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Encrypted Text: Openers and the element of surprise

stealth rogue
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Encrypted Text for assassination, combat and subtlety rogues. Chase Christian will be your guide to the world of shadows every Wednesday. Feel free to email me with any questions or article suggestions you'd like to see covered here.

One of the interesting dichotomies of the rogue class is use of Stealth. Stealth, and by extension, surprise, is paramount to rogue PvP and most of the rogue leveling experience. In these situations, the optimal strategy is to use an opener to gain an early advantage over your foe. Ambush, Cheap Shot, and Garrote immediately set the pace of the encounter. When fights only last a few brief seconds, Stealth tips that tenuous balance in our favor.

Once raiding enters the picture, the value of Stealth drops to near zero. Assassination rogues get a slight boost from using Garrote against a raid boss, but we're talking about less than a 1% difference. Combat rogues don't even bother using an opener at all -- all of the options are too weak. Subtlety rogues, who are designed around Stealth and openers, require the cooldown Shadow Dance to function. Stealth and its relationship with combat simply don't work in protracted battles.

We can't stealth in raid combat

Stealth works so well against players and normal enemies because we're constantly floating in and out of combat. Cheap Shot buys us a 4-second window of dominance over our opponents, and when fights only last 20 seconds, that's a huge advantage. With decent gear, it's even been possible in the past to kill your enemy before Stealth's cooldown had refreshed. Abilities like Ambush and our other openers front-load a lot of damage or control, which is great when we're able to dip into Stealth regularly.

While you're engaged in raid combat, there's no restealthing. You're flagged for combat the entire time the encounter is active, which means you have no opportunities to use another opener. A 4-second advantage doesn't buy us much when raid encounters last 10 minutes. Stealth is a fundamental part of the rogue experience, and its absence from the raiding environment is dispiriting.

Vanish isn't the fix

Vanish is an important defensive cooldown for rogues, and it shouldn't be converted into an offensive cooldown. Mechanics like Master of Subtlety and Overkill favor using Vanish offensively to gain their respective buffs, forcing us to lose some of our defensive flexibility. Vanish lets us escape roots and slows, while also avoiding enemy attacks when well-timed. We shouldn't be wasting our defensive abilities for slight offensive gains, and luckily, the removal of Overkill in Mists of Pandaria is a step in the right direction.

Even if Vanish was a purely offensive cooldown, it still doesn't feel quite right. Using one cooldown just to enter Stealth makes sense in short encounters, but again, in a long raid encounter, two or three openers won't make a difference. If we want to see Stealth and openers become part of the rogue core toolkit, a cooldown is not the way to go about it.

Restealthing without a cooldown

There's already a restealth mechanic that's used in PvP situations: the 5-second wait. If we don't attack and aren't attacked for a full 5 seconds, we leave combat and we're able to Stealth successfully. While leaving combat might not work for raid encounters, we could make it work by allowing us to Stealth if we see no incoming or outgoing attacks for 5 seconds. Running from add to add or waiting out a boss' AoE ability could actually be productive, since we'd be able to enter the fray with a bang.

Openers aren't powerful enough to have us waiting 5 seconds just to use them. They do, however, provide rogues with some much-needed burst and debuff applications that are critical for swapping targets. If we have a reliable way to use Stealth while in raid combat, we can start adding new diversity to our strategies.

Tank-and-spank encounters

How could restealthing work on a traditional tank-and-spank encounter like Patchwerk? There's not a lot of running around or swapping between adds, so it's not as if we'd have the ability to stop attacking for 5 seconds. How could we start working openers into our rotations without activating a cooldown? The answer is a word that rogues aren't really familiar with since we have nearly no experience with them: procs.

Rogues have been a class without any serious proc for our entire existence. While the old Riposte and our current Seal Fate might seem like procs, the truth is that rogues have had nearly static rotations forever. Could the introduction of a proc be the thing we need to spice up our rotations in Mists? Something new to keep track of, a new dimension of optimization, and an element of surprise for us could change the way we approach combat.

Imagine a simple proc, something like the retribution paladin's Art of War, that allows us to unload the opener of our choice when it lights up. We could score a few extra Ambushes and Garrotes per encounter, giving us some additional damage or energy. I would also like to see Cheap Shot retooled in the same way that Deep Freeze was, where using it on a stun-immune target would still yield some combo points and some bonus damage.

There are a lot of different mechanics that could allow rogues to restealth or use openers in combat, including the very successful Shadow Dance cooldown. I would like to see Stealth and openers become bigger parts of the rogue's toolkit in raiding environments, as it would give us some much needed diversity and fresh blood. Our rotations have been static for years, and it's about time to look into how to spice them up.

Sneak in every Wednesday for our Molten Front ganking guide, a deep-dive into the world of playing a subtlety rogue -- and of course, all the basics in our guide to the latest rogue gear.

Filed under: Rogue, (Rogue) Encrypted Text

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