Posts Tagged ‘Combat’

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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[UPDATE 9/19: An official hotfix note posted late on Sept. 18 suggests this problem has been fixed. My original post appears below.]

Patch 5.4 brought with it a huge quality-of-life improvement for Combat rogues: the ability to ensure that Killing Spree deals all of its damage to a single target, even when other enemies are within melee range. Unfortunately, it’s not yet Spree-ing as well as intended.

Since the patch landed, a number of folks have taken to the Interwebs (e.g., MMO-Champion, official forums) to point out moments when they’ve tried to use Killing Spree and have been unable to — not because of traditional reasons, like sudden horrible terrifying death, but because the game was telling them they were too far away from their target. A few players have reported seeing this error on the Galakras fight in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, even though they’re close enough to the boss to be actively stabbing it in its bodily areas with their autoattacks.

The bulk of the complaints appear to stem from attempts to use the single-target form of Killing Spree, which occurs when Blade Flurry is turned off. This makes sense, what with that mechanic being new and all. I did a smidge of testing on the PTR during today’s maintenance, and found that I had to move closer to a target dummy in order to activate KS if Blade Flurry was off. (My personal theory — shared by a few others — is that single-target KS isn’t correctly handling a target’s hitbox, a.k.a. the distance you can be from the target and still hit it with melee attacks.)

A few players have also reported seeing errors when they try to use single-target KS on a target that’s slightly above or below them, though claims of this have been more spotty (probably in part because raid fights take place on level ground).

Fortunately, the Big Guns appear to be working on at least part of the problem:

Clearly, single-target KS wasn’t nearly as simple a mechanic to implement on the back end as it might seem to many of us on our side of the game. (“What? Just make it hit our current target. How hard could that be?”) Hopefully these teleport issues won’t prove too much of a beast to address.

Combat has long suffered somewhat as a raid and PvP spec due in large part to Killing Spree’s fragility, though before now those problems tended to revolve around either 1) the inability to focus on a single target (now resolved) or 2) the teleport mechanic itself leaving a rogue dead or trapped (not-so-resolved). Between these issues with the new KS and the issues I mentioned earlier with Ruthlessness, the Combat spec isn’t getting any favors as it strives to reach equal footing with Assassination in the final raid tier of the expansion.

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This one’s primarily an issue for players who are raiding in Combat spec at the moment.

A few folks have taken to various forums (e.g., here) since Patch 5.4 went live to note some oddness with combo points in Combat spec. I’m still a little bit unclear on the details, and I haven’t seen anything official from Blizzard on it. But there appears to be an odd interaction happening between Anticipation and the new Ruthlessness passive for Combat rogues, especially those with the Tier 15 four-piece raid set bonus.

The gist: If you have Anticipation stacks and hit a finisher, Ruthlessness is guaranteed to proc a combo point. That combo point is generated on your target. But you still have Anticipation stacks — which are on *you*, not your target. It takes a moment before those Anticipation stacks get “transferred” from you over to your target, where they become regular combo points.

I don’t know how long it takes for that transfer to happen. I also don’t know how much server lag can play into it, or how much of it is a display issue vs. an actual gameplay issue. But the end result appears to be that, especially for Combat rogues who have Adrenaline Rush active (and thus have their global cooldown on many abilities reduced by .2 seconds) — and ESPECIALLY-especially for Combat rogues who have AdRush + Shadow Blades active and still have their Tier 15 four-piece bonus (which reduces the cooldown by another .3 seconds) — it appears possible for them to have a total of 10 combo points available (5 regular, 5 Anticipation), try to hit Eviscerate twice in a row, and end up hitting a 5-CP Evisc followed half a second later by an unintended 1-CP Evisc.

So, that can be a little frustrating. :)

If you’ve got any additional info, evidence, video examples, etc., please comment here or over on the Combat EJ thread (where the most discussion around the problem is happening right now); hopefully Blizzfolk are watching and can address the issue if it’s actively causing the sorts of problems it appears to be causing.

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[UPDATE 8/14/13: The day after I posted this, Blizz updated its official patch notes; clicky to see how the notes matched up to the alluring datamines.]

The first (unofficial) pass at rogue damage numbers on the Patch 5.4 PTR appears to bring half a gajillion DPS buffs to go with the bevy of mobility, survivability and quality-of-life improvements that we already have on tap for the next patch.

Even Assassination appears slated for some buffs. Like, large ones. Hey, I’m as surprised as you are.

We’ll see an update to the official notes sometime on Wednesday, so that should add some clarity to these changes (i.e., let us know whether we should actually trust them) and give us an idea for what further adjustments may be on the way in the next couple of PTR builds.

But assuming they hold up and aren’t bad/misleading datamining (always a possibility — in fact, Blizz PvP maven Brian Holinka called today’s datamine out as a particularly inaccurate one, though he seemed to be referring to changes misinterpreted as affecting more than one spec in a class), here are the new rogue buffs on the table that have been datamined by MMO-Champion and Wowhead, along with a smidge of analysis:

All Specs

  • Fan of Knives appears to be getting a more than 20% damage buff (20% to its raw damage, 25% to its attack power scaling).

Assassination

  • Mutilate appears to be getting a 40% buff.
  • Ditto for Dispatch.
  • These changes would buff Assassination DPS by 7.4% compared to Patch 5.3 (not including set bonuses), according to calculations by rougely theorycrafter Fierydemise.
  • If you feel like these changes came out of nowhere… You ain’t the only one. Mut is an extremely strong spec in raids right now, and GC didn’t mention it at all in his class-by-class walkthrough of 5.4 changes on Monday. But a tweet from GC earlier today seemed to confirm that these changes are at least somewhat legit, so unless he’s trolling, this step is to offset what apparently is a weak-looking Mut spec on the PTR thus far.

Combat

  • Vitality’s attack power boost looks like it’s going from 30% up to 35%. (Its energy-regeneration portion remains unchanged.)
  • Revealing Strike appears to be getting a 28% buff.
  • Sinister Strike appears to be getting a roughly 26% buff (on top of its previous adjustments).
  • These changes, coupled with adjustments to SS and Eviscerate (and the addition of Ruthlessness) made earlier in the PTR, would buff Combat DPS by 2.1%, according to Fierydemise.
  • This seems low, especially in light of the Assassination changes above. I’d be surprised if this is the full story. (That is, unless our set bonuses are still so strong that they make the designers leery of making too many direct buffs.)

Subtlety

  • Backstab appears to be getting a 20%-ish buff on top of the buffs that had already been planned.
  • Sanguinary Vein’s damage-increasing effect on bleeding targets appears to be going from 20% up to 25%.
  • These changes, combined with earlier tweaks to Eviscerate and Hemorrhage, would buff Sub’s DPS by 6.3% (which actually feels pretty appropriate).

We’ll see how much of this is still the case when the next few PTR builds are complete — and when the official patch notes are updated sometime on Tuesday. Until then, as Blizz Community Manager Lore suggests:

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After a series of vacations and international trippin’, Ghostcrawler returned to his regularly scheduled Twittercast this week, addressing questions and feedback on a wide range of WoW gameplay topics. On the rogue front, he responded to lamentations that the rogue class is being ignored, gave one of his most detailed hints yet about how he’d like to make our specs more different, and addressed concerns about Combat rogues in end-game PvE.

“Pretty Happy With Rogues”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this statement cause some garment-rending; it can easily be interpreted as flippant or dismissive. But keep in mind the many, many, many things Ghostcrawler has said recently about rogue class issues, including this exchange last night:

[NOTE 8/7/13: Since this initial exchange, GC has had some additional back-and-forth on Twittsville; I'll write a new blog post about it soon and link it from here, but in the meantime you can see the full "thread" over on my rogue tweet page.]

What this amounts to is:

  • As Blizzfolk have stated many times (most famously last summer, when GC called rogues the “best designed class”), they like the way our resource system works (earn combo points with small things that use energy, spend them on bigger things that use less energy); that’s not on the table for an overhaul, and they’ve got no plans to make each spec “work” differently in that respect.
  • As Blizzfolk have also stated many times during Mists, they understand — and agree with — the common complaint that specs have become too similar, and they plan to address it. Just not in the middle of an expansion, since that would likely confuse the thousands upon thousands of rogue players who may not be thrilled to see their gameplay suddenly turned upside-down.
  • Yes, Blizzfolk are actually listening, and yes, they actually care, and yes, they actually discuss and debate about these issues. There just isn’t necessarily a simple or obvious solution to the problem, no matter how many of us may believe we personally know exactly what the simple, obvious solution is.

Combat Spec in 5.4: We’re Not Done Yet

(The “ST” in that tweet stands for “single target,” not “Shuriken Toss,” in case you were confused. :) )

This question, and GC’s response, pretty nicely encapsulate the conversation many raiding rogues have been having about how our three specs have performed throughout most of this expansion. Assassination has shined basically from the moment Mists launched; it’s pretty consistently been the top-performing melee DPS spec, and on many fights it’s been right up there with the top specs overall.

By comparison, Combat and Subtlety have both languished in end-game obscurity. Combat had its moment in the sun on the first raid fight of the expansion (Stone Guard), where its two-target cleave absolutely blew all other DPS out of the water — so much so that the designers realized it was finally time to change the way the ability worked. So they did. Since then, its special niche largely removed, the spec has been selected by relatively few high-end raiders.

Subtlety, meanwhile, perennially suffers from two main issues in raids: One, the spec has the widest “skill gap” — meaning the difference between playing it well and playing it poorly is larger than for the other two specs. And two, the positional requirement of Backstab, which two prominent PvE rogues (Fierydemise, Haileaus) recently blogged about.

With the tuning phase of the Patch 5.4 PTR likely to begin within the next few weeks, we should start to see theorycrafters picking apart the numbers and calculating how competitive Combat and Subtlety will be, on paper, to King Mut in the upcoming raid tier. There are a lot of variables at play here: DPS potential isn’t just about simulations, it’s also about how our funky new Tier 16 set bonuses will work, and about our wacky new trinkets, and about how many of the Siege of Orgrimmar raid fights are designed in a way that’s more “friendly” to one spec than another. So don’t expect any quick or easy verdicts.

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Bit of an off-the-cuff post here, apologies if I get rambly.

Newly minted Blizz Community Manager Lore has been dipping into various conversations in the official WoW PTR Discussion forum over the past couple of weeks. He’s focused on addressing major class-specific concerns related to Patch 5.4. He’s talked about Shadow priests, warlocks, Holy paladins, Windwalker monks and hunters, among others — and now Combat rogues have gotten their turn.

Posting in a brief thread filled with some really nice feedback from players on Combat rogues in Patch 5.4, Lore wrote:

Combat is supposed to feel faster-paced than the other specs, but we agree that it’s gotten a bit TOO spammy, particularly where the Tier 15 set bonus is concerned. We don’t have any solid info on any changes we might make yet, but we definitely see the concern and are discussing it.

The challenge we always face when balancing between different specs that perform the same role is that, even if the benefits are relatively small, some players will feel “required” to play whichever is “best”. Even in cases where each spec has a clearly defined niche that they excel at, some players still feel like they should change specs from fight to fight to match each encounter’s mechanics.

We’re not sure it’s even possible to ever balance things out completely perfectly so that all specs are equal in all areas, but we do our best to at least minimize the differences. It’s far too early to guess at which specs will be “best” once 5.4 launches, but our goal is to allow you to play whichever you enjoy the most without feeling like you’re making a huge sacrifice.

This is essentially a long-winded way of saying, “The developers have heard your complaints, they understand and agree with them, and they’d really like to do something about them.” There’s no resolution promised here, but that wasn’t the point of the post:

Lore really nicely explains in his post just how dastardly a conundrum this is. Rogue specs are a microcosm of WoW classes/roles in general: There is a perpetual tug of war, particularly within the massive playerbase, between the desire for all roles/specs to be similarly valuable on all raid fights and the desire for all roles/specs to have clearly defined differences in their usefulness and style.

Combat arguably lost its “niche” back in Patch 5.2, after the spec’s long-standing strength on two-target fights became stunningly obvious on Stone Guard in Mogu’shan Vaults, where Combat blew all other DPS specs out of the water. Blade Flurry got a bit of a redesign as a result — instead of copying 100% damage to one target, it now copies 40% damage to up to four nearby targets — and Combat has hardly been seen or heard from in higher-end raiding since then.

This has led to a fair number of calls for some kind of niche to find its way back into the spec (and ditto for Subtlety), or at least for more raid fights to be designed that favored (or at least stopped punishing) Combat’s mechanics. While I get the allure of that idea, I’ve never felt quite comfortable with it for exactly the reason Lore stated: Rogues are usually a black-or-white class in raids. They’re there to perform a specific role (usually maximizing DPS), and if one spec performs that role even slightly better than the others, it will be widely regarded as the “go-to” spec even if the difference is small.

I don’t think it’s realistic or wise to expect the playerbase to master all three specs and then feel pressured by our playerbase’s culture to switch from one to the next depending on which is viewed as the strongest. That may actually be worse than the current situation, in which Assassination is largely viewed as the only spec worth bothering with right now in a raid environment (even though that’s actually not true — all specs are fine to use even for progression raid groups, unless you’re seriously hardcore).

I’m similarly wary of suggestions that heroic raids in particular should be tuned to “require” that a pure DPS class use different specs on some fights in order to be successful in its role. Some folks may find that fun, sure. But that sounds like a fight design nightmare to me, not to mention a very thin wire to attempt to walk across (they’d have to ensure the same niche value for every other underplayed spec in the game, not just rogue specs) with very little gamewide benefit to be gained from it.

In other words, this shit’s hard. I don’t deny that it feels crummy to feel strongarmed into playing a single spec throughout an expansion, particularly if it’s a spec you don’t especially enjoy playing. That’s a good recipe for burnout. But I don’t see any simple alternatives that avoid creating the same problem in different ways, or that avoid making already-similar specs into an even more poorly defined melting pot of gooey rogue gameplay.

I also suspect we’re stuck with this reality until at least the next expansion. We’ll see some tuning changes and maybe some mechanic adjustments in an attempt to convince players that it’s not some kind of cardinal sin to go Combat or Subtlety in the new raid. But ultimately, there *will* be a determination made by theorycrafters and raid strategists as to which spec is “best” to use on a particular fight (or all fights), and players will flock — many of them kicking and screaming — to that spec regardless of the margin by which it’s deemed to be superior.

Man. I really need to start adding more images to these posts.

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So concludes my sorry attempt to tie a little teeny possible development in the lives of Combat rogues into the much bigger development that broke this week in the lives of many WoW raiders.

On to the quasi-news!

Thursday on Twitter, we got our first glimpse into plans in the works to make something happen that lovers of the rogue Combat spec have long clamored for: the ability to force Killing Spree to only attack a single target, even if other targets are within range.

At present, Killing Spree is random: While it’s active, you’ll perform a total of seven attacks within 3.5 seconds on targets within a 10-yard range. That could mean one attack on seven different targets; it could mean seven attacks on a single target; the point is, you have zero control over it. Given that Killing Spree is one of Combat’s major burst damage cooldowns, that means major frustration when you want to dish out serious damage on a target (be it a raid boss or a battleground flag carrier) but the game doesn’t give you that option.

If this exchange with PvP honcho Brian Holinka is any indication, that may be about to change.

That wink is far from a confirmation, of course — but it’s at the very least a coy suggestion that they’re strongly considering doing exactly what @jjones186 suggested:

  • If Blade Flurry is on, it’ll behave the way it always has, indiscriminately jumping to and poking holes in whoever is within range (and, if you have the glyph equipped, returning you to your original spot afterward).
  • If Blade Flurry is off, all seven attacks will be directed at your current target.

There’s a lot of appeal to this approach. It avoids the frustrations of adding a spec-specific glyph to the game that would feel all but required in most PvP and some PvE situations. It gives a player the power to decide when s/he would rather spread KS’s damage around or focus it on one enemy. And it may offer this flexibility in a balanced way, by forcing us to choose between a significant amount of AoE burst and a significant amount of single-target burst (as opposed to being able to keep BF on while KSing a single target, which allows us to have our damage-dealing cake and eat it too).

Finally, it may be the nudge that finally makes Combat worth seriously considering as a competitive arena spec.

With signs increasingly suggesting that Patch 5.4 may hit the PTR very soon — likely within the next week, and possibly even tomorrow — we could get our confirmation shortly on what, if any, changes are in store for one of Combat’s signature spells.

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[UPDATE 5/29: Ghostcrawler responded with a clarification of the Icy Veins interview response; I've added his tweets to the bottom of this post.]

Welcome to today’s edition of WoW’s Developers Used Confusing Wording When Responding to an Interview Question, So Let’s See How Badly We Can Misinterpret It. Our topic for this particular WDUCWWRIQSLSHBWCMI is: the success/failure of the rogue Tier 15 four-piece bonus.

Tier 15 is the raid gear that was introduced in Patch 5.2 with the Throne of Thunder. In the first incarnation we saw on the PTR, the rogue four-piece bonus only reduced by 40% the energy cost of abilities we used during Shadow Blades. The designers listened to player feedback and decided to break one of the game’s basic commandments: “Thy global cooldown shalt not fall below one second, howsoever thee may cryeth about it.”

Yielding to concerns about Combat rogues energy capping if they tried to use Adrenaline Rush with Shadow Blades while the four-piece bonus was active, the designers chose to add to the set bonus a .3-second reduction to our global cooldown. That effectively gave Combat rogues a half-second GCD during Adrenaline Rush + Shadow Blades, thanks to the AdRush glyph that is considered all but required for raiding Combat rogues.

Last week, Icy Veins asked the WoW design team how they felt the experiment turned out. The WoWdevs responded: (more…)

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MMO-Champion and Wowhead have picked up a new Patch 5.3 PTR build, which includes two rogue changes:

  • The Subtlety-only Find Weakness PvP nerf/PvE buff that Brian Holinka tweeted about earlier today is in place, though it’s not yet in the official patch notes. (Instead of 70% armor reduction, it’s now 50% reduction against players and 100% reduction against PvE targets.)
  • Unexpectedly, Combat rogues appear to be getting a fresh DPS bump (and possibly a PvP boost?) in the form of a buff to the duration of Revealing Strike. Everything else about RvS stays the same, but when you use it the buff will last for 24 seconds instead of 18 (a 33% increase). This change hasn’t been confirmed (or even mentioned) by anyone at Blizzard yet, so we may not be seeing the full story yet.

While we won’t fully see the PvP implications of these changes until the new season begins, the PvE implications can be calculated to within an inch of their lives, as the Rogue Code dictates must be so. A couple of players have tinkered with our best simulation tools to see what sort of impact these changes will have on our DPS.

For Subtlety, Dansu posted on the WoW rogue forum that, in SimCraft, the Find Weakness PvE buff amounts to a little more than a 5% DPS increase for the spec — which, in theory at least, puts it basically on the same level as Assassination at very high gear levels (i.e., heroic raid gear with both set bonuses). Fierydemise, one of the brains behind our beloved ShadowCraft rogue-optimizing tool, came to a similar conclusion after modeling the change in that engine.

For Combat, as Fierydemise also noted in the post I just linked, we’re looking at a super-tiny DPS impact if it’s truly going to be implemented solely as it was datamined. The change basically would mean that, in the course of a six-minute raid fight in which you’re on the boss the whole time, you’ll be using RvS instead of Sinister Strike five fewer times than you otherwise would. That’s… barely any effect. RvS deals slightly less damage than SS and has no chance to proc an extra combo point when used, so being able to use SS a few more times is cool, but certainly not a major spec-balance fix — provided you’re already very good at juggling Slice and Dice, Rupture and RvS. If you’re not, then this change potentially becomes a much bigger deal, because it makes that juggling act a little bit easier.

Part of me wonders if, assuming this RvS change really is entirely what was datamined, it isn’t intended mainly to be some sort of PvP buff. Considering Combat is widely panned for competitive PvP at the moment and I haven’t tried it in ages, I have no concept of what impact this change would have in that area. Maybe make kiting have less of an impact?

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In an impressive display of team question-answering efficiency, a full set of Blizzard’s senior WoW developers addressed dozens of q’s across a wide range of issues in tonight’s Live Developer Q&A. Although a good number of questions and their answers might be pertinent for rogue players (particularly the numerous questions on PvP crowd control and instant heals), there were only a few in particular that I felt had particularly focused rogue relevance.

I doubt any of these responses will make many rogue players especially happy. Particularly not if you’re a PvE player; Ghostcrawler seemed to avoid answering (or moderators avoided giving him) just about any class-specific questions. Brian Holinka (whose WoW forum avatar is apparently named Desvin — did we know this before?), by contrast, answered a number of class-specific questions — but they were obviously all specifically about PvP issues.

The rogue-relevant responses Holinka gave are vague but arguably realistic; most of them basically amount to an admission that devs are aware of the issue that was raised, but that there isn’t really much they feel they can ultimately do at the moment to truly make that particular problem better that they haven’t already done — nor do they have a vision to share about how they might try to change it in the future.

I’ll copy the q’s and a’s below for posterity, though. Because posterity is superfun. (For the full chat transcript, take a look at the original source, at Wowhead’s topically sorted listing or MMO-Champion’s slightly differently topically sorted listing. As I noted, there were several questions about crowd control and cast times that I chose not to include here.)

 

Q (Skilledguy): Combat Rogue is clearly not a good spec for PvP atm at all, sustained dmg is barely noticable, there is no possible ‘no cd burst’ possibility by design, Killing Spree is jumping on pets/minions, hardly usable in 3v3. Are you gonna bother trying to fix this spec for PvP or just focus on Subtlety?

A (Brian Holinka): It’s challenging to make all 3 specs of a pure DPS equally viable in both PvP and PvE. In most cases, we want to ensure that at least one of those specs is competitive and improve the others when possible. It is a lot harder to change class than change spec, but we appreciate that players do enjoy some specs more than others.

 

Q (<Anonymous>): I understand that making all 34 specs viable for pvp would be a mess from the design and even from player PoV. But some cases were the specs differences are minimal (fury and combat/assa come to mind) seems like it’s just lack of interest on your part… Can we expect some philosophy change on that matter?

A (Brian Holinka): If we can do something to make a spec more competitive we do, but class balance is heavily intertwined. Buffs to one spec often act as nerfs to another spec and vice versa.

 

Q (Sean Maples): Why do you balance (or try to!) around Arena, yet reward more for RBGS? Melee cant get into RBGs! Its unfair that casters get a gear advantage in arena for being Overpowered in RBGs.

A (Brian Holinka): The synergy between spells like death grip, solar beam and ursol’s vortex has created an environment where melee are at a big disadvantage. We have been working on reducing the effectiveness of that combination without destroying those specs in other areas of the game.

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