Leveling a Rogue: Leveling Assassination 10-80
March 10, 2009 72 Comments
*** Now updated for 3.3***
Today I’ll discuss using the Assassination tree to level. Assassination has more of a Rogue feel than Combat, but less than Subtlety. While not as easy quick and efficient as Combat is for leveling, Assassination is quite fun to play. If you’re looking to enjoy the scenery while you level up, but still get to level 80 in a timely manner, Assassination might be for you:
– Leveling Assassination: 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 build relies heavily on poison and the use of daggers. Non-hybrid Assassination specs are built around the abilities Mutilate and Ambush. We won’t be able to pick Mutilate until level 50, but Ambush is available at 18. Until you get Mutilate, Sinister Strike and Backstab will be your main sources of combo points and damage. Backstab gets some nice bonuses with this spec; I’d recommend working on using stuns to get behind your target so you can use it. Alternavely, you can use non dagger weapons and Sinister Strike until you hit level 50; admittedly, this is probably the easier way to go.
While you can get away with other weapons until you’ve reached level 50, daggers will be your weapon of choice for the remainder of the game. You’ll drop the use of Sinister Strike and Backstab entirely at this point as well. Likewise, Envenom will replace Eviscerate when you recive it at level 62. Unlike our Combat leveling Spec, we’ll be using talent points for raw damage, not survivability. Assassination depends more heavily on Stealth and stuns to survive. Let’s begin:
Level 10 – 14 – Malice
Serious Rogue builds don’t skip Malice. The benefit of leveling Assassination is that you can afford to grab this 5% chance to crit early on, instead of waiting until your 60’s.
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 – 17: Ruthlessness
Unlike the Combat tree, which builds Energy quickly, the Assassination tree builds combo points quickly. The faster you can build them the better. 3 points here gives you a 60% chance to gain a combo point from your Finishers.
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: Puncturing Wounds
This will really help when we get Mutilate at 50. Until then, the extra crit 20% chance on Backstab is nice. We’ll finish this later.
New Skill at Level 18: Ambush. This is a great Opener for an Assassination Rogue, and it awards 2 combo points. It’s really a choice in playstyle whether you use this or your soon to be acquired Cheap Shot as your Opener of choice. I use both, depending on the situation.
Level 20 – 24: Lethality
When fully talented this is going to give you a 30% bonus to your critical damage of every combo move you have, like Backstab (which if you remember we just gave an extra 20% chance to crit with Puncturing Wounds).
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.
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: Vile Poisons
A nice flat 20% buff to our poison damage, and eventually our Envenom ability. Poison and Envenom can do 40% or more of an Assassination Rogue’s total damage, so this talent is crucial to an Assassination build.
New Skill at Level 26: Cheap Shot. This stun can help you knock off a good chunk of your enemies health before they can even react. 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 28 & 29: Improved Poisons
We’ll be visiting this talent a few times to put points into. It doesn’t directly increase the damage of our poisons, but it does increase the chance they will land. We’ll start with 2 points.
Level 30: Cold Blood
Can I get a guaranteed crit button? As a matter of fact you can. Use this for 5 combo point finishers, Ambushes or Backstabs to inflict serious damage.
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 -33: Improved Kidney Shot
You should be using Kidney Shot on mobs to keep them stunned. The 9% buff in damage will help you kill things faster while stunned, and it applies to anyone in your party/raid as well.
Level 34: Improved Poisons
Add another point.
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. This is more useful for a second target than your main target, as you’ll be using Deadly Poison at all times.
Level 35 – 39: Seal Fate
When fully talented, everyCombo Move Crit will produce and additional combo point. Again, fast combo point generation is a necessity for Assassination Rouges.
Level 40: Overkill
An Assassination Rogue should be attacking from Stealth whenever possible. If you were needing more incentive to attack from Stealth, the extra energy generation for 20 seconds after breaking stealth should cover that.
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: Murder
A flat 4% damage increase to all of your damage as long as you’re attacking a mob type listed in the talent.
Level 43: Improved Poisons
Yet another point.
Level 44: Puncturing Wounds
Finish it up, in preparation for Mutilate, coming up in six short levels.
Level 45 – 47: Find Weakness
No explanation here, just another flat 6% total damage buff.
Level 48 & 49: Focused Attacks
A 66% chance to generate 2 energy for our melee critical strikes. We’ll make it 100% in a bit, but first…
Level 50: Mutilate
It only took 50 levels, but we finally have our main combo point generator. At 60 Energy it’s expensive, but hits like a truck, and generates 2 combo points. If you open with an Ambush, followed with a Mutilate crit, you’ll have 5 combo points in under 2 seconds. As I’ve mentioned before, this requires the use of daggers, so if you don’t have two daggers yet, find a way to get them before you continue any serious leveling.
Level 51 – 53: Master Poisoner
A 3% crit buff to all targets you have poisoned. This buff applies to anyone in your Party/Raid as well. In about 10 levels this will also keep your Deadly Poison from being consumed by an Envenom.
Level 54: Focused Attacks
Finish it for a 100% chance to gain 2 energy on your Melee Crits.
Level 55 – 59: Cut to the chase
This is the reason main reason I decided to switch to Assassination. If you use Envenom or Eviscerate, and you have an active Slice and Dice, it will refresh your SnD to its full 5 combo point length. This effect works this way even whether you use a 1 point Env/Evisc or a 5 point. If you’re efficient enough, it’s possible to chain mobs without ever letting Slice and Dice drop. That will really speed up your leveling.
Level 60: Hunger for Blood
This will boost your damage an additional 5% (8% with the glyph). The best way to get this buff applied is to open with a Garotte and then use Hunger for Blood. Along with Slice and Dice, keeping this active is important to your DPS, especially while instancing.
Level 61 – 62: Opportunity
Time for a brief dip into the Subtlety Tree. Of interest to us from this talent is the 20% buff to Mutilate and Ambush.
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. You should replace Eviscerate on your bar with this, but move it somewhere you can still use it. Sometimes you’ll need to use it to refresh Slice and Dice because you’ve had bad luck with your Deadly Poison procs.
Level 63 – 67: 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 64: Deadly Throw. This Finisher deals high amounts of Thrown weapon damage and slows the target for 6 sec.
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.
Level 68 – 72: Precision
One of the real tragedies of leveling Assassination and Subtlety is that you’re in your late 60’s before you can really afford to get this talent. This talent increases your hit chance by 5% and it’s desperately needed. It would be worth getting this far in Combat from levels 10-19, except that you would be level 60 before you got Mutilate.
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. You can use this to guarantee that you have a deadly poison stack on your target, but I personally find that tactic to be a waste of Energy, as you will usually have at least 1 stack of Deadly Poison on your target within a few seconds.
Level 73 – 77: Relentless Strikes
Back to Subtlety, we’re going to take this for the extra Energy it can produce. You’re probably doing instances / group quests in Northrend that have mobs that will live long enough to use full rotations, which would imply 4 and 5 point Finishers. This talent would give you at least an 80% chance to generate 25 energy when you use those moves.
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 78 & 80: Close Quarters Combat
You’re going to be using 2 Daggers as long as you’re Assassination Spec, so you should at least benefit from the 3% extra crit you can get with your last 3 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. If you want to see Big numbers, use Cold Blood with this when you’ve got about 10 mobs. Do that with TotT, and your tank will love you.
Congratulations! You’ve reached level 80! I hope you’ve enjoyed leveling Assassination. The good news is that an Assassination raid spec isn’t terribly different than a leveling spec, and basically plays the same way. However, if you want to respec Combat, try something like this. Enjoy the endgame; you’ve earned it.