What Makes a Good Rogue Spec?

Watching the changes to the rogue class during Legion alpha I am becoming increasingly discouraged about the direction of rogue design. Before digging into exactly what is wrong with the current designs I think it makes sense to focus on when rogue design worked and learn from that.

Combat High-Rupture (T8-T10) Combat high-rupture is the least remembered rotation on this list because it only lasted about one tier. Starting with the T8 set bonus and Ulduar and falling out of favor in T9 when armor penetration levels got high enough for ruptureless rotations. Before combat high-rupture combat rotations were described by Xs/Yr/Ze rotations where X, Y, and Z represented the number of cps to use a slice and dice, rupture, and eviscerate at respectively. This rotation, would yield ~50% rupture uptime with 100% SnD uptime and a smattering of eviscerate damage. Combat high-rupture upended this rotation my emphasizing maximizing rupture uptime, however unlike other maintenance buffs it was not optimal to maintain 100% uptime. The rotation was a giant resource allocation and timing problem, how do you maximize the number of 5 cp finishers for energy efficiency, maximize rupture uptime, avoid wasting combo/points and energy, all with moment to moment variation in energy regeneration and combo point generation from combat potency and glyph of sinister strike respectively.

With our fancy tools of today, pandemic, anticipation, longer durations on SnD and rupture that rotation doesn’t sound particularly hard but at the time it was a challenging rotation that many rogues opted for Xs/Yr/Ze rotations for simplicity. Instead we used the tools we had at our disposal, that 25 energy you had to spend on Tricks of the Trade every 30 seconds was an easy way to bleed a couple seconds of energy for a better refresh timing. If you needed to kick (25 energy at the time) that was another tool to shape your energy distribution. This wasn’t a speed demon/carpel tunnel spec like we’ve come to expect from combat today, combat high-rupture moved at 35-40 APM, a pace we would call plodding today.

Cata Assassination (T11-T13) Unlike combat high-rupture most of you reading this probably know what Cata assassination played like. It played mostly like assassination does today but unlike today where the primary difficulty of assassination is keeping your eyes open until the emergence of “John F-ing Madden” Subtlety (see below) in late T11, early T12, assassination was widely considered the most engaging rogue spec. What was different about cata assassination? No blindside procs, above 35% cp gen was just mutilate, venomous wounds was 60% chance, 16 second rupture, no anticipation to minimize combo point waste, in short, lower resources across the board. For assassination this made all the difference, the spec barely broke 30 APM but maximizing envenom uptime required thought. The reduced envenom uptime made envenom more meaningful and storing 5 cps for a full envenom at full energy was a decent form of mini-burst. Like combat high-rupture above cata assassination low dps wasn’t a result of flubbing some massive burst window, cata assassination didn’t have massive burst if it wanted it, but was a slow loss of damage by making the wrong second to second decision.

“John F-ing Madden” Subtlety (T11-T13) The T13 subtlety spec is fondly remembered by many rogues but in retrospect it was something of a design disaster. The spec relied on numerous little tricks, snapshotting master of subtlety, and as many other buffs as possible into rupture and then rolling it with eviscerate for the entire fight. Combined with the shorter durations of rupture (20 seconds with glyph) and slice and dice (24 seconds) plus maintaining recuperate for energy regen and lack of tools for resource management created a rotation that was only borderline sustainable on uninterrupted patchwork style fights.

Unlike the previous specs mentioned there wasn’t a lot of nuance to “John F-ing Madden” you knew what you had to and and how to do it however the constant sweating over resource constraints are barely making one refresh or another (where missing one could tank your damage for the entire fight) was stressful and nerve-wracking in a way many people found very enjoyable. I don’t miss this spec, it was a barely sustainable mess that only worked because due to the design of dragon soul and its out sized damage when properly executed but it is an important spec in rogue history that lead directly to our last spec on this list.

Modern Subtlety (T16-Today) I’m lumping the MoP and WoD versions of subtlety together because they share a similar structure. Unlike the previous specs discussed the MoP and WoD subtlety spec have relatively high resource generation. However shadow dance burst windows impose major resource constraints over short time scales requiring pooling and GCD maximization. This subtlety has numerous little tricks for optimizing that dance window and is a perfect example of opt-in complexity. If you want to add more complexity to the spec you can, if you just want to play the base spec there is still enough complexity to keep the rotation dynamic from dance windows and in WoD blade twisting procs.

What Have We Learned The key point with all of these specs are resource constraints. The energy and combo point system of rogues (and feral druids) lends itself to slower rotations optimizing resource utilization rather than moment to moment rapid decision making. Rogue rotations tend are inherently constrained, abilities must either generate combo points or consume them and well designed rotations use those constraints. Multiple conflicting timers like “John F-ing Madden” subtlety require preplanning so we have sufficient resources at each refresh time which may shift around and overlap in ways that conflict with our underlying resource generation.

The key problem with rogue rotations during WoD and now into Legion is we have too many resources. The cata assassination spec had 10 additional energy on a 60% chance, now in WoD that is 100%. The addition of dispatch in MoP added nearly half a combo point to each mutilate of expected value. Subtlety has lost abilities to juggle and mechanical interactions that impose resource limits. Now with talents legion subtlety gains enough energy on entering shadow dance that pooling is entirely unnecessary. Legion combat is entirely resource unconstrained but without the nuanced interactions you need to support a high resource spec. New tools like anticipation and pandemic that allow more efficient resource utilization and allows us to escape some of the inherent timing constraints imposed by the combo point system. Finally set bonuses frequently increase resource generation as an easy way to give an interesting bonus. Taken together this undermines the potential complexity of rogue specs.

Some of this undoubtedly sounds like the ranting of an old grognard about the kids these days and their new tools. Maybe thats all this is, there is certainly community demand for high speed, GCD-locked specs but this doesn’t fit with historical rogue design or the current direction. If Blizzard is going to continue designing rogue specs without sufficient resource constraints rogue design must change. Rather than timing and pooling based specs design must shift toward complex mechanical interactions that find complexity in rapid decision making not careful ability timing. The current design seems trapped between the two, insufficient mechanical nuance for a quick decision spec but too many resources for a timing and planning spec.


Guessing Legion Talents

Based on the wonderful datamining from WoWHead we can make some initial guesses about our talent trees. Per Celestalon and Jay some of this stuff may have changed already and in a few places I’m guessing. All that said we can definitely start to get a picture of how our new talent trees may be structured. Spoiler warning: not all that different from our old talent trees.

Tier 15: Rotational
This tier looks like a good example of the stated design at Blizzcon. There is a passive talent with low rotational impact, a more complex passive talent and an active talent.
Master Poisoner: Increases the damage done by your poisons by 10% and their non-damaging effects by 20%.
Elaborate Planning: Your finishing moves grant 20% increased damage done for 4 sec.
??: Still seem to be missing one talent, probably the active talent here.

Ghostly Strike: Strike an enemy with your cursed weapon, dealing 176% Physical damage, awarding 1 combo point, and causing the target to take 10% increased damage from your abilities for 15 sec.
Quick Draw: Free uses of Pistol Shot granted by Sabre Slash now generate 1 additional combo point, and deal 50% increased damage.
Swordmaster: Sabre Slash has an additional 15% chance to trigger a second instant free Sabre Slash.

Weaponmaster: Your abilities have a 20% chance to hit the target twice each time they deal damage
Gloomblade: Infuse your weapon with Shadow energies and stab the target, causing 210% Shadow damage. Awards 1 combo point. Replaces Backstab.
??-Elaborate Planning: This was called out as an assassination talent in the preview but it does seem to fit on the sub row so putting it here provisionally

Tier 30: Movement and Stealth This tier looks very similar to live tier 15 with all three of nightstalkershadow focus, and subterfuge. Outlaw has two new movement based talents on this tier. Given what Blizzard said about outlaws and stealth this fits. It isn’t clear what the 3rd talent on this tier will be, it might be one of the stealth talents above or something else new.
Into the Fray: Increases your movement speed at all times by 15%.
Acrobatic Strikes: Increases the range on all your melee attacks by 3 yards.

Tier 45: Resources All three specs appear to share three resource generation/management talents on this tier, our old friend anticipation, now maxing out at 3 surplus combo points and two new talents.
Vigor: Increases your maximum Energy by 50 and your base Energy regeneration by 10%.
Deeper Stratagem: You may now have a maximum of 6 combo points, and your finishing moves now consume up to 6 combo points.

Tier 60: Survivability and Healing
This looks like a modification of live tier 45. The two interesting talents from tier 45 stick around to keep the great cheat death vs elusiveness debate raging. Each spec also has a healing talent as well, assassination keepsleeching poison while outlaw and subtlety get new talents.
Soothing Darkness: You heal 3% of your maximum life every 1 sec while Stealth is active.
Iron Stomach: Increases the healing you receive from Crimson Vial, healing potions, and healthstones by 30%.

Tier 75: CC
Broadly a merger of tiers 30 and 75 from live. It isn’t entirely clear how things fit together. Assassination gets [paralyic poison] from MoP back and paralytic poison’s WoD replacement internal bleeding befitting the assassination bleed emphasis. Current tier 75 talent dirty tricks goes to outlaw, a seemingly odd choice given the lack of dots for the spec but it does seem to fit everything we’ve been told about about outlaw aesthetically. It isn’t exactly labeled as such but current tier 30 talent nerve strike seems to round out the tier for outlaw and subtlety, this is a guess.

Thuggee: Each time you deal Bleed damage, you have a 15% chance to reset the cooldown on Garrote, but Garrote’s silence now lasts only 1 sec.

Parley: Pacifies the target, who is forced to negotiate instead of fighting for 1 min. Only works on Humanoids, Demons, and Dragonkin. Any damage caused will break the peace. Limit 1 target.

Strike From The Shadows: Shadowstrike also stuns your target for 2 sec.
Tangled Shadow: Nightblade now decreases the target’s movement speed by an additional 20%. Nightblade is subtlety’s rupture replacement.

Tier 90: Rotational
As announced at Blizzcon outlaw gets everyone’s favorite suicide button killing spree as a talent. Otherwise this tier is all new stuff. One new talent, alacrity, shared between all three specs.

Alacrity: Your finishing moves have a 20% chance per combo point to grant 1% Haste for 20 sec, stacking up to 25 times.

Numbing Poison: Coats your weapons with a Lethal Poison that lasts for 1 hour. Each strike has a 20% chance of poisoning the enemy, increasing all damage taken from your abilities by 10%, stacking up to 5 times and lasting 12 sec.
Blood Sweat: Each time you deal Bleed damage, the effect has a 30% chance to spread to an additional nearby target.

Cannonball Barrage: Command a ghost ship crew to barrage the target area with cannonballs doing 8 Physical damage over 1.80 sec and slowing enemies by 50% for 1.50 sec.

Premeditation: Cheap Shot and Shadowstrike generate 1 additional combo point.
Expanded Technique: Your combo point generators now also have a chance to trigger Shadow Techniques.

Tier 100: More Rotational?
All three specs share one well regarded talent from live in marked for death and one not so well regarded talent from live death from above. Assassination rounds out the tier with another live tier 100 talent, the disappointingly named Lemon Zestvenom rush.

Roll the Bones: Finishing move that rolls the dice of fate, providing a random combat enhancement. Lasts longer per combo point.

Relentless Strikes: You gain an additional 40 Energy when you enter Stealth.

What’s Missing?
There are two obvious omissions from the list above. The current level 45 mobility is gone. It may be that Blizzard is trying to move to spec specific movement kits. The devs confirmed on twitter earlier this week that shadowstrike (new ambush) will also serve as a gap closer. Outlaw appears to pick up a grappling hook leaving assassination with the old standby shadowstep. The other oddly hard to place ability is my most hated talentshadow reflection. We’ll have to wait and see but I’m hoping the clone is gone for good.

Overall we have picked up two tiers of potentially interesting rotational talents. There has been some shuffling between tiers but that isn’t obviously a bad thing. Part of the issue with the old rogue tiers was the somewhat disjointed collection of mechanics per tier. Several of the new mechanics look very interesting and I’m excited to play with them, others have major issues but that is exactly what beta is for.


Legion Initial Worries

After yesterday’s info dump we don’t really have enough information for any kind of broad feedback. This post is a collection of potential worries to watch during early beta. When possible I’m working from the information we got yesterday but where things are unclear I’ve attempted to read between the lines a bit. Note these worries are roughly ordered by my worry about the issue.

Positional Requirements Positionals have always been one of those odd cases where Blizzard lets flavor overwhelm gameplay. A design only made weirder by last year’s Blizzcon comments by Kris Zierhut where he talked happily about the removal of feral positionals with no mention of backstab. WoD sidestab was a marked improvement and since the devs confirmed new backstab remains sidestab things aren’t as bad as they could be.

That said the decision to remove the positional requirements from backstab and replace it with a damage bonus is a poor solution as I said in my positional requirement blog post more than two years ago.

This solution despite being functionally identical to the current system is in fact worse because it provides no feedback mechanism. In the current design if backstab isn’t usable you know you aren’t behind the target, in this new design if you are just outside of the positional arc you will be doing less damage without an obvious indication.

The devs noted today that we would be seeing new UI elements to indicate target facing. This is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t really solve the problem. As several people noted on twitter a small indicator may be hard to see under raid ground clutter. Beyond that trying to rough out 45 degree arcs extending from a known point in space, while also paying attention to other mechanics is non-trivial. Yes technically it is a source of difficulty but estimating angles in space, especially given inconsistencies in boss hitbox sizes, doesn’t seem like a good source of difficulty.

If we are going to keep this backstab mechanic better UI support is essential. This could be done as an API function, IsBehind(unit) or a less ambiguous target circle marker as proposed by multiple people on twitter. Without better UI support I’m sure the rogue community will develop some big fancy weak aura to figure out if you are missing the 30% bonus but after recent comments about mechanics being too UI dependent this seems like something Blizzard wants to avoid.

Assassination Speed
Despite Blizzard’s assurances that pooling will remain important to assassination in Legion I remain skeptical. The key problem is pooling wasn’t really relevant in WoD either so if that is what Blizzard is trying to preserve, that isn’t going far enough. The key metric for pooling for me is, how high does a player have to pool to consistently generate 5 cps during the envenom buff. For simplicity let’s ignore anticipation and pandemic and just focus on that 6 second window. The key threshold is can you generate enough energy in a 6 second envenom window to use two mutilates. If you can do that, pooling broadly falls apart. With relentless strikes in WoD this meant 110-25=85 energy in 6 seconds, subtract off the 30 energy from 3 venomous wounds procs in a 6 second window and you end up with 55 energy in 6 seconds, which is to say even at 0 haste (10 energy per second) you could use two mutilates per 6 seconds. (Worth noting here that the apparent removal of dispatch even combined with the seal fate change will actually lower assassination combo point generation somewhat, something I am entirely fine with).

If relentless strikes is being removed, and since there is a subtlety talent called relentless strikes this seems quite likely, you now need to generate an additional 25 energy in 6 seconds. Of course with new sources of venomous wounds procs that value can be easily made up.

The question is how much gap should there be at 0 haste. If you start doing the math for even relatively low pooling thresholds, say 30 energy, you get 4 energy per venomous wounds tick, a dramatic step down from today, and at most the rotation requires pooling to 50 energy at 0% haste, ignoring venomous wounds ticks completely. This is a far cry from Cata and early MoP pooling up to 80+ energy. The key problem is there is no RNG. Regardless of the required pooling threshold the pooling target can always be computed exactly taking away the dynamism of pooling.

I know many players hated RNG resource generation but given the strictly deterministic energy regen of WoD and now potentially Legion assassination pooling thresholds create relatively small challenge. Since we now have 66% more venomous wounds procing events perhaps venomous wounds could return to a chance to proc with more events making zero procs within some window somewhat more unlikely.

I should note here that the example talent with a shorter pooling window does have the potential for interesting pooling based rotations if it is beneficial to squeeze another finisher into that damage window.

AoE rotations
The preview blog didn’t contain any information about AoE rotations however on twitter the devs made a pretty sweeping statement about AoE balance. This is a great goal but I am skeptical because blade flurry still exists. In fact at the start of WoD all three rogue specs were relatively balanced for AoE. Assassination fell off at higher target counts due to GCD capping but all three specs were competitive with each other on 2-4 target sustained and combat and subtlety were competitive with each other well past 5 targets. The problem, in addition to Blizzard’s odd tendency to buff blade flurry rather than combat single target in 6.0, is how the three AoE rotations scale mechanically (yes I’m about to make a scaling argument).

The outlaw AoE rotation with blade flurry scales very well because the outlaw AoE rotation is identical to its single target rotation. Anything that increases single target dps increases AoE dps. By contrast the subtlety and assassination AoE rotations are entirely distinct from the single target rotations using only a subset of the mechanics. Increasing envenom damage, envenom buff uptime, or cp builder damage had very little impact on assassination AoE damage and those mechanics tended to be where later buffs and set bonuses focused. Similarly for subtlety increasing FW uptime, dance uptime, or ambush damage, have a minor impact on AoE damage.

We have basically no information about AoE rotations but it is important to keep in mind during beta how each spec’s AoE rotation will scale mechanically. So long as outlaw keeps blade flurry in its current form I suspect it will out scale the other two specs without regular buffs.

One dev tweet yesterday mentioned anticipation and I believe entirely misses the issue with anticipation. I realize this is a single tweet and nuance may have been lost due to character constraints but I think it is important to be clear about the issues with anticipation balance for each spec since marked for death was added (the less said about the other talent on that tier the better).

Subtlety has the most interesting relationship with anticipation, while marked for death has been in theory competitive since the 6.0 actually achieving better dps results given the random and rapid combo point generation of HAT has eluded the rogue community. In practice trying to squeeze combo point builders into 1 GCD every 2-2.3 seconds approximately, is very difficult to do without accidentally losing a couple combo points. The relative competitiveness of anticipation for subtlety will likely not depend on the tuning of anticipation’s competitors but the tuning of the HAT replacement shadow techniques. The relative value of anticipation is also increased by higher combo point generation per ability so if shadow blades behaves as it did in MoP this may also push rogues toward anticipation.

Assassination has never favored marked for death due to its highly variable combo point generation. The change to seal fate increases the strength of anticipation. Using a 4+ rotation, as assassination rogues did pre-MoP, the potential combo point waste per finisher used at 3 cps is now crit_chance^2 higher than pre-MoP. This is a relatively minor effect, no more than 0.15 combo points additional waste in high gear levels but it will increase the value of anticipation. None of the changes to outlaw appear to make it more likely to take anticipation so it may continue to favor other talents. That said even for outlaw many players prefer anticipation due to increased quality of life which will likely continue to be true. The fundamental challenge with anticipation is the talent increases quality of life while providing a dps increase. Talents that are merely competitive are less likely to be chosen unless they offer comparable quality of life improvements.

The New Subtlety Rotation
Since the Blizzcon announcement about subtlety I’ve been somewhat miffed about the changes to subtlety. The WoD subtlety spec, especially in T17, was a wonderful piece of design with difficulty that scaled with player desire for challenge, with appropriate dps rewards, and broadly embodied the design principle of easy to learn, hard to master. The new rotation doesn’t seem to do that nearly as well. The new rotation, in it’s base version, doesn’t seem to have any of the timing window based hooks the spec has relied on since Cata. As Blizzard keeps reminding us talents will change up the rotation but I’m somewhat skeptical of the new rotation’s potential for interesting mechanics.

Vendetta is Boring
Blizzard confirmed yesterday that vendetta would be sticking around for another expansion to defend it’s title of most boring dps cooldown. I hope Blizzard has something new in store for envenom (beyond the silly WoD cold blood perk) because vendetta is entirely unexciting in its current form. At the very least making the ability on the rogue rather than target locked would be a nice quality of life change.

Outlaw Theme
For all the work Blizzard has done on spec identity one piece of information seems to be missing from the outlaw section, what mechanic is outlaw built around. With assassination we know that the spec mechanics are all about dots, poisons and bleeds, for subtlety it’s stealth and openers but for outlaw, no idea. The spec is supposed to be swashblucker/swordmaster but that doesn’t define a playstyle just an aesthetic theme. Strictly speaking there is no reason for a spec to need a mechanical theme, WoD subtlety for instance is all over the map but given all the discussion about defining the specs it seems like an odd oversight.

To that end the rotational sketch we get is very generic combo point system and basically the same as the live rotation. Sinister strike is now saber slash (at least we get to keep the same acronym), eviscerate is now run through. We’ve got a new proc mechanic with pistol shot and it looks like the spec has lost the cooldown centric cooldown reduction and bandit’s guile mechanics. Obviously talents will help flesh out the mechanics but unlike the other two specs there is little indication of what those talents will hook into or what kinds of mechanics the spec will emphasize.


Warlords Retrospective: Part 1

Before we start talking about what we want for rogues in Legion it’s important to reflect on WoD for rogues. What worked, what didn’t work, what can be salvaged and what needs to be changed. This will be the first part of a series of WoD retrospective posts, today talking about macro level issues with rogue class design.

Spec Niches
The handling of spec niches during Warlords has been incredibly confusing. The most telling example is the saga of Blade Flurry over the past 30 months. Think back to MoP launch, blade flurry was a 100% mirror on a single target. During 5.0 many rogues felt that a combat spec was mandatory for cleave centric fights such as Mogu’shan Dogs and Garalon so in 5.2 Blizzard changed blade flurry into the version we have today.  At the time Ghostcrawler summed up the change with the sentence “It’s fine if the rogue specs have niches, but the niches shouldn’t be so rigid that you don’t feel like you have any choice in spec.” This was for most of MoP the way we viewed niches and during WoD beta that looked like Blizzard’s solution too. During beta when blade flurry appeared much stronger than assassination and subtlety AoE Blizzard nerfed blade flurry and buffed the other two spec’s AoE.
Once the expansion went live however things changed. While both subtlety and assassination have received primarily single target buffs this expansion combat has seen blade flurry buffs such that now we are in the exact situation that we were during 5.0 and during beta. Combat is the AoE spec, if you need to AoE you play combat but the spec is broadly uncompetitive on sustained single target, more than 10% behind second place assassination. Every rogue spec question is “what spec do I pair with combat?” No one considers assassination/subtlety to be a viable spec combination for progression raiding.
Blizzard’s stance on spec niches for multiple spec per role classes has always been something of a moving target but the Warlords implementation has been particularly unpleasant. While great effort was made during MoP and WoD beta to relax the impact of niches, as we’ve moved through the expansion the niches have moved back to prominence with increased importance. Combat set bonuses and perks have continued to buff AoE capabilities up while assassination and subtlety have focused solely on increasing single target. Even if Blizzard hadn’t buffed blade flurry during the first round of hotfixes in 6.0 combat likely still be the the dominant rogue AoE spec.
Another problem with the current rogue niche design is subtlety. During beta it was explained that subtlety was tuned slightly higher than other rogue specs because of difficulty and to counterbalance its weaknesses in other areas. In other words, single target was a subtlety spec niche. This was more than a year ago so I don’t want to hold Blizzard to that statement but their recent behavior reflects similar thinking. When subtlety was only competitive with assassination single target at the start of 6.2 it was given several buffs, seemingly to make sure subtlety would always be the top dog for single target. This has major balance implications on its own as Ashunera explained very well during 6.0 but it also creates major problems for rogue spec balance as well.
Combine this goal of a single target spec with the AoE dominance of combat and its no wonder that assassination has been a mostly dead spec in high end raiding this expansion. Assassination theoretically has advantages on low target split cleave but fights like this are rare enough and the other specs are close enough that it generally isn’t worth optimizing for. Assassination also has its execute to fall back on however in its nerfed state (<10% dps increase over non-execute for most of the expansion) subtlety’s burst niche can do comparable amounts of damage during execute phases while being far more versatile.
The takeaway here is that, spec niches need to be reexamined. If Blizzard prefers the MoP and early WoD design of niches as perks or bonuses but all specs have reasonable tools then there needs to be far more emphasis on combat single target and subtlety/assassination AoE. If niches are going back to a more central role then assassination’s execute niche needs to be strengthened and perhaps the spec needs another niche.  Additionally we need to stop defining subtlety as the single target spec unless assassination is intended as the simple spec for new players that is never designed to be used in mythic raiding.
Weapon Lock
I started writing this post before the Legion announcement and at the time weapon lock was a really big deal, mostly for the reasons I mentioned back in my 6.0 blog post on the topic. However as Rfeann pointed out in his Blizzard Watch column last week the artifact system has the potential to solve a lot of the weapon lock issues that have plagued rogues during WoD. There are a number of open questions about how much work keeping multiple specs worth of weapons raid ready will be but those are not limited to just rogues so there should be a relatively broad coalition if Blizzard does something boneheaded.
The Rogue Survivability Toolkit
The strength of the rogue survivability toolkit isn’t new. Rogues have been the hardest to kill class in raids since Cataclysm and the creation of the first feint glyph. Today we all consider that part of the rogue class identity but there are a few problems. The first we saw this expansion very clearly on mythic Blackhand, only rogues have a spammable damage reduction ability strong enough for repeated soaking. In theory this strength is balanced by the energy cost, and by extension dps cost, of feint. At one point this was true, when the feint damage reduction was added in Wrath 20 energy with a 10 second cooldown was a pretty substantial expenditure, 15-20% of your total energy. As energy regen has increased over the past several expansions the energy cost of feint has become less relevant allowing rogues to spam feint without substantial penalty. I suspect many rogues use feint too much but the energy cost isn’t high enough to actually punish those decisions.

All that said increasing the cost of feint brings us to the second issue with the rogue survivability toolkit. Feint makes up so much of a rogue’s toolkit that nerfing it would leave rogues at best middle of the pack among melee dps survivability. Rogues do not have the generic 20-40% damage reduction cooldown of many other melee classes and as we’ve seen a few times this expansion, on Brakenspore for instance, without feint rogues tend to be pretty squishy. If Blizzard is going to nerf feint through at a cost increase like I am advocating rogues probably need a reliable, generic 20% damage reduction ability.

The rogue survivability toolkit is unique, and as the developers, Ghostcrawler in particular, have reminded us many times, unique isn’t bad. Unique is how we keep classes and specs from being too homogeneous but unique mechanics can cause balance problems and the rogue survivability toolkit is probably too unique. If Blizzard is going to continue designing fights like Blackhand another class or spec probably needs some form of spammable damage reduction ability.



Theorycrafting and Simple Math

If you follow me on twitter or spend any time in #Ravenholdt you’ve probably heard one of my “theorycrafting doesn’t require complex math” rants.  Recently someone challenged me in IRC to prove that you could do useful stuff with basic math so in this post I will show that you can answer useful theorycrafting questions with just simple math.


First we need to define simple math.  Occasionally when I make this argument people accuse me of underestimating complexity because I like math. To answer this objection I will clearly define what I mean by simple math.  First simple math includes basic arithmetic, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Second simple math includes basic probability concepts.  To make sure I’m not cheating here and smuggling in complex math under the guise of “basic probability” I’m going to start with four probability questions.  Anyone who can answer all four of these questions possesses what I am calling basic probability knowledge for the purposes of this post.

{slider Question 1) If you roll a six sided die once, what is the probability that you will roll a 6?|closed|noscroll}1/6 = 0.166 = 16.6%{/sliders}
{slider Question 2) If you roll a six sided die once, what is the probability you do not roll a 6?|closed|noscroll}1-(1/6) = 5/6 = 0.833 = 83.3%{/sliders} 
{slider Question 3) If you roll a six sided die twice what is the chance you get two 6s?|closed|noscroll}(1/6)*(1/6)=(1/36)=0.027= 2.7%

Concept: The probability of two events happening is the product of the probabilities of each event (Technically this only applies to independent probabilities only but in WoW most probabilities are independent).{/sliders}
{slider Question 4) In a lottery you roll a six sided die once, if you roll a 6 you get $10, if you roll a 5 you get $5, and if you roll a anything else you get nothing.  If you enter this lottery 100 times how much do you expect to win?|closed|noscroll}Answer: First work out the probabilities of each event.  From question 1 we know that the probability of rolling a 6 is 1/6 and the probability of rolling a 5 is 1/6.  From question 2 we know probability of rolling anything else is 1-(1/6)-(1/6)=4/6=0.666=66.6%

We’re entering 100 times so we expect to roll 16.6 “6s”, 16.6 “5s” and 66.6 other.  Now multiply each by the associated winning, 16.6*$10=$166, 16.6*$5=$83.  So the total expected winnings from 100 plays is $166+$83=$249 and if we divide that by 100 we get $2.49 dollars per roll (Some people may note that $2.50 is actually the correct result which we didn’t get due to rounding but that isn’t really important to the concept on display here).

Concept: The average value of an event with multiple possible outcomes is the sum of the value of each outcome times the probability of that outcome occurring.{/sliders}

Armed with basic arithmetic and these four probability concepts we’re going to compute a useful an actionable theorycrafting result, the crossover point where Anticipation becomes better than Marked for Death (MfD) in terms of combo points saved/generated per minute.

To begin a few assumptions:
1) 100% Revealing Strike (RvS) uptime but we will not consider actually casting RvS.
2) Per traditional rotations, only use finishers at 5 combo points, this also allows us to assume the player always starts with 1 combo point from Ruthlessness.
3) This does not consider using anticipation to shift finishers to higher levels of Bandit’s Guile.
4) This analysis considers patchwork dps with no opportunities for MfD cooldown reset.
5) No set bonuses, modifying this analysis for set bonuses is left as an exercise for the reader.

To find the crossover point we need to determine how many combo points are wasted when using MfD instead of anticipation.  There are a number of ways to handle this but for simplicity we’re just going to write out all the paths from 1 combo point (see assumption 2) to 5 combo points and note which paths do and do not have waste.

a) 1->2->3->4->5
b) 1->2->3->4->6 (Waste)
c) 1->2->3->5
d) 1->2->4->5
e) 1->2->4->6 (Waste)
f) 1->3->4->5
g) 1->3->4->6 (Waste)
h) 1->3->5

Now we need to work out a probability of each sequences. From the Revealing Strike tooltip we know that 25% of the time (0.25) we generate 2 combo points and from question 2 we know that we have a 1-0.25 =0.75 or 75% chance of generating one combo point.  This makes working out the probability of each sequence above is an application of question 3.

a) 0.75*0.75*0.75*0.75= 0.31640625
b) 0.75*0.75*0.75*0.25= 0.10546875
c) 0.75*0.75*0.25= 0.140625
d) 0.75*0.25*0.75= 0.140625
e) 0.75*0.25*0.25= 0.046875
f) 0.25*0.75*0.75= 0.140625
g) 0.25*0.75*0.25= 0.046875
h) 0.25*0.25= 0.0625

If we sum the probabilities of the three paths that lead to waste we get a probability of wasting a combo point due to a badly timed proc of 0.10546875+0.046875+0.046875= 0.19921875 or 19.92%.

This is a relatively interesting result on its own but it isn’t an actionable result yet.  To create a result that informs our play we need to go one step further.  We know MfD generates 4 combo points per minute and we just derived that anticipation saves 0.1744 combo points per finisher.  So how many finishers does a player need to use before anticipation saves more combo points than MfD generates? 

4 combo points per minute/0.19921875 combo points per finisher= 20.08 finishers per minute.  We could this analysis further and look whether in your gear you can reach that crossover point but in this case it is probably safe to assume you’ll never be using more a finisher every 3 seconds and leave it there. This isn’t a new result, this is something that all of our theorycrafting tools tell us, MfD is better than anticipation.  However this analysis doesn’t require us to break out those big complex tools to answer the question. A relatively simple analysis requiring only “simple math” can provide the same answer.

So what am I trying to say here? I’m not trying to tell you that theorycrafting is easy or that theorycrafting is for everyone.  Figuring out how to model mechanics is often quite challenging. What I hope people get out of this post is, don’t be intimidated by the math. Too many times I read posts on the forum or comments in IRC saying, “I’d love to help theorycraft but I’m bad at math” and talk themselves out of contributing.  What this post shows, I hope, is that you don’t need to be “good at math” to contribute in a useful, meaningful way to WoW theorycraft.


WoW Warlords Patch 6.2 Rogue FAQ

This FAQ is intended to answer the common questions I’ve seen on forums and twitter over the past few weeks. This post is not intended to be a replacement for our theorycrafting tools rather a quick way to get up to speed on patch 6.2.

The analysis in this post is based on ilvl 700 T17 gear sets that should be broadly reflective of current gear on patch day but do not necessarily generalize as you gear up in T18 gear and change stat allocations. For numbers accurate for your gear consult SimC/ShC.

Any major tuning changes?
All three rogue specs received buffs, assassination received an almost 10% dps increase while sub and combat received buffs in the 3-5% range. None of these buffs have a major impact on play style but you will be doing more damage when 6.2 launches.

I see Mutilate got huge buffs, is Dispatch still worth using?
Until you get the set bonuses which help prop up Dispatch the answer is yes but barely. With T17H/M level gear, Dispatch is ~1.5% better than Mutilate sub-35%. Once you add T18 2pc that gap grows to ~11% and T18 2pc and 4pc take the gap up to ~25%, much larger than it has been at any point during this expansion.

Are there any changes to default talent spec?
If you are still playing Anticipation as combat you probably aren’t switching to MfD but you should consider it. The higher gear level will increase CP waste somewhat however both T17 2pc and 4pc bonuses propped up the value of Anticipation beyond what it will be in T18 so MfD is the better choice in all situations.

You should also consider switching to Subterfuge as subtlety if you haven’t already done that. Properly managing the vanish based bonuses of the subtlety 2pc and 4pc is much easier with Subterfuge and the Glyph of Vanish.

ShadowCraft also suggests that the much-maligned Death from Above may be the best T100 talent for subtlety with the T18 2pc and 4pc bonuses. This is a very preliminary finding and there has been limited effort to explore possible rotations in SimC but proper DfA usage may yield up to a 5% dps increase if we can find a proper rotation. One possible rotation approach may be to time DfA with Ambush to stack damage multipliers, this could work well since Vanish‘s cooldown with the set bonus is close to two times the DfA cooldown. If you want to explore this idea in more detail there is a thread on the forums.

So what are these set bonuses you keep talking about and are they any good?
Assassination 2pc: Your Dispatch deals 25% additional damage as Nature damage.
Assassination 4pc: Your Dispatch now generates 2 additional Combo Point.
As should be clear from the text the 4pc bonus is the stronger of the two however both bonuses clearly outstrip their T17 counterparts. T18 2pc is also stronger than T17 4pc so downgrading ilvl to get 2pc/2pc while gearing is a viable option.

Combat 2pc: You have a chance while Slice and Dice is active to gain the Adrenaline Rush effect for 4 sec.
Combat 4pc: Increases your damage while Adrenaline Rush is active by 15%.
The 2pc wording doesn’t tell you much so let me fill in the blanks, the AR has a chance to proc on SnD internal ticks which occur every 2 seconds with an 8% proc chance. And yes the procced ARs count toward the 4pc bonus; set bonus synergy is a big theme this tier. The 2pc is the strong bonus here, passing the 4pc from last tier. Again, breaking T17 4pc for T18 2pc will be a net dps increase.

Subtlety 2pc: Your Vanish now awards 5 Combo Points when used and increases all damage done by 30% for 10 sec.
Subtlety 4pc: Your Eviscerate and Rupture reduce the cooldown of your Vanish by 1 sec per Combo Point used.
Again with the bonus synergy, both the subtlety bonuses are stronger than their T17 counterparts so upgrading tier, even at an ilvl downgrade is likely to be a dps increase.

Some of those set bonuses look like a big deal, do any of them change our rotations?
As far as we know now, not really but there are some potential avenues to be explored. Current SimC APLs suggest that using Vanish as part of your opener for subtlety is a dps increase.  While you do waste some potential Find Weakness uptime, the additional 30% damage during your opener as well as getting Vanish on cooldown immediately out weigh the loss. Other than that it appears Vanish should be used basically on cooldown and, as with combat, you should avoid using finishers while Vanish is off cooldown.

Assassination has some potential optimizations that have not been fully explored. The 4pc set bonus, especially when combined with the Archimonde spec trinket creates very high Envenom uptime, higher than you can actually use for Envenom alone. There is a possibility of weaving Crimson Tempests into the rotation on single target and even more likely on low target cleave. If you want to look at this possibility check out the thread on the forum.

Speaking of trinkets which are the best ones?
For assassination it’s all about the Archimonde spec trinket, Bleeding Hollow Toxin Vessel. It is the highest ilvl trinket available and it has tremendous synergy with the assassination 2pc; that trinket almost single handedly makes the spec. Beyond that, rankings mostly follow ilvl, Soul Capacitor comes out slightly ahead of the other options but not substantially and in general follow ilvl. It is also worth noting here that the BRF trinket, Beating Heart of the Mountain, especially mythic due to its synergy with Vendetta, remains competitive with heroic Citadel trinkets.

Combat prefers Mirror of the Blademaster and Soul Capacitor, however the Bleeding Hollow Toxin Vessel is quite competitive. All of these trinkets are strong AoE options as well, which matches combat’s major strengths.

For sub, again Soul Capacitor and Mirror of the Blademaster appear to be the best options. The Bleeding Hollow Toxin Vessel may become stronger later in the tier, especially once the legendary ring becomes available, encouraging stacking even more damage into burst windows. But in current gear the trinket appears quite lackluster. As with assassination, Beating Heart of the Mountain, particularly the mythic version, is competitive with all but thee top tier mythic trinkets.

The two more boring trinkets, Malicious Censer and Fel-spring Coil, are not top trinkets for any spec. However, generally speaking, the heroic versions are better than their mythic (and normal vs BRF heroic) BRF counterparts with the exception of Beating Heart for assassination and subtlety.

That Soul Capacitor trinket seems kinda weird, it is actually any good?
It seems very likely that Soul Capacitor ends up much better in theory than it does in practice. The RPPM trinket design means that sometimes the trinket will nicely line up with your cooldowns and sometimes it’ll proc when it isn’t needed or, since it cannot be canceled, at an actively detrimental time such as during a movement phase. Soul Capacitor is one of the top two trinkets for all three rogue specs however all specs have a decent third choice trinket that may be better in practice.

What about stat weights, any major changes there?

T17: Crit=Mast>MS=Vers>Haste
T18: Mast>MS=Crit=Vers>Haste
T18+Toxin Vessel: Mastery>MS>Vers>Crit=Haste

Assassination experiences the greatest shifts in stat value due to set bonuses and the Archimonde trinket. The increase in Envenom uptime plus the 2pc dispatch bonus scaling with mastery, dramatically increases the value of mastery for assassination in T18 gear while the higher CP generation lowers the value of crit. Bleeding Hollow Toxin Vessel provides a substantial amount of crit, depressing the value of crit even outside of softcap scenarios and inflating the value of MS, but mastery still reigns supreme.

T17: Haste>Mast=MS=Crit=Vers
T18: Haste>Mast=MS=Vers=Crit

Combat remains incredibly boring with stats. Combat likes haste. As in 6.0 and 6.1 the value of MS increases on AoE encounters past the value of mastery and overtaking haste in the 4-5 target range.

T17: MS>Mast>Crit>Vers>Haste
T18: MS>Mast>Crit=Vers>Haste

Subtlety is also somewhat boring this tier with MS being the strongest stat across a variety of gear levels with slight shifting going on below that.

Is there a convenient stat that works for all specs like MS last tier?
Not really. Either multistike or mastery may fit the bill depending on what you are more concerned about. On low target cleave and single target encounters mastery will work reasonably for all specs, however it is not ideal for combat AoE. Multistrike will optimize a bit more for combat AoE and subtlety single target at the expense of assassination. Realistically your best option is to gem for the spec you are playing on the current fight and not worry about being 100% optimal for farm because it’s farm.

What spec should I play?
When the patch goes live, dps balance will be closer than on live currently. However subtlety for single target and combat for AoE remain the best options. Assassination does appear to pass subtlety on single target with tier and Bleeding Hollow Toxin Vessel. Assassination is also somewhat better than subtlety at low target cleave and potentially competitive with combat if we can find a good CT weaving cleave rotation. Similarly if DfA for subtlety does pan out, that may make subtlety even with, if not past assassination on single target, albeit with a more difficult rotation.

What is BiS?
I don’t know and I don’t care. 

Have other questions, let me know on the forums.


6.2 Preliminary Analysis

Update 4/15: The dps numbers for subtlety did not take into account the sanguinary veins buff which understated the damage increase for sub, I’ve updated numbers accordingly.

This post will focus on the changes announced in the patch notes as well as the trinkets available on the PTR. There is some ambiguity in the set bonus notes and the subtlety 4pc looks broken so I’m going to hold off on analyzing those for now. Lets start with the most baffling change of these notes, the Shuriken Toss buff.

Shuriken Toss now deals 53% more autoattack damage. Additionally, fixed a bug that caused hits made with offhand weapons to deal 15% more damage than intended.

To be clear about what this change does, it buffs the damage of the ranged auto attacks from 75% of a regular white swing to 114.75% of a regular white swing. That’s right, if you are greater than 10 yards from the boss your white swings now hit 14.75% harder. I’ve already seen some people suggesting that this buff combined with the Archimonde trinket we may see the rise of the ranged combat rogue. This is unlikely, first using this build would require some really finicky positioning, within 10 and 20 yards of the boss, weaving in and out for killing spree, which is unlikely to work well on bosses with large hit boxes, highly mobile encounters or encounters requiring precise positioning, that is to say most modern raid encounters. Second ST still doesn’t advance bandit’s guile rendering it much less useful, there is a plausible rotation that involves weaving out of melee range during deep insight, whether that beats out marked for death however is unclear, and I hope it doesn’t become a thing.

Other than this theoretical rotation with the Archimonde trinket I don’t get the point of this buff. In the past Blizzard has made changes to keep shuriken toss out of single target rotations, it doesn’t advance BG, it doesn’t advance sub dots, it doesn’t proc blindside, it’s just flat out less efficient at generating cps than our regular cp builders. Even if we can auto attack from 30 yards away we still can’t use finishers (Archimonde trinket excepted). It’s a solution in search of problem, if Blizzard puts in another Atremedes boss rogues will somewhat less bad than other melee but still hardly worth bringing not to mention what would happen to the other melee without a partial ranged rotation. Shuriken Toss is a waste of a talent grid square, it has been since it was introduced and buffing it doesn’t really change that.

Tuning Changes:
The following numbers are based on ShadowCraft using gearsets based on the SimC T17H (ilvl 685) and T17M (ilvl 700) sets. These include T17 set bonuses.

Envenom now deals 10% more damage.
Mutilate now deals 10% more damage.

Overall this works out to be an approximately 3.2% buff for assassination single target. It does not buff multi-target damage nor does it change stat weights.

Eviscerate now deals 10% more damage.
Sinister Strike now deals 10% more damage.
Mastery: Main Gauche has increased in effectiveness by 10%.

Overall this works out to be an approximately 5.7% buff for combat on single target and 4.8% on three target sustained AoE. Mastery moves from combat’s worst stat to combat’s 3rd best stat on single target and challenging multistrike for 2nd best stat in some gearsets. The buff to combat’s mastery is curious, while mastery tended to be combat’s weakest stat it wasn’t by much, in the test gear sets mastery and crit were roughly equal as dump stats with versatility only slightly ahead (<0.02 EP). Why Blizzard felt the need to buff mastery while leaving crit and versatility as dump stats is a mystery.

Eviscerate now deals 10% more damage.
Mastery: Executioner has decreased in effectiveness by 8%.
Backstab now deals 20% more damage.
Sanguinary Vein now causes the Rogue to deal 30% more damage to targets affected by Rupture (up from 25%).

Overall this works out to be an approximately 2.6% 6.7% buff for subtlety on single target. Mastery as expected becomes weaker however in the tested gearsets it remains the 2nd best stat for single target subtlety. The subtlety change does however nerf subtlety’s AoE capabilities by shifting damage from rupture and crimson tempest into backstab and eviscerate. This further marks subtlety as a primarily single target spec, since its AoE was already limited except in specific, relatively rare, situations such as high target sustained AoE. The backstab buff also appears to kills hemorrhage weaving.  Given that this was a minor optimization that added very little complexity to the spec I don’t mind this change.

Balance Considerations:
The primary effect of these tuning changes appears to be the ascendance of combat into the primary spec for most encounters. Currently combat is approximately 5% behind subtlety on single target and while these buffs do not completely cover the gap they get combat close enough that many may not be interested in swapping specs for an extra 1-1.5% damage. Additionally combat’s already strong advantage on AoE becomes even more pronounced as it is buffed while assassination sees no changes and subtlety takes a small nerf.

Overall these changes do not appear to substantially change the basic balance calculus for sub and combat currently.  Sub gains a larger single target advantage and combat gains a larger AoE advantage.  These changes appear to be further doubling down on niche based design encouraging the sub/combat setup that it appears most raiders are running.

These changes also also do not address the problems of assassination, currently the odd-spec-out. While assassination does get a non-trivial buff it is smaller than the combat buff and not enough to bring assassination within striking distance of subtlety on single target. Additionally the buffs to mutilate and no changes to dispatch further dilutes one of assassination’s potential niches. Currently execute range is an approximately 11% dps increase for assassination, these changes reduce that 9%. Nothing in these changes is enough to break the current combat/subtlety status quo.

Trinket Analysis:
Trinkets were implemented in ShadowCraft and tested with the SimC T17H (ilvl 685) and T17M (ilvl 700) gearsets with and without set bonuses. This analysis is based on 6.1 mechanics but that should not substantially impact the value of these trinkets. Since this is a ShadowCraft trinket analysis there are a couple important caveats.

  1. ShC does not currently take into account proc stacking so beating heart of the mountain is somewhat undervalued for assassination and subtlety.
  2. ShC’s envenom uptime modeling is a slightly optimistic at high (>80%) envenom uptimes which may distort the value of the assassination Archimonde trinket.

This analysis compares the ilvl 695 version of each trinket with the ilvl 685 and ilvl 700 versions of BRF trinkets. For reference the five trinkets analyzed:
Fel-Spring Coil
Agility DPS Trinket 2
Agility DPS Trinket 3
Agility DPS Trinket 4
Archimonde Spec Trinket

Since we cannot currently test these trinkets I make the following assumptions about their functionality. If you discover any of these assumptions are incorrect during testing let me know and I’ll update the analysis. Since I will be updating these numbers as I get more information if people could refrain from copying the raw EP value tables to other places that would be great.

  1. The mirror images from Agility DPS Trinket 2 attacks inherits the owners haste, crit and multistrike using a 2.0 speed weapon. Additionally I assume the mirror images follow similar rules to shadow reflection, that is, they do not benefit from the rogue’s assassin’s resolve, bandit’s guile, find weakness , sanguinary veins, and vendetta.
  2. The damage stored by trinket 3 only applies to the rogue’s damage, damage from the shadow reflection clone is not stored.

General Thoughts:
Overall the trinkets are reasonably well balanced. There are some balance discrepancies but these are generally consistent with standard trinket variation. For most of the tested gearsets the gap between the best and worst 6.2 trinket is not substantially worse than the gap between the best and worst BRF trinket of the same ilvl.

Trinket 3 seems problematic due to the RPPM mechanic. Unlike many I don’t dislike RPPM on principle however the random nature of trinket 3 could make the trinket actively detrimental to your raid. Imagine if it procced during a short duration, blast furnace phase 2 for instance, and the burn would end before the effect explodes, during that duration you are dealing no damage to the burn target. An on-use trinket or an old style ICD trinket would be better fit for this effect, by contrast trinket 2 could easily be made an RPPM trinket.

The assassination spec trinket goes from underwhelming to very good depending on the T17 set bonuses. As I mentioned the trinket may be slightly overvalued with the T17 set bonuses because they inflate envenom uptime dramatically but not substantially. Some of this wide swing will be solved by gear scaling but at lower gear levels the trinket may be a bit underpowered. The trinket also potentially contributes to assassinations oversupply of resources at higher gear levels which breaks the envenom pooling mechanic.

Based on the assumptions I’ve made about the mirror images trinket 2 seems a bit underpowered. Rogues have a number of big percent modifiers that currently the shadow reflection clone does not inherit, if the mirror images follow the same rules it may end up an underwhelming for all rogue specs.

{slider EP Values|closed}

Assassination 685 No Tier
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     631.57197927
agi_3_695:                         592.776343664
fel_spring_coil_695:               586.817787623
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 580.462954146
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      566.032698861
agi_4_695:                         562.443136655
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     549.017916199
agi_2_695:                         531.543385726
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 503.703574604
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      491.808904858
assn_spec_trinket:                 377.171031558

Assassination 685 Tier
assn_spec_trinket:                 668.647672409
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     654.68416442
fel_spring_coil_695:               608.591519747
agi_3_695:                         592.486537412
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 580.105013736
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     569.057958644
agi_4_695:                         561.99682644
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      559.174794119
agi_2_695:                         521.605026608
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 503.392289289
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      485.939172783

Assassination 700 No Tier
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     646.353830887
agi_3_695:                         616.681190776
fel_spring_coil_695:               609.699826106
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 598.229278053
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      587.087858666
agi_4_695:                         582.387451401
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     561.864678713
agi_2_695:                         544.552207422
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 519.145330524
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      510.096069977
assn_spec_trinket:                 424.377446051

Assassination 700 Tier
assn_spec_trinket:                 768.501708599
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     673.067790726
fel_spring_coil_695:               632.118625873
agi_3_695:                         616.254724951
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 597.763137328
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     584.967138823
agi_4_695:                         581.811806555
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      578.521453046
agi_2_695:                         532.836983028 
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 518.739980466
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      502.694430385


Similar to the assassination spec trinket the combat spec trinket appears to rely heavily on current set bonuses for its value. However unlike the assassination spec trinket gear scaling is unlikely to make up that gap for combat. At most gear levels without the T17 set bonuses it looks like a midpack trinket. Also the range buff on eviscerate makes no sense, it doesn’t appear to be subtracting from the itemization budget so I’m not going to complain about a unique perk but it seems really out of place (Please don’t make 10-20 yard ranged rogue a thing).

{slider EP Values|closed}

Combat 685 No Tier
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      672.61734129
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     633.218346574
agi_2_695:                         620.640853217
agi_3_695:                         616.273825263
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 597.818266102
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      584.323326126
agi_4_695:                         581.010828565
fel_spring_coil_695:               576.811716031
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     550.466165804
combat_spec_trinket:               521.459869691
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 518.780099047

Combat 685 Tier
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      679.208710855
combat_spec_trinket:               676.261727092
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     631.30911392
agi_3_695:                         613.939463938
agi_2_695:                         599.252417897
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 595.807575502
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      590.003421189
agi_4_695:                         578.851341613
fel_spring_coil_695:               574.187346592
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     548.806658021
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 517.03373904

Combat 700 No Tier
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      709.104652422
agi_2_695:                         646.307858279
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     645.93741969
agi_3_695:                         639.781633076
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      616.003549311
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 610.027502547
fel_spring_coil_695:               596.451739497
agi_4_695:                         594.721243675
combat_spec_trinket:               589.326863392
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     561.520137401
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 529.391788013

Combat 700 Tier
combat_spec_trinket:               764.15213655
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      716.583821542
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     643.916097965
agi_3_695:                         637.225171383
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      622.448512457
agi_2_695:                         622.206287212
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 607.908004965
fel_spring_coil_695:               593.53573908
agi_4_695:                         592.432546943
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     559.763220075
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 527.550827013


As noted with the trinket 2 for assassination the assumptions I’ve made about how the mirror images interact that make the trinket somewhat underwhelming. This behavior would be consistent with shadow reflection but in this case I think some inconsistency to help increase the value of the trinket in line with the other agility trinkets may be needed.

Continuing what seems to be a broad theme, the subtlety spec trinket seems a bit underwhelming. The inclusion of garrote on the trinket is particularly funny since garrote isn’t worth using except to get SV up fast on the opener. As Hail joked last night, a 75% increase to 0 is still 0. The ambush buff seems very large but due to the lack of static stats on the trinket and subtlety’s high agility multiplier the trinket appears average if not well behind the other trinkets.

{slider EP Values|closed}

Subtlety 685 No Tier
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     717.81392058
agi_4_695:                         687.91018447
agi_3_695:                         684.794519487
fel_spring_coil_695:               669.551137623
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 666.551680983
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      643.69604081
agi_2_695:                         627.049954773
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     624.005580502
sub_spec_trinket:                  605.714067908
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 578.415345071
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      559.330517175

Subtlety 685 Tier
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     713.354818764
agi_4_695:                         683.270972448
agi_3_695:                         679.367305868
fel_spring_coil_695:               666.999468947
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 662.019219189
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      631.158817149
agi_2_695:                         621.31479507
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     620.130241226
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 574.475915662
sub_spec_trinket:                  553.968729771
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      548.438227061

Subtlety 700 No Tier
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     732.064143011
agi_4_695:                         711.664801256
agi_3_695:                         706.479053833
fel_spring_coil_695:               691.031978382
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 682.671493239
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      659.932979772
sub_spec_trinket:                  656.766293776
agi_2_695:                         642.168292319
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     636.390237536
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 592.426023013
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      573.436979564

Subltety 700 Tier
humming_blackiron_trigger_700:     731.41590484
agi_4_695:                         711.857094369
agi_3_695:                         706.400178482
fel_spring_coil_695:               692.470243376
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_700: 682.25937745
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_700:      652.451010871
humming_blackiron_trigger_685:     635.826863353
agi_2_695:                         635.764894246
sub_spec_trinket:                  628.568990732
beating_heart_of_the_mountain_685: 592.067828917
meaty_dragonspine_trophy_685:      566.93655128


Disagree with my analysis, see something I missed, think I’m an idiot, let me know on the forums.


WoW Warlords Patch 6.1 Rogue FAQ

What is changing for rogues in 6.1?
Not much, this is a pretty light patch for us after all the frenzied hotfixing of the previous couple months.

DfA got buffed, is it any good now?
Probably not. I can’t guarantee that DfA is never worth using but based on a lot of experimentation with Simulation Craft its hard to show DfA as a dps gain outside of some very contrived scenarios.  One thing that should be less of a worry in 6.1 are DfA whiffs.  At least on a stationary target the problems with DfA whiffing should mostly be fixed.

Should I change any gems or enchants?
Stat weights should remain the same however if you are using Mark of the Shattered Hand on your weapons you want to reconsider.  There was a bug with shattered hand in 6.0 that inflated the proc rate for classes with a source of non-haste attack speed (rogues with SnD), this bug has been fixed in 6.1.  Shattered Hand in 6.1 is now like the cheap enchants of previous expansions, if you aren’t concerned with topping meters and/or want to save a little money it’s a good choice but it is no longer the best weapon enchant choice in most gear sets.

Should I change my rotation?
Nope, there are no mechanic changes in 6.1 that require a rotation change.

What is BiS for BRF?
I don’t know and I don’t care.

Have other questions, ask on the forums.


Don’t Run Two Sub Rogues

UPDATE: Lore has confirmed on the official forums and on twitter that a fix for this bug is in the works.  Lore’s 2nd post about how this bug may have fallen through the cracks is worth reading as well.  That said I stand by my comments in this post on the issues with Blizzard’s new communication policy.

UPDATE 2: It looks like ruptures from an assassination rogue also trigger this bug so if you are going to run multiple rogues you should probably run combat/sub to avoid this bug.

UPDATE 3: According to Lore the bug is fixed


There is a bug with subtlety right now that depresses the damage of a sub rogue if you have more than one of them in a raid group.  This bug is important, it is notable on its own, it’s a substantial dps loss and it explains a ton of things but that’s not why I’m making this blog post.  For most bugs like this I’d toss off a couple tweets, make a forum post or two and call it good but not with this bug.  This bug showcases many of the problems with Blizzard’s new communication policy in Warlords and it’s time to talk about them.


The Bug

The bug itself is pretty simple, if you have two subtlety rogues only one of them is getting sanguinary veins.  Only the rogue that cast the most recent rupture or glyphed hemorrhage gets SV, the other rogue simply deals -20% dps.  This means if you have two sub rogues on the same encounter on average they are each doing 10% less damage than they should be.  If you have three sub rogues in your raid group you are losing 13.3% from each rogue.

Looking at logs it’s pretty easy to see this bug in action.  Here Ninjablaze and I are both naked using grey daggers.  At this point in the logs both us have rupture up and my rupture is the most recent.  You’ll notice that before the bolded line where Ninja refreshes rupture, my rupture and melee attacks do ~25% more damage, 871 vs 697, 626 vs 500.  Now look at what happens immediately after Ninja refreshes rupture, the situation switches: now Ninja is out damaging me by exactly the same margin.

00:01:58.496     Fierydemise Rupture Raider’s Training Dummy Tick 871
00:01:58.899     Ninjablaze Melee Raider’s Training Dummy 500
00:01:59.866     Fierydemise Melee Raider’s Training Dummy 626
00:02:00.083     Ninjablaze Rupture Raider’s Training Dummy Tick 697
00:02:00.584     Ninjablaze Melee Raider’s Training Dummy 498
00:02:01.194     Raider’s Training Dummy’s Rupture is refreshed by Ninjablaze
00:02:01.586     Fierydemise Melee Raider’s Training Dummy 501
00:02:02.156     Ninjablaze Rupture Raider’s Training Dummy Tick 871
00:02:02.312     Ninjablaze Melee Raider’s Training Dummy 624
00:02:02.412     Fierydemise Rupture Raider’s Training Dummy Tick 698
00:02:03.317     Fierydemise Melee Raider’s Training Dummy 499
00:02:04.016     Ninjablaze Melee Raider’s Training Dummy 627
00:02:04.161     Ninjablaze Rupture Raider’s Training Dummy Tick 871
00:02:04.475     Fierydemise Rupture Raider’s Training Dummy Tick 697 

Note: These logs have been trimmed for readability, the full section of interest can be found here.

Despite being very easy to see when looking at logs carefully this bug is devilishly hard to find.  Unless you carefully walk through the log looking at what happens around bleed applications from each player you probably aren’t going to find it.  Just looking at trends, it looks like the results of this bug will look very much like random fight-to-fight variance.  As far as I can tell this bug was almost entirely unknown within the rogue community. As recently as two weeks ago Method was using two sub rogues for farm and the current world #6 guild, From Scratch, used double sub rogues on Mythic BRF progression.

Most people are probably looking at 10% thinking it’s a big number, but before we move on lets put 10% in perspective.  10% dps is about what you get from upgrading every single piece of gear you have by 10 ilvls, its bigger than almost every T17 set bonus and if you had a <1% wipe on Mythic Butcher you can blame this bug. If your guild ran double multiple sub rogues on Mythic Ko’ragh like almost every mythic guild in the world, you experienced this bug.  If your guild had a low percent wipe on Gruul or Oregorger this past week with two sub rogues, again you can thank Blizzard.


The Real Problem

As I said at the top, the fact that this bug exists doesn’t really bother me. Bugs happen, I get that.  The real problem is how I came to find out about this bug.  I did not discover this bug. A rogue who wishes to remain anonymous, we’ll call him Jack, brought this bug to my attention on Friday since it hadn’t been fixed.  Jack told me he originally discovered this bug in mid December while his guild was working on Mythic Butcher.  Then Jack did exactly what I suspect Blizzard wants players to do, he didn’t go running to the forums to make a “Blizz hates rogues!!!!!!” thread, he put in a bug report using the official in game tool.  A few weeks later he followed up, he tested again to see if SV was still bugged, he found that it was and put in another bug report.  Finally this past week, over 6 weeks after his first bug report he put in a 3rd bug report with data showing the bug existed and seeing no results, he contacted me.

If multiple bug reports over a several week period is not enough to get a bug fixed then what is? To use an old unix joke, are the in game bug reports sent directly to /dev/null?  This bug will probably be fixed by the end of the week now that someone with a louder voice is raising a stink about it but that shouldn’t be necessary. I get that Blizzard probably gets a ton of bug reports through the in-game tool and many of them are nonsensical or not actually bugs, but if they don’t have sufficient staff to look through the in game bug reports then why does the tool exist?  Maybe Jack should have submitted a bug report on the bug report forum, but if that’s the case why does the official battle.net support site say to use the in-game feature?

The issue Jack had is representative of a disturbing trend I’ve been seeing since Warlords launched.  It isn’t enough to find a bug and report it. To actually get something fixed you need to bring that bug to a prominent community member who has the developers’ ear or can raise hell or your behalf.  This fits into a complaint I’ve made many times about the new Warlords communication model. In previous expansions you could tell the developers were listening, either because they’d respond on the official forums or because you had a direct line to them via twitter.  Now it feels like every avenue to the developers is mediated by community managers who may not have enough information to properly judge the quality or accuracy of some feedback.  In this environment the best approach to getting issues addressed appears to be sheer quantity of noise rather than skill or intelligence in argumentation.

I don’t know how to fix these communication issues, managing a large community is hard but I hope Blizzard reconsiders their current very locked down approach to player communication.  It may be easier for them but its bad for the community and leads to an unproductive, adversarial relationship between the developers and the playerbase.



What Happened to Rogues: Niches and Weaponlock

Two months ago I interviewed Vigilate and Flim, rogues in World 20 and 25 respectively, and they both agreed that rogues looked good coming into WoD.  Two months ago when we were looking at T17 none of us expected that rogues would be widely considered the one of weakest melee and a poor choice for mythic content during the most melee friendly tier in recent memory.  And none of us could have imagined the most recent batch of balancing hotfixes, hotfixes that contained buffs for rogues, being mocked all around.   So what went wrong? 

There is no one answer, the problems facing rogues in current PvE content come from the accumulated crud of several expansions worth of questionable or short-sighted design decisions and changing philosophies.  Numbers can be fixed, and they may be fixed yet but there are much deeper issues with rogue design and how rogues fit into the current raiding environment that need to be addressed long term.  This is going to the first in a series of posts on what went wrong with rogues coming into WoD.  Today the first and probably most pressing issue facing the rogue class, spec niches and weapon lock.

Blizzard likes spec niches, they’ve said as much many times.  The problem is their application seems inconsistent.  Blizzard’s logic has always been niches are fun, it’s fun to have a fight where you can shine but it creates problems with single-spec-per-role dps.  If you only have one spec it doesn’t seem fair to limit the spec to only a single or small number of niches because if one of your niches isn’t needed the alternative is swapping characters or feeling like a liability to your raid comp, neither of which is particularly fun.  Instead you end up with ret paladins (not picking on rets, some of my best friends are actually rets) above average single target, cleave and burst.  I should note here that not all single-spec-per-role dps are good at everything, some such as ele and enhance shamans for example still have a relatively rigid AoE niche.

The logic here is basically sound, and if the game were only made up of single-spec-per-role dps it would be a fine design but when more than half the classes in the game have multiple-specs-per-role there are problems.  While a ret paladins can do everything in a single spec, a rogue needs to swap between multiple specs for the same effect.  To achieve the same effectiveness as many single-spec-per-role dps a rogue needs to be comfortable with several, often dramatically different playstyles and rotations.  In fairness to single-spec-per-role dps, talents often define different rotations for different situations. For instance a serenity windwalker, specializing in burst and single target plays very differently from a chi explosion windwalker specializing in cleave and AoE.  Even in these cases however the windwalker can still use the same spec, similar binds, the same mechanical primitives, and a similar basic rotation while the rogue cannot and this ignores the elephant in the room, weapon lock.

Rogue specs are defined by our weapons, combat needs a slow main hand and now more than ever a slow off hand as well (recent discoveries about main hand daggers for combat AoE may change this somewhat but during beta a slow MH was noted as the design goal for combat), subtlety needs a dagger main hand and assassination needs two daggers.  To be fully effective a rogue needs four weapons and each poses it’s own set of challenges.  Daggers as niche loot tend to be quite rare, in Highmaul for instance there is only one dagger drop.  Since both assassination and subtlety need a dagger this single dagger drop boss can effectively lock rogues out of those specs with poor loot luck.  Slow weapons are much common however it doesn’t feel right (or smart) to take a slow weapon you will use for 50% of the bosses over another dps who will use it for 100%.  In the long term things mostly work out but over short progression gearing windows when weapons are the most important upgrades getting weapons for multiple specs is often a major concern.

The key problem here is Blizzard has been inconsistent with spec niches, on the 5.2 PTR Ghostcrawler said of Blade Flurry, “We feel like the implementation of Blade Flurry on live forces rogues to go Combat on any cleave fights, while leaving Combat too far behind on any single target fights.”  During WoD beta when combat looked to be far ahead of the other rogue specs on AoE, Blade Flurry was nerfed from 40% mirror to 30% mirror and the other specs AoE buffed significantly.  This quote makes the most recent combat hotfix even more baffling, with combat appears to be suffering on single target dps (player bias likely plays a role here however there are enough combat parses on Kargath and Butcher, possibly due to weapon lock, that I think WCL numbers have some validity) and yet the hotfix buffed combat’s AoE only.  The problem for combat is unlike in T14 it doesn’t have any perfect encounters, fights with all cleave all the time.  Instead T17 is full of partial cleave fights, sometimes you get to cleave, sometimes you don’t and on those fights combat’s below average single target dps rapidly becomes a liability despite its theoretically strong AoE/cleave toolkit.

Blizzard needs to figure out a consistent approach to niches.  If single-spec-per-role dps can do everything competently in a single spec, it doesn’t seem too much to ask for rogues as well.  If Blizzard plans to stick with the current niche heavy design where a rogue is expected to play multiple specs for full effectiveness weapon lock needs to be addressed either by increasing weapon availability or by making rogue specs more weapon agnostic.