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+.
Patch 5.1 landed on Tuesday and while there were no ground shaking changes that force every hunter to change everything about their playstyle, we definitely felt some nice quality of life improvements and some important DPS buffs and burst nerfs. It was a quiet kind of awesome, but still pretty awesome.
Blizzard is definitely handling these changes with very delicate taps of the turning fork. Very gentle buffs, very gentle nerfs, moving different areas of hunter play just a little bit in one direction or another. Certainly part of this lines up with Blizzard's assertion that "More players quit because of constant class changes than quit because of balance concerns." But a good chunk of it is probably also that hunters weren't in a very bad place, and small changes might be enough to get us where we want to be (as well as changes to certain other classes whose crazy DPS is fueled by their burning underpants).
So lets take a closer look at the changes we got and what the impact of those change is looking like.
Aspects, who needs aspects?
Aspect of the Fox has been removed from the hunter toolbox, and instead we can now cast Steady Shot and Cobra Shot on the move by default. Meanwhile Aspect of the Hawk got buffed to boost hunter attack power by 15%, up from 10%.
This is awesome.
No more aspect dancing to optimize your DPS and no more accidentally firing that Cobra Shot in Fox when you could have been in Hawk. In fact, there's virtually no reason to ever change aspects in a raid again. Every hunter will just be in Aspect of the Hawk (or Aspect of the Ironhawk, really) all of the time. And you'll do more damage to boot!
This is a pretty substantial quality of life improvement for hunters, as well as for the support classes who will no longer have to listen to the cawweeeee! sound of our aspects changing every other second. It's also a nice small DPS improvement since we can now get full DPS out of steady/cobra even while moving as well as the extra 5% to our AP. This should absolutely provide the needed lift to get hunters into a good place on the meters on those single-target fights.
MM got a related gift with the Glyph of Aimed Shot which lets MM hardcast (cast the full-length version) of Aimed Shot while moving as well.
Hunters have always been the king of ranged class movement DPS, and with this change we're really just showing off. It's worth noting that Lead Systems Designer Ghostcrawler has warned that if it looks like a problem they may introduce a Sniper Training mechanic to encourage us to stand still more.
Note that if you rely on moving a twitch to cancel a cobra/steady, you may want to make a /stopcasting macro for your Kill Shot and other important instants.
MM is currently the worst DPS hunter spec, but is actually only behind by a pretty small amount. But in addition to slightly worse DPS, MM also suffers from being the most annoying spec to play. Blizzard has a couple of small buffs for MM in patch 5.1 to address both of these concerns.
The duration of Steady Focus is doubling to a whopping 20-seconds. This is going to make it much, much easier to MM hunters to maintain their Steady Focus buff without having to focus cap with ill-timed Steady Shot pairs. With a nice 20-second duration it should be pretty easy to work those steady pairs into your rotation without sacrificing anything else. This goes a good distance to addressing the difficult-to-play concerns of the spec by loosening up the very tight MM rotation a bit.
In addition, MM is seeing a small DPS boost in the form of a Careful Aim buff. This MM ability will now work when the target is over 80% health (rather than only when the target is over 90% health), doubling the amount of time MM hunters can take advantage of this.
With the Careful Aim buff MM hunters have a longer period of time where hardcasting Aimed Shot (and piling on every haste bonus in the universe) yields sweet improvements in DPS. This will also help MM hunters frontload their DPS numbers a bit more. They still aren't going to look like BM with their crazy front-loaded burst, but they'll be a bit closer.
Busting PvP burst
Along with the gentle buffs, we're also seeing some gentle nerfs to hunter PvP burst. For a little while, BM hunters were enjoying what was frankly some overpowered burst DPS in PvP. Part of this is the large number of cooldowns BM hunters could pile on top of each other, and part of it (a large part) was a bug with Stampede that caused it to do four times as much damage in arenas.
The Stampede bug was fixed, but Blizzard also tossed another small burst nerf in the form of Lynx Rush. Now instead of dealing direct damage, Lynx Rush will deal bleed damage over time. The total damage done by the ability is the same*, but it will just be spread out over a greater amount of time. For the raiding hunter, this means that your DPS will be essentially unchanged if you're using Lynx Rush. For the PvP hunter it will simply lower the burst damage.
Personally I suspect the Stampede bug was probably the real problem with BM burst, but the Lynx Rush change is pretty well executed and I can't really complain. But then again, I don't do arenas and don't truly appreciate having all those bleeds to screw up CC. And speaking of which...
The Glyph of Icy Solace has become the Glyph of Solace -- this glyph now makes it so that both your Scatter Shot and your Freezing Trap will remove all DoTs on application. This means that you no longer have to worry about DoTs making your targets effectively immune to your Freezing Trap.
*It was widely reported that the damage of Lynx Rush was reduced by 29% -- but it wasn't really. Because a bleed effect ignores armor, they had to lower the damage of the ability so that it would still do the same amount of damage to the target. The end result is that your target takes the same amount of damage from Lynx Rush as it used to.
Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. If you're stuck in one of the nine support classes, why not move up to the big league and play a hunter?