Subtlety Rogue Quick-Start Guide For WoW Patch 5.4 – Stats, talents and spec, glyphs, rotation, reforging and gems, and ability priorities

by on August 29, 2012

The few, the proud, the Subtlety Rogue PvE players. You’ll be glad to hear that after our rocky ride through Cataclysm, Subtlety is looking to come into WoW Patch 5.4 very strong! So, whether you’re a stubborn old-school Sub player or you’ve decided to try respeccing, here’s a guide to getting up to speed fast with your ability rotation, talents, glyphs, stat priorities, reforging and gems, so you can go out there and stab things. Subtly.

Updated 17th September 2013 to World of Warcraft Patch 5.4

Subtlety Rogue changes in Patch 5.4

Not a lot of changes.

Subtlety “Rotation” and Priorities

Sadly, we’re the only Rogue spec that still needs to be behind its target.

Single-target DPS

Open from Stealth. Use Premeditation, then Ambush as many times as possible, then go into your rotation:

  • If Slice and Dice is about to go down and you have combo points – use Slice And Dice. If Rupture is down and you have combo points, use Rupture.
  • If you have 5 combo points and Slice and Dice or Rupture is not about to go down, use Eviscerate.
  • If none of the above apply, Hemorrhage if the Hemorrhage debuff is about to or has gone down, use Backstab if at all possible otherwise, and Hemorrhage if not.

There are more complexities than this, but this will get you going and doing decent DPS. Also – remember, you have Kick (interrupt) and Feint (AOE protection). Do use these! A dead rogue can’t do DPS.


Use your single-target rotation. If fighting more than 6 enemies, attempt to keep the Crimson Tempest debuff up on them by sometimes using Crimson Tempest instead of Eviscerate. If you’re using Crimson Tempest, don’t bother with Rupture.


  • Shadow Dance Use whenever possible, and spam Ambush through it.
  • Shadow Blades Use as often as possible.
  • Vanish and Premeditation: A reasonably powerful DPS cooldown combo. Use Vanish, then Premeditation, then as many Ambushes as possible for a DPS and combo point boost. Start on 0 combo points, but otherwise use as often as possible.
  • Cloak of Shadows Powerful magic damage reduction cooldown – particularly useful for getting rid of dangerous effects. Now works 100% of the time!
  • Dismantle – Don’t forget about it! Any time a monster or boss can be disarmed, this is very powerful.
  • Tricks of the Trade – Boosts damage and transfers threat. Use it on the tank at the pull, and whenever it’s available.
  • Redirect – Remember to use this to move combo points when target-swapping.

You can also “Tricks Swap” with another rogue to boost both your DPS – but don’t do that without discussing it with your tank and raid leader first.


Use Deadly Poison on your weapon and the non-lethal poison of your choice for the encounter.

Subtlety Rogue Talent Choices

Tier 1 and 4 are basically locked in for Sub rogues. Feel free to experiment with the other tiers for your personal preference. Here’s a good general build:

  • Tier 1: Subterfuge
  • Tier 2: Combat Readiness – gives you another powerful defensive cooldown.
  • Tier 3: Cheat Death
  • Tier 4: Shadowstep – get behind your foe quicker!
  • Tier 5: Paralytic Poison
  • Tier 6: Anticipation

Stats, reforging and gemming for Subtlety Rogue

Other than getting to Hit and Expertise caps (and not above them) your stat weights are not hugely different, so it’s not too vital to get Reforging perfect. Priorities: Agility > Expertise and Hit to the caps (7.5% / 2550 rating) > Haste > Mastery > Critical Strike

Reforging: Reforge for Expertise and Hit to the caps, then Haste after that. Reforge from excess Hit and Expertise first, then Crit, then Mastery.
Gems: Delicate (Agility) gems in red sockets and other gem sockets with a less than 60 Agi bonus. Adept (Mastery/Agi) in yellow sockets and Glinting (Hit/Agi) in blue sockets otherwise.
Meta Gem: Agile meta gem.

Subtlety Glyphs

Here’s a good standard setup:

Major: Glyph of Redirect, Glyph of Feint, Glyph of Cloak of Shadows
Minor: Several fun Minor Glyphs (I like Blurred Speed) but no must-haves.

Subtlety Rogue enchants and item enhancements

You should almost always use a profession enhancement item if it provides appropriate stats instead of a general enchant.

  • Shoulder – Greater Tiger Claw Inscription
  • Cloak – Accuracy or Superior Critical Strike, depending on if you’re at hit cap.
  • Chest – Glorious Stats
  • Wrist – Greater Agility
  • Hands – Superior Expertise
  • Belt – Living Steel Belt Buckle
  • Legs – Shadowleather Leg Armor
  • Feet – Blurred Speed
  • Weapon – Enchant Weapon – Dancing Steel


A few guides for more detail:

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Hugh Hancock August 29, 2012 at 7:36 pm

MedievalKnieval over at Reddit made this excellent comment on Tier 3 talents for all rogues:

“I’d take leeching poison over cheat death as well. If you do your job right and your group isn’t failing cheat death will never come into play and since you can only have one lethal poison anyway you might as well use leeching to reduce pressure on your healers.

Leeching poison doesn’t take management, it fills an empty utility slot (non-lethal poison, since crippling and mind numbing are both useless in a raiding environment you’re left either using one poison or one of your poisons being useless) with a passive health gain. Consider that Recuperate is no longer required in the sub PvE rotation, that means sub rogues now require more healer attention than ever before, Leeching poison alleviates that at the cost of nothing.”

Definitely worth considering if you’re looking into talents!


Nistris October 10, 2012 at 1:47 am

Just a point about the ability priority for Subtlety Rogues. I’m fairly certain that Dispatch is an Assassination-only ability, as it replaces Sinister Strike for that specialization. Not sure if its a mistake, or if I’m missing something, but I figured I’d point it out, just to be safe.


Hugh Hancock October 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm

And in response, I’d just like to say “Derp. Herpy derp. Derp.”

You’re absolutely right, of course (well, Dispatch actually replaces Backstab for Assassination, but it is indeed not available in Subtlety). Fixing that now. Sorry about the mess-up there!


Solequin June 2, 2013 at 5:26 am

I’ve been out for some time and reading through this guide helped get me caught-up in short order. Thanks for the updates!


Hugh Hancock June 12, 2013 at 1:40 pm

No problem, glad it was useful!


Forrest December 12, 2013 at 5:36 am

Is there Haste and crit caps? If so hard or soft caps?


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