Getting Past Level 10

There was a discussion in guild chat (SAN-US) a week or so ago about how new players to the game tend to not make it past level 10 before they decide that WoW is not for them.  In the course of that conversation the idea was brought up to post about it, so here I am doing just that, from the Rogue perspective.  I’ll warn you though, you’re in for a Wall of text.

Having struggled through the starting zone leveling Sam (my first toon), I was surprised at how much easier the “kiddie pool” area in Dun Murogh was this time around.  Nothing in the starting area is hostile, so you can pick and aggro what you choose.  Because of this, getting to level 5 isn’t too much of a problem.  However, getting from 5-10 can be a challenge, and it’s my guess that’s where people lose interest.  Today, I’ll talk about my perspective on this issue and throw out some tips / tricks that might make life a bit easier for the lowbie Rogues out there.

Before I embark on a conversation that might spark some controversy, let me add that I’ve leveled the following classes to 80:

  • Rogue
  • Paladin
  • Hunter
  • Warlock
  • Deathknight
  • Mage
  • Shaman

As for Priests, Warriors and Druids, I’ve leveled each of these to at least level 20.  Why do I bring this up?  So that someone can’t start a comment with “You just don’t understand about class X and it’s problems…”  The reality is, I read a lot of WoW blogs, and I’ve leveled most of the classes to max level, and understand the low-level problems with the few I haven’t.  This post isn’t about how much it sucks to level a lowbie caster and drink after every other pull.  This is about the problems that a young Rogue faces and how to combat them.  If I mention something that a class has going for it, I certainly am not implying that everything is great for a low-level player of that class; again, I’ve been there.

One of the real issues with leveling a Rogue at low levels is the lack of abilities you have.  Due to class design, you’re not going to overwhelm your opponent with a heavy hitting two-handed weapon (Paladin / Warrior), nor are you going to be doing any serious attacking from range (Priest, Warlock, Shaman, Druid, Mage and Hunter).  You don’t have the ability to heal yourself, or conjure your own food.  Also, as a Rogue, you receive very few class defining abilities until you get to and beyond level 20.

Rogues have only a handful of talented spellbook abilities, most of which are found in the Subtlety Tree, and each tree has a good deal of synergy with the abilities of the other.  In fact, if you look at a level 80 Rogue’s spellbook, you’ll often find that each tree has only one page of abilities.  Part of this stems from the fact that poisons aren’t considered an ability.  If they were, that would add 5 separate abilities to the Assassination tree, for a total of 14.  However, you can’t even use those until level 20, so that doesn’t really help a level 8 Rogue much.  With the small number of abilities a Rogue has, Blizzard can only give them to us so quickly, so it’s really not until a Rogue is in their mid 20’s before they start getting the tools to be a truly effective assassin.

As I just stated, Rogues have very few abilities when compared to most other classes.  There are only two classes in the game that I consider to be “pure” classes; Rogues and Mages.  Warlocks and Hunters have a legitimate argument for being considered as “pure” classes, but for the sake of this post we’ll say that as of level 10 Hunter and Lock can use their pet to tank for them.  Also, before getting to this point, these classes can kill a mob without it touching them, if played properly.  Everything else can either DPS and Tank or Heal.  In the case of Paladins and Druids, they can do it all. 

While Mages are designed for pure DPS just like Rogues, they attack at range and can even slow their opponents down via Frostbolt, which is trainable by level 4.  In addition, they can make water at level 4,  conjure food by level 6 and Polymorph mobs at level 8.  Rogues, by contrast, are given far less useful tools in their first 10 levels.  The only two comparable abilities that a Rogue receives before level 10 are Gouge (level 6) and Evasion (level 8). The other major non-talented class defining control abilities come later in the game:

  • Sprint & Sap – Level 10
  • Kick – Level 12
  • Dismantle & Poisons Level 20
  • Distract & Vanish- Level 22
  • Cheap Shot – Level 26
  • Kidney Shot – level 30
  • Blind – Level 34
  • Cloak of Shadows – 66

As you can see, things get a bit easier in levels 10 and 12, but it’s at and beyond level 20 that we start seeing the main control abilities, like the two Stuns, Vanish and Blind.  It takes some creativity to make it to level 10 and then to level 20 and beyond, but there are some things that you can do to make your journey a little easier.

– Lowbie Rogue Tips –

I’ve only really leveled a Rogue in Dun Murogh, but I’ve leveled through each of the 4 major Alliance starting zones, and while each has its own unique quests, the problems that players face are generally the same.   With the limited amount of tools you’ll receive from being a Rogue, it’s a good idea to augment those abilities via professions.  Before you go too crazy leveling beyond level 5, you may want to take a visit to the nearest Capital city and look into the following:

  • Alchemy / Herbalism – Since you won’t have any way to heal yourself from just  being a Rogue, being able to create health potions can be a very valuable tool.  There are also a handful of other useful potions and elixirs you can make to augment your abilities at a low level.  Herbalism, in addition to fueling the mats for Alchemy will give you a spell called lifeblood which is a Heal over Time spell that can help you in a tight spot.  Selling extra herbs can help you acquire some much-needed gold as well.
  • First Aid – First Aid is a quick way to heal yourself up outside of combat, and in it as well if you know how to use it properly.  Also, making Anti-Venom will be useful to all non dwarf Rogues in dispelling poisons.  Generally this secondary profession is the easiest to level, as you’ll acquire al the mats you need as you level.
  • Fishing / Cooking – The buffs you can get from cooked food can be very helpful to both your damage and survivability.  Low level cooking isn’t too difficult to level, and the mats you need can be easily gathered while completing quests.  Fishing  is a bit more time-consuming, but fishing makes cooking significantly easier to level later in the game. 

Ok, so you’re level 5, and you’re trying to make it through level 10 and hopefully at some point 80.  You’re starting to run into harder quests and areas where it’s pretty easy to get yourself killed.  What’s a Rogue to do?

Basic Ability Advice

At level 4 you picked up Backstab.  You can use it to land a fairly fierce first attack on an enemy.  If the enemy is hostile, you can use Stealth to sneak up on a mob, but that can be rather difficult, as Stealth is by no means invisibility.  Be careful as you approach and watch the way the mob faces and paths.

With level 6, you gain Gouge, which is your only stun / interrupt that you’ll have for a while.  It lasts 4 seconds and stops your auto attack.  There are several ways this ability can help you.  In a pinch you can Gouge the mob and use a First Aid bandage.   Also, you can stun the mob and run behind for another Backstab (you’ll  need about 60 energy when you use Gouge for this to work).  Or, you can use it to stun the mob and run away if you feel that you cannot survive the encounter.

When you hit level 8, you’ll gain Evasion.  I pop evasion anytime I’ve accidently pulled 2 or more mobs.  I believe that it’s far better to pop it and not need it than pop it later and realize that you should have used it sooner.  Either way, this ability will only help you avoid mellee damage.

Dealing with Casters / Ranged

As you approach level 10 you’ll begin to face mobs that either cast spells or attack you from range in other ways.  If at all possible you want to pull these mobs one at a time.  Your best bet is to ranged pull with your thrown weapon and line of sight the mob.  If the mob cannot “see” you because there is a building in the way, or some other large terrain obstacle, it will run in your direction until it can. 

Eventually you will be engaging the mob in close quarters, but you do not want to do that if another mob will pull by running up to the mob.  If there is no way to line of sight the ranged mob, pick off any other mobs by pulling them away from the ranged mob via a thrown weapon pull and then engage the ranged mob.  If it is a caster you can use gouge to interrupt its cast and avoid most damage that the mob would deal to you.


Being a low level Rogue can be tricky and require creativity, but it generally boils down to this:  Safely pick apart the area one mob at a time if possible.  If you take the time to assess the situation you’re in, you should be able to do just that.  Vary rarely will you pull 2 mobs if you’re careful, and certainly not 3.  If you accidently do miss pull, don’t be afraid to run away rather than fight.

I think that most people give up on the Rogue class too early.  Granted, it’s not entirely their fault.  It’s something that you have to stick with for 30 or so levels before it starts to really reflect what the class is like.  Rogues are very different from other classes.  If you are dying constantly on a low level rogue, you’re probably doing it the hard way.  We’re a close quarters melee class, but being a Rogue is not about charging in and trying to take on 5 things at once.  Leave that to the Warriors and Paladins and be sneaky about it.

– Sam

13 Responses to Getting Past Level 10

  1. pitrelli says:

    ‘I think that most people give up on the Rogue class too early.’

    Spot on !

    Rogues stand out as they, as you rightly point out, have very little to work with during the early stages of levelling. The fact of the matter is you will have a hell of a lot of downtime either eating or bandaging which isnt ideal and certainly for the beginner a few trips to the graveyard can be too demoralising and they opt for a more rebust class.

    I am glad in a way however as those early levels do make or break rogues. Some people embrace life from the shadows picking their battles and others prefer to just run in and fight 3-4 mobs. I’d also like to think those who stick it out those few more levels reap the benefits and rewards of playing the best damn class in any MMO released.

    Life as a rogue may not be the easiest but it sure as hell is exciting 🙂

    *Goes back to waiting on Cataclysm for my Worgen Rogue*

  2. Windsoar says:

    Troll’s Blood potions are definitely a great benefit to any new rogue–if you can’t make ’em, find some way to beg, borrow or steal them!

  3. Liquidmojo says:

    I have an 80 undead rogue. I recently leveled a night elf rogue to 19 in order to run BGS with my younger kids. For some reason they like alliance better… god knows why. at any rate, I have him all twinked out. making a lvl 19 twink is much more attainable for them than reaching 80 anytime soon. I found leveling to 10 to be a total breeze. i did every quest in the first two zones. Picked herbs like a madman, because I wanted herbalism’s lifeblood. Once I hit 10, I abandonded all quests, except for the travel to the next city type of quests. I got all my xp from random dungeon finder and killing mobs that got in my way while picking herbs. I also grinded certain mobs to level my cooking. Granted, I stopped at 19 though. When it comes to playing a lvl 19 rogue vs level 80, I am torn. The simplicty is somewhat relaxing and freeing. With my gear and enchants, my sinister strikes hit harder than backstab, so positioning is a non-issue. I will open with ambush quite a bit, but garrote is just as good. In contrast, my main has tons of options.
    For example: “open with a cheapshot, unless it is a mage, then I garrote. Do I pop slice-n-dice right away or save combo points for a full 5cp kidney shot? Then I envenom, unless my deadly poisons havent stuck yet, then I eviscerate. I better save some energy for a kick if needed. Uh oh, better blind that 2nd enemy coming at me. etc etc…”
    There are so many things to watch out for, counter with, monitor, choose between, so many macros and keybinds and alt/shift binds, etc, etc. it can be a bit stressful. with the 19 I can just stand toe-to-toe and hack away. I only have like 3 or 4 abilities, so there are fewer decisions to make. It is very calming… lol… besides between my dps and dodge rating, I am still someone to fear in the BG… at least in the 10-19 bracket… lol. This may be why my younger kids like the lower level range so much. It is easier for them to grasp their options. On the other hand, when I hop back on my main, I have so much power and control. It is truely satisfying to lock down an opponent with a cheap shot/kidney shot combo and kill them before they come out of the stunlock.

    at nay rate, I think if someone is discouraged by the grind to level 10.. or even to level 20, then the road to 80 is going to drive them crazy. They may be better off with an xbox.

  4. I think it takes a particular personality type to fall in love with rogues. In my case, I took to it immediately because I was a nervous, skittish n00b who didn’t have a lot of experience with either action games or RPGs, and I liked the idea of being able to hide from a fight until I was darn good and ready.

    Being a low level Rogue can be tricky and require creativity, but it generally boils down to this: Safely pick apart the area one mob at a time if possible.

    And this was exactly what I liked about it. Roguery both requires and allows for carefully analyzing a situation beforehand, more so than any other class. Figuring out how to isolate stragglers and perfectly position myself so that I could take them down without drawing unwanted attention was half the fun. Still is, actually, except now I have the extra tools (distract, sap) to create the position I want.

    Oh, and a tip for nooblings going up against murlocs: You know those murloc swimmers that hide underwater and run up unexpectedly? Swim offshore, dive underwater, and take them out first. They are usually a lot more spaced out than their buddies on shore, and much easier to single out and/or pull. This is an especially good tactic for us undead rogues who can hold our breath longer.

  5. Pilfkin says:

    Thank you for this – the synergy is awesome. I was asking in gchat of SAN-EU yesterday if anyone could recommend a site where I might be able to try and understand (and play) the rogue class, I was advised to look here – and *boom* a 1 – 10 guide.

  6. Asa says:

    My first toon ever was a rogue but I abandoned her at about level 18 because the class never really made sense to me. Recently, I rolled a new rogue, have gotten up to 43 so far and enjoy it a lot. What made the difference for me is reading your blog, Sam. You’ve done a good job of painting the big picture and what to expect along the way. 1-10 is a lot easier for any class if you know where it’s all going, what your particular class strengths are and how to play to them instead of against them.

  7. TheReaper says:

    Having leveled 6 characters to 80 (2xrogue, mage, paladin, dk, druid) and 3 to 70 (shaman, warrior, hunter) I find that leveling almost any other class is easier than leveling a rogue.
    The biggest disadvantage is the lack of healing, increasing your downtime and soloing capabilities by alot. Even warriors are better off than us these days (glyphed Bloodthirst heals you for a good chunk of your healthpool).
    Paladins, Druids and Death Knights have absolutely no trouble soloing Elite quests I couldn’t touch on my rogue (especially Hellfire peninsular ones, Cruel’s Intentions and Foot of the citadel are impossible for a rogue when at level). Having access to selfheals and tank cooldowns makes these classes much more sturdy, while at the same time at least as capable of dealing damage.
    All of those classes have it easy, however, if you want to know what it feels like to be a god among mere mortals, there is just one choice for you: Enhancement Shaman.
    I know they are somewhat lackluster in endgame dps and have an annoying rotation, but leveling from 60 onward they are unstoppable killingmachines.
    Insane WF burst damage, damage reduction cooldowns, instant heals, feral spirits, Elementals and a pinch of bloodlust to top it all off.
    I have yet to come across a situation that even phases my shaman, compared to that experience a rogue seems very mundane indeed.

  8. samueltempus says:

    /agree about Enhancement Shaman.

    I just got mine to level 80, and there’s nothing that he and my wife’s Ele Shaman couldn’t duo on level. It was ridiculous. I’m quite enjoying it at 80, but he will never replace Sam. Still you’re right, there’s very little that can stop him.

    To give the rest of you an Idea, I leveled a Blood DK with my wife’s Prot / Ret Paladin. As ridiculous as that was, the Shammies were even easier.

    – Sam

  9. TheReaper says:

    I would never consider making the shaman my main, it just irks me to know that leveling to 85 on my ICC HM equipped rogue is going to be slower and more cumbersome than on my badge equipped twinks.
    Why can’t blizz just give us an ability similar to bloodthirst? The healing is negligible in endgame but a serious timesaver while leveling/questing.

  10. I’ve tried to level four Rogues so far, and I think the highest leveled one topped out at 32… before I switched servers. It was hard, due to the lack of control and squishiness, and boring, due to the utter lack of options early on.

    I ended up going Sub on the guy I eventually pushed past level 20, but I was still feeling too much like I was a papier-mâché cannon: anything that survived my Ambush would easily take me down to 50% health, thus eliminating any chance of chain-pulling, before I could kill it. Then his nearby friend would look at me funny and I would be forced to blow a cooldown or just run like hell and waste a ton of time.

    Nevertheless, I still -want- to get a Rogue to level 80. It’s one of those classes so iconic I can’t resist it. Getting regularly ganked by Rogues while on my Hunter also makes me want to have a taste of it. =P

    So what did I do this time? Heirloom Shoulders, Chest, double PvP Daggers (I had a lot of Shards, plus Rogues do look better with them), agility enchants… my baby rogue is now my most spoiled Alt ever. Level 9 so far, still boring but not hard at all. I’m going Sub again, let’s see how far I can take her. Wish me luck!

    (Also, I added your blog to my “check daily” folder. I love well-written stuff, even, or maybe specially, if it’s about a class I haven’t got the hang of yet. =) )

  11. mitmatters says:

    I found your website by chance and enjoy reading about your adventures and troubles. I’m in the process of leveling a rogue right now, 25 and growing. I also found it difficult in the beginning levels and kept asking myself it this worth it. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and I’m starting to not die as much. I don’t know how many times I would pull more mobs than I could do but I would usually get 1 or 2 killed before they would get me, then I would simply run back over and pick the rest off one at a time. I’ve known a couple of players that have tried a rogue but gave up early because of getting killed often. You have to be patient, it is rough in the beginning but it does get better in the higher levels. I look forward to reaching my rogue to 80.

  12. roningnome says:

    After many long years of “WoW hating” I’ve finally converted. I started a rogue about a year ago but never got him past 10. Now that I’m back on the horse I’ve started new with combat spec and am about to hit 24. Raiding and Heroics seemed light years away but now that I understand the rotations and the mechanics behind DPS I can tell it’s not far off. Plus it is a lot more fun. I love jumping out of the shadows and dropping mob with 3 or 4 hits.
    One question though, I’ve got mining/engineering for my profession. Should I be doing herbalism/alchemy or skinning/leatherworking instead of engineering?? I’m not really seeing any benifits of engineering right now except for the explosives that I rarely use.

    BTW, awesome blog Sam, I think I’ve read just about every post within a week. Keep it up!

  13. Phyllis says:

    This is really fantastic for me to have found this. I have a Level 16 Rogue and I thought it was just me being a noob (2 weeks in). Glad to know that I’m not the only one, but I appreciate my Rogue better than the other toons that I started at the same time (Tank, Paladin). I spend a lot of time working on my professions (fishing is key), and I still haven’t gotten the hang of Backstab, but I look forward to Level 20 now. Thank again!

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