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The latest news from the PTR is that patch 4.0.6 has been deployed, bringing with it a bunch of anticipated changes to the hunter class. We recently talked about the likely hunter changes, and just about all of that is being tested in the new patch (though at present, it appears that some of it has been implemented incorrectly).
At first glance, it certainly appears that Blizzard is being very conservative in its adjustments. SV got its gentle nerf in the form of dropping the Into the Wilderness agility bonus down from 15% to 10%. Meanwhile, MM and BM both received buffs -- but again, very gentle buffs. While they'll bring these specs closer to SV, they'll still be behind. But of course, that's what the PTR process is for -- to test out the changes and make adjustments.
Join me after the cut for the full rundown of what's changing, unlisted bug fixes, and some of the odd implementations of the changes.
Hunter changes recap
Here is a recap of the hunter section of the official patch notes:
General hunter changes
Before we get into the specifics of each spec, let's take a look at some of the stuff Blizzard has changed for the hunter class across the board.
We had some nice PvP survivability tweaks. Deterrence will not always work against direct melee attacks, and it's fantastic that it now works when you're disarmed. Of course, the downside of this change is that we can no longer use Deterrence to force a Counterattack proc -- but I'm sure Counterattack is slated to go or at least be totally redesigned in the future, anyway.
We also saw a large cooldown reduction to our Master's Call ability, which I definitely think was needed. After all, it doesn't do us a whole lot of good to be able to disengage out of melee if we're still crawling under movement reduction effects. We can now switch aspects while mounted, which I think is more a quality of life thing than anything else, though it does have real PvP benefits.
Finally, we have our pleasant buff to Kill Shot. While the buff sounds really big -- 50% increase to attack power scaling -- in practice on the PTR, it seems relatively small, indicating that that 50% increase in AP scaling probably raised the AP coefficient from 30% up to 45%. It's still a buff, however, and a buff that affects all hunter specs and that makes the Glyph of Kill Shot even better while softening the SV nerf somewhat.
BM hunters saw a 20% increase in Kill Command's damage in the first round of PTR changes, and it does look as if the damage of the BM signature ability has indeed increased by 20%. This is a substantial boost and will make those Kill Command crits with Killing Streak (already deadly) a truly fearsome thing. However, this change alone is not not enough to bring BM up on par with SV, even after the SV nerf.
MM saw two spec-specific changes in the PTR. The first is the boost to its signature shot, Chimera Shot. In practice, this change is incredibly tiny. The damage done is indistinguishable without exhaustive controlled tests, and if the tooltip is to be believed, the actual increase for my heroic-geared hunter was about 50 damage.
The Aimed Shot buff, however, is far more substantial. Increasing the base weapon damage component from 95% up to 200% is a massive increase, and on the PTR, we're seeing Aimed Shot hit for nearly twice the damage. Unfortunately, it appears that the change has only been applied to the 3.5-second cast version of Aimed Shot. The proc version is unchanged at the moment, and we can only hope that's an oversight in implementation. It would not be the first time Blizzard accidentally applied a change to only the cast version, and I suspect we'll see the proc version updated on the PTR in the near future.
However, much like with BM, these changes do not appear to be enough to bring MM DPS up to the SV level, even ignoring the additional difficulties MM has maintaining its rotation in complex boss fights.
Finally, on the SV side, we're seeing the anticipated nerf to SV DPS. Lowering Into the Wilderness to 10% will cost SV hunters a bit less than 5% of their agility. In practice, this change by itself will amount to around a 5% DPS loss for SV hunters. That loss is mitigated somewhat by the Kill Shot buff, and in general, we'll see raiding SV hunters -- those doing around 20k DPS -- lose around 1k DPS.
This means that SV can still expect to be in the top end of ranged DPS -- just no longer ahead by that wide margin we were seeing. SV hunters will certainly have more competition up at the top of the charts, but we're still in a good spot. With skill and knowledge, we should have no problems topping the charts.
The big change on the pet front is that all hunter pets will now inherit 70% of the hunter's armor (in addition to their base armor). This brings ferocity and cunning pets up to the same armor inheritance that tenacity enjoyed, though tenacity has more ways to boost its armor than the other pet specs. Interestingly, this brings us to the point that the only difference in inheritance between pet families is stamina.
In addition to this change, we saw shale spiders finally get their special ability, tallstriders' special ability balanced with the fox's special, and our monkeys' special fixed.
Finally, it appears that the bug with the ravager special ability (4% physical damage taken debuff) has been fixed on the PTR. On live, this ability is subject to diminishing returns, meaning that a minute or so into the fight, the boss is entirely immune to the debuff.
While it isn't directly hunter-related, it's worth noting that the promised meta-gem changes are indeed taking effect in the beta. Our good meta-gem, Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond, is supposed to get changed to have a requirement of three red gems (though currently in the PTR, it's two red gems).
In addition, we're getting a new meta-gem, the Agile Shadowspirit Diamond, which will give us agility and 3% increased critical damage, with a requirement of three red gems. While we don't know how much agility, it's safe to assume it'll be more than the 21 agility (probably 54) we got from our Wrath meta-gem, which will make this new meta our meta-gem of choice.
The big picture
Overall, what we're seeing is very conservative balancing measures put in place, which I think we can agree is a good way to go about making changes to spec and class balance. SV was brought down slightly with the Into the Wilderness nerf but mitigated a little bit by the Kill Shot buff.
BM and MM were likewise gently buffed. As it stands right now, BM and MM will still be significantly behind SV in theory and a bit further behind in practice.
But this is not a live change -- this is just the PTR and the very first pass at the patch. The purpose of the test realms is testing, and we can hope that as Blizzard collects its data that it applies some more gentle buffs to BM and MM. And we also want to cross our fingers and hope that Blizzard is satisfied with the SV nerf and doesn't nerf the spec any further.
Personally, I think the SV nerf was legitimately needed based on the in-game information we saw (and it was not, of course, the only spec or class that needed a small nerf), but I also think that Blizzard got it just about right with this change, and I very much hope SV doesn't get bumped downward any further.
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