Leveling a Rogue: Leveling Combat: 10-80

*** Now Updated for 3.3 ***

Ok, so you’ve made it through the starting zone, and you’ve reached level 10.  Now that you’ve got talent points, how are you going to use them as you level?

Today I’ll discuss using the Combat tree to level.  While Combat is, in my opinion, a pretty easy spec to level with, it’s definitely the least Rogue feeling.  However, if speed and ease are your main concerns, this spec should help you out…

–  Leveling Combat:  10-80  –

Please note that there are differing viewpoints on the “best” spec to use for leveling; this one is mine.  As always, I’d recommend that you find more than one source of information and decide what’s “best” for you.

This guide works best with a Sword, Fist Weapon, or Mace in the main hand.  When leveling, you should use the best weapons you can find, just make sure you get your weapon skill up before you go nuts.  In my raiding Combat Build, I use Axes, but all four weapon types are viable.  Because this is a leveling build, we won’t be picking up the weapon specializations.  Instead those points will go into  survivability talents.  Let’s begin:

Level 10 – 14 – Dual Wield Specialization

Rogues start with the ability to Dual Wield, so we’ll be using 5 talent points for the 50% increase to our offhand weapon.

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.

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 – 19:  Precision

For most classes, spending points on a +hit talent at this point in the game doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  However, dual wielding melee classes have a much higher chance to miss than other classes (25%, against an on level mob, I believe).

New Skill at level 16: Feint.  Feint, which lowers your threat, has little use in solo play, but at later levels it does get some AoE reduction added to the talent.

New Skill at Level 18: Ambush.  This is another Opener, but it is only usable with a dagger in the main hand.  If you are using a dagger, this is your best damage option for an opener, and it awards 2 combo points.

Level 20 & 21: Improved Sinister Strike

Two points here will shave off 5 energy from the cost of our Sinister Strikes.  As your main source of combo point generation, this will make your rotations faster.

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 22 – 24:  Deflection

The 6% parry chance combined with the 6% dodge we’re going to pick up with our later will go a long way in keeping us alive.

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.

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 – 27:  Lightning Reflexes

This newly redesigned talent now will pull double duty for you.  It will bring your talented avoidance up to 12% with the 6% dodge it provides.  In addition, it will also grant 10% Melee Haste, and increase your damage.

Level 28 & 29:  Endurance

In addition to lowering the cooldown of your Sprint and Evasion by a minute, this talent gives you a 4% total Stamina increase.  This increase will be minor at this time, but as you get more stamina on your gear it will become more noticable.

New Skill at Level 26: Cheap Shot.  This is probably my favorite opener when soloing Combat, as it stuns the target for 4 seconds, and gives you 2 combo points.  I personally like to macro it with Pick Pocket, so that anything I Cheap Shot will have it’s pockets picked, if able:

Edit:  This will only work if you enable the autoloot option.  Thanks to Jentlek for catching this.

/cast Pick Pocket


/Cast Cheap Shot

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 30:  Blade Flurry

20% increased attack speed, and the ability to hit two targets at the same time.  Accidentally pull a second mob?  Burn both down at the same time.  Your leveling just got significantly easier.

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 -35:  Aggression

A flat 15% damage buff to Sinister Strike, Backstab and Eviscerate.  Take it and enjoy the extra damage.

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.  If you plan on using this on targets you are fighting, make sure you’re not using any DoT effects, as they will break the Blind.

Level 36 & 37:  Blade twisting

A 10% increase to Backstab and Sinister Strike Damage, as well as a 10% chance for your melee attacks to Daze the target for 8 secs.  Enjoy the extra damage and the daze effect.

Level 38 & 39:  Weapon Expertise

That’s 10 Expertise, not 10 Expertise rating.  This will significantly reduce the mobs chance to parry or dodge your attacks.

Level 40:  Adrenaline Rush

100% increased Energy regeneration for 15 seconds.  Read that again.  If you pop this, and Blade Flurry and Evasion, you can take out a group of 3-5 mobs in a 15 second period, while taking minimal damage.

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 – 43:  Vitality

This will increase your Energy regeneration by 25%.  The faster you can gain Energy, the faster you can dispatch your enemies.

Level 44: Improved Slice and Dice

This is a 25% duration boost to Slice and Dice.  In a full raiding build I’d take two points here, but we’ll only take one point for the leveling build.  Players have been more likely to instance while leveling with the redesign to LFG, so it will help improve your DPS there too.

Level 45 – 49:  Combat Potency

This ability works best with a fast offhand weapon, and even better if it’s a fast sword or axe with the Hack and Slash talent (which we didn’t take).  For now, get a fast weapon in your off hand (probably a dagger) with good stats.  You’ll be surprised how much extra energy you get with this.

Level 50:  Surprise Attacks

Assuming you’re behind an enemy, and you’ve got enough + hit on your gear, this talent guarantees that your Finishers will land.  In addition, you should enjoy the 10% damage buff to most of your Combo Moves.

Level 51 & 52:  Savage Combat

A flat 4% buff to your attack power, as well as 2% physical damage buff on any target you have poisoned.  This buff applies to anyone in your group/raid.

Level 53 & 54:  Unfair Advantage

When this ability procs you get an instant attack for your main hand damage.  It can’t proc more than every second, but as a rogue, you have a fair amount of dodge already.  Imagine it with evasion though.

Level 55 – 59:  Prey on the Weak

20% Increased critical damage as long as you have a higher percentage of health than your target.  That’s just sick.

Level 60:  Killing Spree

Another fun ability for taking out multiple mobs at the same time, in conjunction with Blade Flurry and Slice and Dice, it can be devastating.  It’s also a decent DPS boost on single target.

Level 61 – 65:  Malice

Finally, we’re off to the Assassination Tree.  Some people choose to use their first 5 talent points for this.  It’s a flat 5% increased chance to crit.  I feel that some of the better abilities in the Combat will make leveling much easier than the extra crit chance, so I grab them first, and then take this.

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:  Relentless Strikes

Time for the Subtlety Tree.  Your 5 point Finishers will  grant you 25 Energy.  Your rotation speed increases.

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 – 73:  Ruthlessness

The rest of our points will be used in the Assassination tree, starting with 3 here.  This ability gives you a 60% chance to add a combo point after using a Finisher.  Another increase in how fast you can perform your rotation.

Level 74 & 75:  Blood Spatter

You’re likely instancing more in Northrend, and on a target that will live long enough, a 5 point Rupture will out perform Eviscerate for damage, so it makes sense to take a talent to increase that damage.

New Skill at Level 75: Tricks of the Trade.  This is the Rogue version of Misdirect.  I personally think it’s more useful than Misdirect, and you can read about its many uses here.

Level 76 – 80:  Lethality

Another increase (30%) to your critical strike damage.  You’ve finally got the crit to take advantage of this, so enjoy the increase in DPS on your way to the end.

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 Combat, but it’s time to ditch the survivability for some good, clean, old-fashioned DPS.  If you want to stay Combat, try something like this, If you’d prefer Assassination, try this.  Enjoy the endgame; you’ve earned it.

– Sam

29 Responses to Leveling a Rogue: Leveling Combat: 10-80

  1. Ken Monroe says:


    Love the Leveling a Rogue series. I’ve got a troll rogue at level 66 running around the Outlands. I was wondering if you had any combat rotation suggestions as the levels progress in this tree?

  2. samueltempus says:

    I was actualy contemplating an entire post based on rotations. The guides themselves are already 2k words each. I’ll see if can’t get that cranked out as soon as tomorrow.

    For the time being, if you’re opening with Cheap Shot, and using Sinister Strike to generate combo points for Eviscerate, you’re probably doing fine. If you want to take less (or no) damage, you can throw Gouge in there along with Kidney Shot:

    CS -> SS -> Gg -> KS -> SS….

    You’re probably going to get more out of continuing Sinister Strike to the end of that rotation than using an Eviscerate, unless the mob has a boatload of health. If you’re killing things fast enough, the cooldown on Cheap Shot may not be up for every mob, so you may not be able to always this rotation.

    As always, unless you know that you’ll need them before the cooldowns are up, use these whenever possible: Blade Flurry, Adrenaline Rush, Evasion, and Killing Spree. Also, using those together with any dps trinkets you have can cause massive damage to a group of mobs.


  3. Ken Monroe says:

    I’ve been running CS -> SS (3x) -> EV as kind of a standard for quite a while. Lately I’ve been trying to add in a Rupture doing something like CS -> SS(3x) -> EV -> SS -> RP.

    I’ve seen occasions where Rupture seemed to increase the DPS, or decrease the time it took to down the mob. But, I was kind of spamming everything and didn’t pay good enough attention to see what was optimal. 🙂

    I’m max’d out both Sword and Mace skills in the talent tree which I believe to be a poor choice at this point.

  4. samueltempus says:

    Rupture is a good choice if the mob will live long enough for the damage to tick through. It will increase your DPS to use it, but it may not decrease the amount of time to kill a mob.

    Still, it’s not a bad habit to get into, as Rupture all but replaces Eviscerate on longer fights and bosses.

    The unfortunate, and boring thing about Combat is that you’ve got your two main soloing moves (EV and SS) from level 1. It would be nice if Blizz spiced it up. Of course this is better than the Ret Paladins have it, with two of their main abilities out of reach until level 50 and 60 respectively.

    – Sam

  5. Jentlek (Khadgar) says:

    You may have mentioned it already and I missed it…Do you leave off points in either sword/mace specialization due to the variability in the weapons at the lower levels?


  6. samueltempus says:

    None of the specializations are picked up in this build. You’ll always be using the best weapons you can find leveling, which in most cases is going to be a Sword. If you wanted to pick up a specialization leveling, you’d need to take the points from either Deflection or Lightning Reflexes.

    – Sam

  7. Anonymous says:


  8. Anonymous says:

    i think improved eviscerate would be better than blood splatter

    wat if we dont run instances? wat if we just level to 80?

  9. Jugs says:

    I’ve been leveling a rogue after this guide recently, and I really have been digging the talent trees you use. I had a question though. I’ve been going with CS->SnD->SSx(till it seems good)->EV. I figured that the 20% speed would be 20% more damage. I’m not sure if I should just stop using SnD and just go with CS->SSx3->EV for more damage.

    What do you guys suggest?

  10. samueltempus says:

    It is a 20% boost in dps, but it’s more useable for longer fights. Generally using SS to build combo points for Evisc is the fastest way to kill a regular mob.

    – Sam

  11. Adam Lukens says:

    Great guide. One minor typo, though: On Relentless Strikes, it says for levels 66 – 10. You can obviously tell from context what it is, but I thought I’d let you know.

  12. Joe says:

    I’ve just one question, the guide and spec seem awesome, but if I’m set up with 2 heirloom weapons to get from 1 ~ 80 with (Sword 2.80 speed mainhand and dagger 1.50 speed off-hand) would it be worth taking points from somewhere and putting them into sword specialisation?


  13. Bill says:

    I had the same question as Joe only I chose the Mace heirloom due to the agility on it. should I take points in Mace Specialization and remove points somewhere? Also, did I make a good choice by choosing the mace as opposed to the sword for the agility?

  14. Samueltempus says:

    Specializations are great for end game, and really add up on longer fights. While leveling, you probably won’t miss them, and can afford to throw some points in other places to up your survivability and/or fun.

    – Sam

  15. levijoseph says:

    hey, great guide! i have 2 lvl 80s (both casters) and it is a relief to melee. i am currently at lvl 32 with a mace in my main hand and a dagger in my offhand. would you reccomend i get +15 agility on my weapons or crusader.

  16. mitch says:

    this a good daggers spec? uaing backstab as combo point generator http://www.wowhead.com/?talent#fhxcoxoZMgV0xcxoruzxRt0b

  17. mitch says:

    btw im glyphing backstab for 6sec longer rupture, adrenaline rush for longer time so i can backstab quicker and vigour for a total of 120 energy without including gear if you think i should change one or all of them mention it and thank you for the guide it really helped me and still is, 20-35 in a week

  18. Aevix says:

    I manage to use a PvP rotation on mobs, it helps because most of the time I never get hit on a single target fight.

    Cheap shot ss ss Kidney shot ss ss, target is usually down by then.

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  21. Twotondagger says:

    Great guide. Currently using it to level my rogue. Still having a bit of problem balancing out when to use a finisher to maximize the most dps. Other than that, this is really great.

  22. Stealthy says:

    What are some good glyphs to use while leveling? Great guide, btw 🙂

  23. Kevin says:

    Hey Sam I quest and que for dungeons and i was wondering a good rotation while doing dungeons at lvl 47

  24. Anonymous says:

    I have a level 20 rogue, and my friend ( a level 62 rogue) said the perfect rotation is SS > SnD > SS (x#) > Eviscerate, while keeping SnD up at all times. But I’ve read many a-guide that states opening with Garrot or CS or something similar is best. However, I was under the assumption that Stealth is rarely used in Combat spec. So, my quest is: What is the absolute BEST rotation for a Combat rogue (PvE/Quest/Dungeon) to maximize DPS in your opinion?

  25. SpearXXI says:

    Just keep doing what you are doing. Stealth is pointless for combat most of the time unless you are doing any CC. At 80 you might use rupture depending on your gear, but later on, it becomes trivial.

  26. stormkitten says:

    I’m interested in finding out the best way to maximize DPS in dungeons while leveling, as well. 🙂 Seems like we’re useless until we get fan of knives.

  27. Vel says:


    What I’ve found levelling on my Rogue is that Rogues in dungeons are doomed to bad DPS in the 45-70 phase. It looks like inconsistency in the class but I really can’t find any way to cure the problem (talking Combat by the way). I haven’t tried other specs but I see no reason why a different spec shouldn’t yield a different result.

  28. stormkitten says:

    @ Vel

    Yeah, that’s what I’m discovering, as well. We have that one talent that lets us hit an additional target for a few seconds, but it really doesn’t do much of anything. xD Oh well, sad sad face. Back to the grind. xD

  29. steve says:

    i have a lvl 46 combat rogue and honestly i don`t know how i made it this far with him. i`m looking for a talent tree build and a rotation for him reading all these post is good but not sure what i need to do for the most damage. plse help ty

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