Rogue AoE in Warlords of Draenor
I wanted to take a couple minutes to share my thoughts on the AoE-related Draenor perks. It’s easy to see they’re still iterating on the design, so these thoughts may be invalid next week but I’m going to go ahead and put them out there anyway. As a preamble, I am going to warn you that I won’t be talking much about the changes to Fan of Knives and Crimson Tempest for Assassination rogues. The reason is that I don’t believe much needs to be said. I haven’t thought about them much because they work perfectly well with the spec’s theme and toolkit. Nor are they all that strong or weak. I think they nailed the design on the AoE perks for Assassination.
Combat and Subtlety, however, need some discussion. The astute among you may notice that Subtlety has no perks for crimson tempest. This, I think is perfectly acceptable. All throughout Mists of Pandaria I’ve felt that the finisher offers all the utility subtlety could need. The only drawback to it was the non-stacking bleed which made it not too intuitive when to switch from “once per 12 seconds” to “use every finisher.” Allowing the bleed to stack solves that problem pretty nicely. If it’s optimal to hit it once every 12 seconds, it’s optimal to hit it for every finisher. Subtlety’s Fan of Knives perk, however, gives me pause for concern. While it’s rare that you will be hitting more than 5 targets, it does happen from time to time. As such it will lead to an increase in the worth of anticipation. Anticipation is already perceptibly nearly mandatory for most rogues. Allowing you to generate 6+ combo points in a single attack will only reinforce that belief. To make Marked for Death an option against anticipation I feel that the Fan of Knives perk for subtlety needs a combo point cap (5 seems like a pretty reasonable and obvious choice).
Combat’s AoE design, while becoming refined with each change, still isn’t without issue. Removing Fan of Knives from the spec makes sense, since it really didn’t work at all with combat’s mechanics. In Mists of Pandaria, using Fan of Knives for Combat has two significant shortcomings. If we look at FoK/Crimson Tempest aoe rotation for the 3 specs it becomes obvious why it falls short for Combat on two counts. The first count is that a full AoE rotation for combat does not utilize all the stats on gear. Haste and Crit should be obvious (haste = faster rotation, crit = chance at builders/finishers/poisons doing additional damage). The less obvious one is Mastery. Assassination’s AoE rotation benefits from mastery (as both FoK and CT proc poisons). Subtlety’s AoE rotation also benefits from mastery (as Crimson Tempest damage is increased by mastery). Neither FoK nor CT, however, proc Combat’s Main Gauche attacks. Basically any mastery on gear to a combat rogue is a stat that really doesn’t do as much in a full AoE rotation as it does for the other specs.
That is the minor point though. The major point is that the AoE rotation works with assassination and subtlety’s more fundamental playstyle. You can Envenom>FoK spam as assassination to get more poison procs and get more of that spread poison damage. As Subtlety, the Crimson Tempest bleed increases your AoE damage because it provides the Sanguinary Veins benefit. FoK, however, does not advance bandit’s guile, stalling Combat at no insight. This is one of the reasons I found myself confused by the 10 energy cost reduction for Combat. I felt it pretty obvious what the spec needed for its AoE perk. Making Blade Flurry proc poisons and become true AoE, however, achieves the same effect while also allowing Combat’s AoE to benefit from any mastery on gear.
The problem with an AoE rotation for combat, however, comes with finisher usage. As everyone’s favorite skinny-fruity rogue observed over at the Red Hatted Rogue Reporter, what difference is there between casting Crimson Tempest and Eviscerate with Blade Flurry on? Crimson Tempest costs the same as Eviscerate. If it did 40% of the damage of eviscerate, it would still be inferior because of that one target Eviscerate is doing 2.5x as much damage to. And that’s neglecting the Main Gauche that Eviscerate can proc, and the potential energy from that Main Gauche.
How can this problem be addressed? For starters, Crimson Tempest should be cheaper than Eviscerate. For Combat rogues it should cost no more than 30 energy. No amount of mastery on gear will make Eviscerate cheaper than this on average (at 100% MG chance, combat potency will only reduce the cost of Eviscerate by effectively 3 energy). The second thing Crimson Tempest needs to do is significantly more damage than copied eviscerate damage. A baseline for CT should be at least 40% (or whatever Blade Flurry’s multiplier) of the damage of Eviscerate + MG. Alternatively, you could choose other mechanics changes that make you want to press CT instead of Eviscerate when there are 2 or more targets. How about modifying the interaction between CT and Restless Blades: Instead of CT reducing cooldowns by 2sec per combo point, have CT reduce cds by 0.5 seconds per combo point per target hit.
The other concern I have with Blade Flurry as a true AoE for combat deals with level 90 vs level 100. It may need the copied damage to change to balance it as a true AoE at level 100. Balancing that will hurt combat’s cleave damage while leveling. And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Blade Flurry is reduced by nature of being a true AoE. I’d be surprised if it does more than 30% of the original attack’s damage. Expect Combat to underperform as a cleave spec for guilds still progressing in Siege of Orgrimmar when 6.0 goes live. For example, my guild did not kill heroic spine or madness until after 5.0.4 went live, and we’re still only 8/14 in heroic Siege of Orgrimmar.