Assassination is a spec that centers around bleeds and poison – damage over time with a focus on single target. It fills the spot of a rather easy to play yet strong Rogue specialization, great to get you started and also allowing you to focus more on mechanics. It is a strong progression spec and the most resistant rogue spec to downtimes. Besides, it allows to continue damaging a boss while switching to secondary targets. Since Battle for Azeroth bleeds and poisons are hasted, which is a great and long-awaited change. This has made Haste much more useful. Unfortunately, there is still the concern of Haste value vanishing quickly against multiple targets.
Gameplay feels slow and not rewarding – there is little to no difference between trying to do some advanced things like pooling energy or syncing CDs and not doing that, meanwhile, our slow energy regen is not helping it. We also lost the artifact trait that restored a big amount of energy on Vendetta, and got nothing to compensate it.
The talents feel a bit lackluster – with the main concerns being:
- Blindside – is a talent that was probably meant to serve as an execute choice but is actually worse during the execute phase, while also performing lower than the other two. There are also secondary issues such as decreased value of Double Dose and other Mutilate-specific mechanics. Many Rogues were very excited to see this talent on beta and really want it to be an option, but the tuning just isn’t there.
- Master Assassin can be a frustrating option. That it is not 100% chances seems weird and the short duration makes it difficult to have the results average out. Because of this, it does not bring the same kind of excitement that its predecessor Mantle of the Master Assassin had.
- Venom Rush is too far behind performance-wise, while also being worse as a concept – a passive talent only working with our single target filler, Mutilate, versus the more versatile & bursty ones. It is also a negative combo with Blindside.
- Level 100 Tier:
- Poison Bomb is still a random proc, while not doing some major damage now, is still a default pick for raiding/single target due to other talents being strictly AoE oriented.
- Hidden Blades is something that feels more suitable for Subtlety, a spec that can actually gain some multitarget damage from it. Assassination’s main source of damage on AoE are bleeds and poisons, so this talent falls behind, while also being less fun to play than Crimson Tempest in the same tier.
- Crimson Tempest is a bit underwhelming too – while being our only AoE finisher, it does most of its damage periodically and scales with the number of targets and time they live, being worth taking only for intense multitarget scenarios. For it to work as a good last-tier talent, we feel like Crimson Tempest could get a damage tuning pass to be worth using in more common AoE scenarios, e.g. at 3+ targets rather than 5-6+ sustained targets. One way to achieve that would be to shift more damage onto spell impact while lowering periodical damage a bit.
Outlaw Rogues are the brawlers and duelists who stand their ground in combat and fight with sheer force and mastery of weapons. The spec has started out quite strong in Battle for Azeroth, but (just like in Legion) was nerfed and “abandoned” by many players for the release of the first raid. Its main strength is AoE damage with Blade Flurry, which was an especially welcome sight in Dungeons. Nevertheless, Outlaw tends to feel a lot less useful when you have no Blade Flurry charges left as it makes it harder to keep up while the other two specs have a more consistent AoE for every pull.
- Against a single target, the spec is still okay on paper but has its disadvantages in reality. Outlaw Rogues get hit hardest by downtimes and are rather fast-paced, making them lose the most damage when not being able to attack the boss. The other specs are usually safer choices for single target damage and some strengths in AoE are not good enough to offset this issue. Outlaw could definitely use a single target damage buff.
- Roll the Bones continues to add a lot of variance to the spec which is, alongside rerolling/fishing gameplay, deterring some potential players. The individual buffs values are spread out quite a lot with Ruthless Precision and Grand Melee / Broadside (depending on azerite powers) being very dominant, while Buried Treasure and True Bearing being extremely weak, currently.
- The more constant alternative of Slice and Dice is ridiculously undertuned and currently only considered for an unintended build with a dagger in your main hand which is based on a design issue (the Mastery is not normalized by weapon speed).
- Adrenaline Rush has multiple issues that prevent Outlaw from having proper reliable single-target burst. The cooldown is variable thanks to Restless Blades and True Bearing but because of this, there is no way to reliably line it up with fight mechanics, unlike static 1/2/3 minute cooldowns. The potency of the cooldown is overall low (to match the low average cooldown and high duration) so it becomes more of a rotational skill with very high uptime and less of a powerful cooldown window.
- Outlaw currently suffers from a lack of talent diversity and several tiers feel locked. Quick Draw is dominating the first tier for being both strong and very convenient to play with. The second tier (which is a damage tier for the other specs) is a simple utility tier featuring skills that could also all be baseline. In the Level 100 tier, Dancing Steel is too much of a niche talent to be taken often and Killing Spree is very similar to Blade Rush but on a longer cooldown, making it undesirable in M+ scenarios. Alacrity continues to be the go-to option in the Level 90 row while being quite boring. It would be nice to see the other options more competitive and Loaded Dice buffed, perhaps by making it give longer duration or more rolls.
Subtlety has always been a single target focused spec with a focus on repeatable burst. Last few iterations have enhanced the single target aspect by aiming to funnel our AoE capability into single target damage that scales with residual enemies.
The overall pacing feels quite good for the spec. There are two main variations played; one with Secret Technique which plays similar to how Death from Above was played in Legion but less impactful and more forgiving. Bursty and intensive every 20 seconds. Then, the second one with Master of Shadows which feels quite streamlined and perhaps lacking some complexity but that is fine for a passive talent setup.
- While our AoE to single target niche feels great and gives a lot of control to the rogue; it is also a bit quirky since it sometimes requires your group to hold back AoE so that the rogue can deal increased damage, which does not seem very natural. And then, there is Zul on Mythic, which is the only encounter which suddenly really plays into Subtlety’s cards here; possibly a bit too much, leading to a common impression that Subtlety is OP.
- There is one concern during AoE and Cleave which manifests for the Secret Technique build. When in AoE/Cleave situations your combo point generation and thus the number of finishers and cooldown reduction on Secret Technique and Shadow Dance are much higher. This disjoints these two abilities from Symbols of Death, which can also happen during high haste periods against a single target. Perhaps an Azerite Trait or a change to some of our talents that would reduce the cooldown on Symbols of Death based on finishers could be interesting in order to combat this.
- While the Shadow Blades rework was nice and helping with value in AoE, there is still room for improvement. Shuriken Storm is by itself not really a strong ability so Shadow Blades still is quite underwhelming in dungeons. Besides, considering its length, it might be worth trying to put it on a 2-minute cooldown instead of 3
- The first talent tier is currently only interesting for single target situations and quite dead in AoE. This makes this row seem very limited and it could possibly use some treatment to make it more interesting. Gloomblade is also very weak, at the moment.
- For a specialization with such a large focus on single target damage, it feels odd that the tuning during pure single target is in the lower half of the lineup. A suggestion would be to strengthen our single target damage slightly during pure single target scenarios and weaken it slightly during AoE scenarios. A simple way to go here is to increase the spec aura while reducing Shuriken Combo damage slightly. (The latter of which seems to be happening on the PTR.)
- Other than that, the short duration of Nightblade is still something that could be addressed. Subtlety has felt great with the T19 set bonus back in Nighthold and it would be great to get such an extended duration to be baseline. Also, the damage amp on Nightblade wants us to Multi-DoT in AoE situations (unless going completely for priority damage only) which stands in some contrast to the idea of concentrating on Eviscerate and ST damage conversion via Shuriken Combo.
There’s also currently a bug with Shadow Dance. If you use Shadow Dance during a global cooldown, the Stealth stance bar will not activate until the global cooldown is over. This creates an issue if you have two abilities, f.ex. Backstab and Shadowstrike, both on the same hotkey and you spam that hotkey after you’ve just activated Shadow Dance. Due to the delay in swapping to the stealth action bar, you will be spamming Backstab until the global cooldown is up; Backstab gets put into the spell queue and you will miss out on a Shadowstrike. This is a technical bug which is quite of an annoyance nowadays. It can either be fixed by looking over what changed with Shadow Dance since Legion or by merging Backstab and Shadowstrike into one ability and making sure Backstab is not castable in Stealth stance, which is never a desirable either way.