The goal of this build is to be a master ambusher. Surprise and blitz your target down before s/he has much time to react. So, it revolves around the element of surprise, burst damage and escape for when things go bad. Get behind enemy lines and kill the flag carriers and/or casters. Obviously, it lends itself well to a PvP environment, but still does very well in PvE.
So, with that in mind, lets establish some target baselines....
Stealth and burst come naturally for an assassin, but being behind enemy lines means that you're very vulnerable to counter-attack, so we'll want a minimum of 31 points in Assassin for the Slip Away ability in order to get away. Also, keeping an eye on 40 points to pick up Hidden Veil in the roots.
NOTE: At level 31, Assassin really starts to come into his own because of Slip Away. I would also argue that this talent is a must for main-Assassin builds to work.
To support that role, we have 2 choices: either boost our damage (to get the deed done quicker), or to survive long enough to finish the job. Looking through the trees, I'm not seeing many talents mid-way deep in trees that really synnergize well with ambushing. So, we either stay shallow in 2 support trees (for more damage potential), or go deeper into 1 tree for more toys.
In doing some warfronts recently as Assassin, going behind enemy lines to kill the flag carrier, I was usually successful in ambushing my target, but not as often as I'd like. So, I argue that the build should shoot for more survivability; Riftstalker. Then find a 0 point soul that has something nice to support the job.
Note: Below I offer a less-deep Riftstalker option that's intriguing.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
So, what can we pick up in Riftstalker that also has us picking up 40 points in Assassin? Here's what I've come up with so far...
40 Assassin / 26 Riftstalker / 0 Infiltrator
40 Assassin / 18 Riftstalker / 8 Ranger
BREAKDOWN -- 0 POINT 3rd SOUL
The showcase here is being able to Stealth, whenever and wherever you want. Slip Away and Hidden Veil being the 2 highlights. Supporting this are high damage, improved poisons and stuns to help re-establish the "rogues do it from behind" mantra.
That alone isn't enough. There will be times where your target slips just outside of melee range (happens a lot) and you have no way to catch back up. There's also times where you're trying to ambush your target only to have his/her friends rip you a new one. This is where Riftstalker steps in...
Riftstalker helps by providing extra survivability, damage and lots and lots of mobility. Plane Shifting abilities, which can be initiated from and remain in Stealth following the ability. There are 4 such abilities that we can grab with the remaining 26 points.
- Shadow Shift (shift forward)
- Shadow Stalk (shift to behind target, removes cc)
- Shadow Assault (shift to behind target and attack)
- Shadow Blitz (shift to target and aoe)
- Shadow Warp (shift to targetted location)
All of these abilities are augmented, via talents, to increase damage, movement speed, reduce cooldown, stun immunity. An Assassin with all this should have no problems catching back up to an escaping target, or perform an escape him/herself.
Lastly, the 3rd Soul, I filled with Infiltrator for another CC breaker; total of 3 (Break Free, Shadow Stalk, Slip Away). Which, is probably the best 0-point ability you can get.
My biggest concern is if by going deep into Riftstalker, am I giving up too much dps for survivability and mobility? I may not need so much mobility and could put points into Bladedancer, Ranger, or Nightblade; 3 popular 3rd Soul options to the Assassin/Riftstalker build.
BREAKDOWN -- >0 POINT 3rd SOUL
I could easily see myself dropping down to 18 points in Riftstalker with 8 in Ranger. I'll lose 2 Shifts, all the secondary buffs for the shifts, but gain more damage (crit, ap buff) and reduced damage.
I chose Shadow Assault as the low-bar for usefulness which is 16 points in because it allows you to catch back up if they get outside melee range. 16 Riftstalker
3rd SOUL - WHY RANGER?
If you're going to put points into your 3rd Soul, then my research so far has shown three popular choices: Bladedancer, Nightblade and Ranger. I'll take you through my thought process on why I chose Ranger.
Note: You'll have 40 in Assassin, 16-18 points in Riftstalker, so 8-10 points to spend in your 3rd Soul.
You don't need 10 points here, 8 will do you just fine. This gives you 5% more crit, 6% reduced damage taken, and an AP buff. You can pass up Crippling Shot as you've already got your "catching up to the enemy" issue taken care of.
Note: Crit also helps fuel your Assassin dps, so nice synnergy here that you can't find elsewhere.
I do not recommend this 10 point option for the following reasons. Sure, you get 15% more damage on your CP generating abilities & finishers, but that's it. No supporting abilities really help you here. Conceal, you already have. Hellfire Blades, you should not be using because you'll have your Assassin poisons. Lost Hope, a crowd-control, you don't really need since you already have Incapacitate. So yea, not much here unless you really want a 2nd crowd-control.
A solid 10 point choice here, but for me I think I'll stick with Ranger unless convinced otherwise. Here's why... You get 5% more hit and 50% more auto-attack damage, a dodge cooldown, and a Dex buff. The major ability gains here are defensive, which we already have taken care of in Riftstalker. My focus for the 3rd Soul is more dps and this option seems to half-way focus on defense. Though the extra 5% to hit would be very nice.
Here's what the spec looks like at level 21: 21 Assassin / 7 Riftstalker / 0 Saboteur
Saboteur used for Adhesive Bomb to help you catch up to escaping enemies, since you have no other means to catch back up at this level.
What you're doing: Grab all the stealth enhancements while boosting your dps as much as possible.
Here's what the spec looks like at level 31: 31 Assassin / 10 Riftstalker / 0 Infiltrator
Could keep Saboteur here, but if you're getting in trouble just Slip Away!!
Bladedancer a good option as well for the dodge cooldown.
What you're doing: Grabbing Sliip Away asap while greatly improving your openers (ie. Assassinate)
Here's what the spec looks like at level 40: 40 Assassin / 13 Riftstalker / 0 Infiltrator
Could keep Saboteur since you still don't have many ways to catch back up.
What you're doing: Going back to fill in important skipped talents
After this point is where you need to make the hard decision. Go deep into Riftstalker or spread points between 2nd and 3rd Souls.
And finally, level 50...
Deep into Riftstalker option = 40 Assassin / 26 Riftstalker / 0 Infiltrator
Shallow in 2nd and 3rd Souls option = 40 Assassin / 18 Riftstalker / 8 Ranger
What you're doing: Deciding where to place the rest of your points. Spread them evenly between 2 Souls, or go deep into your 2nd Soul.
Now that I've got y'all thinking about the Assassin, I'd like to open up the discussion?
- Where is your thought process at?
- Do the talents chosen for the 40 points spent in Assassin make sense to you?
- Can you argue for a better allocation?
- What of the 2nd and 3rd Souls? Do you have an argument for something that synnergizes better?