Dear Blizzard: Undo the Beastmastery nerfs or the cow gets it. Signed, Scattered Shots.
So as you heard the other day, the dev team admits it. They were a little too overly enthusiastic in their nerfs. Beast Mastery is too low, and will be seeing some buffs "before Ulduar," probably related to Serpent's Swiftness or Kindred Spirits. Of course, Beastmastery Hunters could have told you a while ago that the nerfs were too much, and did. Ghostcrawler not only told us that we had the wrong numbers, but that it hardly mattered because everything would change with Ulduar anyway. So to see him change to this degree is a little disorienting, I must admit.
But anyway, this column is not meant to rake Ghostcrawler across the coals. I think he's a pretty decent guy all around. Besides, it's not the first time he's put his foot in his mouth, and it probably won't be the last, either. Overall, I'm glad he's at least communicating, and that he, as the "face" of the dev team, is at least willing to come out and communicate and admit when they were wrong. What I'm really interested in is exactly where the class is going.
Ghostcrawler's implied now that the ultimate aim is for Survival, Beastmastery, and Marksmanship to be roughly equal in PvE DPS. This certainly pleases me. Like many, I play Beastmastery not because I think its easy mode, but because I genuinely enjoy having a strong pet to interact with and the mechanics of the talents and skills used. I certainly don't begrudge Hunters who prefer Marksmanship or Survival either. If we can be 3 equal trees living in harmony without accusing each other of being OP or EZmode, I will be a very happy Hunter.
What interests me is the vague outline of what's to come. Ghostcrawler's implied that we're getting some sort of major mechanics change in 3.1, but now is saying that Beastmastery will get more buffs before 3.1. How does this come together?
So apparently, this means we may have a 3.0.9 coming. Admittedly, it could just be a quick little patch like the one that went live this week, but then again, if it includes class fixes, it could also be another couple months on the PTR -- and (as the raiders all let out a scream of agony) another couple months til 3.1 actually drops. But no matter how it gets here, the big question remains: what exactly will we be getting?
Serpent's Swiftness was mentioned by Ghostcrawler. Interestingly enough, I have been hearing rumblings from around the Hunter community that the Hunter speed increase should be removed off that thing altogether, and Beastmastery Hunters made to scrounge for haste rating like the other 2 specs. I like being able to eschew that silly haste rating, so I'm rather hoping it doesn't come to that. At the same time, simply adding more speed to it probably won't be enough. After all, it already reduces Steady Shot to just about the magic 1.5 number on its own. Perhaps it will provide some sort of damage or duration buff to Serpent Sting, which would continue to encourage Beastmastery Hunters to lay off the Steady Shot spam (Although 3.0.8's already done that pretty well) and fit with the whole snake theme of the talent.
Still, the most likely place we can expect a buff is probably Kindred Spirits. A quick damage buff tacked on to that talent, while somewhat unimaginative, would be the easiest way to put BM Hunters back up where they need to be ahead of Ulduar, and we could probably still get some excitement from the Serpent Sting->Arcane Shot->Steady Shot rotation introduced in 3.0.8 thanks to the new arcane shot buffs.
The great revamp of 3.1
Now the Ulduar patch itself is a bit of an enigma. Ghostcrawler has said changes are coming, but he won't reveal what they are, only that they are "changing the numbers" to the point that comparing them to Hunters now would be like comparing today's Hunter to a Hunter before Steady Shot existed.
It's not likely our itemization will change too drastically. We already had a pretty major itemization shift around a year and a half ago, and right now we share itemization concerns with Enhancement Shamans neatly enough. If Armor Penetration gets buffed, we may end up shifting our gems a bit, but I wouldn't expect much there.
What we will be getting is probably a bit more up in the air. Turning Autoshot into a true Auto attack by allowing us to use it on the run might fit the bill, but it's unclear if that would be the drastic change Ghostcrawler is heralding. We could also simply see a shifting of numbers away from auto attack and onto special abilities. This would inject a bit more "skill" into all 3 specs by making shot rotations meaningful again without the annoyance that is shot clipping, as learning to use your cooldowns and shots efficiently would mean the world to your DPS. Of course, they just nerfed Steady Shot and will probably nerf Explosive Shot soon as well so buffing them up again would be a bit weird.
We might also have to brace for no changes at all. Ghostcrawler may have teased us with changes, but he also said they might not go through at all. In that case, buffing us before Ulduar is simply a way of making sure we can test competitively through Ulduar on the PTR and in internal testing, because those are all the buffs we're getting.
Oh well, regardless of anything else we get in 3.1, hopefully we get some new ammo. I think I'd settle for that at this point. That and those promised Beastmastery buffs. Regardless, we aren't out of the woods. The dev team has admitted their mistake, let's see if they fix it now.
I've talked about the future of the class quite a bit, I know, but that's in part because we keep hearing about the future. Wait for Ulduar, Ghostcrawler's told us more than once, which is why it surprised me when he said we'd get readjusted before Ulduar. Is that a change of heart, or is the whole Ulduar class revamp thing scrapped? I suppose only time will tell, but I'll be watching anxiously for the 3.1 Hunter patch notes for sure. In the meantime, I do sort of like the whole 3 equal trees philosophy Blizzard seems to be looking for. If they can truly get that to work, I'll be happy.