Updated Warlords of Draenor alpha notes, a new slew of datamined spell changes, a gaggle of designer tweets: Gee golly, it’s almost enough to make a person think there’s actually something substantial happening in WoW!

Ah, but no, it’s just another week in virtual purgatory.

Here is what the latest limbo period brought us in the World of Rouge that was mildly distinct from the limbo period before it.

Assassination: All About the Knifejamins

The initial design plan was: Let’s give folks who want to play Assassination, but who don’t have daggers, a chance to still play the spec using other types of pointy things (i.e., fist weapons and swords). But as of the May 23 update to the official alpha patch notes, that plan has been… deplanned. (Sorry for that link; couldn’t resist.)

Yep, all of the bits and pieces that were going to make fists and swords kinda-sorta viable for Mut rogues are gone. The different damage coefficients for Dispatch and Mutilate depending on weapon type, Assassin’s Resolve no longer requiring daggers — all back to the way they were. By which I mean, the way they are now, in Mists.

Here’s why this reversion doesn’t suck:

The primary motivation behind all of the plans to loosen weapon requirements centered around a long-standing issue for rogue players: We have to wield two weapons, and it can often feel hard — heck, sometimes downright unpossible — to get the weapons we need, particularly since there are very few ways to get decent weaponry outside of random-chance boss loot. The tweet above from WoW technical game designer Chadd “Cellartron” Nervig strongly suggests they’ve got a new idea for how to make sure we don’t suffer from Neverdrop, an affliction that I’m this close to asking Sarah McLachlan to write a song about so we can start an aid foundation.

Combat: Smack Harder, Feel Better

It’s been a common refrain, for many moons now, that rogues are heavily reliant on “passive” forms of damage. The definition of “passive” changes a bit depending on who you ask, but there’s pretty wholesale agreement that our autoattack damage — which, as Combat, can easily account for 10%-15% of our damage in a raid fight without even taking into account additional bits like Deadly Poison procs (which adds another 10%+) or the Shadow Blades cooldown (another ~10%) — is just too darn-tootin’ high. That makes the designers feel compelled to reduce the power of our actual button-press abilities (Sinister Strike, Eviscerate, etc.) to compensate.

Behold:

Worth noting here is the removal of Ambidexterity. This was done to reduce the amount of damage coming from auto attacks for Combat Rogues. We’ve increased the damage of their active abilities to compensate and make them more rewarding.

That’s from the latest iteration of the official patch notes. Ambidexterity currently increases Combat rogues’ offhand weapon damage by 75%. By removing it, the proportion of our damage that comes from offhand autoattacks is likely to drop from 10%-15% to something more like 2%-5% — and from the sounds of it, all of that “lost” damage will be funneled into our push-this-button-and-hurt-something-immediately abilities. (The perk formerly named “Improved Ambidexterity” will now be called “Improved Dual Wield”; it will still eliminate the 19% off-hand hit chance penalty.)  Will it be enough to really feel a difference? Only playtesting will be able to tell us for certain.

Combat: If You Prick Them, They Will Bleed

The class design team introduced changes for Warlords that are meant to develop a greater sense of distinctness for each of our three specs. One of their big plans for Combat rogues was to make it so that, at Level 100, *all* damage is instant. No bleeds, no ticking poisons: Everything that would normally deal damage over time would instead dish all of it out immediately.

It’s a cool idea, but not without downsides. For instance, PvP players were quick to point out that removing all damage-over-time spells from Combat would leave those rogues completely unable to prevent nearby enemies in stealth from… you know, being stealthed.

It looks like the designers agreed. Nervig confirmed that, in a reversal, Crimson Tempest will once again trigger a bleed, just as it does in the live game. Nervig’s statement supports datamining that saw the tooltip for the Combat-only leveling perk Empowered Crimson Tempest change from “Crimson Tempest no longer deals any periodic damage, and instead deals 240% increased initial damage,” to, “Increases the duration of Crimson Tempest’s bleed by 50%.” I’ll leave it to rogues smarter than I to determine whether these changes are enough to make CT a more desirable finisher than an unlimited-target Eviscerate with Blade Flurry on.

Bullets

And now, the miscellany:

  • So many datamined changes; so little takeaway: A new datamined Warlords alpha build generated a flurry of knee-jerk complaints about widespread nerfs, due to what appeared to be attack-power-multiplier reductions for a whole slew of rogue abilities. The thing is: You can’t nerf what doesn’t exist yet, and we’re not even at a publicly available alpha. The designers have a goal in mind when it comes to how different classes, and different abilities, will stack up against each other in Warlords. So it’s quite literally pointless to compare “then” numbers vs. “now” numbers, because the entire equation is changing. (It also wasn’t just rogues affected by these changes.)
  • Rupture multi-DoT-ting: Nervig affirmed that the way Assassination rogues currently fight multiple enemies (i.e., they keep Rupture rolling on several targets at once, in order to keep energy flowing in from Venemous Wounds) is not the strategy they had in mind for the spec. The design team wants to change this for Warlords.
  • Rupture big. Rupture hurt. Also in bleeding news, Nervig acknowledged that a design goal is to give Rupture a big damage boost in the upcoming expansion — but that finding the right balance for it is proving tricky.
  • Death From Above clarifications: There’s been a lot of skepticism expressed by players that we’ll have little reason to choose the Level 100 talent Death From Above over the other two options in that tier, LemonVenom Zest and Shadow Reflection. Nervig tweeted that DFA would be made more attractive by making it end with an Envenom/Eviscerate that is 50% more powerful than using En/Ev by itself would be.
  • Show me the poisons! One particular tweeter has been nudging designers for months now about giving rogues a way to display poison effects on their weapons. The response, consistently: A fine idea, but not on the priority list.

For a complete rundown of all upcoming rogue-related Warlords changes, there’s no better place on the Web to turn than Wowhead’s compendium. I know I sound like a cheesy advertisement saying that, but it’s an amazing resource. Use it. :)

When the datamining robots of doom at Wowhead and MMO-Champion caught an extremely odd tooltip change for Burst of Speed last night, they did what any good Internet robots do: spit the data out into the ether.

Only, thing is, about robots: Sometimes they data they spit is wrong.

What Wowhead and MMO-C saw was an alteration to Burst of Speed that appeared to change it from a 70% speed buff that lasts four seconds to a 1% speed buff that lasts a tenth of a second.

Let’s reread that together: a 1% speed buff that lasts a tenth of a second.

I know there’s a bunch of us who are utterly convinced that Blizzard is trying to actively destroy a class that the company itself designed and that hundreds of thousands of people play regularly. But, c’mon. It doesn’t take more than a tenth of a second of rational thought to realize: This datamining probably isn’t accurate.

Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for folks to freak out. Thankfully, it also didn’t take long for WoW’s designers to clarify the situation.

In fact, not only is what’s happening here not a nerf to BoS — it’ll make BoS *better* by resolving an inadvertent problem the designers introduced several weeks back.

Overlooked in the hubbub over the tooltip text change was an adjustment in the spell effects to the way BoS provides immunity to snares. Specifically, quoth PvP czar Brian “Holinka” Holinka:

So, say it with me, dear peoples: Datamining is not official. Datamining can be wrong, or it can reflect something the designers put in the game accidentally. In fact, pretty often, what datamining sees actually *is* wrong. It’s OK to wait a little while for confirmation before freaking out, throwing cats around the room and eating glass in fury.

In the week and a half since my last update, we’ve seen a flurry of conversations with WoW game designers on Twitter (a Blade Flurry, some might say, ahahaha, ahaha, ha), but no major new developments to (or alterations in) our planned class changes, and only an incremental nudge in our understanding of the changes that are planned.

In thoroughly bullet-riddled form, here’s what we’ve learned since April 20:

  • Backstab’s positional requirement: Technical game designer Chadd “Cellphonealon” Nervig stood bravely against a storm of players that mercilessly flung tweet after tweet at his kneecaps regarding the design team’s decision to remove positional requirements for the feral druid abilities Ravage and Shred and the rogue ability Ambush — but to continue to forbid the use of Backstab from the front (though side attacks will be okie dokie). Quoth the dragon, they have chosen not to allow a facial Backstab due to “iconicness” and “how well the gameplay and ability fits the Subtlety kit.”In the same conversation, Nervig affirmed that Backstab is intended to be more powerful than Hemorrhage, and should be the preferred ability to use unless attacking from the front or “if backloading damage is more useful than frontloading” (a reference, I assume, to Hemo’s damage-over-time component)
  • Subtlety’s DPS reward: Nervig confirmed that because the Subtlety DPS rotation is so hard to execute perfectly, the spec is given a little extra bump when it’s balanced against other classes/specs. The implication here is that, if you’re able to maximize the spec’s potential, you will outshine everyone else in the damage meters. (Well, except for any other difficult specs that have been similarly compensated — Nervig implied that feral druids get the same treatment.)
  • Enhanced Premeditation — GONE: Because clearly not enough people have gotten the message yet, Nervig fielded two separate complaints about the Enhanced Premeditation perk — the one that they already announced weeks ago was being scrapped. Try passing along word of this reverted change via a fun game of telephone with friends! See if you can start with “They’re getting rid of the Enhanced Premeditation perk, so you can stop screaming about how horrible it is” and end up with “Celestalon is a big stupidface and porkchop diner muffin lady.”
  • Venom Zest won’t be so bad: Nervig pushed back against the notion that the Level 100 talent Venom Zest (increase maximum energy by 15, increase energy regen 5% for each of up to 3 enemies you poison) is crappier than the other options in the tier.
  • Shadow Dance cooldown unchanged: It’ll still be 1 minute in Warlords, Nervig said — though Readiness (one of our new secondary stats) will reduce it.
  • Energy regen rates unchanged: We’ll still regenerate 10 energy per second at baseline, with our haste levels increasing that rate. Nervig implied that the haste-conversion rate is unchanged as well, but did not explicitly state it.
  • Rogue autoattack damage is not a problem: Nervig said that none of the rogue specs have a “hugely” high chunk of their damage coming from autoattacks, suggesting that no major changes on this front are planned.
  • Make us pretty! Lead game designer Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas said that they could “definitely do more” to make rogues “feel more epic” when using our melee abilities. That’s pretty much the same thing we’ve been hearing from designers for more than a year now: They feel our aesthetic pain, but aren’t making any promises about a makeover.
  • Don’t expect mobility talent changes: PvP designer Brian “Holinka” Holinka, a.k.a. Holinka, pushed back against the notion that our Level 60 talent tier needs any serious adjustments — or that rogue mobility is currently suffering.
  • Slice and Dice is here to stay for Sub: It requires skill to juggle, Nervig notes.
  • Reading datamined tooltips? Bring many grains of salt: Nervig reminds everyone that any numerical or formula changes we see to abilities mean basically nothing at this point — and that we certainly can’t draw any conclusions about whether those changes are a “nerf” or a “buff.” Particularly not for an expansion like Warlords, in which so much is being dramatically altered about class and spec balance as a whole.

Oddly, the *least* interesting news of the week for rogues was the release of the first update to the official Warlords of Draenor alpha patch notes on April 18. There were no rogue-specific changes in the notes that we hadn’t already known about. This is kind of odd, since we’ve seen datamining *and* Blizzfolk tweets that suggest some pretty noteworthy tweaks have already been made.

Here are the new odds and ends we *have* learned over the past several days, along with a smidge of analysis from y’all’s truly. (I’ll create a single home for the up-to-datest info when I have the chance; right now I’m posting updates sequentially, so some of the stuff in my huge, initial alpha notes post is no longer true.)

Combat AoE: The Changes Are Changing

The initial alpha notes and datamined info included a few bits that all but screamed, “We want Fan of Knives and Crimson Tempest to be part of the Combat spec’s arsenal.” Er, no, sorry, I meant: That all but screamed, “WE WANT FAN OF KNIVES AND CRIMSON TEMPEST TO BE PART OF THE COMBAT SPEC’S ARSENAL!”

The initial batch of leveling perks — which we’ll earn randomly on our way from levels 91 to 99, with each spec getting a different set of perks — included benefits for Combat that made FoK cost less energy and turned CT into a powerful instant-damage finisher instead of a smack-and-bleed.

As was pointed out, though, the FoK energy reduction (from 35 to 25) felt unlikely to be enough on its own to make a difference. The designers apparently agreed — but rather than find a way to make FoK more desirable, they appear to have scrapped the whole idea and buffed Blade Flurry instead.

As of the latest Warlords alpha datamining from Wowhead and MMO-Champion on April 16:

  • Fan of Knives is no longer even in the spellbook for a Combat rogue — it’s labelled as Assassination and Subtlety only.
  • The Combat-only leveling perk that had reduced FoK’s energy cost now does something completely different: It removes the target cap from Blade Flurry entirely.
  • In addition, technical game designer Chadd “Celestalon” Nervig (whose last name I always feel the urge to spell “Nervigg”) tweeted that Blade Flurry would be able to spread both lethal and non-lethal poisons in Warlords.

Now, yes, this sounds exciting and powerful, it does appear to be an all-around buff to BF, and it’ll also make Combat burst damage look very pretty in some very specific situations. But in regards to the target cap specifically, keep in mind that Blade Flurry currently has a range of just 8 yards (just like FoK), and in the present game we don’t often see that many enemies bunched up together. Certainly not in PvP, and although it happens more often in PvE, it’s usually not in critically important situations (unless we’re trying to, say, solo an achievement).

Meanwhile, it leaves behind an unresolved issue with Crimson Tempest. As things currently stand, Crimson Tempest for Combat uses combo points to generate a large amount of instant physical damage (but doesn’t apply a bleed) to all nearby enemies. If that description sounds familiar to you, it’s because using Eviscerate with Blade Flurry on will do exactly the same thing: use combo points to generate a large amount of instant physical damage to all nearby enemies.

We know that BF will spread poisons, so regardless of whether CT does the same in Warlords, there’s an obvious question right now regarding how they plan to make choosing between these two AoE finishers more interesting than consulting a guide that tells you which one hits harder.

Other Developments

  • The much-maligned Subtlety-only “Enhanced Premeditation” perk has been scrapped (for now, at least), though it is still showing up in datamining. But the designers still plan to find a way to make Premed into a passive ability without actually making it worse. (As a reminder, the initial plan was to make Ambush and Garrote automatically generate two extra combo points when used from stealth — but *not* when Shadow Dance is active.)

As I mentioned earlier, the new version of the official alpha patch notes don’t include anything we didn’t already know about rogues. The following changes had been previously announced:

  • A note was added to mention that combo points would essentially stack on the rogue — the exact phrasing is “shared across all targets,” which suggests the underlying tech isn’t as simple as “CPs on the rogue,” but barring any bugs or quirks, the effect we experience should be the same.
  • Also now in the notes is the Smoke Bomb nerf: It’ll reduce incoming damage within the area of effect by 10%, down from 20%, to bring it in line with other DPS classes’ defensive raid cooldowns. Celestalon also engaged in some back-and-forth on Twitter to justify the nerf and state that rogues, as well as other DPSers, had many other ways to contribute to raid utility.

Designers Conversate

  • In Twitterland, Celestalon confirmed that a gnome Assassination rogue with Glyph of Energy active and Venom Zest talented would have 163 maximum energy instead of 100.
  • Will its heavy reliance on a newly buffed Deep Insight make Combat almost useless in PvP, especially considering it was already looking dicey thanks to the removal of its damage-over-time spells? Celestalon says they’ll keep an eye on it.
  • Why are efforts being made to reduce Windwalker monk spamminess, yet Combat rogues will still have a half-second global cooldown during Adrenaline Rush? Celestalon suggests uberspam is OK for “temporary effects.” (Personally, I wonder just how “temporary” AdRush will be in Warlords given how Restless Blades and the new cooldown-reduction stat greatly increase the frequency with which we can use it.)
  • The Redirect spell still appears on the Warlords alpha even though it’ll be unnecessary. Lead class designer Kris Zierhut confirmed in an interview with Wowhead at PAX East that it’s definitely going away. (As a person who apparently mains a Feral druid, he also bonded with Wowhead’s content chief Perculia — who mains a rogue — over the impending change to essentially have CPs stack on the player.)

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.
Continue Reading »

(Last updated: April 11. Please note that this post will become increasingly outdated as time goes by. I’ll be compiling an all-inclusive, always-updated page as soon as I’m able; in the meantime, be sure to read my other posts on the alpha patch notes in addition to this one.)

The first (at last!) official version of the Warlords of Draenor “alpha” notes are… very, very long. And winding. Much like the path a rogue must take through a battleground so as to avoid detection and catch their enemy unawares. Or something.

There are bits ‘n’ chunks ‘n’ morsels of rogue-related information scattered throughout this hefty document, and as you and I both know, rogues are not built to simply barrel through a huge blog post in order to reach their objective. We need a little something to slip past all of those silly, extraneous details the lesser classes care about and get right to the goods.

Read on, my brethren.

(Please keep in mind: These are *alpha* notes. Widespread testing has not even begun. Any and all of this can, and much of it likely will, change over the many months between now and the launch of WoD.)

The Really Big Stuff (Classwide)

  • Combo points will stack on the rogue, not the target. (this is not in the notes yet)
  • Beyond that, there are no major, fundamental changes to rogue mechanics on the table.
  • That said, a ton of existing spells and class mechanics are changing in ways that, although they seem subtle and small individually, will likely add up to create a more distinctive “feel” and theme for each rogue spec.
  • Also, nuances being added to each spec (well, more so for Assassination and Combat than Subtlety) will likely create more of a “skill gap” separating the damage-dealing potential of a person who’s “decent” at playing a rogue from a person who’s excellent at playing one.
  • Ambush will no longer have a positional requirement; it can be used in front or behind the target. (Backstab is a different story; see the Subtlety section below.)
  • The following spells will go bye-bye:
    • Disarm Trap
    • Dismantle
    • Expose Armor
    • Mind-Numbing Poison
    • Paralytic Poison
    • Redirect (since CPs will stack on the rogue; this is not in the notes yet)
    • Rupture (for combat spec only; Mut and Sub will still have it)
    • Shadow Blades

Continue Reading »

Throughout the Mists expansion, an unaddressed quirk had allowed rogues to cause trouble while stealthed for much longer than was intended.

No more.

From the March 18 Patch 5.4.7 hotfix list (though it appears to have been live for at least a day prior):

Resolved an issue where Vanish modified by Glyph of Vanish was incorrectly causing the Subterfuge effect to trigger twice. Vanish will now cancel its effect when the duration of Subterfuge expires.

In other words, what was happening here was that a rogue would cast Vanish, which would activate Subterfuge. Normally, both the “improved stealth mode” granted by Vanish and the Subterfuge buff last for three seconds, meaning they drop off at the same time. But the Glyph of Vanish makes that “improved stealth” last a total of five seconds. So it caused Subterfuge to actually proc twice — once when the rogue first hit Vanish, and then again when the five seconds wore off, extending their stealth by an additional three seconds.

(Correct me if I’m wrong, but if a rogue used Preparation after this, they could theoretically do everything all over again with an additional Vanish, actually giving them 16 seconds of stealth while still actively wreaking havoc.)

From what little I know about this bug, the value of exploiting it was not tremendous, particularly in PvP. Players had known about it for quite some time, but because it requires PvP rogues to burn a hugely valuable Vanish for somewhat dubious benefit, its relevance in competitive environments (specifically arena) was pretty limited.

It was probably utilized much more frequently among Subtlety raiders who were very serious about optimizing their DPS rotation, since its use during raid fights would have yielded more Ambushes (and, I’m assuming without actually pondering numbers here, better Find Weakness uptime).

But! Not anymore. :)

But but! There’s at least one upside:

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