Rogue Swing Timing Guide – How to time swings for extra +dps

There’s a lot of information and misinformation out there as far as how much swing timing benefits you as a rogue, so let’s break it down.

Video version of this guide:

How do I do swing timing and why is it important?

Swing timing is timing your attack ability (sinister strike, backstab or eviscerate) to happen right after your character auto attacks with your mainhand weapon. See the above video for examples of how to time your swings. This is usually done using a swing timer add-on/weakaura such as the one I have in my UI page:

The reason you swing time is because certain things (sword spec and windfury mainly) can proc, which will reset your auto attack before it completes. If your swing is reset before it finishes, you gain no damage from that auto attack.

So for an example, let’s say each auto attack takes you 1.7 seconds to complete as we go through a scenario:

  1. You decide not to swing time as a horde sword rogue
  2. You sinister strike and it lands about 1.5 seconds into your auto attack swing
  3. You proc windfury
  4. Your auto attack is reset and you just wasted 1.5 seconds of auto attack time doing no auto attack damage

The above is a more of a ‘worst case’ scenario, as you won’t always reset your auto attack that badly, but it shows why not swing timing can lower your dps. This is why most top rogues try to add in swing timing when they want to min/max their dps.

Should everyone do ‘swing timing’?

Note: Alliance dagger rogues do not have to worry about swing timing because they do not have windfury or sword spec procs

Yes and no. Swing timing will gain you more dps (outside of alliance dagger rogues), however, the average DPS gained changes based on your spec and faction.

Here is roughly how much DPS you gain with swing timing based on your faction/spec (simmed as a 90 sec fight in roughly P6 bis gear via Simonize dps sim).

Perfect swing timing:

These gains assume you were able to perfectly time your ability usage 0.1 seconds after every swing and you also perfectly timed attacks during adrenaline rush (a lot of rogues, particularly dagger rogues, do not swing time during AR, due to being worried about energy capping)

  • Horde sword rogue: +35 dps
  • Alliance sword rogue: +7 dps
  • Horde dagger rogue: +11 dps

Average swing timing:

These gains assume you are landing swings 0.2 after every swing and you are not swing timing during adrenaline rush. This is a more typical scenario of someone timing swings without perfect performance.

  • Horde sword rogue: +26 to 27 dps
  • Alliance sword rogue: +4 to 5 dps
  • Horde dagger rogue: +6 to 7 dps

TL;DR – The average dps gains for swing timing is pretty marginal outside of Horde sword rogues, especially if you don’t have perfect swing timing execution

Should only horde sword rogues worry about swing timing?

Not exactly. It’s still something you should attempt to do IF your goal is the min/max your dps, because of RNG. The numbers above are your average dps gains, but from time to time you may get bad rng with your swing resets and lose more dps than normal due to not swing timing.

For example, as an alliance sword rogue you might RNG proc your sword spec multiple times in a row during a short fight, which would be resetting your swing repeatedly. This would have a bigger -dps effect than these average numbers show.

So for non-horde sword rogues, think of swing timing as a small dps gain on average that will also give you some extra safety against bad proc rng potentially lowering your dps.

That said, there are certain people/situations where you shouldn’t worry about swing timing.

When should you not time your swings?

Here are some scenarios where I wouldn’t worry about swing timing.

1. The fight is complicated/new and you need to focus on mechanics/positioning

Some raid fights may require you to focus on mechanics such as avoiding certain aoe or standing in the right positions. You should not worry about swing timing if you’re not comfortably able to do the fight mechanics first.

Your priority should always be on performing the fight mechanics correctly, then once you get comfortable you can try add in swing timing later.

2. New rogues who are messing up their basic rotation/positioning

This is debatable, but in my opinion new rogues shouldn’t worry as much about swing timing IF they are currently struggling with other basics. It’s good to get into the habit of swing timing early on (it’s a very rhythm based skill that becomes easier with practice), but not if you can’t do a basic snd rotation yet.

If we were to rank things that measurably improve your dps as a new rogue, swing timing is right near the bottom of the list, especially for non-horde sword rogues.

That list might be something like this:

  1. Having correct rotations with good slice and dice uptime
  2. Positioning correctly during a fight
  3. Using trinkets/dps cooldowns/consumables at the right time
  4. Avoiding wasting energy/combo pts
  5. Swing timing

So swing timing is still on the list of things you should do to improve your dps, but in my opinion you should get the first 4 things correct first if you want ‘easy’ dps gains, then focus on your swing timing once you have those under control.

This is especially true for new rogues who may be overwhelmed just trying to get used to their basic snd rotation, and adding in swing timing at that point may cause them to actually lose dps by making more mistakes. It’s a lot easier to focus on swing timing later on, when 90% of your focus isn’t being used on executing basic rogue things.

The bottom line:

In the long term swing timing gets more valuable as you become better and compete at a higher level (particularly as Horde swords), because there’s less ‘free dps gains’ that you can find.

For example, in my Nether interview (rogue class lead of Dreamstate – one of the top Horde speed running guilds), he highly values swing timings because it adds up to valuable extra swings/dmg over the course of an entire raid. When you’re competing at that high a level and seconds make a difference in your rankings, the value of swing timing over an entire raid adds up.

That said, for the average rogue, it’s not really a make or break thing and it’s not +100 dps or anything crazy like that. You absolutely do not need to swing time if your goal is simply getting decent parses and performing to a good level.

However, if you want to min/max your rogue and are comfortable in other areas, swing timing is often a free way to improve your dps – just don’t let it hurt your rotations and other areas.