The Twitxchange with Ghostcrawler below pokes at an issue I’m still working through: How “different” should the three rogue spec rotations feel in PvE?
@Ghostcrawler I guess you've changed your idea on this?—
Kathaaria (@Evilnihil) January 11, 2013
Verain (@VerainOfUrsin) January 11, 2013
@VerainOfUrsin Yeah. It's also a small way to make rogue spec rotations a little more different too.—
Greg Street (@Ghostcrawler) January 11, 2013
This back-and-forth is part of the much larger exchange of tweets we’ve seen about the upcoming Blade Flurry changes in Patch 5.2, which started out as a flat 75% copied-damage reduction and currently stands as a 60% reduction that will now apply to as many as four nearby targets instead of just one.
The final point Ghostcrawler makes in the exchange above raises what, for me, is an intriguing question over how important it is that our three rogue specs have different rotations. Combat’s upcoming Blade Flurry changes will further entrench three surprisingly different AoE damage approaches for the three specs:
- Assassination: Fan of Knives + Tab-Rupture (keeping the bleed on multiple targets to maximize energy regen for more FoKs)
- Combat: Blade Flurry (plus Killing Spree and AdRush for fun burst)
- Subtlety: Fan of Knives + Crimson Tempest (still amazing to type that; it’s an all-AoE rotation! for a ROGUE!)
I realize there’s room for debate over the optimal AoE “rotation” for Assassination (i.e., whether/when Slice and Dice and Envenom should come into play), but we’re still talking three distinct approaches. If making the rogue specs “feel” different in multi-target situations was a design goal, 5.2 will mark a huge success.
But I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, and ask: What’s the point of this success? (I had originally written a paragraph here arguing that the three specs have distinctly different single-target rotations as well, but it got too bogged down in specifics and I drifted away from this central question, so I may save that for another day.) Why is it so important that the rogue *rotations* — be they single-target or multi-target — be different from spec to spec? How is that a valuable intrinsic quality of the class?
I realize there are a fair number — maybe even a large number — of rogue players out there who are steadfastly loyal to a particular spec. Whether it’s the playstyle or the (loosely associated) lore, they identify themselves by the spec as much as the class as a whole. They’re not just rogues — they’re *Combat* (or Mut, or Sub) rogues.
But what is it that makes a *player* a Combat (or whatever) rogue? If you ask players to list the qualities of their favorite spec, how many will focus on mechanics — the ability to toggle Killing Spree, the fun of using Shadow Dance, the sheer thrill that comes with the knowledge that 40% of your damage comes passively from Deadly Poison? (Sorry, sorry — couldn’t help it. Assassination is actually my favorite spec.)
Or is the answer to the question a little more emotional, more aesthetic, than that? I don’t prefer Assassination because I think Envenom is a clever way to actively increase our passive damage (oops, paradox) and separate less-skilled players from more skilled players. (Actually, I think Assassination fails to deliver on that front, but that’s another topic.) Or because I like the incorporation of Rupture for energy regen. Or because I think Vendetta is a fun cooldown. Or because of *any* particular ability or talent.
No, I like Assassination the most because it “feels” different. Mutilate is the most expensive CP builder we have; as a result, Assassination has the slowest rotation by far, because a chunk of time is often spent waiting for energy to regen so we can Mutilate again. And I *like* that. It gives me time to look at what’s happening in the raid around me, to think more about where I’m standing and where I should be standing (and where I’ll need to be standing in a few seconds). I’ve always felt that the weaving of Mutilates, well-timed Envenoms and Ruptures makes the Assassination rotation feel like a dance — ironic, since Subtlety is the spec that actually has a (Shadow) Dance in it.
But despite that, I don’t consider myself an “Assassination rogue.” If the Assassination spec were to lose that “dance” feel, I wouldn’t suddenly stop playing the class. I’m a WoW player who enjoys playing a rogue more than other classes primarily because of the stealth/strategy component, not because of how particular mechanics play. And I worry that, if Blizzard devs continue to prioritize efforts to define and balance what essentially is three distinct rogue *classes* — each with its own unique mechanics — that we’re not going to get back to a place where rogues as a whole feel fresh and distinct. We can’t, because we’re too busy trying to tease out what’s fresh and distinct between each individual spec — as well as maintaining balance not only between the three rogue specs, but between rogues and other classes on the whole.
I’m not sure whether this makes me a fan of the idea of having only a single rogue DPS spec for the entire class, or whether it just means I wish that aesthetics, not mechanics, could be all that truly defines the differences between the specs. (Combat’s unique ability to dual-wield slow weapons would be one example here.) I just know that I’m not comfortable with the idea that each rogue spec has to have its mechanical niche. I worry that class design and balance suffer as a result.