Encrypted Text: We've been normalized

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Every week, WoW Insider brings you Encrypted Text for assassination, combat and subtlety rogues. Chase Christian will be your guide to the world of shadows every Wednesday. Feel free to email me with any questions or article suggestions you'd like to see covered here.

Rogues have a long history of exploiting weapon speeds for their own gain. The Barman Shanker was farmed by thousands of rogues, becoming a rite of passage in the early rogue community. While its model was unique, nobody farmed it for looks. The Shanker's unusual 2.0 attack speed dramatically improved the damage of our Ambushes and Backstabs, providing us with an amazing amount of burst damage potential.

The slow-is-best phenomenon was cropping up with the other classes as well, and it started to create balance issues. Blizzard countered by introducing a new mechanic, normalization. By adjusting the attack power formula, instant attacks no longer favored slower weapons as heavily as before. Thus began the first of many changes that have led us here to the obsolescence of weapon speeds entirely.

Bad news first

The developers have introduced a new note system to inform players of major changes to their class that occur between expansions. The new Mists of Pandaria note for rogues contains the following text:

Very fast daggers no longer exist. Any dagger should be fine to equip in either hand.

The devs removed fast non-dagger weapons like maces and swords quite some time ago. I rallied against the change then, specifically because it cut into our weapon diversity. In spite of that, there hasn't been a non-dagger weapon under 2.6 speed in years. Now, in Mists of Pandaria, daggers are suffering the same fate. With every dagger fixed at a 1.8 speed and every non-dagger fixed at a 2.6 speed, there's no more variation in our weapon speeds.

No easier to balance

The obvious upside for the developers is that with fixed weapon speeds, it becomes easier to balance rogue damage. I would buy that argument, except for the fact that rogue weapons were already essentially normalized long ago. While yes, there were 1.8- and 1.4-speed daggers in Cataclysm, the fact is that every rogue used a 1.4-speed dagger in their off hand and a slower weapon in their main hand. Rogues have always used the quickest OH available, due to several mechanics at play.

It's about choice

The real issue with fixing weapon speeds is that it removes any question of what weapons a rogue should use. Back in Wrath, rogues had to evaluate each class mechanic to figure out which weapons were the best available. In Naxxramas, a combo of two quick Webbed Deaths was every rogue's dream. Soon, there won't be any point to the evaluation. It doesn't matter if quick daggers suddenly became better for our main hand or if a slow dagger worked in our OH, because the choice has been removed.

Once there's only one speed for daggers, it's likely that the itemization team will create half as many daggers per tier. There's no reason to create two daggers if rogues can simply use two identical daggers instead, since weapon speed was the major differentiator before. Dagger art has always been identical in the same tier, and it will help alleviate the raid boss loot tables. Since daggers are only used by one class, why not do everything you can to minimize the amount of work spent on them?

The silver lining

There's one good thing that could come from the complete normalization of rogue weapons: Combat rogues might move to a double-slow standard. By removing 1.4-speed daggers, the gap between the slowest 2.6-speed weapons and the fastest 1.8-speed daggers is much smaller. With some clever balancing, the developers could have combat rogues sporting two swords or two maces in Mists. Even better would be to make daggers and non-daggers viable combat off-hand choices at the same time.

The current pairing system of one non-dagger and one dagger for combat rogues simply doesn't make aesthetic sense. Do you remember how awesome dual fist weapons were to wield? I still wax nostalgic for the time when I had an axe in each hand, lumberjack style. I was worried that Blizzard might actually lean toward forcing all rogue specs into dagger-only builds, but it looks like that isn't the case.

In Mists, Combat Potency has already been retooled to scale with weapon speed, which directly benefits slower weapons. In Mists, there will only be two weapon speeds available to rogues: 1.8 and 2.6. If you put these two facts together, it's clear that steps are being taken to enable combat rogues to use dual non-dagger weapons.

While we won't know the final verdict until Mists is closer to launch, I am intrigued to see if the developers actually follow through and make dual non-dagger builds a reality. I've got plenty of axe and mace transmog fodder in my bank that I've been dying to use.

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.

This article was originally published on WoW Insider.