Beast Mastery had a rough start in Legion, but I think Blizzard managed to get it in a decent place considering where it started. Giving 2 charges to Dire Beast as baseline was huge. One of my other favorite patch changes was increasing the range of Kill Command and Dire Frenzy to 40 yards, as it almost eliminated BM’s target switching issues. I think gear has a part to play here as well, because the spec isn’t nearly as fun to play with low levels of critical strike for example. In terms of engagement and fun, I thought BM was a 3/10 at the start of Legion, and now it’s more like a 7/10. There’s still room for improvement.
I think Beast Mastery’s weak points are talents (lack of choice, some dead talents) and an overall lack of identity. When I say identity, I don’t mean class fantasy. I mean as in what is BM supposed to be good at? Single target? AoE? Cleave? Dungeons? I’ve always thought we were supposed to be the best at high movement fights, but the evidence says that our freedom of movement hasn’t really done us any favors on those fights. I don’t ever feel like there’s that one boss in a raid that’s “the BM boss.” I think this lack of direction or clarity is at least partially responsible for our current performance.
Anyway, on to the point of this post before I stray too much into balance, which isn’t the point. How can BM improve in Battle for Azeroth? Will Blizzard make any serious changes or are we just getting tweaks? I’m under the impression it will be the latter, so that’s why my proposed ideas don’t change the fundamentals too much. But I do get a little more crazy with the talent suggestions since I think BM needs a lot of improvement there.
Quick disclaimer: Do not look at these suggestions as pure DPS additions to what we have today in Legion. Focus on the gameplay elements more than the damage itself. Assume that everything would be balanced numerically to make all this work. Most of my numbers in here are just for example (unless I discuss the number specifically below the ability/talent).
I’ll also warn you that this is a little self-indulgent, which is why I’d rather do this as a blog post than a forum feedback post. I’ll still give feedback in the BfA beta, but more targeted feedback. Not monstrosities like this.
Core Rotation Abilities
Like I said, I think we’re just getting tweaks and not a revamp. So I’m not going to bring up the focus generator shot (well, except for that) since I don’t think it’s in the cards.
2 charges, 12 second recharge (reduced by haste), 2 charges
Causes your pet to charge at the target and perform a flurry of 5 attacks, gaining a stack of Frenzy, which grants 40% increased attack speed for 8 sec, stacking up to 3 times. 40 yd range.
Generates 24 Focus over 8 sec.
- This is now the baseline instead of Dire Beast (this was active at BlizzCon). Dire Beast is now a talent that replaces Dire Frenzy.
- I believe there should be some sort of base UI functionality for these stacks like other classes have for their secondary resources. Something like 3 little beasty orbs below your unit frame or the pet’s unit frame, so people can keep track of this without the use of WeakAuras.
- There’s more to those frenzy stacks though…keep reading.
40 Focus, 10 second cooldown (reduced by haste)
Give the command to kill, causing your pet to savagely deal Physical damage to its target. 40 yd range.
- Focus cost increased from 30 to 40 and cooldown increased from 7.5 to 10 seconds. Should deal relatively more damage than it does today.
- Cobra Shot costs less Focus than before to compensate. Basically I swapped the Focus costs.
- Cobra Shot also reduces the cooldown of Kill Command by 1 sec, so factoring that in, the effective cooldown is nearly the same (or less) as it was before, only now you are pressing a button to get there instead of waiting.
- Visuals: Kill Command needs a visual overhaul so there is some feedback when you use the spell. What if the hunter literally shot a projectile at the target as a way of commanding the beast to attack it? Oh and you know that glyph warriors have that leaves a flame trail when they charge? I’d love to have something like that (not flames) for the pet when it charges in.
- Having it originate from the weapon would also give an excuse to allow Kill Command to scale off of weapon damage. Weapon scaling is always a BM problem.
A quick shot causing Physical damage. Reduces the cooldown of Kill Command by 1 second.
- Base Focus cost reduced. Should deal relatively less damage than it does today. By lowering the cost of the “filler” shot, you could theoretically reduce overall downtime and put more emphasis on the signature ability (Kill Command) by having it cost more (and punish you more for overspending Focus).
- Apparently the Kill Command cooldown reduction was already in the BlizzCon build, so I ran with it. Note that the Kill Command cooldown was increased to compensate for this. If you’re wondering how this affects Killer Cobra, see the talents.
A two-headed shot that hits your primary target and another target within 8 yards, dealing Nature damage to one and Frost damage to the other. Also activates Beast Cleave.
Beast Cleave: Your pet’s melee and basic attacks also strike all enemies within 12 yards for 150% as much for the next 4 sec.
- This is a replacement for Multi-Shot. There’s no cooldown and no Focus regen like the old talent, just a Focus cost.
- Damage should be tuned so that it’s not quite as Focus efficient as Cobra Shot in single target. It costs more Focus and doesn’t reduce the Kill Command cooldown, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
- Multi-Shot in its current iteration is kind of silly. It hits for almost nothing and it may as well be renamed to “Beast Cleave Activator”, so why not make the actual shot coming from the bow/gun meaningful? I’d rather do noticeable damage to 2 targets than tickle 10 targets.
- Still activates Beast Cleave like Multi-Shot did.
1.5 minute cooldown
Sends you and your pet into a rage, increasing all damage you both deal by 25%, and reducing the Focus cost of all abilities by 25% for 15 sec. If Bestial Wrath is already active, its duration is increased by 15 seconds. Bestial Wrath’s remaining cooldown is reduced by 12 sec each time you use Dire Frenzy.
- Added Focus cost reduction in an attempt to reduce downtime, and make up for Aspect of the Wild, Roar of the Seven Lions, and Slithering Serpent’s removal.
- Also I added a stipulation that it EXTENDS the duration of Bestial Wrath so when you have those rare moments of exceptional RNG, you can fully benefit from that good luck streak instead of having to wait for the current BW to expire.
Focus Fire (for when using Dire Frenzy)
1 minute cooldown
Draw strength from your beast by consuming its Frenzy, increasing your Attack Power and Haste by 6% per stack. Lasts 15 seconds.
- Replacement button for Titan’s Thunder (artifact ability).
- Even more rewards for proper management of Dire Frenzy. I think BM needs more small things like this that allow the best players to push to new levels.
- Should have some kind of animation of energy being “sapped” from beast to hunter.
Command (for when using the Dire Beast talent)
1 minute cooldown
All of your currently summoned Dire Beasts have their duration extended by 12 seconds.
- Replacement button for Titan’s Thunder (artifact ability).
- This is what Focus Fire turns into if you choose to use the Dire Beast talent instead of Dire Frenzy.
- Note this does not make them generate more Focus.
3 minute cooldown
Summon a herd of stampeding animals from the wilds around you that deal damage to your enemies for 12 sec.
- Replaces Aspect of the Wild as a cooldown button.
- It also replaces some of the lost AoE damage from Hati’s Beast Cleave, and the Surge of the Stormgod and Thunderslash artifact traits.
- Behaves the same as today’s talent.
- Gives us a genuine AoE cooldown that we can always use. As we’ve seen in Legion, BM is sorely lacking in this department.
- I never thought this worked well as a talent, but as a baseline cooldown I think it could be great.
- Wild Call: Your auto shot critical strikes have a 40% chance to reset the cooldown of Dire Frenzy (and Dire Beast).
- Kindred Spirits: You and your pet gain an additional 20 maximum Focus.
- Healing Shell: Aspect of the Turtle also heals you for 40% of your maximum health over its duration.
- Invigoration: Kill Command heals you for 15% of the damage it deals.
Note: One With The Pack talent is removed below, which is why the baseline of Wild Call is buffed from 20 to 40% — the talent is removed because it had become too mandatory for the gameplay (and overall fun factor) of the spec in my opinion.
As I said in the intro, I think talents are one of the main weak points of BM right now. Some have become mandatory for the fun factor (One With the Pack) and some are amazingly under-tuned (Barrage). So admittedly I went a little overboard with these… but maybe there’s a tiny chance someone at Blizzard reads this and it triggers an idea in their head.
- Dire Stable: Your Dire Frenzy (and Dire Beasts) generate an additional 12 Focus.
- Go for the Throat: Your Focus-costing shots and Kill Command deal 25% more damage to targets below 20% health.
- Sharpened Claws: Your pet’s basic attacks have a 25% chance to cause the target to bleed for 150% AP over 6 seconds. Your shots also deal 10% more damage to bleeding targets.
Dire Stable is the same as it is today.
Go for the Throat gives a very moderate execute phase. It’s sort of the opposite of Big Game Hunter, which never really found a place. Let’s be honest, execute is more fun.
Sharpened Claws is an attempt to have a little more interplay between hunter and pet. Basic Attacks are Claw/Bite/Smack and they happen every 3 seconds.
- Dire Beast: Summons a powerful wild beast to attack your target for 8 seconds. All of your pets deal 5% increased damage while the Dire Beast is active (this effect stacks). Generates 36 Focus over 8 sec. 12 sec recharge (2 charges). Replaces Dire Frenzy.
- Unleash the Beast: Dire Frenzy now hits all enemies within 12 yards, and deals 100% more damage to the primary target.
- Thrill of the Hunt: You have a 6% chance per 10 Focus spent on Focus-costing attacks to trigger Thrill of the Hunt. Thrill of the Hunt reduces the Focus cost of your next 3 Focus-costing attacks by 50%.
As you can see, Dire Frenzy and Dire Beast have swapped places. This was active at BlizzCon and I have to assume this is the direction they’re headed. It generates 50% more Focus than Dire Frenzy. In addition, I baked the current Mantle of Command passive into it, only it can stack based on the number of Dire Beasts you have active. The bigger your zoo, the more damage they all do. Combine this with the “Command” cooldown listed above and it could get pretty nuts.
Unleash the Beast is the Stomp replacement. I felt like your pet stomping when it’s already there didn’t make much sense, but the end result is basically identical. Range is 12 yards to match Beast Cleave’s range (important since it emanates from the pet, which you don’t always have positional control over, especially on bosses with bigger hitboxes).
Thrill of the Hunt is as it was back in WoD. It would work out so that Kill Command and Chimaera Shot have a 24% chance of triggering it, and Cobra Shot an 18% chance (or 18%/13.5% during Bestial Wrath). You can imagine how cool it would be to rapidly blast off 3 cheap Chimaera Shots in a row while cleaving, or more quickly get your Kill Command cooldown finished by spamming nearly free Cobras. I always enjoyed that talent.
- Posthaste: Disengage also frees you from all movement impairing effects and increases your movement speed by 60% for 5 sec.
- Spirit Bond: While your pet is active, you and your pet will regenerate 3% of total health every 2 sec.
- Survival of the Fittest: Activating Disengage reduces all damage you take by 15% for 4 sec.
Notes: Well, Posthaste has gotta stay. The other two options are not competitive on live — it’s Posthaste or nothing. Now you’ve actually gotta think a bit with options like this. I really want Spirit Bond back, as I think it’s a big quality of life talent for world content and soloing, and potentially some boss encounters and/or M+ affixes. Survival of the Fittest is a current MM artifact trait, and I think BM really needs a damage reduction option like this. We are extremely squishy (not counting Turtle every 3 mins).
- Bestial Fury: Increases the damage bonus of Bestial Wrath by 15%.
- Savagery: Dire Frenzy (and Dire Beast) increases your Critical Strike chance by 3% for 8 sec, stacking up to 3 times.
- Furious Swipes: Your pet’s basic attacks deal 100% more damage, and Beast Cleave lasts twice as long.
Bestial Fury is simple but a good talent I think. The better you are at maximizing your Bestial Wrath windows, the more you get out of it. Didn’t see much reason to change this.
Savagery is a talent they had active at BlizzCon (using the “Thrill of the Hunt” name, which I already used above) and I think it could work well. As it’s tuned now, it would do slightly more damage than Bestial Fury at 3 stacks, and slightly less at 2 stacks.
Furious Swipes is the passive option that the row needs — it gives a little more single target and beast cleave damage, and the extra Beast Cleave duration is a big quality of life improvement. I ditched Blink Strikes because the blink had become redundant with a 40 yard range on Kill Command and Dire Frenzy.
- Binding Shot: Fires a magical projectile, tethering the enemy and any other enemies within 8 yards for 10 sec, rooting them for 5 sec if they move more than 5 yards from the arrow. 45 sec cooldown.
- Intimidation: Commands your pet to intimidate
theyour target, stunning it for 5 sec. 45 sec cooldown.
- Prey Drive: Reduces the cooldown of your pet’s Dash and Charge by 50%, and your pet’s Kill Command slows the target by 50% for 4 sec.
Binding Shot changed from a stun to a root since that is a change Blizzard has already made in BfA (at BlizzCon anyway)… I guess they felt AoE stuns are too powerful. I thought perhaps the range should be slightly increased to offset this huge nerf.
Intimidation’s cooldown lowered from 60 to 45 sec to be in line with Binding Shot, and I’d also prefer if it used the stun on the Hunter’s target, instead of the pet’s current target (since there can be a lag) along with maybe a short-range charge to achieve this when necessary.
Wyvern Sting seemed a bit unneeded now that we have Freezing Trap back, so I put something new instead: Prey Drive is all about your pet’s desire to keep biting and clawing your target as much as possible. The CC portion is relatively weak, but your pet gains permanent Dash (or a very short cooldown on Charge). I thought it would be a neat trade-off, but now I’ve probably gone and pissed off a Wyvern Sting enthusiast out there.
- A Murder of Crows: Summons a flock of crows to attack your target, dealing Physical damage over 15 sec. When a target dies while affected by this ability, its cooldown will reset. Costs 30 Focus. 1 minute cooldown.
- Lynx Rush: Your pet rapidly charges from target to target, attacking 9 times over 4 sec. Total damage is increased by 25% for each additional target. Your pet will Lynx Rush to targets within 12 yards of its primary target. 1 minute cooldown.
- Master of Beasts: Call Pet now summons a second pet from your stable, which benefits from Bestial Wrath and Beast Cleave, and deals damage from Kill Command.
Couldn’t bring myself to remove AMoC, it’s a classic talent at this point. I also couldn’t think of a better replacement for a “single target cooldown” button. Damage-wise, it needs to be slightly better than Master of Beasts for pure single target since that’s its only purpose.
Lynx Rush is an old talent from Mists of Pandaria that I miss (maybe it’s nostalgia). When you use it, your pet quickly leaps from target to target, dealing heavy damage (hits are divided as evenly as possible among the targets). If there is only 1 target, all 9 attacks hit that target. I also suggested that it does more damage based on how many total targets are going to be hit by it — this way it’s still usable in single target, but its real strength is multiple targets. I thought this was more interesting than Barrage, but if Barrage has significant changes I’d be OK with that (its opportunity cost is insanely high, which is why it doesn’t work for BM currently).
Master of Beasts is a way to bring Hati back for those who like having 2 pets. I originally had this in my level 100 row, but I thought it would be better suited here so you don’t lock out the cool level 100 talents for those who want dual pets. Damage wise, the second pet would need to be fairly weak in single target (or else you have to make the competing talents too strong), but I think its Beast Cleave contribution should still be fairly high. The end result is a little extra damage and the aesthetics of having two pets. The current item that changes Hati’s appearance needs to be turned into something permanent in the BM spellbook, but can otherwise function the same.
- Bestial Evolution: When you use Bestial Wrath, you also take on the aspects of a random beast.
- Wrath of the Wolf: Your Haste is increased by 20% and Focus costs are reduced by a further 20%.
- Wrath of the Bear: Increases the damage bonus of Bestial Wrath by an additional 20%, and all damage you take is reduced by 30%.
- Wrath of the Serpent: Your Critical Strike chance is increased by 20%, and your Focus-costing shots apply a deadly venom to the target, dealing Nature damage over 15 sec. This effect stacks.
- Wild Shot: Charge and launch a volley of wild energy at your target, hitting all enemies within 12 yards for <a lot of> Nature damage. Any of your pets hit by the volley are empowered by the wild energy, increasing their damage done by 100% for 10 seconds. Costs 30 Focus. 3 sec cast (castable while moving). 45 sec cooldown.
- Killer Cobra: During Bestial Wrath, Cobra Shot resets the cooldown of Kill Command, and increases the duration of Bestial Wrath by 1 second.
Bestial Evolution turns Bestial Wrath into a super cooldown. It randomly chooses one of the 3 beasts to augment you with. The visual effect for Bestial Wrath should change for each one – at a minimum the color should change, but I think it could be taken further (maybe a spectral beast over top of the hunter or something). This would make each Bestial Wrath a little different and I think it’d be pretty fun (as long as one of the 3 isn’t drastically worse than the others).
Wild Shot adds a casted shot to the mix with a relatively short cooldown. Its primary use is for AoE damage, but it also benefits you in single target because of its dual effect. Not only does it damage enemies, but it buffs your pets (only if they are hit by the volley). I think it’s important to have abilities like this that emphasize the interplay between hunter and pet (there’s one that does the reverse in the level 15 row). I also think it’s important to have a good AoE option in this row — one with a short cooldown that has more practical use than Stampede ever did as a talent.
Killer Cobra is very popular so I’d be hesitant to remove it. However, since Cobra Shot normally reduces the cooldown of Kill Command by 1 sec, this talent would be redundant. So I made Cobra extend the duration of Bestial Wrath by 1 sec so that it keeps its secondary benefit in another form. I think it needed that extra kick to compete with the other talent options I came up with anyway.
Here’s a few of other talent ideas I had at one time or another, but didn’t make it into the above list. Also, you never know if Blizzard will decide to add another talent row for 120.
- Hydra Shot: A three-headed shot that hits your primary target and up to 2 other targets within 8 yards, and activates Beast Cleave. Any heads that don’t find a target will strike the the primary target for 50% damage instead. Costs 40 Focus. Replaces Chimaera Shot.
- Cobra Strikes: Firing 3 Cobra Shots in a row causes your next Cobra Shot to cost no Focus and deal 200% increased damage.
- Endless Wrath: Kill Command now extends the duration of Bestial Wrath by 4 seconds.
- Pack Leader: Aspect of the Pack increases your movement speed by an additional 15% (30% total for Hunter, 15% for party members)
- Freezing Trap
- Tar Trap
- Counter Shot
- Aspect of the Turtle
- Concussive Shot
- Feign Death
- Mend Pet
- Misdirection — Your pet gains 35% damage reduction when misdirected.
- Aspect of the Cheetah — cooldown reduces from 3 minutes to 2 minutes.
- Tranquilizing Shot — re-added shot that was seen at BlizzCon
- Aspect of the Pack — Increases movement speed by 15% for all party and raid members within 40 yards. New raid-wide passive seen at BlizzCon.
Pets have been in a bit of a mess since raid buffs were removed. There’s only a handful of families with useful abilities and it just seems very unfinished to have so many pets without any special abilities.
Pet Idea #1: Old style raid buffs for pets
Since raid buffs are coming back in BfA, give each pet family one of these buffs to use again. Just like it was before. This seems like the simplest solution.
Pet Idea #2: Bring back pet talents
Remove all buffs from pets except for flavor abilities such as Rest/Play/Trick/Surface Trot/Prowl, and use a simple talent tree instead. For example:
Tier 1 – Specialization:
- Ferocity: Gives all current Ferocity abilities.
- Cunning: Gives all current Cunning abilities.
- Tenacity: Gives all current Tenacity abilities.
Tier 2 – Augmentation:
- Eternal Guardian: Returns the spirit to the body, restoring a dead target to life with 60% health and 20% mana.
- Ancient Hysteria: Increases haste by 30% for all party and raid members for 40 sec.
- Mortal Wounds: Your pet ferociously bites the enemy, reducing the effectiveness of any healing received for 10 sec.
Tier 3 – Exotic Beast Lore (BM ONLY):
- Spirit Mend: Your pet heals the target (hopefully for more than Spirit Mend does today). 30 sec cooldown.
- Shell Shield: Your pet takes 50% reduced damage for 12 sec, and heals for 50% of its health over the duration. 1 min cooldown.
- Tendon Rip: Slows the target’s movement speed by 50% for 6 sec. 10 sec cooldown.
Wow, you made it.
How do I TLDR this? Let’s just say that I think BM is a decent place, but it needs some direction along with some talent improvements.
I’ve said this before, but after the Legion alpha/beta process I was pretty turned off (burnt out really) on giving feedback. I felt like previous expansions had a lot more back and forth between the developers and players as classes were developed. Very little if any Hunter feedback (aside from some class fantasy stuff) was heeded prior to Legion’s launch. It was really quite strange. And it wasn’t just for BM, but all specs. Like I said in the opening of this post, they eventually did listen to some of it and make some great changes after launch.
I am hoping that Battle for Azeroth’s class development process is different. I do not expect BM to look anything like my little fantasy written here, but when the beta comes around I am going to give an effort to play it and give feedback once again.