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.
Assassination:
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.

Outlaw:
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.

Subtlety:
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.
Subtlety:
Soothing Darkness: You heal 3% of your maximum life every 1 sec while Stealth is active.
Outlaw:
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.

Assassination:
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.

Outlaw:
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.

Subtlety:
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.

Assassination:
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.

Outlaw:
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.

Subtlety:
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.

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

Subtlety:
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.

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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.

Anticipation
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.

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Ravenholdt Roundtable: Raiding in Warlords

In our third Ravenholdt Roundtable, Fierydemise talks to Vigilate (@Vigi_latte) of Easy and Rosvall of NollTvåTre, a pair of experienced raiding rogues, to talk about how rogues have faired in Warlords raiding content and some brief look ahead to Legion.

You can download an MP3 of the podcast or listen below:

{podcast id=3}

To talk about the topics raised in this roundtable, hop over to our dedicated discussion thread. If you have feedback on our Ravenholdt podcasts in general, or if you have any guests or topics you’d like to see on a roundtable in the future, let us know on Twitter.

Be sure to check out Vigilate‘s and Rosvall‘s Twitch streams to catch them in action!

Previous Ravenholdt Roundtables

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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.

 

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Ravenholdt on Ravenholdt: A New Order

A few days ago Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas (@WatcherDev) mentioned in an interview with Blizzplanet that the rogue class hall is intended to be in the Dalaran Sewers Underground.  Since then hordes of rogues have allied together under the hashtag #RavenholdtOrRiot in an attempt to bring our class hall to Ravenholdt.  The four of us who run Ravenholdt.net have each written a little blurb about our thoughts on the movement and the placement of our new home.  Spoiler:  We all would prefer Ravenholdt to the Dalaran underground.
 
 
 
From Haileaus (@Haileaus)
 
Ravenholdt ManorThe reason so many rogues want Ravenholdt is because when we were first introduced to it we fell in love with its lore.  The hidden mansion in he hills, riddled with booby-traps, that we were one of the few people to know of its existence, let alone actually visit and return.  The place where rogues were trained in the art of lockpicking and where there was an ongoing battle The Syndicate, aka our competition.
 
In and outside World of Warcraft rogues have a reputation of being lowly, selfish, and unworthy.  It is the nature of the stealth-based class for others to treat us as lesser, claiming our success comes from our ability to cheap-shot unsuspecting prey.  The fact is, rogues are consistently the underdog, and in a game like Warcraft where you have paladins anointed by the Light and warlocks who sell their soul for incredible power, it is hard to imagine a rogue as legitimately being on that level.  All this means rogues as a group are often a bit sensitive.  We know, because Ravenholdt taught us this, that we can be so much greater than what those other classes think of us.  We know that we can alter the events of Azeroth like very few others are capable of because we have seen Wrathion emerge from our hallowed mansion to become one of the most prominent figures in Azeroth.
 
As we fight alongside the greatest mages, warriors, druids and deathknights of our time there is always a question in the back of our heads:  “Are we truly among these great heroes, or at the end of the day are we just simple cutthroats and thieves pretending to be more so we can play with the big kids?”  This is why the Dalaran underground hurt so much.  It answered this question for us, and the answer was that at the end of the day, when we are tired and want to be among our own, we won’t be going to great halls or places of renown.  We will go under the City of Mages, to where our great deeds mean nothing.
 
It doesn’t matter how thematically appropriate the Dalaran Underground is.  It doesn’t matter if we are the leaders of this underground.  And as catchy as it is, it doesn’t (really) matter that the underground is in the sewers.  What 86% of rogues who filled out that strawpoll in favor or Ravenholdt want is to be in a place where rogues are recognized as worthy.  Worthy of respect, worthy of training, and worthy of having their own place, independent of any place or other class.  Ravenholdt is the only place that has deemed us worthy of all these things and more.  Compared to that, any underground – where it is usually considered an achievement to get out of – is just adding insult to our already injured pride.
 
 
 
From Rfeann (@SvelteKumquat)
 
Am I the only one who started hearing patriotic music in their head as they read Hail’s words? If I’d been down on playing my rogue before reading that, I’d be inspired to pick it up again now.
 
Ravenholdt InteriorInfused within Hail’s points, I think, is a feeling of loss. We’ve talked a lot over the past two expansions about the degradation of spec identity, and devs have publicly let it be known that a more solid aesthetic differential between specs is a likely priority for the next expansion. And that’s fine — good, even. But I think aesthetic spec differential is less important than aesthetic class distinction, particularly in light of the upcoming birth of a new leather melee class.
 
Ravenholdt — the in-game location — hearkens back to an era when playing a rogue felt more distinct than it does now. When dungeons had lock-pickable chests, and raids had disarmable traps; when we had several class-specific quest chains closely tied to our class identity (and that were required to unlock core flavor abilities); when poison use felt like a more involved, engaging process.
 
I’m one of those players who really misses the feeling that rogues can do things nobody else can do in the game, and experience things in the game no other class can experience. (I very much wish rogues, and only rogues, had the ability to “see” those assassins that patrol the halls of Hellfire Citadel — and could even make them partly visible to their raid group.)  It’s the reason I keep coming back to the mantra that I never feel more like a rogue than when I’m questing out in the world; stealth and pickpocketing are all I feel like I’ve got that make my class feel the way it felt when I fell in love with it. And even pickpocketing has a low ceiling for me, given how quickly those many different trinkets fill up my bags and the frustrating inconsistency in which types of mobs have pockets.
 
So I want to reclaim some of that lost “special” feeling. Which is why the idea of Ravenholdt as a Class Order location resonates with me — and why the idea of the Dalaran Sewers as that location strikes such a discordant note.
 
 
 
From Fierydemise (@Fierydemise)
 
Ravenholdt Sparring ArenaWatching the #RavenholdtOrRiot hashtag has been odd in many ways because its such a seemingly silly thing to riot over but after reading some of posts and tweets it makes sense. Anger about Ravenholdt doesn’t require any mechanic discussion or numbers, it’s pure emotional attachment. All that said there are a couple reasons from a developer perspective not to use Ravenholdt that are worth considering.

1) Ravenholdt is in the middle of no where. From a lore perspective this makes some sense but from a gameplay perspective it isn’t ideal. However that isn’t unique to Ravenholdt, a huge number of the plausible order locations including ones that Blizzard mentioned on Thursday are also not in a prime location. Moonglade, Peak of Serenity, The Maelstrom, none of these are anywhere near the Broken Isles. If Blizzard wants to use any of them as class order locations than it doesn’t seem like too much to ask for rogues to also get Ravenholdt. If Blizzard does decide to place all the class orders in close proximity to the Broken Isles for convenience it should be at least partially affiliated with Ravenholdt, perhaps “Ravenstead” or something. As the visceral reaction to Dalaran Sewers show many rogues have an emotional attachment to Ravenholdt and the class orders should respect that.

2) In the lore Ravenholdt was destroyed. I’d forgotten about this, and I think a lot of rogues have forgotten about this but at the end of the Fangs of the Father quest line the Red Dragonflight attacks Ravenholdt and does an unspecified amount of damage. We see a lot of dead guards and the building on fire but the exact fate of Lord Ravenholdt and the order has never been discussed. Of course lore contradictions are rarely a problem and here the destruction of Ravenholdt actually creates a very nice story. Free idea for Blizzard, after the legion invades some great rogue (perhaps Garona, perhaps some previously unknown rogue) decides to reestablish the order and asks the player to assist. This quest takes the player to the ruins of Ravenholdt and in the ruins they discover a legendary pair of assassin’s daggers. Tada! Now Ravenholdt is reestablished through in game actions and one rogue artifact weapon is handled. Blizzard has committed to class quests with this artifact system which gives them a chance to tell limited class specific stories, in this case reestablishing Ravenholdt.

 
Yes #RavenholdtOrRiot is probably a bit extreme but the reaction has shown just how important Ravenholdt is to many rogues. And yes, there are decent reasons why the devs might not want to use Ravenholdt for the rogue class order however both of the objections are not consistent with other announced information and/or can be fixed logically within a purely game setting.
 
 
 
From Paryah (@One_Rogue)
 
The case for Ravenholdt.

In game, Ravenholdt is already an established Rogue headquarters. It is and has been the site of multiple rogue quests. Notable existing events at the compound are the class quest to obtain  the Survivor’s Bag of Coins and the Fangs of the Father questline and finale. The Ravenholdt compound includes everything that a rogue organization would need: gardens for growing poisons, a training area, the manor with fences, vendors, quest givers, and plenty of room for iconic class memorabilia. We even have our own manor cat, Salome.

SalomeThe secret compound in an out of the way place far from civilization is a trope of clandestine groups in modern storytelling. From Afterlife in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Scaramanga’s island in The Man with the Golden Gun, to Ra’s al Ghul’s fortress in Arrow, and many more, the retreat is a place where members of these groups go to train, to scheme, to de-stress/heal up between capers, and to keep their trophies and spoils. Ravenholdt Manor is the rogue’s version of this in World of Warcraft. A place like the sewers of Dalaran may be good for a quick meeting, a visit to a fence,  a drop/pick up, or even a staging area, but it’s way too close to civilization to be the place where the majority of training and planning happens.

There are certainly arguments to be made for putting us in Dalaran. We’ll be close to the action, if there are portals/hearthstones associated with the Class Orders ours would possibly get us to Dalaran for free, we’d be hidden in plain sight. But Dalaran is the City of Mages. They belong here, not us. If we build a base in Dalaran, are we really naive enough to believe that it is not at the sufferance of the mages? We are smarter than that. We are more cunning than that. Gameplay convenience aside, Dalaran is not where we belong.

The Burning Legion invasion threatens all of Azeroth. This upcoming expansion will include events that will affect various areas across the whole of Azeroth. Having Class Order halls spread out around the map and reusing/updating old locations really appeals to me and intensifies the idea that our world, what we know and love, is what is at stake. I hope that Blizzard takes all of this into consideration as they plan this feature for Legion.

 

 

Intro and links brought to you by Haileaus.  Pictures were taken by Hail and added by whoever is gonna do that for me Paryah because adding images is frustratingly difficult.

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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.

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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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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?

Assassination:
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.

Combat:
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.

Subtlety:
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.

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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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