With the drastic rebalancing of poisons and Blizzard's goal to make every tree viable, Rogues are sitting pretty as WoW 3.0's most versatile class. Most other classes would kill for the ability to put 51 points into any tree and compete in PvP and PvE simultaneously. However, all these changes have really shaken up some of the fundamental Rogueisms (yes, I will probably make up a new word for each article). Mutilate doesn't prefer double slow daggers, there are legitimate Combat specs not using swords, and Subtlety builds are pulling 3400+ DPS in a raid environment.
Today's article is going to cover a few of the major changes in Rogue playstyles for each spec, and what you can do to undo all the brainwashing that we've undergone for the past few years.
Every class has a god-stat, that one thing that no amount of itemization can change. For Rogues, it's Energy – nothing can beat filling up that yellow bar. Give a Mage infinite Mana and they can still only cast so fast. Give a Rogue infinite Energy and we can use it in a constructive way with more CP generators and finishers. We're truly only limited by our global cooldowns.
Ghostcrawler and the rest of the Blizzard developers were obviously keen to this, and decided to give the Assassination tree a little of what Combat has been sporting since TBC. The new talent is Focused Attacks, and it's amazing. For just 3 points, we can get 2 energy for every critical strike (including specials like Eviscerate). With both Poisons and FA being flat % chances and not proc-per-minutes, these abilities thrive on fast weapons. A quick note on Poisons, picking up 3/3 Vile Poisons and using Wound Poison will yield more DPS than using untalented Instant Poison, which frees up talent points for other options in a bloated tree and makes Envenom a valuable finisher.
Now that Poisons scale with AP, they're making up a larger portion of our damage (my tests show between 15-25% depending on build). Add FA's obvious love of the 1.5 speed or quicker weapons, and you'll see why many Mutilate Rogues are picking up Shivs instead of the (now) hilariously named Mutilators. And because Mutilate builds have no preference of Main hand vs Off hand, double fast weapons are quickly becoming the trendy choice for deep Assassination raiders. So even if your 1.8 speed Shard of Azzinoth does more DPS than a lower-level quick dagger, you will want to consult a spreadsheet (or training dummy) and compare.
All the way from the Thrash Blade to the Muramasa, raiding Combat Swords Rogues have been floating at the top of the DPS charts and never looking back. While Combat Daggers was competitive in early WoW, from Blackwing Lair on, high-end Rogues used swords exclusively. The other weapon specializations couldn't compete with the tried and true blades that lowbie Rogues lusted after.
Close Quarters Combat changes all that. With its key location in the talent tree, it allows us to pick up 5% crit without sacrificing any other DPS talents. There are already several speedy daggers itemized in Wrath, but no quick swords. Considering that Energy is our god stat, wielding a 1.3 speed dagger in the Off hand will destroy a 1.5 speed sword in Combat Potency procs.
Our past problem with using weapons other than swords was wasting talent points on both Fist Spec and Dagger Spec, whereas a Rogue can now really have it all. A slow Fist MH and a quick Dagger OH will quickly become the raiding spec of choice unless Blizzard starts implementing some quicker swords.
You can actually spec 5/5 CQC and 4/5 Sword Spec without losing any DPS talents, allowing you to mix in an Off hand sword if one comes around, and even a Main hand sword if that's your luck. The ability to use any viable combination of Fists, Daggers, and Swords will save a lot of Rogues a lot of gold in respecs. However, with Mutilate now competing for fast daggers, I wish you luck with your /roll 1000's.
The crazy team at Blizzard realized that throwing an Energy regeneration talent in deep Subtlety would just make them look lazy, so they blessed us with Honor Among Thieves instead. Traditionally, Energy is used to generate Combo Points and then use those CP on finishers; it's the circle of life for Rogue DPS. The blues decided to skip the middle step and just pour on the CPs as fast as we can use them. Note that the limitation of "once per second" refers to a party member, not the party: with enough crits, you can get 5 CP per second. Get ready to bind Eviscerate to the '2' key instead of Hemo.
Some of the great theorycrafters of the Rogue community have been testing out HaT in high-end raids, and the numbers are crazy. With the proper group (note: HaT is NOT raid-based) composed of high crit chance builds, you will be pushing Eviscerate or Envenom every few seconds. 100% talented Rupture uptime? Check. 100% Slice and Dice uptime? Check. Preparation for PvP? Double check (zing!). It's a great day to be Subtlety.
Now Relentless Strikes' move to Subtlety seems prophetic instead of idiotic – 25 energy back on every finisher meets finishers every GCD – looks like Blizzard took the easy way out again and threw us a ton of Energy. Hey, I'm not complaining, Blizzard is giving us exactly what we want in new and interesting ways.
Stack your party with BM Hunters (since we get a CP off pet crits) and Fire Mages, and say hello to using Hemorrhage as a "debuff move" and finishers as your bread & butter. Whereas Hemo used to be our primary strength over other specs due to its low Energy cost per CP, Blizzard intends to retire it to a raid debuff and not use it as a main attack. RIP Hemo spamming, my '2' key will miss you.
All-in-all, Blizzard really fixed up each of our 3 trees, and gave real raid and PvP competency to each. They gave us what we love, Energy and CP (and Energy via CP). This shows that GC and company actually know how Rogues work, as Energy and CP are the two stats that will always scale with gear. Plus we haven't gotten any nerfs yet – definitely a new record for us. Go dev team!
So, for my Assassination brothers and sisters, get some quick daggers and RoguePowerBars to make HfB not so annoying to keep up. For those die-hard Combat Raiders, get a combo of Slow Fist or Sword and Quick Dagger or Sword, and always shout "KAIO-KEN!" when using Killing Spree. And for you Subtlety Rogues, please go get Grid and DeadlyBossMods, because the Shadow knows you've never been invited to a raid before.