Lone Wolf: How to play a pet class without a pet

Lone Wolf is a new level 100 talent for survival and marksmanship hunters. It’s kind of a big deal. It lets you play a pet class without a pet. Whoa. It’s pretty simple: Dismiss your pet and get a 30% damage buff. Lone Wolf is undoubtedly the result of player demand. Demand from all of the players who want to play an archer class without having to maintain a roster of pets. Even more demand from raiders who were sick of their pet doing silly things like getting stuck in random places and not doing any DPS.

I’m not currently in the alpha, so most of what follows is just speculation. I’m just going by what I can see on paper and the limited amount of info I’ve been able to gleam from the handful of hunter streamers in alpha.

The following talents and abilities will simply not function if you spec into Lone Wolf:

Spirit Bond is something I’d have trouble living without, though the new self-heals from Kill Shot and Survivalist will help somewhat. The loss of Master’s Call is probably a deal breaker for a lot of PvP hunters.

What about pet buffs?

You’ll still be able to bring one of these 6 major buffs without a pet. The interface is similar to the Call Pet interface. You click the button, and it slides out with the 6 available buffs (as shown in the image above). All of these buffs are permanent auras with a 100 yard range.

The one thing you won’t have access to is pet debuffs such as magic vulnerability, physical vulnerability, mortal wounds, or the extra snare. You’ll also be missing out on special abilities like heroism/blood lust and a battle resurrection (both of which are available to non-BM hunters now). I suppose you could summon your Nether Ray, pop heroism, and then dismiss it to get your 30% damage buff back.

AoE vs. Single Target Benefits

Lone Wolf is definitely a single target DPS increase, as it should be for a level 100 talent. It’s probably around a 15% (give or take) DPS increase for single target, but that is only assuming your play is perfect. The pet damage you’re losing is passive, and in order to get the full benefit of the Lone Wolf damage boost you need to have good focus management and not delay any of your important abilities. Delirium had a good post about the extra skill cap involved with Lone Wolf.

Pet damage is not factored in to the AoE equation for Marksmanship and Survival, so this is actually a massive AoE damage boost — 30% more Multi-Shot damage combined with Bombardment + Piercing Shots for marksmanship and Serpent Sting for survival is very nice.

Incendiary Ammo from the Exotic Munitions talent looks pretty decent for AoE damage. The 20% fire damage cleave is roughly equal to Multi-Shot (30% physical damage), so you could look at it as each Auto Shot is dropping in a passive Multi-Shot. I’m not a math guy, but it seems like Lone Wolf might be slightly better in the AoE department since the real damage of AoE comes from the secondary effects (Bombardment/Piercing Shots and Serpent Sting).

Overall, the talent looks like it’ll be pretty strong in dungeons and raids. Probably more so in multi-target encounters.

Soloing as a Lone Wolf

This is where it gets a little sketchy. I’m trying to imagine killing elites on the Timeless Isle without a pet, and I’m just not seeing it.  The personal tank is just way too convenient. Maybe with Ice Trap and Enhanced Traps you’ll be able to keep everything permanently snared as Survival. That, and very liberal use of your Disengage button!

Maybe at higher gear levels it’ll be nice for soloing. For example, look at how long it takes to kill stuff at ilvl 500 on Timeless Isle. Pet tanking is essential there. Then look at how things blow up at ilvl 580. That is where Lone Wolf would be nice.

Is Lone Wolf missing too much?

There’s an active thread on the MMO-C forums about Lone Wolf and the abilities lost by taking it. Opinion is pretty split on the subject. One group wants petless versions of the affected abilities, and the other group thinks there should be stiff penalties for choosing to play without a pet.

I don’t think it would be totally unreasonable to have petless versions of some of these abilities. For example: Spirit Bond could turn into just the hunter component of the HoT with a different name. Master’s Call could have a slightly inferior version that only works on the hunter (since it would be silly to have the hunter dash over to a target to free them like a pet). Intimidation isn’t a huge loss really when you have Binding Shot. Blink Strikes is what it is, and there’s really no room for a petless version without a total re-design.

Blizzard seems OK with these talents not working, as long as there is still a choice of two talents on each row, so don’t hold your breath for any changes here.

Personally, these restrictions don’t bother me at all since Lone Wolf is not my talent. I play a hunter mostly because of the pets, not because they use bows. It’s what originally drew me to the class.

Are you cool with Lone Wolf in its current form? Or does Blizzard need to take it further?

The artwork of the orc hunter in the header is by Dmitriy Prozorov.

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11 thoughts on “Lone Wolf: How to play a pet class without a pet”

  1. “The loss of Master’s Call is probably a deal breaker for a lot of PvP hunters.”

    Yeah, that would be a shame. Though I still hold out hope that they might change Masters Call, since its a somewhat unique case. You mentioned it along side 3 talents and a pet ability. That we wont keep a pet ability when we get rid of the pet is obvious and for each of the talents we have 2 alternatives we can choose. MC doesnt come from the talent tree, so no alternative and its our own ability, even though it depends on a pet for the moment.

    Considering all the quality of life improvements Blizz is throwing around right now, they might just need a little more time and some testing to come around on this.

  2. As hunter in a 20ish men raid – and we will aim to hit the cap of players also in the expansion – im not really bothered to loose hero/brez and debuffs, there should be enough players who can do it. It’s cool to have all these backup options tho, i like when the hunter saves the night 🙂

    I think i will go petless most of the time because im annoyed at all the bugs and despawns i had to face in the past and it’s time for freedom!
    well, probably it will depend on the fight. Im not a top high hunter, i consider myself just slightly better than average, and some nights i have to backup the raid leader; hence im starting to think at my pet as a commodity. If im lazy or tired or im busy i can call my loyal companion to provide me some passive dps; if i can focus and play at my best i will probably go petless.

    for pvp i would keep the pet, the debuffs are cool and having 2 different sources of damage is a rewarding tactic.
    for solo, i agree with your consideration: the personal tank is mandatory for low gear level, but when we are overgeared there is no need.
    as for Master’s Call, i would keep the pet in pvp, so it’s not a big deal for me if we loose it; unless Blizz will add a lot of situation for it in raid, im cool with this as a penality for playing without pet.

    Overall i have to say i really like this talent: it gives me even more options in a class i love for its endless fun in different playstyles and activities

  3. Roar of Sacrifice and Master’s Call will still be available to a Lone Wolf Hunter (in emergencies), they just have a higher (dps) cost since you have to summon your pet (and thus loose the 30% dps boost) to use.

    As for the talents I think Blizzard is is deliberately making some talents unusable. If they offer alternatives then the tooltips could become too complicated and I think they also don’t want Lone Wolf too become too attractive.

    With Lone Wolf you gain the convenience of not having too manage a pet so I think it’s reasonable that you would loose some dps and/or utility. For now, it looks like Blizzard has chosen a very minimal reduction in utility.

    Lorewise, it would have made more sense if choosing Lone Wolf also meant you lost all animal related talents (dire beast, murder of crows) as well as the ability to tame/summon pets, but that would have required a significant redesign and perhaps even a 4th hunter spec.

  4. Since the dwarven riflemen from War3 are what drew me to WoW and to this class, I’m definitely going to give this a whirl in raids, although in dungeon groups and especially soloing, sticking with my bear seems wise. At the very least, level 100 has genuinely interesting choices, which isn’t the case on previous tiers.

  5. I’m actually kind of excited about doing things like the timeless isle petless. Successfully kiting something like Archiereus of Flame, without even a little time to catch your breath from pet tanking in between Golems, well, at least to me that sounds like lots of fun.

    In general though, I hope this remains a novelty talent. It’ll be fun to try to solo some things using it, but it’ll be quite depressing if this becomes the top DPS talent and we feel we have to take it.

  6. The only talent I will miss because of lone wolf is blink strikes. I’m not a fan of AMoC’s high focus cost so I guess i’ll be taking stampede in that row. It also raises a question of immersion and flavor though for a hunter choosing to petless being forced to either summon a flock of crows, or summon a stampede of pets for their only choices in that row.

    1. It also brings up questions of how Stampede works (maybe it’s already been tested by someone but I haven’t seen it yet). Does it just summon 4 pets (since that is the regular benefit you get when you DO have a pet), or does it summon all 5?

  7. I like Lone wolf as it is, having to trade some talents for it does not bother me at all and I WILL be using it.
    What I would like is to also bring the debuffs.

  8. I appreciate most of thechanges and additions made to the hunter class in WoD, but Lone Wolf is a real let down.

    The idea is nothing new. It’s Grimoire of Sacrifice (which I don’t like to begin with) for hunters. Except that…
    …it is a level 100 talent instead of a level 75 one.
    …it completely ignores the fact that the pet is an integral part of the class, much more so than for warlocks.
    …it has no modified versions of talents that require a pet to go with it.

    This talent is a lazy nonsolution for pet-unfriendly fights. Blizzard needs to solve the root cause of the problem, namely the horrendously bad pathing and AI of pets (which have been in this unacceptable state for OVER TEN YEARS now) instead of giving us this lazy, boring and unimaginative work-around.

    The only positive thing is that it catches the ‘feeling’ of a marksmanship or a survival hunter perfectly, but that’s not enough to overlook Lone Wolf’s glaring design flaws.

    Your mileage may vary.

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