Update 8/22: This article is still mostly accurate but is slightly depreciated. It will give you a good overview of the overall changes but you may want to view more recent posts under the Beast Mastery tag for more info and recent opinions.
If you missed it earlier, Blizzard released the first version of patch notes for the Warlords of Draenor alpha. I’ve summed up all the relevant hunter info in this post if you want to catch up. I’ve already taken a closer look at both survival and marksmanship, but today we’re focusing on beast mastery.
Overall, beast mastery looks like it’s going to see the least amount of changes in Warlords. Blizzard’s goal with the hunter changes was not to revamp the class, but to give each spec a better identity. Beast mastery already had its own identity as the pet-focused spec, but it looks like Blizzard is aiming to reinforce that even further.
Beast mastery will no longer have exclusive access to some raid buffs like heroism/bloodlust, stats, stamina, or a battle resurrection. All specs can tame pets capable of doing these now. Exotic pets are still a thing, but they will provide other benefits such as bringing as many as three special abilities instead of the standard one. Here are a couple of examples:
- Devilsaurs have Terrifying Roar (crit), Monstrous Bite (mortal wounds), and Feast (heal/focus regen).
- The new Rylak pets have both haste and stamina, and Flutter (a slow fall!)
- Quilen have Fearless Roar (crit), Eternal Guardian (battle rez), and the new Stone Armor (survivability cooldown)
To see the full list of new pet abilities in Warlords, check out this post. Non-exotic pets are limited to only one ability at a time, so this is a pretty tangible benefit. Add the Versatility talent on top of all this and you can really build yourself a super pet as a beast master.
A band-aid for a very annoying problem
Pets have always had pathing and AI issues. Usually you can be sure at least one encounter in a raid will be unfriendly to pets. More often than not, this problem boils down to the pet getting stuck due to AI and pathing problems.
There’s been no word on this being improved, but Blizzard is adding one very small change that could make a significant difference for a beast mastery hunter: Dismiss Pet now ignores line of sight. Now it doesn’t matter where Fluffy gets stuck, you’ll always be able to dismiss him and call him back. A small but very helpful change for beast masters, but hopefully they can fix the root of the problem someday.
A Closer Look at Beast Mastery Perks
You will receive one of these perks every other level from 92-98. What perk you receive is totally random, so you may get your favorite one first or last. It should add a little bit of excitement each time you ding. What will you get next?
- Enhanced Camouflage: You heal 3% of your maximum health every second while Camouflage is active.
All 3 hunter specs share this perk. It adds some much-needed utility and usefulness to Camouflage. Keep in mind that Camo only lasts for 6 seconds when you use it in combat (and it will automatically stop you from shooting).
- Improved Focus Fire: Focus Fire now also grants 2% increase to attack power per Frenzy stack consumed.
What I like about this perk is it makes Focus Fire a little more fun to push. I always thought it was somewhat lacking as a cooldown/DPS button, but this gives it a decent little boost. This is a 10% boost to attack power if you use it at the maximum number of stacks.
- Improved Beast Cleave: Your pet’s attacks strike nearby enemy targets for an additional 25% of damage done while Beast Cleave is active.
Beast Cleave is already incredibly strong as a burst AoE passive, and this makes it even stronger. The curious thing about this one is this is roughly (not exactly) the kind of buff that Blink Strikes currently applies to Beast Cleave. Blink Strikes is 50% but only affects basic attacks, while this is perk’s 25% buff affects all attacks (both melee swings and basics are cleaved). If Blink Strikes was getting removed, then this would replace the damage boost it currently gives which makes Beast Cleave so strong. If Blink Strikes stays, it just reaffirms how mandatory that talent is going to feel for beast mastery.
- Enhanced Basic Attacks: Your pet’s basic attacks have a 20% chance to reset the basic attack cooldown and make the next basic attack free.
Even more pet damage. It’s like Lock and Load for your pets… only you don’t have to touch anything.
Stampede is now a talent which replaces Lynx Rush in the level 75 tier. If you ask me, it would have made more sense to make it a beast mastery exclusive cooldown. Stampede just feels right for the spec. I’m hoping I’ll be able to talent into it, but as you can see in my comments about a couple of these perks, I still fear that Blink Strikes will be the “mandatory” choice for beast mastery — the mobility and Beast Cleave damage is just too much to give up.
I’m crossing my fingers that Blink Strikes (the blinking component at least) becomes a beast mastery passive, and a new talent option is added to replace it.
As for the level 100 talents, Versatility seems very strong and I’m a teensy tiny bit worried about it also being a default choice. When stacked with our mastery and some of these perks, our pets will be doing absolutely insane damage. It’s hard to say how beneficial something like Focusing Shot is going to be for beast mastery. We’re going to have to wait until we can try it out.
Beast mastery’s identity as a pet-based spec is even stronger now. The difference between a beast mastery pet and a survival/marksmanship pet is already significant, but now it’s night and day. I have some concerns about a couple of the talent choices (or lack thereof) but I’m excited to see how it all turns out. Remember, this is early alpha! A lot of this can and will change.