Patch 4.3.2 is sitting on the PTR, and like fine wine, weapons, and women, it just gets better over time. This patch doesn't have any huge changes going on, instead holding a collection of small changes that are all little gleaming gems of awesomeness. And that's not even counting the fire mage damage nerfs.
From the hunter perspective, patch 4.3.2 gives a small survivability boost to all hunters, a small DPS boost to all hunters, a further smaller DPS boost to SV hunters, and a nice quality-of-life (and arguably wee DPS) bonus to SV as well.
Today we're going to dig into these changes and what they're going to mean for us. The short version is this: Hunter DPS will improve. SV benefits the most, followed by BM, meaning SV will remain the top DPS spec. Skilled players with legendaries will still be about to out-DPS us, but we'll now be competing far better with people without legendaries. How much better? Well, let's take a look.
Aspect of the Hawk buff
Blizzard decided not to give hunters the full 20% AP from the raid buffs like Trueshot Aura that the melee classes get, instead giving us a smaller AP buff in the form of Aspect of the Hawk. Currently, AotH grants 2,000 ranged attack power, meaning the buff should boost that by about 700 attack power.
Of course, in practice, it's more than that. Almost all hunters will have the One With Nature talent that boosts the AotH AP by a further 30%, turning that 700 AP into 910 AP. On top of that, most raiding hunters will be enjoying the 10% AP raid buff, pushing that up to 1,001 ranged attack power.
That's a pretty sizable buff that will translate into well over 1,000 theoretical DPS. Of course, had we received the full 20% AP raid buff the melee got, that would have been closer to a 2,000 AP boost, but still, it's hard to complain too loudly about this one.
Of course we also need to keep in mind that BM hunters have the Animal Handler specialization that further boosts their attack power by another 30%, meaning they're seeing closer to 1,301 ranged attack power when buffed from this change. This is a nicely clever buff -- it brings all hunter DPS higher and at the same time, buffs the lagging spec more than the others.
The bottom line This buff will translate into something in the rough neighborhood of a 3% DPS boost for most players. While BM will increase by more, SV will still be the top DPS spec. Data from Dragon Soul DPS suggests that SV is around 3%-ish behind the median of the top classes, so while this buff keeps us from being low, it's not going to propel us high.
The Deterrence change is nice little side buff to PvP, but it was really implemented to help hunter survivability in Dragon Soul. Dragon Soul is filled with boss mechanics that completely ignore Deterrence (and Deterrence does not help against DoTs). With this change, Deterrence will at least provide some degree of damage reduction even against mechanics that otherwise ignore its damage-stopping effects.
In reality, the 30% damage reduction isn't a whole lot more than hunters can already accomplish with the Glyph of Raptor Strike -- sure, you have to be in melee to use it, but to use Deterrence you have to do no damage at all (other than possibly Kill Command to bleed some focus).
The bottom line This is a small improvement but a desperately needed one. I suspect we'll see hunter survivability truly addressed in MoP, but in the meantime, this at least gives us a way to slightly lower the burden on healers.
Black Arrow buff
The change to Black Arrow was designed specifically to ensure that Black Arrow was better to use on single-target fights than Explosive Trap (which 4.3 made better). Here's the skinny: Black Arrow already does better damage than Explosive Trap, and the damage is not changing. However, because Explosive Trap had so many more ticks (ticking every 2 seconds instead of 3, and lasting 20 seconds instead of 15), it was far more likely to proc Lock & Load.
The end result is that Black Arrow will now give just as many ticks as Explosive Trap but still do the higher damage. Keep in mind that Black Arrow always had the 24-second cooldown, so you'll be firing it just as often, but its damage will be spread out longer and give you more Lock & Load procs as a result.
The bottom line Currently in a 5-minute fight, SV will average around eight Lock & Load procs using Black Arrow. With this change, you can expect that to bump up to an average of around 14 to 15 Lock & Load procs. That's a nice increase! If you're already using Explosive Trap, then your proc count will stay the same, but you'll have the higher damage of Black Arrow to help you out.
Lock & Load fix
For all of Cataclysm, Lock & Load very frustratingly included Arcane Shot in the effect. So if you fired an Arcane Shot during Lock & Load, you burned one of the procs that could have been used on Explosive Shot. There were two problems with this.
First, of course, was that Lock & Load would proc on occasion just as you were hitting the Arcane Shot button, consuming one of the procs. This is amazingly aggravating, and the aggravation was far disproportionate to the DPS loss. Of course, with current gear giving us so much focus and recent buffs to Lock & Load proc rate, we're both firing more Arcane Shots than ever while also having more Lock & Loads than ever, making the problem more and more noticeable.
The other effect of the problem is that during Lock & Load, we cannot fire Arcane Shot between the first two Explosive Shots to bleed off focus, because doing so would instead eat the proc for the second Explosive Shot. Now we are once again free to weave that Arcane Shot in.
The bottom line SV hunters everywhere, rejoice. And technically, since you won't accidentally burn the occasional Arcane Shot and can interweave it, this is a teeny, tiny DPS boost -- though not so much that you'd notice it.
When is the patch coming?
This question is always asked any time anything exciting is on the PTR, and the fact that the answer never, ever changes does not seem to diminish the number of times the question gets asked.
We do not know when this patch will go live, and we won't know until it does so. Blizzard does not tell us when the patches will go live in advance.
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?