An Interview with Paryah

Hey everyone, Haileaus here. I thought it would be cool to interview Paryah post-Blizzcon, so I did! Hope you enjoy!

Part 1 – Legion

Ok, so I’m way out of the loop. What happened with the whole Legion thing? Did we win?

We did! We…um…defeated the Legion? We assume? …since the last raid isn’t quite here yet. But yes, Sylvanas and Anduin, at least, live to fight another day. And fight they will.

What is the current state of the rogue class? I know Legion brought lots of changes, are there any generalizations you can make that would help old fogeys like me decide if we want to learn the new ways?

The state of rogue is good. There are always things that we might like tweaked or changed, but for the most part Assassination and Subtlety are both acceptable. Outlaw boasts fun gameplay but damage-wise it falls a little behind the other two. What it lacks in competitiveness, it makes up for with swagger, so all is not lost.

Even before Alpha there was drama about the rogue HQ being in Dalaran instead of Ravenholdt. In your eyes, how did it turn out?

When I first visited the rogue class hall I was super impressed with the detail and care that they put into it. It really is an amazing place and very roguelike. That said, as the expansion wore on, I began to wish once again that we had been put at Ravenholdt. Being able to get away from Dalaran to our own space that felt more like a rogue enclave and less like a seedy bar would have been nice. There is a teleport to Ravenholdt item that spawns in the class hall that you can pick up. Delightfully, it allows you to get to Ravenholdt from anywhere. I did find myself wishing for a permanent portal though, rather like the one that the monks got to go to Kun-lai Summit. And the druid hall is spoiled for portal choices. When all is said and done, I think it worked. Just <stares wistfully into space>, I like Ravenholdt…

 

Part 2 – Blizzcon and Beyond

Ok, now to the more relevant bits. You attended Blizzcon. How was it? Did you get a chance to say hi to Daxxarri?

Blizzcon was amazing. My expectation was that I’d be able to see more panels than I have in previous years on the Virtual Ticket, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. There was so much going on and so many people to meet…it was differently awesome than the Virtual Ticket. It was much more of a social experience. I met so many super cool people. Relevant to us, I met Celestalon who is a total sweetie and Perculia of Wowhead who I think is a Demon Hunter now but certainly used to main rogue. I also met Mitch and Matt of Blizzard Watch who write awesome stuff. I even got to shake Ion Hazzikostas’ hand and we exchanged a few words. He was wonderful. Sadly I did not get to meet Daxxarri. I would very much have liked to. Next year!

What upcoming feature(s) are you most excited about?

I think that I’m most excited about the new races. I’ve wanted to be a Zandalari troll since Mists and I am gratified that my prediction that Horde would get Nightbourne turned out to be correct. I had predicted High Elves for Alliance, but Void Elves are the next best thing – though I confess I’d hoped that Alleria would join Sylvanas on the Horde side. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to trying them all out. I may even roll a Dark Iron Dwarf. Maybe.

I read Fans and Ravenholdt’s Rogue Recap and I see we’re getting a bunch of new races. My question is, when will the Tauren rogues finally come out of stealth?

Ha. Only with the judicious use of toys, I fear. Despite being a fairly common ask, rogues have once again dodged the bovine bullet.

I hear PvE servers are going away, which could mean a legitimate return of world PvP. As the traditional master of ganks, what do you think this means for the rogue class?

This will be interesting. PvP mode will be toggleable, but only in major cities so you will have to go forth into the world having made the decision to PvP. My first thought was that the PvP targets may be reduced, but on reflection, with higher rewards for PvP mode and those who are really opposed to PvP able to opt out, I think it will make for a livelier and overall better experience for everyone.

Finally, Vanilla servers are coming back. Thoughts?

This is an interesting one. I was never among those who called for support of vanilla servers, but I find myself thrilled at the prospect of revisiting old haunts and getting to remember old quests. I will be an enthusiastic vanilla tourist. That said, my suspicion is that a large number of those calling for vanilla servers (not all to be sure) are wanting to relive the social experience and the newness of the MMO. I feel that those people, many of whom are in different places than they were in their lives, will find themselves disappointed and I fear that they will blame their disappointment on Blizzard for giving them exactly what they asked for. This is all speculation, of course, because Blizzard still hasn’t totally decided how they are going to implement the experience. Will we get a vanilla world and vanilla quests but with modern graphics and optimizations? Will there be flying and other more recent conveniences? Or will we all be in a way-it-was, more pixelated world, jogging about trying to figure out how quests work and what herbs are pickable? Will the Classic servers remain vanilla, or will they get expansions as time passes? Only time will tell but I’ll be excited to see how it all plays out.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I thoroughly recommend the Blizzcon experience. For getting the straight information, the Virtual Ticket is great, but nothing beats being there in person. The people and their energy make the con. It is so apparent how hard each Blizzard employee works to pull this thing off. And you still get the Virtual Ticket as well.

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The Fall of the Giants:  Theorycrafting’s Just Demise?

There has been a lot of talk among inner circles of the elite about how fragile theorycrafting is in Warcraft.  To put it bluntly, nowadays most classes only have a handful of people doing the vast majority – we’re talking on the order of 95-100% here – of the top level theorycrafting.  Now that Pathal has backed down as lead ShadowCraft developer, rogues fall into this category with only two people actively working on ShadowCraft and with few others answering important questions.  While every class still currently has access to high level theorycrafting that will tell them how to play, World of Warcraft may be one accident away from being without a major theorycrafting powerhouse backing each one of its classes.  I don’t know about any of you, but as a casual theorycrafter and someone who feels compelled to do things right or not at all, that’s scary.  Right now if the primary ShadowCraft developer decided to quit, individuals including myself would have to decide between our free time and ShadowCraft.  Perhaps the situation isn’t as dire as I make it out to be and that this is just a temporary lull, but either way the questions that this topic raises are real and important.  In this post I am going to go over some of the ways that theorycrafting – that is, the application of mathematics to World of Warcraft in order to make educated suggestions for optimal strategies – has affected the game.  Many of these will be good, however some will have downsides that I encourage everyone to consider.  By the end of this article it is my hope that you legitimately question the role theorycrafting plays in the game.

Indalamar – Nerfing All for One

Indalamar was of WoW’s original theorycrafters.  Sorta.  As this article will tell you, back when Warcraft was still in Beta Warriors were even bigger panzies than they are now.  Specifically, they complained a lot about being underpowered.  Enter Indalamar, who said that they were not underpowered but in fact overpowered.  Indalamar created a video to illustrate their point and the next patch warriors were nerfed.  If you think this might be a coincidence, then the article I linked also points out that the player behind the video got hired by Blizzard.

Now let’s think of the ramifications.  Most people back in those days were terrible at the game.  I myself when I started had no idea what the stats did and so picked whatever had the most armor until some time in Burning Crusade.  It’s clear that the warrior kill rate (which in a world of farming was more relevant than sheer DPS) was too high and that a nerf was needed.  However, the hordes of warriors calling for buffs indicates that to the unskilled, warriors quite possibly were underpowered.  In other words it would seem that by spreading the word that warriors were strong, Indalamar may have inadvertently caused Blizzard to kick many fellow player while they were down.  On the plus side, the video did get widely circulated and there is no doubt many warriors learned a great deal from the video and became among the elite warrior farmers.

 

Elitist Jerks – May Aldriana Smile Upon me as I Invoke His Name

Modern theorycrafting started in Wrath of the Lich King when raiding and the math that accompanied it were opened up to more casual audiences.  Sites like ElitistJerks became essential to raiders as it was no longer acceptable to have not read up on your class.  Even WorldOfLogs — the first widely used logging site — started during Wrath, allowing players to compare themselves to others across the world.  This was the time when theorycrafters largely stopped using spreadsheets, favoring programs which would model or simulate the increasingly complex rotations Blizzard asked us to perform.

This period of theorycrafting history was immensely important and I could never hope to list all of the noteworthy things that came of it.  That said, I’ll try anyway.  First off, it popularized WoW theorycrafting.  Aldriana, premier rogue theorycrafter and original designer of ShadowCraft, was easily the biggest PvE rogue name at the time.  This led people like me to get involved in the WoW community, writing guides or trying to contribute in their own way to the burgeoning community based around ElitistJerks.  It also meant that people who were struggling with their DPS had a clear path to self-improvement – just go to EJ, read some guides, and practice a rotation that is almost certainly going to be within 5-10% of the optimal one – and at the very least is the one that the pros use.  While there were certainly people who were bad and left in the dust (I to remember a certain Combat rogue I was with in a dungeon using Shiv as a primary CP generator), this number was far lower than it had been at any previous time in WoW’s history.

Just as players became better, so too did their expectations of others.  No longer could I run into a difficult dungeon as a armor-wearing Subtlety rogue and expect for people to be cool with it.  No, the community suddenly cared about what spec their group members were and whether or not their build was viable.  They also cared about things like item level (gearscore) and would deny players entry into raids solely on that basis.  The focus on optimal behavior had another downside, which was the encouragement of cookie-cutter talent builds (remember that talents and specializations were one in the same until Cata).  While there had always been cookie-cutter builds, the shift in the culture made not having one of those builds a reason for people to harass or deny entry into groups.  While this was not a huge problem for those who had done their research and wanted to play what the guides said was optimal, for those who wanted to stray from the path or simply were not as well-learned it caused a great deal of pain.

 

Legacy – Power in Numbers

The theorycrafting community has had an extremely strong impact on modern WoW.  The example that comes to mind most readily is how me and my fellow rogues dealt with the prospect of nHemo weaving during Warlords Beta.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, nHemo weaving was a rotation that involved using Hemorrhage anywhere from 3-7 times consecutively in order to apply a large bleed debuff (Blizzard was testing out ways of making Hemo spammable without losing damage) and then switching to Backstab.  Initial tests showed that this might be optimal, however the number of Hemorrhages to weave was highly variable.  Not only did it depend on your stats, but since the idea was to get a large DoT getting lucky with crits meant that you could switch to Backstab immediately, whereas getting unlucky could make you need to weave even more Hemorrhages than previously expected.  In short the whole thing was a mess and the only way to do the Subtlety rotation right was to install an addon that would track numbers and tell you when to use what generator, at which point the rotation was suddenly trivialized.  Although nobody had created such an addon, I made it very clear that if this change went live I would design it, and soon enough the mechanic was changed to what we see today.

This is what I see as one of the largest and longest lasting effects of theorycrafting in Warcraft.  For better or for worse, my theorycraft changed the game.  Despite finding that I really enjoyed nHemo weaving, I have no regrets.  If it comes down to a choice between having everyone play a rotation that I think is fun and having everyone play a rotation that I think is optimal, I will choose the optimal rotation every time.  Still, I have to wonder:  What if I had let the mechanic go live?  If I and the other rogue theorycrafters refused to make an addon and just said “weave hemo 4 times before using Backstab”?  Would Subtlety rogues be any worse for wear, or would we just be balanced around 4Hemo weaving?  It’s hard to say, and again it’s against my nature in this game to strive for anything but perfection when it comes to my spec.  Still though, if WoD beta is any indication, I think it’s fair to say modern theorycrafting has had a huge influence on the game.

 

Wrapping it Up – Some Wild Speculation

If you made it this far I commend you because I have no idea what I wrote but I assume it reflects the fact that I am running on only two and a half hours of sleep.  There’s no way I came close to documenting every way theorycrafting has impacted the game, and I didn’t even touch on what it has done for people like me.  Theorycrafting toes the line between hobby, responsibility, and public service.  It’s hard to say why any one person does it, except that it sure isn’t for the recognition or efame.  As rewarding as theorycrafting can seem to someone on the outside, recognition and thanks from the people that use a theorycrafter’s work is extremely rare.  I barely consider myself a theorycrafter – I’ve only consulted for the S*Crafts and am active in that area even less often than I blog – but on behalf of the theorycrafters I know, please do me a favor:  Consider what I wrote.  Think about the role theorycrafting plays in your game experience.  Not just whether or not you use S*Craft, but also how much you care about having guides that are as accurate as possible and rotations that are solvable without addons.  If you decide that all this theorycrafting is worth it, then do one (or two!) of two things.  First, thank Pathal and the other theorycrafters who have worked so hard to improve their class.  Second, do what you can to help us out.  Even if you can’t code and are no good at math, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.  If you are looking for a place to start, there’s a mechanics testing thread on the forums with important questions on it.  Also, if you decide that you’d like a Warcraft with less intensive theorycrafting, then I’d love to hear your reasoning.  Either way I’d love to hear your thoughts on the forums.

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Needlessly Complicated Mechanics and WoW: Happily Grinding?

In a recent Twitversation about poisons spurred on by @SvelteKumquat’s latest Encrypted Text I mentioned that one of the things I liked about the old poison system was how needlessly complex it was. Rfeann responded with a degree of disbelief and it got me thinking about the value of needlessly complicated mechanics in games – specifically World of Warcraft.  In this blog post I will go through a few needlessly complicated mechanics that I have undergone and enjoyed, discussing what I found fun about them.  At the end I’ll probably find a way to tie it all together into something that resembles sense.

Vanilla Poisons (Goes great with chocolate chip cookies!)

I suppose it makes sense to start with the topic that brought on this conversation in the first place.  Back in Vanilla, poisons were effectively a really simple crafting profession, complete will skills and reagents that were bought from vendors.  Poisons had a duration of 30 minutes, but had charges so they would occasionally fall off early during periods of prolonged combat.  If that’s not complex enough, in order to even learn the poison skill you had to complete a quest chain requiring you to sneak into a tower, pick a high-level mob’s pocket (unless you were overleveled for the quest a lone rogue had no hope of soloing the dude), and open a chest using the rogue’s other trained profession, Lock Picking.  Of course if you didn’t have enough skill in Lock Picking you’d have to build it up, but that shouldn’t take too long, just pick lots of pockets and remember to have your Thieves Tools on hand.

In order to understand the appeal of the Vanilla poison system one must understand that back in the day, World of Warcraft was a much slower game.  Not in terms of lag or anything tangible, but in terms of tempo.  Dungeons required finding a group in trade/LFG chat and then making the trek to the stone (usually with sub-100% speed mounts); Battlegrounds required the appropriate number of players on the worse faction to want to play; quests, reputations, and professions were grindier….  In fact the only thing that was faster in Vanilla was how quickly a rogue could murder other players.  This tempo made the grindiness of poisons much less of an issue, and I would argue that if it was reimplemented in today’s WoW the system would feel jarring and out of place.  With that perspective the downside of making poisons was really just spending slightly more time tabbed out on Thotbot.  Immersion was greater then for a variety of reasons, and crafting poisons not only added to that but was also made better because of it.  

As far as the other benefits, the poison quest is probably most-cited by rogues for why Blizzard should bring back class-specific quests.  The immersion, reliance on the rogue toolkit, and difficulty all combined to make it transcend being simply a fun experience and become a reason to play and even develop games.  In fact, that should probably go on my list of things to tell my grandchildren about when making baseless claims regarding how much better we had it back in my day.  The skill system also made it very satisfying when you got the ability to make a new rank of poison or fought another rogue who had not maxed their skill.

Phasing, Jeofry!  (Hard to understand, and even harder to justify!)

Brief apologies for talking about another game here, but I started playing Magic: The Gathering last year and no discussion of needlessly complicated mechanics would be complete without giving that card game an honorable mention.  Without going into detail, the people who make MTG have made some pretty strange mechanics in the 22 years that the game has been around.  One such mechanic that stands above all others in the “why is this here” departement is Phasing.  Basically a thing is in play, but disappears, but is also still totally there – it’s just not.  One particular card that utilizes this mechanic on a large scale has caused a great deal of amusement for me and my friends.

In Magic  there are tons of needlessly complicated cards.  Some of them are good, some of them are bad, and some are just plain weird.  That said despite – or in fact because of – that quality I have had a lot of fun with each of those cards.

Meanwhile, back at the plot…  (Daggers!)

You know what else in Warcraft is needlessly complex?  Legendaries.  With the exception of Thori’dal, the Stars’ Fury and (I guess) Talisman of Binding Shard, every legendary equipment in WoW has been needlessly complicated.  Consider the legendary dagger quest line.  We had to save an egg, kill bad guys like 50 times, kill the same bad guys for the same things like 50 more times, and sneak into approximately 3 locations.  Three!  And the item procs were needlessly complex too.  They could have just doubled finisher damage and left it at that but no instead we got stacking agi buffs that would then nope-out and instead become combo points.

While I understand there are plenty of legitimate balance concerns about legendary items, I think most would agree that using a legendary item is great fun and that with the exceptions of the bow and the stupid cape and ring quest chains the process of getting legendaries is an adventure many players have fond memories of.

The Conclusion (Damn, now I have to think of a conclusion!)

At the end of the day I remain convinced that there is some value inherent in the needlessly complex.  These systems are responsible for many of my greatest in-game memories.  Completing them properly is often an ordeal in itself and one that usually causes satisfaction for the player.  While they are often tedious, they do not have to be.  Finally, occasionally you get to brag about your accomplishments, and when you do suddenly everything is worthwhile.

 

 

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Warlords of Draenor Rogue Talent Review

A while (when I started writing this) ago I was considering the latest change to rogues in the 6.2 patch notes:

  • Deadly Throw now reduces the target’s movement speed by 70% (up from 50%) but no longer interrupts spellcasting when used with 5 combo points.

This got me thinking.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve been preoccupied lately, but I haven’t heard much annoyance about talents lately.  Seeing as the last major content patch is nearly upon us I figure it’s high time we started revving up the feedback engine.  To kick off my part, here are my thoughts on the individual rogue talents and their tiers.  As always before I start I’d like to make a few things clear:

I am of the opinion that not all talents should viable or even relevant to raiding, so don’t expect me to complain about a talent or tier just because someone who only plays this game to raid doesn’t feel it caters to their desires.  I am of opinion that some talents should be exceptional for each type of content – solo PvE, world PvP, Arena, BGs, dungeons, and raiding.  Just as important as a diversity in the content each talent or tier caters to is the presence of tough, meaningful decisions.  For what it’s worth, I also think it should be substantially more difficult to change talents, because doing so is cheap and takes no skill and therefore removes a lot of the fun and skill from the system.

 

Tier 1 – Stealth

  • Nightstalker:  I like this talent from a few angles.  From a flavor perspective, I appreciate rogues as a class having an option to straight-up increase the damage of their opener.  The mobility the talent offers is super nice when unable to mount, and all in all I think this is a great talent for questing and clearing legacy content since it reduces the time between pulls while speeding up the fight in a way that is flavorful and often relevant.
  • Subterfuge:  I’m not sure if it’s just because of how I used this throughout all of MoP, the amount of testing that I’ve had to do on the talent’s interaction with Glyph of Vanish, or what but I’ve gotten pretty disillusioned with Subterfuge lately.  As a Subtlety PvE rogue I still like having to optimize for using my Ambush as late as possible and making sure I have as much energy pooled as possible before hand so the talent is by no means a 0 in my mind.  The fact that Blizzard had to make rogues visible during Subterfuge is unfortunate and removed a lot of the flavor from the talent but also completely fair.*  From a PvP perspective I think this talent offers a lot of great dynamics, like using Cheap Shot on multiple targets during your opener.
  • Shadow Focus:  Simple, elegant, and a little boring, I have some mixed feelings about this talent and have already pretty much said them all.  If I had the choice between this and Nightstalker, I’d take Nightstalker any day.  I do like how it feels mid-rotation though.

All in all I think this is about what a tier should look like.  It addresses an iconic part of the class in three two and a half different ways and offers options for various different playstyles.  The tier as a whole is relatively low-impact which I wouldn’t call good or bad.  In terms of difficult decisions this tier does have the problem of there being a right answer in most situations.  In casual PvE it’s the one that gives movement speed, in PvP it is whatever is most effective based on your team/playstyle, and in PvE it’s whatever the math tells you is optimal.

Tier 2 – Uh…

  • Deadly Throw:  I have one good memory of Deadly Throw and it’s from back when it was baseline.  I killed a mage in the arena with a 5 CP crit, then another DT off of the HaT proc.  As fun as that was, what killed them was actually the poison damage.  With the interrupt part of the ability gone, I see no reason why Deadly Throw should take up a valuable slot on our talent page.  Moreover, while the rest of the tier is defensive, Deadly Throw is…well not.  I guess when it used to interrupt you could call it a form of defense but with the slated changes (and I’d argue even before them since usually heals/CC is what gets interrupted) Deadly Throw fits with the other members of the tier even less.  From a PvE perspective, this talent is bad.  From a PvP perspective, this talent is bad.  From a flavor perspective, I guess I can see this talent being alright but honestly I’m still not convinced.  In fact I think if there’s one talent that should be cut, it’s Deadly Throw.  What do you replace it with?  We’ll get to that in the overview because I think the tier as a whole has issues.
  • Nerve Strike:  This is a good talent.  It has an impact, is useful for most content (not so much group PvE but the rest for sure), and is noticeable without being overpowerd.
  • Combat Readiness:  This should have been removed instead of made a talent.  It has redundant negative synergy with Evasion, is less fun than Evasion, and I think the only reason it has stuck for so long is because nobody likes to see their toys get removed from the game.

Given that this tier has precisely one talent that isn’t terrible I say we start over.  One option is to move Nerve Strike up to another tier and design fresh new level 30 talents.  That option I’m totally down for, but since this is supposed to be a short summary let’s assume we keep Nerve Strike.  We could have a tier that reduces the effectiveness of our enemies, which would be very in-line with the flavor of the rogue class.  Alternatively, we could have talents that augment certain aspects of our toolkit – Nerve Strike for stuns, then things for mobility, vanish, or finishers?  Another problem with this tier is that it struggles to find relevance.  It is one of the talents that mythic raiders could reasonably not take any of and still play at 100% capacity.  Solo players are in a similar position, since enemy damage is usually small enough to make our defensive options irrelevant and Deadly Throw continues to be a terrible choice.  It is also worth noting that with the removal of the interrupt no rogue will ever want to take Deadly Throw.

Tier 3 – Defense

  • Cheat Death:  In my mind this is a prime example of a good talent.  It is useful in all circumstances, is flavorful, and is noticeable.  I do think the talent is a bit undertuned, but as a talent I like it a lot and think it is important.
  • Leeching Poison:  First off, I hate that there is only one non-talent non-lethal poison.  I think it’s a disgrace to World of Warcraft that such an iconic part of such an iconic class is so stripped down as to require a talent in order to add even a suggestion of choice.  More than having Leeching Poison as a talent we need another non-lethal poison, so my first choice with what to do with this is to replace it so that rogues can have proper choice for both non-lethal poisons and for their third talent tier.  That said, I think Leeching Poison is pretty cool.  I like the flavor and the effect is quite relevant in non-bursty content.  It loses a lot of its value in high-level PvE and PvP but the heal and shiv effect are both about right.  I also like that this is a poison.
  • Elusiveness:  Generically good?  Yup.  Bit overpowered?  Yup.  Competitive with the other choices?  Yup.  The on-demand damage reduction also makes anticipating incoming damage easier which I approve of.

Overall this is a good tier.  Too bad our poison system sucks so much.

Tier 4 – Mobility

  •  Cloak and Dagger:  I was gonna name the talent “Cloak and Swagger” but it’s just so underwhelming that I can’t bring myself to do that.  Plus it’s too similar to Cloak of Swagger.  This talent tries real hard, but it has the distinct problem of being…well, bad.  It’s great for saving time when farming but that’s about it.  I suppose I did enjoy it when I was leveling and in a world where it is more common to enter stealth it would be pretty cool but with the current iteration of the class I just don’t see a place for it.  Of course it doesn’t help that it’s next to…
  • Shadowstep:  It’s hard to know where to start here.  Shadowstep sets the bar for this tier and maybe for talents as a whole.  It is iconic, powerful, and everybody loves it.  It even has that special something** that all great rogue abilities have.  Any talent on this tier has to compete with Shadowstep and it’s actually quite impressive that Blizzard has managed to create ones that can do this.
  • Burst of Speed:  I like it, it’s fun.  For me it’s a zero in terms of immersion (Compared to Shadowstep which adds to it and CnD which I actually think takes away from it).  It does well what Shadowstep does poorly and vice-versa, which is important because it fills out our mobility well.

Given that this tier includes Shadowstep, the tier as a whole is actually very well done.  Between Shadowstep and Burst of Speed competitive rogues have their bases covered, and the fact that our third talent is Cloak and Dagger makes it defensible.

Tier 5 – Crowd Control

  • Prey on the Weak:  It’s a generically good yet boring talent!
  • Internal Bleeding:  It’s less boring than Prey on the Weak…
  • Dirty Tricks:  I love this talent.  I realize it’s bad, but the ability to throw out Gouges like nobody’s business or Sap then open on another target without losing energy makes me feel great.  Unfortunately this just doesn’t compete with the other options.  In terms of talents that I don’t take but most want to, this is at the top.

This tier is boring.  It has no impact on PvE, and on PvP the interesting talents are the least viable ones.  I guess Internal Bleeding has some decent flavor and I do like that it exists but honestly this tier as a whole has serious issues with relevance on the PvE end and choice on the PvP end.

Tier 6 – CP Management + Shuriken Toss

  •  Shuriken Toss:  I guess some rogues like this talent but looking at the tier as a whole I get the feeling that one of these things is not like the others, and that thing is Shuriken Toss.  It does have decent flavor but it struggles for viability as its niche is something that WoW is designed to make largely irrelevant for rogues.  I’d also much rather Throw be buffed to deal actual damage than continue having our only way to do actual ranged damage be a level 90 talent.
  • Marked for Derp:  This is a great talent.  It’s powerful, which for a level 90 talent it should be, it works well with existing/established class mechanics, and the cooldown reset clause adds the spice it needs to feel like a talent rather than just an ability.  It can even kill you if you take DfA!  It does have a bit of trouble competing with Anticipation, but that’s more a symptom of Anticipation’s existence than anything else.  Speaking of which…
  • Anticipation:  Last year I wrote a piece on Anticipation that I stand by.  Basically Anticipation offers far more than what most talents should offer.  It allows a rogue to execute their rotation optimally, using all finishers at max CP without spilling over.  For many of us, Anticipation is the talent that we always want to take not because it is good, but because it makes us feel good.  Well that and it’s also pretty good.  It terms of flavor, well there isn’t really anything there.  In terms of viability, it is actually pretty week for anyone but raiders, and even then MfD usually beats it.  In solo play Marked for Derp’s cooldown reset makes it vastly superior, and PvP will always prefer the bust and versatility that Marked for Derp grants over Anticipation’s utility.

Tier 6 is a surprisingly problematic tier.  World of Warcraft has (rightly) come to the point where Shuriken Toss is completely unnecessary.  Marked for Derp is a good ability, makes sense as a talent, but is also the all-around most powerful option.  And then we get Anticipation, which is such a huge Quality of Life improvement that people actually take it over a talent that reads “Deal more damage, or even more if there are adds.”  So, in conclusion this tier should be Marked for Derp, something to replace Shuriken Toss, and something to replace Anticipation which has just been made baseline in some form or another.

Tier 7 – Cool Stuff

 

  • Lemon Zest:  I like Lemon Zest a lot given that it is a passive talent.  Both the extra energy and increased haste during multi-target scenarios are noticeable which is something many passives struggle with.  My only complaint is the long-standing bug where the game doesn’t call the talent by its real name.
  • Shadow Reflection:  Yo, Blizzard, real talk – You gotta do better.  You said one of your goals going into WoD was to reduce cooldown stacking, and then you give us an ability that copies what we do, including during cooldowns?  C’mon.  To make matters worse, this ability is a complete nightmare for theorycrafters as its behavior has been demonstrated to be inconsistent and unintuitive.  So not only did you give us a boring ability but you also gave the community members who do the most work more work.  If you want a talent to make our cooldowns better, then add a special effect for each spec that modifies it like you’ve done with some set bonuses.  For instance Combat could add extra attacks to Killing Spree for every X seconds it has been since you’ve used the ability last, with a max number of extra attacks of the 2-minute amount.  Shadow Dance could have a 25% lowered cooldown and duration (Blitz has increased the duration too much already).  Vendetta could…aw who am I kidding you’d just give it a flat damage increase because Assassination isn’t allowed to have interesting cooldowns, abilities, rotations, or…anything.  Either way Shadow Reflection is a terrible ability and the fact that I have to take it for DPS purposes makes me very sad.
  • Derp from Above:  I tried really hard to dislike this talent in Alpha/Beta, and had great success.  Then I tried it, and found I really liked it.  I then proceeded to ignore it because it is a terrible talent and went back to trying – and succeeding – to dislike it.  Unfortunately due to a ShadowCraft bug I recently tried the talent out again.  Here’s the thing about Derp from Above:  It’s fun.  Once every 20 or so seconds I get to jump up in the air, do a fancy flip, and land a massive blow on my enemy’s face.  What’s not to love?  The cooldown is just the right length for it to feel special while also being frequent.  Seriously Blizzard, if you are reading this, DO NOT REDUCE THE COOLDOWN.  Is it bad because two out of three specs don’t use finishers for their direct damage?  Who cares?  I’m doing flips!  Flavor?  What part of “I couldn’t care less I’m doing fancy flips” don’t you understand?  Is it incredibly hard to use optimally for Subtlety rogues?  Why do you think I like it so much?

Overall our Tier 7 has one huge problem:  There are three DPS increasing talents on it that do not compete adequately.  Combat rogues use Venom Rush and Subtlety/Assassination rogues use Shadow Reflection, and that’s pretty much all there is to it.  Usually in situations where talents compete over the same purpose/niche there are situations where one talent will shine over the usual choice but that’s simply not something that we’ve seen with this tier.

 Anyway, that’s all I have to say about talents.  I strung this article out over the course of something like a month so forgive me if it is a bit hard to follow.  Got opinions on talents?  Wanna tell me how awesome I am for writing this post?  Post away on our forums in the discussion thread.

 

*Of course, it would also be completely fair to trim down the ways classes have of kicking rogues out of stealth in PvP.

**That being the ability to accidentally kill you.  What’s that, your Haunted Memento procced when you were sneaking around Stormwind?  Sucks to suck!

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Dr. Deeps or: How to be a Perfect Rogue in just Three Steps

Hey all, in this post I’ll be going over some of the fundamental ways to improve raid performance.  While this is centered around raiding rogues, the general principles apply to all classes and all areas of the game.  Anyway without further ado, here is How to be a Perfect Rogue in just Three Days Steps.

 

Step 1:  Maximize your Resources

Rogues have three resources:  Energy, Combo Points (CP), and Uptime.  Without Energy we can’t use our abilities, without Combo Points we can’t use our finishers, and without Uptime we can’t even melee.  For anyone looking to increase their DPS, maximizing these resources is one of the most important – and challenging – things they can do.

For Energy and Combo Points the name of the game is not going over the maximum.  For energy this means never pooling energy so much that you reach your cap (100 base, +20 with Glyph of Energy, +15 with Lemon Zest, +20 with Assassin’s Resolve).  It also means making sure to dump energy if you know that you are going to lose uptime soon.  Combo Points are a similar story.  Using a generator when capped or using Marked for Death when already at 1+ CP will translate to wasted Combo Points.  Now of course there may be times when the situation or your rotation requires you to do this, for instance Combat rogues can rarely do better than using Marked for Death at 1 CP due to Ruthlessness and Assassination rogues should not be squeamish about using Mutilate at 3 Combo Points.

Maximizing Uptime is one of the biggest tests of skill that exists in game.  Partially, this is because uptime is extremely trinary:  Either (1) we are on the target, in which case we are happy (no DPS loss); (2) we are not, in which case we are sad (30-50% DPS loss); or (3) we are not and have capped energy, in which case we are even more sad (95-100% DPS loss).  You know how the worst thing you can do in a raid is die?  This is because death is the ultimate loss of Uptime.  For this reason, maximizing Uptime deserves its own paragraph.

The first and most important way to maximize Uptime is to not die.  There have been times when I have actually stopped DPS and run away from the boss for multiple seconds because there was AoE near the melee pile and I was at low health.  I distinctly remember after one such occasion placing second on overall damage, which for me with this group is actually slightly above average.  After not dying comes the more traditional form of Uptime, staying on your target.  This is usually done by minimizing travel time using Sprint and our tier 60 talent (usually Shadowstep but occasionally Burst of Speed for PvE).  This is where it is important to know fight mechanics, as for some fights it may be worth it to use Shadowstep for a very slight knockback whereas for others it may be a poor choice as saving it for another mechanic is more important (Think Imperator, where the adds push you when they die but you really want to be saving Shadowstep for the boss’s AoE).  The other way to increase Uptime by staying on target is ignoring mechanics using abilities such as Cloak of Swagger, Feint, and Smoke Bomb.  By ignoring waves of death that would otherwise destroy anyone near your target you can get an edge on the other members of your raid.  In fact, this is one of the ways in which rogues have historically shined, and one of the reasons that I genuinely think that if all specs were capable of dishing out the same amount of damage per second, rogues would naturally rise to the top.

 

 

Step 2:  Understand your Rotation

Even with 100% Uptime and no wasted energy/CP, a rogue will not be topping any charts with a broken rotation.  While most people reading this have probably read our guides, knowing the most up-to-date rotation and understanding it are two entirely different things.  This goes a bit into theorycrafting, but honestly thinking like a theorycrafter is exactly what I’m suggesting you do.  Using the Subtlety and Combat rotations as examples there are a few places where understanding the rotation can lead to non-trivial DPS increases:

Proper Pooling:  It is suggested that you pool energy before using most cooldowns.  This is because for cooldowns that create windows of increased damage from abilities (Shadow Dance, Vendetta, Shadow Reflection) it is beneficial to load more abilities into those windows, and since our abilities require energy, having a stockpile will allow that to happen.  That said when you consider the “why” it may become obvious that pooling Combo Points for those phases will also increase DPS.  In fact, the same logic can be applied to procs.  If I am running a weapon with the Frostwolf enchant, then pooling energy and Combo Points when I have no damage buffs so that I am ready to take advantage of a Frostwolf proc at any time will yield good results.  This is actually one of the main ways in which Anticipation can be a DPS increase, as pooling Combo Points without this talent is virtually impossible.  Using addons to help you notice when a major cooldown is almost ready can be helpful here, as being ready to use your cooldown as soon as it comes up can make a difference.

Knowing the Why:  This one’s important.  Understanding a rotation means knowing your abilities, how they interact, and why each ability should be used when whatever trusted source tells you to.  Consider Revealing Strike.  Most Combat guides simply say “Keep up the debuff.”  This is because Revealing Strike increases finisher damage and gives your Sinister Strike a chance to proc an additional Combo Point.  Well, what if your Revealing Strike falls off when you are at 3 Combo Points?  If you use Revealing Strike, then even if your next Sinister Strike would proc an additional Combo Point, it would be wasted.  However if you use Sinister Strike, then you will have gotten the same number of Combo Points you would have anyway, but now you are in a position to use Revealing Strike later for your 5th Combo Point.  Why does this matter?  Well the more you procrastinate on putting up the Revealing Strike debuff the greater the chances are that you won’t have to do it again later.  Similarly, pooling for a Shadow Dance becomes a DPS loss if the boss has only 10 seconds to live anyway.

There are tons of ways to push out more damage for those who understand the rotation, often including ones that theorycrafters haven’t even thought of.  By thinking critically about your rotation and understanding why theorycrafters and guide writers suggest what they do you can often find new ways to push DPS.

 

Step 3:  Strive to be the Very Best – Like no one ever was.

Make no mistake: there are always ways to improve.  Here are a few extra tips:

If your raid isn’t using WarcraftLogs, then start taking logs yourself.  It’s easy.  Look over them, taking special care to look at your cooldown usage, ability Uptimes, and encounter-specific mechanics.  If you want help, ask in our forums – I even made a thread.

Be flexible.  Different specs and talents are more useful for different fights.  While progressing on Ko’ragh our Combat rogue switched to Assassination because our raid needed more spell damage despite her daggers being far inferior to her Combat weapons.  On The Butcher as a Subtlety rogue I’ve switched out my Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins for Glyph of Smoke Bomb because my Rupture was never falling off and our raid needed that extra damage reduction to live through the soft-enrage.  Our job as rogues is to make the boss fall down as soon as possible.  Usually this means pumping out numbers with our preferred spec, but occasionally this means helping our healers save mana or saving the butts of squishier classes.  If it helps, consider that as soon as we save them with Smoke Bomb, all of the damage they do from then on is ours.

Get involved.  The only reason that we have anything close to the correct idea for how to play a rogue is because of our great community.  From the developers of ShadowCraft to the rogue who found out that Glyph of Vanish extends the duration of Subterfuge, the community is easily the most important factor in the average rogue’s performance.  If you are looking to truly push yourself, then come hang out in IRC, post in forums, and let us guide writers and theorycrafters know when something we do seems wrong or could be improved upon.  There are a ton of unanswered questions and even more that nobody has thought up yet and the more people who step up to ask and answer those questions, the better off everyone is for it.

 

 

Comments?  Join the Discussion Thread.

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Subtlety in 6.0.2

With the Warlords of Draenor pre-patch coming out tomorrow, I’ve decided to finally get off on my tush and write about what’s going on with Subtlety.  I’ll start with a description of what’s changing, then move on to what’s staying the same, and finally talk about what you’ll need to change.  Keep in mind that this article is coming from the perspective of a raider, and as such I will not be explaining every change or ramification, but only the ones I deem relevant for raiding.  This is also somewhat geared towards what we’ll be seeing at level 100 rather than on live, however I will try to distinguish between these two when the difference is relevant.

 

Subtlety:  It’s different…

The devs went through a huge amount of iteration with Subtlety.  They tried having Hemorrhage and Crimson Tempest’s DoT roll over through refreshes making them spammable, having Backstab and Ambush multistrikes give extra ticks from our DoTs, removing Premeditation, making Hemo way better than Backstab, making Hemo way worse than Backstab, and probably some other things.

Here’s what they ended up doing:

  • Not specific to Subtlety, but all of our buffs/debuffs can be refreshed early and get up to 30% of their original duration tacked on, making refreshing our buffs/debuffs a lot easier.
  • Hemorrhage really wants to be worse than Backstab, and mostly succeeds.  (More on this later.)
  • Backstab and Ambush multistrikes cause our DoTs to advance forward 2 seconds, gaining exactly one tick’s worth of damage for all DoTs (Hemo/Garrote now tick ever 2 secs).
  • At level 100, Vanish will have a 1.5 minute cooldown due to a leveling perk.
  • At level 100, Fan of Knives will grant a Combo Point for every target hit.
  • At level 100, Shadow Dance will last 10 seconds instead of 8.
  • Some stuff got better and some stuff got worse, but not so much that we care.
  • Some other things, but we don’t care.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of changes that seem relevant.

 

…but also the same…

Here’s the thing:  As much as they changed Subtlety, the spec as a whole really isn’t all that different.  In MoP, our goal was to maximize uptime on Slice and Dice, Rupture, Hemorrhage, and Find Weakness, while being smart about cooldown usage.  With these changes, our goal will be to maximize uptime on Slice and Dice, Rupture, Hemorrhage (we’ll get there), and Find Weakness, while being smart about cooldown usage.  Note how close those look!

When it comes down to it, all these changes to Subtlety actually mean very little.  Well, except for the Fan of Knives one, that’s actually about as big of a deal as it looks.

At this point you might well be wondering if any of these changes are relevant to you.  If you are like most rogues, then they aren’t, because you don’t raid as Subtlety.  However, for the three of you that do, the answer is yes.

 

…but actually, different.

All of those changes that didn’t actually change anything are surprisingly impactful.  It’s not that what we want to do is different, but rather what the best way of achieving that is.  I’ve been doing a lot of mucking around in SimulationCraft and have come upon some interesting findings.

Disclaimer time:  Everything that I’m saying after this point comes from mucking around with SimulationCraft.  When possible, I cross-checked with my character’s ShadowCraft.  The theorycrafting you see here is only as good as me and the tools I used, which is to say, distinctly questionable but notably alright.  As always, if something looks fishy, feel free to inquire or investigate, but please refrain from calling me an idiot without backing it up with evidence.

Here’s a list of things:

  • Shadow Focus is now significantly better than Subterfuge, which is now slightly better than That Other One.
  • Pooling energy before Vanish doesn’t matter as much as you thought.  (Pooling energy before Shadow Dance probably does matter as much as you thought.)
  • With sufficient levels of Multistrike, Hemo Weaving is a thing of the past.  (READ:  If you are level 90, Hemo Weave.)  Hemorrhage continued to be useful for keeping up Sanguinary Veins, and is better than Backstab if the Sinister Calling multistrike mechanic will cause Sanguinary Veins to expire, because that’s not confusing at all.
  • Garrote is comically bad and should never be used.  Ever.
  • Because of Sinister Calling’s multistrike mechanic, refreshing Rupture as early as possible without losing ticks is recommended.

 

The Takeaway

As confusing as this all is, I actually think the takeaway is pretty simple.  If you liked Subtlety in MoP, you’ll probably like it in Warlords.  I’m hesitant to say whether the changes make the spec funner or not, because that’s really quite subjective.  For sure the experience will be different, but at the core the two iterations of the spec are close enough that I doubt very many people will change their mind about the spec.  Well, until Draenor at least, when people pick up the uber leetness that is Empower Fan of Knives.

 

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Subtlety Feedback (WoD Beta)

This is a post with lots of Subtlety PvE feedback. You have been warned. If you are not familiar with the theorycrafting that has been done thus far with Subtlety, I suggest you read my post so that you are up-to-date.

In theory, I really like how Subtlety is changing. The new Multistrike mechanic, SC, is super interesting, and the Fan of Knives perk is amazing. In practice, I think there are a lot of small problems with Subtlety mechanically that all together could make it a bit of a mess. Here goes:

 

nHemo Weaving

nHemo Weaving is what I and Fierydemise, and therefore everyone, is calling the playstyle of maintaining a certain potency of the Hemorrhage DoT by using some number (n) of Hemorrhages, then using Backstab as the primary combo point builder. In theory, this is really interesting, and in fact using a 4-Hemo rotation was really fun during raid testing. The problem is, there is a good chance that the n will fluctuate quite a bit depending on both gear and RNG.

This could very well lead to addons being required to play Subtlety at a top 100 progression level, which would be a problem. Moreover, for those who do not want an addon or to check out the average number of Hemorrhages to weave every time they get an upgrade, this question becomes even more of a problem, since guide writers have no idea what kind of gear this person has so it could very well be that for one, weaving 4 Hemorrhages is optimal, while for another, a full-Hemorrhage rotation is best. This leads me nicely to my next point.

 

Gear

As I mentioned in my theorycrafting post, it is reasonable for someone with low multistrike to completely forsake Backstab and use a full-Hemorrhage rotation. This is problematic for multiple reasons. First, without Backstab it is unlikely that Multistrike will be our most valuable stat, making justifying it somewhat difficult. I don’t see that as a big issue, but if you are fighting for gear with another class that would use that gear immediately you may find it a hard fight to win. Second, discouraging Multistrike means discouraging our attuned stat, which means Subtlety rogues with bad gear are also getting fewer stats for their item level, which is just kicking them while they’re down. Third, it is super unintuitive to not use Backstab at all for Subtlety, so while it is unlikely that a new player will get the rotation right if they are supposed to be nHemo-weaving, it is even more unlikely that they will on their own realize that Backstab is strictly worse than Hemorrhage for them.

 

AoE

On a similar note, while the Fan of Knives perk is amaaaaaaaazing, the fact that we may actually want to AoE as Subtlety brings to light some of its problems.

First, Subtlety AoE gains no particular benefit from haste, since with 5 CP per FoK you are unlikely to be low on energy unless the AoE lasts quite a long time and autoattacks are less significant. Similarly, Subtlety AoE is unaffected by SC, which means that once again the mechanic that makes our attuned stat good is no longer functional. Crit just kinda continues to be Crit for Subtlety, however with a finisher every other second, Mastery’s value is substantially increased. This means that while for single target DPS we ideally want Multistrike over all else, for AoE we go from caring maybe some but not a ton about mastery to OH DEAR LORD GIMME MORE GIMME MORE. Why is that a problem? Well first of all, it might encourage Subtlety rogues to carry two gear sets so that they can switch to their mastery set for AoE fights, second, because it might encourage rogues to go Assassination for single target and Subtlety for AoE/cleave (depending on how numbers tuning works out) since both specs when used that way would like mastery, and third because shouldn’t our attuned stat be useful in all common circumstances? It is worth noting that a full mastery build would probably discourage the use of Backstab altogether, which I already talked about.

Second, as much hype as there has been regarding SC, I’d argue Find Weakness is still the main mechanic of Subtlety in PvE. Unfortunately, Find Weakness is only applied through single target abilities, which makes it pretty useless in AoE situations. While I could see it being worthwhile in cleave situations, it still involves ignoring the other targets for the duration of the ability as well as only dealing extra damage to one target after AoE resumes.

Finally, none of Subtlety’s AoE abilities do good damage with the possible exception of Crimson Tempest, which takes 12 seconds to do its damage. The lack of instant AoE damage encourages Subtlety rogues to use FoK only for the combo points and just keep dumping them on the boss or for SnD, as the damage dealt that way will be significantly more and other classes are far more capable of dealing with quick AoE bursts.

 

Solutions

As I see it there are two basic problems, which I will address one at a time.

The first is Sinister Calling’s interaction with Hemorrhage. Since at this point in Beta this is unlikely for this to be addressed via major mechanical adjustments, I think the two best ways of solving this issue are to revert the change that makes Hemorrhages’ bleed damage be conserved upon refreshes, and to significantly reduce the duration of Hemorrhage, say to dealing 100% of the initial damage over 3 seconds, ticking once every second.

The first would lead to regular Hemo-weaving like we do on live, which I dislike for a few reasons. Right off the bat, the thing I really liked about nHemo-weaving is how I really felt that Hemorrhage and Backstab were working together, and that I had a great deal of control over their interaction. Testing out this rotation on a target dummy, I realized that for the first time since Cataclysm, I felt true satisfaction in executing the Subtlety rotation. Reverting the rotation to single Hemo-weaving would make the spec notably easier to play, which completely removes one of the points of the Multistrike mechanic which was to “add rotational depth” (WoD Beta Patch Notes, Subtlety Section). Right now, Subtlety is super close to being utterly amazing, and removing the rolling periodic behavior from Hemorrhage would be undoing everything good that happened to Subtlety’s single target rotation.

Another objection I have for removing the rolling periodic behavior of Hemorrhage is that the rogue community as a whole will likely see that as a huge nerf to frontal damage. As it is, Sublety rogues are still forced to use Hemorrhage as their primary combo point generator when facing their target. The potency and rolling behavior of Hemorrhage, combined with the frequency in which we can side-stab, finally got some respected raiders that I know to drop positional requirements as a reason not to play Subtlety. Whether valid or not, I think it highly likely that my fellow rogues will once again find it impossible to recommend Subtlety for Mythic progression.

Also, I recently talked about this very issue with Fierydemise and we agreed that sacrificing the rolling periodic behavior of Hemorrhage for the purposes of rotational stability would be a step in the wrong direction. I only say this because when Fiery and I agree on something, it is worth noting.

Can you tell I really don’t want this option? Because I really don’t want this option….

Option two, shortening Hemorrhages bleed to the point where it would be unfeasible to weave more than one Hemorrhage, still has its problems but is also clearly superior. For starters, it keeps the rotation interesting. The dynamic of pooling energy to pull off Hemo-Backstab-Backstab works really well with the need to maintain Rupture and Slice and Dice. While pulling off Hemo-2xBS is easier than 4Hemo-weaving, the fact that Rupture is now the only consistent way to maintain SV makes up for it. This also has the interesting dynamic of Hemorrhage still being good for providing fast SV for quick swaps, but not being passable as a consistent source of the debuff. This is significantly more OK than it is on live, because Rupture does a lot more work in Warlords and therefore should be up more anyway. This rotation also makes Hemorrhage no longer an upkeep buff that should be ideally used during Find Weakness (yes, there would be issues there, losing a few ticks so that it snapshots during FW for more damage would likely be recommended).

I’m getting really tired and know I am missing some arguments regarding the short-duration option, however all in all I think this would solve the issue of nHemo-weaving in a way that would keep Subtlety approximately as fun as it is now on Beta, which is really super fun!

Finally let’s get to the second problem, which is Subtlety’s core mechanics’ lack of interaction with AoE. Honor Among Thieves gets completely overshadowed by FoK, which is fine because getting 5 CP on a generator is amazing and HaT still does work, however Find Weakness and Sinister Calling not interacting at all with AoE is pretty anticlimactic. Since Subtlety’s AoE continues to be pretty meh (not to be confused with its single-target DPS when surrounded by a bunch of baddies), and numbers haven’t been tuned yet, I think it makes sense to talk in terms of adding mechanics which are inevitably going to be buffs.

First on the list is SC, which actually is a serious issue because it messes with stat weights. The easiest way of dealing with this is to make it so that FoK multistrikes proc additional procs of bleeds on the affected target – in other words, add FoK to SC. This would slightly help Subtlety’s problem of backloaded AoE, but mostly make the mechanic that is supposed to make Subtlety rogues want Multistrike actually good on all fights. Thankfully, Crimson Tempest hits for low enough that extra procs shouldn’t be a very big deal, though if they are I would love you to frontload more of its damage as a “nerf”.

Second, Find Weakness. The only reason I mention this is because I really think it is Subtlety’s primary mechanic, and not having it be single target feels awkward. I think the best solution for this is to make Ambush cleave, allowing the debuff to be applied to multiple targets (say in a cone). If this is OP, then instead make Garrote cleave or FoKs from Stealth or Shadow Dance apply FW. While I admit that these mechanics are a bit unintuitive, I think that at the very least Subtlety should have a bit more support of cleave from its primary mechanic.

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Subtlety Multistrike Mechanic

This post is my analysis of Subtlety’s new multistrike mechanic that is currently slated for delivery in 6.o, Warlords of Draenor.  Because this post is primarily for theorycrafters, I will be assuming a fair bit more familiarity with math and class mechanics than I usually do.  This post will be broken up into n sections.  In the first, I will describe the mechanic.  In the second, I will list some of the questions theorycrafters have been asking regarding the mechanic.  In this third, I will dump the raw data for work that I have done.  Finally, in the fourth section I will do some analysis.  If you are considering reading this because you are wondering if I will stop sounding like an automaton, then I suggest you instead play some Warcraft.

 

The Mechanic

Subtlety’s multistrike mechanic, which for now on we will call SC as it is attached to the Sinister Calling passive, reads “When you multistrike with Backstab or Ambush, you also twist the blade, causing all of your Bleed effects to instantly tick an additional time.”  What this translates to is simply, “Your bleeds make Backstab stronger.”

At this point I should mention that making Backstab stronger is quite important for Subtlety, as without this mechanic Backstab does less damage than Hemorrhage on Beta.

 

Questions

  1. How should Hemorrhage be woven into the rotation?  This is the main question.  Since Hemorrhage without multistrike deals more damage than Backstab, it is reasonable to assume that at normal levels of multistrike Hemorrhage might deal more damage than Backstab still, until the Hemo bleed increases Backstab’s potency to the point where it is more powerful.
  2. How should Crimson Tempest be woven into the rotation?  Although Crimson Tempest does much less damage than Eviscerate, it applies a bleed which could lead to Backstab picking up the slack.
  3. How should Garrote be woven into the rotation?  Same deal as the others, though it is important to compare Garrote coming out of Vanish (with MoS and compared to a 60 energy Ambush) and in Shadow Dance (no MoS and 40 energy Ambush).
  4. How do questions 1 and 2 change during during Find Weakness?  Because the Hemorrhage and Crimson Tempest bleeds are based on the damage of the initial hit, the bleed snapshots, making these abilities more potent during Find Weakness compared to their alternatives (Backstab and Eviscerate).
  5. How do questions 1-3 change with gear?  Higher actions per minute and more multistrike are likely to impact the rotation, perhaps substantially.
  6. At low levels of multistrike, how does our rotation change, and is it reasonable to fully forsake the stat until we get enough?  If you are using gear with 0 multistrike on it (so 5% base MS), Backstab may never be worth it, making a full Hemo build optimal and potentially encouraging pulling stats farther away from multistrike, similar to how armor penetration worked in Wrath where it was bad until a specific breakpoint.
  7. Procs.  What the heck do we do about temporary power gains?  This is especially relevant given that our weapon enchant will likely give a multistrike buff.
  8. If we find that at a certain gear set weaving on average n Hemorrhages at a given time is optimal, how far away from optimal is that rotation?  Basically, the point where you want to stop using Hemo and start using Backstab is when the extra tick damage gets high enough.  This means that if on average we are to weave 3 Hemorrhages before using Backstab but the first two crit and double mulstistrike, then our bleed damage will be high enough that it would be optimal to use Backstab.  If this damage difference across a whole fight is large enough, then it could cause people to seek the help of addons, trivializing the rotation.  In many ways, this is the main concern with this mechanic.

 

Data

 

Spreadsheet

With the help of Fierydemise’s APM calculations, I made a spreadsheet that crudely models the damage of Backstab and Hemorrhage and tries to answer question 1.  It has limited support for stats, but you can change the numbers for amount of bleeds on the target.  It makes the false assumption that Hemorrhage and Backstab both cost 35 energy, which means among other things that it will be slightly biased towards Backstab.  The purpose of this spreadsheet is not to be accurate, as much as it is to determine around where the breakpoints for the stats are.  I have enabled editing on this so that people can play with the numbers of bleeds, APM, and multistrike, but I would request that after playing with it you return it to the format you found it in.  The numbers that are there at the moment are accurate as of a few builds ago.

Feel free to change the haste, mulstistrike, crit, and bleed amounts.  Also when you change the haste rating make sure to verify that the APM number actually changed, because I added those later and think there may be some jankiness with it.  Worth noting, the stats I took were me gearing specifically for multistrike using the PvP gear you can purchase, which is to say it is probably a bit more biased than is realistic.  Oh, and I should mention that the Hemo_nC where n is 0/1/2 is how I represent how many ticks have been spent on each Hemo since the last time it refreshed.  That is, if you use Hemo once, then you have hemo_0C set to 1 and the rest set to 0.  If you used Hemo 3 times in a row, then that is using Hemo twice, letting a tick go, and then using it the final time, so you have Hemo_0C set to 1, Hemo_1C set to 2, and Hemo_2C set to 0.

Link to spreadsheet:  (link)

Copy of spreadsheet that you can’t edit (for reference):  (link)

 

Dummy Testing

Unfortunately the computer I’m on doesn’t have the text file that I saved the data on, but I tested some simple rotation on Beta against the Mythic Test Dummies in Shattrath on Beta.  The rotation was simplified, I was using no cooldowns, and for my relevant talents Anticipation (duh) and Lemon Zest.

Each trial lasted over 5 minutes and most were done with a multistrike heavy gearset.  Some later on were done with substantially less multistrike in order to test question 5, but the primary questions being tested were 1 and 2.

 

Raid Testing

Thanks to Ninjablaze and the kind folks at <Victory of Whatever> I was able to try out Subtlety during Tuesday’s heroic raid testing.  WOO!  During the tests I kept logs on Skada and have some findings that may be worthwhile but are probably so corrupted by RNG as to be meaningless.  At the very least though I got some interesting findings on questions 6.

 

Analysis

 

Spreadsheet

Due to the faulty assumptions, the major finding of the spreadsheet is that on some level it makes sense to weave some number of Hemorrhages and Backstabs.  It is also reasonable to guess that the number of Hemorrhages woven should be reasonable high, in the 4-6 range.  In practice, it is difficult to weave more than 5 Hemorrhages due to the amount of energy pooling required and the fact that you have to fit a finisher in there too, but we’ll talk about that a bit more later.  As for the stat weights, the spreadsheet mostly indicates that the number of Hemorrhages woven is reasonable dynamic, such that if this mechanic makes it to live we will probably have to support variable numbers of Hemorrhages in our rotation.

 

Dummy Testing

First, keep in mind there is an implicit “under the testing conditions” qualifier for all of this.  Also keep in mind that while I did not use anything that provided temporary power gains besides the weapon enchants, there is RNG in these.

When testing Full Hemo and Full Backstab rotations, Full Hemo came out ahead.  This is in-line with the data I had available but verifying it is always nice.  The practical applications are that if you want to be lazy and just use one generator out of stealth, have it be Hemorrhage.

DPS peaked weaving 4-5 Hemorrhages depending on gear, and showed a fairly substantial difference between the low-Hemo rotations, indicating that we might have issues with proper weaving being too important – we’ll see.  At any rate, I would say it definitely makes sense to add support for multiple levels of Hemo weaving into ShadowCraft.

I did not attempt weaving 6 Hemos, as that would have been a great deal of pooling, and required using a finisher in the middle.  Long story short, I don’t think it will be practical, however I could very well be wrong.

Even without using any Hemorrhages, Crimson tempest was not worth it.  It remains to be seen whether better gear (higher APM, more Mastery) will change this.

 

Raid Testing

First of all, Subtlety appears to be the best spec for kicking hunter BUTT in DPS, so good thing I was there!

For the first boss I was using a premade character with 0 mulstistrike on gear, though was fully enchanted, fooded, and flasked for multistrike.  I started out with a 4-Hemorrhage rotation and had some success, though on that fight it is difficult to measure success as magical damage does not show up on meters.  Later I switched to full mastery enchants/food/flask and a full Hemo rotation and saw an increase in my DPS, although that was only for a few attempts so it may well have been RNG.  That said, forsaking multistrike and going full Hemo if moderate-high levels of multistrike are unattainable is worth looking into.

For the two other tests I used a level 100 premade with high-multistrike gear and a 4-Hemo rotation for all attempts.  All I can say is the pacing and feel of the spec is pretty good with that rotation.

 

Thhhhhhhat’s all folks!

If you have questions or anything to add, please feel free to join the discussion on the Subtlety multistrike mechanic at the Ravenholdt.net theorycrafting forum!

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