After the nerf of the Combat spec that came with the 2.3.2 patch, Shadowstep became the main arena spec for rogues. But what makes it so fantastic? Let me give you five of the best reasons to choose this spec instead of others.

Reason n°1: Top cooldowns and abilities

Hemorrhage

Hemorrhage: An instant strike that deals 65% Physical damage (increased 40% if a dagger is equipped), and causes the target to bleed for an additional x damage over 24 sec. Awards 1 combo point.

Hemorrhage is one of the most representative spells of the spec. That’s even an alternative name of Subtlety spec: Hemo spec! In other words, it is a must-have. You can’t properly play SHS if you don’t take this talent, for two reasons :

– This attack buffs your physical damages (10 stacks): That is pretty interesting for other melee damage dealers, such as warrior or feral for example.
– More importantly, it has a lower energy cost than other attacks (backstab, sinister strike, ghostly strike) and this is great for building combo points.

Shadowstep

Shadowstep: Attempts to step through the shadows and reappear behind your enemy and increases movement speed by 70% for 3 sec. The damage of your next ability is increased by 20% and the threat caused is reduced by 50%. Lasts 10 sec.

Shadow Step is probably the most addictive spell to use because it offers more freedom in your movements. It’s also the spell that a debutant rogue will often waste (sadly) because it’s really easy to think that it is necessary to use it.
Learning how to use it correctly is one of the keys to improvement.

Shadow Step gives great mobility and makes it easier to keep pressure on your target. It also helps a lot in chains of crowd control. For example, Shadow Step is very helpful combined with Sap, and Cheapshot or Kidney Shot. It’s also a really nice spell to use with Kick (especially the popular shadowstep+kick focus macro).
Shadow Step also buffs your next melee attack. That’s why you can see a lot of rogues using SHS with Ghostly strike, eviscerate or ambush. The damage of your next ability is increased by 20% which can be really huge on crits.

Preparation

Preparation: When activated, this ability immediately finishes the cooldown on your Evasion, Sprint, Vanish, Cold Blood, Shadowstep, and Premeditation abilities.

Preparation is also a must-have talent.
Is it really necessary to explain how good it is to get all your important cooldowns to reset?

The major change that made Shadowstep better than HArP spec.
Patch 2.3.2 (2008-01-08): Preparation now resets the cooldown of Shadowstep and no longer resets the cooldown of Adrenaline Rush.

Reason n°2: Resource regeneration

Combo points

Combined with some Assassination talents, Subtlety specialization has a lot to offer.
Spending 3 points on Ruthlessness is extremely useful because it brings new opportunities when it procs.
Ruthlessness : (talent, assassination) Gives your melee finishing moves a 20% chance to add a combo point to your target.

For example, you can get a free combo after your Kidney Shot, which allows you to get a Slice and Dice without generating manually your combo for it. This combo can also be spent for a rupture if you expect a trinket/vanish from your rogue enemy. In defensive situations, you can also just go away and kite during a full Kidney and use your free combo for a deadly throw in order to snare your opponent.

This talent is also synergizing pretty nicely with another assassination talent that regenerates your energy.

Energy regeneration

Relentless Strikes : (talent, assassination) Your finishing moves have a 20% chance per combo point to restore 25 energy.

The more combo points you get, the more they give you the chance of generating energy ticks with Relentless Strikes. With a 5 combo point Kidney, you have a 100% chance to get 25 energy restored and a 60% chance to get a free combo. That literally makes your Slice And Dice free to buff your damage during a full Kidney Shot for example.

That’s also a way to get faster to 5 combos so you can do another finisher move.
Getting a longer Rupture on an enemy rogue can be crucial for a lot of clutch situations as double DPS comps in 2v2 arena, not to mention the infamous Kidney Shot+Sap which requires a full combo point Kidney Shot (along with some combat RNG depending on how your server handles combat timers, but let’s keep that for later!)

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Reason n°3: Mobility

Mobility – it is the reason why Improved Sprint is so popular in Classic, and TBC really is no different in this aspect. If anything it just gets more important with each expansion from Classic to WotLK.

Mobility for rogues, and specifically Shadow Step, is extremely useful when you set up a kill. It is usually done by synergizing a chain of crowd-controlling abilities with your partner(s), and without Shadow Step, this would become a huge headache. That also explains why most rogue macros in TBC revolve around Shadowstep, like Shadowstep+Kick focus macro, Shadowstep+Sap focus macro, and so on.

Another huge thing about Shadowstep is that it prevents you from getting kited by casters and also allows you to kite warriors by timing their Intercept with your Shadowstep to effectively getaway or to do some crazy James Bond moves juking players off ledges like in Blade’s Edge Arena.

Both Shadowstep and Sprint are reset by Preparation which is also of interest. This makes this spec likely to be more mobile than a Mutilate PVP Rogue or a Combat PVP Rogue.

Reason n°4: Synergy

The rogue class has a natural synergy with most damage dealers, especially casters, but usually works well paired with almost any other class in 2v2 (which funnily enough also makes rogue/rogue somewhat viable if you both know what you are doing) and a lot of this synergy stems from the ability to peel your teammates, setting up kills and forcing trinkets by coordinated pressure. A good rogue is a rogue that serves a kill target on a tray by setting things up in a way that enables your teammate to do what they need to do.

Most classes have great synergy with rogues, some more than others. Mages, druids, and priests are good examples of classes that work well with a rogue. If you’re new to rogue or to TBC, I highly recommend you to check my article about the best comps to start arenas as a rogue.

Reason n°5: Not being heavily reliant on resilience

Picking Subtlety and Shadowstep also allows you to grab talents like Preparation and Cheat Death which makes life as a rogue a whole lot easier. Suddenly you have twice as many cooldowns which can be used offensively or defensively depending on the situation, and with Cheat Death thrown into the mix, the need for stats like stamina and resilience – although still important – diminishes and enables you to play with a lot more PvE gear. 

Survivability in general comes more from good cooldown management (in other words good gameplay) rather than stamina and resilience, and Subtlety certainly helps out a ton in this regard.

So yeah, I think these five reasons are justifying pretty nicely why every rogue wants to be Shadowstep in a PVP environment, and especially arenas of Burning Crusade Classic. Subtlety talent build gives a lot of freedom, comfort, and power to the rogue to make it one of the strongest classes of this expansion.

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