Haven't played WoW in a while and just getting back into it with the new expansion. I recall there used to be (long ago) advantages for attacking from behind as a rogue ('rogues do it from behind'). Are there still advantages and if so what are they?

4 Answers 4


So, there are a few reasons to stand behind a mob, the first three being generally useful to all melee, and the fourth being important specifically to Rogues (and Feral Druids, but they're just wannabe Rogues anyway.)

When you stand behind your target, you do more damage.

Standing behind a melee target negates that enemies chance to parry and block your attacks. In PVP, it negates their chance to dodge as well, but NPC creatures can dodge attacks from behind. Parried attacks do no damage, and Blocked attacks both do less damage, and are unable to crit. If you want to do the most damage possible, stand behind your target.

When you stand behind your target, you take less damage.

This rule is a bit less hard and fast than rule one, but a great many (heck, I'd go so far as to say most) PVE mobs in dungeons and raids feature one or more of the following abilities: Cleave, Breath, Shockwave, etc. The thing they all have in common is that they are targeted in a cone in front of their caster. That means, by standing behind your target, you are safe from these effects. While there are some encounters in which this logic is inverted, or where special mechanics demand that you stand in range of these effects, those are exceptions that you'll learn about on a case by case basis. For the most part, the area in front of a boss is analogous to what most PVE players refer to as The Fire. Don't stand in it. In PvP, players are, for the most part, completely unable to attack you if you are out of their line of sight - read: behind them. If you want to take the least damage possible, stay behind your target

When you stand behind your target, your tank takes less damage.

In general, when an NPC successfully parries an attack, their swing timer (the time before their next attack) is reduced by somewhere in the ballpark of .5 seconds. As a Rogue, if you stand in front of a boss, your attacks will be parried a lot. This will have the effect of making the boss swing substantially faster, causing the nice person who is tanking this boss for you to take substantially more damage. Often, this leads to a scenario referred to as a 'Parry Gib,' wherein a tank takes unhealable amounts of damage in a very short period of time because of a high frequency of parries. As a Rogue, you attack very very fast, and boss mobs have a high chance to parry. In PVE, If you want your tank to take the least damage possible, stay behind your target.

And finally, this last note is specific to Rogues:

When you stand behind your target, you gain access to additional abilities.

As a Rogue, you have three very important skills that can only be used if you are standing behind your target. Backstab, Ambush, and Garrote. In PVE, Subtlety Rogues use Backstab as their primary attack, and Ambush as often as possible (During Shadow Dance, whenever Vanish is available off CD, to open the fight). Assassination Rogues use Backstab instead of Mutilate whenever their target is below 35% Health. Combat Rogues do not use Backstab. In PVP, Subtlety Rogues use Backstab as a primary attack, and all rogues use Ambush to open with a large burst of damage, or Garrote to open with Damage over time and a Silence effect (particularly devastating against mages). If you want to use Backstab, Ambush, or Garrote, stand behind your target.

  • 2
    +1, there's the answer I was looking for! And speaking as a healer married to a tank, more melee need to know about parry gib. =P BTW, I think in you first sentence you wrote 'third' when you meant 'fourth.'
    – Wikwocket
    Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 15:16

Being Behind an enemy does three things:

  • The boss is no longer able to "parry" your attacks. This has the effect of refreshing melee boss' swing timer, which can mean spike damage on your main tank at inopportune times. (Note that bosses, unlike players, are able to dodge attacks from behind -- get expertise to counter dodges)

  • Several core rogue abilities, Backstab and Mutilate, require you to be attacking the backside of your target to be able to be used at all. This requirement was removed from Mutilate during the last expansion, but the titular Backstab still has it, as do a few openers, I think (such as ambush). Feral druids are in a similar boat.

  • PLAYERS, in PVP, etc. cannot dodge attacks from "behind".

  • 1
    A small correction: bosses swing timers are still reset when they succesfully parry an attack. It was largely disabled in Icecrown Citadel due to strange interactions with mechanics like Chill of the Throne. Parry Haste is the rule, not the exception. Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 23:38
  • amended as per your correction. Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 23:51

I will let a certain 7k+ rep rogue handle the roguish details, but all melee should try to attack from behind:

  • Attacks from behind can never be parried or blocked.
  • In PvP, attacks from behind also cannot be dodged.
  • In PvE, the giant monsters often cleave or breathe fire that will cause the healers watching your health bar undue stress!
  • "cause the healers watching your health bar undue stress!" I can personally attest to this. For the (real world) health of all your holy cloth wearing friends, please attack from behind. Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 23:09

All 3 of the defenses (Block, Dodge, and Parry) are affected by position, though not all on mobs:

Attacks from the rear cannot be parried. Mobs sometimes do so anyways - this can be due to a bug or because they turn very quickly in place.
- Wowpedia: Parry

Players can only dodge attacks if they are facing their opponent, however a mob can dodge attacks that are from behind.
- Wowpedia: Dodge

All creatures will now report a Block on attacks from the front, reducing damage caused instead of converting the attack into a "Miss." Creatures will no longer be able to Block attacks from behind.
- Wowpedia: Block

There may be other effects, this is the only one I could remember off the top of my head, and I don't play a rogue!

  • Block only shows up at "BLOCK" when all of the damage was mitigated, yes? Otherwise it just shows up as a reduced number. Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 23:09
  • @Raven I looked at "official patch notes" as reproduced by Wowpedia, and that point is not clear. It says more or less what the wowpedia article said: "Block: All creatures will now report a Block on attacks from the front, reducing damage caused instead of converting the attack into a 'Miss.'" I would check the old forum archives for a tested answer, if they had not recently been taken offline. Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 23:15
  • @WillfulWizard -- that patch is also dated 1.3 -- meaning that note is almost 6 years old. Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 23:52
  • @Raven but if those mechanics have not changed since then, its still accurate. Either way, those patch notes are not helpful, and what we need is someone who has recently let a mob hit them a lot and compared the combat text/logs with block chance. I'm sad the old forums are down specifically because I'm sure I could have found what we need there. So, we're out of luck till we find such a test or break down and do it ourselves. Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 0:27
  • @WillfullWizard -- but the mechanics have actually changed since then -- blocking reduces damage by 30%, with few exceptions; it does not make any sense for the entire hit to report "BLOCKED". If it's no longer possible, there's no need to include it in your answer, no? Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 0:36

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