Recently I decided to revive one of my lesser-played alts, a male blood elf rogue. He was originally created because I wanted to see the blood elf starter zone in early BC but hated female belves at the time. As it turned out, I wasn't actually that fond of the male ones either, so I stopped playing him the instant I finished the Ghostlands... or actually - a bit before that, even. I didn't like the Ghostlands either.
Then one day I decided to give him another try and was scarred for life by this badly thought-out rogue quest. Needless to say that he went back on the shelf for another year after that.
But this time... this time I think he and I might actually get somewhere.
The first thing I noticed when I started playing the little guy again nearly two months ago was the positive effect of stealth normalisation. Now, this change actually happened quite a long time ago, but as I said I hadn't actually played him in that long. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, stealth used to have different ranks: the lower the rank, the higher the movement speed penalty while in it. This meant that as a low-level rogue you either moved from mob to mob really, really slowly if you always wanted to start with an opener from stealth, or you just charged into mobs like any old warrior and then had to spend a lot of time running away or running back to your body, as any add could quickly spell your death. Unsurprisingly, I didn't think that this made the class particularly fun to play. The suddenly increased movement speed in stealth improved this drastically for me.
I also decided to finally tackle lockpicking for reals. I had done the quest to learn it in the Ghostlands and picked a couple of extra locks there for fun, but then I had quickly fallen behind as nowhere else seemed to have random locks for me to pick. I decided to consult a guide on WoWWiki and then spent about half an hour sitting in a pirate ship near Ratchet, unlocking the same couple of rapidly respawning boxes over and over again... which wasn't hugely entertaining either, but at least it brought me back on track.
And then... I discovered the wonders of pickpocketing! Pickpocketing was one of those things that I always thought sounded really cool in theory, but in practice I felt that it was rather dull. A couple of extra copper and a pretty rock, woo-frikkin-hoo. However, once I started to move around Durnholde to work on the lockboxes there, I was delighted to discover that pickpocketing the local Syndicate mobs could provide me with junkboxes that helped with levelling my lockpicking as well!
From then on things pretty much snowballed, as I found more and more fun uses for all of my different abilities. Rogues are probably one of the classes that start off with the most utility early on (or at least they used to, I don't know how this has changed since the patch), and I guess it's not always immediately obvious how all these moves can be useful while soloing. However, unlike a healer's many healing spells for example, a rogue's skills can all be used while soloing, which I found quite amazing really. I came to the conclusion that you can tell a good rogue from a bad one because the former remembers at the right time that he has Blind. I always forget about it myself.
I also decided to try running some instances. Being a damage dealer, I figured that I would have to sit in the queue for half an hour while questing, but in reality most of my queues were less than five minutes long, sometimes even instant. In the end I had to just stop using the dungeon finder altogether for a while if I ever wanted to get any questing done.
The overall quality of my instance runs varied and some of them were fun simply because of the people I was with, but I have to admit that the entertainment value derived from actual gameplay was fairly low for me. I remember running instances with other rogues before WOTLK, and I remember them always darting ahead in stealth, distracting patrols, pickpocketing and sapping mobs, or in other words, being extremely useful even when not dealing damage. Unfortunately the WOTLK world has no room for rogues like that, and all that was left for me to do was to helplessly run after the tank, who was responsible for sixty percent of all damage done by spamming his AoE, to occasionally use Sinister Strike on a single mob. In one instance I even had someone yell at me to AoE already, until they remembered that rogues don't get any until level eighty. Yeah. Maybe that's why the dps queue is so short. While soloing I feel powerful; while grouping I feel utterly redundant. Which would you choose?
Then patch 4.0.1 came. I lost some skills that I had already learned before because they got moved to higher levels, but on the whole things didn't immediately feel too different. It took me a bit to realise that lockpicking had been completely removed as a skill, and is now a passive ability that automatically increases as you level up. I'm a bit disappointed by that, seeing how I had only just got into the mini-game of levelling it, but I suppose it will be nice to never have to deal with rogues who go "lol, what is lockpicking" when you ask them to open the door before the first boss in Shattered Halls or something similar ever again. Blade Flurry being on a thirty second cooldown now also helped a little with the AoE issue, if not much - but if nothing else it gives me one more button to press instead of just sinister-striking my way throughout the entirety of the instance.
I also finally got into the right level range for Zul'Farrak and Maraudon, two instances that I was looking forward to running through the dungeon finder since I hadn't done them in a while and was curious how the whole Maraudon split thing worked. Klepsacovic had a couple of posts on this subject lately that also received some interesting comments, and after experiencing these instances myself I can only echo their sentiments.
The Maraudon split is just plain awkward. Purple Crystals feels like a joke with only one boss in the zone, and Celebras the Cursed seems to have been completely left out in the cold, as both the orange and purple section officially end just before you reach him, and Pristine Waters starts behind him. It's a shame because he's one of the key lore figures of the instance and there's a quest to kill him, but most attempts to convince parties to go and kill him too get brushed off with a "nah, I just want my loot bag" (if people respond at all and don't just drop group).
In Zul'Farrak the loot bag caused issues as well - it's a circular instance, so saying that the instance is complete when you've circled halfway round to the chieftain will always result in people dropping out. Fortunately I got lucky because in the two runs that I was in, one tank looped around the right and one around the left, which means that I got both halves of the dungeon cleared for my quests over the course of those runs, but still... I consider myself lucky on that one.
I wonder if the next couple of instances that are coming up for my rogue (Sunken Temple, Blackrock Depths) will yield any interesting pug stories.
What do you think of 2014 in gaming?
2 hours ago