If you have been anywhere near a WoW forum or news source in the past week, you'll certainly have heard of the largest rogue nerf seen in WotLK. Hotfixed into the game on the 8th, this nerf hit both Assassination and Combat, though Mutilate was hit far worse. I've seen rogue pundits claim that the sky is falling, and death knight forum posters shouting that the nerf was well deserved. To put it in the words of a forum poster now quoted in Ghostcrawler's signature: "blizzards solution was F) destroy the sun."
A full 5% nerf to Hunger for Blood is pretty simple to model: it's a 5% nerf to Mutilate's DPS. Ghostcrawler has been exalting the idea of a simple talent/mechanic that allows Blizzard to tweak a class' DPS with minimal backlash or unexpected consequences, and it seems HfB is truly the precursor of what's to come with the Mastery system. The second nerf was also calculated, it struck Combat and Mutilate both, via a poison scaling coefficient that's invisible to players. While it only amounts to a 2-3% nerf for both specs, it's enough to convince many players to abandon their thieves and assassins. Here's the secret: post-nerf, rogues are still way on top.
Let's talk about min/maxing for a minute. The goal of the min/maxing enterprise is to minimize unwanted variables and maximizing those things that are the most beneficial, to be the best at whatever cost. Once you're doing your best, you're finished min/maxing. If you take a look at the graph opening this article (complied with some great data from Darkside), you'll see that Mutilate rogues were literally 12% ahead of their nearest competitor on the most DPS-friendly encounter, and that competitor was the OTHER rogue spec. Combat even had a convincing lead over number 3! The fact is that rogues, when played to their utmost capability, were destroying every other class that they went up against.
While this is "how it should be" and no class should rival the only pure melee DPS class in a pure melee DPS fight, the fact is that there's no reason to rub it in their faces. Mutilate was literally producing numbers 50% higher than some of the lower-tier raiding classes. Even after these nerfs, Mutilate and Combat will still share their station at the top of the DPS food chain. Think about that: after the largest nerf we've received in over a year, we're still #1. Having a class doing 20% more damage than any competition breaks encounters that have very specific DPS requirements and can force a raid leader to stack rogues.
Being #1 is all that matters
If the #2 DPS class was doing 9,999 DPS on a given encounter, I would be more than satisfied to do 10,000 DPS on the same fight. Our goal should not be to make other classes obsolete, but to prevent our own extinction by clawing our way to the top. To quote the great Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious: "It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning's winning." That's the mentality every rogue should have when reacting to these nerfs. We're still on top, the bar has simply been lowered a bit.
Imagine if all DPS was cut by 50% across the board. 5k DPS would be seen only by finely-tuned players in top-end raid environments on a favorable fight. Would it make rogues any less powerful if we were at the top of the 5k+ pile instead of the 10k+ pile? It makes no difference what our DPS is, as long as we're doing the most of it. Put simply, it's easier for Blizzard to balance an encounter when DPS values are closer to the same value, with as few outliers as possible. That's what we all want in the end: balanced encounters that push us to the edge. If the solution to a DPS check becomes "bring 10 rogues", just imagine how much loot competition we'd have.
There's been talk around of new specs eschewing Hunger for Blood, trying to break from the yoke of 51 points in Assassination and picking up other talents to replace it. Unfortunately, there's no other talent for us that yields 8% DPS for a single point and glyph, so you're stuck with HfB for now. It's not a bad talent, it's actually quite amazing compared to any other talent besides its old self. Blizzard realized Mutilate was in a bad place and gave us HfB, and it fixed all of the problems with the spec by throwing static damage at it. After the poison proc normalization, Deadly Poison redesign and previous coefficient buff, and Murder buffs, Blizzard repaired Assassination from the broken shell we saw in TBC to a fully-functional build. This nerf is simply GC and the team removing the training wheels from Mutilate rogues, with an assurance that we're steady enough to ride on our own now.
So we ride. We ride as we top Recount/Skada records and World of Logs parses everywhere. We ride as we progress through content with our friends and guilds. We ride as a we take advantage of every opportunity the game has to offer, knowing we are fully capable of doing everything we've ever wanted to do without some silly prop talent holding us up. Weaning Assassination off of HfB is the first step to replacing it with something awesome, and so any nerf that pushes us towards that goal will be welcomed with open arms.