The Horsemen finished up T15 last week [plug] pretty impressive for a 9 hour per week guild[/plug] so I figured I’d do a post to recap T15 for rogues and look ahead to where rogues sit for T16. This post will be mostly from the view of a 25 man progression raider, I don’t know the 10 man raiding metagame well enough to comment on it intelligently. Obviously the various balance concerns in this post are mostly relevant only to high end guilds, if your raid leader wants to sit rogues (or really sit anyone) on the basis of class balance rather than player skill in a normal or even low end heroic guild you have bigger problems than rogue balance, for one your raid leader may be a bit dim. Anyway, disclaimers out of the way so now actual content.
Since I wasn’t blogging during T14 a couple of thoughts on rogues during T14 to put these thoughts in context. T14 wasn’t a bad tier for rogues but it did continue a worrying trend, the continued emphasis on raid cooldowns as a centerpiece of raid survivability. Heroic Empress Shek’zeer was the best example of this trend but really you could pick just about any fight from T14 and a liberal application of dps provided raid CDs like Rallying Cry, Devotion Aura and Demoralizing Banner was borderline essential on some fights. Combine this with the offensive raid cds from warrior and shamans and I started to joke “All DPS are equal but some DPS are more equal than others.”
With this trend in mind Blizzard finally consented and gave rogues the Smoke Bomb damage reduction many had been asking for for so long. I’d long been opposed to making smoke bomb into a raid CD but after seeing fight design during T14 I thought it was a basically necessary change. In the long run I’d prefer Blizzard disarms the raid CD arms race and makes raid CDs exclusive to healers and possibly tanks but that is a rant for another time.
Between smoke bomb, probably overpowered damage and the already potent survivability toolkit (enhanced by 1 minute cloak) this was a very good tier for rogues. However without the smoke bomb change I’m less sure, T15 took the raid CD dependance of T14 and dialed it up substantially, fights like Magaera, Iron Qon and Ra-Den were basically about rotating raid cds and without smoke bomb I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of rogues used by many guilds dropped. This isn’t really rogue related but if Blizzard is going to continue the emphasis on raid cds, which the buff to healing raids cds suggests they will, then WW monks, feral druids, mages and hunters could all probably use a raid cd.
The other big change going into T15 was the Blade Flurry change, unlike many I feel the Blade Flurry change was in the long run a net positive but the overall weakness of combat this tier masked that somewhat. The new Blade Flurry makes it into a legitimate AoE ability for combat while making it less overpowered for the perfect two target cleave scenario.
The one place T15 was not good for rogues was in spec balance, the strength of rogues in T15 was heavily based on assassination being overpowered compared to most other dps specs. Rogues certainly do have dps weaknesses but assassination single target was still probably overtuned on single target. Combat was, to my surprise, less powerful then I’d suspected mostly on the fragility of AR+SB with 4pc T15 which I hadn’t considered and sub continued to languish to no one’s surprise.
Combat also offers us an instructive example of why a super powerful set bonus is a bad idea. Having a spec be fundamentally reliant on specific gear to be viable doesn’t work well in the long run, either the spec is overpowered with the item (See Demonology Warlocks with Unerring Vision of Lei Shen) or weak without it and just balanced with it (See also Feral Druids and WW Monks with Rune of Re-Origination). Neither of these situations are good design, having items be worth different amounts for players of different specs is good but having a single item or set bonus be worth 10+% dps is taking that a bit too far.
Looking forward to T16 rogues will likely be in a similarly strong position. The fact that assassination was not nerfed this tier when its single target was noticeably ahead of the pack indicates that either this scenario is at least acceptable and possibly even by design. The one place where rogues do need further work is with spec balance, as it stands now unless you are a diehard combat or sub fanatic there is no reason to play anything other than assassination for progression raiding.
Combat T15 will almost certainly be nerfed because that has been Blizzards standard approach to a spec that won’t give up their set bonus and combat will hopefully receive some substantial compensation. That however may not be enough to solve the fundamental problem with combat (and to an even greater extend sub) compared to assassination is the lack of a strong dps niche. Assassination’s execute niche is very broadly applicable being very relevant on about half of all fights this tier. Combat’s cleave and sub’s burst by contrast are sometimes nice but rarely a huge deal. Combat and sub likely need an additional niche or two to be properly balanced against assassination in the long run even with comparable dps.
Sub needs more than just some buffs to be competitive. Positional requirements are a massive anchor on the spec that will limit its usefulness even if it does comparable damage. Realistically for sub to be viable for high end progression raiding it absolutely needs to do flat out more damage if it is going to be burdened by positional requirements but that too creates its own unique balance problems. In the long run positional requirements need to go, they add very little to game and just create balance problems. Also as you may have guessed from my comments about set bonuses above T16 4pc is not the right way to fix things.
Basically going into T16 rogues are in a strong spot assuming you can stand another tier of all assassination, all day. This isn’t to say rogues don’t have any problems, tricks is still a ridiculous ability, spec balance is a problem as is spec distinctiveness but from a raw PvE perspective rogues should be just fine.