In the original WoW beta, rogues were designed to be off tanks. Complete with a high dodge coefficient from agility and a buckler, rogues could survive quite a beating. Evasion was a tanking cooldown, and Vanish was a useful tank-swapping ability. Hunters worked similarly, also sporting bucklers and using Feign Death to lose aggro. Obviously, the developers scrapped both of these ideas before launch.
During The Burning Crusade, Gaeowyn broke the combat table by achieving unhittable status with 102.63% avoidance and using it to successfully slay Illidan. After that, the crew slew Gruul with just five people while it was still relevant content. In Wrath, Jider abused Shadowstep and our amazing damage output to solo several Naxxramas bosses. The upcoming Mists expansion looks to again revitalize rogue tanking, with the advent of the druid ability Symbiosis and our bonus ability, Growl.
Growl for every rogue
When a druid chooses to use Symbiosis, both the target and the casting druid receive a new ability. While other classes' abilities vary based on their spec, what rogues get is simple. If a druid casts Symbiosis on you, you'll get Growl, regardless of what spec you are. To be honest, I really didn't expect each rogue spec to receive a different ability. We're perfect killing machines, and we definitely don't need a druid's help to do our job properly.
Growl isn't about helping us kill our target; it's about preventing the target from killing our friends. We've always been able to use Evasion or Vanish to get out of a tight situation, but that doesn't stop the giant dragon from chewing on our healers. Nearly every raid encounter is focused on the idea of a tank handling some difficult enemy while everyone else stabs it.
Unfortunately, tanks occasionally die when doing their duties. Every other melee class has a way to taunt the boss to distract it while someone uses a battle resurrection on the tank. All of the plate classes have been tanks for years; monks and feral druids have regular taunts, too, and even enhancement shaman can unleash their Rockbiter Weapon to get aggro. Rogues have never had the option to taunt the boss to save the raid.
It makes sense for rogues to receive a tank-style ability, since we are the only pure melee DPS class in the game. All of the other melee classes have a tanking tree and abilities that they can lean on in times of need, while we've only had damage to offer.
Growl makes us decent off tanks
With a 3-minute cooldown and a 30-second duration, it's clear that rogues won't be taking over main tanking duties any time soon. On most encounters, Growl is actually worthless if everything goes as planned. Don't expect to see Symbiosis very often, as it doesn't do anything for our damage.
What it does do is enable rogues to handle tanking duties for up to 30 seconds, and nothing more. The extra armor, stamina, and crit chance reduction ensures that we'll be able to survive whatever is thrown at us. Our high dodge rate also gives us a ton of passive damage reduction. Evasion and Feint can also provide additional damage reduction if necessary. Rogues will be more than capable of tanking a single target while waiting for a proper tank to take over.
Rogues don't generate threat
The big issue with Growl will be keeping aggro. Rogues don't generate much threat, and even though the Growl sets our threat value to 110% of the boss' current target's threat, we can easily be outpaced. I think the design of Growl is that rogue tanks are only to be used in a real pinch, where you can simply ask the DPS to back off for a moment. We might also be tasked with keeping control of an add while the raid deals with a different opponent, letting a real tank take over later.
In order to be a tank, you need a minimum of three things: a taunt, high survivability, and high threat. Growl only gives us two out of those three now, but it's conceivable that we could see a bonus threat modifier on its tooltip in a future beta patch.
Growl will rule in PvP
I think Growl will be very valuable in PvP. It can turn us into nearly unstoppable killing machines, as we'd be dealing our normal damage while shrugging off blows like a bear druid does. With Growl's 30-second duration and paired with Combat Readiness, it will be very difficult to kill a Symbiosis-infused rogue. I've always loved playing with druids in Arenas and Battlegrounds, as our mutual Stealth abilities synergize really well. Symbiosis looks to further strengthen that relationship by allowing both the rogue and the druid to mitigate incoming damage when necessary.
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.