Anticipation and the Rogue Raider

Alright, fine.

I’ve been wanting to right about Anticipation for a while and having quite a bit of trouble actually doing so.  The thing is, Anticipation is so much more than a talent.  Chances are, if you raided in MoP, the majority of the time you were not using Anticipation you were cursing your memory.  Almost every rogue PvE guide suggests you take the talent.  Maybe it will mention Marked for Death, but usually as a highly situational option.  Right about now you might be thinking, “Yes Hail, we already know that Anticipation has been the best talent all expansion, what’s your point?”  The thing is, that’s not exactly…true.  Sure nobody can deny how amazing Anticipation is, and for me personally it has consistently been my favorite talent, but, we guide writers may have been a bit dishonest.  The thing is, well, check out what happens if we let ShadowCraft do the talking:

AnticipationMfDComparison2

As you can see Shadowcraft puts the difference between Anticipation and Marked for Death at about 1% for Sub and Combat and 5% for Assassination.  In fact, it actually says Anticipation is a dps increase for Subtlety.  Of course, one of the major functions of Anticipation is to reduce human error which ShadowCraft doesn’t try to factor in, but the fact remains that with the exception of Assassination Marked for Death is actually quite competitive even on a purely single target encounter.  So, why is it that everyone is so dismissive of literally every other talent in the tier, even though Marked for Death is actually a pretty cool and compelling ability?

 

Because Anticipation Offers Perfection, and We Are Rogues.

Think about it.  Easily the most famous PvE rogue was Aldriana, a player who one day looked at the leading rogue DPS spreadsheet and says “Ya know what, I think I can do better.  So I will.”  And he did!  He then started ShadowCraft which has been maintained by dozens of rogues over the years in an effort to better answer the simple question, “How do I play to perfection?”  Our community is so focused on squeezing out every bit of DPS that the person we choose to idolize is a theorycrafter.  Is this normal???  Maybe other classes do too, but I’d imagine other classes’ legends are, ya know, actual public figures like bloggers or guide writers.  Eh, who knows, but I’m sure at the very least that hunters aren’t nearly so sophisticated.

But I digress; back to Anticipation.  I claim that the reason rogues like Anticipation so much as to neglect a legitimate DPS choice taps into this very nature.  For years rogues have been bred to feel discomfort at the mere thought of capping energy or wasting Combo Points.  With the exception of Assassination against enemies above 35% health and Subtlety during Shadow Dance the pre-MoP rogue could use every finisher at 5 Combo Points without overflowing.  Then Mists came with its Shadow Blades and its Revealing Strike changes and its new fangled pandas and suddenly this expectation of almost never needing to waste Combo Points while always using finishers at 5 Combo Points went out the window – at least for a bit.  Dissonance abounds, and for a moment overwhelming terror consumes all who enter a  level 87-89 dungeon as they try to execute their rotations optimally without having any idea how do deal with generating an extra 1-2 Combo Points per hit.  And then, they hit 90, and  as they read their new talents one of them whispers, “It’s ok, I’ve got your Combo Points.  I’ll keep them safe, and I’ll keep you safe.  Shhh, no, its ok the other talents are worse*.”

With that we could finally achieve our greatest fantasy:  Using only 5 Combo Point finishers, we could execute a PvE rotation with 0 overflow.  We noticed other benefits too.  No longer did Subtlety rogues have to fret about what they would refresh first when Slice and Dice and Rupture were both fading at the same time, they could simply pool Combo Points and refresh them both!  What’s more, Anticipation gave us yet another thing to optimize.  By being able to pool Combo Points we were suddenly able to shift when we use our finishers in such a way as to use more of them during high-damage portions of the fight, like during Vendetta.  I kinda doubt Blizzard realized they were doing this, but when they made Anticipation, they created a talent that speaks so strongly to the PvE rogue identity that fundamental assumptions about what it means to own that identity have changed.  Thing is, in order for the quintessential rogue to have 0 waste and time their 5-point finishers like a boss, they must have the talent “Anticipation.”  Of course, the quintessential rogue also takes whatever talent they need to in order to achieve maximum DPS, which means they must be prepared to forsake rotational perfection for Marked for Death.  And with that,

 

We Have a Problem

The fact is an ability that offers perfection to rogues simply cannot be compared to abilities, even ones as interesting and potent as Marked for Death.  I mean sure, if we were hunters or some other class that doesn’t think twice about the efficiency and elegance of a rotation then it might be fair to have Anticipation in our talent tree, but not rogues.  Thankfully, Anticipation has been incredibly strong in its own right the entire expansion, but I claim that regardless of any buffs to our other talents or mechanics of upcoming encounters, the talent rogues will want to take will be Anticipation.

At this point the naive – but still quite reasonable – reader might be thinking, “So what, you have a choice just pick Anticipation and take the DPS loss if it means that much to you,” but unfortunately, that reader forgets that we are rogues, and that means if a change will increase our effectiveness in a raid, then we have a duty to make that change.  Heck, Blizzard even had to nerf Blade Flurry because rogues complained that they had to carry around a Combat spec just to be OP on cleave fights.  So is what we choose for our t90 talent really a choice?  Often, the answer is no.

And with that, we are back at the problem of having this amazing, beautiful talent, that really just wants to curl up in a cocoon during Warlords’ beta and emerge in 6.0 as a beautiful butterfly that will fly away from the talent trees and flit around us, making us happy and efficient and our enemies sad and dead as our raid leader looks on in awe, our other melee look on in jealousy, and our hunter guildies look on in oh-so-sweet anger.  I don’t know about you, but I want to see more angry hunters, so let’s think about some –

 

Solutions

Just kidding,

 

I’m Not Done Yet!

There are a few more issues with Anticipation that I for the life of me cannot figure out how to elegantly put into this post, so I’m just making this super awkward section for them.  These basically boil down to Anticipation being slightly and annoyingly less than all I’ve cracked it up to be.

First, Anticipation only works for offensive finishing moves.  This notably excludes Slice and Dice, which means that if you want to refresh Slice and Dice and then immediately use a finisher, you’re just about out of luck.  Of course, this is pretty rare and can actually be used to one’s advantage as a way to counter the next annoyance, but still, it kinda just serves as a reminder that no matter how much we want to treat Anticipation charges as Combo Points, they aren’t.

Second, Anticipation only procs for attacks.  This notably excludes Premeditation, which means that Subtlety rogues either have to start out Stealth phases with three or fewer Combo Points, or they have to actually use it intelligently instead of just macroing it to Ambush.  You see the problem here?  While a lot of this is me wanting to get away with being lazy, this is another example of how Anticipation, a talent that really wants to be “you can now store up to 10 Combo Points,” just doesn’t quite get there.

Finally, there really needs to be a spot for it on the ui.  I know its implemented as a buff, but when you consider its importance it should be clear that asking players to search for it among all of our buffs every time they want to know how many Combo Points they have stored is unreasonable.  Thankfully this issue is solved with addons, but unlike the simple tracking addons we often use for Slice and Dice, we actually need something that can keep track of charges.

Whew.  Ok, this time for real:

 

Solutions

I have two:

  1. Make it baseline:  I know its boring and unoriginal, but if Anticipation is the only way of achieving rotational perfection, then it is unfair to have it in the talent trees competing with less viscerally appealing talents.  Even more unfair would be to take this perfection away from rogues who have been enjoying it for an entire expansion.  So, consider just making it baseline and replacing it with something cool – but probably less cool than Marked for Death.  Did I mention that I really like that talent and think that it is really cool?
  2. Give us passive perfection:  In other words, don’t make Anticipation baseline, but make some form of it baseline so that a good PvE rogue will never lose Combo Points while using all 5-point finishers.  The boring way to do this is by allowing us three passive charges of Anticipation, but that is stupid and would make Anticipation the talent pretty disappointing (being able to pool two extra just doesn’t get there).  Instead the best solution** is to allow Combo Points a sort of 2-second purgatory wherein if the rogue uses a finisher, recent over-flow will turn into Combo Points.  So basically, if I’m at 4 Combo Points and use Mutilate with Shadow Blades and crit, I’ll be at 5 Combo Points with 3 over-flow.  If I immediately use Envenom, I will be at 3 Combo Points, just as if I had Anticipation.  However, if I wait a second to regain energy before Envenoming, then my over-flow has been lost and I am stuck with nothing.

Personally, I’m alright with either solution, though I think I prefer the second one since it seems more in-line with the traditional rogue resource system while allowing it the flexibility needed to adapt to modern day levels of Combo Point generation.  That said, what are your thoughts?  Is Anticipation as much of a problem as I think it is?  Is it all its cracked up to be?  How would you like to see rogues deal with excess Combo Points in Warlords?

 

*Technically Shuriken Toss’s then lower energy cost made it potentially viable as a generator but it took theorycrafters a bit to figure that one out so this is actually pretty accurate.

**That I can think of.