Sunny’s Guide to the Executioner [M7 PVE TR]
Xbox players have had to adjust to a large influx of content. From Tyranny of Dragons to Underdark in under a year. It’s a lot to take in, and something I’ve learned while trying to teach this build hands-on with players is that when faced with so much new content, the first thing that gets chucked out the window is the time–the absolutely necessary time—it takes to simply sit with a character. To sit inside the guts and explore what truly works and what doesn’t. To say nothing of curious experimentation.
So… if portions of this guide highlight things that are glaringly obvious, you know why. Most of the Mod 8 recommendations here are my own personal plans for my character. As I spend more time with Mod 8 I’ll make adjustments as necessary.
Because it’s dull, you twit
I know. I know. Rogues…
If you believe half of the stuff you read online you’d come away thinking Rogues suck. That they were good–maybe–once upon a Mod 4 or 5, or that they’ve been nerfed into this limbo where just about every other class out there can do what a Rogue can–only better, faster, and without the gear.
And to me nothing is further from the truth. The Rogue is a viable and deadly class, and I think people shouldn’t be afraid to dive in. The goal of this build is to give you a way to play your Rogue so that they do a reliable and tremendous amount of damage. A part of that comes from picking certain Feats, and running with certain Powers, but the majority of your results will come from understanding how to employ your character’s built-in tools to deadly ends.
Among the three paths available, you’ll be choosing the Executioner path. It’s not a straight Executioner choice, and you’ll rely other Feats to round you out, but never fear, I’ll cover what you’re dropping and why. A quick disclaimer: as much as I enjoy the occasional PVP romp this guide is built with PVE in mind; do not use this guide for PVP. And since Underdark just landed at our feet there are a few recommendations for Mod 8, but I’ll reserve recommendations on some Gear and Boons until I actually unlock them.
This sucker’s a read, so brew a cup and let’s go.
So you decided life as a Ninja Blender on Wheels is for you. Congratulations. Let’s cover some basics first, so you don’t stab yourself and bleed all over the nice carpet.
Class Creation: Race
Play whatever you like. By now I’m sure you know the routine:
- Humans get extra defense, which makes you about as sturdy as tinfoil. The extra Heroic Feat points are quite nice. (+2 DEX)
- Dragonborn gets +2 to any two Stats, plus 3% increases to Power and Critical Strike (+2 STR, +2 DEX)
- Half-Orc, +5% Critical Severity (+2 STR, +2 DEX)
Halflings are nice, too. But so is every other damn race, so for the love of diversity play what you want. The points here won’t make or break you. Know why you’re built the way you are and you’ll do fine.
You’re going for DPS, so look for high Strength and Dexterity. Equal them out if you like; favor a higher Dexterity if you want a higher starting base Critical Chance %. Every ten levels slog points into Strength and Dexterity. For this build you can safely ignore raising Charisma, as its role in your damage is lukewarm.
Core Mechanic: Stealth
Each and every build must harness stealth. Whether that means extending its duration into permanence, or utilizing it to gain positional advantage, or channeling its transformative power to unleash hell.
While Stealthed Rogues receive several benefits: a 100% chance to Critically Strike, automatic Combat Advantage (CA), and your Encounter powers are enhanced.
Stealth is fragile. It only lasts five seconds, and consider the following:
- If you take damage, you will lose a percentage of Stealth.
- Most Encounter Powers consume Stealth entirely.
- Every swing of your At-Wills will drain your Stealth by 15%
For all the benefits it bestows Stealth is fleeting. You have to know when and how to deploy it.
Stacking for Offense
In order of importance you want to focus on:
- Armor Penetration
- Critical Strike
The first stat that deserves your attention is Armor Penetration (ArPen). If you don’t know why, here’s a simple explanation: the enemy has armor; if your ArPen is not better than the enemy’s armor, you do less damage. The lower your ArPen stat, the more it feels like you’re wailing on the enemy with a wet noodle.
You’re going to stack ArPen until your Resistance Ignored (RI%) is as close to 60% as you can get. This will ensure that your damage output is not being hampered by the enemy’s armor.
Don’t worry, though. ArPen is so easy to come by for Rogues you’ll soon have too much. Going over 60% RI in PVE doesn’t confer any additional bonuses. Those points are wasted and should be repurposed elsewhere. Plan now on your future career as a Gem Jockey.
After Armor Penetration focus on Critical Strike, which will increase your % chance to land a critical hit. Yes—while in stealth Rogues receive a 100% chance to strike critically; but for every minute you’re in combat, maybe 20 seconds of that—maybe—will be in Stealth. The remainder relies on your Critical Strike stat, so bump that up.
You will get a more than adequate supply of Power to work with. For now you are not going to stack any Power that doesn’t come from your Gear, Artifacts, Boons or Companions.
High Recovery means your Encounters come back faster, which means you earn Dailies faster. More powers mean more versatility and damage. More damage means more death–say “Yes” to more death, please. I know that sounds obvious, but look around. It won’t take long to find a Rogue with 8k ArPen and 50 Recovery.
Stacking for Defense
In order of importance, you want to focus on:
- Hit Points (HP)
- Life Steal
The more HP you have the longer you can forestall death. It won’t make you impervious, but it can purchase scant seconds when you need to bail, pop a potion or give Life Steal another chance to proc. Prioritize HP in your defensive slots.
Rogues have a high contact time, so plenty of opportunities to proc Life Steal. Unfortunately none of your Gear is going to offer it, so you’ll have to look elsewhere. Since your defensive slots will be taken up with Radiants, sneak it in through some feat and boon choices. Your augment/fast proc companion is also a good place to stack Life Steal.
Because the Executioner’s feats support being right in the middle of the action, there is a role for Deflection to play. You’re going to be hard pressed to find it in your gear. Some Artifacts—like the Trickster Sigil—offer Deflection paired with Critical Strike. Defensive slots or equipment slots in your Companions are a good way to sneak Deflect in.
Do not slot.
I mean it.
General Gear Considerations
Pick up the Ensorcelled Mulhorand Dagger and Parrying Blade. They are better than any weapons you’ll encounter while leveling to 70. Use them until you get your Artifact Weapons.
Armor: use what you find or get. Become attached to nothing; it’s all going in the trash anyway.
Post-level 60: Use what you get from the Elemental Evil campaign. If you’re lacking in a particular piece, just surf the Auction House. You can find blue gear for your level for cheap. Refresh it every few levels if you’re feeling squishy and save your money for life after 70.
Rogue armor is divided into “Assault” and “Raid” varieties. The Assault favors Armor Penetration, the Raid favors Recovery. Both offer pieces with Power and Critical Strike. What you choose is going to boil down to your needs.
If your Armor Penetration is low, go with the Assault variety.
By the time you purchase Elven or Drowcraft or Dragonflight Armor, your complement of Artifacts, Weapons and Equipment should deliver more than enough Armor Penetration. Swap over to the Raid variety and boost your Recovery. If you still need to carry one or more pieces of Assault gear to round you out, don’t fret.
Artifact Main-Hand: Dagger of Elemental Fire / Twisted Makhaira
Look to boost the At-Will Duelist’s Flurry
Mod 8: Underdark—Rogues wishing to deal high damage should go for the Twisted Set, looking to boost the same At-Will and Off-hand Class Features.
Weapon Enchantments: Perfect Vorpal. If you want to steer more towards party debuffs and Control you can look to Plaguefire and Terror, but for sheer damage go Vorpal.
Artifact Off-Hand: Elemental Fire Stiletto / Twisted Misericorde
Class Feature: Skillful Infiltrator, Invisible Infiltrator, Infiltrator’s Action, Talisman of Shadows, Oppressive Darkness.
I’ve included all of the ones I’ve used, ordered by my preference. Unlocking them can be cheap or quite expensive depending on your luck. Even at VIP 12 it costs ~37k to unlock a random Class Feature. I had to roll them all but one just to get Skillful Infiltrator. May your luck be drastically better than mine.
Artifact Off-Hand Level 35 Stat Increase: At Level 35 (purple) your Artifact off-hand gets an additional stat, chosen randomly. You can unlock or re-roll your current stats with Cubes of Augmentation. Slot for balance; if Artifacts and Boons give you Combat Advantage take something like AoE Resist. If you have no AP gain, go for AP Gain. This stat is for you to tweak to your needs.
Lostmauth’s Hoard Necklace and the Golden Belt of Puissance, the former granting you passive AP gain while in combat, the latter an increase to Strength and Dexterity. Both offer Power, Critical Strike and Armor Penetration.
Both can be won as loot in the Epic Lair of Lostmauth dungeon, or can be retrieved from Artifact packs in various lockboxes. It is also just as easy to purchase them from the Auction House (AH).
Again this comes down to your needs. I recommend Personalized Adamant Rings of Recovery; each offers Offensive and Defensive slots. There are some marvelous rings in Underdark, but as the double-slotted +4 and Legendary Rings are only available as random loot drops, my recommendation remains the Personalized Recovery rings until I actually pull some to test out.
Run a combination of Dragon Hoard and Fey Blessing. Having both will mean you always have refinement on hand for Artifacts, Enchantments and Artifact Equipment.
If you can get a mount with stats go with the Axe Beak or Giant Strider. The added Armor Penetration from the Axe Beak will free up some gear considerations. The Giant Strider offers Movement, which is always good for a class as mobile as a Rogue. You could run with a Flail Snail for AP Gain, but this particular build is contraindicated with the immediate AP Gain.
Whisperknife or Master Infiltrator. They are both well-suited to the Trickster, and each suggests its own playstyle. Neither Paragon offers Dailies better than Whirlwind of Blades, Bloodbath and Lurker’s Assault, which are available to both Paragon choices. So it comes down to Powers and Class Features.
While Whisperknife offers some neat powers—Disheartening Strike is a great ranged At-Will, Vengeance’s Pursuit is a favorite of mine—it lacks in the Class Feature department. And the base class features for a TR are fairly lackluster, too. That means the choice is Master Infiltrator all the way.
Cloud of Steel (3/4): Excellent range attack. Useful for pulling mobs or to finish off Shadow of Demise after a roll away to safety. Damage increases with each subsequent chuck of the blade.
Sly Flourish (3/4): This is your main At-Will when leveling up until you unlock Duelist’s Flurry. The final swing applies a Broken Armor debuff for 6 seconds, but since it doesn’t stack, it is most useful if your follow Sly Flourish with an Encounter power. A complete cycle of Sly Flourish will consume Stealth, so try dipping into Stealth on the second or third swing, allowing you to cap it off with a powerful Encounter Power.
Duelist’s Flurry (4/4): Your main attack. Strike twice, then launch into a Flurry of 8 strikes, each of which has a 50% chance to apply a stack of Bleed. It is your most damaging and punishing At-Will Power, and should always be in the tray. During the Flurry you’re immune to CC, so you can ride out a Wing buff or ground pound if you learn to time it right. It’s not without its idiosyncrasies. The animation on the first two swings can feel slow, especially if you’re trying to sneak a Flurry into a CC effect. And if you haven’t started the Flurry yet, anyone who pulls aggro can cause the Target to run away from you, leaving you slashing at empty air. If you can start the Flurry before the Target is drawn away, you will actually lock onto them and travel with them. This is not without its own particular headaches, as many a Sun Burst will send you spiraling into the Abyss as you lock onto a falling spider. Duelist’s is, without a doubt, your best At-Will, and you should give serious consideration to making it the first power to get a 4th point once you reach 70. Stealth:Duelists’s will more than consume your entire Stealth bar, so if you need to proc Shadow of Demise, or you want to finish Duelists’s with an Encounter, get into the habit of starting Duelist’s first, then dropping into Stealth during the Flurry animation. This should allow you to finish with an Encounter in Stealth/proc Shadow of Demise, but also lend extra punch to those Bleed stacks.
Gloaming Cut (1/4): Put 1 point in, if you want to try it. Gloaming Cut can hit very hard against lower-leveled or even some similarly-leveled mobs, but it has some drawbacks: a long animation which leaves you exposed, and against stronger enemies–if you want the auto Stealth refill–you have to use Gloaming as a finisher. To say this is a challenge in group play is an understatement. When paired with Duelist’s it severely limits your engagement range.
Dazing Strike (4/4): Strike a foe and cause them to be dazed. Stealth: lash out in a cone, striking multiple enemies, dazing all. Wicked fast cast time, great to proc Shadow of Demise. Medium to quick cooldown. Always handy.
Lashing Blade (4/4): The hardest-hitting, single-target Encounter power you have. It has a long cooldown time, so high Recovery helps bring this power back around. Certainly a great power to use alongside Shadow of Demise. Almost always slotted.
Deft Strike (1/4): Disappear and re-appear behind your enemy, striking and causing the enemy to be slowed. There is a clunky way you can get this power to trigger Shadow of Demise, but that can’t rescue this power from the trash. The Slow effect isn’t any more limiting than Blitz or Dazing Strike or Smoke Bomb, all of which can target multiples. Some of the more elite mobs aren’t even fooled by the whole “try the backdoor” swap, instantly turning and targeting you when you teleport. For map crawlers Deft Strike will allow you, in some areas, to traverse areas of the map not intended for player exploration. I have 1 point in this power because I am a slave to my own curiosity.
Bait and Switch (3/4): Drop a decoy to fool the enemy. If used while Stealthed your meter gets refilled, and if the Decoy takes damage, you gain AP. Bait and Switch is fantastic for wanting to permastealth. While your Feat choices won’t support a truly permastealth build, you can approach something like it. For DPS think of Bait and Switch as a daily generator. Learn when the largest AoEs—like a Dragon’s Breath—are about to land and position your decoy right in the middle of it. Ding! Instant Daily.
Blitz (3/4): Jump back quickly and throw out a fan of knives. Good for solo play against groups of mobs, especially if you can keep them in front of you. While Stealthed it adds a Slow effect. I only run Blitz when I’m solo and bored.
Impossible to Catch (3/4): Break free from some Control effects and deflect incoming attacks. Your Damage Resistance is increased and your Deflection is raised, but you can still die. You do break free from Control Effects, which is nice. But this is now relegated to a situational power, especially if you find yourself alone with a boss because all of your teammates keep dying. Long cooldown time.
Smoke Bomb (4/4): Drop an AoE cloud of smoke that Dazes enemies caught in the radius. Stealthed: adds a Slow effect as well. Great control, excellent Damage over Time power, always slotted.
Shadow Strike (3/4): Single attack from close-to-medium range. Instant recharge of your Stealth meter. Useful for solo play or chained together with Talisman of Shadows for repeated drops into Stealth to stun enemies.
Wicked Reminder (4/4): Armor breaker. Has three charges; each stack reduces the target’s Damage Resistance by 7%. Launch while Stealthed to instantly apply 3 stacks. Great party debuff; rock this against bosses to increase the amount of damage they take from your party.
Path of the Blade (*/4): A lot of your powers are not AoE, and it is tempting to take powers that allow you to create distance. But Path does very little damage, adds zero Control Effects and turns you into a walking Aggro Machine. Since you are the epicenter of Path your movements and dodge rolls can—and will—unintentionally draw the focus of enemies. For the sake of nothing else other than good form and decorum, don’t be that Rogue that uses Path of the Blade.
Impact Shot (*/4): An attack launched at a medium range, has charges. Stealth does not use up any charges. OK as a solo power if you need to mark something with Shadow of Demise from a distance, but other than that it’s not terribly useful.
Shadowy Disappearance (1/4): Drop into Stealth and teleport to another location. Enemies take damage at the takeoff and landing spot, but adds zero Control Effects, and the “Stealth” you land in does not proc any of your standard Stealth effects, so increased Crit Chance, Combat Advantage, extra Crit Severity, Talisman of Shadows Stun—all the good stuff’s off the table. The only use I’ve found for this power is as an escape tool when you’re playing solo. Like Deft Strike it can be used, in limited circumstances, to bypass map borders and traverse areas not intended for players.
Blade Flurry (3/4): Spin around and lash out in a tight AoE with your daggers. Can be used a certain number of times within a certain time frame before going on a long cooldown. Good AoE with good damage; replace Dazing Strike or Lashing Blade with this for handling groups tightly packed together.
Bloodbath (3/4): Useful in many circumstances, a good daily to slot for solo play. Can be launched at range. You fling around the map, tagging enemies. Combine this with Invisible Infiltrator, Talisman of Shadows and Smoke Bomb for a terrifying combination.
Since you can’t be targeted or damaged while in use, it’s great for clutch moments when you need a break from Combat.
It’s not without downsides. You can’t control what’s going to be there when you land; sometimes you land in a Red Circle of Flaming Death, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Also, if you misjudge the range, or if the enemy you have targeted is killed by another player, you are going to be angry when Bloodbath empties your AP meter and gives you nothing.
Courage Breaker (3/4): Slow and debuff the enemy’s damage while earning yourself a Power boost as well. If you have high AP Gain and a haste DC in the party, run this opposite Lurker’s Assault and constantly stack Wicked Reminder on a target for a melty-melty time.
Lurker’s Assault (4/4): This is your go-to buff for Damage and Stealth against a single target. The benefits are manifold: Teleport to your target, 30% Damage Increase, and a fast recharging Stealth Meter. Just popping this Daily and using your At-Wills will cause impressive amounts of damage because, even though the At-Wills are expending your Stealth with every swing, Lurker’s keeps the Stealth meter going. Lasts 10 seconds, unless consumed by an Encounter Power.
If you are standing behind the enemy and pop Lurker’s you will teleport to the enemy’s front. Unless there’s a good reason to teleport when you’re in close range, just look at the floor. You won’t teleport anywhere, as you’re not technically “targeting” anything.
Whirlwind of Blades (4/4): Your go-to buff Daily for handling groups. You gain +20% Power for each enemy hit up to a cap of 5. Aim for 4-5 enemies to maximize your Power return and do not use against a single target.
Recipe for Orange Rain: Tumble in > Stealth > Whirlwind > Smoke Bomb.
Shocking Execution (*/4): This thing never hits hard enough, or reliably. Whiffable, too, if the enemy of your desire suddenly dies by the hand of another before your acrobatic backflip finishes. The lure of instant AP is nice, but it only refills if a target’s health meets the requirements. One shot a mob? Too bad, no AP for you. It leaves you chasing the lowest health bars you can find, so just chuck it.
Sneak Attack (2/4): This is pernicious, because once you put 4 points into this you’re spoiled by the speed increase. Unfortunately increased run speed doesn’t amount to much in your world of creeping black death.
First Strike (*/4): Buffing damage is good. Buffing one attack is not. Put what you need to unlock higher tiers and forget about it.
Tenacious Concealment (3/4): Prevents loss of Stealth recharge when you take damage. You might find a use for this when you’re first learning the class, but once you become accustomed to dodge rolling out of damage, you won’t need this for the Stealth loss feature. Bait and Switch, Invisible Infiltrator and Shadow Strike can refill your Stealth bar, too, so you might not benefit from the +15% Recharge speed at 4 points. When used as the Feat in your Off-Hand, Tenacious Concealment prevents Stealth loss entirely, according to the tooltip. In practice taking damage will still halt your Stealth Recharge. Pair with Lurker’s Assault and Wicked Reminder or Blade Flurry to maximize how many hits you can get out of these powers.
Tactics (*/4): The AP Gain here does not outweigh the damage buffing potentials of your other features. You can stack AP Gain in a lot of places: reinforcements, Artifacts, Artifact Off-Hand Stat, Overload Enchants, Companions and Boons. Use if you’re really challenged in the AP department. Against test targets 4 points in Tactics shaves 1 second off my Daily generation. In party play, with Haste DCs and the Guardian Fighter’s ITF, I doubt you’d ever notice the benefits from Tactics.
Infiltrator’s Action (4/4): On Daily Use: gain automatic Combat Advantage for 15 seconds. If you take this feat on your off-hand you receive a straight 5% buff to your damage while Infiltrator’s Action is up. Useful for soloing with an Augment companion (which doesn’t grant you Combat Advantage) or running with a group where gaining Combat Advantage is going to be a challenge (a room full of Stormwardens who park it up in the bleachers). Combined with some companions and fast AP gain, this Class Feature can represent 100% CA uptime during combat.
Skillful Infiltrator (4/4): at 3 points you receive 3% Crit Chance, 3% Deflect and 15% Run speed. Nothing not to love about this feat.
Invisible Infiltrator (4/4): When you use a Daily, Stealth is automatically refilled and you receive 20% extra damage for 5 seconds. Feat in your Off-hand, Invisible Infiltrator grants you Control Immunity for 3 seconds. This is fantastic for those times when the enemy has the uncanny ability to stun you right before you open that can of whoop-ass. Excellent candidate for the 4th point at 70.
Talisman of Shadows (3/4): Daze enemies when you enter Stealth within the operative radius. Radius increases as you put points in, allowing you to Stealth in at a safer distance. Excellent for controlling mobs while playing solo, or in group play where the TR is not going to function as primary DPS, but as a hybrid Control/DPS. Eventually put 4 points into this; believe me, it is worth it.
Not all creatures can be stunned by Talisman. You’ll learn which ones. Your deep hatred of Rage Drakes will persist.
Oppressive Darkness (3/4): When you have Combat Advantage you deal additional damage as Piercing Damage (+40% at 4 points). The damage is, in reality, quite minuscule, slightly better than the damage done by a Greater Dragon Glyph. Its only saving grace is that the damage it does is tallied during Shadow of Demise.
Toughness (3/3) – Increase Hit Points by 9%.
Weapon Mastery (3/3) – Increased Critical Chance by 3%
Action Advantage/Swift Footwork/Battlewise (1) – Put 1 point into any of these, we need to jump a tier. I leave the decision up to your individual groove.
Cunning Ambusher (3/3) –You deal 6% more damage after leaving Stealth. Lasts 6 seconds.
Endless Assault (3/3) – Encounters deal 6% more damage.
Lucky Skirmisher (2/3) – Deflect Increase by 2%
Scoundrel Training (2/3) – Increased At-Will damage by 6% to foes not targeting you.
Disciple of Strength (3/3) – Increased Strength Bonus by 6%
Humans should max out Scoundrel Training, Lucky Skirmisher and spend an additional point into either Action Advantage, Swift Footwork or Battlewise.
Paragon Feats (Executioner Tree)
Arterial Cut (5/5) Increases Critical Severity by 15% while in Stealth. Did you just say more death? Yes, please.
Vicious Pursuit (5/5) When you deal damage your target takes 5% more damage from you for 6 seconds. More death? Why, yes, thank you.
Dying Breath (5/5) When a nearby foe dies you receive 25% boost to both Critical Severity and Run Speed. Ninja Blender on Wheels, baby. When this kicks in you feel it. And there’s no reason, as long as murder is happening, that this feat isn’t always up. Only downside is it doesn’t work against Lostmauth. Oh well.
Deathknell (5/5) 25% more damage to foes below 30% health. 5 points here, note the threshold of 30% health
Last Moments (5/5) 25% more damage to foes below 40% health. While in Stealth that threshold is 70%. Also stacks with Deathknell for a total of +50% damage when the foe is below 30% health.
Shadow of Demise (1/1) The capstone feat. We’ll discuss it in detail in a bit.
So that’s what you’re taking. Here’s what you’re not taking, and why:
Devastating Shroud—Requires you to use Shocking Execution
Twisted Grin—Like Dying Breath it relies on the death of a foe, but this feat only buffs 1 attack. 5 points is a lot to spend on 1 attack.
Exposed Weakness—You might be tempted to rely on this feat in case your Armor Penetration isn’t high enough, or as a buttress until you get to RI% of 60. Don’t. In any given minute of combat you aren’t in stealth for more than 20 seconds (at most, probably less). Spend the feat points somewhere else and boost your Armor Penetration the usual ways.
Grim Pleasure—5% boost to Power when you land a Critical Strike. Not bad. Like Vicious Pursuit, Grim Pleasure will have almost 100% uptime during combat, but not taking this allows you to slot an even more powerful damage buff.
Shadowborn—Your first attack while in Stealth lands with 100% more Power. A lot of Rogues take it and swear by it. In fact it’s the one feat I think most hardcore Executioners would have the hardest time dropping.
If you break down all the ways this feat is supposed to be amazing—100% Power bump, easy availability, and your attack can proc Shadow of Demise, so 50% of that damage is coming back 6 seconds later—you take all of that, and realize: it’s just 1 attack.
But not only that. Shadowborn isn’t consistent. Sure, a measure of consistency develops as you play, but there’s a host of things beyond your control.
Mob availability: Yes, you have 100% Power on your first hit out of Stealth. What a shame–that poor Broodmother’s spawn won’t know what hit her. Oh great someone DPS’ed the Golem down to 10%, so now your 250k Lashing Blade will kill him…3 times over. The dynamics of group play don’t allow Rogues to cherry pick their ideal engagements. Sometimes you Stealth, an Ice Knife descends from the sky, and the only thing left for you to kill is a Redcap.
The Implied Playstyle: If you have an extra +100% Power on your first hit you take it. You take it every time. Even with Lurker’s Assault, which is going to buff your damage, Shadowborns will burn that regenerating Stealth bar in a heartbeat, and in doing so leave damage unearned on the table. Over the course of any Skirmish or Dungeon that type of implied playstyle is extremely limiting, and your character would benefit more from a feat that buffed a series of attacks (such as Dying Breath).
Versatility: Not every time you drop into Stealth is for damage. You may use it for mobility, positioning or to help your teammates. That’s damage you’re not doing, and not able to get back until your Stealth meter recharges.
And let’s not forget the Whiffle Effect. Every Rogue in existence has lost count of the number of times they’ve missed a Lashing Blade or Dazing Strike. Maybe the DC just used Sun Burst; maybe a lag spike hit, or the enemy died; or maybe you’re like me and have all the twitch control of a toddler and you just plain missed. There are circumstances which force your +100% Power swing to whistle through the air, harmless.
I’ve set it aside and have no intention of using it.
Paragon Feats (Scoundrel Tree)
Bloody Brawler (5/5) Increase Life Steal by 2.5%. It’s ~400 points to increase Life Steal by 1%, so this is the equivalent of ~1000 Life Steal.
Roll With The Punches (5/5) Increased Deflection by 2.5%. Same math as Bloody Brawler. Yes, please.
Note: I have built with Survivor before instead of Roll with the Punches and found Roll to be a better performer across extended play. You should mete out death long before they take you down to 30%.
Back Alley Tactics (5/5) You deal 25% more damage when your AP meter is empty. This bonus diminishes as you gain AP. The important parts of that tooltip are the words empty and diminishes. Your AP meter is empty every time you pop a Daily, so each attack following a Daily receives a 25% Damage Boost, regardless of position, the enemy’s health or what attack you’re using. The second word, diminishes, is curious.
Back Alley’s damage bonus diminishes gradually, and only disappears completely when your AP meter is full. At ~30% AP Fill the damage bonus is around 20%. At 50% AP the damage bonus hovers around 15%. Even at 85-90% AP Fill the damage bonus is between 3-5%. As long as your AP meter does not sit full and unused you have a near-constant damage boost.
Side benefit to an already awesome feat? The next time you see Action Points Drained flash across your screen you might find yourself chuckling, “Big mistake, buddy. Big mistake.”
This is the feat you drop Shadowborn for.
A Note on Mounts: Back Alley Tactics is the reason I don’t recommend a Flail Snail. You gain 25% of your AP right after using your Daily, and there is a noticeable difference in damage output when I run my Snail versus another 110 mount.
Shadow of Demise
Shadow of Demise is the capstone feat of the Executioner Tree and is fundamental to your damage. Unless you are seconds away from your Daily, Shadow of Demise should be used every time it is available.
Here’s how it works:
You attack a target with an Encounter Power while you’re in Stealth. That target is marked for Demise. This starts a six second timer. Any and all direct damage* dealt by you to the target is tallied. When the timer ends the total damage is halved, and that amount is delivered as additional Piercing damage to the enemy. It cannot be blocked, deflected or mitigated by the enemy’s armor. It is a guaranteed amount of damage.
* Damage done by your summoned companions and overload enchantments is not counted towards Shadow of Demise. However, damage from Lostmauth’s Vengeance and Oppressive Darkness is counted towards Demise’s tally, with one notable exception. If the strike that procs Shadow of Demise strikes critically (almost always does), Demise will not tally that initiating strike’s Lostmauth’s Vengeance, as Neverwinter treats these two attacks as concurrent.
What powers can proc Shadow of Demise?
- Dazing Strike
- Lashing Blade
- Deft Strike (special, see note)
- Impact Shot
- Shadow Strike
- Wicked Reminder
- Blade Flurry
- Smoke Bomb (special, see note)
All other Encounter Powers—Path of the Blade, Impossible to Catch, Shadowy Disappearance, Bait and Switch—do not proc Shadow of Demise.
Dazing Strike, Blitz, Smoke Bomb, and Blade Flurry are AoE attacks when they proc Shadow of Demise. Unless you are only fighting a single target, Neverwinter will proc Shadow of Demise on one of the mobs affected by these powers.
Deft Strike and Smoke Bomb only proc Shadow of Demise if Stealth is engaged after the power is cast. For Deft Strike this requires excellent timing, as you must cast the power, then immediately engage Stealth before the player appears behind the enemy to strike. This timing window is narrow, but very doable. Its ultimate utility, however, is debatable.
For Smoke Bomb, the player only need engage Stealth after casting, while ticks are active. This is very, very useful.
Using Shadow of Demise
Don’t spam everything you have after you proc Shadow of Demise–not yet, anyway. Rather, develop a rhythm for knowing when one Demise ends and when it is newly available so that you always have an Encounter off cooldown to start the timer ASAP. As soon as it ends it is available. Shadow of Demise can reliably be used about every 9-10 seconds of combat. The easiest way to get into this rhythm is to run Duelist’s Flurry once or twice and then start Demise again. Having your Encounters available to you means you can play strategies on how to handle your target’s dwindling health. The first milestone is 70%, when Last Moments boosts your damage +25% while you’re in Stealth. Then 40%, which is a straight +25% to damage. And last, 30%, when Deathknell kicks in. When you cross those milestones, that’s when you want your strongest and deadliest powers available.
Now, the circumstances are different if your Daily is available. Think of your Daily as a shot of adrenaline to the system, an immense buff that you will use to create an opportunity in those first, crucial seconds after you use your powers.
Using your Daily with Shadow of Demise
Launch your Daily only if Shadow of Demise is available. If that means waiting 3-5 seconds while they both sync up, so be it. Be patient; death will come.
Let’s get an accurate picture of what those first few seconds of buffs look like. When you pop Lurker’s Assault you receive:
- 30% Damage Boost from Lurker’s
- Instant Stealth refill and 20% Damage Boost (thanks, Invisible Infiltrator)
- 25% Damage Boost from Back Alley Tactics
- 5% Damage Boost from Vicious Pursuit
- If Enemy is below 40% Health +25% Damage Boost
- If Enemy is below 30% Health +25% Damage Boost
This doesn’t take into account any of the bonuses you’re receiving from your companions, potions, food, Artifacts, or any of the Boon bonuses, like Elvish Fury or Rampaging Madness.
Just by using Lurker’s you set yourself up to immediately receive a guaranteed +80% Damage Boost for 5 seconds. After 5 seconds the Invisible Infiltrator (20%) will drop, but Lurker’s, Vicious Pursuit and Back Alley Tactics will still buff your damage.
If the Enemy is below 30% health Deathknell and Last Moments come into play, boosting your post-Daily damage to +130%.
And if you’re in Stealth—which you will be, thanks to Invisible Infiltrator’s instant refill—all of those attacks get automatic Combat Advantage, 100% Crit chance, and +15% Critical Severity from Arterial Cut. If Dying Breath happens to be up, you’ve got another +25% Crit Severity. Coupled with your Perfect Vorpal that’s a potential +90% to Critical Severity in the moments just after your Daily.
Your charge is to capitalize on all of these bonuses—in 6 seconds.
As long as you grasp that your Daily is ultimately a Damage Buff for yourself, and that Shadow of Demise helps you capitalize on those buffs, you’re going to Kill. A. Lot.
Playing for Damage: Rotations & Loadouts
At-Wills: Cloud of Steel, Duelist’s Flurry
Encounters: Dazing Strike, Smoke Bomb, Lashing Blade (also good: Blade Flurry)
Class Features: Invisible Infiltrator/Skillful Infiltrator (or Talisman of Shadows)
Dailies: Whirlwind of Blades/Bloodbath/Lurker’s Assault
Thin the Herd
If you’re alone, or at the beginning of combat, seek out the weakest link first. Get Dying Breath up and running ASAP as the added Run Speed and Crit Severity will make the rest of the work easier.
Critical Mass (or, The Five Finger Death Punch Walkaway)
Sometimes your Powers will do so much damage that if you do little—or nothing—Shadow of Demise and your DoTs are going to kill an enemy. You will learn to recognize when this happens. This comes in handy when dealing with groups or anytime you might have to pull off an objective (Dragon Empowereds in the Stronghold, let’s say). Proc Shadow of Demise, deal a Critical Mass, and walk away. Let Death do the rest.
Let’s take a sample group like you might find in the Well of Dragons or Lostmauth: some Dragon Cult members, plus a nefarious Archer or Elite GF with shield immunity.
Stealth >> Smoke Bomb >> (Dazed & Slowed)
Whirlwind of Blades (4-5 hit with Whirlwind. +80 to +100% Power)
Stealth >> (thanks Invisible Infiltrator)
Find something you can kill quickly >> If you can kill them in a few swings, just Duelist’s Flurry them. If the weakest thing around has a healthy amount of HP >> Lashing Blade that target (proc Shadow of Demise)
If Lashing Blade removes a critical mass of health, Five Finger Death Punch them and concentrate on the next high priority target: the Archer.
Dying Breath will kick in as soon as the first target dies. This increased mobility will help keep you alive, while the Critical Severity is going to mean more death. Handle the remaining threats in order of likelihood to kill you, and as soon as Stealth comes back, use Dazing Strike to restart Shadow of Demise.
At-Wills: Cloud of Steel, Duelist’s Flurry
Encounters: Wicked Reminder/Dazing Strike, Smoke Bomb, Lashing Blade
Dailies: Whirlwind of Blades (or Courage Breaker)/Lurker’s Assault
Class Features: Invisible Infiltrator/Skillful Infiltrator
Duelist’s Flurry (x2) to set the Bleed Stacks. You have a 50% chance to cause bleeding, and that bleeding can stack up to 10 times and will last for 12 seconds. Bleed Stacks will count towards Shadow of Demise, so even though Demise isn’t running—yet—any Bleeds you set now will still be ticking when Demise procs >>
Stealth > Wicked Reminder (apply Debuff/Proc Shadow of Demise). You proc Demise here, before your Daily, because you’re about to get a full Stealth bar.
Lurker’s Assault > Stealth (thanks, Invisible Infiltrator)
Duelist’s Flurry, 1 Run only >
Lashing Blade. Lashing Blade will consume Stealth and should land just before Shadow of Demise finishes. If you’re early, spam Wicked Reminder or drop a Smoke Bomb.(You could also drop Smoke Bomb before Lurker’s and let those stacks combine with the Bleeds)
Run Duelist’s Flurry once or twice, and you should be ready to start Demise again while you recharge your Daily.
If the timing feels funny, or if you’ve got lag, just consume Stealth by using Lashing Blade. Same thing if you’re about to be smacked hard or hit with a Control power. Then spam what you can, or bail and Cloud of Steel from afar until it’s safe to go back in.
It’s not ideal to consume Lurker’s Stealth bar right away, but sometimes you have to. Play with variations and rotations. You’re going to find what works better once it’s into your fingers, so go with that.
Without your Daily
But if your Daily is not up, activate Demise by using Smoke Bomb > Stealth. This will allow you to proc Demise, get a few swings in, then finish with Lashing Blade—all with one Stealth bar.
Keep the time on Shadow of Demise and use it consistently.
Pay attention to health bars; you’ll develop this habit anyway, but it’s substantially easier against a boss. If you have your Daily+Demise and the boss is about to drop below 40% Health, just wait. Do another round of Duelist’s, smack ’em around for a bit, and when they dip below that mark of peril, that’s when you give them hell.
Recognize those milestones where your damage goes through the roof and plan to have the best of your powers available at that time. And practice, practice, practice.
Demise After Demise
Try chaining Shadow of Demise on top of itself with careful timing. This one uses Sly Flourish instead of Cloud of Steel, but if you get the timing right, Demise is seamless from one to the other:
Smoke Bomb >> Stealth >> Dazing Strike [SoD proc] (do this quickly, getting Stealth and Dazing Strike off before the second tick of Smoke Bomb)
Sly Flourish (2 swings only) >> Duelist’s Flurry (1 run only)
Lurker’s [1st SoD finishes] >> Stealth >> Lashing Blade [2nd SoD procs]
Sly Flourish / Duelist’s sequence repeat
Stealth [2nd SoD finishes] >> Dazing Strike [3rd SoD procs]
Developing routines and patterns like these can help keep Shadow of Demise always on countdown. Practically speaking a constant, continuous Demise run isn’t viable. You have to move, dodge, help your teammates, recover from combat, heal. But knowing how to keep an Encounter available so you can keep punishing your foe is a good skill to practice and learn.
Some Survival Advice with PUGs
If you need more survival at the boss consider dropping Smoke Bomb for Impossible to Catch. Don’t just use it as it becomes available. Learn the big attacks and use Stealth > Impossible to Catch when you’re targeted.
If it can one-shot you, use Stealth > ITC and bail out. Live to fight another day. Your overall progress is going to be slower, and your damage won’t be as great, but you can survive it.
If you are relying heavily on ITC, swap Wicked Reminder for Shadow Strike and use it during ITC to refill your Stealth meter.
And breathe. If you’re trading out most of your damaging powers in the name of survival, it might be time to seek another group.
Playing for Control: Rotations & Loadouts
Control makes you versatile. You’re not just damage, you never will be, because some of the best damaging powers—Smoke Bomb, Dazing Strike—are Control powers. Incidentally Control is the answer to the most common complaint about Rogues–squishy. Remember this: if it can’t move, see or attack, it can’t hurt you. Embrace Control, especially if you’re playing solo, or if the group you’re with is challenged in the damage department.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with walking into a dungeon alongside a GWF and deciding that your job is to make sure those mobs don’t move an inch so the GWF can melt them.
At-Wills: Cloud of Steel, Duelist’s Flurry
Encounters: Smoke Bomb, Dazing Strike, Blitz, Shadow Strike, Bait and Switch
Dailies: Bloodbath, Whirlwind of Blades, Lurker’s Assault
Class Features: Invisible Infiltrator, Talisman of Shadows
Run Talisman of Shadows so you can daze enemies near where you enter Stealth. This does require you to be in close quarters with the enemy, so get in the habit of tumbling or jumping into them. Chain Talisman of Shadows with Shadow Strike to keep groups of enemies stunned long enough that you and your teammates can kill the enemies.
The Executioner’s Stunlock
Encounters: Smoke Bomb, Blitz/Dazing Strike, Shadow Strike
Dailies: Bloodbath/Courage Breaker, Whirlwind
Approach a group of enemies. When in roll distance, tumble into them and drop Stealth. Talisman of Shadows kicks off and dazes the entire group. Now, Smoke Bomb. From Stealth this will extend the daze and add Slow.
Find the weakest link and massacre it to kick off Dying Breath.
Shadow Strike the next target to refill Stealth and drop into Stealth again. Talisman fires again, dazing the entire group.
Dazing Strike your target to proc Shadow of Demise.
Duelist’s Flurry until the mobs recover. As soon as they do—
Bloodbath or Whirlwind > Immediately re-engage Stealth (thanks, Invisible Infiltrator). Talisman fires again, dazing once more. Watch all of them die; reward yourself with a Mojito.
Current Artifact Loadout: Lantern of Revelation, Sigil of the Controller, Lostmauth’s Horn of Blasting, Heart of the Black Dragon
Lostmauth’s Horn of Blasting. This is required for the Artifact set of Neck, Belt and Artifact. A must have.
Lantern of Revelation. Easy and free at Level 21 from the quest “Artifact Facts.” Still my primary artifact and not showing any signs of leaving.
Beware of Armor Penetration creep. Combined these two Artifacts deliver 2,000 Armor Pen at Mythic quality. Ultimately what Artifacts you select are a function both of what you need to round out your character, and what is reasonably available to you. So here are some you should consider:
Sigil of the Controller: Power, Critical and Control Resist.
Sigil of the Trickster: Critical Strike, Deflection, Combat Advantage Bonus (mind your Boon choices in Icewind Dale if you’re running two Artifacts with Combat Advantage Bonus; watch out for diminishing returns). But hey, this one’s free for being a Rogue; you can’t beat that.
Tactician’s Banner: Critical Strike, Movement and Action Point Gain
Sigil of the Devoted: Power, Defense, Incoming Healing Bonus. Gets you your Daily back faster. More Dailies, more damage. Consider using this if you can at least get it to Legendary, because the Active ability is worthwhile.
Heart of the Black Dragon: Recovery, Armor Penetration, Action Point Gain
Belial’s Portal Stone: Life Steal, Power, Control Bonus
Shard of Valindra’s Crown: Power, Life Steal, Control Bonus
Active Bonus Companions
Companions whose active bonuses boost your powers (Pick 4)
Erinyes of Belial: Increased Critical Severity (part of the Scourge Warlock Booster Pack on the Zen Market)
Air Archon: Increased damage to foes not at full health
Fire Archon: Increased damage to foes below 50% health
Intellect Devourer/Blink Dog: Listed here together because they should be used in tandem, thanks to their multiplicative Combat Advantage bonus. See the further reading section for more detailed information.
Dancing Blade: Increased Critical Severity.
Yeti: In addition to being a great Tank and potential as a fast proc Companion, Blood Fury gives a straight damage increase. Only take him if you’re going to use him as a Fast Proc companion.
I don’t have any particular recommendations for Augments, as they now function as a sort of holdover while you build up your Bonding Runestones. Any of the Ioun Stones will do fine; Radiance is fairly cheap, the Allure has a nice Bonus (7% to slow when using an Encounter).
Companions you slot with the highest quality Bonding Runestones you can. (Pick 1)
Mercenary: (Heirloom Pack on the Zen Market) Account unlocked. He’s a Rogue who attacks with Sly Flourish and Duelist’s Flurry. Very fast proc on Companion’s Gift, surprising survivability (mostly thanks to Duelist’s flurry immunity).
Zhentarim Warlock: (AH or, most recently, from the Winter Festival.) Very fast proc, but the Xbox currently doesn’t have access to any double-slotted Talismans. Keep this in mind if you’re looking to your Companion to buff defensive stats like Life Steal or Deflection.
Air Archon: (AH, Trove of Elemental Evil) You will see this one listed a lot. Maybe it is something about how I play, but this guy deflates harder and faster than a stuck balloon, which is the point to getting higher stacks of Companion’s Gift. But dead companions cause enemies to look at you. So take that into consideration.
Yeti: (The Need for Mead in Icewind Dale). Great tank, good speed on Companion’s Gift. Blood Fury is a nice bonus. Good if you find yourself having to solo endgame content.
Acolyte of Kelemvor/Priestess of Sune: (Zen Market or AH) Great Healers for when playing solo; the former buffs your Life Steal, the latter your Deflection.
Switching from Augment to Fast Proc
I cannot stress enough how impactful a fast proc Companion can be. You gain Companion’s Gift, a buff which grants you a percentage of your Companion’s stats based on the quality of Bonding Runestones you have. In addition you can gain threat reduction which in turn can result in increased survivability, guaranteed Combat Advantage while they’re attacking, and depending on their makeup a measure of tanking, healing and buffing.
You’re going to need 3 Bonding stones for your Fast Proc Companion. Make acquiring these a priority. You won’t see a huge stat boost until around the Greater Bonding rank. My advice is to experiment with your own survival. Try your Companion with lower level stones. See if those side benefits don’t outweigh the missing stats.
They might, they might not.
And this could probably go without saying, but once you slot Greater and Perfect Bondings—and you are reliably outperforming an Augment—make sure your Companion has the very best stones and equipment, even at the expense of your character. A Rank 10 Azure in your Main Hand is worth exactly 430 Critical Strike, but with 3 Perfect Bonding Runestones, that Rank 10 is worth up to 838 in your Companion.
Oh, and pick up a Lliira’s Bell while you can. Slot into your potion tray; instant revive of Companion plus 10 seconds of immunity. 2 minute cooldown. Invaluable. Pick it up now, even if you don’t have a Companion or Bondings yet. You will need it in the future.
- Dark Fey Hunter – 400 Power
- Fey Precision: 400 Critical Strike
- Elven Haste: +3% Action Point Gain
- Elven Tranquility: When struck by a foe you have a chance to heal yourself for 20,000HP
- Take the healing here instead of the chance to do Damage. 20k damage once a minute means nothing; 20k HP can mean your life.
- Elvish Fury: Gain 135 Power for 45 seconds when you kill a foe. Stacks up to 30 times.
- Conjurer’s Gambit: 250 Critical Strike and 250 Movement
- Evoker’s Thirst: 400 Life Steal
- Take Illusion Shimmer for 3% Deflection Chance if your RI% is high enough
- Take Forbidden Piercing for 3% Resistance Ignored if you need more RI%
- Enraged Regrowth: Chance to heal 20,000HP + gain 4,000 Defense
- Same as Elven Tranquility. Take this instead of the 20k damage. You do 20k damage unsheathing your knife. 20k HP can save your life.
- Rampaging Madness: @ 50 Stacks of Madness get 4,000 Power, 4,000 Life Steal, and 4,000 Regeneration. Roughly once for every minute of combat. Lasts 10 seconds while you’re fighting.
- Weathering the Storm (400 AoE Resist) or Encroaching Tactics (400 Combat Advantage) – pick whichever balances what your Artifacts and Off-Hand deliver.
- Refreshing Chill: Stamina Gain
- Sleet Skills: +2% Critical Severity
- Cold Shoulder: Reduce the damage of the enemy’s next attack.
- You’re going to be in the thick of the action a lot. And Cold Shoulder procs often. Will help your overall survival.
- Winter’s Bounty: Chance to gain 10% Action Points when killing an enemy.
Tyranny of Dragons
- Dragon’s Claws: 400 Power
- Dragon’s Gaze: 400 Critical Strike
- Draconic Armorbreaker: 400 Armor Penetration (if you’re low on RI%, or you can take the Draconic Defense for 400 Defense)
- Dragon’s Greed: 400 Life Steal
- Dragon’s Fury (x1), Dragon’s Thirst (x2)
- As of the October, 2015 patch notes this feat is supposed to be fixed, so that Dragon’s Fury reports the correct increase to Critical Severity. I leave this up to you. If you need more Life Steal, take them as their listed here. If you’re getting enough Life Steal out of your Fast Proc Companion, throw all 3 into Dragon’s Fury for the added Critical Severity.
- Underdark Power – 400 Power and 1600 HP
- Underdark Critical Strike – 400 Critical Strike and 1600 HP
- Opportunity Strikes*:+10% Combat Advantage or Underdark Healing: 1200 Regeneration.
- Underdark Stamina*: +5% Stamina Gain
- Demon Slayer*: Chance to kill Lesser Demons outright
* — I haven’t unlocked these Boons yet, but those are the ones I plan to take. Subject to change.
I am long-winded to a fault. Look—the Rogue isn’t a dead class, and it is certainly one that players shouldn’t avoid because the conventional wisdom bandied about online is that they were nerfed into nigh uselessness, or that they’re only effective at the upper echelon of item Level, as if, by some magical unseen force, Rogues can cross over this invisible “gear line” above 3k and suddenly become useful again. That’s absurd.
Will you beat out similarly- or even higher-geared DPS characters—yes, absolutely. Will you always be top damage? No, not likely, and who cares?
A class’s utility and value of play cannot be measured and weighed by a scoreboard. What’s important to me and the people I play with is a good run. The goal, the challenge and the win. And, as a Rogue, you can be instrumental in that process.
And playing one—while challenging—is a lot of fun.
So, dust off your Rogue, load up into the Stronghold and start trying some things out. I’ll keep working on this as Mods release and the shape of things changes. And if this guide wasn’t enough for you, and you’re on the Xbox, you can talk to me anytime I’m available (GT: Sundance909; in-game: Mr. Critch@Sundance909). Thanks for taking the time to read it, and while I’ve tried to be thorough, I’ve no doubt missed some things, too. Any errors are my own. Thanks, again.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to use another Retraining Token.
Further Reading & Acknowledgments
I am indebted to all of these people for all of their hard and amazing work. You should read everything here.
Crit, Power and DPS—The Numbers Guide by Kaelac: http://bit.ly/1T5yC0y
Kaelac’s Guide to Damage, Tenacity, Resistance and Debuffs in Neverwinter – http://bit.ly/1mkDEYN
How Combat Advantage Does Not Work: http://bit.ly/1TigVLs
Death is the Best Crowd Control, Ironzerg’s CW Guide (great info on Combat Advantage and Companions) – http://bit.ly/1VZz5Q6
Ezio’s Trickster Rogue—Most Rogues got their start here; I am no different. http://bit.ly/1XaNkT8
@hexydecimal—for putting up with all of my random respecs and tests, @jaxster8789 and @hopefulbeast651 and @xxDaemonx for keeping me on my toes and starting the charity “Mercy for Booted Rogues.” @mitigatedpanic for being an all-around excellent GWF and setting the bar exceptionally high. And the members and Rogues of the Ladies of Neverwinter—who keep asking me questions, which means I have to go find an answer. Keep them coming, please. I wouldn’t have written this without you fine upstanding Merchants of Murder.