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Thursday, December 25, 2008

One Rogue's take on Season 5

Like many of my siblings of the shadows, I play WoW in both the PvP and PvE environments. As a guild leader, it is my responsibility to organize raid groups and to lead my team to victory (and the associated purple loot). While keeping up Hunger for Blood & Slice and Dice & Rupture up may seem interesting for others; after a while the raid DPS grind wears away at my soul. I was not born to be a number-crunching math machine. I am a Horde assassin at heart: born to taste the blood of my Warchief's enemies!

I have been flexing my PvP muscles in the new Lake Wintergrasp and Strand of the Ancients battlegrounds, though I find myself sitting in a turret or catapult fairly often. The arena has always been my true love. It was what brought me back to WoW for TBC, and it is what tempted me to level in Northrend for the next installment. With Season 5 now officially underway, my week has consisted of the most bloodthirsty battles I have ever been a part of. So go buy your Hateful Gladiator's Band of Triumph (best initial upgrade with no rating requirement) and read on!

Ret/UDK teams
Let me start by saying that I have no idea there were that many Retribution Paladins and Unholy Death Knights just idling around Dalaran waiting for Season 5 to start so they could smash my face in. The Ret/UDK team has been pretty much everyone's bane for the past week, as I'm sure you've noticed if you started a 2v2 team. My team name is "Warrior Druid AGAIN" if you care to Armory it, though I think next season we'll be titled "Ret UDK AGAIN" if the current trend keeps up. I'm hoping the upcoming Ret and DK nerfs will be sufficient to bring them back in line with the rest of the classes.

Playing in 2v2 with a Paladin (switching between Retribution and Holy) has saved me from a bit of the "instagib" factor of the Ret/UDK team thanks to Hand of Protection. It's not as effective against a UDK due to their multiple magical attacks but it's better than nothing. I've been hit for several thousand while in HoP by the UDK's magical attacks followed by a Hammer of Wrath to finish the job.

The only winning strategy that we have found is to completely decimate the Ret Paladin to start the match. Using Tricks of the Trade immediately out of the gate and opening with Garrote->Mutilate->Eviscerate while my Paladin partner is unloading with his attacks will often cause a pre-emptive Divine Shield by the Ret Paladin, giving us an early edge in the cooldown war.

We try to keep the Death Knight controlled by opening with Sap when possible and using Blind / Hammer of Justice if he uses his PvP trinket. Once the Ret Paladin has used Divine Shield, we attempt to restart the fight by running as fast as possible and breaking Line of Sight. Once Divine Shield is down, we attack again. I start with a Dismantle on the DK (Sap isn't an option as his Ghoul will keep him in combat) and then focus fire on the Paladin, often yielding in a 2v1 situation vs the Death Knight: one of the few fights that a Death Knight will lose.

All this was just for one team! It took a full night of up and down ratings for us to fully understand the Ret/UDK team and how to topple it. This is the part of arena that I enjoy the most. I am a theorycrafter at heart, and figuring out exactly what techniques and combos to use never ceases to get my adrenaline pumping. I have been blessed with my current arena partner who played a Rogue extensively in the past (one of my former mentors) and understands the capabilities and limitations of the class. This makes the post-game strategy talks especially in-depth and meaningful.

Learning to use your all of your skills is the key of good arena planning. A perfect example of this comes from our best WotLK ability, Dismantle. Its usefulness is underrated by many Rogue who are not used to having a disarm option outside of the old Riposte. The ability to take the weapon and shield from your opponent not only cuts down on your incoming damage but also increases your damage done by removing their chance to parry and block.

This move is most effective on Death Knights, many of whom haven't equipped their 2-hander with a Titanium Weapon Chain. The TWC is easier to acquire for regular dual-wielders who can still put a regular enchant on their Main Hand weapon. Hunters, Enhancement Shamans, Fury Warriors, and Retribution Paladins all have Disarm-reducing talents; so use it with caution against these classes unless there is no other Physical DPS target to use it on. And who couldn't use a little more hit rating on their PvP gear? It's not even a splurge to put this on your OH! Your first 5-second-duration Disarm will make it all worth it.

Mutilate Weapon Speeds
Speaking of Off Hand weapons, there has been a lot of talk about Mutilate weapon speeds over the past few weeks. For PvE, you want fast/faster: Mutilate has 2 chances to proc whichever poison is on the Off Hand, making it perfect for your faster, Instant Poison-coated blade. For PvP, I recommend Slower/Slow daggers (with Mind Numbing / Wound poisons equipped). Our PvP white damage is minimal, especially in these short, burst-controlled arena matches. Go for your maximum special damage and get two slow daggers to make targets explode upon contact. With the new 50% proc rate on PvP poisons mixed with Deadly Brew, you can almost take Shiv off your bar.

Subtlety Tips
Shadow Dance Rogues have also been doing quite well in the arena! I tried the spec out for a while but it didn't mesh with the composition that I was running. One tip for those of you sworn to Subtlety: Blind early. Many of us are used to the long fights against Warlock/Druid in 2v2 where a Blind->Sap was necessary to finish off either target after a grueling match. With the new Shadow Dance burst, using Blind at the start of a fight will typically force a target to use their PvP trinket immediately. This gives you the perfect setup to Shadow Dance, opening with a stun and then Ambushing away as necessary. Force the PvP trinket and then teach them that Subtlety Rogues are still just as big a threat as they were at level 70!

As a Rogue, losing is never an option. We are born to kill, designed for murder, and driven to slaughter. By using your knowledge of your abilities and your superior intellect, I have no doubt that with persistence and practice you can overcome any team that comes your way. While many matches are uphill battles with no victory in sight, playing smart and sticking to a plan will triumph over sloppy play in the end. So sharpen your daggers, unsheathe your swords, strap on your fists, and weight your maces: the killing season has begun with force and we are to answer in kind.