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Encrypted Text: Weapons make the Rogue

Chase Christian
Chase Christian|April 8, 2009 3:00 PM
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. This week, we discuss the role that speed plays in Rogue weapon choices.

No matter the encounter, Rogues really only have one true role: DPS. While there's trick fights like Gluth and Sartharion where Anesthetic Poison come in handy, we're designed to take down a boss as quickly as possible. In PvP, we're defined by our ability to create short opportunities to execute a wounded opponent. With damage as our one and only purpose, it becomes crucial that we maximize our DPS output.

Min-maxing stats and using a spreadsheet for every single gem will help you squeeze the most out of your character, but you're still limited by the gear that you've got. Many Rogues, including myself, even use raiding gear in PvP. While we can overcome much of a "gear gap" by playing to our finest, there are simply things that we can't accomplish without the right tools: weapons (not gear) make the Rogue. Due to some great luck with drops over the past couple weeks, I've had a chance to pick up a few of the best Rogue weapons currently in-game. After the cut, I talk about my new experiences on the top of the Rogue weapon food chain.
Malygos seems to love dropping Hailstorms for my guild. Over the past month, we've seen a Hailstorm every week. I was lucky enough to pick up the first one, and after a quick talent detour down the Combat tree, I was ready to try out the infamous Combat Shiv spec. I was able to do far more DPS than my previous Combat spec using Kel'Thuzad's Reach and Librarian's Paper Cutter. Because of the way that Shiv and Sword Spec interact, this build really only works with Hailstorm. It's 0.1s faster than any other Sword offhand, and therefore not only does it cost less energy to use Shiv with Hailstorm, we also get a chance at an extra attack. Because the quicker Webbed Death is a dagger, it simply doesn't work in the offhand with this build.

Originally, I was taken aback by the idea that without this one particular weapon, the build wasn't competitive with Mutilate. Combat Shiv has been on the receiving end of several nerfs, ever since it was originally conceived in TBC. What appears to be the killing blow, the inability of Shiv and any poison procs from Shiv to crit, should finally see this spec in the grave. With the cards stacked against it by Blizzard, Shiv only really works now with the perfect storm of weapon speed and type.

Webbed Death:
On my Rogue, I haven't done much 25 man raiding (outside of OS/EOE/VOA), simply because my guild is very small and focused on 10 man content. Most of my raiders haven't fought Heroic Kel'Thuzad, while we recently achieved the Undying title in last week's raid. So when I was approached to run Heroic Naxxramas with a larger guild, I was thrilled at the opportunity to run with an organized group instead of the PUGs that I had typically rolled with.

After Anub'Rekhan fell, I was disappointed to see that no Webbed Death had dropped. However, I was treated to a surprise when the raid leader announced that Gluth had left one behind. I of course picked it up as quickly as I could. I was skeptical as to how much of a difference Webbed Death could make over my current dual Librarian's Paper Cutters, which were nearly best-in-slot blues due to their speeds. The answer was nearly 150 DPS from this single weapon alone. I am still imagining my DPS if I were lucky enough to score two.

Sinister Revenge:
Later on that same fateful Naxxramas raid, I was able to pick up the ultimate piece of Rogue loot: Sinister Revenge. With its whopping ilvl 226 stats and inflated DPS, it actually becomes best-in-slot for Mutilate PvE, and an easy champion for Mutilate PvP. I called up a friend of mine who plays a Mage as soon as I equipped it, and we immediately played a few 2v2 arena matches to test it out.

The difference in offensive pressure that I can apply with Sinister Revenge (with a new Anarchy in my OH) versus what I was able to do with dual Broken Stalactites is simply insane. I never felt I had the ability to pressure a healer into using cooldowns by myself, or take down a target during a Counterspell or Blind. Mutilates were doing far more damage, even though the bulk of my leather and accessory gear hadn't changed a bit. With this Sinister Revenge in my MH, we were able to drop Priests with Pain Suppression up and Rogues who were caught out of stealth without much trouble.

The true test came in our first Paladin / DK matchup. While my partner did his best to lead the DK away, I was able to get a clean open on the Paladin. A single Mutilate was enough to convince him to that I was a threat, and he used Hammer of Justice to stun me and ran for his partner. I immediately trinketed his stun, and used my Nitro Boosts to close the gap. He was having trouble removing Crippling Poison, and so once I had caught up, he used Hand of Freedom to try to escape. A quick Improved Kidney Shot later, and I was able to drop him from 60% to 0% before he could use his Divine Shield. Don't worry, his shadowfrost partner had already finished the mage and was working on destroying me. They took the match.

The fact that the speed of a Rogue's weapon now makes a far bigger difference than the stats or DPS of the weapon make our options as raiders very limited. There are two options for quick daggers: the LPC and Webbed Death. This means that there is really only a single source of viable Rogue daggers for Mutilate builds. Combat is in a similar state: without Calamity's Grasp or Hailstorm, it currently falls way behind Mutilate in PvE. This is a big paradigm shift from the Combat days where any slower weapon would be okay, if used in the main hand.

Blizzard has been very perceptive of this trend, and is implementing some changes in Ulduar that should greatly alleviate the idea that there is only a single viable weapon for any spec. Combat is being buffed to perform better without requiring the best of hard mode loot, while Shiv spec is being neutered to prevent very quick weapons from becoming too valuable. The PPM change to poisons affects Mutilate in a similar way, where Rogues can now consider using slower daggers (probably in the OH). This greatly expands the Rogue weapon loot table from 2-3 items to possibly 5-10 in Ulduar.

I believe that Blizzard made the right choice on this issue. Rather than simply add more 1.4 speed daggers and 1.5 speed swords, they fixed the root cause that was plaguing everyone with bad luck or who didn't have access to Naxxramas 25. With Death Knight and Holy Paladin nerfs on the way and a patch full of fresh content to explore, I am excited about seeing patch 3.1 in the next two weeks!