With patch 4.0.1 in our rearview mirror, we've had over a week to fix our addons and get our houses in order. I've already had a few decent raid DPS parses forwarded to me by subtlety rogues, who are finally able to actually do reasonable DPS. Traditionally, there has always been a few "bad" specs in WoW, but subtlety was so bad that it was tier below the other bad specs. Its arrival has brought back several of my old friends from retirement, who were looking forward to the frenetic rotation of finishers.
Assassination rogues have been enjoying the synergy between Vendetta and cooldown like Bloodlust, and their relative DPS is still decent. The addition of Rupture as a finisher and Backstab as an alternate generator has their rotation shaken up a bit, but still easily manageable. I actually found the Mutilate-centric build to be pretty fun to play after the patch, and I'll be using it to raid with for the immediate future. However, it wasn't assassination's playstyle that caused me to promote it to my main spec, but rather combat's current weakness that drove me to enchant my daggers with Mongoose.
Main Gauche: game's worst mechanic?
First, note that I'm not talking about the level 29 white dagger, even though they share a name and an icon. I'm actually referencing the combat tree's current mastery bonus, which allows our main hand attacks to generate extra off-hand attacks for us. Let's be honest, extra attacks are always going to increase our damage. So where's the beef? The issue is that we had to pay such a treasonous cost for such a pitiful bonus, and that fact has left our viability ravaged and destitute.
Main Gauche doesn't play well with others
I have so many gripes about Main Gauche that it's actually hard for me to find a place to start. Let's begin by talking about the fact that the entire mechanic works in complete opposition to every other rogue mechanic in the game. MG favors a quick main-hand weapon, while our instant attacks, poisons and special abilities all clearly benefit from a slower main-hand weapon. The same is true for our off-hand weapon slot, where MG wants a slow weapon, even though Deadly Poison and Combat Potency literally require a quick weapon to be used. Mutilate rogues don't have to worry about the handedness of their weapons, but slow/fast has been a staple of the combat for as long as the spec has existed.
In an expansion that's supposed to be simplifying mechanics for new users, introducing bonuses that are literally in opposition with each other makes no sense. I've already had several emails from rogues asking if swapping to fast/slow is what the future looks like. Before, I could've told them to simply look at their talents and see what they could figure out. Now, they can actually cite one of the tree's defining attributes as the source of their doubt. Main Gauche is literally anti-synergistic.
Hack and Slash had it right
By allowing an off-hand attack to proc an extra main-hand attack, you're leveraging the strengths of both weapon types. In the old days, the majority of our Hack and Slash attacks came from our off-hand weapon, since it would hit so quickly. That granted us extra main-hand attacks, which were incredibly potent due to the higher damage of our main-hand attack. Also note that main-hand attacks aren't affected by the off-hand weapon penalty, further promoting the model of off-hand procs for main-hand attacks to the forefront. It was a beautifully simple mechanic, and it also synergized with every other mechanic of the combat rogue. The fact that our main-hand attacks could also proc extra main-hand attacks was simply icing on the cake.
Now, some of you might say that Main Gauche's ability to proc Combat Potency gives it a leg up on the competition. The truth is that combat rogues really don't need the energy regeneration. We've already got Vitality bolstering our regeneration, our normal off-hand Combat Potency procs, and Adrenaline Rush to give us a boost of energy when needed. All of this doesn't even include the fact that our energy regeneration now scales with haste, giving us enough energy to do just about anything we'd like to. We're already approaching the energy cap during Adrenaline Rush phases, and Killing Spree can cause problems if you use it at the wrong time. We traded massive amounts of damage for excess energy.
All of these issues have put the mastery stat squarely at the bottom of our stat priority list for combat. While mastery isn't particularly amazing for assassination, it's at least as good as hit rating and probably better than critical strike rating. For combat, mastery is literally so bad that you're probably better off reforging to expertise for the few times that you attack mobs from the front. While that's not a serious statement, it gives you an idea on how poorly Main Gauche works with combat's natural synergy and flow.
RIP armor penetration
If we take a look at the new simplified stat system of patch 4.0.1, we really only have five secondary stats available to us. Hit and expertise rating are both amazingly powerful, but both have abrupt and easily-reachable caps. Once we're capped on those two, we're left with the trio of crit, haste and mastery rating. With Prey on the Weak gone, critical strike rating is weak for the combat spec. We've already talked about how awful mastery is, making it easily the worst option available. Finally, haste rating is actually decent, but it's not like we have an option anyway. If our gear already has haste on it, which any non-expertise and non-hit piece will, we can't reforge to it.
Combat used to have a second powerful stat, armor penetration, that allowed us to scale competitively in Icecrown Citadel and beyond. Even then, critical strike rating was more powerful than it is today. However, we're currently left with a completely broken mastery bonus and just a single valuable secondary stat that's already on all of our gear. These scaling problems aren't going to be fixed quickly or easily, and I don't see combat DPS recovering without an overhaul to Main Gauche or some stealth buffs (no pun intended). The worst fact is that these aren't problems that will be fixed by Cataclysm or level 85. Bad scaling is bad scaling, and unless mastery or crit suddenly becomes valuable, we're going to be stuck in the same loop.
Check back every Wednesday for the latest strategies in Encrypted Text! If you're looking for information on the changes in patch 4.0.1, check out the rotation guide and list of new rogue glyphs that are available. You can also read the 4.0.1 rogue summary for information on how the patch affects rogues on a big-picture basis.