One of the most common complaints that I hear from the rogue community is that we don't provide enough useful buffs to make ourselves worth taking to a raid. The rumor was originally true; in fact, rogues had a bad reputation for actually knocking off important debuffs when there used to be a limit. I remember my raid leader using the CT_Raid addon to look for Phantom Blades and Gutgore Rippers, then kicking anyone wielding them. We were the simple rogues, brought to stab our enemies and soak up any leather gear that dropped.
Times have changed. Both of the popular PvE rogue specs now possess a critical raid debuff. Mutilate has the fairly common Master Poisoner critical strike chance debuff, which is brought by a few other DPS specs as well. Combat, however, has the fairly unique Savage Combat debuff, which we share with arms-specced warriors alone. Since arms warriors aren't exactly common in the high-end raiding game, we're essentially the only way to pick up that serious boost. Add in the fact that Tricks of the Trade is often glyphed to provide maximum uptime, and we've actually got one of the better buffs in the game as well. All of this doesn't even include our most beneficial raid ability by far.
Expose Armor is amazing
So just how good is Expose Armor? A quick look at one of my spreadsheet shows it sitting between a 6 and 7 percent damage buff for a combat rogue and a 4 to 5 percent buff for mutilate rogues. That's a pretty big increase in damage, but it doesn't just help us out. A combat rogue, the most physical of rogue PvE specs, still deals only 75 percent of his damage as physical damage. Warriors, on the other hand, deal entirely physical damage, and so Expose Armor benefits them even more than it does us. There are nine caster DPS specs in WoW, versus 14 physical DPS specs, which means that we're buffing a large percentage of the raid. Even tanks enjoy extra threat when a boss' armor is reduced.
Assuming that it provides a fairly consistent bonus for every physical class in a raid, we're boosting the raid's overall DPS by a few percent. Obviously, if you're in a raid and you don't have anyone who can provide the major armor reduction debuff, Expose Armor is a simple way to accomplish this goal. Mutilate rogues might have problems working it into their rotations now, as they're focused on maximizing their Envenom buff uptime. Combat rogues can simply replace most of the Eviscerates in their cycles with Expose Armor. Typically, you'll be able to weave in a few Eviscerates over the course of the fight via Adrenaline Rush and lucky Combat Potency procs.
Even greedy rogues should use EA
On a fairly standard 5-minute boss fight, I recently unloaded 15 Eviscerates. It would take me about 10 full Expose Armors to cover the major armor debuff for the entire fight. If I substitute in EA for 10 of those Eviscerates, I actually end up saving energy as well, since EA costs 25 energy versus Evisc's 35 energy. As you can see, keeping up EA is not difficult, and it buffs most of the raid's damage. On top of that, Eviscerate only made up about 6 percent of my overall damage on that encounter. Assuming I still manage to work in five Eviscerates while keeping up EA, I would only be dropping that number to 2 percent of my damage. I sacrifice 4 percent of my overall damage to gain between 6 and 7 percent damage for myself, and the massive damage increase for the rest of the raid. That's a pretty easy decision.
Mutilate may lose a bit more DPS now while keeping up EA, but in Cataclysm, they'll have it the easiest. With Improved Expose Armor and Relentless Strikes, keeping up EA literally costs them only a global cooldown. It won't cost any combo points, and all of the energy will be refunded. I wish they'd move EA up a tier in assassination so that combat and subtlety could pick it up as a filler. It would give us a lot of flexibility and make providing that raid debuff even easier. With subtlety providing the Mangle/bleed debuff via Hemorrhage in the beta, I am excited about all of the raid utility we're seeing in Cataclysm.
EA's effectiveness in Cataclysm
Both Sunder Armor and Expose Armor are being changed to only remove 12% of a target's armor in Cataclysm. In addition, we'll be seeing the removal of armor penetration from gear, so it still remains to be seen how strong the EA debuff will be in a raid at level 85. Right now, with ArP at its absolute peak of power, EA is one of the strongest raid debuffs we can ask for. I recommend trying to keep up EA in any raid environment that lacks a warrior to keep up Sunder Armor. It's not so hot in heroics, where mobs go down quickly. Trash in ICC is simply too plentiful to spend your time using EA. But if you're going against a boss who's still got all its armor on? Do your raid (and yourself) a favor and bind EA to something handy and get exposing!
Check back every Wednesday for the latest strategies in Encrypted Text! Get ready for Icecrown Citadel with our rogue guide, part 1, part 2 (Plagueworks), part 3 (Crimson Halls) and part 4 (Frostwing Halls). Just hit 80 and need information? Try Combat 101 or Mutilate 101.