WoD Beta: Missing the Mark

Editor’s Note: If there’s one thing most hunters will agree with on the Warlords beta, it’s that marksmanship and survival are simply missing “something” in their current state. I thought Jademcian articulated the reason for this better than I ever could, so I asked him to do a guest post for the site. Hopefully this will spark some more discussion and help improve these specs before release. -Bendak

A few days ago I made a four part post on the beta class forums for a discussion regarding Marksmanship. Many of the posters seemed to  enjoy Beast Mastery while feeling Marks and Survival were hollow by comparison. In my post I made a few remarks on Marksmanship based on the discussion then went into a comparison between it and Beast Mastery, why I thought one felt more complete than the other and an example of what could be done to make Marksmanship feel the same ‘completeness.’

Bendak asked if I would write about that post here, on his site, and I happily obliged because I think it’s something the hunter community may be able to use to fuel player/developer conversation. The first step is identifying that something feels missing, the second step is figuring out what that thing is, and the third step is in Blizzard’s hands. So, whether you like Beast Mastery or not, or what was axed from Marksmanship, I hope you find my thoughts a useful tool for communicating your own.

The Beast Mastery Benchmark

Something to think about: Beast Mastery’s success comes from its amazing passive synergy. Each part of Beast Mastery works together in a positive feedback loop throughout the rotation, has a simple flow in terms of rotation, yet still leaves a lot of control to the player.  Focus Fire gives us a choice: get haste for the hunter and burst focus for the pet, or leave haste on the pet until the swap is needed. Using this after a Cobra Strikes proc to get into the Wild Hunt in the middle of a Bestial Wrath is massive burst and in a lot of cases extreme micro-management for those who are interested in pure min-max. The same is true of Beast Cleave. This same passive synergy can be achieved with Marksmanship.

Something feels missing from Marksmanship and Survival because there literally is. There is at least one major gameplay addition missing in both, and there are several synergizing passives missing in both. We already know they are still planning Survival’s cooldown, so hopefully it plays a role in Survival becoming compatible with itself. Until this is achieved, neither spec will feel as polished as Beast Mastery.

Now, how can this information be used? Let me show you how I expanded on my prior thoughts in order to rebuild Marksmanship.
Basis one: BM is really strong because it synergizes with itself and is well rounded. Everything works in an active positive feedback loop throughout the rotation.
Basis two: The formula for BM’s success is in the form of 1 CD, 5 actives and 5 passives. More than this is button bloat or too complex, less than this by more than 40% (2) causes the gameplay to feel hollow.
Basis three: Avoid similar play, and stick to the individual feel of the specialization. Additional haste buffs are, therefore, sadly out. Aimed and Chimera should synergize more into the entire workflow.

Beast Mastery Marksmanship
Beast Mastery is fairly simple but has depth:Cobra to regen, Arcane to dump, Kill Command when up, Focus Fire at 5 stacks. Bestial Wrath modifies this to pooling focus, spamming Arcane Shot, and getting in as many Kill Commands as possible. Behind the scenes, passives work their magic. Focus Fire is used as an additional burst, causing additional damage, haste for the player, and focus for the pet for basic attacks. Marksmanship in its current iteration:Steady/Focusing Shot to regen, Aimed to dump, Chimera Shot when up (presumably). Rapid Fire modifies this to spamming Aimed Shot throughout Careful Aim, forgoing Chimera Shot and getting focus regen from perks and/or talents. There is nothing outside of this and Careful Aim is the only passive.
Mastery: Bolsters all pet damage. Synergizes with every aspect of Beast Mastery besides Arcane and Cobra Shots. Mastery: Standing still for 3s grants extra damage, range, and crit damage for 6s. Works with Careful Aim passive to bolster Aimed Shot. Extra damage affects all abilities but is neutered to zero net worth if the player requires movement for longer than 3s.
 AoE: Beast Cleave — Multi-Shot causes the pet melee attacks to hit all targets nearby for 75% damage (100% with perk), synergizes with mastery and thus all aspects of BM via master. AoE serparate from player GCD.  AoE: Bombardment — Multi-Shot crits cause Multi-Shot to cost less focus and do 60% more damage. Weak in all manners in comparison to BM (focus, damage, and GCD).
Proposed Changes for Marksmanship
  1. Re-implementing Piercing Shots. Quoted reason for removing it was because it was irrelevant due to Sniper Training. Sniper Training replaced Wild Quiver and would actually synergize WITH Piercing Shots to make critical strike more valuable.
  2. Re-implementing Improved Piercing Shots. Replace some of Marksmanship’s AoE weaknesses with some of BM’s AoE strengths by adding [focus, damage, GCD] in bleed DoTs. Retweak it as needed.
  3. A fourth passive synergizing with a fifth button in tandem with Chimera Shot to work Piercing Shots into a controllable burst via Aimed and Chimera. Does not affect focus balancing. Allows player to decide between bleed damage and high intensity single target damage.

*The ????? passive can be removed for 1CD/5active/4passive. It might be nice to consider making it convert pet damage to bleed damage, making Murder of Crows and Dire Beast / pet talents more worthwhile.

The addition of Rapid Killing as an active and Expose Weakness + Piercing Shots as passives makes Marksman as complex, yet simple, and controllable as Beast Mastery. It will flow naturally in its purest form… Steady to regen, Aimed to dump, Chimera when up, Rapid Killing at 3 stacks. Cooldown modifies this to pooling focus and choosing to either pool stacks for burst damage or maintaining stacks for super DoT damage from Rapid Fire + Careful Aim. It brings purpose back to Chimera Shot and synergizes with Sniper Training via Piercing Shots and bleed damage. Understandably, some adjustments to Piercing Shots would have to be done, or the scaling would quickly get out of hand. This might be in the form of a static bleed damage with its own equation, or ensuring it can’t be rolled through Rapid Killing.

As a bonus, Rapid Killing and Expose Weakness follows the theme of reviving old hunter ability names and mechanics that have been canon throughout Warlords testing.

I’ve read another example that worked off the axed passive Master Marksman, but I think it’s safe to say that any form of passive that adds more dynamics, stronger player interaction and a more positive feedback loop to marksmanship — whether a revamped Piercing Shots, Master Marksman or something much older — can only make the specialization better.


17 thoughts on “WoD Beta: Missing the Mark”

  1. I miss the old days of Armor Penetration. I would prefer a new shot that stacks limited armor reduction to bleed effect enhancements. And Chimera Shit actually doesnt fit the new design anymore. I have no idea why they keep a magical damage shot, when they were so keen to make MM the spec for physical damage.

    1. Chimera Shot does make sense to be changed into physical damage, and either add secondary functionality to it or ditch the name because it’s purely vestigial now.

    2. Chimera Shot does magical damage because Blizzard wants/wanted each spec to do at least 2 types of damage. Back in the old days mobs/bosses could be immune to certain types of damage (there were virtually no fire mages in Molten Core) and interrupts could block an entire school of damage (fire/holy/arcane)..etc.

      Arcane Shot doing arcane damage stopped making sense when we got focus instead of mana…yet we still have it.

      Btw, Celestalon tweeted that Chimera Shot will be changed to add more Chimera flavor to it.

  2. One thing I never really thought about was how much passives can contibute to the quality of a spec’s overall feel. The good news is, it’s still early in the beta process. I still think that things can improve.

    Thanks again to Jademcian for putting together the post, especially with the easy to follow flow charts. 🙂

  3. From a flavour standpoint, I believe Chimera shot is more appropriate for SV since its name is based from a magical creature and Explosive shot is more suitable for the raving gun nut MM.

    The healing bonus from Chimera also fits the “staying alive” aspect of SV. Based from that, I think a good way to differentiate SV from the other builds is to make it as a hybrid-healer just like the Bounty Hunter Mercenary in SWTOR.

    1. Marksmanships old final tier talent used to be Trueshot Aura. The tree had multiple talents regarding various shots and shot benefits, such as Aimed Shot, Improved Arcane Shot (reduced CD), Lethal Shots (crit) and Mortal Shots (crit damage). It was also home to the sting talents: Improved Serpent Sting (damage) and Improved Scorpid Sting (reduced more stats) and later Improved Stings (serpent and wyvern damage, increased mana drain from viper, reduced dispel chance).

      In the Burning Crusade, the final tier talent became Silencing Shot. This was opened up after five points of Master marksman (attack power). And, finally, in WotLK, Chimera Shot was born. It dealt weapon damage, but most importantly it triggered a special effect based on the current sting on the target.

      Marksmanship was built around weapon damage, critical strikes and the three hunter stings. Chimera Shot was so named because of its affects with these stings.
      With Serpent Sting, Chimera did 40% instant damage done by the sting.
      With Viper Sting, a mana drain, Chimera restored mana equal to 60% of the sting.
      With Scorpid Sting, a stat reducer, Chimera attempted to disarm the target.

      In other words, yes — Chimera Shot is more appropriate for SV. In fact, Chimera Shot is mostly just out in the water, since Viper Sting and Scorpid Sting no longer exist. With Serpent Sting leaving Marks, the final head has been chopped off. It might be time for Blizzard to consider a whole rebuild of Marksmanship.

  4. Great post. I saw the diagrams on MMO-C forum yesterday and can only hope Blizzard makes similar diagrams.

    One of my main problems with MM at the moment is that Aimed Shot doesn’t feel like a focus dump. First of all it is MMs main shot because of Chimera Shots long cooldown. Secondly, the cast-time of Steady and Aimed is too long now that the haste buff from steady focus is gone. As a result Aimed Shot doesn’t feel like a focus “dump” but more like a focus “bleed”. You can even get focus capped while casting it since you regen 4+ focus/sec while casting it.

    Blizzard should either reduce the cast-times of steady&aimed by about 0.2-0.5 secs or add a haste component to Sniper Training (you need less time to aim when standing still). The problem with the latter option is that it makes Sniper Training even harder to balance.

    We don’t know yet how Chimera Shot is being changed. Personally I would lower Chimera Shot’s cooldown to 5-6 seconds and have it apply the Marked for Death effect. Marked for Death would apply the hunter’s mark visual effect and either increase ranged attack power against the marked target (like the old Marked for Death) or maybe increase armor penetration. This would buff Auto, Steady and Aimed Shot damage.

    As a secondary effect Chimera Shot should hit a second target (Chimera’s have 2 heads after all) so MM also gets a kind of cleave attack.

    I’m not sure Blizzard will bring back piercing shots since it seems they want SV to be the dot spec and MM to be the direct damage spec.

    1. Hmm, Chimera cleave could be interesting. But even without the cleave, I kinda like that idea of Chimera splitting into 2 separate components.

      Halfway to its target, the shot splits off into two projectiles — two Chimaera heads — before converging back on the target. Would look really cool. Could even have each “head” deal damage of a different element (nature and frost). Maybe the nature head heals like the old shot, and the frost head applies something else (was gonna say slow, but would conflict with Exotic Munitions). Both “heads” have independent crit and multistrike chances.

      Doesn’t solve all of MM’s problems, but some kinda cool factor would help Chimera Shot.

  5. I love the proposed MM changes. An active, short term buff would add a nice additional button to the rotation, while providing various gameplay choices. Immediately I thought about how with a 10 second duration, it could be maximized by using it just as CS comes off CD, providing the %dmg buff to 2 CS. This is interesting gameplay, and managing this buff could be much more engaging.

    Also like the return of piercing shots, though MM would be tuned for the persistent dot which would make target switching more penalized, though this would be offset by the increased AoE damage (with the (old) perk).

    As to the flavor considerations, I would personally prefer Blizz change the name to fit the shot (ie Deadly Shot) rather than change the shot to fit the name.

  6. Rather than just copying the BM-model (replacing frenzy with expose weakness) I hope Blizzard takes the opportunity to make Marksmanship different. As I see it, BM is about building up tension and slowly increasing the pressure, SV is about laying on DoTs, pushing the enemy into badness and then burning them through burst attacks, and so MM should be about setting up the perfect shot and destroying the enemy quickly, swiftly, without notice, then moving onto the next with just as deadly accuracy as the last.

    1. While I understand not wanting to copy the BM ideas, it seems like the “stack a buff, use it up” paradigm is here to stay for most classes. Survival (Lock n Load), Beast Mastery (Frenzy/Focus Fire), Elemental (Fulmination), Enhancement (Maelstrom Weapon, Fire AoE), Resto Shaman (Tidal Waves), are just the examples from the classes I play competitively at 90. There are dozens of others amoung the other 28 specs in the game.

      Given the MM attunement and historical flavor, the passives listed fit well. Rapid Killing would synergize nicely with RF+CA.

      Imagine you stack EW to 3. You pop RF+RK just before CS comes off CD. Now you have CS, AS, AS, AS, AS, AS, CS, all in a row, all doing 30% more damage, and most of the Aimed Shots are proccing bleeds, TotH, and the perk, so your whole rotation is essentially free for the duration. Then you spam AS for the rest of RF/CA, for massive damage and even more Piercing Shots dot buildup. This gives MM insane burst when the stars align.

      The “normal” rotation would be more dynamic as well. You could stack 3EW and use RK for burst every 30 seconds, use it on CD and have 50% of your CS/AS buffed, or ignore it altogether and roll enormous Piercing Shots dots. Presumably, each of these three strategies would be best on different fights and with different gear setups, depending on how Haste and Multistrike interact with Piercing Shots and the shots that cause it.3

      It would also make MM the high-skillcap spec: difficult to master, but very rewarding to those who put in the effort. As SV I do great damage, but I don’t feel that my skill has a real impact on my damage. The rotation is easy, and with the 4 piece set bonus I feel like I spend 50% or more of the fight pressing 1.

      I personally feel even less engaged as BM, despite the more dynamic (on live) rotation, because my pet is doing most of the work. From an RP perspective, I rolled a Hunter to be a ranger (with pets), not a Beastmaster (with bows).

      The whole concept could be really cool, in an easy to learn difficult to master way, which has pretty much defined hunters in every expansion except TBC.

      It could also fail miserably and be a carbon copy of BM nobody wants to play.

      Either way, iteration will ultimately give us something better than what we have now, and even a step in the wrong direction tells us where we should be headed.

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