A 4th edition rogue is one of the most versatile strikers currently available. Like all good strikers, rogues have the potential to deal extremely high damage regularly. In addition, rogues have a wide variety of skills, have the best mobility of any class in the game, are able to apply lots of status penalties to enemies, and are effective at both melee and range. The brutal scoundrel variant of the rogue class deals the highest damage, at the cost of some mobility. When optimizing a brutal scoundrel rogue, you want to focus on options that will increase your damage and ability to gain combat advantage.
Attributes – Dexterity is the most important attribute of a rogue. Dexterity improves the attack bonus, damage, initiative, reflex defense, and AC of your rogue, as well as improving the rogue’s stealth, thievery, and acrobatics skills. Any rogue build should unquestionably have a 18 dexterity and preferably a 20 dexterity. The next most important attribute for a brutal scoundrel is strength. Brutal scoundrels deal extra damage equal to their strength score on sneak attack damage and gain slight benefits from some powers based on strength score. The other attributes are mostly meaningless for a brutal scoundrel. Constitution will increase your meager hit points and healing surges, charisma will increase your social skills and wisdom will improve your perception. Put spare points in these attributes as you prefer.
Race – The absolute best race for any rogue, regardless of type, is drow. Drow get a bonus to dexterity and more importantly, have the ability to gain combat advantage for two rounds in every single encounter. Since brutal scoundrel can only deal high damage when they have combat advantage, this benefit is excellent. If you aren’t permitted to make a drow, half-orc is the next best choice. Half-orcs gain a bonus to dexterity and strength and can deal extra weapon damage once per encounter. If you are limited to PHB races, elf, halfling, and human are the best choices. Besides the dexterity bonus, elves allow you to shift in difficult terrain, which is a nice benefit since rogues shift a lot. Humans are a good choice because rogues have a lot of good at-will choices and a third at-will is helpful. Halflings are simply very survivable and are not penalized for their size if you are a rogue.
Skills – As a rogue, you are automatically trained in stealth and thievery skills. With you plethora of other choices, you should always choose acrobatics and athletics. Finally, if your wisdom is reasonable, take insight and perception. If you charisma is higher, take bluff and streetwise. If neither attribute is exceptional, train as you will, with a slight preference towards perception, simply because it is such a good skill.
Weapon Choice – For most classes, weapon choice is not critical. Rogues, especially brutal rogues, are an exception. Daggers are generally a good choice for rogues, because rogues gain an extra +1 bonus to hit with daggers and daggers can be thrown. Brutal scoundrels tend to use more attacks that deal multiple weapon dice of damage, making the dagger a slightly weaker choice. Instead, the rapier is probably the best choice for a brutal scoundrel. Alternately, if you want to be primarily a ranged striker, use a superior crossbow for high range and a d10 damage die.
Feats – Brutal scoundrel feats should focus on damage, accuracy, and ability to gain combat advantage. If you do not use a dagger, then your first feat should be Weapon Proficiency for either rapier or superior crossbow. In addition, at heroic tier, Weapon Expertise, Backstabber and, Improved Initiative are essential feats, as are Distance Advantage and Speed Loader if using a crossbow. Weapon Focus, Nimble Blade, Slaying Action, and Melee Training are all good choices as well. At paragon tier, you should take Bleeding Backstab, Rogue Weapon Mastery, Paragon Defenses, and Defensive Advantage. Finally, at epic tier, unless you are in the daggermaster paragon path, take either Bow Mastery or Light Blade Mastery as your first feat. In addition, you will want Martial Mastery, Brutal Advantage, Lasting Advantage, Whirlwind Sneak Attack, Epic Reflexes, Epic Will, Epic Fortitude, Unfettered Stride, Epic Resurgence, and Triumphant Attack.
Powers – A brutal scoundrel’s at will choices are difficult choices. Deft Strike, Piercing Strike, Disheartening Strike (if you are trained in Intimidate) and Riposte Strike are all good choices, and unless you are human, you can only choose two of them. If you focus primarily on melee, Piercing Strike is essential. If you focus primarily on ranged attacks, Deft Strike is essential. After that, choose whatever fits your play style best. For encounter powers, you want powers that will help you gain combat advantage. Dazing Strike, Sly Lunge, Nasty Backswing, Setup Strike, and Sand in the Eyes are great choices. For your daily powers, you are best choosing powers that can deal high amounts of damage. This will allow you to use your daily powers for alpha strikes. Trick Strike, Deep Cut, Crimson Edge, Pommel Smash, and Rogue’s Recovery are the best choices. Finally, for utility powers, you want to either focus on mobility or stealth. For stealth, take Fleeting Ghost, Chameleon, and Shadow Stride. For mobility, Tumble, Adaptable Flanker, Ignoble Escape, Threatening Glare, Combat Tumbleset, or Certain Freedom.
Paragon Paths – If you use a dagger as your primary weapon, no paragon path is better than daggermaster. The ability to score critical hits on a 18-20 will greatly increase your damage, especially if you are using a vicious weapon, using a war ring, or have the Devastating Critical feat. If you aren’t using a dagger, Shadow Assassin is an excellent choice if you have a maxed out dexterity and good armor class. Finally, Cloaked Sniper is a solid choice for a crossbow using rogue while Death Dealer is an all around good choice that gives both survivability and high damage output.
Besides damage and status penalties, a brutal scoundrel also has the potential to sport a reasonably high AC. With just a slight attribute investment in constitution, you can pick up a feat for hide armor and eventually get hide specialization. In addition, your strength will be high enough get a heavy shield, if you have the spare feats. This can get your AC as high as, or higher than, most defenders. With great mobility, high damage, and a very high AC, your brutal scoundrel can be one of the most powerful and versatile strikers in the game.