Posts Tagged ‘Patch 5.2’

The extraordinary Cynwise published his latest class distribution numbers over the weekend; let’s take a quick look at the rogue bits.

I very much recommend reading Cynwise’s summary of the new data, in which he takes snapshots of various class-population measurements on U.S./EU servers at the start of Patch 5.3 and compares them to earlier patches (and expansions). There are oodles of charts and lots of numbers and it’s all very overwhelming for a former English major like me, but there are several key takeaway points worth noting:

  • At the start of Patch 5.3, 6.2% of toons at max level were rogues. That’s up from 5.8% at the start of Patch 5.2, but still the lowest percentage of any class other than monks.
  • Not including monks, rogues were the least-popular class in heroic raids and the second-least-popular class in competitive arena (after hunters). It may be that the PvP overbuffing we got for Patch 5.2 wasn’t around long enough to seriously alter rogue representation in arena, although it does look like the proportion of arena players who were rogues did increase quite a bit. (It’s just that the percentage was so low to begin with that increasing the proportion “quite a bit” still wasn’t enough to make them objectively “popular.”)
  • Despite their low overall representation, rogue popularity at endgame grew more than any other class except monks during Patch 5.2. The number of level-90 rogues jumped 32%. (They just appear not to be finding their way into heroic raids or arena as frequently as other classes.)
  • The total number of rogue toons in the game (across all levels) dropped during Patch 5.2. The drop was slight — only about 1% — but rogues were the only class who saw a reduction in total toon number between the start of Patch 5.2 and the start of Patch 5.3.

And then there’s this (quoting Cynwise):

At all levels, there are more Rogues than Monks, Warlocks or Shaman. There are almost as many Rogues as there are Priests! But Rogues are not making it to level 90. [...]

Some of this might be due to Rogue populations swelling in late Cataclysm for the legendary daggers. A large number of leveling PvP rogues might also account for it? I’m sure that the Rogue community will have much greater insight than I over it.

But right now, Warriors are behind the other hybrids by a little, and Rogues are behind the other pure DPS classes by a lot.

[...]

Rogues are more popular than they seem but are struggling to make it to the endgame. Those Rogues who make it to the endgame can do well, but so few of them do compared to everyone else that there’s something abnormal with them. Rogues are less likely to experience Pandaria than any other class, and that is worth investigating.

To illustrate his point, Cynwise showed us this chart:

It shows that, compared to all other classes, people are much less likely to finish leveling a rogue. This made me wonder: Where the heck are they “stopping,” and why?

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It’s time for the melee DPS role to be about more than stabbing backs and taking names.

The final looking-back-on-Patch-5.2 WoW designer interview went live on Icy Veins just before the holiday weekend began (don’t they know the rule about trying to get folks to pay attention to news on a Friday?). If you’ve got a passion for end-game raiding, there’s a lot of cool stuff in that interview worth reading — nothing earth-moving or particularly surprising, but we don’t often see WoW designers talk at length about role balance and class mechanics in raids, so this is a rare opportunity to look into the crystal ball and see anything more than clouds.

There are two sections of the Icy Veins interview that I wanted to call particular attention to from a rogue perspective. The first touches on the “ranged-vs.-melee” question in raids and how their respective roles are evolving. (The second touches on our four-piece Tier 15 set bonus; I’ll talk about that in my next post.)

From the interview:

Icy Veins: In the past, melee DPS were seen as having a significant disadvantage in heroic raiding. During Throne of Thunder, however, there are some fights where melee do very well, like Iron Qon, and others where they do really poorly, like Ra-Den. Are you happy with each having their own niche fights, or is it a goal of yours to design fights where both range and melee players will perform roughly the same?

Blizzard: Overall we like for there to be fights that favor different play styles. In Throne of Thunder, there are good fights for range and good fights for melee, and nobody is underperforming to the degree where it is widespread for guild to sit a lot of melee on one fight or a lot of ranged on the next. We agree in previous tiers that melee felt like more of a liability, but we don’t feel that way about the current content (but see the next question).

Icy Veins: Does granting range players the ability to retain more and more damage on the move (as illustrated by the upcoming Lightning Bolt changes in 5.3) make it harder and harder to design encounters where melee DPS are not trailing behind?

Blizzard: Traditionally, the melee advantage was being able to do damage while moving, but now a lot of ranged are also good at movement. We could certainly go back in and prune a lot of cast-on-the-move and instant spells from casters, but on the other hand we know players think those abilities are fun and you can even argue that having to stand and “turret” as a combat mechanic feels a little dated. There is also a continuum here: casting Lightning Bolt while moving isn’t a big balance problem, but something like passive Kil’jaeden’s Cunning might be.

Rather than making casters terrible at moving, we’d rather develop a niche that melee are really good at. For example, we could emphasize that melee are really good at cleaving multiple targets, or they could be more survivable, or both. We are going to explore these ideas more.

I agree that the “turret” approach to damage-dealing no longer makes sense within the context of WoW — or possibly within the context of any complex MMORPG. Only being able to do serious damage while standing still is not a fun way to play a class, especially in a game as fast-paced and movement-based as WoW tends to be. The must-stand-still requirement also severely inhibits the creativity raid designers can use when crafting new encounters. I embrace the growing trend of ranged classes evolving a greater ability to deal damage on the run, most recently embodied in Shamans’ Lightning Bolt spell being castable while moving in 5.3.

At the same time, if we look at raiding rogues in particular, we haven’t seen — and perhaps we *can’t* see — a similar shift in range/movement flexibility. Yes, the designers have tinkered with stealth speed, Sprint and Shadowstep (and they’ve introduced a worthwhile alternative, Burst of Speed, as well as a formerly-borderline-superior-but-now-extremely-niche alternative in Cloak and Dagger). They’ve also made case-by-case adjustments to boss fights to make it easier for us to hurt them (e.g., making their hitbox larger, or increasing the angle at which we’re technically “behind” them). But these are largely tweaks, bandages and temporary solutions to a bigger, much more intractable issue: When a rogue isn’t within melee range of its target, the player pulling that rogue’s strings is most likely not having much fun.

We can’t, and shouldn’t, expect for every raid fight to be equally rogue-friendly. We *want* variety in our raid mechanics, and if we accept that, then we have to also accept that “variety” is going to include various levels of challenge in us maintaining uptime on our targets.

But there is a difference between a fight that is rogue-unfriendly and a fight that is borderline infuriating for a rogue. Hardly a raid tier goes by without at least one fight that literally murders a Combat rogue who dares to use Killing Spree, one of the spec’s core DPS cooldowns (and, importantly, one of the most fun cooldowns we have when it works properly). And if you had the pleasure of experiencing the Twilight Ascendant Council fight during Cataclysm, then you know what it’s like to spend an encounter doing your impression of chasing after Benny Hill.

This expansion has been better than the last one, to be sure. There are no fights yet in Mists where rogues perform atrociously relative to other classes (the extent to which we may struggle to shine on fights like Council of Elders falls within my range of acceptable variance for the sake of raid mechanic variety), and it’s nice to see design decisions like what was done for the Durumu maze, in which there is both a melee path and a ranged path to allow all DPS to continue dealing damage while weaving their way through trouble.

Meanwhile, our class has gotten a major survivability boost this expansion thanks to the available-to-all-classes combination of Feint (50% reduction to AoE damage) and Elusiveness (30% across-the-board damage reduction during Feint), which can drastically reduce the burden we place on our healers during heavy-damage moments while only costing us a small amount of DPS. And in Patch 5.2, Smoke Bomb was also given some raid utility in the form of an AoE damage reducer. Both of these changes fit with the theme the developers stated above: Trying to offset ranged classes’ additional mobility by giving melee some *unique* tools that provide demonstrable raid utility.

I like this direction. I think our instinct might be to call for 1) harder-hitting melee abilities or 2) more mobility (i.e., additional/more powerful gap closers) to make up for us losing ground to ranged classes in the uptime-on-target category. But to me, that’s not a fun solution. I want raiding with my rogue to be about more than just stabbing a boss repeatedly for six minutes using a set rotation of abilities. I want to be challenged, and I want to have to spend (a reasonable amount of) time off my target every now and then — but I want that to be offset by the greater feeling of fulfillment that comes from bringing more to the table than my DPS.

What if the change to Smoke Bomb were just the beginning? What if we gained a whole host of powerful, but niche, raid uses for our abilities? What if Cheat Death were redesigned into a baseline cooldown that could be cast on yourself — or on an ally — once every five minutes? What if we (and warriors) could use Dismantle on raid bosses once per fight, similarly to how other classes can use battle res? What if Feint temporarily increased our crit by a percentage of the incoming damage we reduced? What if Tricks of the Trade didn’t just transfer threat to our target — what if it also transferred the effects of any defensive cooldowns we used while the buff was active, such as Evasion and Cloak of Shadows?

The days of pigeonholing classes into single roles with narrow definitions of “success” need to be over with. MMOs like WoW — and the people who play them — have matured past that point. For a class like ours, DPS should always be relevant and important, but it’s time we moved on from the idea that we somehow deserve to be the DPS kings in raids because we’re so handicapped in other areas. It’s time we instead called for those handicaps to be removed or altered in ways that make rogues as a class, and melee as a role, feel unique, more compelling to play and genuinely useful in ways it’s never felt in raids before.

At the same time, it’s time for WoW’s designers to truly practice what they preach. Developers such as Ghostcrawler are fond of chastising players for paying so much attention to DPS meters, and rightly so. But they’ve provided so few alternatives for us to feel *tangibly* valuable in raids outside of damage-dealing that it’s no wonder we continue to latch onto our DPS performance as our only real measure of success. In last week’s Icy Veins interview, they promised to explore new niches in which melee could be valuable. Let’s hope they really push the envelope, take some risks and get creative in doing so for the next expansion.

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…And lord, has there been cryin’.

In the past two weeks alone, a total of 43 tweets (by my count) mentioning Subterfuge have been directed at senior developers Ghostcrawler and Brian Holinka. A forum thread on the issue that started 8 hours ago already has three pages’ worth of responses.

Almost all of the comments about the ability have fallen into one of two categories:

  1. Rogue players who are pissed that Subterfuge doesn’t work well enough
  2. Non-rogue players who are pissed that Subterfuge works too well

This is how you know an ability is successful: It makes EVERYBODY miserable.

In a nutshell, the rogue-player complaints revolve around Subterfuge’s unreliability; despite some fixes a few months back, its three-second destealth countdown still appears to occasionally begin even though the rogue hasn’t done anything that should logically trigger it. The non-rogue player complaints revolve around feeling it’s unfair that, within that three-second window, a rogue can repeatedly use abilities like Kidney Shot (for crowd control) or Ambush (for burst damage) largely at will.

To which PvP chief Brian Holinka responds: We hear you, but for the time being at least, you’re just gonna have to deal with it.

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I’ve been waiting for a good opportunity to dump an absolute dung-load of tweets on you all — it’s essentially a compilation of everything WoW PvP guru Brian Holinka and lead designer Ghostcrawler have recently said on Twitter about rogue PvP balance in Patch 5.2, and how they’re hoping the changes upcoming in Patch 5.3 will affect it (as well as the classes that rogues tend to team up with).

Ghostcrawler just gave me that perfect opportunity with this new tweet, which nicely sums up everything they’ve said so far:

I don’t have much analysis to add to this, and at any rate the post will be long enough with just all these embedded tweets in it, so I’ll let them (and you, I hope) do the talking. I do want to note, though, that Ghostcrawler’s tweets in particular testify to how important it is not to see PvP-related class nerfs in a “rogue bubble” — a nerf to our class isn’t always necessarily specifically about our class, but may be just as much about how our class meshes with others.

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[UPDATE 4/25: A Patch 5.3 datamine and subsequent tweets appear to show that Cloak and Dagger has indeed been tweaked -- and that further ability changes may be coming as well.]

When they added Cloak and Dagger to our level-60 talent tier in Patch 5.2 (where it replaced Preparation, which became a baseline ability), Ghostcrawler and Daxxarri explained the move like thus-ish:

Combined with dropping out of combat to re-stealth, Shadow Dance, and the Subterfuge talent, we expect that it can be used to accomplish some pretty interesting things.

And boy howdy, were they right. The burst opportunity offered by CnD coupled with Shadow Dance helped catapult our Subtlety spec back into the PvP stratosphere, and served as one of the driving forces behind rogues’ sudden resurgence in competitive PvP over the past two months.

Perhaps inevitably, it also resulted in this:

Blizzfolk have stated, time and again, that they don’t want 1) everybody ignoring a talent in a given tier or 2) everybody taking the same talent in a given tier. CnD is the only talent worth considering for Sub rogues in PvP, and Sub is pretty much the only PvP game in town right now, so it’s not a surprise that the designers are considering a change.

I’m skeptical this is the way to go. The crowd-control nerfs already in store for rogues in 5.3 could impact their PvP viability, and the PvE trinket changes will already tone down some burst for those who use it. A nerf to CnD (which I’d figure would most likely involve adding a cooldown, though they could also alter its range or change the abilities it can be used with) at this stage feels like it might be overkill given that the full impact of the already-planned changes is unknown.

It’s also an oft-used Blizzard mantra that they try to nerf only as a last resort, because they generally feel so unsatisfying for players. What might be more interesting, if overpopularity of CnD is a concern, is to make a couple of improvements to the other movement abilities in that talent tier — reduce Shadowstep’s cooldown, perhaps, or allow Burst of Speed to break roots.

Of course, what Holinka could be implying with his tweet is that CnD may be changed to make it attractive to *other* specs in addition to Sub. Or to help make the other two specs a little more viable in high-end PvP — perhaps by allowing the rogue to restealth in the process of teleporting, or by adding Envenom/Eviscerate (or Mutilate/Sinister Strike) to the list of abilities it can be used for, though none of those ideas feel particularly well-balanced to me.

But I’m just a PvE player. What do I know of such things? If any of you out there are avid PvPers, I’d be eager for some edumucation on a reasonable approach to CnD’s overuse (and what can realistically be done about it in the short term).

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This is probably the last thing a PvP rogue wants to see given the nerfs on their way for Patch 5.3.

One of many rogue buffs in Patch 5.2 involved the removal of Kick’s energy cost. (For many moons, rogue PvP gloves had an equip bonus on them that made Kick free; that was removed, and instead the ability itself was changed to cost no energy. The PvP glove bonus was changed to buff Recuperate.)

This was an unequivocal win for PvE, since it meant rogues could interrupt targets 1) without sacrificing any DPS at all and 2) even during rare moments when they might be energy starved (more likely to happen when questing or fighting elite world mobs than in raids).

For PvP, I understand the ramifications a lot less. Instinctively I’d want to say it’s a wash for experienced PvPers, most of whom likely had the gloves anyway, and most of whom likely scoffed at an additional 1%-of-max-health healing from Recuperate. For newer, less-geared PvP folk, this would be a minor boon.

I’ve already spent waaaay more words on this than I had planned to — I was gonna just dump the tweet here and go on my merry way — but now I’m flustered that I can’t understand why Brian Holinka would allow that the Kick change might’ve been too good. I get that the huge number of instant CC options in the game are a concern generally, but given that Kick was effectively free for many PvPers anyway, why should baselining it matter much?

(Housekeeping note: I’m doing some catchup this week on moving tweets out of the Home for Wayward Rogue Tweets and into actual, archivable, searchable individual blog posts. I’m gonna backdate all the oldish ones so they don’t cause a disturbance, but those of you who receive notifications whenever I post something new may get hit with more buzzes than usual. I’m sorry for any annoying deluges! Please don’t unsubscribe! My ego thirsts for your continued readership!)

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Homogenization: It’s not just for milk anymore. Or so the wails of many a rogue this expansion would have us believe.

But in the Mists era, have our three rogue specs truly lost all of their unique flair?

In the context of a thread that discussed class uniqueness more generally, Blizz Community Manager Daxxarri (who has been known to prowl the WoW rogue class forum in the guise of a stealthy Protoss) took a detour to specifically address a person who asked why all rogue specs feel the same:

Rogues are something of an edge case, and moving previously spec defining abilities into the talent tree probably contributes to this, though I’d argue that it’s resulted in a class that’s more fun to play overall. Still, I find that Combat feels different from Assassination feels different from Sub. The differences are admittedly more subtle (no pun intended) than some other classes, though.

It’s Daxxarri’s last point that, for me, gets to the heart of this particular issue. He concedes the point made by many that what “feels” different about each rogue spec can be hard to tease out. But depending on how each of us plays, and on what particular characteristics of a class/spec are most important to us, the three rogue specs can be either glaringly different or impossible to tell apart.

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