WoW Factor: Examining Shadowlands’ Rogue, Death Knight, and Warrior changes

Everybody dies.

I do find a certain amount of irony in the fact that in this tour of the World of Warcraft Shadowlands class changes, Warrior was both last in the alphabetical list of changes and in the random order I rolled when throwing a D12 on the table. The odds of that aren’t exactly astronomical, but it’s still kind of surprising. Just a sort of odd confluence of events, like when you find you actually have some cash in your wallet that’s exactly enough to cover something at the convenience store. That sort of feeling.

Regardless, this is the last batch of three classes, and they’re an interesting set at that. Some of the changes do feel welcome, some of the returning abilities are much desired, but some actually desired changes aren’t in there and some of the non-changes themselves just feel weird. Heck, we still haven’t technically heard about getting Single-Minded Fury back, which in and of itself feels weird… but I’m getting ahead of myself. We know where we’re supposed to start.

When you're out in the club and you see a fly girl, do the creep!


Poisons! Yay. All right, that might have sounded underwhelming, but… really, poisons are a welcome return. They’re an iconic Rogue thing! They still fall under that same basic category of other additions wherein they’re short of providing an interesting rotation by one full rotation, but the fact of the matter is that they’re still a class feature whose absence has been missed, however little practical difference it might have made.

Making Pick Pocket actually somewhat more useful is… well, an odd choice, but fine? It’s there. It’s fine. I’m not going to complain about it.

Unfortunately, moving back to Outlaw gives me a bit of an eye twitch. Sure, Roll the Bones is being reworked, but it still has the basic problem wherein Roll the Bones is just… not all that fun to play with. Changing it so it’s no longer a finisher helps, but it still doesn’t make me want to play with it. The whole “gamble over whether or not you can actually play well” right now mechanic never works very well, come to think of it. Sure, it’s nice that moving it off of its prior status means you’re no longer choosing between rerolling and using your big moves, but that’s a tangential improvement.

Assassination, meanwhile, seems to have lost a bit of its identity and as if it doesn’t quite know what to do with poisons and Shiv as baseline tricks now; while it gets better poison, that’s not exactly spec-defining, at least not yet. Indeed, it seems like Subtlety has made out the best of all the Rogue specs, with all of its core abilities intact and a few talents moved to baseline.

So it’s not exactly a bad set of Rogue changes, but it feels like we only got some of the changes that we could have used. That’s not dire or awful or anything, but… well, it’s notable, let’s put it that way.

What if this is as good as it'll ever get?

Death Knight

Yay, Death and Decay? I mean… it’s nice to have, I guess. Having your ghoul again (and the option to sacrifice it) regardless of spec matters more to me, if I’m being honest. Although then you get into the metaphysics of how you find a separate dead body in the realm of the dead and maybe we just shouldn’t worry too much about these things.

The return of two-handed Frost is nice, but it also runs into the same problem as other weapon choices – a lot of why these things were lowered to only have one option in terms of weapons was because it turned out that the multiple options weren’t actually very well balanced. I know, I know, taking WoW to task for not being very well balanced is like taking water to task for being a solvent, but the point stands. Why are things going to be different this time, exactly? What makes us think that two-handed Frost will now be more viable?

For that matter, why is it only Frost? Where’s dual-wielding Unholy and Blood? Sure, two-handed Frost has a longer pedigree, but at the job’s launch you could do any of the above, and like so many other elements bringing back one without bringing around others sort of kills some enthusiasm. It’s a change, it’s a welcome one, but it doesn’t feel all that major.

Beyond that… well, as is a recurring theme, many of these changes are fairly slight and none of them are particularly exciting. More rune restoration for Blood is nice, but acknowledging that people were only picking one talent by making it baseline doesn’t really address the issues that led to that state of affairs. Unholy getting more of a pet focus and more disposable minions is fun, but it’s all about synergies and things coming with existing abilities rather than actual new tricks. In other words, it’s a lot of half-measures.

Of course, we weren’t going to unprune back to the level of having multiple tank specs, but that’d be my pick.



All right, the returning abilities? Nice. Some of them are of wildly varying utility, of course; after all, how far are you really going to get with Slam if it’s not used by your main spec? But Execute almost always offers something of use on boss fights if nowhere else, and Whirlwind is just such a direct way of deploying AoE that it feels good to have it again. And yet… then we wade into specific specs, and I just find myself kind of lukewarm again.

The lack of Single-Minded Fury, for example, is something I’ve discussed before but still sticks out amidst all the other “nope, you have a choice of weapons” changes. But that’s fine. It’s whatever. A more glaring issue has more to do with just… what some of these talents are supposed to actually accomplish. It’s hard to get a sense of them isolated, and while I feel as if they’ll come together in the end, none of them jump out at me as “oh, wow, that’s a really neat trick to add for Warriors.”

Like, the sheer number of things now using Whirlwind? Kind of nuts. The addition of Piercing Howl for Arms? Not really the most pressing thing Arms needs (although the whole Cleave change looks nicer, so that’s good). Protection Warrior feels like it’s… functionally adding exactly enough changes so the developers can say “we changed something.”

And this is why it actually works out really well that Warrior is last on this list because… well, there are changes here. There are things that will require alterations to play style and habits. But there is a decided lack of anything that made me sit up and say “wow, that’s neat.” There wasn’t anything that made me hungry to play with these changes, something that used to be nearly omnipresent when new expansions were unveiled and has been sorely missed since Cataclysm.

The whole push of “unpruning” doesn’t feel like it’s fixing anything. It’s looking backwards instead of forwards, and rather than using this as the starting point, it feels like this is also the ending point for these adjustments. Just enough stuff to be new, but not enough to revitalize.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.

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I’m glad that I’m not the only one a bit upset about Assassination Rogues losing their identity. Outlaw and Sub get to keep their gameplay and role play defining traits while Mut is just “Oh, everything that made you what you are? Everyone has it. But you’re just really good at that thing that isn’t special anymore.” Cool. Great. Thanks.


Assassination can keep poisons. I play sub and wondering why I need them, beyond. Having them in the past. What benefit is there to have them if they don’t interact with the spec.


Poisons are, essentially, a free, unlimited use elixir that increases your damage. It’s a damage buff that in no way changes your play-style or other abilities in any way.

So, I’m not sure what your question really means in that context. Even without abilities that interact with poisons, how do poisons (which innately provides you with additional damage done) benefit you? Is that what you’re asking?


I am going to guess that what Gordi means is things like Surge of Toxins in Legion with was a mechanic poisons interacted with directly and was to some extent a skill cap defining ability for rogues.

Sub and Outlaw simply dont get any mechanics that interact with the poisons, the poisons are simply a fire and forget mechanic for them.

Outlaw still sucks, the “Random chance to be good or bad” in a game where even the developers say that “The entire community pushes people to min max” is just such a redundant juxtaposition.

The only times outlaw is really played beyond low level casual play is the short instances where it is op, or “That one cleave gimmick fight”. Sub is basically a marmite spec either you love it or hate it, personally as some one who played rogue since Vanilla and tried all specs, I never really found sub all that interesting except during mists and maybe WoD. But sub has always just felt a little finicky to play, although at least it is skill based. Assassination has always been a very polar spec, some patches it was great fun, such as early legion, managing surge of toxin etc, and others such as late legion and BFA where it was just dull as dishwater.

Outlaw has the most “Fun” Factor, but it is also not reliable and in a game where the dungeon, raid and PvP scene is all about being able to control your output and when you push it, outlaws stupid “lol we decide how you do” is just the most backwards class design ever.

Honestly though, Blizzards class design has sucked for a long time, they papered over it in legion with the class halls and weapons giving a nice bit of flavour to the classes but truthfully, they have not done a single overhaul that people really liked to the base classes since Mists.

And nothing about Shadowlands, its dull spreadsheet fulfilling class design “Players said this was fun, we dont know why but lets give it them back” and its writers self insert fan fiction plot hooks makes me think they are returning to form with it.

The best thing about it, Torghast is simply a rip of FFXIVs Deep dungeons I am sure it will be slick, and will work, but much like most of wow these days, it feels like it is designed via a spreadsheet rather than with any soul or passion for entertainment.


I can’t think of any Old School Death Knight that likes Dual Wielding, just saying Elliot; as a matter of fact why didn’t you ask instead why not Frost Tanking?

Bruno Brito

I do. I just know it wasn’t something that any DKs other than Frost did it.


Agreed, Mordy. I tried Dual Wield, and perhaps folks can get great DPS out of it.

But, for me, I preferred the WoD Blood DK with S&B. I could solo pretty much anything out in the open world, including the hordes of mobs that came along with the dailies bosses one hunted down in WoD & Legion.

Just could not be killed with that setup and it was great fun! :)

Bruno Brito

Uh…Iron? DK’s can’t use shields.

As for Dual Wield vs 2h, again, only Frost uses Dual Wield. I don’t know what Eliot is on about.

Frost DKs have a talent called Threat of Thassarian. It’s the talent that allowed them to hit with both weapons on their Obliterate and Frost Strike. It was REALLY deep into the Frost Tree, which means you were a Frost DK if you wanted to Dual Wield.

To use Obliterate, you needed the Annihilation talent that made your Obliterate not consume your diseases. Which was also mid-tier into the Frost tree.

You didn’t invest into DW if you weren’t Frost, except in really quirky cases. DW was NEVER a non-Frost thing.


Sorry, I meant 2H for WoW DK. Got confused as I play a DK in ESO and that build does use S&B.

Bruno Brito

Not a problem. Concept-wise i really like dark warriors with shields, like Shadowknight in EQ2 or a heavyarmored Necro or Sorc in ESO.


EQ2 SK. So good! :)

Bruno Brito

For that matter, why is it only Frost? Where’s dual-wielding Unholy and Blood? Sure, two-handed Frost has a longer pedigree, but at the job’s launch you could do any of the above, and like so many other elements bringing back one without bringing around others sort of kills some enthusiasm.

You couldn’t. It was possible as much as you could dual wield as a Prot Warrior.

Reality is, dual wield only ever worked for Frost because you had talents that made your Obliterate and Frost Strike hit with each hand. Other skills didn’t. There was a quirky build for Unholy tanks that dual wielded but that was only because Bone Armor was a broken skill, and progression guilds abused that. At patch 3.3.5a, the best tank spec is Blood, because Will of The Necropolis, the best aoe spec is Unholy and the ONLY dual wield spec is Frost.