Kidney Shot Nerfed in PvP; Assassination DPS Buffs Are Clarified and Analyzed

The BlizzGods giveth, the BlizzGods taketh away.
Two bits of hotfix news today: Kidney Shot has been nerfed in PvP for Combat rogues, and we’ve learned more about the Assassination buff that was announced on Monday. Here’s a summary and brief analysis of each news item.

Combat PvP Takes a Hit

In a move that appears to have surprised very few high-end PvP players and analysts (and downright thrilled many others), a hotfix was announced on Jan. 6 that caps the maximum length of Kidney Shot at 6 seconds when the ability is used on another player. In competitive PvP, this amounts to a 25% duration nerf for Combat rogues specifically. The change — which went live before it was officially announced — does not affect PvE gameplay.
For quite some time prior to now, a Combat rogue who had the Revealing Strike debuff on their target could cast Kidney Shot with 5 combo points and have it last for 8 seconds. (Outside of arena and rated battlegrounds, the duration of Kidney Shot had technically been about 8.2 seconds, so the nerf is actually more significant in those noncompetitive environments.) This change ensures that a Combat rogue’s Kidney Shot lasts no longer than an Assassination or Subtlety rogue’s Kidney Shot.
One silver lining on this nerf: Revealing Strike’s effects still work on Kidney Shot. This means that if a Combat rogue casts Kidney Shot on a player with four combo points, the stun’s 5-second duration will increase to 6 seconds — the same length that a five-point Kidney Shot will now last. There’s effectively no longer a need for a Combat rogue to cast Kidney Shot with a full five combo points.
ANALYSIS: This change comes in the wake of a widespread acknowledgement, even among committed rogue PvPers, that Combat rogues have become too strong in arena. As Ayume and Nessper explained in our Ravenholdt Roundtable podcast last week, a range of factors came together to create a perfect storm for Combat in competitive PvP in Patch 6.0.3/Season 16, and the duration of Kidney Shot has often been cited as one of the central issues. Time will tell whether Combat has enough else going for it that it maintains its high stature, or whether the spec falls back by the wayside as high-end rogues flock back to Subtlety — or Assassination, which got a heftier damage buff last night than the other two specs.

Assassination Buff Clarified

Speaking of which: The official hotfix note on that Assassination damage buff has now been revised twice since it was initially posted. (Technically three times, but once was to fix a typo.)
  • Initial text (without typo): Assassination Rogues now deal 6% more damage.
  • First revision: Assassin’s Resolve now increases damage by 22% (up from 15%).
  • Final text: Assassin’s Resolve now increases damage by 17% (up from 10%).
The confusion was due to the fact that Assassin’s Resolve was nerfed the night before the Warlords of Draenor pre-expansion patch officially launched — but the tooltip was never changed, so it continued to say that the ability increased damage by 15% even though it was actually only increasing it by 10%. Once that error was discovered today (thanks to some intrepid rogue players in the official forums and on Twitter), the hotfix notes were… er… hotfixed.
The end result is that an increase in Assassin’s Resolve damage boost from 10% to 17% yields a roughly 6.4% overall buff to Assassination’s damage, which leaves it as an even bigger “winner” compared to the other two rogue specs than it first appeared on Monday.
ANALYSIS: It’s hard to say what kind of effect this buff will have on the perception of Assassination’s value in raids. It hasn’t been very well regarded thus far in Highmaul, in part due to underperformance and in part due to a general feeling that most of the fights in the tier don’t play to the spec’s strengths. As a result, many skilled players appear to have moved away from using the spec at all this tier, thus making Assassination look considerably worse than it might otherwise look on Warcraft Logs’ statistics charts.
Assassination was never performing so terribly that it deserved to be widely shunned by anyone outside of bleeding-edge, competitive progression raid teams. This round of buffs will give it a chance to objectively gain on Combat and Subtlety, but we’ll have to see whether those buffs can wash away the sour first impression that many players appear to have developed for the spec.
Fierydemise tweeted his own analysis earlier today; it’s a lot more direct in assessing the value of each spec. I’ll paste it below as a single stream of prose (with some punctuation added):
Bunch of folks have asked me about spec choice implications in light of the new hotfixes. Some thoughts in no real order. 1) With combat’s single target now less of a liability on mixed AoE/ST fights it is probably a better choice for high target AoE. 2) Sub is still probably the top single target choice but combat and assassination are now probably more acceptable choices on single target. 3) Assassination likely remains in this odd space where its good in most situations but not amazing in any and will likely stay underplayed. Big takeaway is the fundamental spec balance calculus hasn’t changed but being the “right” spec is now probably less important.