Alright, I knew Survival would be the unpopular Hunter spec going into Legion, but I didn’t think the disparity would be quite this severe. After a week of Emerald Nightmare, the numbers are in and it’s not pretty for Survival. As I write this, there are ~48,000 Hunter parses in Heroic Emerald Nightmare on Warcraft Logs thus far. Only ~660 of those are from Survival Hunters, along with ~36,000 Marksmanship and ~11,000 Beast Mastery. Those Survival numbers are pretty appalling.
First of all, yes, not all guilds upload their combat logs (or even keep any) but I think in the first week the vast majority of them doing Heroic content will be doing so, and these numbers should be fairly representative of what’s going on. When you add anecdotal evidence about seemingly never seeing Survival Hunters in the wild, it becomes pretty clear: Hardly anyone seems to be playing Survival.
Survival had several things going against it, like the fact that most existing Hunters rolled a Hunter to play a ranged class and they have no interest in playing melee. Plus, existing melee players interested in joining the Hunter ranks may have had more appealing options in this department (the Demon Hunter or their existing melee class). There’s too many melee specs to go around.
It’s not even that Survival’s potential DPS is bad, it’s that most raiders feel there’s little benefit to playing it outside of loving to play the spec. It’s a hard sell to potential re-rollers to even try the spec in the first place! The people I know who do play Survival really seem to like it. It’s a niche spec and will probably stay that way.
Beast Mastery vs. Marksmanship
Speaking of hardly anyone playing a spec, why do I feel like I’m one of the few actually raiding as Beast Mastery? The disparity isn’t nearly as bad as Survival, but the fact still remains that 3x more Hunters are playing Marksmanship than Beast Mastery in raiding. Outside of raiding, I feel like it’s a more balanced 50/50 split.
If you hang out on forums or Discord, you probably hear (75,000 times a day) that you should play MM for raiding and BM for dungeons, and that if you don’t you’re a terrible human being who should be ashamed of playing a pleb spec like BM in raids. Yeah, OK. That’s actually a pretty good plan if you enjoy playing both specs and I would strongly recommend it. BM is certainly strong in dungeons, and MM is certainly strong in raids. However, I’d argue that BM is also pretty darn good in raids (and will be better in a few weeks) and MM is also fine in dungeons (as long as you can control the Barrage and Sidewinders silliness with proper positioning).
As BM, I’m holding my own against MM Hunters in my own raid. There are advantages to having zero movement restrictions (especially when learning fights), and at this point I’m not holding back my own team (for context we are just starting heroic progression and only 2 days per week, so not hardcore). I could maybe whore the meters a bit more on some fights as MM, but I can still pump out the damage where it’s needed and where it counts.
BM is at a bit of a disadvantage right now because no one has all 3 golden traits unlocked (Titan’s Thunder being the missing one for most right now). With my character, the next 3 artifact points (the last being Titan’s Thunder) represent a 8-9% single-target DPS increase by themselves. That’s huge. MM’s artifact DPS benefits were a bit more front-loaded compared to BM.
In the end, when the artifacts are fully loaded, MM will still have the edge just because of its mechanics. It just won’t be to the fantastically overblown degree that some make it out to be. If you’re not in a hardcore, server-first Mythic type of guild, I think you should play whatever you enjoy the most. If that’s MM, more power to you. If that’s BM, don’t let people get you down because you’re playing the “noob spec.” They can bugger off.
Tuning Pass for 9/27 (9/28 EU)
Blizzard released the upcoming list of class tuning hotfixes which will go live with the next reset:
- BM: Bestial Wrath damage buffed from 20% to 25%
- MM and BM: Barrage damage nerfed by 20%
- SV: Flanking Strike damage buffed by 62%
None of these are terribly significant. Starting with the BM buff, that works out to an overall ~2% DPS increase (since Bestial Wrath’s uptime averages around 40%). When you combine that little buff with the fact that no BM Hunters have unlocked all 3 golden traits yet, you can see how the gap between MM and BM can shrink in the near future.
I’ve had several people ask me if this BM buff changes anything in regards to what they should play, and the answer is no. It’s small enough that it has no real effect on whatever you were basing your original decision on.
The Barrage nerf hurts MM cleave DPS, but apparently they also recently fixed a bug with Windburst (it wasn’t being affected by Mastery properly) which significantly increased its damage. So the change to MM single target DPS is basically a wash.
The SV buff to Flanking Strike combined with the changes to the Animals Instincts talent in 7.1 leads me to believe they want this ability to be more of a centerpiece, and not just a “when you have nothing else to do” button.
I still think BM is under tuned with these hotfixes, but I understand Blizzard being cautious with it. I just hope they keep an eye on things. I also have some concerns about the future in Nighthold, where the current BM tier bonuses look pretty weak. I also wonder how much further MM could pull ahead with relic upgrades (since it scales so well with weapon DPS). I’m hoping BM doesn’t turn into how it was in MoP, where every patch they had to give us a 5% buff to keep us in line. I guess it’s a little early to worry about that, with Nighthold probably about 4-5 months away. Let’s see what happens.