Rogue: How to Spec and Play Assassination
February 6, 2009 290 Comments
***This guide is left as a legacy post for Assassination in Wrath of the Lich King. I personally want to thank the readers for the discussion on this topic, which at the date of the new guide reached 275 comments. Click here for detailed information on how to spec and play Assassination for Cataclysm***
Assassination is strong single target build Rogue build for PvE DPS. Just like Combat and Subtelty, keeping Slice and Dice active is important to an Assassination Rogue, but even more so are Poisons, Mulitate and Envenom. In addition to these key abilities, there are damage increasing self buffs like Cold Blood and Hunger for Blood. Today, I’ll dissect the Assassination tree and how to play it.
If you want to follow along, here’s the spec we’ll be discussing: 51/18 /2. This spec has been extensively tested and confirmed as one of the highest Assassination DPS specs at Elitist Jerks. The large amount of points in Combat allow you to pick up the haste from Lightning reflexes, which you’ll be adding to via gems. Haste and Attack power are the best stats for this build. Gear that focuses on these stats should be the kind of gear you’re looking for. And now, on with the show:
– How To: Assassination Spec –
We’re going to build a 51/18/2 Assassination Spec today. It requires that you use two daggers, and have Instant Poison on your main hand / Deadly Poison on your off hand at all times. There’s really no talented utility in this build, as it is designed for 100% pure single target DPS.
Assassination (51 points)
Malice (5/5) – Increases your Critical Strike chance by 5% (1 per point). This is a very powerful talent to be in a first tier, and that’s why this isn’t skipped by any Rogue, regardless of Spec.
Ruthlessness (3/3) – Gives your melee finishing moves a 60% chance to add a combat point to your target. Assassination rogues rely on fast generation of combo points rather than pure energy regen like Combat.
Puncturing Wounds (3/3) – Increases the critical strike chance of your backstab ability by 30% and the critical strike chance of your Mutilate ability by 15%. We’re taking this solely for the Mutilate crit.
Lethality (5/5) – Increases the critical strike damage bonus of all combo moves by 30%. This won’t improve our white DPS, but 30% on Mutilate is too huge to ignore.
Vile Poisons (3/3) – Increases the damage dealt by your poisons and Envenom ability by 20% and gives your poisons an additional 30% chance to resist dispel effects. As an Assassination Rogue, we’re always going to have poisons on both weapons (really, all rogues should), and Envenom is our main finishing move, as it will refresh Slice and Dice with a talent we’re taking later. Buffing the damage of both is a must.
Improved Poisons (5/5) – Increases the chance to apply Instant and Deadly Poison to your targets by 10%. We’re going to be using both of these poisons at all times. Poisoned targets take more damage from Mutilate, the poisons themselves, and it’s necessary to use Envenom.
Cold Blood (1/1) – When activated, increases the critical strike chance of your next offensive ability by 100%. A guaranteed crit. Take it and use it as often as possible. I tend to save mine for 5 combo point envenoms, which can crit for 15k+.
Fleet Footed (2/2) – Reduces the duration of all movement impairing abilities by 30% and increases movement speed by 15%. This does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects. Reducing the amount of time that you spend moving from target to target will increase your overall DPS. You can also get this from the foot enchant Tuskar’s Vitality. If you go that route, take these two points and place them elsewhere in the tree.
Seal Fate (5/5) – Your critical strikes from abilities that add combo points have a 100% chance to add an additional combo point(20% chance per point). Between talents, buffs and abilities, Mutilate is going to crit a fair number of times, so we’re taking this for much faster combo point generation.
Murder (2/2) – Increases all damage caused against Humanoid, Giant, Beast, and Dragonkin targets by 4% (2% per point). Unfortunately this doesn’t increase damage against undead, but we still see these types of mobs a lot in Wrath, so you’ll still get that 4% increase a fair amount of the time.
Overkill (1/1) – While stealthed and for 20 seconds after breaking stealth, you regenerate 30% more energy. As Combat, it makes sense to run around outside of stealth to start rotations, as opening with Sinister Strike is often the most efficient way to start combat. However, with this talent, it makes sense to open from Stealth whenever possible. This basically functions as a weaker version of Combat’s Adrenaline Rush. When killing trash, it’s generally available on every pull, and on bosses, you can use Vanish offensively to activate it multiple times in a fight.
Focused Attacks (3/3) – Your Melee critical strikes have a 100% chance to give you 2 Energy. You crit with your white hits more often than you think. This provides a much needed infusion of extra energy.
Find Weakness (3/3) – Offensive ability damage increased by 6%. This ability is a flat 6% increase on all damage abilities you use, so you should definitely take it.
Mutilate (1/1) – Instantly attacks with both weapons for and additional 181 with each weapon. Damage is increased by 20% against poisoned targets. Awards 2 combo points. You can’t be a true Assassination Rogue without taking this talent, as the tree is really built around it now. True it is expensive at 60 energy (unglyphed), but it does massive damage and awards 2 combo points (3 if it crits).
Master Poisoner (3/3) – Increases the critical hit chance of all attacks made against any target you have poisoned by 3%, reduces the duration of all poison effects applied to you by 50% and increases the bonus chance to apply Deadly Poison when Envenom is used by 45%. The raid wide critical buff is nice, but a ret paladin will also provide the same buff. The poison duration reduction is also nice but we’re taking this for the increased chance to apply deadly poison. Having this talent will pretty much guarantee that you have 5 stacks up almost all the time. If you do roll with a Ret Paladin and want to take Turn the tables on the other side of this tier, that’s cool too.
Cut to the Chase (5/5) – Your Eviscerate and envenom abilities have a 100% chance to refresh your Slice and Dice to its 5 combo point maximum. This was one of the best improvements that Assassination got in Wrath. If you Envenom with 1 combo point, it not only does the Envenom damage, but you’ve just hit a 5 combo point Slice and Dice as well. The only caveat is that Slice and Dice must already be up first.
Hunger for Blood (1/1) – Enrages you, increasing all damage caused by 5%. Requires a bleed effect to be active on the target. Lasts 1 minute. We’ll be using Garrote and Rupture if needed, so there’s your bleed effect. This buff should be kept up at all times.
Dual Wield Specialization (5/5) – Increases the damage done by your offhand weapon by 50%. This is a buff to offhand damage, which includes the offhand damage from Mutilate. We’re taking it mainly to get deeper into the tree; plus, it’s a prereq for Close Quarters Combat.
Precision (5/5) – Increases your chance to hit with weapon and poison attacks by 5%. The hit penalty for dual wielding is simply too high for any PvE Rogue build to skip this talent.
Close Quarters Combat (5/5) – Increases your chance to get a critical strike with Daggers and Fist Weapons by 5%. because you’re using two daggers, you’ll get 5% extra crit on all direct damage you do.
Lightning Reflexes (3/3) Increases your Dodge chance by 6% and gives you 10% melee haste. The dodge is nice, but we’re mainly taking this for the haste buff. This will cause your Deadly Poison to proc more often, which will in turn increase your Instant Poison procs. Additionally, this means more white damage, and more Energy from Focused Attacks.
Relentless Strikes (2/5) – Your finishing moves have a 8% per combo point to restore 25 Energy. A 40% chance to get free energy every time you use a 5 point finisher and a 32% chance with a 4 point finisher.
– How to: Play the Assassination Spec –
The Assassination is fairly simple to play, but here are two fundamental rules.
- Poison both of your daggers – Instant on the main hand, and Deadly on the off hand.
- Get Hunger for Blood and Slice and Dice up as soon as possible and do not let them drop.
- Always begin from stealth, and open with a Garrote
- Activate Hunger for Blood
- Activate Slice and Dice
- Mutilate once and then Envenom (remember this gives us a full 5 point refresh on Slice and Dice)
Note: Hunger for Blood should be refreshed any time that it goes under 10 seconds.
- Mutilate twice to get 4 or 5 combo points
Yup, that simple. Refresh Hunger for Blood when necessary and if you’ve got the two piece tier 10 set bonus, find someone to cast Tricks of the Trade on when it’s up. You should only need to apply a Rupture if no one in your group can cause a bleed effect, and for that a 1 combo point Rupture will do. Also, if you are switching mobs, don’t be afraid to use a lower combo point Envenom to keep Slice and Dice active.
To further increase your DPS, use Cold Blood on a 5 point Envenom with a full stack of Deadly poison and Vanish whenever you can to reactivate Overkill. Additionally, if you are fighting three or more mobs, you’ll do more damage spamming Fan of Knives.
These are the three Glyphs that I use with this spec:
- Hunger for Blood (3% increase in bonus damage)
- Mutilate (5 Energy reduction
- Fan of Knives (20% more damage)
Tricks of the Trade is also a viable glyph option, especially if you and another Rogue are bouncing Tricks off each other.
I hope that you have found this guide informative and useful for a basic understanding of how to spec and play Assassination. If you’re looking for more detailed information on Assassination, you could check out the Rogue forum at elitistjerks.com, which has very detailed information.