First look at Hunter changes from Battle for Azeroth alpha datamining

The Battle for Azeroth alpha is up on the test servers, and datamining is in full swing. I’ve poured over every bit of Hunter info I could find. I have some opinions on what I’ve seen, but it’s hard to say anything definitively until I can play myself. Streamers and influencers will probably have access to play this any day now, and then hopefully I’ll find a way in during the next waves.

My initial reaction to BM is pretty disappointing, but I don’t think they’ve put much work into it yet. A lot of it looks the same as it did 3 months ago at BlizzCon, and there’s obviously some placeholder stuff still there (like having Way of the Cobra as a talent when we only have 1 pet now). Nothing jumps out at me as exciting so far, but there are some pet things to discuss.

My initial reaction to the MM changes is pretty positive. Marking Targets RNG is gone, Vulnerable is gone, Steady Shot is back, and the whole talent tree is full of new stuff to explore. Also, it appears that Lone Wolf is a permanent passive now. No pets for MM, period. But I’m hoping Blizzard can come up with a compromise there without locking out a whole talent row for it (as it is today). I have some suggestions there.

Survival looks like it has many more ranged abilities, and to me it feels like it’s becoming disturbingly similar to Beast Mastery. In fact, one could almost argue it has more hunter/pet interplay than BM does at this point. I don’t want to say Survival is “stealing” abilities or talents that would be better suited to BM (or even MM), but I do question this direction. They’re adding so much ranged capability that I wonder if there’s even a point of keeping the spec as “melee” for the sake of appearances.

Pet Changes

Update: Some of this pet information is out of date. See this post.

All families will have a special ability

  • These are things like shell shield, movement speed reductions, mortal wounds debuff, purging, and more. Every pet should have something like this. There are no raid buffs on any of the pets.
  • Here are a few examples of new abilities: Winged Agility, Thick Fur, Spirit Shock
  • Big abilities like blood lust and battle rez have moved to pet specs and are no longer tied to specific families.

Each pet specialization gets 2 new abilities

  • Ferocity gets Primal Rage (Blood Lust) and Predator’s Thirst
  • Tenacity gets Circle of Life (Battle Rez) and Endurance Training
  • Cunning gets Master’s Call and Pathfinding
  • The good thing about this change is you can get blood lust with any pet family.
  • The bad news is that battle rez will cost you significant DPS since Tenacity pets do not have Spiked Collar! Dismissing and swapping pets twice in combat is not practical, neither is staying in Tenacity permanently and literally throwing away DPS.
  • I hope Blizzard finds a different solution to this. If all specs got Spiked Collar (or none did), that would be one possible solution to this problem. We should never have to give up DPS to get our class utility like this. It’s not even a choice for me. Also note that it’s possible they’ve already done something to fix it, but we just can’t see it in the datamining.

UPDATE: In the latest build Spiked Collar applies to all pets, so that fixes any major issues with this system.

Engineers can create a portable Stable Master

It’s called the Interdimensional Companion Repository. This is a cool addition, but I hope it comes along with more stable slots. There’s no way to see in the datamining if they’ve changed anything regarding the stable system yet.

Beast Mastery

I can’t help but think that they haven’t done a serious pass on BM yet. The talent tree feels thrown together, and frankly looks kind of boring. It might also be because I had ridiculous expectations built up in my head.  😉 MM and SV have a lot more updates so far, so I can only hope that BM is on the list and this isn’t a serious first pass at the spec.

Dire Frenzy is now the baseline, and Dire Beast is now a level 15 talent. The problem is Dire Beast generates the same amount of Focus and doesn’t seem to give any advantage over Dire Frenzy, unless their plan is to simply have it do more damage than a Dire Frenzy cast (which is kind of boring). In my big BM wishlist post, I suggested that Dire Beast gets a stackable Mantle of Command effect. Why does Dire Beast have to be better? Because it’s a talent, and there has to be a reason to take it over the 2 other options. A reason beyond the visuals of summoning another pet, which is all that seems to exist now.

But I do think it’s a good idea to make Dire Frenzy the baseline. I think it’s an interesting mechanic because it adds a little extra thought to the rotation. At the same time I hope the zoo/beast cannon playstyle is still viable.

Looking at the current talent tree, I can already tell you what would probably be the optimal build without even playing it. A talent like One with the Pack has become all but mandatory — not just for the damage, but for how much more fun the spec is to play. The base proc chance of Wild Call should be at least 40% with a whole new talent in OWTP’s place. It reduces downtime and the procs are fun. It should be part of the spec, period.

Barrage is still a dead talent in its current form. A 3-second channel plus 60 Focus means its opportunity cost is too high to ever be an option, unless they make it do more than twice the relative damage it does today. Stampede is too situational with its 3 minute cooldown and other mechanical restrictions (for the record, I think Stampede would make a nice baseline cooldown for the spec in place of Aspect of the Wild). Once again, Stomp will be the only option in this row.

In the level 100 row, it’s interesting to see a former Survival talent, Spitting Cobra, but that is a boring talent. You just use it on cooldown for the most part. I was also expecting a way for BM to have two pets (at least as an option), and that could easily work as a talent. Hey, Blizzard, I got some good starting points here for some fun level 100 talents. 😛

I was hoping for more from my beloved BM. But I’m willing to accept that BM hasn’t seen as much attention as MM and SV at this point in development. At least I hope that’s the case, or else we’re in trouble.

Marksmanship

The new MM talent tree is almost completely redesigned. If you read through the talent tooltips you’ll notice a lot of reference to Hunter’s Mark, but it’s not the same RNG marking that you know of today. A lot of the annoying mechanics have been lifted from the spec. Vulnerable seems like it’s gone for good. Marking Targets is no longer a RPPM mechanic on your auto shots. Marked Shot is gone (since its primary purpose was to make targets vulnerable).

Here’s a look at the main components of the MM rotation now:

  • Aimed Shot
    • Now has a 3 sec cast (up from 2)
    • Now has a 12 second cooldown, with 2 charges
    • Appears to be the only shot that has a stand-still requirement, and it looks like you’ll usually be casting in pairs.
    • Outside of these “cast 2 AiS” windows, you’ll be able to move around freely.
  • Quick Shot
    • This is your filler/focus dump. It takes the place of Arcane Shot but does NOT generate Focus.
  • Steady Shot
    • 2 sec cast, generates 10 focus
    • Usable while moving
    • Deals the same amount of damage as Quick Shot
  • Rapid Fire
    • A 3-second channel which deals damage and generates 30 Focus over the duration. It has a 20 sec cooldown.
    • Usable while moving.
  • Multi-Shot
    • No longer generates Focus. It costs 25 Focus.
    • Activates Bombardment.
  • Bombardment
    • Similar to the current “Trick Shot” talent, but Aimed Shot ricochets to a max of 5 targets. It can also cause your Rapid Fire to ricochet (one or the other per each bombardment).
  • Hunter’s Mark
    • This appears to be the primary “cooldown” but it’s quite short at only 40 seconds.
    • It’s hard to see exactly how this works, but according to the spell data, your crit chance against the target is 100% when this is applied.
    • But once you cast Aimed Shot while the mark is applied, it causes all of your shots to cause additional damage for 5 sec (at which point I believe the mark expires).
    • It seems strange that you would keep 100% crit chance until casting Aimed Shot, but I don’t think this would be an issue since Aimed Shot deals more than 7 times the damage of your other filler shots and it wouldn’t be worth it to just stay at 100% crit and not use Aimed Shot.
    • My guess is after you cast the first Aimed, you would immediately cast another, followed perhaps by a Rapid Fire (since each hit applies a flat amount of bonus damage, and Rapid Fire hits 10 times in quick succession).
    • And yes, Trueshot is gone.

To me it looks like the spec has a heavy “build and dump” rotation. There will be periods of relatively low damage followed by short windows with lots of burst damage. MM will be a prime candidate for deleting important adds and other kinds of tasks like that.

Spread AoE looks mostly gone (except for Barrage), but clumped up AoE still looks like it will be good with how Bombardment works (especially if the ricochets benefit from the Hunter’s Mark extra damage procs).

On paper, this looks intriguing to me. But I need to play it to see how it actually feels. I highly recommend browsing the talents now that you’ve seen the main rotation abilities to get a good idea of some of the potential here.

As for pets, Lone Wolf is now a level 1 passive that completely prevents you from summoning pets. If you ask me, I think MM should just be able to summon basic pets to use while soloing or just hanging around in town. If a pet’s active, simply reduce the hunter damage until it is dismissed again (18% might be a bit high considering how little damage a MM pet does). If Blizzard is worried about MM summoning their pets just to blood lust or battle rez, then disable those abilities for MM. Or just to hell with it being a pet thing and officially make Hunters the third blood lust spec, regardless of pets.

Survival

This new version of Survival looks oddly similar to Beast Mastery but with the addition of a bunch of DoTs. Half the abilities and talents can be used from range, and you can even do your main rotation at 40 yards while Aspect of the Eagle is active.

Flanking Strike is replaced with BM’s version of Kill Command, except the Survival version generates 20 Focus and it has a 30% chance to reset the cooldown when you use it. Mongoose Bite is no longer baseline, but can be taken as a talent — when you do this, Mongoose Bite replaces Raptor Strike entirely. Raptor Strike is essentially Cobra Shot (and it can be used at 40 yards during Aspect of the Eagle to boot).

Traditional Serpent Sting (not a passive) is back, and it too can be used within 40 yards. Wildfire Bomb is a new AoE ability that seems kind of redundant if Explosive Trap is still a thing. Lacerate still exists in the data mining but it’s associated talent was removed, so it’s possible one or more have been removed, because Survival having 4 baseline DoTs seems ridiculous.

Also, apparently Survival gets Glaive Toss back under another name, Chakrams. There’s plenty of other ranged talents in there as well.

The next part is the one that makes me think they’re really muddying the waters between BM and SV: Survival’s new Mastery is called Spirit Bond, which seems well suited for Beast Mastery if you ask me. In fact, looking through the spells and talents one could almost think that Survival has more hunter/pet interaction than Beast Mastery does. 😕

I’ve got to say I’m not a huge fan of this so far. I know they feel like they need to make some big changes to Survival to get people to play it, but I would have rather seen them improve what’s there by pruning the existing rotation, keeping the good parts, removing a bit of the excessive maintenance, and adding some new talents. Now it seems like all they’re doing is adding abilities that would be better served as MM or BM abilities. Is it a melee spec or not? How do they plan on balancing this?

I’m not a Survival player, so maybe my opinion doesn’t matter as much. What do Survival players think of this?

28 thoughts on “First look at Hunter changes from Battle for Azeroth alpha datamining”

  1. Goodbye Marks. If they stick with no pets, I am out. Survival? I have been loving the melee, so hope it remains mainly a melee class. Most of me have always been BM, so hope they make it fun.

  2. I still miss wrath to WoD era survival. I’ll poke around with a newer version, but probably stick with BM and hope for the best.

  3. i didnt see anywhere that SV will still have explosive and lacerate…
    and honestly, i like the way SV is going(but aspect of eagle is rly strange)… BM is the same at this moment and MM, im kinda likin it from what i read

    1. Wowhead still had the 2 spells listed in the survival data mining, but we won’t know for sure til it can be played. It would certainly make sense if one or more were removed.

  4. I like the WoD and earlier survival, but I like the fact there’s a melee hunter. I still thought that BM was going to be melee like Rexxar. I agree with you previous post about the changes to BM. They would just have to tweak the numbers, so the output isn’t OP.

    For BM I feel like there should be better synergy between the pet and the hunter instead of the pet mostly dealing the damage.

    For survival, I wish they could figure out a way to make mongoose a little more smooth, but I’m pretty causal now, so I don’t know how they all play at the top level.

    The MM changes sound nice, but how will they compensate in PVP for MM not having the pet ability for mortal wounds, etc.

  5. If they need to make massive changes to Survival, how about making it a tank spec, at least optionally? (Like old school Feral.)

  6. Finally MM doesn’t have the aoe shots integrated into the normal rotation anymore, I think I will finally be able to enjoy it again.

    Really weird the SV changes and lack of changes to BM.. if mostly everything will be able to be cast from range I don’t see why they would require melee for a portion of SV dps..

  7. MM seems to be going back to the way it played pre-WoD, which i personally enjoyed a lot more than the current version.

    I really hope they spend some time on BM, it needs some love.

    Personally i’ll never care for SV as long as it remains a melee spec, i chose a hunter to be a ranged class, not a mediocre warrior clone,

    It’s too early to know how the specs are going to play for sure but i’m somewhat hyped for the MM changes.

  8. Looking at these changes so far, for MM it seems very good. Will have to test it though to be sure.

    Survival just seems…what is their goal with it really? According to this, now, it pretty much have has as many ranged possibilities as melee sort of. You get a lot more pet interaction, much like what BM should have gotten…like you are saying Bendak…this is just off. Oh, and it still seems as you will have to continue spinning those plates with DoTs and more, just in a slightly different way.

    Beast Mastery…I don’t know, very few talent changes done overall, those that have been implemented, some are okay but for example…Spitting Cobra? Really? Great, BM gets the 1.5min turret Survival had in early alpha/beta for WoD or whenever that was…
    We do have the option to pick both One with the Pack as well as Venomous Bite as talents giving us more uptime on BW, don’t know how that will work out…

    Talking about the pet changes, not a fan of them really, giving battle res to every pet/bloodlust, how does that even fit the fantasy?

    I really hope this is nowhere near finished, especially talking about BM.

    Anyway, good job Bendak and keep the updates coming!

  9. My opinion, MM looks nice, yes a pet option would be cool but unnecessary to me of course YMMV

    BM is unfinished or barely touched at, I would reserve an opinion once it has gone through a few noticeable passes. I really hope they go with the hunter becomes beast as ultimate etc a la warlock meta

    Surv well thank god. I liked it melee but it was tedious and never really competitive. My wish was for a Rexxar surv with throwing spells from mid range (20-30yards) a few temp pets (like dire beasts) and 1 main pet and focus on dots and traps as well. So now they’re distancing themselves from melee.. time will tell.

    In any event with 2 babies I don’t think I’m going to play :p

  10. Waiting for the spec to become fun for 18 months now.
    What I read for the next xpack doesn’t help

    MM -> Spend 80% of the time staring at looooong slooooow cast bars (with movement, but still, wtb instant shots)
    BM -> Yell at my pet 75% of the time doing hardly anything myself, scared to get my hands dirty ?
    SV -> I really miss the 3 ticks from good old explosive shot combined with lock ‘n load. Fire arrows ftw

    I can’t reroll people, I’ve been a hunter for 9+ years. Help !

  11. MM / SV player here. I like the way MM plays right now in Legion, but so far BfA MM looks promising — less RNG is a good thing, and it seems like they’re streamlining the rotational focus on AiS / HM which is also a positive. Glad they’re keeping the ricocheting AiS, but sad it’s gonna be limited to 5 mobs 😛 Lone Wolf being a passive you can’t opt out of seems an odd choice considering the utility pets provide. Locking MM out of battle res / blood lust use is not cool and I expect that to change.

    SV becoming a hybrid melee / ranged spec is sth I didn’t see coming… I really, really like SV in Legion and expected them to smoothen out the clutter for BfA and make it a more focused melee spec with a clearer identity. I believe Ion said in the Q&A yesterday that SV will still be *the* melee Hunter spec, but that — and I’m paraphrasing here — “it felt odd for Hunters to just forget how to use a bow after they hit level 10 (and pick the SV spec) and suddenly become a 100% melee class”. He has a point… And I guess the hybrid nature will give us even more mobility and flexibility, which is cool. I’m not liking the BM influences though. I get that part of the fantasy for SV is fighting alongside your pet, and I love that, but maybe try to come up with sth a bit more creative than just copying BM spells.

  12. Im more interested to know how easy it will be in BFA to maintain 2 specs (BM/MM); i found it very hard in Legion, i started and geared up BM (and still am) but its really hard to get MM geared + AP-ed and ofc all the legendaries

    Is BFA going back to the old, non-legion way? Would make things a lot easier

    1. Legendaries as we know them will be gone. They’ve made no mention so far of introducing legendaries in any way. Artifact weapons are being replaced with a necklace we’ll wear and dump the replacement for AP into. This necklace will empower azurite gear. So if you swap gear you still get the same amount of unlocks on the next pieces as you did on your old pieces. So it’s just a matter of keeping the gear with the unlocks you want for the spec around.

  13. On paper, I like what they’ve done with Survival. I get the sense of a hunter that uses more traps and tools to complete their objectives; whatever gets the job done is good. Wildfire Bomb and Serpent Sting are tools, same for Arctic Bola and Chakrams if they want to talent into those. They also got rid of two things I hated having to manage: Mongoose Bite charges and Way of the Mok’Nathal. Those two abilities always made me feel terrible when I missed a button. Even if I managed everything as well as expected I could still have to sit with no dots up because I’m in the middle of a Mongoose Bite burn phase. This new survival looks like it’ll fill the fantasy I like and won’t be as obnoxious to play.

    Survival having an interaction with their pet via a modified Kill Command is a good thing. It makes having a pet feel good to have and the pet makes a more noticeable contribution, where I otherwise ignored my flanking strikes unless I had to dump into it. But Beastmastery should have the most interaction with their pet in comparison, and that doesn’t really feel that way when I play right now :/

  14. yay for buff incoming with tonights maintenance –
    Hunter (Forums / Skills / Talent Calculator / Artifact Calculator / PvP Talent Calculator)
    Beast Mastery
    All damage increased by 2.5%.
    Serpentstalker Guise 4-piece bonus now causes Kill Command to reduce the cooldown of Aspect of the Wild by 3 seconds (was 2.5 seconds).

  15. I didn’t believe my eyes when I read about BM buffs. Maybe I will finally replace my T19 gloves/cloak (i890/i900). One can hope, will have to wait for shutdown and then sim.

    I don’t even remember if I have T21 4pc or more in bags, didn’t bother using any bonus rolls for those since the bonus super bad.

    1. The percentile buff is miniscule. That’s 50k more damage if you were doing 2M before. We’re quite a bit farther behind than that even on our best fights.

      Similarly, t21 is still bad.

      Not to be melodramatic, but I feel vaguely insulted by the level of “buff” here. It’s like, “hmmm… these guys are stupid enough that we can throw them a bandaid when they really need open heart surgery, and they’ll probably thank us for it.”

      Though I dunno, take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m so disgusted with what they’ve done to us this tier that I’ve stopped raiding and I’m debating not buying BFA. They really shattered my trust with the combination of poor gear design and lack of power in Antorus- and that’s saying something, given that I’ve put up with every design change they’ve thrown at me since 2004. I’ve even switched to MM for high mythics. BM’s just horrible at the moment, and throwing 2.5% at it is nowhere NEAR enough.

      1. …and replying to my own post, but… my mind, it boggles.

        Fire mage is getting a larger buff than beast mastery? What the *expletive deleted*? Yeah, they need help, but they’re not “bottom of the barrel” bad like BM. (Mostly because their gear isn’t frakking horrible.) I’m sure someone will do the math and tell me that combined with the 2.5% buff, the t21 buff makes our net change about the same as the fire mage buff… only our t21 was already unusable, so that’s not a true buff- t21 4 piece wasn’t the baseline for best throughput.

        TLDR- another spec that deserved a buff got one, but it was already outperforming us and got more help. I know rationally that Irvine doesn’t hate hunters, but I am just at a loss here.

        1. For Fire Mage, my understanding is that they recently fixed a bug with Ignite, which cost them about 3% of their damage, so they’re just rolling that back in.

  16. I am curious to see what the math is on the amount of buff we are getting. My initial thoughts is that it is not nearly enough. We need at least twice of that and/or a substantial AOE buff.
    The T21 4p buff doesn’t seem much either but is it enough to change from the 4p T20 + 2p T21 and not wait for +30 ilvl to go to 4p T21? Will it make the leggo bracers more desirable? CoF? I have my doubts that this will have any impacts, but I look forward to what the experts, Bendak. sims show.

    1. My own experience, 8/11H right now, around 950 equipped:

      It was enough to change 4T20 + 2T21 -> 2T20 + 4T21, yes (all heroic pieces on both sides). About a 3% increase now, instead of being a pure side-grade before.

      As far as legendaries – it totally depends on what kind of utility that you want and what your replacement pieces are. Every combination of Bracers, Prydaz, Sephuz, and Belt that I sim is within 1% of each other. Prydaz/Belt is highest for me – I’m still just going to run Prydaz/Sephuz as before as you can proc the ring enough to make it worth it (and it’s a smoother rotation with more DB procs, too).

      I did run wrists last night for a bit – it’s pretty fun to have Aspect of the Wild up for every other BW for sure. I’m not certain the best way to handle AotW – whether it’s better to just mash it ASAP or wait for BW. If you wait, it feels bad losing 4pc “procs” every KC that you hit while waiting, but if you hit it ASAP it feels bad “doing nothing” during part of that time because you aren’t in BW and don’t want to spend focus. So I have no clue which is better. *laugh*

      CoF is too far behind and not worth it if you have anything at all reasonable there. (I have a 910 BTI in that slot).

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