Monday, August 6, 2007

Mutilate for PvE, Part III: Tactics

I sit here on a rainy Monday morning, the sleeves of my black dress shirt rolled to mid-fore, top button undone and matching black tie loosened. The small fan on my desk is blowing straight across my unshaven face, and Bear Vs. Shark's Terrorhawk is driving strong indie rock (read: awkwardly layered guitar riffs, driving drum beats, and aggresive vocals) straight through my day drifting thoughts. It's days like these, where I couldn't care less if was told today was my last (at the office), that put to bed my realist negativity and awaken my hopeful idealism.

To the point you say? Tactics. That is, how to use the 41/20/0 Combat Mutilate build. Putting it all together, like any other Rogue build, it stards with an opener and ends with a finisher. But which? And in what situations are they specifically best used? Since I don't do arena and I rarely do battlegrounds, I will focus on 5-man dungeons and raiding.

The Basics
Every Rogue build focuses on one main voluntary offensive skill, one secondary voluntary offensive skill, and many auxiliary offensive, defensive, and passive skills. Rogueplay has long been regarded as button mashing, skill spamming, and disappearing when things go awry. To a degree this isn't totally innacurate. Often times when soloing or partaking in regular world activity, relentlessly tapping one or two keys will produce the same results as paying attention to all of the buffs (proccable or combo-point based), countdowns, and cooldowns that are at a Rogues disposal.

But when grouping either in a raid or party instance, this style needs to change. A well balanced group should consist of proper healing, threat generation and damage mitigation, mob control, crowd control, and damage production (both ranged, melee, physical, and magic). As a Rogue, you bring the potential for heavy amounts of both sustained and burst melee damage (Your crowd control options are limited unless you are an advanced thinker, but thats for another post, another time). I say potential because in order to provide your group or raid with the varied types of damage for which you are capable, you can not simply spam one or two skills.

Attack Sequence & Positioning
Going into any particular pull of grouped mobs or a boss fight, it is critically important to think ahead about where you are going to be standing, what type of mobs you are fighting, and the sequence at which you will execute your attacks.

The beginning
The first of your attacks in any fight. Before the pull has even started, identify the mob type you are about to engage. This will ultimately determine which of your openers will be most effective. Is this mob immune to stun? Can it bleed? Is it a caster?

My most used opener in regular/heroic 5-mans and the beginning of Karazhan is Cheap Shot. I always make sure to be in stealth mode well before a pull is about to begin. From this point I will position myself almost directly on top of the tank. As the primary target approaches, I will strafe around behind that target and perform a cheap shot. If the mob is immune to stuns but not to bleed effects, than I will open with Garrote. If the mob is immune to both, I will open with Ambush.

The objective here is to start off the fight by giving myself a foundation by which I can begin to build combo points and stack attack speed buffs. With 160 haste rating for 6 seconds from the Assassination Armor set bonus and 2 combo points, Cheap Shot is my preferred opener. At level 70, a 10.5 haste rating gives 1% increased attack speed. This calculates out to about a 15% increased attack speed for the duration of the effect, which not only ramps up my dps rating, but also gives me more strikes to proc poison applications.

For boss fights and even a large number of pulls in Karazhan, Cheap Shot does not work. This is when I use Garrote. At level 70, Garrote does a base of 810 points of damage over 18 seconds (the 3 second silence effect is purely meant for PvP, but is useful when soloing). Modified by only attack power (since for this build I obviously don't have any of the Subtlety talent multipliers):

Total Garrote Damage = Garrote Rank + (Attack Power * 0.18)

I'm going to assume Garrote Rank to be 810, because I am level 70, and I have a raid buffed attack power averaging around 1800. So, 810 + 324 = 1134 over 18 seconds, or 189 damage per tick (where 1 tick = 3 seconds). Further, if you have a Feral Druid in your raid or party, wait for them to apply Mangle (which they will almost always do right away). This skill adds 30% damage to all bleed effects to target for 12 seconds. Assuming the Druid keeps this debuff from expiring, my Garrote will increase to a total damage done of (1134 * 1.3) 1474, or 245 per tick. In my opinion, this is better than opening with Ambush because it does as much or comprable (not counting heavy crits, since I do not have Improved Ambush or any damage multipliers) damage without anywhere near the same amount of threat. Will the average trash mob last 18 seconds? Hopefully not. But on boss fights, where it counts, Garrote is always my number 1 choice.

When fighting mechanicals, ghosts, or any other mob or boss type that is immune to bleed (Attumen or Mechano-Lord Capacitus, for example), I will just open with Ambush. It doen't crit very often, which I prefer (I don't want to spend the next 6 or 8 seconds waiting for my threat to decrease), and gives one combo point. Good enough considering. Another alternative that I will sometimes use, when I absolutely know that neither Cheap Shot or Garrote will work, is to open with a Shiv. Low energy cost, instant Deadly Poison application, 1 or 2 combo points (depending on if it crits).

The Middle
The fight has begun. You have your foundation. Now what? Well, it's up to you, really, but this is what I do.

For some time, when I first started using this build for instances and raids, my sequence for trash would go Cheap Shot > Mutilate > Kidney Shot > Slice and Dice/Shiv (note: or vice versa, depending on if Ruthlessness procs from KS) > Rupture/Shiv (see previous note) > Shiv > Mutilate > Envenom. I thought that by keeping the mob stunned for 10 seconds (and giving the 9% increased damage from all sources) that I was really helping the entire party or raid. What I failed to realize until recently is that unless the tank is controlling multiple mobs at once, I am taking away his only way of generating rage. It's fine for that one mob because the healer doesnt need to, well, heal...but the tank would have no rage at all when moving to the next mob. This is not a good thing. No rage = no threat. No threat on the tank means death amongst the ranks, or it forces the tank to burn cooldowns that aren't otherwise necessary. So I modified my sequence, for a few reasons.

Cheap Shot > Slice and Dice > Mutilate > Rupture > Mutilate > Envenom/Eviscerate is now my preferred attack order on the first mob of a trash pull. When moving to the next mob, I will throw a Shiv as I make my way around behind. This gives me at least 1 combo point to keep Slice and Dice going, as well as that guaranteed 50% increased damage from Mutilate when the mob is poisoned. So, Shiv > Slice and Dice > Mutilate > Rupture > Mutilate > Envenom/Eviscerate.

This isn't THE best order in which to use your skills, but it is the one I have found the most comfort using. You can really mix and match as to per your preference, whatever fits your playstyle. However, there are two very important buffs that you must keep from expiring. Slice and Dice and Find Weakness.

Way back in this post, I tried (somewhat failingly) to give a few actual caclulations as to how much Slice and Dice increases your DPS. Well, it's simple really. Thirty percent. Keep it going, and dont let it run out. Having Improved Slice and Dice is a key talent in contributing to this build's overall DPS.

Where Slice and Dice is a skill that you can control with the push of a button, Find Weakness is procced by a finishing move. Since I regularly opening with Cheap Shot, a 2 point Improved Slice and Dice will last me 17 seconds. This, in turn, will last 7 seconds longer than Find Weakness. So in the next 10 seconds, I will throw a Mutilate to generate 2-3 more combo points, wait until Find Weakness has just under 3 seconds left, and then I will hit Rupture. Using Rupture at this point in my attack sequence serves a number of purposes.

First, it adds a very nice damage over time effect to the target. At level 70, a two point Rupture will deal 460 base damage over 10 seconds. Using the same attack power value as I did for Garrote (1800), this increases to 640 damage. Add to that the 10% increased damage from Find Weakness and the DOT increases to 704 over 10 seconds. Add, once again, the 30% damage to bleeds from a Feral Druid's Mangle, and I get about 896 total damage. According to, at 2 points this will tick 5 times (provided the mob stays alive for the duration) at about 128 damage per. Factor in the 40% worth of multipliers, and the DOT ticks at about 179 every 2 seconds (and very little threat!). Taking this even further, I will always use this as my first 5 point finisher on a boss fight. 5pt = ([(1800) * 0.24 + 1000]*1.4), or about 2004. So, about 250 every 2 seconds for 16 seconds. *I'm actually very unclear if damage multipliers like these stack or are applied seperately. In other words, having (dmg * 1.1)*1.3 > (dmg *1.4). Anyone have any ideas?

Second, and probably most important, is the 10% increased damage bonus from Find Weakness. 10% to all normal swings. 10% to Mutilate. 10% to Eviscerate. 10% to Envenom. Everything. It's simple really, do your best to keep this going at all times, and your DPS will increase by 10%.

The Finisher
Where Slice and Dice and Rupture are classified as finishing moves, Eviscerate and Envenom are the true battle-enders. I don't have talents in Improved Eviscerate, mostly because I hardly ever use it. I prefer Envenom largely because of the 20% damage increase from Vile Poisons, but also because it is not mitigated by armor. Since it is nature damage, it can be partially resisted, but I have not noticed this but for 1 or 2 times. I will normally wait until I have 3-5 charges of Deadly Poison on a mob and there is less than 10k hit points left before it's death. This pretty much ensures that any threat I generate from my oft 3k+ Envenom crits won't put me in a position of certain wisp-form.

Using a Mutilate or Backstab build requires a Rogue to be positioned behind the enemy. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be sniffing up the buttcrack of said mob, just that you have to be near it. Think of the target as a compass, with the center being the actual mob and the radius being your attack range. If the mob is facing any of the four cardinal directions, you must remain behind the corresponding perpendicular directions, slightly less than 180 degrees from point to point.

Grouping with BRK on regular occasion, he has said that watching me keep my position is something he would have a hard time doing. For me, it's pretty simple. I don't use my mouse during combat. Ever. I have all of my main attacks mapped to keys on my number pad. I have the left and right arrow keys controlling my strafe, and the A and D keys controlling my left and right movement. It's just my preference, but it allows me to move in all directions and attack without moving my hands and hunting for hot bar buttons to click.

Well, that's about it for now...I've written a lot. If you've read this entire thing, I commend you.

I'd love to hear your thoughts/flames/trolls/etc's.!