The history of the Rogue is long and somewhat boring to be honest. We’ve always managed to be one of the most powerful classes throughout the history of World of Warcraft mostly due to the “stealth factor”. Our ability to surprise our enemies and choose our fights has generally compensated for any of the deficiencies of the class throughout the years. This appears to be changing come Cataclysm, where surprise just can’t beat a whole boatload of stamina. As such, the developers have given the Rogue a number of new tricks to their arsenal in order to turn us into more of a light nimble hand-to-hand fighter rather than a surprise from the shadows assassin.

The first move that stood out immediately for me was Recuperate. This is a new finishing move, which means it requires combo points. The more combo points you spend, the more health it heals. You basically can trade your combo points for a very respectable HoT (heal over time), that can be further improved with a damage reduction bonus through talent points. For anyone that has played a Rogue, the thought of trading damage for healing seems almost unfathomable. It will be interesting to see if in the long run many Rogues opt to use this ability, or ignore it.

As every class is painfully aware, your talent trees and how you apply talent points has drastically changed. You no longer get a talent point every level, and all of the talent trees have been trimmed down to 31-point pinnacles. At level 10, players are required to choose a “specialization”, which is nothing more than unlocking one of the three talent trees. For the next 31 talent points, players must spend them in that single tree before having the opportunity to diversify. With a grand total of 41 talent points, and slimmed down trees, this leaves very little room for ingenuity.

A number of the signature moves for each tree have been given to players automatically once a specialization is chosen. This is to keep players from accidentally missing class and talent tree defining abilities due to uneducated talent choices. For example, if you choose to specialize in the Assassination tree, you will immediately get Mutilate.  This means a player interested in playing a Mutilate Rogue doesn’t have to spend the first 40 levels using Backstab. Likewise in the Subtlety tree, players automatically get Shadowstep at level 10. They don’t need to wait until 31 points are spent before they can use this tree defining ability.

Let’s take a look at my favorite type of Rogue, the combat Rogue. I currently play the combat Rogue on both live and beta servers. Players immediately get Blade Flurry, along with Vitality and Dual Wield Specialization. There is no argument here that these are required abilities from the combat tree that should never be overlooked. The combat tree itself has a grand total of 41 points that can be applied. Now remember, you must spend 31 of these points in the combat tree if you choose to be a combat Rogue, and the remaining 10 can be spent as you see fit. However, let’s not kid ourselves; there isn’t that much flexibility here at all.

There are a couple new talents in the combat tree, like:

  • Reinforced Leather (x/2) – Increases your armor contribution from cloth and leather items by 25%/50%.
  • Improved Recuperate (x/2) – Causes your Recuperate ability to restore an additional 1% of your maximum health and reduces all damage taken by 3% while your Recuperate ability is active.
  • Bandit’s Guile (x/3) – Your sinister strike and Revealing Strike abilities have a 100% chance to grant you an evolving insight into an opponent’s defenses increasing damage to that target by up to 15%. Opponents will adapt their defenses once this maximum is reached or you strike a different opponent, and the cycle will begin anew.
  • Relentless Blades (x/2) – Your damaging finishing moves reduce the cooldown of your Adrenaline Rush, Killing Spree, and Sprint abilities by 2 seconds per combo point.
  • Revealing Strike (x/1) – An instant strike that causes 100% of your normal weapon damage and increases the effectiveness of your next offensive finishing move on that target by 20% for 15 seconds. Awards one combo point.

Revealing Strikes looks interesting and changes up the combat Rogue’s relatively boring rotation of spamming Sinister Strike a bunch of times before using a finisher. Revealing Strikes is best used for the last combo point right before using a finisher, although due to its 15 second duration, it doesn’t have to be. Now keep in mind, with the Improved Sinister Strike talent, your Sinister Strike ability does 109% of your weapon damage plus a fixed amount of damage on top of that. All of this for 39 energy. Revealing Strikes costs 40 energy (that 1 point hardly makes a difference) and only does a flat 100% of weapon damage in trade for a 20% boost to your finisher. The trade off makes it really seem like Revealing Strikes is useful for 4 or 5 point finishing moves only. I’m sure at some point the number crunchers will give us a more definitive answer.

All of the rest of the talents in the combat tree are pretty much the usual suspects. You have your required talents like Improved Sinister Strike, Precision, Aggression, Combat Potency, Adrenaline Rush, Savage Combat, and of course Killing Spree. You also have the pvp centric filler talents that you have to choose between, like Improved Sprint, Improved Gouge, Improved Thrown Specialization, et cetera. There really is zero benefit once you get down to the 31-point talent to waste anymore points on filler talents in this tree. You are pretty much required to pickup Relentless Strikes from the Subtlety tree. Free energy after all can never be passed up. Lethality in the Assassination tree also screams for your attention, which pretty much leaves you with 4 left over points to spend on filler how you wish by the time you reach level 85.

Here is my opinion of what the cookie cutter Combat Rogue will look like. I left the four filler points unspent so that you can see how much “flexibility” the talent trees bring. And as with all beta information, things are subject to change!