Encrypted Text: Examining the rogue's assassin ancestry


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Encrypted Text for assassination, combat and subtlety rogues. Chase Christian will be your guide to the world of shadows every Wednesday. Feel free to email me with any questions or article suggestions you'd like to see covered here.

If you start looking into the history of the rogue class, you end up reaching several dead ends. The reason is that a rogue who's easy to track or trace isn't much of a rogue at all. We specialize in disappearing, which makes rogue family trees notoriously difficult to map. Garona Halforcen is often considered to be the mother of the rogue class, executing one of the earliest and most daring acts of assassination and regicide in Azeroth's history.

The truth is that if we want to find our spiritual beginnings, we have to look back even further than Garona and even further away than Azeroth. The true ancestor of today's rogue class first found life eons ago, in another realm, known only as Sanctuary. There, the assassin class stood against the three Prime Evils, defeating the Burning Hell's greatest powers with elegance and subterfuge. The rogues of WoW were inspired by the assassins of Diablo II, and that influence can still be felt today.

Mage slayers

Both the assassin and rogue classes are designed to be the melee solution to the caster problem. Mages in both Sanctuary and Azeroth meddled with forbidden magics, causing the demons on the other side of the universe to take note, leading to an eventual invasion. Each class dual wields sharp weapons in order to dispatch their foes. Rogues can pop open lockboxes and treasure chests without keys, and so can assassins. The twin classes thrive in the shadows and focus on trickery over brawn. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that both the assassin and rogue were designed by Blizzard, I'm sure there would be a copyright infringement lawsuit going on right now.

Charges: More holy power, less combo points

The most striking similarity between the D2 assassin and the WoW rogue is the idea of gaining points via a generating ability and then expending those points with a releasing ability. The nomenclature is even similar, as assassins generate charges and release them with finishing moves. The key difference between combo points and charges is that charges are stored on the assassin herself, while combo points are stored on a rogue's target. In this way, charges actually feel more similar to the WoW paladin's holy power bar. Charges even stack to three, like holy power.

While there are definitely differences between the two mechanics, they both result in strikingly parallel playstyles. A martial arts-focused assassin is going to build up charges via the spec's designed generator and then release them in the finisher that makes the most sense at the time. Most of the finishing moves are actually kick attacks, which adds strikes with feet to the list of class similarities. The Dragon Flight finishing move teleports the assassin to her target and was clearly the inspiration for our own Shadowstep.

Identical rotation mechanics

As a rogue, you know that Slice and Dice is one of the most important buffs in the game. Keeping Slice and Dice's uptime high is a core mechanic to every spec's rotation. Assassins have a direct parallel to SnD in their Burst of Speed ability, which increases their attack and movement speed. An assassination rogue with the Quickening talent and Slice and Dice active bears a strong resemblance to the assassin of Sanctuary.

What would a rogue be without poisons on their weapons? Instant Poison and Deadly Poison are two of the few class-based consumables still left in the game, and they've been there since the beginning. As you might have guessed, assassins did it first with Venom, allowing their blades to inject poison into their targets' bloodstreams. With an attack speed buff active while dual wielding sharp blades coated in poison, using combo points and finishing moves, the assassin and rogue dispatched their targets in an eerily similar manner.

Shared shadowy utility

When I first heard that we were receiving Cloak of Shadows in The Burning Crusade, I was curious to see how Blizzard planned to implement a spell that literally blinded your opponent. The assassin's version of Cloak of Shadows reduced the vision range of their target down to essentially zero, allowing the assassin to sneak around, like the opposite of Stealth. WoW doesn't have any concept analogous to vision range or light radius, but that's fine, because they actually copied Fade instead.

The assassin ability Fade increases their magical resistance and helps them to avoid being cursed or debuffed, which is exactly what Cloak of Shadows does for us today. I guess they needed to use the name Cloak of Shadows simply because Fade was already taken by shadow priests. In the same vein, the spinning shuriken graphic of our Combat Readiness was stolen directly from the assassin's Blade Shield, where they're protected by swirling shuriken.

What else can we steal?

One aspect of the Sanctuary assassin that the rogues of today are missing is the variety of combo point generators. Assassins have a wide variety of generators to use, each of which yields a different effect. Rogues are typically stuck with the one generator that their spec uses. Fists of Fire allows the assassin to burn up her targets and others nearby, while Tiger Strike focuses on dealing the maximum amount of single-target damage. Cobra Strike allows the assassin to sacrifice damage for healing, making health regeneration an active part of combat instead of simply popping Recuperate and watching it tick.

I know there are a lot of rogues who would love to see the combat tree turn into a tanking tree option, and the assassin class had the framework laid out for tanking years ago. Their ability Weapon Block allowed them to use their dual weapons to parry additional attacks, similar to how death knights gain an extra chance to parry via Forceful Deflection. Their Fade ability wasn't a short burst of immunity like the Cloak of Shadows of today, but rather a persistent effect that made them incredibly resilient. If rogues ever do develop a tanking specialization, I think that we need to do it while dual wielding.

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.