Thoughts on 9/24 Rogue Changes

Since Blizzard simply changed global dps modifiers the numbers are pretty straight forward 4% for assassination, +8% for subtlety.  What this means and why it happened is another question.

The assassination nerfs make sense on their own, remember assassination came into this tier at approximately +3% because of the dispatch and mutilate buffs. Many rogues (myself included) wondered if those buffs were really needed as assassination didn’t seem to need single target dps buffs. In that context these nerfs make a ton of sense, we the playerbase were correct assassination didn’t need those nerfs and Blizzard has come around to that conclusion.

Where things make less sense is with respect to spec balance. Assassination is a very strong single target spec but so is combat with Assurance of Consequence(AoC). Combat probably does lose more dps on interrupted damage fights but the fights where assassination was clearly over the top were pure, uninterrupted single target fights, Norushan, Juggernaut, Malkorak and Siegecrafter. Combat and assassination were very well balanced this tier, combat has cleave, assassination has execute, combat has regular burst, assassination handles interruptions better. This change undermines that, nerfing assassination without nerfing combat means that combat with AoC is probably the stronger single target dps spec. Related to my earlier point since Blizzard buffed dispatch and then nerfed damage across the board assassination is now a weaker spec for non-execute fights, how much this matters is a bit unclear but its worth bringing up.

You don’t see combat tearing it up on Raidbots because there are just a lot fewer combat rogues out there. There are a few reasons for this, first a lot of people don’t have an AoC yet and until you do combat is a weak spec, second people who played assassination all T15 may not have a good combat weapon so even if they want to switch they are limited. Finally assassination remains an utterly braindead spec with an insultingly low skill cap which makes it a very appealing option. Until now assassination rogues didn’t necessarily have a good reason to go for AoC or a combat weapon because assassination was just as good, after these changes I expect most rogues to move AoC to the top of their list.

The real head scratcher in these changes is the subtlety buff. Subtlety was not hurting on raw single target damage, given the buffs to subtlety on the PTR (approximately 4%) plus today’s buffs subtlety with 4pc and AoC will likely be a very strong single target dps spec, almost certainly stronger than either assassination or combat. Subtlety is still saddled with positional requirements and weaker AoE/multitarget but if the concern is raw dps on uninterrupted single target fights then buffing subtlety by 7-8% seems completely counterproductive. To emphasize, it isn’t that the nerf to assassination is wrong per-say, I’d say its pretty well supported. The problem is nerfing assassination while leaving combat where it is and heavily buffing subtlety just shifts the problem of high single target dps it doesn’t actually fix anything.

All of this doesn’t answer the question most people are really curious about, what spec should I play on Tuesday? As always if you aren’t pushing hardcore progression it doesn’t really matter, all three specs will do competitive dps. For heroic progression my suspicion is if you don’t have a good combat weapon and AoC your best bet is assassination or subtlety. Subtlety’s AoE weakness and positional requirements will make it a weak spec on fights like Nazgrim, Galakras and Spoils so it probably isn’t a good full time spec but for tight single target dps checks it is going to be very strong. If you do have AoC combat you should probably go combat as your primary spec and it is probably worth getting a subtlety spec for big single target fights where it will likely be very strong.

5.4 Rogue PvE Changes Guide

Before 5.2 I wrote a guide to the rogue changes in that patch for players who hadn’t been following all the PTR builds and theorycrafting (like the other rogues in my guild) and it was pretty successful so here we go again. Since I am a progression raider this post will be written from that perspective but I will note things that are high level optimizations and not relevant for LFR/Flex/Normal mode raiders when possible.

This guide is split into two parts. The first part focuses on 5.4 changes and the second is set up as a FAQ that hits the high points of what you need to know going into 5.4.  As always if you have any questions leave them in the comments or ask me on twitter.

For the full 5.4 patch notes look here, rogue specific notes here. I am only going to be focusing on the big stuff that changes gearing and playstyle, numbers tuning info you can get from the official notes.

The first big set of changes was to RPPM mechanics. If you are still unclear on RPPM mechanics Hamlet’s RPPM 101 and RPPM 201 are probably the best sources you’ll find. The big change with RPPM is that certain items that already scale with haste no longer scale their proc rate with haste, in practice this means trinkets or other items that have a stat proc rather than a damage proc. If you are looking at the formula’s in the above linked posts just take the “H” term out of those formulas. However items with procs that do not scale with haste, in practice this means static damage procs, do continue to scale their proc rates with haste.

The second major change to RPPM is that on the pull the time since last proc term used for bad luck correction is set to 120 seconds upon entering combat. During 5.2 you could increase the chance of an RPPM trinket proccing on the pull by waiting for long enough since the time since last proc term would increase, this is discussed in RPPM 201 linked above.  In practice this means that RPPM trinkets will have a fixed chance to proc on the pull no matter how long you wait between pulls.  This fixed chance is generally lower than 100% so you will no longer be able to guarantee a proc on the pull.  This makes RPPM trinkets somewhat weaker on fights with a lust and burn phase on the pull.

Finally 5.2 and 5.4 RPPM trinkets had their RPPM values doubled and durations halved. This means that RPPM trinkets should proc more often for less time, the end result should be more consistent proc uptimes over the course of an encounter. ICD based trinkets also had their ICDs increased slightly so RPPM trinkets now have slightly higher average case stats to make up for their greater variance.

Blizzard cleaned up some of the underutilized glyphs, the biggest change is the baselining of the Glyph of Adrenaline Rush and replacing it with Glyph of Redirect which reduces the CD of redirect by 50 seconds. This frees up a glyph spot for combat rogues and creates a very useful glyph for all rogues.
Glyph of Crippling Poison has been replaced by Glyph of Sharpened Knives which allows FoK to apply the armor debuff, this may be useful for rogues in raids without a hunter to provide AoE armor debuff.
Glyph of Sap has been replaced by Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins which allows the hemorrhage bleed to count for sanguinary veins. This, combined with the glyph of redirect, will help subtlety’s major target swapping weaknesses.
Check the official notes for other glyph changes.

Rogue mobility talents were buffed across the board but gameplaywise I don’t expect many changes. Check the official notes for full talent changes.

There are a number of major changes to combat in 5.4, the biggest change is the increase of sinister strike energy cost to 50 energy. To compensate for reduced combo point generation Blizzard added ruthlessness which is a 20% chance per combo point to generate a combo point when using a finisher. Since combat typically uses finishers at 5 combo points this means in practice you will only need to generate 4 combo points.

The other big change for combat is the T15 4pc nerf, the energy reduction during Shadow Blades is 15% down from 40%. This is relevant to other rogues specs but it is primarily relevant to combat because of how the T15 4pc synergizes with restless blades.

Assassination and Subtlety:
Both specs received various dps buffs, check the official notes for full details.

5.4 PvE FAQ
What spec should I play?
Assassination will remain a strong single target spec. The dispatch buff is a substantial increase to assassination’s execute range dps. On patch day dps for an assassination rogue without T15 4pc will increase by 5%, for an assassination rogues with T15 4pc will increase by about 3%.

Combat will start 5.4 at an approximately 10% dps deficit from live on patch day if you have T15 4pc, about 2% without however once you get the cooldown reduction trinket (any level will do, even LFR) Assurance of Consequence (AoC) combat will make up that deficit. T16 also has a number of fights that depending on strategies could be very good for combat regardless of the relative strength of combat on single target.

Subtlety will gain about 4% dps on patch day, target swapping will be much improved because of the new hemorrhaging veins and redirect glyphs however the spec is still hamstrung by positional requirements and a general weakness on add fights. Subtlety does appear to do comparable single target damage to other rogue specs but the lack of a compelling niche hurts the spec.

One final consideration on spec choice for T16, stat and gearing priorities between combat and assassination in particular diverge heavily during T16. The exact details are discussed below but the big takeaway is that switching between combat and assassination of a fight to fight basis is going to be very hard and require substantial regemming and reforging. It will likely be better to play a single spec primarily and switch only if your guild is having a lot of trouble on a specific fight.

Recommendation (Heroic Progression):
Either combat or assassination should be fine especially once you get an AoC as combat. An important consideration is your raid comp, if you raid lacks strong cleave specs like ele shamans combat may be stronger than it is on paper since it fills a hole in your roster. In general playing either of these specs will be unlikely to make you a liability to your raid assuming you are skilled in the spec you choose to play.

Recommendation (LFR/Flex/Normal Progression):
All three rogue specs are close enough on general dps output that you should feel free to play the spec you enjoy most without being a liability to your group.

Should I change my talents?
Nope. As noted above mobility talents were buffed across the board. With the reduced cost burst of speed is a more interesting in some scenarios but it will still remain a very niche talent because of the energy cost. The buff to nightstalker still doesn’t appear to be enough to move it beyond the category of leveling talent.

Should I change my glyphs?
Probably yeah.
Combat- The big glyph change you should make will happen automatically on patch day as the Glyph of Adrenaline Rush is replaced by the Glyph or Redirect. This will make the Glyph of Redirect and Glyph of Smoke Bomb your default choices with the 3rd slot rotating based on fight specific choices.
Assassination- Smoke Bomb and Vendetta will likely remain your default glyph choices with Redirect being added to the 3rd glyph slot rotation, on some of the add heavier fights you may want to drop Vendetta for another glyph on the 3rd slot rotation.
Subtlety- Glyph of Hemorrhaging Veins and Smoke Bomb will be your default choices with Redirect added to the 3rd slot rotation.  Glyph of Vanish is a potential dps increase of around 0.2-0.3% if used with subterfuge, whether that is worth a glyph slot over a more utility oriented glyph is a matter of personal preference.

How will playstyle change?
Combat- 50 energy sinister strike and the nerf to T15 4pc will slow combat down somewhat. During Adrenaline Rush/Shadow Blades you will no longer be riding a .5 second GCD so combat will be somewhat friendlier to players with poor latency. Ruthlessness also interacts oddly with anticipation which will change bandit’s guile pooling slightly, instead of finishing at 5 cps, 4+ anticipation stacks you will want to finish at 5 cps, 3+ anticipation stacks, because if you have 5 anticipation stacks your ruthlessness combo point will just vanish. It is worth noting here that the slower combat rotation will slow bandit’s guile cycling however it will not slow finisher frequency for the purposes of restless blades as Shadowvenom shows here.  Rupture remains stronger than eviscerate so optimally it should be used however the dps increase for using remains in the 1% range and may not be worth using.

Assassination- Playstyle won’t change much, the nerf to and eventual loss of T15 4pc will make energy overflow and envenom clipping during Shadow Blades less of an issue. How to optimally stack Shadow Blades and Vendetta with T16 4pc is an open issue if T16 4pc is even optimal to use.

Subtlety- Target swapping will be much easier, instead of trying to get a low cp crimson tempest or rupture up on a new target you can simply put a relatively cheap hemorrhage on the target. T16 4pc will also change cooldown usage slightly, simply put if you have a ambush proc shortly before you were going to use Shadow Dance, Vanish or Shadow Blades you should delay that cooldown till the end of find weakness from the ambush proc.

How should I gear?
The following are very general recommendations based on general trends, gearing this tier has a lot of complicating factors so I highly recommend using ShadowCraft of SimCraft. If my recommendations below conflict with what ShadowCraft or SimCraft are telling you, trust the tools.

Combat- The big question for combat gearing in 5.4 is when to replace your T15 4pc bonus because you will be holding onto it for quite some time. As a general rule of thumb is it takes 4pc of the same quality of T16 tier to replace T15 4pc. That means if you have LFR T15 4pc it will generally take at least LFR T16 4pc to be dps neutral, similarly if you have heroic T15 4pc you will need heroic T16 4pc to replace it. This assumes you have an AoC, if you do not have an AoC, T15 4pc appears to be replaceable with 2-3 pieces of equal quality tier but make sure you save your old tier because you may need to use it again once you get an AoC.

In terms of stat priority combat will stick with stack haste to the gills and then mastery>crit. The big point to make here is that haste is becoming even more valuable for combat next patch to the point where the value of haste is as high as 2.5 EP compared to the 1.5 or so EP it is now. As mentioned previously this will make switching to combat on a fight to fight basis require a heavy regem.

Gearwise you need to get your hands on an AoC immediately if you are planning on running combat as your primary spec. AoC is an approximately 12% dps increase for combat which is I believe greater than any other agi spec. Even if you are a normal or heroic raider you should run LFR and flex for an AoC, an LFR AoC is better than any other trinket available to you other than higher ilvl versions of AoC. AoC drops from Sha of Pride, the 4th boss of SoO so it will be available in flex week 1 and LFR week 2. I would also recommend using coins to get an AoC because it is probably the largest upgrade you can get. Conversely tier gear isn’t high priority for combat because it will a long time before you can use it, if the goal is to maximize gear distribution efficiency it may be best to pass on tier tokens until they are going off spec.

Assassination- Given the nerf to T15 4pc replacing T15 4pc is really easy for assassination. In general a single piece of higher ilvl tier will be enough to break T15 4pc, for example a single piece of normal T16 gear, not necessarily tier gear will be enough to break T15 4pc. T16 2pc is also a very strong set bonus and should be a high priority. T16 4pc by contrast is very weak and may not be worth using compared to several pieces of higher ilvl. Note that ShadowCraft somewhat undervalues T16 4pc so if the difference between T16 4pc and offset gear are very close T16 4pc may be worth using.

Stat priorities for assassination next tier are a bit complex. T16 2pc increases the value of crit substantially, and the legendary meta gem and cloak procs which together make up about 12-14% of your dps (higher on multi-target fights) increase the value of haste. The stat priorities for various conditions is shown in the table below.

Legendary Meta Gem Legendary Cloak T16 2pc Stat Priority
N N N Mastery>Haste=Crit
Y N N Mastery>Haste>Crit
Y Y N Haste>Mastery>Crit
N N Y Mastery>Haste>Crit
Y N Y Mastery>Haste=Crit
Y Y Y Mastery=Haste=Crit

Again these are very general recommendations and you should check ShadowCraft to be sure.

Subtlety- Both the 2pc and 4pc bonus for subtlety are very strong and should be your top priority. As with assassination the nerf to T15 4pc makes it very easy to replace, a single T16 ilvl item from the same difficulty is typically enough to break T15 4pc.  Subtlety stat priorities depend primarily on whether or not you have AoC, without AoC it Haste>Crit>Mastery, with AoC Haste>Crit=Mastery however there are some gear sets where this may not be true.  Additionally it appears optimal to cap expertise for subtlety in T16 which is a change from previous tiers although many players may have capped it by accident.  AoC is a strong subtlety trinket, not as strong as for combat but the flex and sometimes the LFR version will be an upgrade over heroic ToT trinkets.

What Trinkets Should I Use?
For all specs the cleave trinket Sigil of Rampage is weak on single target but quite powerful on multi-target, on a constant 2-3 target cleave fight Sigil of Rampage should pull ahead. It probably shouldn’t be a priority to get because it is situational but for cleave fights it can be very valuable.

Combat: As mentioned above AoC is very powerful for combat. The difference between other trinkets is less important, Harom’s Talisman is the next strongest trinket followed by Ticking Ebon Detonator.

Assassination- Assassination gets surprisingly little out of AoC, both Harom’s Talisman and Ticking Ebon Detonator are stronger trinkets on paper. In practice AoC may be worth using at a slight (<0.3%) dps loss because of the additional utility granted by shorter Cloak of Shadows and Sprint cooldowns in addition to lining dps cooldowns up with fight mechanics. Additionally since Ticking Ebon Detonator is an RPPM trinket and is not guaranteed to proc on the pull on fights where you will use bloodlust on the pull AoC’s proc may be more valuable.

Subtlety- AoC and Harom’s Talisman appear to be the strongest trinkets for subtlety. Ticking Ebon Detonator is close to Harom’s Talisman on paper but as noted in the assassination section it may be weaker in practice than it is on paper because of the randomness and lack of proc on pull.

What is BiS?
I don’t know and I don’t care. In the age of reforging and when we have such easy to use tools like ShadowCraft at our disposal BiS lists have basically outlive their usefulness. I’m sure someone will put one together because some people stubbornly hold to them but I won’t be.

UPDATE 9/6: Updated wording based on some comments on twitter.  Also updated subtlety section based on feedback from Haileaus one of the few sub focused theorycrafters.