As my three avid fans already know, I generally always play the Rogue stealth class in every game. Obviously I will toy with other classes, but “Sprawl” is always a Rogue, and in Cryptic’s Neverwinter MMO, which just went open beta, things are no different. To anyone starting out, I wanted to share my thoughts in general on the game, as well as specifically dive into the Trickster Rogue class.

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First and foremost, Neverwinter is a pretty dang good MMO for a free-to-play. It certainly has a few “pay to win” attributes for the hardcore player that must min-max everything, but for your casual player, it is easy enough to avoid the temptation to spend a lot of cash on the game. I have to admit, the lure of extra pack and bank space has been hard to resist.

Anyone looking to join Z Guild in Neverwinter merely needs to download the game client and install. The game is in open beta, with no more character wipes scheduled, which essentially means the game has been released with a bunch of bugs still present. For the most part, these bugs aren’t game breaking, although a few can be frustrating at times.

Neverwinter, as far as MMOs go, is easy to play. The game employs the basic WASD keybindings, with permanent mouse look, much like many games out there already. You have your usual fare of PvE questing on rails, PvP in battlegrounds, and 5-man dungeon runs as you level your way to 60, so don’t expect some great new game model that has never been done before. All the same, the world of Neverwinter is fun, at least for a little while, and brings to the table a familiar fantasy world to explore.

At first, the game seems to have a lot of character creation involved. You start by rolling dice to determine your initial stats. As you would expect, for a Rogue, Dexterity is the most important stat, followed closely by Strength and Charisma. Depending on your goals, some would argue Strength is equally important to Dexterity due to the power bonus. In the end, I would recommend sticking with Dexterity as your primary stat until the very top end of the game where you might be able to get your critical strike chance up over 50%, then do whatever the number crunchers are telling you on the forums. A good rule of thumb for your secondary stat is for PvP, max strength, and for PvE, max charisma. Either way, I’ve found the game is rather forgiving regardless of which you choose.

In addition to managing character stats, characters also get power points each level. At first, you are a bit overwhelmed and worried which powers to select. Unfortunately, Neverwinter only let’s you bind powers to your two mouse buttons, and three keyboard keys (as well as tab for stealth), so even though you have all these crazy cool sounding encounter powers, you can only select three. Likewise, players get access to a number of “daily” powers (powers with longer cooldowns), but can only use two on their action bar. So the concern isn’t so much how to spend your power points, you will get plenty as you level, but more so what moves you will put on your action bar.

Lastly, players get feat points every level. These feats are very wordy, sometimes unclear how they affect the character, and generally are underwhelming. There are a few exceptions, but unless you are a min-maxer, it isn’t a big deal if you make a few wrong choices. However, be forewarned, there are a few completely wrong choices (like reducing threat), and a full respec will cost you $6 of real life cash since there is no way to respec in game short of rerolling a new character. Your best bet is to choose early on if you want to maximize damage through critical strikes or maximize damage by maintaining stealth and thus combat advantage, and then select your abilities accordingly.

At-Will Powers (Pick 2):

Sly Flourish (PvE: 3, PvP: 5) – This is your basic left click ability that you start the game with. Unless you choose to change to the slower but stronger hitting Duelist’s Flurry later in level for increased DPS, Sly Flourish ends up being your default attack for a majority of the game. Be sure to press and hold the attack for the full three part combo. I’ve heard of a few people clicking the attack, and wondering why it doesn’t work properly. Since the animation is much faster than Duelist’s Flurry, this move is generally the choice for most PvP’ers.

Cloud of Steel (PvE: 1, PvP: 5) – This is the staple ranged attack for the Rogue that allows you to throw daggers 60 feet. In most cases for PvE, it makes more sense or roll back into melee range for damage, but Cloud of Steel is invaluable for PvP.

Duelist’s Flurry (PvE: 5, PvP: 2) – Very slow to build up, the third attack in this combo chain deals a ton of damage and stacks bleeds. On a target dummy, used in a PvE rotation, Duelist’s Flurry is the superior At-Will power for DPS. However, in situations where the Rogue is moving a lot, either in PvE or PvP, it can be hard to land that third attack where most of the damage resides.

Gloaming Cut (PvE: 3, PvP: 1) – For Rogues looking to maximize their stealth uptime, Gloaming Cut is very useful; however, its subpar damage makes it hard to justify using regularly. In group PvE, getting the killing blow is hard enough without having to use this underpowered move. In PvP, good luck landing it enough to make it useful. If Cryptic ever increases the damage on this ability, perhaps it will be a lot more useful.

Encounter Powers (Pick 3):

Dazing Strike (PvE: 5, PvP: 5) – Leap into the air, and daze all enemies in your frontal arc. This move is great in both PvE and PvP situations. It does a good amount of damage, and leaves the enemy unable to use their encounter powers for several seconds. In PvP, if you get hit with this, run is all you can do. The only downside is the amount of time it takes to leap up into the air and hit your opponent. A good one will move away to avoid the hit. However, if you can trigger this power while in stealth, not only will your opponent not see it coming, it will take half the time to perform.

Deft Strike (PvE: 2, PvP: 4) – Personally, I love this ability for the mobility to immediately appear behind your target. However, some Rogues forgo using it due to the limit number of encounter powers allowed on your ability bar. In PvE, it is merely a convenience. Either way, a Rogue has two “dodge” rolls available to them before they run out of stamina, which used well makes Deft Strike unneeded. Don’t get me wrong, I still use it as a third “close the gap” ability but there are many Rogues out there doing fine without it. Also, if you use the first strike passive, which adds 5% more damage to your first hit, it gets wasted on this move rather than Lashing Blade (the real Rogue power house move).

Lashing Blade (PvE: 4, PvP: 4) – Burst damage at its finest. This is the Rogue’s biggest burst damage encounter move on a 20 second timer. If you can fire it off while in stealth, it is guaranteed to crit. Nothing says hello to an enemy player quite like opening with this move from stealth.

Bait and Switch (PvE: 3, PvP: 1) – While soloing in PvE, bait and switch can be useful to get enemies off of you so you can get into combat advantage. For Rogues that are maximizing uptime, this move will also refresh your stealth meter. However, in PvE group play, other classes are better suited to handle offtanking, and smoke bomb serves as a better “oh crap” ability. Given the limited number of slots on the ability bar, this move is generally used by low level players, and then passed on later in leveling. In PvP, it is near worthless unless your opponent just isn’t paying attention.

Blitz (PvE: 3, PvP: 1) – Due to our limited number of AoE moves, Blitz is a contender for PvE. In solo play, it helps a lot with groups of mobs and the inevitable kiting that all Rogues must do at times. In group play, some Rogues use this move in their rotation to pad their dps numbers. In my opinion, the Rogue shines at single target damage, and this move has no business in group play. In PvP, the movement impairing effects are nice if on the run, but come on, you shouldn’t be on the run, so don’t waste a button bar slot.

Impossible to Catch (PvE: 3, PvP: 3) – Immunity is nice. In PvE fights where the Rogue is constantly having to run out of melee range, being able to pop this every 17 seconds allows you to keep dealing damage. In PvP, it can be great to be immune, but honestly, a Rogue should focus on damage dealing. All the same, I gave this ability a high rating because you need it to beat out against a similar geared Great Weapon Fighter. When going toe-to-toe with these heavy hitters, you must pop this bad boy at the right time.

Path of the Blade (PvE: 2, PvP: 1) – Due to the limited AOE of a Rogue, this can have some use for PvE solo grinding. Use it anywhere else and you are wasting your time. The low damage combined with the fact that Blitz is better, makes this move a bit of a waste of space.

Impact Shot (PvE: 2, PvP: 3) – While a Rogue does have a few ranged abilities, we are better off not wasting our encounter slots on mediocre ranged abilities. Imagine how bad a Rogue would be that used Cloud of Steel all the time. Impact is no different. The knockback is also a bit baffling since a Rogue typically wants to keep their foe within melee range, not push them away. The stun from stealth is nice though.

Shadow Strike (PvE: 3, PvP: 2) – This move really only has one use, which is to help keep you stealthed longer. So if your build revolves around the concept of perma-stealth, then consider this move, otherwise, consider anything else. The from stealth daze while ranged is a bit nice though, I suppose.

Wicked Reminder (PvE:3, PvP: 3) – It is hard to gauge how useful this move is in PvE. Scaled with enough damage dealers, it is nice to have someone reducing the damage resistance. In PvP, if you can fire it off while in stealth (which is a big if for a lot of moves in PvP), then 3 immediate stacks of this is very nice indeed. I still can’t justify using the slot on my action bar though.

Smoke Bomb (PvE: 2, PvP: 5) – In PvE, this move is a great “oh shit” move, especially for stealth rogues that mess up their rotation on occasion. In PvP, it is arguably overpowered. Throw this bad boy down near a capture point, and every enemy in range is rendered useless. Time this with your team and one Rogue can immobilize a while freaking army.

Class Feature (Pick 2):

Sneak Attack (PvE: 3, PvP: 4) – Very useful for helping the Rogue get in position while stealthed, especially given how short the stealth cooldown is in this MMO. In PvP, run speed is vital, and using this can often help close the distance.

First Strike (PvE: 1, PvP: 4) – In PvE, the first strike in the battle is not very important, so this passive is pretty stupid. However, for PvP Rogues that want to maximize that initial punch, coupling this with Lashing Blade is the way to go for that ultimate ambush opener.

Tenacious Concealment (PvE: 3, PvP: 1) – When a Rogue is stealthed, any damage received will reduce your stealth time. Tenacious Concealment is great in PvE, especially when soloing, since everything is targeting you. It also helps with splash damage, so that you can maximize stealth uptime. In the end, I haven’t found it very useful for either PvE grouping or PvP, as long as you can move your feet.

Tactics (PvE: 5, PvP: 4) – Rogues have one of the worst rates of action point gain. This passive class feature helps speed things up. If you stack it with a few other feats that increase action point return, you can get your daily powers to reasonable cooldown rate level. In PvP, I still opt for the run speed increases though.

Infiltrator’s Action (PvE: 3, PvP: 1) – This class feature increases your damage after you use a daily by putting you in combat advantage for that automatic 20% damage increase. It is a nice touch, but a good Rogue can get themselves in combat advantage before firing off their daily move.

Skillful Infiltrator (PvE: 3, PvP: 5) – In PvE, the increase deflect and critical chance is nice, but not vital. Same with the run speed boost, which can help, but hard to measure just how much. In PvP, I think we can all agree running faster rocks. Some Rogues claim they don’t notice the speed boost, but stacked with movement boots, gems, and sneak attack, my Rogue almost seems to float to his enemies.

Invisible Infiltrator (PvE: 2, PvP: 1) – For a Rogue that has gotten to the point that he is firing off daily powers on a regular basis, this class ability might help increase damage, but for the rest of us, I haven’t seen much use for it yet.

Daily Abilities (Pick 2):

Lurker’s Assault (PvE: 5, PvP: 5) – This is the best raw damage over time daily ability. I use it all the time to up to damage. Make sure you are in combat advantage, and the damage scales dramatically. The only downside is the screen turns black and white, making it hard to see those red circles on the ground the spell impending doom. Timing this with Impossible to Catch can help a lot to avoid incoming damage and keep the damage output going.

Whirlwind of Blades (PvE: 3, PvP: 1) – Not that great of an ability but our strongest AoE ability by far. In PvE, I use it for leveling or to help deal with adds while on boss fights. In PvP, it is a bit of a waste of space unless you can convince your enemies to all stack up nicely. I will use it occasionally after a control wizard sucks everyone up into a vortex though.

Courage Breaker (PvE: 1, PvP: 4) – In PvE, you have better things to use as a daily power, but in PvP, against melee tank types, this move shines. I really like using it against a Great Weapon Fighter, which helps offset the fact that I do not use Impossible to Catch. Most Rogues use this daily power while leveling until they can get Shocking Execution.

Shocking Execution (PvE: 3, PvP: 5) – In PvE, this move does some nice damage. It is fun to pad our numbers with this bad boy on boss fights. However, where Shocking Execution really shines is in PvP. One shot your friends. It is fun!