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!