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Rogue Leveling Guide 30-49 (Combat)

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September 01 2010

Rogue Leveling Guide 30-49 (Combat)
by Psynister

Bullies. Thieves. Thugs. Pirates. Ninjas.


One of the deadliest DPS classes in the game, the Rogue plays an often vital role in any encounter you run into. In melee range they provide some of the most useful, and most reliable crowd control and interrupt capabilities out of every class in World of Warcraft. Rogues also provide a unique solo leveling experience with a tool set and play style that can easily take your playing experience to a whole new level; if you allow it to do so.

If you missed the first part of this series, you can find it at Rogue Leveling Guide 1-29 Combat.

Rogue-Specific Tips

Rogues have a few abilities that other classes do not have access to, and they’re also limited in play style based on weapons that they choose to use, where other classes are not. In the previous guide we spoke about many of the Rogue’s specific traits such as Energy, Combo Points, Openers/Combo Moves/Finishers, Weapon Types, Pick Pocket, and Lock Pick. Nothing really changes with those, so we’ll leave them alone from here on. We do have a few new ones to mention though, and we’ll go over the new types/ranks of poisons for this bracket.

At level 24 we gain the ability to Detect Traps, and at level 30 you get the ability to Disarm Traps. I really can’t think of anywhere that you’ll use either of these abilities outside of raiding. You have them, so don’t forget about them, but don’t plan on using them for a long time either. In PvP you will be able to find Hunter traps, so it can be useful there.

These are the new poisons (or ranks of existing poisons) available within this level range. All values are taken from the highest “rank” of the poison available in the level range discussed.

  • Instant Poison IV: Each strike has a chance of poisoning the enemy which instantly inflicts 45 + 10% of your AP Nature damage.
  • Deadly Poison III: Each strike has a 30% chance of poisoning the enemy for 56 + 12% of your AP Nature damage over 12 seconds. Stacks up to 5 times on a single target. Once stacked to 5 times, each application also causes the poison on the Rogue’s other weapon to apply.
  • Wound Poison III: Each strike has a chance of poisoning the enemy, causing 38 + 4% of your AP Nature damage and reducing all healing effects used on them by 50% for 15 seconds.

While I often still use Crippling Poison on my off-hand weapon, I’ve recently made myself rely more on my talent points for slowing mobs when they try to run in order to increase my DPS instead. If you’re looking for the DPS increase then I suggest either Deadly/Deadly, or Deadly/Instant. I haven’t found yet exactly which combination I prefer the most, and you should take into account the types of mobs you’re fighting when you choose. Some mobs are immune to the DoT effect from Deadly, for instance. Right now I’m leaning towards Deadly/Instant, but if you don’t have heirlooms and your fights take a bit longer then you may consider Deadly/Deadly to be sure the DoT effect is at full stacks as often as possible.

Important Spells and Abilities

Rogues have a pretty large collection of spells and abilities available to them, and it’s often hard to know or decide on which ones are actually best for you to use. Values are taken from the highest rank of each spell available within the 49 bracket, and are not modified in any way.

Kidney Shot: [25 Energy, 20 second cooldown] Finishing move that stuns the target. Lasts for 1 second per combo point consumed.
Blind: [30 Energy, 3 minute cooldown] Blinds the target, causing it to wander disoriented for up to 10 seconds. Any damage caused will remove the effect.
Safe Fall: [Passive] Reduces damage from falling.

Kidney Shot isn’t going to be used a whole lot as Combat as we’re not the stun-locking spec. I use it mostly as an Interrupt for spell casters when Kick isn’t available, or when I pull additional mobs and I just need to shut one of them down for a few seconds to bandage. The benefit to Kidney Shot, and why I keep it on my action bars anyway, is that when a target is stunned damage doesn’t break them out of it where our other CC abilities of Gouge and Blind are both broken by damage. And if you’re using Deadly Poison then DoT from its damage will break those effects.

Blind is an excellent addition to your toolset. I prefer to use it on casters when fighting multiple mobs so that I can keep them out of the fight until I can focus on them, or when I know I’ve pulled too many mobs and just need one to leave me alone while I focus on the others. I don’t save my cooldowns on my Rogue like I do on basically every other class, and even though this isn’t really an Oh Crap button that needs to be saved for emergencies, it’s one that I like to make frequent use of because it’s just so handy to have.

Safe Fall deserves a mention simply because I really enjoy jumping off of things (occasionally to my death), as my main characters tend to be Mages who can Slowfall off of anything at all for easy travelling and such. It’s a passive ability, so it works by default anytime you fall, but you might as well do some experimenting with it to find out how far you can fall without taking damage and how far you can fall and still live. Sometimes as a Rogue you’re left with only two options, runaway or die, and sometimes that means jumping off of the nearest cliff and casting Sprint to hope you can run away from those five casters you just grabbed.

Other than those, there’s not a whole lot of change here from the previous guide. Sinister Strike is your main combo point generating spell, and Eviscerate is your default finishing move. After level 20 S&D becomes quite a bit more useful as mobs increase in health. Since I’m dual wielding heirlooms with Crusader enchants on them, it didn’t really help me until closer to level 30, but if you don’t have that luxury then you’ll want to get used to using S&D a lot sooner than that. Basically, get a combo point, spend it on S&D, build more combo points and spend them all on Eviscerate. If you find that S&D is wearing off before the mob is dead, then you might want to use it after 2 combo points instead of 1.

The increased speed from S&D is going to allow you to deal more damage from the increased attack speed (obviously), but also greatly increase your damage and application of poisons. After spending a few of our talent points towards the end of this level bracket, we’re also going to increase the rate of our Energy regeneration from attacks with our off hand weapon, and that’s when it really starts to shine.

Leveling a Combat Rogue

  • No Stealth Rotation: Sinister Strike, Slice & Dice, Sinister Strike x5, Eviscerate
  • Stealth Rotation: Garrote/Cheap Shot, Slice & Dice, Sinister Strike x5, Eviscerate

In the above rotations, any time I mention “Sinister Strike x5” I’m actually saying to use SS until you’ve got 5 combo points. With the Glyph of Sinister Strike you have a chance for it to generate 2 combo points instead of 1, so you can sometimes get to 5 combo points with only 3 attacks. When you get 5 combo points, make sure you burn them off with Eviscerate instead of just spamming SS more or you’re wasting the combo points that it would have generated.

The first rotation up there is the one that I use on all non-humanoids (because most of them can’t be pick pocketed), involving just running up to the mob and laying into them. Use SS to get a combo point to fuel your S&D and then switch to SS spam until you reach 5 combo points and then burn them off with Eviscerate.

The second rotation is what I use against humanoids and other mobs that you can use Pick Pocket on. I do use Garrote now and then, but for the most part I stick with Cheap Shot just because of the survivability aspect of it. Use the combo points from the opener to fuel your S&D and then go back to the bread and butter SS/Evis spam as always. Once you get to level 30 or so you’ll want to start building a full 5 combo points before using Eviscerate because of the increase in the health of mobs you’re going to fight.

  • No Stealth AoE: Sinister Strike, Slice & Dice, Adrenaline Rush, Blade Flurry, (Evasion), Sinister Strike x5, Eviscerate
  • Stealth AoE: Cheap Shot/Ambush, Slice & Dice, Adrenaline Rush, Blade Flurry, (Evasion), Sinister Strike x5, Eviscerate

These are the two “AoE” rotations that I suggest, which is what I suggest you use for when you face three or more mobs. I always like to push my limits and see how many mobs I can handle so that I get comfortable in those situations, because AoE is one of my favorite parts of this game.

If you’re not in stealth when you do an AoE type pull, you want to be sure you get Slice & Dice going and you want to keep it up.  So start off with a SS/S&D combination to get the fast attack speeds going and then it’s time to turn up the heat. Since you just used around half of your available energy you want to start off with Adrenaline Rush to get that regen sped up and then add in Blade Flurry to make your attacks hit multiple targets. Use Evasion if you feel like you’re going to need it, I’d say on average you’ll want it with 4 or more mobs or possibly 3 or more if one of them is a caster. From there you’re going to switch to SS/Evis spam to kill the mobs off. If S&D wears of and you’ve still got more than 2 mobs alive then SS/S&D again to get it back up.

The second rotation is your preferred one in an AoE situation, because from Stealth you can Sap at least one of them (hopefully) and then have one less target during the big melee where you’re taking the most damage. After you Sap a target, make sure you wait in stealth until you have all of your energy back so that you don’t go into the fight short handed. With the advantage of stealth in AoE situations you want to start off with either Cheap Shot or Ambush because both of those openers give you 2 combo points instead of just 1, which gives your S&D longer uptime. From there you do exactly the same as the non-stealth rotation by popping your cooldowns and then switching to SS/Evis spam to kill them all off.

The next section will go into a little bit more detail on how to handle AoE combat.

Tips for Combat Rogue “AoE”

Rotations are all fine and good, but we all know that even the best rotation only lasts until combat actually begins. It’s good to know the basics of what you’re going to do and in what order, but sometimes things just don’t go your way either because the mobs have abilities you didn’t know about (like knock downs, stuns, or disarms), because additional mobs that you didn’t see or weren’t expecting get pulled into the fight right in the middle, or because another player does something to throw things out of order.

So now we’re going to talk about some of the specifics and how-tos of handling AoE fights as a Combat Rogue.

Crowd Control

Crowd Control is often times the deciding factor in whether you live or die. If you use it, chances are high that you’re going to survive an otherwise deadly encounter, while if you don’t then you may easily be overwhelmed by what should have been a simple fight. Rogues have a lot of options for crowd control, and you should be ready to put them to use when necessary.

First up on the CC list is Sap, because it has no cooldown, it can be used on most of the mobs that you’ll face while questing, it lasts longer than all of your other CC and it’s the only CC we have that will not force you directly into combat (by default). After you’ve sapped your chosen target, move into position for the one you’re going to attack first and wait until your Energy bar is back to full before you begin. Sap lasts a long time, so there’s no need to rush into combat with only half of your energy when there’s no reason to do so. You probably don’t need a reminder, but Sap requires stealth to use it, and your target cannot be in combat or it won’t work.

Second, we’re going to talk about another stealth move, Cheap Shot. It stuns the target for 4 seconds and gives you 2 combo points for using it. I like to use this one to start off my AoE because I can use the 2 points to fuel a longer Slice & Dice, and the target I use it on is also out of the fight during the stun duration. Generally I’ll go ahead and kill off the stunned target first so that they don’t get a chance to deal much damage to me before they’re dead, but sometimes I’ll Cheap Shot a melee and then focus my initial assault on a nearby caster.

The next ability I want to mention is Blind, because it has the second longest duration at 10 seconds, or until they take damage. Blind will work on a lot of the mobs that even Sap does not, and it doesn’t require stealth for you to use it. I prefer to use it on a caster if I’m facing more than one, or on a heavy hitting mob if not; otherwise any old target will do.

Next up is Gouge, which incapacitates a target for 4 seconds or until they take damage. Gouge requires you to be in front of the target you use it one, which isn’t that big of a deal, but it is something you need to be aware of at times. I generally use this on a caster because spells will kill us faster than melee in most cases, but any target is acceptable.

The other ability I want to mention in relation to attack moves is Kidney Shot, which uses your combo points on the target to stun them for a number of seconds equal to the number of combo points used. Any CC is better than no CC, so even if you have to use this with only a single combo point it can often give you the short break you need to down a potion or get even a single healing tick off of a bandage.


There are three main cooldowns I’m going to talk about here, Adrenaline Rush, Blade Flurry, and Evasion.

You generally want to use both Adrenaline Rush and Blade Flurry together because they just go together so perfectly. You also want to make sure you have a Slice & Dice up beforehand or shortly after so that you can take extra advantage of Blade Flurry’s extra attacks by getting more of them in within its duration. Sometimes you may want to use them separately, and that’s perfectly fine as well.

If I find myself facing a lot of casters for example, I like to save the Blade Flurry for a few seconds and start off instead with Adrenaline Rush so that I can use multiple CC abilities on the casters before I use Blade Flurry when I settle in on the target(s) that I want to kill first. So I will Sap one caster, Cheap Shot another, Blind a third, and then close back in on the Cheap Shot target (using Slice & Dice from the 2 combo points on them) and then use Blade Flurry on them and hopefully a melee target that closed in with me as well.

Evasion is one you need to make a judgement call on. If you’re only taking on 2-3 mobs, then you may not need to bother with it, but if you’re fighting more than that then you probably do. I like to save it until I’ve got all of the melee mobs actually in range to hit me, but if you’re taking a decent amount of damage then you might want to pop it earlier. Get used to using it in AoE situations and it shouldn’t take you too long to get a feel for when and where you need to activate it.

Poisons and CC

Another topic we need to mention here is Poisons. Because some of our CC breaks when the target takes damage, you want to make sure you don’t use those abilities on targets that are taking damage from your Deadly Poison or they will break out of the CC as soon as they take damage.

Gouge and Blind are the two that you’re going to waste if you have Deadly Poison ticking away on the target, so be mindful of those. Cheap Shot and Kidney Shot are both stuns, so they do not break on damage dealt. Sap also breaks on damage, but you should always leave a sapped target for the last unless there’s some crazy reason for you not to.

Talent Points and Glyphs

The following values are taken directly from the talented values and are not modified in any way. Click here for levels 1-29 if you haven’t seen them yet.

  • Blade Flurry 1/1: [25 Energy, 2 min cooldown] Increases your attack speed by 20%. In addition, attacks strike an additional nearby opponent. Lasts 15 seconds.
  • Aggression 5/5: Increases the damage of your Sinister Strike, Backstab, and Eviscerate abilities by 15%.
  • Blade Twisting 2/2: Increases the damage dealt by Sinister Strike and Backstab by 10%, and your damaging melee attacks have a 10% chance to Daze the target for 8 seconds.
  • Weapon Expertise 2/2: Increases your Expertise by 10.
  • Adrenaline Rush 1/1: [3 min cooldown] Increases your Energy regeneration rate by 100% for 15 seconds.
  • Vitality 3/3: Increases your Energy regeneration rate by 25%.
  • Improved Slice and Dice 1/2: Increases the duration of your Slice and Dice by 25%.

Blade Flurry (level 30) is one of our signature abilities, allowing us to perform the only Rogue AoE prior to level 80.  It’s more like poorman’s AoE, really, as you’re only hitting one additional target, but you can lay down some serious DPS with this thing, especially when combined with this next one - Adrenaline Rush (level 40), which doubles your Energy regeneration for 15 seconds, allowing you to build combo points and deal damage at an exceptional rate. I generally pop both of these abilities at the same time and start shredding whatever’s in front of me.

Aggression finally gives us another talent focused purely on increasing our DPS rather than survival or utility. Combat doesn’t often use Backstab, as SS/Evis are our bread and butter attacks, so 15% damage increase on those two is pretty big. Blade Twisting gives us another 10% damage boost to SS, and the Daze effect is a pretty decent substitute for Crippling Poison if you’ve been using it, so you can get more aggressive with your poisons without having to worry too much about runners. I couldn’t find what the proc rate is for this talent, but I notice it quite a bit during combat so I would think it’s pretty high, but I haven’t monitored it strictly to see how frequent it really is.

Vitality increases our default Energy regeneration by 25%, allowing us to kill things faster by having more energy available. 25% isn’t a huge amount, but it’s enough to make a difference, especially in boss fights or in chain pulling or large groups where you’re not able to dispatch all of your opponents in a single Energy bar’s worth of attacks. Improved Slice and Dice only gets one point for now so that we can move further down the tree, but it is a great ability for us to use in combat, so increasing its duration is never a bad thing.

Combat Potency is our other big Energy regeneration skill, and it’s the reason we’ve been taking so many of these talents that increase our hit and expertise. Every time our off-hand weapon hits it has a chance to restore 15 Energy. Again, I can’t find a definitive answer an how high the proc rate is, but I see it a lot in my own play so it seems to be a pretty high chance. This is also the reason why you want a fast off-hand weapon, such as a dagger, and the faster the better.

Gearing Your Rogue

Priority of stats hasn’t changed for us:

If you have access to heirlooms:
Agility > Attack Power > Crit > Hit > Haste > Stamina > Strength

If you do not have access to heirlooms:
Agility > Stamina > Attack Power > Hit > Crit > Haste > Strength

I’ve had a lot of people question my choice of heirlooms for the rogue class in my Guide to Heirloom Purchases, about why I suggest the Sharpened Scarlet Kris over the Balanced Heartseeker for the off-hand weapon, and the weapon speed is the reason.

With the Combat Potency talent that we pick up in our upper 40s, your off-hand weapon speed plays a big role in how much damage you can deal, and how quickly. The difference between the two heirloom daggers is only 0.2 speed, but I have both of them for my Rogue and I end up with higher DPS using the Kris than I do the BH, so I’ve made the change permanent. I did use the HB as my off-hand for a long time, most of my leveling up to the mid 30’s, and that’s where I started to experiment with the different weapon combinations.

I’ve tried Venerable Mass x2, Venerable Mass + Heartseeker, Venerable Mass + Scarlet Kris, and Heartseeker + Scarlet Kris, and the Mass/Kris combo is the one that gives me the best results on DPS so that’s what I’m going to stick with. The Heartseeker does give better stats overall with Hit, Agility, and higher Attack Power, but the extra survivability from the Kris’s Stamina (and to a lesser extent, it’s Resilience) really helps for situations where you’re fighting multiple mobs. At level 45 I can consistently fight six mobs ranging from level 47-50 at once with my Rogue when either my defensive or offensive cooldowns are available, and that extra Stamina comes in handy in those situations.

As always, go with whatever works best for you, don’t just use something because I told you to. If you find that you do better with the Heartseeker than you do with the Kris, then by all means use it. At some level ranges I found that using dual Venerable Masses was the best route for me to take and so I did. If you have access to multiple heirloom weapons, then try them all. If you don’t, then these are my suggestions from my own experience and research I’ve done on the class.

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Buddha's avatar
Buddha 10:07am, 09/01/2010

As with the first guide, Jason… excellent work.

Seriously, you’re making it very difficult for me to wait until Cataclysm to level a rogue.

It’s too bad that so much of leveling nowadays is through random dungeons, however Rogues perform so poorly until they finally get their proper AoE (Fan of Knives)... at which point they have massive AoE DPS and very deadly single target DPS.

Psynister's avatar
Psynister 10:39am, 09/01/2010

When you look at it, there’s no denying that Random Dungeons are 95% (or more) AoE, plain and simple. You AoE the trash packs and you zerg the bosses, and that’s the sad, sad end of the story.

I’ve done very few dungeons with my rogue because of the fact that they’re single target almost exclusively. Combat at least gets to hit two at once every few minutes, but that’s not really saying all that much. Instead I’m sticking to quests and PvP, though surprisingly less PvP than normal for me considering it’s a Rogue of all things.

I’m having a blast though, and I can’t wait to try out some of the new changes that Cataclysm is going to bring to the table for Rogues as well.

Buddha's avatar
Buddha 07:58am, 09/02/2010

The only downside to that is that you aren’t leveling as fast.  And I feel that’s one thing that Rogues need help with, is leveling faster.

Perhaps it’s different with a Combat spec, as there’s more survivability, however as Subtlety… damn… takes forever to level.

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