Hi! I’m here to post my thoughts about Subtlety Rogues. Feel free to post your own.
It’s no secret that Subtlety is currently weak in all of the “big 3” (raids, mythic+ and 3v3 arena). While the spec could be helped with some simple tuning, I feel like there are some pretty big gameplay problems with the spec and I’ll try to list them here.
Since the removal of Shuriken Combo, Subtlety lacks a niche in a raiding environment. There’s no situation where you go “I wish we had a Sub Rogue for this”. The spec offers mediocre single-target that relies on high uptime, weak cleave and weak AoE. It also doesn’t have any utility the other specs don’t. Subtlety simply does nothing special.
I can understand removing Shuriken Combo for limiting design space for raid bosses, but give us something in return. The obvious idea there is killer single-target as it fits naturally with the spec. When you can do the same or better single-target on Assassination, which also offers strong cleave, is strong with limited uptime and is easier to play, it’s a no brainer to bring it to progression over Subtlety.
When Death from Above went, it took with it the fun of playing Sub in PvE. DFA coming off cooldown was a moment you prepared for by checking Nightblade uptime, Finality and Shuriken Combo stacks. When you used it, your character performed this incredibly cool animation that ended with a huge number appearing on your screen. It felt so satisfying.
Without it, it now feels like you’re waiting for Symbols, then you press it along with Dance and spam out some Shadowstrikes and Eviscerates. At no point does any incredible animation happen or any huge number appear. It simply doesn’t feel nearly as cool.
The replacement, Secret Technique, is disappointing. The animation mostly looks like another Shadowstrike, the damage is split into multiple small pieces, and on top of that it isn’t even that strong single-target since it’s an AoE talent.
I get that DFA was causing issues left and right with people flying into the water on Wrath of Azshara, always appearing behind Kin’garoth and the ability doing no damage if used too far from the side on Fallen Avatar to name some examples off the top of my head. Thing is though, it felt awesome to use.
What if a DFA-style ability came back, but with a different animation? The game already has a great animation for this, the Subtlety “artifact” animation that happens when you click on some quest objectives. That animation looks really cool and it is tragically unused. It doesn’t impact your positioning, so it wouldn’t cause the headaches that DFA did. That way, Sub Rogues once again get to build up to a special moment where they see a cool animation and a huge finisher.
Energy starvation and wasted talents
When Subtlety lost Energetic Stabbing, the pace of the spec slowed down considerably. It simply feels slow and boring outside of Dance, and Dance only works well if you pick various energy talents.
Vigor, Shadow Focus and Master of Shadows all feel like a wasted talent slot. I could have something more interesting instead, but I’m stuck picking one of these three at a minimum, usually two. All these talents essentially do the same thing, they give you more energy, just two of them only give it during Dance and the other all the time. Why do we need all of these? Alacrity is yet another, but I guess that’s just there because the 90 tier needed three talents.
This could be addressed by giving back Energetic Stabbing or reducing the energy cost of Shadowstrike, Backstab and Cheap Shot. Master of Shadows, Vigor and Shadow Focus should be looked at. Removing and replacing one or two of them could provide something more fun instead.
Subtlety’s traits aren’t quite where they should be, I feel. First Dance is yet another bandaid fix to the spec’s energy problems, Night’s Vengeance’s duration is too short and it unfortunately suffers from Subtlety’s lack of DFA. Replicating Shadows is a multi-dotting trait that seems like it should be for Assa. Perforate and Blade in the Shadows are okay, but don’t provide much gameplay and don’t feel particularly impactful. Inevitability is good, extending Symbols is fun.
I think First Dance should give Mastery, not Haste. That way, it allows you to do more of what Subtlety is all about - big burst in Shadow Dance, instead of trying to fix energy issues that shouldn’t exist in the first place.
The irrelevance of Stealth
Subtlety is the spec with by far the strongest Stealth-focus out of the three, yet it basically doesn’t matter at all to it. Entering Stealth or using Vanish doesn’t give you anything you care much about. Dark Shadow has easy access to the CC anyway with Shadow Dance, and it doesn’t matter for damage because it’s attached to Dance only. It doesn’t matter for Enveloping either, since it has even easier access to Dance.
Getting a restealth during an arena game or between mob packs should matter way more than it does. Vanish should feel like a relevant cooldown.
One way to address this would be to give Subtlety Master Assassin, replacing Shadow Focus (with energy buffs). I love Master Assassin. I loved it in Legion, and I love it now with Assa. It’s very satisfying to Vanish and get loads of crits.
Another is to reduce the Shadow Dance fixation by removing Dark Shadow and putting a heavily buffed Find Weakness in its place (was 70% and 100% in MoP and WoD to give an idea). At the same time, reduce FW’s duration to something like 5s so it doesn’t get too much uptime due to how many Dances you have nowadays.
That way, FW becomes the spec’s main damage modifier, and it happens to work with Stealth too, rather than only Dance. That way, entering Stealth allows you to put out decent damage, instead of Stealth being largely irrelevant.
The empty talent slot left by FW in the 15 row could be filled by Master of Subtlety once again.
That’s all I can think of right now. Feel free to comment on if you agree or disagree and why.