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I've gone through the MMO-Champion and Elitist Jerks forums, and much to my dismay the topic of the Anticipation talent in relation to the Combat spec is nowhere to be found. Most of my time in raids as gone towards perfecting the use of this talent in my rotation and I'm still not there yet. I think there is a failing amongst the rogue community to really appreciate how much Anticipation can really do to your rotation. The only explanations I can come up with are either that everyone is so focused on the banality of the Assassination spec to pay attention to Combat, or people just see Combat as a Cleave = Win spec, which really diminishes Combat's potential. Sure Assassination is better for single target, but when you do spec Combat, hitting Blade Flurry just isn't good enough. Today I'm going to try to explain the ways in which Anticipation affects all parts of the Combat rotation, and how you can mold and use this unique talent for your benefit.
The most basic use for Anticipation is simply bending your timers a little, which is what people use it for now. If you're at 5cp and there's 2 seconds left on your Rupture, just SS again so you can refresh at the perfect time without giving up any DPS from energy capping or wasting combo points. There are 3 other uses for the Anticipation talent, and they are linked to Bandit's Guile, Relentless Strikes and Restless Blades.
Bandit's Guile is what makes the Combat Spec unique. It gives you 4 different buffs: a 0% overall damage buff, 10%, 20% and 30%. The buff increases sequentially based on attacking with Sinister Strike and Revealing Strike, and once the 30% buff is reached, it is active for 15 seconds before dropping back down to the 0% buff. To increase the damage buff, you have to use Sinister Strike or Revealing Strike 4 times, then your damage buff will increase by 10%. Common sense will tell you that you want to spend as little time as possible at the lower buff levels and maximize your time at the highest buff level. More specifically, you want all of your offensive finishers to be at as high a buff level as possible. That's where Anticipation comes in.
The most simple form of my theory is until you get the 30% buff level, you want to go through your rotation as if you have to get up to 10 combo points to use your finishers. Once you get to your 30% buff, you want to use as many finishers as possible to end the 15 seconds with as close to 0 combo points as possible and as much energy as possible. The reason I say to make use of all 10 of your combo points at the low buff levels is if you do that, you are using more Sinister Strikes and Revealing Strikes, which moves you through the buff levels faster. Ideally you want to enter the 30% buff phase with as many combo points as possible and as much energy as possible. If you do that, you will maximize the number of offensive finishers that occur during the 30% buff phase. When you are leaving the 30% buff phase, you want to be setting yourself up to accelerate through the low buff levels again to get back to the 30% buff phase. It will take some practice and training of your intuition, but you have to be aware of the point in the 30% buff when you will not be able to land another 5 combo point offensive finisher. Once you are at that point, you want to start pooling your energy so that when your 30% buff falls off, you can lay down a lot of quick Sinister Strikes and Revealing Strikes to move through the low buff levels as fast as possible. With experience, you will also be able to keep your combo points low at the end of the 30% buff phase to limit the number of finishers you will have to cast at low buff levels, and use whatever leftover combo points from the 30% buff to refresh your Slice and Dice.
Speaking of Slice and Dice, refreshing that buff is another thing that the Anticipation talent can help with. The Relentless Strikes talent is what makes my technique possible. Relentless Strikes is a passive ability that gives you a 20% chance per combo point spent on a finishing move to refund 25 energy. In terms of Anticipation, that means you definitely get 25 energy when using a finishing move with between 5 and 10 combo points. If you are using Anticipation properly with your offensive finishing moves, then you are always using 5 combo point finishers and always getting your 25 energy. However, you probably don't always get 5 point Slice and Dice finishers, meaning you don't always get your 25 energy.
The essence of my technique is in knowing that 5 point finishers grant 25 energy, casting Slice and Dice costs 25 energy, and offensive finishers cast with more than 5 combo points grant you the number of combo points acquired at the time of use minus 5. What I do when I see I'm going to have to refresh SnD is make sure I have 6 or more combo points, wait until there is 1 second left on my SnD buff, use an offensive finisher then immediately use Slice and Dice. In the second it takes for the SnD buff to wear down, you've been refunded the 25 energy and whatever combo points you've built up, meaning you can cast SnD right away and not lose any buff time.
Finally, Anticipation can help with the way you manage your Restless Blades buff. Restless Blades is the buff that reduces the time remaining on your major DPS cooldowns by 2 seconds per combo point used in an offensive finishing move. Using Anticipation to take advantage of this passive buff produces the least results overall, but I'll go through how to do it anyway.
It's as simple as hoarding a couple extra combo points while waiting for your cooldowns to become available. If you use a 5 combo point finisher when there are 2 seconds left, you are essentially wasting 8 seconds of cooldown time that the finisher could have taken off. If you instead pool a bit of energy and combo points waiting for the cooldown to come back up, you'll have fully useful Restless Blades procs and maybe you'll get an extra cooldown squeezed into an encounter when you otherwise wouldn't.
There you have it, my rant is over. If you can use the full potential of the Anticipation talent, you'll see your DPS increase on the fights you choose Combat for.
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