Combat Off Hand In Warlords And the Problem With Main Gauche

I wanted to use this blog as a forum to address a problem I have with the current state of tuning for combat rogues in Warlods of Draenor. As I have suggested in previous posts, the changes to Main Gauche and Killing Spree have very serious implications in how we gear our combat rogues in the future. Because Main Gauche now strikes with the off hand weapon and because Killing Spree has had the damage buff removed (and its damage reflected in the direct weapon strikes), this puts more emphasis on the off hand weapon’s damage in Warlords. Before moving forward, I’d like to offer my speculation on the reason for these changes.

Prior to Warlords, combat rogue identity was based around it being a weapon specialist, duelist, or blade master type of rogue–a swashbuckler, even. Because its theme is centered around its mastery of weapons, its off hand weapon damage should be more important. In Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, this effect was achieved through Ambidexterity, which increased off hand damage by 75%. If you had an equal item level weapon of the same speed in both hands, your off hand weapon would do 87.5% of the main hand’s damage, instead of the 50% damage of other dual wielding specs’ off hand. Blizzard decided that they wanted to go the route of eliminating the dual wield miss chance at level 100. The combination of white hit capping with a spec whose off hand damage is only 12.5% less than the main hand would be an absurd amount of damage coming from autoattacks. Blizzard decided that ambidexterity had to go. While I do not agree with their decision and would rather the miss chance be retained, I fully understand that Improved Dual Wield and Ambidexterity simply could not coexist.

The problem with the removal of dual wield miss chance and bonus off hand damage is that the off hand weapon’s impact for a combat rogue now is diminished. The importance of this weapon needs to be brought back up to snuff to bring the spec back its identity. Blizzard achieved this by making Combat’s Mastery, Main Gauche, hit with the off hand rather than the main hand. Anyone who has been around since 4.0 may remember that Main Gauche originally struck with the off hand. The community was in an uproar because mastery was a very bad stat back then and had to be buffed several times until Blizzard caved and made it strike with the main hand sometime early in the 4.0 patch cycle. The reason mastery was so bad hitting with the off hand back then was because Combat Potency had a fixed proc chance and so did deadly poison (which was placed on the off hand), combined with the small damage that Main Gauche hit for, it was extremely underwhelming. Main Gauche encouraged use of a slow weapon back then but Combat Potency and Deadly Poison forbade it. The new Main Gauche does not suffer these problems due to the change in Combat Potency and reduction of the impact of Poison for non-assassination specs in Mists of Pandaria (both of which are retained going forward into Warlords). The Combat Potency change allows an offhand weapon of any speed, and while poisons favor fast weapons, deadly poison does not hit with ONLY the off hand as it did in Cataclysm, while also dealing less damage than in the past, both working to lessen that blow of a slow off hand.

The change to MG, however, did not “lessen” the blow of using a slow offhand. It killed using a dagger in the off hand. In Mists of Pandaria, off hand weapon speed is actually very well balanced. The devs did a fantastic job at that. The T16 4-set for combat favors a slow off hand, but I see nothing wrong with a set bonus pushing the balance one way or the other.

The problem with Main Gauche doing as much damage as it does is that it pushes the balance too far toward a slow off hand creating counter-intuitive gearing approaches. The first of these is that mastery becomes better than haste at all gear levels due to the damage contribution of Main Gauche. The second is that late in the expansion, there is some amount of mastery (I have not determined and suspect it’s very gear-dependent) that causes off hand weapon damage to be more important than main hand. Two things that will defy convention for any combat rogue would be “stack mastery, not haste,” and “put your higher item level weapon in your off hand.” Different dual-wielding specs have favored the off hand to varying degrees. Only the WoD combat rogue near mastery hard cap will want to put the better weapon in the off hand, though.

Now that I let that cat out of the bag, it’s time for the theorycrafting and armchair designer part of this discussion.

Near the beginning of any new expansion, one of the things on my radar is how the gameplay and gear of a spec evolves over the course of the expansion. One way to get a glimpse into this is to look at the BiS profile of the end tier of the outgoing expansion in light of the mechanics of the new expansion (think of it as pre-patch end game). I primarily did this because my guild is still progressing in Siege of Orgrimmar so I want to know what changes I need to make to my character going forward. It also allows me to get an idea of how the mechanics in the new expansion will look at the end so that potential problems can be addressed early–now, while it’s still beta.

In this particular experiment, the first thing I did was took the default t16h profile and generated a sim with scaling values to get a starting point. Using information from that I constructed a revised BiS profile using two slow weapons and stacking mastery close to hard cap, and re-ran the sim with scaling values. I did this both with a dagger off hand and a slow off hand. Below is the table of stats and results.

Level 90, T16H gear level

Raid Buffed Stats
Dagger Off Hand Slow Off Hand
Crit 34.48% 35.78%
Haste 52.41% 50.75%
Multistrike 12.64% 12.64%
Versatility 3.00% 3.00%
Mastery 99.14% 99.14%
DPS 18,910.4 +/- 10.77 20,969.8 +/- 11.90
Stat Scaling Values
Agility 7.45 +/- 0.42 8.13 +/- 0.46
Crit 6.43 +/- 0.42 6.58 +/- 0.46
Haste 5.21 +/- 0.41 5.70 +/- 0.46
Mastery 5.29 +/- 0.41 7.70 +/- 0.45
Multistrike 7.84 +/- 0.42 8.13 +/- 0.46
Versatility 6.84 +/- 0.42 7.20 +/- 0.46
MH DPS 5.24 +/- 1.38 3.75 +/- 1.51
OH DPS 4.94 +/- 1.38 5.86 +/- 1.51
Damage Breakdown
Ambush 1.0% 0.9%
MH Autoattack 14.2% 12.8%
OH Autoattack 7.0% 6.3%
DP-D 2.9% 2.7%
DP-I 6.4% 5.4%
Eviscerate 15.2% 13.7%
Flurry of Xuen 6.2% 5.6%
Killing Spree MH 3.8% 3.5%
Killing Spree OH 1.3% 1.7%
Lightning Strike 6.6% 6.0%
Main Gauche 25.2% 32.3%
Revealing Strike 0.8% 0.8%
Sinister Strike 9.4% 8.5%

The information presented in this table is that near mastery hard cap (which is quite possible as this profile is gemming haste in many sockets to avoid overcapping mastery), haste and mastery scale similarly with a dagger, but mastery is far ahead of haste with a slow off hand. The slow offhand profile also does substantially more damage (by roughly 10% and nearly 1/3 of that damage is Main Gauche at 99.14% mastery). The off hand weapon is indeed less important than main hand when utilizing a dagger in the off hand. Mastery is better than haste with both weapon types however. Let’s see if these trends hold true at level 100 in the PvP pre-made gear set.

Level 100, Premade PvP gear

Raid Buffed Stats
Dagger Off Hand Slow Off Hand
Crit 29.11% 29.11%
Haste 14.00% 14.00%
Multistrike 10.44% 10.44%
Versatility 3.59% 3.59%
Mastery 41.66% 41.66%
DPS 23,607.7 +/- 13.46 24,810.1 +/- 14.62
Stat Scaling Values
Agility 4.66 +/- 0.11 4.90 +/- 0.12
Crit 1.74 +/- 0.10 1.83 +/- 0.11
Haste 2.36 +/- 0.10 2.51 +/- 0.11
Mastery 2.21 +/- 0.10 2.81 +/- 0.11
Multistrike 2.15 +/- 0.11 2.21 +/- 0.11
Versatility 1.76 +/- 0.10 1.87 +/- 0.11
MH DPS 3.81 +/- 0.35 4.01 +/- 0.38
OH DPS 2.77 +/- 0.35 3.07 +/- 0.38
Damage Breakdown
Ambush 0.2% 0.2%
MH Autoattack 22.3% 21.3%
OH Autoattack 11.1% 10.6%
Eviscerate 18.9% 18.1%
Instant Poison 14.5% 12.5%
Killing Spree MH 4.0% 3.8%
Killing Spree OH 1.4% 1.9%
Main Gauche 14.1% 19.0%
Revealing Strike 1.0% 0.9%
Sinister Strike 12.4% 11.8%

In this scenario the dps gap is smaller between the off hand types in favor of a slow weapon by about 5%. Even at only 41% raid buffed mastery, Main Gauche is roughly 1/5 of combat’s damage (slow oh). Main hand weapon dps is more important for both, but the margin is wider with a dagger offhand. I’d suspect the crossoverpoint where off hand is better than main hand for a slow offhand is at a smaller mastery chance due to the lack of autoattack miss at level 100.

The big problem I have with Main Gauche doing 225% off hand damage is evident in the T16H example above. In that example Sinister Strike is only doing 8-9% of your dps, which is underwhelming. By shifting damage into combo point generators and away from Main Gauche, it serves two purposes. First it reduces the importance of mastery and shifts that importance to haste–where it belongs. The second is that it shifts damage into active damage sources. I iterated on a reduction of Main Gauche damage and an increase in Sinister/Revealing Strike damage until the point where damage was roughly the same, then compared the T16H profile to the T17 PvP profile. The final values I settled upon were Main Gauche at 140% off hand weapon damage, Sinister Strike at 160% weapon damage, and Revealing Strike at 120% weapon damage.

Level 90, T16H, Revised Tuning

Raid Buffed Stats
Dagger Off Hand Slow Off Hand
Crit 34.48% 35.78%
Haste 52.41% 50.75%
Multistrike 12.64% 12.64%
Versatility 3.00% 3.00%
Mastery 99.14% 99.14%
DPS 18,274.7 +/- 10.57 19,576.6 +/- 11.44
Stat Scaling Values
Agility 7.37 +/- 0.41 7.50 +/- 0.44
Crit 6.07 +/- 0.41 6.40 +/- 0.44
Haste 5.00 +/- 0.41 5.54 +/- 0.44
Mastery 3.95 +/- 0.40 5.22 +/- 0.44
Multistrike 7.53 +/- 0.41 7.67 +/- 0.44
Versatility 6.57 +/- 0.41 7.02 +/- 0.
MH DPS 5.44 +/- 1.35 4.83 +/- 1.45
OH DPS 4.47 +/- 1.35 4.50 +/- 1.44
Damage Breakdown
Ambush 1.0% 1.0%
MH Autoattack 14.6% 13.6%
OH Autoattack 7.2% 6.8%
DP-D 3.0% 2.8%
DP-I 6.6% 5.8%
Eviscerate 15.7% 14.7%
Flurry of Xuen 6.4% 5.9%
Killing Spree MH 3.9% 3.7%
Killing Spree OH 1.4% 1.9%
Lightning Strike 6.9% 6.4%
Main Gauche 16.3% 21.5%
Revealing Strike 1.4% 1.3%
Sinister Strike 15.6% 14.7%

As you can see, these changes dropped the dagger vs slow gap to only 6%, versus the 10% above. Do note that this is still using the mastery-focused gearing. I did not switch to haste based gearing, which may close the gap further.

Here is the same level 100 table.

Level 100, Premade PvP gear, Revised Tuning

Raid Buffed Stats
Dagger Off Hand Slow Off Hand
Crit 29.11% 29.11%
Haste 14.00% 14.00%
Multistrike 10.44% 10.44%
Versatility 3.59% 3.59%
Mastery 41.66% 41.66%
DPS 24,242.0 +/- 13.60 24,926.8 +/- 13.79
Stat Scaling Values
Agility 4.77 +/- 0.11 4.89 +/- 0.11
Crit 1.76 +/- 0.11 1.86 +/- 0.11
Haste 2.41 +/- 0.10 2.43 +/- 0.11
Mastery 1.69 +/- 0.11 2.10 +/- 0.11
Multistrike 2.12 +/- 0.11 2.20 +/- 0.11
Versatility 1.83 +/- 0.11 1.87 +/- 0.11
MH DPS 4.54 +/- 0.35 4.63 +/- 0.36
OH DPS 1.97 +/- 0.35 2.57 +/- 0.36
Damage Breakdown
Ambush 0.2% 0.2%
MH Autoattack 21.7% 21.2%
OH Autoattack 10.8% 10.6%
Eviscerate 18.4% 18.0%
Instant Poison 14.2% 12.4%
Killing Spree MH 3.9% 3.8%
Killing Spree OH 1.4% 1.9%
Main Gauche 8.5% 11.8%
Revealing Strike 1.5% 1.5%
Sinister Strike 19.3% 18.8%

So, the conclusion here is that it behaves much like the T16H profile, where the slow weapon is only slightly ahead of the dagger (by only ~3% here). Haste is still better than mastery, and like the T16H profile, the secondary stat scaling is somewhat flatter, so suboptimal stats aren’t as much of a loss.

One thing I have not looked at (and it needs some investigation) is whether or not these changes require different gearing approaches depending on off hand weapon type. The profiles are identical. I did not switch to haste stacking in the level 90 dagger profile, which is likely understating the performance of the level 90 dagger profile. In the end, however, that is neither here nor there since the level 100 is the default haste-stacking profile, so the slow offhand is not optimal there (and still outperforms the dagger one).

In researching for this blog post, I’ve concluded that blizzard is tuning combat rogues around using a dagger in the off hand (the numbers line up with intuition when a dagger is used) when a dagger is unequivocally not optimal. My suggestion to blizzard is to tune Main Gauche to do less damage, Sinister/Revealing Strike to do more, and commit to using a non-dagger in the off hand. There is no way they’re going to balance the two weapon types with MG hitting with off hand without doing something drastic like making combat potency a fixed chance again (and I suspect that would make it harder to balance the two weapon types). To support this change, I also recommend removing daggers from the combat loot specialization.


4 responses to “Combat Off Hand In Warlords And the Problem With Main Gauche”

  1. Blind says :

    “First it reduces the importance of matery and shifts” I think you meant Mastery? Just a typo. -Blind

  2. Falkien says :

    Blizzard should hire you before WoD goes live!

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  1. Combat Mastery Tuning and Weapon Speed | Rogue Chat - September 21, 2014

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