Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: You can no longer change pet specializations. Each pet family is locked to one of the 3 specializations. Mechanicals will always be Cunning, Ravagers will always be Ferocity, and — most peculiar of them all — Spirit Beasts will always be Tenacity. Those are just 3 examples, you can see the full list at Wowhead.
For the most part, the assigned specs of each family make sense, but I have no idea why they are doing this now. We’ve been able to change pet specs for over 5 years. Why take away this customization now? Was there something so terrible about a Hunter wanting to use a Ferocity Turtle?
The response to this has not been pretty, but I do think part of the uproar is because people think Ferocity pets will still do more damage than a Tenacity or Cunning pet. This no longer seems to be the case.
Update: Blizzard has made a post clarifying the new system.
Changes to the specs
Blizzard is simplifying each the specs by giving them all the same passives and differentiating each one with 2 main abilities.
- All 3 specs will deal the same damage as a Ferocity pet does today, and be as good of a tank as a Tenacity pet is today.
- All specs have Growl and Dash, plus their appropriate basic attack (Claw, Bite or Smack).
- Each family will have a special ability. They’re all just clones of the same handful of abilities. For example, Bats have Sonic Blast and Spirit Beasts have Spirit Shock. Both do the same thing.
- Battle resurrection is being removed from Hunter pets completely.
- Predator’s Thirst (3% leech) — Completely underwhelming, especially since Kill Command/Dire Frenzy/etc. damage isn’t leeched to the Hunter. Could be decent if Blizzard changes how leech works for BM hunters (all active pet abilities should get leeched to the hunter).
- Primal Rage (heroism/blood lust) — Yep, all Ferocity pets get blood lust!
- Pathfinding (8% movement speed) — More movement speed is always nice to have.
- Master’s Call — This was taken away from us in Legion, but now it’s back. Very strong PVP ability.
- Endurance Training (10% more health for Hunter and pet) — This is very useful.
- Survival of the Fittest (20% damage reduction for 6 sec) — Another useful ability. This is huge since BM Hunters do not have any sort of damage reduction capability outside of Aspect of the Turtle.
The Tenacity abilities are oddly the best for raiding and Mythic+ — extra survivability is huge. The only reason I can see to use a Ferocity pet is if my group needed the blood lust, and outside of that the Ferocity pet would stay dismissed in favor of Tenacity.
Since Blizzard has clarified their stance, I am updating this section. Previously I suggested they give battle rez to Cunning, but since battle rez is going away completely, that suggestion isn’t relevant.
I would still wholly prefer the freedom to swap specs, but after reading Blizzard’s post on the subject, I can at least say they have thought it out pretty well, even if I don’t agree with it all.
Knowing that every pet will deal the same damage as a current Ferocity pet and be just as good of a tank as a current Tenacity pet, I can tolerate this a little more. Also, there is a new talent that allows a second pet from your stable. The second pet (if you choose that talent) can be any cosmetic choice you want since it doesn’t use any family or spec abilities, so if you want to run Tenacity but your favorite pet family isn’t that spec, at least your second pet can be anything you want. Small consolation I guess.
When I first saw the spec restrictions my reaction was much more “OH NO YOU DON’T, BLIZZARD” but over the past few days I’ve… not exactly warmed up to it…. but at least accepted it.
I think pets on the whole are better now, it’s just we’ve lost some cosmetic freedom of choice. I still don’t think that restriction is necessary, but Blizzard does.