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Scattered Shots: Nerf bat hits the beta hunter

Welcome to Scattered Shots, written by Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union and the Hunting Party Podcast. Each week, Frostheim uses logic and science (mixed with a few mugs of dwarven stout) to look deep into the hunter class. Got hunter questions? Feel free to email Frostheim.

Old Grandpappy Frostheim used to have a saying: "There's nothing so ugly as a face that's been smashed in by the nerf bat. Not even an elf. Well, maybe a space goat, and certainly them Hordies -- but you know, nothing natural is that ugly."

The latest Cataclysm beta build has brought a handful of changes to the hunter class, including a Kill Command nerf that makes Kill Command worse than Arcane Shot, even for BM, and Camouflage got nerfed so hard the cool leaked right out and gnomish repair crews just barely kept all the cool from leaving entirely. It isn't all bad news, however; we got some minor buffs to a handful of abilities and some cost reductions, including the removal of a focus cost from the BM bonus ability Intimidation, a new raid buff and an adorable new pet animation.

Join me after the cut for the changes in the latest build and some of the ramifications on the current state of the Cataclysm beta hunter.

Beta build 12984 hunter changes

Beast Mastery
  • Widow Venom now costs 15 focus (down from 30).
  • Aspect of the Hawk ranged attack power has increased to 638 RAP (up from 334).
  • Intimidation no longer has a focus cost.
  • Kill Command base damaged has dropped and the coefficient dropped by more than half.
  • Killing Streak bonus Kill Command damage has dropped to 10%/20%.
  • Focus Fire restores 4 focus to your pet, down from 10 focus.
  • Sic 'Em now also has a chance to proc from Kill Command.
Marskman
  • Improved Steady Shot can now proc even while the Improved Steady Shot buff is already active. You no longer have to wait for the buff to go away entirely before starting your two Steady Shots to get the buff.
Survival
  • Camouflage now breaks on AoE and melee attacks.
  • Black Arrow cost is reduced to 35 focus.
  • Hunting Party no longer provides Replenishment and instead grants 2% agility. (The tooltip has a typo and says 20%. It's not 20%; it's 2%.)
Pets
  • Cats have received their raid buff -- Roar of Courage -- and now provide the strength/agility buff.
  • Bears have a new "sleep" ability that causes them to sleep and regain happiness, though it looks like they're dead.
Camouflage nerfed

Let's start with the big one, the giant elephant in the room -- it's easy enough to see, after all. Many people thought Camouflage in its previous form was overpowered. Many thought the immunity was fine as long as we couldn't attack. Some thought it was underpowered and a weak and sad thing to get as our level 85 ability (though those were probably strictly PvE players).

Personally, I thought that camo needed to have a couple of counters to it, like Mass Dispel and something else. I think everything should have counters; even the pally bubble does, these days. Further, I thought for the sake of safety, it should have a 3-second cast time just to make sure that it couldn't be used in conjunction with Feign Death to escape active combat. (I should point out I never once managed to do that, despite a lot of trying in PvP on the beta. Either I had DoTs on me, or my pet did, or someone was attacking me even after FD.)

Blizzard has sided with the OP believers and spoken loud and clear with a massive nerf back to the Stone Age. Camouflage is now broken by AoE -- which is particularly rough since unlike Stealth, you can see exactly where the camo hunter is (except in ambush situations). Camo also breaks on melee attacks and from AoE fears, Frost Nova, etc.

The nerf saddens me, since in my mind, it brings Camouflage back to a pretty useless ability. Hunters don't usually have much trouble with any ranged class. We have a handful of tricks to help us burn them down, and ranged attackers aren't much of a problem, unlike melee. Camo is now something that doesn't help us against at all against the melee classes -- the ones that can give us trouble -- and of course if anyone wants to pop us out, they just have to lay an AoE on top of us, which will be no problem nine times out of 10.

The end result is that the most common use of camo is going to be as an ambush. As long as we're standing still, it gives us an actual stealth effect (though if you stand in melee range, you can automatically see us, it seems). So if we're guarding a flag, we can stealth and wait to ambush anyone coming. With some movement utility at range, it's certainly better than Shadowmeld, but not a whole ton better.

Ah well, it still looks badass.

Kill Command nerf

Kill Command was hitting crazy-hard throughout the beta up until now. With the huge nerf taking the attack power coefficient from 53% to 21%, Kill Command is now actually hitting for less damage than Arcane Shot, despite costing twice the focus. This brings the BM signature shot in line with MM and SV, but of course, we assume that these will get remedied at some point.

The interesting question right now is whether the solution will be to increase the damage of the signature shots or reduce the damage of Arcane Shot. Arcane Shot has had more changes than any other hunter ability in the beta, with the damage constantly going up and down. For a while, it was so low that it was doing less damage than Steady and Cobra Shot, and now it's at a comfortable medium, hitting for around 5k damage at level 85.

I certainly hope that the solution is to increase the Chimera Shot, Explosive Shot and Kill Command damage to make them worth using over Arcane Shot. I'm personally a bit leery of reducing the Arcane Shot damage, because it doesn't have a whole lot of flexibility before it becomes worse than our focus-restoring free shots.

Interestingly, even with the KC nerf, BM still appears to be the highest DPS hunter spec in the beta. (They just don't use KC except during Bestial Wrath.) As always, we expect these DPS issues to be balanced out toward the end of the beta/PTR process.

Improved Steady Shot delight

I was delighted and surprised to see the change to Improved Steady Shot. For those of you just joining us at Scattered Shots, the way this buff used to work was a bit tricksy: You could not get the buff if you already had it. In other words, any Steady Shots cast while the buff was up didn't count toward the two you needed to re-activate the buff. So you had to wait for the buff to go away entirely, and then fire two Steady Shots in a row. This made optimizing the uptime very tricky indeed, and we went through a lot of convolutions to maximize the uptime.

When the beta first came online, many people (myself included) reported this as a bug. But as the months rolled by, we came to assume that Blizzard intended this functionality to ensure that the buff would not have 100 percent uptime. Having it changed to work in the simpler and more intuitive way definitely makes the MM rotation much, much easier.

So even in the big hunter nerfs build, it's not all bad news. And our bear pets can play dead! Adorable!

Scattered Shots is 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, and getting started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101.


Filed under: Hunter, (Hunter) Scattered Shots

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