There’s room for a lot of creativity when it comes to fighting as a rogue. Cheap Shot followed by Kidney Shot allows you to stun lock an enemy for ten seconds. During that time you can choose to do significant damage or apply various debuffs such as poison, expose armor, and bleed effects. But you can also choose to use Premeditation to secure your 5 combos faster, or to open differently with Garrote or even Ambush.
In this guide, we have them all covered in an order of increasing complexity.

– Full Stunlock openers
1.1. Cheap Shot, Kidney Shot variations
1.2. Cheap Shot, Gouge, Kidney Shot variations

– Stunlock/Bleed opener
2.1. With a Vanish
2.2. Without a Vanish

– Expose openers
– Snare openers
– Other openers

Full stunlock openers

For your information: Orange will be used for Auto Attacks (AA), Purple for combo points (CP).

Cheap Shot / Kidney Shot Variations

– Cheap Shot, Hemo/Shiv (x2) → Kidney (5cp) → Dps
– Premeditation, Cheap Shot, [Auto-Attacks] → Kidney (5cp) → Dps

FAQ: What should I do during Cheap Shot? Hemo? Shiv?
It depends a lot on the situation and what’s best to do at the given time. All the following examples are meant to relate to an equal gear situation versus full life opponents.

1. if you can secure your DPS (meaning your target gets no heals), such as in a duel versus another rogue, prefer Hemo.

2. if you have to deal with a healer
- The target is a healer: Shiv (wounds) are likely better to set your pressure up
- A healer can assist your target: Shiv (wound) is also the way to go unless the healer is under control and you see an opportunity to kill the target.

3. if you used premeditation :
- Auto-attack and be ready to Kidney at end of Cheap Shot (or before, in case of trinket)
- In arenas, this opener allows you to do a Shadowstep-Kick on a second enemy because you already got your 5 combo points applied to your target for the Kidney. (very common in WotLK because the game is more fast-paced)

FAQ: What happens after Kidney?
There are several ways to think about what needs to happen next if the opponent uses his insignia of the horde/alliance or not. The point here is not to learn how to play against each class and in each situation case by case, but rather to give an in-depth and comprehensive insight of the rogue’s versatility.

1. You can use a shiv (crippling) directly after the Kidney, so if the opponent trinkets Kidney Shot instantly, he will be snared (if you can predict the enemy's trinket). Pretty handy if you are snared yourself, or don’t want to be kited by your opponent (a common situation in arenas and battlegrounds). But you gotta be aware that a lot of players aren’t that fast at trinketing, and you may shiv before the trinket.
A lot depends on the opponent’s experience, but at a high rating, this is quite a normal move to do on disc priests or rogues typically for example.

2. For duels and battlegrounds :

- a. Versus any kind of class:
be prepared to Blind in case of Trinket on Kidney Shot, if you think that’s necessary. If so, then Re-sap (maybe twice if it’s a half one), Cheap Shot, Kidney Shot, etc. like you started the first time.

- b. Versus MM Hunter, Warlock, Fire Mage:
You can sit behind the opponent and spam gouge. Why? Because if the opponent uses his Trinket, he will probably turn to get you in front of him to use: Scatter Shot, Death Coil, Dragon’s Breath. This is a nice way to cross-control incoming CC in the case of early trinkets. The opponent won’t be able to prepare his kiting (with Trap, or Casts, etc) and this gives you an opportunity to Shiv (crippling) him and save a cooldown (like Cloak or Shadowstep)

- c. Versus casters and druids (situational):
You can think about vanishing for a Garrote (with or without Premeditation, if you have it) + Shiv (crippling) to keep the opponent close to you. If that’s a druid, be prepared to be kited.
NB: You don’t really need to do that versus a full life resto druid, it is used more to apply pressure when they’re in trouble (i.e no HoTs, no peeling assistance, etc).

Cheap Shot, Gouge, Kidney Shot Variations

– Cheap Shot, Shiv → Gouge → Kidney Shot (5cp) → Dps
– Cheap Shot, Hemo → Gouge → Kidney Shot (5cp) → Dps
– Premeditation, Cheap Shot, [AA] → Gouge → Kidney (5cp) → Dps

The openers that make use of Gouge are usually intended to buy time for :

a. Allowing a teammate to connect

– Especially a mage, as Rogue/Mage, who could need that Gouge to come and cast his first Frostbolt for example,
– But also an SP, as Shadow Priest/Rogue, against warrior/druid, that may be snared far from the druid and a gouge could allow him to connect.
– A Discipline Priest to dispel the opponent before a Kidney, etc.

b. Defensive move (Peeling) :

– To allow a partner to heal you or himself.
– To use first aid during 4sec (especially between DoT ticking that could kill you)
– To allow a partner to control the target (for example Fear or Cyclone) or a 2nd enemy
– To keep an enemy controled while /focus shadowstep kicking a second opponent.

c. Pooling energy: Pooling One extra tick of energy for the incoming burst phase (Kidney). especially as Mutilate or HArP, with an improved Gouge or a big Kidney Shot.

d. Waiting for a cooldown: For example, Kidney Shot. The cooldown lasts 20sec. You can for example imagine a Cheap Shot when you have less than 8 seconds left on Kidney’s cooldown, so you can Cheap Shot (4s), then Gouge (4s), as Kidney is ready to be used.

You have to be aware that Gouge shares a Diminishing Return with Sap and Polymorph. This means two things : 

– You can’t do an effective (and full) Gouge if your target was sapped before the Cheap Shot.
– You can’t do a full sap (10 seconds) if your enemy trinkets a Kidney Shot that you applied after a Gouge. This means that if you Sap (half), your next stun (Cheap Shot) might also be reduced and your Kidney won’t be ready yet. 

Stunlock/Bleeding openers

For your information: CS stands for Cheap Shot, KS for Kidney Shot,
Also, you need to know that you can apply some specific debuffs on a sapped target if you do it from a proper angle.

FAQ: How to open without breaking sap?
The best way to open your enemy when sapped, without breaking it, is to manage the angle from which your character will auto-attack a target and the angle from which you can execute abilities without triggering your auto-attacks (also named swing). Between those two, there is a window in which you can perform this kind of openers. This will become a lot more natural once you get faster and more experienced.

Bleeding openers with a Vanish

– CS, Hemo/Shiv (x2) → KS (5cp)Vanish →  garrote, rupture → Dps
– Sap → Preme, Garrote, Rupture (90°)Vanish → CS, Hemo/Shiv (x2) → KS (5cp) → Dps

This type of opener is extremely popular, especially in duels where you can really optimize/adjust your cooldowns to your opponents’ class.
For example, for a very good rogue versus rogue (RvR) opener, you can think about using these two openers.
– The first one allows you to eventually react on an early trinket on CS or KS so you can blind.
– The second one is more of a way to “force” the trinket on the KS, because otherwise, you may have a kill window on the enemy rogue. 

– Sap → Garrote, Rupture (90°) (1-2cp) → Vanish → Preme, CS, [AA] → KS (4-5cp) → Dps
– Sap → Garrote (90°), Slice and Dice (1-2cp) → Vanish → CS, Hemo/Shiv (x2) → KS (5cp) → Dps

These variations also create similar situations. The first one will shorten your Rupture by a bit (3cp instead of 5cp) and the second is more of a way to get a Slice and Dice for your CS KS if you don’t have any combo points on your target before the opener.

NB 1: Keep in mind that Slice and Dice can’t be used in stealth. On The Burning Crusade, this means that you have to use it before (re)stealthing.
NB 2: Your main-hand poison can proc a poison on Garrote/RuptureExpose/Cheasphot abilities. If you’re using a Crippling Poison, then you’re fine. The poison will be applied to your opponent without breaking your Sap. But if you’ve got an Instant poison, Deadly poison, or Wound poison, a proc could happen and break your sap resulting in a bad opener.

You can also use stop attack macros, but they’re not 100% safe and become obsolete on Classic WotLK (stop attack macros aren’t preventing your auto-hit, from happening anymore when you apply your Garrote or Expose).

Bleeding openers without Vanish

– CS, Hemo/Shiv (x2) →  KS (5cp) → Dps + Shiv (if no crippling applied), Rupture at the end of KS
– Preme, CS, [AA] →  KS (5cp) → Dps + Shiv (if no crippling applied), Rupture at the end of KS

This opener is one of the most common ones for RvR and hopefully requires no explanation.

Expose Armor openers

For your information: EA stands for Expose Armor.
The green [abilities] stand for optional things to do.

These openers cost a lot of energy, they’re a bit trickier to perform and are specific to situations.

– Sap → CS, EA (90°)(3cp) → Restealth → Sap → Preme Garrote (90°) (or DR CS) →  KS (5cp) → Dps
– Sap → Preme, CS, EA (90°)(5cp)→ Restealth → Sap → Garrote (or DR CS), Shiv → KS (5cp) → Dps

This opener was pretty popular for a long time on TBC (particularly during the early private server scene) but I would not recommend doing 3 combo points Expose Armor, unless you play with 2/2 Improved Expose Armor Talent to make it more efficient.

Of course, this is up to personal preferences, but from experience, besides Slice and Dice and Rupture, most finishers are more interesting when used with 4-5 combo points.
This is why I prefer using the variation that requires Premeditation. But this one isn’t what I call the best way to apply an Expose before a full Stunlock. The fact that you make your opening a bit shorter isn’t great and that’s why you can opt for Premeditation + Garrote instead of Cheap Shot to apply your Expose Armor. This way, the opener looks a bit more solid as you can see below.

– Sap → Preme, Garrote, EA (90°) (4cp) → Vanish → Cheapshot, [Hemo] → KS (4cp+) → Dps
– Sap → Preme, Garrote, EA (90° or not) (4cp) → Vanish → Garrote, Shiv → Dps

This way, the opener becomes a bit more aggressive. The first version would probably occur outside arenas (i.e duels, battlegrounds) while the second one with double Garrote is more of an arena opener, for casters, especially mages. You can apply Expose, prevent him from blinking, and apply your Shiv. The good point about double garrote opener is that silence effects don’t share Diminishing Return on The Burning Crusade. This is an extremely powerful way to start on a mage, but usually, you want to make sure that your partner(s) is(are) properly able to play around such an opener.

– Preme, CS, Expose (5cp), [Hemo][Gouge] → Vanish, Garrote, [Hemo] → KS (5cp) → Dps

Depending on the situation, the enemy’s class, and your cooldowns, you can also use the opener above, which is almost the reverse of the previous ones. It’s my personal favorite against Shadow Priests for various reasons :

a. Combos: 5cp Expose has a 60% chance to proc a free combo (Ruthlessness)
b. Damage: Hemorrhage (+1cp) is buffed by Expose and with auto-attacks you may break the shield during Cheap Shot. Then your Gouge (+1cp) also deals increased damage from both previous buffs and you get an energy tick during it. Then Garrote (+2cp – most of the time) so you get a good Kidney Shot, with no shield and a full Expose Armor, not to mention your wounds which might be around 2-5 stacks (depending on your rng).

This opener also works that way (thanks to Drapo) :
CS, Hemo [AA] → Gouge → EA (90°) (5cp) → Vanish, Preme, Garrote → Kidney Shot (4-5cp) → Dps

Snare (Crippling) openers

– Sap → Preme, Garrote (90°)  → Shiv (crippling), Eviscerate → DPS
– Sap → Preme, Garrote, Rupture (90°) (4cp) → Shiv (crippling) → Dead zone

This type of opener is extremely useful when you can’t use stun abilities due to the opponent’s capacity to take benefit of it.

– The first one is the typical opener that you want to use for a rogue versus mage duel. As stated in the previous part, it prevents the mage from blinking, allows you to Shiv (crippling), and likely breaks his shields (Frost Barrier, Mana Shield) with Eviscerate. This is a solid start to quickly build pressure on him.
Usually, in arenas, the same rule applies to have a proper opener on mages.
Tip: Some mages are using Trinket (insignia) on sap so they can Nova rogues out of stealth. Make sure to sap from max range and wait a few seconds to see what happens.

– The second one is the typical opener for a rogue versus warrior duel. Contrary to vanilla (classic) rogue, using stuns on a warrior is not a safe way to play because of the talent Second Wind which generates +20 Rage and restores 10% of the warrior’s total health over 10 sec whenever it gets stuck by a Stun or Immobilize effect.

Other openers

Fancy Ambush openers

We covered most of the popular (and useful) openers of the rogue in this guide but we couldn’t stop here without talking about ambush openers.

– Preme, Shadowstep, Ambush → KS (4cp) → Dps

A pretty cool opener if you play with 3/3 Improved Ambush talent, to increase your chances of a crit. Mostly used for Warlocks and Rogues (duels) but also in battlegrounds.

– Preme, CS → KS (5cp) → Vanish → Shadowstep, Ambush Dps (Prep, Vanish Preme Garrote, Evisc)

The all-in Rogue versus Rogue opener that sometimes brings a very early Cheat Death proc on your enemy, hehe. Fanciest among the fancy openers. #sbkzorspecial

Fancy Preshots openers (duels)

– Preme, Garrote, [Hemo]* →  [Shadowstep]* KS (5cp) → Dps

Hemo is optional for an extra combo, because it gives a window to your opponent to play (vanish CS for a rogue for example), but you can skip it and keep energy for your 4cp KS.

Shadowstep is also optional because it mostly depends on what class you are facing:
For example versus a rogue, if you opt for a Hemo after garrote, the opposing rogue will be able to move and turn his back to be in front of you. To secure your Kidney, you may need to use Shadowstep so you do it from behind.

– Cheap Shot → Vanish, Cheap Shot (Predicting Trinket) → Kidney Shot, Blind, yolo  /forfeit
– Preme, Cheap Shot → Kidney Shot (Predicting Trinket) → Dps → Blind, Sap CS, KS, Kill

This kind of opener is really about exciting RvR duel series where you can quickly fall into a speed competition of pressing your keybinds in a good order.
But it also applies to arenas where pre-KSing a trinket on Cheap Shot can occur if your pressure is already at its peak and you know that your Cheap Shot leaves no other option to your opponent. ?

versus Warlock: Seduce (Succubus) bait

– Sap, Cheap Shot (90°) (wait for the seduce, you can even sit it)

versus Mage: Blink (Mage) bait

– Preme, Cheap Shot → Gouge (Predicting Blink) → Kidney Shot → Shiv (crippling) → Dps

Arena situations

– Garrote on X → Vanish Sap on Y, Cheap Shot on X → Kidney
– Cheap Shot on X → Vanish Sap on Y, Garrote on X → Kidney

This 1v2 opener is one of the coolest when facing a double DPS, especially a double rogue. It allows to CC both in one opener. Usually the Vanish Sap catches opposing players by surprise.

– Preme Step Ambush → Expose → Vanish → Garrote → Shiv/Hemo/Evisc/SnD (up to you)

A pretty cool opener if you play with 3/3 Improved Ambush talent, in arenas with another melee DPS (Feral, or Rogue) to increase your chances of critting. Also very potent if your rogue partner is playing Mutilate specialization. If so, you can wait for the Kidney (improved by his talents) to do your Shadowstep Ambush.

So, as you can see, playing a rogue offers a lot of options and creativity in terms of starting a fight, be it duels or arenas. It relies on your perspective of the game which also depends on your experience. Most of the day-one rogues do not perform the openers that we detailed in the part 3 or 5 because the first step is to focus on proper combo management, spending them wisely, and also time management (avoiding unnecessary Gouges after Saps, etc.). This guide was brought to you by Sbkzor/Saeyonara, and we hope you enjoyed it.

Looking for more PVP Guides?

Off-hands and Poisons Management on TBC

The Ultimate In-depth TBC Stealth Guide

Shadowstep PVP Build