An Interview With Pathal, Shadowcraft Unofficial Lead Dev, Encrypted Text

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Encrypted Text for assassination, combat and subtlety rogues. Chase Christian will be your guide to the world of shadows every Wednesday. Feel free to email me with any questions or article suggestions you’d like to see covered here.

After Aldriana decided to give up the title of master rogue theorycrafter, nobody knew who would take up his mantle. A handful of rogue champions worked together to develop Shadowcraft’s engine for Mists of Pandaria. As time has marched on, many rogues faded away, but one has risen to the top. Pathal has been the lead developer working on the Shadowcraft back-end for several months now, tweaking the numbers as patches and hotfixes drop and working on exposing more options and expanding SC’s capabilities.

I had the opportunity to speak with Pathal about his history as a rogue, what he thinks of the class and its mechanics, how he got started in rogue theorycrafting, and what working on Shadowcraft has been like.

About the rogue

Encrypted Text: Tell me a bit about your rogue career. When did you start your first rogue? What’s your favorite part about playing a rogue?

Started playing WoW during BC as one of those night elf hunters that everyone hated at the time. Once I started doing Karazahn, I rolled a rogue specifically for the level 29 PvP bracket. That didn’t last long, and brought my rogue up to 70. For the rest of BC, I alternated between my hunter and rogue, depending on what the raid team needed that night. It stayed that way into mid-Wrath (TotC), where I eventually started only used my rogue.

Since then, it’s been a steady progression into learning more about game mechanics to where I am now. I’ve still kept a large arsenal of alts over the years. I’ve played every class at max level in a raid (with the exception of warlock and druid at this point) at one expansion or another. Something about being the village bicycle.

If there’s a situation where I can sneak around a large group of enemies to kill a specific target, I’m probably having a good time.

You have quite a few alts and you’ve raided on other classes. What keeps you coming back to the rogue? Do you have a favorite or preferred spec?

I come back to rogue mostly because I’ve played it for so long that most things are just intuitive now. Very few classes have the core/inherent rotation and strategy that rogues have though. They’re very dependent on doing something ASAP. It’s kind of a turn off for me.

Every time I try another spec or alt, I usually get frustrated by the fact that everything is based around getting abilities off as soon as the GCD ends. Some people like that (actually it seems most players like having something to do like that), but I would much rather deal with timing of abilities and patience as a skill factor, than who has the fastest twitchy finger.

At this point I would consider myself more of an assassination rogue. It’s slower, emphasizes timing over twitchy fingers, and requires planning which makes it significantly more enjoyable than combat to me.

I used to, and maybe I still kind of, hold a special place for subtlety in my heart, but since sub’s capabilities in Mists were drastically reduced, I’ve turned away from it. It really is an interesting spec, but without a niche of its own and performance that’s only “on par” at best, I struggle to justify it in a raid.

I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a fight where the emphasis was on doing as much DPS as possible.

Do you PvP much on your rogue? Any particular reasons why or why not? What’s your favorite part of raiding on your rogue?

I rarely PvP, and usually not until the end of an expansion, or long stretches of farm content. The subjectivity has always been a barrier for me. I’ve always found it odd that there’s rarely a mathematical way to approach PvP optimally. We can determine the value of burst, what Nerve Strike is worth, etc. But figuring out when the optimal time to use Kidney Shot is a little subjective and almost arbitrary. It sort of plants this seed of doubt in me that’s turned me away from PvP.

So as someone that’s played a lot of different classes, do you find yourself going to the same lengths to figure out those classes and their mechanics as you do for the rogue? Are you involved in the theorycrafting for any other classes?

I wish I did. I’ve added windwalker monks to the list of things I wish Shadowcraft could handle, but I feel like there’s always something else I could do for rogues that I’ve just given rogue stuff priority. I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to learning their rotations in depth enough to formulate some estimates. When I’m just playing the class in whatever, I usually only do a cursory read on general tactics. Going too far tends to eat into time I could be working on rogues or whatever raid prep I might be doing.

Tell us about the guy behind the rogue.

I’m just a guy. I put my pants on one leg at a time. I enjoy a cold beer and steak subs. I complain about my current job whenever I get the chance, and I spent way too much time on Reddit. I wish there was something special or unique to put here, but there isn’t. Well, I’ve been to Disney World as a kid more times than I can count, but I don’t think that earns me any bragging points.