Archive for the ‘Ruffy Rants’ Category

WCL_highmaul_week1(This is, as always, cross-posted over on Ravenholdt, where all the hip rogues go. Do people even say “hip” today non-ironically?)

Week one of Highmaul, the firstest-ever raid in the Draenor-iest expansion we’ve ever had, is complete. How have rogues stacked up against other classes in the not-as-important-as-we-often-make-it-seem DPS category — and how have each of the three rogue specs stacked up against each other?

The early verdict is in: Rogues are mostly fine. On some fights, we’re great. On some, we’re subpar. But for the most part, across the seven boss fights that make up Highmaul, rogues finished out the first week of normal and heroic raiding with slightly above-average DPS performance compared to all other DPS classes and specs.

I’ll bang out a list of highlights later in this post. But first…

Let Me Bore You With Some Caveats

I’ve spent a pretty depressing amount of time this week looking through the statistics area on Warcraft Logs, which is what formed the basis for virtually all of the conclusions in this bloggy. I’ll provide nerdy details about what I looked at further down in this post — it’ll include links to source materials in case you want to double-check my observations or do your own separate analyses, since I’ll only talk about a fraction of the conclusions a person can probably reach by analyzing this stuff.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Warcraft Logs, it’s a relatively new resource that allows you to upload and analyze combat logs from whatever it is you’re doing in the game (though it’s usually used for raiding). It’s a lot like World of Logs in this respect. Also like WoL, Warcraft Logs — which I really want to call Warclogs but will instead refer to as WCL — allows people to browse through other folks’ logs, and to see which players have the “best” parses in various raid encounters.

But WCL also goes a bit beyond WoL in several ways. One of them is the statistics area I referred to, which takes all of the data from every public raid log uploaded to their server, mushes it together, and lets you analyze it in a bunch of different ways I won’t get into here, because there’s a lot of them. If you remember Raidbots from previous expansions, it’s a lot like that, only more customizable.

WCL is still growing as a resource, and the statistics it provides will only be as reliable as the data that’s put into it. The more raiders who save their logs and upload them to WCL, the more complete WCL’s data collection will be, the more reliable its statistics will become. It’s gotten enough traction that it’s a reputable source of information, but it can — and, if more people keep using it, will — be better. That’s the first caveat.
Still, imperfect or no, it’s arguably the best source of aggregated information on class/spec DPS that we players have easy access to. So it’s where I turned to look at how rogue DPS fared in boss fights during in the first week of Highmaul.

I like looking at Week 1 stats for raids. In the first week a raid opens, the people who are raiding tend to be very highly motivated — if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have leveled to 100 and prepped their toons so they’d be ready to bust them up some ogres the same week the raid opened. This also tends to be a group of folks who wants to kill bosses, not make themselves look good. So Week 1 is probably the week in which you’re least likely to see people trying to take advantage of fight mechanics just to pad their DPS meters.

However, I think it’s also debatable just how reflective of the “typical raider” these Week 1 pioneers are. For one thing, top raiding guilds usually don’t upload their logs, because they don’t want to give away their strategies to competing guilds. For another, I suspect these players are generally better at playing their class than most of us are; their motivation to raid as soon as it opens often translates to motivation to master their characters and properly prepare for boss fights. So we need to be careful about treating these statistics like they’re a perfect reflection of reality; they’re not.

Also, the first week of raiding is the one in which people are the most undergeared. That risks skewing *everything*. Is crappy gear offset by higher average skill level of the players? Who knows. But if, for instance, rogues end up scaling a lot better with gear than other classes do, then these early numbers will underestimate their strength. If the opposite is true… well, then, the opposite would be true. We’ll have to wait and see.

“Wait and see” also applies to tuning passes that will inevitably occur — and heck, already have occurred — for some classes and boss fights as WoW’s designers get a better sense for who is looking a little too good and who isn’t looking nearly good enough. That limits the staying power of a lot of these findings; for instance, windwalker monks may look right now like they leave rogues in the dust, but once class changes are applied over the coming days and weeks, that may suddenly no longer be the case.

So Here’s What I Did

Still, like I said, WCL’s stats are probably the best tool we’ve got to at least get a sense for where we stand on the DPS mountain at the moment. So I looked at our overall numbers, and I looked at how we did on each fight. I looked at normal and heroic modes. And I looked at various points along our spectrum of crappiness — starting at the 50th percentile, a.k.a. the quintessential “average” rogue, and working up to the 99th percentile, a.k.a. the cream of the crop.

I took a lot of screenshots (beware the long load time; it’s a 79MB document) for posterity. I also copied and pasted some of the DPS numbers into a spreadsheet so I could see how each class and spec “ranks” on DPS compared to each other.

And Here’s What I Found

I’m going to use the 50th percentile normal-mode numbers for these conclusions, because I think they’re most reflective of what the average rogue player might expect to experience. (That said, there’s a pretty high level of similarity between 50th and 95th percentile data, as well as between normal and heroic data.)

  • Among the pure DPS classes (hunters, mages, warlocks and us), rogues are easily the best overall performers across all three class specs.
  • However, generally speaking, we’re not in the same DPS league as several specific DPS specs (most of them hybrids): most notably, windwalker monks, marksmanship hunters, retribution paladins and unholy death knights.
  • The problem in these cases isn’t that rogues are weak. It’s that those specs are unusually strong (possibly too strong) in a large number of boss fights.
  • Nearly every boss fight has one standout rogue spec — one that does demonstrably better than the other two, and that does above-average or better DPS compared to all other classes/specs.
  • Subtlety performed better on DPS overall than assassination or combat: Its average rank among WoW’s 24 DPS specs was 9th, while assassination and combat averaged 12th.
  • Those rankings are very deceiving, though. Subtlety never cracked the top 5 on any fight, but was consistently good in most fights. Assassination and combat were more streaky — for instance, Mut was the #2 DPS spec on Twin Ogron, but #16 on Ko’ragh.
  • Among the three rogue specs, here’s which one appeared to be “best” on each fight in Week 1:
    • Kargath: Subtlety (Mut and combat were below average)
    • Butcher: Subtlety (ditto)
    • Tectus: Combat (Mut and sub were average)
    • Brackenspore: Combat (but only very slightly; all three specs were above average)
    • Twin Ogron: Assassination (then sub, then combat)
    • Ko’ragh: Subtlety (Mut and combat were below average)
    • Mar’gok: Combat (Mut and sub were below average)
  • Assuming you’re equally skilled at all three specs, you will do significantly, noticeably better in Highmaul if you swap specs from fight to fight than if you stick with one spec through the whole thing.
  • However, if you’re better at one spec than the others or simply don’t want to switch, here’s a fun fact: The single spec you choose doesn’t matter. In terms of overall DPS across all seven boss fights combined, the difference between all three specs is just 1%.
  • Rogues have the most diverse spec representation among all of the pure DPS classes. The other three classes have at least one “dead” spec that’s only played by a small fraction of class players. In normal-mode raids, rogues spent 46% of the time in combat spec, 37% of the time in assassination spec and 18% of the time in subtlety spec. (The splits were very similar for heroic mode.)

Those are just some highlights I thought were interesting. As I said, please feel free to dive into the screenshots and spreadsheet yourself — or, better yet, do your own swimming around in Warcraft Logs’ statistics — and let’s talk about whatever you find!


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I don’t think of myself as a person who has very strong opinions about the rogue class. I’m probably wrong about that.

I started this blog to inform. Not just you guys, but also myself — I actively use my site to look back on recent class changes and to remind myself of what Ghostcrawler and other designers have said about rogues over the past year. It’s surprised me how many times I’ve written rants — and how long they’ve been.

So when the superific Subtlety lover Haileaus started a new thread in WoW’s rogue class forum asking people to talk about their rogue experiences in the context of the next expansion, my only thought was: Ooh, this’ll be cool to report on. I wonder what people will say?

It took some prodding from Hail for me to realize that maybe it’d be helpful and constructive of me if I said some stuff, too.

So. Here’s what I posted. The quoted bits are the questions that Hail set forth in the thread’s original post to help give people structure for their feedback (an outstanding idea). If any of this confuses you, infuriates you or raises your curiosity, fire away in the comments or — preferably — over in that forum thread, which has become a really nice collection point for class feedback.


What is your ideal, glorified, rogue? This one can be a bit unrealistic, and doesn’t have to be one answer (You could, for instance, say 3 – 1 per spec), but basically, if you had a dream you were the perfect OP rogue, what would it be like?

Basically, Assassin’s Creed. Can’t remotely work in the context of an MMO, but the one-shot kill, the perpetual ability to deceive and misdirect, the grappling hook, the ability to weave through enemy territory by means other than simply hitting a stealth button and walking carefully. Ultimate mobility, control, burst and secrecy.


How do you feel about the current damage distribution (where the bulk of your damage comes from) for each spec? What would you like it to be like? Please make note of whether this is in PvE or PvP.

I heard a rumor that a lot of people have posted in this thread complaining about passive damage in PvE. I agree with that, but not because I’m much of a fan of seeing big numbers as a direct result of mashing buttons: If I know my target’s gonna lose 25% of its health in the next five seconds, it doesn’t matter a whole lot to me whether that’s 5% per second or 2%/2%/17%/2%/2%. The reason I dislike huge passive damage amounts is that it shrinks the gap between those who really put a lot of time and effort into playing their class better and those who don’t.

I haven’t got a clue what sort of passive-vs.-active damage ratio we need to have in order to make that “skill gap” something I’m happy with. (Heck, I’m not even sure what that ratio is now, so maybe my entire argument here is moot.) And I feel kinda douchey even saying this, because I realize it’s sort of an elitist thing to say. But if you’re gonna learn how to play your class/spec optimally, and if you’re gonna practice to ensure that you follow through on what you’ve learned, I think you should be rewarded by doing crazy-huge better on DPS charts than a person who only has the basics down.


What are your thoughts on each spec’s rotation?

They all exist. :) I’ve tended to think of rotations as inevitable means to an end. I’m used to the maintain-this, build-with-this, finish-with-this approach, and I’m used to that approach being punctuated by the use of major cooldowns. Do I like it? Meh. Do I dislike it? Meh. It’s the way it is, the way it’s been, and has never been what I love or dislike most about playing the class.


If you could pitch just one idea to the devs, what would it be?

Find a way to give us a Grappling Hook ability that allows us to teleport to any location — horizontally or vertically — within, say, 20 yards or so that’s within our line of sight. Yknow, without that being ridiculously imbalanced in PvP. :)


What is your favorite part about your rogue in MoP, and what has been your favorite historically?

How stealth (plus speed) gives me the ability to choose my battles and get where I want to go without having to take the long way around.


Least favorite?

How visually messy raid fights get from the perspective of a melee DPS. It is hard to see much of anything that’s going on around me due to all the visual effects.


What should rogues be able to do better than every other class/melee?

Avoid damage, move quickly and frustrate the enemy.


What should rogues be able to do worse than every other class/melee?

Self-heal and deal sustained single-target damage outside of a PvE raiding context.


What do you think about the class’s role in PvE/PvP? If you would like to see it change, in what direction?

It’s not our role in PvE that I have a problem with; what makes me unhappy sometimes is how uninteresting it can feel to be a melee DPS. This is entirely a personal preference, but I’ve never been happier in a raid fight than when I’ve felt I have brought something special to my group that helped them win. I haven’t had a chance to even raid outside of LFR this expansion, but in Cata, I loved being a soaker on heroic Morchok, and I loved being in the Ultraxion rotation as a person who popped Cloak every third Twilight to keep the raid alive.

My DPS rotation is a constant; it’s always there, and it always will be, and my DPS potential will always be a number. The tools in my belt that can make or break my raid group on a particular fight are what form the memories that stick with me as a WoW player.


What that rogues used to have do you miss?

Swirly b— oh. Right.

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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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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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For once, the ginormous pit of nothingness that is my WoW PvP experience may actually be a good thing.

As I have often stated on this blog, I am a PvP wuss. Although I’ve dabbled in it a few times during the 4.5 years I’ve been playing WoW, I’ve inevitably quit for two primary reasons:

  • The feeling that I’m actively playing against other human beings, most of whom probably know what they’re doing a hell of a lot better than me, makes me crap my pants a little. OK, a lot. And I only have so much money to spend on pants in a given year.
  • That feeling is reinforced by all the times I feel like I’m maybe actually doing things kinda-sorta right, and yet I still am getting my ass handed to me by someone who simply outgears me.

For the first time since I started playing, I feel like a PvP-related patch is actually speaking directly at me. “Hey, Rfeann,” it’s saying. “Don’t be afraid, man. It’s cool. You can come back in the water again. I swear the crocodiles aren’t… well, OK, they’re still there, and they REALLY want to eat you. Like, they’ve already drawn up a whole 10-course tasting menu based around your various internal organs. But their teeth are blunter, so it’s totally cool. Just take a quick dip, maybe?”

And I’m gonna do it. It helps that, shortly after the patch drops, I’ll be starting the part of the legendary quest chain that involves some battleground play; that’ll be my opportunity to dive back in and see how bloody I get.

I’ve got hope that the main systemic PvP changes in store for 5.3 — in particular, resilience going baseline and PvP gear being scaled and removed from the upgrade system — will make it less likely that I’ll find myself demoralized and obliterated in the blink of an eye by ubergeared players who are salivating at the chance to chop off my arm, beat me to death with it and then carry it with them over to the graveyard so that when I respawn, the first thing I will see is my own arm giving me the middle finger as I’m instantly murdered again.

The question is: Are these changes going to be enough to make me *stick with* PvP long enough to get over the other problem I listed above: That I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and am intimidated by all those other players who do?

Two of WoW’s leading design folks, the ever-present Twittermongers Brian Holinka (PvP chief) and Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street (lead systems designer human guy person), were recently interviewed by ArenaJunkies’ Sam “Vanguards” Kwok about the big changes in store for Patch 5.3. Included in the interview is this exchange, which drives straight to the heart of my lingering worry over PvP design:

Sam: PvE and PvP changes seem to collide very often, do you guys believe that balancing both may require a lot of specific PvP and PvE only changes? An example would be Find Weakness in 5.3.

Brian: Yes, and when we do it. Find weakness is a great example where PvE needed a buff and it would’ve cost big problems to PvP. We keep it in mind and Frost bomb is another example. We try not to do it too often, it’s a lot of things to keep track of. We’re the designers and people on Arena Junkies are really passionate players that really keep up on all the changes, but a lot of players are not. To ask our general player base that your spell does this and it does half damage or 25% or something like that, it’s really not something we want to do too often. Especially hey we want eviscerate to hit 10% less on players. That’s really inconsistent and a tough thing. We usually do it when it’s really a significant thing such as Find Weakness is 50% less and Frost bomb is 40% less.

Greg: There’s also this persistent, I’ll just call it a myth, that if we just bite the bullet and make 2 versions of every spell suddenly we’ll have class balance nailed and it’ll never be a problem again. I’m pretty confident if we went ahead and split sub rogues into 2 abilities on every ability with different damage numbers you’ll still see players saying why they can’t just tune down this one ability that’s costing pvp burst problem. In other words players will still want us to make changes even if we have the numbers split up, I don’t think it’ll suddenly make players feel their class is viable in every situation

I’ve seen this argument many, many times over the past few years, from designers and players alike. It used to make a lot more sense to me then that it does now. There is a perpetual, stated reluctance within the WoW design team to create PvP and PvE versions of every spell, and the justification given is concern that 1) it’ll be confusing for players and 2) it won’t necessarily solve balance issues.

Those are both valid concerns. But here’s the thing: I am *already* confused out of my gourd by the difference between PvE and PvP. They are, at the most basic level of gameplay, utterly and completely divergent from one another. When I am fighting another player, virtually *none* of the rules apply that apply when I’m questing, dungeoning or raiding. A player enemy has a different health pool from an NPC. Has a different toolkit. Has different strengths and weaknesses — and those strengths and weaknesses vary depending on the person’s class, spec and knowledge/experience level. And a player enemy is often impossible to predict, particularly for a casual player like me with very little PvP experience.

And on top of all of that, the spells that really matter are *already* entirely different for PvP than PvE. To know that — and to have my brain turn to mush right out the gate — I don’t need to look any further than my crowd control spells. Not only do they have a fraction of their duration in PvP than they do in PvE (Blind: one minute? nope: EIGHT SECONDS), but they also are affected by diminishing returns, which is a stunningly intricate, exceedingly complex system that I’m pretty sure works more or less like this:

      I open from stealth with a stun. You are stunned! Take that, nefarious ne’er-do-well!
      The stun ended, but I don’t like it when you move. I stun you again! Ha, pusillanimous pig! I shall perforate you with my pointy petards of piercing!
      Oh, crap, you came out of that quicker than I expected. Now you’re hurting me. I’m going to Blind you and get some distance. Look at me, I am so clever!
      Wait, that didn’t work at all. You’re still hurting me, and now someone’s laughing at me in BG chat because they said I can’t use Blind on someone who was just feared three times in a row.

Arm removal aside, I realize that’s probably not the most realistic example, but I wanted to break up this long-ass blog post with something listy. :) My point is: There are so many types of CC — and what shares diminishing returns with what and for how long feels so arcane, inaccessible and difficult to track — that it’s all a huge confusing jumble in my head. Which is bad, because as a rogue, I know CC is my PvP livelihood, and driving other people mad in battlegrounds seems like it’d be a lot of fun if I knew what the heck I was doing.

But I don’t. For me, PvE and PvP are already vastly different from one another. So, when I read that designers are reluctant to alter the amount of damage a specific ability does in PvE because it’d be different from PvP, it almost makes me laugh. I think: Do those guys think I’d even *notice* something like that?

Top PvPers would notice it, sure — it would be *huge* for them. But they already know PvP inside and out as it is; they will adjust to a change the same way raiders adjust to changes, by factoring it in, adapting and moving on (or complaining about it endlessly in forums and on Twitter).

Me? I’m still too busy trying to remember whether it’s been 18 seconds or 14 seconds since my last stun ended to give a crap whether my Eviscerate will be slightly weaker against a player target than it is against a raid boss who’s three levels higher than me and has 1.2 BILLION health.

So, yes, I’m looking forward to hopefully having my arm handed to me less often when I dip back into the PvP pool once Patch 5.3 launches. But I’ve already spent years trying to master the complexities of end-game *PvE* on my rogue; even if I’m staying alive longer in PvP come 5.3, I’m not sure I’ll have the energy to wrap my brain around that morass of details as well. And the complexities of PvP — which even *casual* players like me need to understand in order to achieve satisfying success — don’t look like they’re changing much anytime soon.

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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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I’ve got some catching up to do with Ghostcrawler rogue tweets; leave it to a cold to snot away a normally-obsessive-compulsive person’s motivation for twitstalking. This one’s from more than a week ago:


Without a doubt, it’s looking like our level-90 talent tier options in Patch 5.2 will be much closer (in terms of their value) in raids and challenge-mode dungeons. Shuriken Toss will allow us to autoattack at range, dramatically increasing its power, and Marked for Death’s five free combo points per minute provides us with a nice little active-DPS bump that may be especially useful for burst situations.

But is either change enough to unseat Anticipation as the talent of choice in end-game PvE?

The gist of the feedback over at Elitist Jerks is that few expect ST or MfD to win out. I’m no whiz-bang theorycrafter, but I’m inclined to agree: It’s hard for me to envision many scenarios in which, *over the course of an entire raid fight*, it would be more valuable for me to

  1. deal decent DPS at range or
  2. gain 5 extra CPs per minute,

instead of using Anticipation, which guarantees me that I will

  1. almost never waste a combo point and
  2. never have to settle for a four-point finisher instead of a five-point finisher.

As of this post, we know next to nothing about most fights in the upcoming raid tier, so there is always a possibility that a surprising number of fight mechanics will favor the buffed ST or the new MfD. But I was one of a number of rogues who, back in the Mists beta, said the same thing about ST and our soon-to-be-dearly-departed level-90 talent Versatility. “But wait!” said I, I said. “Who knows how many raid fights in Mists will require a huge amount of target switching! Or constant running around at range like a maniac?”

I did a Google image search for “maniac.” This came up. How could I not?

The answer turned out to be: Basically none. Or, at least, not enough of a given raid fight required those things to make it more valuable to choose the “old” ST or Versatility over Anticipation.

Maybe that experience has made me more cynical this time around, and I’m being unfair in my negativity. Then again:

For Shuriken Toss — buffed or not — to be more desirable than Anticipation in a given raid fight, it likely means that the fight itself needs to be brutally unfriendly to melee DPS. Designing a fight like that feels like it’d be fundamentally against Blizzard’s current approach to encounter design, which is to allow for a wide range of classes to be viable.

For Marked for Death to be more desirable than Anticipation, we’d need to gain more DPS through getting a magically full CP bar once per minute than we would by never losing a combo point. In most standard fights, that feels unlikely to happen. *Especially* not for Assassination rogues, who gain two CPs (and sometimes three, thanks to Seal Fate) every time they use Mutilate, thus guaranteeing that they’ll be Envenoming at 4 CPs without Anticipation.

But it’s not just Assassination rogues who lose out if they drop Anticipation. Our new-in-Mists DPS cooldown, Shadow Blades (which adds an extra CP onto every CP-building move we use), ensures that other specs lose out, too. Shadow Blades all but requires Anticipation if we want to use it to maximum effectiveness; otherwise we’re either wasting CPs while it’s active, or we’re using smaller finishers.

The only scenario in which I can see MfD potentially being worth that kind of trade-off is a fight that involves a tremendous amount of target switching or a lot of spawning/despawning targets, such that we don’t have a lot of uptime on our targets (reducing the effectiveness of Shadow Blades and reducing the number of CPs we even have the opportunity to gain on our targets). In that scenario, being able to guarantee a quick 5-CPs-and-BAM could be pretty handy. Especially if burst matters.

Let’s kick this rogue up another notch!

But, for the same reason it seems unlikely that we’re going to see raid fights that punish melee DPS enough to make Shuriken Toss the best choice, it feels unlikely we’re going to see raid fights that punish DPS who can’t frequently switch targets all that well.

It may be that the best we can really hope for in Patch 5.2 is that, for those of us who *do* choose to go with Shuriken Toss or MfD on raid fights because we find those abilities more fun to use than Anticipation, our DPS won’t suffer quite as much for our decision as it would have before Patch 5.2.

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