What you need to know about Shadowstep spec on TBC

The shadowstep build is, for today’s TBC standards, the optimal rogue build to play with. We can easily say that it is a top tier specialization to play, which also makes it extremely popular. In addition to offering plenty of mobility, it also provides the player with numerous cooldowns which can be used defensively or offensively, significant crowd control and some of the most powerful damage in The Burning Crusade PvP environment. No one is safe when faced with a good old shadowstep rogue.

Gearing your Shadowstep rogue

Gearing a Shadowstep rogue is quite simple. Your first priority is getting hit capped which for PvP is 5%. Following that, you need to choose whether you are concentrating on attack power or agility. This largely depends on your preferences, your partner, and what suits your gameplay.

As a double DPS player, I have always chosen agility because not only it provides attack power, but also dodge rating as well as armor. However, in early phases (especially P1-P2), AP is a pure offensive stat that is more powerful to capitalize on the enemy’s low resilience/health point. Take a look at our page named Stat & optimizations for more inputs on that topic. it covers stats weights, gems, and enchants.

At the same time, you have to look for optimizing your hit stat in order to reach 7-8% because with 5% you still have to deal with a lot of RNG. Further to that, there are talents in classes’ trees that reduce the chance melee attacks will hit, such as a mage’s Arctic Winds talent. Therefore the suggested hit cap is by no means static.

When it comes to gear, you basically just need to farm your PvP gear each new season while simultaneously trying to upgrade your other gear slots, either from your professions and/or through PvE I recommend checking our Best-in-Slot TBC Rogue Gear section for more info on this topic.
– Until Warglaives, your BIS weapons can be obtained through PVP (S1 1850 – S4 2050.) 
– Usually, you want PVE drops for your trinkets/cloak/neck and rings, but good alternatives can be found with Badge of Justice rewards (Bloodlust Brooch, Dory’s embrace). If you don’t wanna raid, you can farm heroics until you get enough Badges.

I will write a page about resilience needs later on.

Arenas as Shadowstep

Shadowstep rogue is one of the most represented class/spec in arenas. It pairs very well with almost every other class because it creates all kinds of set-ups for your partners. You can apply significant pressure on your opponents through effective crowd-control chains, such as cheap shot – kidney shot – psychic scream, blinding after a trinket or just through your poisons. We explore poisons in more detail further in the article when discussing shiv and off hands.

While it is true that the rogue is one of the best duelists, this does not mean that it is not among the best classes to synergize with as well. If you were to take one key tip from this guide for rogue arenas, this would be that you have to look out for creating opportunities for your partner to connect and use his own abilities. These so-called windows could be in the form of landing a kidney shot within your partner’s line of sight and not out of it or pausing your own damage during a frost nova to let your mage land a shatter crit combo. This means that you can’t play a rogue in the arena as if you were alone in a duel. Stuns are not only a tool for your own comfort but overall an important way to allow your mate to do his damage with you in order to get a kill – this is particularly relevant to double DPS combinations. Likewise for healer + rogue, stuns are a vital tool to help your partner survive and should be used defensively in order to peel for them.

It’s not rare to get many Shadowstep rogues in arena ladders (from rank 10 to rank 1). Some top-tier comps are built with a subtlety rogue such as Discipline Priest + Rogue or Dreamstate Druid + Rogue, which tend to dominate the ladder in every season, but a lot of double DPS are popular such as Rogue Mage, Spriest Rogue, Warlock Rogue, or even Feral/Rogue. Also, we have listed all the viable arena comps to play for rogue (shadowstep).

New on TBC Classic? For more info read Healer/DPS or Double DPS: The best combos to start 2v2 arenas

Shadowstep rogue & Optimal professions

As is the case for all classes, so for rogue the professions you will opt for depend on whether you wish to focus on PvP or PvE. As a PvP fanatic, I have always chosen Engineering and Jewelcrafting for my subtlety rogue, even though many would argue these are not properly optimized for this specialization. The reason for my choices is that these professions offer fantastic items which are useful throughout the different phases TBC progresses towards. 

Engineering: I have always chosen this profession for my character and it flows nicely from Classic World of Warcraft Rogue. . 

– The Quad Deathblow X44 and X11 are very helpful pieces of gear, primarily on account of their stealth detection bonus. When combined with a Zapthrottle Mote Extractor in your bags, their income generating value should not be underestimated. 
– Engineering also provides some fun items like Super sapper charges, grenades, rocket boots and the ever so popular belt which absorbs 4k damage (very common in s1 and s2). Be warned, however; some of these items cannot be used in arenas.

Jewelcrafting: This profession has two major interests for us : 

Figurine – Shadowsong Panther, a potent DPS trinket untilBerserker’s Call with a very useful stealth increasing bonus
– Endgame Best-in-Slot items, namely Hard Khorium Choker and Hard Khorium Band.
– The ability to acquire gems unique to and reserved for jewelcrafters. 

If you want more detailed information to make your decision, you can read our guide that explains what profession to choose as a TBC rogue for both PvE and PvP.

What is the best race to play rogue as Shadowstep?

The best Shadowstep race for TBC mostly depends on what you prefer doing in terms of PvP. 

  • For arenas, you may often hear that Undead is the way to go. This is because the fear mechanic is particularly frequent in the game and [Will of the Forsaken] provides a helpful counter to the following; priests’ psychic scream, warlocks’ Howl of Terror and Fear and also warriors’ Intimidating Shout. Less common but certainly dangerous enemy crowd control abilities where WotF comes in handy are also charms such as a warlock’s succubus Seduction ability as well as sleep effects (Wyvern Sting from survival hunters). [Cannibalize] is also a great racial ability if healing is unavailable, allowing you to style on your enemy after a kill.

  • Orc is very powerful because apart from having an “additional” attack power trinket through [Blood Fury], you may also find increased stun resistance through [Hardiness] to be a lifesaver in 1v1 situations (especially against rogues) or when roaming solo in a battleground #TBCrng 

  • The benefits of a Human rogue are threefold which is the reason why they have a very strong case to claim the best rogue race. First and foremost, [Perception] offers optimal openers which can decide a game very early on, particularly in double dps versus double dps scenarios. Secondly, the [Mace] and [Sword Specialization]s reduce the chances of your attacks being dodged or parried when attacking an enemy face to face – that is, not from behind or sideways. It’s noteworthy that a few Best-in-Slot weapons throughout TBC phases are swords or maces, such as the [Rod of the Sun King] during tier 5 and of course [Warglaive of Azzinoth] during tier 6. Last but not least, [The Human Spirit] allows you to regenerate health 10% faster than average, which synergizes beautifully with the rogue’s gameplay requiring frequent and often lengthy resets for pooling and waiting for cooldowns. 

  • Dwarfs’ [Stoneform] is an interesting defensive cooldown, especially in situations arising in battlegrounds or World PvP where a healer is not guaranteed.. Stoneform + Vanish against a rogue or a warrior could save your life, allowing you to remove bleed, poison and disease effects.

Simply put, if you aim to perform competitively in PvP, your choice boils down to Undead or Human.
If you are a more laid-back player looking to have fun, you have more leeway to choose another race and you may enjoy playing as an orc or a Blood Elf with a powerful AoE silence. As a side note, it is worth mentioning that orcs are the optimal race for Mutilate spec, which is a subject that is explored in our Mutilate PvP Guide.

The Shadowstep rogue templates

The subtlety specialization has many variations on the Burning Crusade, but it is always about personal preferences. Nonetheless, there are several must-have talents for your SHS build :

There are other talents that you definitely want to get as well, but the point of customization is to bring variety and we cannot blame you for making changes. You need to know that not having these talents will probably affect your experience as a subtlety rogue :

          • Vile Poisons (Assassination) – because you’re going to face a lot of poison abolishers (Druids, Paladins)
          • Cheat Death : 100% chance that a hit that would have otherwise killed you reduces you to 10% health instead (all damage taken for 3sec reduced by 90%).

This being said, here are the most popular templates of Shadowstep rogues in TBC and one of my custom builds which worked until 2200 rating on private servers.

  • Hemo/Shadowstep Spec
  • Hemo/Shadowstep Spec with Improved Expose Armor
  • My custom Hemo Shadowstep Build with Imp Ambush.

Popular Hemo/Shadowstep Build

This build is used by most of the subtlety rogues in TBC. It offers all the talents mentioned previously and brings optimisations such as Free combo procs (Ruthlessness – Assassination), Additional combos on openers (Initiative – Subtlety), Cooldown reduction on Vanish and Blind (Elusiveness – Subtlety) but also increased Stealth detection (Heightened Senses – Subtlety)

Without a doubt, this is the best shadowstep rogue talent tree template. A few of the rogues who have used this build for high rated arenas are

NB: This build has an Assassination talents variation : 
Instead of 2/2 Murder, you can have 2 points in improved Eviscerate (2/3)

Popular Hemo/Shadowstep Build with Improved Expose Armor

This is a spec which has been used by various high rated players in different team combinations:

It substitutes 2 points from Lethality (4/5) into Improved Expose Armor 2/2 talent. This build is designed for rather lengthy fights or double melee combinations.
Like we said, Improved Expose Armor isn’t a must-have; it’s mostly a matter of personal preference. 

NB: This build has an Assassination talents variation : 
Instead of Improved Eviscerate (2/3), you can have 2 points in 2/2 Murder. 

Sbkzor’s Spicy Hemo/Shadowstep Build with Improved Ambush

In my early days as a human rogue, I was ditching the Heightened Senses talent because human rogues were quite rare in arena ladders. After a spike in popularity with human rogues, particularly with Warmane’s TBC server Outland, I changed it to retain Heightened Senses and removed 2 points from Vile Poisons because the spec is mostly based on instant damage and control to maintain the pressure applied on your opponent.

This Improved Ambush spec is especially interesting when you play double melee team combinations such as double Rogue or Rogue Feral. If you want more details about it, check my TBC Fera Rogue 2v2 Guide.

A quick note about this spec:
This spec will require you to have a secondary MH (1.8 dagger) to make use of your Ambush. You don’t want to play Subtlety as double dagger, it would make you lose a lot of damage, so you have to run this spec like the others, with a 2.6 MH / 1.4 OH and occasionally swap your weapon in order to use your Ambush.
For this purpose, I’d recommend using two macros:
One to swap to dagger and Ambush, and a second one to go back to your “main” MH.

For example, I have Ambush on the same shortcut as Ghostly Strike (which is F), in my main bar (stealth bar), so I use those two macros:

#Showtooltip Ambush(rank 7)
/equipslot 16 [MainHandDaggerName]
/cast Ambush(rank7)

#Showtooltip Ghostly Strike
/equipslot 16 [MainHandWeaponName]
/cast Ghostly strike

The interest of these two macros is that it allows you to weapon swap and ambush when stealthed, and spamming Ambush will automatically swap my weapon back to the other MH once out of stealth! So this pretty much a one-button double weapon swap with Ambush in between.

How to play the Shadowstep rogue?

In addition to this guide, many others were prepared to help you learn how to play the spec: 

Every Subtlety Rogue openers 
Combo pointsDPS Rotation
Weapon swapping & Poison management

Strengths & Weaknesses of Shadowstep Spec


👍 Great mobility to escape/kite (with 2 sprint / shs / cloak to remove crippling)
👍 Plenty of good cooldowns and Preparation on top of that to reset them.
👍 Vanish to escape, Control (Sap after a CC), re-open a target (Cheap Shot or Garrote)
👍 Multiple Anticast (Kick 10s cooldown; Deadly Throw)
👍 Evasion to prevent melee damage if not stunned
👍 Nice energy generation with Relentless Strikes and combo generation with Ruthlessness during fights.

👎 Low armor/resil when you start getting PvE optimized.

Tips for Subtlety spec players


Rogue is one of the classes offering the most crowd-control you MUST play with :

        • Sap macro
        • /focus macros in order to play on two enemies at the same time..

There are multiple good rogue focus macros like Blind, Gouge, Kick, but also some that combine Shadowstep. As a way of example: 

        • Vanish Shs SAP focus

/cast [target=focus] Shadowstep
/cast [target=focus] Sap

        • Shs kick focus

/cast [target=focus] Shadowstep
/cast [target=focus] Kick

If you want to see more macros, we highly recommend you to check our TBC Rogue macro section.

Specific rogue spells and how to use them


Before using Preparation, take a second to assess whether this important cooldown is being wasted. Sometimes, you may benefit from an extra shadowstep or evasion.


You will face a lot of classes which are able to kite a rogue quite easily. The most common are : 

… but even Shamans and Warlocks can slow their opponents with Frost Shock, Earthbind Totem and Curse of Exhaustion.

In situations as such, you may feel compelled to shadowstep your opponents. A good sub rogue, however, knows how to properly handle such impulses to do so. You always have to think about your next step and whether using a cooldown will create the most value for your team given the circumstances. For example if your partner cannot connect, it might be worth saving your shadowstep and enduring the kite.

Using shadowstep when looking for stealthed units is not advised. More often than not, shadowstepping an enemy rogue to land a sap is a waste of a cooldown granted he’s in the range of your vision.

Shadowstep can also be a way to kite your opponent by using it on another target.
For instance, in Blade’s Edge Arena one can often see rogues jumping off the bridge and then using Shadowstep on their enemy jumping after them, a move which if successful results in them being back on the bridge and safe while their opponent is down.

Shiv & Poisons

Before we start, I wrote an entire guide dedicated to that topic here: Off-hands & Poison management for PVP

Bind Shiv somewhere comfortably because on Classic The Burning Crusade, you will eventually get tired of using it if you are playing properly. For this reason, and due to the variety of poisons available to you, you need a few fast off-hand weapons in your bags and appropriate macros which allow you to switch between them mid combat, depending on the poison you need to use.

  • Main Hand  Wound Poison. This poison offers a potent healing reduction capability, which you must ensure has as much uptime as possible at 5 stacks. If you deem a 5 stack of Wound Poison necessary and you need it fast, it helps to keep an off-hand coated with it too, which along with your main hand should get the stacks up easily in no time.
  • Off-hand 1 with Crippling Poison. Reduces your enemies’ mobility and is required almost always for kiting.
  • Off-hand 2 with Mind Numbing Poison. Reduces your enemies’ casting speed. Excellent versus healers, gives you an easier time to Kick crowd control or damage abilities. Significantly increases your chances of interrupting a pet summon during a warlock’s Fel Domination, provided you have already killed the first pet.
  • Off-hand 3 with Wound Poison. See above discussing Main Hand.
  • Off-hand 4 with Deadly Poison. (for advanced players able to manage the previous poisons) : extremely good on plates armor.

The above discussion hopefully illustrates why Vile Poisons is a crucial talent. It’s also important to know that when it comes to Off-hand weapons, speed is more important than damage. For the purposes of shivving, any weapon with speed <1.40 would do the trick. 

Subtlety is one of the most entertaining and exciting specializations to play. If the skill floor is one of the most debutant-friendly, there is a huge difference between an average rogue, a good rogue, and a top rogue. The toolkit, the rotation, the weapon and poison management… all these are ingredients that can be used in various and creative ways which, much like a recipe to cook a meal, yield a different result. We hope this guide will help you in your quest to cook your opponents as a shadowstep rogue. 

Not convinced? Read 5 reasons why you should play Shadowstep!

Make sure to join Silent Shadows’ Discord (10K members soon!) if you have questions regarding this specialization! 

Shadowstep Rogue Movies 

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