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+.
With MoP patch 5.2 due to be released in just a couple weeks, Blizzard has released several hunter buffs on the PTR that are designed to bring the hunter specs closer together in DPS output -- and from the looks of it, it may well bring the hunter specs closer than at any point in WoW history.
I'm talking insanity of biblical proportions here, BM and MM living together, mass hysteria!
While it's almost all good news, there were some nerfs to hunter PvP in specific -- though keep in mind that some of these are sometimes tied directly to abilities that are also being buffed. So lets take a look at the entire list of hunter changes for 5.2, both those from this past week and the others still around from earlier in the 5.2 PTR, and see what it means to the hunter class.
The patch 5.2 hunter buffs and nerfs
Here are the patch 5.2 hunter changes. You will note that almost all are filled with undying love for hunters, especially the MM hunters.
- Aimed Shot cast time is being reduced to 2.5 seconds, down from 2.9.
- Aimed Shot damage is being increased by 10%.
- Powershot and Glaive Toss have been rebuilt so that, essentially, they work now. You probably didn't notice this for Glaive Toss, but Powershot was very difficult to actually use. Now it will hit it's primary target, even if they're moving, and even if you've angered the gods of chance recently.
- In exchange for the above, Powershot will not break Camouflage as soon as it starts casting.
- Chimera Shot damage is increased by about 25%.
- Steady Shot damage is increased by about 20%.
- Black Arrow damage is increased by about 10%.
- Explosive Shot damage is increased by about 10%.
- Chimera Shot self-heal increased to 5%, up from 3%.
- Bestial Wrath can be activated even if you don't have line of sight to your pet.
- Dismiss Pet has had its cast time increased to 3 seconds, up from 2 seconds. We were told this was specifically to prevent lots of pet switching in PvP.
- Silencing Shot's coodown was increased to 24 seconds, up from 20 seconds.
- Binding Shot no longer has a focus cost.
- Wyvern Sting no longer has a focus cost. Wyvern Sting's cooldown was reduced to 45 seconds, down from 60 seconds.
- Glyph of Marked for Death is now a baseline ability that all specs get for free without burning a glyph slot.
- Glyph of Liberation was introduced, which is awesome, and causes Disengage to heal you for 5% of maximum health.
On the PvP front, it certainly hurts to have Powershot finally working as you'd expect, only to lose the awesome camo Powershot knockback taken away. On the other hand we got an easier to use Bestial Wrath and the lovely Glyph of Liberation (which is also going to find plenty of use in PvE and extreme soloing.
Hunter spec balance
So what does all this mean for hunter spec balance? Well, SV and MM weren't all that far behind BM (certainly not anything like the historical difference between specs). These changes seem to be very carefully balanced to put the single-target DPS potential of each spec within 5% of each other, but without actually changing who is on top.
Right now my comparative math suggests that all three specs are within spitting distance of each other, but BM is slightly ahead. Zeherah has updated FemaleDwarf.com and that has the specs slightly farther apart than my math, but still very close. When I look at a patch 5.2 geared hunter in all specs on FemaleDwarf, it appears that BM is still the leader and MM is still in third place, by each spec is indeed less than 5% apart.
While MM is still in 3rd place, the changes to Aimed Shot give MM the ability to hardcast Aimed Shot during large haste effects in addition to Careful Aim range. With stacking procs and potions at the beginning of the fight, MM could see a multiplicative advantage that closes the theoretical gap of theorycrafting.
Keep in mind also that these are all lovely perfect mathematical models that assume you play like a robot, and the fates are perfectly just. In practice, you would have difficulty seeing the actual difference of the three specs played equally skillfully.
It's also worth noting that different specs will continue to have different strengths and weaknesses depending on the type of fight you're in:
- BM has the best burst DPS, making it the preferred spec for bosses that have an important burn phase. However, the reliance on their pet can also make BM less desirable for fights where you can't get full benefit from the pet (for example, if a target has a flying phase).
- SV continues to have the best AoE, making it the preferred spec for most AoE boss fights, and for most heroic runs (where you spend more time on trash than bosses).
- MM lives somewhere in the middle, without a very obvious type of fight where it leads. However, we will absolutely see skilled MM players starting to rip up the World of Logs leaderboards, as the wealth of MM buffs make the spec more competitive. I suspect very good and geared MM players will surprise the theorycrafting to become the top spec on certain fights.
You can top the charts playing whichever spec you prefer, assuming you excel at that spec and there aren't any boss fights that clearly call for a different spec. However, in the interest of answering the subtext question here ...
If you play as BM, no one call you a noob for your spec selection. You can claim that it models as the highest DPS spec in single-target or burn fights. You should then use a sporebat.
Hunters vs the support classes
One of the most common questions I get with every new patch is how hunters are going to stack up against other classes on the meters -- particularly whichever class is ruling the roost at the moment (what I like to think of as the "imminent nerf" position ... unless you're a mage).
The unfortunate answer is that we just don't know. We can't rely on simulations because different classes have notoriously different qualities of theorycrafting communities. Hunters, as you would expect, have some of the best theorycrafting (as well as the best-looking theorycrafters) while some of the support classes are just unloved.
Ultimately we'll have to wait for a few weeks of raid logs and see. By my measurements, Cataclysm remains the pinnacle of class balance (though not spec balance), but it took some patches before they got there. MoP has started off very good, and I have high hopes that we'll get even closer than Cataclysm got.
Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From leveling your hunter 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?