
If rogue PvE doesn't drill patience into you, then rogue PvP certainly does. The entire concept of Stealth revolves around patience. We wait silently for our opponents to make a mistake, and then we capitalize on their misfortune. If you run headlong into every fight, you will certainly be slain. We have to learn to stalk our prey in order to be successful. I have followed people through zones and continents, waiting for the right moment to attack. Have you ever had a caster try to "juke" one of your Kicks by starting a cast and then cancelling it before they're finished? You have to be in a Zen state to have the restraint to save your Kick for when they actually cast; otherwise you will certainly be vanquished. I have spent ages waiting for a mage to Blink, simply so that I can Shadowstep to them afterwards.
Quick reactions are better than slow plans
If everything goes according to plan, every boss fight is incredibly easy. Everyone moves right when they're targeted with Defile, and nobody forgets their CC assignments. We don't live in a world where everything goes right, and so we have to plan for the worst. The best way to learn about your abilities is to be forced to use them. If I tell you before a pull that you're going to need to Blind a loose add and pop Evasion to dodge a few swings of an ogre's club, you can have your fingers ready ahead of time. In order to know what you're truly capable of, you need to figure it out the hard way.
A rogue learns when to make a stand and when to Vanish by losing durability. A lot. You can't find out the size of your bite without tearing off more than you can chew a few times. You're going to have to die a lot if you want to improve. Every death makes you a little bit better, a little bit quicker to react. I have always thought that rogues rely on their bindings more than any other class. The design of our cooldowns and their reactionary nature mean that we have to be on our toes at all times, and having everything in easy reach makes a world of difference. Half of playing well is knowing what to do; the other half is being able to do it in time.
Only death is eternal
When I play my holy paladin, I tend to be fairly benevolent. I help people out when I can, and I usually avoid the opposing faction. When I play my rogue, I am ruthless. I subscribe to the mantra of "if it's red, it's dead," and I take it to heart. Playing a rogue has taught me the thrill of the kill, and that taste for blood is something that I can't easily forget.
Fighting players isn't simply about serving our own egos (although that part is nice), but rather it's about learning about ourselves and the other classes. I've learned more about the spellbooks of priests and mages from duels than I ever did from a dungeon. A rogue who knows his opponents, is patient enough to wait for an opening and quick enough to capitalize on it is unstoppable.
What have you learned while playing your rogue? What new skills or traits have you picked up since you first started?
Check back every Wednesday for the latest rogue strategies, from rogue basics and kicking your interrupts into high gear to how to handle your dual-spec rogue and how to pickpocket top tips from top-performing rogues.