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Encrypted Text: Why good rogues take bad talents


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 effect of utility talents on a rogue's psyche.

If you've been reading my column regularly, you know that DPS should be the main focus of any raiding rogue. As a "pure" DPS class, we're really required to do amazing DPS or risk being sidelined for more useful classes. We're designed around the concept of maximizing DPS, and using spreadsheets and theorycrafting has become a core part of our class culture. I love putting my new gear upgrades into one of Aldriana's sheets and figuring out how to flex my gems and balance various stat caps. I know that there are a ton of rogues who feel the same way.

So why are rogues in the Cataclysm beta wasting talent points on Improved Gouge and Blade Twisting then? Why has the development team chocked our talent trees so full of fluff that we're forced to pick up junk talents just to progress down our trees? We don't need talents like Reinforced Leather if our healers are doing their jobs, and why make raiders pick up PvP talents like Improved Kick? Does this mean that Blizzard failed when trying to streamline the talent trees? Actually, it means exactly the opposite: they've succeeded in every possible way.

Utility talents are there on purpose.

Improved Gouge seems pretty simple at first glance. It's a combination of the old Improved Gouge talent in the first tier of combat, mixed with an energy reduction perk as well. What makes it interesting is that a rogue could combine this talent with Glyph of Gouge, yielding a free, 6-second incapacitation effect that only costs a global cooldown to use. The talent is pretty powerful in PvP and could also be used in dungeons to provide a simple way to interrupt or lock down enemy targets. It takes everything about Gouge and makes it better-- a fun talent by any account.

So why don't rogues want to pick it up? Gouge isn't part of any DPS rotation, and that makes it a marginal ability for any rogue concerned with the DPS bottom line. Gouge is considered to be a PvP-only technique, and raiders love to complain about PvP talents in their PvE builds. They blame the "useless" talents in their tree for their inadequacies, and weaker DPS talents become the reason that a warlock beat them on the meters. It wouldn't be rogue-like to waste talents that could go to DPS on a utility talent liked Improved Gouge.

Rogues are stubborn.

Someone at Blizzard realized that rogues were going to need utility/fun talents shoved down their throats in order to get us to pick them up. Look at the Cataclysm beta's latest combat talent tree if you want to remove any doubt. Our tree has had its point values specifically allocated values so that a serious PvE raider is forced to spend at least four talent points in two of a possible seven talent options. If you want to make it to Killing Spree, you don't even have a choice: you're dropping four talent points into non-DPS talents. And that is awesome.

How else could Blizzard get us to flex our options, to truly try out some of the fun talents built into our trees? Rogues simply won't do something unless it increases their damage, and Blizzard has caught on to that fact. We're being forced to experiment, forced to specialized, forced to break the cookie-cutter builds and to try out talents on our own. We can spec to heal ourselves and take less damage for that encounter with intensive incoming damage, or we can spec into a silencing Kick for the next version of Faction Champions. The key is that we can do any of these things without costing any of our DPS. We're having our cake and eating it too.

The developers know best.

Like our mothers used to force us to eat our spinach, the dev team knows what's best for rogues. We're going to be happier with an environment of flexibility and creativity. The issue is that it's been so long since we've been able to spec into fun talents without getting laughed at that we're scared to love again. Don't you remember specing into subtlety in the height of HaT's reign? I remember moving quickly through stealth again and Cheat Death saving me when I accidentally ate a Flame Breath. Subtlety has constantly been plagued with an imbalance of utility versus damage.

As adult rogues, we had to put away our play things when we reached level 80. We picked up our combat or assassination union cards, and we went to work killing dragons and the undead without a single spark of hope in our hearts. We skipped Unfair Advantage, even though we had so much fun with it while leveling. We missed having 120 energy via Vigor, even though we enjoyed the burst DPS of unloading our damage into an enemy. The developers are trying to give that back to us. We're getting free points to spend anywhere we see fit, and nothing there's nothing that any theorycrafter can say about it will make a difference. You can't theorycraft that Improved Kick is more valuable than Improved Sprint, and so we truly get to choose whichever we want.

But but but ... our DPS!

Our DPS is going to be fine. Blizzard introduced the mastery system to ensure that no talent spec would fall behind the others, and so that we wouldn't have to feel guilty picking up a few utility talents along the way. Doing good DPS no longer comes down to which tree you put your talents into, but rather how skilled you are at that tree's rotation. You can try all three builds, find the one that provides the perks and playstyle that you enjoy, and then play that. Let Blizzard's crew worry about balancing your DPS; it's your job to figure out how you like to play and to embrace it. I can't wait to debate with other rogues over which perk talents to pick out. It's about time we started talking about what feels the most fun instead of which talents produce the most optimal DPS output.

Check back every Wednesday for the latest strategies in Encrypted Text! Get ready for Icecrown Citadel with our rogue guide, part 1, part 2 (Plagueworks), part 3 (Crimson Halls) and part 4 (Frostwing Halls). Just hit 80 and need information? Try Combat 101 or Mutilate 101.

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