Each week, Daniel Howell contributes BigRedKitty, a column with strategies, tips and tricks for the hunter class sprinkled with a healthy dose of completely improper, sometimes libelous, personal commentary.
The hunter talent trees stink. OK, that's an overstatement; not all of the individual talents are terrible, of course they're not. But there are several choice nuggets of rottenness that are so pungent they can befoul an otherwise pleasant afternoon of island-diving in Nagrand.
Lest we forget, there have always been talents that people avoided like Stitches in Duskwood. (An aside: have you smacked Stitches to Undercity and back since you hit 70? Do it; it feels great.) Back in the day before the Burning Crusade, there were many analyses of the talents, mocking of the garbage, and culminating in the subsequent "correct talent builds". Eventually, the hunter community basically agreed upon the big three:
31/20/0 The Leveling Beastmaster. A common enough spec, yet very rarely used in instances as our pets were basically hindrances, both because of the weakness of our pets and the incompetence of the hunters who controlled them. Did you wipe your raid in Lower Blackrock Spire on the first jump? Of course you did. Hunters used this spec to level and get to 60, then they'd respec and do Zul'Gurub, Molten Core, etc.
5/31/15 The Raiding Spec. Proclaimed to be the best at maximizing steady DPS, this build eschewed crits for lots of Ranged Attack Power. There was nothing particularly wrong with this spec, it did it's job well. Equip a fast ranged weapon and let the Improved Aspect of the Hawk procs flow. It was also derisively called the "cookie-cutter build" by those of us who followed the other primary talent spec. You know, the one the cool kids used.
0/21/30 The PvP and Crit Specialist. If you wanted to one-shot squishies, this was your spec. Get a slow ranged weapon and lots of agility, stand at Iceblood Graveyard and when a late-arriving horde tried to get by you, crack him with Scatter Shot, back up just a bit, load Aimed Shot, wait for the crit... and take in the heady aroma of a beautiful one-shot kill. Golly, BRK has some fond memories of those days.
Fast-forward to today, and the number of viable talent builds are too numerous to count. BigRedKitty has seen many examples of avante-garde talent specs that, while BRK wouldn't choose them, others have made very successful. In the Burning Crusade-era, we generally believe that whatever you select, if you can make it work, is just dandy. It's your $15 so do what you like.
There are some things that BRK will not tolerate. Melee hunters top this list. We so loathe this breed of hunter that if you participate in this affront to decent and moral society, we ask that you quit reading now. That's right, scoot. Go read about Druids or something. For the rest of you, there are many other examples of egregious hunter behavior we shall enumerate in future columns. Don't think you're off the hook just yet.
Also in the BRK pantheon of ire-raisers are the bad talents and the hunters who choose them. The BRK List of Talent No-No's exists specifically for this situation. Your talent trees have some real pieces of junk that you are prohibited from using, lest you lose BRK Cool Points - BRK Cool Points are awarded for outstanding service to the hunter community, redeemable at the BRK Quartermaster in lovely, downtown Shattrath - the respect of your peers, and any chance to gain entrance to The Happy Hunting Grounds upon retirement.
BRK is a practitioner of the Beastmaster talent tree, but no matter which spec you decide to pursue, there are some talents that are bad. Really bad. Big stinkers. Some obviously atrocious, and some devious in their fetidness. Have you trained in one of them? BRK worries that you have. Let's see.
Improved Pet Mend. Don't let the name fool you; this is not improving your Pet Mend spell, this is a spell enhancement. If this talent actually increased your healing capacity, BRK would instantly remove it from this list. BRK has seen a hunter decked out in pure +healing gear take down a world boss. Pet healing is the schiznit, and we give BRK Cool Points to healers who toss Hobbes a heal or two.
But IPM is actually enhanced pet mending, and the enhancement is crummy. Two talent points to remove curses and poisons is Not Good, especially considering what you have to give up. This isn't the crippled Survival or yawnable Marksman trees; there is so much goodness, so many incredible talents in the Beastmaster tree that to waste two points on an unnecessary spell enhancement is a tremendous loss. We only have forty-one points in the tree with which to play – we want twenty in Marksman for the full crit bonus damage with Mortal Shots - so wasting two on IPM, when we should be using them for Ferocity, draws BRK's ire.
Entrapment. Survival is a gimped tree, period. The higher-end talents just do not justify the dps-loss one incurs by going deep into this tree when one is focused on PvE. With the 2.1 patch, this will be very much improved, and BRK does plan on respecting Survival to test the effectiveness of the upgrades. But Entrapment is one hunk-o-junk talent that many PvP players think is wonderful now, and BRK wants a sample of whatever it is they're smoking, 'cause it's gotta be boss.
Entrapment is, bluntly, a very silly talent. Yes, the three level-two talents in the Survival tree are all kinda blah, and BRK heartily recommends you skip them if you go deeper. Nine points in the Humanoid Slaying, Monster Slaying, and Hawk Eye talents is where we recommend people start, then dump the tenth point anywhere before moving to Clever Traps.
But BRK has received email espousing Entrapment, and stating very erroneously how we must never have done PvP if we don't know how great it is. Some hunters actually email us, talking up Entrapment, claiming it's the PvPers Best Friend.
We sit in stunned silence at that misguided rhetoric and are baffled by the lunacy. Frankly, after one of these emails, we need some cocoa.
Yes, having your Immolation Trap basically stun your opponent for five seconds is great - when Entrapment procs - but if you needed to get to range, you should've dropped a Freezing Trap in the first place. BRK has yet to encounter a situation where we lost a fight, croaked up our little dwarven toes and from the darkest depths of the closest graveyard, uttered,
"If we'd only had Entrapment, we wouldn't be sucking dirt."
Combat Experience. Whew. Just speaking this one's name causes BRK to break into hives and get the cold sweats. It is the single worst hunter talent of them all, praise Elune, pass the collection plate. This talent leaves such a foul taste in our mouths, we'd rather you leave two talent points unspent then invest in this waste dump.
On any given day, BRK will have 555 agility and 186 intellect. If you gave us two free talent points to put into CE, we'd gain a whopping...
Eleven agility and eleven intellect.
That's it, that's all, end of story. +2% agility and +6% intellect, that's all we get. Keep looking through the box, sift through the packing popcorn, toss the desiccant, turn the empty box upside down and shake it; nothing else is falling out of that package. BRK says, "It's not Combat Experience, it's Combat Idiocy". If you're a Marksman hunter - and Elune knows there are enough of those mail-wearing, mage-wanna-be's squatting behind the paladins with the squishies – we beg you, Just Say No to Combat Idiocy.
BRK is going under the knife this week, so our email replies shall be few and far between. The BRK Email Repository and Melee Hunter Deprogramming Center will remain open, and so are these WoW Insider comments. Can you string together a coherent, non-l33t-based rebuttal?
We have our doubts, you know.
Daniel Howell continues his quest to eliminate melee Hunters as the Damh and Hobbes hunter-pet duo extraordinaire known to lore as BigRedKitty. More of his theorycrafting and slanderous belittling of the lesser classes can be found at bigredkitty.blogspot.com.
[Fan art by Moony]