After writing Encrypted Text for nearly four years now, I have gotten into the groove of writing about how rogues will handle upcoming expansions. The upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion looks to repeat most of the last two expansions' changes: a complete poison revamp, talent trees slashed to the core, and no news on our missing Swirly Ball. Wait, Swirly Ball is back? Everything I know about rogues just went out the window.
The developers avoid implementing major class changes via patches, preferring to deploy them via expansions. There's a natural separation between expansions that softens the blow of redesign a class mechanic. While rogues weren't fundamentally altered during Cataclysm's patches, there are already several changes brewing for us in Mists. We're gaining more raid utility, dropping a few outdated mechanics, and becoming more flexible with our abilities. How will these changes affect your day-to-day lifestyle?
Poisons become abilities
It's hard to believe that we actually used to craft our own poisons at one point. We transitioned from brewing our own toxins with raw materials to purchasing the pre-compiled vials from the vendors directly. Anyone else remember farming Blindweed for hours on end? I still have nightmares of riding around the Swamp of Sorrows until dawn. Blizzard's next move was to condense all of the poison levels into a single version that scaled with our power. We only needed to dedicate five bag slots to poisons!
In Mists, poisons will no longer be items. Poisons are turning into abilities that we can find in our spellbook, finally freeing up those inventory slots for good. Class trainers are also no longer needed to learn new abilities, so we'll simply receive the appropriate poison abilities as we level up. You'll never get stuck asking someone to drop a Jeeves because you forgot to restock your poisons before the raid.
Lethal and utility poisons
As part of the new poison system, poisons are no longer applied to individual weapons but rather both weapons at once. When you activate your Deadly Poison ability, both of your weapons will be coated in Deadly Poison. The applied poison can proc from hits from both weapons. I say both weapons because all non-hunters are losing their ranged slot in Mists, while hunters are losing their melee slots. I know, it brings a tear to my eye too. More on the lack of a ranged slot later.
In order to allow us to continue to use our utility (which Blizzard calls non-lethal) poisons, we're now allowed to have one lethal and one non-lethal poison applied to our pair of weapons at once. You can have Crippling Poison and Deadly Poison active on both weapons simultaneously, or you can mix Leeching Poison and Wound Poison if you so desire.
We only have two lethal poisons, Deadly Poison and Wound Poison, at our disposal. Deadly Poison now only stacks once and immediately starts dealing instant damage once the debuff is applied. Wound Poison deals less damage over time but provides us with slightly more burst damage, since it doesn't require a debuff to be applied before it starts dealing instant damage. In addition, Wound Poison still lowers the healing our target receives, which makes it useful for PvP and certain raid encounters.
Our selection of utility poisons is much larger. We have Crippling Poison and Mind-Numbing Poison as our baseline utility poisons, and we can supplement that with our new Leeching Poison and Paralyzing Poison. Both poisons come from our new talents. It obviously doesn't make sense to choose the Leeching and Paralyzing Poison talents at the same time, since we can only have one utility poison applied at the same time. Blizzard is aware of the conflict but doesn't see it as an issue. Leeching Poison will definitely be the poison of choice for raiding rogues, as it actually provides a real benefit in a raid environment.
Rogue raid buffs
Speaking of benefiting a raid, rogues are actually now capable of providing some serious raid utility. All rogues will provide a 10% haste buff from one of our passive abilities, Swiftblade's Cunning. All rogues will also provide the 5% magic damage buff via Master Poisoner, which used to be assassination-exclusive. That means that every rogue brings 10% haste and 5% magic damage passively.
Unfortunately, combat is losing the 4% physical damage debuff from Savage Combat, and subtlety is losing the 5% crit bonus from Honor Among Thieves. All rogues will be able to apply Expose Armor to their target now that it's a combo point generator, and our utility poisons can help out on certain fights as well.
Shiv is our new Amplify Poison
I always loved the Amplify Curse mechanic that warlocks had back in the day. Shiv mirrors that design by letting us proc an extra-powerful version of our active utility poison. Using Shiv with Crippling Poison active will further slow our target, while using it with Leeching Poison will instantly restore 5% of our maximum life. It's a very fun mechanic that will actually have us putting Shiv back onto our action bars.
Shiv continues to dispel a single Enrage effect from our target, although it no longer generates a combo point. Shiv now costs a fixed 20 energy and subsequently has had its damage nerfed to the ground.
Fixed weapon speeds
In Mists, there are only two weapon speeds, fast and slow. Fast weapons -- which is to say only daggers -- can only be 1.8 speed. Slow weapons -- which is to say everything else -- can only be 2.6 speed. There are no exceptions.
Subtlety and assassination rogues will be using a pair of 1.8-speed daggers at all times, while combat rogues will be able to choose between a slow/fast or slow/slow combo. Slow/fast will typically be the best choice for combat, but slow/slow can work if you have a really good slow weapon for your off-hand. The idea of proc per minute and proc per hit no longer apply to rogues, as our weapons only come in fixed speeds and our poisons are applied to both weapons anyway.
Hit and expertise converge
First, in Mists, there's no such thing as spell hit and melee hit, only hit. We don't have to worry about melee hit and spell hit scaling at different rates per rating point. Hit rating provides hit chance, and there are certain hit caps that we'll want to reach. In order for us to not miss any special melee attacks against bosses, we'll want to stack 7.5% hit. That's it. Poisons will be using new 15% spell hit chance, but we'll be making up the gap in a different way. Picking up hit past the 7.5% mark will only increase the number of white swings that land, which is typically not a good investment.
Expertise reduces our opponents' chance to dodge and parry, just as it does today. We only need 7.5% expertise to completely remove a boss' dodge chance from behind. Expertise will also help us reach the spell hit cap by granting us spell hit. With 7.5% hit and 7.5% expertise, you'll be at the equivalent of today's yellow hit cap, poison hit cap, and expertise cap, all at the same time. Expertise will become a must-have stat, since it's effectively today's spell hit stat combined with today's normal expertise effects. Expect to aim for 7.5% hit and 7.5% expertise with all three rogue specs.
As another bonus, poisons will also now crit for 200% damage, just like our regular melee attacks. Envenom benefits from all of these changes as well.
Fan of Knives is going back to its original design of using our melee weapons as the base for its damage. In addition, Fan of Knives will generate a combo point if we hit our current target with its AoE.
What will we be using all of those combo points for? Crimson Tempest, our new AoE finisher, of course. Between Fan of Knives becoming a combo point generator and the addition of a new AoE finisher, rogues will actually have a reasonably well-developed ranged rotation. The only downside is that now we'll need to find a spot for Crimson Tempest in our keybindings.
Feint can now be used with or without a target, which obviously means that it can be used without being in melee range of anybody. Unfortunately, the Glyph of Feint no longer makes it free to use, so we'll now have to choose between using our energy for survivability or for damage. Shadowstep now allows us to teleport behind friendly targets as well as enemy targets, so we'll be able to use it more defensively now. I can't wait to find a creative use for it!
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.