I remember where I was at when I read the 3.0.9 patch notes when they were forwarded our way on the WoW Insider tip line. I was in line at the grocery store, picking up a gallon of milk and some sausage to make biscuits and gravy. Reading the tiny print on my iPhone, I scrolled down to the Brittle Yellow class text that triggers an instant reaction from any fellow assassin: Rogue changes.
Just four tiny lines, yet our entry doubled that of nearly every other class. These short, simple sentences would set the blogging community and the Official Rogue (and General, and Damage Dealing, and Paladin...) Forums ablaze in riot. How could we keep believing in Blizzard? My first thought upon reading the now infamous Assassination nerf: "They're nerfing Mutilate by HOW much?"
Let's take a step back for a moment. Trying to isolate a single change and crucify Ghostcrawler for something that was taken out of context is not going to be an effective negotiating strategy. Taking the patch notes as a whole will give us a better picture of what's really happening:
- Mind Numbing Poison now reduces cast time by 30%, down from 60%.
- Hunger for Blood (Assassination): Now increases damage 5% per stack, (up from 3%).
- Slice and Dice: This ability now increases melee attack speed by 40%, up from 30%.
The Hunger for Blood and Slice and Dice changes on the other hand are directly intended to buff Assassination's PvE damage to be competitive with HaT builds in crit stacked parties. While every spec benefits from the Slice and Dice change, it will end up being a larger buff for Assassination. It appears that Blizzard is waiting until 3.1 to give Combat Rogues the royal treatment, and so most Rogues will be floating to the far left or right talent trees until Ulduar hits.
- Mutilate damage will now do 20% increased damage against poisoned targets, down from 50%.
Finally, the real reason that Acherus is crowded with Death Knights named "Iusedtostab" and "Whereisthestealthbutton". Many Rogues will mistake this for a 30% damage nerf to Mutilate: it's actually a 20% nerf. Mutilate previously did 150% damage against poisoned targets, and now does 120% damage. The removal of 30% from the bonus damage only nerfs the overall damage by 20%. So what does this translate into for you? I spent a few minutes before and after the patch beating up on the level 80 target dummies and checking how my Mutilate damage changed; I recorded the top hits from each category. Here's the data:
Without Poison: 1200 (no crits), 2000 (single crit), 2900 (double crit)
Target Poisoned: 1800 (no crits), 3000 (single crit), 4700 (double crit)
Without Poison: 1200 (no crits), 2000 (single crit), 3000 (double crit)
Target Poisoned: 1500 (no crits), 2500 (single crit), 3600 (double crit)
These numbers are exactly where we would expect them to be, with the unpoisoned values not varying and the poisoned values dropping by around 20-25% in my rough testing. This translates to a 4-5% nerf to a Mutilate Rogue's damage. Judging from hundreds of WoWWebStats reports, the Mutilate ability only accounts for 20-25% of our overall damage in a raid, meaning that the nerf is not nearly as severe as one would expect.
Why PvE Rogues are rejoicing:
The change to Slice and Dice on the other hand is a huge buff. With white damage making up 30% damage and Instant Poison providing another 15%, we should see another 4-5% increase in damage from this change alone. This doesn't even take into consideration the increase in Deadly Poison applications, the increased burst during the Envenom proc, and the increase in energy from Focused Attacks. This change simply forces us deeper and deeper into the hole that is end-game quick weapons. If Sinister Revenge was a competitive Mutilate dagger before, it is on its way out. Get your hands on a Webbed Death, quickly.
Factoring in the 6% damage buff to Hunger for Blood, Mutilate Rogues should be seeing a 5-10% increase in their PvE damage. HaT Rogues should be seeing steadier damage during low Combo Point generation cycles, and this will help to improve the "my party members died and now I'm doing triple-digit DPS" effect.
With Vigor and the Glyph of Vigor, a Rogue sits at 120 Energy (130 Energy with the 4 piece PvP set bonus). Overkill lets us spend 10 less energy on all opening attacks and following moves for 6 seconds. Combined with Dirty Deeds, our Cheap Shot only costs 30 energy. Sitting at 90 energy with a stunned target and Mutilate only costing 50 energy, Rogues can unload brutal amounts of front-load damage into the enemy.
Assuming that the average PvP Rogue has 3000 AP and around 30% chance to crit, our chance to crit after resilience will be 20%, with a 20% reduction to the critical strike damage. With three potential Mutilates in a CS->KS combo, we can assume that two of those Mutilate will crit. Factor in Cold Blood, and we're looking at four crits in six attacks.
This puts our total opener burst at around 7,500-12,500 damage against a cloth class. It costs us our only purely offensive cooldown, Cold Blood, and leaves us with Kidney Shot on cooldown with 0 energy. This is only a bit more than half of a PvP-geared player's health. We're then incapable of any real damage for 6 seconds after this burst, and our opponents have ample time to react. Even with better PvE gear and dual Sinister Revenges, your maximum damage in an opening stunlock is never the sum of your opponent's HP. And this is assuming nearly 10 seconds of you blowing up your target without any interference from their partner.
Why the nerfs were necessary:
Players without PvP gear have been blamed for hitting us with this nerf, as no Mutilates have ever hit a serious PvPer for 8k damage. While they're completely unjustified to complain about the state of PvP without adequately preparing for it, it's not all their fault. After following threads like the Problem-solving Rogue Issues thread at Elitist Jerks, I realize that in order for the Rogue to become truly competitive in the PvE environment, we needed these changes.
Our mechanics simply didn't allow for Blizzard to buff us anywhere without having us completely destroy any other class we touched. By focusing on white damage instead of yellow, Blizzard will have a far easier time balancing us in Ulduar without making us the top class overnight. In order to bring us to a balanced state, Mutilate needed to be redesigned. Now they can safely increase its damage with a clearer knowledge of how powerful it will make us.
I am willing to trust Blizzard on this one. After surviving patches like 2.3.2 where the removal of Adrenaline Rush from Preparation was sure to spell the end of our PvP viability, they hit us with the buffs to Hemorrhage and Shadowstep. This paradigm shift was one of the most pronounced movements of the Rogue class, preceded only by the mass migration to Mutilate that came after patch 3.0 hit live servers.
We are resilient (no pun intended) and I truly believe that Rogues will be able to overcome the disadvantage that we have been put at until the other burst DPS classes are toned down. We may not top the SK-100 or the damage meters quite yet, but Blizzard has at least shown that they're aware of the fundamental building blocks of our class and that they'd rather build us up the right way than simply bandaid the issue. While this means more pain for us now, it will mean a fuller recovery for us once we are restored to our rightful place: 5% ahead of everyone else!