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Are rogues a dying class?

Matthew Rossi

If you remember, last year Cynwise launched on a study of Warcraft's class popularity that led to his producing a book, The Decline and Fall of Warlocks in Cataclysm. We talked about some of the conclusions he drew here. Now he's back looking at class population vs. popularity in Mists of Pandaria, and some of the numbers he's compiled from Worldofwargraphs and realmpop are extremely interesting. One of the most shocking pieces of information to come out of all of this is this stark graphic above, where you can see the rogue population plummet.

Rogues went from 7.67% of max level at patch 5.0.4, the pre-Mists of Pandaria patch, to 5.51% of max level as of patch 5.1, a drop of over 2%. This is at a time when most other classes either held steady (Paladins, Druids, DK's and Hunters all held at about even with their Cataclysm and patch 5.0.4 numbers), went up (Warriors saw a jump from 9.25% at max level to 10.14% between 5.0.4 and 5.1, while Warlocks went up from 6.7% to 7%) or saw slight declines (Shamans, Priests and Mages all saw slight declines). By comparison, the rogue decline becomes stark.

So, where have all the rogues gone? Monks have taken a slim 4.9% of the total playerbase, which means that they're hardly the dominant juggernauts that Death Knights became in Wrath of the Lich King, so can they explain the rogue decline?

One of the most surprising and yet not surprising at all shifts was the jump in popularity of arms warriors in PvP. Arms warriors are dominant in both overall representation and in 2200 rating, a staggering leap in their popularity from their Cataclysm nadir (as Cyn pointed out, arms warriors were less than 7% of the 2200 bracket in Cataclysm, meaning that they've doubled their representation in that bracket) and these numbers have to come from somewhere. It is my opinion that the 1% increase in warriors between expansions has almost entirely come due to the resurgence of warriors in PvP -- as we've seen previously, warriors are hardly dominant in PvE either as tanks or DPS. Meanwhile, even subtlety rogues have dropped to 1.1% of the 2200 bracket, and 1.5% overall. GuildOx's exact numbers differ, but the trend of them is the same

If we look at PvE representation, rogue representation is healthier than PvP. But even so, rogues see a decline here from Cataclysm as well. It seems like rogues are disenchanted with their class once we look more closely at Cyn's data.

Are rogues a dying class
If you look at the numbers to the far right of the chart, the ones averaging out the class numbers increases and decreases from patch 4.3.3 to patch 5.1.0, you end up with .2% unaccounted for, which is enough to say that all the class declines can be seen in the class increases. Most of the decline is absorbed in the numbers of new monks, while the rest is seen in the increase of warriors, hunters and warlocks between those two patches. In other words, rogues aren't quitting, they're rerolling.

Other classes saw a decline, yes. In fact, the majority of classes saw a small decline between patches 4.3.3 and 5.1, with only warriors, warlocks and hunters seeing an uptick. But it's clear that rogues saw the largest decline, and while mages saw nearly as great a decline overall at max level (1.7% between 4.3.3 and 5.1) you'll note that mage numbers don't see the significant drop between their all levels representation and their 85+ representation. Indeed, mage numbers stay roughly the same at all levels, 86 and up and at level 90 while rogue levels, high at the all levels mark, drop significantly at the level 86 and up mark and stay bad at level 90. People are not leveling their rogues. The mage decline seems to have stabilized quite some time ago, and people who stuck with their mages are leveling them and enjoying them, but rogues are simply not seeing that kind of stability.

It's clear that the 'rogue bump' from Dragon Soul (rogues went from 7.5% in patch 4.3.3 to 9.67% at all levels and 7.76% at 85 when patch 5.0.4 dropped) went away very quickly in Mists of Pandaria. While rogues are still a big chunk of the all-levels (meaning that there are probably quite a few rogue alts out there) their numbers above 85 are in decline, and more significantly so than any other class. Even the other class to see a drop anywhere close over the 4.3.3 to 5.1 patch cycle, mages, is seeing much higher and more stable numbers above 85.

Now, I don't play a rogue -- I leave it to those that do to speculate as to what this all means. Whether it's the rise of other classes in PvP popularity, the changes to rogue mechanics in Mists of Pandaria, the loss of the 'legendary bump' from Dragon Soul, or the competition from energy using, leather wearing monks who can also tank or heal if necessary, or some factor I'm completely missing. What's indisputable here is that Cynwise has put together some very interesting and thought provoking numbers for us all here.

Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.

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