Wishlisting for Warlords: Tricks of the Trade

A couple weeks ago Haileaus made a nice post over at his new rogue blog about why Tricks of the Trade is a failed ability. Tricks has been a pet issue of mine for a while now so I want to emphasize Hail’s points in a few places. If you want to read my full anti-tricks argument it is still on the forums.

Tricks is a flat out boring ability, pretty much every raiding rogue has a set of macros for frequent tricks targets (other rogues, tanks, high dps) and then a focus macro for uncommon targets. Every 30 seconds you hit that button, there is no interaction there, it is hit this button on cooldown to not lose damage. With threat what it is using tricks on the tank, even on the pull, is a waste so target selection, using it on a target with a good threat drop, isn’t relevant anymore.

Beyond that tricks suffers from a damage and utility dual use. Blizzard correctly recognized long ago that having an ability that did damage and had important utility was asking for trouble because players will always feel penalized if they have to use that ability for utility and since then Blizzard has been attempting to remove dual use damage and utility abilities. Tricks is in theory an awesome ability for when things go badly but since I’m using it on cooldown for dps it is almost certainly not up.

To finish this discussion of why the tricks damage buff should go look at this post by the great rogue theorycrafter Aldriana from more than two years ago during cataclysm which discusses again why tricks and more broadly tricks based set bonuses should be reevaluated.

Now that I have hopefully convinced you that the Tricks of the Trade damage buff should be removed the question becomes, now what? A few ideas.

1) Remove Tricks of the Trade. Threat is basically irrelevant in WoW today, with 500% threat modifiers and big AoE damage abilities like keg smash its generally safe to assume that if an add is in range of the tank, the tank has threat on it. Unlike hunter misdirects which can occasionally be useful rogues as a melee class generally can’t help pick up new adds that the tanks can’t reach themselves. Tricks is useful in random heroics with tanks you outgear by 50+ ilevels but that seems like a very specific use case to keep an ability around. If Blizzard is looking to clean up ability bloat tricks would be a good place to start.

2) Make Tricks an offensive raid cooldown. I don’t like this idea because I feel offensive raid cooldowns undermine class balance at a very fundamental level. Most class or spec specific raid utility is at least in some form situational, death grip for instance while very powerful on many encounters is sometimes not useful. Offensive raid cooldowns do not have a fight where they are unneeded, more dps helps on all fights. To preempt some criticism I freely admit that defensive raid cooldowns while often limited in some ways are similarly too widely usable.

The common response to this is, Blizzard already has a perfectly serviceable solution to the problem, sated style debuffs. My favorite variant of sated style debuff was put forth by Shadowboy on twitter. Change all offensive raid cds (Skull Banner, Stormlash Totem, now Tricks of the Trade) to provide the same with buff and normalize the cooldowns. These raid cooldowns share a shorter sated style buff to give this offensive raid cooldown a different character than Bloodlust et al. Whether Blizzard makes tricks an offensive raid cooldown or not I’d like to see them go to this design for skull banner and stormlash totem.

3) Make Tricks an external personal cooldown. One of the more interesting ability trends we’ve seen in MoP is the addition of external personal cooldowns, these have always existed in tank external cooldowns such as pain suppression but MoP has brought a number of more varied personal external cooldowns, monk’s Tiger Lust, priest’s feathers and in a slightly different vein symbiosis. This design has a number of useful features, it loosens comp restrictions by allowing more people to fill a given role and it creates some interesting comp choices by allowing one player to cover for another’s weaknesses. For these reasons personal external cooldowns are something I hope Blizzard does more with in WoD, possibly as a replacement for the defensive raid cooldowns Blizzard has been handing out like candy for the past two expansions.

Tricks of the Trade could make a very interesting personal external raid cooldown. One potential idea that I posted on twitter last week:
Tricks of the Trade
2 Minute Cooldown
When Tricks of the Trade is cast on a friendly target the next time the rogue uses Feint, Cloak of Shadows or Sprint the friendly target receives a weakened version of that ability instead of the rogue.
Feint- Reduces AoE damage by 30% for 5 seconds
Cloak of Shadows- Reduces magic damage by 40% for 6 seconds
Sprint- Increases movement speed by 70% for 4 seconds

The basic idea is the rogue can trade some personal utility for increasing the utility of a raid member. A number of people on twitter suggested this idea might be overpowered, looking at these three abilities I don’t think any of them are that overpowered, cloak of shadows and feint are very specific damage reductions that will probably be situationally powerful but probably not generally overpowered at least compared to other raid cooldowns with 30% general damage reduction. If they are overpowered the cooldown of tricks could be increased of the damage reduction of the abilities could be decreased, the numbers here are ballpark attempts but the general mechanic is the real idea I want to get across.

Another complaint I saw on twitter was people don’t like having to trade personal utility for raid utility both from a thematic and gameplay perspective. I don’t understand this complaint from either perspective, thematically tag team or synergistic ability usage is a hallmark of many genre fiction. Beyond that while the idea of a rogue as a thief or assassin who doesn’t play well with others is one part of the rogue archetype it is by no means the only rogue archetype. From a gameplay perspective raiding already involves trading personal utility for raid utility, if you raid asks you to use cloak to soak a specific mechanic you cannot use it when you need it for a defensive cooldown. This idea of tricks simply allows more potential uses for raid utility. You are sacrificing a use of one of your abilities for someone else but that kind of coordination and team play seems like something that should be encouraged by mechanics in a team based game like raiding or pvp.

Tricks doesn’t really fit in WoW today, 500% threat multipliers and high threat abilities like keg toss have rendered threat transfers basically pointless and the simple on cooldown damage buff is hardly compelling gameplay. Tricks needs to be reevaluated to make it fit in the modern raiding game or removed in the interests of button bloat. I can’t say which option is better, it depends heavily on Blizzard’s class design goals for WoD but something needs to be done.