The biggest change for Rogues by far in WotLK is the complete removal of the Poison skill and the drastic alteration of poisons and poison talents. Blizzard seemed to revert to the strategy they use for all other classes: buy your reagents off a reagent vendor. This means you will no longer be creating your own poisons, and that all poison-making materials are soon to be worthless. They still currently drop from lockboxes, but expect that to be changed by the release date of Wrath.
The new method for acquiring poisons is to simply buy them from a Poison Vendor. These vendors now sell finished poisons instead of materials, with every rank of poison available. This makes replenishing your poison supply a quick purchase instead of an algebra-invoking word problem. "If I need four Wound poisons and two Deadly poisons, how many Essence of Agony...."
An important note: Vanish no longer requires Flash Powder, so your visit to the Poison Vendor will be even less frequent and far more enjoyable! Add that to the fact that the new Traveler's Tundra Mammoth has a reagent/poison vendor built in, and you may never be heading back to town again.
Another major change to Poisons comes via the consolidation of ranks Crippling and Mind-Numbing Poisons. These poisons have all been reduced to a single rank, making it impossible to have the "wrong" one in your inventory. This also means that your Crippling Poison is at full potency as soon as you are able to purchase it. In addition, Mind-Numbing has had its potency increased from a 30% increase in cast time to a 60% increase in casting time. This should help counter many of the cast speed and haste increases that casters are seeing in WotLK.
The changes to poisons don't stop there. Blizzard has also increased the application chance of all poisons (save Instant/Deadly) to 50%! Wound, Crippling, Mind-Numbing, and Anesthetic poisons applying at 50% means that we will have much more control over our targets, and our almost co-dependent reliance on Shiv will be lessened greatly. This also frees up talent points, as many Rogues felt it was required to spec into Improved Poisons in order to keep their poisons applied to the target.
Speaking of Anesthetic Poison, you will want to consider carrying a stack or two in your bags in WotLK. Many classes have gained new buffs known as "Enrage" effects; and anesthetic poison can remove those buffs from the target. Think of it like Purge but for physical Enrage effects instead of magic. This gives us a significant edge against Warriors, Death Knights, and Assassination Rogues, and more - always keep a stack handy.
Instant and Deadly (and also Wound) Poisons were not excluded from the love as well: their damage now scales with Attack Power. The final values remain to be seen, as recently the amount of poison damage done by Rogues is significantly imbalanced in the beta. The current modifiers are poison base + ~10% of AP, however we will see how Blizzard decides to scale this in the future.
However, all of these buffs to poisons did not come without a few nerfs and rebalancing. Most notably, Deadly Brew has been hit drastically: it now only applies Crippling Poison when the target is hit with Instant, Wound, or Mind-Numbing Poison. While it still allows a Rogue to use Wound or Mind-numbing on their offhand (as you can still Shiv and get the Crippling effect), it is not nearly as versatile as its previous iterations, and has almost no PVE usage.
Wound Poison was changed as well, as it now does not stack to 5. It applies its full 50% healing debuff on one application. While this is great for getting the healing debuff effect on the target quick, it can also be dispelled in one cast. The hope is that the increased application chance will make up for this change. While a Rogue is on a target, keeping poisons up will be no problem. However, once the target is out of range of the Rogue, all of our poisons can be cleansed easily.
There have been other changes besides the very sweeping poison skill redesign. One of the coolest is the new smooth energy regeneration. Energy now regenerates in 1 energy increments, so a Rogue gains 1 energy every 0.1 seconds. Before, Rogues gained 20 energy every 2 seconds. This means the end of waiting for "energy ticks" and mods like EnergyWatch will become useless.
The new energy regeneration mechanic also makes our Kick ability much more potent. It has been reduced to a single rank, and no longer deals damage. Blizzard also removed Kick from the Global Cooldown, so it can be used at any time, even when other spells are locked out due to the GCD. This means that no matter what, a Rogue will never be more than 1 second away from Kicking a target (provided that Kick is not on cooldown). Rogues currently dominate casters in TBC, and it looks like WotLK is eminent domain for us as well.
Perhaps to compensate us for Kick not doing any damage, Gouge has also been reduced to a single rank and now does damage based on Attack Power. The current formula is 1 + 21% of the Rogue's AP. An example Rogue in WotLK will have around 2300 AP in decent gear, making Gouge deal around 500 damage. This is significantly more than it dealt previously, and I can see more Rogues integrating this into their PVP rotations.Gouge still adds 1 combo point to the current target (its combo point generation has been in limbo). Great damage, an incapacitate, and a combo point? Combo in the Gouge Glyph I covered last week, and it's looking very good in WotLK.
In less combat-related Rogue news, Rogues will be recovering a significant piece of their bag space. In addition the removal of the Flash Powder requirement for Vanish (mentioned above), our need for Thieves' Tools has also been removed from Disarm Trap and Pick Lock. Tack on the fact that we won't need any poison creation materials as well, Rogues look to be having much more free bag space in the near future.
Blizzard has also improved our pickpocket/lockpicking potency. There are currently two new lockboxes, Froststeel Lockboxes and Titanium Lockboxes. Note that Titanium Lockboxes are blue, and have a significant chance to drop a blue item. In the 4 Titanium boxes I've found, 3 contained good-quality blue items. There are currently no "lockpicking zones" implemented, and Rogue Trainers obviously don't offer any guidance to said zones as they do for lockpicking levels below 350. However, I have had no problem keeping my lockpicking at maximum simply by picking the lockboxes I have pocketed.
We've covered most of the quality of life changes for Rogues here today, and hopefully it will give you some insight as to what life will be like as a Rogue in Northrend. Tune in next Wednesday for more shadowy goodness as we continue our look into Rogues in Wrath.