Friday, November 16, 2007

A beginner's guide to the Arena for Rogues

Here are a few things I've learned about my class after a couple of months in the Arena (as such, it's probably incorrect on many fronts, but I'm just offering this for beginner Rogues). My best rating so far is 1640, so it's really laughable and I'm aware I haven't even scratched the surface of the complexity of the Rogue class. This guide is also very Rogue-centric and ignores pretty much all the other classes, but that alone would take a book (or a future chapter).

Be nice to me and offer constructive ways in which I could improve. Thanks!

In the Arena, I see my role principally as disrupting healing. Killing the healer is a nice side effect, but it's not mandatory: if you can pester him long enough for the rest of your team to kill at least another one of his teammates, you now have a good edge on the encounter.

There are many ways you can disrupt a caster, mostly with a mix of stunlocking and kicking. If on top of that you spec with Preparation (which resets most of your major cooldowns, on a 10mn cooldown so typically usable once per Arena match), you are basically doubling most of your abilities (and principally: vanish, which allows you to do another full opener sequence during the fight).


  • Cheap Shot (only in stealth). Basic opener that immobilizes your opponents and gives you 2 points and a few more seconds to decide what to do next (should be 4 seconds but usually mitigated by your target). I usually use these seconds to land a Hemorrhage (increases the damage for 30 charges) and a Ghostly Strike (20 sec cooldown). Substitute with Sinister Strike if you don't have GS, or maybe another Hemo so you don't have to refresh it too soon.

  • Gouge. Must be done facing the target and stuns the target for a few seconds (can be extended with talents). It seems to be frowned upon in the Arena (and usually not improved by a spec) but I find it useful at my level when all my other stunlocks are on cooldown. I also choose this when I don't have enough points on the target to justify a Kidney Shot.

  • Kidney Shot. The most durable stunlock that can work for at most 6 seconds with 5 points. Unfortunately on a 20 sec cooldown, so always try to maximize the number of points you have before using it.

  • Blind. Very convenient since it can be cast remotely. Usually my choice of stunlocking when the target is away from me (or I haven't reached them yet) but not too far. When they are too far, I resort to...

  • Deadly Throw. This one requires points to be on the target, but if you have the +2 bonus set of HWL, it will interrupt (and possibly silence) the target for a couple of seconds. This is very powerful (and I don't use it enough) especially when you started putting points on the target but they start walking away and because you're immobilized or slowed down, you no longer have melee access to them. Definitely worthy of a quick access key binding. In a nutshell: if the target is <>
Another major weapon of the Rogue is, of course, Kick, which has a ten seconds cooldown (second only to Shaman's Earth Shock: six seconds) and can be improved by a spec to also silence the target.

For a typical rush down approach (unload all your cooldowns on this first target in an attempt to kill it or at least to scare it and cause it to panic, i.e. cause a Pally to bubble):

Cheap Shot, Hemo, Sinister or Ghostly Strike, Gouge (to refresh the stunlock), a couple more damages (SS/GS) then Kidney Shot. When a few seconds have elapsed and the target is about to come back to life, decide if they're harmed enough. If I need more stunlocking, I then vanish and do it again. Of course, the cycle will be a bit disturbed because some abilities will be on cooldown, so it won't work as well, but there is room for variations.

What I'm still trying to master is timing. I have Quartz bars prominently sitting in the middle of my display and I now try to chain all these abilities to make sure I don't waste any tenth of a second. This requires a lot of work since you need to take into account your energy as it ticks up ("my target will awaken in a second, do I have enough energy to squeeze in another SS or should I Kidney Shot right now so I have enough energy for the next cycle?").

Another thing I learned pretty quickly: make sure you don't have any dots on before you vanish. If you need another long-lasting stealth, just use Cloak of Shadows to clear the dots (it might not clear them all...). Sometimes, I just need stealth to enable another Cheap Shot or clear me from the pet's target, so the dots check is unnecessary and I just Vanish and go ahead with my sequence.

Preparation (reset of most cooldowns) is extremely powerful but I still find myself trying to figure out when to use it best. The ideal situation is to *not* use Prep until all the cooldowns it resets have been burned. It sounds very simple, but of course, during a fight, things are not always that easy. Maybe you already vanished once and you absolutely positively need to vanish again, except that it's going to waste one Evasion and one Sprint, which you haven't used yet... It's all about art, reflexes and memorization: yes, you need to keep a mental track of which cooldowns you've used so far.

Like all classes, breaking snares is also very important for a Rogue. The trinket is mandatory, I also use Will of the Forsaken quite often (yeah Undeads). Sprint can also be specced to break snares (and it's reset by Prep!). Use these with caution: you will be snared and feared a lot during a fight, and it's not always worth it to break it right away. This is a mistake that I'm still making as of today, and I still need to understand when it's okay to eat a shot in order to save the cooldown for when it will be really useful. Another good example of this dilemma is Cloak of Shadows: you've just received a couple of dots from a Lock, you'd better resist the temptation to use CoS because you can be sure that a few more dots are on their way (you could also question the wisdom of burning CoS on Lock dots at all since they will most likely be renewed as soon as you purge them... except that you can go out of sight or vanish!).

Poisons are also critical to a Rogue. Basically, the only ones I have found useful in the Arena are Crippling (slows the target), Mind-numbing (makes them cast slower) and Wound (reduces the healing they receive). Ideally, you'd like to only apply poisons once you've identified the other team, but in practice, I'm not sure teams really do that.

I keep going back and forth between these three poisons. It seems to me Crippling can benefit all my team members (not just me), so I tend to have it on all the time on one of my blades (see below for "which one"). Since I usually rush healers, I tend to prefer using Mind-numbing, since it gives my cooldowns a little bit more time to become active again so I can interrupt them. Cloth healers usually don't have enough time to even cast a heal on themselves, so Wound poison seems to be a little less useful to me, but it can come in handy for the other target(s) once you're done with the first one. Note also that Paladins will bubble when they feel threatened, so Wound poisons can be effective against them (as long as it doesn't get purged, of course).

Rogues have an interesting ability called Shiv that automatically applies your off-hand poison to the target, thereby forcing you to make an intelligent choice on where to put what. In my experience, both poisons end up landing on my target within a few seconds of the engagement, so I haven't found much use to this, but this is probably due to the fact that most teams we've been facing so far are about our level (read: suck) and don't purge as fast as they should. If they do, repeated Shivs might be a winning strategy, thereby making the choice of which poison to put on which blade critical.

One word on your user interface. I have created a special bar that contains all my important cooldowns. I positioned this bar pretty much in the middle of my screen. This is just a "read-only" bar. I don't use it to click (you shouldn't be clicking anything in the Arena anyway, keyboard only!). I've found this very useful since these cooldowns are scattered on my other bars for historical and reflex reasons.

I also mentioned Quartz, but any other similar mod will work. Whatever you choose, be sure that it will accurately show you how much longer your Cheap Shot or Blind will work. I'm also testing a symmetric add-on called Witch Hunt which displays what all the players around me are casting (interestingly: not just my current target, *everyone*). I haven't really leveraged this information so far, but time will tell if I start tapping into it.

I also modified and improved my keyboard binding to put important PvP functions (such as Evasion or Cloak of Shadows) right under my fingers. I haven't talked about either of these, by the way, it will be for another time.

1 comment:

Elistana said...

Your on a great path to getting a good rating. You definitely understand a lot of the utility of the rogue and with Subtlety in your spec you can really take full advantage of that.

One thing that can definitely help you in your quest for knowlege is possibly hitting up the other forums and asking other classes what hurts them the most. They can teach you a lot about yourself. That and of course dueling or running more and more arenas...

Nice article!