Subtlety in 6.0.2

With the Warlords of Draenor pre-patch coming out tomorrow, I’ve decided to finally get off on my tush and write about what’s going on with Subtlety.  I’ll start with a description of what’s changing, then move on to what’s staying the same, and finally talk about what you’ll need to change.  Keep in mind that this article is coming from the perspective of a raider, and as such I will not be explaining every change or ramification, but only the ones I deem relevant for raiding.  This is also somewhat geared towards what we’ll be seeing at level 100 rather than on live, however I will try to distinguish between these two when the difference is relevant.

Subtlety:  It’s different…

The devs went through a huge amount of iteration with Subtlety.  They tried having Hemorrhage and Crimson Tempest’s DoT roll over through refreshes making them spammable, having Backstab and Ambush multistrikes give extra ticks from our DoTs, removing Premeditation, making Hemo way better than Backstab, making Hemo way worse than Backstab, and probably some other things.

Here’s what they ended up doing:

  • Not specific to Subtlety, but all of our buffs/debuffs can be refreshed early and get up to 30% of their original duration tacked on, making refreshing our buffs/debuffs a lot easier.
  • Hemorrhage really wants to be worse than Backstab, and mostly succeeds.  (More on this later.)
  • Backstab and Ambush multistrikes cause our DoTs to advance forward 2 seconds, gaining exactly one tick’s worth of damage for all DoTs (Hemo/Garrote now tick every 2 secs).
  • At level 100, Vanish will have a 1.5 minute cooldown due to a leveling perk.
  • At level 100, Fan of Knives will grant a Combo Point for every target hit.
  • At level 100, Shadow Dance will last 10 seconds instead of 8.
  • Some stuff got better and some stuff got worse, but not so much that we care.
  • Some other things, but we don’t care.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of changes that seem relevant.

…but also, the same…

Here’s the thing:  As much as they changed Subtlety, the spec as a whole really isn’t all that different.  In MoP, our goal was to maximize uptime on Slice and Dice, Rupture, Hemorrhage, and Find Weakness, while being smart about cooldown usage.  With these changes, our goal will be to maximize uptime on Slice and Dice, Rupture, Hemorrhage (we’ll get there), and Find Weakness, while being smart about cooldown usage.  Note how close those look!

When it comes down to it, all these changes to Subtlety actually mean very little.  Well, except for the Fan of Knives one, that’s actually about as big of a deal as it looks.

At this point you might well be wondering if any of these changes are relevant to you.  If you are like most rogues, they aren’t, because you don’t raid as Subtlety.  However, for the three of you that do, the answer is yes.

…but actually, different.

All of those changes that didn’t actually change anything are surprisingly impactful.  It’s not that what we want to do is different, but rather what the best way of achieving that is.  I’ve been doing a lot of mucking around in SimulationCraft and have come upon some interesting findings.

Disclaimer time:  Everything that I’m saying after this point comes from mucking around with SimulationCraft.  When possible, I cross-checked with my character’s ShadowCraft.  The theorycrafting you see here is only as good as me and the tools I used, which is to say, distinctly questionable but notably alright.  As always, if something looks fishy, feel free to inquire or investigate, but please refrain from calling me an idiot without backing it up with evidence.

Here’s a list of things:

  • Shadow Focus is now significantly better than Subterfuge, which is now slightly better than That Other One.
  • Pooling energy before Vanish doesn’t matter as much as you thought.  (Pooling energy before Shadow Dance probably does matter as much as you thought.)
  • With sufficient levels of Multistrike, Hemo Weaving is a thing of the past.  (READ:  If you are level 90, Hemo Weave.)  Hemorrhage continued to be useful for keeping up Sanguinary Veins, and is better than Backstab if the Sinister Calling multistrike mechanic will cause Sanguinary Veins to expire.  Because that’s not confusing at all.
  • Garrote is comically bad and should never be used.  Ever.
  • Because of Sinister Calling’s multistrike mechanic, refreshing Rupture as early as possible without losing ticks is recommended, though at level 90 this is mostly just practice for when you get relevant levels of multistrike.

The Takeaway

As confusing as this all is, the takeaway is actually pretty simple.  If you liked Subtlety in MoP, you’ll probably like it in Warlords.  I’m hesitant to say whether the changes make the spec funner or not, because that’s really quite subjective.  For sure the experience will be different, but at the core the two iterations of the spec are close enough that I doubt very many people will change their mind about the spec.  Well, until Draenor at least, when people pick up the uber leetness that is Empowered Fan of Knives.

EDIT:  So I wrote this last night and I almost ended it with a line long the lines of “That is, until Blizzard decides to nerf Hemo Weaving.”  This morning I saw that they are buffing Backstab, but apparently that will be accompanied with a buff to Hemo, so I’m not quite as amazing at predictions as I thought.  Darn.

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