Rogues deal maximum damage when in melee range of their opponents. The new Shuriken Toss is potent, but it's still no substitute for melee uptime. Ranged classes want to keep rogues at bay, while rogues want to close the gap as soon as possible. Rogues will beat a warlock that stands still, but a slippery mage can defeat us. When it comes to PvP, it's all about location, location, location.
Mobility has become a back-and-forth battle between rogues and ranged classes. We compensate for their slows and snares with our Crippling Poison, while they counter our stuns with their teleports and trinkets. Rogues can use Shadowstep to close the gap, only to be rooted in place and left out in the open. Rogue PvP has become a mobility cooldown dance, as we try to snuggle up to our targets and they try to play hard-to-get.
Mobility in a vacuum
Rogues don't need mobility purely for mobility's sake. We already have a baseline 15% movement speed boost at all times, the movement penalty of Stealth has been removed, and the relatively new short-CD Sprint is quite potent. We've also got Shadowstep and Cloak and Dagger in our talent tree, giving us more mobility than we've ever had before. Rogues have come a long way from the days when Sprint was our only mobility option.
If you look at rogues in a vacuum, it would appear that we now have super powers. The truth is that as rogues have evolved, our opponents have also gained new skills and abilities. For every trick like Shadowstep that we've learned, there's an equal and opposite reaction, like Demonic Circle or Disengage. I remember when it only took one good Freezing Trap for a hunter to defeat a rogue. Now, rogues and hunters spar with dozens of abilities and cooldowns, each trying to get an edge on the other. PvP balance is almost determined by the class that has one more cooldown than the other.
Rogues favor quick battles
When PvP encounters only lasted a few short seconds, rogues didn't need any mobility tricks to dispatch their opponents. We could single out targets and eliminate them in a stunlock. Today, life pools are too large and resilience gear is too potent for quick battles. Blizzard's focus is on balancing team battles, where healers are common and we can't pick off our targets one by one. As the average length of a PvP battle increases, the number of opportunities for our enemies to escape our grasp has been multiplied.
Due to the plethora of DoTs and AoE affects in the game, it's difficult for a rogue to use Stealth more than a couple of times per battle. Stealth, our openers, and the element of surprise are major components of the rogue class. Unfortunately for us, as the length of PvP encounters increases, the relative value of these abilities wanes. A single Ambush at the start of a fight becomes less and less valuable as the fight goes on. Getting the opener no longer ensures a victory.
The death of the stunlock
There was a time when rogues were the only class in the game with effective stuns on short cooldowns. Cheap Shot and Kidney Shot used to allow us to topple any foe. Now, both abilities look antiquated. Cheap Shot requires Stealth and Kidney Shot consumes 5 combo points. Hammer of Justice, Shockwave, Asphyxiate, and Leg Sweep all put our stuns to shame. I know that it's not quite fair to compare one class' abilities to another's, but the fact is that any supremacy rogues held with stuns is long gone.
Stuns are only part of the problem, though. Even if we could still lock a target down for 10 seconds, we can't deal anywhere near enough damage to kill them in that amount of time. Any class can easily pop a trinket or cooldown to escape our stuns, and Kidney Shot's long cooldown and combo point requirement make it difficult to reapply effectively. Keeping our targets in melee range is more important than ever before.
Chasing our prey
Playing a rogue in PvP today typically consists of trying to catch up with a target that's trying to avoid us. We'll use our Vanish and Sprint to counter some Entangling Roots, we'll hit Shadowstep when they use Blink, and we'll pop Smoke Bomb to avoid getting nuked while we're trapped in a Frost Nova. PvP has evolved into a duel of slows and gap closers, of stuns and escapes, of teleports and knockbacks. A rogue wants to get to their target, and their target wants anything except for that to happen.
Because of the cat and mouse nature of rogue PvP, it can be quite frustrating to play a rogue without the proper cooldowns. Without Vanish or Smoke Bomb, we're completely vulnerable to being rooted. Without Sprint or Shadowstep, we can easily be outrun. We need a certain minimum number of cooldowns to keep up with the arsenal of short-CD moves like Frost Nova and Blink that we'll be facing. It can be maddening to sit in Entangling Roots, watching a druid casting a massive Starfire, knowing that you could've survived if only Cloak of Shadows had been ready.
Preparation, to me, isn't about using Vanish twice in one fight. It's not about trying to run the Warsong Gulch flag back with back-to-back Sprints. Preparation is about being able to fight more often, without feeling like I'll be hamstrung because I'm missing a core cooldown. It's about being able to approach a target without worrying about whether or not Vanish is off cooldown. Preparation isn't designed to make rogues the best duelers, it's designed to allow rogues to have enough abilities to handle more than one target every few minutes.
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.