Mists of Pandaria: Early Rogue Talent Preview

Last weekend at Blizzcon 2011, Blizzard ran through their early working versions of the new 5.0 talents for each class. Since my main is a rogue, I had strong feelings about what they previewed for us stabby types. Below I’ll run through my take on each. One thing to note is that the true value of many of the talents won’t be apparent until class and spec abilities are revealed, and interesting combinations reveal themselves. And as we all know, things are subject to change, potentially dramatically, before release.

Level 15 – Nightstalker/Subterfuge/Shadow Focus

Level 15 Talents

Nightstalker:
Slow rogues are sad rogues! This version of Nightstalker is improved from the current ability (20% vs. 10%). A lot of this talent’s value will be determined by where Quickening ends up (class ability, spec ability, gone like warlocks). Hopefully Quickening is still in the mix somewhere, so this isn’t critical in PvP. As for PvE, while I would love to have this ability, it just isn’t helpful enough to be a go-to talent, even situationally. This may be useful in a pure soloing spec where time in stealth is much greater.

Subterfuge:
Verrry interesting. Obviously provides a burst of damage early and after a vanish – how much of a burst will depend on the energy cost of ambush. This is likely to be the clear winner in this tier for PvE unless energy costs are prohibitive (and Shadow Focus would then win out). For PvP, this is simply too interesting to skip. For starters, you’ll get 3-4 openers off on a target, if you have the energy to support it. Where you would normally garrote a caster rather than cheap shot, now you don’t have to choose. I’ll probably open up with CS, then plan to get the garrote in on casters right before stealth wears off for maximum silence effect. Also interesting: I’m guessing rogues won’t be targetable during this three seconds, so we’ll have an easier time getting our chain burst in. Finally, I’m looking forward to using this talent to steal a lot of flags in battlegrounds. Usually smart teams will AOE during flag transfers. Now they’ll have to do that for three full seconds before it’s safe. If they don’t, we’ll be able to ninja the flag.

Shadow Focus:
Not nearly as interesting as subterfuge, but not bad in its own right. This provides some utility in PvP (free saps/distracts before engaging), and some burst (free opener). That doesn’t seem, however, to be enough to make its way into our specs unless there’s another spec/class ability this interacts well with.

Level 30 – Deadly Throw/Nerve Strike/Combat Readiness

Level 30 Talents

Deadly Throw:
None of the talents in this tier will be useful on every boss fight, so choosing a talent for PvE use is going to be situational (or in some cases, not matter at all). If you have adds to interrupt, or need to apply a ranged slow, this will be the talent to take.

This is decent in PvP, but needing combo points on the target reduce its viability somewhat. Vendetta (see level 90) will help here, but not enough. I see this as being more useful in arena than battlegrounds, because of the higher frequency of target switches in the latter.

Nerve Strike:
Damage reduction after a stun. On some PvE fights (and trash!), this will be invaluable, but on others it will be useless, all depending on mechanics and immunities. I can see this being useful on a fight where there is a “big” add that puts out a lot of damage; it could be coordinated for use as a tank c/d at that point. With Vanish, Cheap Shot, and 5 point Kidney Shots on cooldown, you could greatly reduce the damage output of such an add if and only if it’s stunnable.

In PvP, this seems solid. Between the stun and the residual effect, you’ll be able to use up a lot of an opponent’s dps c/d. Since the effect reduces all damage (not just melee), it means you’ll want to stun casters more than you used to – this meshes well with the Subterfuge level 15 talent.

Combat Readiness:
This talent was useful when Cata came out, nerfed to the ground when it was put on the same c/d as Cloak of Shadows, and now reappears as an optional talent. I could only see taking this while soloing (I’d still prefer Nerve Strike) or on a rare boss where a rogue was used as some manner of offtank. Goodbye, Combat Readiness, I hardly knew ye. At least I’ll get a spot back on my bars.

Level 45 – Cheat Death/Leeching Poison/Improved Recuperate

Level 45 Talents

Cheat Death:
Amazing, at least for PvE. Just like rogues can “skip” certain mechanics with Cloak of Shadows (think Electrocute on Nefarian, or seed explosion on Domo), this will provide the same sort of benefit every 90 seconds. Ignore Firestorm on Alysrazor, help eat a scythe on Domo with no attention needed from a healer – that’s pretty OP stuff that will, used correctly, add a ton of value to the class. This talent will also provide a few minor benefits like improved emergency evasion tanking and slightly better odds for surviving to mass rez after a wipe.

Leeching Poison:
When this was announced, it seemed underwhelming. After all, most rogues would have to stick with their tried-and-true poisons, especially with thrown weapons going away. However, in the most recent Blizzard Developer Q&A, it was revealed that rogue poisons would be reworked so one DPS poison and one utility poison would be used at all times. After this announcement gave some insight into where Blizzard is going with poisons, I could see some value in using this in a PvE situation, although only when Cheat Death wouldn’t be of use at all.

In PvP, I think folks will likely run with other utility poisons, but depending on comp, this could be useful there as well.

This would seem to be a solid choice for leveling rogues, reducing downtime between mobs.

Improved Recuperate:
Assuming Subtlety still has some form of the current Energetic Recovery, and therefore has it as a key part of their rotation, this will be a nice Sub PvP talent to have. 1% extra health and 6% damage reduction is nothing to sneeze at.

Level 60 – Preparation/Shadowstep/Burst of Speed

Level 60 Talents

Whoo boy. This tier is the one that has the forums all aflutter, as it takes two talents integral to the current Subtlety spec and makes all rogues have to choose between them. And it adds an interesting new talent to the mix to make it even crazier.

Preparation:
They’ve added Cloak of Shadows and Evasion back in, and the spells that were on the glyphed version (with the exception of Kick) are also in here, making this powerful for defensive, offensive, and utility reasons. I’m looking forward to working out the best usage and timing for this talent per fight, and it does seem to be the clear PvE winner for most fights. Typically, as an Assassination rogue, it will lead to an extra vanish per fight (and therefore a boost to dps as overkill kicks in). But utility examples like an extra Cloak of Shadows for amazing damage resistance are compelling.

Shadowstep:
Note that the dps bonuses currently on Shadowstep spec do not appear here; as written, this is purely utility (ignoring the slight dps increase from improved time on boss/adds). On some fights with adds, this will be the talent to choose for mobility reasons. I could also see it coming in handy on some PvP maps where terrain is difficult to navigate. But because it’s a utility choice going up against a DPS + Survival choice, I don’t see this being selected often. I see it as most value again for the leveling rogue where Preparation isn’t as much of a time saver as jumping from one mob to another is.

Burst of Speed:
The high energy cost (60) makes this talent less useful than it appears at first. It could be valuable in fights where you absolutely must sprint more often than the Sprint c/d plus Preparation will allow, or free yourself from snares. This talent would have crushed Atramedes.

Level 75 – Deadly Brew/Paralytic/Poison/Dirty Tricks

Level 75 Talents

Deadly Brew:
Depending on the spec abilities, poison choices, and other information we don’t yet have, this may be absolutely necessary for PvP. It’s hard to tell right now, but with thrown weapons having gone away, I feel it’s likely that this will end up as critical to PvP specs.

Paralytic Poison:
Extra stuns can be good, but not if they kick in diminishing returns. I don’t see much value to this except in very rare cases. Typically you’ll want your stuns to be controlled, not random.

Dirty Tricks:
If Deadly Brew ends up not being a required talent, this is where our PvP brethren will end up, protecting their blinds and gouges from their dots (but not other people’s dots). Oddly, I see this as a common talent for PvE rogues, especially in situations where slows and stuns are bad. Personally, I think the idea of taking an otherwise useless talent in order to avoid the downsides of the other two is not what the talent system should be about.

Level 90 – Killing Spree/Shadow Dance/Vendetta

Level 90 Talents

Killing Spree:
New and improved! The target you jump to is still random, but your jumps are initiated by keypress. You’ll still want to use this carefully, because a misplaced jump or waiting for a long time on one can erode the benefits of this spell, but a well-timed delay can be beneficial. Assuming other skills stay reasonably the same, on a fight with multiple long-lived adds, Assassination rogues will be able to get rupture up on 4 or 5 mobs, greatly boosting the energy returned (think Heroic Maloriak).

The possible uses in PvP are intriguing, particularly when combined with Subterfuge – chained openers and/or finishers will chew through energy, but could help break up an offensive attack.

Shadow Dance:
Currently, this is a burst damage spell for Subtlety rogues. This works because they have Slaughter from the Shadows that reduces the energy cost for Ambush, so they can effectively spam it for the duration of shadow dance, finishing with an eviscerate. Unfortunately, unless something else is to come, other rogue specs don’t have this energy saving talent, so it may not be as valuable unless combined with Adrenalin Rush, Overkill, or some other energy boosting talents.

One place this talent could shine is when multiple mobs need CC. Combine this with Shadowstep and Sprint on a fight like Ragnaros, and one rogue could effectively stun at least 3 adds, maybe more. That’s a difference maker for raid teams having issues in that phase of the fight.

Vendetta:
Okay, Blizzard got weird here. Right off the bat, the duration of Vendetta is halved. As currently written, the “unerring vision” part of the spell is gone (most useful in PvP), although this tooltip is so long it may have just been left off the display. In return for those (possible) drawbacks, it gives rogues a ranged, combo point building attack (Vengeful Strikes) while Vendetta is running. On one hand, this is pretty awesome especially if you have Deadly Throw in your spec; on the other hand, this is where things get weird. For maximum effect in PvE, you’ll still want to use Vendetta when you’ll be in melee range, and this will be easier with the shorter duration. After all 20% increased damage on your regular rotation is better than 20% increased damage on Vengeful Strikes. So this means you’ll hope to never need the second half of this ability.

In PvP this is more valuable, as you can still hit your target as they try to kite you, and then turn around and interrupt or kidney shot. That will be rather fun.

So overall, there are some interesting choices in there. While a lot of commentary is focused on “dumbing things down,” I think it’s quite the contrary. Good rogues who can shift effectively between a rotation with Vendetta and Preparation to one with Shadowstep and Shadow Dance will quickly set themselves apart from the pack as far as damage dealt and utility to the raid. Managing action bars, key bindings, and macros will be vital, as will building appropriate muscle memory for a wide array of spec variations. I’m looking forward to the challenges the new talent system offers.

What are your thoughts? Where do you agree, and more importantly, where am I totally off base, over- or underestimating these new rogue talents? Let me know!

About Tikari

I'm a rogue who likes to raid, guilded with Apotheosis on Eldre'Thalas. If you think I may have pumpkin headed you, it was actually @kurnmogh.
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