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Scattered Shots: Patch 4.3 hunter changes

Every Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. 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.

That magical time is almost here -- patch 4.3 is just around the corner. No, we don't yet know for sure when it's going to land, but we're expecting it any week now. We've been watching and testing on the PTR, and one Tuesday soon, we'll get to play with all the shiny new changes ourselves ... and cross our fingers and hope Blizzard slipped in some kind of awesome undocumented change, like removing elves or shaman from the game.

Last week, we covered most of the patch 4.3 hunter gear that's coming, and this week, we'll be looking into all of the hunter changes that the patch is bringing us. And it's a good thing we waited until this week too, as we got yet more hunter changes just in the past few days.

None of the hunter changes are huge game-changers this time around. Instead, what we're seeing is a collection of minor buffs and tweaks to BM and SV in an attempt to bring the specs up closer to MM DPS levels.

Join me after the cut for the roundup of the 4.3 hunter changes.

Standard disclaimers here: We're looking at PTR info and it's all subject to change and refinement at any moment. However, we are pretty far along the PTR process, and I wouldn't expect any significant changes at this point in the process. But it's possible.

SV buffs

SV is receiving two DPS buffs in patch 4.3, neither of them terribly large but both of them very welcome. SV DPS is a bit behind MM at the moment, but all our models suggest that it's really not very far behind, so it's likely that we don't need much in the way of buffs to bring SV nearly to the MM level.

SV buffs are coming in two varieties, both of them Explosive Shot-flavored. The raw damage output of Explosive Shot is increasing by about 15% (in effect partially undoing the big SV nerf early in the year, scaling it back closer to what the nerf probably should have been).

In addition, we're seeing a change to T.N.T. (the talent that lets Black Arrow proc Lock & Load) that is nearly doubling the proc chance, from 12% chance per tick with both ranks up to 20% chance per tick now. This is absolutely a DPS buff, but it's not actually almost doubling the number of procs. Lock & Load has an internal cooldown, after all, that will prevent this from proccing too often. But it will not be far more likely to proc on each Black Arrow.

It's worth noting that there have been reports that the internal cooldown of Lock & Load has been removed in the PTR. If this did happen, it's almost certainly a mistake that will be corrected.

BM buffs

BM is seeing some similar buffage to what SV will be enjoying, with a bit of AoE DPS improvement to boot. While BM is substantially behind SV and MM in the top raid parses, the DPS models suggest that BM's DPS potential is actually just about the same as SV. Blizzard seems to agree with this assessment and stated several times that it believes sample bias is a large contributing factor to why BM looks so bad in top parses but not nearly so bad in models.

Thus, BM is getting a small DPS buff in 4.3 similar to what SV is getting. Specifically, BM will have its Animal Handler specialization buffed from 25% attack power increase up to a 30% attack power increase.

Added to that, the duration of Focus Fire (the BM haste buff) will be increasing from 15 seconds to 20 seconds. This increase will enable BM to maintain something much closer to a 100% uptime on the buff, while letting BM pets enjoy their Frenzy stacks a bit longer, which will slightly boost pet DPS.

Finally, BM will also see an AoE buff in the form of a 20% damage boost to the AoE abilities of the worm and chimera pets, as well as an increased area of effect on those abilities. Of course, the chimera's Froststorm Breath is still conical -- it just stretches out farther, so it's just as challenging as ever to get all the mobs in a group within the AoE. The worm range enhancement is pretty sweet though, and the damage boost to both is welcome.

The attack power buff we aren't getting

A very substantial change we're not seeing is the buff to the attack power raid buff brought from hunters (among many other classes) in the form of Trueshow Aura. Currently this raid buff increases attack power and ranged attack power by 10%. In patch 4.3, this is being buffed to increase melee attack power by 20% but still increasing our ranged attack power by 10%.

When we looked at the state of Firelands DPS, we did indeed see that most of the melee classes were suffering compared to most of the ranged classes (with a couple of notable exceptions) and that MM hunters were doing pretty good overall. MM was not one of the top specs, but MM wasn't low or even in the middle of the pack, either.

However, with this change to the attack power raid buff, that's going to change. In theory we should be seeing all the melee classes DPS increase comparatively, while MM stays more or less the same -- effectively pushing MM lower in the standings. On top of that, those darn combat rogues were already doing pretty well in the charts, and they're going to get this buff and some legendaries to boot. Expect them to be pretty ridiculous.

And of course we still have the other bias in the top parses going on, which is that we have a ton of caster classes with access to a legendary as well. The effects of that, however, should go down a bit comparatively with a new tier (we'll all get better weapons that do more damage, but they'll still have the same one), which should help to lower that gap a bit. However, those top parses are going to be even more splattered with legendaries than ever.

Hunter balance in 4.3

The developers have gone out on a limb stating numerous times that they think hunter spec balance is going to be very good and very close in patch 4.3, and I think they're right.

Expect MM to still be the top spec, but by a much smaller margin. SV and BM will be just below. BM's AoE buff will make it particularly nice for burst AoE situations, but only as long as you don't need that burst AoE very regularly.

As for the bigger picture, I suspect that we're going to see the hunter class living in the middle of the pack in the overall DPS picture. Which everyone wants to be up on top, it's hard to argue with being in the middle, since that's where everyone should live.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From leveling your hunter and choosing the best patch 4.2 gear to learning the DPS value of skill, we've got you covered. If you're stuck in one of the nine support classes, why not move up to the big league and play a hunter?

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