Rogue rotations haven't changed significantly since Cataclysm. Each of our three specs has a new element or two added to the mix, like Blindside and the revamped Revealing Strike. The combo points and energy systems keep on ticking, enabling our familiar rotations in yet another expansion.
Rogue mechanics, on the other hand, have had several significant tweaks. While each change is significant on its own, what's really interesting is how they fit into a larger story. The "quick offhand" paradigm that has lasted for years is breaking down. Rogues are bringing significant buffs and debuffs to every environment. Combo points are more fluid than ever. Rogue rotations may not have evolved since Cataclysm, but the class as a whole certainly has.
Combat rogues can use two slow weapons
For years, rogues have sported a quick dagger in their offhand slot. From Julie's Dagger to the Librarian's Paper Cutter to Tiriosh, we've been tied to the fastest dagger we could find. Nearly every rogue mechanic favored a fast weapon. Deadly Poison and Combat Potency's percentage-based proc chances thrived with a weapon that could deal as many attacks as possible. Blizzard stopped itemizing fast swords and maces completely, as the faster daggers were always winning.
Killing Spree has always favored slower weapons, but it couldn't tip the scales enough to alter our weapon choices. In Mists, we saw a slight change to Combat Potency's formula. This change allowed the ability to scale with weapon speed, allowing it to remain effective with a slower weapon. Alone, the edit wouldn't have changed our minds. However, the developers also changed all daggers to have a universal 1.8 speed, which was a significant downgrade from the 1.4-speed daggers we had been using. By narrowing the speed gap between fast and slow weapons, their advantage waned.
Today, combat rogues can safely use two slow weapons while still dealing maximum damage. In fact, for orcs, a non-dagger offhand is actually the ideal configuration. With the introduction of transmog, many rogues have been dying to get back to matching weapon types, and combat now allows for that option. We're no longer required to always have a dagger in our offhand. I've already seen many rogues sporting dual maces or fist weapons since Mists launched. The quick dagger went from a requirement to a relic in just one raid tier's time.
Rogues are valuable additions to a raid
Every rogue now brings 10% physical haste to the table via the baseline ability Swiftblade's Cunning. Rogues have been asking for raid utility for years, and now it's been baked in to the class as a whole. Even though we can't see the buff when we're playing solo, the effect is still active. In addition, every rogue also brings the 5% spell damage debuff via Master Poisoner. With our glyphed Expose Armor, we can also activate the armor debuff on any target quickly and efficiently.
We've come a long way from the days of Molten Core, where rogues were asked to leave the debuff slots open for the other classes to use their valuable abilities. We bring serious buffs and debuffs passively, which ensures that we're providing value to our group. In addition, now that we can use a non-lethal poison without worrying about our DPS, we can bring even more utility. I have already found Crippling Poison to be useful on multiple encounters.
We're not a hybrid class, so it's unlikely that we'll ever receive a major raid cooldown like Tranquility or Devotion Aura. That's fine with me. I am actually quite happy that our raid utility focuses on dealing more damage, as it ensures that these abilities and buffs are also valuable when we're questing and in PvP.
Anticipation and Versatility let the combo points flow
Anticipation lets me be lazy. I hated micromanaging my combo points. Have you ever been a subtlety rogue at 4 combo points, hoping that the 5th comes in via HAT soon? Anticipation makes it almost impossible to do the wrong thing. Ideally, we'll use 5 combo points for every finisher we execute, as that guarantees we'll see an energy return from Relentless Strikes. Rather than worrying about what to do when we're at 4 combo points, we can just hit another generator and get on with our lives.
Anticipation provides only the slightest DPS increase by optimizing our finisher levels, but provides a huge quality of life bonus. We don't have to worry about what to do with a Blindside proc when we're at 5 combo points or if using Sinister Strike at 4 combo points will have us wasting a point. Just use your generator first and use your finisher when it is convenient. With Shadow Blades adding even more eccentricity into our combo point generation, Anticipation removes much of the difficulty of playing a rogue.
Versatility is as close to rogue-based combo points as we're ever going to get. Monks have chi and paladins have holy power, and rogues are always going to be stuck with combo points. Versatility is strong enough to let me forget that I'm even playing a rogue. Redirect was useful once every minute, but we all know that we are often swapping targets much more often than that. I don't mind swapping targets when I'm spec'd into Versatility, and that's saying something.
Combo points may or may not be an antiquated mechanic, but Anticipation and Versatility take a lot of the sting out of their ancient mechanics. We can be masters of target swapping, or we can free ourselves from the shackles of erratic combo point generation. The end result is that we're more effective as a whole.
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.