Annotated Warlords Alpha Patch Notes

Having now digested the massive info dump Blizzard has given us some thoughts. This is going to be very long and if you’ve already used up your reading quota for the day reading Blizzards 33 pages of patch notes I won’t blame you for not going any further.

Official blog
There are a lot of interesting things that aren’t rogue related, I’m not going to get into those for the moment, this post is long enough as is.

Ability Pruning

    • Disarm Trap has been removed.
    • Rupture is no longer available to Combat Rogues.
    • Shadow Blades has been removed.

The most interesting thing about this section is how few rogue rogue abilities are being pruned. While we find out about a few more later on (expose armor and mind numbing poison to name a couple) this reflects what a lot of rogues have been saying since the ability squish was announced, rogues don’t suffer from a ton of ability bloat and don’t need a ton of things removed. The removal of rupture for combat rogues is a good change and long time coming. Rupture has over time moved in and out of the combat rotation many times but it has never seemed essential to the spec. Given the added optimization complexity from the bandit’s guile change (discussed later) I don’t have a problem with its removal. The removal of shadow blades is a bit sad however the ability was a pure macro-in for two specs and removal follows from Blizzards other design goals so I’m not too upset by the removal.

Crowd Control and Diminishing Returns Paralytic Poison has been removed and replaced by Internal Bleeding.

    • Internal Bleeding: Causes successful Kidney Shots to also apply a periodic Bleed effect for 12 seconds, with damage increasing per combo point used.

Paralytic poison was an obvious potential causality of the crowd control reductions, however this replacement seems like a waste. It’s a solid soloing and potentially 2s talent depending on damage but the problem is prey on the weak scales with group size.  For large group combat with multiple dps prey on the weak is likely to be strictly superior. I’m not sure what could compete with prey on the weak in a PvE setting but if the goal is a better T75 for raiding this talent isn’t it.

Buffs and Debuffs Weakened Armor and Physical Vulnerability were effectively redundant, both filling the role of increasing Physical damage taken by the target. So, we removed Weakened Armor and widened the availability of Physical Vulnerability a bit. The following abilities have been removed.

    • Rogue: Expose Armor

… The Cast Speed Slow was a debuff type that mattered almost exclusively to PvP, and made combat much less fun for casters in addition to encouraging the use of instant-cast spells. We decided that it was best to remove casting speed debuffs. The following abilities have been removed.

    • Rogue: Mind-numbing Poison

… As part of a push to combine the different types of Haste in the game as much as possible, we merged Spell Haste and Attack Speed into just Haste, which benefits everyone. … The following abilities now also increase magic damage taken by the target by 5% for 15 seconds.

    • Monk (Windwalker): Rising Sun Kick
    • Priest (Shadow): Mind Blast

Expose armor mechanics have seemed outdated for a while now, simply removing and further streamlining buffs is solid choice. Mind numbing never did much in PvE so removing it isn’t a huge thing to worry about. That said the whole concept of non-lethal poisons seems odd at this point with only crippling and leeching in that category.  This isn’t a showstopper but it does seem odd. The haste buff simplification changes needed to happen, the intricacies of what kind of haste helped what was excessively complex with minimal upside. With 20 mans being the only progression raid size raid debuffs aren’t likely to be a huge issue but extending the spell damage buff beyond rogues and warlocks is a nice quality of life change for other groups.

Facing Requirements Strict facing requirements can be frustrating to deal with, especially in hectic Raid combat or PvP environments. In order to ease this frustration, we decided to remove or significantly loosen the facing requirements of all attacks that required the player to be behind their target.

    • Druid: Shred no longer requires the Druid to be behind the target.
    • Rogue: Ambush no longer requires the Rogue to be behind the target.
    • Rogue (Subtlety): Backstab can now be used on either side of the target, in addition to behind the target.

This is one of the big letdowns of these notes. Ambush being usable at all angles is a great change and will certainly make subtlety much less handicapped on position limiting fights but I’m immensely confused about what backstab isn’t getting the same treatment. I’m happy for our druid brothers that shred no longer has a positional requirement but in light of that change the lack of full positional independence for subtlety rogues seems like pure stubbornness. The change to ambush combined with the change to hemorrhage (discussed later) should reduce the damage gap between positional and non-positional subtlety in which case this seems like flavor impeding gameplay which feels wrong. Reducing the damage gap will probably help mitigate the issues with positional requirements but depending on encounter design it could easily become a problem.

In our efforts to reduce cooldown stacking across the game, we chose to remove the damage increase from Tricks of the Trade. …

    • Tricks of the Trade now has no energy cost and no longer increases damage caused by the target by 15%.

We already knew about this but it’s nice to see it in here. As I’ve discussed previously the damage bonus on tricks felt problematic. I’m a bit skeptical that tricks is going to have much utility at all given the melee range limitation compared to hunter misdirection and tank threat being what it is (most threat drop abilities have been removed in as a seeming acknowledgement of this). If Blizzard had deemed rogue button bloat a larger issue I’d be concerned about tricks remaining but since rogues didn’t lose much in ability pruning I don’t see an issue with situational utility.

We decided to loosen the weapon requirements on Assassination. It’s important to note that we still intend for daggers to be the optimal choice for Assassination Rogues, but this change will help Rogues who want to try out Assassination but don’t have two daggers. …

    • Assassin’s Resolve no longer requires daggers to function.
    • Dispatch can now be used with fist weapons or one-handed swords, dealing 331% weapon damage (instead of 480%) when used with those weapons instead of a dagger.
    • Mutilate can now be used with fist weapons or one-handed swords, dealing 137% weapon damage (instead of 200%) when used with those weapons instead of a dagger.
    • Sinister Strike now deals 188% weapon damage when used with a dagger (instead of 130%).

Further clarified by Celestalon on twitter:

Intended to be ‘okay’ to use in case you are over a tier behind on the optimal weapons, but not optimal.

This seems like a step in the right direction, weapon dependence can be immensely frustrating however I’m somewhat sorry that Blizzard didn’t go further. This is a good change for players at lower levels of progression but heroic mythic raiders will still likely be stuck with playing to your weapons.

Bandit’s Guile is an interesting mechanic that is important to Combat gameplay, but wasn’t working out quite as well as we think that it could. In particular, there’s basically no way to adjust when you’re going to be in Deep Insight, other than stopping your rotation (and thus wasting energy, combo points, temporary effects, cooldown time, etc.). …

    • Revealing Strike now deals 20% more damage, but no longer advances Bandit’s Guile.

Those of you who read my previous wishlisting for warlords post will recognize this idea because it is exactly “Somewhat Less Sinister Strike.” I’m not taking credit for the idea, it seems like a reasonably obvious extension of the bandit’s guile concept that Blizzard probably came up with before I posted but I’m happy to see it in. This will hopefully finally help bandit’s guile help fulfill the promise of being something rogues can optimize with not just around.

Among some other changes to Rogue AoE damage, we wanted to make sure that Fan of Knives benefitted from Seal Fate.

    • Seal Fate now also grants a combo point for area attacks that critically strike the Rogue’s primary target.

Small change for assassination, given the increased emphasis on AoE as part of single target rotation for many classes and specs will certainly make fan of knives weaving fit better into the rotation.

Honor Among Thieves is an extremely powerful ability, but has the downside that it adds significant disparity between character power while soloing and while in a group. We made this change to bring up the soloing Subtlety Rogue, without having a significant impact on their performance while in a group.

    • Honor Among Thieves can now also be triggered by critical hits from the Rogue’s melee Auto Attacks.

The notes pretty much sum things up. This will also be a small buff to rogues in small scale arena. Good quality of life change.

A couple of Rogue abilities do periodic damage, but don’t have an intended alternative if that periodic is already on the target. We made these abilities roll remaining damage from their previous effect into the new effect, so that it’s still ideal to use them again in these cases.

    • Crimson Tempest’s periodic damage now has rolling periodic behavior, meaning that remaining damage from the previous application is added into the newly-applied periodic-damage effect.
    • Hemorrhage’s periodic damage now has rolling periodic behavior, meaning that remaining damage from the previous application is added into the newly-applied periodic-damage effect.

First a brief explanation of how this works because this is a new mechanic for rogues. The goal of a rolling periodic dot is the ratio of direct and dot damage is fixed regardless of the refresh interval, you lose no damage from refreshing the dot early. As an example if you have a dot that does 100 damage per tick with 10 ticks in the current behavior refreshing that dot with 2 ticks remaining would be a loss of 200 damage. Under rolling periodic behavior if you clipped the last two ticks they would be rolled into the new dot so your new dot tick would do 120 damage per tick (100+[200/10]), The crimson tempest change combined with some of the new crimson tempest related perks will help make crimson tempest a much better ability. Crimson tempest has suffered from lack of purpose all expansion and this will help immensely. Hemorrhage on the other hand seems like an ability designed to solve other mechanical problems. Since we haven’t seen anything about sanguinary veins it’s probably safe to assume that it is remaining as a mechanic. This means hemorrhage basically exists to be used when you can’t backstab and to apply a bleed on target swapping. Neither of these mechanics really need to exist beyond keeping hemorrhage relevant.

Subterfuge has proved too powerful, and frustrating to play against in PvP, so we decided to reduce its defensive capabilities, while preserving its offensive power. We changed the Subterfuge period to allow the use of stealth abilities without actually stealthing you, similar to Shadow Dance.

    • Subterfuge now allows you to use abilities that require stealth for 3 sec after leaving Stealth, instead of actually staying stealthed for 3 sec.

This is mostly a PvP change but that this is the direction Blizzard is going with the talent seems to suggest that Blizzard doesn’t have a problem with vanish behaving as a dps cooldown, a mechanic that adds very little to combat or assassination.

Perks
For perks, I’m going to skip the simple damage increasers unless they indicate a major change. Assassination:

    • Improved Slice and Dice – Slice and Dice is now always passively active.

This perk was announced at Blizzcon so we all knew it was coming. Interestingly it appears Blizzard is trying to cut down on the generic maintenance buffs. Inquisition is being removed and feral druids can talent into a passive savage roar. I’m not saying slice and dice is a bad mechanic, I think it does have a place for combat and subtlety but for assassination it’s already effectively passive.

    • Enhanced Vendetta – After activating Vendetta, your next Mutilate, Dispatch, Envenom, or Ambush has 100% increased chance to be a critical strike.

With the removal of shadow blades assassination clearly needs a more interesting vendetta but this isn’t it. This seems like a concession to the people who miss cold blood and just like cold blood this is a minor effect at best. I hope this perk becomes something to make vendetta more interesting because this passive absolutely doesn’t cut it.

    • Enhanced Poisons – Fan of Knives will always apply your poisons to the targets hit.
    • Enhanced Crimson Tempest – Crimson Tempest also increases the damage targets take from your poisons by 30% for 1 sec plus 1 sec per combo point.

This suggests that Blizzard would like to move assassination away from the rupture multi-dotting style we’ve been using all expansion. Rupture multi-dotting was likely an unintended strategy and it wasn’t particularly well supported but it was an interesting mechanic that I’m sad to see go. The other interesting aspect of this change is it seems intended to increase AoE damage to make assassination more competitive with combat in AoE situations.

    • Empowered Envenom – While Envenom is active, you deal 20% more damage with Mutilate and Dispatch.
    • Enhanced Envenom – Envenom grants an additional 15% to your chance to apply poisons.

The battle cry of the make assassination more difficult movement all expansion has been “make envenom more meaningful” and it seems Blizzard agrees. These changes are obvious ways to do that and should add to the assassination skill cap in interesting ways.  I am somewhat worried these changes don’t go far enough establishing for rewarding skill for assassination, especially compared to the complex optimization problem of combat. Combat:

    • Empowered Bandit’s Guile – Bandit’s Guile grants an additional 20% damage increase while in Deep Insight.

When combined with the other bandit’s guile change this should substantially increase the combat skill cap and make lining up deep insight with cooldowns a primary goal. Potentially a very interesting perk.

    • Instant Poison – Replaces your Deadly Poison with Instant Poison. Instant Poison – Coats your weapons with a Lethal Poison that lasts for 1 hour. Each strike has a 30% chance of instantly poisoning the enemy for XXXX Nature damage.

This perk isn’t that interesting except for that it represents, a return to wrath style no-dot combat. During wrath one of combat’s niches was effectively zero target swapping time and this returns that niche to combat.

    • Enhanced Adrenaline Rush – While Adrenaline Rush is active, the global cooldown on Sinister Strike, Revealing Strike, Eviscerate, Slice and Dice, and Rupture is reduced by an additional 0.3 sec.

BLIZZARD WAT U DOIN?
BLIZZARD STAHP!
This is probably the most confusing rogue passive. Celestalon confirmed on twitter that this is in addition to the current 0.2 second GCD reduction which makes this perk a return to the combat T15 4pc failed experiment.  This perk seems to occupy the odd space of either being useless or really problematic.  Rogues were able to saturate the 0.5 second GCD with T15 4pc due to the very power set bonus cost reduction, something that seems unlikely to happen again.  Combat T15 4pc was a problem, it made the spec borderline unplayable for players with even moderately low latency and even some players who enjoy the fast pace of combat felt it was overly spammy. Regardless of the exact mechanics this change indicates that Blizzard doesn’t consider the vast shifts in energy regeneration between adrenaline rush and a normal rotation to be a problem despite the problems it has caused for combat this expansion.

    • Enhanced Fan of Knives – Reduces the Energy cost of Fan of Knives by 10.
    • Empowered Crimson Tempest – Crimson Tempest no longer deals any periodic damage, and instead deals 240% increased initial damage.

Combat arguably has the weakest AoE perks of the three rogue specs which seems appropriate given blade flurry. I worry somewhat that either blade flurry or fan of knives/crimson tempest will be left behind in combat AoE rotations. but if Blizzard can define a niche for both it could be interesting design.   Without fan of knives advancing bandit’s guile these perks could create an awkward AoE rotation or lead to fan of knives being left behind. Subtlety:

    • Enhanced Vanish – Reduces the cooldown on Vanish by 30 sec.

This change suggests that Blizzard likes vanish as a dps cooldown for subtlety. For subtlety this does seem appropriate although it does create an odd utility situation if isn’t a dps cooldown for the other specs.

    • Enhanced Shadow Dance- Increases the duration of Shadow Dance by 2 sec.

Combined with the change above I worry that this may result in a baseline find weakness uptime that seems very high. With 13 seconds of stealth per 90 seconds and 20 seconds of stealth per minute a rogue will be approaching 50% find weakness uptime over a 90 second window before cooldown reduction is factored in. Given this high starting uptime it seems plausible that subtlety could hit a problematic readiness soft cap at high gear levels.

    • Empowered Fan of Knives – Fan of Knives now generates a combo point for each target that it hits.

So many combo points. Celetalon has already confirmed on twitter that this is very much an experiment and if the combo point generation is too high. It is an interesting idea in concept and when combined with the crimson tempest change it potentially makes subtlety very powerful in a sustained AoE setting. Given the backloaded nature of crimson tempest for subtlety this isn’t particularly strong in a burst AoE setting. On the other hand this allows some potentially very powerful cheesing from subtlety on multi-target encounters. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, multi-dotting casters have been doing this forever but it does open up some interesting encounter cheesing opportunities. One potential problem with this change is the raw number of combo points may make anticipation even more powerful than it already is.

    • Enhanced Premeditation – Premeditation is no longer an active ability. Instead your Garrote and Ambush always generate 2 additional combo points when used from Stealth. This affect does not apply while Shadow Dance is active.

I’ve seen a couple people express annoyance about the removal of premeditation as an active ability but I don’t have a real problem with it. Macroing premeditation in with openers wasn’t a significant dps loss with anticipation so this seems to follow from Blizzard’s remove macroed abilities philosophy.

Level 100 Talents

    • Venom Zest – Increases your maximum energy by 15. Increases your energy regeneration rate by 5% for every enemy you have poisoned, up to 3.

Lemon Zest is arguably a pretty boring talent but at the same time it seems like a solid talent. It creates a useful sustained AoE dps niche and synergizes well with the assassination and subtlety AoE toolkits. It is a bit less clear for combat, Celestalon suggested on twitter that blade flurry may be changed to apply poisons which would make Lemon Zest synergize well with the combat AoE rotation as well, if not the lower combat poison proc rate and lack of single target incentive to use fan of knives could make this a frustrating mechanic.

    • Shadow Reflection – Summon a shadow of yourself on the target that will watch you and memorize your offensive ability usage for the next 8 sec. After this time, it will mimic the memorized abilities on its target over the next 8 sec. 20 yd range, Instant, 2 min cooldown.

There are a number of people who think this is an awesome talent, I remain skeptical. I see a couple problems, first it’s a burst cooldown with a long burst window, 16 seconds for full benefit. On fights like heroic siegecrafter it could be very powerful but overall I’m skeptical that a 16 second burst window is desirable on many burst centric fights. Second while many people talk up the control aspects the 8 second delay may make this very hard to use appropriately, not just dependent on player skill but also raid coordination. Finally I see this a potentially imbalanced talent between specs, whereas Lemon Zest potentially has a place in all three specs kits Shadow Reflection doesn’t appear to fit well with assassination. A more complete assessment will probably have to wait for beta, the interaction between buffs, debuffs and the reflection is something that will have to be heavily tested and could greatly impact the value of the talent.

    • Death from Above – Finishing move that consumes combo points on the target to empower your weapons with shadow energy and perform a devastating two-part attack. You whirl around, dealing up to XXXX damage to all enemies within 8 yds, then leap into the air and slice into your target on the way back down, dealing up to an additional 500% weapon damage (up to 724% if a dagger is equipped). Damage based on combo points consumed. 50 Energy, 15 yd range, Instant, 20 sec cooldown, Requires One-Handed Melee Weapon.

This talent just feels out of place, a high damage, high energy cost finisher with a cooldown goes against a whole bunch of rogue design trends. This isn’t to say it’s a bad ability but it doesn’t fit that well. A problem I see with this talent is if it is a single target dps increase to use death from above then it increases rogue reliance on anticipation since pooling combo points and energy just as it is coming off cd will be important. Blizzard has addressed one of my previous concerns that this talent will overshadow crimson tempest so I’m not as skeptical as I have been.

One More Thing

Oh, hah, that’s a big oversight, my bad. Yes, Combo Points are ‘on the Rogue’ now. Could revert based on feedback, but trying.

This apparently didn’t make it into the notes (in a later tweet Celestalon confirmed redirect is also gone) and to many this is a big deal. As I’ve said previously I don’t see the combo points on target as a huge deal given the 5.4 glyph of redirect but this change has a special importance to many rogues.

Whats Missing? There a number of things we didn’t find out about tonight.

  1. The raid cooldown arms race. The changes as listed remove raid cooldowns from tank specs but say nothing about removing them from dps. This is a huge open question that has a major influence on class balance. It isn’t directly rogue related but it is probably the biggest open question after tonight.  Celestalon noted on twitter there are changes on this that didn’t make this set of notes.
  2. Talents and glyphs. Some of the class changes talked about substantial talent changes, mages in particular however no rogue talent changes were announced. While the rogue talent grid is much improved since the start of MoP it still has a few glaring issues that I hope to see addressed. The spec specific talents Blizzard used extensively with other pure dps would a wonderful way to further define rogue specs.

So Where do We Stand? I wrote my final rogue wishlist I did it with the express purpose to evaluate changes against a defined standard, so lets do that. Somewhat arbitrarily I’m giving 2 points for a good solution, 1 point for a passable solution and zero points for no solution. Class Mechanics:

  1. Fix Tricks-1. The change is a step in the right direction but tricks as a pure misdirect it has limited utility.
  2. Vanish as a dps cooldown-0. No official word either way yet but subterfuge indicates Blizzard doesn’t see this as a problem.
  3. Expose armor is outdated-2. Removal of redundant debuffs is a fine solution
  4. Combo points on the rogue-2. Exactly what the doctor ordered.

Talents and Glyphs:

  1. Anticaitption is too desirable-0. If anything several changes were a step in the wrong direction.
  2. Raiding options for T30 and T75-0. Nothing on talents yet.
  3. Dead talents-0. Nothing on talents yet.
  4. DPS increasing glyphs-0. Nothing on glyphs yet.

Assassination:

  1. Add complexity-2. There are probably more creative solutions then what Blizzard did but these changes should do the job very well.
  2. More interesting vendetta-0. Adding coldblood to vendetta doesn’t count.

Combat:

  1. Combat cooldown stacking and energy regeneration-0. I’d like to give negative points here because 0.5 second GCD adrenaline rush is a step in the wrong direction.
  2. More interesting bandit’s guile-2. I’d like to give 3 points here because the revealing strike solution is a great solution.

Subtlety:

  1. Positional Requirements-1. I’m loathe to give any points here but the changes are clearly a step in the right direction even if backstab retaining some positional requirements seems unnecessary.
  2. Stronger and more interesting AoE-2. Blizzard has done a good job with AoE rotation perks in general, not just for subtlety.

Overall that adds up to 12 points out of a possible 28 on my entirely arbitrary point system. Some of these are for lack of information so I expect things to get better as we get more information in the coming weeks. Overall I feel these changes are a strong start, there are a couple problematic points, 0.5 second GCD adrenaline rush, subtlety positional requirements and boring vendetta in particular and a couple more potentially worrying issues but that’s what beta is for. Better spec distinction, new skill differentiators and some nice quality of life changes, onward to beta.