Leveling a Rogue: Leveling Subtlety 10-80

*** 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


/Cast Ambush

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

Finish it. 

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.

– Sam

123 Responses to Leveling a Rogue: Leveling Subtlety 10-80

  1. Chronic says:

    Using hemorrhage with daggers is absolutely crazy! For an attack that does damage based on your weapon’s damage range you want to find the slowest weapon possible. For a levelling subtlety build stay as far away from daggers as you can. Ambush is pretty marginal and not enough reason to stick with them.

    If you insist on using daggers (but please don’t) you would be using backstab as your primary combo-point generator. You’d be using cheap shot as an opener to allow you to position yourself behind the mob, and probably mostly KS as a finisher for the same reason.

    If you want to do things inefficiently because you enjoy the experience or whatever then of course that’s fine, but it seems unusual to write that up as a guide.

    One other random thing:

    “Feint, which lowers your threat, has no use in solo play…”

    It does reduce incoming aoe damage for six seconds. While it’s admittedly pretty marginal for soloing, you can invent situations when it’s useful – soloing an above-con elite who uses whirlwind, for example.

  2. Chronic says:

    Actually, the AoE reduction on feint only applies to the max rank (obtainable at 78) so it would never be of any use for levelling. Mea culpa.

  3. samueltempus says:


    Every point you’ve made is totally valid, and I’m actually thinking about adding a section at the begining on how to approach leveling using a heavy hitting hemo with a sword or fist and stuns. I would never build a true Hemo spec for daggers.

    Anyway, the Combat and Assassination guides were built for speed and survivability. This guide was built for people that wanted to level as Roguishly as possible. The entire build focuses on Stealth and using Ambush to take off as much life as possible.

    As far as efficiency, it’s still a fairly efficient build and things should die fast (I’m actually leveling a second Rogue to test it), but I never claimed it to be a good sustained DPS build. The main point was to get away from the heavy hitting sword and stun way of playing, and embrace what a Rogue probably should (and often doesn’t) feel like.

    All that being said, thanks for the input. I enjoy getting the different viewpoints in here for people to use. I’ve heard from plenty of people who have used Subtlety both ways (Sword/Fist vs. Daggers), and both discussed how easy and quick it was to take out mobs. If in my testing I find this build to be beyond inferior, I’ll completely rewrite the whole thing.

    – Sam

  4. Jentlek (Khadgar) says:


    When you have the pick pocket macro:

    /cast Pick Pocket
    /Cast Cheap Shot

    shouldn’t Cheap Shot be replaced by Ambush in this build?

  5. samueltempus says:

    Thanks for catching that. There’s been a lot of cut & paste from the other two guides to save time. I forgot to change it, but I’ll get it fixed.

    – Sam

  6. Kyranda says:

    As someone whose main has been a decked-out shadow priest for years, I wanted to try something very different. I love shadow priests, but I just wanted to do something different when I wasn’t raiding with him.

    So, I’m leveling a NE sub rogue and I’m loving it (at level 42 so far). I can’t imagine why one would want to play a rogue using a spec other than subtlety/daggers. It just feels… roguey. (Yes, there is a *non-dagger* sub build that I can share with you if you’re interested.)

    If someone wants to play their rogue by charging into a bunch of mobs swinging swords, then why not simply roll a warrior or pally? It makes no sense to me.

    As for myself, I love sneaking around and causing havoc! 🙂

  7. Jason says:

    Level 40 so far with the guide, killing fast, sneaking around with daggers 🙂 I was going to level sub before I found this, my main is a Mage so the guide really explains a lot to me. Thanks for this!

  8. Puffball says:

    I love the build. I am only lvl 30 but have opened with ambush all the time and have dropped level 28 mobs in 1 hit.

  9. samueltempus says:

    I’m glad to hear that the build is working so well for everyone. Keep me posted. 🙂


  10. Kieran says:

    I had a combat rogue which i took to level 38 and got very bored, i used ur spec an within 3 days i am now 52, im not saying its faster, but certainly more fun.

  11. Moraghul says:

    Hey sam

    First up, good guide. I switched into subtlety after being specced combat. I am level 32 right now and just wanted to try something different – the Subtlety tree is different and very refreshing. I use a pair of daggers because Ambush dictates one must, so anyone who is complaining about using swords/maces should spec back to combat and, as Duke Nukem would say, blow it out their ass.

    Strangely, there was a steep learning curve for this build – which is no fault of your own. Having to re-learn how to use stealth effectively, how to sap mobs in proper priority, and then go for the big kills was tough! But it sure beats the hell out of combat – which I find is boring and risky.

    Speccing subtlety is not going to be the fastest way to level, I will not argue that; but it is fast enough. Once rogues who convert to subtlety learn to time their stealth (a knack lost by playing combat…) at just the right distance from their target mob, they can get from mob-to-mob efficiently and take them down in similar manner.

    Great guide – I am officially a subtlety convert. I can’t wait to get through to 80 and start HAT raiding.



  12. samueltempus says:

    Kieran and Moraghul,

    I’m glad you’re both having fun. I think all too often people forget that this is a game and that goals, while important shouldn’t take away from the fun in the journey.


  13. Jason says:

    In reply to the comments about quickly stealthing and sapping, I’ve found that these binds work well:

    Q – Macro:- Stealth, when stealthed it changes to sap.
    E – Premeditation
    R – Macro:- Pickpocket, ambush (as above)
    F – Ghostly Strike, hemo x 7 macro, 7-sec reset) (i spam this if i need combo points)
    V – Hemo just encase ghostly strike is down
    G – Dismantle
    C – Eviscerate finishing move, (spam this when you want to finish it).

    I’m new to rogue, but I like these keys as they are in a kinda circle around my movement keys (A and D are strafe and I use the mouse to turn).

    I am also a NELF so I have macro’d shadowmeld and stealth together to make another “vanish”. I tend to not try to fight too many at once with the build and use shadowmeld a lot.

    I’ll sap and then open/kill, restealth and open on the one I sapped before. If I get in trouble I’ll usually use blind to give me time to get some more energy!

    Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me, hope someone finds this post useful.


  14. kaneko says:

    i’ve been sub since day one in wow. a few notes of interest… i use hemo constantly and i’m daggers. yeah i know, use backstab. can’t use it if you’re soloing though. can get one backstab off while mob is gouged. i use hemo because it’s cheaper than sinister strike, more combo points generated for less energy.

    right now i’m L75, and because i solo, i don’t have great gear. i do however get around 3k ambush crits as my opener. (and yes, it’s taken me three and a half years to get to L75 – what can i say i get easily… ooh shiny!)

    the build is pretty close to what i have currently. i’m always looking for more ways to improve it, but a lot of what i find seems to infer that you are in a group.

  15. LongLiver says:

    Well this makes pleasant reading. I thought from many of the other guides that I was being a freak putting points into subtelty. I had a particular reason, however… I play allmost entirely solo. I am on a PvP server and this build works nicely for rogue style PvP… YOU choose the time and place, and wipe as much as you can with that first hit.

    The combination of Premed and Initiative mean that I have five combo points immediately after my first strike from stealth. Depending on the situaiton this can go into Kidney Shot, Slice ‘n Dice, or Eviscerate. My favourite choice at the moment for PvE (lvl 52) is however Rupture. I’m working on introducing this into my PvP fights rather than stunning, as the damage continues even if the target moves away.

    Given my amount of solo work (and this is my first WoW character) the enhanced sneak, improved speeds and use of Preparation to get TWO sprints or TWO vanishes in a row is great. It turns out that it makes for quite an effective flag runner in WSG as well (the sprints, not the vanishes).

    Thanks for the detailed write up… it has encouraged me to continue to explore this build and to feel a little less odd in doing so.

  16. Bloomindraal says:

    Hi Sam,

    Like many of your other poster’s here I have choosen to use Subtlety for my rogue simply because it feels more rogueish. My rogue will be primarily for PVP as I have a Resto Druid main for raiding. This toon is for my PVP fix!

    I can’t help but notice the first post in here was about the mis-use of the Hemo talent. I understand your using it as a combo point generator (especially because its so cheap) but I could help but wonder if there was a way to still generate the combo points and take better advantage of the Hemo talent.

    Granted in PVE the mobs are predictable and you can generally Ambush, Ghostly Strike, Spam Hemo and Eviscerate and the mob is dead (I’m lvl 30 so no Premediation). But if your soloing and elite or fighting well above your weigh class the 110% on a sword instead of a dagger would surely work to your advantage?

    To that end i’ve come up with a couple of simple macro’s.

    1. Replace the Stealth button –
    /cast Stealth
    /equipslot 16 [Dagger]

    2. Expand on your Ambush Macro-
    /cast [stealth] Pick Pocket
    /stop casting
    /cast [stealth] Ambush; Ghostly Strike (Ghostly Strike is used if stealth is broken)
    /equipslot 16 [Sword]

    What I was wondering is, how you and your poster’s normally use your rotation (whatever it may be). Is it a series of key bindings? So you press 1, 3, 3, 4, 7 (as an example) then rinse and repeat or do you roll the rotation into an all in one macro ? I ask this because when I rolled my first toon, a mage, I always seemed to get pwned before I could even find my iceblock, by rogues – yes I was a clicker 😦

    I am also eagerly awaiting your pvp guide to Subtlety as that is the primary reason for rolling this toon. Of course it would involve keeping a target stun locked, but I am curious what is an energy efficient rotation that keeps a balance between stun locking and burning them down.

    Love the guides !!

  17. Jagarone says:

    Great Guide I’ve been following it and love the subtlety spec. You’re right, why spec in anything else for that you could be something more tuned for that sort of thing.

  18. NightKnyfe says:

    thanks much for this guide. I wanted to feel like a rogue, not an arms warrior, and this is doing it in style. My logic is thus; i am a pvp kind of person, and BG’s offer no exp, so why devote all of my time into a “better” leveling spec when that’s not what i’m necessarily doing all of the time? Besides, intelligent subtlety rogues will fare better than the average rogue of any spec, and its about fun!

  19. Staalin says:

    I’ve leveled 2 characters to 80 and 2 to the mid-40s (before quitting those characters out of boredom). This spec for rogues is the most fun I’ve had leveling a character in WoW.

  20. Nínja says:

    Hi, May I say great guide, and thanks for taking the time to do it.

    My Rogue is on an EU pvp server and now level 70, which it’s been for many months, as it’s not my main character.
    I’m about to start on it again, and been browsing for ideas.

    I went from 10 to 65 following a spec allmost identical and loved it. However for me there was 2 problems.
    It may be my age. Rapidly approaching retirement 🙂 so maybe reactions or understanding is slower, but I could not master the use of Shadowstep and Shadow Dance, so I did a respec as follows:-

    At 70
    I have 5 points in Malice
    In Combat 21 taking advantage of Improved Slice and Dice, Endurance, Improved Kick and ending at Blade Flurry.
    So my Sublety tree finishes at Premeditation. But intended to add the 70 to 80 points in Sub too.

    I have found that for me it has retained the feel of a cunning Rogue but has a few more tricks that I can handle. Improved Kick is great to silence casters. As I said I’m on a PvP realm and need as many escape options as possible.
    I have a Weapons addon, so when stealthed have a daggers in both hands. In an effort to keep as much health intact as possible in case I end up in a pvp fight too, I open with Cheap shot / Backstab / Slice and Dice then Hemo, as by then out of stealth my dagger would have been swapped for a slow fist weapon.
    Maybe not the best spec or rotation, but works well for me. Would appreciate any polite advise, even if it is to scrap the spec and start over….

    That said I would gladly go back to full Sub as the guide shows if some kind “youngster” could steer me in the right direction for using the Shadowstep and Shadow Dance abilities.

  21. Jorrit says:

    heey great guide, just wanna know wut glyphs are best

  22. Ryan says:


    It’s not so much the layout of the sub tree as it is the point of the whole thing, clearly people think that facerolling is the only way to do damage, but speaking from a 2 clothie mains (and previous 70 preWOTLK rogue) i know how much it sucks to be stunlocked and die before i can cast anything. If you can make someone say ‘WTF just happened, I died?’ then you know you’re doing something right 🙂 one thing i did modify for my tree was put 2 points into waylay and out of close quarters because of knowing how much it sucks to not be able to get away. it might not be a good sacrifice from the 2% crit but i’ll have to balance which would occur more as waylay is only on an opener as opposed to all the time with both hands with daggers. That is usually how I decide between points, which will i be using more often.

    speaking from a rogue’s point of view, previously rolling sub, switching to combat, then back to sub again, it sure is a hell of a lot more fun to sap from 50miles away if anything. more and more i’m seeing the mutilate build as the common pvp build, i’ll have to see how well ambush goes. TY for the read through 🙂

  23. Symsyr says:

    Great guide, it is very detailed and close to the spec I am currently using. My rogue is a lvl 67 UD on the Fenris Server.

    For Nínja, the best use of Shadowstep would be to stealth, premeditate, shadowstep then ambush. This will give you better crits and give you time to pull off an eviscerate right after.

    Also, Honor Among Thieves is pretty good for a raid or group. It allows for a rogue to gain combo points from the party/raid member crits, both healing and damage. This will allow you to use Slice N Dice, Expose Armor or Rupture almost right after you use Eviscerate, then you can go back to backstabbing or hemoing and pop another Evis.

  24. samueltempus says:

    HaT is a very good skill to pick up if you are in a group setting. It’s not nearly as useful solo though, which is the way this spec was intended to be played. I probably should get a PvE group/raid based Subtlety spec up here. 🙂

    – Sam

  25. Zejus says:

    I decided to start leveling a rogue and have no idea where to begin. This guide looks like a good start. Thanks very much.

  26. Mark says:

    Any idea on when the subtlety guide will be available ?

  27. Eric says:

    Would you reccomend this build when doing BG?

  28. Staalin says:

    For BG’s you can pretty much stun the mob for about 20 seconds straight. I’m thinking something like:

    Cheap Shot, Kidney shot, vanish, cheap shot, kidney shot (if its up), prep, cheap shot, kidney shot (if its up).

    but that would require you to blow all your cooldowns.

  29. Algure says:

    Decent Sub leveling guide, but to truly power level a character i would get the Combat talents First down to 2/2 Endurance, then start taking points in Subtlety. Leveling weapons til Hemorrhage dont really matter but i prefer daggers. Once you get Hemorrhage you’d want the BoA Dalrends MH sword, you get that and youre good for MH weapon til 80. Cheat Death can be swapped for Master of Subtlety since once you get your openers down you can kill any yellow to green mob in 6 seconds flat.
    Premeditation should not be clicked on to use, rather you want to macro it onto each of your possible openers for ex:

    #show premeditation
    /cast Premeditation
    /cast Cheap Shot

    same for Garrote and Ambush(if you weap swap dagger).

    Good to go, Subs a really nice way to level i prefer it over Combat, especially when you get Shadowstep

  30. Celenas says:

    Thank you for this guide! I’m following it on my 30-something rogue alt who’s decked out in BoA daggers, chest and shoulders. I find myself often one-shotting mobs with Ambush, which is pretty fun. Most of the time Ambush > Ghostly Strike > (sometimes a Hemorrhage or two if it’s a higher level mob) > Evis does the trick. Ambush ends up accounting for over 40% of my damage done according to Recount. I never played a rogue before so I’m not familiar with the other specs and have no idea if those would be more efficient, but I’m enjoying sub very much.

  31. samueltempus says:

    I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying it so much. Sounds like you’re doing it right too. 🙂 Keep up the good work and let me know how it goes.

    – Sam

  32. shredder says:

    Hey great guide!

    I love sub, it’s so much fun compared to the other spec imo. Tell me you don’t love 1 shotting players in bg’s and tearing up mobs in no time. 😀 I’m L70 now and I would love to see a guide for pve group/raids. Keep it up !

  33. Shadowmauler says:

    What do you think of this spec?

    and could you link your spec through wowhead?

  34. Anarial says:

    I leveled a rogue to 80 following the combat build and was very pleased. But I started another rogue to try out this build. I have to say that this Subtlety build is amazing! I’m level 29 currently and basically killing everything in one or two shots. Sometimes I don’t get the crits at all, and it takes a little longer. At least thus far, I don’t think this is a “slow boat” leveling spec. It has been on par with my Combat experience at least to this point.

    One thing that I’m doing that isn’t mentioned here is swapping weapons between stealth and non-stealth stances. I use the add-on Stance Sets to equip a dagger in stealth and a mace out of stealth. I get the best of both worlds this way. I expect that once I get Hemo this will further work to my advantage. I’d recommend trying out the add-on; it’s great not only for rogues but any class that uses any sort of stance (warriors, druids, paladins, etc.)

    Anyway, thanks for this excellent guid and this amazing build. I’m excited to see how it works as I get higher up the talent trees.

  35. Barkey says:

    Thanx alot for the guide Sam, i was leveling as combat till about 64, now i’m leveling as subtlety and i enjoy it 🙂 Keep up the good work.

  36. Debbie says:

    I can not thank you enough for this levelling guide. I’m still pretty noob, and had my rogue up to lvl 45. I was becoming endlessly frustrated with seeming unable to accomplish anything without backup/help. I decided to spec out, (I had been winging it) but couldn’t find many guides that explained exactly how the tree was intended to be used. Along came you!

    I play PvE, with the occasional BG for fun, but the BG wasn’t much fun when I couldn’t “find my place.” I tried defending, sneaking and stealing, etc, like everyone suggested, but more often than not I died fantastic deaths without causing much damage on my way down. Last night I redid my talents as per your suggestion (the only change I made was throwing one point into dual wield early) and HOLY WOW, what a change. Mobs I was hacking away at before were dropping in 2, maybe 3 hits! So I decided to throw my lot in the BG to give it a whirl, and actually came out above middle for the first time! (I was in the bottom 5 most of the time) So this spec DOES work, and it is pretty damn easy to get the swing of quickly. (oh, there is pleasure finally being “that guy” that drops people and disappears back off into nothing!!)

    Thank you very much, and don’t you dare take down this tutorial!! It’s golden! (oh, and to throw my lot into the weapons discussion, daggers have been working spectacularly.)

  37. Robin says:

    Hiya sam, this is a great great guide especially for me since im new to rogues so thanks
    i was just wondering whether i should go combat or sub but ill try them both and decide for myself.

    Also i would love to know a decent rotation for sub like openers and a rotation for combat if anybody knows one

    thanks again

  38. Scott says:

    great guide, sub is alot more fun than combat imo.
    im currently on lvl 36 atm.
    the only differance i made to the build is an early 3 points into master of subtlety at lvl 32 and finished setup early aswell and it works great, mobs go down in seconds and i can kill mobs that are 4-5lvls above me.

    my rotation is

    stealth-(distract if u need)-ambush-hemo-eviserate/kidneyshot

    usually by now the mob will be nearly dead, especially if u crit on ambush/evis. if the mob still has more life i rotate this after the first.

    maintain hemo-ghostly strike+hemo-evis

    at later lvls i would expect something like.
    stealth-premeditation-shadowstep-ambush-evis-hemo-ghostly strike-hemo-evis
    with shadowdance i would do this
    stealth-premeditation-shadowstep-cheap shot-hemo-kidneyshot-shadowdance-ambush-ambush-evis. i can see that being sooo deadly but idk if it works energy wise.

    if ur in a tight spot hit evasion and everytime u dodge u get a combat point, add the evasion glyph for a nice +5 secs and with a preparation thats 40 secs of +50% dodge. if u think ur going to die then just vanish and try again.

  39. Jessica says:

    I have always been rebellious when it comes to leveling characters and enjoy trying the spec that everyone recommends NOT to level with . . . this guide has definitely helped me achieve that with the rogue. I’m killing mobs my level very easily, often 2 shotting them. I also find it easy to attack mobs 3 or 4 levels higher than myself. I applaud you for sticking to your guns and writing this despite criticism. I also agree . . . what is the point of playing a rogue if you’re just running up to mobs hacking away? You’re right, you might as well just roll a warrior! Am very glad I found this, suits how a rogue should be played perfectly.

  40. thorogue says:

    hi Sam,
    would you comment on glyphs please,

    lvl22 Sub Rogue Noob

  41. ho5000 says:


    Could you please post a link to the fully built spec that you detail here?

    lvl20 Sub Rogue Noob

  42. Treeman says:

    I too have been specced sub since day one. This guide has really helped me in getting my talents and rotations worked out. I am an avid pvper and as sub, i can kill other players up to 6 lvls higher than me (i’m 70 atm) I would like to comment on a few topics that keep coming up.

    -Hemo daggers: i get around this with a weapon swap macro that switches to my sword before i hemo
    /equipslot 16 [your slow hemo weapon]
    /cast hemorrhage

    and one to switch to my dagger when i stealth to set up for an ambush
    /equipslot 16 [dagger]
    /cast stealth

    Secondly, i have found that i can get an ambush and a garrote off while shadow dance is up, leading to some huge single target dps!

    I would encourage all rogues to at least try out this build as it is the most fun rogue build out there imo.
    Keep up the great work sam!

  43. Ninetynine says:

    Sam, keep up the great work on this site! This guide has spiked my interest to level my Rogue (56 Combat atm) using your subtlety spec.

  44. Pingback: 3.3 Patch Notes Updated

  45. TikiShades says:

    Actually, other than speed, I don’t see why you would need two daggers. I like to use a dagger in the main hand and a sword in the opposite. I’m no spec major, but I find the sword helps get some good damage out of my Ambush.

    My rogue is 47 currently, and I can take out almost any mob in my level range with a Premediation, Ambush, and Eviscerate (since I have the glyph for it). I try to kill things just over my level range to challenge myself, but since I’m not specced for prolonged combat, I find myself really enjoying my early choice to take Alchemy and Herbalism. 😛

    I think the main thing I did differently was to take Master of Subtley and 2 points of Deadliness. I wasn’t sure which would give me more damage output, but I figured that 10% more damage was more than the 6% attack power.

  46. Kajsa says:

    Good guide. I switched out of a combat build at lvl 20, both for the improved roguish feel and because combat felt BORING. My new subtlety build has injected some much needed FUN back into the game.

    I go with a MH sword and OH dagger, but switch ’em around while stealthed for Ambush. Switching back requires a global cooldown to sit through, but it’s worth it for the damage Ambush is capable of. By then the mob is nearly dead anyway.

    Of course I haven’t quite hit lvl 30 yet, but it’s working for me so far.

  47. Nightless says:

    I am a level 24 Rogue atm and I have to say if it wasn’t for your guide I would be sitting in silvermoon city with my thumb up my ass since this is my first Rogue. Subtlety is so much fun, I feel like a real rogue sneaking around and killing things quickly as if a deadly shadow.

    I did raid with this spec, it was alittle hard but I got the job done. Once I turn 40 I am getting dual spec and building up my assassination for raiding.

    Just wanted to say I am loving you guide so far, thanks again for writing this out for all of us noob Rogues ^^

  48. Rhym says:

    Thank you so much! This spec may be slower, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun! Without it I probably would’ve given up on my rogue.

    Thank you!

  49. mike says:

    I specced assissan for a long time with my rogue, but I was attempting to do pvp.. not my style. I went into the sublety tree and I was having alot of fun.. Sublety might not be the fastest way to level a rogue, but if you want to learn how to stunlock, and really get into using all the diversity in stealth (in my opinion).. Then this is a nice build..

    Thanks for taking the time to write this, and thanks for answering questions..

  50. Dave says:

    I’ve always wanted to level a rogue. We’ve got some good ones in the guild and they always kick some serious butt. Seems like there’s been an almost mass extinction though. I know when I was leveling my druid I liked the stealthy aspects of the feral tree best. So I had an excess of heroism badges and I hooked my rogue up. Tried combat and it just flat out bored me. I think of “sneaky bastige” when I think “rogue” and instead it was like when I was leveling my warrior. So I found this guide while looking up info on possible builds. It was just what I needed. I respecced to subtlety and picked up about 10 levels in the last few days. It’s been a blast too. Thanks for your effort – I much appreciate it. Combat may be faster, but not if you’re not playing 😉

    Thanks again!

  51. Schizotypy says:

    This is a great guide i was searching the web to see if i can find a beter build then what i got already on my own started out subtlety and was cruising along and this just adds to my train of thought with my spec always trying to improve it and so on just glad to know im on the right track of doing things thanks for this guide it works great build…..

  52. Zuzi says:

    Loving the guide as I am currently building a subtlety rogue (lvl 16) Getting ready to work on my lockpicking quest next go round. I report back to this page every time I make a level. Can’t wait for the pvp!

  53. roguing rogue roguing roguishly says:

    I find that the critical damage that you can cause upfront is masive compared to the other classes, im a lvl 52 and i spent alot on getting good gear for my rogue, and after pre-med ambush, generate around 1500-2000 followed by evis ~1500. I can take down something that has 5+ lvls pretty easily.

    Good guide i learned some new stuff from it also the comments. I find that i spam out hemo to generate points as its cheaper, also if you are in a group, that 10 charges doesn’t last long anyway…

    I tried to spec out for BGs mainly, but i find this spec useful in PVE, as stealthin around and assassinating bosses then vanishing is faster than killin everyone to achieve the end objective.

    I find that my DPS in dungeons is lower than others as after that initial attack, i am left with nothing. I will try the sword macro that is stated above, this will probably solve my woes and turn the rogue into an uber rogue :).

    nice summary.

  54. Emry says:

    I love this guide. I have an 80 Shadow Priest and 80 DK. I’ve been looking at other classes. I lvled a Warlock…fun. I lvled a Mage, hated it. I’m currently lvling my rogue using this guide and I’m having A BLAST. It’s so cool killing things 3 to 4 lvls above you. Currently lvl 34. I started my rogue 4 days ago, it has been so fast to lvl. I’ve discussed this build with my raiding guild rogues and they are all PRO Combat. I told them I don’t care what they say, I’m having a blast and thats all that matters. Subtlety is so…ROGUEY.

    I’m also lvling Skinning and Mining together and when I hit 80 I will drop mining and take up Leatherwork. I will stock pile all the mats I need to lvl Leatherwork at 80 and I will be stock piling the ores, bars, jewels for my Warlock or Mage to learn to be a JC

    Thanks Subtlety tree. You’ve opened up a whole heap of opportunities for me!!!

  55. Samueltempus says:

    Skinning / Mining – > Skinning Leatherworking is a very smart idea. I used that combo on my Hunter, and even though I sold everything, it only took me 2 days to farm and craft my way to around 440. With all of the things I’ve made since, I’ve been 450 for a long time (Aka pre-ulduar).

    I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it; keep up the good work!

    – Sam

  56. bazull says:

    Instead of going strictly down the sub tree I stopped after getting hemo and put points into remorseless attacks which gave me near 100% crit ambush on the next mob, made going from one mob to the next much faster. I’ve leveled faster than I did in combat with almost no down time. Also I picked up glyph of hemo and eviscerate as my first two major glyphs.

  57. NowYaCMe says:

    Thank you so much for putting this guide out there. I have a few 80s & decided to try a rogue out finally, everyone kept telling me combat/assassin is the way to go & I should just ignore sub, but ever since I made him I’ve been eying the sub tree… it just seemed more “roguey” & fun as someone above stated & I was seriously bored with my spec at the time.. to the point where I had stopped leveling him. Everywhere i looked for talent builds though, it was always stated that sub “is NOT the way to go”, then I stumbled across your site & after reading it, gained enough courage to try out the tree that had been calling out to me since i rolled my rogue & I couldn’t be happier =D… Keep up the good work.

  58. Coven says:

    Like all the above players i wanted to thank you for this build and the work you have put into it. Having leveled 4 chars to 80 (all being casters and healers) i decided to roll a rogue. Not having the slightest idea about speccing to level i asked my guild who all barked back as one “Go combat, theres no other way”. Being the diligent student i followed there advice and found that.. i hated it, couldn’t stand it.
    Well i found this page quite by accident and toddled off to respec and AMG i love this! it’s rogues doing what they were meant to.
    I still have guild mates laugh at me that im leveling as sub, but the last laughs mine. *Sneeky sneeky, ambush, loot* One shots, gotta love it 🙂

    You actually managed to male me understand the class and the abillities as i level too, breaking down the new abillities. This new Rogue cannot thank you enough.

  59. Sneåkage says:

    Great guide, really enjoying this play-style 😀

    I recently rerolled Horde after playing Alliance since Beta and I’m loving it.

    My ally Rogue was Combat spec for leveling and I always found it to be rather dull. Seeing as I’ve started afresh I wanted try something new, sneaky Rogue ftw! 😀

    It’s more than adequate in Pve and It’s so much more fun in PvP, thanks again 😀

  60. Deth says:

    I’ve used this build for about 4 levels after getting really bored with combat, and i must say, i’m really enjoying one-shotting about half the mobs i fight with ambush. I just wanted to point out to everyone that once 3.3.3 hits, they’ll be buffing the damage done with Ghostly Strike and Hemorrhage when using daggers, so this build will not only gain the damage that Mace/Sword/Axe/Fist subtlety has, but retain the amazing damage from ambush, making this not only a good (and fun) pvp leveling build, but a good pve leveling build, as well.

    Relevant Section of the patch notes:
    # Ghostly Strike: If the rogue has a dagger equipped, this ability now deals 180% weapon damage instead of 125%.
    # Hemorrhage: If the rogue has a dagger equipped, this ability now deals 160% weapon damage instead of 110%.

  61. samueltempus says:

    Indeed. I’m looking forward to leveling a second Rogue just to play around with this when the patch hits.

    – Sam

  62. PantsBandit says:

    I’ve been playing a sub rogue for.. well for ever. I never tried anything else, and i will say that its fun. the only problem is that I’m constantly reprimanded for being sub. people either tell me that daggers aren’t good for it, or that I’m not doing good enough DPS or whatever… its getting hard to keep the “its my 15$ a month, ill play how i want” state of mind when people wont let me do stuff with them. the other problem is that when i DO spend the cash to get a re-spec (I’m saving for epic mount, so wont spend the 1k for off-spec) i just feel kinda… not rogueish enough.
    I know this is a a huge QQ, but any tips on the spec would be fantastic.

  63. Youshouldrun says:

    >> PantsBandit: just level up herbalism/mining and spend some time by harvesting resources and selling them at AH. You can easily get off-spec and the mount at the same time. Believe me it rocks.

    >> samueltempus: great job m8. Thanx a lot. I really love this sub-rogue guide. My rogue is at lev32 now and I am really not satisfied with his performance. Fun I ment – not the leveling speed. I am really looking forward to this evening to give this build a shot. I’m playing wow for 2 years now and you can believe me that after my warrior my fresh rogue was not ment to be a “something-LIKE-warrior”. I was really surpriced how boring the rogue could be after everybody told me: “Get rogue it’s really funny to play him.” Damn what a cold shower I got by playing him till now. I hope this will work…

  64. Gamba says:

    if it worked let us know 🙂

    i am one of the few, poor guys that loves subtlety. I have ONLY used subtlety since i played wow for the first time, i’ll never imagine a rogue in other ways. Great guide 🙂
    p.s. if someone wants to know which glyphs are nice for this build, i am currently using these:
    – sap
    – eviscerate
    – hemorrage

    – vanish
    – distract
    – pick lock

    but this is only my way of playing. If someone else knows other glyphs that suit well with this spec i’ll be glad to know it 🙂

  65. Cairbre says:

    Thanks a lot for this guide!

    i will test this build this evening and I’m really looking forward to play my rogue much more stealthy. Combat and assassination are just not my playstyles. I want to play a rogue cause he can do what no other class can: sneak around!

  66. Cairbre says:

    Ok, I tried this yesterday and I was havin a blast. Thanks again for this wonderful guide…

  67. Youshouldrun says:

    Guys, it rocks :)) really. Thanks again.

  68. ironfist says:

    From Patch 3.3.3… This should eliminate weapon switching if you prefer daggers?

    # Ghostly Strike: If the rogue has a dagger equipped, this ability now deals 180% weapon damage instead of 125%.
    # Hemorrhage: If the rogue has a dagger equipped, this ability now deals 160% weapon damage instead of 110%.

  69. ironfist says:

    whoops, didn’t see deth’s post

  70. xaio of korgath(a) says:

    I can only mimic what others have said, thank you so much!

  71. Pingback: Musing « The Noisy Rogue

  72. raymix says:

    i tried combat – boring, its alright for PVP, but still meh
    i tried assasination at 50 with mutilate – boring, very poor for PVP
    and now as of patch 3.3 at lvl 60 i was doing 200 more DPS than full Combat rogue lvl 61. Its also really fun!
    For questing its fast if fighting one mob, two or more can be disaster sometimes

    i am using:
    trash – Premeditation > shadowstep > ambush (got 5 cp) > evis > GS > hemo spam > evis at 5cp

    boss fights:
    premeditation > shadowstep >ambush > evis > 1 hemo > S&D
    now waiting for energy to return to full. once full:
    Shadow Dance > ambush > garrote > rupture > ambush 2x > evis

    pray that tank has a taunt hotkeyed!

  73. raymix says:

    argh could admin please delete what i wrote there? i messed up preparation with premeditation as well as rupture (also glyphed) should be frst finisher, as it does more DPS
    ghostly strike glyphed should be done right after it, thats very nice damage too

  74. samueltempus says:

    updated your prior comment, no worries and good tips.

    – Sam

  75. Bart says:

    Hey Sam, hello fellow rogue’s,

    Next to raiding with my main paladin as both dps as tank and having a 80 Dk just for the fun and some extra proffesions I wanted something different for distraction. and so alt nr6 was born. A blood elf rogue.

    As a 1st and for now only horde she is just for fun away from alliance and all around it. Still lv7 but tbh, not mutch playing her till I got all the BoA stuff on her. Hope the BoA (chest, shoulders, daggers, bow, all possible non lv requirement enchant on them) will help me some with this build.

    Playing normal PvE server, slacking around, enjoying more dungeons and while waiting for group solo questing, one at a while nub PvP’ing in BG’s this seem the way to go/enjoy rogue at any lv.

    Gonna use you leveling build here as the macro’s and possible rotation ppl posten here.

    Cheers for the good work and effort everyone is putting her, keep up the good work!

  76. josh says:

    New rogue here, I think leveling as Subtlety is going to be a blast! What glyphs would you recommend for leveling? I’ve read through them, but sometimes a glyph that sounds awesome ends up being terrible, and vice-versa. Thanks for putting the guide together!

  77. Chris says:

    Yay, a Subetly Rogue Place.

    I don’t know why poeple scream combat for leveling. I kill just as fast and without worry. I have been subetly since i started my rogue. I have BoA’s of course. Very fast for me.

    My rotation for leveling is always the same, unless i need to fight more than one mob. Even still its a cake walk.
    Rotation for mobs…

    Premed > Ambush > Rupture > Hemo > S&D always dead after that. take about 4 seconds. Usually you get your energy refund fro mone of the finishers. you can just hit all of them without waiting for regen.

    I am also looking for a glyph breakdown… right now at level 46 I am using Hemo glyph and S&D .. thinking of changing S&D to Evicerate… any ideas?

  78. Pingback: Subtlety Rogue; Doing it from behind… « Heals and Dots

  79. Rougish says:

    Great guide. I just begin to level rogue alt and was looking quite some time for something like this. I’m leveling it only for fun since I already have 3 80’s and I wanted to enjoy in this. Slow, no pressure only fun. Combat has 0 of my interest and I’ll probably put assassination as my second spec on 40 but I definitely want to lvl as subtlety. I have two questions though for Sam or anyone else.

    Glyph of eviscerate and hemorrhage seems logical choice for first two. What to use for third? Only ambush and FoK seems beneficial for this spec. I know level 80 is faaaaar away but I love to have things straight in advance. 🙂

    Second, what poisons to use? I got myself 2 balanced heartseekers BoA daggers but I don’t have slightest clue what to use.

    Thanks in advance 🙂

  80. matt says:

    Just wondering i have a combat and assas rogue. i enjoy the class and want to try sublety. My question is whats a good attack sequence while in stealth, specially from 10-25? Just curious ty

  81. Gamba says:

    from lv 10 to 13: backstab – sinister strike – sinister strike – eviscerate
    from lv 14 to 17: backstab/garrote – sin. strike – sin. strike – eviscerate
    from lv 18 to 80 xD premeditation ( when you get it ) – AMBUSH – hemorrage ( when you get it, before use sin. strike ) – hemorrage – eviscerate ( or rupture if the mob is a strong one )
    this is the main rotation in pve.
    in pvp use cheap shot as opener and kidney shot as finisher

  82. SpearXXI says:

    I’m going to level another rogue, so I can test out this leveling spec. I liked sub back in the day, so I hope it will be fun to do it again!

  83. matt says:

    thank you. Its a bit tough leveling in the teens im 12 now and die like crazy..but im poor and low lvl gear has shot through the roof..lol. i wont pay 25g for lo lvl crap. Ill stick it out though i love rogues i have a combat and assas build

  84. SpearXXI says:

    Leveling the first 20 levels is a bit rough for all classes, because you don’t start to get your basic spec defining tools until around lvl 20, so you will be stuck playing as a combat style until then. I’m at level 16 right now, and im starting to get into the sub tree, but only have one point into camo, etc.

    If you have the time, would you please add in the list what glyphs to get at different levels. At 15 I picked up the Eviscerate Major Glyph, and Blurred Speed Minor Glyph. What should be the next one I pick up?

  85. SpearXXI says:

    Alright, I decided to look up the glyphs, scanned them all real quick and here is my brief analysis conclusion on what to get:
    Major Glyph 15 = Eviscerate *mandatory as it is your finisher till 80*
    Major Glyph 30 = Hemorrhage *mandatory as you will be using the ability ALL the time.*

    The rest of the major glyphs I didn’t really like too much, or are meant for PVP.

    Minor Glyph 15 = Blurred Speed
    Minor Glyph 50 = Safe Fall
    Minor Glyph 70 = Pick Lock

    You could get Distract at the earliest level 22, but as sub you have increased stealth. In addition, Vanish is more of a PVP minor glyph, so I didn’t bother with it. If you vanish, you will reset the mob anyways, so there is no point in the extra speed boost.

    Sorry, if it’s not too in depth, as I just did it quickly, but that is my preference on glyphs. If I get any free time I *might* do a dagger analysis of what to get as you level, but that is way on the back burner.

  86. Gamba says:

    Man you forgot one glyph that i think is a must….glyph of sap 😀 +20 seconds of stun? gimme gimme 😀

  87. SpearXXI says:

    That could be a useful glyph, but it is more of a PVP glyph.

    On a side note I found the dagger guide from shadow panther, so it would be a waste of time to compile a list since… there already is one. XD The link to the shadow panther sight is in Sam’s links, so you can find it there.

  88. Gamba says:

    yes it is more of a PVP glyph but it is useful also in PVE while leveling or fighting mobs…in 20 seconds you kill out a mob so you can easy fight multiple targets at the same time 😀 but it’s just my opinion 😛 cheers 🙂

  89. raymix says:

    Useful macros of pickpocket, while leveling…

    Every time you sap someone, why not automaticly pickpocket and loot it?
    For example you walk stealthed trough house full of humaniods and keep spam-sapping, so why not free money?

    #showtooltip Sap
    /cast Sap
    /script SetCVar(“AutoLootDefault”, 1)
    /cast Pick Pocket
    /in 1 /script SetCVar(“AutoLootDefault”, 0)

    ok we dont want to be sap-looting each mob, why not macro auto-pickpocket before ambush? Easy! Premeditate > Shadow Step > Pickpocket-Ambush-Loot 🙂

    #showtooltip Ambush
    /script SetCVar(“AutoLootDefault”, 1)
    /cast Pick Pocket
    /in 1 /script SetCVar(“AutoLootDefault”, 0)
    /cast Ambush

    You will need either Cronos addon or ACE2. If you have all required raid addons (if you are leveling rogue alt that is) then you should be fine without additional addons, since most of them have ACE2

    Enjoy free stuff 🙂

  90. Sharna says:

    I would like to know what poison to use as well

  91. SpearXXI says:

    So far at lvl 20-30 you two Instant Poisons as your weapons, unless you are in an instance where the mobs run away ALL THE TIME, then using crippling poison on OH is helpful to raid. At lvl 30 you get Deadly Poison, which is super good for instances on your OH, which you would put Instant on MH. At lvl 32 you can use Wound on OH if you choose, but not totally necessary. Sub rogues are meant for burst dps on a single target, which Blizz is making ever more clear in Cataclysm, so having Instant on both weapons is nice. Wound is good for CC as it can reducing the mob’s healing effect by 50% for 15 sec, but not necessary all the time. Deadly is to only be used on long fights, so reserve it for instances. That is a rough overview.

  92. raymix says:

    i used instant on MH and Wound on OH all the way to 75, never had any issue

  93. Zalzun says:

    Awesome guide… when I came back to WoW from a recess (1 year recess, haha) I decided to roll rogue and, specifically, Subtelty due to this post. I had a Holy Pally as my main before my recess and did not even want an option to heal on a new toon (hence rogue).

    I’ve been following this guide fairly strickly (only difference being I will not choose Cheat Death, instead favoring HoT due to instant dungeons) and must say the most efficient kill times I generate are from Premeditation -> Ambush -> SnD -> Ghostly Strike (due to Setup) -> Hemo x however many it take to get the mob to approx. 15% hp (usually 1-2) -> Eviserate. A mob of comparable level goes down in about 5 secs, assuming Ambush or Evis don’t miss.

    The quick 5pt. SnD is nice b/c it allows you to not be too overwhelmed should an add decide to join the fun. As for poisons: instant on both; and as for glyphs: Hemo and Evasion (not quite high enough for my third glyph but it will be Cloak of Shadows).

    Thanks for the inspiration to roll rogue, it’s fun. On a side note, once I get caught up on RL work, wedding plans, etc. I’m gonna update my blog (Adventures of Zalzun). Basically I’m writing about Zalzun’s personal experiences, from his point of view, and his adventure.

  94. SpearXXI says:


    Right on man; glad you like leveling a rogue. I’m doing again, so I can get my girlfriend’s original rogue back (Night Elf), and its tons of fun. I have a level 80 as combat, and having all the sub abilities again is just so much fun. On a side note ambush>vanish>ambush>preperation>vanish>ambush is just awesome to do in pvp. lol

  95. Lunacy says:

    Hi Sam,

    First of all…. the guide is great! I was on the verge of dropping my rogue completly untill i researched for a better spec to spice things up a little and this website was top of the list and i was not dissoppointed… so much fun! Anyway, here’s my question….

    Spell Rotation, i know other ppl have put there rotation in but some dont involve ghostly strike or explain the situation there in so im asking this question hoping for 5 possible answers so…

    1) PvE Questing, single target =

    2) PvE Questing, 3 or more targets (Saps, cd’s ect)

    3/4) Same questions above but in PvE instances plz

    5) PvP

    I know its maybe noobish to ask but i thought i better make sure that im not doing it all wrong and i defently dont want to get into any bad habbits lol

    Thanks for the guide again and hope for a reply soon

    p.s – anyone else with suggestions are very welcome to comment =D

  96. This is a great guide. Thanks a lot for writing it. Leveling as subtlety is heaps of fun so far.

    To answer Lunacy’s questions, and assuming you’re a high enough level to have all the base moves to work with.

    1) Shadowstep behind the mob if you have it, open with premeditate + ambush. 5-point eviscerate, Hemo, Hemo, and if the mob is still alive (very unlikely) finish off with another Evis.

    2) Sap mob A. Premeditate + ambush mob B. Tab to mob C and blind. Tab back to B and get your 5-point SnD. Hemo + Evis until B is dead, by whch time C will be back in action. You should have enough time left on your SnD to make short work of the second mob with Hemo + Evis. Drop back into stealth and kill A at your leisure.

    3/4) When leveling with the dungeon finder, instances are all about big pulls and AoE. Unfortunately you have no AoE so get used to your home at the bottom of recount for anything but boss fights. Stealth when you can, Ambush when you can, keep SnD up as much as you can, Evis when you have combo points and don’t need to refresh SnD.

    5) Someone else will have to answer this one.

  97. Lunacy says:

    Thanks for the info, its defently what i was looking for! Tho im only lvl 39 so im yet to get shadow step and shadow dance but if anyone could tell me how it would change once you get shadow dance? Also if anyone could answer the pvp spell rotation that would be great!?

    Il be using stealth> shadow step> Prem> Ambush> Evis> followed by a blind> vanish> rinse & repeat lol, most of the time there dead by this time but if anyone has a better way id really like the info!

    thanks all

  98. SpearXXI says:

    If you want a fun burst dps this is what you do: Ambush > Vanish > Amush > Preperation > Vanish > Ambush. If you can pull it off, they will drop like a hat. Though if you need time to get set up Sap at the beginning and during the Prep/Van you can blind them. Other than that I don’t know too much on pvping as sub. lol

  99. Zalzun says:

    PvP-wise, I’ve started doing some since I now have Shadowstep and it’s really straight forward.

    Premeditation > Shadowstep (that +20% dmg on an ambush is pleasing) > Ambush > Finisher (could be anything, though I use Kidney Shot most, but you can Evis, Rupture, w/e) > Ghostly Strike if melee (pop Evasion too if you like) > Hemo spam FTW. If you’re going in to destroy an enemy with a buddy or two, open with Cheap Shot and keep him stun locked.

    I use the combo mentioned by spear on some of the better geared annoying toons (anybody twinked out), and assuming they’re busy trying to kill/heal someone else then you’re killing them.

    Due note though, against casters you should be saving some energy for Kicks and Gouges for spell interruption. Nothing sucks more than getting a lock down to 15%hp, then getting feared and getting pwnts (lots of /laugh emotes when that happens to me).

    Hope this helps.

  100. Zalzun says:

    P.s. I hope I eluded to how much more fun Subtlety is in PvP than some other spec’s… and btw, Shadowstep does not require stealth so use it anytime you got those runners.

  101. SpearXXI says:

    Thank you for the PVP advice. Though I do want to add to the Shadow Step strategy. If you need to get away from a BUNCH of horde/alliance and you see a straggler or a random mob away from the group, Shadow Step to them and then vanish. That way you will most likely be far enough away that they won’t AOE you out of stealth.

  102. PingHansen says:

    Thanks for the effort you have put into this, and the comments!

    My rogue is currently lvl 53 with a combat spec, but I will be switching to subtlety for exactly the reasons mentioned – combat IS somewhat boring and not what I had envisioned for a rogue.

    I’m going to get dual-spec as well, so I’m wondering what the best secondary spec would be. I’m leaning towards assassination. Comments?

    My char is at http://eu.wowarmory.com/character-sheet.xml?r=Darkspear&n=Hide

    Regarding the weapons, I’d like some advice: I have Venerable Dal’Rend’s Sacred Charge available. Should I use it here, or pass it on to my hunter? I have the marks to get Venerable Mass of McGowan, if that would be better? Weapon-swapping for each attack is no problem, as I’m working on macros for most of them.

  103. SpearXXI says:

    Since you are going to to do Subtlety and you have two daggers, then definitely make your offspec Assassination. I never bothered with weapon swapping, and Blizz has been working on making it obsolete. If you use your two BOA daggers you will be set. If you want to stay combat then use the sword/dagger combo you have available.

  104. PingHansen says:

    Thanks. I’d like to keep the setup simple (and my bag slots free), so assassination it will be for my offspec. Hurray for patch 3.3.3 ;o)

  105. Tallguy says:

    Hi Sam and thanks for this guide I followed it from the beginning and must admit that all choices are pretty right,

    By the way on my journey to my actual lvl 54 I made some personnal adjustments that I think fits really well with the template and maybe more with my playstyle :

    – I took “master of subtlety” earlier in place of “cheat death”
    a damage buff to you openers il always welcome seeing that you’ll almost kill everything during the 6 first seconds

    – I found that “cheat death” sounds more like a gimmick considering that I don’t do a lot of BG and we’ve got a lot of tool with this spec to CC and flee away
    I also read that someone choose to take “honor among thieves” doing a lot of instant dungeons, but it was not my case prefering questing and hunting alone
    So I decided to switch this 3 points in favor of :
    * “filthy trick” 2/2
    having “shadowstep” free and with the same cooldown as “premeditation” is godsend while switching from target to target (and of course a 5 min “preparation” an always good bonus, meaning more tools you can use more often !)
    * “elusiveness” 2/2
    I found during leveling that I love using a loot “vanish”, and 30 seconds left on this tool is in my opinion very noticeable and also affect “blind”

    My two cents if it can helps

  106. Shack says:

    Stealth -> Premed -> Ambush -> 5pt kidney punch -> Shadow Step -> Shadow Dance -> Ambush till dead. Every 1 minute you get to be the reason people hate Sub Rogues.

    As for normal rotation,
    Stealth -> Premed -> Ambush -> 5pt kidney punch -> Shadow Step -> backstab x3-> Ghost strike (coming out of stun) Evic, the a SS if they are still up for finish them. Rinse and repeat.

    I lvl like I pvp. I use the PVE mobs as practice for the PVP players that don’t know they are about to die.

    BTW Thanks for the Guide!

  107. Zalzun says:


    If you don’t instant dungeon then those 3 pts are obsolete for HaT. Even as I continue lvling I am thinking of tweaking my build to bring in Filthy Tricks instead of HaT. The +1 combo per crit is nice but with queue times becoming longer and longer, it might be more effective to keep Shadowstep and Premeditation on the same CD.

    I’ll probably change it to yours in the next day or so and get back to you on my findings; not that it’ll help you much since you don’t dungeon, but there might be others who don’t want Cheat Death and don’t know if the 3/3 HaT is a viable substitute.

    Thanks for giving me another angle to look at.

  108. Pingback: WTB Leveling Build « Sellia's Blog

  109. PingHansen says:

    I have been browsing a great number of rogue sites, and this is, by far, the best subtlety guide I have come across.

    I do however feel, that it can be improved vastly by adding suggestions for rotations as we learn new skills. As it is, new skills are described as we learn them, but not put into context. If the guide discussed updated rotations each time a relevant skill was learned, much guesswork would be eliminated, and this guide would benefit greatly.
    There are actually quite a few good suggestions for rotation hidden in the numerous comments, but some of them are pre 3.3.3, and thus somewhat outdated and mostly add to the confusion. The problem is, that you need to read most of the guide, before coming to the relevant suggestions.

  110. Sinorai says:

    Thanks for the guide.. great work..

    however i must say that there’s many of the talent u’ve picked that i dont think is truly necessary… thats just IMO ofc..
    here’s a list of the talents that i wouldn’t have taken..

    Master of Deception: full max it out..dont really need this talent when i have distract. so useless for pve

    Dirty Tricks: again distract..

    Elusiveness: again not really needed when u have preparation.. except for CoS..

    Cheat Death: not needed since i can either pop Evasion og vanish to survive.. so far haven’t gone under 35%..

    why not Relentless Strikes? imo.. a bit energy would be nice for hemo..
    why not Honor Among Thieves… while questing, most ppl are in LFG system.. and do instance when possible..

    as for assassin spec and combat… nothing to say.. won’t comment on other trees….

    Here’s a link to my spec.. still lvl 47 so haven’t tried it fully yet..


    as u can see..
    no Cheat death, elusiveness, MAster of deception.
    have Honor among Thieves and Relentless Strikes..

    with that spec i’ve been able to take down mobs in my lvl or a couple of lvls higher than me.. even players..

    btw.. my spec is purely for PVE lvling..and instance compatible..

    so far i’ve been either top on recount ot close to top dps…

    using Ghostly Strike glyph.. more dmg..
    Hemo glyph.. ofc…

    picklock (for instant picklock.. lvling pick lock is a bitch)
    distract (to widen the radius)
    and Vanish for better escapes..

  111. Sinorai says:

    oh an btw.. thought i might add my rotation..

    Steath>Premeditation>Ambush>Eviscerate -> Hemo if target isnt dead..
    0CP 2CP > 4-5CP > 0
    some of u might think why not Ghostly strike.. well uses too much energy… so after the last eviscerate i’d have to wait for energy refill..(hence why i took Relentless strikes in my spec)… and by the time i use eviscerate the target would probably be dead or very close to death.. so why use my 20 sec CD on it (dont want to overkill.. and start CD and what if an ally pops out of nowhere)

    why not use hemo after ambush.. well i do.. IF i only get 2 CP from ambush.. so i can max out CP’s before i use eviscerate..

    mostly only use ghost strike on mobs that i can see that the mob still has around 30%hp after eviscerate..

    why not use Ghostly strikes after ambush.. well dont want to add CP if i’m already at 5CP.. if i’m at 4 i’ll probably use it..

    for instances:
    Steath>Premeditation>Ambush>Eviscerate -> Hemo or Ghostly strike if target isnt dead..
    0CP 2CP > 4-5CP > 0

    as u can see.. its the exact same.. hope u can use this..

    (lol kind of my own little guide. ^^

  112. Zomgirl says:

    While I am by no means a “pro” rogue, and I don’t do anything other than PvP, as a subtlety rogue I do feel it’s important to say something about poisons. In my reading/experience, wound poison does on average more damage to than instant, unless you are spec’d into improved poisons. While I do not know the exact math behind it, I’ve read multiple places and tested it myself that wound procs on every hit, while instant has a specific proc per minute rate and wont be applied with every weapon swing.

    While doing pvp I mainly use wound/crippling, but for more burst damage wound/wound is always the way to go.

    Also as subtlety in a pvp environment, hemo spam should not be your rotation of choice. While the math may show that hemo has a better damage per energy ratio, backstab puts out a lot more pressure and has much better burst potential. I personally only ever use hemo on a plate wearer for the debuff, or if someone is 1-2 hits away from dying and I’m not behind them at the moment.

    However given this is a PVE guide, I understand that hemo spam is pretty much the only way to go out of stealth.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Also thank you for writing this guide! I am still following it for the most part, as I am leveling a new rogue on EU servers with my overseas friends =]

  113. sinorai says:

    true true. wound/wound does give a burst damage.. which is important, cuz u want to kill the mob as fast as possible… havent really tried backstabbing that much yet.. cuz well.. the mob is usually dead when i’ve used eviscerate.. btw.. my rotation as i mentioned above.. is not really a rotation.. its more a guideline, to show how it might look like…

    wouldn’t say rogues have a certain rotation such as blood DK… rogues have more like a “priority” like an enha shammy…
    so its more like.. what do i want to use.. and can i afford it.. or should i use another hemo and wait for combat point.. and how is the situation atm… should i stun it?? gouge it to get a small energy rest while in combat??.. something like that..

  114. Wolfofthenyght says:

    This is a fantastic beginners guide for a noob rogue like me! I’ve tried rogue a couple of times, as a couple races, with a couple different specs, but just couldn’t get the hang of it. With this spec, guide, and the BoA weapons, chest and shoulders, I’m flying through the levels, and having more fun then ever before!

    I also love that you explain the talents and their bonuses, and your reasons for choosing them at the specific times you do. After playing a hunter for 5 years, I know it in and out, but was fairly clueless about how rogues functioned and when was a good time to pick something up, and when to leave a talent to fill out later. This was a fantastic source of knowledge that helped clear up a lot of my questions!

    Thank you so much!

    -Kamale, MG Server (US)

  115. Jardor says:

    Thanks for making this guide. ive wanted to try soloing a rouge with full stealth ability! gonna try it tonight, thanks again!

  116. Jardor says:

    leaning more towards assassination, Love the guide. never been able to do a rogue before. learning alot love this site. keep up the good work.

  117. sinorai says:

    Hello again… updated my build for lvling/raiding.. in assassin tree


    picked up vigor and glyph for it.. need energy^^

    + improved poisons… to be able to use envenom more often…

    with this build u shouldnt be needing combo-points since subs have HAT…
    Improved poisons to make deadly poison proc more often… (to get to 5 stacks of DP faster)…

    now the only thing we need is energy.. and with a bigger energy pool.. we can make more burst dmg at the beginning of fight….

    and keep up our dps with envenom and eviscerate.. ^^

  118. RogueKid says:

    This is the spec i use for my rogue, probably not the best spec in the world, but i find it better to create a spec yourself that relates to your own playing style rather than working with someone elses, and i love the stealthy rogue approach, if u want to cut things up with 2 weapons all day, become a fury spec warrior, stealth is for a rogue so use it properly 🙂


  119. Alp Yogurtcuoglu says:

    Thank you very much for this nice subtlety rogue guide. I have played 80 warrior (oh darn, what a drag it had been), 78 paladin (2 button boring heroes) and 80 frost / ffb mage (yes, like subtlety tree, I prefer least used frost tree for her too) but subtlety rogue was something definitely roguish. I played a combat rogue up to 40 some time ago, and well if you want to smack mobs or ppl, go fury warrior, dk, pala or something like that. I believed that as a rogue, I should be flipping daggers, stealthing, come out deadly and vanish, which I have found all of them in subtlety rogue. It is DEFINITELY not slow when compared to combat (or maybe I couldnt play combat well) but with subtlety its 1 shot 1 kill for mobs at my level or 2 levels greater.
    If someone says you cannot handle 3 mobs in subtlety, it means he simply doesnt know what subtlety (or being a rogue) means. As one have suggested before, sap 1, ambush 2, blind 3 and go on.

    Many thanks to you for this page, because there are a lot of idiots who are imo killing the spirit of the game. I remember being kicked from a raid because I was using frost spec on my mage, left a guild after posting recount dps data where ppl told me arcane beats any other spec (which I did more DPS), so pages like these can give encouragement to play such “underrated-but-fun” specs for the people. We should play this game for fun, not for serious dps ing in raids as a full time job.

    Hopefully I can find a guild who can understand.

  120. SpearXXI says:

    Alp, I’m glad you are enjoying this spec! I do want to point out that if you plan to do any raiding at end game, etc, you will get denied a lot if you stay as sub. It is just the other two specs, get so buffed in groups that your overall dps is just not up to par. (aka blizz has left sub broken end game.)
    Now, if you like the feel of sub, I would strongly suggest at 50 you try out assasination, because it is really roguish and you will be able to two shot some mobs soloing. In addition, I am not trying to discourage you from playing as sub, as I like the spec myself, just keep in mind it is only a solo leveling spec, so be prepared to switch to assassination at 80.

    PS You will like assassination if you like sub. Though, I like all three specs, I tend to just go with the swashbuckling combat spec.

  121. Alp Yogurtcuoglu says:

    Thanks SpearXXI 🙂 Will try that also 🙂

  122. Alp Yogurtcuoglu says:

    Hi again SpearXXI 🙂

    Well I simply dumped 1k gold to have a dual spec on assasination, and did the mutilate build. Here are the observations :

    Opener (Kidney Shot)->snd ->mutilate ->mutilate – > kidneyshot->envenom etc. Have 4 points in sub to have energy from finishing moves.

    It seems that sub is faster while leveling, IF you can crit with ambush. At 78, ambush crits for 5k or so. So shadowstep->premed->ambush->kidneyshot->hemo spam -> evis seems faster kinda.

    The problem with mutilate spec is energy it seems, or simply i couldnt learn to wait for mutilate to open, 55 energy is much to wait

    In 5 mans, mutilate build can be fun cuz you can see the real power of envenom with hunger for blood, you can hit like 5k again with cold blood.

    In sub spec, it is as leveling, definitely very changing, generally what i do is like leveling:

    shadowstep->premed->ambush ->kidneyshot (leave 1 mob outa fight for a time) -> hemo->snd->hemo sapm, evis. Generally energy generation is quite nice and consistent.

    At bosses, i dunno but i prefer sub more. Mutilate is easier, sub is more challenging and fun.

    At boss fights shadowdance really shines. I use shadowstep-> premed -> ambush -> rupture->hemo->snd-> hemo spam ->evis

    It is good to see that relentless strikes give s u much energy, when boss is kinda stable (not going away like in utgarge pinnacle or Old Kingdom for instance) youcan gather some energy, then shadowdance and hit 2 (3 if u are blood elf using arcane torrent) ambushes with 5k damage.

    I really would like SamuelTempus to write a raid or heroic experience with sub build.

    Note : I read somewhere, on recount, hemo contribution isnt counted.

  123. radionics says:

    Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I find It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I’m hoping to present one thing back and aid others like you aided me.

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