Monday, March 9, 2009

A HAT for a day: Honor Among Thieves

I wasted a good ten minutes trying to come up with a good "hat" pun. No dice.

I normally raid as Combat on my rogue, but this weekend I spent an evening trying out a "HAT" build: a Subtlety raiding build centered around spamming Eviscerate with the combo points generated by the talent Honor Among Thieves.

Having run out of 10-man content to fill even a 3-day raid week (1 night in Naxx, 1 night of dragons), my 12-person guild started hosting our own pug Naxx 25 runs. Despite some sputters starting up, they've been shockingly successful. In fact, maybe I'll write a guide about how to run a successful Naxx 25 pug. The first week we cleared 3 wings in one night. The second, cleared all of Naxx in 2 nights with nary a wipe. We just completed week 4, where we one-shotted Thaddius and cleared all but KT in one night. So yesterday we came back, killed KT, and went on to learn Malygos (first time for most puggers) and got him down to 15% on our third attempt before calling it.

Since a HAT build is so dependent on group makeup - notice that the combo points are generated by crits by *party* members, not *raid* members - I never seriously considered using it in my 10-man runs. A big 25-man seemed like the perfect time to take it out for a spin. Word on the street is that rogue damage is a little low, with Combat being the weakest, but supposedly HAT builds do enough damage to actually compete with other dpsers in the right group. I also just so happened to have the right weapons for it. So I thought I'd check it out, see if I could raise my dps.

Group Makeup: the key to HAT

I had to tailor my group carefully, which is quite easy to do when you are the one forming the raid and arranging the groups. The real trick is that you get combo points from pets separately from their masters: i.e. though the tooltip says "this effect cannot occur more than once every second", you could get 2 separate combo points from a pet ability crit and a hunter ability crit. If you were in a group with 4 hunters, it's entirely possible to get 8 combo points in 1 second! (though obviously at least 3 of those would go to waste)

So clearly hunters are the best choice because they and their pets both crit often. Unholy Death Knights are the next best choice, because they have a ghoul pet permanently up who just spams one attack that can crit. After that, enhancement shaman and other DKs. Warlocks and feral druids depend a bit too much on dots to be top-tier, though felguard warlocks are pretty good choices. Fire mages and other rogues are OK, but really you should be able to fill your group with hunters, DKs, and perhaps an enhancement shaman. It also helps greatly if you have a feral druid or fury warrior in the raid for the 5% melee crit buff. I ended up with 2 hunters and 2 DKs (one unholy, one frost). Not ideal, but the best I could do with what we had.

The spec:

I did a lot of research, primarily relying on the Elitist Jerks HAT thread, among other sources. Here's what I settled on:


This is not the only way to set up a HAT spec. There is a debate over the effectiveness of Rupture for this spec, as well as a disagreement over whether the optimal main hand weapon is Webbed Death or Calamity's Grasp. Since I have one of each, (both enchanted with berserking) and no second WD for the mainhand, I went with a CG mainhand WD offhand setup. I lose a bit of potential poison damage, but gain some white dps and stronger Hemos when I need one. Note: this will change when 3.1 hits, as poisons will go to a PPM model and a slow mainhand will be clearly more favorable.

There are a few viable variations on the HAT build, but I went with the one that focused every point on buffing Eviscerate and your ability to generate more combo points for more Eviscerates. Other builds could pick up blood spatter to add Rupture to the rotation, or shift some points to pick up Blade Flurry in combat or Shadowstep in Subtlety. Since I was so focused on Evis, I elected against the pure white damage boost of BF, and though I love having Shadowstep, it isn't as much of a dps increase as other places I could put my points, so I went without it.


All HAT builds should:

-Use Wound Poison on both weapons
-Max out Expertise to 6.5% (even one dodged Evis can be devastating)
-Otherwise, gem for Agility


Glyph of Eviscerate
Glyph of Slice and Dice

Third glyph isn't that important. I went with Garrote, but Hemo is an OK choice too.

I chose to go with the Evis-heavy variation. Builds with Rupture boosts or Blade Flurry will glyph differently, but all builds should take the Glyph of Eviscerate. I like the SnD Glyph and talent because the less often you have to refresh it, the more often you can use those combo points on an Evis.


As I opted to focus on Eviscerate and neglect Rupture, my build quite literally just spams Eviscerate every time I have 3 or more combo points, refreshing SnD with 5 CPs whenever it is about to expire. Seriously, that's it. Enjoy hitting that button. If you built your group right, and everyone is alive and decently geared, you should be able to hit Evis almost every global cooldown.

If a global goes by and you only have 1 combo point and high energy, use a Hemo to get a few points, then Evis. Keep in mind that you gain combo points through HAT from your own crits, not just those of your group-mates. This includes Eviscerate crits. That's right, it's possible for your own Evis, if it crits, to give you back up to 2 combo points immediately (1 for the crit, and 1 for Ruthlessness). Hemo also has the potential to give you two. This is why gemming for agility is best for this spec (you end up getting more value from agility than crit rating, trust me).

Don't overuse Hemo. Believe it or not: a 2 point Eviscerate does more damage than a Hemo! You should ONLY be using Hemo if a global goes by with only 1 combo point! If that third point doesn't seem to be coming, just pop a 2-point Evis.

One cool thing about this spec is that you should never run out of energy. Thanks to Relentless Strikes, Slice and Dice is *free* and each 5-point Evis only costs 10 energy. You regen 15 every global cooldown, leaving you room to Evis at fewer combo points, or even throw a Hemo (rarely!) without running dry. Remember, running out of energy means you will be letting combo points go to waste!

That's also why you Evis at 3 or more combo points (or 2 if you hit an RNG drought): if you wait until 5, there is potential that more points will go to waste. If you have 3, it's entirely possible for 3 or more combo points to be generated by your party in the next second, so Evis before that happens! You want to avoid letting any of them going to waste.

Opener: Open each fight from stealth. Cast Tricks of the Trade on your tank before the fight starts (so you can regen the 15 energy out of combat), then open with Premed (2 combo points) and Garrote (1 or 2 combo points). The reason I went with Garrote instead of Ambush is that I was committed to using a fist mainhand. Garrote also has the advantage of costing less energy. If you have a dagger mainhand, feel free to substitute Ambush for a chance at a 4th or 5th combo point, but keep in mind that point may go to waste depending on how fast your group is to start critting. Immediately Evis and then Evis again as soon as you get 3 more combo points (Hemo if this takes more than a second). Once you garrote, you have a 6 second window where your damage is boosted by Master of Subtlety. You want to get off as many Eviscerates as you can during that window. As soon as it wears off, use SnD then continue as normal.

If you want to get fancy, you can use Vanish during the fight to take advantage of the 6-second boost again. This is another area where HAT users disagree. Some think it is not worth the loss of a few swings of white damage as you vanish, some think good use of this move is what separates good HAT players from great ones. I heard from a few sources that Vanish does not reset your swing timer, meaning if you use a macro to immediately cancel it, you don't lose any white swings. I chose to try it out.

Here's the macro:

#showtooltip Vanish
/cast Vanish

Just jam that macro a few times to make sure it takes.

If you use it, you have to do it right. Make sure you have enough energy to get an Evis off immediately, and that you already have a few combo points but not 5, as you don't want any to go to waste during the second between when you vanish and when you Evis. And try to time it in tandem with your trinket/enchant procs and short-term raid dps buffs (like Bloodlust) for maximum effect.


Well, I came, I spammed Eviscerate, I said "meh". My dps was roughly the same as it had been as Combat, maybe a little bit higher on bosses when I got things right.

Keep in mind that I usually play Combat nearly-flawlessly (years of practice) while I screwed up my HAT rotation a lot due to inexperience. I also didn't have the optimal group. In the end, I found HAT fun to play and effective. If raiding as deep subtlety gets you excited, then by all means go for it. I've already switched back to combat. Though practice would likely net me more dps in 25-mans as HAT, overall I think Combat is a better choice, especially given the heavy buff it has incoming in 3.1. Here's why:

HAT Cons:
-I lost the raid-wide physical damage buff Combat gives. Mut builds also give a raid-wide buff, but HAT does not
-HAT causes headaches with group makeup that combat does not
- The spec sucks if your group members die. This makes it a raid farming spec not suitable for learning content, in my opinion.
-No cooldowns for on-demand burst: when I've got a double-spark on Maly or KT just summoned adds, I want to be able to push my dps up a notch. Combat has lots of cooldowns to do just that, while HAT has pretty much nothing.

HAT Pros:
-Easy rotation, and little need to watch cooldown timers compared to other specs
-High damage potential with RNG luck
-Many Subtlety talents for more survivability and some PvP toys
-A bit less dependent on your weapons than other specs


I'm very happy that all 3 trees have fully viable raid dps specs. It sucks that HAT gives up pretty much all of the fun parts of the Subtlety tree for sustained dps, but at least the option is there. A good spec for a raid leader, as you can set up groups to your liking and make sure they don't get split up (like on Thaddius or Gothik) and the cycle is so simple that you can concentrate a bit more on raid leading. I wouldn't recommend it until you and your raid are quite well geared, though, and I definitely wouldn't bother in a 10-man. The spec *requires* full raid buffs and a large pool of raid members to draw from to be effective.

A super-neat macro I found while researching this post, courtesty of Erishkagal of the Hydraxis server:

left click button to apply poision to main hand, right click for offhand hold down shift for wound poison ctrl for deadly alt for crip and nothing for instant
/use [mod:shift] Wound Poison V; [mod:ctrl] Deadly Poison VI; [mod:alt] Crippling Poison II; Instant Poison VII
/use [btn:2] 17; 16

1 comment:

Ixobelle said...

robocop: i'll buy tHAT for a dollar!