Wishlisting for Warlords: Somewhat Less Sinister Strike

In a discussion on twitter last week I made my standard comment about bandit’s guile, it has the potential to be an interesting mechanic but it isn’t right now. I’ve been somewhat more positive on bandit’s guile than most in the rogue community since Blizzard added it in Cataclysm because I see it as a mechanic that could be a solid foundation for the spec. To begin lets identify the two obstacles preventing bandit’s guile from being an interesting mechanic.

  1. Bandit’s Guile is uncontrollable. Blizzard has said many times that they link RNG in rotations, how a player handles RNG distinguishes a skilled player from a less skilled player, bandit’s guile takes that too far. There is nothing to handle or react to with bandit’s guile, it simply moves through its cycle as you move through your rotation and you hope things line up. Anyone who has played combat is familiar with this type of scenario, you have 1 or 2 sinister strikes left before red insight and a boss burn phase is starting in ~20 seconds. Nothing, short of not hitting abilities and letting your energy cap is going to let you have red insight for that burn phase. This isn’t an example of RNG enhancing a rotation by letting the player wrangle it but rather the player passively accepting RNG as their lot and praying it comes up better next time.
  2. Restless Blades/Adrenaline Rush+Shadow Blades smothers any potential for bandit’s guile to be interesting. Since the introduction of these mechanics is cataclysm people have noted the inherent conflict. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, conflicting mechanics can lead to interesting choices but when one mechanic is a very powerful pair of cooldowns and the other mechanic is basically uncontrollable the conflict doesn’t last very long.

In this post I am not going to address point (2), combat’s cooldowns are a complex issue and fixing bandit’s guile can be decoupled. As Ninjablaze pointed out on twitter, use cooldown during red insight is hardly an interesting interaction. Both sets of combat mechanic’s need rethinking, in this post I focus only on bandit’s guile.

Lets begin with a simple, mostly uncontroversial statement, revealing strike is a boring ability, a hit this button every 24 seconds maintenance buff that is functional if not particularly inspired (a phrase which describes most of rogue PvE design). I propose we replace revealing strike with what Rfeann jokingly christened on twitter “Somewhat Less Sinister Strike” (SLSS). The idea of SLSS is simple, it has the same energy cost as regular sinister strike, generates the same number of combo points, does more damage than sinister strike, lets say 20-30% more and it does not advance insight.

Lets consider the example in (1) above, 1 or 2 sinister strikes from deep insight, burn phase coming up in ~20 seconds. The use case for SLSS here is obvious, you can use SLSS until you are just about to go into the burn phase and then use an SS to push you into red insight at exactly the right time. While this represents a simple use case it also has all the qualities that a good rotation should. It allows a skilled player who knows the encounter timing to optimize their damage for the encounter while simultaneously leaving a relatively simple priority system for newer players. The interaction with cooldowns is also reasonably straightforward. Since SLSS has the same combo points per energy as sinister strike using It doesn’t delay cooldown cycling and again it becomes about lining up high insight phases with cooldowns. Also to emphasize what I said earlier SLSS works whether or not restless blades is changed.

One objection I saw when I proposed this in the abstract on twitter was that this wouldn’t add a lot of rotational complexity. While its certainly true that on a patchwork style fight the theorycrafting community will work out optimal rotations based on how much time to spend in each insight phase per insight cycle most rotations are reasonably simple on patchwork and the vast majority of fights are not patchwork. One of the qualities that distinguishes skilled players is doing high dps on non-patchwork fights, knowing how to use the fights timing’s to your advantages. To utilize SLSS optimally requires the player to think ahead a full insight cycle, approximately 30 to 40 seconds. That is intuitively a somewhat challenging task given how many relevant raid mechanics there may be within that cycle. Yes, on progression those timings would be learned but that happens with every hard fight, ask anyone who has recently finished heroic Garrosh progression to map out the fight and most of them could do it in their sleep.

As with the other wishlist posts this idea is rough and would need testing before anyone could know if it would be a fun change. The damage of SLSS would need to be carefully balanced so it was worth using more often than just during red insight but that is the kind of numbers tuning that Blizzard has tended to be pretty good at handling this expansion. Clearly SLSS isn’t the only change combat needs, restless blades and combat cooldowns need to be discussed but this change would help liven up the combat rotation and help bandit’s guile finally fulfill the promise it has held since its creation.

3 thoughts on “Wishlisting for Warlords: Somewhat Less Sinister Strike

  1. So would you envision this as moving towards a dual system where you have Insight building on the rogue (a la Chi) and CP building on the target, separate builders and finishers, and maybe a mighty damage CD that uses both Insight and CP? Or would you keep Insight as a passive build? Either way this could be pretty interesting and versatile. If implemented on only on Combat, it could go a long way towards differentiating the specs. A little control would make a lot of difference.

    • Nope, this idea is just so players can interact with and control BG. It does turn BG into a sort of pseudo-resource to be managed but I don’t really consider that a bad thing.

      Blizzard said the issue they had with the light and dark chi system was that it was very confusing for players and I can certainly imagine that. Additionally a large change to combat resource systems is probably more than Blizzard wants to do to fix rogues.

  2. This weekend, I finally had a chance to listen to you on Final Boss, FD — it’s really cool to put a face and voice to the name, and you represented the class well. Rock on.

    You touched on this in your post, but: I confess to growing weariness over the counterargument I all-too-often see that additions/alterations to the rogue DPS arsenal will simply have a “best use” that’s calculated by theorycrafters, adopted zombielike by the masses, incorporated into existing rotations and quickly become rote and dull.

    I’m tired of it not because I disagree, but because that’s the whole *point*. (Except maybe the last part.) As long as DPS continues to be a primary measurement of our raid value, you and our other theorycrafting minds will do your best to calculate, as accurately as possible, the best way to incorporate all of our spellbook ingredients into the tastiest possible DPS soup. In fact, figuring all that out is actually *fun* for you crazy people. New puzzles to solve are often going to be engaging for those who love to solve them. And then they’ll be solved. And we’ll have our answer.

    I don’t agree that what follows is boredom borne from repetition and mindless execution of those theorycrafting-established priorities. Your idea adds an additional dimension of awareness and planning that doesn’t currently exist for rogue raiders — a dimension that will be scarcely relevant to most players, but to progression raiders and DPS squeezers will lengthen the skill gap in a way that many yearn for. (I know you disagree, but I feel similarly about Shadow Reflection.) That feels like a pretty solid win.

    There’s a very fine line between rotational complexity (which can be annoying/frustrating) and rotational depth. And there’s another very fine line between making that depth matter to not enough people (in which case it’s pointless) vs. too many people (in which case players will flock to an easier class/spec). This is an attempt to find that line anew for rogues, and it’s appealing.

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