Part of the problem with breaking the stunlock stereotype is that rogues are going to need a replacement style of play. While every class has their own abilities and tricks, you can boil down the role that a class plays in PvP pretty simply. The problem is that nearly every rogue mechanic becomes a double-edged sword in PvP. While cooldowns are great, they leave us vulnerable while not available. While stunlocks were great, we didn't have the survivability to live if our target didn't die. While stealth is great, it is only valuable for a few seconds a game. Even resilience worked against us, as most rogues couldn't afford the damage loss of wearing PvP gear.
Toning down cooldowns
The first step towards establishing the PvP rogue of Cataclysm is to tone down the level of invincibility that rogues can achieve when all cooldowns are ready. Blizzard is actually taking action on this indirectly, by lengthening the amount of time that matches take to lessen the effect of cooldowns. I am sure they are committed to this by looking at the life pools of characters at level 85, I am sure a tank could top 100,000 HP if they wanted to.
Extended fights not only soften the blow of our cooldowns, but they also amplify their strategic importance. We have to be conscious of our opponents' actions and abilities, so that we know when to use our cooldowns for the maximum effect. The same way that you wouldn't use Blind against someone with their trinket up, you similarly wouldn't use Adrenaline Rush when an enemy rogue has Combat Readiness available.
Rogues should be a bad target
Survivability has been something plaguing rogues for years. We are the only melee class that fights in leather, as druids are able to shapeshift into bear form if they need to survive. Our base armor was lower than even most cloth casters, due to their various buffs and talents. We also had no healing spell to speak of, and no damage reduction spell either. Rogues used to work off the idea that we could simply avoid damage instead of trying to reduce the damage we did take. This worked in the innocent time of vanilla WoW PvP, but it simply does not work in today's environment. When a stun can completely negate all of our defensive abilities, you know that we're in trouble. Every other melee class has a way to get around evasion, even rogues do via Shiv.
Reducing incoming damage is the only way for a target to stay alive reliably in PvP. We've got new talents in our Cataclysm trees that help us take less damage, by boosting our armor or reducing the damage outright. We've got a new finisher that not only heals us, but can be talented to do a variety of useful things. Our new ability Combat Readiness will ensure that any team that tries to train us will find themselves hitting for half damage. Finally, with a working Vanish in our tool belt after many long years, we can even escape when the time comes. We've come a long way from having Cheat Death as our only survivability tool, and I think that these changes are the right direction to making us "tanky" enough to handle PvP in a post-stunlock world.
The stunlock is gone
The stunlock has been bleeding out for years. Diminishing returns nearly killed the stunlock years ago. Taking Blind off of Preparation hurt it even further. The stunlock has been gone for a long time, but putting Cheap Shot and Kidney Shot on the same diminishing return category should be the last that we hear about it. With our classic Cheap Shot into Kidney Shot combo, we'll only be stunning our targets for 7 seconds. That's only a second longer than a Hammer of Justice, while ours cost us an opener, a 5-point finisher, and tons of energy. It will actually become better to do a reverse, that is, using Kidney Shot then using Vanish to Cheap Shot. That would yield us an 8-second stun, though also costing us Vanish.
People are still going to need to be stunned. Without Stealth or Vanish, our ability to stun hasn't really changed. The only difference is that now players will have a chance to fight back after the stun has ended. While that may sound like the end of the world, the fact is that people actually like to play their characters. The other difference is that now we might actually have the survivability to take them on after the stun wears off. We need to get away from the idea of stunning our targets to keep ourselves alive, and we need to get away from the idea that avoidance is better than mitigation. We need to be compatible with the longer PvP encounters of Cataclysm, and it looks like our talent trees and new abilities are pointing the right direction to get us there.
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.