The Fine Art of Stealth: Level 15 Talents
I feel things need to serve some well-defined and logical purpose, and this leads me into my thoughts on the rogue talents, glyphs, and specializations in Mists of Pandaria. I will now try to focus on what I think is good and what needs to be addressed, starting with the level 15 talents.
This row is thematically unified, dealing with stealth. Stealth also has a more significant role in rogue gameplay at lower levels so the level 15 talent row is the best place to put stealth talents. As such I feel it is placed properly and does not need much in the way of iteration. One issue I have with the tier though, is that the strength of the talents vary greatly, and balancing can be problematic with synergies with certain specs or other talents.
One of the primary problems with this tier of talents is that, depending on spec, each of them increases your damage, making vanish an offensive cooldown for all specs. While I understand vanish’s offensive value to subtlety for granting another find weakness application, I feel that vanish should be strictly a utility ability for assassination and combat, since the utility that vanish brings is offered to subtlety via shadow dance. As an example, a subtlety rogue can shadow dance and garrote to silence an add, but combat and assassination are not offered this utility because they use vanish as a dps cooldown (in other words, it’s likely on cooldown).
I’d like to see vanish afforded combat and assassination this level of utility. To that end I propose this slight change to all of the level 15 talents: The benefit of the talent is only applied when in stealth and out of combat. You do retain the benefit while in stealth if you begin combat while already stealthed (meaning you can use this talent on initial opener in PvE). The primary reason for the combat limitation is such that if you vanish for a raid boss, you remain in combat so do not benefit from the damage of the level 15 talents in a pve setting. When you vanish in a PvP setting, however, you drop combat immediately, allowing a rogue to use vanish offensively if desired. I feel retaining vanish as an offensive ability in PvP is important.
The second change I propose deals more with shadow focus and nightstalker. I like that nightstalker functions as a double duty talent featuring mobility and damage. The problem is that in order for the damage component of nightstalker to be meaningful against the energy cost reduction of shadow focus, it would have to become absurdly powerful, and if the damage component is powerful enough to compete with shadow focus, then the mobility trumps the damage of shadow focus, especially when leveling. As such, I feel that nighstalker needs the way it improves opener damage to be changed and also shadow focus needs to address mobility.
On to the talents: Nightstalker I feel should offer the benefits of master of subtlety in addition to its current stealthed run speed benefit. Master of subtlety should in turn be removed from subtlety (and PvE damage rebalanced accordingly). I think find weakness is reason enough for vanish to be used offensively by subtlety. Nightstalker having an upfront damage increase in 1 attack has to be absurdly overpowered for it to compete with shadow focus since shadow focus’s energy savings are distributed across the next several attacks. That causes burst problems. Spreading that damage over 10 seconds when leaving stealth makes it different enough from shadow focus to be interesting, and also reduces burst. This allows the buff duration and damage bonus to be tuned so that it can properly compete with shadow focus.
Shadow focus now needs mobility love to allow it to compete with nightstalker, which is rather unparalleled as a leveling talent (it is my de facto only choice when not at max level), especially in light of the lack of flying on Draenor. I propose that Cloak and Dagger be incorporated into shadow focus. In the current game part of the strength of subterfuge is how well it synergizes with cloak and dagger. Being able to teleport around and stun or silence an entire enemy team by simply using your openers while you have 3 seconds of guaranteed stealth is much too much synergy. The counterpoint to that, is that Cloak and Dagger is much too limited to really compete against Shadowstep and Burst of Speed as a mobility talent and generally is a poor choice where it currently resides.
Putting cloak and dagger on shadow focus will lock CnD and subterfuge into mutual exclusivity, while also incorporating it into gameplay since it doesn’t compete with Shadowstep or Burst of Speed on its own. It will also allow shadow focus to become a legitimate choice in pvp against subterfuge and the revised nightstalker. Now that I think of it, Cloak and Dagger is a much better name than Shadow Focus so let’s go ahead and rename Shadow Focus to Cloak and Dagger.
Blizzard’s proposed changes to subterfuge for Warlords of Draenor are probably ok as-is. Having subterfuge as a mini shadow dance doesn’t really thematically link it to the mobility/opener damage of my proposed nightstalker and shadow focus changes, but the superior utility it provides makes up for it. It’s also pretty powerful that only cc would bar you from getting your opener(s) if you’re prematurely removed from stealth.
Another option is to remove the damage component entirely and have nightstalker only increase speed, cloak and dagger exist as it does on live, but in shadow focus’s place, and subterfuge be limited to 1 charge. As soon as your stealth is broken or you perform any attack that would normally break stealth, that charge is consumed.
I really wanted to talk about more talents, but this discussion is more winded than I had originally intended, so I will discuss more talents at a future time.