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There are two major specs for rogues in arena, there is room for some variance in each, though the basics should be kept the same to maximize your ability to play the class at the highest level.
The basic combat talent spec offers you a great deal of utility, survivability, and damage. My talent spec has been a variation of the 20/41 build since the latter half of season one. I like the spec because it offers solid burst damage during the AR as well as great-sustained damage throughout the fight. If surprise attacks wasn’t reason enough to spec deep combat the additional bonuses of combat potency, nerves of steel, improved sprint, and improved kick should be. With so much stun resist in the game landing your kidney shot has become of utmost importance, IE I don’t want to have to worry about a dodged KS, surprise attacks takes care of that.
With 20/41 you have a bit of flexibility, first in the choice of weapons. You can choose from mace spec, sword spec, or fist spec. My recommendation, if you have the weapons, would be to spec maces. The stun proc on top of the +10 weapon skill puts it far beyond the benefits gained from sword or fist spec. Control for a rogue has always been the most important attribute for a rogue in pvp, and mace spec helps you extend that control even more. In the event Blizzard changes sword spec back to a yellow damage proc, which would remove the current dual wield miss penalty imposed on white attacks, you could make a cast for swords. Though I currently cannot see any reason to spec anything other than maces so long as you have quality weapons. With as much resilience in the game as there is now fist spec is virtually useless, and so long as sword spec procs are white damage I’d shy away from them as well for pvp.
There’s a bit of room for variation in the spec, and it really depends on what your preference abilities are. Personally I’ve chosen to go with 19/42 on my rogue, which allows me to get all the regular talents in assassination, but also gives me room to pickup improved expose armor, which I find myself using quite frequently vs. priests and a selection of other classes where I’m able to stick to a target for long durations. The key to this build is obviously the 41-point combat talent; so long as you’ve got that then you have a bit of room to play in the assassination tree and are able to customize it according to your play style.
Rogue Arena Mutilate Specs
41/20/0 Mutilate (I’m not a big imp. KS fan, if you are you can work points around from murder / ruthlessness / vile poisons to get it)
50/0/11 Mutilate (Heavy poisons, ideal for 2v2 with a healer)
49/0/12 Mutilate (Heavy poisons, full MoD)
In my opinion mutilate is the only other truly viable arena specs, there are a few strange hybrid builds which are available, though if you are going combat I’d suggest looking at the build above, else if you are a dagger fan go for mutilate. The great thing about mutilate is quite simply the great damage and combo point generation is supplies even when you aren’t critting. In addition it’s got fantastic burst damage during a Kidney shot, which actives both your improved KS (+9% damage) and expose weakness (+10% damage). Let me tell you, anything which modifies by percent in this game is overpowered, simply because the only balancing limitation imposed is via the quality of weapons you are able to attain.
The major dilemma for me here was always whether to choose the 1.4 speed traditional off-hand dagger, or go with the bomb dropping pair of main hand 1.8 speeds. Your biggest draw back to mutilate is the poison application, though for the most part shiv is able to at least get you started and then, so long as you stay on the target, your poisons should hold pretty well. So if you aren’t worried too much about having to spam shiv, as the energy cost is marginally higher with the 1.8 over the 1.4, then go for a pair of main hand daggers. The +50% damage from off-hand specialization in the combat tree will allow your off-hand to hit nearly as hard, and sometimes harder, than your main-hand dagger. For example, cs, mutilate, it crits, 5 cps, wait for energy tick, ks, +19% damage, cold blood, mutilate. Quite simply put this combo, or similar combos to this, is why mutilate is such a strong spec. You’ve got great sustainable damage, awesome combo point generation, and the ability to through some of the highest burst damage combos in the game.
For virtually all of the Burning Crusade subtly talent specs were pretty horrible. Though patch 2.3 changed it all.
While shadowstep is viable it may not be the best choice for your teams makeup. You’ll want to develop a variety of fast target switching mechanics with your team in order to extract maximum benefit from the spec.
Rogue Hybrid Arena Specs
26/0/35 Hybrid Hemo
This is the type of spec that is ideal for your double melee rush down teams. In essence, rogue / warrior / druid teams. With this type of rush down combo you really don’t need shadowstep, so having the extra points in assassination really helps to give you that extra bit of on command damage you need to drop the bombs.