For rogues, enemies come in one of three group sizes: a single enemy, two enemies at once, or several enemies at once. Subtlety rogues love to focus on a single opponent, combat rogues absolutely soar when destroying two targets, and assassination rogues are the kings of sustained damage on multiple targets. Combat's AoE damage to a group is pitiful, while subtlety rogues start falling behind the instant there's more than one target on the field.
The balance of rogue AoE today is determined by two abilities: Blade Flurry and Fan of Knives. These are currently our only two multi-target abilities, and so each spec's AoE potential revolves around these two moves. Mists of Pandaria is changing everything we know about rogue AoE by introducing a brand new AoE finisher, Crimson Tempest. In addition, the AoE hierarchy is also being shaken up via the revamping of Fan of Knives. The days of mindless FoK spam are over.
Everybody will love FoK
The first issue with Fan of Knives today is that it completely halts our rotations. We have to burn all of our energy by spamming Fan of Knives to deal reasonable AoE damage. While that's going on, our Rupture is falling off and we're struggling to keep Slice and Dice active. There's a beautiful synergy between Fan of Knives and Envenom that we rarely get to experience due to FoK's massive drain on our energy pool.
The second issue is that Fan of Knives just doesn't work for combat or subtlety. Due to the synergy between Improved Poisons, Deadly Brew, and Vile Poisons, assassination rogues can deal some serious damage with Fan of Knives, especially in sustained AoE environments. Unless a combat or subtlety rogue is surrounded with several enemies, Fan of Knives just doesn't pay off.
FoK generates combo points
Fan of Knives is also learning a new trick, as it will generate a combo point if it strikes our current target. As long as we're in FoK range of our target, we get a free combo point every time we use it. Generating a CP for just 35 energy is a steal, and more importantly, it ensures that our rotation doesn't die the moment we start spamming FoK. Now we can keep up our important debuffs like Rupture while still dealing AoE damage.
Crimson Tempest allows for an AoE rotation
While allowing rogues to keep their normal rotations rolling via FoK is a great idea, the addition of Crimson Tempest is an even better idea. Our first AoE finisher allows us to instantly attack all nearby enemies while also applying a bleed. Crimson Tempest looks visually like Fan of Knives, except that we spray out blood everywhere as we spin. More importantly, Crimson Tempest counts as a regular attack, so it can proc our active poisons. With an AoE combo point generator and an AoE finisher, we actually have ourselves a true AoE rotation. We're no longer the arcane mages of AoE!
The key to the new AoE rotation design is that it subtly balances the AoE damage of each spec. Assassination rogues will deal additional AoE damage via their Improved Poisons talent along with their poison-boosting mastery, Potent Poisons. Their Fan of Knives will still be awesome.
Subtlety rogues' AoE damage will thrive as Crimson Tempest activates Sanguinary Vein on all nearby mobs, increasing their AoE damage by 20%. Subtlety rogues will focus on applying Crimson Tempest as soon as possible to maximize their damage. Honor Among Thieves will also generate extra combo points to support additional Crimson Tempests, further increasing subtlety's AoE damage.
Vitality and Blade Flurry will ensure that combat rogues stay competitive in the AoE race as well. While Blade Flurry will be weaker in Mists of Pandaria since its glyph will no longer halve the energy reduction effect, it's still very potent. Combat rogues will obviously still hold the dual-target crown, but by a smaller margin.
There's no room for single-role specs
The developers have dedicated themselves to ensuring that all 34 specs in Mists are viable. In order to accomplish this goal, every spec needs to be relatively competent in each aspect of their role. If subtlety is to truly be viable, it needs to be capable of both superb single-target damage while not lacking in the AoE department. Each of the three rogue specs needs to be able to make a valuable contribution to the raid's single-target and AoE damage. Rogues need to be an asset in every encounter and never a liability.
Sneak in every Wednesday for our Molten Front ganking guide, a deep-dive into the world of playing a subtlety rogue -- and of course, all the basics in our guide to the latest rogue gear.