During the lull between WoW expansions, I've been trying out a few action real-time strategy games like League of Legends and Dota 2. One of the things I've been learning about A-RTS games is that there are several different roles that the characters can fill. While WoW typically revolves around the tank/healer/DPS trinity, these PvP-only games have much more diversity.
For example, there's the nuker role, which focuses on quick bursts of damage, and the disabler role, which focuses on controlling enemies to set up a kill. If you look between the lines, some of these roles are present in WoW PvP as well. Rogues have been relied upon to provide the stuns and snares to control targets, as well as to provide the burst needed to eliminate our enemies. We've worn a lot of hats over the past few years, and we've found ways to excel in each niche.
The stunlock days
Back in the era of vanilla WoW, rogues had it all. We could melt our targets with just a few blows, while simultaneously keeping them completely locked down via our stuns and incapacitation effects. In a world without diminishing returns on stuns and PvP trinkets that only worked on certain abilities, rogues were unstoppable. As demonstrated by the World of Roguecraft videos, even a completely ungeared rogue could dominate quality opponents.
Burst the healer
During The Burning Crusade, PvP shifted away from the open world and the Battlegrounds and into the Arena. While Blizzard's attempt to turn WoW into an e-sport ultimately fizzled out, the experiment was fun while it lasted. Rogues had the opportunity to show their stuff in the Arena, under the watchful eyes of millions of spectators.
The rogue role in high-end Arenas was to provide the burst and control necessary to eliminate an important target. I spent many nights chasing resto druids around pillars, waiting for my opportunity to land a killing blow. Even from the infant days of the now-infamous rogue/mage/priest Arena composition, the ability to apply enough burst damage to take down a target was the key. Once the legendary Warglaives of Azzinoth entered the picture, rogues had all the damage they needed to pick off any healer they could get their hands on. The first person to get caught without their PvP trinket available was toast.
Learning to control
With the introduction of Wrath of the Lich King, plate classes began taking over the PvP scene. Death knights and paladins had the burst damage and survivability to handle anything we threw at them. In order to survive, rogues had to shift from their role as death dealers. By utilizing all of our various crowd-control effects, rogues were able to make the transition into a control-based position that uses finesse rather than brute force.
I'm not saying that rogues aren't capable of killing targets today. A properly played rogue can still assassinate plenty of targets. However, the day of beating someone with a few quick blows or keeping someone permanently stunned are long gone. We've still got the stuns, snares, and incapacitation effects that allow us to contribute positively to our team.
I had a very difficult time dealing with the fact that I simply can't open on just anyone and expect to win. I still reflexively engage in fights that aren't advantageous for me all the time because I'm used to being able to turn the tide in any encounter. Now, I don't win very many encounters when facing a tank-style class, and even a well-played healer can give me a lot of trouble. What good is a rogue that can't kill anyone and everyone?
What I learned is that rogues are simply more specialized now, and that comes with a cost. Rather than being the nuker responsible for applying tons of burst damage on command, we're moving into the disabler role. We're focusing on setting up opportunities for our teammates to land a killing blow. If I can provide some extra damage while doing my primary job, that's great. I have to value my team's success above my own.
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