Assassination; Pro’s and Cons

After a week and a half of playing Assassination again, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with it.  When I can stand and wail on something, I’m in love with the huge numbers that I see, but I’m really missing Combat in just about every other scenario.

Assassination:  Pros

  1. Great Single Target DPS.  In a Patchwerk style fight with everyone being equally geared, you should be on the top of the DPS
  2. Relatively Simple Rotation.  After you get started, the rotation really consists of 3 moves, in a simple pattern.  Mastering the rotation by knowing when to throw in extra envenoms or when to hold off on a finisher for some energy regen does take time though.
  3. Big Numbers.  In addition to having great sustained DPS, the largest numbers you can see as a Rogue come from Envenoms while being Assassination.  It’s not uncommon to top 10k on a single hit, and depending on the fight and your buffs, 20k+ in a 10 man isn’t out of the question.

Assassination:  Cons

  1. Lack of Cooldowns.  I’ve touched on this before, but Assassination doesn’t have the calibre of cooldowns that Combat has.  Cold Blood guarantees a crit, but in this day of 50%+ chance to crit on your Finishers, you almost feel like you’re wasting it every time you cast it, as it’s likely you didn’t need to use it to achieve the same effect.  The beauty of Combat is in the cooldown management, which allows the Rogue to pump out extra DPS on demand.  Assassination would likely need nerfs to key abilities to get something similar.
  2. Target Switching.  Having to switch mid fight to another target to burst it down is much harder Assassination than it is Combat.  Fighting the twins in 10 man ToC really illustrates this point.  Having to switch to the other target hampers your DPS as you re-establish your poison stacks.  If you’re unlucky it can take what seems like an eternity for that first poison stack to proc.  While you can substitute an Eviscerate to keep using up your combo points, you’ll likely drop Slice and Dice in the process your overall DPS will take a bit of a dip while you re-establish your DPS on the new target.
  3. Multi Target DPS is Low.  Your only real option for multi target DPS is Fan of Knives, which just received a significant nerf.  The problem with the FoK nerf is that it affects Assassination far more than it does Combat.  Combat has both Blade Flurry and Killing Spree in addition to FoK.  Don’t get me wrong, FoK needed a nerf for Combat, and to a smaller degree Assassination.  That being said, the loss of DPS is really hurts and is quite evident in a heroic group, especially when Assassination.

All things considered, I’m generally in favor of Assassination over Combat.  I love the big numbers and the high single target DPS, but I loathe Heroics and my significantly lower trash DPS.  Assassination could use better cooldowns, but I think as long as Mutilate / Prep is the dominant PvP spec, that it’s not likely to happen.

– Sam

23 Responses to Assassination; Pro’s and Cons

  1. RJK says:

    I loved recently leveling an Assassination Rogue from level 10 to 80. Took me about 5 weeks in between raiding with my tank and work and real life.

    I found it a blast, so much so I had to stop playing or else I would have made it my main…and we need tanks. LOL

    I owe the speed of leveling to your blog a great deal, the guides and answers to my Q’s.



  2. Hinenuitepo says:

    YAY for DUAL SPEC!!!! 🙂

    As I worked this out for my DK, I’ve been dual-speccing to provide the best dps and raid utility on my DK. Blood is better single target, Unholy better aoe.
    You can and should be doing this as a raiding rogue! 😉 Just hit that lovely button for assassination/combat depending on the fight.

    Does your gearing change as well? I mean, besides weapons. Mine changes slightly, as the biggest difference is armor pen is good for Blood and haste is good for unholy, so I also swap out a couple of gear pieces when I switch specs. My baby rogue has some daggers and swords, but does any of your other gear change?

    Of course, going dual-pve means no pvp second spec, but I have to give up both a tanking and pvp second spec as a dual-pve specced DK – and it’s worth it!

  3. Wraithstrike says:

    Nice post Sam, but it pretty much sums it why I prefer combat over Muti for PVE. I like the CDs Combat has to offer and the flexibity in a raid scenario. I hate add switching with Muti but that said, I too love the big yellows on a single target which is why the daggers come out for PvP.

    Good post Sam.

  4. samueltempus says:

    @ Hin,

    I have dual spec, but my secondary spec is PvP, so that shoots down the idea of Multiple PvE Specs (which is why I originally got dual spec in the first place). Fortunately I have enough Hit and Expertise on my gear that I don’t need to swap out for anything special when I’m Assassination vs Combat. Anyway, as long as I’m doing both PvP and PvE, dual PvE spec is out of the question.

    – Sam

  5. eiramamme says:

    Mutilate/Prep is the top PVP spec? I need to follow things more as I just dual specced so I can have a PVP spec (hey I play on a PVP server). Guess I’ll have to find information about that.

    Anywho…I leveled my first Rogue Assassination from 1 to 65 before I bent to peer pressure and went Combat pre WOTLK. I enjoyed Assassination but I just couldn’t get in anything unless I was Combat back then.

    This Rogue I leveled all the way to 80 Combat and have stayed that way.

  6. Adam says:

    Great post Sam,

    This explains a situation I was in the other day. I was running the Halls of Stone heroic and there was an assasination rogue in the group. A great player, (his Hunter is in the realms top raiding guild), the rogue is an alt but he is loving it. He had real trouble on this fight while my DPS went through the roof. At the time I couldn’t work it out but now it makes sense with your explanation of combats superioty with regards to multi target selection. Now I just have to decide whether to tell him and put him out of his misery …

  7. samueltempus says:

    I guarentee you he’s not miserable on fights like XT. Probably putting everyone to shame….


    – Sam

  8. Hinenuitepo says:

    I knows I knows… I just recently got the luxury of two pve specs since I stopped regularly tanking for my guild (except for heroics which I tank in tank gear/dps spec). I don’t pvp much on my DK.

    On the other hand – remember before dual specs?
    When we would spec pve for the ‘raid week’ and pvp for the ‘weekend’? I did that on my rogue forever 😛
    You could mainspec combat, then have your secondary spec assass for the raid week and pvp for the weekend…. it would work!

    GL! 😉

  9. TheReaper says:

    Just FYI, if you look at the description of Cut to the chase you will notice that eviscerate also refreshes your SnD, so if you have to evis because deadly didn’t procc yet you still won’t drop SnD.

  10. Samueltempus says:

    You know, if you go back and read other things on this blog, I actually already knew that. I guess 4 months of playing Combat let that little factoid slip out of my brain. I’ll get an edit in a little later today.

    – Sam

  11. Stonedrake says:

    This exactly why I feel like I’m struggling in the DPS stakes: the multi-mob *boom* just doesn’t exist for Mutirogues. I’ve stopped worrying about it though: my guild doesn’t care, and I turn in respectable numbers on bosses, so it’s all good. I do have a combat spec laying around that I almost never use though.

  12. Recked says:

    The burst damage from Combat is also better than Mutilate. This is noticeable on fights like in the brain room in Yogg.

    Combat Rogues can get their dps up quickly. With mutilate it can take some time before your rotation is up and at optimum level.

    However, on Yogg himself Mutilate seems to do slightly better.

    Similar to XT Hard Mode where Mutilate wins the long fight but Combat kicks ass on the Heart due to the burst damage that spec provides.

    Overall though I find Combat and Mutilate are more aligned now than they were before and the difference is due to individual fight mechanics.

  13. Soule says:

    Great post. I have been pondering a question and this looks like it may be the place to ask.

    I am a new rogue. I just hit 72(using your guide). I was combat until 50, then went mutilate. I like both styles, but I am wondering what would be best at 80.

    My question revolves around weapons. I have a Tankard’o’Terror sitting in my bank. I was thinking of picking up Titansteel bonecrusher or Avool’s Sword of Jin and going combat at 80. That would put ToT in my off-hand, if i went Mace/Mace and how viable is Mace/Mace or Mace/Sword?

    On the mutilate side I would pick up a Titansteel Shanker and Supernumerary slicer.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated. It is nice have a well funded alt. :O)

  14. Wraithstrike says:

    Of the weapons you just listed the daggers are best. Whatever you do DO NOT OH tankard of Terror, it is a slow weapon and you would miss the combat potency procs, not to mention cutting your OH poison application dps.
    In general, comabt spec uses either close quarters combat spec for Fist, dagger/fist/fist combos , The hack/slash (I think it is called for talent that affects sword/axes)the Sword/sword, Axe /sword, sword/axe combo or the mace spec which is Mace/mace only. Always Slow weapon(with good dps) in your MH and fast weapon in OH. Wound poison MH and Deadly poison OH for combat specs.

  15. upgrayedd says:

    i also saw a comb rogue with 2 axes (245’s) with goose on both….doesnt zerk outdo goose at this point? mats for goose are about as expensive as mats for zerk on my server, so this makes no sense to me

  16. Wraithstrike says:

    MH zerk OH goose is the accepted Combat chants…but I think I should let Sam answer these , this is his blog and I shouldnt step on his toes.

  17. Samueltempus says:

    I’ve been a tad busy as of late, so feel free to answer, Wraith. I love that people help each other on this site, instead of the trolling you get in other places.

    I rock Double Zerker. That being said, I haven’t tested Zerk/ MG, which is sad, since I ran Kara last month to get MG on my enchanter. All things considered, I can’t imagine the DPS being that different between double zerk, and Zerk / MG.

    And to follow up with Wraith’s weaponry comments, two Slow weapons for Combat is not what you’re looking for, get a faster weapon of the same specialization for your offhand.

    – Sam

  18. Soule says:

    Great thanks. Looks like I may stay Mutilate until I pick up some better weapons. Once I pick up some swords/fists I may go back to looking at Combat. You said wound/deadly for combat.

    I haven’t found where anyone has said definitively that instant/deadly isn’t still the best for Assassination. Is that correct.

  19. samueltempus says:

    I also haven’t seen any evidence that something else would be better and use that combo myself.

    – Sam

  20. Wraithstrike says:

    Thanks Sam. I just wanted to help out, but I respect you and your blog and just didnt want to overstep you on your own site.

    Havent tried Zerk/Zerk to be honest, though my thoughts are that it would be close to Zerk/Goose. EJ and a few sites are still pushing Zerk/Goose for combat spec and Spreadsheet seems to support this. But I honestly think dps variance would be negligable.

  21. Korzik says:

    Great post, I personally prefer Mut simply because to me, it is a lot more fun playing the combo point game than the spam/refresh with combat.

    That and only needing 2-3 weapons (of the same type) instead of 4 for PvE then PvP as I am just now starting arena and I don’t have the rating for PvP weapons yet.

  22. CC says:

    Thank you for this post. If it’s ok with you, I may direct some of my readers here. I have an Assassination rogue as my primary alt and she is the love of my life (next to my featherchicken, of course!). This really explains brilliantly what I love about the spec and why no, dammit, I will NOT go combat. Lol

  23. Anonymous says:

    Double Zerk definetly the way to go, I’ve tested both and do around 5.5k-5.8k as combat with both =)

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