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Outlaw Rogues in Legion

Yes. I know. I haven’t written anything in many months, and my first post after announced changes is, indeed, a rogue-related post. I haven’t had much of a muse lately. I’ve become burned out on WoW, so I play less. To address the burnout, I have not been raiding in Legion and my play has reduced to (generally) only a couple hours a week. That said, I DO have enough hours logged in to /played at max level to be able to write down some thoughts on the current state of the Outlaw spec (I have not played Assassination or Subtlety enough to formulate a well reasoned opinion on the specs). I have also started a new outlaw rogue to get a new-player perspective on this discussion (although the rogue is still quite low level, as I am also playing the character without utilizing LFG or heirlooms, and very infrequently)

Let’s begin by addressing how I think the spec feels. For the most part, the spec has improved in Legion. There are some nagging issues, but they are all fixable. The spec certainly feels more cohesive and less like a “This spec just uses what you get at level 1 and upgrades those abilities.” In the past, rogues got Sinister Strike at level 1, and that became the focal point of combat, so it had a feeling of the spec that just enhances the default experience, rather than changing once you choose the specialization at level 10. Outlaw fixes that. Renaming Sinister Strike to Saber Slash and adding what is basically a full-damage multistrike changes things up.

Let’s now focus on the bane of rogues since the launch of Mists of Pandaria in 2012: Talents. Talents are now considerably better than they were in Mists and Warlords, but they could use more work. For this discussion, I will not be talking about dps impacts on throughput related talents–those can be tweaked to be more balanced against other choices. The focal point of this discussion is on feel and the impact that the talent has on choice, based on my own gameplay experience.

Level 15

This talent row is pretty good. Ghostly Strike does feel out of place, thematically, with Swordmaster and  Quick Draw, as the latter two talents change up the Saber Slash proc mechanic in different ways. Each of these talents changes the feel of the spec in a different way. Ghostly Strike adds debuff maintenance, Swordmaster increases the number of procs you have to react to, and Quick Draw just makes it cost more to waste a Saber Slash proc.

Level 30

This talent row and level 75 talent rows are the two most problematic. Grappling Hook is fun–really, really fun. So fun that I keep waiting for it to be nerfed because who wouldn’t want to take this talent? Hit and Run is boring, but very utilitarian. An extra 15% movement speed all the time is  definitely useful, especially if you need to get out of dodge more frequently than Sprint or Grappling Hook allow.

The problem here, is Acrobatic Strikes. This is a terrible talent. I mean Outlaw rogues have a ranged, damaging stun, and a combo builder that can be done from range. I really think this talent should be baked into the spec (and just increase your melee range to 8yd for the entire spec, including autoattacks) and replace the talent with something else movement related. What I’d like to see? Something like Burst of Speed, only not exactly the previous incarnation of the ability. I’d like to see something like this:

Burst of Speed
Replaces Sprint
30 Energy
Increases your movement speed by 70% for 4 seconds.

Level 45

This row is a lot like level 15 in that it is pretty well rounded, but has one talent that doesn’t really fit the theme. Also, like level 15, I don’t think that’s a particularly big deal. The out-of-place talent here is Vigor. Both Deeper Stratagem and Anticipation change how you use combo points on finishers, whereas vigor is an energy management talent. Deeper Stratagem feels strongest here, but I can understand the appeal to Anticipation to reduce combo point waste. Whereas Anticipation is a combo point buffer, Vigor becomes an energy buffer. The issue I see with this talent row, is that it is the same for all 3 specs, so they’re trying to balance 3 talents across 3 specs, and that is difficult. For example, Anticipation is much more useful for Assassination than it is for Outlaw or Subtlety, because assassination generates more combo points per ability. I think this talent row should be worked and balanced on a per-spec basis.

Level 60

This would be the survivability tier. Overall, I think it’s well thought out, but it’s among the rows that needs the most work. For raiding, Cheat Death becomes almost mandatory. It’s not because it’s powerful–its limitations balanced that out–but because the other two talents are pretty weak, compared to it.

This is how I would change the other two talents in this row: For Iron Stomach, I would remove the energy cost on Crimson Vial in addition to its current boost to healing potion / Crimson Vial / healthstone healing. The boost to potions/healthstones is a really nice bonus and gives the talent a really nice survivability perk, outside of class/spec abilities. Retaining the energy cost of Crimson Vial though makes it of limited usefulness in raiding (it’s good for solo play though). Alternatively, just remove the healing bonus altogether and have Iron Stomach simply add 10% Leech to the effects of Roll the Bones / Slice and Dice.

For Elusiveness I’d remove the GCD and energy cost of Feint, but incur a 5 second cooldown. Due to the nature of the Deception artifact trait, I would simply buff it to say that “Sprint also reduces the damage of Area of Effect attacks by xx%.” Basically buff the trait to turn Sprint into a free 8 second Feint, maybe at reduced effectiveness (say 30%).

Level 75

This is the talent tier that is probably the most inconsequential. I choose Dirty Tricks. Not because I feel it’s a compelling choice. Just that it sucks the least. It’s obvious this tier is centered around crowd control. The choices end up being basically “Replace Blind with a version that has all the limitations of Sap (and then some) but without the benefits of Blind,” “Increase the damage of 1 attack by 10%” and “Free CC.”

Parley: This talent looks good on paper, until you realize that it’s just an extended range version of Sap that has a cooldown and doesn’t work on Beasts or require stealth. Blind, as it is, is considerably more useful because it can be used on any target, even if it’s in combat. This talent goes too far into the whole “class fantasy” angle to have much gameplay value. It might be more interesting, though, if it replaced Sap instead of Blind (and didn’t break or require stealth). Alternatively, remove the out-of-combat limitation.

Prey on the Weak: Each of the abilities it modifies breaks on damage, limiting the ability’s usefulness. It used to work on Kidney Shot, but no longer works on Between the Eyes. I understand the reasoning–Between the Eyes already does damage on its own. It still would be nice to add it back. The usefulness of Prey on the Weak wasn’t increasing your own damage, but increasing ALL damage to the target.

Dirty Tricks: Hey, at least Sap, Gouge, and Blind are free now!

Level 90

This row offers a reasonably interesting choice. I chose Cannonball Barrage because 6 years of the issues with Killing Spree has me sworn off the ability. There is nothing inherently additionally wrong with Killing Spree (aside from what’s been wrong with it since Wrath).

Cannonball Barrage: Needs a damage buff. Maybe the buff in 7.1.5 will be enough? We shall see.

Alacrity: The problem with this is that it is not particularly well suited to non-raiders. It requires a significant amount of time to ramp up. Even in 5-mans I found the buff falling off between pulls if the tank took too long to pull the next group. The change to 2% haste per stack, 10 stacks on the PTR is adequate, but the buff really needs to last 60 seconds, or else it will drop off during modest bits of downtime. If you’re set on 20 seconds, than change it to 4% per stack, 5 stacks.

Killing Spree. Allow full control of movement during the ability. I’m sure that’s about all anyone would ask for. Removing the cc immunity in Warlords removed one of the main advantages of the self-imposed cc. Now you have self-imposed cc that you can be additionally cc’d during.

Level 100

I think the patch 7.1.5 addition to Slice and Dice is really good. Right now the problem with it is that it is boring, and does not impact the feel of the spec in any way. Adding the energy regeneration boost increases its competition with Death from Above and Marked for Death. I think this is one of the better talent rows and that addition to Slice and Dice is welcome indeed.

Placement

Having discussed my thoughts on each of the talent rows, the only thing left is to discuss their placement. I would prefer that the level 30 row be offered at level 15 (and sprint also granted by level 15). At a low level when you don’t have a mount, movement speed is one of the better things to offer a new player. I don’t think damage enhancing or rotational abilities such as Ghostly Strike are particularly useful yet as things are still dying fast due to basic abilities (since the game assumes you don’t have much at this point anyway). This should shift the level 30 talent to 15, the level 45 talent down to 30. And I think the new level 45 would be a good place to insert Ghostly Strike / Swordmaster / Quick Draw. (or move them to 30 and leave the level 45 talent row as-is).

Other abilities

Ruthlessness: Currently with Deeper Stratagem, the extra combo point offers no value with Ruthlessness. Ruthlessness should extend to the 6th combo point (meaning at 5 combo points you’re guaranteed 1 combo point and a 6-point finisher grants a 20% chance to yield 2 combo points and 1 point otherwise).

Roll the Bones. One of the things I like about Roll the Bones is how the buffs change up the feel of the spec. In concept it’s a really fun ability. Optimal usage involves re-rolling for better buffs. Re-rolling, however, is not fun. I understand the reasoning behind it because without it, Slice and Dice becomes either worthless or overpowered. Still, I’d like to see 6 buffs removed from the table, the chance of getting 2 buffs increased, the chance of getting 3 buffs decreased, and the chance of a single buff either greatly decreased or removed entirely.

The individual buffs could involve some tweaks. Grand Melee is the worst of them. It doesn’t really change the feel of the spec at all (granted, you get a few extra combat potency procs, but that’s about it). Jolly Roger is hardly noticeable as well. These two could use tweaks. The rest change the feel of the spec and are rewarding to get.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

So. It’s been a little while since I posted eh? I’ve decided to change the scope of this blog. I am less interested in theorycrafting these days so I am going to broaden the scope to just about anything that occupies my mind these days. Of course there will still be the occasional theorycrafting post, so if you’re following because of that, feel free to continue. Just know that won’t be the sole content going forward. Most posts will be technological in nature considering my thoughts on science, technology, computing, etc.