Subtlety PVP Specs

Unless Blizzard dramatically alter the viability of the Combat tree, rogues currently have the option of chosing between their two other trees – the ‘mindless no-skill tunneling’ spec of Assassination […]

Unless Blizzard dramatically alter the viability of the Combat tree, rogues currently have the option of chosing between their two other trees – the ‘mindless no-skill tunneling’ spec of Assassination and the ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a errr butterfly’ spec of Subtlety.

Despite lacking in damage, the Subtlety tree does offer a lot of utility and mobility as well as high survivability through Cheat Death, Preparation and Shadowstep. The alternative to Subtlety is the Assassination tree, which gives huge burst damage but severe mobility issues. Not too bad if you’re playing a Goblin Rogue alongside a Holy Paladin, but potentially very damaging for the rest of the time.

I plan on playing both trees this season – Assassination in rated battlegrounds and Subtlety in arenas. Here’s a quick guide to speccing into Subtlety.

Subtlety Tree Choices

Rogue Subtlety Tree


There’s not much to debate about the essential Subtlety talents highlighted in red – there isn’t much flexibility with this tree and I’m yet to think of or hear a valid argument against taking them.

Point Allocation

Essential talents: 28
Secondary talents:
3-4 (or 5-6 if you want to skip points in other trees)

The only real decision comes down to which of the following talents you’d prefer to take.

This isn’t a replacement for crippling poison, but a complementary talent to run along side it. Failing to apply crippling poison to your target really hurts the control you have of the fight, as does having it removed while you’re being kited. However, if you’re in a team with a class with a more reliable snare (such as a mage or a warrior), taking yet another snare mechanism could be considered overkill.

Honor Among Thieves
The cooldown of this ability is affected by the number of points you’re prepared to invest in it – you’re likely to be generating a combo per cooldown regardless of the spells rank. I’d recommend taking at least one point in HaT. The one thing you’ll need to be careful of is switching targets – you will lose existing combo points on your old target if you fail to Redirect them onto your new target before HaT procs.

Sanguinary Vein
If you’re playing with the Glyph of Hemorrhage, the bleed effect caused by the glyph is enough to give you the 10% extra damage from this talent. It’s not a bad boost to the mediocre pressure you can put out through raw damage, even if you’re relying on rupture for the bleed effects (don’t get me started on how pathetic rupture looks at the moment! A mere 500 damage dot against a target with a 120k health pool is nothing more than a joke).

Combat Tree Choices

I had originally made an image for this tree, but I won’t bother with it as there’s only one talent worth investing in. Improved Gouge has been buried so deeply that it’s not obtainable and you shouldn’t even have Sinister Strike on your bars. Wasting three talent points to negate the need to gem/gear for Hit is not worth doing, so that only leaves the new Cataclysm talent Improved Recuperate. A single point in it gives the equivalent of over 300 resilience, plus the HoT it grants, so it’s quite a bonus. Having Recuperate running grants you energy through Energetic Recovery so even if you’re not being directly attacked you should be using it. With buffs this will be healing for around 6000 per tick – what’s not to love about it?

Assassination Tree Choices

Rogue Assassination Tree


Point Allocation

Essential talents: 2
Secondary talents:
5-6 if you want to skip Improved Recuperate

The speed and healing buff from Quickening is the main target in this tree, so to reach it you’ll need to put at least 5 points into the first tier of talents. Deadly Momentum is more of a levelling talent than a serious option for PVP (even in battlegrounds with two pet healers) so points will need to be put into Lethality and Coup de Grace. With my backstabs hitting as hard as my eviscerates, I’m reluctant to buff eviscerate damage more than I have to, so personally I’d opt for 2/3 Coup de Grace and 3/3 Lethality. However, many highly respected Gladiators seem to be playing with either full points in both or 2/3 Lethality, so I wouldn’t waste any gold respeccing just to swap numbers around between these two talents!

Remaining points can be put into Puncturing Wounds for an extra 10%/20%/30% crit chance on your backstab. There are two other talents in the Assassination tree that are reachable – Blackjack and Ruthlessness. 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. Ruthlessness lost its appeal when it was taken from a 100% proc to a 60% proc – with points in Premeditate and HaT you should hopefully enough combos already without having to rely on this proccing.

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.