According to the SK-Gaming Top 100, Rogues are doing pretty well. Our fraternity of assassins has a solid hold on the coveted #3 slot, behind the insanely dominant Death Knight / Holy Paladin combination. With Druids and Warriors being as powerful as they were in Seasons 3 and 4, seeing them bring up the bottom of the Top 100 representation is the truest indicator of significant balance changes that Wrath brought with it.
Luckily, I feel that Rogues are far stronger than our 10% representation shows. We are poised to absorb the market share that Paladin and Death Knights will be hemorrhaging when the long-awaited patch 3.0.8 comes to right all the wrongs that this team has committed. Four of the top six classes in the SK-100 are being nerfed significantly, with Rogues being the least affected by these changes. After the cut, I'll cover important changes for Rogues in 3.0.8, as well as a few changes that will alter our top opponents as well.
Nerfs (Bug Fixes):
First, let's talk about a few bugs that Blizzard has ironed out. The move to combine Dagger Specialization and Fist Specialization into Close Quarters Combat was one of my favorite changes of 2008. It opened up brand new weapon combinations for Rogues everywhere. However, it left one minor flaw in its wake.
Anyone who had spec'd into Fist Specialization never truly had their talent points refunded, meaning that they still had "5 points" into Fist Spec even after respec'ing. This meant 5% extra crit for any Rogue that had Fist Spec pre-patch, which was pretty awesome for them. However, Blizzard is finally destroying the talent "behind the scenes" and many Rogues will be losing the broken 5% crit they had come to know and love.
The next bug fix (and probably the most notable) came in the correcting of the "HaT bug" which I mentioned last week. When multiple Honor Among Thieves spec'd Rogues are in the same party, they no longer generate multiple combo points per party member crits. This bug will only serve to correct the DPS of exploiters, and in no way reduces the viability of HaT as a whole. Rogues are still topping the meters as Solo HaT (a term which will be obsolete post-patch): It's competitive and pretty fun to play.
Mutilate will also be on the receiving end of a bug fix: It previously had two chances to proc your Off Hand weapon's poison every time you used Mutilate. After this change, Mutilate weapon speed choices will switch AGAIN, to faster Main Hand with Instant Poison and fast Off Hand with Deadly Poison. A quick bit of theorycrafting has this change reducing Mutilate's PvE damage by about 3%, and reducing our potential PvP burst by a minor amount.
It won't exactly break the bank, but Rogues have already been trailing damage in many fights to start with. A Blue on the Damage Dealing forums mentioned that with all the other classes being nerfed, Rogues should be improving as our changes were not as severe. This gives me the feeling that Blizzard is satisfied with our current power, and that no sweeping changes are en route for the shadow masters. So continue to hone your current playstyles, we are likely to hold at status quo until something big breaks.
Blizzard did throw us a bone in PvE by removing the cooldown on Fan of Knives, ensuring that all poisons can proc on FoK attacks, and also buffing the damage of FoK when using daggers by about 50%. This will give us a viable AoE option for those fun Naxxramas trash pulls, and will help keep us competitive when it comes to fighting multiple targets. It's also useful in arena situations in which you need to pull an enemy stealth class out of the shadows.
While some Rogues have advocated the glyphing and spamming of Feint; every Rogue today will tell you to yank it right off of your action bar. Almost as bad as the old 'Improved Distract', Feint has long been a terrible ability which served no purpose. The fact that a Glyph was created for it shows Blizzard's disconnect from Rogue PvE mechanics. Even in-game NPCs know how bad Feint is for us. If only they had someone knowledgeable calling the shots, we might get a Mutilate or Envenom glyph before Emerald Dream is released.
Rather than scrap the spell entirely, Blizzard decided to add some new flavor. It now reduces all AoE damage taken by 50% for 6 seconds when used. With a cooldown of 10 seconds, it's impossible to keep the effect up at all times. In addition, you must have a target in melee range in order to use Feint. The only possible use for this ability would be on a yet-to-be-discovered encounter in Ulduar where being able to stay on a boss would pull Rogues ahead on DPS.
Or, if you're stuck in Entangling Roots and a Warrior walks over to Bladestorm your face, you could realistically Feint then. Too bad Druids and Warriors are stuck at the bottom of the SK-100. Crafting this new effect for a specific PvE encounter is pretty cheesy, and I hope to be proven wrong be an inventive Rogue who comes up with an awesome idea for it.
The rest of the upcoming changes are mostly housekeeping items on Blizzard's tasklist. Envenom's tooltip will now show the correct values, Killing Spree won't break stealth if there's nobody around, and Turn the Tables won't generate threat. The Turn the Tables change will actually come in handy on some AoE pulls; I would get pulled out stealth and subsequently trained in the Eye Stalk room due to a tank parrying something.
The biggest pair of changes come in the flavor of Retribution Paladin / Beast Mastery Hunter / Unholy Death Knight nerfs and the fundamental change to Crowd Control Dispel Resistance. Retribution Paladins will be doing 50% damage while in their bubbles, and that's about it on Paladin changes. BM Hunters will no longer be able to Beast Within -> Prep... I mean Readiness -> Beast Within, Deterrence is being nerfed to a 5 second frontal cone avoidance tool (and the Hunter is unable to attack), and every spec except Survival is having their shots toned down. Unholy DKs are seeing their on-demand survivability, utility, pets, and damage all gutted. While I feel that Paladins needed more nerfs (specifically Holy), we will see how far Paladin healers are able to go with their favorite two partners being nerfed very significantly. These 3 classes are 3 of our hardest matchups: with them toned down to reasonable levels, Rogues will be stronger than ever.
Blizzard is also removing all Dispel resistance from Crowd Control effects. This means that Vile Poisons will no longer provide dispel resistance for Crippling, Mind-Numbing, and Wound poisons. I will have to wait until 3.0.8 to see how bad this change actually is; and whether or not we'll all be putting Shiv back on our actions bars. However, it does make things easier if you play with a dispel-capable class, making healer + DPS seem more attractive than DPS + DPS. Yet I can't help but think that Paladins will be getting the most out of this change, with their lack of an "Abolish"-type dispel.
Blizzard is happy with Rogues as a whole, so don't expect a drastic or sweeping change for us any time soon. A few bug fixes and a little bit of a PvE boon are all that we have to look forward to, which is way better than a slew of nerfs and the death of our class. Death Knights, enjoy your time in the spotlight. We will be ready to strike from the shadows when the time is right. Rogues will claim your spot in the SK-100 by spilling the blood of your people, Arthas' former minions, until the arena floor is a coagulating mud pit littered with your corpses.