In Battle for Azeroth, Focus is still a resource across the whole Hunter class, but it works a little differently for each specialization. Beast Mastery is staying the same (mostly passive regeneration), while Marksmanship is going back to a pre-Legion type of Hunter where the majority of Focus regeneration is active rather than passive. Survival is somewhere in the middle.
The release of Battle for Azeroth is coming up fast. Quickly enough that I’m getting a bit worried about the state of Beast Mastery. My main concern is the talents as there are a lot of mandatory and just plain dead talents that will never be considered.
Beast Mastery in Legion is in a decent place depending on who you ask (at least compared to its launch state), but only because of artifact traits and a few specific builds that require different tier set, legendary, and trinket combos. In BfA this is all gone and the spec feels remarkably similar to how it was at the start of Legion. To be fair, there are some improvements like having Cobra Shot reduce the Kill Command cooldown. We don’t know to what extent Azerite armor will help with this, but I really think it needs to start with some better fundamentals.
Beast Mastery in Battle for Azeroth has not seen any serious changes since the pre-alpha BlizzCon build back in November, 2017. Since alpha started, there have been minor tweaks here or there, but nothing substantial. So I think it’s safe to say BM is probably not getting the same treatment as MM and SV, and any hope for a re-design is off the table. The main hope for BM is tweaks to baseline abilities and a serious pass at the talents.
So with that in mind, here’s feedback and ideas to improve BM. I did a post similar to this before alpha started, but that was going in blind. Now I know what we have to work with. I’ve already sent a lot of this off to Blizzard via in-game feedback on the alpha but I figured I’d write it out in this form as well.
Disclaimer: This is one Hunter’s opinion. I’m not claiming to speak on behalf of all BM Hunters. I just want the spec to be good in BfA.
I’ve been trying to play all three Hunter specs pretty equally on the alpha, including leveling, dungeons, and island expeditions. This will be the first of hopefully several posts on my current opinion of the state of the class on alpha/beta. I’m also going to keep this bullet point form to make it easy for both of us.
After playing all 3 specs on the Battle for Azeroth alpha, I’ve come to the conclusion that Survival feels like what Beast Mastery should feel like. I’m not talking about melee combat. I’m talking about the pet and the hunter being an actual duo, playing off each other and reliant on each other.
Beast Mastery Hunters may still have a higher percentage of pet damage, but the pets feel more like a damage delivery mechanism than a team-mate. Survival Hunters rely on their pets to help generate Focus through Kill Command and have several talents that cement the pet-hunter relationship that a lot of Beast Mastery players want.
To be fair, everyone (and Blizzard) has different ideas of what each spec should be like. Maybe BM is supposed to be less about the pet and Hunter relationship and more about the Hunter being an “alpha beast” who bends all beasts to their will, using them merely as tools.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Survival being pet-focused like this (I think it’s great actually), but why can’t the original pet specialization have some more mechanics like this?
If you were worried about losing Hati, worry no more. In today’s alpha build a new talent has appeared called Animal Companion:
“Your Call Pet additionally summons the first pet from your stable. This pet will obey your Kill Command, but cannot use pet family abilities.”
It replaces Way of the Cobra. It doesn’t seem quite as fully featured as Hati since it doesn’t mention Bestial Wrath or Beast Cleave, but it at least casts Kill Command. I suspect if they added all 3 it would be too powerful for a level 15 talent. As long as it still uses Dash with the main pet and they make a bit of an effort to improve the AI (simply forcing the /petattack command without having to macro it fixes 90% of issues).
This does mean it competes with Dire Beast, though. However, the wording on some talents and abilities has changed to imply Dire Beast is becoming baseline again, but that did not happen in this build. So I’m not sure what’s going on.
This makes the pet spec locking sting a little less since you’ll always be able to have at least 1 pet that’s purely a cosmetic choice. Also in this build, Kill Command’s range has been buffed from 40 to 50 yards which is pretty nice.
I’m still not in the alpha so I can’t test things out for myself. If I find any more details I’ll update the post.
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.
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.
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.
I kinda had a feeling after seeing the BlizzCon mounts that this expansion would go back to the faction war. My initial impressions of Battle for Azeroth are basically, “cool!” I’m not going out of my mind over this. It looks like more WoW. More WoW is good. Thus far nothing has stood out to me as an expansion defining feature on the same level as Legion’s artifacts and the class orders. I’m not sure if the island scenarios and warfronts are the same sort of thing. The Heart of Azeroth is basically a variant of the Netherlight Crucible except on armor pieces instead of relics. Cool, but not mind-blowing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the faction war. What I’ve seen so far has gotten me pretty pumped up to fight for my faction. Burning down Teldrassil? As a long time Alliance player, that genuinely pisses me off and I’ll gladly slay Horde by the thousands for that. I liked how the cinematic gave cool moments for both factions, but Sylvanas screaming “for the horde” is the only part that gave me goosebumps (even though I don’t really play Horde).
Update: If you’re looking for more recent Battle for Azeroth info, go here. This post is from BlizzCon 2017