BlizzCon's class Q&A
I had the opportunity to ask the developers a question again this year, following my Vanish and off-hand weapon questions from past BlizzCons. After thanking them for the upcoming rogue legendaries, I asked about how Blizzard intends to keep rogues useful with the addition of yet another melee hybrid (and an agility leather-wearing one, at that).
There are currently three plate-based melee hybrids, with warriors and death knights capable of tanking and paladins capable of both tanking and healing. With the formalization of the feral (cat) spec and the introduction of windwalker monks, there are now three agility-based melee hybrids capable of healing, including enhancement shaman. As the melee pile gets even more crowded and new classes and specs arise that fill the same role as rogues while wearing the same gear, how are we differentiated to keep us useful? Raid leaders will have seven different melee classes to choose from, and rogues are the only one of those classes that can't bring any healing or off-tanking capabilities to a raid encounter.
Anything we can do, they can do too
The developers have caught some heat for their answer to my question, which indicated that stuns and the ability to apply Crippling Poison via Fan of Knives pass for raid utility at Blizzard HQ. The truth is that rogues do provide stuns and slows, but these features are more prevalent in PVP or dungeons than they are in raids. In addition, it's not as if the other melee specs aren't bringing these same things. Throwdown, Hammer of Justice, and Asphyxiate are all stuns that make Kidney Shot look weak in comparison. Using Fan of Knives to apply Crippling Poison sounds nice, but then again, it's not as if Piercing Howl doesn't do a better job.
I'm fine with the other melee classes having similar stuns and snares to rogues. There's nothing wrong with a little bit of parity when it comes to melee classes, especially under the bring the player, not the class mantra. The issue of rogue utility is more about what we're lacking, rather than what we're packing.
It's the non-melee abilities
Why would feral druids be preferred over a rogue in a raid environment, assuming our damage is similar and we both share the same positional requirements for many of our abilities? Gear distribution is identical since both classes roll on agility leather, and feral druids don't really bring any buffs that a subtlety rogue couldn't bring as well. Our mobility is close with Shadowstep mirroring Kitty Leap, and we both have some modicum of self-healing. So why would a raid leader put his rogues on the bench?
Tranquility. Rebirth. Innervate. These are the feral druid's non-melee abilities, which have nothing to do with being a feral druid, and they're tipping the scales against us. The problem with rogues isn't that we're not capable -- we have a complete toolbox that lets us do our job admirably. The issue comes from all of the abilities that druids and paladins and monks are picking up from their other trees, granting them gifts outside of the melee realm. In a world with equal damage, it's not that rogues aren't a perfectly adequate melee DPS class -- it's that everyone else brings bonus abilities from their off specs.
Most of the normal heals and tanking abilities that the hybrid classes aren't a big deal, as a few Rejuvenations or a Shield Wall won't really change the outcome of a fight very much. The powerful hybrid cooldown abilities, especially those that are raid-wide, are where the gap between hybrids and pures is found.
Mists of Pandaria might be the solution
Mists of Pandaria is bringing a massive reworking to the ability and talent system, with many abilities that were previously available to a class becoming spec-specific. Rather than confusing players with abilities that didn't make sense for their spec, they receive only the abilities that their specific spec needs. This revamp could be the opportunity that keeps rogues relevant into MoP and beyond.
Imagine if only feral druids didn't have Tranquility. Would DPS warriors be preferred over rogues if they didn't have access to Rallying Cry? The tanking and healing off-spec abilities that support bringing a hybrid melee over a rogue could be restricted to only the specs that need them, leveling the playing field. If all of the melee classes are dealing around the same DPS and there were no off-spec abilities that promoted bringing hybrid melee, I would be content.
Sneak in every Wednesday for our Molten Front ganking guide, a deep-dive into the world of playing a subtlety rogue -- and of course, all the basics in our guide to the latest rogue gear.