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.

Subtlety Feedback (WoD Beta)

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

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.

Gear

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.

AoE

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.

Solutions

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.

Subtlety Multistrike Mechanic

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.

 

The Mechanic

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.

 

Questions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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).
  5. How do questions 1-3 change with gear?  Higher actions per minute and more multistrike are likely to impact the rotation, perhaps substantially.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

 

Data

Spreadsheet

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)

Dummy Testing

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.

Raid Testing

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.

 

Analysis

Spreadsheet

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.

Dummy Testing

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.

Raid Testing

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!

 

The Other Side: Defending Positional Requirements

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!

 

FormidableOpponent

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.

Explain.

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.

Warlords Alpha: First Impressions

Whelp, the Warlords of Draenor Alpha patch notes have been released, and I’ve somehow managed to read them and catch up on my tweets, meaning it’s time to write about them!  Last night I skimmed over them and noted the topics that I’d like to discuss in depth, then proceeded to post it mostly as a commitment device.  While I do plan on writing about those in greater detail, I’d like to make a post in which I address the whole picture – or at least all of the pieces that make up that picture.  Thankfully, I have a blog, so I will do just that.

Before I start, I should probably say a few things.  First, for better or for worse, what I write here are very early impressions.  While I will make my opinions about changes clear, the probability that my opinion is wrong will be higher than average.  Second, I’m going to be using Rfeann’s summary of the changes as a template for the organization of this post, because I like it and it is what I’m relying on for all of the notes anyway.  Alright, time’s up, let’s do this!

 

General Changes

  • Combo points will now stack on the rogue:  It’s hard to get past my initial reaction, which is “ugh.”  The fact is, having combo points on enemies never bothered me, and I’ve always considered managing them a skill check.  This change isn’t as much of a buff, but rather a fundamental change to rogue gameplay.  Elaborating on the ramifications of this change in this paragraph would not do justice, so I’ll leave it to a future post.
  • Assassination and Combat becoming (more or less) weapon agnostic:  There seems to be some conflicting reports, but it appears that Assassination will be able to wield swords and fist weapons for a moderate DPS loss, and Combat will be able to wield a dagger in the main-hand for a similar or smaller loss.  The stated intent is that it will allow folks to switch specs easier or play a preferred spec even if they haven’t yet gotten a good weapon for it.  Seems reasonable, as long as it is still distinctly better for Assassination to dual-wield daggers and Combat to use a slow weapon in its main hand.
  • No more Dismantle, Mind-Numbing Poison, or Paralytic Poison:  From what I can tell these are the only control abilities that rogues are losing.  Two (Dismantle, Mind-Numbing) are being removed along with all other mechanics of that type.  The last is a talent that applies a random stun, which in the context of all stuns sharing a DR, is terrible which basically means losing it doesn’t count.  If this is all we can expect to lose in the great CC disarmament, then I imagine rogues will be in a pretty good place relative to other classes.  Of course, this is how it should be:  Control has always been one of the biggest selling point of the rogue class.  Generally speaking, as a rogue if people don’t hate you, then you are probably doing it wrong.  This means we should either have borderline-OP burst, or borderline-OP control.  Since burst isn’t gonna happen in this day and age, then control it is.
  • No more Disarm Trap:  The fact that this change is in the ability/bar bloat section confuses me since Disarm Trap no longer requires you to push a button, and if the issue is too much clutter in the spellbook, then that is more a problem with the spellbook layout than its size.  Considering the prominence of traps in recent WoW memory, I can only assume that this change is made for PvP reasons (Confirmed!).  As much as I love an excuse to rant about the treachery of hunters and how the only way this would be acceptable is if they removed traps altogether, my objections to this change are almost entirely PvE oriented, because it shows that the developers are taking a step in what I believe to be exactly the wrong direction.  I’ll elaborate in a later post.
  • No more Expose Armor:  Great!  Now I can’t be pressured into using it for my raid!
  • No more Shadow Blades:  Ya know, I’ve kinda started to like this ability since I stopped thinking about its usage.  Of course, it’s more trouble than its worth and the fact that the trouble of thinking about when to use it outweighted the fun of using it is exactly why removing it is the right choice.
  • Tricks of the Trade now only for threat:  I’m pretty thrilled about this.  The only question I have about it is whether or not this iteration of it deserves its own button.  Of course, this means there is no risk of increasing a hunter’s DPS when you pull mobs on them, so perhaps this is the best of both worlds.
  • Being visible during Subterfuge:  Ok, that’s fair.
  • Automatically learning glyphs:  This change makes sense in the context of the super fast pace leveling of modern WoW where stopping in a major city for powerups seems to be discouraged.  While personally I like the idea of a slower leveling experience, given what it is this is a good idea.
  • Crimson Tempest bleed stacking and across-the-board AoE buff:  It seems that Blizzard decided that our AoE is too weak, so along with there being no damage lost due to clipping the duration of Crimson Tempest, each spec is getting a whole slew of AoE buffs (mostly via perks).  While we don’t yet know how potent this increase will be, it seems reasonable that our AoE will at the very least be competitive in any situation provided you chose the right spec, and that they will be close enough that even the “wrong” spec will still do solidly.  I’m pretty down with this, since the perk of being a pure should be the ability to have very few fights that you are actively bad on.  We’ll see how this pans out though.
  • [perk] Increased healing on Recuperate:  A bit strange, seeing as recuperate is mostly used as a leveling ability, but…sure?  Personally I think a better idea for a Recuperate perk would be to make it more suitable for max level by, say, compressing its healing or making it apply deadly poison to hunter pets when attacked by one.

Assassination Changes

  • Seal Fate can be procced by Fan of Knives:  Sure, I’ll take it.  I like that they are using an existing mechanic to buff AoE while making the combo point generation more in-line with what Assassination rogues have during their normal rotation.
  • [perk] Slice and Dice now passive:  This is good, I like that it is only for Assassination too.  Slice and Dice fits for Combat since the spec is more focused on APM and upkeep to increase APM (both passive and active) fits the theme.  For Sub, it fits the theme of upkeep and MORE FINISHERS!!1!, which also justifies its staying part of the Sub rotation.
  • [perk] Vendetta is now also Cold Blood (100% crit on next ability after using it):  That’s real sweet Bliz, now what are you going to do to make Vendetta more compelling than a tissue?  The reason Cold Blood was fun was because of the instant gratification you got out of knowing that you were about to see a massive crit, not its damage.  Effectively macroing a fun ability to a boring one doesn’t change the fact that Assassination’s biggest DPS cooldown is still really boring for the vast majority of its duration, plus almost entirely lacking in the strategic use department.
  • [perk] Venomous-er Wounds:  This should make Assassination a bit faster without substantially increasing its scaling, which will hopefully mean it won’t be as boring in the first tier as it has been in the past.  Probably not enough, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.
  • [perk] Extra poisonous Fan of Knives:  Another AoE buff that fits the theme of the spec.  Sounds good.
  • [perk] Crimson Tempest now gives the (MoP) Envenom debuff:  Same as above.
  • [perk] More active damage when the Envenom debuff is up:  Good call, this will make skill more of a factor.  Of course, it doesn’t actually change what the optimal play is so technically the skill cap won’t change, just the impact of being skilled.
  • [perk] Dispatch and Envenom debuff buffed:  Yeah, sure fine cool?

 

Combat Changes

  • Revealing Strike changed to Somewhat Less Sinister Strike A good change for all the reasons given in Fiery’s article that I just linked.  This is also pretty cool in light of the Bandit’s Guile perk that extends its duration at max insight.
  • Combat now longer has DoTs:  Interesting!  I like it!  I suppose this isn’t really much of a change since the only bleed Combat uses is Deadly Poison, which is passive anyway, but the fact that it will not even have access to them solidifies it as the most physical of rogue DPS specs.  This might hold it back a bit in PvP though, since DoTs are useful for getting past armor as well as breaking a rogue out of stealth.
  • Combat AoE changes (see perks for details):  Having FoK and CT as part of the Combat AoE rotation is…interesting.  We’ll see at what number of targets those will be used, but I’d imagine the multitarget rotation would be either use Blade Flurry and act as usual, or use FoK and CT.  Maybe there will be a point where we use CT but not FoK, but hopefully not.  It looks to me like this is to give Combat a viable AoE option when Blade Flurry starts to lose out.
  • [perk] Bandit’s Guile now lasts longer at max insight:  Cool, I like it, see first combat note.
  • [perk] Deadly Poison is now Instant Poison, and Crimson Tempest now only deals initial damage (same total though):  See second combat note.
  • [perk] You can now spam more during Adrenaline Rush:  Uh…thanks?  How about instead making it so that you don’t *need* to spam as much during AR.  I’d much rather the GCD stay at 1 second and for AR to give less energy regen either on a shorter cooldown or over a longer duration.  Or, just make it bump your energy up to 100 and make everything free!
  • [perk] Fan of Knives is now cheaper:  Good way to increase AoE while sticking to Combat’s theme of DO MOAR STUFF!!1!
  • [perk] Your offhand autoattacks always hit:  Sure.
  • [perk] Sinister Strike and Eviscerate deal more damage:  Ok cool.

 

Subtlety

  • Positional requirements are removed.  Ish:  Good.  Ish.  The fact that Backstab is now usable anywhere besides a 90-degree cone in front of the enemy is…well you know what I’m going to be writing a blog post on this anyway but let’s just say I’m not sure what they are doing with Subtlety generators and that somewhat bothers me.  Still, at least we can Ambush whenever!
  • [perk] Honor Among Thieves now can proc off of white crits:  This (along with Ambush no longer having a positional requirement) is a big buff for people who want to solo as Subtlety.  Yay.
  • [perk] Vanish cooldown reduced by 30 seconds, and Shadow Dance duration increased by 2:  Hrm, both of these will significantly increase Find Weakness uptime, which I’m pretty dubious about.  Find Weakness is a great mechanic, but I am of the opinion that there’s a certain sweet-spot where you can apply it relatively frequently, but the damage increase from it is very significant.  Starting out with nearly 50% uptime before readiness gives me serious doubts.
  • [perk] Eviscerate is now a bit cheaper:  Sure, cool, I like having a higher chance to get that extra Eviscerate into my Find Weakness window.
  • [perk] Fan of Knives now generates a combo point for each enemy it hits:  …Buh?  So considering how terrible Sub AoE is right now, this might actually even things out.  Alternatively, raids will stick a bunch of mobs near the boss so that their Subtlety rogue can use Fan of Knives as their main combo point generator, because holy cow is that a buff to single target DPS!
  • [perk] Backstab, Ambush, and Hemorrhage deal more damage:  Because Subtlety is what I do, I’d love to look into this.  That said, we have no reason to assume that the damage distribution pre-perk is similar to what it is now, so as with the other flat buffs I can only say “ok cool.”
  • [perk] Premeditation is now passively bound to Ambush and Garrote with no cooldown, but does not work during Dance:  While no math has been done on this, the loss of control over Premeditation plus the fact that we can only use it during normal stealth makes me feel like this is more a nerf then a perk.  Of course, Premeditation in its current form probably doesn’t deserve its own button, so I see where this change is coming from.  In my opinion if the devs want to make Premeditation some form of passive, they should just do it, perks be damned.  Of course, if this affect also works during Subterfuge, then that talent will be even more required.  Oh well, there’s bound to be a right answer for our t1 talents.

 

That’s all I got for now, please tell me if I forgot anything!

 

EDIT:  Added thoughts on Enhanced Premeditation.  Whoops!