Talent Tree Decisions

The Mists of Pandaria have brought a huge amount of change to the rogue class and to the World of Warcraft in general. One of the most noticable changes is […]

The Mists of Pandaria have brought a huge amount of change to the rogue class and to the World of Warcraft in general. One of the most noticable changes is to the talent tree structure – despite only giving us six talent points to spend (compared with 71 in WotLK and 41 in Cata) it feels like we have more choice with our builds than ever before. The no-brainer talents have been merged with the base abilities, with the other talents either being deleted, made baseline for the specialization choice, or turned into glyphs. The talent tree is broken down into tiers with one talent choice per tier, so there are a couple of tough decisions to be made.

Tier 1

This increases your stealthed run speed to 138% and your stealthed sprint speed to a record breaking 204%. It’s a good talent for farming instances (I carry a stack of dust so I can switch to this in transmog runs) but it lacks the utility of the other tier choices.

Three seconds of ‘free’ stealth that will let you use your stealthed abilities after opening on your target. If you’re careful you have just enough energy for a cheap shot, an ambush and a garrote – the danger is that your bar will change and you’ll blow whatever spell appears on the button you were spamming. I’ve always kept garrote/kick and CS/KS on the same buttons – you don’t want to accidentally kick instead of garrote (due to latency or over-enthusiastic button mashing) so you may want to have copies of these abilities on ‘safe’ locations. If I’m slow with a garrote and the bar changes, I now start throwing a knife – a lot less disastrous than blowing a kick onto a stunned target…

If you’re like me and have always used Fan of Knives to cancel stealth, you’ll have found this no longer works. With subterfuge, FoK does not break stealth unless it hits a target. This is a pretty powerful trick for certain situations, such as when you’re fighting a low health rogue that vanishes to escape. As soon as you’re dropped from combat you can stealth and use FoK to try to knock the other rogue out of stealth, without making yourself vulnerable to saps.

The downside to subterfuge is that pets currently appear to ignore the stealth buff and can target you regardless. This seems to happen all of the time vs warlocks, which means their pets can stun or charm you through stealth. Hopefully this is a bug, we’ll see what happens with it.

Shadow FocusShadow Focus
A free cheap shot, garrotte or ambush on every opener, saving you 40-60 energy. Unfortunately this bonus isn’t granted during Shadow Dance but it will let you perform instant vanish>cheap shots without needing to pool energy.


The real decision here is between Subterfuge and Shadow Focus – the free opener from Shadow Focus is useful for getting your rotations started and landing emergency stuns, but I’m finding the ability to use multiple openers at once to be more beneficial, even with the buggy pet behaviour. A three second garrote silence into a five second cheap shot then a 2.5 second kidney shot gives over ten seconds of lock down. Subterfuge also gives you enough time to cheap shot multiple opponents – aoe stuns ftw!

Tier 2

Deadly ThrowDeadly Throw
Out of all of the changes to rogues, this is the one that has frustrated me the most. Deadly throw was an excellent ability to help combat kiting and to keep targets in combat (DT killing blows also felt sooo good!). Now we have to choose to spec into it at the expense of another great talent. When paired with anticipation at level 90, DT will begin to shine again, but until then it’s not an amazing talent choice.

Nerve StrikeNerve Strike
Six seconds of damage reduction just seems too good to miss out on – unlike CloS or Combat Readiness this affects the damage you take from both magic and melee damage. Combine it with feint and you have an ability that might not keep you alive at 85, but will be a big boost to survivability at 90.

Combat ReadinessCombat Readiness
At first glance this may look great (finally it no longer shares a cool down with cloak of shadows), but 20 seconds of 50% damage reduction vs melee compares badly to the blanket damage reduction given by nerve strike.


If you have two warriors beating down on you then combat readiness will be more effective, but Nerve Strike will help out whoever your target is tunnelling. Throwing defensive kidney shots to help out a low-health team mate is part of the utility that rogues bring to team PVP – assisting your panicked healer with a five second stun followed by six seconds of reduced damage greatly enhances this.

Tier 3

Cheat DeathCheat Death
With PVP damage levels currently hovering around the “WTF” mark, cheat death isn’t doing a great job of keeping rogues alive. Even with its 80% damage reduction I still die before it runs out and the 90 second cooldown isn’t great either.

Leeching PoisonLeeching Poison
When we get our 4 piece set bonus at level 90 we will be able to skip crippling poison and take another utility poisons instead. Without the set bonus, leeching poison is only going to be viable if can sit on your target without needing to apply/shiv crippling poison. I wouldn’t recommend using it at level 85, but we’ll see how things turn out when MoP goes live.

The biggest change to my play style after 5.0.4 has been having to fit feint into my rotation. It takes a little getting used to, but spending 20 energy per 7 seconds (glyphed) is not too tricky to squeeze in between slice ‘n’ dice and recuperation. With the latter being nerfed heavily, feint is currently a necessity.


Once you get used to keeping an eye on your feint buff, elusiveness really helps to keep your health bar from dropping too fast – leeching poison just screams ‘lazy rogue’ to me and stops you using mind numbing or paralytic poisons. Unless rogues become borderline unkillable in MoP, I don’t think cheat death will be that great – it will offer you limited protection from fast switches but nothing else.

Tier 4

The decision to take preparation or shadowstep initially looked like the hardest decision to make in WoW – the removal of smoke bomb from the list of cooldowns it resets has weakened its appeal, but prep is still a very powerful talent. Double evasion, vanish, cloak and sprint give a nice boost to survivability and cc-avoidance – the one downside is having to miss the other crutch talent that it shares a tier with.

Ahhh shadowstep, how could I live without you…. the added ability of being able to shadowstep a friendly target improves what was already a key part of rogue PVP. Focused shadowstep kicks can win games and being stranded in the middle of a ring of frost without shadowstep is enough to make you afk out and respec.

Burst of SpeedBurst of Speed
On paper this looks fantastic. In reality, it’s a nightmare. You can use it to easily keep up with your targets, but the downside is you will find yourself energy starved and unable to do anything other than auto-attack (especially if you plan on keeping SnD/recup/feint up at all times). I had high hopes for this talent but they were cruelly dashed within the first minute of my first battleground. Not being able to use this while stealthed is the icing on the cake (or the poison on the dagger, for want of a better metaphor). The one niche that Burst of Speed could fill is that of flag retriever – a permanent 70% speed buff leads to insane cap times that not even druids can match. Whether an RBG team will want a rogue to take the flag is another matter, but it’s good fun in random battlegrounds.


If for some reason rogues end up being seen as free kills by enemy teams and mercilessly tunnelled into the ground, preparation looks like it will be the skill to take. Otherwise (and more likely) I’ll be taking shadowstep. Perhaps a combination of deadly throw and anticipation will be enough to make me change my mind and take prep…. it’s definitely going to be a tough call.

Tier 5

Prey on the WeakPrey on the Weak
I’m not sure I can see the advantage of having my dots tick for 10% more on a gouged or blinded target, but the extra damage on a stunned target will add more pressure to your burst capability, especially when combined with Find Weakness. It will be nice for double-dps 2v2 teams or burst comps in 3v3, but average for other setups.

Paralytic PoisonParalytic Poison
Again, this is talent we can probably ignore until we get our 4 set bonus at level 90. Being able to shiv a snare is a nice trick (especially in smoke bombs) and the stun it causes does not share diminishing returns with our other kidney shot or cheap shot. Mace spec was popular in TBC for its random stuns, though using it didn’t mean having to miss out on mind numbing poison like this talent will.

Dirty TricksDirty Tricks
Removing the combo point generation from gouge has given us an ability we can use on focus/off targets without losing the combos we already have on our main target. Reducing its energy cost to zero lets us use it whenever it’s off cooldown, making it fantastic for peeling enemy players off your team members.


The talent choice from this tier seems dependent on the comps you will be running in arenas or your expected role in battlegrounds. Burst vs target lockdown vs arena control – they are all useful talents with the best choice being the one that matches your teams play style.

5.0.4 Builds

I’m currently using subterfuge, nerve strike, elusiveness, shadowstep and dirty tricks – for levelling I’ll switch to night stalker and leeching poison, with a heavy rethink (and repost) once I get to level 90. If you’re running a different spec, let me know which choices you’ve made and the reasons why – WoW has changed dramatically in the last eight days and the quicker we get to grips with our class the better!

About Dcruize

Rogue addict, PVP junkie, insomniac. I started playing WoW in 2006 and, after being told that 'nobody wants a rogue', tried to level a priest. I quickly realized that love and approval were a poor alternative to stealth and ambush and have been backstabbing away quite happily ever since.