Every Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. This week, your host Adam Koebel, aka Bendak will be discussing the nine year history of the hunter class.
Last week, we talked about the community's ideas for the future of hunters. This week, on the eve of BlizzCon, we're going to look in the other direction at the nine year history of hunters. Recently, I was browsing through some ancient screenshots (which you'll find peppered through this article) and I was struck with some mixed emotions. I was extremely nostalgic for vanilla, but at the same time I would never want to go back to how it was. You veteran hunters can put on your rose-tinted glasses as I dive back into the era of pet happiness and mongoose bites, and the rest of you can find out just how much our class has changed over the years.
Our story begins in beta patch 0.9, released on August 17, 2004. This was a very special patch because it's when hunters were added to World of Warcraft -- the last class to be added, in fact. Things were different back then. The survival specialization was known as "outdoorsmanship" and marksmanship was known as "ranged combat" because it was the only specialization actually focused on ranged combat. Prior to this patch, all classes were able to learn tracking but now it was made exclusive to hunters (and rightfully so). Feign Death was a rogue and druid ability before the hunters came and took it over. To this day, the name of the Feign Death icon is "ability_rogue_feigndeath."
The most notable thing about pre-release hunters was that we had a focus resource system before we were switched over to mana. Focus was not recharged with an ability like Cobra Shot, instead it only recharged when standing still. Ultimately, Blizzard didn't like how it was panning out so focus remained for pets only until the launch of Cataclysm.
Lacerate: Wounds the target, causing them to bleed 133 damage over 21 seconds
Vanilla was a time where mixing melee and ranged gameplay was heavily encouraged. The survival talent tree was focused on melee damage and had the worst final tier talent in the game's entire history. Lacerate was a melee attack which caused 133 damage over 21 seconds. No, I didn't miss a zero in there somewhere. One hundred and thirty-three damage over twenty-one seconds. That's a whopping 6.33 DPS. Lacerate wasn't removed from the game until patch 1.7 in September, 2005.
During vanilla, I divided my time pretty equally between PvP and PvE. My guild usually did the 20-man raids by itself (Zul'Gurub and Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj), and we partnered with other guilds to assemble 40 players for Molten Core, Onyxia, and Blackwing Lair. Theorycrafting was almost non-existent back then as we simply hadn't figured out the game yet. Then again, there wasn't much to it, was there? In Molten Core my shot rotation consisted of casting Aimed Shot, firing Multi-Shot, and then waiting 10 seconds for their cooldowns to reset. That's it. I'll never forget my first successful venture in Molten Core as not only did I receive the Tome of Tranquilizing Shot from Lucifron, but I beat out six other hunters on the roll for Giantstalker's Leggings from Magmadar. I was so wired I didn't even sleep that night -- I can't emphasize how precious an epic item of that caliber was back then. 40 people in a raid, and each boss would only drop two items! Think about it.
I currently have around 125k honorable kills, and about 90k were from vanilla, which was entirely the byproduct of the old PvP ranking system. What I remember most is the 3 yard "dead zone" where we were unable to melee or ranged attack. Mages would freeze us, stand 6 yards away, and free cast right into our face. Traps couldn't be used in combat which means every hunter had a Feign Death / Freezing Trap macro. The upside was traps didn't have an arming time, so the macro worked reliably. Cloth wearers were easy pickings once trapped, as a critical hit Aimed Shot often resulted in instant death.
OK, you can get a puppy, but only if you promise to feed, walk, and take care of it
The first pet I saw that I knew I truly had to have was a purple raptor I spotted in the Wetlands. I was only level 12 at the time, and the raptor was level 20, so it was my new motivation for leveling. Eventually I dinged 20 by killing those very raptors. Hunters could only have 3 pets at a time -- one active, and two in the stables. You had to go to the stable master any time you wanted to swap out. When you tamed a beast, it stayed at its original level. So if you were level 60 and tamed a level 10 cat, you would have to handicap yourself with a low level pet and spend the (quite considerable) time to level it up by grinding mobs.
Simply taming a beast wasn't enough to win them over. Pets had six loyalty levels -- Rebellious, Unruly, Submissive, Dependable, Faithful, and Best Friend. Loyalty was gained by a combination of XP and time spent. Even if the pet was max level, you still had to grind mobs to level its loyalty. When loyalty was low, their happiness would fluctuate a great deal and if you weren't careful the pet would run away permanently. You kept them happy by feeding them the type of food they preferred.
Prior to Wrath, hunter pets had something called training points which were used to teach the pet abilities such as Growl, Claw, and Avoidance. Abilities like Claw were split up into different ranks. In order to learn these abilities you had to tame a pet who already knew that ability, learn it from them by using it a few times, and then train it to your other pets. Confused yet? There were also several pets which had special attributes, like Broken Tooth with 1.0 attack speed (compared to a 1.5 standard), but this was eventually normalized.
Now that hunters are expected to swap pets on a whim for raid buffs (why does it always seem to be a Sporebat?), the whole concept of choosing a loyal companion and making them your best friend doesn't seem to apply anymore.
The Burning Crusade: The age of the scroll wheel macro
I've long since forgotten the specifics of the macro, but suffice to say it involved binding it to your mouse scroll wheel and spamming it to top the damage meters in beast mastery spec. Topping the meters was fun, but that was some excruciatingly boring gameplay. Pets finally scaled with their master's attributes, and traps could be used in combat. Later on in patch 2.3, the hunter dead zone was also removed from the game.
Burning Crusade was a very PvP centric experience for me. Viper Sting (mana drain) was very strong and at one point Arcane Shot actually had a dispelling component to it. Combine that with Aimed Shot's healing debuff and hunters had quite a bit of utility in PvP.
Hunters had their own legendary, Thori'dal, the Stars' Fury, which didn't require ammunition. There was a great deal of drama when one of these bows was given to a rogue over two hunters who were in the same raid.
Wrath of the Lich King: Spirit beasts and armor penetration
I've never had particularly good luck with taming rare pets, but Loque'nahak is the one exception. To my knowledge, I was the first Alliance player on my server to tame this guy. This started my obsession to collect as many spirit beasts as possible, and Blizzard faithfully added a new one every major patch for quite a while. Exotic pets, pet talent trees, and two new stable slots. Wrath really opened up the world of pet collecting.
The latter half of this expansion is where the armor penetration (ArP) builds began. We didn't gem agility back then, nope, it was straight ArP. There was a quite specific best in slot list for ICC, and if you managed it, the resulting DPS from hitting certain ArP caps was outstanding. Crit rating had also gotten out of control -- 65% unbuffed crit was common, and during trinket procs it would easily soar into the 90% range. ICC was also home to the greatest hunter trinket ever, Deathbringer's Will.
Beast mastery was quite strong at the very beginning, but was quickly nerfed and spent most of the expansion in obscurity. Most hunters only used it to tame their spirit beasts. Survival and marksmanship were both popular, but you needed to run marksmanship to see the full benefits of an ArP build.
Cataclysm: Goodbye, mana, you won't be missed
This one divides a lot of hunters, but I was glad to see mana go in favor of focus. It made the gameplay more interesting for me. I felt like with mana our shot rotation was just cooldown whack-a-mole and swapping to Aspect of the Viper at the appropriate time. As I mentioned earlier, focus was always Blizzard's original intention with the hunter resource system. I imagine it was a controversial change for Blizzard since any time you make sweeping class changes you risk alienating a good portion of your player base. The transition may have been a little rough, but I'm glad they ripped off the band-aid. Best to get it over with and move forward.
Ammo was removed, which I was a little upset about only because I had just made over a quarter million gold selling epic quality ammo in Wrath. We could now take 5 pets around with us and swap them without visiting a stable master, and we had 20 stable slots. Both very welcome changes.
And here we are
My wishlist from last week doesn't mean I'm not happy with how things stand. In fact, I've never been happier with my hunter. Looking back at some of the stuff we used to have to deal with shows just how far things have come. Hopefully you learned something new, or at least took a trip down memory lane. I have to wonder if one day we'll be laughing at how things were "way back in Mists of Pandaria." BlizzCon is tomorrow, hunters. Get ready.
Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From raiding tips and taming rare pets 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?