Alright, so Guntir and I ran 100 games so far this week (we will probably end with 120-140 before tomorrow) and we've climbed to 1800 and our MMR has climbed from ~2000 to almost 2100, so we should still be climbing next week >_<. This grind is slightly annoying, but it's also kind of fun, as it gives us a chance to see what the flavors of the month are going to be and attempt to beat them trying out different strategies with little to lose (our biggest loss was 3, and most of them are 0 for the time being). That being said, I do have some complaints about the new season, and a few things which I have noticed that don't necessarily irk me, but just don't sit right with me for the time being.

My first complaint is about engineering in the arena. Blizzard intentionally disallowed the Rocket Boots Extreme (and Light version) from the arena in season 3/4 because they didn't want engineering to be "the" arena profession, but then they made a new version of the rocket boots (as an enchant: Nitro Boost) and gave engineers two more burst-damage options in the Hand Mounted Pyro Rocket (quick ~2000 damage instantly OFF the GCD with no cast time) and the Gnomish Lightning Generator (which was nerfed in 3.1, but not significantly). Now, I'm fine with certain enchants for engineers, it has to come with some perks or no one will use it, but I do not feel that Blizzard should allow the Nitro Boosts in the arena, it changes the game so dramatically that every top-rated team has to go double-engineering to get past a certain tier. That's my only beef here...

Shifting directions, for the time being, something that is troubling me this season is that even being at a 55% win percentage, we are seeing the inflationary state of the arena. That is, we started at 0 team rating and about 1950 MMR. By the time we got to 1800, our MMR had already gone up by ~100 even though we are relatively close to 50% wins. That makes me wonder if simply playing more games will eventually guarantee 2k+ status. See, if everyone else is playing and having the same thing happen to them, then presumably they will continue to climb towards their MMR, and their MMR will continue to climb slowly. We expect that the two numbers should eventually even out, but with greater than 50% wins, we expect there to be some positive delta over time. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that even though you might not be able to beat priest+rogue right now at 2000, eventually they will continue climbing up to >2500 and there will be a void to fill, so you will end up playing against comps you ARE good against once again and climb up to the priest+rogue tier.

Speaking of priest+rogue... what's the deal with rogues!?!? Okay, rogues are overpowered again, and this isn't a statement of opinion, this is pure fact. Given their representation above 2000 right now, it's pretty much a given, just as DKs were a given as overpowered in season five.

"What buffs were rogues given in 3.1 that made them overpowered; there are none!" Let me be clear about this: the buff that rogues got in s5 was...

Dks got nerfed.

Rogues were amazing in s5, believing the contrary to that is just asinine. However, rogue+priest (and other rogue variants) were simply hard-countered by pally+dk, and I think we all know how many pally+dk teams there were in season five. Now that the dk+pally team numbers are being brought down in a significant way, rogues are back to seasons3/4 levels of domination. Their truly absurd amount of damage, control, and mobility make them a unstoppable force when teamed with any slightly-competent partner.

One thing that truly scares me here is that the SK numbers can be read in another way: disc priests are overpowered. This could be a problem if Blizzard takes the short-sighted route and nerfs disc priests in an effort to quell the disc+rogue numbers. The fact of the matter is that if disc priests get nerfed, rogues will go with other healers and still dominate, just like in season 4 just before the release of Wrath of the Lich King. Rogues haven't changed significantly since season 4; sure their spec is different, but their damage output, utility, control options, and mobility remain unchanged (except that no one takes Shadow Step anymore). Teaming a priest with someone who can control matches as well as rogues can just means that the priest will have free reign to Mana Burn, dispel, and nuke or heal, depending on the situation. Almost any healer will do well in these situations, but priests tend to excel because of mirror-match setups. If one were to place a disc+rogue team against a druid+rogue team, the druid+rogue will likely lose because of their lack of mana longevity and their susceptibility to mana burn. The same is true of shamangs and paladins.

There are a number of ways to balance rogues without completely dismantling the class or breaking mechanics in PvE:

1) Make Blind share diminishing returns with Fear (just like it does with Cyclone... oh look, Blind + Cyclone was an upstoppable cc dynamo, just like fear+blind is now... time to add it to the DR)
2) Change Sap so that the ROGUE using it has to be out of combat to use it, not just the target (someone is vanished, the rogue can Deadly Throw the other target, vanish on the next gcd, and sap on the next... this is simply not right... it should force the rogue to be out of combat to get this ability to work).
3) Change Sap to work like Kidney Shot and Blind/Gouge to work like Cheap Shot. Not in the way like stuns, but in their DR requirements. That is, if someone gets Sapped, then Blinded back-to-back, they'll eat 20 seconds of CC. However, if someone gets Blinded then Sapped, Blind will start a DR that Sap overlays, but not reversed, so that target will only take 15 seconds of CC.
4) Make Blind a poison again.

There are four simple fixes that will not completely destroy the rogue class, will not affect PvE encounters, and lowers the control rogues have a little bit (probably enough for them to be a balanced arena partner).

I went ahead and broke the next strategy bits into sections so they can be browsed more easily.

Okay, if you couldn't tell, we have been doing 2v2 arenas and have been having trouble with disc+rogue teams. From what I can tell, unless this team plays us completely retardedly and doesn't have double engineering, we might win if we get lucky. We had rogues splitting off on me while the priest mana burns Guntir, we had rogues focusing Guntir 100% while I was busy cycloning/rooting/healing/WHATEVER I could, we had teams doing nothing but CC-burst... just about everything would beat us unless we split the rogue and the priest, we lived through both evasions, and they didn't play defensively after the fact... then we just had to get a good stun off and some lucky crits. I would say that our win ratio against disc+rogue teams is probably 1:10... we just can't touch a decently played disc+rogue.

I am sad to say that we don't really have any strats here except to try and open on the priest when he charges after the sap on our priest, and IMMEDIATELY go bear form and hit Demo shout while running toward your priest to try and knock the rogue out before Cheap Shot. This strategy was something I've been trying to master for a while now and midway through 1600 yesterday, I think I have finally mastered it. Rogues will usually Sap Guntir and then move back to Cheap Shot me once they see me open on the priest, the trick is to do it about the same time Sap lands, then bear form up and mash Demo. From here, I just keep up Lacerate and Demo and try to Feral Charge their mana burns (and hopefully, Guntir is getting off some mana burns of his own). Once the rogue switches to Guntir (because he's mana burning), I will go cat form, charge him and start the beat down. If their priest charges in, it means we're going to have a fear-bomb in a second, so I ready Berserk (yes... Berserk). Once he fears I mash Berserk so-as not to lose time (I don't like to pre-fire it because good priests will just see that and save the CD, I want him to burn it). At this point I should be dealing pretty crazy damage to the rogue and he will have to burn evasion, at which point I switch to the priest who is conveniently standing next to me.

Here's the trick, a few seconds after Berserk falls off, evasion will fall off AND you'll have about 10 seconds before the next fear, so I switch back to the rogue and hopefully get some bleeds on him before he preps his next evasion. If he just tanks the damage, you need to cyclone him and Abolish your priest... he's running out of tricks. I think that 2 cyclones is the right amount of time to keep the rogue locked down long enough to get all the poisons off the priest and him healed back up. Presumably, at this point their priest will have been trying to Mana Burn your priest, but your priest should have been ducking LoS, and now their priest will be walking in for the fear bomb... let him, just make sure that your priest knows that a GCD HAS to go to dispelling it off you, and hopefully the rogue will still be in the cyclone when it happens. If this happens, you're almost at the point where you can win the match, you need to keep the pressure up, though.

The rogue will lose cyclone about the time you get dispelled, you will need him as your target and you will need to be mashing your Faerie Fire button. With ANY luck at all, it'll hit him; with GREAT luck, it'll hit him right after he vanishes and it will knock him out of stealth before getting another Cheap Shot on your priest. This is the kicker... if you land Faerie Fire at the same time he uses vanish, he has to burn Prep to get that Cheap Shot off, which means another Evasion is coming: focus the rogue and get him to burn it. Once he burns evasion, you need to get him to burn Cloak of Shadows too, so Cyclone the priest, Entangle the rogue, then throw Abolish on your priest again. Most rogues will see their prey getting away, notice their priest is cycloned, and bust CloS to keep the pressure on your priest... this is good. Now you have to Feral Charge (Bear) him to root him for 4 seconds, which will give your priest enough time to limp around the next corner on most maps (forget Ring of Valor... you can't beat this team on that map). By now, the priest has come out of cyclone and is charging you again for the fear bomb, and you need to sprint away from him but TOWARDS your priest with the rogue on him. If you can throw off the fear-bomb for even a moment, you might be able to force the rogue to Blind you.

Here is where the match is won: the rogue has officially used all his long cooldowns with the sole exception of Sprint. CloS, Evasion, Vanish, and Blind have all been used AFTER Preparation, now you have the upper hand, this team is now just a heavy damage-dealing monster with Fear as their only CC... unfortunately, you are losing the mana war, and presumably the health war as well. Time to get on the rogue and get a 5pt Maim up JUST before their priest realizes it's time to get into melee range and Fear-bomb; your priest needs to know this is coming and have 1 gcd available to dispel it. If everyone lives through this with decent health a low-but-not-empty mana, you have a chance to win through pressure. Mangle, SR, then immediately throw up Rake, Tiger's Fury to get some energy, and build up a 5pt Rip quickly. Also, this is the point at which Guntir uses ShadowFriend offensively (since he attacks for a decent amount of damage now... something like 800 hits and 1600 crits... WHILE returning mana to the priest) and starts breaking LoS again as hard as possible. I try and cyclone the priest and hope the rogue follows guntir around the corner so we can gib him. Now the game becomes a simple matter of outlasting their mana pool and damage, if they focus you, interrupt Mana Burns with Feral Charge + Bash combos, and when they switch to guntir, pressure the priest by wrecking the rogue. If their priest ever gets a chance to drink, you need to use the opportunity to Innervate your priest (well out of distance and LoS), Travel Form to their priest, and Cyclone him so you get the most time out of Innervate before it gets dispelled (one cyclone, then run back and pressure the rogue so when the priest finally does arrive on scene, he has to heal instead of dispel).

Rogues take a LOT of damage when their cooldowns run out... the problem is that at present they can kill just about ANYTHING 1v1, and their cooldowns let them do just that. Many of our losses are from the rogue busting Evasion and waiting on CloS for my Cyclone cast, and using Trinket on feral charge to stay on the priest... then using Prep for ONLY another evasion. This tactic works amazingly against us, we can't stop it... but it means that that team is either bad (because they do this against every team) or they're amazing and actually know how to play against feral+disc.

Our team doesn't actually have any trouble with this team. Okay, that's a lie; we HAD trouble with this team until we worked out a strategy that seems to work really well: kite+burst. Rets have AMAZING burst at the moment, they can almost kill you over the duration of HoJ if you aren't getting heals or have some mitigation going. That being said, we employ the following strategic flow. The ret will ride in and open up on your priest with some burst, you need to LET him get one cooldown off, usually Cruz, then Pounce him and Mangle. He will immediately HoF himself to break the stun, which you should expect, he will get another of his cooldowns off (usually Judgment), and Cyclone him. At this point, his rotation is a little out of whack, and he'll not have done any significant damage to your priest who should never be in LoS of mana burns yet. Then, I swap cyclone over to the priest and get ready to put on my own burst surprise.

Once the priest is cycloned, the ret pally should no longer have Hand of Freedom or very little left (see how that times up nicely?), and so sticking on him will be easy. Against disc+rets who have not faced our strategy, their first instinct will be to immediately start their burst rotation against Guntir, who has for yet-unknown reasons stay put next to the cyclone and PW:S'd himself. The ret pally will usually throw out Cruz again, and immediately get a snare applied to him, at which point Guntir breaks away and gets into position for Mana Burns (uh oh, it's all coming together now). If the Pally limps after the priest, you just stick on him and keep that damage flowing, as ret pallies don't have a real interrupt, your priest should get off 1-2 mana burns without any problems, and as soon as the ret pally gets there, you should have 5cps for a good Maim, and HoF is still on cooldown. If the Ret pally has played you before or they simply know what you're doing, he will switch to you instead of attacking your priest when the Cyclone ends, and you need to react quickly and get in bear form, bash him, and throw up Demo Roar.

Either way, your priest is going to get off the first and second mana burns before the other priest gets one off... so they're losing the mana war. Now, the game becomes a matter of survival against the burst, and you've started a LOT of diminishing returns via stuns already. A lot of times, the rets we face will put their burst down on me, turn and Repentance Guntir, and try to continue their burst on me unhealed. However, Repentance doesn't really last all that long, and it's easy enough to escape a ret pally by Feral Charging his priest... they SHOULD be split up because their priest doesn't want to be near your priest because of fear + mana burns. So, you can quickly escape and walk away in bear form without getting any more damage done to you, sometimes you might consider bashing the priest just so he doesn't throw dots on you or try to Holy Fire you, plus your priest will come out of Repentance ready to mana burn a stunned target, which is good. The basic rule here is survive and kite. You will force the ret pally to use HoF to get the snares off him, at which point you can stun him and deal a good amount of damage, then turtle in bear form some more while your priest gets mana burns off.

I would very much suggest picking up a Glyph of Barkskin, as it is completely overpowered against retadins' burst damage. Losing out on 25% crit almost completely neuters the burst a ret pally can do, and if you're doing this kiting strategy, he's going to be forced to HoJ you from distance and make it up to get to you before he can burst, giving you AMPLE opportunity to hit Barkskin before he gets there, so even if your priest is cc'd, you SHOULD live through the stun, and if you REALLY need to, you can use Survival Instincts and Frenzied Regen to live through the rest (if they got an amazing Repentance+Fearbomb combo off on your priest after trinket and wotf).

Alright, that's all I got to say on that topic... I may post another one later today if I get really antsy about a topic that I think may end up being amazing... we'll see...