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Subtlety Rogue in Shadowlands - DPS Strengths, Best Covenants, Soulbinds and Legendaries
17.11.2020 um 01:56
Shadowlands launches on November 23rd / 24th and all classes will be getting new toys to play with -- from Covenant abilities, to Conduits and returning Legendary effects! This article, written by Undad, will provide details on the current state of Subtlety Rogue in Shadowlands, to help you to prepare for the upcoming expansion!
About the Author
Hi everyone, this is Undad! I am primarily a multi-class PvE player who mains Rogue. You may recognize me from many loser PoVs throughout all of BFA’s MDI seasons. You can find me on
, and I'm fairly active in the
I’ve spent countless hours exploring the PvE aspects of the Shadowlands Beta in the past few months. I've primarily been playing Rogue, and am happy to share my thoughts with you here! Please remember, that things can still and likely will change a bit between now and the release date. In a few places I’ll be sharing my opinions. Keep in mind that it’s precisely that, my opinion.
First Things First
Let’s briefly catch up any of you returning players on where exactly Subtlety stands in the Shadowlands pre-patch. At its core, the playstyle of this spec is still very similar to the way its functioned since the Legion reworks. Pre-Patch has not changed much yet other than numerical tuning and a slight shift in how
interacts with your spells. The new fun stuff has us Rogues waiting until Shadowlands launch to get our hands on, which is what I’ll be discussing here in this article. This will include Covenants, Legendaries, and a handful of new passive and active abilities you’ll progressively unlock!
Below you can find the initial “State of” article published early in the Alpha, along with the class guide. Please note that the class guide will be the most accurate source of information for you when the expansion launches.
State of Rogues
Subtlety Rogue Guide
The loss of your Heart of Azeroth, and with it your major and minor essences, will likely be the first thing you notice entering the Shadowlands. While jarring, your gameplay stays pretty similar with 2 easy talent changes. The biggest thing you’ll notice is the lack of
Erinnerung an den Klartraum
minor. You will have significantly less energy available to you without this essence. Additionally, Azerite Traits will be going away. This will mean shorter
Symbole des Todes
, as well as less combo points caused by the loss of
Der erste Tanz
I mentioned before that you can accommodate this loss of resources relatively easily through some quick talent swaps. This is what I would recommend for a leveling build. Below I’ll walk through what I’d change once you hit level 60 as well.
Notable options and max level changes:
remains the strongest pick in Multi-Target. If you’re playing the
Legendary Effect (we’ll talk about these later), then this can remain the best talent in Single-Target as well, but you’ll have to sim your character to be certain. If you choose NOT to run Finality,
will be the move in Single-Target situations.
being chosen is a direct result of the loss of
Erinnerung an den Klartraum
, and will be taken in all content.
will be taken in all end game PvE content. I just take
while leveling because it speeds the process up quite a bit.
Von der Schippe springen
will likely be taken in all end game content, with one big exception. I think
is INSANE in Torghast, as Rogue’s biggest struggle in solo content has always been sustain. This talent effectively removes that weakness so I think it’s a great pick.
This is certainly a preference row but I want to mention that
Schuss im Dunklen
is massive in Mythic Plus, so give it a try if you haven’t yet in Pre-Patch.
Meister der Schatten
will remain the go-to for most raid encounters. Perhaps in later tiers at the highest ranks of the
conduit this will also be the case in Mythic Plus, but for now
still reigns supreme.
Let’s get into the good stuff now. Subtlety is a spec that feels like it becomes complete while leveling in Shadowlands. The whole of reliable AoE damage has finally been filled, and poises the spec to be much more reliable in Mythic Plus!
comes right away at level 52, and gives Subtlety an AoE finishing move! At this point it’s not super powerful, and will only really be used at 6+ targets, or when you want to do perfect even cleave damage. That’s okay though, because it gets a buff in a few more levels! Earlier on in the Beta, this ability was called Shadow Vault, and had an animation lock similar to Windwalker Monk's
. It's worth noting that this has since been removed,
comes next as your first new class-wide spell. While this doesn’t provide any additional damage, it’s still super exciting. This kind of utility, while not unique, is massively powerful in mythic plus if you find yourself not needing
, which is often the case. This will likely be one of the more overlooked utilities Rogue brings to dungeons, as it doesn’t show up on meters, but the damage reduction provided for your tank through this is absolutely massive. Additionally, this gives you the ability to remove enrage effects from targets with
while this poison is applied, and thank god for that. Rogues certainly needed more utility to help their viability in dungeons.
(Rank 2) comes next, and provides yet another buff to your AoE damage. This combined with the Rank 2 of
Symbole des Todes
you already have, ensures a powerful burst window every 30 seconds in both Single and Multi Target scenarios. This also helps push Critical Strike up as a very valued stat for Subtlety.
Last but not least, you’ll learn
(Rank 2). This is the same effect that we already have on
that causes targets affected by
to take 50% additional Shadow damage from this ability. This is kind of the final piece of Exodia, that allows Subtlety to finally compete in AoE damage, rather than being a funnel specialist all the time. Once you unlock this, Black Powder will replace any Eviscerate casts at 3+ targets, and be your spammed finisher at 5+.
Ah yes, the infamous Covenants. After reaching level 60 you’ll be given the privilege to choose your allegiance to one of 4 Covenants to align yourself with. Each of these is associated with each of the 4 Shadowlands zones and will impact your characters playstyle through Covenant Class Abilities, Signature Abilities, and Soulbinds. Here’s what that means for Subtlety Rogue specifically.
The Kyrian of Bastion will empower your Rogue with the ability to use
. This ability, while complex in wording, is actually fairly simple to use. The ability itself simply does damage and generates 2 Combo Points for a very low cost. Upon use, your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Combo Point will be chosen at random to become “Animacharged”. The next time this Animacharge combo point is used on a damage dealing finisher, it will be as if 7 combo points were spent. This will only have a fairly slight impact on gameplay, as eventually you will land on the correct combo point just through executing your rotation normally. It is not a gain to try to manipulate your combo points in an inefficient way in order to use this Animacharge earlier. You will simply enjoy the benefit of a very long duration
or a big
hit, depending on when you use the effect.
Initially, I felt that this ability was “clunky” and didn’t quite fit into Rogue gameplay given the randomness of combo point generation due to
. The clunkiness is certainly the most apparent as Subtlety, given the “randomness” of
. The more you play with it the more you’ll get used to it though, and in a bit of time it begins to feel rather normal and just slightly annoying at worst.
The conduit for this ability is
. While this effect is not bad, there are other more powerful conduits you will likely use in place of it. We’ll discuss these in detail further into the article.
Secondly, the Kyrian Covenant will grant access to
, who when summoned will bring you a
Phiole des Gleichmuts
, along with allowing you to change your talents without the use of a
Foliant des ausgeglichenen Gemüts
, and compliment one of your friends! I commonly refer to the Phial as a Cloak of Healthstoneform, as it combines the effects of many other useful defensive spells into one. Importantly, it also does not share a cooldown with
, making this an extremely powerful item in both raiding and mythic plus alike. Even in situations where you can’t make good use of the debuff removal, or where
Mantel der Schatten
is already useful enough, having an extra health potion can very well save your life.
The Necrolords of Maldraxxus offer aspiring Rogues the use of
. This short cooldown, charge-based ability deals low damage initially, but leaves a permanent Bleed on the target. Additionally, it will generate more combo points per Bone Spike you have out already. It’s worth noting the Bleed is only removed if the target either heals to full HP, or dies. Upon removal through either of these methods, you will be refunded a charge and can reapply the Bone Spike to a new target.
This ability fits into the rotation rather smoothly as simply an extremely efficient way to spend your energy when building combo points, and replaces either a
periodically. It feels especially nice at the beginning of a mythic plus pull, before you’ve been able to stabilize your energy. Casting three Bone Spikes generates you 6 combo points for only 30 energy as long as they’re on 3 different targets!
can be used to empower the Bleed portion of this ability, causing it to sometimes deal damage twice. At lower ranks and current tuning this will likely not be used, however it looks to scale well into later ranks so keep an eye out for this to potentially change.
Finally, the Signature Ability of the Necrolords is
. The strength of this shield can be empowered by consuming nearby corpses, and additional effects can be added through Soulbind traits if you choose to align yourself with the Necrolords. The ability itself can find some use defensively, but is generally pretty lackluster. With that said, some of the enhancements in the Soulbind tree can shift the power more favorably.
If you choose to side with the Night Fae of Ardenweald, your Subtlety Rogue will gain access to
. This ability applies a Poison DoT that deals high damage, and “pops” for a moderate hit on expiration. If the “pop” damage is allowed to occur before the target dies, you will gain access to an additional
cast. If the target dies prematurely, the cooldown on the ability will be reduced. Typically you’ll want to use this on cooldown and intend for the DoT to tick its full duration. An exception to this would be when using the Niya soulbind in dungeons. Trying to “snipe” dying targets to get the Cooldown Reduction will allow more uses, and more uptime on
Since the change to this covenant ability (even though it was a necessary change), I find myself very bored with the ability. A mediocre DoT and an extra Ambush every 90 seconds just isn’t what I was hoping for from a covenant ability.
can be applied to your Soulbind tree to increase the damage of the DoT portion of Sepsis. This conduit follows the theme of the previous two covenant ability conduits, in that it’s decent but unlikely to be used.
is an incredible mobility tool, and effectively acts like another
with a teleport attached to it. Other, less mobile, classes will find a bit better use for it than Rogues, but that’s not to say this ability isn’t awesome!
Last, and unfortunately perhaps least, choosing to align with the Venthyr of Revendreth will allow your rogue to use
. This ability I liken a bit to the trinket
, from The Eternal Palace raid. When used it deals low damage immediately and leaves a debuff behind, causing the debuffed target to take additional damage per each combo point you spend. Each combo point also applies stacks to this debuff, which can be consumed by reactivating Flagellation to grant your Rogue a large Haste buff. It is worth noting that you can swap targets and still build stacks on this debuff so long as you are within its very forgiving range. Currently, it appears simply using this ability on CD deems the best results, however there could potentially be optimizations made around syncing the Haste buff with Vendetta.
Initially, I was very excited for the rework of this ability, given how much I enjoyed playing with Razor Coral. The addition of the 90 second cooldown has killed a bit of the hype for me here though. I still think it’s a cool idea, and hope they’re not done iterating on it, because I think it has amazing potential!
conduit provides a decent increase to the initial damage of this ability, but currently looks far too weak to see serious use.
is the Venthyr's signature ability, and is something you can certainly do some cool tricks with. It functions as a targeted teleport with a cast time. Initially it was thought this could maybe be insane for skips in mythic plus, but it hasn't really turned out that way. Now it mostly ends up being used as some nice in combat mobility.
Choosing a Covenant - Meaningful Choice?
Now this may come as a surprise to some, but these covenant abilities for Subtlety Rogue, and really all 3 Rogue specs, are extremely close in power. Somehow Papa Ion and Co. have managed to strike the balance they were searching for in this case, so you truly will have a meaningful choice. With that said, as of current tuning, I believe Kyrian to be the best covenant for you. The versatility and simplicity of
, along with the power of
Phiole des Gleichmuts
will help make your Rogue strong in all forms of content. On top of this, Pelagos, looks to be a very strong Soulbind in all situations, which we’ll discuss in more detail below. All of these lead to Kyrian just being slightly ahead of the other 3 options in nearly all situations.
I’d still keep an eye out, though and really emphasize how close these covenants are for Rogue. For Subtlety in particular the difference is at most ~2% between each choice. The past few builds of beta have ushered in many tuning passes to Covenant Abilities, and Soulbinds alike. This could potentially shift the power here and determine a new “best” choice.
Subtlety Rogue Conduits
Earlier, I mentioned Conduits that affect each of your potential covenant abilities. Each spec also has access to 4 Conduits specific to that spec, along with a collection of Finesse and Endurance conduits shared across the class. For a DPS class like Rogue, the 4 spec specific ones are all Potency conduits.
is an increase to the burst inside your
Symbole des Todes
windows. The combined power and versatility of this conduit place in firmly in the lead, and is something you’ll always equip.
is my choice for 2nd conduit alongside Planned Execution, as it provides a solid, consistent increase to the Rank 2’s of our main finishers. It also buffs other Shadowlands effects like
Trank des ermächtigten Exorzismus
comes in just behind Deeper Daggers, only because of its lack of consistency. Depending on kill times, or the way you path a dungeon this conduit can either give you extra great uses of
, or it can do effectively nothing. In situations that you KNOW you’ll get high value out of it, it’s definitely worth slotting. Just make sure you take that into consideration.
, while pretty powerful Single-Target, is just not good enough to be worth playing.
is the conduit that modifies our Kyrian covenant ability. As this is a flat damage increase, this comes entirely down to numbers. At the ranks we currently have available it is simply too weak and will likely not see play. It looks to perform a bit better as we get to higher ranks and could become a strong pick in future tiers.
If you choose Venthyr you'll have access to the
conduit. This is just too weak to use at current ranks and tuning.
is available to Night Fae, and will also not see much use.
is in the same boat as all the other Covenant conduits. For Necrolord Rogues, It just doesn’t do enough to be worth playing
Endurance & Finesse
In the collection of Finesse and Endurance conduits you’ll have access to, a few in particular stand out.
is an endurance conduit that lowers the cost of both
. While obviously a very strong defensive effect, this can even be considered a DPS increase as energy NOT spent on these two abilities is energy that you can spend on dealing damage.
is another endurance conduit. This will cause
to also provide a passive heal over time. As Slice and Dice is always kept up in combat, this is a great increase to sustain.
Auf alles vorbereitet
is a finesse conduit that will reduce the cooldown of both
Mantel der Schatten
, so long as you are actively dodging attacks or interrupting spells.
is the other finesse conduit I would consider taking. This is both an increase in the range, along with a decrease in the cooldown of
Best Soulbinds for Subtlety Rogue
Now assuming you’ve chosen to align with the Kyrian, you’ll also have to choose a soulbind. Previously, I mentioned the strength of Pelagos. Here is what my ideal Soulbind tree looks like.
Your choices for the 2 Potency conduits in this tree will be pretty consistent in all PvE content. As I implied earlier, I’d suggest always running
is a large chunk of mastery you’ll receive when you use
. Additionally you can extend the duration of this buff by picking up the small blue orbs that spawn randomly while this buff is active!
will be exceptional in mythic plus, reducing the cooldown on your
Phiole des Gleichmuts
. You’ll find some use of this in any raid encounter with adds, but I would still take this path even if you did not. Passing up a Potency slot, for no additional throughput gain is not something I’d recommend.
as my first Endurance conduit here, as it is the only Endurance conduit that is technically a DPS increase. It’s also a great defensive option as mentioned earlier.
The next row is very much up to your preference and won’t have any impact on your actual gameplay. I choose
as it’ll provide a nice boost in gold or materials depending on what you choose for your professions.
Finally, in your last choice in the tree you’ll see I have both
Auf alles vorbereitet
slotted. These both can find their uses depending on what you need for any given situation. Thankfully, swapping between the two is painless and can be done on the fly with a
Foliant des ausgeglichenen Gemüts
We top it all off with
Die Vergangenheit loslassen
. This trait certainly could see some tuning in the future, as I believe a lot of the strength of Pelagos resides in the combination of this and Combat Meditation. It’s very easy to maintain this buff at 3 stacks for a very long time, making it simply a 3% Versatility buff. It’s worth mentioning that this trait was nerfed in the few short days between the publishing of the Outlaw Rogue article in this series, and this one. If that doesn’t tell you how volatile some of the tuning is on these systems, I don’t know what else to say.
If you choose to use Pelagos for another spec rather than Subtlety, or want more than one Soulbind for this spec, it is likely Kleia will be the next best option. This is primarily due to the strength of
. The raw stats gained from this provide a nice passive boost in damage.
Subtlety Rogue Legendaries
Legendaries are back baby! For me, this is the most exciting system of Shadowlands simply because of their versatility and the ability to easily swap between them. Each class has access to 4 class wide legendaries, alongside 4 additional spec specific legendaries. Let’s take a look at what you’ll be able to choose from as an Subtlety Rogue.
Essenz des Blutzahns
is one of the weakest options in terms of damage. However, the cooldown reduction it provides to your other abilities can create some awesome utility situations. I think it’s a bit unlikely, but you could see some very niche PvE uses as well as in PvP for some unique CC chains.
Mal des Meisterassassinen
returns from Legion and has many Rogue mains super excited! While it’s slightly weaker than its Legion form, this legendary still has amazing burst potential, and generally very good throughput in all situations. Expect to see this at the very least experimented with in mythic plus, and maybe some raid encounters that require high burst damage on demand.
Winzige vergiftete Klinge
, empowers the damage of
, making this a solid choice on single target bosses. Unfortunately, other options are currently tuned slightly higher than this, so I’m doubtful it will see much use.
Earlier in this article I mentioned the
Legendary Effect. I wanted to bring this to attention at the beginning because it will likely be what most of you craft as your 1st legendary. This is a call back to an effect that existed on the Legion Artifact Weapon, and functions mostly as a passive damage increase to our finishing moves. This is just barely the 2nd place performer in PURE SINGLE-TARGET, and the moment any additional target(s) are introduced it becomes the top performer, increasing in power with each additional target.
has gone through a few interactions at varying levels of Overpowered over the course of beta. The final form is a pretty boring, passive increase to your
... and well, that’s it. This is what I hinted at before when referencing pure single-target damage. Since, this situation is not super common in WoW these days, as well as the last 2 bosses of Castle Nathria having multiple targets, I can’t place this any higher than 2nd.
is the return of another Legion Legendary. This is once again, a pure single target increase. Except this time, it’s even less. You won’t be crafting this.
is sadly, the worst Subtlety legendary available. This will always be compared to
Mal des Meisterassassinen
since they both turn
into a DPS cooldown. One of the two will always be better, and right now it is certainly not Deathly Shadows.
If you're considering playing multiple Rogue specs I'd suggest crafting
Mal des Meisterassassinen
first as it's at least above average for all 3 specs. It also has a lot of value in Mythic Plus, making it good for grinding out your gear early on in the tier. As mentioned just before,
is definitely the move if you are looking to main Subtlety.
Given the current tuning of the Universal Legendaries available to all classes, it’s very unlikely you’ll be crafting any of them. As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, tuning is still ongoing so there is potentially for that to change, albeit unlikely.
What Does It All Mean?
With so many compounding systems coming all at once, it can be difficult to really tell what classes or specs will actually be “good” once we step into the Shadowlands. So where do you stand as a Subtlety Rogue? The playstyle of this spec has remained somewhat the same, but the addition of a few new tools has really fleshed things out. This newly found versatility has done a lot to improve on the general feel and performance of the spec for me. Really my only complaint about Subtlety is how boring the Legendaries all are. I was really hoping for some things to have a big impact on gameplay, but they’ve fallen far short of that. It’s made up for a bit by how good the spec feels at its core.
This is bolstered even more by tuning. I think Subtlety is in a great place right now! It looks like an excellent pick in both Mythic Plus and Castle Nathria. Good burst, good aoe, good target swapping, good sustained damage. It’s only weakness I see is 2-3 target cleave, and even then it’s still competitive with other melee specs. Bottom line, Sub is back and I hope you all have as much fun with it as I do!
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