This is Beast Mastery in 3.3

Rawrawrawrrar!

A quick guide to Beastmasters in 3.3.5. Actually there’s very little point in posting this now with 4.0.1 just around the corner but it was almost finished when I went AFK. It seemed a shame not to finish and post it. There’s some musing on the nature of BM in Cataclysm at the bottom though!

UPDATE! For Beastmasters in Cataclysm 4.3 please click here!

128.83 DPS. That is less than the difference between a Cat and a Wolf when fully raid buffed. I gained double this amount of DPS when I upgraded my bow – to the 10-man version, mind you, not even 25. Why is this number significant? According to calculations from Shandara’s DPS Spreadsheet it is the difference between the theoretical maximum DPS that a Survival hunter can put out and the theoretical maximum from a Beastmastery hunter – 13935 to 13806. Naturally Marksmanship is a clear 1500 DPS better than both, but that’s not the point…

If Survival is raid viable, so is Beastmastery. We are still the lowest damage spec in absolute terms, but we are at near-parity with Survivors now, and capable of doing far more than the required DPS to complete ICC encounters.

Follow me through for the full details…

The Spec

53/14/4 is the Elitist Jerks recommended raiding spec for Beastmasters currently. At lower (i.e. pre-ICC) gear levels the old 53/11/7 will probably be better for you, but as your gear improves the Marksmanship talents start to pull ahead of the Survival ones. If you have two pieces of Tier 9 (for the set bonus), two pieces of Tier 10 and decent, current epics in most of the other slots you’re at about the point when you should be hitting the hunter DPS analyser to work out which spec works best for you.

There are several points that can be moved about for best effect – about 4 for pet survivability (Imp. Mend Pet, Imp. Revive, Spirit Bond etc), 4 for hunter DPS (generally to be spent in the Marks / Surv trees). The Elitist Jerks thread will furnish you with details on this.

If you are not yet hit-capped, it is recommended to take Focused Aim to get yourself to or closer to the cap. The hit rating transfers to your pet, but there’s a bug with the pet expertise gain from this. Expertise is the skill which melee classes use to prevent their attacks being parried or dodged. Hunters don’t use it – we’re not melee, although our pets are. Our pets gain expertise along with our hit rating – once we’re hit capped, our pets are hit and expertise capped. Unfortunately, while pets recieve the hit from Focused Aim they only get about half the expertise they’re supposed to. It is therefore imperative that Beastmasters get properly hitcapped which will also allow you to reallocate those three talent points into straight DPS talents.

The Gear

Beastmasters still favour Attack Power until relatively high gear levels (what EJ describes as ‘medium’ gear levels). I still gem exclusively +40 AP epic [Bright Cardinal Ruby]s with one +10 All Stats [Nightmare Tear] to activate my meta gem. The nightmare tear counts as all three colours, so you should use it to try and get a socket bonus. Be mindful that it’s unique-equipped – you may only wear one at a time. The current meta-gem for PvE hunters is the [Relentless Earthsiege Diamond].

If you are well geared – you will want to be well into ICC – consider regemming Agility. Crunch the numbers to see if this works out for you, it varies a lot depending on exact spec and equipment.

If you have excellent gear – we are talking high end ICC25 or even Heroic ICC – you will want to look into the possibility of regemming Armor Pen. Yeah, armor penetration doesn’t scale for our pets at all but it still works out for maximum DPS with top end gear. The itemisation appears to be SNAFU…

I retested this for myself tonight, and I gain 5 DPS from regemming agility and -0.5 DPS from regemming ArPen. Clearly I won’t be rushing off to the auction house just yet…

Two piece Tier 9 (Emblems of Triumph) is nice for all hunters (so nice that Serpent Sting will crit for all hunters in Cataclysm), and 2P T10 is really good for Beastmasters. You’ll want to hold off on breaking 2P T9 until you’ve got either two T10s (and crunch the numbers to make sure it’s actually a DPS improvement for you) or a couple of really nice ICC items that will overcome the DPS loss of breaking 2P T9. Once you’ve broken the set bonus, it’s best to swap out ALL the tier-9 pieces for more modern gear.

Shot Priority

For those of you who haven’t encountered the term before, our shot priority is the order we fire certain shots depending on what’s available. For example, if Kill Shot is available and off cooldown it should be used even if every other shot is available.

Kill Shot
Arcane Shot (Strike at very high ArPen as an extra steady shot is more damage. Crunch the numbers!)
Multi Shot (Strike if you’re having mana issues, this is an expensive shot)
Serpent Sting
Steady Shot

This usually will look something like
Arcane Shot > Multi Shot > Serpent Sting > Steady Shot,
Arcane Shot > Steady Shot > Steady Shot > Steady Shot

There’s more to Beastmastery than this, however. We have cooldowns to consider!

“I WIN” Buttons

Bestial Wrath + The Beast Within took a bit of a nerf axe to the face recently. It now lasts for only 10 seconds (bah), but that doesn’t stop it from being vastly important for us.

Execution: For maximum effect, blow all your cooldowns at once and preferably with Heroism / Bloodlust too. This will involve you delaying usable trinkets, Kill Command and other cooldowns until Bestial Wrath is available. Why? Blowing different types of cooldowns at the same time multiplies their effects, so Rapid Fire + Bestial Wrath + Kill Command produces a lot more DPS than Rapid fire THEN Bestial Wrath THEN Kill Command. Line up your cooldowns and blow them all at once and seriously mess up that boss’s day. Beg, bully and cajole your raid leader into telling you when to expect Heroism or Bloodlust so that you can have your cooldowns ready for that moment. Be wary of holding them for too long, however – you should be getting in as many Bestial Wraths as you reasonably can for each encounter.

Fear: If you know something fears on a timer, save your Bestial Wrath cast. Also breaks stuns!

Call of the Wild: Is a pet ability. Your pet should be talented into this. Please do not leave this on autocast, your pet will blow it on the first trash mob you encounter and it’ll take 3.5 minutes to cooldown even as a Beastmaster. Instead, macro it together with your hunter cooldowns. Also, don’t leave it on autocast. Have I mentioned that when you first train this, it defaults to autocast? You should turn autocast off.

Macro Time!

BOOM (Fire for Maximum Effect!)

#showtooltip Bestial Wrath
/cast Bestial Wrath
/cast [target=pettarget, exists] Kill Command
/cast [target=pettarget, exists] Call of the Wild
/cast Rapid Fire
/use 13
/use 14

Blow this on bosses. It’ll show the cooldown for Bestial Wrath on the icon, so just hit this icon every time the cooldown’s finished. It’s best to mash it two or three times, as sometimes some of the abilities fail to go off first time. This also activates trinkets!

Lesser Boom (Excludes long cooldowns. BW + KC will be back up in 1.3 minutes, so I use this for special trash or if I just feel like it…)

#showtooltip Kill Command
/cast [target=pettarget, exists] Kill Command
/cast Bestial Wrath

I’ve set the tooltip as Kill Command because I have both macros on my action bars. This way I can monitor the cooldowns of both abilities. It also helps me to actually click the correct one… Ahem. Anyway, the cooldown on these two is short enough that you may want to blow it on special trash mobs or something else non-boss-related.

What about Wintergrasp PvP?

I’ll admit, this whole thing is written from a PvE perspective – not because the other side of the game is less important but because I don’t know what I’m talking about. I do enjoy a bit of Wintergrasp and the occasional battleground though, and I have what could loosely be described as a PvP set. If you’re into arena or serious PvP you should probably just not read this section…

What works:

Bestial Wrath. It breaks fears, stuns and warlocks. The warlock will still kill you but at least it’ll be posthumous. BW in conjunction with your other cooldowns gives you a very nice amount of burst damage and it cycles in as little as 1.3 minutes. If you have a BOOM macro, make sure to take one of your trinket slots out if you plan on using a PvP trinket. Blowing your PvP trinket with BW is a waste of one of your anti-rogue buttons. And remember: Rogues are the anti-hunter. You’ll need as many buttons as you’ve got…

Intimidation. Yesyesyesyesyesyes. Oh, yes. Intimidation. When used at exactly the right moment, it can even let you kill Paladins.

Our pets do absurd damage. Stunlocked? Your pet keeps attacking. Want to attack something round the corner? Go for it! Enemy faster than you or mounted? Dash! Our individual damage may not be as high as a Marksman or Survivor but you shouldn’t be relying on your individual damage as a Beastmaster – look to your animal companion. Often getting a Beastmaster’s pet in the face causes a brief moment of panic – kill the pet or kill the hunter? Pets are hard to ignore when they’re savaging you. You don’t want to lose your pet, but anyone who spends time killing your pet isn’t attacking you. Pets attack fast, pushing back enemy cast times and naturally, a Beastmaster’s pet attacks fastest.

Heart of the Phoenix / Imp. Revive. If you are using a ferocity pet for PvP (less utility than a Cunning type but more damage), you should really be talented into this. Someone smashes your pet through the floor and turns to you, only to see… your pet. Running towards them. As for Imp. Revive, you won’t use it in combat – probably – but in the brief downtime between battles. Lick Your Wounds is also useful for getting your pet quickly healed up after a revive.

What doesn’t work well:

Our pets are squishy. We lost the 90% AoE avoidance in PvP, and despite the 50%+ physical damage mitigation through natural armor and pets scaling with resilience, should an enemy player decide to focus on killing your pet, your pet is probably dead. Ryo also tends to run through masses of AoE all the time, which is never good.

If we lose our pet, we lose all our cooldowns. Except for Rapid Fire. And Beastmasters are soft-haste-capped from talents. Oh yeah, also 30% or more of our total damage.

Less shots and less effective shots. No silencing shot. No Chimaera, Explosive, Black Arrow.

What would happen to Beastmastery Hunters if Deathwing crashed through from the elemental plane of earth into Azeroth, sundering the very walls of reality and ravaging the world as we know it?

Or perhaps “Where are we headed in Cataclysm?

If the incredibly unlikely cataclysmic scenario above ever came to be, I predict a few things for Beastmasters. Confusingly, Deathwing bursting forth and causing permanent damage to the landscape will also cause permanent changes to the class.

Beastmasters look like they really have their own niche among the three hunter specs now. Our high pet damage differentiates us, but we also have the most talents boosting focus regeneration, the most focus management talents and the largest focus pool. We’re firing pretty rapidly too, one of our key talents boosts ranged haste by up to 15% when triggered. In Wrath, the Beastmastery Hunter was defined by what his pet did or didn’t do. A Beastmaster without a pet in Cataclysm will still be distinctive and recognisible. Make no mistake: The pet is still absolutely critical – I’m not sure yet what proportion of our total damage our pets will be doing, but I’d expect it to be on the order of 30% or higher just as it is currently. Actually, I think keeping your pet alive in Cataclysm will be even more critical than it is today.

Speaking of pets, Ferocity pet damage is being normalised! This means that all Ferocious beasts will do exactly the same damage. Their special abilities are being changed to be watered-down versions of raid buffs. This means:

  1. A lot of really cool pet abilities are going away in favour of watered-down raid buffs. Useful but terribly boring. I really lament the loss of my Warp Stalker’s Warp ability, that never got boring and was really bloody useful when competing against other players for reputation-giving mobs.
  2. If you bring a cat, or a wolf, or a Spirit Beast, or a raptor it won’t affect your personal DPS at all!
  3. You still won’t be able to bring whatever pet you want, as your Raid Leader will give you a list of what buffs he needs for each encounter.
  4. At least every hunter should have a different pet instead of all bringing wolves. I think the underlying problem – that we have an animal companion that we want to adventure with and really don’t want to leave at home in favour of a pet that’s slightly better but we have no emotional connection with – remains unsolved.

Bestial Wrath still breaks stuns, fears etc. but The Beast Within does not. Beastmasters will no longer be able to break themselves free of movement impairing effects without using a PvP trinket and more importantly will not be able to make themselves stun-and-fear-immune for ten seconds while under the effects. We do feel pity, remorse and fear and we can be stopped.

At the time of writing, Beast Mastery is producing superior DPS to the other two specs, but doesn’t scale as well with mastery as Survival. This means that survival hunters will inevitably pull ahead as the expansion continues unless the mastery system is rebalanced. Marksmanship scales absolutely terribly with more mastery. Class balancing has not yet occurred, I expect this to change!

Should we be excited about Beastmastery in Cataclysm? Terrified? I do not have an answer for you. I think the change to focus will probably go perfectly well and we’ll be quite happy to no longer concern ourselves with going out of mana or switching to Viper. What I am concerned about (and I am genuinely concerned) is the loss of CC-breaking Beast Within and the new pet system. How much less fun will it be to PvP as a Beastmaster? Currently, we are extremely vulnerable to having our pets killed – we lose most of our abilities and we have the lowest personal DPS. In exchange for this, we’re extremely difficult to lock down (this is the ‘cannot be stopped unless killed’ bit). I’ve been playing a lot of battleground PvP recently and this change is going to hurt like hell if Cataclysm battlegrounds resemble Wrath battlegrounds in even the slightest manner.

As for the pet system… This is a fantasy RPG, not Pokemon. I do not see my hunter going into battle with five different animals in his dimensional-backpack for different encounters. I am currently unable to reconcile the new pet system with my character’s internal story. Perhaps this will come to me in time.

In any case, it won’t be long until these changes crash down upon us (along with chunks of rock, masonry and unidentifiable fleshy bits) – patch 4.0.1 is mere weeks away. You should expect my “This is Beast Mastery in 4.0.1” sometime after the patch hits. It may take me a little while to get my head around the changes…

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