This past week has been a blur. Things at WoW Insider have been hectic, and I'm still trying to catch up on everything from BlizzCon (thank you, virtual ticket). The most notable thing relating to hunters to come out of BlizzCon was the level 100 talents. When I first read the original transcriptions that people we're tweeting out from the demo stations, I thought I was being trolled.
I never thought I would see the day of a hunter without a pet. Then again, the mantra of Warlords of Draenor is that nothing is sacred. The brilliant thing about the other two talents is they replace existing abilities, so they won't be contributing to the ability bloat problem. There's a few more tidbits of information besides talents to look at. This week, we'll do a recap of everything we learned about hunters at BlizzCon.
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."
In little more than a week, we'll know what we have to look forward to in the next expansion at BlizzCon. Whether or not we hear something about hunters specifically remains to be seen. There's no class panel scheduled and class questions won't be allowed during the Q&A panel. We have had some hints from the developers here and there, but ultimately our future is a mystery and may remain so until we see the first beta patch notes.
Arth over at the Warcraft Hunters Union has been compiling a community-generated list of hunter ideas and suggestions intended for the developers known as The Hunter Project. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the hunter class as it stands, but there are some areas where I think some changes are needed. We'll take a look at some of the suggestions put forth in The Hunter Project and I'll add my own input to the mix.
Some of you have been waiting 6 weeks for the Downfall wing to unlock, but now all hunters will get their opportunity to turn Garrosh Hellscream into their own personal pin cushion. If you missed the column from a few weeks ago, you can go check out part 1 of the Siege tips and tricks, covering Vale of Eternal Sorrows and Gates of Retribution.
The fights in the latter half of the raid range from purely single target, such as Malkorok, to complete AoE binges like Spoils of Pandaria. In this guide we'll be focusing on mechanics in flexible and normal mode, but some of this can apply to raid finder difficulty. Keep in mind that a lot of the forthcoming tips are simply suggestions and that your mileage may vary. What works for me may not work for you, but this will give you an idea of how our abilities can be utilized on the final six bosses. Stock up on some Tomes of the Clear Mind and let's get started.
Whenever someone asks me what my secret is for topping the meters, I always tell them it's because I push my buttons harder than anyone else in the raid. Most of them think I'm joking, but it's the truth. High DPS players are keyboard abusers who don't miss a single global cooldown. This is the biggest factor in your DPS, but optimization through theorycrafting still matters -- it's like icing on the cake.
If you're scared of a little math, then don't be. There are fancy tools that do everything for you now such as Zeherah's Hunter DPS Analyzer, Simulation Craft and Ask Mr. Robot. Aside from squeezing out a little bit of extra DPS, theorycrafting will help you understand your abilities and how they contribute to your DPS which is going to result in better damage in the real world.
To the hunter pariahs who still religiously play marksmanship, all four of you, I salute your dedication to our forgotten specialization. You've kept the spark of hope alive in our hunter hearts. The hope that someday marksmanship will make its triumphant return to the top of the damage meters, just as it was in the armor penetration glory days of Icecrown Citadel.
Perhaps I'm being a teensy bit dramatic, but as a 8-year (soon to be 9-year) hunter, I do have a soft spot for marksmanship. That's why I was happy to hear about the recent hotfix to boost Chimera Shot's damage by a whopping 50%. I wondered if this was enough to make marksmanship competitive, so I decided to shun my traditional beast mastery and survival specs for a week to give marksmanship its fair chance.
You knew it was coming. Every class needs their token loot article when a new tier is released. This tier, I'm actually really excited because the loot gods have been kind to hunters: five ranged weapons, fun trinkets, well-itemized tier gear, interesting set bonuses, and plenty of options on the Timeless Isle. Blizzard even gave us our own unique proc on the legendary cloak. The question is, where should you be spending your precious Warforged Seals and Burdens of Eternity? The short answer for bonus rolls is weapons, then trinkets, then tier pieces. The long answer concerns your chosen specialization and how far you have progressed in flexible, normal, or heroic. Set down your bow (or gun, dwarves) and pull up a chair. It's time to talk about hunter loot in patch 5.4.
With the September 23 hotfixes, all three hunter specs have been brought up to relevance. In simulations, they are all within a couple percent of each other, but the real question is how do they perform for you in a real world setting? After an expansion of beast mastery and survival (which play very similarly), the jump to marksmanship will be tough for some hunters.
This week, for my very first hunter column, we're going to look at how you can maximize your damage and survivability in the first two wings of Siege of Orgrimmar. Keep in mind that a lot of these are simply suggestions and that your mileage may vary. What works for me may not work for you, but this will give you an idea of how our abilities can be utilized on the first eight bosses. Stock up on some Tomes of the Clear Mind and let's get started.
Hunter changes are beginning to show up on the patch 5.3 PTR patch notes, and those changes are of the buff variety, assuring that they'll get the seal of approval from the hunter community. Certainly 5.3 is bringing the hunter love, with these buffs coming on the heels of 50 stable slots!
Hunters are getting a flat buff to their DPS, while BM and MM hunters are getting substantial AoE DPS buffs. It's still early in the PTR process, and we can expect to see more changes coming, but for the time being BM is the winner of patch 5.3, getting more benefit from the changes than the other specs.
Let's take a loot at what's changing, and how it will impact the hunter specs.
In the very early incarnation of the patch 5.3 PTR, hunter stables have been expanded to accomodate up to 50 hunter pets. This awesome feature was discovered by a score of hunters almost as soon as the PTR was available, though I believe Kalliope reported on it first.
With this change hunters will now be able to collect up to 55 different pets, with 50 in the stable and 5 in the active pet slots.
In the comments to this news at the WHU, Arth made an apt observation:
Min. range is gone, our specs are fairly well-tuned and are all viable, we aren't terrible in PvP, and now this. What the hell are we supposed to complain about?
What indeed, hunters? Let's take a moment to look at why hunters need so ridiculously many stable slots, and why we got them.
With the awesome buffs to MM in Patch 5.2, MM hunter DPS is better than ever, just a theoretical wee bit behind SV DPS. Despite this, however, MM continues to be vastly under-represented in raid parses, often having so few it's impossible to make a statistical evaluation of their performance (and that's before even considering the selection bias).
Theories abound for the lack of MM representation: MM is harder to play; MM is technically a bit behind the others so everyone leans on the ones ahead; MM has no clear role in which they are superior (unlike BM burst and SV AoE); MM is associated with elves, and no one wants to have anything to do with dirty elven things.
It's been a long time since MM has been a popular spec, and most of the hunter optimization sites focus on maximizing your performance in BM or SV. So now seems like a good time to review how to optimize your MM hunter to take full advantage of all those juicy 5.2 buffs.
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.
Last week we went over the patch 5.2 hunter gear -- everything, that is, except for the most complicated slot. And as always, the roughest gear and most debated gear decisions revolve around trinkets.
The question of which of the hunter trinkets are best is further complicated by the fact that current trinkets can be upgraded (a feature that will not be available to us once patch 5.2 hits). So will the upgraded Relic of Xuen be a contender with the new trinkets? Or should you spend those valor points elsewhere in your remaining weeks?
So let's roll up our sleeves and do some trinket math! We're going to take a look at all the new hunter trinkets datamined in patch 5.2, and compare that against the upgraded forms of some of the top other trinkets.
It looks like we're going to be seeing patch 5.2 land within the next couple of weeks, and now thanks to some datamining we have an idea of all the hawt new gear we're going to be seeing in patch 5.2.
Included in this gear is our new tier 15 set: Saurok Stalker's, which is a spiky looking set with a helm that bears a suspicious resemblence to a lizard is eating our heads. Fun Saurok Stalker's set activity: get to just the right depth in water and can make it look like a crocodile head floating on the surface. Then jump out and kill something.
As long as there have been hunters, there have been hunter taming challenges. These are the pets that combine the irresistible draw of being difficult to get your mitts on, combined with a unique look that other hunters don't have. Nowadays hunters really pursue these taming challenges for the look of the pet, but once upon a time there were mechanical benefits of some of the rare pets as well. Back in vanilla I spent weeks wandering the reported path of Broken Tooth in search of this 1.0 attack speed lion (this was before Zul Gu'rub and the 1.0 bats, and of course before normalization of pet attack speeds and before the 2 pushback limit to casting).
When I'm talking about taming challenges today I'm talking about pets that have a mechanical challenge or trick to the taming process, or pets that are rare spawns with unique models. There are of course scores of rare spawn pets that look identical to common pets, and even a lot of rare spawns that have a slightly different coloration but otherwise are identical to common pets (and you can see a list of these at Petopia).
While it might be hard to wait for a King Krush spawn, for example, it's not something that fills vast numbers of hunters with the need to get that pet. Spirit beasts on the other hand ... spirit beasts are like a plague of uncontrollable desire that spreads burning through the pet collecting loins of the hunter population, so I have to include them.
If you aren't the kind of hunter that is really into pet collecting, today's column is not for you. If, however, you are the other kind, then here is a list of all of the hunter pet taming challenges currently in the game.