A wild ride, indeed. Ghostcrawler, the lead systems designer for WoW, let us know in advance that we'd be seeing a deluge of new information about the plan for each class in Cataclysm. While much is still unknown, a large number of changes pertaining to rogues have been drawn out of the beta data. While the entire scope of Blizzard's plan for rogues remains to be seen, we've definitely gained some insight into the future of the class.
What's interesting is how they've arranged the talent trees, particularly when it comes to the passive bonuses that a particular talent spec will receive for choosing to focus on that specialization. Blizzard did some tweaking to each of our most potent abilities to make them fit this model, as well as completely killing many theorized hybrid specs. You're essentially stuck with whatever abilities your spec possesses, and you can only pick up non-ability talents from the other trees. Due to this rebalancing of the talent trees, our signature moves from each tree have also seen an overhaul.
A deadly master of poisons who dispatches victims with vicious dagger strikes. Just a disclaimer before we get started: the patch notes already stated that assassination rogues still have a way to go before they're ready for prime time, so there's relatively little information about the changes headed their way. We know right away that we'll be picking up Mutilate immediately upon choosing the assassination tree at level 10, meaning that we'll be using daggers -only from a very early point in our development. I assume that means that poisons will be introduced at a lower level as well, if the damage bonus against poisoned targets sticks around. The second mastery bonus for the tree is the old Improved Poisons talent, so it's clear that the spec description is entirely accurate.
There's one talent in particular that I'm excited about, and that's Quickening. It's basically a mix of Quick Recovery and Fleet Footed, which is pretty great since I've always wanted to be able to pick up both. Kudos to Blizzard for designing a simple utility talent that gives us some separation from the other rogue specs. We'll also be picking up Assassin's Resolve, which appears to be a mix of Hunger for Blood and glyphed Vigor. An extra 20 energy at all times and a damage bonus that ensures that daggers will stay in our hands firmly cements the tree as a dagger-wielding spec. Blizzard obviously doesn't want to lock anyone into a particular type of weapon, but a 20% damage loss accomplishes the job for them without the need for force.
A swashbuckler who uses agility and guile to stand toe to toe with enemies. Combat definitely saw some love from the developers in the most recent beta build. Our passive spec abilities are Dual Wield Specialization, Blade Flurry and Vitality. DW spec will keep combat focusing on physical damage over poisons, while Vitality will give us more rotation possibilities due to the extra energy income.
Blade Flurry saw the brunt of the changes, with some pretty significant modifications. It used to be a single-target DPS increase via the 20% haste bonus, and then allowed us to cleave nearby targets to boot. Now, it actually lowers our energy regeneration by 20% while active, reducing our single-target damage but still maintaining the cleave effect. The plus side is that they quartered the cooldown to a mere 30 seconds. That means we can keep Blade Flurry up for 50% of a fight's duration, which is simply amazing on any multi-target fight. Combat has truly become the cleave build for rogues, with massive multi-target potential. If mutilate's reliance on the Deadly Poison stack continues, combat will truly be unrivaled when it comes to target swaps.
However, if you were worried that the loss of Blade Flurry's haste boost was going to cost combat rogues a ton of damage, have no fear. Adrenaline Rush picked up the bonus that Blade Flurry lost and will now grant an extra 20% haste while active. This buff to Adrenaline Rush simply strengthens the potency of the rogue cooldown set, meaning that our burst and explosivity are as strong as ever. Restless Blades, that talent that reduces the cooldowns of our cooldowns (that was confusing to write) is still present and actually buffed by 33%, so combat is still going to be the CD spec of choice. Plus, with the current talent trees, we can even pick up Quickening in a combat build.
Finally, it looks like combat is receiving some interesting abilities to help give a bit of spice to our rotations. The first is Revealing Strike, which looks like a Sinister Strike clone that grants our next finisher a 20% boost in effectiveness. It's a bit weaker than a proper Sinister Strike, so I imagine that we'd be using some sort of 4 SS > 1 RS > finisher rotation to maximize the effect of said finisher. Aldriana over at Elitist Jerks brought up some good questions about RS, like whether or not it will affect Slice and Dice or Envenom. I think it's designed to be a pure damage boost, as it's a target debuff and not a rogue buff. In addition, it looks like our SS and RS abilities will cause our targets to take up to 15% extra damage, via Bandit's Guile, for some period of time, which would be adding some ramp up to our DPS -- or perhaps it will be a pseudo-proc that simply gives us extra damage while active. We'll have to see what the final implementation looks like.
A dark stalker who leaps from the shadows to ambush his or her unsuspecting prey. Well, that's all I really have for subtlety. We know that Shadowstep will be the signature technique of the tree and that Preparation is now outside the reach of any other talent spec. It does look like it will favor heavy agility gear due to Sinister Calling's being one of the masteries, so it's possible that subtlety gear sets will differ from combat and mutilate in the future.
Tweaks and balancing
We have a ton of new data to review, and I'm looking forward to hearing any of your stories from the beta. I am hoping that combat will finally see a more engaging rotation via the new Revealing Strike technique, and that mutilate will be able to pick up some of those juicy utility talents that we've always wanted to grab but couldn't. More than any of that, I wish that they'd figure out a way to balance subtlety and have it be enjoyable to play, even if that means scrapping Honor Among Thieves for good.
Are you a rogue looking to up your game? Check back every Wednesday for the latest strategies in Encrypted Text! Get ready for Icecrown Citadel with our guide for rogues, part 1 and part 2 (Plagueworks), part 3 (Crimson Halls) and part 4 (Frostwing Halls). Just hit 80 and need information? Check out our rogue lessons: Combat 101 or Mutilate 101 for all you need to know to get started.