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Encrypted Text: From brute to assassin, 2008 in review

Chase Christian
Chase Christian|January 1, 2009 11:00 AM
Every Wednesday, Chase Christian of Encrypted Text invites you to enter the world of shadows, as we explore the secrets and mechanics of the Rogue class. In this special edition, we cover the top 10 changes of 2008.

We've been through a lot in 2008. I hit 70 on my current Rogue last January, and so I have paid keen attention to the patch notes and blue posts right alongside many of you. I was excited to reach the level cap on my blood elf; Rogues were at the height of their power. Season 3 and Season 4 of the arena season saw us demolishing every non-healing class in representation. None even dared to consider rivaling a Rogue with a pair of Glaives in any DPS contest.

However, due to Blizzard's hesitance to drastically change any balance issues before WotLK's release, we essentially had one PvE spec (20/41/0 Combat) and one PvP spec (20/0/41 Shadowstep). While there were always Rogues experimenting on the fringe with new specs, 90% of Rogues fell into one of these two buckets.

Both were brute force builds, designed to smash things with very slow maces or swords; and not even very creatively with that. We excelled in the arena due to our mobility and infinite energy pool, we ruled in PvE due to the overbudgeted weapons and leather in the Tier 6 dungeons. There was no finesse, no grace, no elegance outside of flashy moves (like vanishing a Death Coil). We were around to spam Sinister Strike until the boss died and spam Hemorrhage until the Druid finally ran out of mana.

WotLK has fixed all that. Read on as we cover the top 10 changes that helped us move from mindless button smashers into the deadly swans we have become.

10) Patch 2.3.2 – 1/8/08 – Ambush's coefficient buffed from 250% to 275%
A precursor for what was to come. Blizzard first showed signs of the triumphant return of daggers to the Rogue class all the way back in January of last year. This simply shows how long and hard they had to work to finally make the Barman Shanker attractive again. Allowing Ambush to scale properly with gear will ensure its viability in all environments.

9) Patch 2.3.2 – 1/8/08 – Hemorrhage's coefficient nerfed from 125% to 110%, Adrenaline Rush removed from Preparation
While both of these changes were huge nerfs to Rogues in PvP, they were balance changes that were desperately needed. AR/Prep played so much like a Warrior that I almost considered quitting the class. Staying out of stealth and simply smashing our targets with a flood of energy without worrying about crowd control and facerolling our way to Gladiator was fun, sure. But without these two big nerfs, we wouldn't have been able to break free from the Hemo spam that had become Rogue PvP.

8) Patch 2.4 – 3/25/08 – Puncturing Wounds now affects Mutilate
Another subtle daggers buff that helped Mutilate turn the corner from sub par to attractive, again showing Blizzard's dedication to Assassination being a viable tree past Seal Fate again. 15% crit is a major damage increase for Mutilate, considering the crit reliance of Focused Attacks and Seal Fate. Plus, who doesn't like to see big numbers?

7) Patch 2.4.3 – 7/15/08 – Cheat Death nerf
Possibly the nerf that yielded the biggest cheer from our enemies across the battlefield; the Cheat Death change was easily the most controversial of 2008. A talent relying on resilience to work? This alone completely condemned it to be for PvP only, and also hurt the 4pc T6 + 4pc S4 Rogues that were destroying targets based on the idea that resilience was unnecessary with Cheat Death to fall back on.

6) Patch 3.0.2 – 10/14/08 – Close Quarters Combat
The WotLK primer patch came with three of the most important changes to our class: the changes that allow us to have three truly viable PvE specs and multiple PvP talent choices. Combat's redesign of Dagger and Fist Masteries into the new Close Quarters Combat finally allows weapon variety for the raiding Rogue. No longer are we assigned to solely swords, there are options! CQC also plays a key role in Mutilate's current PvE DPS.

5) Patch 3.0.2 – 10/14/08 – Dual Wield Specialization moved to Tier 1 Combat
Moving Dual Wield Specialization to the top of Combat was really the least Blizzard could do after making Relentless Strikes a 5 point talent. Allowing DW to be picked up by pretty much any Assassination or Subtlety build will allow for these specs to remain competitive as our stats and gear scale with the upcoming dungeons.

4) Patch 3.0.2 – 10/14/08 – Poison proc rate now 50%, poisons now scale with AP
Buffing not only our poison proc rate to 50% but also allowing their damage to scale with gear was the final push towards every talent tree being viable in a raid. By focusing less on pure white swings and allowing a Rogue to pursue other damage options, Combat's death-grip on the raiding world was crushed for good. With both solo HAT Subtlety and HfB Mutilate capable of topping DPS charts, we are truly free from the 4s/5r spam that consumed pretty much all of TBC.

3) Patch 3.0.2 – 10/14/08 – Mutilate's positioning requirement removed
The single largest PvP buff for Mutilate didn't increase its damage. It didn't reduce its cost. It didn't even change what it does! All it took was the ability to use Mutilate without worrying about which way the enemy was facing to completely revive this talent build. By allowing us to Mutilate targets more reliably and more often, Mutilate PvP has been the #1 spec'd build of Season 5.

2) Patch 3.0.3 – 11/4/08 – No cooldown on openers during Shadow Dance
Shadow Dance has been heralded by many siblings of the shadows as the breath that revived Subtlety from its Hemo-spamming slumber. A move that truly requires finesse and a unique mechanic with over 100 possible combinations: no other class has a technique this flexible. It's capable of not only massive burst but also apt crowd control, and everything in between. Meanwhile, Hunters get to choose between cool-looking pets or two "new" shots for their rotations. Finally, balance is restored!

1) Patch 3.0.2 – 10/14/08 – DISMANTLE
Who could argue against the infinite virtues of Dismantle? Blizzard finished its break up of the Combat monopoly on cool stuff, and gave us an on-demand disarm on steroids. I see it becoming one of our class-defining WotLK abilities. As defenses and resilience continue to improve, look to Dismantle to turn the tide of a close battle. While the warriors shouting "OVERPOWERED" will always plague our forums, we will show them a bit of what we tasted during the RNG days of Stunherald + Skill Spec.

Overall, 2008 has been very good to Rogues. We went from the tireless brawlers of late TBC to WotLK's most potent burst killers. I love the turn that the class has taken over the course of the year, and I hope that it is a sign of more to come from Ghostcrawler and the folks at Blizzard. I mean, we even got (a slightly diminised) Swirly Ball back! Here's to another great 12 months of patch notes and Rogue dominance!