In the wake of Patch 5.2’s launch this week, Ghostcrawler and Blizz Community Manager Daxxarri (an avowed secret lover of the rogue) have been posting “class reviews” in which they break down their thinking behind the various changes they made to each class for this patch.
Many of you have likely already read their rogue review, but I’m gonna copy it here for posterity, since I’m a rogue packrat.
(Incidentally, in case you feel the length of a class review is directly proportional to how much Blizzard loves each class, then this will warm the cold cockles of your leather-clad heart: The rogue review clocked in at 720 words, shorter only than the warrior review. Even better, the hunter review was only 193 words long.)
I think we can — and already have, and no doubt will continue to — argue over whether the actual steps the designers took to address some of our class issues were correct or sufficient (keeping in mind that truly fundamental class adjustments need to wait for the next expansion). But to see them even taking the steps they have, and to be able to read about the thought processes that led to them, is just a really cool thing. It’s a level of openness about the design process that I wish we could see more often, though I realize the amount of time and care that has to go into posts like these, where every turn of phrase is likely to be overanalyzed and beaten half to death.
On to the review:
We had a lot of work to do on the Rogue talent tree, probably the most of any class.
- Rogues, historically a PvP mainstay, felt underpowered and weren’t well-represented in high-end PvP. We wanted to change that.
- In PvE, we wanted to tone down the cleave capabilities of Combat so it didn’t feel like a mandatory spec for some fights.
- We wanted to give Rogues a little more PvE utility instead of feeling quite so selfish.
While we tweaked several talents to make them more attractive, there were large-scale changes to two tiers. In an attempt to balance a perennial problem we’d had balancing Rogues in PvP, we initially asked them to choose between Preparation and Shadowstep. Forcing Rogues to choose between the two worked . . . so well that Rogues felt ineffective in PvP. While we tried to make it a trade-off between the defensive capabilities of Prep and the movement capabilities of Burst of Speed or Shadowstep, as with the Mage tree, we eventually came to the conclusion that only movement could compete with movement. We gave Prep to all Rogues, buffed Burst of Speed, and created a new talent, Cloak and Dagger to be part of the movement tier. Cloak and Dagger causes a Rogue to teleport to their target whenever they use an opener. 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.
Similarly, while Anticipation proved very popular in the level 90 tier, Versatility did not, and in fact, Anticipation felt like it provided the benefits of Versatility, only better. We retired Versatility and added a new talent, Marked for Death, which will mark a target and instantly generate 5 combo points on that target. When the target dies, the cooldown will reset.
In addition to giving Rogues Preparation baseline, we also wanted to increase Rogue burst in PvP. That may sound backwards given that we are often trying to reduce the burst of classes in PvP, but we think Rogues had the opposite problem, where their large component of passive damage from white attacks and poisons coupled with the low damage per hit of using a pair of small weapons meant that Rogues had significant issues closing the deal and taking an enemy down during a burst window. Our solution here was to allow Rogues to store up more energy in PvP through a new set bonus. This means a Rogue will have to work for their burst, but it will be there if they plan for it.
Blade Flurry has been an iconic spell for Combat for some time, and while we initially discussed just giving it to all Rogues, we thought Combat lost too much under that design. Ultimately, we like that Combat is good at cleaving. The problem was it was so good that it felt mandatory for many Rogues to switch to Combat for some fights. Ideally, a Rogue who prefers Assassination or Subtlety should be able to stick with that spec, knowing they might fall a little behind on cleave situations, but can make up for it in other situations. We changed the way that Blade Flurry works, so that it will strike more targets for less damage. Combat will still be the best choice for AoE fights, but not so much so that it will be at an overwhelming advantage. We’ll be increasing Combat single-target damage via an increase to Vitality to compensate. Overall, we hope that most players will feel comfortable sticking with the spec they are most comfortable playing without feeling compelled to swap between fights. Subtlety will see increased single-target damage via an increase to the effects of Sanguinary Vein.
PvE utility is very subjective. Some players equate it with a raid-wide damage reduction cooldown, while for others, the utility has to be something unique that nobody else can provide. We add that caveat just because we don’t think the community will ever agree on who brings “enough” or “the best” utility. The change we made for Rogues was simple: Smoke Bomb now provides damage reduction, so in a similar fashion to abilities like Rallying Cry, a Rogue can help survive against, oh say, just for example, the damage a huge freakin’ dinosaur can dish out.