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Shadow Panther's Classic Rogue Leveling Tips

LEVELING SPEC

Sword or Mace Combat is usually considered to be the best spec for leveling because it has superior sustained damage and can handle multiple enemies very effectively. In addition to that, Combat doesn't rely on stealth or positional attacks and is as good at solo PVE farming/grinding as it is at running 5-man dungeons. The only situation where Combat tends to be lackluster is PVP because it lacks the control and utility offered by the other Rogue specs.

Dagger specs, while effective in PVP, suffer from several disadvantages when it comes to leveling. At low levels, Ambush (which requires daggers) can be useful for frontloading your damage. However, after your initial stealth attack, it can be tricky to pull off Backstabs when enemies are always trying to face you (and you shouldn't Sinister Strike with daggers because they deal significantly less damage than non-daggers.) Another disadvantage of using daggers is that as mobs gain more armor and health, Ambush starts to lose its burst damage potential. Also, dagger builds have trouble dealing with multiple enemies at once, which is only compounded by positioning issues.

With Sword or Mace Combat you don't have to worry about positioning - - just run up and smash away with Sinister Strike. Fist builds work much the same way. Unfortunately, when leveling, good fist weapons can be hard to find. The best advice for new Rogues is to focus less on daggers while leveling and get training for swords/maces ASAP. Having said that, you should work on skilling up all of your weapon skills as you're leveling, so you'll be ready whenever you do decide to change your weapon/spec. Trainers for swords and maces can be found here:

Alliance Horde
Swords Maces Swords Maces
Stormwind Ironforge Undercity Thunder Bluff
Woo Ping Buliwyf Stonehand Archibald
Ansekhwa

Combat Swords Leveling Talent Spec
10: Improved Sinister Strike 1/2
11: Improved Sinister Strike 2/2
12: Improved Gouge 1/3
13: Improved Gouge 2/3
14: Improved Gouge 3/3
15: Deflection 1/5
16: Deflection 2/5
17: Deflection 3/5
18: Deflection 4/5
19: Deflection 5/5
20: Riposte 1/1
21: Endurance 1/2
22: Endurance 2/2
23: Improved Sprint 1/2
24: Improved Sprint 2/2
25: Precision 1/5
26: Precision 2/5
27: Precision 3/5
28: Precision 4/5
29: Precision 5/5
30: Blade Flurry 1/1
31: Dual Wield Specialization 1/5
32: Dual Wield Specialization 2/5
33: Dual Wield Specialization 3/5
34: Dual Wield Specialization 4/5
35: Dual Wield Specialization 5/5
36: Aggression 1/3
37: Aggression 2/3
38: Aggression 3/3
39: Weapon Expertise 1/2
40: Adrenaline Rush 1/1
41: Malice 1/5
42: Malice 2/5
43: Malice 3/5
44: Malice 4/5
45: Malice 5/5
46: Improved Slice and Dice 1/3
47: Improved Slice and Dice 2/3
48: Improved Slice and Dice 3/3
49: Murder 1/2
50: Murder 2/2
51: Relentless Strikes 1/1
52: Lethality 1/5
53: Lethality 2/5
54: Lethality 3/5
55: Lethality 4/5
56: Lethality 5/5
57: Sword Specialization 1/5
58: Sword Specialization 2/5
59: Sword Specialization 3/5
60: Sword Specialization 4/5
After 60, respec for Raiding or PVP

This talent build focuses on damage and excels in toe-to-toe PVE combat, with some key defensive capabilities coming from Improved Sprint and Endurance to improve your overall effectiveness. At lower levels, this spec can be used interchangeably with a main hand mace or sword, depending upon the best weapon you have available. At higher levels, this build shines in its ability to handle multiple mobs effectively with the burst potential of Adrenaline Rush + Blade Flurry. Those two talents are especially useful when leveling, since they give you the unique ability to power your way through groups of mobs or tough boss mobs that might otherwise prevent you from completing a quest. That's why I recommend going straight up the Combat tree before switching to the Assassination tree, so you can pick up those key talents ASAP.

WEAPONS

Regardless of your choice of weapons or spec, you'll want a slow, hard hitting main hand weapon (sword or mace) with high average damage to maximize your special attack damage and a fast offhand for increased proc effects like poisons and weapon specializations. As a Rogue, your main hand weapon is your most important piece of gear, so even if you upgrade no other items as you level, make sure you keep your main hand weapon upgraded at all times.

As a general rule of thumb for leveling purposes, you want the low end damage of your main hand weapon to be equal to or greater than your current level. So, at level 14, a Scimitar (14-26) or Daryl's Shortsword (14-26) would be on par for your level. Gnoll Skull Basher (18-34) or Scimitar of Atun (17-33) would be ideal at that level while Blackwater Cutlass (12-24) or Stock Shortsword (7-14) would be less than ideal. Notice how Blackwater Cutlass has a higher listed DPS (9.5) than the "on par" weapons (8.7), but since it has a lower base damage (12-24 vs. 14-26), your Sinister Strikes won't hit as hard and you will end up being less effective overall. Slower, harder hitting main hand weapons provide more burst damage via your special attacks.

As far as your offhand weapon is concerned, for levels 10-20, you won't have access to poisons or weapon specializations, so the DPS of your offhand weapon will be more important than the weapon type or speed. However, after level 20, having a fast offhand weapon will provide higher DPS through more frequent application of poisons. Also, if you have the gold to spare, Fiery Weapon is a good, relatively inexpensive enchant to put on your weapons while leveling.

Ideal Weapons in each Level Range
1-5 MH Keen Machete, Fine Scimitar, Thistlewood Blade, Militia Shortsword, Anvilmar Hammer, Militia Hammer, Primitive Club, Flanged Mace, Kobold Mining Mallet
OH Cannot wield offhand weapon until level 10.
6-10 MH Cranial Thumper, Skorn's Hammer, Brushwood Blade, Thornroot Club, Pale Skinner, Stinging Mace, Frostmane Scepter, Harpy Wing Clipper, Notched Shortsword, Rodentia Shortsword, Trogg Club, Gladius
OH Cannot wield offhand weapon until level 10.
11-15 MH Hammer of Orgrimmar, Gnoll Punisher, Wicked Blackjack, Redridge Machete, Feral Blade, Briarsteel Shortsword, Cranial Thumper, Skorn's Hammer, Weighted Sap, Brushwood Blade, Staunch Hammer, Compact Hammer
OH Any high DPS weapon. Speed doesn't matter until poisons.
16-20 MH Ironpatch Blade, Night Watch Shortsword, Cookie's Tenderizer, Blackrock Mace, Hardwood Cudgel, Gnoll Skull Basher, Hammer of Orgrimmar, Scimitar of Atun, Solid Shortblade, Claystone Shortsword, Mo'grosh Masher, Cursed Felblade
OH Any high DPS weapon. Speed doesn't matter until poisons.
21-25 MH Shadowfang, Cruel Barb, Skeletal Club, Diamond Hammer, Fighter Broadsword, Heavy Bronze Mace, Phytoblade, Battlesmasher, Jagged Star, Bluegill Kukri, Butcher's Slicer, Decapitating Sword, Wicked Spiked Mace, Steelscale Crushfish, Lucine Longsword
OH Harpy Skinner, Brackclaw, Evocator's Blade, Doomspike, Blackfang
26-30 MH The Butcher, Outlaw Sabre, Looming Gavel, Leaden Mace, Shadowfang, Cruel Barb, Mighty Iron Hammer, Viking Sword, Fighter Broadsword, Heavy Bronze Mace, Phytoblade
OH Vendetta, Cross Dagger, Honed Stiletto, Doomspike, Blackfang
31-35 MH Excavator's Brand, Zealot Blade, The Butcher, Outlaw Sabre, Looming Gavel, Sword of Hammerfall, Kovork's Rattle, Jade Serpentblade, Leaden Mace, Sequoia Hammer , Mercenary Blade, Skullbreaker, Silithid Ripper
OH Knightly Longsword, Ebony Boneclub, Mug O' Hurt
36-40 MH Stonevault Bonebreaker, Sword of Serenity, Midnight Mace, Scorpion Sting, Sword of Omen, Excavator's Brand, Fight Club, Zealot Blade, Black Water Hammer, Kovork's Rattle, Sword of Hammerfall
OH Knightly Longsword, Ebony Boneclub, Mug O' Hurt
41-45 MH Heaven's Light, Stonevault Bonebreaker, Vanquisher's Sword, Ardent Custodian, Midnight Mace, The Shatterer, Skullcrusher Mace, Furious Falchion, Dwarf Captain's Sword, Rockhide Strongfish, Big Black Mace, Wicked Mithril Blade, Galgann's Firehammer, Black Water Hammer
OH Knightly Longsword, Ebony Boneclub, Mug O' Hurt
46-50 MH Bloodrazor, Thrash Blade, Belgrom's Hammer, Gryphon Rider's Stormhammer, Spirit of the Faerie Dragon, Furbolg Medicine Totem, The Shatterer, Skullcrusher Mace, Diamond-Tip Bludgeon, Zorbin's Mega-Slicer
OH Rune Sword, Ebony Boneclub, Mug O' Hurt
51-55 MH Krol Blade, Assassination Blade, Bloodrazor, Thrash Blade, Smashing Star, Tidecrest Blade, Gryphon Rider's Stormhammer, Spirit of the Faerie Dragon, Crystal Sword, Furbolg Medicine Totem, The Shatterer, Skullcrusher Mace
OH Hanzo Sword, Dimensional Blade, Changuk Smasher, Mug O' Hurt
56-59 MH Krol Blade, Mass of McGowan, Assassination Blade, Bloodrazor, Baron Charr's Sceptre, Thrash Blade, Bonesnapper, Skullstone Hammer, Belgrom's Hammer, Tidecrest Blade, Smashing Star, Volcanic Hammer, Blade of Reckoning, Ogre Pocket Knife, Gryphon Rider's Stormhammer
OH Hanzo Sword, Dimensional Blade, Changuk Smasher, Mug O' Hurt

ATTACKS

Your attack sequence will vary, depending upon the circumstances, but will generally go something like this:

Basic Non-Stealthed Combat Attack
Sinister Strike > Slice and Dice > Sinister Strike x 5 > Eviscerate/Rupture/Kidney Shot

Basic Stealthed Combat Attack
Garrote/Cheap Shot > Slice and Dice > Sinister Strike x 5 > Eviscerate/Rupture/Kidney Shot

Here are some sample attack routines to use for different scenarios (more mobs require higher level abilities):

Targets Sample Attack Routines
1SSx5, Evis or on tougher mobs SS, SnD, SSx5, Evis
2Garrote mob #1, SnD, switch to mob #2, BF, SSx5, Evis
3Garrote mob #1, SnD, switch to mob #2, AR, BF, Evasion, SSx5, Evis, SnD, SSx5, Evis
4+Garrote mob #1, SnD, switch to mob #2, AR, BF, Evasion, SSx5, Evis, SnD, SSx5, Evis, repeat until only 1 mob remains, and if you're low on health, Blind that mob, bandage, then kill it off.
Abbreviations: SnD: Slice and Dice, SS: Sinister Strike, Evis: Eviscerate, BF: Blade Flurry, AR: Adrenaline Rush

You should try to focus on fighting Humanoids whenever possible because they can be pickpocketed (level up that Pick Lock skill!), they can be disarmed (Riposte minimizes damage you receive, reducing downtime), and they drop plenty of cloth (bandages are great for leveling.) They can also be Garroted/Ruptured, unlike some types of mobs.

POISONS

Poisons are a big part of a Rogue's DPS and utility, so keep them applied to your weapons at all times. If you're mostly fighting mobs that are easy to kill and don't live very long, you should be using dual Instant Poisons. However, if you're fighting against mobs that take longer to kill, you might try switching your main hand to Deadly Poison to get some more DPS. Or, if you're having trouble with mobs running off and bringing back friends, try Crippling Poison on your offhand.

RACES

Each race has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages for PVP/PVE. You can find comparisons of each in my Rogue Races Chart

PROFESSIONS

When it comes to leveling professions, I recommend Skinning + Herbalism or Mining. Send all of the mats to an alt, then you'll have most of what you need for any crafting profession you choose (such as Leatherworking, Alchemy or Engineering). Once you reach 60, drop one or both gathering professions to pick up your crafting profession(s).

AREA OF AFFECT (AOE) DAMAGE

Players who are used to playing classes that have access to AoE damage might find it difficult to transition to a Rogue, a class that doesn't offer much in the way of AoE-style damage other than Blade Flurry. Here are some AoE options available to non-Engineer Rogues as you're leveling:

AoE Options for Non-Engineers
Levels 10-29 Levels 30-52 Levels 53-60
Ez-Thro Dynamite Ez-Thro Dynamite II Crystal Charge

GEAR

As far as gear is concerned, look for any "of the Monkey" or equivalent items that have both Agility and Stamina. Other stats like Attack Power, Crit Rating and Hit Rating are also good to have. Strength, on the other hand, is a fairly mediocre stat for Rogues, providing only 1 AP, whereas Agility gives 1 AP in addition to Crit, Dodge and Armor. Whether you're twinking or leveling, you can find the best gear listed in my Twink Weapons and Twink Armor charts.

For more leveling tips, check out my Classic Questing Guide for Alliance Rogues.