[Rogue] Jame's Guide on How to Level a Rogue

Jame's picture


When writing my leveling guides, I use a rogue most of the time. It's just more convenient for me to be able to stealth and vanish whenever I need to explore an area, test something or simply alt-tab out to take some notes or do some research. As a result, I've leveled a LOT of rogues, and here's what works best for me.


First, find a HIGH DAMAGE main hand weapon, and generally, the slower the weapon, the higher the damage (2.6 speed or higher if possible). It's most likely gonna be a mace or a sword. I personally try to go for maces, because I love ignoring 15% of my target's armor while leveling, it feels more reliable and steady than the extra attack chance of sword specialization.

Up to level 60, only put points in the combat tree, going for this build: 0/51/0

Put your points in this order:

Combat (51 points)

  • Improved Sinister Strike - Rank 2/2
  • Dual Wield Specialization - Rank 3/5
  • Precision - Rank 5/5
  • Deflection - Rank 3/3
  • Riposte - Rank 1/1
  • Dual Wield Specialization - Rank 4/5
  • Aggression - Rank 5/5
  • Blade Flurry - Rank 1/1
  • Mace Specialization - Rank 5/5 (or Sword Specialization if the best weapon you could find was a sword)
  • Blade Twisting - Rank 2/2
  • Weapon Expertise - Rank 2/2
  • Adrenaline Rush - Rank 1/1
  • Vitality - Rank 3/3
  • Dual Wield Specialization - Rank 5/5
  • Combat Potency - Rank 5/5 (From this point on, you want the fastest possible off-hand weapon, and it's probably going to be a dagger, see bottom of this post for suggestions)
  • Surprise Attacks - Rank 1/1
  • Unfair Advantage - Rank 2/2
  • Savage Combat - Rank 2/2
  • Prey on the Weak - Rank 5/5
  • Killing Spree - Rank 1/1

Then go for the Assassination tree:

Assassination (20 points)

  • Malice - Rank 5/5
  • Remorseless Attacks - Rank 2/2
  • Improved Eviscerate - Rank 3/3
  • Vigor - Rank 1/1
  • Lethality - Rank 5/5
  • Improved Poisons - Rank 4/5

Final Build at level 80: 20/51/0

It's a perfect build for leveling/grinding. It's also nice for farming at level 80.


Why do I need a HIGH DAMAGE main hand weapon?

Because your sinister strike and riposte abilities are instant extra attacks, based on weapon damage. The bigger your weapon's MIN-MAX damage is, the better.

So generally it will mean finding a very slow weapon with very high MIN-MAX damage.

Don't mistake Weapon DPS and the Weapon Damage, they are too very different things. A dagger for example can have very high DPS but very low MIN-MAX damage, which is why daggers are bad for this build.

It's simple, with this build, you don't really care if your main hand weapon is very slow, as long as the weapon damage is high. Since riposte and sinister strike are instant attacks, the slowness of the weapon is not a problem, only the dmg matters.

Here's a list of weapons you can try to follow. You don't have to buy them all, but try to upgrade your main hand every 5 levels or so. It's the most important thing for leveling a rogue, by far.

Past level 60 you'll be in Outland you should be fine with quest rewards. However, there's a dire lack of one-hand maces in Outland, so you might have to respec to sword specialization if you can't find any good mace. It's not a big deal though, swords are just fine.

Also note, there are a lot of possible weapon upgrades you can get from quests and instances, I didn't put those in my list, so if you find any good weapon while questing or instancing, you won't be able to save some cash.

Why do I need a fast off-hand?

Combat potency gives you a chance on hit with your off-hand to get extra energy. The faster the off-hand, the more chances you have to proc combat potency.

Fastest weapons are daggers, and at level 49, your options are:

1. Bone Dirk - Cheapest, it's from a quest. Just follow the link to know which quest.
2. Sacrificial Kris of Agility, or of the Monkey, or of the Tiger. Buy it from the AH.

There are other options, but these are cheap and honestly, you don't need to blow your money on an epic or rare offhand, all that matters is that it's quick, below 1.50 speed, 1.30 being the fastest possible.

At level 50, you can invest in a Julie's Dagger. It's the quickest dagger you can get until Blood-Guided Knife, which is a quest reward from Terrokar.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment.


Jiyambi's picture

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How about the Venerable Mass of McGowan?

I'd like to add that if you have the badges, you can get your rogue the heirloom Venerable Mass of McGowan and not have to worry about acquiring a new mace until level 80. Smiling

it seems as though we have

it seems as though we have forgotten Mallet of Zul'Farrak
I have been using it on my rogue since level 35, and I will tell you it made a HUGE difference in what I've spent on my weapons. It appears to be the best until you get to level 48.

I'm just leaving this here, I hope it helps. Puzzled

Jame where are you?

Is he still working with these guides? I have a feeling the horde leveling guide for level 74 is not Jame. It's off a little and hard to follow Sad

Jiyambi's picture

o.O If it says "Jame"'s name

o.O If it says "Jame"'s name in the title, both on this site or in our addon, it's his. Maybe you are accidentally using the default guides in Tour Guide?

Jame is going through some stuff in RL. I had hoped he would be back by now, but I guess he is still pretty busy Sad All we can do is keep doing our thing with this awesome site he made for us, and hope he comes back soon!

Maw's picture

Funny how this site have

Funny how this site have 'died' now that Jame isn't much around.

During the 27 weeks I have been a member of this site, never before have the activity here been so low. Sadly, you may say Sad

Well, hats off for Jame, though, that he's putting life on first line, and WoW on 2nd. Some people forget that, unfortunately.

Hope you enjoyed my most emo comment ever Sticking out tongue

Jiyambi's picture

Hehe, it wasn't *that*

Hehe, it wasn't *that* emo.

Truly, though, when I first started up here, the site was just getting going in terms of the community. Then things skyrocketed, and for a few months, it was just crazy!

We still have a pretty active core group of contributors, but I do miss Jame and his awesome ability to generate more and more community activity around him. But you are 100% correct, and that's the same reason I put all my guides on hold for the last month - RL needs to come first and it's really a problem when people don't prioritize it that way.

But I'm back now, and I'm hoping Jame will be soon as well!

In the last part of the

In the last part of the guide, you say this:

"Also note, there are a lot of possible weapon upgrades you can get from quests and instances, I didn't put those in my list, so if you find any good weapon while questing or instancing, you won't be able to save some cash."

I think it is: "you WILL be able to save some cash."

Or it could be just me ^^

Sulfie's picture



By far best rogue leveling build.
Some people are like slinky's, Good for nothing, but they stil lbring a smile to your face everytime you pus hthem down a flight of stairs.

Some people are like slinky's, Good for nothing, but they stil lbring a smile to your face everytime you pus hthem down a flight of stairs.

You'd need to put some logic

You'd need to put some logic behind it or else it won't be recognized as viable.

When will this guide be upgraded?

I'm not sure whether or not to use the same talents as before Sad

Still waiting to see which talents to use ...LOL!

I guess Jame's is looking into it and will let us know as soon as he figures it out. They changed so many things.

Has this guide been updated

Has this guide been updated for the latest content patch (3.1)?



Lycander's picture

Revamped Mallet of Zul'Farrak

Jame, with the change of the Mallet of Zul'Farrak now becoming an actual weapon, this may be a nice addition to the list. It's useable at 35, but still has a nice slow (2.5) speed and high damage. Thought I'd pass it along.

ultaninja's picture

grinding spots

I was wondering if maybe you could also add a list of grinding spots for over the levels.
Thanks, Ultaninja

Ultaninja is my name and a rogue is my game

Trollvink's picture

BoA items.

Hi there Jame,

I was wondering if you could add a section for BoA items. I know it's not hard to find out, but it could also give people an idea of which stats they should aim for.

Outside of that, I'm gonna use this guide as soon as I have my BoA shoulders and MH sword.


Jame's picture

Meh, so much to do, so

Meh, so much to do, so little time Sticking out tongue

I'll put it on my ever-growing "to-do list" ^^

Rogue Equipment

Best site Ive found for Rogue items without a doubt. Always updated.

Heroe's have flaws, it is overcoming those flaws that makes them heroes. Me? Im not a hero

It's shadowpanther.net not

It's shadowpanther.net not .org

Drudoo's picture

Im using BoA item at my

Im using BoA item at my shaman and i love them, they are really good compared to green Smiling If people can afford them, they should defiantly go and buy, them for there levelling character

move rotation

i recomend showing the move rotation ( much like with the retridin leveling guide) you use for us rogue noobs Smiling

Jame's picture

Alright, I'll do that

Alright, I'll do that whenever I get the time Smiling

Some more questions

I am scanning over this one more time before I start to grind up my little rogue and looking over your weapons most of them seem to be stat heavy on str or str stam. Is this along the lines you would suggest for looking to gear for higher base damage or is it just the fact that most one handed blunt tends towards those stats? In short should I be building gear towards higher agil for crit dodge and pary or should i be looking more towards base damage and going for str? I tend towards more of a sword spec myself, purely for aesthetic reasons, but as such will need to know more of what I am looking for stat wise on weapons as well as my general gearing up. My friend plays a combat rogue stacked toward high agil and +crit gear but he is starting to have a hard time now that he has hit 70 and want to try to avoid that if I can as I lvl up myself.

NOT slow main hand weapon

I know this is semantics, but it irks me Eye

You don't want a SLOW main hand weapon, you want a HIGH DAMAGE main hand weapon. It just so happens that slower ones usually have higher damage (but not always).

Weapon 1: 2.4 speed, 60 damage
Weapon 2: 2.5 speed, 50 damage

Choose the slower one and you'll have less damage (using abilities).

Now, having raked you, I'll go on to say I love your guides. Keep up the great work. Smiling

Jame's picture

You got me there! Alright,

You got me there! Alright, I'll reword it Eye

Hey all This is my first

Hey all

This is my first time posting here and for starter i would like to thank Jame for all great guides. I leveled my main and few alts never finishing or taking quest without consulting his guide first ;D.

Now... my main is rogue and all the play time i divert to this char. I agree with all Jame says about leveling spec. It will give you biggest dmg and with combat spec after certain point you will also be able to do some insane AoE dmg.But there are some things i just don't like about combat tree and i am leveling as mutilate now. At level 75 i use this spec: http://www.wowhead.com/?talent=fMecoegoVzoIuZ0xZjbf

So to explain a bit and answer some questions from below...

I believe that, while leveling, dmg output is not the only thing you need to think about. There is also movement speed and stealth cooldown time which is just bad with combat spec. Also i like imp. stealth cos i just feel more comfortable around mobs and hostile players.

Remorseless Attacks talent -- someone asked below and for combat spec it's a No No Laughing out loud, but for dagger spec its one of my favorite. As combat you will most likely use swords or maces and as such you just don't have good enough opener for this talent to be worth. With daggers and possibility to Ambush everything changes.

Camouflage talent -- it has nothing to do with damage but reduced stealth cd is a must for dagger grinding cos with your Ambush and Mutilate mobs go down so fast that you ll have to wait for stealth to cd before reentering it if you don't have this talent.

I also pickpocket while leveling just to skill up my lockpicking. So if you want be true thief imp stealth and glyph of pickpocket will also help a lot.

And in the end. The main question is... Do i really kill mobs slower than combat speced rogue? I can't really say, but i would say that on single target Mutilate has advantage over Combat while Combat gives you possibility of AoE-ing from time to time.

And small tip if you decide for Mutilate spec. Put talent in vigor and use Glyph of Vigor. That will give you aditional 20 energy and mobs will die in no time. Ambush - Mutilate - Envenom (evisc)- dead. And move fast to next mob before Remorseless wears off.

Use slow daggers for leveling cos those will give you bigger Ambushes and Mutilates. Mob lives so short that fast dagger won't give you any benefit regarding procs. Use fast ones when raiding in both hands.

Also note that Assassination based specs become viable after 50 th level cos you can't get Mutilate before than. Until then combat is the only way to go, with spec Jame advised.

And to finish... there is no only one right spec for everyone. Combat is great, i just like Mutilate better Laughing out loud

zoggy93's picture


I will try to do it over again. Thanks.

zoggy93's picture


Jame after the new patch 3.0.2 or something, blizzard redid the talents and therefore the first couple talents are matching up but the rest are moved to different places. You might want to think about updating the talents. Thanks for you great guides.


Jame's picture

Err, did you actually try

Err, did you actually try it?

This was written after patch 3.0.2 Sticking out tongue

Nice so far, but it's

Nice so far, but it's missing things that I would expect from a rogue leveling guide:

1. A guide to the class quests. Especially on how to deal with mobs in that annoying tower in the Barrens without asking for a high-level to help.

2. Discussion on choosing poisons. Especially on the subject of deadly vs. instant poison.

Jame's picture

Oh for sure, there are many

Oh for sure, there are many things I could add to this guide, and I will add them when I have the time Sticking out tongue

About poisons, I wouldn't bother with anything but instant poisons while leveling, most mobs die too fast for anything else to be worth it.


Hi Jame, with the recent changes to Mutilate and poison damage, do you think that starting at level 58, it is better to go with a Mutilate build like this at 58:


And this at 80:


While this may seem blasphemous to an old time rogue leveler such as your self, this build with 2 fast daggers and dual Instant Poison does tremendous damage, by means of Instant Poison procs and Focused Attacks procs, which outweigh the loss of mutilate damage. While it does not compare to combat in terms of being able to take down 2+ mobs or elites, it is significantly better for single target damage. Perhaps something similar could be added as an alternate route.

Jame's picture

I haven't had the time to

I haven't had the time to test that out, not to mention I don't have any decent daggers available, so I really can't say atm. I've heard it's pretty good now, so I'll try it out when I get some time and if it's as good as advertised, I'll add another section for it in my guide Smiling

Another Great Guide!

I highly recommend that the first two talent points go into Remorseless Attacks, then filling out the combat tree as you did. Having +40% chance to crit on the first attack is huge, especially when leveling up quickly when your crit chance isn't so great.

Another tip: make a simple macro for starting your auto-attack along with Sinister Strike, like so:

/cast Sinister Strike

You can just mash this macro, and even if you are short on energy to Sinister Strike, you will still start to attack the mob.

Thanks Jame for another great guide Smiling

Jame's picture

Hmm, I disagree Remorseless

Hmm, I disagree Sticking out tongue Remorseless attack really isn't that great. The sooner you get to the good stuff in the combat tree, the better off your are.

Benhir's picture

Jame is right.

Hello, I just want to say that Jame is right about Remorseless Attacks. I used it for the first levels, but after 10 levels or so I respecced. The fact is that Remorseless Attacks isn't that good at higher level because you have often to bandage after a combat or you have to search for a mob. The duration of RA is just too short and in most cases it runs out and you don't benefit from its effects Sticking out tongue.

Still, it is a nice choice until level 20, when the mobs have very LOW health and die in few attacks (sometimes you just use SS 3 times and the mob is dead Laughing out loud) but I strongly agree with Jame, spend those points in a better way.

Remorseless attacks is useful if you find a good spot for grinding and you have good gear. In this way you can fight 6 mobs in a row very quickly and you will use RA effect, whatever is your spec. I use RA for daily questing for the SSO because the mobs are really weak and most of the quests there are like "grind those mobs" Sticking out tongue. I also have the S2 set and I can fight even 10 mobs in a row (unless there is some caster), then rec, and then start to kill again.

So, again, don't take Remorseless attacks while leveling.

have a nice day ^^

Cloud9's picture

Nice addition

This was a real nice addition to Rogues leveling. I myself have a low lvl rogue, this would make it easier i help, i never knew about the attack speed on weapons. Is there any chance you could make a nice write-up to some other popular leveling classes (i.e. Mage, Hunter) in the future?

Jame's picture

Will do one for all classes,

Will do one for all classes, when things calm down (WotLK leveling guides come first)

Benhir's picture

Hello Jame. It's a nice

Hello Jame.

It's a nice overview of the class, useful and pretty nice to read. Having leveled a rogue myself, I find great that you put a list of MH weapons to buy or search for, beacuse one of the most important problmes while leveling a rogue is to get some good weapons, otherwise you'll have a hard time while killing mobs. The first time I leveled a rogue I had some troubles because it's a tricky class to learn and to master. It's important to use the best abilities rotation to do the highest dps. I agree with your builds to level and grind since patch 3 Sub. has become less viable for pve Sad.

Here I go with some questions:

- having read your guide, you basically tell us to learn Daggers , Swords and Maces skills. The major problem while leveling is to level the skill when you change type of weapon. I know it's important to dual wield with 2 different kind of weapon but there are always times when you do 10-20 levels with the same kind of weapon in MH (take it as an example) and then you find a better MH but once you equip it you find that your skill is very VERY low. So, my hint is to add to the F.A.Qs. some good place to go and level the skills. I think that everyone know the mobs in Blasted Lands ("servant of...") but at lower levels, trying to get up a weapon skill can be a trouble;

-I think that you can maybe add more OH daggers? Until level 49 there is a wide number of swords or dagger that can be used in off hand. I also know that a fast OH is VERY important when you get "combat potency" , but I always think that some more weapons can be good.

Keep it up!

Jame's picture

Hey benhir, good points.

Hey benhir, good points. I'll add more OH options and a note about leveling low weapon skills. Btw, the servants in blasted lands no longer give weapon skill increases, they nerfed that :/

I generally don't have much trouble to catch up with weappon skills though, I just kill a few grey/low green mobs until my skill gets somewhat close to where it should be, and then I just carry on with my circuits.

Talents seem to be off a little bit.

Jame, as with everything, you have done a great job once again.

I went over to Wowhead to build the talent spec that you suggested and I took each point in exactly the order you listed, and unfortunately, I found two problems:

1 - You list Dual Wield Specialization - Rank 5/5 twice: Once after Weapon Expertise, and again after Vitality. Jawdropping!

2- You recommend going into the Assassination tree once complete with the Combat tree. In this tree you state to grab Vigor - Rank 1/1. At this point, you can't. Vigor is an 11 point talent, and at this point you only have 8 points spent in this tree. Jawdropping!

With the spec as listed, you are left with needing to spend two points elsewhere to open up the third tier of Assassination to take this talent. Even if you correct the double DW Spec being listed twice, you'll still be short one point to open that third tier. I've gone over it twice, hoping it was just me and I missed something.

Just thought I'd let ya know since I am leveling a rogue myself and currently have him going down the Subtlety tree. Barf!

Jame's picture

Let's just say it was early

Let's just say it was early in the morning when I bbcoded the guide Sticking out tongue

Fixed it, thanks for pointing it out Smiling

Well done, but...

Well done on the talents and what weapons to look for, but I think it would be better if you also mentioned a bit on what abilities you should use when leveling, for example what opener/finishers and the like you should use, as I on my rogue currently pick finishers rather randomly Smiling

Can't wait to see your guides on the other classes, keep it up!

Jame's picture

Really? I mean, I thought

Really? Sticking out tongue I mean, I thought everyone just Sinister Strike / Eviscerate while leveling ^^

Only exceptions are elites, then a slice and dice / possible kidney shot makes sense, but otherwise, SS/Evis all the way seems like the only obvious choice Smiling

Well it's maybe just me then

I guess it's because since I always start off with CS, I could get a 5 pt Eviscerate rather quickly but then have maybe a 2-3 combo points after that which usually felt rather wasted, so I started to use
CS->SnD->SS til 4 points or so, evis, dead mob.. but oh well, I guess I have a habit to make things more complicated than they are! Smiling

At least my current set of glyphs fit perfectly then, with GoEviscerate
and GoSinister strike.

No, I think this is the

No, I think this is the right rotation to use while grinding mobs for quests or xp or whatever. Leveling my own rogue after talking with a number of other experienced rogues, I would CS->SnD->SS to 3-5 combo points for an evis, depending on crits and misses. I haven't leveled a rogue recently, but the difference between using SnD and evis vs only evis was very noticeable while leveling.

Jame's picture

I sometimes for for CS > SND

I sometimes for for CS > SND > SS (3-5) > Evis as well, it just depends on the occasion.

Sometimes I just run into two/three mobs unstealtehd to set up a blade furry. Every 2 minutes if possible.

Sometimes it's just sheer lazyness so I just run to the mob straight and go SS x5 > Evisc and then finish it with a couple more SS.

Anyway, you guys are right, I will add a section about rotations to use while leveling.