I’m going to use Scoundrel terminology, simply because I’m more familiar with it. If you want operative terminology, the following key should help:

  • Brutal Shots = Corrosive Assault
  • Sanguinary Shot = Toxic Blast
  • Point Blank Shot = Lethal Strike
  • Blaster Whip = Shiv
  • Quick Shot = Overload Shot
  • Flurry of Bolts = Rifle Shot
  • Shrap Bomb = Corrosive Grenade
  • Vital Shot = Corrosive Dart
  • Upper Hand = Tactical Advantage
  • Unfair Advantage = Fatality
  • Cool Head = Adrenaline Probe
  • Pugnacity = Stim Boost
  • Stack the Deck = Tactical Superiority
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Overview

Ruffian is a weird combination of absolutely wrecking face with buffed DoTs and DoT-buffed attacks, moderate burst moves and extremely high sustained damage. As of right now, Ruffian is one of the highest parsing specs in the game, coming in behind Assault, Serenity and slightly behind Watchman. It suffers from some of the longest setup in the game, among the lowest burst, and some difficult micro-management which can cause the whole rotation to drop into free-fall if you make even a single mistake. It is thus extremely challenging to run on a boss, but far from impossible. Be comfortable with DoT tracking as well as keeping track of your energy bar (which will vary considerably with crits) and reacting accordingly.

Random reminder: in 3.0, Upper Hand doesn’t buff damage done (or healing, for that matter). Thus, an important component of the rotation is actually draining yourself out of Upper Hand as often as possible.

Utilities

Take the talents that buff your damage reduction, movement speed, defense screen, Cool Head and combat stealth (the 90 second cloak is a noticeable DPS boost). Swap the 5% damage reduction for the AoE damage reduction talent for fights that demand it, but basically everything else is static.

Gearing

You need >100% accuracy. Ruffian is a DoT spec, which means that it is double-penalized for accuracy. Between that and the energy requirements, there is simply no way to make this spec work when you’re missing things. You could probably get away with 99.95% accuracy (or thereabouts) just through the sheer power of statistical unlikelyhood, but expect to feel very frustrated on occasion. In 192 gear, I recommend running 7 accuracy pieces. In 198s, it’s probably better to run 6 accuracy pieces and make up the rest with augments.

With your three (or four) remaining pieces, I recommend a 2:1 ratio of surge-to-alacrity with current stat budgets. Once we get to the next tier (after 198s), that recommendation will slip to 1:1, and finally once our surge gets into the 400s, it will probably be ideal to put the remainder of the tertiary budget into alacrity. This isn’t theory-crafted though, just based on some experimentation, so if someone has more authoritative numbers here, please let me know!

Do not put any crit on your gear! Don’t do it. The problem is that we get energy return from crit, but we’re already righton the line in terms of sustainable energy return. If we had more energy, we wouldn’t use Flurry of Bolts anywhere in our rotation, and this is bad because it means we would also be incapable of burning out and thus also unable to use Cool Head. As paradoxical as it may sound, having slightly lower energy return (in exchange for harder-hitting attacks due to higher power) is actually higher DPS. Much higher (I tried it).

By the same token, you should not use main stat augments. Overkill Augments are optimal for average results. I have seen slightly better peaks in Skill Augments, but the averages are much much worse. If you want to record parse, perhaps it is better to use main stat augments, but if you do it in a raid you’re just selling out your group for better leaderboard standings. Overkill augments produce excellent mean results and very good peaks, but with remarkably low variance. When I was testing with Overkill augments in full 192 gear, I could reliably sit down on the dummy and spit out a 4570, while my lowest (without mistakes) was around 4550 and my outlier (but not insane) parses were around 4650. That’s a pretty tight bound, and it’s worth sacrificing the occasional 4700 if it means more reliable DPS on a boss.

Priority

Your priority is to use Brutal Shots as often as possible. Actually, that’s not true. What you want to do is use Point Blank Shot as often as possible, since it does more damage and buffs your DoTs. Actually, that’s not true either, since Sanguinary Shot contributes more damage overall and doesn’t cost any energy, so you want to use it as often as possible. Unfortunately, using Sanguinary Shot gives you a stack of Upper Hand, which you should not waste, which means you need to use a lot of Brutal Shots to dump your UH such that you can safely use Sanguinary Shot. So basically you need to use as much Brutal Shots as possible.

The other problem is that Point Blank Shot costs more energy on average than Brutal Shots due to the Unfair Advantage proc (free Brutal Shots), which means that you get much better DPE (damage per energy) out of Brutal Shots than you do out of Point Blank Shot. All of this comes together into a very confusing priority queue that shifts a lot, where you’re never quite using the ability you want to use, but you’re working your way into it. The absolute highest DPS comes from using Point Blank Shot as often as possible without destroying your energy, all while keeping Sanguinary Shot and Blaster Whip on cooldown and without wasting Upper Hand stacks or delaying your DoTs. Good luck!

If I had to put a rough priority queue to the spec, this is what it would look like (obviously ignore all energy-related conditionals whenever Cool Head is coming off CD in <15 seconds):

  1. Both DoTs (if not ticking or about to expire and nothing better is up)
  2. Sanguinary Shot (if <2 Upper Hand)
  3. Cloak + Point Blank Shot (if >80 energy and <2 Upper Hand)
  4. Blaster Whip (if <2 Upper Hand)
  5. Brutal Shots (if required to drain Upper Hand before Sanguinary Shot and/or Blaster Whip)
  6. Brutal Shots (if Unfair Advantage and <80 energy)
  7. Point Blank Shot (if >80 energy)
  8. Brutal Shots
  9. Both DoTs (if ~3 seconds on duration, 0 Upper Hand and >95 energy)
  10. Quick Shot (if 0 Upper Hand and >90 energy and Sanguinary Shot coming off CD)
  11. Quick Shot (if 0 Upper Hand and >95 energy)
  12. Flurry of Bolts

You’ll notice that most abilities have multiple places in the priority queue. This is because there are several situations which push certain abilities forward or backward in the queue. For example, Point Blank Shot is your second highest damaging ability (behind Sanguinary Shot), but Point Blank Shot doesn’t consume Upper Hand and delaying (or worse, wasting) Upper Hand loses sufficient DPS to more than counteract the superior single-hit damage, particularly given the long CD on PBS. This of course changes a bit if you have Cloak up, since a Cloak + Point Blank Shot is by far the most damage you can get all at once, and it’s worth delaying Blaster Whip a bit to squeeze it in, just don’t waste the Upper Hand stack.

The key to this rotation is really planning ahead with Upper Hand. Think about how many Brutal Shots you’re going to need to squeeze in prior to your next Upper Hand builder in order to avoid delaying either Blaster Whip or Sanguinary Shot. Think about how many GCDs you have to work with before that happens. If you have more GCDs than you need, you should reach for Point Blank Shot first unless it’s going to put you in trouble with energy, in which case you might consider using a single Brutal Shots to see what kind of crits you get and then decide from there, unless of course Cool Head is coming off CD.

Speaking of delaying Blaster Whip or Sanguinary Shot, you will not be able to avoid this! Your goal should always be to get yourself down to zero Upper Hand before your next Upper Hand generator, but you will not be able to guarantee this! For this reason (and several other reasons), you always want to prioritize Sanguinary Shot over Blaster Whip. If you find yourself delaying Sanguinary Shot for anything other than DoT application, you have done something horribly horribly wrong. If you find yourself delaying Blaster Whip by more than one GCD (to squeeze in that extra Brutal Shots) outside of DoT application, you have similarly done something terribly wrong.

Of course, you need to do all of this while managing your energy bar. Due to the raw amount of Brutal Shots activations, the energy refund on Point Blank Shot, and random DoT crits, your energy is going to be enormously hard to predict. Energy capping is very, very bad. With practice, you can mostly avoid it, but it’s extremely hard to eliminate it altogether. Similarly, dropping into lower regen is of course very bad unless you have Cool Head up. Remember that Pugnacity gives you 10 energy, which you can exploit somewhat to get yourself partially out of trouble. Just don’t Upper Hand cap or delay Pugnacity by more than 8 seconds.

Similarly, you want to make sure that you’re using Cool Head exactly on cooldown. This is enormously hard, because it is very dependent on RNG. Part of the tricky thing about this spec is you just don’t have a lot of time to use fillers, and when you do have time to use fillers, it’s mostly going to be Point Blank Shot. In a five and a half minute parse, you’re going to get maybe 12-15 Flurry of Bolts activations if you manage things correctly. That’s not a lot of room in which to burn yourself out. This is basically just a matter of practice. Get a feel for the epicycles in the rotation which cost a lot of energy and the other epicycles which are energy positive. When you’re trying to burn yourself out, be aware of where you are with respect to these epicycles (hint: there are four important ones and at least three other less important cycles, assuming my memory and counting are accurate). You want to hit 34 energy (no lower or higher) exactly as Cool Head comes off CD, no sooner and no later. If you can pull this off, you will see an enormous DPS jump. It’s not doable on every parse though.

Quick Shot is a highly situational ability. In fact, I would recommend just not using it until you’re really really comfortable with the spec. I’ll use it maybe two or three times in a five and a half minute parse, depending on crits and where exactly I was able to hit my Cool Head. Without using it though, you will energy cap at certain points.

Opener

I’m going to assume you want to use the 10 second crit boost in your opener. If you don’t, you end up with a slightly earlier but slightly lower burst profile and your cooldowns won’t align quite as nicely. Due to the fact that we’re always fighting to dump our Upper Hand stacks as fast as possible (and due to the way the opener aligns), Ruffian is by far the best Scoundrel discipline for popping the crit boost. Here is the opener, ending with your second DoT application (Shrap Bomb = SB; Vital Shot = VS):

(start from stealth)
Point Blank Shot > Shrap Bomb > Vital Shot > Sanguinary Shot + Stack the Deck > Blaster Whip + Adrenal >
Brutal Shots > Brutal Shots + Pugnacity > Brutal Shots > Blaster Whip > Brutal Shots > Cloak + Point Blank Shot > Brutal Shots >
Blaster Whip > Brutal Shots > Brutal Shots > Sanguinary Shot > Brutal Shots > Blaster Whip > dots

If you can’t start from stealth, open with Pugnacity and your DoTs if you need to hit the Crit Boost, or bypass Pugnacity until later if you’re not hitting the Crit Boost.

One interesting thing you’ll note here is that, even popping the crit boost, you’re still not going to drop below 1 Upper Hand for the entire opener! You also will have absolutely zero issues with energy. It’s impossible to burn out of energy until two-thirds of the way through the second DoT block. Things are just too cheap, you’re getting too many crits, and you don’t have enough time.

You’ll also note what happens if you don’t use the crit boost. You end up with an extra stack of Upper Hand, which means delaying your first Blaster Whip (and moving your Adrenal forward a bit). This lowers the value of the adrenal, but more importantly, you have delayed your second Blaster Whip as well, which means that the Brutal Shots at the new end of the block (without the crit buff) actually happens exactly as the DoTs are falling off! So, you land yourself in the awkward situation of having to reapply your DoTs with two stacks of Upper Hand, which is basically the only case in which you end up delaying Blaster Whip by three GCDs. In short, it sucks. Use the crit buff. Not only is it a DPS increase for the entire raid, but it (surprisingly) makes your opener a lot smoother.

An Important Block

Here are a few random BW blocks that seem important to keep in mind. They come up a lot due to the way the priorities work, so it’s important to recognize them and feel confident in your choices simply based on what they look like:

(start with DoTs ticking, 0 Upper Hand, ~80-90 energy)
Sanguinary Shot > Blaster Whip (Surprise Comeback) > Brutal Shots > Brutal Shots > Brutal Shots > Blaster Whip > Point Blank Shot > Brutal Shots >
Sanguinary Shot > Brutal Shots > Blaster Whip > Brutal Shots > Brutal Shots > continue

If this sounds like the opener, then good! It’s a lot like the opener. This sort of block comes up a lot, and it always looks like this. This combination is extremely kind to your energy (the whole thing is basically energy neutral, if not energy positive), produces nearly optimal use of both Sanguinary Shots, and achieves a nearly perfect use of the Point Blank Shot buff to DoT ticks. The signal in your mind should be exactly what I put in the parenthetical paired with the simultaneously expiring CDs on Sanguinary Shot and Blaster Whip. Whenever you see this happening with plenty of time left on your DoTs, get ready for much excitement.

This block reoccurs quite a bit due to the fact that Sanguinary Shot has priority over Blaster Whip and due to the fact that their cooldowns drift by exactly half each time they loop around. The limiting factor tends to be DoT application and Upper Hand stacks rather than anything else. In my experience, you’re going to see the above (or a subset of the above truncated by DoT application) roughly once every third DoT application block. Be ready for it and execute with confidence.

Using Cloak

Stealthing out and getting your buffed Point Blank Shot in is really, really important. With careful timing and flawless execution of the rotation, you should be able to do this almost exactly on cooldown (this is partially because Blaster Whip’s CD perfectly divides Cloak). While ideally you would sneak in your buffed Point Blank Shot when you had zero stacks of Upper Hand, it just doesn’t work out that way without significantly delaying other things. In practice, you’re generally going to put your Cloak in a block that looks like the following:

(start with 1 stack of Upper Hand)
Blaster Whip > Brutal Shots > Cloak + Point Blank Shot > Brutal Shots > etc

This usually delays Sanguinary Shot and/or Blaster Whip by a GCD, but that’s OK because the damage dealt is just insane. This is a very significant burst moment in your rotation, so don’t be afraid to delay it a bit on a boss if you need to move your burst around.

Pugnacity

The only circumstance under which you should delay Pugnacity by more than 8 seconds (at most) is when it comes off CD around the same time as Cloak. You just don’t have the time to dump two extra stacks of Upper Hand without delaying Sanguinary Shot by an unacceptable amount. This situation doesn’t come up very often though.

Remember that Pugnacity is an energy and alacrity boost in addition to the Upper Hand grant. I almost wish I could remove the Upper Hand, because the alacrity and energy alone are sufficient to make this a fantastic CD, but I guess the Upper Hand is alright. Similar to Cloak, you want to squeeze this into a block where you have a bit of spare time. It’s a bit easier than Cloak though and can be done without delaying things due to the fact that you get the Upper Hand without having to activate Point Blank Shot. In fact, usually the use of Pugnacity results in delaying a non-Cloak Point Blank Shot by quite a bit.

Make sure you don’t energy cap when you hit Pugnacity. Plan on being a bit low going into it such that its activation puts you around 90 energy (92 at the most).

Example Parse

My best parse to date is 4648. This parse was done in full optimized 192 gear (no 198 off hand) with Mk-10 augments and level 55 biochem consumables. I actually have several parses which are in and around this mark, so it’s a very repeatable number. I think that 4700 in 192s would be possible with absolutely godlike crits and perfect execution, but I didn’t sit on the dummy long enough to see it.

You’ll notice that this parse has a relatively low incidence of Flurry of Bolts and a relatively high incidence of Point Blank Shot (also spectacular PBS crits, but it’s the activations that we’re interested in). When you are record parsing, you will find that these two trade off against each other. My average parses had 12-14 hits from Flurry of Bolts and around 30 hits from Point Blank Shot. Parses where you get good DoT crits at the right times and successfully avoid energy capping will result in more energy available for Point Blank Shot in the spots in your rotation where it can be used. I think that, in order to get a 4700, one would need slightly better crits across the board and perhaps two or three fewer Flurry of Bolts activations (this would come as a result of better crits).

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Additional Guide Tips Welcomed!