As part of the pre-Mists patch 5.0.4, in August 2012, hunters were given Readiness as a baseline ability. Readiness is a carbon copy of Preparation, which has been a rogue workhorse for years. While I am typically hesitant to give hunters any more ink, there's something interesting for them in the patch 5.4 PTR notes. Readiness is being removed from hunters entirely, and their cooldowns are being rebalanced to compensate. An ability that was considered so crucial that it was made baseline is being pulled completely just a year later.
Cooldown management has been an integral part of the rogue class since day one. Preparation has been our go-to PvP ability since its inception. The entire World of Roguecraft video series was predicated by how amazing Preparation is. A rogue with full cooldowns is a deity, a rogue without cooldowns is a pushover. When Preparation was made baseline in patch 5.2 (January 2013), I was certain that the once-optional ability would be a permanent part of our arsenal. Now, I'm wondering if Preparation's next on Blizzard's chopping block.
New tech enables updated abilities
Every WoW expansion brings new tech with it, and the dev team at Blizzard is constantly looking to use those toys to improve classes. One specific piece of tech, an ability with charges, was introduced via the monk ability Roll. Roll is an ability with both a 20-second cooldown and 2 charges. Each charge can be thought of as a separate version of the spell, with a shared cooldown.
You can use one Roll, which puts Roll #1 on cooldown for 20 seconds, then roll again a couple of seconds later, which puts Roll #2 on its own 20-second cooldown. The catch is that Roll #2's cooldown doesn't start ticking down until Roll #1's cooldown is finished. You can perform two Rolls back-to-back, but then both charges of Roll are on cooldown, and Roll #2 would take almost 40 seconds to be usable again.
Quite a few new talents convert normal abilities into charged abilities, like a paladin's Clemency or a warrior's Double Time. Charged abilities can serve many purposes, such as adding more flexibility to existing cooldowns, increasing survivability and offensive burst capabilities, and separating the ability to use a cooldown multiple times from a secondary cooldown (like Preparation). One of the core hunter cooldowns, Deterrence, is being changed to a charged ability to compensate for the loss of Readiness.
The huge upside to charged abilities versus a cooldown reset like Preparation is that each charged ability keeps track of its own cooldown, so you wouldn't have to decide to blow Prep or not just to use Vanish twice. I always hesitate for a second when using Preparation early into a fight, wondering if maybe I should save it for later to reset even more cooldowns. With charged abilities, you don't have to feel bad about using any given CD twice, since you didn't waste your total cooldown reset ability.
Shortening key cooldowns
Cooldowns are often a back and forth battle, where players take turns activating cooldowns, trying to gain an advantage. If you're caught without an important cooldown available, your opponent can exploit that fact to defeat you. In order to help hunters adjust to losing Readiness, Disengage's base cooldown is being cut. Hunters won't be able to Disengage back-to-back, but they also won't have to wait 25 seconds between each Disengage either.
By cutting the base cooldown length on key abilities, you can remove the dependence on a cooldown reset like Preparation. Sprint is already amazing with a 1-minute cooldown, but if you cut that to 45 seconds, I can't imagine ever needing to use Preparation just to Sprint again. Speaking of lowering cooldowns, isn't Shadowstep's CD being cut to 20 seconds from 24 seconds in the next patch? Perhaps we're already on the way to a Preparation-less world.
No Prep, no problem
Preparation's scope has been severely limited over the past few years. Now, it only resets 4 cooldowns: Sprint, Vanish, Evasion, and Dismantle. Sprint and Dismantle are both 1-minute cooldowns with relatively minor effects, while Vanish and Evasion are longer cooldowns that make a huge impact. In fact, Evasion is slated to be improved to provide 100% dodge in patch 5.4, which should be fun. Removing Preparation will require balancing these 4 abilities around its loss.
If it were me, I would cut the CD on Dismantle and Sprint to about 45 seconds, just to get these abilities into our toolbox more regularly. Over your traditional 5-minute fight, you would only get one extra use per cooldown. You're not allowing someone to Sprint across the map forever, and you lose the ability to Dismantle someone twice in a row. I think that's a fair price to pay.
Evasion's CD might need to stay put, based on how powerful 100% dodge will be. Vanish, on the other hand, could definitely see itself moved to the charged ability model. Give Vanish two charges and a two-minute CD for each, and now rogues are unshackled from Preparation. The charged ability version of Vanish would even make it simple to facilitate extra Stealth opportunities for subtlety rogues. Just have a proc that generates a temporary extra charge of Vanish. Maybe there's an opportunity for a first tier talent as well?
It sounds like heresy, but if Preparation went away tomorrow and our CDs were adjusted to compensate for it, I'm not sure I would complain. Other classes are always complaining about Preparation, and with the upcoming removal of Readiness, we have the perfect test subjects. We'll watch and observe how hunters are affected by the changes. If the experiment goes well, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Preparation gets the axe and we see a charged version of Vanish in the patch 6.0 notes.
Sneak in every Wednesday for our RPPM guide and tier 16 set bonus review, a deep-dive into the world of assassination and combat rogue AoE rotations -- and of course, why we'll always be the bad guys.