Posts Tagged ‘Killing Spree’

Deathmantle Set Rogue Cosplay at Blizzcon 2014

(Photo credit: Wowhead)

(As always, this is being cross-posted on Ravenholdt, which thinks you should be calling your mother more often.)

It was a very stealthy BlizzCon.

In the live raid competition between Method and Midwinter, we watched as a Midwinter rogue cast Shroud of Concealment to help the raid sneak past trash mobs — only to see the strategy turn against them. We spotted nary a rogue in the WoW Arena Championship match between Bleached Bones and Skill-Capped EU, and Firebat swept the Hearthstone World Championship grand finals without using his rogue deck — BUT WE KNOW HE HAD ONE, so that counts in our corner, even though it’s not directly related to WoW at all.

Plus we saw at least one cool example of rogue cosplay, with these two not only sporting what I think might be the Tier 5 (Deathmantle) raid set, but also my personal favorite rogue weapon, the Twinblade of the Hakkari.

But what most of you probably want to know is: Did designers answer any rogue questions during the Warcraft panel discussions?

Why, yes. Yes they did.

Although there were just two World of Warcraft panels at this year’s BlizzCon (and basically no new game info was presented), four rogue questions were addressed. Considering two of those questions were answered during a panel that expressly forbade class-specific questions, rogues represented particularly well, with many of our key class concerns briefly taking the spotlight. Our own Haileaus (!) even managed to refashion a question about rogue positional requirements into a general class-design query.

Rogue Q&A: Quick Recap

You can read full transcripts of each rogue Q&A exchange in the Ravenholdt version of this post, but here’s the gist:

  1. Suicidal Killing Spree. Some boss fights severely punish the use of KS and other abilities that teleport us to/behind the target. Ion Hazzikostas said they do alter specific fights to alleviate that when the boss doesn’t move, but for *mobile* bosses, they consider that risk of death to be a “tactical element” of the fight that is “taken into account” when balancing the class.
  2. Combo point UI. They stack on the rogue now, but the default WoW UI hasn’t changed. Kris Zierhut admitted that the designers tried different ideas, but simply couldn’t come up with a new UI approach that wasn’t “jarring” for people used to seeing CPs under the target frame. So instead, they’ll look at what add-on authors come up with and consider adapting that.
  3. Positional requirements. After a Day 1 panel session in which Zierhut explained that positional requirements had been removed from all druid spells because they were unreliable and not fun, Haileaus asked why that didn’t apply to abilities like Backstab and Gouge. Tom Chilton replied that they balance “how important the mechanic is” against “the overall feel and fantasy of the class,” and sometimes they feel the fantasy should win out.
  4. Balancing talent tiers. Another rogue player, while avoiding mentioning any specific rogue talents, asked about the balance of DPS talents vs. non-DPS talents in various tiers. Tom Chilton replied that it’s a very organic process — they gauge how many people actually use talents in each tier, improve or replace the ones nobody takes, and generally try not to tone down extremely powerful talents unless it’s absolutely necessary for game balance.

Again, hop over to Ravenholdt to see the transcripts of these Q&A excerpts.

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Just when your spellbook thought it was safe to come out of your virtual desk drawer…

WHAM. Edward Scissorhands strikes again.

Yep, those gasps you heard late in the evening on June 13 were the dying breaths of seven more rogue spells (along with dozens of other additional spells that were removed across all classes), which became official with the latest update to the official Warlords of Draenor Alpha patch notes.

Odds are you won’t miss most of these spells very much, though: many of them were passive, and in most cases their effects will be folded into (or compensated by) other abilities.

The new edition of the Alpha notes also includes several other spell adjustments, none of which appear groundbreaking. Here’s a rundown and some half-assed analysis of the changes:

Newly Snipped — For Reals

  • Expose Armor. This much-maligned ability was made easier to use for the current Mists expansion, but still not as easy as identical armor-reduction debuffs that other classes were able to apply (e.g., warriors’ Sunder Armor; druids’ Faerie Fire). In Warlords, it will be escorted to its final resting place as part of a redesign of raid debuffs that affects all classes.The official patch notes are confusing here: They say only that Expose Armor “no longer applies Weakened Armor.” But seeing as that was literally all that Expose Armor did, the removal of EA’s ability to apply Weakened Armor basically means it doesn’t exist. (And in fact, when I log into the Alpha on my rogue, EA doesn’t currently appear in my spellbook.)
  • Master Poisoner. A passive ability that all rogues currently get at Level 64, this causes any target we’ve poisoned to take 5% additional spell damage. It’s being removed as part of the across-the-board debuff changes I mentioned above. (Lest you fear this will reduce our value in raids, read at the end of this post about how Swiftblade’s Cunning is being buffed.)
  • Shadow Walk. Unless you’re big on PvP, your most likely reaction to this will be:https://twitter.com/wavefunctionp/status/477568657787469824In the current (live) game, it’s a cooldown we get at Level 72 that we can use, once every minute, to increase the effectiveness of our stealth for 6 seconds. A number of PvP rogues (particularly those who play Subtlety) saw value in it, and it had situational use when soloing PvE content, but many were surprised it survived the first round of spellbook pruning months ago, particularly in the context of Blizzard’s desire to ratchet down the PvP “arms race” regarding crowd control and tools we could use to overcome/avoid it.

Newly Snipped — But Only Sort Of

These spell removals appear to mostly be about removing spell-name clutter, and taking advantage of what looks like the ability of WoW’s programmers to design more “if” scenarios directly into spells, instead of designing new spells that modify those spells. It’s kind of like if, instead of us having to put on roller blades in order to use them, they just sprouted naturally out of our existing shoes.

  • Blindside — kind of. Assassination rogues will still have a chance to proc a free Dispatch whenever they Mutilate. The proc just isn’t called “Blindside” anymore; it’s simply a free Dispatch. No indication about whether any other aspects of free Dispatch will change (like the amount of time you have to use it before it fades away).
  • Cut to the Chase — sorta. This is the Assassination-only, Level 60 passive ability that causes our Envenom to refresh Slice and Dice. The spell itself is going away, but the ability of Envenom to refresh SnD is staying. No word on whether it will also begin to work for rogues *below* Level 60, though that would be a nice little quality-of-life improvement for those leveling as Mut.
  • Master of Subtlety — ish. This Subtlety-only, Level 10 passive ability gives Sub rogues a 10% damage buff on abilities they use while stealthed and for 6 seconds afterward. They won’t lose that buff — it just no longer is called “Master of Subtlety.” Instead it’s baked directly into stealth for Sub rogues.
  • Safe Fall — but not really. Our glorious ability to take less fall damage than the average bear will live on — as part of Fleet Footed, the passive spell all rogues get at Level 62, which increases our movement speed by 15%.

Spell Damage Calculations Adjusted

One of the priorities for WoW’s spell designers as they work on Warlords has been trimming away some unneeded complexity in the way that spells work “under the hood.” For much of the past expansion (and then some), players have often complained of horrible lag spikes in raid situations, even when their Internet connections are stable and their ping times are low. Designers traced much of this problem to the way that a number of spells were programmed, and have since set about trying to simplify those spells where it made sense to do so.

I’m not certain about this, but we may be seeing the results of those efforts in these two June 13 changes to the official Warlords alpha notes (it’s also possible the designers simply want to tweak the way these abilities are balanced):

  • Killing Spree (Combat). At the moment, in addition to its stab-every-half-second-for-3.5-seconds schtick, KS buffs your damage by 50% while it’s active. That buff is being removed — but the ability’s damage will be rebalanced to take that into account, so the net result should basically be the same.
  • Main Gauche (Combat). Francophones rejoice — this ability will once again do exactly what its name implies! Main Gauche — which literally translates to “left hand” in French — is Combat’s Level-80 mastery. It’s a passive spell that gives main-hand attacks a chance proc an additional, free autoattack equal to 120% of a main-hand autoattack. In Warlords, this’ll be changed to deal off-hand weapon damage — in other words, for the 90% of the planet that is right-handed, “left-hand” weapon damage. (Lest you worry the switch from main-hand to off-hand damage is a nerf, the patch notes state that the damage will be buffed to compensate.)This change is potentially interesting, because depending on how it’s balanced, it could tilt the very delicate balance between daggers and non-daggers as off-hand weapons for Combat rogues. Right now, the two weapon types are virtually identical in terms of their DPS potential (though slow weapons come out on top at very high gear levels). The way this change looks at the moment, it might make slow weapons feel required for Combat, due to the greater damage they’d cause when Main Gauche procs. Worth keeping an eye on as the Alpha progresses to see what the designers choose to do here.

And Then There’s Maude

Rounding out the rogue-specific adjustments in the June 13 update to the official WoD Alpha patch notes are these two bits:

  • Venomous Wounds no longer triggers from Garrote. This will finally put to rest the mostly irrelevant debate over whether a raiding Assassination rogue should open on the boss with Garrote or Ambush. (The answer, by the way, is neither: Mutilate’s better than Ambush, but only by a teeny bit.) The passive, Level-50 ability, which is what makes Assassination’s bleeds actually worth using (by randomly dealing additional damage and refunding energy when it procs), will only work with Rupture in WoD.
  • Swiftblade’s Cunning now also grants 5% Multistrike. This enhancement to our raid buff — in Warlords, Swiftblade will increase our new multistrike stat by 5% for us and our fellow party/raid members — appears intended to offset the loss of the Master Poisoner spell I mentioned way up near the top of this bloggy post. (Note that in the current live game, Swiftblade increases melee/ranged attack speed by 10% for our fellow party/raid members. That’s being changed in Warlords to buff haste instead — which, incidentally, means a buff to our energy regeneration rate in parties/raids as well.)

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[UPDATE 9/19: An official hotfix note posted late on Sept. 18 suggests this problem has been fixed. My original post appears below.]

Patch 5.4 brought with it a huge quality-of-life improvement for Combat rogues: the ability to ensure that Killing Spree deals all of its damage to a single target, even when other enemies are within melee range. Unfortunately, it’s not yet Spree-ing as well as intended.

Since the patch landed, a number of folks have taken to the Interwebs (e.g., MMO-Champion, official forums) to point out moments when they’ve tried to use Killing Spree and have been unable to — not because of traditional reasons, like sudden horrible terrifying death, but because the game was telling them they were too far away from their target. A few players have reported seeing this error on the Galakras fight in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, even though they’re close enough to the boss to be actively stabbing it in its bodily areas with their autoattacks.

The bulk of the complaints appear to stem from attempts to use the single-target form of Killing Spree, which occurs when Blade Flurry is turned off. This makes sense, what with that mechanic being new and all. I did a smidge of testing on the PTR during today’s maintenance, and found that I had to move closer to a target dummy in order to activate KS if Blade Flurry was off. (My personal theory — shared by a few others — is that single-target KS isn’t correctly handling a target’s hitbox, a.k.a. the distance you can be from the target and still hit it with melee attacks.)

A few players have also reported seeing errors when they try to use single-target KS on a target that’s slightly above or below them, though claims of this have been more spotty (probably in part because raid fights take place on level ground).

Fortunately, the Big Guns appear to be working on at least part of the problem:

Clearly, single-target KS wasn’t nearly as simple a mechanic to implement on the back end as it might seem to many of us on our side of the game. (“What? Just make it hit our current target. How hard could that be?”) Hopefully these teleport issues won’t prove too much of a beast to address.

Combat has long suffered somewhat as a raid and PvP spec due in large part to Killing Spree’s fragility, though before now those problems tended to revolve around either 1) the inability to focus on a single target (now resolved) or 2) the teleport mechanic itself leaving a rogue dead or trapped (not-so-resolved). Between these issues with the new KS and the issues I mentioned earlier with Ruthlessness, the Combat spec isn’t getting any favors as it strives to reach equal footing with Assassination in the final raid tier of the expansion.

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Really quick note on a Patch 5.4 hotfix posted this evening:

Evil is a Point of View should no longer incorrectly cause Turn Evil to affect targets that are immune to loss of control effects.

This refers to the new level-30 paladin talent that allows pallies to join the ranks of classes with an option to use a fear against enemy players. Since Patch 5.4 went live yesterday, pallies with that talent were able to use Turn Evil to fear rogues (among others) at any time — including while they were in the middle of a Killing Spree, an ability that should be impossible to stop.

And now, assuming the hotfix works, it will be impossible again.

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What happens when passionate rogue players find themselves in a lull between patches with nothing much to talk about? Overanalysis. :)

As often as WoW developers warn that we shouldn’t put too much stock in numbers when it’s very early in a PTR, people are inevitably gonna do exactly that — especially when no additional information has been provided and there isn’t a whole lot else for us to obsess over. We’ve seen extensive number-crunching on our Tier 16 raid set bonuses, for instance, even though we’ve been told they’re “very place holder” at the moment.

And why not? Conjecture and theorycrafting can be fun and even downright helpful.

Until it gets stressful and stops being helpful. Which is what’s begun to happen with Killing Spree on the Patch 5.4 PTR.

In PvP, there’s some hubbub at the moment over how strong Killing Spree appears to be against a single target on the PTR. Yep, you heard me: Killing Spree, one of the signature DPS cooldowns used by Combat rogues. Combat rogues. In PvP. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

This video from Conclusion (one of a few that folks have posted) illustrates the issue:

 

The cries of alarm have been numerous enough that Blizzfolk have taken both to Twitter and to the official forums to encourage people not to freak out. This is from PvP chief Brian Holinka a couple of weeks ago:

 

And this is from newly minted Blizz Community Manager Lore earlier today:

Looks balanced to me.

I kid. We generally wait until later in the PTR cycle (once we’ve gotten all the underlying mechanics where we want them) to start tuning numbers. I wouldn’t be too concerned at this stage.

I understand the consternation here. There’s concern that this won’t be noticed; that “place holder” numbers will be allowed to stay in place and that we’ll accidentally launch with something that’s clearly imbalanced. I believe it’s solidly a good thing that players are testing this stuff out now and are raising red flags where they see issues.

But it’s now abundantly clear that WoW’s developers are aware of these issues. Players have already ensured that. There’s no need to continually beat the panic drum; Blizzard can’t get any more aware of the complaints, and the devs are literally not going to do anything about it until they begin actual balance/damage adjustments later on in the PTR.

Once we see those tuning adjustments begin — if they go on for a week or so and we don’t see any modifications in places that we feel clearly need attention — sure, go ahead and raise the issue again, along with cogent explanations for why tuning adjustments feel necessary.

In the meantime? Take a breath. Take two, even. It’s OK. Move on to another topic for a while. Perhaps consider joining me in a little game of fake rogue patch notes?

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So concludes my sorry attempt to tie a little teeny possible development in the lives of Combat rogues into the much bigger development that broke this week in the lives of many WoW raiders.

On to the quasi-news!

Thursday on Twitter, we got our first glimpse into plans in the works to make something happen that lovers of the rogue Combat spec have long clamored for: the ability to force Killing Spree to only attack a single target, even if other targets are within range.

At present, Killing Spree is random: While it’s active, you’ll perform a total of seven attacks within 3.5 seconds on targets within a 10-yard range. That could mean one attack on seven different targets; it could mean seven attacks on a single target; the point is, you have zero control over it. Given that Killing Spree is one of Combat’s major burst damage cooldowns, that means major frustration when you want to dish out serious damage on a target (be it a raid boss or a battleground flag carrier) but the game doesn’t give you that option.

If this exchange with PvP honcho Brian Holinka is any indication, that may be about to change.

That wink is far from a confirmation, of course — but it’s at the very least a coy suggestion that they’re strongly considering doing exactly what @jjones186 suggested:

  • If Blade Flurry is on, it’ll behave the way it always has, indiscriminately jumping to and poking holes in whoever is within range (and, if you have the glyph equipped, returning you to your original spot afterward).
  • If Blade Flurry is off, all seven attacks will be directed at your current target.

There’s a lot of appeal to this approach. It avoids the frustrations of adding a spec-specific glyph to the game that would feel all but required in most PvP and some PvE situations. It gives a player the power to decide when s/he would rather spread KS’s damage around or focus it on one enemy. And it may offer this flexibility in a balanced way, by forcing us to choose between a significant amount of AoE burst and a significant amount of single-target burst (as opposed to being able to keep BF on while KSing a single target, which allows us to have our damage-dealing cake and eat it too).

Finally, it may be the nudge that finally makes Combat worth seriously considering as a competitive arena spec.

With signs increasingly suggesting that Patch 5.4 may hit the PTR very soon — likely within the next week, and possibly even tomorrow — we could get our confirmation shortly on what, if any, changes are in store for one of Combat’s signature spells.

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One of the really cool effects of Brian Holinka hitting the Twittersphere (and, well, being hired in the first place) is that we suddenly have more active back-and-forth between WoW gamers and designers than we’ve ever had on PvP matters.

This recent exchange with a couple of tweeting rogues provides a little insight from the design side about why Combat PvP viability is such a challenge. (I’ll provide some analysis below the thread.)
(more…)

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