The image above is Rexxar, Champion of the Horde, the one hunter in Azeroth (well, Outland) who refuses to give up his melee weapons. The melee hunter concept is a longstanding joke for many hunters, and a secret desire for others who like the idea of ditching their bow to fight side by side with their loyal companion. The earliest iterations of survival’s talent tree were almost entirely melee focused. It’s clear Blizzard once had the intention for hunters to be able to play as melee — or at least a melee/ranged hybrid — but that has been slowly eroded over the years.
Before BlizzCon, I thought the idea of a pet-less hunter was almost as far-fetched as a melee hunter, but the new Lone Wolf talent showed me how wrong I was. There was a vocal minority of hunters who prefer to play without their pets and go it alone, and Blizzard listened. Hunters were always a pet class first and foremost, so I never expected a talent or ability to give you a benefit for not using one. It made me wonder if a melee hunter spec was possible in this day and age.
Raptor Strike crits you for 1337 damage
Back when hunters still had melee abilities, there were a few dedicated nonconformists who chose to play the class without a ranged weapon. You can bet they never made it into any kind of cutting edge raiding with their Raptor Strikes and Mongoose Bites, but it was definitely playable for them at the most basic level. In Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard removed our ability to equip ranged and melee weapons simultaneously, killing the dreams melee hunters everywhere.
If they were to add a melee spec to the game now, they would have somewhat of a problem on their hands. No hunters would have any viable melee weapons to use when the patch dropped. Things are so much cleaner now with only having to worry about one weapon type. If hunters had a melee spec, they would be rolling on both ranged and melee weapons just in case they decide to play both ranged and melee specs. We’ve just gotten over that whole “hunter weapon!” stereotype.
Something like the Glyph of the Weaponmaster is one possible solution (or even just open up transmog options). Basically, using the stats from a ranged weapon with a melee weapon appearance. There could be a default appearance if you have none. This would solve the problem of hunters needing both weapon types. As you can see from the screenshot, even I have held onto some of my favorite melee weapons.
What spec gets the shaft?
What spec gets changed into melee? Obviously it can’t be marksmanship, but what would you say to the vast majority of survival and beast mastery hunters who prefer playing a ranged class and have done so for many years?
A fourth spec is not completely unreasonable — after all, druids have four. But four DPS specs for one class? I sincerely doubt it. Three DPS and a tank spec? Maybe. Would you be interested in playing a melee hunter if they could only tank? The idea of a hunter tank gets me kind of excited. I picture hunter and beast tanking together, side by side, perhaps with something similar to Soul Link as a mitigation mechanic.
Just the pet itself being a tank is more problematic. The “move to” command isn’t going allow you to do any meaningful tanking, so what happens to your hunter while you are directly controlling the pet? Perhaps the zombie hunter body dutifully fires auto shots in the background? Wouldn’t that be a sight. The hunter becomes the pet. Merging with the pet is probably off the table since we’re not really shape shifters or magicians, but I guess anything is possible in a fantasy game. Eyes of the Beast was different — the hunter was using all of his concentration to control the beast and couldn’t do anything else. He was still vulnerable.
@Joeyportnoydave We definitely agree that the hunter specs feel the same, and are taking steps to address that. Not melee BM though.
— Celestalon (@Celestalon) February 9, 2014
What about a talent?
If a fourth specialization seems unlikely at this point, what about a talent? After all, that was Blizzard’s solution for offering a pet-less hunter option in Warlords.
Let’s assume there is a workable solution to the weapon problem. Even with that, it would not be a simple undertaking for Blizzard, and I seriously question if it would even be worth it.
Every shot and ranged ability would need a melee equivalent spell. Let’s use beast mastery as an example. Kill Command is fine as it is, but then you would need a Cobra Shot, Multi-Shot, and Arcane Shot replacement. Glaive Toss, Barrage, Counter Shot, Concussive Shot… need I go on?
The problem with just having it as a talent is you don’t get the benefits of an actual spec. It would basically be a hunter, as they are now, but with a 5 yard range instead of 40 yards. What’s the point?
The answer is No… for now
The melee hunter is a nice thought, but I just don’t see it happening. There’s too many problems standing in the way. However, if you would have asked me the same question about pet-less hunters before BlizzCon, I would have given you a similar answer. Blizzard has already proven to us that nothing is sacred. All things are fair game if it can make the game better. Don’t expect a melee hunter, but don’t be too surprised if it’s a reality someday.