Rogues – Abilities, Specs and Weapons… WTF

I was looking at MMO-Champion and in one of their posts where they collect Blue Posts I saw the following text.  It ties into some of what I want to say in this post so I thought I would include it for reference.

Blue Posts from the Forums Here.

Whenever we see comments like this, we immediately assume that you have a different vision for class / spec / whatever than we do. If that is the case, you are likely to find yourself frustrated and scratching your head a lot when our changes never make the design converge on what you think it should be.

Now, we do want Subtlety to be more attractive. All of the pure dps classes have a spec that isn’t as popular as the others. Mages may be the closest because at least Frost has a viable PvP use, but there are also plenty of mages who want to be able to use Frost in end-game PvE too.

Subtlety (and Frost for that matter) are specs focused around utility. The problem is that players understandably nearly always choose damage over utility for raiding and often choose utility over damage for PvP, unless the damage is really high or the utility just doesn’t cut it for some reason.

What we are talking about doing is sharing more of the utility among other specs, or the core class, so that there aren’t “utility trees.” To do that though, we have to make the way the different specs do damage different enough so that players might choose a play-style preference over highest damage. This is particularly challenging for rogues, who have a history of giving up a preferred spec or play style for one with a sub 1% dps increase.

I think we are closest with the Arcane vs. Fire mage specs at the moment. They play a little differently, which goes beyond just the type of magic damage they do. While Fire might still do the highest damage overall, Arcane is close enough and plays different enough that even competitive players don’t feel stupid for playing that spec. There are a lot more Arcane mages out there than I think a lot of players assume.

That is harder with rogues. “I’m the sneaky one” doesn’t translate into sustained raid dps. Assassination feels like it emphasizes poisons more and Combat feels like it emphasizes weapons more, so we’re a little closer there. Subtelty needs a stronger yet damage-oriented niche.

HaT, sadly, is not a niche. HaT has scaling problems. It’s appropriate for a 5-player group, but gets too in larger groups with all of their raid buffs. We don’t want HaT to be the one talent that pushes players into Subtlety.

Now my Opinions of Rogue Gameplay

I find the rogue class in general to be somewhat schizophrenic in tree and abilities.  Before the rogue lovers lynch me on this one let me explain more fully.

The three trees are Assassination/Combat/Subtlety and at least when I want to think of archetypes for these I would select Assassin/Swashbuckler/Street Thug.  The problem with these archtypes which the lore and theme of the trees seem to suggest is that the skill and weapon implementation don’t match up.

Artemis EntreriAssassin – Poisons, Bleeds with a nasty finisher are what this spec is suppose to bring to mind.  However when I am soloing or even in groups when playing assassination I end up putting my bleeds on to get Hunger for Blood and then just go into a Eviscerate and Rupture rotation of finishers to keep up Slice and Dice.  Now I admit to not being the best rogue out there.  Hell I am lucky to be an average Rogue but , I seem to do acceptable damage for my gear, which is all I really strive for on any of my DPS classes.  The image to the right is of the miniature of Artemis Entreri from the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons.

inigo4Combat – Swashbuckler so Swords and now Axes.  So essentially the dual wielding, one handed, melee monster.  The picture I selected for this is from the movie The Princess Bride, which I am sure most reading this post will be familiar with.  Now both the Dread Pirate and Inigo both really fit into the archetype for swashbuckler.  I will get into my issues with Rogue mechanics after highlighting the theme of each tree.

Batman LogoSubtlety – This tree is really about getting the drop on your target.  Which is why it is one of the harder trees to get a focus on for PvE.  It is really hard to get a drop on the boss, especially when they are pretty much immune to all of your lock down abilities.  Also given all the new amounts of AoE that bosses and their minions throw around being reliant on openers is a bit of a weak spot.  Now the image icon that I immediately think of when someone say stealthy and rogue one image comes to mind.  I don’t think I need to explain the image either.

Issues with Gameplay

My first and foremost complaint about Rogue mechanics from the perspective of actually playing one, not QQing about them on the forums after getting ganked by one, deals with the their specs and abilities interact with the weapons they use or lack thereof.  To put it simply too many of their abilities are weapon specific or have multiple caveats based on weapon.

Lets look at the other melee classes.  This gives us Druids, Shaman, Paladins, Warriors and Deathknights, now I am going to ignore Druids in this exercise, sorry those coming from Restokin because Druid feral weapon mechanics make it a moot point.  The other 4 classes that use melee weapons with a very few exceptions do not have their specs and abilities drastically changing based on the weapon they have equipped.  For all intents and purposes an Axe = Sword = Mace = Dagger for one handed weapons and 2H-Sword = 2H-Mace = 2H-Axe = Pole-arm for calculating damage.  Now I know there are some weapon specializations in the Warrior Arms tree but in all of the other trees the specific type of weapon in irrelevant and only the broad category matters, 1H versus 2H.

After looking at some of the source code for Rawr, which is a very useful dps/tanking modeling program, from the equations these differences especially for the Rogue are because they use Average Weapon damage to calculate the damage value of special abilities.  This is why certain classes want a slow main hand weapon, because as damage output for such abilities increases as the time between swings increases.  This is because to maintain a consistent DPS for a tier of weapons if the swing timer goes up so must the average damage per swing.

Now when I first started looking into this I went to WoWhead and copied the names of about 30 1 handed and 2 handed weapons.  I then looked at the min damage and max damage that each weapon would do before taking anything else into consideration.  The really cool thing was that on average over all any weapon’s min and max damage when compared to the average of the 2 values is +/- 30%.  The gambit of values were between at 28.9 – 31.1 so a quick eye balling of the numbers tells you it hovers around 30%.  So what this means is that if we want all special abilities to scale equally based on the DPS of the weapon.  Then we just need to take the DPS * (.7 – 1.3) + all other modifiers.  This then removes the weapon speed component from the formula directly as it is an intrinsic part of the DPS.

If we were to base special ability damage off of DPS and not weapon damage.  Then this means that Back-stab, Mutilate and any other abilities that may have a limit placed on them because of previous weapon speed dependency can have it removed.

This was very annoying when leveling Assassination because there were so few Dagger upgrades while leveling.  Ya there are a good amount at 80 but you can get a good pair late 60s/early 70s and then one more set at 76 then nothing until you get the crafted epic or run dungeons at 80.  If you go combat then you loose several of your abilities because they are dagger restricted.  Also as a side note it is really stupid conceptually to have Dagger Main hand and  something else much larger off hand.  When ever I have been fencing with 2 weapons you almost always put the heavier weapon in your main/stronger hand.  Now you may lead with the dagger based on stance and positioning but saying you can’t backstab because your dagger is in your “off” hand is kinda dumb.   It should be as long as a dagger is equipped you can backstab.  The code just checks for first available Dagger.  If you are dual wielding daggers it goes from the main hand otherwise it uses the off hand.

Now the one thing this modification would not affect would be the benefit of a fast off hand for rogues when it comes to energy regen.  I really don’t have a problem with this, however I would say for modeling and balancing purposes that ability should go to a Procs per Minute system.  Similar to the HaT and or the Feral Druid leader of the pack restriction.

All I can say is that I hope that in the 4.0 changes Rogues get an overhaul so that each tree is focused on a couple of weapons each.  The close quarters combat daggers should be merged into the assassination tree because you almost always would go deep in Assassination then go into combat for those first 15-18 talents.  This is where with the new talent allocation screen where you see all 3 trees at once you could start putting interesting talents in the first few tiers of each tree that require talents in 2 trees.  Keep them on the edge with the associated tree.  Assume that to the left of Assassination was Subtlety and the opposite for Subtlety.

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