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Encrypted Text: What the Cataclysm preview was missing


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 talk about a few questions we still have following our class preview. Rossi also sent me the above picture of his rogue, and I have to say that I was not surprised in his choice of character customization.

If you haven't had a chance to yet, you should take a peek at the Cataclysm preview for rogues that was released last week. We've learned about several new moves being added to our arsenal as we level to 85, in addition to being privy to developers' plans for the class as we fight against Deathwing and company. Cataclysm looks to be the most ambitious expansion to date, and Blizzard is pulling out all the stops to ensure that many of the issues the game has faced since launch are handled while also developing each class to a more robust level of play.

There was a lot of great info in the preview, but there were also a few details missing. Does Blizzard have any plans to replace Vanish, is there any chance of a new combo system ability (generator or finisher), and what about ever having Shadowstep become trainable? These are just a few of the questions I've been considering, and I've heard many more from other rogues as well. What's your biggest questions for the developers after having read their plan for the rogue class?

Haste and its effect on energy

Haste - Haste will become more attractive for melee classes by allowing them to recover resources such as energy and runes more quickly. Our intention is for Haste to let you "do stuff" more often.

While it may seem like a new change, haste actually already affects a rogue's energy regeneration. The amount of energy that Combat Potency and Focused Attacks generate is a function of haste: the more we attack, the more procs we'll see from either. The question is whether or not Blizzard will continue using this model for rogues, or adapt a change where haste will passively boost our energy gain as opposed to basing it on a chance to proc. By setting it to grant energy directly, it would be far easier for them to design rotations and ensure scaling was working properly.

The catch with a static haste-to-energy formula is that Combat Potency is really the driving force that keeps combat seeking a quick off-hand. While Deadly Poison and Hack and Slash do favor quick weapons, it may be possible for a slower off-hand to actually perform better than the quick weapons we're used to. Could this lead to universal weapons for combat? Only time will tell. I don't think that any other classes are after quick one-handed weapons anyway, so this could be another step in the direction of shared weapons.

What about Vanish?

On Vanish, the answer is we just don't know yet. This ability was designed to let rogues get back into stealth in order to perform openers again or drop aggro. It was never intended as a spell dodger and because of technical realities between the way the server and client communicate, we're just not comfortable at this point to promise that Vanish can be the Vanish of your dreams. Now perhaps one option is we go the opposite route and say that Vanish will never get you out of taking damage and we give you another ability that will work to do that. It's just too early in development to know for sure. I for one will be very disappointed if we're still having this conversation a year from now. :(

Ghostcrawler recently commented on Vanish, and it definitely gave me some insight into his thoughts on the ability. Rogues really have the assumption that Vanish is supposed to be a cure-all: it should remove snares, force us into Stealth, let us avoid attacks and drop all threat. I believe some of the problems with Vanish come from the fact that it's really trying to do too much. Perhaps breaking the ability into two parts would solve some of the perception and function issues that it faces.

Imagine that New Vanish Part 1 would remove all snares (and/or debuffs) and give us perhaps a one-second immunity to incoming attacks. This would give us the type of clutch ability that really allows a rogue to showcase his skill, and Blizzard has already proven that they can guarantee that important boss abilities penetrate any immunity. I also thought about perhaps tying this into our new Combat Readiness ability, where if we activate Combat Readiness, we're immune to slowing affects to allow us to escape our opponents. Of course that could also boost our offensive mobility, but forcing us to choose between a powerful defensive cooldown and a few seconds of unrestricted movement seems like a very fun choice for a rogue to make.

New Vanish Part 2 would simply drop threat and put us into stealth, but all attacks would still land for full damage. Add on a few seconds of the Shadow Dance effect (the one that allows us to use openers while out of stealth), and Vanish now always achieves the desired effect: we drop threat/combat, and we're able to reopen on our opponent. If we're brought back out of Stealth, that's expected, as Vanish is now purpose-built to simply give us another opener.

Yellow damage takes back control

The developers also mentioned a desire to return to a place where less of our damage is auto-attack and poison-based. While the numbers are slightly misleading now, since Slice and Dice and Envenom are both active abilities that boost our passive damage, the fact is that our yellow damage is doing a lower percent of our damage than it has in the past. However, by pushing more of our damage towards the yellow end of the spectrum, Blizzard would also be increasing our burst damage, which will be hard to balance in PvP.

Right now, as an Eviscerate-based combat rogue, I only get about 6-7% of my total damage from Eviscerate on a perfect rotation fight like Saurfang. That means you could be within 5% of an optimally played rogue by simply spamming Sinister Strike without any regard for combo points, just refreshing Slice and Dice with your five points when it was about to fall off. Granted, there are other aspects that come into maximizing your DPS, such as proper cooldown and consumable usage mixed with proper gear selection and encounter knowledge, but the fact that the difference is as small as 5% is a bit scary. I am hoping that we see a time where the margin between "monkey with a macro" and "professional rogue" is a bit larger.

Hunger for Blood revamp

Hunger for Blood
is the most boring spell in the entire game, and the fact that we have to glyph it is an insult. While it may be necessary now to balance Mutilate's damage versus the world, it should be thrown completely out the window and replaced with something useful as soon as possible. Combat and subtlety both have incredibly awesome 51-point talents that are both functional and enjoyable to use. Mutilate deserves its baby, especially since our talent trees aren't getting any deeper. Blizzard can use the mastery system to handle keeping a spec in balance, if we don't see some sweet new move thrown at the bottom of the assassination tree, I know I will be pretty cheesed off. The developers have passed off how bad HfB is by saying that they want to fix it in Cataclysm, so here's their chance to put their money where their mouth is.


We've definitely still got questions, and so I hope Blizzard is working on a class preview, part 2, to give us additional information as they develop the rogue class into the dragon-slaying assassins we are destined to become. The developers have been very open with their ideas for rogues so far, and so encouraging them with good feedback and well-thought out questions will let them know we appreciate the communication and want to engage in a dialogue with them about where our class is headed.

Are you a rogue looking to up your game? Check back every Wednesday for the latest strategies in Encrypted Text! Get ready for Icecrown Citadel with our guide for rogues, part 1 and part 2 (Plagueworks), part 3 (Crimson Halls), and part 4 (Frostwing Halls). Just hit 80 and need information? Check out our rogue lessons: Combat 101 or Mutilate 101 for all you need to know to get started!

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