Heroic Rogue DPS 101

How do I improve my Heroic DPS?”

This is a question I am asked quite frequently. Since there’s a rise in Heroic activity these days, I figured a brief primer on increasing your DPS in a Heroic might be useful to some of my fellow Rogues out there.

Before I talk specifically about Rogue DPS, I’d like to discuss what I think is the root issue with DPS in general. I see requests by players on this site, other blogs and wow related forums for the *best* DPS rotation. The problem is that your best DPS on trash doesn’t come from your maximum sustained (or Boss) rotation. In fact, there’s a chance that you might have to treat every pull differently.

A smart DPS knows when to use certain abilities to both increase their DPS and contribute utility to the party. Ingorant DPS will continue to use the exact same abilities for every situation. There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant; you could certainly (an accurately) claim that I am ignorant about a great many things. The problem is being satisfied when you know you can do better but you don’t care to learn how. If you’re here, you don’t have that problem, and since you’re here, let’s get to work…

–  Heroic Rogue DPS 101  –

Great Heroic DPS on a Rouge is about instinct, not rotations.  On most Boss fights, you’re going to be using a standard rotation, and any alterations to that rotation will be minor at best.     In contrast, trash DPS requires more thought because of the need to tailor your abilities to the pull.  This is one of the reasons I really enjoy the class so much.   

DPS for Heroic trash mobs often require you to think about almost every ability you use.  Do I pop this cooldown, or use ability x?  These decisions make a huge difference in the overall DPS you’ll put out.  It’s not as hard as it seems to pull good heroic trash DPS, and once you’ve worked on it a bit, it will become instinctive and natural.

–  Combat  –

Combat works ridiculously well on trash in Heroics.  The cooldowns are better than Assassination, and that makes a difference.  Properly utilizing those cooldowns is the difference between good DPS and great DPS.

Rupture, one of our rotation staples really has little use in Heroic trash.  It deals more damage for longer per combo point, but there are few mobs that have enough health that will allow it to completely tick through.  Unless you are fighting a mob that will allow Rupture to complete it’s duration, leave it out, and use your  combo points for Envenom / Eviscerate.

Killing Spree, Blade Flurry and Adrenaline Rush should be used as often as possible, as long as they will be available for the next boss fight.  Also, Killing Spree will do more damage if it is used with Slice and Dice and Blade Flurry due to white damage continuing during the ‘Spree.  Don’t hesitate to use these abilities on single pulls if the mob has enough health to live through them, but they really shine on multi-mob pulls.

Fan of Knives will provide superior DPS to single target in pulls of 3 or more.  Using Fan will not interrupt your white damage, so make sure to target something and begin auto-attacking it before you go nuts.  If  Adrenaline Rush is up, you can Fan for some ridiculous multi mob DPS.

Here’s two examples of optimal situations, meaning that all cooldowns are available, and unneeded for the duration of their cooldown:

One Target / Two Targets

  • Sinister Strike
  • Slice and Dice
  • Blade Flurry
  • Killing Spree
  • Sinister Strikes
  • Evisc / Envenom

You can even add Adrenaline Rush in there, but that’s usually enough to take down a Single pull mob, as they generally have just over 100k health.

Three or more Targets

  • Sinister Strike
  • Slice and Dice
  • Blade Flurry
  • Fan of Knives
  • Adrenaline Rush
  • Fan of Knives x 3
  • Killing spree
  • Fan of Knives

Those things don’t necessarily have to be used in that order, nor do you have to use them all.  The basic Idea is to make sure you’re Auto Attacking, and to use Killing Spree when your energy is low to allow for some regen.  Remember this is a maximum / blow every thing example.  Sometimes you’ll just have Fan, and that’s still going to do good DPS, just make sure that you’re still Auto-Attacking a target while you do it.

–  Assassination  –

Assassination isn’t quite as competative on Heroic trash as Combat because of cooldowns and the necessity to keep Hunger for Blood active.  However, you can still be effective on trash as Assassination if you know what to do. 

One major difference between Combat and Assassination is that while Assassination, you’ll want to open from Stealth every opportunity you can.  Assuming that your trash pulls are 20 seconds or less long, you should always have the Overkill buff, and therefore, 30% faster energy regen.  While not as effective as Adrenaline Rush, it doesn’t have a cooldown, so it’s up more often.  As as side note, you can Vanish on a longer fights to gain this boost, turning Vanish into an offensive cooldown.

Here’s what most Assassination trash pulls might look like:

Single target

  • Garrote
  • Hunger for Blood
  • Slice and Dice
  • Mutilate
  • Cold Blood
  • 4/5 Combo Pt. Envenom

If Hunger for Blood doesn’t need refreshing, skip it until the mob is almost dead and it will (depending on the speed of pulls) be up for your next pull.  Also if Slice and Dice is still active, even a 1 point Envenom will refresh its duration.  Single target Mutilate Trash is basically a standard Mutilate rotation minus the Rupture.  Cold Blood will help ensure that your Envenom hits hard, but don’t use it right before a boss.

Multiple Targets

  • Garrote
  • Hunger for Blood
  • Slice and dice
  • Cold Blood
  • Fan of Knives

As you can see there’s not a whole lot going on when fighting multiple mobs as Assassination.  You’re getting your auto attack damage, the Garrote DoT and Fan of Knives.  Those will all add up to a fairly potent Combo.  Cold Blood is nice for the guaranteed Crit, but again, don’t use it if you’re about to fight a boss.

 – ~ –

If you’re looking for some things to try to up your Heroic DPS, this should keep you busy for a day or two.  If you’re already pro at trash and you have other suggestions on how to help the readers of this blog do better trash DPS, the comment box is waiting below.  One final thing, if Tricks of the Trade is available, use it on the tank before you pull, or you might get squashed, as some of the things I suggested will pull a good deal of threat.

Enjoy the badge farming,

– Sam

35 Responses to Heroic Rogue DPS 101

  1. Michael says:

    I play a combat rogue and the rotation you described above is pretty much exactly what I use and has proved very effective on heroic trash pulls. I’d like to second that last point as well. I’ve found that opening with SS, SnD, BF, and then killing spree generates a ton of threat due to the high initial burst.

  2. samueltempus says:

    Thanks for your comment Michael,

    I agree with the threat, so I’ll emphasise this point one more time: If you don’t want to get squashed, use Tricks of the Trade on the tank, and you can often do more for a tank’s threat than Misdirect. It’s quite handy.

    – Sam

  3. Andy says:

    Cool, a really useful post thankyou! Im always reluctant to blow my cooldowns on trash but I guess as you say as long as they are ready for the boss fight who cares.

  4. SpearXXI says:

    Yeah, use your cooldowns as much as you can. It is hilarious in the Arachnid Quarter in Naxx, because Blade Flurry and Fan of Knives and Adrenaline Rush will you so high of numbers that it is hilarious.

  5. samueltempus says:

    Yeah, the Fan of Knives DPS for the small spider pulls, or even better the room (yea, the whole room) that Grand Widow Faerlina is in is filthy. I’ve had single pulls top out at 20k DPS. If only I could maintain that single target…

    – Sam

  6. Toxicwaste says:

    If I have an ‘on use’ trinket I create a macro for it that uses it (if available) at the same time as HFB during trash pulls.

    This isn’t optimal but saves you from having to remember.

    This shouldn’t be used prior to a boss like any of the other cooldowns.

  7. Wil says:

    Great info. Sam. I just started back with my rogue (my 1st WoW toon) after raiding with my Hunter and Pally for a long period of time.
    The info. you gave took me a good bit of time to dig up, so I’m glad to see you confirmed what I found through my research.
    You are very right about there being a certain way to get top damage throughout a Heroic/Raid. I see rogues in my guild look like champs when they have an opportunity to FoK the little spider pulls and that type of mob, but when it comes to pulls with 3-5 elite mobs or a mixed combination of elite/non-elite mobs, they have issues. Boss fights tend to be a place where they fail as well.
    FoK has been a great addition to the rogue class, but it also is a way to separate the thinking rogue from the face rolller as well. It’s always interesting to look at the recount after a boss fight and see the attacks used and damage. Normally the rogues at the top do not show FoK as a primary damage dealer, and even when it’s in the top 3 for damage, it’s not in the top two attacks.
    While on the trash leading to the boss their DPS looks great, by the time the boss is down the thinking rogue has surpassed them in damage even though the DPS may be near the same shown for both rogues.
    What is your opinion on glyphing for FoK? That high DPS sure looks good on recount if you don’t look at the overall damage for the Heroic/Raid 🙂
    I’m glyphed SS, Rup, and KS. While my trash DPS sometimes falls short not having the extra 20% damage gained by FoK glyph, I think it is more than made up on Boss fights, and killing the Boss is the whole point isn’t it 🙂

  8. samueltempus says:


    I don’t raid Naxx a whole lot anymore, and while the FoK glpyh is useful there, in Ulduar, it falls short of the three you (and I) are currently using. I think you’re fine not to switch out one of them for FoK. Besides, as much as I like to be #1 overall, it’s much cooler to link #1 on a boss.

    – Sam

  9. Wil says:

    I fully agree and sry for the wall of text. I did attempt to break the paragraphs and some how failed when the post went up 😛

  10. Stacey says:

    Awesome guide it has a lot of useful information in it, my rogue hit 80 yesterday and I went to my first heroic on him and noticed that I had about as much dps as the healer. I found a lot of stuff I was doing wrong, and now I cant wait to go try again with my new found knowledge…thank you so much for this information

  11. samueltempus says:

    @ Wil

    Lol; have you read some of my posts, particulary the Rogue Q & A? Walls ‘o text are perfectly fine here.

    @ Stacey

    Congratulations on hitting 80, I hope that the info really helps your DPS. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment, or to email me.

    – Sam

  12. Jmoss says:

    What about Expose Armor on a boss fight?? I have a good friend from real life tank almost all of the heroics i do, and he says that with Expose Armor (at 3 ticks) allows the boss fight to go SO much faster!!!

    Also, one thing i do is Spam Mutilate, and gain combo points. Is that the right thing to do?

  13. samueltempus says:

    Expose Armor is a great buff, if two things are true:

    1.) No Warrior is available for Sunder Armor (Same Debuff)

    2.) You’re running at least 2 of the following:
    Rogue, Druid (feral), Hunter, Shaman (Enhancement), Death Knight

    If either one of these isn’t true, your group won’t really benefit from using Expose armor. But, if you’re consistently in a group that meets both criteria Expose Armor will buff your dps. Make sure the other members of the group know that you’re sacrificing some of your DPS potential to do it though.

    Also, to clarify, Expose Armor does the same thing no matter how many combo points you use, like Slice and Dice, the combo points only determine the duration.

    – Sam

  14. Jmoss says:

    1. Why only those classes?

    and 2. “Also, to clarify, Expose Armor does the same thing no matter how many combo points you use, like Slice and Dice, the combo points only determine the duration.”

    i knew this, thats why 3 combo points works well, because its just the right amount of time to kill a mob, so you’re not wasting energy on combo points.

  15. samueltempus says:

    1. Those are the only other classes that would benefit from Expose Armor, other than a Warrior who can put up Sunder Armor anyway. Sunder is the better version of the debuff, as it can be refreshed.

    2. I never thought that you didn’t know. However, someone reading your comment could have seen it that way, and I didn’t want anyone else to be confused, so I clarified.

    – Sam

  16. Jmoss says:

    i agree then. 🙂

  17. Shogun says:

    hey Sam i have another quest. i ran nax10/25 a few days ago and lucky enough i was the only rogue in the group so i was able to pick up Murder/Webbed Death and Knife of Incision. I’ve been trying to find out witch would be the best combo. A lot of sites talk about changes to Mut Rogues and to use Murder MH and Webbed Death OH and other say SlowMD/FastOH. Its been really lame seeing how i already enchanting my Murder and Knife of Incision with Berserking. If you can help Sam it would be awesome :D.

  18. samueltempus says:


    Here’s the “grade” of each dagger from the Shadowpanther list:

    Main Hand Grade (you’ll notice these are all very close)

    Webbed Death – 396
    Murder – 393
    Knife of Incision – 385

    Off Hand Grade (here’s where it gets interesting)

    Webbed Death – 338
    Murder – 318
    Knife of Incision – 267

    The speed factor is what changes the Off Hand grade so much.

    While it is true that Webbed Death is the best Main Hand, it’s also the best Off Hand, and by a sizable margin.

    If you were to use WD MH/ Murder OH, you would get a score of 396 + 318 or 714. If you were to switch those weapons up, you would get a score of 393 + 338 or 731. The difference isn’t that great, but it is a difference, and it should be noticable.

    The general rule is Slow / Fast, but depending on your weapons base damage and stats, sometimes, that rule doesn’t apply. I always check Shadowpanther to see what my best combo can be.

    All that being said, if you’re not quite ready to spend the gold on another Berserking enchant, your current setup probably performs about as well as using WD unenchanted. I’d wait to switch until you’ve gotten it enchanted.

    Hope that helps,


  19. Shogun says:

    thanks a lot Sam. with all that being said should i be aiming for another WD or a Sinister Revenge/Anarchy

  20. ayi says:

    Dual wound poison seems to work very well for heroic trash, due to higher FoK damage. You do loose out on the 2pT8 bonus tho.

    If you want to boost your FoK numbers even higher, you could keep a spare high-top end damage OH weapon with WP in your bag, and swap it in for FoK situations.

  21. samueltempus says:


    True, and probably the reason it’s getting a nerf. If you want to keep a spare slow OH and keep the poison on it, you could use a weapon swap macro to accomplish the über FoK damage. That being said, it’s possible to top 3k in a heroic without it.

    – Sam

  22. Kurairdin says:

    Just wanted to give a hearty thanks for this guide. Started back on my rogue the other nite. Ran heroic AN and checked my numbers after the run, did crappy 1200+ dps and was #4 on recount. Not good. Determined to do better, found this guide and tried it out last nite in H-AN again. Did 5100+ dps (unless I am reading recount wrong) and was #1 this time. I thank you again sir.

  23. samueltempus says:


    Sounds great. I’m glad I could help.

    – Sam

  24. Spinblades says:

    Hi Sam,
    Great site, my rogue “Spinblades” was created in the early days of Vanella WoW, finally got him to 80 a few days ago . While reading your posts here at work I now have a decent understanding of how/why I had horribad DPS , since I just quested my way to 80 and hardly touched instances. Cant wait to get home, log on and do some restructuring of spec/glyphs and do some heroics.

    Thanks again

  25. Brandon says:

    Well.. im not sure about how long this letter thing has been out haha but i would like to know a lvl guide and Talent Build.. if thats cool just email me at —> eZxTwitch@live.com <—

  26. Spinblades says:

    well, I now have a new 80 Mage in quest blues/greens and a 80 Rogue in heroic/crafted epics… Guess which one does 300 more DPS in 5 man heroics? Yea the Mage, WTF.. not happy, I am using the proper raiding spec and rotations applicable to gear score for both toons.

  27. samueltempus says:

    Mages will always out DPS rogues on short fights. Energy replenishes at a constant pace, and you have a very small amount of it. Mana on the other hand can be burned as quickly as possible, and if you can down a boss in 35 seconds using all of your mana, you’re going to out dps someone using energy. If you make that fight longer, you’ll notice that you catch up and pass the mage.

    Especially where mages are concerned, I wouldn’t be too upset being beaten by one in a heroic. I’ve got a mage I know that can pull 9k on a heroic boss for a 30 second fight. I consistently stay with this mage on long raid fights, and often pass him. It’s just the way the classes are designed. I might have to write a post on this, so thanks for the idea 🙂

    – Sam

  28. Spinblades says:

    Thanks for the reply, in hind sight now that makes sense.

  29. levi says:

    I noticed in your combat rotation you popped Blade Furry before killing spree. Does that mean that Killing Spree hits 2X the targets while Blade Furry is up? Is Killing Spree affectd by haste?

  30. Samueltempus says:

    Yes to the multiple targets, and no to the haste. The increased damage while in KS is for all damage including white hits, which are affected by haste.

    – Sam

  31. levi says:

    Oh, that helps a lot. I didnt know that you continued to auto-attack while KS is up, so I will keep that in mind. Great site and thanks!

  32. Pingback: For the Hoard « new traditionalists

  33. Luci says:

    Im new to mmo’s and wow I am playing a assinatioin/combat rogue and my dps is horrible. Reason why I have been reading up. I found this helped alot. I just need to find a website to map out my glyphs. Do you have any advice for that? If no ty alot for this advice I really appreciate it.

  34. Hër says:

    Thanks so much for this! I managed to get my dps on my 80 rouge up to 5k-10k after I followed these instructions, used to only do 2k-4k 😉

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