Starym

Rogue Class Fantasy Insight and the Road Ahead

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We have quite the huge post on the future of the Rogue class and the class fantasy associated with it, covering all three speccs. Apparently 7.2.5 will be focusing more on class changes and we get to hear the big picture plans, as well as some details for Assassination, Outlaw and Subtlety. Here's a quick TLDR, but you should really read the whole thing if you play Rogue or plan to:

Assassination: Bleed and Poison themes strengthened, Agonizing Posion rework, Exsanguinate damage buffed, gets small energy cost.

Outlaw: Roll the Bones rebalance - evening out the power levels of individual buffs, big changes to re-rolls (possible complete removal of any incentive to do so), smoothing out energy generation by tweaking Adrenaline Rush and Combat Potency.

Subtlety: Less up-time for Shadow Dance but improved damage, AoE rotation tweaked by not making you use Nighblade during it, Shadowstrike changes. 

Blizzard LogoSeph (source)

Legion came with a tremendous amount of class changes, and Rogues were a big part of this. We've been making adjustments/improvements to many specs since Legion has launched, and that will continue, especially for Rogues in the near future. Let's talk Rogue fantasy and mechanics a bit.

Assassination

Assassination has always had the Poison theme, but we think Bleeds pair well with Poisons here, both fantasy-wise and mechanically. The idea that you can apply a slew of Poison and Bleed damage over times to the target, dooming your enemy to certain death is one of our core fantasies for Assassination. At this point Assassination is clearly less of a "get in, kill, and get out" spec - that distinction is now more on Subtlety.

Agree that the balance of Bleeds vs. Poisons might be a little heavy on the Bleeds side currently on the baseline spec. That wasn't really super intentional. Assassination got Mutilate, Envenom, Rupture, and Garrote (probably the most obvious choices for a baseline rotation) after we divided up many of the Rogue skills between specs in 7.0. So the spec essentially already started a little Bleed-heavy. Add on top of that Blood of the Assassinated (which is fairly strong and everyone has) and Exsanguinate (which was overtuned at launch), both of which prop up bleeds more.

We like that the Assassination talent tree has two thematic paths - Poison (Master Poisoner + Agonizing Poison) and Bleed (Hemorrhage + Exsanguinate). But we lean on our talent trees to do so much more than just let you choose between 2 thematic paths for your spec fantasy - they have to offer simple passives vs. added complexity via new buttons, single target vs. AOE mechanics, playstyle/pacing customization, and more. And of course, all of this is extremely sensitive to the tuning and design of talents, set bonuses, legendaries, and artifact traits. Any one of these variables could be newly introduced or overtuned/undertuned and easily push Assassination down either the Poison or Bleeds talent path, essentially against your will if you like one theme over the other but want to maximize damage. For example, at Legion launch, Hemo + Exsan was the standard build, and now it's switched over to Master Poisoner + Agonizing. Tier 19 pushes Poison damage a bit via Envenom, but Tier 20 might push Bleed damage a bit via Garrote (note: T20 designs are still in flux, many are likely to change). We want to make both paths viable, but should be realistic and recognize that many variables can and will affect this, and that the balance will fluctuate over time.

On a couple talents:

  • Agonizing PoisonAgonizing Poison: We don't really like Agonizing Poison for many reasons. It replaces Deadly Poison (which feels core to Assassination Rogue) with an extremely passive, mostly invisible, and currently very strong Poison debuff that makes target-swapping and AOE more difficult. It's got a lot of things going wrong with it and is on the chopping block for the next patch. Ideas for replacements include a short-cooldown AOE Poison damage button that costs high energy or something that deals Poison damage in a rotationally-interesting way.
  • ExsanguinateExsanguinate: This is a good talent. It has a clear theme with interesting mechanical and rotational implications. We'll look at tuning based on what happens with Agonizing Poison, but plans are to buff its damage and add a small energy cost, not because of tuning but because on-GCD buttons that don't cost Energy sometimes lead to Energy-capping, which doesn't feel good.

Overall we think the single-target Assassination rotation is in a good place. There are nuances to applying and maintaining your bleeds with maximizing Envenom uptime being an underlying core part of the rotation, as it has been for a long time.

Outlaw

The pirate theme is clear, and clearly contentious. I think it would be accurate to say there are many players who like the fantasy of the spec and many who don't. As a class with 3 specs of the same role, this is probably an okay place to be in.

We have a couple major mechanical goals for Outlaw in the next patch:

  • Rebalance Roll the BonesRoll the Bones: This is a two-parter.

    The first part is tuning each of the single-buffs against each other, narrowing the gap in power level between any two single-buffs. You should see this when the next patch hits PTR.

    The second part is more complex - we're considering removing the incentive to reroll almost entirely and re-acclimating everyone to getting 1 buff from RTB most of the time and not rerolling. The main problem involves ensuring the average expected value of casting Roll the Bones is close enough to 1.0 buffs that it's not better to reroll. With either the current 6-dice or an alternate 5-dice natural system, the probabilities are such that it's too lucrative to reroll when you get a single-buff right now.

    The current proposal is to reduce the number of dice being rolled from 6 to 5 and to hand-set probabilities to something like 79% chance for 1-buff, 20% chance for 2-buffs, and 1% chance for 5-buffs (yahtzee), bringing the expected value of a roll down to 1.24 buffs (plus additional value for synergies between buffs). The downside to this is that if you take a deep look at the probability distribution, in order for this to work, you realize that the dice would have to be loaded against the player. This isn't something we'd prefer to do (adjust randomness against the player's favor), but it might be something we have to do with the current Roll the Bones dice system in order to remove the incentive to reroll.

    Overall we want to reduce how much the spec is defined by Roll the Bones. RTB can be most of the time a single buff that might change your pacing or rotation slightly with relatively rare bonuses of 2-buffs or 5-buffs, but that the spec should completely work both mechanically and damage-wise without RTB, if you want to take Slice and Dice as a replacement.
     
  • Smooth out Energy Generation: Outlaw suffers a bit rotationally from unpredictable Energy generation and Energy-flooding during Adrenaline Rush. The changes we're doing here are pretty simple and direct but should help to alleviate this issue - Adrenaline Rush reduced Energy regen increase but increased duration and Combat Potency procs twice as often for half the Energy each proc.


Subtlety

Subtlety in the long-term it has some room for improvements. For the next patch the first things we're looking at are:

  • Shadow DanceShadow Dance: Shadow Dances happen a lot more than they used to and in PvE, that's been mostly a welcome change. The rotation is more dynamic than it used to be in previous expansions, with you going in and out of Shadow Dance more often. However, set bonuses, artifact traits, and legendaries frequently grant resources (to any spec) as their bonus (because it's mechanically interesting), and in the case of Subtlety, increased Energy/Combo Points has pushed Shadow Dance uptime to be higher than we think is good for the spec.

    Additionally, from both PvE and PvP Subtlety Rogues, we've heard that the spec's feeling of burstiness has been severely reduced, partially as a result of Shadow Dances happening more frequently. We'd like to address this in the next patch with a couple changes. First, Deepening Shadows will be reduced from 3 to 1-1.5 sec of cooldown reduction per Combo Ppoint baseline. Shadow Dance baseline charges reduced from 3 to 2. New talents on the same row that compete against each other will either 1) increase Deepening Shadows back up to the current 3 sec or 2) grant you increased damage during Shadow Dance. This lets you customize your Shadow Dance to happen more often, or be most bursty when it does happen. As usual, we'll retune the damage of the spec alongside these changes, but the first focus should be on changes to pacing and mechanics.
     
  • NightbladeNightblade: On single-target, Nightblade works okay mechanically as a damage button that you press occasionally, but it doesn't really play as we'd like in AOE situations. The AOE rotation of Shuriken Storm->Nightblade everything isn't what we feel Subtlety should be about, on top of being basically identical to the Assassination AOE rotation. A direction we'd like to go is - Subtlety deals increased damage in AOE by dealing massively increased damage to a single target. In this vein, we're considering a new baseline passive that does something like "Each enemy hit by Shuriken Storm increases the damage of your next Eviscerate by ~25%, up to a max of ~5 stacks", which would push Nightblade completely out of the AOE rotation on 4+ targets.

    Separately but related, we don't think Nightblade is a perfect fit for the Subtlety fantasy. On top of being a core rotational damage over time ability on a "get in and get out/bursty" Rogue spec, it's also the passive snare on the spec, which we think could be delivered more simply by re-adding Crippling Poison back to the spec at some point in the future. Tying Subtlety Rogue's snare to a shadow-themed DoT was clearly an attempt at further separating Subtlety vs. Assassination as Shadow vs. Poison, but in hindsight might have been overkill, and it probably wouldn't hurt Subtlety's fantasy that much to have utility poisons back, if we don't find a better fantasy+mechanical alternative for the spec. Don't have concrete long-term plans on this specific subtopic, but it's on our minds.

    As an aside on the topic of adding back spells - after doing a lot of class fantasy-focusing and spell pruning in Legion 7.0 (which had many successes as well as failures), we've been adding back some spells to specs (though we do have some strict requirements here) which in hindsight didn't need to be removed. Good examples for Rogue are Blind (which we removed from Assassination) and Shroud of Concealment (which we removed from all Rogue specs), both of which we have since added back. The removal of Blind from Assassination made the spec a little too one-dimensional on the crowd-control front and the removal of Shroud of Concealment cost the class a interesting button that provided rare moments of coolness, without any rotational complexity or huge downsides aside from being an additional button.
     
  • ShadowstrikeShadowstrike: In the PvE rotation, Shadowstrike coming with a 15 yd teleport is mostly unnecessary, and also sometimes causes usability issues as an uncontrolled teleport on your core rotation. You might be in melee range, and suddenly the boss moves and rotates a bit, and suddenly you Shadowstrike teleport into a spot you don't want to be in.

    What we want to do here is add Ambush back to the spec as the replacement in the core rotation for Shadowstrike, and move Shadowstrike to a 30 second cooldown and back up to 25 yd range. Shadowstrike would become the second gap closer for Subtlety, different from Shadowstep in that it's essentially Shadowstep + Ambush in one button. On the table are alternatives like removing Shadowstrike entirely and giving Shadowstep reduced cooldown or 2 charges, but we currently feel Shadowstrike is cool enough of a button and high enough on the usability meter that it deserves a spot on the spec. We'd probably keep the damage, cost, and stealth requirement of Ambush and Shadowstrike identical in all cases to make Shadowstrike's only benefit over Ambush being the teleport.


When it comes to class/spec fantasy - players (including us) have many differing ideas. Even in this thread there are completely different thoughts and interpretations on what Rogue fantasy should be for each of the 3 specs. It's really hard to completely satisfy everyone. Our ongoing goal is to deliver distinct spec fantasies and playstyles that appeal to enough players and are fun enough to deserve a spot as one of the class's specs.

But, the above hugeness wasn't enough, and there are a couple of followup posts on the topic as well, starting with Roll the Bones:

Blizzard LogoSigma (source)

To be clear, the (tentative) proposal is to reduce the number of dice, not the number of possible buffs (the dice remain d6's).

Players finding certain cases where rerolling has some use is not the end of the world. But the goal is similar to what we expressed way back in beta--rerolling, and especially very frequent rerolling, aren't a major part of standard gameplay. That's still the goal, and it wasn't borne out on live so far, and the feedback has been very consistent with the notion that we should still try to get there.

Some variance in Roll the Bones buff values is inevitable, not necessarily a problem. It doesn't even lead to rerolling, if the difference isn't large enough to be worth giving up high-damage Run Throughs. But as Seph said, in our estimation the bigger issue isn't the variance between buffs, but the variance in the number of buffs and the fact that a single buff is so far below the average
outcome.

 

Blizzard LogoSigma (source)

There's probably some miscommunication here. S&D is a level 100 talent and should of course have positive DPS value. Therefore it should be stronger, on its own, than RTB. That was always the intention, although it may not have turned out consistently true so far. S&D will, however, likely be less strong than RTB plus Marked for Death (for example).
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Exciting stuff. I kinda want Blizzard to talk about the class fantasy for the rest of the classes too, even if they're not bad right now.

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working on roll dem bones good. how bout instead though of squeezing onto "class fantasy" for dear life they just give us bandit's guile back instead. 

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I understand that AP can be a bit "boring" in that's it's essentially a passive damage boost, but taking that away and replacing it with AOE without adequately substituting the ST damage loss seems like the wrong move. As it appears right now based on the communication, it  just looks like they are going to completely nerf the single target abilities of sin rogue, which would really hurt their raid utilization. 

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3 hours ago, Kryptknight said:

I understand that AP can be a bit "boring" in that's it's essentially a passive damage boost, but taking that away and replacing it with AOE without adequately substituting the ST damage loss seems like the wrong move. As it appears right now based on the communication, it  just looks like they are going to completely nerf the single target abilities of sin rogue, which would really hurt their raid utilization. 

just a note on that too passive doesn't necessarily mean boring. In wod combat got Swift poison which turned the poison from a dot to an applied with each attack chance. With combat being about faster attacks it was a beautiful fit and was really fun to use. It may have changed the poison function but you are still using the poison. Just like agonizing poison. Its changing the poison function but its still very effective and a huge damage increase, I don't see how its any less fun or boring.

How is passively applying a buff any more exciting than passively applying a dot? Literally the only thing agonizing is doing is making you not take Exsanguinate. Which I don't see how that's any more exciting, its one extra button every 45 seconds that takes more thought and prep to use. 

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1 hour ago, demonardvark said:

just a note on that too passive doesn't necessarily mean boring. In wod combat got Swift poison which turned the poison from a dot to an applied with each attack chance. With combat being about faster attacks it was a beautiful fit and was really fun to use. It may have changed the poison function but you are still using the poison. Just like agonizing poison. Its changing the poison function but its still very effective and a huge damage increase, I don't see how its any less fun or boring.

How is passively applying a buff any more exciting than passively applying a dot? Literally the only thing agonizing is doing is making you not take Exsanguinate. Which I don't see how that's any more exciting, its one extra button every 45 seconds that takes more thought and prep to use. 

Based on the discussions I've had with people about this talent this morning it's viewed as "boring and passive" by many, which is why I assume Blizzard is considering a change, though I don't at all agree with that interpretation that's it's boring at all and I'm a big fan of the talent. My comment was more of a parroting of an interpretation by the community and Blue's post to try to make sense of Blizzard's upcoming change to the talent.

I feel much in the same way that you do that AP or Deadly applications are the same, the effect of the poison just occurs in a different manner. I'm completely fine with the way they are used now. Deadly is great for trash mobs in dungeons and for PVP, AP is the king of ST PVE. I think it would be great to have even more poison options, but I don't think we need to get rid of AP to accomplish that. Unfortunately based on the way the talent is discussed by Blue, it seems Blizz is jumping on the "boring" bandwagon. Appears to be an unfortunate case of perception overruling reality. 

I'm curious to see the details of potential replacements for the talent, but given the current scaling/balance in ST with AP, I'm pessimistic that this is going to be a positive change. Seems odd that Blizzard is simultaneously praising the spec as being in a "good spot" while suggesting a major talent change that could significantly impact the spec balance in the next patch. Given this change as well as the Tier 20 bonuses, it seems like a bleed build may be the better single target option, but we'll see how it shakes out. 

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Yeah so I'm very worried about this post as well as an Assassination Rogue.  Let us start at the when Legion launched I was outlaw until the nerfs came at the end of September.  I have been Assassination ever since minus a few encounters in Nighthold (Scorp, Spellblade, Bot).  When Blizz changed the poison application time I was very happy with how the spec was playing because I could easily swap from Deadly to Agonizing depending on the situation in M+ or Raids.  Anyways I've spent months now gearing up my Rogue specifically to use Agonizing to the fullest extent which is a much different focus on secondaries then an Exanguinate build.  So I don't think Blizz needs to worry about Assassination as much as Outlaw at the moment.   And honestly the quality of life buff we just got where we can get poison bomb procs off of rupture now is amazing.  Please Blizzard don't mess with Agonizing.  I like where Assassination rogue are at and I think a lot more rogues like it too.  It may not have great target swapping damage but that's a trade off that rogues take for going that build and they know the consequences when they choose it.  If a rogue wants to be a good target swap dps or have high burst they go one of the other two specs or choose Exanguinate.  So don't punish the rogues who purposely chose Agonizing.     

Please other Rogues speak up or we are going to regret it.

Edited by Tosen

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      Zone Chapters
      In addition to zone scaling, all zones now have chapters and completing a fixed number of quests is no longer required for Loremaster achievements.