Leveling a Rogue: Leveling Subtlety 10-80
March 12, 2009 124 Comments
*** Upadated 3/31/10 ***
As of the latest patch, Subtlety has become a much stronger spec. Prior to 3.3.3, subtlety required the use of weapon swapping to get the most out of it. However, it has been retooled so that it is best used with daggers. Becuase of this, leveling as Subtlety can be as easy or easier than leveling with the other trees. Today we’ll take a look at a subtelty leveling spec that you can use if you’d prefer to play as a silent assassin. It features an emphasis on stealth, and while it’s mainly built for PvE, it does include tools for PvP use.
If you would rather just charge in and try and take out a ton of mobs at one time, this spec is not for you. I would suggest a Combat spec to level. If you are looking for a fun spec that will let you release your “inner Rogue” to dispatch your opponents quickly and return to the shadows, then keep reading…
- Leveling Subtlety: 10-80 -
This build is how I am currently leveling my SAN-US toon. It has been a ton of fun, and quite effective, even without BoA Gear. If you have access to BoA gear, it will further speed along your leveling process. I hope you enjoy it.
This build relies heavily on the use of Stealth, and will require the use of Daggers. The Ambush ability is going to get some amazing upgrades from this build and will be your primary opener unless you have the need to stun or silence something. Combo point generation will come from using Hemorrhage, as well as from Ghostly Strike (you’ll still use Sinister Strike until you get those).
Our finisher of choice will be Eviscerate when soloing. While instancing, you can use Rupture, as long as the mob will live long enough to let it fully tick. Let’s begin:
Level 10 – 11 – Opportunity
Because we’re going to be striking from the shadows, we’re going to need to start fights like we mean them. The extra 20% damage that Ambush is going to get from this ability is one part of accomplishing that task. In addition, this will make your Backstab more powerful until we reach level 18 and get Ambush.
New Skills at level 10: Sap, Slice and Dice and Sprint. Sap allows you to incapacitate an humanoid from Stealth; later levels will allow for Sapping other mob types. Slice and Dice is a Finisher that increases attack speed; the duration of the buff depends on the number of combo points. Sprint is a handy tool for increasing your movement speed for 15 seconds.
Level 12 – 14 – Master of Deception
We’re going to be spending a majority of our time in Stealth. This talent will help us stay there by avoiding detection.
New Skill at Level 12: Kick. Kick is the Rogue’s Interrupt ability. This, with your other stuns, such as gouge should make killing casters much easier.
New Skills at Level 14: Expose Armor, Garrote. Expose armor is a Finisher that reduces the target’s armor (90 per combo point) for 30 seconds. Garrote is our first real Opener, and it does two things. First, it applies a bleed effect on the target, which is our first DoT (Damage over Time) ability, and in a higher rank also has a silence effect.
Level 15 – 17: Camouflage
The effective use of Stealth is a strong point of this tree, but it’s also a weakness due to the reduced movement speed. This ability will speed our Stealth travel up, as well as lower the cooldown so we can more quickly prepare for the next fight.
New Skill at level 16: Feint. Feint, which lowers your threat, has no use in solo play, but this is slated to change in 3.1. If it does, I’ll make note of it here.
Level 18 – 19: Dirty Tricks
Sap and Blind are critical to our ability to control fights. This talent increases their range and reduces their cost by 50%.
New Skill at Level 18: Ambush. This ability is only going to get better as we go. We’re going to be buffing its damage and crit, while reducing its cost. Start getting used to it now, as we’re going to use this to take off as much of our opponent’s life as possible with the first hit. Macro it with Pick Pocket to always pick the pockets (if able) of the mobs you Ambush:
Note: This will only work if you enable the autoloot option.
/cast Pick Pocket
If you’re a purist and you don’t like to macro things, then don’t. If you don’t care, using this macro will make leveling lockpicking a joke from all the junkboxes you’ll pick up.
Level 20: Ghostly Strike
This ability has a 20 second cooldown, but you’ll want to use it in place of Sinister Strike when its up for two reasons. One, it will give a mini Evasion effect, and two, it will hit harder than Sinister Strike. Once you have all of your stuns available to you, coupled with this attack and Evasion, you’ll have a much easier time taking down harder mobs and elites, because you’ll be very hard to hit.
New Skills at level 20: Dismantle and Rupture. Dismantle will allow you to disarm your opponents, thereby lowering their damage. Rupture is a new Finisher that puts a bleed DoT on the target, the damage and length increase per combo point.
Level 21 – 23: Serrated Blades
Armor reduction (3% per point) and a 30% increase to Rupture Damage. More importantly, you have to put all 3 points into this skill for Hemorhage
New Skills at Level 22: Distract and Vanish. Distract makes using moves in Stealth much easier, as you can use it to both freeze mobs in place, and face away with you. Vanish is your best survival tool. If you bite off more than you can chew, you simply Vanish, and combat resets.
Level 24: Elusiveness
We can’t afford to put more than 1 point here, but the cooldown reduction on Vanish, Blind and Cloak of Shadows will be useful while we’re leveling.
New Skill at Level 24: Detect Traps. This will allow you to see traps that Hunters drop. Very few mobs in the game drop traps, so it’s real use is PvP.
Level 25 & 26: Improved Ambush
Ambush is, as previously stated, our Opener of choice. This talent increases its chance to crit by 50% for only 2 talent points.
New Skill at Level 26: Cheap Shot. While not as useful as our Ambush, this Opener has its place. If you need to stun a mob for some reason, open with this. You can macro it with Pick Pocket as well.
Level 27 - 29: Initiative
This talent will add an additional combo point when we use Ambush, Garrote or Cheap Shot. This means a free combo point on almost every mob we fight, as we’re supposed to be starting our combat with one of these three moves whenever possible.
Level 30: Hemorrhage
Welcome to your new combo point generation move (unless Ghostly Strike is up). It’s cheap, generates 160% weapon damage (110% with anything other than daggers) and puts a 10 stack debuff that will add up to 75 damage (at level 80) to any physical damage dealt to the target. Since the majority of your damage is physical, this will significantly up your damage output (or anyone else dealing physical damage to the target).
New Skills at Level 30: Disarm Trap and Kidney Shot. Again, like the Detect Trap ability, Disarm Trap’s main use is in PvP. Kidney Shot is another Stun like Cheap Shot. It’s possible with those two abilities and gouge to kill a mob without them ever being able to attack. It just requires efficient use of the cooldowns.
Level 31: Preparation
This talent will reset the cooldown on almost every major ability you have. Use it to get out of a nasty situation, or to turn the tide of battle in your favor.
Level 32 – 33: Dirty Deeds
This will shave off 20% of the cost of Cheap Shot and Garrote, but more importantly, it will buff all of our special ability damage by 20% when our target is below 35% health.
Level 34: Setup
We’re going to finish filling this out later, but when fully talented, we’ll get a free combo point after any dodge or full resist of a spell.
New Skills at Level 34: Blind. You can use Blind to “stun” an enemy for 10 seconds. Note that any damage dealt to the target will break the effect.
Level 35 - 39: Deadliness
Fully talented, this is a flat 10% buff to your attack power, making this a pretty powerful talent. Its has greater effect as you level.
Level 40: Premeditation
This ability requires stealth, and allows you to add 2 combo points to your target before you even start the fight. This means that you can use this ability, followed by an Ambush, and have 5 combo points on your target before you’re even hit.
New Skill at Level 40: Safe Fall. You can now fall from higher ledges and survive; It’s not Slow Fall though, so don’t overdo it.
Level 41 & 42: Setup
Two more points to finish it.
Level 43 & 44: Cheat Death
Mainly used as a PvP ability, Cheat Death is in this build for survivability purposes. If an attack would kill you, it will instead reduce you you to 10% of your health. Also, any damage taken for 3 seconds will be reduced by 90%.
Level 45 – 49: Sinister Calling
Increases your Agility by 15% and the damage bonus of Backstab / Hemorrhage by 5%. This will provide a fair amount of attack power and crit in addition to the damage bonus.
Level 50: Shadowstep
This will allow you to basically teleport behind an enemy, get a 3 second sprint effect and increase your next ability’s damage by 20%. In addition it will cut the threat of that ability in half. This should speed up your mobility with a modest damage boost to your initial attack.
Level 51: Cheat Death
Level 52 – 54: Master of Subtlety
This will increase your damage by 10% when in Stealth, and for 6 seconds after breaking it. If you’re always attacking from stealth and killing things within 6 seconds, you’ll always have this buff.
Level 55 – 59: Slaughter from the Shadows
In addition to a flat 5% buff to all damage that we do, this will cut the Energy of our two main abilities. Ambush and Backstab will get reduced by 20 Energy, and Hemorrhage by 5 Energy.
Level 60: Shadowdance
This really has more of a PvP flair to it, but it allows you to use your Stealth abilities for 10 seconds out of stealth. For PvE it could allow you to do things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, like use Ambush multiple times in a single fight.
Level 61 – 65: Malice
The 5 points of interest in the Assassination tree are for the 5% crit chance.
New Skill at Level 62: Envenom. This ability consumes combo points and Deadly Poison stacks on your target to deal massive damage. It also increases the chance that your poisons will land after the ability.
New Skill at Level 64: Deadly Throw. This Finisher deals high amounts of Thrown weapon damage and slows the target for 6 sec.
Level 66 - 70: Dual Wield Specialization
A Combat tree buff to our off hand white damage. We’re taking this because we need it for Close Quarters Combat, and it’s our best use of 5 points at this tier for our DPS.
New Skill at Level 66: Cloak of Shadows. Using this ability will make you near Immune to magic and poisons. If used while either are affecting you, it will remove them.
New Skill at Level 70: Shiv. This is a physical attack that applies your off hand poison on the target. Very useful in PvP, but Blizzard has stated that they don’t want it to be widely used in PvE.
Level 71 - 75: Precision
We would have gotten this sooner, but taking 10 levels off of putting points into Subtlety would have been hard. Enjoy missing less.
New Skill at Level 75: Tricks of the Trade. This is the Rogue version of Misdirect. You can read about its many uses here.
Level 76 - 80: Close Quarters Combat
You’re going to be using 2 Daggers as long as you’re Subtlety Spec, so you should at least benefit from the 5% extra crit you can get with your last 5 points.
New Skill at Level 80: Fan of Knives. A true AoE ability for the Rogue that has great synergy with Tricks of the Trade.
Congratulations! You’ve reached level 80! I hope you’ve enjoyed leveling Subtlety. I’m going to assume that you’ll stay Subtlety, and I’ll be writing a PvP spec for it soon, but if you want to raid, know that Subtlety, while improved in 3.3.3, is not Here’s my Assassination raid spec. However, if you want to respec Combat, try something like this. Enjoy the endgame; you’ve earned it.