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Encrypted Text: Enter the Darkness

Scott Helfand

Every other week, WoW Insider brings you Encrypted Text for assassination, combat and subtlety rogues. Scott Helfand (@sveltekumquat) will be your shadow on this treacherous journey; try not to keep your back turned for too long, and make sure your valuables are stashed somewhere safe.

We are a strange (and deadly) brew, we who play a World of Warcraft rogue. Perhaps more than any other class, each day we log in, we face a basic truth: We can never be what we truly desire.

As a class, we spend our days in WoW defined by the terror of our stealth and the bite of our poisons. But at night, our dreams are of slinking up behind our enemy, unleashing a single, devastating, mortal attack, and leaving only silence in our wake.

Sadly, this is an MMO, and we're no Desmond Miles.

In today's WoW, there is no such thing as an instant kill (despite those brief, glorious moments early in the Patch 5.4 PTR when it looked like it might be possible), and our desire for blood and secrecy must be balanced against the millions of others who selfishly insist that their characters' blood remain inside their virtual flesh and that we actually be seen from time to time.

Nonetheless, we play on; not a ton of us, but more than enough to make life frustrating for our fellow players -- and no doubt for WoW's game designers as well, who perpetually grapple with the question of how to make rogues interesting to play without making them unstoppable killing machines.

Of course, we already know the answer to that dilemma: Just make us unstoppable killing machines. It doesn't even have to be forever -- maybe just for an expansion or two. Or three. We promise we'll make everyone's deaths quick. We even have something to numb the pain.

But no, no, we have to be realistic. When DPS performance starts to look like this:

a Raidbots chart illustrating Assassination's apparent dominance in 25-man normal mode through the first two weeks of 5.4
When that happens on multiple boss fights in a raid tier, even those of us who believe strongly in the basic principle of rogue superiority (and who realize that Raidbots is at best a flawed arbiter of class/spec performance in raids) have to admit things are perhaps getting just a little out of hand. It's one thing to want to top meters; it's another thing entirely to destroy them. Do you want everyone in the game rolling a rogue, people? Do you really want to be the overdog? What happens to the people who play a chronically underrepresented spec when it suddenly becomes, knock on wood, actually popular?

Chaos, that's what. Madness. Zombie epidemics. None of us want that. Rogues are no good at killing zombies; you need to be able to equip shotguns, or large blunt objects, or old LP records.

I've always suspected that deep down, a lot of people who primarily play rogues don't truly want to be overpowered, either in PvE or PvP. For one thing, I believe many people love their rogues because they are so uncommon at end-game relative to the other classes. Leveling a rogue to 90 is in itself a badge of pride -- and the ability to succeed with one in raids, arena, challenge-mode dungeons, the new Proving Grounds, or any other competitive environment is like posting a gleaming plaque on the wall that says:

a plaque. it reads: Hey. Self.  You're Pretty Awesome.  Way to Rogue It Up, Yo.  Also, Who Says
I'm not saying that I feel rogues should somehow, by definition, be fundamentally difficult to play -- although I do believe we've strayed a little too far in the direction of high reward for little effort (particularly with the Assassination spec in end-game PvE), an issue I'll explore more in the future. On the contrary: I think rogues need to be easier to play -- or, of perhaps even greater importance, more fun to play -- but hard to play really well.

To me, at their core, rogues are patient and devious creatures. Rogues plan and plot, dodge and weave, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. We don't want to be handed superiority on a platter; we want to be given the *potential* to be superior, so that the most skilled among us can use our speed, our tricks and our wits to achieve superiority on our own.

This, I feel, is what drives many of us to play our rogues: the need to be better than everyone else -- but to do it ourselves. This is why we have such a close-knit community; why our class was the inspiration for one of WoW's greatest theorycrafters; why we've developed our very own gear optimization tool -- an Ask Mr. Stealthbot, if you will.

It's why you all eagerly consumed Chase Christian's outstanding blogs over the past five years, and why you're willing to give me the benefit of the doubt (I hope) as I attempt to skulk around in the very large leather boots he left behind.

My name is Scott; I love playing a rogue.

My main's name is Rfeann; she thrives in the shadows.

Together, we prepare our strange and deadly brew.

Join me in the darkness, won't you?
Sneak in every other Wednesday for our RPPM guide and tier 16 set bonus review, a deep-dive into the world of assassination and combat rogue AoE rotations -- and of course, why we'll always be the bad guys.

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