Playing the highly mobile support-orientated spec of Subtlety can certainly bring utility and finesse to your games, but if you want a more damage-focused talent build, then Assassination is currently the way to go.
There are so many useful first tier talents in the Combat and Subtlety trees that ideally you don’t want to spend more than the required 31pts in the Assassination tree.
Assassination Tree Choices
I count the talents highlighted in red as essential -by not taking them, you’ll be heavily damaging your spec. I’ve seen arguments about whether Ruthlessness is definitely needed, as it only gives a 60% chance of proccing. I wouldn’t put points into it for a Subtlety specced rogue, but as an Assassination rogue you won’t be generating crazy amounts of combo points through HaT or Premeditation. Being able to turn a single point of Slice and Dice into a full five points worth (by getting a Ruthlessness proc and envenoming) is not to be sniffed at!
Since a lot of classes are either unsappable, healers, or have a ramp-up time on their damage, I can’t see Blackjack being useful in more than a handful of games, so I haven’t included it as a secondary talent.
Essential talents: 22
Secondary talents: 9
The following secondary talents are available;
Coup de Grace and Lethality
There’s not a massive difference between these two talents as neither will give a jaw-dropping increase in damage output over the other. At the moment you’re not going to be critting that often, so unless you plan on taking Murderous Intent further down the tree, I’d put 3pts into Coup de Grace and 2pts into Lethality. If Blizzard do decide to make the crit rating stat more appealing to Assassination rogues, then Lethality is likely to become more valuable than Coup de Grace.
The number of points to spend in here depends on the bracket you’re playing in and your team. For battlegrounds or arenas played with snare-heavy partners (such as frost mages), you won’t really need to worry too much about staying on top of your target and one talent in this will be fine. You could theoretically get away with zero points in Deadly Brew and rely on Fan of Knives to apply crippling poison instead, but there are better ways of spending 30 energy than having to FoK every 6-12 seconds. Weapon swapping to crippling poison is also an option, but it’s a rather clumsy method of applying poison unless you want to spend two seconds on GCD and also have to shiv or wait for a poison proc.
If you find yourself being the primary kill target, putting three points in this will give you an extra 952 resilience. Useful if you’re the ‘weakest’ link in your team, not so useful if you’re playing 2v2 with a Shadow Priest!
With my current gear, spamming 30 energy backstabs gives roughly 50% extra damage compared to spamming 55 energy mutilates. There will be fewer Seal Fate and poison procs, but the damage is still higher with backstab. You won’t benefit from this extra damage too much of the time, but when your target is low health they’re likely to proc defensive cooldowns – Murderous Intent can really help bypass these. However, you will have to deal with the positional requirement of backstab. I don’t tend to take this talent, but if I was to join a team with decent lockdowns, I probably would. Backstab is still useful for putting damage through a hunter’s Deterrence, so blowing a hunter up with 30 energy backstabs does have extra comedy value. If you do put talents into this, using Backstab glyph will take your backstabs down to 25 energy which will give an even greater increase in damage.
Combat and Subtlety Tree Choices
Essential talents: 5
Secondary talents: 3
The Subtlety tree brings three highly useful talents into your spec – Night Stalker, Relentless Strikes and Elusiveness. This leaves you with three points to spread out over Opportunity (10%/20%/30% increase) and Recuperate. For a hardcore damage spec, three points in Opportunity will give a nice boost to your sustained damage. For a more defensive play style, two points in Recuperate will see your self-heals ticking for over 5.3k in PVP gear.
In 2v2 with a Shadow Priest, I’ve given up on Subtlety and am playing 31/2/8. Playing with 3/3 Puncturing Wounds, 2/2 Deadly Brew, 2/3 Deadened Nerves and 2/2 Improved Recuperate seems to work well as I’m rarely ever the kill target. I may change specs when we start playing 3v3 with a resto druid – the extra point for Deadened Nerves probably coming from Puncturing Wounds.