If you're frequenting any of the rogue community sites, you've seen the question: Should I be using No'Kaled? While assassination and subtlety rogues can blindly equip the legendary quest daggers at each stage, combat rogues have to make a decision. As I've said for years, rogues spec for their weapons. You need to round up all of your available weapons, and then mix and match to find the right combination.
There are three different levels of No'Kaled, and there are also three stages of daggers we receive from Wrathion. Between all of these weapons, there are nine different possible combinations that you could have today. Your personal arsenal of weapons is dependent on your Elementium Gem Cluster acquisition rate and your luck with Madness of Deathwing drops, but chances are that you have at least one version of both the quest daggers and No'Kaled.
No'Kaled: Thunderfury 2.0
If you look back to the glory days of Thunderfury, it's easy to see why the first legendary that rogues had access to was so powerful. The lighting damage proc was able to bypass a boss' tough armor, just like a caster's spells. When combined with the fast attack rate of a rogue with Slice and Dice, the result was immensely potent. In Wrath, rogues again excelled by ignoring their target's armor via armor penetration rating. Anything that lets us circumvent our target's armor is a good thing.
No'Kaled's success is due to its powerful, armor-bypassing proc. Combat rogues have a natural love of haste rating, and with our high levels of hit and expertise, No'Kaled is dealing crazy amounts of elemental damage. On average, No'Kaled's proc contributes between 3% to 5% of a rogue's damage on any given encounter, which is a serious DPS boost. In addition to the proc chance, No'Kaled's slow weapon speed is also the better weapon for combat's attacks, in spite of the 45% bonus to Sinister Strike and Revealing Strike damage on the quest daggers. Finally, because No'Kaled drops from Deathwing himself, it's a higher ilevel than most other weapons, which leans the base stats in its favor.
Lackluster quest daggers
Due to the incredibly slow stacking speed of the Jaws of Retribution and Maw of Oblivion set bonuses, they're not immune to scrutiny. While I would have loved for the quest daggers to have been the obvious choice for every rogue, the fact is that they're not ideal for combat. Daggers haven't been combat's favored weapon for years, and I don't see us returning back to a combat Backstab build any time soon. In addition, each tier of quest daggers is only nine to 10 ilevels higher than the previous tier, while No'Kaled improves 13 ilevels with each iteration.
Let me note that even as we're talking about the differences between No'Kaled and the quest dagger set, you'll still want to use the offhand quest dagger at all times. The only question is whether or not you want to switch out your main-hand weapon to improve your DPS.
No'Kaled wins, but only slightly
While I'm sure you've seen the charts and flowsheets used to determine what weapons you should be using, but I have my own system. Imagine that the starter quest daggers, the Jaws of Retribution, are the Raid Finder version of the legendary daggers. When comparing the Jaws against the Raid Finder No'Kaled, the axe wins. Now, for the next difficulty level, the Maw of Oblivion is matched up against the normal flavor of No'Kaled, and again, No'Kaled's proc wins, but only slightly. Finally, when we look to the heroic difficulty level, heroic No'Kaled and the Fangs of the Father are vying for the top spot. While the verdict on that battle is still out, the fact that any weapon is competing with our legendary daggers is concerning.
Right now, most raiding rogues have acquired the Maw of Oblivion daggers. If you don't have the normal version of No'Kaled, then you're fine, as the Raid Finder No'Kaled can't touch The Sleeper. If you do have the normal version of No'Kaled, then you might pick up a slight DPS increase by switching. For myself, it's somewhere in the realm of 10 to 20 DPS for swapping weapons, and that's honestly not enough DPS to compel me to swap. In addition, I know that I'll be picking up my legendary daggers in just a few short weeks, and so I don't have to worry about anything until I've downed heroic Madness of Deathwing.
There's nothing wrong with switching from the Maw of Oblivion daggers to the regular version of No'Kaled, but the difference in DPS is so small that I wouldn't call it a mandatory move. That's not the case for the first tier of weapons, though. If you're someone who doesn't get to raid a lot, and you only have the Jaws of Retribution and the Raid Finder No'Kaled, then it's true that No'Kaled will help you deal more damage. If you don't have any plans to pick up the Maw of Oblivion daggers in the near future, consider swapping to your No'Kaled.
If you're stuck with the Jaws of Retribution right now and you get your hands on a normal No'Kaled, then you need to swap to the axe immediately. This is the only situation where I see the decision being really obvious. You're incredibly unlikely to pick up a heroic No'Kaled before you acquire your legendary daggers, and otherwise No'Kaled's margin of victory is incredibly slim.
From a design point of view, I hate that there are weapons that are even in the same ballpark as the legendary daggers. The fact that the Fangs of the Father aren't necessarily the best weapons is especially painful when we consider that this is the last tier of the expansion, which is the only time that these daggers will even be relevant.
Sneak in every Wednesday for our Molten Front ganking guide, a deep-dive into the world of playing a subtlety rogue -- and of course, all the basics in our guide to the latest rogue gear.