The world has an obsession with celebrity. A person can be famous simply for being famous. We want to wear what they wear, we want to drive what they drive, and we want to have what they have. The endorsement of a celebrity is all that it takes to instill confidence and to engender trust. Celebrities have become the perfect image that we shape our lives after. Every culture has its model members that create the standard by which the others are judged.
Rogues are running out of celebrities. While the old joke about how "the best rogues are the unknown ones" is clever, it's not accurate. Every class needs avatars to represent it on the global scale. Every class needs intelligent theorycrafters to curate class knowledge and flashy all-stars to exploit that knowledge. Rogues used to have heroes that we could stand behind, but their count is fading fast. Can you name the best rogue in the world right now, in either PvP or PvE? Can you even name anyone in the top 10? I couldn't either.
A hero is a beacon
The single most important thing that a class celebrity brings to the table is the ability to bring in new players to the class. There are thousands of players who rolled rogues after watching Mute and Grim crush their opponents without mercy, and thousands more who were guided in their infancy by Vul'jin and Aldriana's words of wisdom. The purpose of a famous rogue is to show the uninitiated what can be done with the best class in the game.
Without any exemplary rogues to show off our capabilities, new players won't have a reason to gravitate toward our class. I know that it seems counterintuitive, but we actually need for rogues to be flashier. We need to get noticed. We need for players new and old alike to watch in awe as we drop a Shadowstep Ambush on our unsuspecting prey. We need for people to see us sitting atop the World of Logs charts, wondering how we can attain such heights.
The death of WoW as an e-sport
Many years ago, arena PvP in World of Warcraft was a booming e-sport. The biggest names in gaming were crafting teams and perfecting rosters in the hope of making it big. Blizzard infused thousands of dollars in prizes into the community to foster competition and outside attention. PvE concerns took a back seat to arena balance, and there was nothing more prestigious than flying around on a gladiator's nether drake. Rogues like Neilyo and Reckful were representing our class at the highest echelons of play.
Those days are over.
The arena system has fallen into irrelevancy. There are still plenty of players fighting each other for blood and honor, but it's no longer the pinnacle of achievement in WoW. Major tournaments like the MLG have stopped sponsoring WoW arena matches entirely, and there is little or no media coverage of amazing teams or individual players. The only people who still care about the WoW arena are members of the arena community itself.
Without the global arena platform to put the classes under a microscope, rogues don't have a venue to show off their PvP prowess. Nobody seems to care about open world PvP or battlegrounds anymore. There can't be any rogue PvP heroes if nobody considers PvP to be heroic. Reckful started playing WoW again a few months ago, but nobody cares. Competitive PvP is now simply another minigame within WoW, and its legends are now simply mortals. With the disappearance of this platform, rogues have lost a major recruiting tool.
Raiding isn't prestigious
Outside of a minor percentage of the community, players don't care about the world's top raiding guilds. When bosses are downed in days and not weeks, the suspense of the race to world first is barely present. The era of guilds working furiously around the clock for weeks on end with the world watching are over. Whatever guild is on the first set of servers that come online are nearly guaranteed to pick up the first kill.
Because raiding is a team sport, you can't simply pick a rogue from the world's top guilds and assume that they're the best at what they do. At the same time, you can't use World of Logs as the metric for rating PvE rogues, as most of the top parses are either heavily doctored or purposefully slanted. There's no way to objectively rate the quality of PvE rogues, which makes it impossible to distinguish and appreciate the rogues that are the best at what they do.
Even then, so what if we've found the objectively best raiding rogue around? What does that give us? If they're not streaming their encounters or posting PoV videos or writing about their experiences, how does knowing the name of a top rogue help at all? If there are top rogues out there, they are certainly not doing a good job of making their presence known or sharing their experience with the community.
The theorycrafting torch is passed again
Rogue theorycrafting has always been a point of pride in the community. From the days of Vula'jin's spreadsheets to Aldriana's amazing Shadowcraft, we've been blessed with a number of talented players that have broken down the class into pieces that we can all understand. Their work has illuminated our paths for years.
Unfortunately, it looks like the torch is about to be passed again. Aldriana has intimated that he will likely not be playing in Mists of Pandaria. He is another rogue in the long line of theorycrafters that has given up his daggers for greener pastures. With his departure, we are losing years of experience and knowledge. While there are already other rogues stepping up to assist with maintaining Shadowcraft, there's no doubt that this will leave a hole in the community.
Outside of the Elitist Jerks theorycrafting stronghold, things look even worse. Over the past year, I've seen the death of every independent rogue blogger of any notoriety. Top rogues aren't writing about their experiences or their thoughts on the class' design, and the number of high-end rogues speaking publicly has been in decline. Previously booming sites like roguespot and rogue-rogue have fallen into complete disrepair. Finding a rogue blog that's been updated in the past year is more difficult than it should be. We have fewer rogues representing the class than ever before.
I'm not saying that rogue class is dead, and I know that other classes are having some of the same problems. My concern is that rogues are still one of the classes with the lowest representation, and that's slated to dip even further with the introduction of the monk in Mists. Without role models to look up to and class advocates to advertise the class, how will the rogue population look next year? Will heroes rise up and represent the positive aspects of our class?
Sneak in every Wednesday for our Mists of Pandaria 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.