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Scattered Shots: Hunter expertise in Mists of Pandaria

Every Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union and the hunter podcast 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.or ask him on Google+.
In his most recent Developer Watercooler, Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street talked about stat changes in Mists of Pandaria. Some of these changes only affect support classes, and there's a very interesting change to PvP stats that affects everyone, but what I want to focus on today is the big change to hunter stats that's coming: expertise.

In Mists of Pandaria, hunters' ranged attacks will be able to be dodged, which they currently cannot. This means that we're going to benefit from that expertise gear that is currently a sign of the rare "not-hunter loot."

Despite a lot of the initial fear and rage response that, let's be honest, tends to accompany just about any significant hunter change, expertise is not scary. In fact, it's almost exactly like having another hit cap. Join me after the cut as we look at what expertise is, how it will work for hunters, why Blizzard may be making this change, and what implications this has for hunter pets.

Expertise and hit caps in MoP

According to Ghostcrawler's article, in Mists of Pandaria, our new hit cap for raid bosses is going to be 7.5%, down from the current 8%. (The PvP hit cap is dropping further, to 3%, down from 5%.) Similarly, bosses will have a 7.5% dodge chance and a 7.5% parry chance. These are our new stat caps.

What the heck is expertise?

Bosses and other mobs have a chance to dodge incoming attacks and a chance to parry attacks from the front. Expertise is a stat that reduces the chance that your attacks get dodged or parried. The way expertise works right now is a little messy, but it's getting cleaned up in MoP to be very simple and similar to hit.

You'll get expertise rating, just like you get hit rating, and that will translate into an expertise percentage. Each percentage of expertise you have reduces the chance that you'll be dodged by that percent. Once you go over the 7.5% cap, then the extra expertise will reduce your chance to be parried. Hunter attacks still can't be parried, so we don't care about that part.

In effect, there are two expertise caps. The first one is the dodge cap, and it's what non-tanks care about. The second expertise cap is the parry cap where you cannot be dodged or parried. Here are some examples:
  • If you have 2% expertise, that will reduce the chance that your ranged attacks are dodged by 2%.
  • If you have 7.5% expertise, that will reduce the chance that your ranged attacks are dodged by 7.5%. You will now never be dodged at all; you are capped.
  • If you have 10% expertise, that will reduce the chance that your ranged attacks are dodged by 7.5% and reduce the chance that you are parried by 2.5%. However, ranged attacks can't be parried anyway, so the benefit is just the same as having only 7.5% expertise -- only you just wasted a bunch of itemization on more expertise than you need.
In this way, expertise works just like hit. You have a hit cap. Until you reach the hit cap, hit rating is great for you. Once you reach the hit cap, you get zero benefit from more hit rating. Dodge and expertise function exactly the same way. In MoP, your first gearing priority will be to reach both the hit cap and the first expertise cap, then focus on the rest of your stats. 1% hit and 1% expertise will help you exactly the same amount, since each will let you hit 1% more often.

In practice, expertise is simple and really is identical to hit for all practical hunter purposes -- just one more stat and cap to pay attention to, and nowhere near as convoluted as armor pen was.

Why give hunters expertise?

We don't know for certain all of the reasons that the developers decided to make hunters have to stack expertise, but there are two likely reasons, both of which were at least mentioned in Ghostcrawler's article.

The first is that it makes gear simpler. Hunters can now share gear entirely with enhancement shaman -- so agility mail gear will always have two classes that can benefit from it. This also means that we're going to be competing for bunches of rings and trinkets with expertise on it that we used to ignore. (The rogues will hate that!) Making gear that is only good for one class is a bit cumbersome and has the end effect of causing more loot drops that no one can use. There are still some gear anomalies (healing plate), but this at least lessens the problem.

The second reason for introducing expertise stacking in Mists is that the developers think that stats that have a cap are interesting. This comment got a lot of flak from the hunter community, which says it's anything but. I think what the developers really mean by this is that stacking stats to a cap makes gearing more involved by creating more choices and more thinking.

Without capped stats, you have the issue that we have now with crit, haste, and mastery. We just do the math and figure out which is best at any given time and gear level, and then pursue that and ignore all else. This makes gearing very simple -- go for crit. By introducing stats that cap, you can make those stats demonstrably better than the others without making them the only stat that a player ever pursues.

Of course there are other ways to make stats interesting and worth pursuing, but the challenge is to do it in a way that isn't too complicated or confusing to players. Stat caps are something the players can understand easily but make the gearing process a bit more involved -- even if that involvement is just hopping online to a reforging calculator to tell you how to hit each cap as closely as possible.

Hunter pets and expertise

An interesting aside to the expertise discussion is the impact on hunter pets, something that Ghostcrawler did not touch on. Unlike hunters, our pets' attacks can be dodged or even parried if they're attacking from the front (tanking).

Currently, hunter pets gain expertise equivalent to our hit chance. If we're hit-capped, our pets are automatically expertise-capped (meaning they can't be dodged or parried -- something that just about no player ever actually achieves). This particularly good for soloing, when our pet is the tank. If it can't be parried, it does more DPS and generates more threat.

I would assume that in MoP our pets' expertise will scale with our expertise. Since we don't benefit from going after the second expertise cap, the parry cap, our pets will always have that 7.5% chance to be parried.

Overall, the expertise chance to hunter stats is far smaller than the change up our stats saw going from Wrath into Cataclysm and is something that should be easily understood by all players. But do you think it's a good idea? A bad one? Just a change for the sake of change?

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?

Filed under: Hunter, (Hunter) Scattered Shots

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