Making sense of the Hunter changes in WoW: Cataclysm.
Let’s first run through a brief summary of the ways we know currently that the class will differ in 4.x, when the new expansion hits.
- No mana, viper, intellect does nothing.
- Hunters use focus. It’s basically rogue / kitty Druid energy. It starts at 100, is used up by abilities and regenerates.
- RAP ultra simplified. Hunters gain 2AP from Agility, but AP is no longer available as a separate stat.
- Armour Pen, hit rating also obsoleted. Crit seems set to stay, as does haste. Haste increases energy focus regeneration.
- Ammo an item, not consumable.
- Fewer cooldowns, apparently.
I wasn’t joking when I said that cataclysm doesn’t so much expand as overwrite…
So in what way does it affect us?
Firstly, gearing will be simplified, but not totally trivialised as I feared yesterday. Agility – assuming it retains its crit bonus – will be the primary stat for all specs, moreso even than currently. Haste’s importance is increased, also. The degree to which we’ll stack haste is largely dependant upon how much we end up focus-starved, and I can’t really discuss it that much. Unless focus regen is excellent to begin with, however, we’ll all need some. Even beastmasters (currently hastecapped from talents)!
Beastmasters – assuming the spec is reasonably similar – will probably have just enough haste, and then stack agility like no tomorrow. MM or SV may prefer to stack some extra pure crit.
Of course, it’s possible pets will scale with the hunter’s crit (they’re already changing a lot), in which case gear choice for beastmasters would get more interesting…
UPDATE 1: There will be a new stat called ‘Mastery’. Its exact effect will depend on your chosen spec, so for a hunter with the most points in BM, Mastery is currently slated to improve pet damage! Directly! Uh… wow! The new itemisation is intended to be crit vs haste vs mastery, and you balance your gear based on those (plus, presumably your classes primary stat – Agility for hunters) and Stamina. I begin to see how this could work!
As for how hunters will play in the expansion, I don’t have a lot I can say about that right now. ‘Fewer Cooldowns’ sounds ominous as Bestial Wrath and Kill Command are quite characteristic of Beast Mastery. I don’t understand how they could have fewer cooldowns without just making it ‘spam Steady Shot’, and we’ve had that already. Instead of being able to go all out, but worrying about going OOM towards the end of the fight (or watching out for when to switch to Viper), I suspect we’ll be constantly watching our energy focus bar. It’ll be like being in that bottom 20% of your mana all the time if they’re not careful, and I can’t be watching my global cooldowns, cast bars, focus bar and look after my pet / look where I’m going / not stand in stuff / shoot webs or iceblocks all at the same time, I fear. I’m concerned, and I hope that Blizzard test extensively enough to be sure that it’s as fun as the old system not just that it makes more sense in theory.
I like the sound of Improved Pet Control, though. At the end of the day, my pet’s just an AI and doesn’t react in the way a human player does. So I not only have to not set traps off or stand in dangerous stuff myself, but make sure my pet’s also not doing those things. If he is, my only recourse is to recall my pet completely, I can’t tell him to just move a bit. If a better way to control the movements of my pet or make him react in a slightly more realistic manner can be implemented, that’ll be really beneficial to me as a beastmaster.
I’m really not sure about this. While I trust Blizzard to quite a large extent, I don’t know if it’ll work properly or if I’ll like it when it goes in and I don’t believe that I’m the only one. But consider this: We have a challenge before us. The familiar symbiosis and pet-partnership of Beast Mastery, the shots and stings of Marksmanship, the tricks, traps and explosive shot of Survival, but also a style of hunting quite definitely unfamiliar to us all. We may not have any clue about how it works at the moment, and details are light on the ground.
It’s up to us, however, to be prepared for this hunting revolution; embrace the challenge, my huntery friends!