Apparently rogues haven't been getting the message. Year after year, as punishment for our evil deeds and shady dealings, we've only received coal in our Winter Veil stockings. We were not deterred, as we simply pickpocketed good presents from everyone else. A frustrated Greatfather Winter, tired of our shenanigans, finally turned to his manager. Santa Ghostcrawler, with the rumored Naughty List tight in his grasp, set about enacting a Winter Veil surprise that rogues would not be able to ignore. A 75% nerf to Blade Flurry in patch 5.2 did the trick.
Melodrama aside, Blade Flurry was broken. While I would've preferred to see the ability spread to all three rogue specs and balanced appropriately (back to a cooldown?), Blizzard went in a different direction. Blade Flurry remains firmly a combat-only ability, but the edge it held over assassination and subtlety has waned significantly. Combat is no longer shackled to purely two-target gimmick fights, and assassination and subtlety rogues no longer need to respec and reforge multiple times per night to flex for Blade Flurry. The net effect is incredibly positive for rogues as whole, and we should be embracing this change.
Combat can actually be viable again
In the old days, rogues had to spec combat for all two-target fights. We've seen it for almost as long as Blade Flurry has existed. The ability to nearly double our damage simply could not be overlooked. Unfortunately, this discrepancy allowed combat rogues to fall behind on single-target and multi-target encounters. Who cared if combat did competitive single-target damage if it was the mandatory spec multiple times per tier?
The first tier of Mists of Pandaria drives this point home. Combat was the spec of choice for encounters like the Stone Guard and Garalon, but wasn't competitive on simple single-target fights. By removing combat's dependency on Blade Flurry, it can be balanced against the other specs fairly. The upcoming buffs to Vitality and Sanguinary Vein prove that Blizzard is aiming to achieve parity for all rogue specs.
Combat won't be crippled
Ghostcrawler confirmed on Twitter that combat's ability to effectively AoE targets might need a tweak to ensure that the spec doesn't fall behind after Blade Flurry's nerf. The fact is that the majority of raid encounters don't favor Blade Flurry. On single-target fights like Feng and Blade Lord Ta'yak, Blade Flurry is never even activated. Even though there are more than a dozen encounters encounters in the first tier of MoP raiding, only one of them even requires significant AoE damage.
@josephdelage1 They may need a better AE mechanic for larger groups.- Greg Street (@Ghostcrawler) December 22, 2012
Single-target damage is the golden standard by which all classes are judged. While the DoT classes always win the multi-target spread out gimmick encounters, single-target fights always make up the majority of a tier's bosses. Nerfing Blade Flurry allows combat rogues' single-target damage to be balanced competitively without worrying about making them even more overpowered on two-target fights. Combat rogues are going to be better equipped on more encounters per tier than they ever have been before.
Fewer mid-raid respecs
I know I'm not the only rogue that had to visit a capital city in the middle of a raid night to respec and reforge into combat for a two-target fight. I felt like I was doing my raid a disservice by not abusing Blade Flurry against the Stone Guard and Garalon. Combat's stat priorities clash with assassination's, which had me reworking my gear multiple times per night. It wasn't a fun mechanic, and I didn't enjoy being forced into a different spec for a single ability.
While it still remains to be seen how effective Blade Flurry is in the upcoming patch, my bet is that assassination and subtlety rogues will be better served simply sticking with their existing spec. I'm not saying that rogues looking to absolutely maximize their damage won't still be juggling specs on a per-encounter basis, because that will still be happening. My hope is that the damage difference will be so small that the majority of rogues will be able to happily ignore it.
Better encounter balance
I remember how powerful Blade Flurry was when facing the Twin Val'kyr in Trial of the Crusader. It was the perfect environment: two stacked targets with a shared health pool and a massive damage buff. Nobody else even came close to matching my damage. How could you beat combat on its ideal encounter?
By trimming combat's overwhelming lead on two-target fights, it allows Blizzard to be more creative with encounter design. Balance doesn't happen in a vacuum, and now we might see more interesting encounters without the developers worrying about how badly rogues can break them. It wasn't as if we were actually being respected for winning on two-target fights anyway. Everyone else just chalks it up to an overpowered ability instead of our amazing skill.
Time to take our medicine
Blade Flurry has been broken for a long time, and quite honestly I'm surprised it went unscathed for this long. Rogue class balance is going to be better with Blade Flurry brought back down to Azeroth. It was fun being overpowered a few times a tier, but I'd rather see our three specs more evenly balanced. Blade Flurry's nerf is one we're going to have to stomach. It's in our best interests.
Rogues don't need to be the best cleaving class because of a one-button ability. We don't need to be the best AoE class. We just need to be reasonably balanced with the other classes, and we can let our effort and skill do the rest.
Sneak in every Wednesday for our Mogu'shan Vaults guide, a deep-dive into the world of rogue rotations -- and of course, all the basics in our guide to a raid-ready rogue.