With Conquest emerging soon, and PVP becoming slightly more of a hot topic, I figured it was time to write a new guide. That, and the other one I wrote is half-assed and four patches old.
This guide is sorted by souls. Each soul will have a set of builds under it that use the listed soul as their primary soul in the combination. Under that, I'll list a short summary of the soul in PVP, along with the builds themselves with pros and cons, a playstyle summary, and macros.
The Nightblade is one of the top three viable main souls in Rogue PVP. While it doesn't bring much utility, it does bring both raw DPS and survivability. It isn't the most reliable for organized PVP, but the burst that a 51 NB brings is only outmatched by a Saboteur's, and the ST burst is much more reliable. It has great synergy with other souls, both as a main spec and a subspec.
Full NB: 51/12/3
Buffs: Combat Preparation, Hellfire Blades, Fell blades
Pros: Full Nightblade is a bursty, survivable healer-killer spec. What makes it superior to a Marksman is that the burst is more manageable, but it also comes packed with survivability and DPS cooldowns, and most importantly--auto attacks. When attacking a healer with a cleansable healing debuff, it's imperative that you maintain uptime on Fell Blades. The extra possible procs on auto-attacks aren't anything to sneeze at, and it allows you to put a significant amount of pressure on a healer, more than possibly any other Rogue spec in the game.
Cons: It's a melee spec, and it does have a severe lack of gap-closing ability. Staying in melee is manageable, but it'll be tough if you're fighting a Pyro or a Marksman. It's not a rambo spec--stick to fighting within your group.
Remember to keybind your buffs, use NKrebuff or at least simply be aware of them. If Fell Blades gets purged off of you, you become extremely ineffective. Keep in mind that under almost any circumstance, you should open with Dark Malady. It's better than Ebon Terror, by a lot.
Remember that you are a melee class with a severe lack of gap closers, and as such you should stick to pressuring healers who aren't going to kite you very hard, and pressuring healers is where this build excels. Don't waste your Flash of Steel--approach targets with your snares, or open from stealth, and wait to use it if they use an ability that creates a gap. The following will also hold true in all high NB builds: watch your Heat Retention stacks. You want to pop Scourge of Darkness when you're at 5 stacks, because it's going to be an extreme DPS gain even if you have to use your builders beforehand. Remember to maintain Fiery Spike on the target. You gain the bonus from Lingering Flame, which is a massive DPS boost. Just as well, remember the DPS bonus you gain from Nightstalker--spam those Blazing Strikes, when your target is below 30%. A 3cp Blazing Strike on a target under 30% health becomes a 5cp Blazing Strike, so don't waste that window of opportunity. The same goes for your burst CDs--if you can line up Scourge, Living Flame, and Ebon Fury at once, not much is going to stand in your wake as you blow through the enemies' defenses.
Despite how macro-friendly NB is, you can become a serious threat in high level PVP by timing your burst, but I can understand why some people wouldn't think it's worth the effort
Here is where it gets iffy. I don't recommend playing with these, because not only will you suffer serious macro-lag, but this is a guide, and if you can't handle a 5 button rotation as a melee spec in the heat of battle, these will help.
#show Dusk Strike
cast Dusk Strike
cast Twilight Force
cast Fiery Chains
cast Primal Strike
cast Fiery Spike
This is your basic builder macro. I recommend putting Dusk to Dawn on it's own key, and keep a separate key with Fiery Spike as to make sure you always maintain 100% uptime on it.
#show Scourge of Darkness
cast Scourge of Darkness
cast Blazing Strike
cast Flame Thrust
Your finisher macro. I recommend putting a Blazing Strike/Flame Thrust macro on a separate key, so you can still use finishers while managing your timing on SoD.
#show Dark Containment
cast @mouseover Dark Containment
cast Dark Containment
A mouseover macro to improve the ease of use of DC. Just move your mouse over the target you want it to be cast on. It also functions as using DC on your current target if you have no @mouseover.
NB/RS variants: 48/18, 44/22, 38/28
There's many more variants even within the specific point layouts I listed, but these are the ones I prefer. Remember that with each point you take out of NB, you lose damage output, but gain survivability and mobility. 48/18 is still on the DPS side with more restricted mobility, but 38/28 has a metric asston of mobility, survivability, but not as much DPS.
Pros: Regarding what I said earlier about 51 NB, NB/RS is an easy spec to get used to with reasonable survivability and reasonable DPS, depending on what flavor you choose. If you find yourself being ineffectual in other builds, it's hard to be ineffectual in a NB/RS, even if all you're doing is simply taking damage for your team--pop Guardian Phase and eat it up. With RS added, NB becomes a very effective rambo spec. Your survivability and mobility combined with some pretty redonkulous cooldowns makes this a good build for solo harassing points that're normally heavily populated, like Translation Scope or Statue of Thontic respectively. It's also just a good spec for 1v1.
Cons: Everyone hates you because you're a NB/RS. <3 That, and your damage output isn't that significant. You'll mostly be whittling people down in battles of survivability.
While it should be played similar to 51 NB in terms of burst/CD management, the actual playstyle of NB/RS is varied. It can be anything from front-line tanking to rambo alone in the enemy base. It probably has the least limited playstyle of any of the viable Rogue PVP builds.
Many of the macros you see in my 51 NB explanation will be used in these, so I don't want to repeat them. The only additional macro you may need is a Blink macro, and a phase change macro. You may also want to add Phantom Blow to your builder macro.
#show Shadow Stalk
cast Shadow Assault
cast Shadow Blitz
cast Shadow Stalk
Shadow Stalk is a break free of every CC in the game, manage it wisely. I recommend putting it on a separate key for use of breaking out of snares. If you're stunned, Shadow Stalk will fire above all of the other abilities--if you're snared, it will not. Remember that Shadow Blitz only works on builds that go higher than 20+ RS, so if you're using 48/18, it will not work.
#show Stalker Phase
cast [notactive] Stalker Phase
cast [notactive] Guardian Phase
This macro switches you back and forth between phases. Not going to be a game changer in any sense of the word, but it's useful in some circumstances.
There are other viable NB builds, 33/33 NB/Sin or 38/28 NB/Sin, but I've never played them nor do I intend to and any of the information I'd give would simply be inferences based on the time I've spent PVPing as a Rogue. I do encourage you to check out Am0n's Rogue PVP guide if you're interested in furthering your NB education.
Oh, the 1.8 FotM. It's been a long while since Saboteurs were more than simply a 0-point subspec, but now they're quite the game changer. It's an awkward spec to play, to be sure, but if you can get good at it, the possibilities are endless. And by endless, I mean all you really can do is be a ridiculously bursty glass cannon, however that's nothing to sneeze at. I originally gave Saboteurs a lot of crap when 1.8 came around--how could a silly AoE spec without a healing debuff be anything more than fluff on the scoreboard? Oh how I ate my words, and a cursory lookover of the PVP boards will tell you that Sabs are anything but bad.
Full Sab, the only way to go: 51/11/4
Pros: Damage is through the roof.
Cons: You're about as survivable as a slightly below average 96 year old woman.
Buffs: Planebound Resilience, Track Constructs (for all the pros out there)
The Sab playstyle is one that fluctuates constantly, and rarely has any constant elements to it. Among the few things that hold true, you should always keep your GTAOEs up, especially Adhesive Bomb. Watch for choke points and aim to keep people in them. Chemical Bomb causes people to scatter, Adhesive Bomb causes people to stay still, so use that to your advantage. As soon as you're about to let forth your burst, drop Choking Gas bomb--it gives you a leg up on your damage. This game isn't an RTS, but you can make it one.
Always try to keep Land Mines around you. It protects your team from potential melee invaders, and the knockback isn't anything to be underestimated. Four chained landmines can occupy a Warrior who might be killing your healer for two or even three potential GCDs. Better safe than sorry.
Playing Sab in PVP isn't playing Sab in PVE. Caltrop Charge isn't going to always be the best thing. You should rarely be using Spike. Maximize your AOE DPS--throw out a Splinter Charge to prep the crowd with an armor debuff, and then Rapid Setup-Shrapnel, is guaranteed to net you some kills. Remember that throwing one Shrapnel charge into a crowd will reset the stacking DoT that Shrapnel charge leaves--this is a good way to finish off a group of enemies after you've unleashed carpet bombing, or to simply maintain DPS while pressuring the group.
Last but not least, use Time Bomb. This is possibly the best ability in your whole arsenal, because it lets you maintain your burst even after dropping a Rapid Setup/Carpet Bombing combo. If you don't know what to do in Sab (which is a common occurrence, believe me--there's no set rotation and all your abilities are situational) throw out a Time Bomb. It's good in the long run, which is is nine seconds. If a team is scattered across a map, don't blow your CDs on one target--set them all up with Time Bombs, and coerce them together. Wait for the perfect moment, and when it does come, all of your potential targets will be softened up with three stacks of High Explosives.
As I've stated earlier, Sab mobility sucks. You still have options for getting away from melee who choose to go after you, though. Firstly: always position yourself in a place where you can quickly LoS all enemy RDPS, in the event that you're focused. Second: Land mines. They should be around you. Thirdly: As soon as you're jumped by a melee, drop an adhesive bomb on your location, and Shadow Shift+On the Double away. If you're quick about it, and use the LoS object you should have appropriately, this tactic allows you to circumvent one melee DPS at least every 45s.
Sab is a unique soul in that most, if not all of it is unmacroable. I do use two macros, however. One of them is an ease of use, because I bind Detonate Separately, and the other is freaking amazing and everyone should use it.
#show Fragmentation Bomb
cast Fragmentation Bomb
Can you guess which one this is? This macro simply improves the quality of life when you're playing Sab.
#show Time Bomb
cast @mouseover Time Bomb
cast Time Bomb
Works the same as my Dark Containment macro for Nightblade, but it should be used differently. This macro allows you to put a Time Bomb on any random target in a clustered group (or any random target anywhere, for that matter) without deviating from the setup on your current target. Just place your mouse over a target who isn't your target, and drop a Time Bomb. You should be using this ability on CD whenever you can--it's essentially an Annihilation Bomb that's slightly backloaded.
My favorite. In my personal opinion, Marksman is the best Rogue PVP soul in the game currently, to the point I'd even say it was overpowered. That's for everyone else to decide I suppose, but it's undeniably a viable PVP soul in numerous spec iterations. It's mobility is unmatched by anything in the game, and it's utility isn't far behind. It doesn't lack damage either--while it's not the hardest hitting soul in the game by any stretch of the imagination, it definitely packs a punch.
Full Marksman, a glass cannon on roller skates. 51/15
Despite being a 51/15 build, there's quite a few versions of 51 MM. Others are 51/15 MM/NB, or 51/14/1 MM/Ranger/RS, 51/13/2 MM/NB/RS etc. I find 15 ranger to be the best offspec because you can provide a nasty armor debuff, and the utility Crippling Shot brings is useful in all sorts of situations. Another slightly different "full" MM spec is 49/17 MM/Sin. This spec doesn't outDPS any 51 MM specs if they're using Silver Tip Munitions, but it does provide the most DPS while using Vampiric Munitions. It's less flexible, but it's definitely an option. But all of those specs have the same playstyle.
Buffs: Electrified Munitions, Predatory Instincts, Vampiric/Silver Tip Munitions (you should swap between these depending on what the situation demands, but always use EM. I see a lot of Marksmen running around with STM and VM up, that's a no-no )
Pros: High utility, high DPS, high mobility
Cons: How much time do I have? I can't think of any.
Let me get this out of the way: STOP USING FAN OUT. Seriously, stop it. You're making the good Rogues look bad. The only time you should be using Fan Out is to provide AoE interrupt spam at a control point you're trying to hold.
Now, that's out of the way...As they're both glass cannons, this spec is played a lot like Sab, but you have more leeway. Always make sure to utilize your 35M, you have a big advantage over other ranged classes. 51/15's rotation is mostly just piercing/swift until you can use your finishers, but remember that you can, and should, time your burst. Casted shots are a great way to set this up--queue up Shadow Fire at 3CP, and then unleash RFS as soon as you're finished casting. All of them will hit in the same timestamp, and you can follow up with Strafe to really bring the pain onto whoever you're targeting. Don't underestimate Lightning Fury either, it's another nice hard hitting ability you can use to finish off anyone who's close to death, keeping in mind that it's also non-physical. Always maintain Barbed shot on your target.
Remember as well that you're packed with utility. Deaden is an amazing ability, put it to good use and target healers. The same goes for Eradicate, but exponentially more. Eradicate is the single most overpowered ability in the game, so use it. As a very low rank Rogue you can be an absolute game changer by using an Eradicate assist macro to aid your top DPS. Eradicate counters so many builds and classes, including your own. If you see a Marksman, purge him. If he doesn't rebuff, you've saved your team a good deal of grief. Taking away EM is cutting his DPS by roughly 25%, and taking away VM is cutting his DPS by roughly 50%, as well as dropping his survivability by removing the siphon. The same goes for Warlock Armor and Planar Blade. If you see buffs like that, purge them. I can't stress it enough--you have one of the best abilities in the game at your fingertips, so make good use of it.
Your escape abilities are ridiculous. Retreat and On the Double combined with Static Shot and mediocre situational awareness means that you should almost never die. Also remember that Quick Reload has a vast array of uses, but I find the best is when kiting a large group of people, you perform a Retreat->QR->Retreat. 40M in two seconds, even a NB/RS is going to have trouble catching you.
#show Piercing Shot
cast Piercing Shot
cast Swift Shot
Your basic builder. Keep casted time abilities, a la Empowered and Shadow Fire on their own keys. Putting them in a macro with instants is bad new bears.
#show Rapid Fire Shot
cast Rapid Fire Shot
cast Hasted Shot
Finishers, blah blah blah.
#show Bull's Eye
cast Bull's Eye
cast Deadeye Shot
You use this when you want to kill something.
Your Eradi-assist macro. Set the person you want to assist as your focus, and when you tap this, it will target your focus, target your focus target's target, and cast Eradicate on him.
#show Lightning Fury
cast Lightning Fury
cast Fan Out
AoE spam macro for timely use of Lightning Fury as well as interrupting at control points.
44/22 MM/RS, the "in loving memory of Boomx", or "NB/RS for cool kids".
Buffs: Stalker Phase, Planebound Resilience, Track Air Creatures (track abilities work as purge covers, they're worth using), Electrified Munitions, Vampiric Munitions, Planar Reversal is optional but I prefer it to be off.
Pros: Very strong survivability, best mobility in the game.
Cons: Damage is lacking.
The playstyle I recommend for MM/RS is unorthodox, to say the least. The idea is to take, and do, all the damage for your whole team whether you're harassing the enemy base alone, or being the one in front leading a charge across the field. Draw as much fire as you can by parading in the enemies' back line, and pretending to be a melee DPS. Draw the fire of all the enemy melee DPS you can, and mitigate their damage by kiting them. Find a stationary ranged enemy, usually a mage or a healer that you want to harass, and kite around them, in a circle. This ranged player becomes your 'beacon' to port to. If melee get close to you, blink onto your beacon and keep kiting away. This strategy allows you to hold to attention of most of the DPS in the enemy's back (and hopefully some of the front) line, but mitigate most of it at the same time. When you think you're going to die, use your plethora of blinks and speed boosts to run away in the nick of time, to heal up. As a back line fighter, you can make timely use of Rift Scavenger to get an easy boost on your health, as well as Eradicate any tough targets or people being healed. The same goes for Vampiric munitions--if you're going to survive in the enemy's back line with no support healing, watch your VM procs, and watch your VM buff to make sure you're not purged. Target someone you know will be healed a lot, and leech off of them. Use them as your kiting beacon as well. The idea is not to kill the enemies, although you may very well do just that, but simply to provide a tactical distraction and a defensive cover for your own back line. Be the Warrior every Warrior wishes they were.
Remember to maintain Lightning Fury and Barbed shot on the target, but your main combo point spam will be Swift Shot. Use your blinks accordingly to close gaps, gain CPs for Rift Scavenger, and maintain your Rift Guard and Ruthless Stalker buffs.
Keep in mind that you have the best mobility in the game, and you should be using it. Know when to move in and out of melee range, but milk your mitigation and mobility for all you can.
On another note, this build still works for running flags. Retreat can be used while in possession of the flag, and you gain the speed boost from hasty departure and swift shot, giving you anywhere from 30-50% movement speed at all times. Timely use of QR with Retreat and Static Shot can make you a very viable flag runner.
This build shares a few macros with other builds. Among those are the NB/RS's phase change and blink macros, and the 51 MM's AoE spam macro. The only unique macro this build contains is the following.
cast Planar Disruption
In this build, you have two interrupts, and a third if you count repelling shot (because if you're fighting someone who is hard casting something, you ought to be in melee range), so use them as much as you can. If you time the interrupts correctly, counting the silence from Deaden, you can effectively shut down any caster bar a Pyrodom.
While Riftstalker is an amazing offspec for Bard, NB, MM, and Sin, RS in itself is not a good main soul for PVP. Most of the PVP viable talents are found less than 28 points in, and going further into RS isn't going to be very beneficial other than niche flag runner specs.
Remember when I was talking about Saboteur, and said "It's been a long while since Saboteurs were more than simply a 0-point subspec"? That's the current state of Bladedancer. It just isn't viable for PVP as a main soul, although I'm sure someone will tell me it is. If it's your favorite, I'm sorry. You'll have to settle for another melee spec, possibly Assassin or Nightblade.
Same as the above three. It's a decent subspec for Marksman, but that's the only time you're going to find Ranger in a truly viable PVP build. Pets simply aren't designed for PVP.
Okay, it's been a dry spell, but there's some more viability here. Bard isn't one of the best PVP souls, but it has potential. Certainly more than Bladedancer. The biggest issue with Bard specs is that in order to function, you need to be within 20 meters of the enemy, standing still using a channel. That could essentially be called a "death sentence" and it's the reason you see very few 51 Bards in Warfronts. That, and most of the Bard buffs you want for PVP are obtained early in the tree. But if you need survivability and don't have to spec very far past 34 in the tree, what can you do? That's right! Pair it with Riftstalker!
34/32 Bard/RS or "The most annoying spec on earth"
Buffs: Fanfare of Power, Fanfare of Vigor, Anthem of Competence, Guardian Phase, Planebound Resilience, Track Air Creatures, all your motifs
Pros: You will never die unless you go AFK in the enemy back line for upwards of two to three hours
Cons: You don't do any damage at all, your healing is minimal, not that it honestly matters.
Playstyle: The playstyle of Bard/RS is very similar to the one I listed under MM/RS with a few major important changes. You should always be aware of Memory Capture and Flashback, as that's your get out of jail free card if things go soul. Memory Capture can be purged, so watch out for that, and also make sure that Anthem of Competence hasn't been purged. The other, more major change is that while you don't do damage, you have a lot of CC. I recommend a @mouseover macro for both Rift Prison and Verse of Captivation, as to improve how you harass the enemy's back line. Especially if you see a healer that's hiding in the back that other DPS can't get to in order to focus. Drop a Rift Prison on him, and you'll see noticeable results. With just those two CCs and your own presence in the enemy back line, you can always occupy the attention of two to three people, and sometimes their whole team. Because you're in Guardian Phase with tangible healing ability, another good playstyle is to simply act as a distraction--go into an enemy team's zerg alone, and hold them off as long as you can, to delay them long enough for your team to either cap a flag, grab a stone, whatever it may be. Put yourself in a situation where the enemies are almost forced to attack you, maximizing your tenacity. If you play your cards right, you generally will make it out alive as well. That means timely use of Verse of Fascination to Flashback. When taking on big groups like that it's important to consider that you can also subspec 0 Saboteur for Adhesive Bomb which can significantly delay a group, and draw more people onto you. You should also be using your motifs more selectively, generally only the defensive ones, as opposed to leading a group, when you should be keeping 100% uptime on all of them.
Other than that, the playstyle is very similar to MM/RS, tuned even further to survivability and mobility rather than damage.
This build shares the phase change macro and the blink macro, listed under NB/RS.
#show Verse of Captivation
cast @mouseover Verse of Captivation
cast Verse of Captivation
#show Rift Prison
cast @mouseover Rift Prison
cast Rift Prison
The macros I was referring to earlier. Allows you to be cadencing or building CPs on one target, but maintaining your CCs on another. Using a Bird's eye camera angle helps a lot with this, as the stun is very noticeable and you can tell if someone's broken free, so you can pop verse on another member of the opposing team.
Assassins are PVP viable, but only by the skin of their teeth. The lack of any gap closers of a healing debuff is severely detrimental to the soul, and they give up those two borderline necessities for Slip Away and Permastealth. I do understand that the Assassin archetype is something a lot of people simply enjoy playing, so I'll try to articulate as best I can. For more info on Assassin builds, I would recommend looking at Am0n's compendium here.
Pros: High damage output, stealth, superior mobility, retains a heal debuff.
Cons: Squishy, less burst, lacks slip away.
Buffs: Baneful Touch, Vampiric Munitions (interchangeable with leeching poison, but VM tends to be a better option most of the time), Electrified Munitions
Playstyle: While it's only subspecced as Assassin, the playstyle of the build changes so drastically by adding /Sin that I decided to group it with the Assassin builds. It's played the same as any Assassin build relatively, with some minor restrictions let go. You have a lot more mobility in stealth, with On the Double. You're also open to more group battle situations, since you have a healing debuff and more sustained DPS rather than a short burst, post-stealth. Since you don't have Jagged Strike or the 100% crit Assassinate, I would recommend using Paralyzing Strike as your opener on targets. Like MM/RS, knowing whether or not to maintain melee range is a must. If it's another melee DPS you feel you can kite, you should open with a stun, drop a bleed with Puncture, possibly use Malicious Strike to force a break free and then use one of your many abilities to create a gap and begin to kite. If it's a caster you feel you can circlestrafe, you should stay in melee range and hammer on them. Like any MM-based build, make sure to keep Barbed shot on 100% uptime and use Lightning Fury to keep the Armor Debuff. When fighting another Assassin, if you feel you're about to force a slip away, remember that if you use Strafe and the target Slips, you can keep hitting them. This works well in conjunction with purging hidden veil, and if done perfectly can negate the opponent's slip entirely.
#show swift shot
cast swift shot
cast expose weakness
This macro simply tags expose weakness in your builder onto whoever you're attacking.
#show Cut and Run
cast Cut and Run
cast Break free
You have two break frees in this build, so make sure you use them.
Pros: Strong mobility and survivability, heavy burst
Cons: Low sustained DPS, no healing debuff, limited to melee
Buffs: Baneful Touch, Lethal Poison, Leeching Poison, Planebound Resilience
Playstyle: This build isn't very viable for group play, much like all high Assassin builds. For the most part, you should be wandering around contested areas looking for kills--but remember that you don't have a healing debuff. Any Mage or Cleric hybrid with a healing soul will be able to outheal your DPS, unless you woefully outgear them. Stick to ganking mostly Warriors or Rogues. Remember that Malicious Strike makes circlestrafing a lot easier. Anathema does work as a healing debuff, but being cleansable on such a long CD doesn't make it very viable unless you're fighting a Warrior or a Rogue. It can be important though, as that Anathema can halve the effect of a healing tonic or a full heal if the opponent can't cleanse it. It's unlikely that a Cleric or a Mage won't, but it's very likely that a Rogue or a Warrior won't. Remember to watch your Ruthless Stalker buff and keep blinking every so often to reapply it, ensuring maximum DPS. Also, try not to apply the Hidden Veil buff until you intend to Slip Away. It prevents it from being purged, and if you end up in a 1v3 where you're both purged and DoTed, that can be a death sentence.
This build is specced into both Double Cross and Backstab, which means being behind the target is necessary to ensure you're doing the most damage you can. A neat trick you can do while circlestrafing is when you hit the target's back, jump up in the air. The game registers your position at your target's back all the while you're in the air, so during that window of opportunity you can pull off more Backstabs and Double Cross boosted attacks.
An easy way to get a leg up against other Assassins is to remember you have Rift Disturbance at your disposal. It's not a DPS gain, but it is a non-targeted AoE. You can use it in fights with other Assassins (which you will inevitably encounter) to break their stealth without allowing them to pop one of their openers. It takes a little getting used to, but the AoE has a large radius and if you do manage to tag them, the fight is generally over. You won.
This build shares the phase change macro and the blink macro listed earlier under my NB/RS guide. It also shares the break free macro listed above in my MM/Sin guide.
cast Savage Strike
cast Expose Weakness
Builder macro. This is the only unique macro to the build. You can optionally use an @mouseover blinding powder similar to Dark Containment in my NB guide, but I don't spec into Blinding Powder in a 40 SIN spec.
Alright, I believe that's it, without going grossly into detail. Kudos! If you read the whole guide, I hope you learned something. Feedback is appreciated, as I'm sure I made a bunch of typos or a link is broken, or you'd just like more information on how to play a certain spec. I'm entirely open to helping with all of those.
Thanks for reading.