Tips and skills to help you survive while leveling a Rogue in Diablo 4
Dying is easy in Diablo 4 — all it takes is a turn down the wrong path in Sanctuary or a bad pull in a dungeon and the next thing you know your headstone is displayed on the screen. It’s the reason Hardcore is a prominent feature in the Diablo franchise, as the challenge is not an easy one especially in a world with lag. For the casual player, however, too many deaths turns the game into an unfun experience, so if you’re leveling a Rogue for the first time here are some tips on survival.
The key survival feature of the Rogue class is movement; there’s is no faster way to die in game than to stand still. Even if you’ve chosen to level primarily as ranged you’ll want to keep moving as it’s too easy to get swarmed by mobs or for a puddle of bad to appear beneath your feet. It’s not necessarily about running away from a challenge — although that’s a good skill to build — but knowing where it’s safe to stand and when to dive out of the way of an attack. Fortunately there are abilities and settings that can be taken advantage of even if you neglect survival abilities in the Skill Tree (of which for a Rogue there frankly are few — the notable exception is Dark Shroud, which we’ll discuss in detail below).
One way to help yourself stay alive is to make sure you’re on an appropriate difficulty level. There are two World Tiers you can choose from as you start the game, and the names are apt — if you’re not a “Veteran” of Diablo or the Rogue, you should not select World Tier 2 when leveling your first one. While increasing your leveling speed will help you get to endgame activities faster, you don’t want to do it at the expense of your repair bill. As someone who has played prior Diablo games, my standard method is to choose the second difficulty and then when I find killing mobs too laborious (or my number of deaths starting to increase) I drop down to the easiest difficulty and stay there until I get a significant weapon upgrade to drop, at which point I try the harder difficulty once more. You may want to experiment with a similar strategy if you find yourself chafing under WT1.
Two universal actions are available to help you survive as a Rogue. The first are Healing Potions, of which the game starts you off with four by default (this number increased via Renown Rewards). Unlike other games where you might feel compelled to hold onto Healing Potions, you’ll want to use these early and often. They are frequent drops, and you can always head back to town to top yourself off if you find yourself running low; as long as you don’t leave the town, you can teleport back to where you previously were. They’re not perfect protection — there’s a reason boss fights drop them at intervals — but better to survive with a couple than to die with a full stack.
The other habit you should get into is using the Evade action to get out of the way of, well, everything. This ability is on a cooldown so you won’t be able to tumble your way across the map, but there are item affixes on boots that can increase your number of charges, or let you use it more often. Combined with your movement abilities you can avoid a lot of dangerous situations with frequent use of Evade.
Take advantage of Unstoppable and Move Freely abilities
As already mentioned, movement is the key survival trait in a Rogue’s toolkit. There are two concepts that are important to understand when looking at abilities and Legendaries with a defensive mindset: Unstoppable and Move Freely.
An Unstoppable ability allows you to break out of a Crowd Control effect such as Frozen or Stunned, while also preventing one from being reapplied for the duration. As one of the easiest ways to die is to get chain controlled (so you can’t use healing potions or move out of danger for multiple seconds), having an Unstoppable ability to use can be a literal lifesaver.
The ability to Move Freely operates differently, allowing you to move through enemies for a short duration and escaping the other easiest way to die — being trapped by a large pack of mobs. It is important to note that these abilities have mutually exclusive effects — Unstoppable won’t get you through a crowd of baddies, nor will Move Freely break you out of stun, so knowing when to use each is an important skill to gain.
The following Skills can be selected to give you these effects:
- Blade Shift: Basic Skill. Using Blade Shift allows you to Move Freely for 3 seconds, and as a Basic Skill can essentially be used constantly. In addition this ability can reduce the duration of Control effects (although it’s always better to avoid them).
- Shadow Step: Agility Skill (third tier). This ability makes you Unstoppable as you jump to your target, being a very useful way to get out of Crowd Control. It does have a base 9 second cooldown so you need to recognize when you might want to use it as a defensive instead of a normal attack — especially in Boss fights.
- Concealment: Subterfuge Skill (fourth tier). This is the most effective escape tool in the Rogue’s toolkit, as Concealment not only puts you in Stealth but it also gives you both Unstoppable and Move Freely for 5 seconds. While the cooldown between uses is 20 seconds, if you need it that frequently you probably need to lower your difficulty. There are two concerns with Concealment, however: one, it is broken by attacking an enemy, so if you accidentally click on a nearby one when trying to escape you may drop out of stealth. The other concern is that taking Concealment usually means you’re not taking Dark Shroud, the most effective defensive Skill for a Rogue — more on Dark Shroud in the next section.
- Shadow Clone modified with Prime: Ultimate Skill (sixth tier). The first modifier you can select for the Shadow Clone Ultimate Skill is the Prime modifier, which gives you 5 seconds of Unstoppable when you cast it. While this can be useful for getting out of some Control scenarios, since Ultimate Skills are largely offensive abilities for Rogues you’ll not very often want to hold casting it due to the possibility of needing Unstoppable. Still, 5 seconds of no Crowd Control effects can be very beneficial.
Surviving with Crowd Control and Passive Defense
While movement is the predominant tool for defense that Rogues possess, there are other things Rogues can do to improve their survivability. At the top of this list is Crowd Control — it was discussed above how important it was for Rogues to escape Control, but they have access to numerous skills that allow them to Control enemies. A Frozen, Dazed, or Stunned enemy is unable to damage you and the fewer hits you take the less likely you are to die. That said, effective Crowd Control is one of the hardest skills for a Diablo player to learn and since you more often that not have other movement-based options to choose instead you should use those first. However, there is one Skill that you should take if you’re looking to work on Crowd Control abilities without hurting the rest of your gameplay:
- Cold Imbuement: Imbuement Skill (fifth tier). Since you’ll want to choose an Imbuement Skill regardless of your Rogue playstyle, Cold is the most Crowd Control friendly of the three you can select from. While it’s not guaranteed to freeze everyone you’re facing off again, combining it with Core Skills like Barrage or Flurry can be a useful way to slow down your opponents. Most importantly, you don’t need to neglect an Unstoppable or Move Freely ability in order to select this skill, and it combines well with Shadow Step.
Other Skills that you select have a passive defensive component, although that doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep recasting it every cooldown to maximize the protection. There are three Skills that you can select that will help keep you alive while you fight:
- Flurry modified with Enhanced: Core Skill (second tier). Flurry with the Enhanced Skill modifier will do a small heal (up to 12%) every time you hit an enemy that is Vulnerable or Crowd Controlled. While this is a tricky scenario to maximize for a starting Rogue, since there are no other Core Skills with built-in survivability this can be chosen simply for the occasional bit of healing if you’re already doing a melee build.
- Dark Shroud: Subterfuge Skill (fourth tier). This is the big defensive ability for Rogues. Every 20 seconds you can refresh to your maximum 5 shrouds, and while the shrouds are up you mitigate a substantial amount of damage. The catch: every direct you hit take removes a Shroud, so if you’re fighting a lot of mobs in melee you’ll spend more time without Dark Shroud than with it. That said, if you’re mostly dealing with environmental and indirect damage the Shrouds can be a huge boon to survival. The other catch: it’s on the same tier as Concealment, so you’ll mostly likely have to choose between the two Subterfuge skills rather than take advantage of both.
- Momentum: Key Passive (seventh tier). This is the only Key Passive with a substantial direct defensive component — 20% damage reduction. However, to receive this reduction you need to build up and maintain 3 stacks by using Cutthroat Skills — Blade Shift, Invigorating Strike, Twisting Blades, Flurry, Shadow Step or Dash — on enemies that are Stunned, Dazed, or Frozen. While making an active effort to maintain Momentum may be too hard for most beginning players, it is the only Key Passive that has a defensive benefit so like Flurry it can be selected even if not maximized.
Geared to Survive
The final way to make sure you live long and prosper in Sanctuary is to wear gear and use gems that best benefit you defensively. While there are too many possible affixes to list them all, you’ll want to keep an eye out for any elemental Resistance, Damage Reduction, or Control Impaired Duration Reduction. While more Armor seems desirable, as a Rogue never sacrifice desirable affixes from a Rare or Legendary item for a Magic or Common item with more Armor. You’ll also want to avoid benefits to Barrier unless you have a Legendary that provides one, as Rogue has no native Barrier Skills.
You’ll also find Legendaries as you level and some of them have defensive effects that you may want to take advantage of. Here are three of them that work well with the above recommendations:
- Enshrouding Aspect: the poor person’s Dark Shroud lite. This aspect automatically generates a Dark Shroud every 3 seconds that you stand still, so you’ll want to pause between combat to rebuild it. The main advantage of this Legendary is that you can reap the benefits of Concealment in the Subterfuge Skill tier if you’ve previously relied on Dark Shroud. It won’t be as effective as the Skill, of course.
- Eluding Aspect: a Legendary with this ability provides an Unstoppable buff if you find yourself Crowd Controlled and Injured (defined in Diablo 4 as being below 35% health). Useful if your normal Unstoppable abilities are on cooldown, although you may end up dropping from 35% to 0 health faster than it takes you to respond.
- Ghostwalker Aspect: for those who want to Move Freely no matter how they become Unstoppable. This requires the use of another ability that makes you Unstoppable, so it’s redundant to Concealment (which is already a Move Freely skill).
While Sanctuary is a very dangerous place, a fresh Rogue can survive by taking advantage of the tools of the class. Hopefully you are able to take advantage of the advice contained herein to spend more time adventuring and less time as a corpse.
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