How to Spec Assassination (4.0)

The Pre-Cataclysm Patch has been nice to Rogues.  While the class wasn’t drastically changed, some things are different and it can be a bit confusing.  Today I’ll break down the Assassination spec I use and how I play it.  This spec is set up for my gear, which is likely different from the gear you’re using; therefore, I will point out any places where you might want to change some points around to better suit your gear.


Assassination (31)

Tier 1

Coup de Grace (3/3) – Increases the damage done by your Eviscerate and Envenom abilities by 20%

Envenom is one of two finishers Assassination Rogues use their combo points on.  Depending on the length of the fight, you may get thirty or more of these in, so a 20% boost for Envenom will be a good boost to your damage output.

Lethality (3/3) – Increases the critical damage bonus of your Sinister Strike, Backstab, Mutilate and Hemorrhage abilities by 30%

It’s important to note that this talent doesn’t increase your chance to have a critical strike with these abilities.  It increases how hard those critical strikes hit.  We take this talent for all the Mutilates and Backstabs we’ll be doing.


Tier 2

Ruthlessness (3/3) – Gives your melee finishing moves a 60% chance to add a combo point to your target.

I need to double-check, but I believe this only applies to Ruptures and Envenoms, as they are the two melee finishers an Assassination Rogue would normally use.  Extra combo points are always nice.

Quickening (2/2) – All healing effects on you are increased by 20% and movement speed is increased by 15%.  This does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.

While the extra healing is nice (and much appreciated by your healer), we’re taking this talent to lessen the amount of time it takes to get from one place to another in a movement heavy fight.  15% may not seem like a lot, but the extra speed can mean thousands of DPS in a fight that requires you to be on your feet a lot.

Puncturing Wounds (3/3) – Increases the critical strike chance of your backstab ability by 30% and the critical strike chance of your Mutilate by 15%.

This is a simple and flat boost to your crit chance to your two combo point generation abilities.


Tier 3

**Deadly Brew (1/2) – When you apply Instant, Wound or Mind Numbing Poison to a target, you have a 50% chance to apply Crippling Poison.

This is a filler talent that I used to get farther down into the tree.  You can replace this with any other talent that’s available and not on this list.  I chose this talent for the chance to slow an opponent without having to actually put crippling poison on a weapon.

Cold Blood (1/1)- When activated, generates 25 Energy and increases the critical strike chance of your next non-periodic offensive ability by 100%

This talent has been revised to give 25 energy on top of a guaranteed crit on your instant damage abilities.

Vile Poisons (3/3)- Increases the damage dealt by your poisons by 20% and gives you 100% of the normal chance of applying poisons from your equipped melee weapons when you use your Fan of Knives ability.

The first part of this talent is pretty straightforward; your poisons will do 20% more damage with 3 points in this talent.  The second part is Blizzard’s way of fixing a problem that was created when Fan of Knives was changed to thrown weapon damage from your regular weapon damage.  Without that second part, Rogues would no longer apply any poisons with Fan of knives. buffs our fan of knives damage by adding the poisons from our main and offhand.  Don’t forget to apply poison to your thrown weapon.


Tier 4

Seal Fate (2/2) – Your critical strikes from abilities that add combo points have a 100% chance to add an additional combo point.

This effect applies to Mutilate and Backstab.  A successful critical strike with either will add an extra combo point.


Tier 5

Murderous Intent (2/2) – When you Backstab an enemy that is below 35% health, you instantly recover 30 Energy.

With this talent, you will switch from Mutilate to Backstab when your target is under 35%.  Your backstab will still cost 60 energy, but you will be able to use it twice as often with the refunded Energy.  This gives Assassination Rogues a bit more damage when their target is nearing death.

Overkill (1/1)When stealthed, and for 20 seconds after breaking stealth, you regenerate 30% additional Energy.

With this talent you should always open on a target from stealth.  Also, you can use your Vanish offensively to regain this buff mid fight.

Master Poisoner (1/1) – Increases the spell damage taken by any target you have poisoned by 8%, causes your Envenom ability to no longer consume Deadly poison, and reduces the duration of all poison effects applied to you by 50%.

This talent now gives Assassination Rogues the 8% spell damage raid buff.  It also continues to make Envenom not “eat” the stacks of Deadly poison and cut the length of poison effects on you by half.


Tier 6

Cut to the Chase (3/3) – Your Eviscerate and Envenom abilities have a 100% chance to refresh your Slice and Dice to its 5 combo point maximum.


Venomous Wounds (2/2) – Each time your Rupture or Garrote deals damage to an enemy you have poisoned, you have a 60% chance to deal 434 additional Nature damage and regain 10 Energy.  If an enemy dies while afflicted by your Rupture, you regain energy proportional to the remaining Rupture duration.

Before 4.0, many Rogues had completely forgotten Rupture as part of a rotation, as it was a DPS loss to include it.  This talent makes Rupture useful again.  Not only is there a damage bonus, but you get 10 Energy back when this ability procs.  Also,  to date, all of my Energy has been restored when an enemy died with rupture still up.


Tier 7

Vendetta (1/1) – Marks an enemy for death, increasing all the damage you deal to the target  by 20% and granting you unerring vision of your target, regardless of concealments such as Stealth and Invisibility.  Lasts 30 secs.

For PvE, this is a 2 minute damage boost cooldown; in a 4 minute fight, you can expect 20% increased damage for a whole minute.  In PvP, this is a great ability that negates Stealth and Invisibility for 30 seconds.  Sometimes, that’s all the time you need.


Combat (3)

**Precision (3/3) – Increases your chance to hit with weapons and poison attacks by 6%

I took this because I needed the hit.  I haven’t reforged my gear yet and may drop this down to two points (4%).  If you are good on hit (341+) then you can afford to only spend 2 points here and throw the other points somewhere else, like Relentless Strikes…


Subtlety (2)

**Relentless Strikes (2/3)- Your finishing moves have a 14% chance per combo point to restore 25 Energy.

If you only spent 2 points in Precision, you could fill this out, and your 5 point finishers would always restore 25 Energy.  Currently, I only have a 60% chance to do the same.

– Basic Rotation Tips –

  1. Always start from Stealth.
  2. Use Mutilate to generate combo points when your enemy is at 100% – 35% health.
  3. From 35% -0% health use Backstab to generate combo points.
  4. Finishers should be used when you have 4-5 combo points.
  5. Keeping Rupture active takes priority over Envenom, unless you need to use Envenom to keep Slice and Dice up.

Currently, My Rotation is going like this a lot:


Ambush / Garrote – >Slice and Dice -> Mutilate – >Envenom

Rest of fight:

Mutilate (Backstab) to 4+ combo points -> Rupture;

Mutilate (Backstab) to 4+ combo points -> Envenom (sometimes twice if Rupture’s still up)

Rinse and Repeat, popping cooldowns (Vanish, Vendetta, Cold Blood) when available.


Well, that’s the basics for the Assassination spec.  It’s a bit more complicated than it was for the majority of Wrath, but for your extra effort, you’ll be doing even more damage.  If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email, or comment below.

– Sam

31 Responses to How to Spec Assassination (4.0)

  1. buffin says:

    mmm the return of backstab it is about time they made it useful again.

    • Dror Raphael says:

      I find that this rotation actually does a bit more dps than that one you posted, however it is lacking any real evidence:

      Stealth –> Garrote –> Slice and Dice –> mutilate (once) –> Rupture –> Mutilate (twice) –> Envenom. By doing this i have found that you get the most out of your slice and dice and have more rupture uptime.

  2. Pitrelli says:

    Nice one will prove useful come Cataclysm.

    Do you see any difference between this or a potential assassination leveling build?

    • Samueltempus says:

      You probably would do fine leveling with this spec. But you certainly could swap points out here and there for deadly momentum, deadened nerves, etc. I’m posting my all purpose combat spec that I’m using right now for soloing BC heroics tomorrow. I think It’s the spec I’ll use to level in Cataclysm.

  3. chronicstar says:

    Nice guide. I’ve been running 1/2 deadly momentum for my filler point, it’s pretty handy for trash and heroics/soloing even though you have to get the kb yourself, and I find deadly brew pretty niche (lk valks blah blah). It’s really cool that you can choose where it goes based entirely on personal preference, I wish there were a few more “free points” like that :]

    Definitely agree that dropping down to 2/3 precision to fill out RS is a a good idea once you can get to the poison hit cap. It seems like people are still discussing the best reforging strategy but moving everything you can into haste and then all the crit/hit you can’t turn into haste can become either mastery or white hit depending on your gear level.

    “The second part is Blizzard’s way of fixing a problem that was created when Fan of Knives was changed to thrown weapon damage from your regular weapon damage. Without that second part, Rogues would no longer apply any poisons with Fan of knives.”

    Well, they’d still apply the poison from their thrown weapon. You have been applying one, right? :] As far as I know the jury is still out on i/d/d vs i/d/i, personally I’ve been using the latter, but I haven’t tested it extensively.

    Overall I’m pretty happy with the new assassination rotation, between the cooldowns you mentioned and tricks/arcane torrent the energy management minigame is fun without being too spammy and punishing like combat is currently.

    (Note also that garrote is a good opener over ambush since the ticks can proc Venomous Wounds)

    • samueltempus says:

      Good valid points.

      /facepalm. I can’t believe that I missed the thrown weapon poison. I had totally forgot that they were allowing rogues to do that now. I’ll get that fixed asap

      I agree that crippling is niche, but I’m trying to get a few more guildies their kingslayer title. I’ll probably drop it for deadly momentum when Cataclysm actually hits.

      I’v been going back and forth on Garrote myself. I can see it helping more on trash than anything, but over the course of a boss fight, the difference is less than minimal. I’ll see about doing some testing to find out which one is better on average.

      Anyway, nice to see you again Cron, and thanks for the input.

      – Sam

  4. BenDover says:

    I’ve been opening with Garrote due to it potentially procing Venomous Wounds. I think the energy regen gives more options and probably more DPS due to it. Haven’t tested it extensively though, but usually more energy gives more options, long as you don’t go overboard with it.

    FoK can now proc 4 different poisons on the target, if talented for Deadly Brew and Vile Poisons. This gives it great PvP utility, but it can also double-proc Instant, if you use that poison on the Thrown weapon. I’ve been doing more or less the same dps, if not more, with FoK. The lower energy cost also makes it more affordable to use for quick switches or to slow a stray mob.

    I’ve found that it’s actually a bit hard for me to remember to use Backstab at 35%, due to being so used to Mutilating my way to the kill. But it is a nice change of pace. And the changes to bleeds in general are very good, and make the Assassination rotation a lot more interesting. Also, Venomous Wounds seems to be doing about 5% of my DPS, according to several dummy tests.

    All in all, I’m very happy with the direction of this talent tree.

  5. tager says:

    sam iam not sure you can take that point out of percision and spend it on RS as its in the sub tree and you will still need 31 points in assassination so i guess you will have to find some place in there for it to go

    • samueltempus says:

      Precision is a Combat talent, so it will have no effect on the 31 points spent in Assassination. You’re free to put that point anywhere that’s accessable on the three talent trees.

      – Sam

  6. wulfstan says:

    Should you renew Rupture before or after it finishes?

    I know that they’ve removed DOT clipping for casters, but I don’t know if this applies to Rupture. All Locks are now reapplying their DOTs before they expire. Should rogues do the same with Rupture?

  7. samueltempus says:

    I’ve been renewing my right as it finishes if possible. Often times you won’t be able to renew it, as you’ll get a “more powerfull spell is active” message, due to procs or number of combo points.

    – Sam

    • chronicstar says:

      But yeah, if you refresh your rupture between the second to last tick and the last tick you won’t lose any damage from clipping. It adds the remaining time onto the length of your new rupture and does not reset the tick timer. Pretty neat!

  8. Anonymous says:

    For cripes sake, the name of the class is ROGUE not ROUGE.

    • samueltempus says:

      Sorry bout that. first Rouge in months. What’s even funnier is that my fine toothed comb, who gives me much needed crap about stuff like this, didn’t call me out on this one.



      – Sam

      • Priestess says:

        I’m not sure which “comb” you are referring to, but if you’re implying that I read it and skipped it, you’d be right. I have learned to usually ignore that or I’d never be able to read Trade without wincing.

  9. danoob says:

    For thrown weapons I am finding I/D/D to be supierior. This stacks deadly very fast on trash pulls and allows it to tick/proc instant poison. In addition when you target switch for your auto attacks deadly will already be stacked to five causing more IP procs.

    I have yet to figure out if using a slow/slow weapon combo for FoK spam will lead to higher poison procs (since the talent says it gives your MH/OH 100% chance and slow weapons proc more poisons).

  10. Krob says:

    Hello! Very nice site and guides. I love this build and your rotation. Im also using your combat set up for soloing and farming 🙂 Although I am curious to what glyphs you are using for this Spec.

  11. Skullnight43 says:

    So, i quit WoW a while back, and just rejoined. Have to say this is a GREAT site and build. So whats the debate between garrote and ambush as openers what would make one better than the other? Thanks you

    • chronicstar says:

      The latest patch included a serious buff to venomous wounds, and garrote is way ahead of ambush in terms of both total damage and DPE.

      (obviously I’m talking here about a raid situation where the bleed is going to last it’s full duration and burst damage is not important)

  12. Krob says:

    Awesome thanks what about glyph of Vandetta, and i tend to open with cheap shot (if i can ) for the 2 combo points. pop slice and dice. then fire away with envenom. then rupture.

    • chronicstar says:

      Glyph of Vendetta is certainly a damage increase, just not as much of a damage increase as the other glyphs mentioned. a 20% increase to your Vendetta duration adds an extra 10 seconds, so you’re talking about 10/120 uptime on a 20% damage increase which is something like a 1.67% average-case increase to your damage. Stick with backstab.

      The build discussed above is a raid-focused build. Typically you cannot use cheap shot in raid encounters.

  13. Steve the Gamer says:

    Thank you for this spec — I’m giving it a whirl!

  14. Anonymous says:

    hhmmm i had no idea i could poision my thrown but with oout any testing i can asure the best for a pve spec is deadly
    so that it can be applied too all mobs quickly
    and for pvp the best would be wound poision no doubt
    this allows u to apply wound in pvp with out sacraficing instant
    which wuld drop dps considerably

    this spec is pretty basic
    and the glyph of slice and dice rupttue and mut are the best to have
    slice and dice is there soo it wont fall off…ever
    and blackjack is bery necessary in pve it saves ur tank so much and is amazing for cc which is very good
    5 to 4 point ruptures are required so tha u can envenom at least 2 times befor a reapply
    and u souldnt worry about clipping building points for an envonm will require either one mut(in the case that ruthlessness procs and mut was a crit) or 2(any other time) so ur energy and point management no matter how good wont be able to prevent clipping every time
    just appl rup when u got 5 tio 4 points and not enough time to build up more without rupture falling off

  15. ewdie says:

    thanks for this set up… went from top 4k dps in combat to 6k up to 6.5k 🙂

  16. Michael says:

    I wouldn’t use backstab to generate the rest of the pts, i still use mut and shiv to keep my poisons up, using backstab when i can (obviously keeping my stuns on).

  17. marcos says:

    Nice post! Could you please share you current DPS on a lvl 85 dummy? Ty

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