Assassination Rogue rotation – getting the most out of your rogue’s priority system

As an Assassination Rogue, rotation is everything. More precisely, priorities are everything, since rogues no longer use strict rotation systems. After mastering the two most crucial aspects of your chosen class and role – how many S’s are in ‘assassination’ and how to spell ‘rogue’ – you’ll want to maximize your DPS and your raid usefulness by trimming your priority system into a lean, mean, dirty-fighting machine. Here’s our quick and easy guide to the Assassination Rogue priority system in Cataclysm.

Start as you mean to go on

You’ll start the fight with a pretty simple rotation, but after that you’ll be working on a priority system. Your rotation for the start of a fight is, in order:

  1. Make sure that you’re in Stealth.
  2. Make sure that you’ve applied poisons to all of your weapons. Your main hand weapon should have Instant Poison, and your off-hand weapon should have Deadly Poison.
  3. Make sure you’ve used Tricks of the Trade on the tank.
  4. Use Garotte, but only if you can get into position quickly.
  5. Use Mutilate if you can’t get into position for Garotte.
  6. Immediately burn your 1 combo point from Garotte (or your 2 points from Mutilate) on Slice and Dice.
  7. Move to your priority system.

Get your priorities right

Your priority system for a standard boss fight is reasonably simple, being formed around maintaining buffs and DoTs, and making decisions based on the number of combo points you have available.

In order, from highest priority to lowest, here’s what you should be doing:

  • Mutilate takes top priority, but only if you have no combo points. Exchange this for Backstab once the boss gets below 35% health.
  • Envenom – hit Envenom (burning through whatever combo points you have) if Slice and Dice is close to expiry. It’s critical to keep Slice and Dice active at all times, and if you have the talent Cut To The Chase (which you should do if you’re planning to play Assassination), the duration of Slice and Dice will be refreshed by a successful Envenom strike. Envenom only holds as high a priority as this when Slice and Dice needs to be refreshed.
  • Rupture – as with Envenom, this only enters the priority system if it’s associated buff needs to be refreshed. In this case, it’s the Rupture debuff itself. It’s a bigger DPS loss to have Rupture down for even a second than to use a lower-powered Rupture, so hit another Rupture whenever the debuff is close to expiry, no matter how many combo points you have.
  • Mutilate – If nothing needs refreshing, Mutilate is your go-to ability; however, you shouldn’t use Mutilate if you have more than 3 combo points.
  • If you have 4 or 5 combo points (and your energy isn’t at maximum), use Envenom rather than Mutilate.



The normal priority system doesn’t take account of long cooldowns (the sort of thing that you normally only get out once or twice per fight). Generally speaking, you’ll want to use these whenever they’re available, and they’ll take priority over everything except for maintaining Slice and Dice. Your major cooldowns actually complement each other very well, so you’ll probably want to string them together whenever you can.

  • Vanish, perhaps surprisingly, is a DPS cooldown, if only indirectly. It’ll allow you to get off another Garotte, first of all, but it will also proc the Overkill talent if you’ve specced for it. Follow it up with a Vendetta whenever you can.
  • Vendetta – increases your damage by 20% for 30 seconds. It’s on a relatively short 2 minute cooldown, so there’s no reason not to pop this whenever you can.
  • Cold Blood – gives 25 instant energy, and makes your next strike hit harder. Pop this immediately after Vendetta for maximum effect. The cooldown is the same – 2 minutes.

Remember that Garotte also silences, so in an emergency it can be used as a spell interrupt, albeit a rather cumbersome one.

For absolute maximum DPS, use a Potion of the Tol’Vir as another “cooldown”, preferably with Bloodlust.

Frequent mistakes that might be lowering your DPS

Not doing as much DPS as you think you should be? Here are a few tips:

  • Are you using Rupture or Garotte when they’re not going to run their full duration? In Heroics, it’s often more effective to skip your DoTs on any target that’s going to die in the next 15 seconds or so – just skip straight to Envenoms.
  • Are you using Fan of Knives on too few targets? FoK only really comes into its own on 3 targets minimum, preferably 4 or more.
  • Are you remembering to Backstab below 35%? This is a very, very easy thing to forget, and it’ll have a major effect on your DPS.
  • Are you letting Rupture drop off? You should never let Rupture go down for even a second if you can avoid it.
  • Are you using Envenom when Rupture’s about to drop? You’re better putting a four- or five-point Rupture on than getting an extra Envenom, provided you don’t cap Energy or lose CPs to do that.
  • Are you clipping Envenom? Envenom also gives you a buff, and if you use Envenoms too often, you’ll reduce your DPS by “clipping” the buff. This is not a huge loss, but it matters.

It’s also worth checking your spec, gems, glyphs and so on. Take a look at our 4.2 Guide for Assassination Rogue stats, rotation, reforging and glyphs for more information on getting the most out of your rogue.

Are you using a different priority system? Do you have any tips for Assassination Rogues? Let us know in the comments.

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