Oddly, the *least* interesting news of the week for rogues was the release of the first update to the official Warlords of Draenor alpha patch notes on April 18. There were no rogue-specific changes in the notes that we hadn’t already known about. This is kind of odd, since we’ve seen datamining *and* Blizzfolk tweets that suggest some pretty noteworthy tweaks have already been made.

Here are the new odds and ends we *have* learned over the past several days, along with a smidge of analysis from y’all’s truly. (I’ll create a single home for the up-to-datest info when I have the chance; right now I’m posting updates sequentially, so some of the stuff in my huge, initial alpha notes post is no longer true.)

Combat AoE: The Changes Are Changing

The initial alpha notes and datamined info included a few bits that all but screamed, “We want Fan of Knives and Crimson Tempest to be part of the Combat spec’s arsenal.” Er, no, sorry, I meant: That all but screamed, “WE WANT FAN OF KNIVES AND CRIMSON TEMPEST TO BE PART OF THE COMBAT SPEC’S ARSENAL!”

The initial batch of leveling perks — which we’ll earn randomly on our way from levels 91 to 99, with each spec getting a different set of perks — included benefits for Combat that made FoK cost less energy and turned CT into a powerful instant-damage finisher instead of a smack-and-bleed.

As was pointed out, though, the FoK energy reduction (from 35 to 25) felt unlikely to be enough on its own to make a difference. The designers apparently agreed — but rather than find a way to make FoK more desirable, they appear to have scrapped the whole idea and buffed Blade Flurry instead.

As of the latest Warlords alpha datamining from Wowhead and MMO-Champion on April 16:

  • Fan of Knives is no longer even in the spellbook for a Combat rogue — it’s labelled as Assassination and Subtlety only.
  • The Combat-only leveling perk that had reduced FoK’s energy cost now does something completely different: It removes the target cap from Blade Flurry entirely.
  • In addition, technical game designer Chadd “Celestalon” Nervig (whose last name I always feel the urge to spell “Nervigg”) tweeted that Blade Flurry would be able to spread both lethal and non-lethal poisons in Warlords.

Now, yes, this sounds exciting and powerful, it does appear to be an all-around buff to BF, and it’ll also make Combat burst damage look very pretty in some very specific situations. But in regards to the target cap specifically, keep in mind that Blade Flurry currently has a range of just 8 yards (just like FoK), and in the present game we don’t often see that many enemies bunched up together. Certainly not in PvP, and although it happens more often in PvE, it’s usually not in critically important situations (unless we’re trying to, say, solo an achievement).

Meanwhile, it leaves behind an unresolved issue with Crimson Tempest. As things currently stand, Crimson Tempest for Combat uses combo points to generate a large amount of instant physical damage (but doesn’t apply a bleed) to all nearby enemies. If that description sounds familiar to you, it’s because using Eviscerate with Blade Flurry on will do exactly the same thing: use combo points to generate a large amount of instant physical damage to all nearby enemies.

We know that BF will spread poisons, so regardless of whether CT does the same in Warlords, there’s an obvious question right now regarding how they plan to make choosing between these two AoE finishers more interesting than consulting a guide that tells you which one hits harder.

Other Developments

  • The much-maligned Subtlety-only “Enhanced Premeditation” perk has been scrapped (for now, at least), though it is still showing up in datamining. But the designers still plan to find a way to make Premed into a passive ability without actually making it worse. (As a reminder, the initial plan was to make Ambush and Garrote automatically generate two extra combo points when used from stealth — but *not* when Shadow Dance is active.)

As I mentioned earlier, the new version of the official alpha patch notes don’t include anything we didn’t already know about rogues. The following changes had been previously announced:

  • A note was added to mention that combo points would essentially stack on the rogue — the exact phrasing is “shared across all targets,” which suggests the underlying tech isn’t as simple as “CPs on the rogue,” but barring any bugs or quirks, the effect we experience should be the same.
  • Also now in the notes is the Smoke Bomb nerf: It’ll reduce incoming damage within the area of effect by 10%, down from 20%, to bring it in line with other DPS classes’ defensive raid cooldowns. Celestalon also engaged in some back-and-forth on Twitter to justify the nerf and state that rogues, as well as other DPSers, had many other ways to contribute to raid utility.

Designers Conversate

  • In Twitterland, Celestalon confirmed that a gnome Assassination rogue with Glyph of Energy active and Venom Zest talented would have 163 maximum energy instead of 100.
  • Will its heavy reliance on a newly buffed Deep Insight make Combat almost useless in PvP, especially considering it was already looking dicey thanks to the removal of its damage-over-time spells? Celestalon says they’ll keep an eye on it.
  • Why are efforts being made to reduce Windwalker monk spamminess, yet Combat rogues will still have a half-second global cooldown during Adrenaline Rush? Celestalon suggests uberspam is OK for “temporary effects.” (Personally, I wonder just how “temporary” AdRush will be in Warlords given how Restless Blades and the new cooldown-reduction stat greatly increase the frequency with which we can use it.)
  • The Redirect spell still appears on the Warlords alpha even though it’ll be unnecessary. Lead class designer Kris Zierhut confirmed in an interview with Wowhead at PAX East that it’s definitely going away. (As a person who apparently mains a Feral druid, he also bonded with Wowhead’s content chief Perculia — who mains a rogue — over the impending change to essentially have CPs stack on the player.)

With all due respect to the dearly departed WoW Insider hunter column. ;)

Following the initial dump of the Warlords of Draenor alpha novel last week, WoW technical game designer and celery-gnawing glitter maniac Chadd “Celestalon” Nervig took to the twitwaves, as he is oft wont to do. And the interviewed-by-Olivia-Grace-waves, as he is not oft wont to do. And the live-interview-on-major-WoW-fansite-shows-waves, as he has never before been wont to do.

Across all of these various and sundry forms of interaction, Nervig answered a ridiculously large number of questions from players seeking clarifications and further info on the changes we have in store for us in Warlords.

Meanwhile, Warlords datamining began as the first alpha client hit public test servers, bringing with it brand-new waves of speculation and misinformation — as well as some intriguing glimpses of what may yet to come to pass for we wily ones.

So. To supplement my post last week summarizing (nearly) all of the rogue info in the first alpha novel – a masterfully organized, but depressingly ugly and text-heavy, tour de force of bullet points and explanations — I will now unceremoniously dump a scattershot list of (nearly) all the rogue-relevant odds and ends we learned over the past several days.
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(Last updated: April 11. Please note that this post will become increasingly outdated as time goes by. I’ll be compiling an all-inclusive, always-updated page as soon as I’m able; in the meantime, be sure to read my other posts on the alpha patch notes in addition to this one.)

The first (at last!) official version of the Warlords of Draenor “alpha” notes are… very, very long. And winding. Much like the path a rogue must take through a battleground so as to avoid detection and catch their enemy unawares. Or something.

There are bits ‘n’ chunks ‘n’ morsels of rogue-related information scattered throughout this hefty document, and as you and I both know, rogues are not built to simply barrel through a huge blog post in order to reach their objective. We need a little something to slip past all of those silly, extraneous details the lesser classes care about and get right to the goods.

Read on, my brethren.

(Please keep in mind: These are *alpha* notes. Widespread testing has not even begun. Any and all of this can, and much of it likely will, change over the many months between now and the launch of WoD.)

The Really Big Stuff (Classwide)

  • Combo points will stack on the rogue, not the target. (this is not in the notes yet)
  • Beyond that, there are no major, fundamental changes to rogue mechanics on the table.
  • That said, a ton of existing spells and class mechanics are changing in ways that, although they seem subtle and small individually, will likely add up to create a more distinctive “feel” and theme for each rogue spec.
  • Also, nuances being added to each spec (well, more so for Assassination and Combat than Subtlety) will likely create more of a “skill gap” separating the damage-dealing potential of a person who’s “decent” at playing a rogue from a person who’s excellent at playing one.
  • Ambush will no longer have a positional requirement; it can be used in front or behind the target. (Backstab is a different story; see the Subtlety section below.)
  • The following spells will go bye-bye:
    • Disarm Trap
    • Dismantle
    • Expose Armor
    • Mind-Numbing Poison
    • Paralytic Poison
    • Redirect (since CPs will stack on the rogue; this is not in the notes yet)
    • Rupture (for combat spec only; Mut and Sub will still have it)
    • Shadow Blades

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Throughout the Mists expansion, an unaddressed quirk had allowed rogues to cause trouble while stealthed for much longer than was intended.

No more.

From the March 18 Patch 5.4.7 hotfix list (though it appears to have been live for at least a day prior):

Resolved an issue where Vanish modified by Glyph of Vanish was incorrectly causing the Subterfuge effect to trigger twice. Vanish will now cancel its effect when the duration of Subterfuge expires.

In other words, what was happening here was that a rogue would cast Vanish, which would activate Subterfuge. Normally, both the “improved stealth mode” granted by Vanish and the Subterfuge buff last for three seconds, meaning they drop off at the same time. But the Glyph of Vanish makes that “improved stealth” last a total of five seconds. So it caused Subterfuge to actually proc twice — once when the rogue first hit Vanish, and then again when the five seconds wore off, extending their stealth by an additional three seconds.

(Correct me if I’m wrong, but if a rogue used Preparation after this, they could theoretically do everything all over again with an additional Vanish, actually giving them 16 seconds of stealth while still actively wreaking havoc.)

From what little I know about this bug, the value of exploiting it was not tremendous, particularly in PvP. Players had known about it for quite some time, but because it requires PvP rogues to burn a hugely valuable Vanish for somewhat dubious benefit, its relevance in competitive environments (specifically arena) was pretty limited.

It was probably utilized much more frequently among Subtlety raiders who were very serious about optimizing their DPS rotation, since its use during raid fights would have yielded more Ambushes (and, I’m assuming without actually pondering numbers here, better Find Weakness uptime).

But! Not anymore. :)

But but! There’s at least one upside:

On March 11, this hotfix was posted:

Worgen

  • Darkflight’s movement speed increase no longer stacks with Burning Rush or Burst of Speed.

Almost immediately, rogues started noticing. And it wasn’t just the worgen-only Darkflight-BoS combo — which had reportedly allowed worgen rogues to briefly experience run speeds of up to 425% — that had apparently been affected. Burst of Speed no longer appears to stack with any other movement-speed enhancing spell, including the engineering perk Nitro Boosts.

This, in and of itself, appeared to cause only a small amount of grumbling. Worgen players have long been able to stack Darkflight with Burst of Speed, giving them a huge advantage in select situations — for instance, as a flag carrier in Warsong Gulch. Establishing better balance, even at this late stage in the expansion, is hard to argue against, particularly when the change is ultimately such a small one.

Regardless, though not explicitly laid out within the hotfix, the change appears to be “pretty much” intended:

What may be less intended is a side effect: While Burst of Speed is active, rogues appear to be locked out from using any other movement-enhancing spell, including Sprint. This prevents a rogue from, say, hitting Sprint just as BoS is about to wear off to maintain their 70% speed buff without interruption. Instead, BoS must actually drop off, briefly slowing the rogue, before Sprint can be activated.

Whether this is part of the intended changes or not — and whether it’ll be tweaked or not — remains to be seen. But it looks like at least the design team is keenly aware of the complaints.

The first major official blog entry in the run-up to Warlords of Draenor was posted this evening, and if you were looking for specifics on race and class changes, you probably started reaching for the condolence booze not long after you finished reading.

But then you saw what Chadd “Celestalon” Nervig was doing over on his Twitter feed immediately following the blog’s appearance. And you put the bottle back in the cabinet.

Below is each of the directly rogue-related post-blog tweets from Celestalon or PvP chief Brian Holinka, who also fielded questions for a while tonight. (I’m leaving out stuff on changes to racial bonus and general crowd-control changes for now, though they have obvious ramifications for rogue spells. You can read an excellent runthrough of all the tweets over at Wowhead.) I’ll try to follow up with a more fleshed-out post tomorrow or over the weekend, but sadly I cannot promise I’ll be able to!

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Well. This has been a day. (And it may even continue to be a day for some time, from what I understand of how the passage of time works.)

I’ll try (and likely fail) to keep this quick-ish, because THE WARLORDS ARE COMING.

Just five short months ago, I was invited to take part in what, for me, was the writing opportunity of a lifetime — a culmination both of my own lifelong love for gaming and a desire to be more deeply involved in (and, I’ll be honest, recognized as a core part of — hey, I love the love!) the community of folks who share that passion.

Sixteen Encrypted Text columns and a handful of assorted other articles later, here I be. Deeply saddened for the WoW community, a little bit bummed for me, and curious to see where we all head next.

To me, the crappiest aspect of the budget cuts that WoW Insider has been forced to grapple with is that it takes something important away from the large number of players who have benefited from WI’s huge range of amazing class columns and other features. As Alex stated in his announcement post, WI will very much go on, and it’ll continue to be a go-to source for breaking news, information and perspectives. There’ll just be fewer of us writing for it, in fewer ways. And that’s the biggest loss here, in my view.

For those of us who are leaving WI behind in part or in whole, odds are we’ll continue to do our thing somewhere — just probably not all in the same place, so we’ll be a little harder to track down. I’m back “home” here at R^3 for at least the next few weeks, as I take stock of my time at WI, see what other opportunities are out there, and decide for myself what the heck I actually want to do as a gaming journalist/writer.

I’ma be honest with you guys: Even though I only wrote for WI every week or two, those columns were draining. They didn’t take too long to write, but they did take a long time to edit and refine — and creating new title images each week, something I did because it felt fun and different, turned out to be a huge time investment in their own right. There were, I crap you not, weeks in which the image took longer to prepare than my entire column did. The reason I didn’t write more often for WI, and the reason that my forum posting and my blog entries here became more sparse, was because between all of that and my job and my actual-real life, I was stretched *extremely* thin. Now that WI is out of the picture, I’m only stretched *very* thin. :)

So I’m a bit torn now. R^3 was intended to be, and still primarily is, a home for often mind-numbingly boring details about changes to and Blizzard statements regarding WoW’s rogue class. But as a columnist for WI, I couldn’t just cover news; I actually had to voice my opinion on things — and I found that I enjoyed it. Ditto for some of the more general/advice pieces I’ve written, like my tips on rogue leveling, which I’d never done in this blog before. Seeing these pieces actually have an effect on people — seeing people use them, respond to them, share them and even start playing rogues because of them — has been tremendously empowering and inspiring. I want to keep providing that. I’m just a little unsure the extent to which I can.

So! For now, know that this blog will continue to be this blog. Real life is about to get really hectic for a week or two — it would happen, of course, when Warlords chatter suddenly kicks into overdrive — so you may not see much of me through early March, but when I’m properly back in the saddle I’ll decide where to take my horse next. I’ve toyed with the idea of expanding the scope of what R^3 is meant to do, maybe include more rants/analyses, guides and guest posts. I’m even playing around with the idea of a new site more broadly devoted to rogue discussion, or perhaps discussions that apply to melee DPS classes/specs in general. We’ll see.

In the meantime, to each and every one of you who reads this blog, who has read me on WoW Insider, who has tweeted at me in birdland, and to the really overwhelming number of you who have posted kind words to me and the other WI writers in Alex’s announcement: It really is all for you guys. Thank you for sharing your own thoughts, and for being as integral a part of this community as any of us who blog, write, podcast, Twitch or otherwise preach about the game we all love (or love to hate). Without you, I’m nothing but a random red hat sitting alone in the vastness of cyberspace. Instead, I get to tip it jauntily in your direction.

Till soon,

-rf/scott

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