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Scattered Shots: Hunter changes for 4.0.3a


Every Monday and Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Each week, Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union uses logic and science (mixed with a few mugs of dwarven stout) to look deep into the hunter class. Mail your hunter questions to Frostheim.

It's been coming for a long, long time: Deathwing has finally shattered old Azeroth. It was kind of a jerk move on Deathwing's part, and frankly, he's just asking to be punched in the face. Along with the visual changes and host of sparkly new pets available to tame, hunters are also seeing all those beta changes finally brought over to live with patch 4.0.3a.

If my poor, overworked email box is any indication, a lot of hunters out there have not been following the constant beta changes and are confused about many of the changes -- and while our abilities are basically the same, there have been a lot of meaningful changes to the way our DPS works.

Join me after the cut for a rundown of the hunters view of patch 4.0.3a, including pet changes, ability changes, and just what Blizzard means by our shots being normalized.

Pet changes and new pets

Patch 4.0.3a finally lets us tame a bunch of the new pets that we've been seeing in the beta, including the fox, beetle, monkey, and dog. We're also seeing some changes to existing pets and pet skins. Certain pets are changing to the new pet type -- some wolf-family pets are becoming dogs, for example. In addition, we're seeing some changes to pet skins, so it's entirely possible that your pet will be changing color.

As always, our first and best resource for all things pet-related is Mania's Petopia. At Petopia, you can search for where to find any pet, including all of the different kind of pet skins that are available, where to find them, and what level they are. Among the changes that 4.0.3a is bringing, Mania has listed:
  • 106 new looks
  • 45 pets transformed
  • 158 pet retired
If you're into pets, it's worth a stop at Petopia to dig into all the changes.

Also, pet consumables (pet food and scrolls) no longer provide a DPS increase for your pets. This is a great quality of life change for hunters. While it was thematically cool to make special pet foot that gave your pet a boost, in practice it just meant that we had to be balanced assuming we always had that buff, and thus we always had yet another consumable to bring to raids. Now we'll be balanced without it, and we don't have to have our own buff food, pet buff food, and pet scrolls for every encounter. Yes, thank you!

Your worm cannot AoE tank with Burrow Attack

An important change that should be stressed yet again is that your worm pet will no longer be able to tank while using the Burrow Attack ability. Now, burrowing wipes all threat from your worm entirely, meaning that the mobs it was tanking will charge over to the next highest threat target, usually you -- and of course, the mob is also likely running out of the worm's AoE area, as well.

As long as your worm is underground, it has no threat; even if you MD to your pet while it's down, it will not help. No matter what, your pet isn't on the aggro table while underground and comes up with no threat.

We're pretty sure that this is a deliberate change and not a bug, since it makes the worm a bit too powerful a tank compared to any other pet. Note that the worm can still take the Thunderclap talent and can still tank just fine for you as long as you aren't using Burrow Attack.

Shot damage normalization

The first line in the hunter section of the official patch notes is this: "All special attacks based on weapon damage (except Scattershot) are now normalized." More than anything else, this has caused a lot of questions, so let my explain what this is and what has actually changed.

Many hunter special shots, like Steady Shot, do base weapon damage (meaning auto-shot damage) plus some additional damage. The problem is that our base weapon damage is partially dependent on the speed of our weapon -- not just the damage listed on the weapon, but also the way that ranged attack power increases it. For example, let's say we have two guns that both do 10 DPS. Gun A has a speed of 1.0, so every time it fires, it does 10 damage. Gun B has a speed of 2.0, so it only fires every other second, hitting for 20 damage each time it fires. So the slower gun hits harder with each fire, but overall, their DPS averages out to the same.

This works out great for our auto shots, but it gets interesting for special shots. Now, when you fire your Steady Shot, it's going to do that base weapon damage (including the RAP portion) plus the additional damage. The base weapon damage of gun B is twice as high as gun A, even though they both have the same DPS. So for Steady Shot and every other special shot that includes base weapon damage (most of them), the slower weapon is better. This situation quickly becomes counterintuitive, because a slower weapon could easily do far more damage than a faster weapon with a higher DPS.

The solution is what we call "normalization" of the special shots. Normalized special shots use a weapon speed of 2.8 when calculating the RAP portion of the damage of the special shot, regardless of what the weapon speed actually is. Thus, a weapon with a higher DPS is almost always better (assuming the additional stats on the weapon are equivalent). Note that your auto-shots still fire based on the weapon speed; the normalization only affects the equation that calculates the damage of special shots.

Now for almost all of Wrath, our special shots were already mostly normalized. But then patch 4.0.1 hit, and none of our shots were normalized anymore -- suddenly ,weapon speed was the most important hunter stat in the game, by a huge margin. This was not intentional and was fixed on the beta, and we're just finally seeing that fix applied to live.

Now things are back to being normalized. Technically if you had two ranged weapons that were exactly identical except speed, the slower one would still hit a little bit harder on our special shots -- the base weapon damage still appears to be affected by weapon speed, but not the RAP portion of the auto-shot damage (which is by far the larger portion). On the other hand, a faster weapon will help procs occur slightly more often. For gear decision purposes, however, you're safe not paying much attention to weapon speed, and just focus on the stats and DPS of your weapon.

The only downside to normalization is that if you were using a weapon slower than 2.8 (as most of us were), your DPS will go down a bit as a result. But don't worry, we got buffs to compensate.

Signature shots hitting harder

Our signature shots -- Kill Command for BM, Chimera Shot for MM, and Explosive Shot for SV -- all had several rounds of buffs on the beta that are just now going live. You can expect all of these shots to be hitting much harder.

If you were questioning the value of using your signature shot with its higher focus cost, well, you should have been using it anyway. But now there should be no question in your mind. Aimed Shot also got a damage boost, though not nearly as much as I personally think it needs.

The buffs to the signature shots should result in an overall increase in hunter DPS across the board, even after the normalization.

Lower-level changes

The patch also changed the level requirements for several of our abilities, including:
  • Scare Beast is now available at level 36, up from level 14, and has had its training cost updated.
  • Deterrence is now available at level 78, up from level 36, and has had its training cost updated.
  • Disengage is now available at level 14, down from level 78, and has had its training cost updated.
I'm personally very pleased to see the Disengage requirement dropped back down. When they boosted it up to level 78 in 4.0.1, I was unable to get out of the habit of trying to use it on my baby hunter. You never realize how amazingly useful that ability is for movement until it's gone!

Additionally, patch 4.0.3a made a bunch of changes to lower-level damaging abilities (below level 80) for all classes across the board. Essentially, low-level characters were zerging through content far too easily with all the changes that have been made since that content was created back in vanilla. Blizzard's solution is to lower the damage your character deals when leveling, generally by decreasing amount of base damage that is contributed to your special shots.

So your lowbie hunter will not be hitting nearly as hard -- but neither will any other low-level DPS classes.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. Our Scattered Shots Resource Guide takes aim at everything from improving your heroic DPS, understanding 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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