Subtlety Rogue playstyle and rotation guide

Patch 9.2.5 Last Updated: 6th Aug, 2022
Pushnoir Subtlety Rogue Author
Pushnoir

Playstyle & Rotation

General Rotation:

When you play with the Deeper Stratagem talent you are going to finish at 5 or 6 combo points and that also applies to all the finishers in the priority lists. However, it does not apply if you are Kyrian and got charged combo points active.

Below I will list spells in a priority order to make it easier to understand the importance of certain parts of the gameplay loop for Subtlety.

Venthyr

  1. Use Flagellation on cooldown when you are at 5 or 6 combo points, and Symbols is ready
  2. Use Shadow Blades on cooldown. Always combine it with Symbols and Dance
  3. Use Symbols on cooldown. But hold it for up to 10 seconds if Flagellation is about to come off cooldown and you play Obedience legendary. Always combine it with Dance
  4. Use Dance if you are about to reach 2 charges and you have less than 3 combo points
  5. Cast Shadowstrike in Dance or from Vanish
  6. Cast Backstab when you have 5-6 stacks of the Perforated Veins conduit, Blades is active and Dance has more than 3 seconds remaining, otherwise use it outside of Dance. Do not do this at all unless you’re confident you can pull it off.
  7. Maintain and refresh Slice and Dice when you are out of Dance or when it is about to drop
  8. Maintain and refresh Rupture out of Dance or when it is about to drop
  9. Cast Eviscerate

Kyrian

  1. Use Echoing Reprimand on cooldown but not in Dance
  2. Use Shadow Blades on cooldown. Always combine it with Symbols and Dance
  3. Use Symbols on cooldown. Always combine it with Dance
  4. Use Dance on cooldown unless Symbols is about to be ready.
  5. Cast Shadowstrike while you are in Dance or from Vanish
  6. Cast Backstab when you have 5-6 stacks of the Perforated Veins conduit, Blades is active and Dance has more than 3 seconds remaining, otherwise use it outside of Dance. Do not do this at all unless you’re confident you can pull it off.
  7. Maintain and refresh Slice and Dice when you are out of Dance or when it is about to drop
  8. Maintain and refresh Rupture out of Dance, it is fine to let it drop if it expires while in Dance
  9. Cast Eviscerate

Opener:

Venthyr opener: 

  1. Shadowstrike
  2. Slice and Dice
  3. Shadow Blades + Shadow Dance + Shadowstrike
  4. Shadowstrike
  5. Symbols of Death + Flagellation
  6. Rupture / Eviscerate
  7. Shadowstrike
  8. Shadowstrike
  9. Eviscerate
  10. Shadowstrike
  11. Eviscerate and so on

Venthyr Deathly Shadows opener (pre-pull Slice and Dice): 

  1. Shadowstrike
  2. Shadow Blades + Shadow Dance + Shadowstrike
  3. Symbols of Death + Flagellation
  4. Rupture / Eviscerate
  5. Shadowstrike
  6. Shadowstrike
  7. Eviscerate
  8. Shadowstrike
  9. Shadowstrike
  10. Eviscerate and so on

Kyrian opener: 

  1. Shadowstrike
  2. Slice and Dice
  3. Shadow DanceEchoing Reprimand + Shadow Blades + Symbols of Death
  4. Eviscerate
  5. Shadowstrike
  6. Shadowstrike
  7. Eviscerate
  8. Shadowstrike
  9. Shadowstrike
  10. Eviscerate and so on

Kyrian Deathly Shadows opener (pre-pull Slice and Dice): 

  1. Shadowstrike
  2. Shadow Dance + Echoing Reprimand + Shadow Blades + Symbols of Death
  3. Eviscerate
  4. Shadowstrike
  5. Shadowstrike
  6. Eviscerate
  7. Shadowstrike
  8. Shadowstrike
  9. Eviscerate and so on

Multi-Target:

Venthyr

  1. Use Flagellation on a priority target on cooldown. Combine it with Symbols of Death and Shadow Dance
  2. Use Shuriken Tornado on cooldown, hold if you know there will be a 5+ target situation coming up shortly
  3. Use Symbols of Death on cooldown. Combine it with Shadow Dance
  4. Use Shadow Blades on cooldown. Combine it with Symbols of Death and Shadow Dance
  5. Cast Shuriken Storm when you are out of Shadow Dance
  6. Cast Shuriken Storm while you are in Shadow Dance if there are 3 or more targets nearby
  7. Maintain Rupture on up to 4 targets and if they will last at least 15 seconds or more
  8. Maintain Slice and Dice on up to 6 targets
  9. Cast Black Powder if there are 3 or more targets nearby. Use at 4 combo points if there are only 4 targets nearby to avoid overcapping combo points

Funnel version

  1. Shadowstrike the priority target if it does not have Find Weakness
  2. Replace Black Powder with Eviscerate and use it on the priority target
  3. When you get Shadowstrike procs with your 4-set and you have Perforated Veins equipped, use Backstab on the priority target when at 5+ stacks

Kyrian

  1. Use Shuriken Tornado on cooldown, hold if you know there will be a 5+ target situation coming up shortly
  2. Use Symbols of Death on cooldown. Combine it with Shadow Dance
  3. Use Shadow Blades on cooldown
  4. Cast Shuriken Storm when you are out of Shadow Dance
  5. Cast Shuriken Storm while you are in Shadow Dance if there are 3 or more targets nearby
  6. Maintain Rupture on up to 4 targets and if they will last at least 15 seconds or more.
  7. Maintain Slice and Dice on up to 6 targets
  8. Use Echoing Reprimand on cooldown if you have 1 or 2 targets
  9. Cast Black Powder if there are 3 or more targets nearby. Use at 4 combo points if there are only 4 targets nearby to avoid overcapping combo points

Funnel version

  1. Shadowstrike the priority target if it does not have Find Weakness
  2. Replace Black Powder with Eviscerate and use it on the priority target
  3. When you get Shadowstrike procs with your 4-set and you have Perforated Veins equipped, use Backstab on the priority target when at 5+ stacks

Playstyle:

Cooldown Management

Subtlety is all about the 30 second cooldown windows enabled by Symbols of Death and Shadow Dance. Most importantly, you need to plan ahead and make sure you can hit a target for the full duration of Symbols of Death, Shadow Dance and Flagellation. It is crucial that you know how to get the most out of your cooldowns and there are some important boxes you can check when analyzing your own gameplay:

If you can manage all this it means you are understanding when you can use cooldowns on any given fight and how to get the most out of them.

In AoE you want to use Shuriken Tornado on cooldown, but you have to consider your energy levels. Make sure you have Symbols of Death ready, that way you can use Shuriken Tornado into Symbols of Death, removing the need for pooling energy.

Cooldown Reduction - CDR

A big part of this specs playstyle revolves around CDR mechanics. It is the reason why you can have 50-60% uptime on Shadow Dance and the reason why Shadow Blades is a 1.5-minute cooldown with high enough ranks of Stiletto Staccato. The way it works is that every combo point you spend reduces the cooldown of Shadow Dance by 1.5-seconds. You get this from the Deepening Shadows passive and Enveloping Shadows talent.

I mentioned a snowball effect earlier in this guide and the CDR mechanics of Subtlety is the reason why it exists. In essence: more combo points built and spent gives you more Shadow Dance uptime and therefore also more Shadowstrikes.

  • Shadowstrike grants 2 combo points and is only available from Shadow Dance and Vanish
  • Shadow Techniques (auto-attacks) grants 1 combo point about every 2 seconds on average - melee uptime is crucial
  • Weaponmaster procs doubles your combo point gain from the builder used
  • Shadow Blades grants 1 more combo point per builder

When they buffed Shadow Techniques, which gives you passive resources from having melee uptime, most notable Subtlety rogues knew this was going to be really good for the spec because of the snowball effect. It also meant that Stiletto Staccato reduces the cooldown of Shadow Blades a lot more, resulting in even more combo points.

I wanted to bring it up because it is a core mechanic to this spec, and knowing how to maximize the usage of your combo points will go a long way. It will also help you think about the spec in a more advanced way instead of the usual; “this does more damage, this has to be good”. 

A lot of the time you have to ask yourself if the extra damage you gain is worth a potential loss of combo points.

Pandemic

Subtlety has two abilities affected by the pandemic timer (30% of the duration), Rupture and Slice and Dice. Most modern Weakaura packages come with a check for pandemic on these abilities, but if you do not have that, these are the timers:

Whenever they are within the pandemic window, it is safe to refresh them.

Funnel

Funnel is one of our niche strengths. Although it is a shadow of its former self, Subtlety Funnel is still worth pursuing whenever possible. In short, Funnel means that you are using the many targets around you to focus down a single target. This works extremely well on Subtlety for a few reasons.

  • Shuriken Storm gives 1 guaranteed combo point per target nearby, giving you an easy way to keep getting full combo points with enough targets nearby
  • Eviscerate does a lot of damage for an ability that you can use every 2 seconds when doing Funnel rotation
  • Our Shadow Dance cooldown has close to full uptime when we can build and spend every second, increasing our damage by 15%

The way you play during Funnel is honestly quite simple. First, you want to make sure your priority target has the Find Weakness debuff through either Shuriken Storm or by using a Shadowstrike. Then you just rotate Shuriken Storm into Eviscerate while keeping your Shadow Dance, Symbols of Death, Flagellation, and Shadow Blades up whenever possible.

If you play for priority damage only, it is also worth using Shadowstrike instead of Shuriken Storm, and this applies up to 4 targets. At 5 targets nearby or more, you just Shuriken Storm instead into Eviscerate.

Survivability

Rogue, in general, is probably one of the most sturdy DPS classes in the game, possibly only rivaled by Fire Mages, Balance Druids and Demonology Warlocks.

Playing around this fact is often underrated when it comes to DPS. We can do things that few other classes would get away with. Limit testing with FeintCloak, and Cheat Death is one of the first things I do when testing bosses on PTR.

How much can you get away with before it becomes a problem for both healers and your life?

It is not always necessary to play on the brink of death. In Sanctum of Domination it has absolutely not been the case. But some encounters will require you to optimize your own DPS, and knowing how much damage you can take before being at risk is an invaluable skill.

Movement

I won't say too much about this, but I will say that any good Subtlety rogue knows how to get the most out of Sprint and Shadowstep.

  • Getting that extra melee or ability off before having to move by stepping a ranged DPS
  • Sprint and gap close with Shadowstep
  • Avoid knockbacks with Shadowstep
  • When playing Venthyr you can plan your Door of Shadows to be used in conjunction with cast-time mechanics to reduce downtime

There are at least some ways to optimize your DPS in most fights by using Shadowstep just before an AoE mechanic is about to go off.