A couple of months ago I played a very exciting rogue character. Afterwards I decided to write a guide, but I forgot about it when life got busy. I have this word doc I found in my USB when I was cleaning it out comparing the prodigies draconic will and swift hands for the rogue class. It's not a full guide like I was planning, but hopefully it benefits someone.
While it is nice to dream about the perfect build at level 50, it is also important to consider the short term to medium term needs of the character as well as the eventual goal. It is also important to consider what prodigy point you will take at 42 by the time you reach 30 as the synergy there can be a large part of a character.
Let me try to guess what you might feel your rogue’s weaknesses and strengths are at level 30. In the insane difficulty, you are likely to be in the middle of dreadfell, or just before starting dreadfell by the time you get to pick your first prodigy, depending on your race and how many dungeons you had set the level for without completing in the tier 1 and 2 dungeons.
At this level, in all likelihood, you will have spent the majority of your levels using traps as your primary damage source, and in the last 5 or so levels, needed to transition into more and more melee weapon talents.
The npcs have also evolved. By this level, you are starting to see some problematic enemy types such as melee fighters with very good mobility, or archers and casters with very high damage in places where traps are not as effective. These two are solvable problems using tactics such as good positioning and tunneling. The bigger problem I suspect is once in a while you will come across bone giants or other similarly tanky units. This thing will frustratingly be left on 10% hp on the turn you have spent all your talents and are almost out of stun immunity buffers, it will have recovery healing it just above what your bump can allow, and when your talents come off cooldown, this npc has healed enough that your remaining stamina is not enough to finish it off. Everyone who has played rogue knows this feeling. Or rather, everyone who doesn’t take combat veteran category point, because if you had spent a category point on combat veteran you will have died well before this point for lack of mobility or lack of damaging talents.
This problem of not enough resources to deal enough damage to an npc is a continuing problem and in fact snowballs later on in the game, assuming you are like me and ask the Last Hope merchant for 4 randarts and none of them give the right stats to boost damage. Rogues get some relief in the very end of the game as they scale in gear very well compared to many other classes but it is good to boost damage for the short term, or just in case of poor luck in the final bosses’ talent and resist rolls.
Status resist is also something most people look to prodigies to fix as not many classes have good tools to deal with many debuffs natively or have enough generics to take 5/5 in tier 4 in the light tree.
So to sum up, rogues would like to have debuff clear or prevention for sure, damage, and ways to manage resources, and if you can achieve all those things, more mobility and survivability would be welcome, a lot to ask for I know.
Let’s look at our options.
1. Draconic Will: this talent sits on a 15 turn cooldown. The talents we use to do our damage are deadly strikes, dirty fighting, thorns grab, cripple, dual strikes, venomous strike, flurry, and optionally if you invested heavily in this, nature’s equilibrium. Assuming that dirty fighting does not stun (because if it did, it would be easy), cripple, dual strikes, venomous strike, flurry and nature’s equilibrium all cost 1 turn each. Draconic will lasts 5 turns, assuming you take 1 turn to close the gap, you could safely use everything except nature’s equilibrium in 4 turns and repeat the same thing in 15 turns, replacing cripple (because it is still cooling down) with nature’s equilibrium. Since most of the other talents sit on a 12 turn cooldown, this only wastes 3 turns of damage efficiency (which is important for enemies which heal). This actually lines up fantastically well and it could well be the best possible choice, but this is not my top recommendation.
2. Swift Hands: This prodigy is my recommendation to replace draconic will. This is assuming you play each turn optimally, check talents and resists for all rares you plan to fight (and I don’t plan to fight everything, especially in high peak). If you are playing in normal or nightmare and are interested in a reliable easy win, just take draconic will, you won’t regret it. Saying that, let’s look at what this prodigy offers.
Firstly it makes many of the previously situational charms very strong, including cure ailments, clear mind (although this is debuff prevention not clear), and even teleport and psychoport. It also buffs certain very strong artefacts, chief among them the staff of arcane supremacy. If you don’t wear this item in your off-set, even without this prodigy, you are missing out on a lot. The active for those who don’t know clears your magical debuffs and buffs you (I don’t know the buff effect from memory) for each debuff removed. In the category of mental debuffs, wintertide phial is an amazing item that you often find in tier 1 dungeons. It is almost completely useless without the prodigy, turned gold with the prodigy. The third item, although this one is rare in the late game and you often have to make a decision on prodigies before knowing whether you will have this item is Mnemonic. The benefit here is that its activation is instant, and with instant item swapping, you basically get mental immunity at no cost. As far as physical debuffs go, the most dangerous ones are already covered by the charms mentioned above or the movement infusion. The only key one missing is disarm, which I also keep gear in inventory to switch to, and it is usually not a fatal debuff unlike many others.
The second reason this prodigy is good is stamina management. There is a suffix in light armour category named “of the wind.” It gives some secondary effects like small chance to avoid any damage, or a small stamina regen. Its primary effect is an active charm called Second Wind, this talent as you might know regenerates roughly half (the suffix can come with talent level 3 or 4, sometimes 5 of this talent) of your max stamina. It has no turn cost, and is mandatory for all rogues whether you take this prodigy or not. But let us consider the costs of regaining 50% of your stamina with and without this prodigy.
Without the prodigy, it takes 1 turn to switch to this armour. Equipping charms put them on a 3 turn cooldown, so while you could maybe do other things in those 3 turns, there is a safety risk of spending 3 turns with subpar armour, which you might mitigate by running away from the enemy first, effectively adding a 3 turn cost. Using the charm is free. Then finally there is a turn cost involving switching back to your preferred armour. Total turn cost is between 2 and 5 depending on the situation.
With the prodigy, it is instant to switch to this armour. The 3 turn charm cooldown is removed and you can instantly use the charm for a 0 turn cost. Then you can either switch back to your preferred armour for 1 turn (because you can only switch instantly once a turn) or spend 1 turn in subpar armour and switch back next turn. Total turn cost is between 0 and 1 depending on the situation. The difference is huge.
The last thing is letahlity/snap. This is actually really powerful, but draconic will acts on strict turn windows and you take huge risks for using that talent. With swift hands, you can take smaller risks to use snap to increase your damage per turn as well as making it easier to use because recovering stamina is cheaper.