Cataclysm Rogue Preview

Much like a rogue, the Cataclysm rogue changes snuck up in the darkness of night (at least for those living in the eastern US).  The preview details some new skills and proposed changes.  There are some good changes, and a couple of real exciting ones.  Overall, they seemed more incomplete than the other previews we have seen.  There were a lot of “we want to…” and “we’d like to see…” statements with no detail on how they will accomplish them.

Note that there are no real big damage abilities here.  Almost all of the changes are for utility and survivability and PvP.  Blizzard has said in the past that rogues are in a good place as far as PvE damage and playability, so they are clearly not trying to make any sweeping changes.

Here they are: (my comments in italics below each ability)

New Rogue Abilities

Redirect (available at level 81) : Rogues will be getting a new ability to help them deal with changing targets. Redirect will transfer any active combo points to the rogue’s current target, helping to ensure combo points aren’t wasted when swapping targets or when targets die. In addition, self-buff abilities like Slice and Dice will no longer require a target, so rogues can spend extra combo points on those types of abilities (more on this below). Redirect will have a 1-minute cooldown and no other costs.

This is very, very, very cool at first glance.We all know the pain of a target dying just before we get to use that 5-point finisher, and then losing those combo points when we switch targets.

This mostly helps with trash fights and heroics.  There are some boss fights where this would be handy (Faction Champions in ToC, for example) but most boss fights are single-target.

Its also going to be a big help in PvP.  Hit that mage a few times and build up combo points.  What?  He ice-blocked? OK, turn and use those combo points to slam a big finisher on that priest standing there.

My disappointment with this is that its a level 81 skill.  It seems to me that if they are going to make this change, then it should be built into rogues from level 1.  It will seem odd to lose your combo points when you switch targets from level 1-80, but then keep them from level 81-85.


Combat Readiness (level 83): Combat Readiness is a new ability that we intend rogues to trigger defensively. While this ability is active, whenever the rogue is struck by a melee or ranged attack, he or she will gain a stacking buff called Combat Insight that results in a 10% reduction in damage taken. Combat Insight will stack up to 5 times and the timer will be refreshed whenever a new stack is applied. Our goal is to make rogues better equipped to go toe-to-toe with other melee classes when Evasion or stuns are not in play. This ability lasts 6 seconds and has a 2-minute cooldown.

A survivability talent.  Like Cloak of Shadows but for physical damage.  This is pvp-oriented.  Note the way Blizzard says its for rogues to go “toe-to-toe with other melee classes” implying that this is purely for pvp.  Now we can pop Cloak of Shadows + Combat Readiness and we’ll have 90% magic immunity for 5 seconds and 50% physical damage immunity for 6 seconds.  In PvE this is another “oh crap!” button, but we already have a ton of those (Vanish, Cloak, Evasion, Sprint, Feint).

Since I don’t pvp much, this talent is not very meaningful to me, but I’m sure that other rogues will love it.


Smoke Bomb (level 85): The rogue drops a Smoke Bomb, creating a cloud that interferes with enemy targeting. Enemies who are outside the cloud will find themselves unable to target units inside the cloud with single-target abilities. Enemies can move inside the cloud to attack, or they can use area-of-effect (AoE) abilities at any time to attack opponents in a cloud. In PvP, this will open up new dimensions of tactical positional gameplay, as the ability offers a variety of offensive and defensive uses. In PvE, Smoke Cloud can serve to shield your group from hostile ranged attacks, while also drawing enemies closer without the need to rely on conventional line-of-sight obstructions. Smoke Cloud lasts 10 seconds and has a 3-minute cooldown.

I love this idea!  It so fits in with the sneaky ninja model of the rogue.  Its nice when Blizzard can get a good ability that is both useful in its mechanics AND fit in with the lore of the class.  We get to create our own line-of-sight for pulls.

Its another good talent for PvP.  If you can isolate a target in melee range, you pop a Smoke Cloud around you and his buddies at range can’t do anything to help him. I picture this being a particular annoyance to hunters.

That said, how often will we get to use this in PvE?  Line-of-sight pulls?  OK, how often do we do that?  When do we have boss fights where we are being targeted from range?  Can you get your whole raid inside the cloud?  Or will we pop the Smoke Cloud and the healer in the back is outside the cloud so he gets focus-fired down?  I doubt that Blizzard will design encounters around this, so it becomes just another utility in PvE.  I’m sure that someone will find creative uses for it, though.


Overall the three new abilities that were previewed are… interesting. But lets but to the chase here.  We rogues are about damage.  What we got were utility abilities.  The Redirect ability will improve our damage on certain fights, but not on boss fights where we have only one target.  The other two abilities are niche skills and, while neat ideas, they have limited application in PvE.  They have great potential in PvP, though.

But wait, there’s more…

Changes to Abilities and Mechanics

  • In PvP, we want to reduce the rogue’s dependency on binary cooldowns and “stun-locks,” and give them more passive survivability in return. One major change is that we’ll put Cheap Shot on the same diminishing return as other stuns. The increase to Armor and Stamina on cloth, leather, and mail gear will help with this goal as well.

Creative wording… but this basically says “nerf stunlocks”.  For the rogues who have learned to stunlock effectively, this change in playstyle might be a big disappointment.  For those of us who pvp only rarely and have never mastered the art of the stunlock, an increase in passive survivability will be a big help.

  • In PvE, even accounting for active modifiers like Slice and Dice and Envenom, a very large portion of the rogue’s damage is attributable to passive sources of damage. Yes, they are using abilities for the entire duration of a fight, but we want to reduce the percentage of rogue damage that comes from auto-attacks and poisons. More of their damage will be coming from active abilities and special attacks.

No specifics here so I can’t really comment.  Yes, we get over 50% of our damage from autoattacks.  I’ll be interested to see how Blizzard does this without reducing our overall damage.  They can’t just reduce our white damage unless they increase our specials damage.  And if they do that, it has PvP implications.  We’ll just have to wait to see how this plays out.

  • We would like to improve the rogue leveling experience. Positional attacks and DoT-ramping mechanics will be de-emphasized at low levels and then re-introduced at higher levels for group gameplay. We are also providing rogues with a new low-level ability, Recuperate, to convert combo points into a small heal-over-time (HoT).

Recuperate is very, very cool.  It gives and extra option with those combo points.  Big finisher, or HoT yourself?  This will be great in solo play while leveling and should reduce downtime spent bandaging or eating between fights.

I don’t know that the other changes are needed so much.  Most rogues that I know level as Combat spec, so they have few positional requirements.  Yes, its harder to level as Subtlety (as I did back in vanilla WoW) but its not so bad that it needs huge changes to accommodate it.  I hope these changes are minor.  Again, wait and see…

  • To complement the change to combo points, non-damage abilities such as Recuperate and Slice and Dice will no longer have target requirements and can be used with any of the rogue’s existing combo points, including combo points remaining on recently killed targets. This will not affect damage abilities, which will still require combo points to be present on the specific target you want to damage. To coincide with this, the UI will be updated so that rogues know how many combo points they have active.

I like this a lot.  Imagine that you end a fight and you have combo points left.  As you move toward the next target you can pop SnD with those leftover points before you even enter combat.  That dramatically reduces the ramp-up time when starting a fight.  This is also a good change for solo play.

  • Ambush will now work with all weapons, but will have a reduced coefficient when not using a dagger. When opening from Stealth, all rogues will be able to choose from burst damage, DoT abilities, or a stun.

That’s also good for leveling rogues.  It stinks to spend the gold to train Ambush, then realize that you can’t use it because you have a sword.  It could also be good for raiding Combat rogues, depending on the coefficient.  Combat rogues these days open with garrote or just autoattack, or don’t even bother with stealth at all. Ambush might be a good other option.

  • As we’ve done recently with some of the Subtlety abilities, we want to make sure more rogue abilities aren’t overly penalized by weapon choice. With a few exceptions (like Backstab), you should be able to use a dagger, axe, mace, sword, or fist weapon without being penalized for most attacks.

A very sensible change, especially since they are getting rid of weapon skill so we will be able to use whatever weapon we have on hand.

  • Deadly Throw and Fan of Knives will now use the weapon in the ranged slot. In addition, we hope to allow rogues to apply poisons to their throwing weapons.

Uh oh.  They “hope” to allow rogues to poison their throwing weapons?

This sounds to me like rogues won’t be able to use bows or guns anymore.  You can’t do a Fan of Knives if your ranged weapon is a gun.  So I expect rogues to be restricted to throwing weapons.  I hope they put more thrown weapons in the game, then.

This sounds like trouble to me.  If we can poison our thrown weapons, it has pvp implications.  We could apply Crippling Poison to a target at range with a thrown weapon, then run him down while he’s slowed.  No more kiting rogues around.  On the other hand, if we can’t poison our thrown weapons, then this is a big nerf to Fan of Knives.

I’m not sure what Blizzard is thinking here.  Class previews are supposed to get us excited, and they don’t usually announce nerfs with that.  Maybe I’m reading this wrong.

  • We are very happy with Tricks of the Trade as a general mechanic and as a way to give rogues more group utility, but we don’t want it to account for as much threat transfer as it does now.

I’m glad you’re happy with TotT.  So are we.  Please don’t mess it up.  🙂


New Talents and Talent Changes

  • Assassination will be more about daggers, poisons, and burst damage.
  • Combat will be all about swords, maces, fist weapons, axes, and being engaged toe-to-toe with your enemies. A Combat rogue will be able to survive longer without needing to rely on Stealth and evasion mechanics.
  • The Subtlety tree will primarily be based around utilizing Stealth, openers, finishers, and survivability. It’ll be about daggers, too, but less so than Assassination.
  • Weapon-specialization talents (for all classes, not just rogues) are going away. We do not want you to have to respec when you get a different weapon. Interesting talents, such as Hack and Slash, will work with all weapons. Boring talents, such as Mace Specialization and Close Quarters Combat, will be going away.
  • In general, Subtlety rogues needs to do more damage than they do today, and the other trees need to have more tools.
  • The Assassination and Combat talent trees currently have a lot of passive bonuses. We plan to dial back the amount of Critical Strike Rating provided by these trees so that rogues still want it on their gear.

Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses

Melee damage
Melee critical damage
Poison damage

Melee damage
Melee Haste
Harder-hitting combo-point generators

Melee damage
Armor Penetration
Harder-hitting finishers

The initial tier of rogue Mastery bonuses will be very similar between the trees. However, the deeper that a player goes into any tree, the more specialized and beneficial the Masteries will be to the play style for that spec. Assassination will have better poisons than the other two specs. Combat will have very steady and consistent overall damage. Subtlety will have strong finishers.

The Mastery stuff is much less fleshed-out than it was for the other classes.  Its very vague.  It seems like rogues are still a work in progress.

When leveling, since the enemies die pretty quickly, I think that we’d rather have bigger hits rather than better poisons.  Depending how significant the mastery bonuses are, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more rogues spec Subtlety to level 80-85, then switch to combat or assassination for endgame.  Or maybe this time they will get Sub damage up to the point where it is raid-viable.


I don’t think that there are any huge changes here, and I’m OK with that.  However, there also nothing really super-exciting.  The shaman changes announced yesterday were so cool it made me wish I had a shaman to play.  I don’t think any non-rogues are going to look at these changes and roll a rogue because of it.

One question, Blizzard?  Where’s my fix for Vanish?


10 Responses to “Cataclysm Rogue Preview”

  1. April 9, 2010 at 9:22 am

    “Overall, they seemed more incomplete than the other previews we have seen.”

    I kinda chuckled at this. When I was reading the preview this morning my thought was “holy crap, this is twice as long as any other class’s so far!”

    The preview did address survivability at lower levels, which is exactly what would make me try a rogue again. I probably wouldn’t stick with it for too long because I already have an Energy/CP user in San’s Cat form and a Dual-Wielder in Dal’s Enhance spec. But I’d at least try a Rogue again to see how it fares.

    You’re not the first person I’ve seen say “What about Vanish?” I don’t know if you’re serious or kinda mocking those folks. Or somewhere between. But none of the previews so far have mentioned fixing “broken” things. Just general new stuff and mechanic changes.

    • April 9, 2010 at 10:58 am

      What the notes have in overall length is achieved by the hemming and hawing about “we want to do this but aren’t sure yet how we’ll do it.”

      Warlocks got a change to their soul shards including specifics about how it would be done right down to the number of soul shards etc. Rogues got “we want to change the amount of white damage” and that’s it.

      And look a the Mastery abilities. Nothing more than their names.

      As far as Vanish – I’m mocking Blizzard, not other rogues. Since we’ve been waiting for a Vanish fix ever since… well ever since Vanish was created. Blizz has always said that its coming soon… So it was said as a joke, but not in a mocking way.

  2. 3 Karmakin
    April 9, 2010 at 9:35 am

    What I find interesting is that there’s now three new abilities that make positioning matter. Healing Rain, Leap of Faith and now Smoke Bomb.

    Wonder if we’ll see more of them.

  3. 4 Aylie
    April 9, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I like those changes in general, but I think they need some polish (sure they need, it’s early preview):

    1) Redirect is something I wish we had, but 1 minute cd seems bit much for fights like Valithria Dreamwalker or 5 mans (fast dying things you don’t necessarily aoe). This coupled with the idea of lowering our autoattack/poison damage may mean we’re even worse on such fights. On the other hand, shorter cooldown could be too good for pvp. I think the change allowing snd for CPs built on other targets or targets that are already dead is much bigger improvement here.

    2) Combat readiness: another defensive cooldown for class which may be too good with cooldowns, and weak without cooldowns. I’m not really sure that’s what we need.

    3) Smoke Bomb sounds really fun. Of course it’s situational, but it’s something very rogueish. Again though – it’s another long cooldown for already cooldown based class.

    4) More passive survivability: Have yet to see this improved passive survivability, for now it’s stun nerf. More armor on leather is what everyone else gets.

  4. April 9, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Just wait – I’m going to use Smoke Bomb in every fight, even if there’s no need for it.

  5. 6 MegaMick
    April 9, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Totally agreed, Dinaer.
    The new abilities are interesting, but won’t change anything in PvE, I suppose. Though I hadn’t thought of the Smoke Bomb uses for pull. Interesting point.

    The most (the only) interesting Dps tool that caught my eye was Redirect. As an Assassination Rogue, Heroics are such a Frenzy of Button Mashing and target jumping and trying to do some Dps in the middle of this! If they’re really decreasing the auto-attack/poison damage, this will be even more critical when leveling up in dungeons, or gearing up in heroics.
    BUT it’s another button to push! C’mon, I only have a few fingers and action bars! Would be nice if it was a passive ability for a change. Yeah I know… Less control, if there’s a cooldown ability that is passive… But the cooldown could be adjusted to make it worth it, like 30 seconds or so.

    I know, I’m hard to please :p

    But really, before these announcements, I was hoping they’d actually say something like “Combo points now belong to the rogue instead of belonging to the target. You’ll keep your combo-points between targets and only lose them if you’re out of combat for more than X seconds.”

    I guess they’ll sell that with whatever expansion comes after Cataclysm, to make Rogues go “yaaay, gotta buy this xpac too!”

    Until then, I’ll probably have to use Combat spec for dungeons. Heh, well it’s too early to tell ofc. There’s absolutely no specifics on any abilities or talents. GHAH! It’s like they just showed us a sketch.

    As for the other classes, I have a Priest and a Warrior @80. I liked their new abilities. A LOT! Did I mention that I liked the new abilities for Warrior and Priest? I liked them. Yay! xD

  6. 7 Hamacus
    April 9, 2010 at 11:54 am

    What is this stealth they speak of? Like most of the changes. As I usually play Combat I think I will feel more Roguey opening out of stealth thanks to the changes in Ambush. Especially like the combo point changes and can’t tell you how mad I get when I loose those when a target dies.

    As a side note maybe I can get my wife to transfer her warrior back to my server and practice our PvP again. She hates the lock down mechanic and would scream at me to fight her toe to toe 🙂

    Love smoke bombs as well and every time I would watch Bladezz from “The Guild” drop a smoke bomb I’d think why don’t we have that? May be great for PvP but as said it fits in with the lore and is cool.

  7. 8 MegaMick
    April 9, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Sorry for the double post, but, ehm, yeah, Rogues would be OP if my prayers were answered, especially in PvP. Like Aylie mentioned… I don’t PvP at all so I totally missed that detail… 😛

  8. April 15, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Combat Rediness and Redirect are what I’m most looking forward to. Like MegaMick said, trash and heroics are often such a fury of button mashing it’s hard to always get that finisher off before the mob dies, now at least we will be able to transfer those points off.. and we get a free slice and dice. I’m happy.

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Dinaer - 100 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Derence - 92 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 91 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 100 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 100 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
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