Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Rogue 101: Energy and Combo Points

The unique combat mechanic of the rogue class is the use energy and the generation of combo points. For anyone who's been more used to rage or mana which are just used in order to perform an action or spell things can be slightly confusing, and this is where this article hopefully comes in :)

The basic rules of energy are that you have 100 energy which regenerates at a rate of 20 energy every 2 seconds. Currently this appears in 20 energy blocks, however the next patch will change this to a much smoother rate of 1 energy every .1 second.

In the same ways that spells cost mana, rogue abilities cost energy and it's always a fixed amount for each ability. If you don't have enough energy then you can't perform that ability and an error message will appear in the same way as if you try to cast a spell when you don't have enough mana.

There are various items and talents which can affect energy regeneration which we shall look at now.

The first is Thistle Tea which is a special rogue only potion made via the cooking profession and gained by completing a faction specific quest. Up to level 40 it returns 100 energy and after that returns 100 - ((level-40) * 2) energy meaning that at level 70 it'll only return 40 energy, which is only really an emergency finishing move or a talented sinister strike so isn't seen very much in current end game raiding.

In terms of talents there are 4 major ones to be aware of (patch 3.0/WotLK stuff included).
  1. Relentless Strikes - A tier 3 assassination talent which gives a 20% chance per combo point to restore 25% energy. In real terms this means that a 5-point finishing move such as rupture and slice and dice is effectively free as they cost 25 energy and are guarenteed to restore 25 energy due to this talent (5 * 20% = 100%). In patch 3.0 this talent is due to be moved to a tier 1 subtlety talent and will require 5 points in order to gain the same effect.
  2. Combat Potency - Lurking at the bottom of the combat tree we find this talent which with 5 points invested in it will give successful offhand attacks a 20% chance to restore 15 energy. Now with slice and dice up you're going to be hitting the mob a lot (especially with a fast off hand weapon) so this will proc fairly often and allow for extra attacks sooner than initially expected.
  3. Focused attacks - A new talent for patch 3.0 in the assassination tree which with 3 points in gives melee crits a 30% chance to restore 3 energy. This is very similar to the Improved Leader of the Pack heal on melee crit, but doesn't appear to have the hidden cooldown.
  4. Arcane Torrent - One of the Blood Elf racial talents, currently restores 10 energy for every mana tap you've got stacked (up to 3). Come the next patch this is changing to restore 15 energy but is more likely to be used for the silence component when kick or gouge are on cool down.
Finally, I said at the start of this section that you have 100 energy, well it is possible to have more through a couple of means.
  1. Vigor - Another assassination talent which increases your total amount of energy by 10 so with this alone you can go up to 110. More energy means more damage and given that Mutilate costs more than Sinister Strike an assassination rogue can always do with that extra top up. Patch 3.0 is moving this higher in the tree so we may see more rogues taking it for end game at level 80.
  2. Gladiator's PvP gear - The 4-piece set bonus increases maximum energy by 10 so an assassination rogue could end up with 120 energy for double mutilate goodness in a battleground or arena fight.

Combo points
Combo points are gained in 1s 2s or occasionally 3s when you sucessfully perform an ability that grants them. If the attack is parried, dodged or misses then you aren't awarded the points so it's always worth checking to see whether the attack landed. Combo points are tied to a particular mob and you can have a maximum of five on that mob. Finishing moves consume the combo points and are generally more potent the more points that are used. This can be in the form of increased damage or a longer duration buff or a combination of the two depending on the move.

Each ability that generates combo points will generate a fixed number which is listed in the description but there are other ways combo points can be generated.
  1. Seal Fate - 5 points into the assassination talent means that every combo point generating move that crits adds an additional combo point. The additional is the key point, a mutilate (which adds 2 combo points) that crits will add 3, which is enough to consider a finishing move if you need to.
  2. Premiditation - A subtlety talent which adds 2 combo points which are available for 10 seconds or until used. Not having played a subtlety spec fully I'm not always sure of when to use this, but I suspect it would be useful for increasing the duration of a stunlock or ensuring a bigger eviscerate/envenom should you need to finish someone off quicker.
  3. Initiative - Another subtlety talent and with 3 points spent in it gives you a 75% chance to add an additional combo point when using one of your abilities from stealth.
  4. Ruthlessness - Back in the assassination tree, 3 points in this talent gives each finishing move a 60% chance to generate a combo point.
  5. Netherblade - The Tier 4 rogue armor from Karazhan, Gruul's Lair and Magtheridon, 4 pieces of which will give your finishing moves a 15% change to generate a combo point.

A useful fact about 4 and 5 is that they are independant chances so when the random number generator is on your side a finishing move can generate 2 combo points and cost no energy (see above).

Energy is something that is always available and will always regenerate at a constant rate. It is used to perform abilities that generate combo points and spend them. Always ensure you have enough energy to perform the moves you need and wait for the energy to regenerate if you don't. Combo points are available on a use them or lose them basis on a single mob but the more you have the more powerful the finishing moves you'll be able to perform. When playing keep a watch eye on both how much energy and how many combo points you have at any one time.

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