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Double-Dipping on the Weaksauce

July 22, 2010

This wall of text is brought to you by: a Wider, Much More Legible WordPress Theme! Because seriously, it was about damn time!

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Disclaimer: this post was written mostly under the perspective of a Marksmanship Hunter. Marks is the only spec I can comfortably play, both on Live and on Beta, as Beast Mastery is too simple and Survival feels too random. Also, expect a bit of napkin math. Still, I believe at least a few of my points will apply to the entire Hunter class. Also, there’s a little summary at the end. Don’t worry, it’s not whinging.

Disclaimer done, let’s get on with it!

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Foooooooocuuuus! /khan

Focus is a great idea. The concept of having a relatively fast-regenerating resource with a small pool that is still different from Energy and Rage is, well… ingenious. However, the current implementation is still not perfect. With the current rate of Focus regeneration and Steady Shot and Aspect of the Fox being the only mutually exclusive ways to reliably regenerate more Focus, the Hunter class feels a little sluggish. We are used to our mobility and our instant shots being what differentiates us from “casters” and what warrants our minimum range. Right now, that’s not there anymore.

Kinks need to be ironed out! But hey, that’s what Betas are for, right?!

Standing still and simply wailing on a target feels fine. At least as Marksmanship, the rotation took a little while to get used to, but it’s still solid: there are no big gaps where we’re generating more Focus than we can use, so no Steady Shot feels “wasted”. Once we get going, it’s all smooth sailing. Of course, getting to that point is a different matter altogether. On Live we already have to dedicate at least two Global Cooldowns when switching targets before we can start using our shots: one for Hunter’s Mark, the other for Serpent Sting. Once those two are on the target, we can start unloading our big-hitters. On Beta, we’re up to two/three Global Cooldowns (same as before, plus Scorpid Venom if no one else can provide the Major Armor Debuff) and at least two Steady Shots before we’re able to use our Instant Shots (Chimera, Explosive, Arcane and, oddly enough, Kill Command aka Badger Shot).

There is considerably more ramp-up on the Beta Hunter than there is on Live. It might be deliberate, but I don’t think I’ve read the development team talking too much about Hunter burst damage being excessive on PvE. Still, it’s not a whole lot of fun. Applying Serpent Sting to multiple mobs just isn’t happening anymore. Misdirection, besides consuming a Global Cooldown, now messes up our rotation in terms of both order and resource management. Mend Pet (when necessary), does the same thing.

Utility spells costing Focus is not helping. We’re already suffering a hit to our DPS by having to spend a GCD on something other than a damaging shot. Or even worse: missing a Steady Shot and ending up behind on Focus. Misdirection really loses its punch, as you lose the ability to cram down as many shots as you can within its very narrow effect. Trap Launcher costing Focus isn’t bad, but it taking up a GCD is. We’re already using a GCD when planting a trap, needing 3 seconds plus whatever time the trap will need to fly over to the target and arm itself makes it tricky to apply long-distance crowd-control (even more so in PvP). Plus, it keeps us from firing a Steady, thus leaving us with even less Focus in the end.

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A little more flexibility, please?

The current Focus costs for shots leaves very little leeway for doing different things, even while standing still. I think a better system would be to keep costs as they are and increase the size of our Focus pool to 200. That way, we can set up a target with the necessary Debuffs and fire at least one Instant Shot before having to Steady Shot our little hearts out. Tune passive Focus generation so two Steadies per Instant Shot will generate slightly more Focus than it consumes, allowing us to go back to 200 over the next few seconds (15-20 seconds sounds good to me). That would allow us to mix things up with an additional Arcane Shot or utility skill (Trap, Tranquilizing Shot, Misdirection…) every now and then. Plus it would help on fights where we know we’ll have to switch targets, so we can save up a little for the initial debuff round on a resilient add, or burstdown barrage on those dangerous, “kill it in five seconds or the healer gets it” types of mob.

Another issue I believe would be alleviated by this solution is firing on the move. From what I could gather from developer commentary, the idea is to give ranged classes more ways to fire on the move in what seems to be a very dance-heavy environment. Hunters already had that in spades, but lost most of it in the switch to Focus. Aspect of the Fox helps, but I don’t think it’s the right solution. Or at least not the full solution.

A Mage is penalized for having to move with losing all their cast-time abilities and having to rely on their (often) cooldown-based instants. However, once that Mage stops moving, he can go right back to their sweet, sweet Arcane/Frost/Fire-based feast of destruction. They only dip once into the bowl of weaksauce that’s labeled “movement”. We Hunters, on the other hand, have two options:

  • We can stay in Aspect of the Hawk, stutter-step so our Auto-Shots will still fire on demand, and fire the one or two shots our current Focus pool will allow us. After that’s done, we’re limited to Auto-Shots for at least 10 seconds. OR…
  • … We can switch to Aspect of the Fox, lose the Attack Power bonus from Hawk, still get Auto-Shots on the move, and be limited to one shot every 5 or 6 seconds after our Focus pool is spent.

Whichever option we take, we’re still in trouble. If we fire while moving, we’ll be Focus-starved by the time we stop and start firing again. So, hello, Steady Shot! If we don’t fire while moving so we can get right back to it once we stop, we lose all forms of damage except Auto-Shot and any Damage Over Time effects we might have on the target. Either way, the Hunter ends up losing DPS while moving and shortly after moving while the Mage loses damage only while moving. That’s double-dipping on the weaksauce, and it feels really bad for a class that’s supposed to be mobile. Kiting like this is a very annoying scenario, as a Frost Mage will be able to run circles around a snared mob all day firing nearly constantly without running out of Mana, while we’ll fire one, two shots, and pray for our traps to keep the target busy long enough for us to generate enough Focus to fire again (be it via Steadies or Fox).

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Won’t someone think of the Huntlets?!

Of course, there’s another issue: Aspect of the Fox is only available at very high levels. Until then, our ability to fire on the move is going to be pretty bad and the learning curve for Hunters is going to be a lot steeper. The leveling Hunter will have to rely a lot more on his pet, and a few abilities and/or talents will go unused altogether. All the Steady Shot spam we’ll be doing will make us feel much more like Mages than Hunters.

Leveling Hunters don’t fire Steady Shots without a tank to cover for us. I trust non-Beast Mastery pet threat will be balanced properly to account for the increased volume of shots due to Steady coming in early. But still, once we pull aggro, all flies out of the window. Meanwhile, Aimed Shot is a nice novelty item, but it will always out-threat the pet once talented properly. Explosive Shot could do the same thing, depending on how talents are set up. Having to blow a Feign Death, Disengage, Misdirection or Trap on every single-target pull while leveling to avoid getting munched on by very angry Mobs when we don’t have a reliable self-heal is not fun. Pulls of two or more targets are going to be even more annoying than they are now if you don’t have a pet with AoE capabilities.

(Here’s a little niggle I have with the leveling process right now: can we decouple Steady Shot Focus generation from Aspect of the Hawk? Just make it not work in Fox. Otherwise the 11 levels before you get Hawk are dreadfully repetitive: Arcane, Arcane, Steady, mob dies, waaaaaaait… Steady Shot is becoming so important now, why not teach Hunters to use it to get their resource back early on?)

Likewise, unless you do a lot of dungeons, Master Marksman is going to go completely unused. Firing five (more realistically eight) Steady Shots against non-elite mobs without grabbing Aggro from your Pet is going to be at the very least “interesting”. Sure, there’s a 30 second window of opportunity for new procs (at 60% chance, we’ll need it), but even then, once the instant Aimed Shot does go off… you’re very likely to grab aggro anyway, keeping you from doing more Steady Shots until you manage to get some distance.

The new expanded stable is a great idea, but I think it could also use a little more work (besides debugging). For once, it’s trained very late in the leveling process. Why not give us an active stable slot every 10 levels starting at level 20, so the leveling Hunter will have a smooth and gradual introduction to the Marvelous World of Pet Collecting for Fun and Profit? Given pets are going to become a lot more synergistic with our party/raid, we’ll want to have as many representatives of different pet families in our stable as we can. I think it’s a good idea to give Hunters the ability to start doing that earlier. Call Stabled Pet would also need to be trained earlier (ideally at level 20), and since this is all about training the little Huntlets, the Stable Masters could also have a dialogue option to explain how the expanded stable works.

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Action Bar space, or the lack thereof

I would also like something to be done about the simply enormous amount of skills we have to keep at hand. The enhanced tracking interface has made it a lot better already. I don’t know exactly what we could do about the rest, but I believe some skills could be safely merged. Concussive Shot and Tranquilizing Shot, for example. You have just hit the target with a load of tranquilizers big enough to quench an unstoppable rage, of course it’s going to be dazed for a while.

Immolation Trap and Explosive Trap are another couple I think could simply get married and move out of our Spellbook. Then they could send us their love child, a new Fire Trap that gives a relatively powerful fire DoT to the target that triggers it, and minor periodic damage to things standing on the floor around it (can we get actual flames instead of Flamestrike now?). With AoE damage being reduced across the board, I think we can afford having a bonus Explosive Trap on every Immolation Trap. We could even call this new trap “Incendiary Trap” in honor of its late parents!

Wing Clip and Raptor Strike could also afford a peaceful merger. Or maybe a hostile takeover, if that’s their thing. It’s not like we’re using Raptor Strike anymore once we get Wing Clip, and I hardly think spamming a Wing Clip that also happens to have a tiny damage component is going to save us from the wrath of that Arms Warrior coming straight for us with a very mean look on his face.

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The Pinball Hunter Wishlist!

  • Focus pool going up to 200! Alternatively, Focus values cut in half!
  • Increased baseline Focus regeneration slightly, so firing while standing still will eventually top our Focus pool if we keep firing two Steady Shots per Arcane/Chimera/Explosive Shot/Kill Command. This one is optional: depending on how balancing goes, we can just have Hunters occasionally fire a third Steady Shot to build up extra Focus.
  • Trap Launcher removed from the Global Cooldown, Traps still on the GCD.
  • Remove Focus cost from all non-shot, non-trap abilities, including Mend Pet (who is going to spam a Heal Over Time, anyway?) but excluding Revive Pet. A Global Cooldown spent not doing damage or using Steady Shot is enough penalty, we don’t need to end up with even less Focus afterwards.
  • Give us Aspect of the Fox and Call Stabled Pet (new name, maybe?) earlier.
  • Make Steady/Cobra Shots regenerate Focus in any Aspect, except Fox.
  • Allow us to have more “active” pets earlier. Preferably level 20, increasing by one every 10 levels. Have Stable Masters tell us about how to work out the new system.
  • Merge a few skills in our Spellbook, specially those that are either very situational or never used in favor of other skills. Example: Immolation Trap + Explosive Trap, Wing Clip + Raptor Strike, Tranquilizing Shot + Concussive Shot.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Makabari permalink
    July 29, 2010 03:44

    Hey, I just recently discovered your blog – love your work.

    I have to say this post is one of the most illuminating commentaries I have seen from people who have been invited to the Beta. Sadly things are looking rather gloomy for the Hunter class at this point – and yes, I know it’s ‘only the Beta’ but it just feels like the developers are going in the wrong direction with us as a class.

    Ah well, perhaps it’s time I dusted off my Druid or Pally alts come Cata.

    • July 29, 2010 10:26

      Yeah, things are a little off for Hunters right now on the Beta. I trust Blizzard will do at least two more design passes on us, and one of them will concern pets. With Hunters becoming that much more stationary, the Pet will have to make up for it somehow. I’d hate to become dependent on Kill Command on the move as Marksmanship, but if that’s what it takes to keep our class mobile and to avoid pulling aggro while soloing, so be it. After all, Cataclysm is all about changing paradigms.

      Speaking of paradigms, I feel sorry for the Paladins. Sure, Mana to Focus is a big change, but adding an entirely new resource to a class that’s mostly used to either spam one spell and one spell only, do a rotation that’s so solid you can actually get a receipt for it if you take it to the bank, or simply pressing whatever comes off cooldown, single-target or not… boy, that’s going to be harsh once it comes Live.

      Thanks for the comment! =)

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