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Encrypted Text: Siege of Assassination

Scott Helfand

Every week or two, 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.

Alright, then. Now that introductions are out of the way, let's roll up our sleeves, sharpen the knives we've got hidden within them, roll our sleeves back down again, and get to business.

As you may be somewhat aware, some patch or other happened a few weeks ago. All's I know is, my rogue passed out on a Monday night and when she woke up on Tuesday, her strikes felt suspiciously more sinister.

In all, nearly three dozen class-specific changes greeted us when Patch 5.4 went live (and a few more drifted down from the Azerothian heavens in the form of post-patch hotfixes). Nearly all of them were buffs, bug fixes or quality-of-life improvements of some sort.

That sounds pretty outstanding. But the real question is: What will all of these changes actually alter about the experience of playing a rogue? How many of these differences are noticeable?

Alright, alright, simmer down, I'll tell you:

  • For most specs and in most facets of the game, these oodles of changes will alter very little about how you play your rogue. And that's exactly as it should be -- this is Patch 5.4, not Patch 6.0.
  • In most situations, every one of our three specs will nicely do the job that needs doing, whether it's raiding, casual PvP or questing. It's not until you get into the really competitive stuff that specs will matter, and that equipping specific items begins to play an important role.
If you're looking for a takeaway message, you can stop reading right there; you've got all you need. Go! Shoo! Get!

But if you want a little more detail ... well, let's take a closer look together, shall we?

For the next two weeks, we'll focus specifically on the raiding game, with a bias toward those of you who aren't already slicing your way through heroics like you're a hot dagger and they're Jell-O, since I suspect your eyeballs make up a minority of those scanning this page right now. (If you do want a more intricate breakdown of what the changes mean for competitive raiders, I recommend Fierydemise's analysis, as well as his hotfix follow-up.)

This week, we zoom in on assassination.

Encrypted Text Siege of Assassination WEDS

Still Assassinating the Field

At the conclusion of Patch 5.3, rogues -- well, ok, specifically assassination rogues (a.k.a. "mut" spec -- never "sin," I don't care what you learned in rogue school) -- ruled the roost on DPS charts across a wide swath of Throne of Thunder raid fights. The reasons for that ... well, we can get into the nitty-gritty in a future column, but for now I'll just remind everyone the numbers you see on Raidbots for each rogue spec are often not an accurate reflection of how well those specs can truly do.

Nonetheless, assassination was sitting pretty as the curtain began to fall on the Throne of Thunder. So what did Patch 5.4 bring for the spec? Why, a set of damage buffs for assassination, of course. Thank goodness for that, because we -- wait, what? That can't be right. Let me go back and check my notes.

Huh. Yeah. Look at that. Mutilate buffed 40%. Dispatch buffed 40%. Well. Alright then.

I'll admit it: These buffs didn't strike me as strange when I first read about them. I took the designers at their word when they said that mut spec was looking lower than they wanted it on the PTR. I don't doubt that was what they were seeing. (Also note that they admitted they were flummoxed by the numbers they saw; they couldn't think of a good reason for it, but felt it needed to be addressed to ensure the spec's continued awesomeness in 5.4.)

It wasn't until Patch 5.4 actually launched, and thousands of mut rogues flooded the dirt-packed streets of Orgrimmar, that WoW's designers realized what they'd been seeing on the PTR was a mirage: Mut rogues were blowing every other DPS spec completely out of Bladefist Bay on several fights.

But rather than revert the Mutilate and Dispatch buffs, the designers decided to knock Assassin's Resolve down a peg. This slashed our overall DPS slightly, by roughly 4% -- not enough to knock mut from its DPS pedestal, but enough to make other classes more appropriately competitive. It also signaled an awareness on the designers' part that they've taken to heart one of the central complaints uttered by many mut rogues during the course of Mists: that too much of our damage was coming from passive sources (poisons, autoattacks) rather than active sources (which involve hitting a button and immediately seeing the damage it caused). Don't be surprised if you see this trend kick into a higher gear when the class is updated for the new expansion.

Encrypted Text Siege of Assassination WEDS

The More Things Change ...

Meanwhile, a new set of raid gear (Tier 16, a.k.a. "Barbed Assassin") brought with it some intriguing bonuses that ... well, that don't really change anything about mut's gameplay at all. Mut plays no differently in Patch 5.4 than it did previously -- which, in case you're grumbling right now, I'd like to point out is actually a good thing. Mut had already been performing really well in its current incarnation. I don't believe that strong, popular specs should be rejiggered in the middle of an expansion to satisfy players who are unhappy with the way it feels. (I'm much more sympathetic to the desires of the significant number of players who prefer not to have to relearn their class every few months. And I happen to like the pace of the assassination rotation. So there.)

I suppose one could argue that as the amount of haste on our gear continues to snake upwards and a new four-piece set bonus leaves us hitting cooldowns like Vendetta and Shadow Blades more often, the spec may feel a little faster-paced. But the way we play it remains the same.

So ultimately, assassination in 5.4 finds itself in much the same spot as it was in 5.3: Still king of the DPS hill, still the easiest of the three specs to play effectively, still apparently the go-to spec for raiders.

Next week, we'll talk about some of the changes affecting combat and subtlety raiders in 5.4, and discuss why anyone who judges you for deciding to raid with those specs is probably a stupidface, because in most cases -- spoiler alert! -- they can be just as solid as mut when played well.

(Apologies, PvPers and levelers: I promise I'll get to you soon.)
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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