February 25, 2009

Patch 3.1 change analysis

With the PTRs recently launched (my bet in the WoW Insider pool was Tuesday during maintenance), we've seen the first iteration of the 3.1 patch notes. They match what Ghostcrawler and Eyonix were kind enough to give us early, mostly in the flavor of Combat buffs and a change to HfB which I predict nobody will be happy with.

While talking with some fellow assassins, we began musing as to what these changes will mean for Rogues of all specs and playstyles. Read on after the cut for a full analysis of the big changes.

Combat Buffs:
-Savage Combat now increases damage by 4% (up from 2%).
-Adrenaline Rush now has a 3 minute cooldown (down from 5).
-Lightning Reflexes is now a 3 point talent for 6% dodge and 10% melee haste (yay!).
-Killing Spree increases all damage done by 20% while in the spree.

Combat saw the promised buffs from Eyonix and Ghostcrawler, and I think many Combat enthusiasts are excited about their spec of choice becoming en vogue again. I will personally be looking for a slow main hand to try this spec out. Just don't get too attached to a Shiv-spam spec: GC will have this personally rebalanced soon. The announced addition of haste to Mace Specialization is currently not on the PTR, we'll see if it turns up soon.

Glyph Changes:
-Glyph of Killing Spree (45 seconds off cooldown)
-Glyph of Adrenaline Rush (AR lasts 5 seconds longer)
-Glyph of Shadow Dance (lasts 4 seconds longer)
-Glyph of Fan of Knives (FoK does 20% more damage)
-Glyph of Tricks of the Trade (adds 10% additional bonus damage, so 25%)
-Glyph of Mutilate (Mutilate energy cost reduced by 5 – about time!)
-Glyph of Cloak of Shadows (while Cloak is up, 40% less physical damage taken)

While a few of our other glyphs were slightly changed, the above list contains all of the important glyphs that were either revamped or are brand new in these PTR notes. Combat's glyphs were increased to bring its burst damage capabilities closer to its Assassination and Subtlety cousins. Combat Rogues are definitely sitting pretty.

We finally have a Mutilate glyph, and with the 4 piece Tier 7 bonus and Overkill, we're looking at 40 energy Mutilates after breaking stealth. This may be the recovery of Mutilate's lost burst from 3.0.9. With 120 energy, you're looking at a lot of potential damage after leaving stealth. I can't wait to try this out in PvP.

The Shadow Dance and Cloak of Shadows glyphs are boons for PvP, and I will be picking up the CoS glyph at the very least. Having on-demand damage reduction available will help us from becoming the "easy gib" role that we've fallen prey to recently. The Fan of Knives glyph will make Combat the AoE tree of choice, toppling even some of the caster classes' area damage capabilities. It will also help to offset the fact that Hunger for Blood may be difficult to maintain during trash pulls. As the new dual spec option has no cooldown and is usable anywhere, glyphing for Combat with Adrenaline Rush and Fan of Knives will allow speed Naxx runs like never seen before.

Hunger for Blood Changes:
-Hunger for Blood is now a single-stacking 15% damage buff, but requires there to be a bleed on the target.
-Glyph of Hunger for Blood: Increases damage by 1% per application.

Speaking of Hunger for Blood, it saw a redesign in 3.1 as well. The Glpyh looks to be bugged, as it has changed to a single buff application instead of the old stacking model. It's also not pre-castable unless the target is poisoned, which may be an issue for environments without another Bleed class available. Hunters received a new Bleed in the form of Piercing Shots (like they needed it...) which will help us as well.

Poisons moved to Proc-Per-Minute:
-Poisons are now based on a PPM model.
-Envenom increases your frequency of applying Instant Poison by 75% for 6 seconds.
-Improved Poisons now increases your frequency of applying Instant Poison by 50%.
-Deadly Poison had its AP coefficient buffed (from 8% to 12%).

I can't take credit for figuring out the PPM mechanics of Wound and Instant Poison, as all of the hard work was done by Zanthea of Shadow Council. You can find the thread detailing the PPM chances and haste mechanics, which show that it's possible to achieve a 100% proc rate on Instant Poison by simply using a 2.8 speed weapon. The basic premise is that weapons still use a %-based proc chance for poisons, however this % chance scales based on the weapon's speed. So a quick weapon (1.4 speed, like Webbed Death) has a 21.43 PPM with Wound Poison, meaning you will see 21.43 procs of Wound Poison in 60 seconds if you use Webbed Death. If you move to a 2.8 speed weapon, you will see 21.43 procs of Wound Poison as well. So the total DPS added by applying a poison to your weapon is the same, regardless of what speed of weapon you're using.

So the total damage done over a 60 second period should be about the same, meaning that we can start choosing weapons based on stats and DPS, instead of just speed. Because Focused Attacks and Combat Potency still rely on quick weapons to proc their energy restoration, the exact speed of weapons we'll be using in 3.1 is still up for discussion. However, for all those Honor Among Thieves Rogues, you can equip your slow main hands for Hemo again!

Expose Armor:
-Expose Armor now reduces armor by 20%.

This change completely destroys the value of using Expose Armor in PvP. It removes too little armor against cloth classes, and about the same as before against plate classes. If a target has 20,000 armor, then the new EA will remove the same amount as the old one. How many clases walk around with 20k armor in PvP? We'll see if mob/boss armor changes any in Ulduar, however I see EA as yet another one of our tools reduced to gimmick situations.

Combat buffs, poison rebalancing, and weapon speed shakeups: patch 3.1 is poised to be a paradigm shift for WotLK PvE. We'll see if Blizzard's plan for the Rogue class will allow us to regain the #1 spot on our WoWWebStats parses, or allow us to successfully topple the "plate parade" that is currently called arena balance. The Rogue player base has been eroding over the past few months, and if patch 3.1 does not fix some of these key issues, I really believe that we'll be looking at the final straw for the few that remain.

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