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.
Update: Some of this pet information is out of date.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.
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.
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.
- No longer generates Focus. It costs 25 Focus.
- Activates 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.
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?