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I get that if you are hidden from an opponent, you gain combat advantage against them.

I get that if you make a point of it, and you're not getting surprised by the opposition, you should be able to start the combat hidden from your opponent, gaining combat advantage in the first round.

What I don't get is that on the CharOp boards it seems like they assume Rogues get to sneak attack almost all the time, which requires combat advantage. Are they going over the top? Or are there techniques that Rogues can use to maintain combat advantage through most rounds of a fight?

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Duelist's Flurry, from Dragon #381, has proven to be a great help for me. It lets you slide the target 1 square, shift 1 square, and deal sneak attack damage even without CA. –  Murphy Sep 23 '11 at 14:15

4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

A rogue should be getting combat advantage nearly every round.

There are two main ways.

  1. Flanking - as @Sohum noted a melee rogue is likely to be in the middle of combat. The defender is his very close friend! The defender should be assisting the rogue and actively placing himself in optimal positions each round to enable flanking.
  2. Stealth - used more by ranged rogues, but melee rogues need to be aware of how trivial it is to become hidden in a lot of situations. Make sure you understand the Rules of Hidden Club. After every move you can make a stealth check for free to become hidden if you have total concealment or superior cover to an enemy. Even if you move more than two squares you still have a good chance to beat the passive perception of many monsters.

If you have a character that makes enemies prone on a regular basis, be sure to give them a lot of thumbs up and perhaps an extra share of treasure on occasion! Prone grants combat advantage and it makes a great combo. The defender knocks 'em down, and you ensure they stay down.

Aside from the main ways each rogue needs to gain at least a couple extra ways to gain combat advantage for when the main two aren't available.

  • Rogue powers, many Utility powers give out CA or make it much easier to obtain. Some of my favorites for 2nd and 6th level.
    • Adaptable Flanker (get CA against anyone you and an ally are adjacent to)
    • Sneak in the Attack (give your CA to an ally to use)
    • Chameleon - stay hidden without cover
    • Swift Parry - get hit, get combat advantage and a bonus attack
  • Look for ways to apply status effects that grant Combat advantage as a side effect (blind, stun, daze, prone)
  • Ready - wait for someone to move and give you a better opportunity and then stab 'em with CA
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All the really effective rogues I've seen have focused on flanking like crazy, often working with a specific partner to do so, sometimes another rogue so they can both use lots of move into position powers to keep the flank-lock. –  Canageek Sep 20 '11 at 0:18
    
+1 for the ranged option; I'm blanking on the feat, but you can also gain CA against anyone adjacent to two allies. Between that and the stealth, with a bit of specialization you can have CA more often than not. (And be safely out of harms way while you do it) –  Allen Gould May 31 '12 at 17:02

Thieves have tricks that auto-grant CA. Rogues have a number of powers and items, as detailed below

Thieves get Ambush Trick and Tactical Trick as ways to get trivial combat advantage as part of their move action, not counting flanking. Therefore a thief will always have CA whenever she wants it. Full stop.

Rogues require the use of flanking more. Assuming that a rogue isn't flanking, the strategy depends on the build.

The most reliable CA in is from feats or flanking at level 1, depending on party.

  • Melee Rogues:

    • Cunning Stalker:

    • Benefit: You gain combat advantage against enemies that have no creatures adjacent to them other than you.

  • Ranged rogues:

    • Hidden Sniper:

    • Benefit: If you have partial concealment against a target, you gain combat advantage against it with your ranged attacks.

    • Distant Advantage:

    • Benefit: You gain combat advantage for ranged or area attacks against any enemy flanked by your allies.

  • Higher levels:

    • 11+ Wintertouched + Lasting Frost + Frost Weapon. 5 extra damage, CA. Rogues generally have the accuracy or minor-action attacks to pull this off.
    • Half-elf sliding at-will + deadly draw
    • Armor of Dark Deeds + enshrouding candle + hidden sniper
    • All kinds of race-specific dragon feats
    • Everything on the tips and tricks section
    • frostcheese
    • lightning cheese (deadly draw + mark of storm)

Summary:

Melee rogues must have a flanking-buddy (normally the defender) and an understanding that flanking is important. Ranged rogues will use hidden sniper to ... snipe from darkened areas and/or sneak about and/or use distant advantage to take advantage of dual flanking buddies.

It is difficult for a rogue to exist without her team: make sure everyone knows how to grant you CA, with your leader taking a CA power or two to help you out.

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Here is the list of conditions that grants you CA: Blinded, Dazed, Dominated, Dying, Unconscious, Helpless, Prone, Restrained, Stunned, Surprised. So, you only have to pick a list of Rogue powers that buff with any of these conditions, there are a lot of them ;) to mantain CA almost during all the encounter. I specially like Close Quarters and the Hide in Plain Sight combo that maintain you with CA during all the encounter with a bonus to AC of +9 against a larger creature (Keep it for bosses).... Unless you are forced to move from your "special" square.

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Disclaimer: This is for melee rogues only.

Surprise rounds and First Strike should get you two attacks worth of CA at the beginning of combat.

Your bread and butter is going to be flanking. Rogues have a bunch of powers that increase their mobility around the battlefield, which are helpful for precisely this purpose. Artful Dodgers absolutely rock at this, because +5 to AC against opportunity attacks at level 1 means you can leap around the battlefield with almost total impunity.

Next is going to be your powers. Look over your rogue powers - a bunch of them either directly grant CA or apply status effects that grant CA. At level 1, Blinding Barrage is nice for this reason, and one of my favourite powers, Sand in the Eyes, also does this :D The Charop boards include this in their power assessment, so looking through their build guides is handy. Racial powers can sometimes be useful - Changelings, for instance, get a really nice one :D Item powers are also able to do this, but someone else is going to have to go in depth on that one.

Feats can also be useful - Flash of the Blade is handy for a rapier rogue (though it doesn't grant CA, just your Sneak Attack damage). I'm not sure if the Wintertouched/Lasting Frost combo still works, but it was major cheese a couple of years ago.

Other party members usually also help - sometimes by moving you into better positions, sometimes by status conditions, and so on. As always, work with your party.

Bluff! It takes a full standard action, but you can use the skill to gain CA or to hide.

Basically - have a good understanding of all the ways to get CA, and look over every aspect of your build with that eye. Playing a rogue is a constant game of gaining and maintaining CA, which makes the tactical aspects - as well as the rush when you pull it off - that much more fun.

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