Fools! Did you think just because I started the illustrious Ravenholdt.net I had simply abandoned my old haunt? No, such treacherous abandoning of one’s home could only be committed by the lowest of the low. It has come to my attention that Paryah, producer of Fans of Knives – Ravenholdt’s weekly news roundup – has noted a lack of content this week. Being the kind entity that I am, I have decided to use my powers as master wordsmith to sate the rogue community’s lust for words.
The Dancer’s Haunt
As you’ve no doubt noticed I am back at my old residence. This fact along with my tone should inform you that after reading this you will very likely be no more informed about rogues than you were before reading any information in this post. Posts on The Shadowy Dancer will tend to be less serious, off-topic, inappropriate, or otherwise unfit for The Manor. In this case, I anticipate a hodge-podge of hopefully amusing ramblings. Oh, and speaking of Anticipation…
Can we fix it already?
Every expansion thus far has brought with it a host of quality of life changes, including one targeted at making poisons easier. At this point it seems the only way to have us put less thought into our poisons would be to remove them entirely or give them unlimited duration (which is functionally the same thing) so let’s all bit a collective and preemptive goodbye to one of our iconic skills. Hey, at least we can still give weapons the visual for poisons at our Enchanter garrison huts.
Other quality of life changes are harder to guess. Will Blizzard finally remove positional requirements from Backstab and Gouge? Will Blizzard fix our damage mitigation abilities instead of randomly deciding they are too good for certain mechanics? Will Blizzard remove Shadow Reflection, which while in theory vaguely interesting is really just a headache for theorycrafters and an ability you macro to your major cooldown for the rest? Who knows*?
But seriously, Anticipation. Someone wrote a whole blog post on this, like, a while ago, and without reading it I can tell you that the author is completely right about everything. Anticipation is a fanstatic wonderful ability that really just wants to allow rogues to store 10 combo points, but doesn’t because Blizzard won’t allow it. Also come on even if you keep the wording as-is Slice and Dice is TOTALLY an offensive finishing move. I get not calling Recuperate offensive, although part of me has to disagree because a dead rogue is significantly less offensive than a living one. And really? Premeditation not giving Anticipation charges is just stupid. Blizzard, I’mma quote my raid leader here: Do better.
Now, where were we? Oh yes…
About a year ago I got into Magic: The Gathering. Playing that particular game competitively was out of the question as it is both expensive and boring (there are only a handful of viable decks and I like creating my own). I did however recently decide to make one deck that I could play in a competitive format, and being the saucy individual that I am I went ahead and made a rogue-themed deck. To anyone who plays, here’s the list. Last Friday I played it for the first time. Being a saucy home-brew, my goal was to win one game. In actuality I won two out of five rounds, which are best-of-three! I’m so proud of those scrappy bastards!
In other news…
Have feelings. What’s that? You don’t have feelings after watching that? Well then you need to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender immediately.
Some things I’d like
- A job (Waiting on an offer from one place so woot!)
- Fewer hunters (Duh)
- Ice cream! (Mmmmmm)
- A Legendary Ring (Mostly because no more LFR)
- To be actually good at League (Hey so far I’ve stayed out of Bronze)
- Fewer Hunters (They’re even stealing our role!)
- Less he (More they)
- Alpha access to Legion (Duh)
- Beta access to Overwatch (Mostly because it seems interesting)
- Tea Parties with Iroh (WTB Secret Tunnel to the Spirit World)
- And most importantly…Fewer hunters! (#HuntersSuck)
So it looks like rogues might be getting a pirate spec. Idk about you, but if I get pirate spec I want a boat. Also, booty. No, not that kind of booty, what kind of pirate do you think I am? But seriously, I’m not sure why Blizzard would pick pirates over bandits for WoW seeing as players are almost never doing anything on the open seas.
Well if you made it this far then I’m flattered. I’ve love to have feedback on this post in particular as it is very different from anything I’ve done in the past. Even the little talking about myself I did here makes me feel pretty uncomfortable so it is unlikely to be something I do much more of if I don’t get positive feedback on that front. On the other hand if I do get good feedback I’d be down to make more of this type of post.
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,
He mo rr ha ge (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.
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.
This is a post with lots of Subtlety PvE feedback. You have been warned. If you are not familiar with the theorycrafting that has been done thus far with Subtlety, I suggest you read my post on Ravenholdt so that you are up-to-date.
In theory, I really like how Subtlety is changing. The new Multistrike mechanic, SC, is super interesting, and the Fan of Knives perk is amazing. In practice, I think there are a lot of small problems with Subtlety mechanically that all together could make it a bit of a mess. Here goes:
nHemo Weaving is what I and Fierydemise, and therefore everyone, is calling the playstyle of maintaining a certain potency of the Hemorrhage DoT by using some number (n) of Hemorrhages, then using Backstab as the primary combo point builder. In theory, this is really interesting, and in fact using a 4-Hemo rotation was really fun during raid testing. The problem is, there is a good chance that the n will fluctuate quite a bit depending on both gear and RNG.
This could very well lead to addons being required to play Subtlety at a top 100 progression level, which would be a problem. Moreover, for those who do not want an addon or to check out the average number of Hemorrhages to weave every time they get an upgrade, this question becomes even more of a problem, since guide writers have no idea what kind of gear this person has so it could very well be that for one, weaving 4 Hemorrhages is optimal, while for another, a full-Hemorrhage rotation is best. This leads me nicely to my next point.
As I mentioned in my theorycrafting post, it is reasonable for someone with low multistrike to completely forsake Backstab and use a full-Hemorrhage rotation. This is problematic for multiple reasons. First, without Backstab it is unlikely that Multistrike will be our most valuable stat, making justifying it somewhat difficult. I don’t see that as a big issue, but if you are fighting for gear with another class that would use that gear immediately you may find it a hard fight to win. Second, discouraging Multistrike means discouraging our attuned stat, which means Subtlety rogues with bad gear are also getting fewer stats for their item level, which is just kicking them while they’re down. Third, it is super unintuitive to not use Backstab at all for Subtlety, so while it is unlikely that a new player will get the rotation right if they are supposed to be nHemo-weaving, it is even more unlikely that they will on their own realize that Backstab is strictly worse than Hemorrhage for them.
On a similar note, while the Fan of Knives perk is amaaaaaaaazing, the fact that we may actually want to AoE as Subtlety brings to light some of its problems.
First, Subtlety AoE gains no particular benefit from haste, since with 5 CP per FoK you are unlikely to be low on energy unless the AoE lasts quite a long time and autoattacks are less significant. Similarly, Subtlety AoE is unaffected by SC, which means that once again the mechanic that makes our attuned stat good is no longer functional. Crit just kinda continues to be Crit for Subtlety, however with a finisher every other second, Mastery’s value is substantially increased. This means that while for single target DPS we ideally want Multistrike over all else, for AoE we go from caring maybe some but not a ton about mastery to OH DEAR LORD GIMME MORE GIMME MORE. Why is that a problem? Well first of all, it might encourage Subtlety rogues to carry two gear sets so that they can switch to their mastery set for AoE fights, second, because it might encourage rogues to go Assassination for single target and Subtlety for AoE/cleave (depending on how numbers tuning works out) since both specs when used that way would like mastery, and third because shouldn’t our attuned stat be useful in all common circumstances? It is worth noting that a full mastery build would probably discourage the use of Backstab altogether, which I already talked about.
Second, as much hype as there has been regarding SC, I’d argue Find Weakness is still the main mechanic of Subtlety in PvE. Unfortunately, Find Weakness is only applied through single target abilities, which makes it pretty useless in AoE situations. While I could see it being worthwhile in cleave situations, it still involves ignoring the other targets for the duration of the ability as well as only dealing extra damage to one target after AoE resumes.
Finally, none of Subtlety’s AoE abilities do good damage with the possible exception of Crimson Tempest, which takes 12 seconds to do its damage. The lack of instant AoE damage encourages Subtlety rogues to use FoK only for the combo points and just keep dumping them on the boss or for SnD, as the damage dealt that way will be significantly more and other classes are far more capable of dealing with quick AoE bursts.
As I see it there are two basic problems, which I will address one at a time.
The first is Sinister Calling’s interaction with Hemorrhage. Since at this point in Beta this is unlikely for this to be addressed via major mechanical adjustments, I think the two best ways of solving this issue are to revert the change that makes Hemorrhages’ bleed damage be conserved upon refreshes, and to significantly reduce the duration of Hemorrhage, say to dealing 100% of the initial damage over 3 seconds, ticking once every second.
The first would lead to regular Hemo-weaving like we do on live, which I dislike for a few reasons. Right off the bat, the thing I really liked about nHemo-weaving is how I really felt that Hemorrhage and Backstab were working together, and that I had a great deal of control over their interaction. Testing out this rotation on a target dummy, I realized that for the first time since Cataclysm, I felt true satisfaction in executing the Subtlety rotation. Reverting the rotation to single Hemo-weaving would make the spec notably easier to play, which completely removes one of the points of the Multistrike mechanic which was to “add rotational depth” (WoD Beta Patch Notes, Subtlety Section). Right now, Subtlety is super close to being utterly amazing, and removing the rolling periodic behavior from Hemorrhage would be undoing everything good that happened to Subtlety’s single target rotation.
Another objection I have for removing the rolling periodic behavior of Hemorrhage is that the rogue community as a whole will likely see that as a huge nerf to frontal damage. As it is, Sublety rogues are still forced to use Hemorrhage as their primary combo point generator when facing their target. The potency and rolling behavior of Hemorrhage, combined with the frequency in which we can side-stab, finally got some respected raiders that I know to drop positional requirements as a reason not to play Subtlety. Whether valid or not, I think it highly likely that my fellow rogues will once again find it impossible to recommend Subtlety for Mythic progression.
Also, I recently talked about this very issue with Fierydemise and we agreed that sacrificing the rolling periodic behavior of Hemorrhage for the purposes of rotational stability would be a step in the wrong direction. I only say this because when Fiery and I agree on something, it is worth noting.
Can you tell I really don’t want this option? Because I really don’t want this option….
Option two, shortening Hemorrhages bleed to the point where it would be unfeasible to weave more than one Hemorrhage, still has its problems but is also clearly superior. For starters, it keeps the rotation interesting. The dynamic of pooling energy to pull off Hemo-Backstab-Backstab works really well with the need to maintain Rupture and Slice and Dice. While pulling off Hemo-2xBS is easier than 4Hemo-weaving, the fact that Rupture is now the only consistent way to maintain SV makes up for it. This also has the interesting dynamic of Hemorrhage still being good for providing fast SV for quick swaps, but not being passable as a consistent source of the debuff. This is significantly more OK than it is on live, because Rupture does a lot more work in Warlords and therefore should be up more anyway. This rotation also makes Hemorrhage no longer an upkeep buff that should be ideally used during Find Weakness (yes, there would be issues there, losing a few ticks so that it snapshots during FW for more damage would likely be recommended).
I’m getting really tired and know I am missing some arguments regarding the short-duration option, however all in all I think this would solve the issue of nHemo-weaving in a way that would keep Subtlety approximately as fun as it is now on Beta, which is really super fun!
Finally let’s get to the second problem, which is Subtlety’s core mechanics’ lack of interaction with AoE. Honor Among Thieves gets completely overshadowed by FoK, which is fine because getting 5 CP on a generator is amazing and HaT still does work, however Find Weakness and Sinister Calling not interacting at all with AoE is pretty anticlimactic. Since Subtlety’s AoE continues to be pretty meh (not to be confused with its single-target DPS when surrounded by a bunch of baddies), and numbers haven’t been tuned yet, I think it makes sense to talk in terms of adding mechanics which are inevitably going to be buffs.
First on the list is SC, which actually is a serious issue because it messes with stat weights. The easiest way of dealing with this is to make it so that FoK multistrikes proc additional procs of bleeds on the affected target – in other words, add FoK to SC. This would slightly help Subtlety’s problem of backloaded AoE, but mostly make the mechanic that is supposed to make Subtlety rogues want Multistrike actually good on all fights. Thankfully, Crimson Tempest hits for low enough that extra procs shouldn’t be a very big deal, though if they are I would love you to frontload more of its damage as a “nerf”.
Second, Find Weakness. The only reason I mention this is because I really think it is Subtlety’s primary mechanic, and not having it be single target feels awkward. I think the best solution for this is to make Ambush cleave, allowing the debuff to be applied to multiple targets (say in a cone). If this is OP, then instead make Garrote cleave or FoKs from Stealth or Shadow Dance apply FW. While I admit that these mechanics are a bit unintuitive, I think that at the very least Subtlety should have a bit more support of cleave from its primary mechanic.
If you have comments, please post them on the discussion thread for this post at Ravenholdt.
This post is my analysis of Subtlety’s new multistrike mechanic that is currently slated for delivery in 6.o, Warlords of Draenor. Because this post is primarily for theorycrafters, I will be assuming a fair bit more familiarity with math and class mechanics than I usually do. This post will be broken up into n sections. In the first, I will describe the mechanic. In the second, I will list some of the questions theorycrafters have been asking regarding the mechanic. In this third, I will dump the raw data for work that I have done. Finally, in the fourth section I will do some analysis. If you are considering reading this because you are wondering if I will stop sounding like an automaton, then I suggest you instead play some Warcraft.
Subtlety’s multistrike mechanic, which for now on we will call SC as it is attached to the Sinister Calling passive, reads “When you multistrike with Backstab or Ambush, you also twist the blade, causing all of your Bleed effects to instantly tick an additional time.” What this translates to is simply, “Your bleeds make Backstab stronger.”
At this point I should mention that making Backstab stronger is quite important for Subtlety, as without this mechanic Backstab does less damage than Hemorrhage on Beta.
- How should Hemorrhage be woven into the rotation? This is the main question. Since Hemorrhage without multistrike deals more damage than Backstab, it is reasonable to assume that at normal levels of multistrike Hemorrhage might deal more damage than Backstab still, until the Hemo bleed increases Backstab’s potency to the point where it is more powerful.
- How should Crimson Tempest be woven into the rotation? Although Crimson Tempest does much less damage than Eviscerate, it applies a bleed which could lead to Backstab picking up the slack.
- How should Garrote be woven into the rotation? Same deal as the others, though it is important to compare Garrote coming out of Vanish (with MoS and compared to a 60 energy Ambush) and in Shadow Dance (no MoS and 40 energy Ambush).
- How do questions 1 and 2 change during during Find Weakness? Because the Hemorrhage and Crimson Tempest bleeds are based on the damage of the initial hit, the bleed snapshots, making these abilities more potent during Find Weakness compared to their alternatives (Backstab and Eviscerate).
- How do questions 1-3 change with gear? Higher actions per minute and more multistrike are likely to impact the rotation, perhaps substantially.
- At low levels of multistrike, how does our rotation change, and is it reasonable to fully forsake the stat until we get enough? If you are using gear with 0 multistrike on it (so 5% base MS), Backstab may never be worth it, making a full Hemo build optimal and potentially encouraging pulling stats farther away from multistrike, similar to how armor penetration worked in Wrath where it was bad until a specific breakpoint.
- Procs. What the heck do we do about temporary power gains? This is especially relevant given that our weapon enchant will likely give a multistrike buff.
- If we find that at a certain gear set weaving on average n Hemorrhages at a given time is optimal, how far away from optimal is that rotation? Basically, the point where you want to stop using Hemo and start using Backstab is when the extra tick damage gets high enough. This means that if on average we are to weave 3 Hemorrhages before using Backstab but the first two crit and double mulstistrike, then our bleed damage will be high enough that it would be optimal to use Backstab. If this damage difference across a whole fight is large enough, then it could cause people to seek the help of addons, trivializing the rotation. In many ways, this is the main concern with this mechanic.
With the help of Fierydemise’s APM calculations, I made a spreadsheet that crudely models the damage of Backstab and Hemorrhage and tries to answer question 1. It has limited support for stats, but you can change the numbers for amount of bleeds on the target. It makes the false assumption that Hemorrhage and Backstab both cost 35 energy, which means among other things that it will be slightly biased towards Backstab. The purpose of this spreadsheet is not to be accurate, as much as it is to determine around where the breakpoints for the stats are. I have enabled editing on this so that people can play with the numbers of bleeds, APM, and multistrike, but I would request that after playing with it you return it to the format you found it in. The numbers that are there at the moment are accurate as of a few builds ago.
Feel free to change the haste, mulstistrike, crit, and bleed amounts. Also when you change the haste rating make sure to verify that the APM number actually changed, because I added those later and think there may be some jankiness with it. Worth noting, the stats I took were me gearing specifically for multistrike using the PvP gear you can purchase, which is to say it is probably a bit more biased than is realistic. Oh, and I should mention that the Hemo_nC where n is 0/1/2 is how I represent how many ticks have been spent on each Hemo since the last time it refreshed. That is, if you use Hemo once, then you have hemo_0C set to 1 and the rest set to 0. If you used Hemo 3 times in a row, then that is using Hemo twice, letting a tick go, and then using it the final time, so you have Hemo_0C set to 1, Hemo_1C set to 2, and Hemo_2C set to 0.
Link to spreadsheet: (link)
Copy of spreadsheet that you can’t edit (for reference): (link)
Unfortunately the computer I’m on doesn’t have the text file that I saved the data on, but I tested some simple rotation on Beta against the Mythic Test Dummies in Shattrath on Beta. The rotation was simplified, I was using no cooldowns, and for my relevant talents Anticipation (duh) and Lemon Zest.
Each trial lasted over 5 minutes and most were done with a multistrike heavy gearset. Some later on were done with substantially less multistrike in order to test question 5, but the primary questions being tested were 1 and 2.
Thanks to Ninjablaze and the kind folks at <Victory of Whatever> I was able to try out Subtlety during Tuesday’s heroic raid testing. WOO! During the tests I kept logs on Skada and have some findings that may be worthwhile but are probably so corrupted by RNG as to be meaningless. At the very least though I got some interesting findings on questions 6.
Due to the faulty assumptions, the major finding of the spreadsheet is that on some level it makes sense to weave some number of Hemorrhages and Backstabs. It is also reasonable to guess that the number of Hemorrhages woven should be reasonable high, in the 4-6 range. In practice, it is difficult to weave more than 5 Hemorrhages due to the amount of energy pooling required and the fact that you have to fit a finisher in there too, but we’ll talk about that a bit more later. As for the stat weights, the spreadsheet mostly indicates that the number of Hemorrhages woven is reasonable dynamic, such that if this mechanic makes it to live we will probably have to support variable numbers of Hemorrhages in our rotation.
First, keep in mind there is an implicit “under the testing conditions” qualifier for all of this. Also keep in mind that while I did not use anything that provided temporary power gains besides the weapon enchants, there is RNG in these.
When testing Full Hemo and Full Backstab rotations, Full Hemo came out ahead. This is in-line with the data I had available but verifying it is always nice. The practical applications are that if you want to be lazy and just use one generator out of stealth, have it be Hemorrhage.
DPS peaked weaving 4-5 Hemorrhages depending on gear, and showed a fairly substantial difference between the low-Hemo rotations, indicating that we might have issues with proper weaving being too important – we’ll see. At any rate, I would say it definitely makes sense to add support for multiple levels of Hemo weaving into ShadowCraft.
I did not attempt weaving 6 Hemos, as that would have been a great deal of pooling, and required using a finisher in the middle. Long story short, I don’t think it will be practical, however I could very well be wrong.
Even without using any Hemorrhages, Crimson tempest was not worth it. It remains to be seen whether better gear (higher APM, more Mastery) will change this.
First of all, Subtlety appears to be the best spec for kicking hunter BUTT in DPS, so good thing I was there!
For the first boss I was using a premade character with 0 mulstistrike on gear, though was fully enchanted, fooded, and flasked for multistrike. I started out with a 4-Hemorrhage rotation and had some success, though on that fight it is difficult to measure success as magical damage does not show up on meters. Later I switched to full mastery enchants/food/flask and a full Hemo rotation and saw an increase in my DPS, although that was only for a few attempts so it may well have been RNG. That said, forsaking multistrike and going full Hemo if moderate-high levels of multistrike are unattainable is worth looking into.
For the two other tests I used a level 100 premade with high-multistrike gear and a 4-Hemo rotation for all attempts. All I can say is the pacing and feel of the spec is pretty good with that rotation.
Thhhhhhhat’s all folks!
If you have questions or anything to add, please feel free to join the discussion on the Subtlety multistrike mechanic at the Ravenholdt.net theorycrafting forum!
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?
*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.
Here’s a couple of interesting snippets from the comments of my latest blog.
“Up until I read this post, I was willing to let Blizz get away with ‘wait and see'” – Mechaninja
“I was going to go all devil’s advocate on you and make the old ‘retain the integrity of the class’ argument but” – OneRogue
While flattered that my opinions are being heard and my arguments are convincing, I can’t help but find it somewhat disturbing that my clearly one-sided post seems to have gone unchallenged. It’s the devs’ job to make good decisions, which at the very least means their actions have merit. While I represented the anti-positional requirements stance and was quite harsh on those who disagreed with my premise, the fact that Blizzard is currently keeping Backstab positional requirements means quite a lot. So, what exactly is the other side, and why is it so compelling? Clearly, answering a question this big requires somebody with both a deep understanding of the playerbase, and vast experience with Subtlety:
Me, Haileaus! This, is Hopefully not Copywrite Infringement Against the Colbert Report for Making a Cheap Knockoff of Formidable Opponent!
Thank you for coming Haileaus.
No problem, anything to prevent the rogue community from becoming an echo chamber.
Let’s get to the crux of the issue. The other day I made it pretty clear why people who disagree with my views on Backstab are wrong, and now you come in, the prominent blogger that you are, and say that it is in fact I who is wrong? I thought we were on the same side!
If by us being on the same side you mean we both want what’s best for the Subtlety spec and the rogue class as a whole, then we are on the same side. But yes, you are wrong about Backstab.
Please, I was about to until you interrupted me.
Sorry, do go on.
Look, the fact is between your two blogs that addressed positional requirements you’ve done a very good job at explaining the issue as seen from above. That is, that from the perspective of the heroic progression raider, Subtlety’s viability is far too dependent on a single situational factor – time spent behind targets – which must necessarily affect it significantly more than the other specs in order to be noticeable.
So I win then! Thank you for join –
Not so fast. The problem with your argument is that it only holds true for an extremely small subset of the playerbase. While concerns about spec choice with regards to Subtlety are valid for the elite, the vast majority of players are not heroic raiders. Even in Mists of Pandaria the experts on the rogue class including you have held that all three specs are perfectly viable. So yes, while there may be issues with balancing out the maximum potential of the three rogue specs, very few are actually testing those limits. Moreover, even for sub-heroic progression, the difference between the specs is close enough that what limits progression is not spec but skill.
In an ideal world, I would agree with you. It is true that I and others far smarter and more influential agree that all specs are viable for normal raiding, however the typical player does not base their decisions off of what folks like us say. In this game it is much more common for people to look at the best of the best and copy what they do. This means that while meaningful difference may indeed be limited to the higher level, the discrepancies it produces trickle down to all levels. Remember Dragon Soul? While Subtlety was still rarely played there was a huge spike in its popularity due to high level raiders taking up the spec for heroics, since the combination of Subtlety and Combat was so potent for so many fights. Was Assassination unviable for the typical raider? No! However nevertheless a large number of players felt compelled to drop their Assassination spec because the best of the best were using Combat and Subtlety.
You’re correct in that I exaggerated how limited the effect of positional requirements on raiders is, however your scope is still far too small. Let me tell you a story which will hopefully bring some perspective. It is a story of three rogues – perhaps you know them. The first rogue was a noob who was leveling back in Vanilla WoW. Let’s call him Jimmy. Jimmy had no idea what his DPS was, or what the optimal rotation was, or that rogues could equip swords. He was so bad in fact that he would use whatever piece of gear provided the most armor/DPS, even if it had intellect and spirit on it. There was one thing that Jimmy knew though: He was a rogue. When Jimmy looked through the talent trees his reaction was to wonder why people would pick anything other than Subtlety. Clearly, people who picked Combat or Assassination were not true rogues. What did Jimmy look up? The combos on the WoW community site, of which to this day the only one that he can remember is the one describing how you can use Gouge to get behind the target for a Backstab. There wasn’t any question what combo point generator Jimmy should be using, since it was obvious: As a rogue, he should be using Backstab. Tell me, Haileaus, what do you think Jimmy’s reaction would be if Blizzard removed Backstab’s positional requirement?
…Bad. But he’d realize it was the right decision when he hit max level and tried to start raiding.
Maybe. But then, there are a lot of Jimmies out there, and I doubt all of them are going to turn into competitive raiders. Rogue number two, who we’ll call Jimmy. Jimmy just hit level 85 and was ready to start raiding. He had been playing Assassination through Wrath because Subtlety was terrible and he felt a rogue who wielded anything but daggers was no rogue at all. Now though, armed with the latest theorycrafting and a whole lot of stubbornness, he was ready to raid as Subtlety. He found a group who needed a rogue and was willing to let him play Subtlety as long as it didn’t prevent him from pulling his weight, and then proceeded to show that not only could he pull his weight, but he could pull everyone else’s too – that is, everyone besides the warlock. People would often tell him that Subtlety wasn’t a viable spec, and that he should instead go Combat or Assassination. His response was always the same: “You’re wrong. Subtlety is viable, because I make it viable.” Cocky though he may have been he was still one of the best rogues on the server. Jimmy had read some people’s claims that positional requirements were holding the spec back, and he was just as dismissive to them as you were to people like him in your last post. You see, the reasons Jimmy played Subtlety were the exact reasons why few others did. Not only could he boast that he beat hunters who were better geared than him with an “unviable” spec, but he loved the challenges Subtlety offered, be them rotational, positional, or social. When you say that positional requirements should be removed, what you really mean is that Subtlety should no longer be the underdog spec. But have you considered Jimmy and those like him for whom much of the point of Subtlety is being an underdog?
Underdogs are by definition smaller than the group in question, so I’d argue that his views hold less weight. That being said, I can tell you from experience that eventually he’ll tire of the constant pressure to respec. Maybe he’ll be fine for a while, but as content gets harder he’s going to be asked to put out more, and the first thing that he’ll be asked to do is respec. What’s he going to do, say no and leave the guild? Maybe, but if he ever wants to push himself then caving will be inevitable, and all those other things he likes about Subtlety will be moot points.
I dunno, Jimmy is pretty stubborn. Regardless, its time to move on to rogue number three, Jimmy. Jimmy has been playing a rogue since Vanilla, and has been dedicated to the Subtlety spec the whole time. Jimmy’s been through it all. In Vanilla, he blindly stumbled around thinking he was awesome even though his gear was laughable and he had no idea what he was doing with the talents he was so proud of. In Burning Crusade, he stepped into his first raids, and because people told him that Subtlety was unviable he changed specs to Combat. In Wrath, he became more invested in the community, and played Assassination in PvE because it was the closest spec to the still unviable Subtlety. Still, even though most rogues were using Assassination for PvP, Jimmy stubbornly stuck to Subtlety. In Cata, Jimmy finally came into his own. He had the confidence to play Subtlety regardless of what others said and even made a Subtlety PvE guide on the official forums, which led to them becoming a part of a wonderful community. In Mists of Pandaria, Jimmy developed his interest in helping the rogue community by revamping his guide, starting feedback threads for each major patch to help get a feel for what the community wants, and even at the suggestion of a friend starting a blog. Of course, Jimmy was familiar with the increasing number of people who have asked that positional requirements be removed. As is his nature, Jimmy pondered the effect that these requirements have and came to the very same conclusion you did. The thing is though, he pondered the effects positional requirements have on raiders, PvPers, and the game as a whole, and then based his opinion on those. Never did Jimmy consider what he as an individual wanted. Can you tell me, Haileaus, if Jimmy was being perfectly selfish in his consideration of positional requirements, would he still support their removal?
Of course not. Honestly, I doubt even Jimmy knows the answer to that, since his opinion is so biased by what he believes to be best for the game. Still though, its fair to say that if Jimmy is a competitive raider, then he will want to be able to raid as Subtlety on every encounter.
Exactly. The thing is, nobody – not even Blizzard – knows what every player wants. At the end of the day, all we can do is guess. While the high-end raiders and those who follow them generally consider positional requirements to be problematic, there are far more people who don’t fit into those two categories. Moreover, because in this day and age people are expected to do research before raiding seriously, online forums are likely to have an inherent bias towards them. Sure, it could be that the majority of the players either agree with those raiders or don’t care, but then it could also be that most people who play a rogue do so because they like the immersion that Backstab offers, and removing positional requirements, though perhaps making the rogue class stronger, would hurt them.
Then nobody can be sure what’s the best course of action?
Nope, and that’s the beauty of it. As strongly as we feel about something, and no matter how valid our arguments are, there’s always another side with its own strong feelings and potentially equally or even more valid arguments.
Huh, you’ve got a point.
And you sir, are a formidable opponent.