Thoughts on Combo Points

It’s time to break my not-posting streak.  This post is different from my other posts in that with the exception of this introduction I did not write this as a blog post.  Rather, what comes below is my response to someone asking what the reasoning behind the Alpha change of having CP stack on the rogue instead of the target and some additional thoughts I had during the subsequent discussion.


The First Section

There’s no super compelling gameplay reason why combo points (CP) should be on the rogue. Unlike issues like Cata-era Blade Flurry which cause legitimate and non-trivial balance concerns regarding a single spec, CP on the rogue has never held us back enough to the point where rogues would be dropped for certain fights. Moreover, since all specs have CP on the target, that mechanic has never encouraged rogues to keep a specific spec like they did when Blade Flurry was OP. So basically, the reasons for having CP stack on the rogue really have very little to do with balance.

In the next section I’m gonna go ahead and state the reasons that I remember/can think of for CP stacking on the rogue instead of the target. It will be me attempting to justify this change. I am going to try real hard, but I have to be honest – the one after will be me saying why most of these arguments are flawed.

The Next Section

Combo points stacking on the rogue has been a long time coming. Rogues have always been below the curve when switching targets. While our ability to swap targets has improved over the years through significantly less ramp-up time, Redirect, various new talent/glyph options, and more, CP stacking on the target has consistently been a problem. This change will allow rogues to be more in-line with other melee and provide a more balanced environment in PvE and PvP alike.

Our resource system used to be cool and unique, but then Blizzard decided to give paladins, then monks and warlocks an even better form of our resource system. Now not only are CP not unique, but they are also clearly inferior to the systems that were modeled after them. While sharing resource systems with other classes is fine, having ours be the only CP-like system with the significant downside of being on the target feels kinda crummy. When considered alongside the fact that rogues have had this system since their creation without any updates, it feels like CP have been both used and neglected – an undeniably unpleasant combination.

I’ve played and enjoyed my rogue ever since I started playing WoW. Until recently, I’ve always loved it. Except nowadays, something’s different. When I play my rogue, it just isn’t as exciting/fun as it used to be. On the other hand, when I play my monk (/lock/pally/anything really) I find it really fun. It feels new and streamlined and makes my old rogue look wholly outdated by comparison. We all know that rogues are the least played class*, and have changed the least since Vanilla**, and I can’t help but think these are connected. In order to bring back life to the rogue class we need to get with the times. The easiest way to do that without completely reworking the class would be to have CP stack on the rogue.

The One After

Here’s what I say to those arguments:

The first argument pertains to relative balance between classes. While everything in it is true in theory, as I explained earlier the weakness rogues have in swapping targets is no so strong as to prevent us from participating in certain fights, nor has it been a particularly prevalent factor in PvP balance (though it does raise the skill cap). The only way I can interpret this argument is “rogues are bad at swapping targets therefore target swapping should be buffed, and this would be accomplished by allowing CP to stack on the rogue.” Of course, I didn’t phrase it like that in the above paragraph, because if I were to make that argument then I’d just feel silly. The fact is, just like rogues should be the best at some things, so should we be the worst at others. In order for me to buy this argument, I need to be convinced that this is actually a problem. I’m not. Yes, the fact that the placement of CP failed to prevent me from doing the content that I wish is a factor here, but more than that the very fact that swapping targets has always been a disadvantage is an extremely compelling reason for CP to stay as they are. This is because (1) As much as I may think I want to play a class with no disadvantages, I don’t; (2) I like my rogue and the skill required to swap targets and manage CP is a fundamental part of my rogue (and something I personally enjoy), and am worried this change will make me feel like I am playing a different class; and (3) because the need for balance requires equivalent exchange and I don’t want a new flaw, I want the one that I have accepted as part of my class for what, 9 years? As far as I’m concerned, this argument is a well made bucket that holds no water.

Now this argument is interesting. Unlike the previous one, it makes no attempt at being subjective. I suppose the fact that some people feel that way is unfortunate. I don’t feel this way to the point where I have to wonder how big of a deal other classes having a measurably better system actually is, because to me this just seems like an argument that is tacked on because it is extremely easy to make.

This one feels a lot like “My tastes have changed and I want my rogue to change with them.” My initial response is, “…eh?” Thing is, getting tired of the class you’ve played for 5+ years seems incredibly reasonable. I can’t help but interpret this argument as a sequence of events that goes [Gets burnt out with rogue] > [Wonders why while playing another class] > [Sees outdated mechanic that holds rogues back and no other class has] > [Decides that mechanic needs to change in order for them to like playing their rogue again]. The thing is, if you are looking for a reason, you’ll find one. Maybe the one you find is the right one, but maybe it isn’t. The points about rogues being one of the least played classes and having undergone relatively little iteration since Vanilla aren’t necessarily problems, nor are they necessarily the reasons someone stopped playing the class, despite what they may think.**** I have lots of thoughts on this but if I tried to articulate them this paragraph would get even more confusing than it already is, so I’ll just get to the point. As much as this wants to be an argument for why CP should be on the rogue, it isn’t. In actuality it is something much stronger. It is a statement that says that in order for the rogue class to be interesting again, it needs change. Attached to that is a suggestion for one such change.

Hey, a Conclusion-eque Thing!

I like my rogue. I like knowing my class inside and out. I like how playing a rogue gives me challenges to overcome – being melee, managing a complex rotation (Subtlety), and yes, thinking about swapping targets. From this perspective, I cannot help but think that rogues who want either change or something to complain about latched on to this issue because it is an easy, tangible subject that seems like it would help. The question is, if these people not enjoying their rogue is a disease, will making CP stack on the rogue actually cure the disease, or will just make it more tolerable by treating some of the symptoms?

Whoh.  Footnotes.

*Except monks, which don’t count because they are new.
**True or not, this (along with the previous statement) claim is widely accepted as true among the rogue community, which is far more relevant than the actual fact of the matter.
***Rfeann talked about the question of whether or not people know why they are bored with their rogue far more eloquently here.


But Wait, There’s More!

Here’s something I wrote in the aforementioned discussion in response to a feral druid who was in favor of positional requirements.

1) I think being bad at swapping targets is a legitimate (that is, noticeable and not game-breaking) disadvantage to have.

2) There aren’t all that many legitimate advantages and disadvantages. In contrast, there are many classes.

3) Each class deserves strengths (advantages), but in order for them to be meaningful they must also have weaknesses (disadvantages). Moreover, each class should feel unique.

4) From (2) and (3) it follows that in order for classes to be different it is only reasonable that each legitimate advantage and disadvantage be represented. This ties into the whole concept of a class system – some classes should be better at some things than others. Conversely, some classes should be worse at some things than others.

5) At the moment there is one class and one spec that have a natural (built-in) handicap at target swapping. The class has ways of getting around it (though it requires some skill) while the spec has fewer – but is also just one spec out of 34.

6) I am of the opinion that (5) seems completely reasonable. There is a disadvantage that needs to go somewhere. One class has it for all specs but is also given ways to work around it. In addition, one spec has it. While that spec has fewer ways of dealing with the mechanic, restricting oneself to a single spec should come with a slightly higher disadvantage (There’s a reason why rogues doing heroic progression don’t only play as Subtlety).

7) This specific change is significant (especially for rogues) since it removes the most tangible reason that we have a disadvantage at target swapping and gives a very strong message of Blizzard no longer wanting this to be a disadvantage. I say especially for rogues because it is a class-wide change for us that may well fundamentally alter our role in a raid.

That last sentence deserves a paragraph. This change may well fundamentally alter the role of rogues in a raid environment. If we are able to easily swap to adds and even open with back-to-back finishers via Anticipation or MfD, then we may very well be *good* at add fights. What the hell! In all my time raiding there has never been a time when I’ve thought to myself, “Man, I really wish I could do something other than stay behind this boss and stab it.” That’s significant, because I’m pretty sure other classes think that. As a rogue (especially a subtlety one!) I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to sit on a boss pretty frequently. Again, I like this. It is one of the reasons that I enjoy raiding on my rogue. I like having one job, and being damn good at it. If I wanted to be on add duty, then there are 10 other classes that I could play depending on how much time I wanted to be on them. If I log on in 6.0 to find my CP stacking on me, I know I’ll be more versatile and that they will be more convenient. Maybe I’ll even enjoy it. The thing is though, being closer to other classes in this regard means that rogues as a whole will be closer to other classes, and I really don’t want that.

People throw around the word “balance” like it is something we should be constantly striving for. Like if perfect balance means a perfect game. I’d like to remind everyone that such a claim is stupid. The word “rogue” can mean a lot of things. It can be an assassin that kills enemies before they can react, or an agile fighter that can kill a great warrior without taking a hit, but oh boy if they get hit they go down, or a brawler who disables their foes so that their friends can kill them easily. The list goes on, but there’s one thing these archetypes all have in common: Rogues are not meant to be balanced.

To wrap up, I don’t give a damn about Feral Druids. If you want to drop combo points in favor of Kitty Power, then far be it from me to complain. If anything, that just means that rogues are more unique. While you’re having fun chasing adds, I’m going to do what I’ve always done: Killing the biggest, meanest thing in the room, because it’s damn fun.