Okay, take a deep breath. The NDA has been lifted and we're about to take a look at what's been going on with the hunter class behind closed doors. Those of us who have been desperately keeping our mouths shut until we were vibrating with the secret knowledge we possess can finally climb to the rooftops and start shouting about the awesomeness contained within.
Because those hunter class previews we had earlier in the year? That was nothing. Nothing I tell you compared to the sweet, sweet huntery goodness lurking behind the closed beta doors.
Join me after the cut as we begin to scrape the surface of some of the awesomesauce hidden in the Cataclysm beta. I think you'll join me in agreeing that it's been worth the wait. Hold tight to your seat, folks; this is a killer ride.
Forgive me if there is not space enough to talk about every single change we're seeing and the impact of them all and all the combinations. Suffice it to say that we do not yet know how the specs will compare against each other, we do not know how we'll compare against other classes, and we still don't know exactly what our rotations are going to look like.
What we do know are the current, not final, subject-to-change-at-any-time hunter talents and abilities. And they are awesome. Here are the big ones.
Sure, we knew all about our new camo ability, but there were a lot of questions floating around about its utility. While it still seems primarily PvP-centric, the current wording make it sound very strong indeed.
You camouflage, causing you and your Pet to blend into your surroundings. After 3 sec., you will enter a camouflaged state for 1 min, making you untargetable and providing stealth while stationary. While camouflaged, you and your pet's movement speed is reduced by 30%, but the damage done by your next attack is increased by 15%.
You can lay traps while under the effect, but any damage done by you or your pet will cancel the effect. Cannot be cast while in combat.
45 Focus, Instant, 1 min cooldown
So as long as you aren't moving, you are entirely untargetable and you get stealth -- like that thing rogues have. AoE damage will still bust you out, as will shooting, but this is a pretty cool and potentially strong ability. Now we can finally return to the days of flag-guarding stealthed night elf hunters opening with their massive Aimed Shot. Speaking of which ...
I'd just like to point out for those grognards out there who have been playing since vanilla, Aimed Shot is going to look a lot more like it did back then. Aimed Shot will no longer have a healing reduction component to it and will no longer be an instant shot. Instead, it now has a 2.5-second cast time (in vanilla, it was a 3-second cast time) and will hit with a whollop.
It looks like Aimed Shot is intended to be our big opening shot, especially deadly as a PvP opener. The new version of Careful Aim talent boosts the Aimed Shot crit chance on targets at almost full health, and of course we'll be able to boost our damage coming out of Camouflage. Further, the new Master Marksman talent deep in the MM tree lets them eventually proc free instant Aimed Shots.
Stings and venoms
Rather than having a bunch of stings, hunters will now have Serpent Sting (like we do now) and venoms. You can only have one venom up at a time, but you can have both Serpent Sting and a venom up. Here are our venoms:
- Scorpid Venom Reduces the targets armor by 4% for 30 seconds. Subsequent Steady Shot or Cobra Shots increase the effect by 4%, stacking up to three times. Only one Venom per Hunter can be active on any one target.
30 Focus, 5-35 yd range, Instant
- Viper Venom Increases the casting time of all spells done by the enemy target by 30% for 30 seconds. Only one Venom per Hunter can be active on any one target.
30 Focus, 5-35 yd range, Instant
- Widow Venom A venomous shot that reduces the effectiveness of any healing taken by 25% for 30 seconds. Only one Venom per Hunter can be active on any one target.
30 Focus, 5-35 yd range, Instant
But for MM ... Oh, for MM, venoms are insanely exciting because of Chimera Shot. Here's the new Chimera Shot info:
First of all, we seem to have lost the Serpent Sting damage bonus when firing Chimera Shot -- though that may just not be on the tooltip at the moment; we'll have to assume that they removed it. What this doesn't tell us is whether Chimera will also refresh your venom (as well as your Serpent Sting), but either way, holy awesomesauce Widow Venom! 15% self heal? I can really see how that fits into the new philosophy of mana management in raids, where the ability of us DPSers to avoid damage and take care of ourselves will be vital for the success of the raids. This will make us beloved of the healers, and they can divert the heals we save them to our pets. Right?Chimera Shot
50 Focus, 5-35 yd range, Instant, 10 sec cooldown
You deal 125% weapon damage, refreshing your Serpent Sting and triggering an effect depending on the venom on the target:
Viper Venom - Instantly burns 5% of the target's total mana.
Scorpid Venom - Attempts to Disarm the target for 10 sec sec. This effect cannot occur more than once per 1 minute.
Widow Venom - Instantly heals you for 15% of your total health.
This oddly-named talent is found down the BM tree, and it looks like huge fun to me. Now BM is really making a push as the machine gun spec (including the new Focus Fire, which consumes your pet's Frenzy stacks with Kill Command, increasing your attack speed by 6% per stack consumed) and is also apt to have the most haste, which means the best focus regen. While BM will have the fastest Steady Shot and Cobra Shot rates of fire, possibly only one-second casts, they'll also be likely to have enough focus to be using other shots more often. So it's possible that actually casting two Cobra Shots or Steady Shots in a row will be a decision you make, rather than something that's just going to have to happen, as is likely with other specs.When you cast two Steady Shot or Cobra Shot attacks in a row, your next Steady Shot or Cobra Shot will summon 3 Rattlesnakes onto the enemy target. If the enemy target attacks a friend or foe, a Rattlesnake will instantly strike the enemy dealing damage equal to [5%/10%/15%] of your Steady Shot or Cobra Shot damage.
The BM tree in general has lots of changes to talents, and both attack speed increases and focus regen are common themes.
SV and Serpent Sting
The SV tree is probably the least changed, with mana conservation/regen talents becoming focus conservation/regen. It does look like SV is being tagged as the Serpent Sting tree. The first, fascinating Serpent Sting talent is on the third tier and so available to any spec:
Thus every time you apply your Serpent Sting, you're also making an direct damage attack, which we can assume is further buffed by SV's Elemental Damage Mastery bonus. MM will want to pass on this one, probably, since they'll be refreshing Serpent Sting with Chimera Shot, rather than re-applying it. Then further down the tree we have:Improved Serpent Sting
Your Serpent Sting also does instant damage equal to [15%/30%] of its total periodic effect.
Note that Toxicology actually has two ranks, and it's not clear at this point whether it's 50% per rank or only 50% after both ranks are put in. But either way, that's a huge boost to Serpent Sting and Black Arrow damage.Toxicology
Increases the periodic critical damage of your Serpent Sting and Black Arrow by 50%.
Improved Aspect of the Hawk replaced with upgrade
This somewhat awkward talent at the top of the BM tree is gone and is instead replaced with this gem:
Now that looks a lot more attractive, no? But just what, you ask, is this Aspect of the Fox? Let's pause a moment for a quick bathroom break so you don't soil your britches when you read this one, because I've been saving the best for last.One With Nature
Increases the attack power bonus of your Aspect of the Hawk by [5%/10%/15%/20%/25%], and increases the amount of focus restored by your Aspect of the Fox by [2%/4%/6%/8%/10%].
Aspect of the totally awesome kickass Fox
Oh, yeah. There's our focus regen ability for kiting or massive movement fights, but added on top of it is being able to auto-shot while moving. Don't tell me Ghostcrawler doesn't love us. He adores us. He's showering us with gifts in Cataclysm.Aspect of the Fox
The hunter takes on the aspects of a fox, increasing your focus regeneration by 20% and allows you to Auto-shot while moving.
Instant, 1 sec cooldown
When I first saw this, I thought the same thing that you are probably thinking: "OMG overpowered and awesome! But ... probably going to get nerfed."
But upon further reflection, I've changed my mind quite a bit. Hunters have the most complex movement management in the game, and this ability seems to me to be a way to bridge that complexity a bit. In Cataclysm in a movement-heavy fight, any hunter can pop into Aspect of the Fox and at least maintain their auto-shots, as well as gaining a bit more focus to keep their instants supplied most of the time.
However, the skilled hunter will have the same movement management skills that we do today. We'll be able to stutter-step our way across the field of battle, getting all our auto-shots just like the guy in Aspect of the Fox, but we'll also get the attack power bonus from Aspect of the Hawk (not dragonhawk anymore, by the way) increasing the damage of all of our shots, auto-shots and special shots.
So while in a way this is giving us something we didn't have before (auto-shots on the move), it's really giving us something we can already do if we play well enough, but costing us damage to do it. And the skilled hunters can still gain the extra DPS benefit from their superior skill, the exact same advantage that we have now. I think it's a fantastic addition to the hunter toolbox.
You want to be a hunter, eh? You start with science, then you add some Dwarven Stout and round it off some elf-bashing. The end result is massive DPS. Scattered Shots is the WoW.com column dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. See the Scattered Shots Resource Guide for a full listing of vital and entertaining hunter guides, including how to improve your heroic DPS, understand the impact of skill vs. gear, get started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101 and even solo bosses with some extreme soloing.