I’ve been using the Asmiroth moniker for over 20 years (that’s painful to write), and my first WoW character was a dwarf rogue on launch day. I ran a rogue-specific website at the time, wrote guides (that paid for my PCs for a LONG time), and was more than well versed in that class. I played Rogue as a main character up until Pandaria, where I started to really mess around with alts. In particular the Monk, which I’ve mained since.
Rogues in just about any RPG setting have been interesting to me. The idea of hiding in the shadows, coming out with bursts, then hiding again is a rather unique class trait. There’s an irony here in that the typical rogue mindset is that of a loner, but in practical terms they often require other people to excel – what with the backstabbing and all. This worked in something like Everquest where group combat was the default. Less so in WoW where the single player experience has been taking a larger foothold.
As the MMO space has evolved, the multi-role aspect has really become the gold standard for way forward. FF14 does a spectacular job on this, but doesn’t actually have a rogue class. This model allows an individual to continue to participate in the game, filling in the role they see fit (heal/tank/damage). WoW at launch focused on classes filling a single role well. Those that could do multiple roles, usually did so at a penalty (hybrid tax). Game moved forward and more and more hybrid classes have come to shore.
Which means in WoW there are only 4 pure damage classes left – Rogue, Hunter, Mage, and Warlock. Only one of those is melee. And the game design over the years has been ultra punishing for anyone in melee range. It’s not that it’s impossible, just that if you want to play a melee DPS role, you need to always be moving, which requires a level of player dexterity and awareness above and beyond those at range.
So, the Rogue is limited to a specific role, and mechanically at a disadvantage. What benefits do they bring? Group stealth is one, where this has a niche application in time-based group trials. They are great at locking down single targets, especially in PvP settings. It should be relatively high on single target damage but due to the melee range challenges, they actually rank middle of pack, with 4 other melee classes ahead of them.
The above issues reflect tremendously in day to day gameplay. Single player efforts are at a disadvantage compared to pretty much every other class due to poor defensive options. In group settings, aside from high tier timed dungeon runs, they provide minimal benefit. Combined, it makes rogues less fun to play. Maybe if the game reverted from the AE-trash / Focus-boss structure it would help, and the full skill set could be leveraged.
I will point out that the rogue lore in WoW is second only to Paladins, and crosses both factions. I absolutely loved the Legion class hall.
For now, if you’re looking for a leather-based, mobile, melee option… you’re better off with a Demon Hunter. They do nearly everything a Rogue does, but better in nearly every aspect. Monks are even more versatile, but their DPS spec needs some tuning. Their tank role is the best in the business, which is a nice offset. Plus they heal.
End result is that my Rogue sits in the inn, unlocking boxes sent to him in the mail, at expansion max level, waiting for the day he can come out of retirement.