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New & Returning Player Guides for World of Warcraft: PvE Content

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Episode 6 of new and returning player guides covers the game's PvE content.

Bellular's back with a new video about PvE content in World of Warcraft covering world quests, dungeons, raids, Island Expeditions, Warfronts, and raids!

New and Returning Player Guides

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    • By Starym
      DesMephisto is constantly speed leveling, and so we get some timely updates with any changes regarding the flow of XP on the beta, and today we have some bad news. Warlords of Draenor has long been the king of speed leveling on the beta, since the level squish, as we recently saw in MRGMs overview as well and, unfortunately, Blizzard have taken notice.
      As DesMephisto noticed, bonus objectives in WoD, one of the biggest sources of fast XP, have been nerfed by 66%. But that's not all, as Gorgrond, which used to be significantly higher XP than other WoD zones, was also nerfed around 40%:
      This change brings the expansion more in line with others in Chromie time, although it will still probably/definitely be the fastest, but not by as much. In total, this will add about 2 hours for both speed levels and average players, getting the 1-50 total up to 7 hours for the hardcore crowd and about 10-12 for regular players.
    • By Starym
      We have a very different entry in our Shadowlands spec highlights series today, as Seliathan takes us on a trip down Assassination lane and explains the problems the spec has, and might have for a long time in the new expansion. The spec has gotten probably the least updates of all on the beta, being basically ignored, and so we take a look at what can and should be done, some history of the spec and how it works, the massive number of bugs present with it, as well as the usual changes, Covenants, legendaries, conduits and other highlights. Also, there's a surprise happy ending, so if you don't have time to read it all, definitely hop in to the last 2 chapters!
      Assassination Rogues in the Shadowlands
      For this spec highlight we will take a look at Assassination Rogue and the changes that will come for the spec going into Shadowlands.
      Wait. Let's not do that. Instead, I would rather talk about the lack of changes, the lack of attention throughout alpha and beta, the broken promises and all the things that still aren't working the way they're supposed to. Because playing Assassination on Beta right now is a very frustrating experience and while I am going to go into detail and inform about all the new things that are coming for the spec, it feels nigh impossible to do so without also looking at all missed opportunities and the things that create the frustration I feel on Beta every day. Let's Begin!

      Table of contents:
      What needs to change - A short history lesson Gameplay changes in Shadowlands (or lack thereof) New Abilities and Talents in Shadowlands - A blast from the past Broken promises Covenant Abilities Class fantasy in trouble - An identity crisis Legendary effects in Shadowlands Conduits in Shadowlands Conclusion - Can someone call the Exterminator? It just keeps going to voicemail. Conclusion 2 - Is Assassination a hopeless case for release?
       What needs to change - A short history lesson
      Before I go into the disappointing details, let me preface this opinion piece by saying that in order for Assassination to work well, there's really not a whole lot that needs to change. At it's core, Assassination has been unchanged for almost four expansions now, with only minor adjustments. Rental or temporary powers were nice additions to an otherwise simple but enjoyable core gameplay loop. We generate energy passively, we use it to generate Combo Points, we spend those to generate more energy. It's simple yet elegant, and most changes the spec has received over the last few years have been in pursuit of the same exact goal - letting us generate more resources.
      In Warlords of Draenor  Venomous Vim was changed to no longer have a 75% chance to proc on Rupture  and Garrote but instead it only procced every time Rupture ticks. (Garrote was only usable from stealth back then)
      In Legion Garrote was changed to be usable outside of stealth, creating a new maintenance ability that would allow us to generate much more energy thanks to Venomous Vim, while lowering the individual energy gained per tick (but still providing more energy than before). 
      In Battle for Azeroth all our bleed effects would now be scaling with Haste, leading to faster ticking bleeds. Haste was now a desirable stat not just because it increased our passive energy regeneration, but our bleed effects now also generated energy faster via Venomous Vim.
      These were the only major changes to the spec in each expansion, and the spec didn't need anything else. There's a clear theme to all of these changes and they all come back to generating resources, so let's compare them to the exciting new stuff we get once we venture into the Shadowlands.

       Gameplay changes in Shadowlands (or lack thereof)
      Vendetta is no longer on the global cooldown. Toxic Blade is no longer a talent. In its stead you can choose to talent Alacrity . Toxic Blade is now a baseline ability, or rather it is now a Rank 2 version of Shiv, with the other specs gaining access to the utility portion only.  Improved Poisons now also applies to non-lethal poisons, lets you apply and change poisons a bit faster and immediately procs poisons when attacking from stealth. And that's the whole list. As was mentioned previously, Assassination doesn't really need a whole lot of changes, since the core gameplay works incredibly well already. With Shiv now being a baseline ability for all specs, combining it with Toxic Blade makes sense at least thematically and frees up the talent slot. Speccing into Alacrity isn't really a choice however, since it is way better than the other two options in this talent tier. While doing so technically still aligns with the whole notion of Assassination Rogues generating more energy, doing so through a talent that you cannot live without feels wrong. Most rogues would've loved to see a change to Venom Rush which has been a useless talent for the entirety of Legion and BfA, and will remain so for Shadowlands as well. Exsanguinate will also feel very lackluster again once we lose the massive amounts of Haste we currently have, and with no bonuses to bleed damage in sight.
      Sadly, the change to Toxic Blade is yet another utility tool that is now also part of our DPS rotation, same as Vanish . Deciding whether to forego some damage to keep access to a useful utility ability is not something anyone likes to do, and Shiv increasing that number of abilities is forcing us to make more of these choices where no matter what you choose, you lose.
      Improved Poisons is a nice addition to ensure poisons are applied immediately when opening on your target. However, it is not nearly enough to give credence to the "Master of Poisons" class fantasy the spec has going for it. We are still limited to only using one lethal and one non-lethal poison each, and this passive would've been the perfect opportunity to allow Assassination rogues to use more than two. Because if we can't even do that, how are we better at poisoning than other specs? Once the poison is active it rarely drops off, and at that point all we have is a higher percentage of poison damage, which is taken into account when balancing the numbers anyway. Our utility through poisons is the same, and it's the only thing we have.  

       New Abilities and Talents in Shadowlands - A blast from the past
      Slice and Dice is making its return as a maintenance finisher, increasing your attack speed by 50%. Assassination gets a Rank 2 upgrade to this ability Slice and Dice , boosting that number to 70%. Ambush is back as a direct-damaging stealth opener. The biggest impact this re-addition has is due to a reworked Blindside talent, which now utilizes Ambush instead of a much worse ability the talent used to give. Numbing Poison returns as a non-lethal poison, which slows both attack and cast speed of enemies by 15%. Very useful in dungeons. Let's have a cynical review of this list to explain why this feels very disappointing.
      Slice and Dice is back as a maintenance finisher for all specs. While the other specs get more resources and not just raw auto-attack and poison damage out of this, Outlaw with Combat Potency  and Subtlety with Shadow Techniques (which also grants 1 CP every time it procs), Assassination doesn't actually gain anything from attacking faster besides a bit more damage. The opportunity was lost to add a meaningful Rank 2 version for this ability, and instead of introducing some way of letting it generate additional energy or Combo Points, it's just even more attack speed. It also directly leads to less Envenom uptime, an ability that actually accentuates the niche and fantasy of a poison-based spec.  Ambush was added back to Assassination. A change that barely impacts our damage at all, doesn't really mesh well with the bleed and poison style of Assassination, and puts further emphasis on burst-damage instead of sustained damage. Oh, and it's only really meaningful when using one talent. Cool. Numbing Poison is a thing now. For all specs. Again. While other specs already had a baseline slow and thus they don't necessarily need to use Crippling Poison , Assassination is now left with the choice between providing a movement speed slow or the new attackspeed/castspeed slow. So much for "Master of Poisons" eh? As you can see, none of these things are spec specific. None of these further the class fantasy of Assassination being the master of poisons and bleeds. Ambush comes at the cost of a bleed opener. Slice and Dice comes at the cost of a poison finisher. Numbing Poison comes at the cost of unique utility that no other rogue spec previously had, and instead makes Assassination worse at slowing and debilitating targets than both other specs. 
      While some of the new legendaries and conduits boost the impact of these new additions to the spec, it feels odd to be forced into certain combinations of rental powers to make a core change to the spec work. Shouldn't a core gameplay change work at its core instead of relying on temporary additions to the game?

       Broken promises
      If you've followed the development of Shadowlands, the initial teasers and the first few talking points about each spec, you are wondering where some of the things are that were promised and talked about very early on. You're not alone in this. Here's the list of changes Blizzard hyped up in their initial Class Update reveal.

      Let's have a look at these, shall we?
      Pickpocketing items that improve Crimson Vial? Doesn't exist. Shiv providing a concentrated version of Poison? Only for Crippling. Using it with numbing poison was supposed to dispel enrage effects, but that was removed months ago and has not been brought back since.  Stronger Poisons? Nope, the numbers are the same across all specs. They just proc a bit more frequently for Assassination. Return of Shiv for Assa? It's just a renamed Toxic Blade, there's nothing new about it.  Shiv upgrade reducing the cooldown for Assassination only? Doesn't exist. Quite disappointing. The "mastery of poisons" only exists for lethal poisons. Deadly Poison  is exclusive to Assassination and Wound Poison can stack up to 5 stacks for Assassination, while other specs only get up to 3 stacks. This is great and shows how Assassination has an edge over the other rogue-specs when it comes to utilizing poisons. 
      But utility poisons are virtually the same for all specs, unless you're talenting into Master Poisoner. While this may not matter much when raiding, it was crucial for Assassinations role in Mythic+ and PvP. Where Outlaw and Subtlety had access to other movement-speed slows and disrupting tools like Gouge or frequent uses of Cheap Shot , Assassination had its poisons. But now those exist for all specs, and Assassination doesn't gain anything from the other specs toolkit, except for a direct-damaging opener you get to use once every 2 minutes unless you're talenting into Blindside, and a renamed but functionally the same Shiv which forces you to decide between utility or DPS, a decision neither of the other two rogue specs have to make. 
      It is a disappointing situation, to be teased with so many cool things that might really cement Assassination as the poison (and bleed) spec and instead almost all of it either isn't in the game and likely never will be or actively detracts from the class fantasy and niche Assassination had for a very long time now, watering it down and leaving Assassination in a crisis for what it is supposed to be best at. Needing to spec into certain talents to utilize new abilities or gain an edge over other specs or classes is not something the core fantasy of the spec should require. That is why it is supposed to be a core mechanic.
      But let's move on!

       Covenant Abilities
      Kyrian Ability - Echoing Reprimand
      Deal Arcane damage to an enemy, extracting their anima to Animacharge a combo point. Damaging finishing moves that consume the same number of combo points as your Animacharge deal damage as if they consume 7 combo points. Costs 30 energy. 45-second cooldown. 
      After using Echoing Reprimand, your second, third or fourth combo point will be highlighted as the anima-charged combo point. When using a damaging finisher with this exact amount of combo points, it will scale as if it was being used with 7 combo points instead. This scales both the damage and the duration of any effects associated with the increased amount of combo points being used.
      While this looks like an interesting ability, Assassination has very volatile Combo Point generation due to Seal Fate generating extra Combo Points whenever you critically strike with your Mutilate, generating anywhere from 2 to 4 Combo Points. You might go for over half a minute without ever hitting 2 Combo Points if at least one of the hits with Mutilate crits, leaving you without much control for this covenant ability. Lining it up with Cooldowns such as Shiv or Vendetta will inevitably lead to a lot of disappointment, because you just didn't get lucky enough to score the amount of CP you needed while these effects were active.
      Necrolord Ability - Serrated Bone Spike
      Apply a bone spike in the target, dealing Bleed damage every 3 sec until they die. Deals damage and generates 1 Combo Point per active bone spike. Refunds 1 charge when target dies or is healed to full. Costs 10 Energy. 30-second recharge, 3 maximum charges.
      This ability feels very fun to use whenever there are multiple targets, due to its fracturing mechanic. You will always want to target less important targets first, and then get a huge spike of burst on your priority target on your third use. While the ability is fairly simple on single-target, it is currently (subject to change) the strongest covenant ability for Assassination Rogues. 
      Unfortunately it is also the one that interacts the least with the Assassination toolkit, and can become the only button you press on AoE until you run out of charges. Serrated Bone Spike allows for a much smoother AoE opener due to its low cost, and gives Assassination Rogues a much easier and faster ramp-up before sustaining high AoE damage.
      While it is a bleed effect, it only works with our Mastery: Potent Assassin but all other bleed-related bonuses and effects do not affect Bone Spike. 
      Night Fae Ability - Sepsis
      Infect the targets blood, dealing Nature damage over 10 sec. If the target survives its full duration, they suffer additional damage and you Vanish from sight. Cooldown reduced by 60 sec if Sepsis does not last its full duration. 90-second cooldown. 
      This covenant ability scales directly with the usefulness of Vanish as a dps cooldown. With an entire talent-line dedicated to stealth-based functionality this provides some very interesting choices with Nightstalker , Subterfuge or Master Assassin. Having Access to these bonuses more often during a fight is a nice addition and seem like a tailor-made choice for Assassination. With the current number tuning however, this still does not warrant picking this covenant. Despite the synergy, both Rupture and Garrote simply don't deal enough damage for this Covenant to become the go-to choice. 
      This ability is particularly frustrating to use in any open-world content as well as Torghast. When you're tackling content by yourself, the automated Vanish will oftentimes make you drop combat with your opponent, making them evade and healing back to full. Having a covenant that is essentially unusable during one of the main draws of the expansion is just incredibly demotivating. 
      While Sepsis is a nature-damage poison-like effect, it does not work with any poison-related passives and bonuses Assassination has access to with the exception of its damage being boosted by Shiv.
      Venthyr Ability -  Flagellation
      Lash the target with Anima 3 times, each dealing Shadow damage, condemning them for 60 sec. Each combo point you spend causes an additional lash. Once the target has been lashed 20 times, reactivating Flagellation will increase your Mastery by 15% for 60 sec..
      This is an entirely new ability that replaced the previous one, Slaughter. Slaughter was notoriously terrible for Assassination in particular, because it dealt the exact same damage as both Ambush and Deadly Poison . The only viable way to utilize this was to talent Blindside .
      The new ability scales with the amount of CP you generate and provides a hefty amount of mastery once you re-activate this ability. We don't currently have a Conduit that improves this ability in some way, but it already looks like a candidate for one of the better Covenants for Assassination. 

       Class fantasy in trouble - An identity crisis
      Assassination has always been mixing bleeds and poisons together into one spec to deliver strong sustained single-target and AoE DPS. There was a heavy divide between poison and bleed builds in Legion, best represented by choosing either Toxic Blade  or Exsanguinate as a DPS-talent, and then picking other talents and gear to further enhance this chosen identity.
      Battle for Azeroth united both aisles by applying it's Mastery: Potent Assassin to bleeds as well, introducing haste-scaling for bleeds, and providing multiple options for poison-based azerite traits while there was no significant bleed-based one besides the iconic Shrouded Suffocation . Thus all Assassination rogues were now using both bleeds and poisons, without any distinct differences between the two types. This was much less a unification than it was watering down the original ideas and fantasy of poison vs bleed, without improving on either of the two.
      A lot of our damage also did not actually come from bleeds and poisons, but from our builders or generators, with heavy emphasis on both Mutilate and Fan of Knives  for single-target and AoE respectively. While during the later stages of BfA we started utilizing Exsanguinate and a bleed-heavy build to deal high dps, we lost the sustained-dps niche in the process and instead became one of the strongest cooldown-based single-target DPS with only Fire Mages providing an even stronger 2-minute cooldown burst. 
      Shadowlands then finally promised a return to the old formula of strong sustained DPS by using bleeds and poisons. But as we already learned earlier, a lot of the promises were broken and a lot of the same mistakes are being made once more. 
      The current reality on the Beta does not reflect the initial class fantasy, and with both Outlaw and Subtlety gaining access to poisons and even bleeds, Assassination Rogues are left wondering how they are supposed to still feel unique. Some of the new abilities are poisons or bleeds, but they don't actually work or synergize with our poison and bleed toolkit. 
      While there is a new poison, it is not spec-specific. While losing a lot of uniqueness by giving poisons to all rogue specs at the same effectiveness, the opportunity was there to instead focus on Assassinations class fantasy by adding more interesting bleed-based effects and options, but sadly that has not been the case either. No new bleed abilities, passives or conduits exist, and instead we risk treading towards using our builders, not our damage over time poisons and bleeds, to deliver ever increasing amounts of our damage. Let the era of Mutilate , Ambush and Fan of Knives begin. Not very poison-y or bleed-y. 

       Legendary effects in Shadowlands
      There are quite a few legendary effects available in Shadowlands, so we have picked out some of the strongest ones for Assassination rogues **(power level subject to change).** 
      Master Assassin's Mark is back and provides a 100% increased crit-chance for 5 seconds after using Vanish. Using this makes the Night Fae ability Sepsis quite a bit more powerful, and might deliver some very strong burst opportunities by lining this up with Shiv and Vendetta . Zoldyck Insignia makes a return as well, boosting your bleed and poison damage once the target hits 35% health. Coupling this with Blindside will make for exceptional execute.  Dashing Scoundrel is a slightly reworked set bonus we used to have during Antorus, the Burning Throne. It significantly increases the amount of energy we generate, especially on AoE, and allows for a faster and smoother rotation on single-target while putting bigger emphasis on having a very high Envenom uptime.  There are plenty more legendaries with different power levels, these are just a few that currently perform strongest and offer the most opportunities to build around for Assassination. We will keep you updated on the individual strength of each legendary once we get closer to release.
       Conduits in Shadowlands
      There are many conduits coming in Shadowlands, so this is just a selection of some of them.
      Lethal Poisons increases the instant damage of lethal poisons, allowing for more damage from auto-attacking on single-target, while boosting your AoE damage whenever you cast Fan of Knives and proc your poison.   Poisoned Katar further boosts the idea of using Fan of Knives as the ability to carry your AoE damage, by providing even more chances of applying your lethal poison and also increasing its base damage. Maim, Mangle increases your Mutilate damage whenever Garrote is active, which should be the case at all times. 
       Conclusion - Can someone call the Exterminator? It just keeps going to voicemail.

      Let's finally talk about the elephant in the room. While the new additions to the spec are questionable and the identity crisis should've been addressed in BfA already, the most frustrating thing about playing Assassination on Beta right now is the plethora of bugs. They're everywhere. And Blizzard isn't talking to us at all. While the most recent build (35938) fixed a variety of bugs, this was also the first time any rogue bugs have actually gotten fixed, and some of them have been around since early Alpha. There is also still a whole lot left that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. A lot of rogues would like to play around and test certain legendaries or interactions, but getting good data and information is almost impossible when things don't work the way they're supposed to, the way they're described, or simply don't work. I'll list some of the most egregious ones in no particular order, to give everyone an idea on what we have had to deal with for almost five months now. 
      Remember the hyped up Improved Poisons ? It doesn't actually work on beta right now. Hasn't worked in 5 months. While the cast-time reduction and proc-rate does work, the 100% application chance, one of the main points in the first look at the spec, isn't there. I've already mentioned it before, but what happened to the promised Crimson Vial and Shiv upgrades? They're nowhere to be seen, and a lot of people are left wondering if or when these things will come. Speaking of Shiv , it is supposed to be an enrage dispel (at least it used to) but that part has been missing for months. Slice and Dice Rank 2? Unavailable on beta right now.  Tiny Toxic Blades is one of the new legendaries, that could potentially work with some of the Covenant abilities and create very interesting synergies. That is, if it was actually available on beta. This legendary power hasn't  functioned at all on beta since it was first datamined.  Numbing Poison isn't actually affected by Master Poisoner. Yet another hit at the Master of Poisons.  Zoldyck Insignia another legendary, doesn't currently work for poisons, only bleeds. Dashing Scoundrel crit-chance also applies to Envenom (which isn't stated at all in the tooltip). Is this intentional? We don't know. At least the other 3 bugs this legendary had were finally fixed last week. While most of these are easily fixed, it still leaves a lot to be desired. We would like to test certain interactions and a lot of that is still not possible.
      Thankfully Blizzard seems to be paying more attention to rogues now, with the most recent build fixing a variety of important bugs. Sadly, these bugs have been around and reported for months, and they've just started getting on top of them now. There is still a total of 46 open bug reports on the BugTracker, some of which were first reported back in May. 
      The total lack of communication is exemplified by our Rogue Class Feedback Post on the official forums. A single Bluepost which was made in late August, after both Outlaw and Subtlety had Placeholder talents for 5 whole months. When other classes had their talents changed or become baseline, a replacement was ready immediately. When Rogues have placeholder talents and Blizzard finally adds the new ones, they're riddled with bugs that have yet to be fixed.
      This lack of communication creates a lot of confusion and makes the entire rogue community feel ignored. Questions are being asked, answers are not being given. Bug reports are made, but fixes come months later, if at all. It didn't help that most rogue legendaries and conduits were introduced with the same patch that removed the vendors from Beta realms. We could datamine legendaries, but we could not test them until they eventually re-introduced the vendors. That was another four weeks of potential testing gone. It took another month, with the build last week, until they finally started fixing some of the bugs we encountered months ago. Shadowlands is slated to be released in a month, the pace needs to be picked up or the class will be a mess on release.
      Overall Blizzard has done a much better job throughout the Shadowlands Beta than they did during the BfA Beta cycle, responding to Feedback of most classes within days or weeks, and addressing concerns and issues with manifestos describing their design goals and explaining decisions. Some classes however have fallen behind, best seen when comparing blueposts and communication towards certain classes. This picture shows the amount of Blueposts for Druid, Shaman and Rogue (from left to right). And keep in mind, that there is exactly 0 blueposts that are in any way relevant to Assassination. During the entire alpha and beta. While missing key-features that were teased and revealed before Alpha went live. I'm sure the Monk and Windwalker community in particular can share this sentiment of frustration and feeling of being ignored. A bit more effort and communication shouldn't have been that difficult. 
      And while we're on the subject of things that really shouldn't have been that difficult, the final complaint that echoes the lack of attention for all rogue specs, not just Assassination:
      We didn't get Alpha access, at all. By "we" I mean people within the rogue community. While there certainly is a lack of prominent rogue streamers or content creators, there definitely are people who provide rogue-centric content on a regular basis, myself included. There are plenty of rogue theorycrafters and community figures that are active within the community, on the class discord, twitter, authoring guides or opinion pieces and on their own personal streams. Ravenholdt has a list of active community figures and theorycrafters. Not a single one of them received an Alpha invite initially. A single person got Alpha access a few months in. Only a handful of these people received Beta Access when Beta started. I myself did not receive Beta Access immediately. Some of the community figures are still lacking access. When the main goal is supposed to be to test and try out newly introduced abilities, changes to the spec and figuring out interesting and potentially overpowered or underpowered interactions, one would assume that inviting some or all of these people would be the best way to ensure that people with deep knowledge of the class would be able to give feedback as early as possible. Instead we couldn't do so until very late into the beta cycle, and the current state of not just Assassination but all three rogue-specs is a perfect reflection of this lack of testing that could've been done by dedicated rogue players early into Alpha, if we would've received access.

       Conclusion 2 - Is Assassination a hopeless case for release?
      No, not at all. I would even go so far as to say that Assassination as a spec will be fine. Most of the bugs that need fixing should be easily fixable. As initially stated, Assassination at its core is a spec that works well without rental power and temporary power gains. This still holds true, and it is the saving grace amidst a situation that could only be described as messy and disorganized, with little to no communication or thought put into it. But Assassination can handle that, and while it might not be the best out of all three rogue specs once Shadowlands finally releases, it will not be the worst DPS spec in the game either, and only needs a few specific changes to become the raiding powerhouse it has been for the last couple of years. 

      Other Spec Highlights:
      Vengeance Demon Hunter Balance Druid Restoration Druid Beast Mastery Hunter Marksmanship Hunter Arcane Mage Frost Mage Outlaw Rogue Elemental Shaman Enhancement Shaman Shadow Priest Affliction Warlock Protection Warrior
    • By Stan
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