Normally I'd continue to just lurk on the forums, but since the spec is (relatively) young as far as this expansion goes, I thought I'd toss my HaT (get it?) into the ring and try to put all the correct information in one place, as well as some of my own insight.
[table] Stat | Weight
Yellow Hit:| 3.301
White Hit:| 1.010
Mainhand Dps:| 4.666
Offhand Dps:| 0.806
T16 2pc: 3021.017
T16 4pc: 1471.888
Sims out at 436.7k DPS with Pandaren Racial and two static agility professions. Gear/Stat Weights are tentative, and note that the stat weights are for full BIS.
For almost all gear levels, your focus should be first hitting the Yellow Hit and Expertise caps (7.5% each), then Haste > Mastery = Crit for secondary stats.
High(est) Single Target DPS
When it comes down to it, the reason Subtlety has been generating more interest lately (5.4 onward) is that it has become our strongest single target dps specialization; BIS Subtlety sims 20k+ over BIS Combat, which itself is already 20k+ over BIS Assassination, and the difference is even greater at lower gear levels (i.e. 553, 560, etc).
Smoother Damage Curve
Compared with something like Assassination that has a sharp downward slope until the execute phase or Combat that rapidly alternates between high damage spikes and low troughs waiting for Restless Blades to work its magic, Subtlety's damage curve is relatively smooth over the course of the fight, in part because of the relatively short cooldown of Shadow Dance (especially with Assurance of Consequence, which is a must-have for every Rogue spec), but also because of the high uptime of the Find Weakness debuff you can maintain through use of your cooldowns and/or your luck with T16 4pc procs.
This one is more of a personal preference, but the playstyle definitely seems to lend itself more to the typical rogue archetype most might expect from the class - sneaking in and out of stealth to slip in high damage strikes that exploit your targets' vulnerability.
Difficulty Switching Targets
One of the main drawbacks of Subtlety is that it loses its edge on fights that require a lot of target switching. This is in part due to the need to apply the Sanguinary Vein debuff to any new target you switch to (mitigated by Hemorrhaging Veins glyph), but is primarily because the main boon of the spec, Find Weakness, is a target specific debuff. And that's not even considering that Assassination can actually benefit from swapping (more Ruptures = more energy), and Combat can just cleave off the boss most of the time with Blade Flurry.
Subtlety's AOE is fairly lacking compared with our other specs. Combat can cleave off the boss without any extra effort needed and can deal massive AOE spikes with Killing Spree using Blade Flurry, and Assassination can spread Deadly Poison to adds with Fan of Knives and gain extra energy regeneration through using Rupture on multiple targets. Subtlety also uses Fan of Knives as your CP builder for AOE (with Crimson Tempest as the finisher), but it doesnt benefit from Assassination's increased poison proc rate and damage, and Fan of Knives by itself does pretty lackluster damage.
Higher Degree of Complexity
This is technically a weakness, but is also part of the reason some are drawn to the spec - it's noticeably harder to play and master than our other specs.
Here's a list of the abilities/buffs/debuffs/passives you should be familiar with for playing specifically as Subtlety:
Honor Among Thieves - Adds a combo point to your current target whenever a member of your raid crits with an ability, with an internal cooldown of 2 seconds. Will occur almost always on cooldown for reliable CP generation, though it has the potential to occasionally interfere with Anticipation charges transferring to your target after a finisher.
Energetic Recovery - Subtlety's main form of energy regeneration. It is attached to Slice and Dice, so you shouldn't have to worry about it much, since you should always keep Slice and Dice up anyway.
Sanguinary Vein - A passive effect that boosts your Rupture damage by 50% and causes you to deal 35% (tooltip is out of date) increased damage to targets affected by your Rupture, Garrote, Crimson Tempest or Hemorrhage (with the appropriate glyph). The effect is technically a passive buff on yourself, but it acts more like a debuff because it is only active with one of the specified bleeds on the target.
Find Weakness - A debuff that is applied whenever you use Ambush or Garrote, causing your attacks to completely ignore the target's armor for 10 seconds. Note that it only requires the use of a stealth-based attack, but not for you to necessarily be in stealth - i.e. an Ambush used during Shadow Dance will still apply the debuff, even though you are not technically in stealth.
Master of Subtlety - A buff that gives you 10% damage bonus during and after breaking stealth for the next 6 seconds. As opposed to Find Weakness, Master of Subtlety actually requires you to be stealthed to activate - i.e. an Ambush during Shadow Dance wont proc the ability, but an Ambush after using Vanish will.
Combo Point Builders:
Backstab - 35 energy, adds 1 combo point to the target. Requires you to be behind your target.
Hemorrhage - 30 energy, adds 1 combo point to the target, and a bleed that deals 50% of the initial strike's damage over 24 seconds and triggers Sanguinary Vein. Ticks every 3 seconds.
Ambush - 60 energy, adds 2 combo points. Requires you to be behind the target and in stealth/Shadow Dance. Applies Find Weakness debuff.
Fan of Knives - 35 energy, adds 1 combo point to the target (or an enemy with lingering combo points hit by it if one exists). Deals weak AOE damage, but has a chance to proc poisons on all targets hit.
Eviscerate - 35 energy, high physical damage. Use between reapplying Slice and Dice/Rupture i.e. most of your combo points will go into using Eviscerate.
Rupture - 25 energy, high damage bleed mostly due to Sanguinary Vein passive, which it also happens to trigger. Ticks every 2 seconds.
Slice and Dice - 25 energy. Increases your attack speed drastically, and procs Energetic Recovery.
Crimson Tempest - 35 energy, AOE physical damage + bleed for 240% of initial damage over 12 seconds that triggers Sanguinary Vein on all targets hit.
Shadow Dance - 1 minute cooldown (reduced by Assurance of Consequence), off GCD, 8 second duration. Allows use of Ambush/Garrote/Cheap Shot out of stealth, and reduces the energy cost of Ambush by 20 for the duration.
Shadow Blades - 3 minute cooldown (reduced by Assurance of Consequence), off GCD, 12 second duration. Causes your auto attacks to deal shadow damage in lieu of physical damage, and causes your combo point generating abilities to generate one additional combo point. Less important for Subtlety than it is for other specs because the Find Weakness debuff makes the auto attack component less potent.
Vanish - 2 minute cooldown (reduced by Assurance of Consequence), off GCD. Causes instant activation of stealth. Contrasted with Shadow Blades, Vanish is significantly more important for Subtlety than it is for other specs, as it allows additional casts of Ambush to maintain the Find Weakness debuff as well as is the only way to apply the Subterfuge/Master of Subtlety buffs during combat.
Premeditation - 20 second cooldown, off GCD. Adds two combo points to the target (which disappear if not used within 18 seconds). Can only be used in stealth/Shadow Dance
Preparation - 5 minute cooldown, on GCD. Resets the cooldown of Vanish (as well as Sprint, Evasion and Dismantle).
I almost didn't include this just from its overwhelming obviousness, but your lethal poison should be Deadly Poison. Use whatever non-lethal poison you feel like.
T2: Combat Readiness (optional)
T3: Elusiveness (optional but very strongly recommended)
T4: Shadowstep (optional but very very strongly recommended)
T5: Prey on the Weak (optional)
The only really mandatory ones are Subterfuge in T1 and Anticipation in T6. Subterfuge because it allows you additional ambushes after breaking stealth to extend the Find Weakness debuff and also extends your Master of Subtlety buff for the duration, and Anticipation because it allows you to capture combo points from Honor Among Thieves that would normally go to waste, and also pool combo points for when Find Weakness is up for additional Eviscerates.
For the other tiers, you can pick what you want, but Elusiveness in T3 is very strong for general fight survival (especially when combined with Glyph of Feint), and Shadowstep in T4 is a staple for most rogues, but T2-T5 come down to playstyle if you strongly prefer one to another.
Glyph of Vanish
Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins
Glyph of Feint/Redirect/Smoke Bomb
Glyph of Vanish and Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins are the only ones that are actually important to your damage. Glyph of Vanish extends your Subterfuge by an additional 3 seconds (though it doesnt extend your Master of Subtlety buff further), and Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins allows you leniency with not being required to maintain 100% rupture uptime during the fight for the Sanguinary Vein debuff, which gives you the freedom to use other finishers as you see fit.
The third Glyph is a preference call. I use Glyph of Feint because Feint is great, and therefore extending it by 2 seconds is even better. You can swap in Glyph of Smoke Bomb if your raid is hurting for mitigation cooldowns or Glyph of Redirect if you need to target swap often, though subtlety is not the best at target swapping fights because Find Weakness is a target-specific debuff.
In the end, your setup should look something like this:
Mists of Pandaria - Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
As for rotation, lot of people are getting the precombat part wrong, so let me start there:
~15 seconds before pull (get as close to 18 as you can without going over, minimum of 7 seconds so you have enough time to restealth before pull): Premeditation (from stealth) -> Unstealth -> Wait 1-2 seconds before pull -> Prepot + cast Slice and Dice -> Restealth -> Open
It's a little involved, but you'll want to cast Premeditation from stealth before pull to get Slice and Dice up, and you'll also need to be out of stealth to prepot, so you have to duck in/out/in of stealth. Note that casting Slice and Dice uses a GCD, so you'll want to do it before you actually open.
There are two options for openers, and which one you use depends on your gear and/or the particular fight: a Garrote opener, and an Ambush opener.
Garrote Opener: Garrote -> Ambush -> Ambush
Ambush Opener: Ambush -> Hemorrhage -> Ambush
The Garrote opener costs 15 more energy, which makes it more difficult to pull off two Ambushes within the 3 second Subterfuge window (with 12,000+ haste I can't reliably pull it off on the target dummy, even with some involved micro with Energetic Recovery procs). However, it has the benefit of immediately applying the Sanguinary Vein and Find Weakness debuffs, meaning both of your Ambushes benefit from both buffs, instead of your first benefiting from neither. In addition, the Hemorrhage you use to put up Sanguinary Vein in the Ambush opener would also not benefit from the Sanguinary Vein buff, meaning you would either have a mediocre Hemorrhage dot or would have to spend more energy applying the correct one (which also effectively wastes the first one).
So basically, use the Garrote opener if you can (i.e. if you're going to use bloodlust on pull, or are very well geared with a lot of haste).
Things get a little dicey here, so I'll go into a general idea of what your mindset should be instead of a step-by-step list of what to do.
Your main combo point builder should be Backstab whenever possible (i.e. you can get behind your target), with Hemorrhage as your backup if you cant. You should use Hemorrhage to keep its bleed effect up, ideally during Find Weakness, because the bleed is based on the initial damage of the Hemorrhage it came from, which itself benefits from the armor penetration. During Shadow Dance, Backstab is replaced with Ambush, and it is higher DPS to delay reapplying Hemorrhage in favor of performing additional casts of Ambush during the cooldown; you can reapply Hemorrhage after the cooldown wears off and still get it under Find Weakness.
For finishers, keep Slice and Dice up at all times, and keep Rupture up as much as possible, with Eviscerate as your finisher spam (obviously). Try to avoid reapplying Slice and Dice/Rupture during Find Weakness if timing allows, but do it anyway if they are falling off, with a lesser priority on Rupture. To make that a little more clear - it's worth it to push back Shadow Dance/Vanish by a few seconds to first reapply Slice and Dice/Rupture before applying the Find Weakness debuff; however, if the debuff is already out and Slice and Dice/Rupture is about to fall off, you should reapply it anyway. You can reapply Rupture during the last 2 seconds and not lose the last tick - it will be added on to the new Rupture application, using the new Rupture's snapshotted stats (the same can be said of Hemorrhage, though for that it's the last 3 seconds instead).
Rupture vs Eviscerate during Find Weakness requires a bit of finesse. Without Find Weakness, Rupture is the clear winner - it does 80-85% as much damage as Eviscerate (before cutting Eviscerate by an additional 25%+ because of armor mitigation) for 40% less energy. Even during Find Weakness, Rupture has a higher damage per energy spent...but then things get more complicated when the discussion shifts from removing Rupture entirely to simply delaying it during Find Weakness. There are times when you should delay Rupture - an extreme example is if you have Rupture falling off and 5 CPs and 5 Anticipation charges with 1 second left on Find Weakness, then you can easily justify bumping the Rupture back a few seconds to snag the tail end of the debuff for the Eviscerate. However, what if that turns into 5 CPs +2 charges and 3 seconds left on Find Weakness? 4 CPs and 7 seconds left on Find Weakness? The answer is dynamic based on your combo points + charges, energy, time left on Find Weakness, and how many ticks of Rupture you'd lose. As a general rule of thumb, if you would lose 3 or more ticks of Rupture to use Eviscerate during Find Weakness, then it's probably not worth it.
Cooldowns can be another murky area. Shadow Dance is on a relatively low cooldown (especially with an Assurance of Consequence) and should be used virtually on cooldown to maintain high uptime of the Find Weakness debuff. It also replaces Backstab with a reduced-cost Ambush (-20 energy, to 40 energy cost). Because you have such high uptime of the Find Weakness buff, Shadow Blades loses some of its usefulness in overlap (with 100% armor penetration already on the target, the benefit of having shadow damage auto attacks is practically wiped out). However, the working assumption that is initially supported by Shadowcraft is that waiting to find an opening to use Shadow Blades is not worth the delayed usage of the CD, and that you should actually use it during Shadow Dance to increase your CP generation for more Eviscerate spam.
Your primary goal with your cooldowns is to maximize the uptime of your Find Weakness debuff, and you should plan out your Vanish usages in between Shadow Dances to that end. For both Shadow Dance and Vanish, you should make sure to save enough energy to use one final Ambush at the end of the buff's duration (40 energy for Shadow Dance, 60 for Vanish). The purpose of this is, again, to maximize your Find Weakness uptime; two Ambushes back to back only causes 11 combined seconds of Find Weakness, but two Ambushes 5 second apart causes 15 seconds. Assuming you took Glyph of Vanish (which you should), your Subterfuge buff will actually last 6 seconds instead of 3 (it will reapply itself after the first 3 second one runs out), which will usually allow you an additional Ambush per Vanish usage. Ambushing while the Find Weakness buff is still up will give the Ambush the extra damage of having been cast during the previous buff, so dont wait for the buff to fall off entirely before reappying it with another Ambush - ideally, you'd want to wait until <1 second left on Find Weakness to maximize it's uptime while still giving your new Ambush its benefit.
As mentioned earlier, try to time your CDs out so that your Rupture and Slice and Dice are refreshed going into them, but dont avoid refreshing them should you need to. Additionally, you should be pooling energy/CPs for Shadow Dance and Vanish (and T16 4pc bonus procs when you get it) to get as many Ambushes/Eviscerates during the Find Weakness buff as possible, especially after a Vanish because your Master of Subtlety buff will be back up. You can also use Preparation to reset the cooldown of your Vanish, but don't be in a huge hurry to do so - most fights only last long enough to use a single Preparation (5min CD), so saving it for later isnt a waste of the CD.
Premeditation is best used on its own and not macroed into something else if you can manage it, but it is one more thing to manage in what is already the most complicated Rogue spec by a decent margin. The reason for this is Premeditation will not add to your Anticipation charges if used at 4+ combo points, so having it macroed in means you run the risk of losing those combo points (although if it's between macroing it in and not using it at all, macroing it in is obviously the better choice).
I'll add more as more info becomes available/uncovered
A few useful macros that I use, feel free to ignore/improve/steal them (as I did with the Backstab one =D)
/cast [stance:0] Backstab
/cast [stance:1/2/3] Ambush
Changes from Backstab to Ambush depending on your current state. Can have slight lag when entering Shadow Dance, so give it a split second or you may use Backstab by mistake.
Blows Evasion and Sprint before casting Preparation, which immediately resets their cooldowns. You can throw in Vanish if you want, but I prefer to manage that separately.
Shadow Dance/Shadow Blades
/cast Shadow Dance
/cast Shadow Blades
Uses both cooldowns at the same time, or whichever is up when you press it.
Fan of Knives
/cast Fan of Knives
Simple macro that re-toggles your attack on whatever target you are using Fan of Knives on.
Tricks of the Trade
/cast [@InsertNameHere] Tricks of the Trade
Casts Tricks of the Trade on your DPS target or tank by name.
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