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The changes, for convenience:
New Rogue Abilities
Redirect (available at level 81): Rogues will be getting a new ability to help them deal with changing targets. Redirect will transfer any active combo points to the rogue's current target, helping to ensure combo points aren't wasted when swapping targets or when targets die. In addition, self-buff abilities like Slice and Dice will no longer require a target, so rogues can spend extra combo points on those types of abilities (more on this below). Redirect will have a 1-minute cooldown and no other costs.
Combat Readiness (level 83): Combat Readiness is a new ability that we intend rogues to trigger defensively. While this ability is active, whenever the rogue is struck by a melee or ranged attack, he or she will gain a stacking buff called Combat Insight that results in a 10% reduction in damage taken. Combat Insight will stack up to 5 times and the timer will be refreshed whenever a new stack is applied. Our goal is to make rogues better equipped to go toe-to-toe with other melee classes when Evasion or stuns are not in play. This ability lasts 6 seconds and has a 2-minute cooldown.
Smoke Bomb (level 85): The rogue drops a Smoke Bomb, creating a cloud that interferes with enemy targeting. Enemies who are outside the cloud will find themselves unable to target units inside the cloud with single-target abilities. Enemies can move inside the cloud to attack, or they can use area-of-effect (AoE) abilities at any time to attack opponents in a cloud. In PvP, this will open up new dimensions of tactical positional gameplay, as the ability offers a variety of offensive and defensive uses. In PvE, Smoke Cloud can serve to shield your group from hostile ranged attacks, while also drawing enemies closer without the need to rely on conventional line-of-sight obstructions. Smoke Cloud lasts 10 seconds and has a 3-minute cooldown.
Changes to Abilities and Mechanics
We're also planning to make changes to some of the other abilities and mechanics you're already familiar with. This list and the summary of talent changes below it are by no means comprehensive, but they should give you a good sense of what we want for each spec.
New Talents and Talent Changes
- In PvP, we want to reduce the rogue's dependency on binary cooldowns and "stun-locks," and give them more passive survivability in return. One major change is that we'll put Cheap Shot on the same diminishing return as other stuns. The increase to Armor and Stamina on cloth, leather, and mail gear will help with this goal as well.
- In PvE, even accounting for active modifiers like Slice and Dice and Envenom, a very large portion of the rogue's damage is attributable to passive sources of damage. Yes, they are using abilities for the entire duration of a fight, but we want to reduce the percentage of rogue damage that comes from auto-attacks and poisons. More of their damage will be coming from active abilities and special attacks.
- We would like to improve the rogue leveling experience. Positional attacks and DoT-ramping mechanics will be de-emphasized at low levels and then re-introduced at higher levels for group gameplay. We are also providing rogues with a new low-level ability, Recuperate, to convert combo points into a small heal-over-time (HoT).
- To complement the change to combo points, non-damage abilities such as Recuperate and Slice and Dice will no longer have target requirements and can be used with any of the rogue's existing combo points, including combo points remaining on recently killed targets. This will not affect damage abilities, which will still require combo points to be present on the specific target you want to damage. To coincide with this, the UI will be updated so that rogues know how many combo points they have active.
- Ambush will now work with all weapons, but will have a reduced coefficient when not using a dagger. When opening from Stealth, all rogues will be able to choose from burst damage, DoT abilities, or a stun.
- As we've done recently with some of the Subtlety abilities, we want to make sure more rogue abilities aren't overly penalized by weapon choice. With a few exceptions (like Backstab), you should be able to use a dagger, axe, mace, sword, or fist weapon without being penalized for most attacks.
- Deadly Throw and Fan of Knives will now use the weapon in the ranged slot. In addition, we hope to allow rogues to apply poisons to their throwing weapons.
- We are very happy with Tricks of the Trade as a general mechanic and as a way to give rogues more group utility, but we don't want it to account for as much threat transfer as it does now.
In Cataclysm, the overall feel of each of the rogue's talent trees will change, as we would like each tree to have a clearly defined niche and purpose. The talent details below are meant to give you an idea of what we're going for.
Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses
- Assassination will be more about daggers, poisons, and burst damage.
- Combat will be all about swords, maces, fist weapons, axes, and being engaged toe-to-toe with your enemies. A Combat rogue will be able to survive longer without needing to rely on Stealth and evasion mechanics.
- The Subtlety tree will primarily be based around utilizing Stealth, openers, finishers, and survivability. It'll be about daggers, too, but less so than Assassination.
- In general, Subtlety rogues needs to do more damage than they do today, and the other trees need to have more tools.
- Weapon-specialization talents (for all classes, not just rogues) are going away. We do not want you to have to respec when you get a different weapon. Interesting talents, such as Hack and Slash, will work with all weapons. Boring talents, such as Mace Specialization and Close Quarters Combat, will be going away.
- The Assassination and Combat talent trees currently have a lot of passive bonuses. We plan to dial back the amount of Critical Strike Rating provided by these trees so that rogues still want it on their gear.
Melee critical damage
Harder-hitting combo-point generators
The initial tier of rogue Mastery bonuses will be very similar between the trees. However, the deeper that a player goes into any tree, the more specialized and beneficial the Masteries will be to the play style for that spec. Assassination will have better poisons than the other two specs. Combat will have very steady and consistent overall damage. Subtlety will have strong finishers.
To clarify on Combat Readiness: when activated being hit will build up the Combat Insight buff. If not struck within 6 seconds of the last hit it will fall off and the Combat Readiness state will end. If the rogue continues to be hit however Combat Insight will continue to reapply, and it can be applied up to a maximum of 30 seconds total.
Numbers aren't quite hammered out yet but it restores based on max health and the more combo points used the longer it lasts. While it's introduced as a low level ability it obviously scales with gear and base health upgrades (being based on max health and all) and be useful for more than just leveling.
Some of you are focused too much on the word "cooldown." Consider for a moment what the abilities actually do. The current traditional PvP encounter with a rogue is to jump out at someone from stealth, then try to burn them down while applying a chain of stuns. One of two things happen (i.e. it's a pretty binary outcome): you kill the target in time, or you run out ouf stuns and the target kills you. Now I know that situation is kind of stereotypical perhaps to the point of contrivance, but you should get the basic idea.
We want to make that outcome less binary. With abilities like Combat Readiness you should be able to go toe to toe with a plate wearer for a short period of time. With Smoke Bomb, you should be able to escape spells for a short period of time, or at least get the caster to move closer to you. Does this mean you're now a plate-wearer instead of a rogue? Of course not. But it means you aren't so dependent on killing things while they're locked down. It means you get to think on your feet a little rather than apply a pre-determined sequence of attacks that either succeeds or fails.
In addition, with the boosts to leather armor and Stamina though, you will be a little tougher to kill even without any cooldowns.
We've said something similar in some of the other previews, but let me address real quick why we didn't add new damage-dealing openers, cp generators or finishers. It's because you have plenty of openers, cp generators and finishers.
We don't want to add new abilities for the sake of adding them, and in fact we've spent a lot of the last two expansions trying to make sure your full arsenal of attacks had a purpose. We don't want to consider the hypothetical level 120 rogue and imagine that you have four versions of Ambush and a whole action bar of Sinister Strike with various subtle shades of distinction.
We do like to add new abilities, because that's an exciting part of a new expansion. But we like to find roles for them. Some are going to necessarily be more situational, but that's why we offer them as core abilities rather than talents that have a heftier cost.
One more point: Fan of Knives was not nerfed. I'm not sure where that concept is coming from unless you are interpreting that from changing the weapon it's based on to the ranged weapon. We didn't talk much about numbers, so unless you see "We want this abilitiy to do less damage," then you're just jumping to conclusions. It's safer to assume that every number in the game is changing, but the relative roles of abilities and talents are staying the same unless we specify otherwise (not that we're listing every single talent tree change in these previews - far from it.)
We just want the ranged weapon to be more than a stat stick for rogues. Adding poisons to FoK is actually a pretty hefty buff. Yes, this means that bows and guns aren't of much interest to rogues (after leveling). But in this case we want Fan of KNIVES to be taken literally.
Now, having said all that, we suspect you will AE less often in Cataclysm. You'll CC more and you'll burn targets down one at a time more often. But that just means all classes will do less damage with AEs. That's not a rogue nerf.
On Vanish, the answer is we just don't know yet. This ability was designed to let rogues get back into stealth in order to perform openers again or drop aggro. It was never intended as a spell dodger and because of technical realities between the way the server and client communicate, we're just not comfortable at this point to promise that Vanish can be the Vanish of your dreams. Now perhaps one option is we go the opposite route and say that Vanish will never get you out of taking damage and we give you another ability that will work to do that. It's just too early in development to know for sure. I for one will be very disappointed if we're still having this conversation a year from now.
On PvP mobility in general, we're aware of the concerns you have. A trainable Shadowstep isn't something that's in the cards, but we're looking at other ways for rogues to feel like they can deal with opponents who are trying to keep them in range.
On the cooldown issue, another way to consider the problem is how reliant PvP rogues are on Preparation. That's the problem we're really trying to address: you feel invincible when those abilities are available and impotent without them. A rogue with Sprint and Vanish (maybe) feels impossible to lock down, but a rogue with neither feels immobile. We'd rather see a world in which rogues have a deeper bag of tricks, but are not as reliant on any single one of those tricks as they are today. As with all things beta, the cooldowns on the new (and old) abilities are subject to adjustment based on testing and feedback.