Combat Returns

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two months playing Combat as an offspec – it’s currently a viable specialisation for PVP (as shown by Woundman) but changes...

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two months playing Combat as an offspec – it’s currently a viable specialisation for PVP (as shown by Woundman) but changes next patch will heavily improve it. Subtlety is likely to remain the #1 spec for rated PVP but as it stands, Combat is performing very well on the PTR. Combat hasn’t been great since the good ol’ days of HArP – could 5.4 see the long overdue return of Combat to rogue PVP?

Combat in Current Patch

The current playstyle of Combat feels like a combination of Subtlety and Assassination. It gives the sustained damage of Assassination and the set-ups of Subtlety to create a spec which doesn’t excel at either but lacks the traditional sub/sin weaknesses. Unlike other rogue specs, Combat has three burst cooldowns; Killing Spree (spree), Adrenaline Rush (AR), and Shadow Blades (SB). It uses Sinister Striker (SS) as a combo generator with Revealing Strike (RS) as an ‘alternative attack’ (think hemo/dispatch).

The Good Stuff

Killing Spree give immunity to stuns/fears/disarms/roots

With trinkets/passive procs, Killing Spree hits hard. Against an isolated target you can unload a ton of damage in a short window – what makes the ability even stronger is that it breaks roots and grants a temporary immunity to CC. As soon as a rogue pops shadow dance or vendetta, their opponents will do everything they can to shut down their damage – with spree you get 2.5 seconds to burst without fear of wasting the cooldown.

Kidney Shot can last 8.1seconds

Revealing Strike gives a +35% bonus to your offensive finishing moves. Your eviscerates will hit harder but the real fun comes from being able to RS a target, pop Marked for Death, then instantly stun them for longer than you could blind them. After the stun they’re vulnerable to a full length sap and a blind (I can see sub/combat doing well in 2v2 with decent coordination).

Bleeds are optional

Subtlety requires you to bleed your target for the Sanguinary Vein debuff and Assassination relies on bleeds to give Venomous Wounds procs. With Combat, you only need to use rupture for the damage and as a means of stopping rogues from stealthing – your burst doesn’t rely on it at all.

No positional requirements

You should always aim at being behind your target so you can avoid being dodged/parried/blocked. This can be tricky at times and as Subtlety you will often end up relying on hemo to generate combos. Combat is similar to Assassination in that you don’t need to get behind your target to do damage.

Burst cooldowns are shorter

Spree has a 2min CD and AR/SB both have a 3min CD, but if you’re hitting your target frequently they’ll come off cooldown much quicker thanks to your Restless Blades passive ability. Each of your finishers knock up to 10 seconds off your burst CDs – in a good fight I can spree every minute and AR/SB every 90seconds.

Fist weapons rule!

Looking cool won’t help your DPS or performance, but seriously, how can you not love fist weapons? Fist of the Deity, Claw of the Black Drake and Talon of the Phoenix are finally usable again for rogue PVP.

The Bad Stuff

Combat

Slow ramp-up and set-up times

Combat damage relies heavily on Bandit’s Guile – after four SS or RS you gain +10% damage. This lasts for 15seconds but the timer is reset each time you SS/RS. After another four applications your self-buff changes to a 20% damage increase and four more takes you 30%. The +30% damage buff only lasts 15seconds and can’t be refreshed but if you can time burst CDs to coincide with this, you will do a lot of damage.

If you’re dropping Expose Armor into your rotation (as Combat you should), this means you’ll need to generate 15 combo points to reach your maximum damage potential – if you are CC’d during the 20% buff (or worse, the 30% buff) it will reset to zero and you’ll need to start generating guile stacks again.

Spree can send you dancing across the map

In the current patch, Killing Spree will teleport you between all viable targets in range – this can be utterly disastrous as it’s possible to will only hit your intended target once, with all your other attacks hitting their partners or pets.

Daggers perform poorly

If you are fully geared (and have nothing to spend conquest on) this won’t be a problem, but Combat requires two slow weapons (swords/axes/etc) to maximise your damage. If you’re still saving to buy conquest items, making the change to Combat will cost you an extra 3500 points. You’ll also need to spend around 4000g on new enchants…..

No real armor mitigation

Warriors and DKs take a hammering from Assassination but not so much from Combat. Until you blow cooldowns you’ll be as much as a threat to plate wearers as a subtlety rogue is (roughly somewhere between hailstones and mosquitoes).

You lose shadow dance control and premed

Losing shadow dance and premeditation hurts, end of. Teaming up with a sub rogue will help counter this and sub/combat will definitely be a viable comp in 5.4.

Lack of understanding from others

Unless you have partners who completely trust you or read up on tactics for classes other than their own, expect resistance if you announce you’re a Combat rogue. As far as many people are concerned, rogue PVP = Subtlety. In the first weeks of MoP I was running as Combat in RBGs and met solid resistance to it. One group kicked me before we started because ‘every rogue plays Subtlety because you need shadow step noob’… don’t expect 5.4 to be any different, even if Combat stays as strong as it is on the PTR.

Feign Death > Spree

This is specific to fights against hunters – if they pop Feign Death during your spree, it will either end suddenly or you’ll be redirected onto a nearby target. It’s essential to cover any spree with a stun before hand, you should be doing this anyway to prevent your target from popping defensive CDs.

Combat in 5.4

As with all rogue specs, Combat is receiving buffs to sustained damage. The biggest change is in how spree will function – in 5.4 it will only hit your target, unless for some crazy reason you want to start cleaving mirror images and imps (hit Blade Flurry before hand if you want to do this).

The other changes to Combat are as follows;

  • New passive ability, Ruthlessness: This passive ability is learned by Combat Rogues at Level 32. The Rogue gains a 20% chance per combo point (100% chance at 5 combo points) to immediately regain 1 combo point while performing a finishing move.
  • Killing Spree targeting has been changed. If Blade Flurry is not active, Killing Spree will now hit the Rogue’s target 7 times or pick the closest eligible target if none had been selected. Killing Spree will continue to work as it has while Blade Flurry is active.
  • Revealing Strike now deals 160% weapons damage (up from 125%).
  • Vitality now increases Attack Power by 40% (up from 30%).

Burst Tactics

Combat Poison
Unlike other classes (looking at you warriors…) Combat rogues shouldn’t pop all three burst CDs at the same time. Killing Spree doesn’t seem to benefit from Shadow Blades and the energy regen/attack speed from Adrenaline Rush isn’t needed either. It’s fine to macro SB and AR together – they benefit each other beautifully (and save you from having to find a spare keybinding for Adrenaline Rush). As SB converts your auto-attacks to shadow damage it pays to use it at a time when you’ll be hitting insanely fast.

Rotations

You’ll want to make sure RS is applied at all times and, since Eviscerate is weak without Subtlety’s mastery (30k crits if you’re lucky), use rupture outside of burst opportunities to maximise your sustained pressure. As mentioned before, Expose Armor will help your damage (at least a 3% buff) and it’s easy to keep topped up to three stacks. You need to keep track of your Bandit’s Guile procs – if you’re happy to use addons I recommend Bandit’s Guile Helper. The first buff is green, the second is yellow and the third is red. It will help your team coordinate burst and set up kills if you announce these colours on comms.

Crit, Mastery, Haste or Expertise?

Secondary stat weight is going to be a tricky one to work out and I’m not 100% sure I’ve got it right yet. For a Combat rogue, Mastery increases the number of free off-hand auto attacks you’ll get, haste increases your white damage and expertise decreases the chance to be parried/dodged/blocked. A huge chunk of Combat damage does come from auto-attacks, so several rogues are advising to stack mastery as the main secondary stat (or in the case of Noxxic, expertise). I’m not convinced this is the way to go all the time – sustained damage is higher for Combat than Subtlety, but the majority of kills are going to come from sprees or setting up your partner’s burst with an RS-stun>bomb. For 2v2 (especially with a healer) Mastery will shine, but for 3v3 (or double DPS) I’m happier reforging crit. With procs I’m hitting 30% crit, compared to half of that if I go for mastery instead. If you’re playing long games, take Mastery, but for burst-orientated setups (thug, double rogue etc) you may want to give crit a try.

Talents

The obvious choice for Combat is Prey on the Weak. You’ll be dropping 8sec+ stuns onto people so this will give a nice damage increase. For the mobility talent, Woundman is having success playing with Cloak and Dagger to help isolate kill targets for a spree (vanish > cheap shot partners > spree onto kill target), but this won’t be needed in 5.4. Personally I’m a big fan of Burst of Speed for Combat – spree will break roots on your burst and a 15energy BoS will help you stick on your target during AR/SB.

Paralytic Poison is an interesting choice as it now stuns on the fourth application. If you use spree following a cheap shot, paralytic will often proc as the first stun runs out. If you’re the only player on your team with a healing debuff you should also take wound poison, otherwise you can take deadly poison for the slight DPS increase it will bring.

Conclusion

If you have conquest points to spare, I really recommend buying two slow weapons and giving Combat a try. You need to be able to stay alive long enough for Bandit’s Guile to kick in so you may struggle unless you have full gear. I’ve been playing Combat on my new rogue and have had a horrible time in arenas and BGs, it’s not worth considering as a spec for a low geared rogue unless you ~really~ want to practice it before 5.4.


Rogue-only guilds, you know it makes sense

I’ve now played most classes in MoP and in all honesty, rogue is the only one I enjoy. I’ve just finished levelling up rogue number #3 (dwarf) and have joined a new rogue-only alliance guild called which has started on Defias Brotherhood (EU). Give us a shout ingame or on www.iiRogues.com if you fancy joining or levelling up another rogue. At first I wasn’t convinced a rogue-only guild could survive, but several of the officers also play in a Horde rogue-only guild which has been going for 7years!

About Dcruize

Rogue addict, PVP junkie, insomniac. I started playing WoW in 2006 and, after being told that 'nobody wants a rogue', tried to level a priest. I quickly realized that love and approval were a poor alternative to stealth and ambush and have been backstabbing away quite happily ever since.