Mutilate for PvE, Part I: Assassination

Playing a PvE rogue isn’t really all that complicated. Your job is simple. Stealth around, stun some stuff, incapacitate some more stuff, and dump large amounts of dps onto the main target (yay for button spamming! anyone see my drinking bird?) We even have an easy button for controlling our aggro.

Mastery of the PvE rogue, however, is a different story. Have I? Absolutely not. Hell, I’ve only been playing the game for just about a year. But when I get into something, I really get into it. It’s not just about progression and getting epic gear; for me, it’s about the entire experience. I thrive on learning how to specialize my toon through his talent trees and execute skill combinations that maximize what he does best: deal damage. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be reviewing some of the most popular rogue builds through actual game tested results. I’m not much of a theorycrafter, but I’ll try and add some calculations in as well.

First, lets take a look at my current build: 41/20/0. This build is also known as Combat Mutilate or Mutilate PvE.

Malice – 5/5 – Increases your crit chance by 5%
Regardless of your build, you are putting 5 points in this talent. Period.

Ruthlessness – 3/3 – Gives your finishing moves a 60% chance to add a combo point to your target
One of the biggest advantages to the talents in the assassination tree is combo point generation, and it starts here. Six out of ten times, when using one of your finishers and wiping your combo points clean, you get to start your next step of points with a base of one.

Murder – 2/2 – Increases all damage caused against Humanoid, Giant, Beast, and Dragonkin targets by 2%
Two percent. ALL damage. DoTs, poisons, white, crit…all of it. In my very humble opinion, this is a no-brainer. Agreed, it’s not a true base damage modifier because it leaves out Elementals, Demons, and Undead. Screw it. I’ll take 2% increased damage to four out of the seven mob types any day of the week.

Relentless Strikes – 1/1 – Your finishing moves have a 20% chance per combo point to restore 25 energy
Another automatic, especially with this build. As you’ll see in a bit with Seal Fate, combo points are a dime a dozen, so expect to often see SCT pop this beautiful little message on your screen “+25 Energy (Relentless Strikes) “.

Lethality5/5 – Increases the critical strike damage bonus of your Sinister Strike, Gouge, Backstab, Ghostly Strike, Mutilate, Shiv, and Hemorrhage abilities by 30%
A source of mild debate for traditional Combat Dagger builds (how many points to put into this talent versus Opportunity), there is no discussion here. A critical hit for 1000 damage is modified and increased to 1300.

Vile Poisons 5/5 – Increases the damage dealt by your poisons and Envenom ability by 20% and gives your poisons an additional 40% chance to resist dispel effects
This is one of my favorite talents in the assassination tree. First, the 20% damage increase to poisons is outstanding. Poisons are a staple in the rogue diet of dps, so a base modifier is more than welcome:

  • Deadly Poison – 1 charge ticks damage over time for 12 seconds, for 180 damage total. This effect can stack up to 5 times, for essentially 900 points of damage. With this talent, 180 becomes 216, and 900 ramps up to 1080. With 5 charges, you will see about 300 damage per tick.
  • Instant Poison – Each strike from the applied weapon has a 20% chance to inflict the target with 146 to 194 nature damage. Add 20% and it becomes 175 – 232. Simple enough, right? It’s even better when you consider Shiv, an instant offhand attack which automatically applies to the target poison that has been coated on the offhand weapon…more on that later.
  • Envenom – This finisher is certainly an alternative and in some cases a replacement for Eviscerate. Where eviscerate is physical damage and is mitigated by armor, envenom deals nature damage (but can be resisted or diminished). Consuming the full damage per charge of deadly poison per combo point (5 charges and 3 combo points with consume 3 charges and all combo points, where 3 charges and 5 combo points will consume 3 charges and all combo points). The formula for this skill reads “5 doses: (900+AP*0.15) damage”. I have 1560 attack power. So, (900+[1560*.15]) = 1134. Add 20%, like the talent tooltip reads, and you get 1360. Multiply by 2 for a critical hit, and you have 2721. Hmm, how can I then explain that screen shot? Patience…patience. Is envenom better than eviscerate? I think so, yes. I’m sure some super theorycrafter out there can prove me wrong with all sorts of calculations and whatnot, but I see what I see…and 3k+ crits from envenom are just too pretty to pass up.

Cold Blood1/1 – When activated, increases the critical strike chance of your next offensive ability by 100%
Please. Cmon, it’s a guaranteed critical hit. On a 3 minute cool down. Putting one point in this talent isn’t mandatory. It’s not required. Go ahead, skip it. I dare you.

Improved Kidney Shot3/3While affected by your Kidney Shot ability, target receives an additional 9% damage from all sources
Huntards have Ferocious Inspiration, rogues have this. It’s the closest we get to a party buff (I have ideas, but am open to suggestions…future post? Something like battleshout that increases dodge rating?). At 5 points (generated easily with the entirety of this build), the duration is 6 seconds; 6 seconds where not only is the entire party/raid dealing 9% extra damage, but the mob is stunned and dealing none. Put three points here, and don’t look back.

Quick Recovery2/2 – All healing effects on you are increased by 20%. In addition, your finishing moves cost 80% less energy when they fail to hit
Want to give your healers a surprise? Grab this talent and don’t tell them you did. Seriously, this is a wonderful survivability talent, especially in heroics. Your bandages go from 425 healing per tick to 510. Priest and druid HoTs soar. Add a blessing of light (stop it already with the selfish demands for blessing of might, a dead rogue does o dps), and your healers will WANT to heal you, if nothing more than to pad their healing meter numbers. If you can think of an argument NOT to put any points in this talent, I’d love to ignore them.

Seal Fate5/5 – Your critical strikes from abilities that add combo points have a 100% chance to add an additional combo point
Where Ruthlessness starts, Seal Fate finishes. An Assassination rogue deals in two absolutes (no, I’m not suggesting we are Sith): high burst-type dps and combo point generation. If hot and heavy damage is your butter, this is your bread. With 5 points in this talent, every time one of your combo point generating abilities crit, you get an extra point. Not sometimes, not a chance, not if then this or that. If you are opening with cheap shot, timing your attack (if you don’t have an energy ticker on your HUD, get one) properly, and slamming a quick Mutilate…that’s 4-5 combo points in the first couple of seconds entering battle.

Vigor1/1 – Increases your maximum Energy by 10
If you are this far into Assassination, you’re taking this talent. Just like that, with one click of your mouse, you are blessed with 10 extra base energy. Once upon a time, there was a wonderful little set of tiered gear that also gave you an energy increase of 10. 120 energy? Will we ever see this again?

Deadened Nerves2/5 – Decreases all physical damage taken by 2%
OK. I’ll probably take a bit of flack for this one. This is somewhat of a filler for me. I could have put two points in Improved Poisons. Do I really need 4% increased chance to apply poisons? Maybe. I haven’t had a problem with my application rate so far, but again, im no theorycrafter. Master Poisoner? I’m not on a PvP realm, and I don’t do arenas or battelgrounds often enough…so no thanks. Fleet Footed? Same story. I chose put a couple points in Deadened Nerves because I like the idea of taking a little less damage. Flame on.

Find Weakness 5/5 – Your finishing moves increase the damage of all offensive abilities by 10% for 10 seconds
Remember that screenshot? Scroll up a bit. My Envenom calculation didnt quite match up to the game tested results. Why? I didn’t factor in that Find Weakness was up. 10% increased damage for 10 seconds. Once again, there is no argument with this talent. You are taking it, with 5 points and a tequila chaser. Think about it…5 point Improved Kidney Shot + Find Weakness = 19% increase to ALL of your damage for 6 seconds. Know your finishers (Slice and Dice, Rupture, Envenom, Eviscerate, Kidney Shot, etc.), get yourself a nice timer/countdown mod, and do whatever you can to keep this beast going. Don’t gimp yourself.

Mutilate1/1 – Instantly attacks with both weapons for an additional 101 with each weapon. Damage is increased by 50% against poisoned targets. Must be behind target. Awards 2 combo points

Old-schoolers will argue this is not a worthy 41 point talent. They’ll say that Backstab does more damage based on their crafting of theories and calculations. Funny, does backstab give you two combo points or one, or even three when it crits (Mutilate will not give you 4 points if both hands crit)? I didn’t think so. See that up there? What does that add up to…hold on let me get my calc…u…lator. *Presses some buttons*. 3063. Fully raid buffed with the same gear, in Karazhan, the highest my backstab ever reached was 1900. Factor in damage modifiers from this tree, even 19% increased damage only raises that to 2261. Either way, I’ll let the picture speak for me. Did I forget to mention that this by far, without a doubt, the second most fun ability we have. Number 1? Shadowstep…/sigh, another place and time. Another fun fact about Mutilate: Offhand damage is NOT affected by the duel-wield penalty; in other words, the full damage of your offhand weapon is applied without the 50% reduction (25% with talents).

EDIT: In fact, if you do have dual wield spec, the offhand damage is actually increased

Again and again, I will say that I am NOT a theorycrafter. For as many calculations as I try and do, I feel that I get better information from game tested results. It’s just my way. I’m not the best rogue out there, and I’m certainly not the most informed about my class and it’s abilities.

Next up, Part Deux: Combat.


12 Responses to Mutilate for PvE, Part I: Assassination

  1. Chris says:

    Nice post. Couple of things:

    Regarding taking Blessing of Light over Blessing of Might… Light’s healing bonus only applies to Pally healing spells, so if you’ve got a different MH in the group, I’d still take Might.

    Also, 120 Energy makes its return with Arena Set 2 for Assasination rogues (4pc set bonus):

    If you’ve got 2 filler points, I’d put them in Master Poisoner instead of Deadened Nerves (unless you do a lot of PvP) – 10% helps your Envenom /poison procs from being resisted.

    I love the 41/20 build, mine looks almost entirely similar except I’ve got 2 points in MP instead of DN.

  2. Doomilias says:

    chris, thanks. i didnt know about that arena set…figures because i dont do much pvp at all. maybe i should start! thing about putting points in MP is that i haven’t found that my poisons get resisted very often at all (where im always taking damage doing those stupid nwing dailys!). i would take this if i did arenas alot, though, for my own 30% poison resist. thanks for your input!

  3. Chris says:

    No problem!

    And for the record, I don’t take MP to help with poison application, I take it to help keep Envenom from being resisted. Since it technically counts as a spell (omg, a spell from rogues – no wai), and rogue itemization has exactly 0 spell hit, this is an easy way to lower the chance that Envenoms are resisted.

    Also forgot to mention that for grinding, I’d put the 2 points in Remorseless Attacks… 40% increased chance for my next Mutilate within 20 seconds to crit? Yes, thank you!

  4. Christine says:

    Well if I had any doubts about your blog before, they are all hacked to pieces now. Very nice. I sense I will be respeccing very, very soon.

  5. Subhodeep says:

    Great post, 41/20 is by far the most fun rogue spec to play.

    Just one thing:
    Another fun fact about Mutilate: Offhand damage is NOT affected by the duel-wield penalty; in other words, the full damage of your offhand weapon is applied without the 75% reduction (25% with talents)
    This is not true. Which is why Dual-Wield Specialization makes mutilate a lot more effective, compared to Opportunity.

    Furthermore, the dual-wield penalty is 50% damage reduction from off-hand, 25% with talents.

  6. Doomilias says:

    sub, thanks for the correction on the dual wield penalty %…i had a serious brain fart there. however, i am correct about the mutilate calculation not being affected by the dual wield penalty. Check this link from

  7. Jehu says:

    Nice blog. I started WoW on day 1 retail as an orc rogue on a PvP server (/wave Thunderlord). I enjoyed the playstyle but eventually moved on.

    It’s been 2 years (literally) since I’ve played a rogue in any seriousness. It’s nice to get up to speed. Keep it up.

  8. Anonymous says:

    hey i have a question about envenom.

    i am mutilate spec, almost exactly the way you are here. but i stoped using envenom beucase i down scailed my poisions (i noticed that it was very expensive to make 60-80 top of the line lvl poisions, so now i make lvl 1 crippling poisions)

    will envenom do the same dmg with lvl 1 deadly poisions as apposed to lvl 5 or whatever the heck level of deadly poisions that i have?

    im level 67 runetotem server =Seenostars=

  9. Doomilias says:


    there are 7 ranks of deadly poison. rank 1 does 36 per charge over 12 seconds, where rank 7 does 180. and yes, that will affect envenom greatly, as it consumes the full damage rating for each charge. i dont believe high level poisons are that expensive anymore, as in the last patch they vastly reduced the mat requirements. one deadly poison rank 7 is 1 maidens anguish and 1 crystal vial. thats less than 15 silver each.

  10. Murray says:

    Great Read!

    I’ve just started my Gnome Rogue (currently level 34) and have been loving it! My old main was a 65 Hunter and this has been a much needed change of pace.

    With most builds being for high-level toons, I was wondering how I should allocate my talent points early on. I have more points in Assassination as I love high-damage and combo points, but feel a little lost on a good foundation.

    Any recommendations?
    Armory Link:'nilash&n=Murray

    Thanks for the great blog and please keep up the outstanding work!

  11. Jeanclaudia says:

    “Offhand damage is NOT affected by the duel-wield penalty; in other words, the full damage of your offhand weapon is applied without the 50% reduction (25% with talents).”

    Hi Doomilias, saw your post syndicated at Roguespot and its a nice read!

    However Im not convinced about the offhand-damage of Mutilate not being affected by DW-penalty, which is how I understand your point.

    I think youre missing the word “bonus” that is liberally littered all over the Wowwiki-entry.

    What this means is that the Mutilate offhand-attack will be X * 0.5 + 101 without 5/5 DW-specialization, and X * 0.75 + 151.5 with 5/5 DW.

    Mutilate damage with the offhand IS affected by the DW penalty, while according to Wowwiki the 101 bonus damage is not.

    Which means that the DW-talent is even more awesome:-)

  12. It looks like you are a true specialist. Did you study about the subject? haha..

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